Secret Cinema… TELL EVERYONE!

IMG_0477**SPOILER ALERT** If you have tickets or plan to attend any of the remaining Secret Cinema: Back To The Future performances please do not read this if you wan’t to be totally surprised by the event, but if you are like me and absolutely hate surprises then read on ;)

OK disclaimer over let me tell you about the BEST DATE NIGHT EVER… I know that is a very bold statement, eh!? But it truly was!  I bought tickets for the Secret Cinema production of Back To The Future months ago, it was purely on a whim after I had heard so much of others’ enjoyable nights at their previous more low-key productions and I wanted to experience it for myself, a few weeks ago I thought this was the worst decision of my life given the bad press they received for not opening on time but with money already invested we were commited.

The theme was 1955, they had actually recreted a replica Hill Valley from the film, with all the iconic buildings and events from that era… given the usual secrecy of their productions and theme, Secret Cinema’s decided to ban all modern cameras and mobiles, that was going to be the most testing part of our experience no mobile phone… LOL! So with my Amazon purchased pollyester 1950s dress on, McD & I went to the 1955 Hill Valley Fair (via 2014’s London’s Olympic Park n Stratford, UK).

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Once we arrived we were greeted by an epic set design of Hill Valley 1955, in which we just wandered around and sokaed up the vintage atmosphere.  McD and I took the school bus to the school dance, where we listened to an amazing live band play 1950s classics (as well as throwing a few 80s classics for good measure too.)  We then took a stroll around the fair, shot some cork guns where McD won me a prize and watched a parade… ALL BEFORE we actually sat down and enjoyed the film.

During the film Secret cinema surprise you with a whole lot more special additions, but that’s sharing too much, I need to leave you with some surprise in case you ever plan to experience a secret cinema production yourself.  I know quite a few people who went back to Hill Valley and not one person reported a bad experience, so if you ever find youself pondering going to a secret cinema showing I would say do it, you will not regret it, I am sure you will encourage others to do so afterwards too!

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Gin and Canapés

IMG_0415A few weeks ago the lovely people over at Aldi asked if I would like to take part in their Aldi Gin’s Cocktail Blogger Challenge… obviously the answer was yes, my drink of choice is always a gin & tonic so of course I was happy to accept any excuse to induldge it ;)  Aldi kindly sent me  a 70cl bottle of their award-winning Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin (£10.95) along with a cocktail shaker and a £10 voucher to source additional cocktail ingredients (I settled with tonic, soda, raspberries & cucumber plus I ended up buying another bottle of Gin, after all it’s won a lot of awards and at just over £10 it would have been criminal not to!).  Cocktail ingredients sourced I invited some friends over on a friday night to celebrate the weekend in the best style I know – with gin & canapés!

Rach came over and helped with the canapés / feast; we had roasted sweet potato and goats cheese, savoury scones, haloumi, sausage rolls, dips, mini burger, pear salad and garlic & chilli prawns (served on my new Portuguese plates I bought from Lisbon)

IMG_0417IMG_0419IMG_0420Once we all had sufficiently lined our stomachs we started on the gin cocktail challenge; Bethan & Amy started first, creating a fruity inspired gin cocktail severed in champagne flutes.  Becks and I were next, and with my love of a traditional G&T we took the addition of a cucumber slice even further by juicing a whole cucumber, shaking the cucumber juice with four measures of gin in a cocktail shaker to infuse allow the cucumber to infuse the gin and then served it in 4 long glasses and topped with tonic…. it looked a little green health juice but honestly tasted delicious!IMG_0416

IMG_0418IMG_0426The winner though has to go to McD’s bramble inspired cocktail, made from raspberries instead of blackberries, to make simply pour 50 ml of Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin in to a cocktail shaker half filled with ice along with 25ml of raspberry liqueur (we used Chambord), a little sugar syrup and a squeeze of lime.  Shake well and pour in to a tall glass with ice, top up with a little soda and garnish with a raspberry, it looked and tasted delicious!

