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Out & About|| Norris’ Bar, Piccadilly

We all know I fell in love recently with piano bars. There’s something a little magical about them. Something which adds a essence of sophistication to the fun. Even when they’re playing a rendition of Bieber’s Love Yourself, and your tipsy self is singing along to your hearts content. Oh it’s so fun.

After my evening at Studio 88, I’ve been looking for more live music spots. Then last week, Nicola (East London Girl) invited me along to Norris’ Cafe Bar in Piccadilly, with a group of other london bloggers and foodies for an evening of music, drinks and nibbles….

Norris' bar, Piccadilly

Norris’ Cafe Bar is a swanky little spot 5 mins from Piccadilly station. It’s outer wall is glass, and the interior is filled with regal colours and metallics. At the one end of the bar there are two gorgeous grand pianos. One of which is for the live pianist, whilst the second has keys which move by themselves so you can look like you’re playing too. A great little photo opp.

The live pianist when we visited was Reeday music. To put it plainly, he was amazing! He played a mix of songs from today’s hits to classics, and did requests too! He even managed to combine and do his own rendition of Metallica crossed with Bieber. His version of “All I want for Christmas” was impressive – we couldn’t resist. Honestly, so much talent it’s crazy. His voice was SO good too.

It’s all about the drinks too of course.

In particular, the cocktails. There’s a relatively small but varied cocktail list and all the ones we tried amongst us seemed to go down very well. The Espresso Martini was super smooth and absolutely delicious – a fantastic one if I do say so myself.

Norris' bar, Piccadilly

The Bloody Delicious (Tanqueray Rangpur, Blood Orange Solerno Liquor, Fresh/Maraschino Cherries or Liquor, Elderflower Tonic) was more on the refreshing side. It was fruity, with a slight fizz and really tasty!

Norris' bar, Piccadilly

The food menu changed recently, and features a small selection of antipasti, pizzas, sides and a couple of other mains too, including mac and cheese, a burger and a salad. I’d recommend sharing a few…

Norris' bar, Piccadilly

The pizzas were pretty good. The Dolce Latte, Fig & Pancetta was my fave – I loved fig on a pizza!

Norris' bar, Piccadilly

The Polpette were really good too. The pork & ricotta meatballs were so tender and flavoursome. Served in a red wine & tomato sauce, the meatballs came with ciabatta for dipping. My favourite way to mop up excess sauce!

Norris' bar, Piccadilly

The Arancini were also yummy. Fried risotto cakes filled with Fontina cheese, they were beautifully crisp on the outside, and mildly cheesy in the middle. These were served with a fab tomato and basil sauce too.

Norris' bar, Piccadilly

We had such a fab night of cocktails, plates and music. A lovely way to see in the festive season with an amazing group of girls. Norris’ would make a fantastic spot for a girls evening, date night or special occasion. I’m definitely returning as soon as I can! I’ll be making any excuse for an evening out!

Norris' bar, Piccadilly

Summary:

  • Price: Cocktails start at £9, antipasti at £6, mains at £8.50 and pizzas at £9.50, which is pretty good for such a fab spot in the West End.
  • Drinks: The cocktails were fab. Norris’ does a fantastic Espresso Martini!
  • Atmosphere: sophisticated, classy yet fun. Great date night spot, or for a special occasion – or just a Friday evening with the girls.
  • Service: Super friendly and helpful!

Have you been to a piano bar before? What’s your go-to request?

Chloe xx

*I was invited along to a blogger event by East London Girl. All views my own.

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Eating Out|| Sipsmith Hot Gin Menu @ Bar & Block

I do love a mulled wine. Practically a warm cup of Christmas. The festive notes, the sweet edge, it’s truly delicious. But it can be quite heavy and after two or three, sometimes a little too much.

This year, I tried mulled gin as an alternative and it’s fab. It’s a little lighter and refreshing, sometimes a little citrus, and almost as festive – one made with a mulled apple is so christmassy.

Sipsmith gin has collaborated with Bar and Block, the all-day steak house with seven locations, to create a Hot Gin Menu. It’s the first big national roll-out of a Hot Gin menu for Sipsmith, with the drinks featuring in all seven restaurants across the UK. 

