Tag Archives: cocktails

London | A bittersweet trip to the Caribbean with Cottons

imageI’ve had people ask me before whether I really like things as much as I say in reviews, whether I’m just sugar-coating because I got to eat or stay somewhere for free. I can’t help but laugh when I hear this, because anyone who knows me well will agree that’s it’s almost impossible for me to hide how I feel about things, and lying just isn’t in vocabulary. I’m always honest and have just been lucky that so far I’ve never really had a bad experience when I’ve reviewed products or places, but that doesn’t mean I would hide it from my readers if I did. I actually had my first disappointing experience at a restaurant review a few weeks ago and wanted to make sure I shared this with you, because my blog is about life – the good, the bad and the ugly. No sugar-coating and no editing out the bad bits, just honesty about my experiences so that perhaps they can help you to plan yours.imageYou guys will already know I went on a little weekend jaunt to London a few weeks ago when I stayed at the gorgeous Mandeville Hotel – find my review here – well I actually went to London because I had a series of restaurant reviews booked in. Lucky me, I love food and I love visiting new restaurants so this is a serious perk of running this blog, and I wanted to make sure I squeezed them all in quick before I head back to Australia. The first restaurant review of the weekend was actually the one I was looking forward to the most, and sadly it was the most disappointing. Cottons Rhum Shack and Restaurant in Notting Hill was where we were headed and I was looking forward to a night of Caribbean cuisine and rum cocktails. It was a cute little restaurant with all the colour and character a Caribbean restaurant should have and the Rhum Bar looked like a fabulous place to sip on a cocktail. So what was the problem?imageWell, from the second we walked in the door, we just didn’t feel very welcome. The service sucked, big time. The staff barely looked up when we came in and just seemed like they couldn’t be bothered to chat to us or welcome us as we went to our table. It took about 15 minutes before anyone even came over to ask if we actually wanted any drinks or if we understood the menu, I could understand if they were busy but this was a quiet Sunday night. For me, the service really makes a restaurant – whether it’s a fine dining or a budget chain, the level of attentiveness can turn an average dinner into a really lovely evening. As someone who has worked in hospitality across pubs, restaurants and bars, I know full well how much it sucks to work the Sunday shift when perhaps you’re tired or hungover from the night before, but that doesn’t mean you offer lower quality service. It’s always so important to remember that each customer who comes in is paying for top quality service and food and I just didn’t feel like that was a factor in our meal.imageWe indulged in rum cocktails – I went for the Wild Tiki which was spiced rum flavoured with Maraschino liqueur, passion fruit, pineapple, kafir and lemongrass. It was delicious, like a slightly more exotic Pornstar Martini. While my friend went for the Reggae Rum Punch – going for Wray and Nephews rum mixed with fruit juices – always pretty tasty. The cocktails were a real highlight of the night because I’m pretty picky about the quality, I hate when you get a cocktail and it is just watered down juice. Then our dinner arrived, I’d ordered the Spiced Coconut Seafood Casserole which was packed full of clams, squid, crab and red mullet, annatto potatoes and was served with scotch bonnet rouille. It was fantastic, the coconut flavour was absolutely delicious and I loved the mix of seafood as I’m a big fish fan. But my friend was left rather disappointed by the Montego bay Jerk Pork and Ribs – he actually ordered off the Caribbean Classics menu so we expected that to a lot better but there was a real lack of meat served. As someone who has worked in a Caribbean restaurant and who loves the food, he was pretty disappointed with his meal.imageIn the end it was a pretty bittersweet evening, while the cocktails and my dinner were good, my friend’s meal and the service on offer left a lot to be desired. I personally wouldn’t eat there again, if I fancy Caribbean food in future I would probably try to track down a different restaurant. It’s a shame because the restaurant was in a great location in Notting Hill and had most of the ingredients to be a success but it just didn’t quite make it. Here’s hoping the staff were just having an off-night, but having someone walk off as I started to place a drinks order wasn’t a good sign. I’d be curious to know if anyone else has eaten at one of the Cotton’s Restaurants and whether you enjoyed your experience – please leave a comment below and tell me about it.

