Category Archives: Food

UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

Child-Friendly Seaside Luxury

After our night at the Scarlet Hotel, Mum and I made the very short journey a little further along the coast to the Scarlet’s sister hotel, the Bedruthan Hotel and Spa. Our bags had already been transported for us and were waiting in our hotel room, which I thought was a very nice touch, and I was relieved not to carry them myself, especially considering the number of books I’d purchased in Penzance!

Having had such a wonderful experience at the Scarlet, our standards were high for Bedruthan, and I was eager to compare the two hotels. The main difference is that Bedruthan is the ideal choice for a family holiday. Whereas the Scarlet is more suitable for adults only, the Bedruthan hotel is exceedingly child-friendly, with day-care options available for when parents are having spa treatments, fun play areas and suggested activities for families to enjoy both within the hotel and in the surrounding area.

Comfortable Spaces

UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

Even if you don’t have any children with you, however, Bedruthan is a glorious place to relax and unwind, and there is an adult-only bar, as well as restaurant, which are excellent options for guests without young families.

Bedruthan hotel is extremely spacious, and there are many different lounges where you can sit and chat over a drink, or simply admire the view. Like the Scarlet, there’s also a strong emphasis on art and design, with a gallery of paintings to see downstairs, and a nice gift shop filled with an extremely tempting display of Orla Kiely products, as well as lots of other beautiful things!

I liked the Scandinavian inspired decor, which matched the seaside setting so well. Children would love the many outdoor decks and play areas too, and there are lots of fun, creative projects to try out, like a taster session at the Bedruthan pottery studio, or booking a craft workshop. The huge spa and indoor and outdoor pools are also extremely impressive.

Spectacular Scenery

Like its sister hotel, Bedruthan offers breath-taking views of the spectacular Mawgan Porth, and there are wonderful coastal walks to take, as well as plenty of outdoor spaces from which to sit and take in the scenery.

UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, NewquayI was rather impressed by the idea of reserving one of the seated campfire areas, where guests can stay warm by an outdoor fire and watch the sun set over the water.

Sea View Double Room

It was marvellous to pull back the curtains in the morning and look out at the sunrise over the cliffs and sea. We were given a spacious double room with a seaside view, and I liked the bright, cheerful colours (very Marimekko, I thought!). Our bathroom was small, but still had a bath as well as a shower, and as I made use of the hotel’s incredible spa facilities, I didn’t miss having a big bathroom.

UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

We ordered a yummy breakfast in bed (yoghurt, juice, croissants, fruit salad and tea), and it was wonderful to eat a leisurely meal whilst looking out to sea.

Sensory Spa Garden

UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

One of the many delights of the Bedruthan is their sensory spa garden, and I was very excited to get to try it out. The sensory garden is meant to trigger all your senses and is inspired by fire, earth, water, air and space.

A theme running through the hotel is playfulness, and this is reflected in the colourful decor, wide-range of activities and spa treatments. The sensory spa garden is a place where you can reclaim a childlike sense of excitement and discovery in nature. Laid out in a secluded garden sheltered from the wind, guests are invited to work their way around the garden, experiencing the benefits in going from hot to cold to back again.

UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

I started off with a rejuvenating oatmeal scrub and shower, before stepping into the sauna to sweat it out for 10 minutes and breathe in the wood-scented air. Next, I had to nerve myself to tackle the ice-water bucket ‘shower,’ which was very cold! Happily, after that, I got to enjoy a long session in the hot tub, which felt amazing. Finally, after one last shower and seaweed and salt scrub, I was given a delicious mug of ginger and lemon tea and a warm blanket and sat by the smouldering open fire, my feet in a warm water bath, feeling wonderfully refreshed and glowing. I hadn’t had so much fun in ages!

Herring Restaurant

UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

We had supper booked at the hotel, which I felt very much ready for after my sensory garden experience. The Herring is the main restaurant at Bedruthan, and has floor to ceiling windows showcasing the panoramic views of the ocean.

In the evening, candles flickered on the tables, encircling us in a warm, cosy glow of light.

The Herring offers a daily changing, seasonal 3 course menu for £37.50. We started off ordering a bottle of house white wine, which arrived with some crusty brown bread and Cornish butter.

For my first course, I ordered cured sea trout with yuzu and mirin, mooli, pickled cucumber and salmon eggs. Mum chose pan fried scallops with Moroccan couscous, tea soaked raisins and preserved lemon puree.

Both dishes were fantastic. Trout is always a favourite of mine, and this dish was beautifully light, and yet packed with flavour.

We each settled on Cornish lamb rump for our main, which was tender and delicious, and served with celeriac fondant and puree, sprouting broccoli and rosemary jus.