IMG_0423Of course I must stress the importance of drinking responsibly, we all got a little excited and things took a turn for the worse when the weather prevented us from going elsewhere, housebound and a new table tennis table needing to be christened we broke out the plastic cups and beer and played a few games of beerpong.IMG_0422IMG_0425

After most of the Gin and Beer run out it was time to say goodbye to my friends and McD & I went to bed, the next morning we awoke to the signs of an awesome night, the mess… which unfortunately results in not so pleasant morning of tidying… McD managed to pull the ‘I have to go to work’ card so I was left home alone to clean up, but was it worth it??? yeah!!! BUT let’s just say next Friday I will be very much looking forward to a quiet Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin and tonic with the added bonus of no mess to clear up on Saturday morning :)

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To drink or not to drink…

IMG_0402This week’s theme is a little booze related… ;) I’ve mentioned before my continued desire to perfect my flat and having bought a lot of the major pieces I can start concentrating on the small decorative touches around the flat, most recently it was our decanters.

When McD moved in he brought a couple of decanters that belonged to his late father, I absolutely love them but living in a very modern city flat on their own the decanters weren’t particularly fitting, but I had a plan… I would use them to sandwich something ultra modern resulting in a very on trend mix old & new ;)

I settled on a bottle of Crystal Head Vodka, ideal as our present decanters were used for whiskey & Gin so Vodka was a welcome addition to our bar.  I usually wouldn’t spend £42 on a 70cl bottle of vodka, but its design really stood out for me and as I plan to keep the bottle and refill with standard vodka in the future I was happy to splurge.  I absolutely love it, take a look for yourself:

IMG_0410IMG_0403The decanter tags on the Whiskey and Gin I had made especially for McD and Me, mine reads Deb’s Gin and McD’s reads Ash’s Whiskey (Yes – shock! His real name isn’t McD!)  I thought personalising the tags like this helps to personalise our flat and makes it more of a home.  It wasn’t very expensive to personalise the tags, they were £9.99 each including the engraving, I did all online over at Silver Treats… really good speedy service too!

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Debbie Does… Lisbon (part 2)

20140731-143928-52768849.jpgI think Lisbon must be a travel photographers paradise, so much interesting architecture, graffiti, street mosaics, etc… my photos don’t really do the city justice but I did try to capture a few of Lisbon’s special qualities to share with you all:

20140731-143932-52772231.jpg20140731-143932-52772440.jpgAfter exploring what the main city of Lisbon had to offer we caught the no. 15 tram down to Belém, a suburb of Lisbon just 6km west of the city centre.  Here are a few sights to take in such as the Jerónimos Monastery, Tower of Belém and the famous custard pastry shop called Pastéis de Belém.  Being very british we joined the pastry shop queue to see what the fuss was about, it may look long but it moves pretty fast so we each bought one of their famous custard tarts and took it to the park to enjoy… delicious, they were definitely worth the queue!

20140731-143931-52771380.jpg20140731-143931-52771771.jpg20140731-143931-52771132.jpg20140731-143930-52770516.jpgLisbon offers so much more than sightseeing too, just 20 minutes by train from the main station in Lisbon you can reach some gorgeous beaches with picture perfect postcard beach villages and stretches of golden sand to sunbathe on, this mix of city and beach definitely makes Lisbon ideal for a long weekend getaway.

20140731-143929-52769133.jpg20140731-143929-52769325.jpgFor our big night out in Lisbon we decided to start early by heading to the roof top at the Bairro Alto Hotel, arguable one of the best roof top bars in Lisbon for a few drinks before dinner.  The hotel is located bang in the middle of Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s cultural and bohemian heart and offers beautiful views over Lisbon roof tops and the water.

20140731-143929-52769739.jpg20140731-143929-52769996.jpgIf you love seafood I definitely recommend you all check out cervejaria ramiro, it felt like we were dining with locals, interior and presentation of the dishes wasn’t too exciting but there was an amazing selection of seafood and it was all cooked perfectly, we splurged tiger prawns, garlic prawns, crab and lobster to share and with wine it still didn’t come to more than €35 per a head for dinner.

