Wednesday 21 December 2016

REVIEW: Busaba Eathai, St Albans

Busaba Eathai review - new Thai restaurant in St Albans, HertfordshireBusaba Eathai review - new Thai restaurant in St Albans, Hertfordshire
Busaba Eathai review - new Thai restaurant in St Albans, Hertfordshire

I may have moved out of St Albans, but I'm still a Snorbener at heart. Also, I've moved like 20 minutes away, I'm still there all the time. Nothing's really changed - I'm keeping an eye out for new places to eat and constantly adding to my mental 'To eat' list, which is extremely long.

The newest restaurant to be ticked off that list is Busaba Eathai. They opened in early November, and invited my pal Fiona and I to their opening night. It's a beautiful restaurant, situated on Verulam Road in the building that used to be Cinta Garden. It has a striking dark, intimate decor with quirky murals and high ceilings. And the food - obvs the most important part - is excellent.


Saturday 17 December 2016

REVIEW: The Knife and Cleaver, Bedfordshire

Review of the Knife and Cleaver in Bedfordshire, gastropub with accommodation and amazing food
Review of the Knife and Cleaver in Bedfordshire, gastropub with accommodation and amazing food
Review of the Knife and Cleaver in Bedfordshire, gastropub with accommodation and amazing food

You know what we don't talk about enough? PUBS WITH BEDROOMS. It's my new favourite thing, and let me tell you why. I love having a weekend away, but often it ends up costing the earth, between expensive hotel rooms and over the top dinners and activities and whatnot. Super fun, but it's nice to know that getting away for the night and having a nice meal doesn't actually have to cost the earth. And that's where pubs with rooms come in. Or inns. Do we call them inns? Who knows. But the facts are that the rooms are usually reasonably priced, the food tastes good and you can have a few drinks and then totter off happily to your room before heading home the next day.

I was invited to The Knife & Cleaver to review their food, and because it's up Bedford way, which is around an hour's drive from here, they offered us a room. It was such a great weekend. The pub itself has new owners - Epic Pubs - who've put together an incredible menu of gastro fare, and the rooms are very cosy, tastefully decorated in grey and white (totally my jam) with nice bathrooms (ours had a dreamy rolltop bath) and incredibly comfortable beds. Also, they're around £100 a night (between £99 and £109, in fact) which I think is really good value, considering the cost of some grotty chain hotels I've stayed in before. Plus I genuinely loved this place.


Tuesday 13 December 2016

FOOD: 10 incredible recipes to cook at Christmas

Ten indulgent Christmas recipes that are quick, easy and make great presents

It's December! The month of the year which makes it okay to eat six meals a day and have cream with ALL OF THEM. I love it so much. I'm already planning my Christmas cooking and baking, despite the fact that I'm not actually hosting. There'll be cookies and truffles and cinnamon rolls and maybe some pulled pork, and of course LOTS of cheese. And Baileys. And mince pies. With cream.

Over the past few years I've made lots of incredible Christmas recipe, and today, this most blessed of days, I have decided to share my favourites with you. Of course, if you decide to just order a takeaway and sack cooking off, I totally understand - so here's some HungryHouse discounts for food ordering online.


Saturday 10 December 2016

REVIEW: Walmgate Ale House and Bistro, York

Review of the Game Festival at Walmgate Ale House and Bistro in York

Oh wow. We were invited for lunch at the Walmgate Ale House and Bistro when we were in York, and I'm still thinking about it. If you're heading there soon, or live nearby, you must go. The food was incredible. I'm still bitter I couldn't fit in dessert. They take pride in using Yorkshire produce from within a few miles, and use fresh vegetables, meat, bread and cheese delivered fresh each day.

The restaurant is part quirky-pub and part gastro-sensation, with decorations honouring their resident ghost and a great ale selection (according to Matt). We were due to be driving back home later that day though, so didn't partake in the alcohol, but we did enjoy an excellent meal. Like, really excellent.