For dessert, I had gingerbread panna cotta with spiced orange, sorbet and white wine poached pear. It was a brilliant combination of flavour and one of my favourite desserts from the trip. Mum polished off baked yoghurt with apple jelly, poached apple and blackberry sorbet.

We both agreed the food was spectacular and a real highlight of our stay at Bedruthan. I was so impressed by both the Scarlet and Bedruthan hotels on this trip. I can’t think of a nicer way to spend a family holiday than a stay at the Bedruthan, but it’s also a great option for a luxurious, child-free holiday too.

For more information, check out the Bedruthan Hotel & Spa website.
Room rates at Bedruthan Hotel & Spa are from £156 per night. This is based on double occupancy and includes breakfast, taxes and fees. To book, please visit www.bedruthan.com/stay/rooms, email stay@bedruthan.com, or call 01637 861 200.

Note: our stay at Bedruthan Hotel and Spa was complimentary for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.

P.S. You may also wish to read my review of the Scarlet Hotel, only a few minutes away from Bedruthan.

UK Travel | The Scarlet Hotel at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

UK Travel | The Scarlet Hotel at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

After our sojourn in Penzance, we made our way to The Scarlet Hotel at Mawgan Porth, very near Newquay airport. I think this has to be the most beautiful, tranquil hotel I’ve ever been lucky enough to stay in.

The Scarlet is built right on the cliffs, and the gorgeous architecture means there’s as little division between sea and building as possible. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer a constant reminder of the stunning cove just outside, and there are numerous balconies from which to admire the view.

We arrived just as a rather dramatic storm had blown up, with the sea thundering against the rocks, but happily the next day dawned crisp and golden so I was able to enjoy some invigorating walks along the beach. But let’s start at the beginning, with a tour of the hotel:

Reception and Lounge Areas

UK Travel | The Scarlet Hotel at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

The Scarlet is quite unlike any other hotel I’ve stayed in, and it sets the tone of indulgence and effortless comfort from the moment you step into its elegant interior. Rather than hauling your bags to a Reception desk (I failed completely, by the way, to pack with my usual lightness for this trip, and in a fit of madness seemed to bring my entire autumn wardrobe with me), you’re invited to take a seat in the spacious entrance way (pictured above). We barely had a chance to catch our breath over the remarkable view, when one of the hotel managers appeared as if by magic, whisked our bags away to our room and took us on a tour.

I was impressed by the spaciousness of the hotel, with its many lounge areas for guests to sit and relax, the large spa and swimming pool, coastal gardens and decks. Every inch is truly lovely, with carefully chosen art and sculpture decorating each space in a tasteful homage to Cornwall’s artistic heritage.

Our ‘Just Right’ Double Room

After our tour, we were shown to our room, which had a lovely view of the sea and had a minimalist, muted decor. I appreciated the generous size of the room, with plenty of space for chairs, a desk and large bed. The bathroom was also large, and we were both very pleased with the walk-in shower and separate bath tub. I noted a dish of bath salts, which I thought was a nice touch – too often I find hotels with lovely baths, but nothing to put in them (hence why I’ve taken to traveling with my own bath oil!).

This was the view that greeted me when I rose the next morning and stepped out onto the balcony:

The rising sun cast a rich pink glow in the sky, and the blue of the sea faded to a pretty shade of lavender on the horizon. Oh to have a view like that every morning!

Breakfast in bed was provided at no extra charge, and I went for a cheese and mustard toastie with a fried egg, a side of fruit and yoghurt, a berry smoothie, orange juice and tea. Mum ordered the Full English. Both breakfasts were absolutely scrumptious, and it felt so decadent to eat my first meal of the day in bed with a magazine.

Coastal Garden, Spa and Seaside Walks

I couldn’t wait to take advantage of the sunshine to get out and explore the hotel’s pretty coastal gardens, accessed through their gorgeous spa, as well as the beach itself. Although I didn’t take a dip in the heated pool during our say, I did have a session in one of the cliffside hot tubs (mine was the middle hot tub in the above picture).

Unfortunately, my session was scheduled for our first day, when it was pouring rain, so I couldn’t get any decent photos, but the view from the hot tub was incredible, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the experience of sitting in a hot tub, feeling perfectly snug, but with the rain lashing down and the waves roaring and frothing against the cliffs immediately before me.

When the sun shone, I scrambled down the cliff path to the beach. Mum had joined me for a wander around the gardens, but she decided to sit on one of the covered benches on the cliffs and admire the view whilst I went down to dip my toes in the sea.