20140731-143930-52770973.jpgOur biggest night out ended up one of Lisbon’s super clubs, Urban Beach… most clubs in Lisbon don’t really get going until midnight and last well in to the early hours of the morning, I still prefer clubbing in Ibiza but we had fun, the music was quite mainstream and the crowd’s age varied greatly – but when you are with friends and in a great environment like Urban Beach you can’t help but have fun.

There you have it… that was my Lisbon weekend summarised in a few blog posts, It’s a great city and if you are looking for a city break that offers a little bit more than the usual sightseeing I would really recommend it thanks to the amazing food, beaches and nightlife it has to offer.  I’m pretty sad it’s over, best start planning where we can all go next year!

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Debbie Does… Lisbon (part 1)

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Having done Ibiza a few years ago with the same girls we decided a reunion in another country was needed, so we settled on a city visit to Lisbon, Portugal as none of us had previously visited there. (*spoiler* Nothing actually compares to Ibiza for a girlie holiday so to save myself repeating this through my post…yes we had an awesome time BUT it was completely different to our Ibiza holiday which really is a hard one to top!)

Our hotel, The Sheraton, Lisboa was chosen because we wanted access to a swimming pool having be warned the summer months can be unbearably hot in the afternoons and siestas by the pool are essential, of course as I was going the weather wasn’t that hot and we didn’t have time or need to make use of the pool.  But the hotel had other benefits, friendly staff recommending great places for us to check out and one of Lisbon’s tallest bars offering us great views of the city to help us get our bearings.

20140731-115217-42737211.jpg20140731-115217-42737539.jpg20140731-120854-43734432.jpgHaving settled into the hotel it was time to explore so we spent our first day walking around and taking in the sights the city had to offer.  The city is quite large and I definitely recommend purchasing the all day travel card for €6 that allows you unlimited travel on the bus, underground and trams.

20140731-122503-44703039.jpg20140731-122502-44702807.jpg20140731-122502-44702588.jpg20140731-122502-44702019.jpg20140731-122501-44701684.jpg20140731-122501-44701381.jpg20140731-123121-45081534.jpgAll this exploring made us very hungry and we stopped for a traditional portuguese lunch of Piri Piri chicken, we ate at this charming restaurant called Bonjardim - I am kicking myself for not taking photos of the food but we shared a rotisserie chicken and it was delicious, well worth checking this little restaurant out for lunch if you ever go to Lisbon.

After lunch we took a trip on the famous 28 tram around the city, it’s a vintage tram that criss-crosses the city making it the ideal tourist hop on, hop off mode of transport although be warned it gets very crowded and we were warned by many locals to look after our bags and beware of pick pockets.

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Having tired ourselves playing tourists all day we took the metro back to our hotel to freshen up and check out what kind of nightlife Lisbon had to offer.

For our first night out we headed to Lisbon’s old red light district, in particular a street called Cais do Sodre, or more commonly known amongst the tourists as the pink street.  There are many bars lining this little street where you can go in get a drink and enjoy it in the bar or take it out and enjoy it in the street, once you get bored with drinking a few have places to dance like, Pensão Amor, located in an old guest house most like used as a whore house, we got in to the party spirit and danced the night away!20140731-142325-51805991.jpg

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Debbie Does… Rabot 1745

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Before my girlfriends and I jetted off for a long weekend in Lisbon, my friend booked us into a chocolate themed restaurant in Borough Market called Rabot 1745… you read that right… CHOCOLATE THEMED!!!  The restaurant is part of the Hotel Chocolat group and offers modern european dishes with a cacao infused twist.

20140725-153616-56176895.jpg20140725-153617-56177115.jpg20140725-153617-56177341.jpgThe interior fitted the chocolate theme and looked delicious, as did the menu (see above)  The dishes were a little pricey but were presented beautifully, although maybe I don’t have a delicate enough pallet as I didn’t really pick out the cacao in my Tomato, Chilli & Cacao tortellini… nonetheless it tasted sensational, although for £18 I expected a little more food on the plate.