Thursday 8 December 2016

TRAVEL: A Christmassy weekend in York

York Original City Adventure with food and hotel recommendations at Christmas
York Original City Adventure with food and hotel recommendations at Christmas
York Original City Adventure with food and hotel recommendations at Christmas
York Original City Adventure with food and hotel recommendations at Christmas
York Original City Adventure with food and hotel recommendations at Christmas

I am all for a minibreak - that's probably well established by now - whether it involves hopping on a plane, train or just whizzing up the M1 for a weekend, I am in. There's so much of our great country that I have yet to explore, and about the same amount of it that I have explored and am longing to go back to (hello, Scotland). A couple of weeks ago, we headed up to York for the weekend, which was an EXCELLENT idea.

While the M1 on a Friday night is not my favourite place in the world, it was all worth it when we arrived. I've been to York many times before, and never get sick of it - it's one of my favourite places. We had the cosiest, Christmassiest weekend full of amazing food, mulled wine, beautiful scenery and happiness. Join me, on a wonderful journey through a really gorgeous town, would you?

Tuesday 6 December 2016

INTERIORS: Our new house (the before pictures)

New house project - the before pics of a Victorian terrace

Well, we did it. We officially own a house. We have just about moved in... to the kitchen (the luxury of moving out of your parents' house, there's no rush to do it all in one day), our sofa is on its way, we don't have internet yet but we have painted. Painted!

Anyway, I thought I'd start off my new house posts with a glimpse of what the house looked like when we moved in. It's going to take a little while before the 'After' shots will be exactly as I want them to be - there are carpets I want to replace and a fireplace I want to rip out and a kitchen I want to redo, but these won't all be things we achieve in the first six months. But already it's so much better.


Wednesday 30 November 2016

Reasons to be Cheerful

I have had a great year. I'm not saying that to be smug, but rather to remind myself, because when I think about it, I've spent the year doing a lot of complaining. Going from sharing a flat to sharing a spare room hasn't been one of my favourite things ever, and that's been the source of much moaning, but when I step back and look at it, it gave me the opportunity to save up a house deposit which I would have never been able to do alone. And this year's been good for other reasons. I've spent it working in a job that I really love, I got engaged to a stone-cold weirdo who I adore and I've visited some amazing places. Yes, 2016 has sucked and overall, the world is a bit broken, but doesn't that make it even more important to count our own blessings? I kind of think it does.

So I'm bringing back my Reasons to be Cheerful posts - at least sporadically - because I used to be so good at updating them regularly, but I've lost the habit. So here's what's making me happy at the moment.

Tuesday 29 November 2016

TRAVEL: Places to eat and drink in Dublin

Food and drink recommendations in Dublin on a long weekend

My Dublin post got super long as I was writing it, so I felt it made sense to split it into two parts. We ate a lot of good food when we were there, and went to some great bars, so I wanted to create a compendium of our favourites. Honestly, I think we barely scratched the surface - there's just SO MUCH there, and in my limited experience, it's basically all amazing. Aaaanyhoo... here are our faves.


Saturday 26 November 2016

REVIEW: The Crooked Chimney pub, Welwyn

Review of new menu at The Crooked Chimney, Welwyn, Hertfordshire
Review of new menu at The Crooked Chimney, Welwyn, Hertfordshire
Review of new menu at The Crooked Chimney, Welwyn, Hertfordshire

Living in Hertfordshire, I get the best of both worlds. Any time I want that busy city life, I can hop on a train to London and be there within an hour. But if I want to escape to the country, and be somewhere quiet and scenic and pretty - well, that's right there on my doorstep.

As such, there are lots of pretty places to go around here, and where there are pretty places there are pubs. Lots of pubs. And while I was offered the chance to review The Crooked Chimney, if I'd stumbled across it whilst exploring, I would have absolutely gone in. I mean, look how adorable it is.


Wednesday 23 November 2016

INTERIORS: We're buying a house!