There were only a few people walking their dogs on the shore. I can imagine that this coast must be packed with tourists in the summer, but travelling in the off season meant that I got to experience the luxury of hardly anyone else being on the beach. I always feel at peace when I’m by the sea, perhaps because my Mum’s family came from Dorset, so I have sea in my veins, so to speak.

Bar and Restaurant

Another huge perk of staying at The Scarlet is the fantastic food and wine list. All the sea air definitely made Mum and me rather peckish by supper time, so we were definitely looking forward to our evening meal.

The restaurant is a lovely room, with large windows looking out to sea, and there is a stylish bar that juts out just above it. We were shown to a table next to the window and brought menus and some delicious crusty sourdough bread to nibble as we made our choices.

We had the three course menu with accompanying wine flight. The wine flight changes daily, allowing guests to discover new and delicious European wines, hand-picked by the sommelier, each evening.

To start, I went for the roast pigeon breast with black pudding, roast figs and beetroot, and Mum chose Cornish fish and shellfish stew with saffron potatoes, spinach, rye crostini and rouille.

My dish was paired with an exceedingly smooth Tempranillo, and Mum very much enjoyed her Burgundy white. The sommelier brought round each bottle to pour for every course, explaining more about the wines and why they were selected for each dish as she did so.

The food was just as palatable as the wine. I loved the autumnal flavours of my dish and thoroughly approved the combination of pigeon breast and roast fig. Mum always enjoys a good fish stew and pronounced hers excellent.

For our mains, I went for the pan fried trout with shellfish risotto, parmesan, chives, cucumber, mustard and dill and Mum ordered slow cooked lamb rump with broccoli puree, crispy belly, mint dauphines, ricotta and braised fennel. My fish paired excellently with a crisp Rioja, and Mum’s Bordeaux stood up very well against the richness of her lamb.

I adore trout, and generally always order it if I have the chance, so this dish was a great treat for me. It was a really excellent piece of fish, beautifully cooked, and I loved the creamy risotto and slightly mustardy sauce. My mouth is watering just thinking of it again! My Mum enjoyed her lamb as well, which was beautifully tender.

For dessert, I – predictably! – went for chocolate: a dark chocolate cremeux with blackberries, lemon curd and blackberry sorbet, to be exact. Mum chose coffee panna cotta with vanilla sponge, coffee granita and candied walnuts.

I know it isn’t very fashionable to say so, but I adore sweet wine, so this was the part of the wine flight I was anticipating most eagerly! I’d never tried a red sweet wine before, but it was a brilliant choice to accompany chocolate. My mum’s more traditional sweet wine brought out the sweetness in her coffee panna cotta superbly. A fabulous end to a memorable meal!

Our stay at The Scarlet was a wonderful taste of luxury and felt so rejuvenating. I would highly recommend booking a stay for a special occasion, a romantic getaway (I think spending your honeymoon here would be idyllic), or simply if you’re in need of a thorough rest, with good food, great wine and gorgeous seaside amply provided. A friend messaged me whilst I was staying at The Scarlet, saying she and her husband plan a holiday there every winter, and I can see why! It’s the perfect retreat from the world for a few days, whatever the weather.

For more information, check out the Scarlet Hotel website. Room rates are from £240 per night. This is based on double occupancy and includes breakfast, taxes and fees. To book, please visit www.scarlethotel.co.uk/stay/rooms, email stay@scarlethotel.co.uk, or call 01637 861 800.

Note: our stay at the Scarlet Hotel was complimentary for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.

London Restaurants | Ikoyi, St James’s Market

Fans of my podcast, Tea & Tattle, may remember my interview with Lopè Ariyo, author of the cookbook, Hibiscus, which celebrates West African food and culture. During the interview, Lopè mentioned that she was about to start a job as a chef at a newly opened restaurant in Mayfair: Ikoyi, which specialises in West African dining.

After hearing my interview, my friend Claire, who’s a true foodie and always knows about the latest hot restaurants in London, suggested that we try out Ikoyi together. Of course, I said yes!

Ikoyi is situated in St James’s Market, a rather curious mix of chilly corporate aloofness, with its rising towers of office buildings, and an increasingly interesting food scene. Veneta, which I reviewed last autumn, is just around the corner from Ikoyi, as is the Scandinavian cafe Ole & Steen, which boasted a truly enticing window display of freshly baked buns and cakes (I’m planning a return trip to try them asap!).

Unlike its environs, Ikoyi manages to strike a welcoming, stylish interior. I liked the mustard yellow cushions and vibrant artwork. The restaurant is intimate, with a striking bar along one wall and a glimpse into the kitchen where the gastronomical magic occurs. I spotted the lovely Lopè working away, and had a chance after our meal to say hello and how much we’d enjoyed the food.

