Tuesday, 17 January 2017

I've been wanting to visit Deliciously Ella's the MaE Deli pretty much as soon as I heard of its existence, and luckily, I finally made it for a Sunday lunch last weekend. I'd already heard good things about it from a friend who'd been there for brunch, but I was still slightly worried it would be overly hyped and not worth the money. Oh, how wrong I was!

Ella and her husband own two delis - one is a smaller one in Seymour Place and the other a two floor affair in Weighhouse Street, just behind Oxford Street. I went to the latter, and luckily found a seat straight away - I'd heard there could be queues and so was very happy that it wasn't the case during my visit. It's possible that the horrible and gloomy London weather might have had something to do with it... Just maybe! Even without a queue though the place was still very full, but the staff seemed completely on top of everything and were very helpful to boot.






The idea for the menu is simple: there's a counter full of lovely different little dishes from which you can choose four to make up your own "MaE bowl". As well as the things on the counter, there are also two warm dishes served with rice which you can choose as a part of your four, which I quite liked. The whole bowl is only £9.50 which I thought was pretty reasonable as you do get quite a lot for your money (I couldn't even finish my dish!).

Aside from the main dish, I do have to admit that the rest of the products were unfortunately quite expensive. I had a smoothie (albeit a generous portion and very tasty) which was £6.50 and cold pressed juices or smoothies were around the same price mark. So if you're on a budget, you can still go here, but maybe leave the juices for another time and stick with tap water - it'll still be a yummy experience, I promise!






For my bowl, I went with both of the hot dishes which on Sunday were a veggie green curry and spicy beans (not sure if these change daily?) with rice as well as roasted sweet potato chunks with tahini and mushed avocado. IT WAS SO GOOD! My favourites were definitely the spiced beans and the sweet potato chunks - I'm seriously tempted to go back and just have a double portion of both... I think I'll resist the urge for a repeat order though as there are still so many different things I'd like to try, such as the sun dried tomato falafel and the pea & avocado hummus - yum!

Overall I had a really great experience in MaE Deli, and I would recommend it to anyone regardless of whether they're veggies or not - I think Ella's food really showcases how plant based food really doesn't mean "rabbit food" or whatever other phrases are generally thrown around! I also did a bit of reading on her website, and was very pleased to find out that she pays the London living wage to all of her employees which I think is really great and commendable, and definitely yet another reason to support her little delis!

The MaE Deli, 18-20 Weighhouse Street, London, W1K 5LU

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Saturday, 14 January 2017

I've been thinking about making this post for a while now, and I thought that as a lot of people must be doing Veganuary this month, now would be the perfect time! When I started my vegan experiment in the beginning of last year, I felt a bit lost. I didn't exactly know what I could eat, and more annoyingly, where would be "safe" for me to eat out. Luckily I very quickly learned that it's always best to just ask for help - from friends, from the lovely people of the internet and from amazingly patient waiters.

If anyone else is feeling a bit like I did last year, I hope this small guide will help, at least a little bit. I know it can be difficult to find a suitable restaurant to eat in, especially when going out with a bigger group of people, all with different eating habits. Chain restaurant can sometimes feel soulless, but they are a great place for a varied mix of options for all sorts of people. You also generally know what to expect, which can be a good thing when you're just trying this vegan thing out.

I'm also doing this list as a little reminder for myself, too. I'm not fully vegan, but I've been happy with my 80/20 approach to eating animal products. Lately, though, I've been slipping a little bit, and I'm just trying to get back to the swing of things. My aim is to try and be vegan most of the week, but then allow myself a vegetarian meal (if I want one, that is!) once a week or so. We'll see how it goes - wish me luck!

WAHACA

Let's start with my long time favourite! I always knew that Wahaca was really good for vegetarians (even when I was a meat eater I would often still go for the veggie options, they're that good!) but whilst I was doing Veganuary last year I also learned that they have secret-but-not-so-secret vegan options too. These options, a vegan burrito and vegan tacos, are not actually on the menu, but if you ask your waiter they will know what you're talking about! I don't know why, after a year, they're still not printed on the menu, but I'm glad that at least I'm in the know - and now you are too!

I've actually never tried the vegan tacos (I need to do that next time!) but I can absolutely vouch for the vegan burrito. I go for it every time (and I go to Wahaca a lot...) and I'm still not even close to getting bored. It goes best with Wahaca's dark chilli sauce (beware of the yellow sauce though - it has honey so is not 100% vegan) and with some tortilla chips and salsa - yum! The burrito actually comes with a few tortilla chips of its own too and only sets you back £7 - such a bargain!