How was your Cotton’s experience? Can you recommend any other Caribbean restaurants in the UK?

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10 reasons girl power beats aside the boys

10151806_10151984321267617_7647881145046258044_nBy now you guys will all know how much I love my girls, whether they’re the ones that live on my doorstep, halfway across the country, or even thousands of miles across the world. They mean the world to me and I love the fact that I have managed to find so many amazing women who all share the same attitude as me to life. Even more so, I love that they have been with me through the very worst and the very best of times, have seen me in a complete state and at the top of my game, and love me no matter what. Men may mock girl friendships – and yes, some are a complete sham – but I reckon we girls have one up on you guys when we do things right.

You will, of course, get those friendship groups who chat shit about each other behind each other’s backs, steal each other’s boyfriends and generally make each other feel bad about themselves. Just like you do in some male friendship groups… But when we women club together, we have something you guys don’t – and that is a closeness that can’t compare to guy friendships I have seen. These girls are more than “just friends”, they are my sisters and my family – the ones I have chosen to share my deepest, darkest secrets with and the ones who will pick me up in the middle of the night when it all comes crashing down. As they say, your friends are the family you choose – and my friends are firmly an extension of my family.10155561_10152012406232617_3339493121334675269_nA few particularly good girl dates recently have inspired this post because they really got me thinking about what makes my friendships special – then I realised, they aren’t special at all to anyone other than me. Women up and down the country share equally incredible friendships with their girls – and while mine are completely unique and special to me, the general principals are exactly the same. For most of my life I have been more of a boy’s girl, but amazingly I have found myself at this point of my life with more girlfriends than ever before, and I have to say, my tastes have definitely changed. I love being surrounded by girl power, loud voices, fierce personalities and loving support. It makes me feel stronger as an individual, and forever grateful that every single day I know I have a tribe of equally strong women fighting my corner and cheering me on.

What do I love about my girls?

  1. They always involve wine, food, cocktails and a lot of chat – and any time can be wine o’clock.
  2. Half an hour and a bottle of wine is all we need to set the world to rights and solve everyone’s problems – okay we’re starting to sound like we have a drinking problem.
  3. We can happily go from having a quiet night in with a takeaway and X Factor, to having a candlelit dinner by the river, to raving until dawn at a festival. We’re just so versatile.
  4. Talking about EVERYTHING. With your girls, no conversation is off limits and it is important to girls to talk about every detail – you just don’t get that with guys. Plus boy problems always seem so much simpler when talked about with a girlfriend – but most guys I know don’t really talk about girl problems with their mates.
  5. We are loud. Boys think they can out-do us, or out-loud us, but get a group of girls together and tell them to have a catch-up and things get really LOUD. But my girls never judge me for being loud.
  6. Opinions are in full force and you can really have a heated debate about something you are really passionate about, then five minutes later we are talking about cake or lipstick.
  7. There is always someone on make-up or hair watch for you, guys don’t notice when your lipstick is smeared or you have fluff in your hair but a girl will always pick up on these things.
  8. On nights out, guys kind of dance awkwardly or barrel around drunk – girls will stand round in a group and dance their little hearts out. No matter how stupid the moves – in fact the sillier the better – you will dance in high heels until you can’t any more.
  9. A friend can always solve your problem for you by putting things in perspective, or just telling you a funny story. They always know someone who has been through the same thing.
  10. Snuggles with your girls are the best, whether its spooning each other at a sleepover or just a hug when you’ve had a tough day. Your girls always know when you need a hug and things are a bit much – guys just don’t seem to get that same comfort.