After talking about it for what seems like forever, we are finally getting ready to move into our new house. Contracts have been exchanged, the completion date is set (for next week!), and we are spending all our free time looking at sofas, beds, paint and the entire contents of Ikea.

Where I live has been quite a big part of this blog’s identity for a while now, and this move will change that a little. As of next month, I will no longer live in St Albans – I’m moving to Tring, which is a lovely town on the Hertfordshire/Buckinghamshire border.

I’m not going far. Tring’s about 18 miles away from St Albans, and my family and several of my friends still live in the area, so I’ll be back regularly and it will still very much feature on this blog. All of my favourite restaurants are in St Albans, after all! But I’ll be casting the net a bit wider now when I blog about local restaurants, including Tring, Berkhamsted and other local towns in my reviews. I’m excited to explore Buckinghamshire more, which has a wealth of stunning scenery and amazing pubs and restaurants. If anyone is reading this who wants to work with me, I’m still happy to come to St Albans – but am open to anything in Herts/Beds/Bucks. I drive, I’m flexible.

Saturday 19 November 2016

TRAVEL: Crieff, Carradale, Edinburgh - Scotland

Trip to Scotland with food recommendations in Edinburgh, where to stay in Carradale, wedding in Crieff
Trip to Scotland with food recommendations in Edinburgh, where to stay in Carradale, wedding in Crieff
Trip to Scotland with food recommendations in Edinburgh, where to stay in Carradale, wedding in Crieff

I've already talked quite a lot about our trip to Scotland - it was somewhat eventful - but we did so much when we were there that I haven't even touched on! So here's what we got up to...


Wednesday 16 November 2016


Review of DSTRKT club and restaurant, Leicester Square

I don't often go out in the Leicester Square area - while I'm in London quite a bit, I tend to shy away from the super busy, touristy parts, apart from the occasional visit to Oxford Street because I gots to have my H&M Home, y'know? So when I was asked to review the food at DSTRKT, I was intrigued - it's really not in one of my usual haunts. DSTRKT is a club with a restaurant attached, and they've been making more of their food lately, so I headed along with a friend to see what was on offer.


Sunday 13 November 2016

TRAVEL: Visiting York at Christmastime

One of my favourite opportunities that my blog has given me is the opportunity to explore new places. I may not get sent to the Caribbean or Disneyworld like some lucky ladies, but I do love travelling to different parts of the UK and getting to know somewhere new. This last year, in particular, when we've been living with my parents and saving so hard to buy our house, we've jumped at any chance to get away on our own for a night or two.


Thursday 10 November 2016

RECIPE: Sweet Potato Cake from Dominica

Recipe for Sweet Potato Cake from Dominica

It's cold and wet and miserable and the world may just have ended, so I think that calls for cake, don't you? It does. Don't argue. Eat the cake. Any cake. Maybe this cake!

I was actually challenged to make this cake by Inntravel as part of their #CaribbeanTreasure campaign, in honour of the new holiday they've just launched to the Caribbean. I would not say no to the Caribbean today, I can tell you. No rain or politics? Blissful.

This is a traditional Sweet Potato Cake from Dominica, also known as Pan de Batata. The grated sweet potato means there's no need for flour, so it's gluten-free, and the consistency is a little like carrot cake. You could also replace the milk with coconut milk to make it dairy-free.

I found the cake absolutely delicious - spicy and flavourful with a crispy caramelised crust on top - although the texture was a little strange, as it was very soft in the middle despite overcooking it. I'm not sure if it would work better in a deeper tin, or perhaps cooked for longer on a lower temperature. Either way though, it still tasted good - even if I did need a spoon to eat it!