But let’s start at the beginning, with the cocktail list. Claire ordered a Roast Plantain Old Fashioned, and, on the waiter’s recommendation, I went for the Kunnu Punch. Drinks in hand, we caught up on each other’s news and perused the menu, which is small, but well-chosen.

It was a warm, sunny day, and the punch was the perfect refreshment – light and tasty. Claire said she enjoyed her cocktail a lot too, although it was decidedly stronger than the punch.

On looking at the menu, we agreed on some nibbles to share alongside our cocktails, followed by mains and dessert. We settled on the chicken oyster, tamarind and penja pepper and the buttermilk plantain and smoked scotch bonnet. It was my first time eating plantain, so I was particularly excited to try it.

Both snacks were delicious, and the plantain was much as I thought it would taste: rather like a banana, but more savoury. The spice of the topping gave it a real kick, and for a moment I was worried that all the food would be spicy, which I never handle very well. Happily though, the spice of the plantain dish soon settled down, and by the time our mains had arrived, my mouth had stopped burning.

I’d heard that the pork dish was something special, so I’d ordered it for my main, and Claire had gone for chicken, benne and okra. We also ordered a side of jollof rice and smoked bone marrow to share.

My pork was the tastiest I’d ever had and truly melted in the mouth. I was pleased that it wasn’t spicy either. Claire said her chicken was exceedingly good, with the okra cooked to perfection. We both agreed our side dish was out-of-this world as well. We were instructed to scoop the marrow from the bone and mix it into the rice – honestly, it was sublime! I would have polished off every last grain if I hadn’t been worried about leaving room for dessert. I definitely wanted dessert!

Claire and I both settled for the special of the day: milk bread pudding with white peach sorbet and apples. Oh my! This was one of the best desserts I’d had for a long time – the white peach sorbet especially was heavenly.

I certainly plan on going back to Ikoyi again soon – it’s a great destination for either a full meal, or a drink and snacks at the bar.

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What was the last great meal you enjoyed?

T&T 41 | Joyful French Eating with Elizabeth Bard

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes.

Today on Tea & Tattle, I’m chatting with the bestselling author, Elizabeth Bard, about Elizabeth’s new cookbook, Dinner Chez Moi: 50 French Secrets to Joyful Eating and Entertaining.

Elizabeth lives in Provence with her family, and she has also written two culinary memoirs, Lunch in Paris and Picnic in Provence, about her move from America to France and how she fell in love with the country, the food and a Frenchman! I love Elizabeth’s humorous and insightful descriptions of adapting to the French way of life, as well as the delicious recipes that accompany her words.

Dinner Chez Moi is less of a memoir and more a handy guide to the French style of eating and living, with plenty of Elizabeth’s favourite recipes to enjoy. I had a fabulous time asking Elizabeth all about what she stocks in her Provençal kitchen; how to shop wisely for delicious, but affordable meals and some of the French secrets to keeping a trim waistline (I think I’ve got the tea-drinking part down at least!).

It was so fun to catch-up with Elizabeth on the podcast, as I’d met her last summer when I was in Provence, and arranged an interview with her at Scaramouche, the artisan glacier Elizabeth runs with her husband.

With Elizabeth Bard outside Scaramouche

This episode is perfect for summer and will inspire anyone, I’m sure, to dash to their local farmers’ market and start buying up juicy tomatoes and other fresh produce!

Listen to learn more about eating, cooking and living the French way. 

T&T 40 | The Greedy Queen

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes.

This week on Tea & Tattle, I’m learning all about Queen Victoria’s eating habits from the food historian, Annie Gray. Annie’s recently published book, The Greedy Queen: Eating with Victoria is an unconventional biography of the Queen, examining her life in food.

Annie Gray is an historian, cook, broadcaster and writer, who specialises in the history of food and dining in Britain from about 1600 to the present day. In our chat, Annie explains how her interest in food and history developed, and how she first came to examine the role of meals in Queen Victoria’s life. It was so interesting to learn more about the complex relationship Victoria had with food, how she used meal-times as a way to exert power and the culinary legacy she left behind.

Annie Gray

I read The Greedy Queen a few months ago and thoroughly enjoyed Annie’s engaging, witty style of writing that brought historical figures and events so vividly to life. In today’s episode, Annie’s vivacious conversation will be a delight to lovers of food and history alike.

Listen to learn more about Queen Victoria’s life and relationship with food

T&T 37 | West African Cuisine With Lopè Ariyo

West African Cuisine With Lopè Ariyo

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes.