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Each of us only having a main, cocktail and soft drink, the price including service was just over £40 per a head… I really enjoyed the quirkiness of the menu but probably won’t be going back as don’t think it offers particularly good value for money, but I am glad I have visited… if only to have tried the unusual combination of white chocolate and mashed potato!

Dinner paid for we hopped straight on a train to Gatwick airport and caught our flight to Lisbon, I’ll share more on that adventure in my next post.

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The Secret Larder

20140725-101147-36707862.jpgI have talked about supper clubs and random restaurant pop-ups before but one London supper club I have heard so much about but never visited recently held their last ever event.  As soon as I heard The Secret Larder was to be no more I had to get tickets to their last ever dinner… If you ever read in the press about supper clubs it was almost always The Secret Larder that was used as a London example and because of this I have wanted to go for years, so knowing there will be no more I immediately booked McD and myself on to their last ever event.

20140725-101150-36710088.jpgPoor planning on McD’s side meant he actually had to drive to the event as he needed to drop some things off for work en route to the secret larder but in the hot weather I actually enjoyed being above ground and not on the underground.

We arrived at the venue, a cool coffee shop called Vagobond N7 and were immediately offered an apéritif of homemade ginseng liquor and shown to the quirky garden to enjoy our drink whilst we wait for everyone to arrive.

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The coffee shop has a great entertaining space at the back of their shop with these two amazing suspended tables that could seat up to 18 people each, McD and I were sat opposite each other in the middle of a table.  As with most supper clubs you are seated next to strangers meaning you get to meet a lot of interesting and different characters.

A word of advice though, if you go to a supper club for a date night do not expect your date to give you their entire attention, McD had far more interest in talking to the people seated either side of him than to me ;)

20140725-101149-36709451.jpg20140725-101148-36708313.jpg20140725-101149-36709670.jpgOf course I hadn’t booked this to spend time with McD really, I wanted to try the amazing food prepared for the supper club and the final ever Secret Larder menu definitely had me excited for what was to come:

Whipped lardo, pickled carrots, flowers, sourdough toast

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Braised squid, padron peppers, wine-braised kombu, pickled potato, bonito

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Lamb breast, romesco, charred aubergine, yogurt, flatbread

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Green granita, chevre ganache, brown butter financier

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Petit fours and coffee

The food was presented beautifully and I enjoyed all courses, some obviously more than others, in particularly the whipped lardo and chevre ganache I couldn’t get enough of, the squid dish probably lacked the most excitement for me, but I still managed to clean my plate.  Dessert included a green granita made from Parsley, Watercress, apple and celery, which although tasting clean and refreshing did make me feel like my sweet came with a side of frozen salad sorbet.

20140725-101149-36709006.jpg20140725-101149-36709228.jpg20140725-101149-36709895.jpg20140725-101148-36708564.jpgOverall I was really impressed, it astounds me how creative people can be when it comes to creating dishes and I enjoyed the opportunity to taste them. After the main service was finished James and Sam came out to thank us and take our coffee orders whilst delivering the bad news of the night, James’ infamous homemade truffles he usually served with every Secret Larder were left at home… I have a feeling this was a deliberate ploy to keep us wanting more though, so we can follow them on their next gastronomical adventure; The Secret Larder may be over but I am sure both these boys have some exciting plans for the future.

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Debbie Does… San Sebastian (pt 2)

20140714-144457-53097943.jpgOur second day in San Sebastian we woke up with a little sore head so decided some fresh air would help… our hotel was located around the corner from another famous hill called Monte Igueledo, unlike the hike yesterday we actually had the option of paying a few euros and taking the funicular up instead of walking, I made the decision for Claire and I that this is what we were going to do.

20140714-144457-53097739.jpgAt the top the views are truly breathtaking, sweeping panoramic views of the bay and San Sebastian, we were still blighted by our own personal rain cloud but this didn’t make the view any less impressive.

At the summit there is also a small theme park, which maybe because of the lack of people, weather, etc looked a little run down & tacky, I personally found it quite a dichotomous view overlooking the theme park where it’s visitors are concentrating on the games and rides compared to the stunning natural scenery of the coastline and San Sebastian.