Sipsmith Hot Gin Menu, Bar & Block

Bar and Block has a relaxed, premium steakhouse vibe inside. The interiors are filled with wooden floors and tables, dark leather booths, exposed brick and low hanging lights. It’s pretty relaxed and the service is friendly and helpful. 

Sipsmith Hot Gin Menu, Bar & Block

The new Sipsmith Hot Gin menu is inspired by people of the 1690s and 1700s (the earliest records of hot drinks, and food pairings).

Back in the 1700s, when temperatures were crazy cold, people used to go home and make a hot drink to warm up. It was warmed by sticking a hot poker in it and they would basically hug the cup, wrapping themselves around it. There are three hot gin drinks on the menu, all great all in their own way.

Sipsmith Hot Gin Menu, Bar & Block

The first ever recorded food pairing (in 1690s) is for gin and gingerbread (amazing right?!). It was the inspiration for the Hot Gin & Gingerbread. Made with Sipsmith London Dry Gin, Sipsmith Gingerbread Syrup, hot water and an orange slice for garnish, it was delicious. A little more citrus than any other mulled gin I’ve tried previously, it was super refreshing. 

Sipsmith Hot Gin Menu, Bar & Block

The Hot Winter G&T was also a little citrus, and went down well. Consisting of Sipsmith London Dry Gin, Sipsmith Sloe Gin, Sipsmith Tonic Syrup, hot water, and an orange slice, it was deeper in flavour from the sloe gin. My favourite however was the Hot Mulled Sloe. Made with Sipsmith Sloe Gin, spiced mulled cloudy apple juice, and an orange slice for garnish, it is a little heavier, and sweeter. It has a fab, almost festive, flavour. We loved it!

We enjoyed our hot gin drinks alongside (to begin, accompany and finish) a fab steak feast…

The main menu is extensive with steaks, speciality cuts, burgers, fish and veggie options, and salads. 

Sipsmith Hot Gin Menu, Bar & Block

The 10oz Fillet steak (medium) was was nice and tender. It was pretty yummy. The french fries went down well alongside, and the Trio of Peppercorn sauce was creamy and so tasty. We do love a peppercorn sauce!

The 8oz Sirloin was ordered medium rare, and although it arrived a touch more to the medium end of the scale, it was super flavoursome, and tender. The sweet potato fries were fab too, not overly crispy. The Mushroom, Red Wine and Pancetta sauce , was rich, deep in flavour and went fantastically with the steak!

Sipsmith Hot Gin Menu, Bar & Block

As for the sides…

The side of House Salad was a fresh, fab mix of crunchy vegetables drizzled in dressing – I was craving some extra green. The Creamed Sweetcorn was sweet, and certainly creamy – it was a fab side to our steaks.

Sipsmith Hot Gin Menu, Bar & Block

The Mac and Cheese Bites were another fantastic choice, crispy on the outside, just enough cheesy mac inside. They were so tasty!

Sipsmith Hot Gin Menu, Bar & Block

Portions were pretty good, but the desserts were super generous in size…make sure you save space and I recommend sharing this…

The Chocolate Churros Sundae.

Sipsmith Hot Gin Menu, Bar & Block

It was a huge sundae, arriving piled high and looking magnificent. A mason jar filled with super creamy vanilla ice cream, salted caramel ice cream, rich brownie chunks, cream and chocolate toffee sauce. It was topped with two big churros coated in cinnamon sugar and was seriously dreamy! The churros were fantastic, super sweet. There were plenty of brownie chunks and the ice cream was super tasty.

What a way to finish a feast – along with a hot gin of course!

SUMMARY

  • Price: the new hot gin drinks are all priced a £6.50 which is pretty good for a mulled drink this season. Mains range from £9.95 to £28.95, with steaks being pretty standard in price.
  • Drinks: The new Sipsmith Hot Gin menu is inspired by the 1700s, and makes a delicious alternative to a mulled wine.
  • Food: the mains were good, but space for the dessert!
  • Atmosphere: a classy steakhouse with a relaxed vibe.
  • Wait: It wasn’t overly busy on a Friday eve when we visited, so there shouldn’t be too much wait.

Have you tried hot mulled gin before? Where’s your favourite spot for a winter drink?

Chloe xx

*I was invited along to review for East London Girl, but it was SO good I wanted to share with you too!