This week on Tea & Tattle, I’m chatting with the food writer and chef, Lopè Ariyo, about her debut cookbook, Hibiscus. Lopè was named the Observer’s Rising Star of Food for 2017 and has been praised as one of the UK’s leading voices in West African cuisine. Her cookbook, Hibiscus, was published in June and has a delightful variety of mouthwatering recipes featuring traditional West African ingredients. I can’t wait to try my hand at Lopè’s hibiscus and coconut cake!

West African Cuisine With Lopè Ariyo

In this episode, we chat about how going to boarding school in Nigeria influenced Lopè’s cooking when she moved back to London and tried to recreate the dishes she’d loved best from her childhood. Lopè also shares how winning a food competition whilst studying Maths at university (and writing her food blog on the side) changed her life, landing her a cookbook deal and catapulting her into the food industry.

West African Cuisine With Lopè AriyoLopè Ariyo, Image © Ellis Parrinder

Lopè’s love for entertaining and cooking is clear, and I asked her for some tips on being a brilliant hostess, as well as a menu for a dinner party inspired by her book. Be warned – listening to this episode is bound to make you feel rather hungry!

Listen to learn more about West African cuisines and the story behind Hibiscus.

P.S. Next week on Tea & Tattle, I’m in conversation with the writer and critic Lauren Elkin about her fabulous book, Flâneuse

A Chat With | The Hardihood

A Chat With The Hardihood | Beautiful Raw Cakes | Miranda's Notebook InterviewDaisy Kristiansen and Leah Garwood-Gowers, founders of The Hardihood

I’m always keen to hear about female-led businesses, especially when they’ve been successfully founded by best friends. When I stumbled across the story of The Hardihood, which produces raw cakes as beautiful as they are nutritious and tasty, my interest was definitely piqued.  Daisy Kristiansen and Leah Garwood-Gowers were housemates who gave up sugar together one year, and, uninspired by the sugar-free dessert options available, decided to start making their own. The Hardihood was born, and quickly garnered a huge amount of success, with the cakes now stocked in Harrods, Planet Organic and Daylesford Stores, as well as available to order online.

Daisy and Leah’s first cookbook, Raw Cake, came out at the start of 2017, and their brand is clearly going from strength to strength in a remarkably short space of time. I took the opportunity to ask Leah some questions about her growing business.

***

Would you tell me a little about your background? How did you both meet?

Daisy and I have been friends for years; we met at a dinner party in West London and became pals on the bus back to Hackney together that night. We later went on to live together and have many years of fun under our belts. Although we no longer live together, we’ve been running The Hardihood together since late 2015. Before we founded the business, Daisy worked in fashion and styling and I worked in hospitality and journalism.

How did the idea for The Hardihood originate? What made you decide to go into business together?

We’d both always leant towards the creative side of entrepreneurial spirit before starting The Hardihood, having had many ideas but little clue as to how to get them off the ground. The fact that The Hardihood’s success grew through social media almost overnight forced us to get serious about the world of business. There’s been a lot of faking it until you make it, and although we’re still learning on the job, we’re very confident about our vision for the future and feel grateful that, between the two of us, we have the passion and skills to stick at it.

A Chat With The Hardihood | Beautiful Raw Cakes | Miranda's Notebook InterviewAfternoon treats: ripe cherries and a Hardihood raw salted caramel cake

The Hardihood was born out of a number of factors. The first was creativity; we both wanted creative freedom over the project we’d be working on. The second was the desire to make the world a better place, which sounds dramatic, but it was around the time of founding The Hardihood that people were really waking up to the perils of refined sugar, and we wanted to make a dessert option that addressed this. We wanted to make a dessert that looked good, tasted good and felt good too. The third was building a lifestyle for ourselves and our employees that actively supported work-life balance; for example, having a work schedule that’s flexible enough for female employees to return to work after baby number two or in which male employees are able to take a generous amount of time off for paternity leave.

A Chat With The Hardihood | Beautiful Raw Cakes | Miranda's Notebook InterviewRaw cakes from The Hardihood

It’s wonderful to see an inspiring example of female friendship and business partnership. What is your advice to women who may be thinking of going into business with a friend? How do you make sure that your friendship remains a priority, and that you both feel heard and valued within the business?

It’s funny, we often say that we have to approach our relationship like a marriage these days. When things get tough it’s not like either of us can just leave the room, we’re both hugely passionate about The Hardihood being a success so whatever disagreements – professional or otherwise – we have, we have to face them head on, which I believe is hugely helpful for personal growth. It’s important to make space for honest and direct conversation, but it’s equally important not to get into the habit of treating each other too familiarly. When you’re spending such a lot of time together it’s easy to start speaking to each other as offhandedly as you would to your siblings and this can sometimes be inappropriate within a professional environment. You’ve got to be patient with each other and remember that you’re growing together, so your inputs are both equally valuable. Even though we’re only a small team of 3, we often sit down and talk about our company culture in ways that would support the size of the company we want to grow to. We value transparency, a can-do attitude, a good sense of humour and efficiency above all else, and so we push ourselves and each other to behave in a way that reflects this. At the end of it all, we’re still the best of friends and make time to discuss our lives like we would if we weren’t tackling the pitfalls of running a small business together daily.