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20140714-144456-53096305.jpg20140714-144458-53098825.jpgAfter taking in the view and fair ground we were starving and needed something a little dirty to help us feel better, I read about this great little burger bar on the outskirts of the old town called Va Bene, the burger didn’t look much but tasted sublime and hit the spot!

20140714-144458-53098631.jpgAfter our refueling we continued our walk exploring the city and shops before we headed back to the hotel for another siesta and our last night of the holiday.

20140714-144457-53097118.jpg20140714-144456-53096746.jpg20140714-144455-53095734.jpgFor our last night we wanted to try something traditional, so stumbled across this restaurant in the old town called Ubarrechena which offered a fixed price tapas menu with wine to try, the food was simple and delicious and very filling, I would recommend trying it if you have the time but being such a foodie place I do regret not putting in the research before I went to find the top recommended restaurants to try, but that just gives me a reason to go back, hopefully it will be sunnier next time!

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Debbie Does… San Sebastian (pt 1)

20140714-144121-52881716.jpgOur final destination on mine & Claire’s little road trip was a short drive over the border into Northern Spain, and specifically… San Sebastian!  We stayed at the Orlarin hotel… located on the university campus but clean, cheap and only 300 meters from the beach!

20140714-144121-52881054.jpg20140714-144120-52880805.jpgOur hotel was located on the other end of the bay to the old town, you could taxi or bus it directly the old town or take a leisurely long walk along the beach, on arrival we left the hotel with our own personal rain cloud and just walked around looking for somewhere to eat lunch, we found a lot of locals queuing outside Bideluze, so being very British we joined the queue.

20140714-144121-52881319.jpgAfter lunch we wandered more of the old town and with no real fixed idea of what to do we decided to tackled the walk up Monte Urgull and burn off our lunch.  It was more of a hike than we expected but the views are certainly worth it and I would say any able bodies person could tackle it…

20140714-144118-52878881.jpg20140714-144120-52880514.jpg20140714-144119-52879142.jpg20140714-144120-52880013.jpg20140714-144119-52879389.jpgAt the top of Month Urgull as well as the amazing view of San Sebastian there is an old castle with a small museum exhibiting San Sebastian’s history, it is quite Spanish centric but well worth a sneak peak before you head to the very top to see the grand statue of Christ.

20140714-144118-52878636.jpg20140714-144119-52879678.jpg20140714-144118-52878425.jpg20140714-151826-55106192.jpgWe walked all the way back from Monte Urgull to the hotel for a little siesta after our big lunch and hike before getting ready to experience the night life of San Sebastian.  Our kind waiter at lunch advised us to head back to the old town for their bars and we discovered one particular street Call Fermin Calbeton, which seemed home to the more popular bars, it felt like this was the street where the tourists gathered in the evening – the bars were full of english speaking tourists, we ended up drinking and dancing until the early hours, unfortunately I concentrated too much on the latter to take any good pictures to share.

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Rain, sea and sand!

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So after a few days of playing tourist we finally made it to Biscarosse (pronounced biss-ka-Ross) to see our friend… LINDSAY! She’s moved there for the summer but unfortunately when we visited it wasn’t very summer like weather, we appeared to have brought rain and cloud!  Nonetheless weather doesn’t matter when all you want to do is catch up on gossip so we immediately headed to the plage to catch up, and see first hand a few reasons why Lindsay chose to make this her home for the summer ;)

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The next morning with our little hire car, we stole Lindsay on her day off to go for a little road trip to Hossegor, one of France’s surf beaches.  Unfortunately we arrived in a middle of a rain cloud, so after a few beers (one glass of wine for me as I was designated driver) and observing the weather wasn’t really going to get much better before we would have to head home, we drove back early and decided to enjoy the late afternoon / early evening by the lake in Biscarosse instead.

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At the lake we enjoyed a french picnic of cheese, meats, bread and crisps and MORE WINE over music whilst sharing dance moves and attempting various random yoga poses!  It was a lovely random day catching up with our good friend, it was just a shame that once the sun set Lindsay had to go back to work and we had to say our goodbyes for another few months :(

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