Wednesday 2 November 2016

REVIEW: Freddie's Restaurant, St Albans

Freddie's St Albans review - Mediterranean fusion gourmet cuisine
Freddie's St Albans review - Mediterranean fusion gourmet cuisine
Freddie's St Albans review - Mediterranean fusion gourmet cuisine

I’ve always thought of St Albans as being the place that all my friends live. For years, it was – we met when we all went to STAGs and Verulam, and even though we scattered to attend university, we made our way back every holiday, and when uni ended, most of us got jobs in the town centre and moved back in with our parents. Gradually a few people moved to London, then a few moved further afield, and then one day I looked up and realised that only one of my friends lived in the centre of St Albans now. Even I don’t live in the centre of St Albans any more, and in a couple of months, I won’t live in St Albans at all. I’m not going far, but it’s a little strange to move away from somewhere that I’ve lived pretty much my whole life.

I’m nostalgic, though, for the years we spent all living within a stone’s throw of each other. The flats that various friends shared at different times, when we’d just pop over when we felt like it, instead of calling first. So many epic parties. One such flat seemed to house most of my friends at some point or other, and it felt like I spent every evening there after work, watching films, eating pizza and drinking copious amounts of wine. We were always very amused that this flat was above a restaurant, but none of us ever made it there. I think we always felt it was a bit too nice for the likes of us. And now, around ten years later, I can say with utmost accuracy - it was definitely too nice for the likes of us. For today I am reviewing that very restaurant, and it's really, really, really nice.

I will hold my hands up and say that I had some preconceptions about Freddie's in St Albans, and that's probably why I've never been before. I thought it was going to be a bit old fashioned, with a nice but safe menu - meat, vegetables, potatoes... not much else. I was wrong in some ways - I really wouldn't call the menu 'safe' at all - but not in others. Freddie's is a little old fashioned, but in a lovely way - we were met by Freddie himself, who spends the evening mingling between the tables and chatting to his guests. The service is excellent - the food came quickly, and the staff were so attentive that we felt like total VIPs. The food is described as modern European influences, and that's a pretty good description, but I think it's quite hard to describe as the combinations are so unusual. You'll see.


Sunday 30 October 2016

RECIPE: Feta and pesto pasta

Recipe for using up feta pasta in a healthyish way

When life gets busy, I tend to return to the same recipes, time and time again. It sometimes means having a food blog suffers, though, because I can’t really keep posting recipes for chorizo pasta or lentil dhal or burrito bowls, can I? It’d get very samey. Anyway, life currently is busy, and it means I’m not making much that’s new. But this recipe has entered my repertoire this year, and has quickly become a firm favourite.

It’s vegetarian and extremely cheesy. It’s also excellent for those times when you have half a block of feta to use up, which happens to me every time I make Moroccan dippy eggs. But despite the cheesiness, it’s not terribly unhealthy. Yes, there’s cheese, but there’s also plenty of vegetables including tomatoes, peppers and loads of garlic - and I usually throw in spinach, too - which all have lots of health benefits including helping your brain perform better. And if you are watching the calories, I’ve stretched the sauce over several portions of pasta, which means it’s actually under 350 calories per serving. For all this cheese. Not bad, really.

Feta – like many blue cheeses – changes in a sauce. It becomes less salty, less potent and turns into something creamy and delicious. It’s best mates with pesto, although you might not have guessed it.


Thursday 27 October 2016

REVIEW: Everdine - healthy, frozen meals delivered to your door

Everdine review - frozen healthy meals delivered to your door

There are so many services at the moment that claim to make evening meals a bit easier. Some of them carefully measure out the portions of every last ingredient, others deliver whole meals to your door. I've never quite found one that works for me, but when Everdine got in touch and asked if I'd like to try them out, I thought it sounded promising.

Everdine's USP is that it offers frozen, 'clean-eating' meals. I agree with Jennie's point about the phrase 'clean-eating' - let's not suggest some food is 'unclean', shall we? - but I appreciate the sentiment here. These meals aim to do what I try to with my cooking - fresh, healthy ingredients that aren't packed with chemicals and ingredients you can't pronounce. Some of them are meat, some are fish, some are vegetarian and some are vegan. They're all fairly low in calories and fat, and you can pick and choose which you want to receive based on your preferences.