What are your top tips for people who want to give up refined sugar, or create more general healthy eating habits?

Even switching your ordinary sugar to coconut sugar is a great place to begin. Or begin by getting in to the habit of reading the back of anything you buy that is packaged. A lot of the time sugar is sneaked into things that you’d consider savoury, like pasta source or hummus. It’s one thing indulging decisively in something, but eating something savoury and then discovering that you may as well have just had a donut is frustrating.

A Chat With The Hardihood | Beautiful Raw Cakes | Miranda's Notebook InterviewDaisy and Leah’s new cookbook

Would you tell me a little about your book, Raw Cake?

We always hoped the book would be an insight for beginners into the world of raw cake. It’s beautiful enough to be a coffee table book and accessible enough for everyone. We were both self taught raw chefs and we found that a lot of the books we read in the beginning were hugely complicated and contained ingredients that even google couldn’t find. We use a lot of repeating ingredients with the option to add superfoods throughout. We’re particularly proud of the glossary at the back – it tells you a little bit about each ingredient and what we find it good for.

***

Follow The Hardihood on instagram, twitter and facebook.

Get the Raw Cake cookbook here.

All images, apart from the second listed, which is my own, courtesy The Hardihood.

Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

Last week, I joined a group of bloggers at the Artist Residence hotel in London for tea and croissants in the morning, before being bundled into Land Rovers and whisked to the new Artist Residence sister hotel in Oxfordshire, for lunch in the garden and a Dutch flower workshop with Bloom and Wild.

It was the perfect day for an outing, with bright blue skies and a pleasant breeze. The car journey seemed to take no time at all as I chatted with Milly (you may remember her from my Cornwall interview). We arrived just before lunch and were offered a glass of rosé and the chance to explore the hotel, which only opened in May.

I was charmed by the decor, especially the floral House of Hackney wallpaper that was such a striking feature. Some lovely ladies from Bloom and Wild, who were giving us a flower workshop in the afternoon, had set up a gorgeous display of blooms that made my flower loving heart very happy.

Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, OxfordshireBloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

I also got to peep into one of the bedrooms, which was gorgeous and looked extremely comfortable. I would have enjoyed lingering in the tub in the light, airy bathroom and writing postcards at the vintage desk.

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

After having a look around and taking a million photos between us, we headed out into the garden for lunch, our appetites whetted by the fantastic sounding menu that had been emailed round the day before.

Al Fresco Dining

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

Doesn’t that look a delightful table? I felt summer had truly arrived as I took my seat and was offered some more rosé. The outdoor dining area overlooked the hotel’s lawn and vegetable garden, and I was delighted to learn that many of the vegetables and salad leaves served for our lunch were freshly picked from the garden.

The hotel had cooked up a fabulous feast for us. To start, we were given sharing platters of crispy whitebait with garlic sauce; mozzarella, pea, broad bean and mint salad; heritage tomato salad with ewes curd and olives; and scotch eggs served alongside homemade brown sauce.

The main course was lamb wellington, with buttered Cornish potatoes, a green salad (from the garden!), barbecued radishes (also from the garden) and violet artichokes. I was beginning to seriously doubt whether I could manage dessert (strawberries with toasted marshmallows, lime curd and strawberry sorbet), but when it arrived it looked so delicious I couldn’t resist.

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

The food was all absolutely incredible, and it was glorious to enjoy it outside on a lovely day in excellent company.

Dutch Flower Workshop

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

After our meal, we went back into the cool, shady interior of the hotel for our Dutch flower painting inspired workshop. I was particularly excited for this workshop, as I love Dutch floral still life pictures, and there was a glorious selection of flowers awaiting us to help feed our inspiration.

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, OxfordshireBloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

Rowan, pictured above, talked us through the process of arranging our flowers, making it look incredibly easy as she finished her lovely floral display in about 10 minutes flat.

I settled down with a cup of chamomile tea and set to work, choosing a selection of blooms I liked best, and trying to create a loose, tumbling arrangement, featuring the striking colours that I often admire in my favourite Dutch floral artworks.

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

I sat next to the charming Briony from A Girl A Style, and we bonded over our mutual love for books, flowers and pretty teacups.