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Recipe|| Festive Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake

Guys, it’s December…so you know what that means. It’s definitely time for the festive bakes.

Last year, I couldn’t stop making spiced banana cupcakes – they were SO yummy. I’m in love with anything banana, so these were a go-to, and went down a treat with other too. I even added a little hidden mincemeat centre.

This year however, it’s all about the chocolate. In this case, Chocolate Orange. Well it is the only time of year the Terry’s Chocolate Oranges come out to play for me.

Festive Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake RecipeFestive Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake

I do love a cupcake, but on my rare afternoon off (yes, naturally I decided to fill it with baking) I was feeling a loaf cake…a nice slice to go with a cup of tea. Or actually, as dessert.

There were a few recipes floating around, but none with a strong enough orange flavour for me – dark chocolate, or anything chocolate in general, can be quite overpowering in a recipe. I wanted something which had that citrus, zesty, undernotes at the forefront, shining through. Not to sing my own praises, but…I think I nailed it with this. 

Festive Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake

This loaf cake has a fab chocolate orange flavour – yes, the recipe calls for dark chocolate, but as it’s combined with everything else, it’s not overly rich, or dark chocolate-y at all. It’s super delicious (not just my words, I promise), and makes for a great festive bake this December.

Festive Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake

Recipe is below. Enjoy! Do let me know what you think – I always love hearing when people have tried my recipes.

What’s your fave festive bake?

Chloe xx

Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake

A seriously chocolate-y loaf cake with zesty undertones, and a creamy frosting. Perfect for this festive season.

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 12

Ingredients

  • 140 g plain flour
  • 140 g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 orange
  • 140 g butter or margarine
  • 100 g dark chocolate
  • 125 ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • 300 g icing sugar
  • 1 mini Terry's Chocolate Orange segments bag to decorate

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a loaf tin with baking paper and place to the side.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, sieve the flour, and stir in the sugar, baking powder and zest of one orange. Rub in 40g butter until like fine breadcrumbs. Place to the side.

  3. In a separate microwaveable bowl, carefully melt 50g dark chocolate. Allow to cool slightly, and then whisk in the milk and juice of one orange, followed by the egg (you don't want the egg to scramble if the chocolate is too hot).

  4. Slowly and carefully start adding the chocolate mixture to the other mixing bowl with the flour mixture. Fold until well combined.

  5. Pour the chocolate mixture into the lined loaf tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes - until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool.

  6. Once cooled you can prepare the icing. In a microwaveable bowl, melt the remainder of the dark chocolate and allow to cool until just runny enough to mix with other ingredients. Combine with the remaining butter and juice of half an orange. Add the icing sugar and stir until you have a thick buttercream - you may find you need a little more icing sugar dependent on how runny you like yours. Refridgerate the buttercream for 15 minutes to allow it to keep form.

  7. Remove the buttercream from the fridge. Cover the loaf cake in the chocolate orange buttercream. Top with grated orange zest (from the 2nd orange), and mini Terry's Chocolate Orange segments. Slice and enjoy!

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Chloe Tries|| Foodie Monthly – November

November was crazy. Filled with SO much delicious food & drink, and 3 weekends away (yes, I was only in London one weekend throughout the whole of November… a bit mental!). This month’s roundup does include a one more addition to the usual five (I struggled so much to narrow it down), including one or two finds from my trips. Loosen your belts, here are my top picks.

Popcorn Shed

I think this is such a cute brand, and the flavours that are available is unlike anything I’ve seen. From Cheese to Salted Caramel, Berrylicious and Butterly Nuts, there’s some unusual, yet fun, popcorn flavours.

The flavours from Popcorn Shed are fab. Some are a little more subtle than others, but all went down really well. My fave obviously had to be the butterly nuts – I just can’t resist a peanut butter option!

Popcorn shedPopcorn shed

The little packs (£18 for a snack pack bundle of 7) are the perfect size for having with lunch, or a little snack during a Netflix session. The larger boxes (£3.50) would make a cute accompaniment to any gift this Christmas – for those Christmas movie moments!