ZIZZI

Hearing that Zizzi was going to have its very own vegan menu at the end of last year made me ridiculously happy. I've always liked their pizzas and I find that the atmosphere is always really cosy whenever I visit. There are some vegan options on the "normal" menu but if you ask, the waiter will bring you a fully vegan menu with so many more options. I've tried their pizza and spaghetti, both of which I would really recommend. You can have the pizza as a margarita or choose from multiple different toppings to make it suite your tastes. I love the base and the toppings, but I have to say their vegan cheese isn't really my favourite. I think this is most likely because of it's liquid-y texture - the actual taste is absolutely fine! And then again, I am that weirdo who generally prefers a marinara pizza anyway...

The spaghetti was really tasty too, and like in the pizza, you could add different toppings of your choice to it - I went with chilli (of course) and some really lovely fried peppers. We also tried the vegan bruschetta from the starters - I'm a big fan of this Italian treat and luckily Zizzi's version didn't disappoint either! Unfortunately we were so full from our mains that we didn't have a chance to try their vegan dessert, which is quite the shame as a sweet calzone filled with lovely berries and pecans sounds pretty amazing. Luckily there's always a next time!




ALL BAR ONE

I wasn't quite sure if I was going to include this chain, as I have to say that I was pretty disappointed in both of my dishes. I decided to keep them on the list in the end as I've had two very different experiences in two different branches of All Bar One - one being really wonderful and the other, well, not so much. I had the vegan miso bowl on both occasions and in the Regent Street branch (see picture here) it was really tasty with lots of sauce, lovely rice and plenty of beautiful veggies. The same dish in the Tottenham Court Road branch however was completely different - you can even see it by comparing the two pictures! There was barely any sauce, the rice was so sticky that you almost had to cut it with a knife (okay, I exaggerate slightly) and it seemed a lot smaller as well.

I would give All Bar One another chance though as right now my experiences are 50/50 - it could be that my recent bad experience was just bad luck. The chain has a vegan set menu for the remainder of Veganuary, but most of those products are already part of their regular menu too. All vegan dishes are very clearly marked as well which I have to give them points for.



WAGAMAMA

Wagamama has a few different dishes in their menu that are already vegan, but on top of that they also have some lovely recipes that can be made vegan by removing just a few things. Luckily for me, my absolute favourite dish, the firecracker curry, can be made vegan - yay! It's originally a chicken curry, but you can ask it without chicken and just with more vegetables. It's SO good! Also, very spicy - just a disclaimer....

Another one of my favourites is a lovely, spicy, green coconut & lemongrass soup called Yasai Itame. It's so creamy, full of flavour and lovely vegetables, and I think it would be absolutely perfect for those cold, rainy days we've had so much recently. I've also been advised that a lot of their dishes can be made vegan by just substituting soba noodles (which I imagine contain egg) to either rice, rice noodles or udon noodles. I'll probably try that next!




NANDO'S

As a chicken restaurant, you'd imagine Nando's wouldn't be very good for vegetarians, let alone vegans. How wrong would you be! They have three lovely veggie mains, one of which (aptly named the Veggie) can very easily be made vegan by swapping the mayo or yogurt sauce to something else, such as sweet chilli sauce or just more of Nando's own marinade. You can have this as either in wrap form, in a burger or as a pitta, all of which are slightly different from each other. I've tried all of them and I think my favourite is the burger - it's so yummy!

There's also lots of sides you could be having, from the divine peri peri chips and garlic bread to the green salad for something a bit healthier. They also have great starters, from which my new favourite is the pitta strips with the peri peri houmos. The mix of the spicy nuts are also a great way to start your meal - beware though, as they are very moreish!




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Tuesday, 10 January 2017

I miss Malta more today than any other day since I came back to London. On the day of posting this it's already Tuesday morning, but while I'm writing it's still Monday evening, and today was the start of a first full week after the holidays. I'm definitely feeling it! It's dark outside, I've only just had dinner and yet it's already almost 9pm somehow. What?! Me and winter are definitely not the bestest of buds.

I've finally saved enough money to invest into a SAD alarm clock (getting it this weekend!) but until then, these pictures of the beautiful, sunny Malta will have to do. I absolutely fell in love with the architecture on the island, with it's charming little houses, colourful doors and window sills as well as ALL the cute shop signs. These pictures show my favourite bits, but there are still so much more to discover. I hope I can go back home soon!