Monday 24 October 2016

A story about a ring.

When I was 16, my mum gave me this little silver ring which used to be hers. I wore it on the middle finger of my left hand until I was in my thirties, by which point my fingers were no longer lithe and teenaged, and I couldn't take the ring off any more.

Last year, I went to a wedding and popped a cocktail ring on the same finger. I pushed it down too far, foolishly, and it got stuck over my silver ring. I had to get both rings cut off at Minor Injuries. It was not my finest hour.

I threw the cursed cocktail ring away and left my mangled silver ring in a jewellery box, thinking I'd maybe fix it one day. We moved out of our flat, and the jewellery box was buried in my Granny's attic with the rest of our things, waiting for us to buy our house.

A few months ago, my boyfriend went through the attic and found the ring. He got it resized, mended and cleaned.

Then, when we were in Scotland recently, he showed me the ring. He told me what he did. And he got down on one knee. And asked if I would consider wearing the ring on a different finger for a while, until we could choose one together.

And that's how I got engaged.

Sunday 25 September 2016

REVIEW: Deliveroo in St Albans featuring Relish Real Burgers

Deliveroo in St Albans review featuring Relish Real Burgers

When we lived in our flat in St Albans, takeaways were definitely a regular occurrence. It was slightly exacerbated by the fact that, for about half our tenancy, I worked in marketing for a takeaway company - it's impossible to resist when it's free! But the range of restaurants was always a little disappointing. I never found anywhere that did a decent chicken kebab, and would feel quietly jealous of my London-based pals who could get a wide range of different cuisines delivered whenever they wanted. You guys don't know you're born, seriously. (Yep, I'm ninety, shush.)

Sooo, it was with great excitement that I found out Deliveroo were coming to my local area. FINALLY I could get food delivered from some of my local favourites - plus chains like Wagamama, which is regularly the only thing I fancy. But. BUT. When Deliveroo made it to St Albans... it was about a month after I'd moved back in with my parents. And while they technically live in St Albans, their village is about half a mile out of the Deliveroo radius. Noooo. And to make matters worse, the guys at Deliveroo then contacted me and asked if I fancied reviewing them. Rubbing salt in the wound here, guys.


Wednesday 21 September 2016

RECIPE: Turkey Keema

Turkey keema recipe, easily adaptable for vegetarians, low fat and easy to make

Turkey mince is one of those things that languishes in my freezer for ages before I find something to do with it. I've made Spag Bol with it before, this peanutty noodle dish and this Korean BBQ dish... yet every time it comes to use some up, I forget everything I've done previously and remain totally stumped for a while. Perhaps it's that turkey mince is a little on the bland side. It doesn't have much in the way of flavour, so going seasoning-crazy is definitely the way forward. But, done right, it can create a tasty, lean meal.

I spotted someone cooking Lamb Keema over on Instagram a while ago (we're talking months - when I say 'languishing in my freezer', I really mean it) and thought it might be a good way to use up my turkey mince. I did some searching and yes - Turkey Keema is definitely a Thing. So I gathered together lots of different recipes, and made my own version. The result was less punchy than I expected - even after I doubled the spice mix - but a subtle, fresh dish that was the perfect end to a warm September day.


Saturday 17 September 2016

REVIEW: The Snug's new menu, St Albans

The Snug St Albans bar and kitchen - cocktails and burgers and brunch
The Snug St Albans bar and kitchen - cocktails and burgers and brunch
The Snug St Albans bar and kitchen - cocktails and burgers and brunch

I hate it when someone asks me what my favourite food is, because I just can't answer that. It changes based on the day, my mood, how much wine I drank the day before... you know how it is. Some days my favourite food is chocolate, other days it's pizza and sometimes it's just anything with mayonnaise. Mmmm, mayonnaise. It's the same with restaurants - I just can't pick a favourite because I'm constantly changing what I fancy that day.