After a hair-raising moment when my display threatened to topple over, and I had to pop in a few dahlias to balance it out, I pronounced mine finished.

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

I don’t think I’ll be setting up as a florist any time soon, but I was still pleased with my result.

On being told it was time to leave, we were kindly showered with leftover blooms to take back home with us (I got some funny looks later on the tube as I maneuvered my way along platforms, weighted down by my spoils!).

It really was the most perfect English summer day, and I’m now contemplating buying some florist foam so I can have a go at some more flower arranging – practice makes perfect, as they say!

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

A LONDON STAYCATION

Last week, I was lucky enough to celebrate the start of half-term by spending a night at The Zetter Hotel in Clerkenwell, one of my favourite areas in London. I’d never had a proper London staycation before, but after my wonderful time, I hope to have a few more! It was one of the most fun, relaxing experiences I’ve ever had in London.

Checking into The Zetter Hotel definitely felt like checking into 24 hours of fun and freedom, but without any of the hassle that usually must be got through before a holiday: no panic over passports and tickets, no drama when trains to Gatwick are  inevitably cancelled, no 5am alarm clock…etc etc. I simply hopped on the metropolitan line for 20 minutes, before getting off at Farringdon station and ambling happily towards the hotel.

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

If you’re visiting London, then Clerkenwell is a lovely location in which to base yourself. Full of history, fantastic restaurants, and independent shops, it still has an undiscovered, unspoilt air that makes it special to Londoners (scroll to the bottom for some of my suggestions as to what to do in the area).

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

Only a short walk from the station, I passed through an ancient archway to find myself at the hotel, which is situated in a very pretty courtyard, across from The Zetter Townhouse (a sister hotel, serving fantastic cocktails in a beautiful setting) and The Modern Pantry (I love their afternoon tea).

The Zetter Hotel is housed in a renovated Victorian warehouse and is beautifully designed, befitting an area that celebrates urban aesthetic (I’d just missed Clerkenwell Design Week, which ended before my stay). The hotel is also notable for its sustainable features and was given a Gold award for Green Tourism. I was amazed to learn that the hotel’s water comes from their own bore-hole under the building!

Downstairs is the stylish restaurant and wine bar, and these rather gorgeous lifts lead up to the 59 rooms:

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

Aren’t they fabulous?! Here’s a closer look at the quirky wall design:

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

After ogling the lifts, I was warmly greeted at the Reception desk (this marked the beginning of the absolutely outstanding service I received at the hotel) and told I was being checked into a rooftop deluxe room on the top floor. I was then whisked up in the elevator and shown around my room.

ROOFTOP DELUXE ROOM

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

My rooftop deluxe was absolute heaven – spacious and comfortable with floor to ceiling windows opening out onto a gigantic private balcony. I loved the soothing colour scheme and mid-century style furniture, which added such elegance to the room.

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Comfort, as well as style, is clearly carefully considered at The Zetter Hotel, and there were lots of pleasing touches, like the snazzy espresso machine (which made very good coffee), free wi-fi, fresh milk, a well stocked fridge and nibbles, REN products in the bathroom,  fluffy bathrobes and the wonderfully comfy bed. There was even a hot water bottle, complete with knitted cover, for colder nights.

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I also appreciated the thoughtfully chosen bedside Penguin books (I adore Margery Allingham mysteries!), magazines, bottled still and sparkling water and delicious chocolate truffles. If only my own bedside table was kept readily stocked with such lovely supplies!

ROOFTOP VIEWS

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

To my mind, though, the truly spectacular feature of the room was the magnificent balcony. I made a cup of tea and sat and drank it on one of the deckchairs, enjoying the sunshine and the fantastic views of the city.

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I had a few hours to spend before supper at the hotel,  which my lovely friend Claire was joining me for, so I passed the time happily reading on the balcony in preparation for an upcoming Tea & Tattle interview and having a few more cups of tea (room service responded instantly to my request for more milk).

COCKTAILS AND SUPPER

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

It felt no time at all until Claire was tapping at my door, and after showing her round my room and admiring the views together, we made our way downstairs for the complimentary wine cocktails that are one of the perks of booking a room in advance at The Zetter.

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

We both went for white wine sangrias (so refreshing!), which arrived with a serving of plump green olives, and we happily chatted away as we perused the menu, trying to decide what we fancied. I snapped a few photos of the Wine Room and Restaurant, as I loved the striking bar and plush, jewel-coloured furniture.

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

I was very impressed with the menu, which was reasonably priced and offered a delectable selection of dishes. I’d like to go back with my Mum soon, as she works very close by, and dinner at The Zetter would make a lovely post-work treat one evening, especially as it’s her birthday month!