Door goals!






Do you think I could get D vitamin just looking at these pictures?! Sigh...

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Saturday, 7 January 2017

It's that time again - the time to start planning the coming year! I've done few of these before (here & here), and I wanted to continue the tradition even more in 2017. Anyone who knows me even a little bit, knows I absolutely LOVE planning (possibly a bit too much...) and I'm always making lists of places I want to visit and things I want to try.

I thought it would be a massive shame not to share the best bits with you too, so hopefully the below list will be of some interest! I'm so excited about this year and I'm already very much looking forward to doing as much as I can when it comes to the things that London has to offer.




NEW(ISH) BOXPARK IN CROYDON

Most people probably know about the original Boxpark in Shoreditch, but fewer people might be aware that South London has now got its own one too. The Croydon branch was opened at the end of last year and will truly blossom in 2017. They have over 200 events planned for next year, ranging from acoustic gigs and clubnights to sports classes and spoken word events.

According to their website, the Croydon branch will focus more on food and drinks than its Shoreditch counterpart and you can expect cuisine from all corners of the world. My favourite traders are Mud Cafe and Chillbox, but there are SO many ones I still want to try, such as Poptata (specialising in french fries - yum!) and Arancina (Italian street food).

GET CREATIVE

One place in London I've been wanting to visit for ages is the cafe/bar/creative hub Drink Shop Do in Kings Cross. As you can probably guess from the name, this place doesn't like to settle with being just one thing. During the daytime it's a cafe, during the night time it's a bar with a dancefloor, and in the inbetween bits it likes to host all sorts of different, creative events. They're most known for their crafty events such as calligraphy classes and stitching but they also host lots of other kind of things as well, such as Beyonce dance classes (!) and boozy boardgames.



DISCOVER NEW BANDS IN THE LEXINGTON

One of my favourite places to discover new bands is The Lexington in Angel. They do album launches, theme nights (they've had nordic and French nights in the past) and mini festivals, such as the upcoming Five Day Forecast which showcases the best new talent that they think everyone should hear about. It's running from Monday to Friday next week with a five day wristband costing you £35 (although you can also get individual tickets from their website!).

NORDIC MATTERS IN THE SOUTHBANK CENTRE

This year the Southbank Centre is focusing on the Nordic countries with their year long series of Nordic Matters. They're going to be showing films, holding art exhibitons and talks as well as concerts and food related events. You probably won't be surprised to hear that I'm especially excited about their Adventures in Moominland exhibition which concentrates on the life and the stories created by the wonderful Tove Jansson. I can't wait to get lost in the Moominvalley and feel like a little kid again - who's with me?!




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Tuesday, 3 January 2017

As I mentioned in my Christmas post, I spent the holidays with my family and my boyfriend in the beautiful island of Malta. I'd never been there before and I was SO excited about the prospect of spending Christmas somewhere even remotely warm - luckily I didn't have to be disappointed! Every day was about 17 degrees Celsius and sunny, and if you were in the direct sunlight, it felt a lot warmer than that too. So if you're considering on spending some winter time in Malta, go do it! Get the flights now! (Also, can you get me some too? Because I'd like to go back please.)

I'm going to let the pictures do most of the talking here but I will say this: this holiday was exactly what I needed. I switched off, I didn't think of the "outside world" too much, and I did my best to stay in the present and enjoy the moment (much easier when you're next to the sea, I have to say!). I generally prefer city holidays, but going somewhere close to the sea, where there's still quite a lot to explore, is very refreshing every now and then too! Especially at the end of a very long year.







The view from the Upper Barrakka Gardens - breathtaking!






SO. MANY. BEAUTIFUL. SUNSETS!




I loved the architecture (especially all the colourful doors, windows and balconies) of Malta, but I promise to get back to them with more details (and more pictures!) in another post!





The gorgeous Blue Lagoon in Comino Island, the smallest of the Maltese Islands. Totally (well, kind of) worth the boatrip and feeling seasick...



I woke up really early on purpose twice because I wanted to go watch the sun rise from the sea. I was so tired, but it was absolutely, 100 %, worth it. I wish there was a place near where I live where I could do this back home too, but I imagine Brixton won't be quite as photogenic as the Meditarrean Sea... But maybe I'll give it a go anyway!