Popcorn shed

Rock Rose Gin

Rock Rose Gin is a multi-award winning handcrafted Scottish gin from Dunnet Bay Distillers. It gets its name from its primary botanical – the rhodiola rosea, or the rose in the rocks. This was the first botanical forage for Dunnet Bay Distillers, along the cliffs of the Pentland Firth. About a thousand years ago, vikings would go in search of Rhodiola rosea, which was thought to give them extra strength to continue on their long journey. Along with this traditional botanical, Rock Rose uses a blend of local and traditional botanicals to create a unique gin from the Highlands of Scotland.

Rock Rose Gin Rock Rose Gin

The rose edge is super subtle, and the juniper does over power it a little, but it is one delicious gin. Fab with a slice of lemon to add a soft citrus touch, and fever tree tonic. I’m a HUGE gin fan, and this sure is up there with my faves.

Maison D’etre

I’ve been to this sweet little coffee house once before, with some old housemates. It’s right on the roundabout by Highbury & Islington station, so a great location. I do love that area.

Inside Maison D’etre is small, but they have a little area, like a conservatory through the back. It’s a cosy little spot. The menu is concise, but there’s enough to choose from for such a small spot. The Bircher Muesli is a must- so fresh, creamy and flavoursome! It is £7, which is a little more than I’d usually pay for a cold brekkie, but it’s worth it! Coffee is fab too – rich and smooth – and pretty standard in price. Fab little spot for a catch-up!

Maison D'etre Highbury

The Botanist Frozen Foraged Garden pop-up

Ok, I know this means gin is on my list twice. But honestly, this was SO GOOD. A cute little garden popup near Broadgate Circle, so much greenery, cosy seats with blankets, an ice sculpture and delicious cocktails. What more do you need?

The Botanist Frozen Foraged Garden

It was my first mulled gin, and it was seriously delicious! I’m definitely doing this myself at home. We might have left a little tipsy, after a chilled few under the tent. I’m hoping they bring it back sometime. I’d definitely pop down again for a drink or two!

Checkpoint Edinburgh

This was one of two brunch spots we visited in Edinburgh. A little recommendation from a colleague and it went down a treat. Service was friendly, coffee was good…and the food.. well…

I had a Winter Squash, cavalo nero, harissa yoghurt and eggs, and it was seriously dreamy. Never would have thought to have squash for breakfast before! The harissa added depth to the fresh ingredients, and everything together was just super delicious. The shakshuka was another big hit. It was rich, flavoursome and massive. The hash was superb too!

Checkpoint Edinburgh

This was my favourite breakfast of the two spots we tried. With breakfast dishes priced between £4.50 and £7.50, it was really reasonable in price too.  If you’re up in Edinburgh anytime soon I do recommend adding this to your list! My full post on Edinburgh is coming soon!

Daisy Green Collection Hot Buddha Bowls

When it’s cold and miserable, a warming, comforting lunch is a must. Am I right, or am I right? Something freshly made, healthy and delicious. Because I need to feel at least a little good alongside all the treats throughout December! We tried the Hot Buddha Bowls at Beany Green recently – lemon and herb chicken, meatballs with tomato, or vegan Beany balls, served with roasted sweet potato, chickpea ragu, roasted aubergine, greens, mixed grain rice and fermented jalapeño hot sauce.

Daisy Green Collection Buddha Bowls

Served hot (well just more than warm), it was a fantastic mix of flavours and textures. The jalapeno sauce adds a warming little kick, and I’m a big fan of the chickpea ragu. The chicken was flavoursome, although not as tender as I’d have liked. But the meatballs were a winner – tasty, tender and saucy. At £7.90 to takeaway, it’s a little on the pricier end for lunch for me, but on a day when im craving all the veg (or a hangover day) it’s well worth it!

There you have it. November’s top picks. Already excited for what December has to offer – bring on the festive food! Next month’s round-up is going to be all my fave Christmas finds.

What have you tried this month?

Chloe xx

*This post does include food/drink from events I’ve been invited to, or samples I’ve received. All views my own. 