And some days, all I fancy is a good burger. There are lots of places in St Albans I'd go to for that, but more often than not, I end up at The Snug. The Snug have had a really good, extensive menu for a while now - remember their epic Christmas specials last year? - but lately they've stripped back and focused on what they do best, burgers. Oh, and cocktails. Their cocktails are really good.


Wednesday 14 September 2016

INTERIORS: Ultimate new housespiration

Our house hunting plans are ticking along nicely, although I’m wary of saying too much here for fear of jinxing us. So instead, I thought I’d share what I’ve been obsessively doing instead – decorating our imaginary house by means of stalking homeware websites and Pinterest. Turns out there’s nothing like buying a house to make you fall back in love with Pinterest!

Here’s my Ultimate Housepiration Board, if you fancy a nosy, but if you’re feeling lazy, here are some of my favourite inspo pics...


Saturday 10 September 2016

RECIPE: Moroccan style dippy breakfast eggs

Moroccan dippy eggs based on Shakshuka for breakfast or brunch

Treaty breakfasts are one of life's great joys. Most of the week, I eat my first meal of the day at my desk, perusing the news and emails as I jam peanut butter on toast into my face. So sometimes at the weekend it's nice to take a bit of time to cook us something special - and while pancakes, waffles, french toast and the like are all excellent, my heart belongs to Moroccan dippy eggs.

This recipe is based on one that The Londoner posted a couple of years ago, which in turn is based on Shakshuka, a Moroccan breakfast dish. Over the years, we've adapted and honed the sauce to our liking, and we wheel dippy eggs out whenever we fancy a treat. Also, whenever we go to a wedding, because it's nutritious and filling and will generally keep us going until a 4pm meal. I've instagrammed it many a time - because it's so damn beautiful - but never blogged it. Until now. Pop out to your local Coop or Tesco Express and make it today for brunch. Or even dinner. You'll be glad you did.


Thursday 8 September 2016

Monday 5 September 2016

REVIEW: Pizza Express Summer Menu

Pizza Express Windsor new summer menu review
Pizza Express Windsor new summer menu review
Pizza Express Windsor new summer menu review
Pizza Express Windsor new summer menu review

A few weeks back, my sister was away on her honeymoon and offered up their home in Windsor to Matt and I as a base for a minibreak. This was a GREAT idea. As you know, we're still living with my parents, and I can't deny that we've been feeling a bit edgy about the lack of space. Still super grateful for the chance to buy our own place, don't get me wrong, but going from a flat to just one room is difficult, there's no denying it. I MISS OUR SOFA. So having use of someone else's home - and sofa - for a couple of days was an amazing opportunity, and we jumped at the chance.

It's actually a really nice thing to do, and when we have our own place, I'll definitely repay the favour to my sister and her husbands - or even offer it out to other friends when we're away. It gives them a weekend away on a serious budget, and gives us the knowledge that our home is being looked after when we're not in it. And hopefully they'll leave wine in our fridge.

We decided to totally embrace our weekend in Windsor and went full tourist. We did so much exploring that my Spartoo flipflops just about wore out! We went round the castle, we drank Pimms, and we had a nice meal out. Actually, I'd been asked to review the new Summer menu at Pizza Express so relocated it to Windsor, and enjoyed a really nice weekend together without feeling guilty about affecting our house savings.


Monday 29 August 2016

Illustration commissions are open!

Digital and pencil illustration commissions including portraits and logos and wedding gifts by Essbeevee

So... did you know that I draw things? I draw things! I regularly do commissions for other bloggers, small business owners and even weddings.

Anyway, it turns out all this house-buying malarkey is rather expensive, so I’m actively opening up commissions right now. I’m super flexible and always up for a new challenge, and will try my hand (or pencil) at most things.

I work with pencil primarily and then colour digitally, and generally charge between £35-50 for an illustration. You'll receive a hi-res printable artwork to do what you want with, and I can post on the pencil original to you if you'd like it. There’s a bit more info here.

Here are some examples of the kind of work I’ve been doing lately...

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