In the end, I settled for English asparagus, crispy hen’s egg and cured ham, followed by rib-eye steak, chips and béarnaise sauce, with chocolate mousse for dessert.

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Everything was mouthwateringly good. The asparagus was perfectly cooked, and my steak was fantastic: tender and flavourful. The chips and béarnaise sauce were dangerously more-ish too, and of course a chocolate dessert is always a winner in my book, especially when it’s so beautifully presented. The meal was excellent: classic, skilfully executed and exceedingly tasty.

We washed it all down with a carafe of white wine from their wine on tap selection, which is a super idea that means you’re offered many fantastic wines at very reasonable prices.

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

Claire very much enjoyed her supper as well, going for beetroot salad with goats curd, pine nuts and apple, followed by cod with seaweed crushed potatoes and creamed mussels, and Amalfi lemon posset with raspberry compote for dessert.

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I’d like to try all of those dishes on a return trip myself! It was so much fun chatting with Claire, who was filling me in on her exciting travel plans and great book recommendations. In contrast to our usual London meet ups, this time I had a 1 minute travel time back to my room after saying goodbye –  the ultimate luxury for a Londoner!

BREAKFAST

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell

I had a fantastic night’s sleep; the pillows were incredibly soft, the room was the perfect temperature, and I was amazed by how quiet it was, considering I was sleeping in the heart of a busy city.

After my usual journaling, stretching and instagraming in the morning, I felt quite hungry, despite the impressive meal the night before. I got dressed, first delighting in the walk-in ‘raindance’ shower, before heading down to breakfast.

I went for the Zetter Full English Breakfast: eggs, toast, sausage, bacon, tomato, mushroom and black pudding, with copious amounts of tea of course. It was delicious and certainly set me up for the day!

EXPLORING CLERKENWELL

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell

I was quite sad to leave the hotel, but consoled myself by making plans to meet up with my friend Arthur later in the day and having a thorough stroll through Clerkenwell. I thought I’d list a few suggestions for fun places to go within the immediate area, should you fancy spending time at The Zetter Hotel yourself:

// The Cloister Garden //

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell

Opposite The Zetter Hotel is the Museum of the Order of St John, which is well worth paying a visit, especially for the courtyard garden, which is a beautiful and tranquil space.

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell

// Marby & Elm //

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell | Marby and Elm

This fun stationery shop, across the road from The Zetter, is the perfect place to go to stock up on quirky, colourful cards and notebooks, and it sells a lovely selection of candles inspired by London locations – I was particularly taken with the Hampstead Heath candle, but you could stick to your surroundings and go for the Clerkenwell Blue scent!

// St John Bread and Wine //

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell | St John Bread and Wine

One of my favourite places to go in London, St John Bread and Wine  is only a short walk from The Zetter Hotel. The St John Restaurant is fantastic too, but I generally stick to a glass of wine and the bar menu in the evening, or a cup of tea and sweet treat in the afternoon. Typically British fare is offered: the eccles cakes are famous, and I love the seed cake and vanilla custard doughnuts too.

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell | St John Bread and WineLondon Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell | St John Bread and Wine London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell | St John Bread and Wine

// The Zetter Townhouse //

London Staycation | The Zetter Townhouse | Clerkenwell

Finally, even if you’re staying at the The Zetter Hotel, it’s well worth nipping over the cobblestones to their sister hotel, The Zetter Townhouse, which has one of the prettiest front doors in London and serves fantastic cocktails in beautiful surroundings that make you feel as if you’re in a rather grand English drawing room.

+++ Rooms are available from £258 inc VAT at The Zetter Hotel. You can check availability and book here. +++

Note: my stay and meals at The Zetter Hotel were complimentary for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own. 

T&T 31 | One Dish Meals With Rukmini Iyer

Rukmini Iyer Interview

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes.

This week, the food stylist and writer Rukmini Iyer joins me to discuss her career in the food industry and her fabulous new cookbook, The Roasting Tin. Rukmini started her professional career as a lawyer, but realised her real passion was working with food. I was so interested to learn more about how Rukmini transitioned from law to becoming a food stylist. In today’s episode, she shares the important lessons she learnt from spending time in a professional kitchen and competing on Master Chef.

I bought The Roasting Tin when it came out in April, and I’ve been so enjoying Rukmini’s easy, delicious recipes. We chat about her inspiration behind the book and her tips on meal planning, as well as some of her very favourite recipes. I’m sure, like me, you’ll feel inspired to pull out your roasting tin from the cupboard and get cooking straight away!

Listen to hear all about Rukmini’s new cookbook and some great tips for making healthy, home-cooked meals when juggling a busy schedule.