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Eating Out|| Chucs, Westbourne Grove

Italian.. it’s not all just about pizza and pasta. Say we’re going out for Italian, and it’s still the first thing which springs to mind. Plus, the thought that I could probably make it at home. But there are some other fantastic Italian classics and delicacies. Ones I forget, I must admit. That’s until my recent visit to Chucs…

Chucs Restaurant is the sister concept to the 1950s swimwear and men’s fashion label of the same name, founded by Charles Finch. There are just four locations, all in London, serving up classic Italian cuisine. Chucs says each location offers an exquisite setting to dine. The Westbourne Grove spot sure radiated a classy, sophisticated yet relaxed atmosphere. The interior was filled with sleek red tables with metallic trim, stone fabrics and leather booths. There were photographs (we believe of Italy) on the walls, and table lamps on every table. It was beautiful.

Chucs Westbourne Grove, Italian

The menu isn’t overly extensive, yet it’s still a little overwhelming.

There are eight starters on the current menu. They all looked delicious, from the Frito Misto & Zucchini to the Burrata with Rocket & Cherry Tomatoes. We stuck with the complimentary bread basket of fresh white, granary & crisp bread served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, as well as the olives, walnuts, cheese and honey to save space. This is definitely the way to start an Italian feast! We loved the walnut board, and the granary bread had a delicious flavour.

Chucs Westbourne Grove, Italian

The mains offering featured six homemade pasta dishes, six Chucs classics and six Secondi choices, so as you can expect this is where the decisions became harder.

There were some fantastic sounding options including the Saffron Risotto with Goats Cheese, Fresh Spaghetti with Truffle, Pizza Bianca with Smoked Salmon & Rocket and Harrisa Lamb with Grilled Courgette. They even offered gluten free versions and there were a number of vegetarian options.

Chucs Westbourne Grove, Italian

The Grilled Fillet Of Seabass with Sicilian Caponata is a must for any Seabass fan – of which I am one, as was my plus one. This is the dish we probably would have fought over who was having, if we hadn’t agreed to share everything. The Seabass was tender and flaky, with a fantastic crispy skin and delicate flavour. The caponata was soft, mild in flavour as not to overpower the Seabass, but tasty in its own right.

Chucs Westbourne Grove, Italian

The Chicken Milanese, an Italian classic, was super tasty finished with a squeeze of zesty lemon. The chicken was thin, with a light crumbly breadcrumb and Parmesan coating, giving it one fab flavour.

Chucs Westbourne Grove, Italian

There are a handful of sides too, to accompany the mains – definitely get a couple and share. The Hand-cut chips were chunky, reminding us of chip shop style, yet not greasy, and they were pretty tasty alone and together with both of the above. The Grilled Courgette was served in thick ribbons, in a little pile, lightly grilled with an almost smokier flavour. Both fab choices for alongside the Seabass and chicken Milanese.

Chucs Westbourne Grove, Italian

Be sure to save space for a dessert…even a small one…

There are just four desserts, including dark chocolate ice cream, Affogato, tiramisu and creme brûlée. There was just one way to finish such a fantastic meal for us…with an Affogato. I’m a big coffee lover! The espresso was rich and smooth, and the ice cream super creamy, with a potent vanilla flavour. One fab Affogato.

Chucs Westbourne Grove, Italian

As for drinks, the wine menu was obviously a key focus, being an Italian spot, although we were tempted by the word cocktail when the menus were put down (of which there were a handful to choose from). The waiter recommended a pinot which was beautifully crisp, not overly dry, which we both ended up having. It complimented the appetisers, chicken, fish and vegetables perfectly.

One lovely, relaxed, evening catching up over delicious food. The waiters and hosts were attentive, fab with recommendations, and patient when we still needed time to decide – and even just let us sit to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere for a short while once we’d finished.

Summary

  • Price: starters between £9.50 and £16, mains from £12 to £31, desserts between £6 and £8.50, and wine at about £8 a glass – it’s a little more expensive than your usual midweek dinner reservation, but it’s definitely worth it. Perhaps for a more special occasion or catch-up?
  • Food: beautiful. Delicious flavours. Go for the Seabass, and most definitely finish with an Affogato
  • Drinks: the main focus is most definitely the wine menu (the Pinot was delicate and delicious), but there are cocktails and other options too.
  • Atmosphere: classy, sophisticated yet relaxed. Gorgeous interior.
  • Wait: it’s in a relatively busy area (being on the edge of Portobello Road), so do book, although walking might be possible.

A highly recommended Italian spot! Where have you tried recently?

Chloe xx

*I was invited along to review for East London Girl, but it was SO good I wanted to share with you too!

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