1555534_10153670109485084_46650904_nDon’t worry, I’m not shooting down guy friendships as I have plenty of my own. I’m just saying that girl friendships can sometimes get a bad rap thanks to those who don’t understand the concept of true friendship. But the point is that actually we really have something going for us and girl friendships, in my experience, seem to reach a level that guys should be jealous of and that we should be proud of as women. If you ask me, some women need to realise that supporting each other and cheering each other on is far more admirable than tearing each other down and casting judgement.

What do you love about your girls?

Ab Lucy sign off

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20 things I miss about my university girls since graduating

1376653_10151647116042617_1190633507_nMy Facebook is littered with students who are starting to get excited about going back to uni, some who are just starting and those, like myself, who wish we could go back, if only for one awesome night. The countdown is starting, and after the bank holiday, there really isn’t long to go until the universities once again open their doors to the madness. Regular readers will know that I had a pretty awesome time at university, made some amazing friends and loved every second of studying – even those all-nighters in the library and the early starts! And I have to say, that although by the time I left I was rather more excited to get out in the world and start working, I would always love to go back and experience it all again – I wouldn’t do a single thing differently and would love every second.537692_10151316286472617_2146315577_nOne of the things I would particularly like the chance to experience again is living in such close quarters with all of my fabulous university friends. We had a group of around seven of us who spent most of our waking moments together throughout first and second year. By third year, we were spread across two houses just a few minutes walk from each other and some of us were even on the same courses! It was brilliant, especially for someone who previously had mainly boy mates  to experience being surrounded by so many like-minded girls who (sorry to quote Cyndi Lauper but…) “just wanna have fun!” We all had the same priorities, we all wanted to study hard and do well, but made sure we had plenty of time for lots of fun as well – these are the girls who would be up all hours studying and revising with me. But they are also the girls I was out pretty much every night with, the ones who came on Nando’s dates with me and the ones who came round for pizza and X Factor nights.44483_4513704356258_1775804307_nIt was always great to have a group of so many because you could always guarantee that no matter what you wanted to do, there was someone who was free to come along with you, there was always someone to get drunk with and there was always someone who could help you when you got stuck on coursework. It always really helped to have that support network when you were struggling because there was always someone around who could proofread your essays, test you before exams and to make sure you revise with promises of cocktails as a reward. Each summer, when we were all torn apart for three or four months, and now between each reunion I’m always thinking about all the silly and fun things I miss about my beauties. Trust me there are quite a few, but the things I miss most are the qualities that make this friendship and sets it apart from other friendships I share.484151_10150856430996922_726419521_n20 Things I Miss About My University Girls:

  1. Having someone there all the timeI was so used to having at least four of us in the house at all times, that meant someone was always awake to talk, snuggle or do shots with.
  2. Silly inside jokes were constant in our group, as in any other, and they still go on now, years after they stopped being funny for everyone else – but they certainly still make us giggle!
  3. Talking about EVERYTHINGwhether we wanted to or not and no matter how gross or graphic it got – there was always someone there to listen.
  4. Similar, but all the talk and comedy over sexit held hours of entertainment of talking in detail about funny experiences and in hilarious detail about the blokes involved, then giggling when seeing the boys like immature 12-year-olds.
  5. Cooking dinner after a night out, especially trying to fry eggs when drunk and basically just making a mess with lots of mayonnaise.
  6. Cooking and eating big dinners together like a little family before watching a film – all when sober.
  7. Being silly, tickle fights, spooning, snuggles in bed, pumpkin carving, baking and all the rest.
  8. Fancy dress! My girls and I always went all out for every single fancy dress occasion, and even some we made up ourselves – we’d do all the school girl nights, army girls, cops and robbers, Disney princesses and all the rest.
  9. My partners in crimenever have I met so many girls who were all up for causing carnage and as much naughty behaviour as I am – we had a good giggle and they were always there alongside me when I was causing mischief.
  10. Getting ready together for a big night out, or any night out, playing our music loud, dancing like muppets, making cocktails, choosing our outfits and all the rest.
  11. The ridiculous amount of time spent in the loo on nights outit was silly and drunken and we loved it – much as we tried to deny it it was a big part of our nights out!
  12. Dropping it like it’s hot every time we got into the club, busting hilarious moves and having the time of our lives – girls only.
  13. Eating rubbishI’m a hell of a lot healthier than back then, we loved a cheeky McDonalds, Nando’s, Dominoes, Indian… – but sneaking these foods with the girls was a lot of fun.
  14. Chasing spiders okay I don’t miss this quite so much, but we had a lot of laughs over trying to catch the enormous spiders that we found in our house.
  15. Being really gross  I won’t go into details because I don’t tell on my girls, but we’ve all been pretty gross at one point or another, and we’ve all seen each other in the worst drunken states possible, so we know how to cope with anything!
  16. Those all-nighters I’m not even talking about the nights out, I’m talking about the picnics we would make and take to the library, hauling our laptops and books over there to study, having short breaks where we just threw sweets into each others mouths.
  17. Fry-up Tuesdays a couple of us used to pop to the university cafe for a cheeky fry-up between lectures, that certainly perked us up after an early start!
  18. Running  was hilarious, we went as a group for a short time during the winter months and used to freeze ourselves to death before coming home for hot showers and dinner. After a while, I lost my running buddies, but it was funny while it lasted, with regular gasps of “I’m dying”.
  19. Making the most of our garden  with barbecues, nudie sunbathing and revising during the summer – as long as the spiders kept away we were happy.
  20. Nando’s  was our spiritual home between lectures, in the evenings and basically any time of day – we’d use any excuse to go and it was more than just chicken to us.

252526_10150200099145308_1070642_nSo what do you miss the most about your university mates when you’re on summer break, or since finishing? Why not share below and add to the list?

Ab Lucy sign off

‘When you and I were forever wild’ – The beauty of The Great Gatsby

On Friday I decided to treat myself to a copy of The Great Gatsby on DVD to watch that night. Having seen it at the cinema, I was wholly impressed by the quality of the film, cast, production and soundtrack – all incredible and I would expect nothing less from Baz Luhrmann. Although we saw it in 3D at the cinema, we watched it on our huge TV at home and it still had the same incredible effect. The songs gave me goosebumps and the words, cleverly constructed into the storyline by F Scott Fitzgerald all those years ago, gave me shivers.

After studying the book at school and university, I cannot help but look at the film and book in terms of the class differences and the commentary on society. The line that still gets me every time is said by Daisy, played by Carey Mulligan, when she says:

“I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”

The implication of this line in relation to the treatment of women and the objectification of women, by women themselves, is horrifying and the characters resigned to it, preferring to live out the fantasy than face or fight the truth.

This is the first adaptation of a novel to the screen where I believe that justice has been done to a great novel. With others over the years there were always bits missing or parts were not presented in the way I felt they should have been – for example, The Time Traveller’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, was a particular disappointment. However, Gatsby was a magnificent representation of the roaring twenties that are pictured from reading the book, the flamboyance of the characters, the parties, the clothes and the music is perfectly executed on screen. The soundtrack brings the film bang up to date, while enhancing each scene – whoever put together the soundtrack and matched it to the scenes did an amazing job.

The actors chosen for each role were perfect, Carey Mulligan was exactly as I had imagined Daisy to be, Leonardo DiCaprio perfectly embodied the character of Gatsby and I loved Tobey Maguire’s dry and detached commentary of what was happening around him. My favourite scenes of the film had to be the party scenes, the day where Gatsby and Daisy are reunited and finally the scene in the hotel room that sparks the final demise of each character. Finally, my favourite part of the whole film has to be Lana Del Ray’s version of Young and Beautiful, a song that pierces my heart each time I hear it and brings a tear to my eye. Not usually a huge fan of Del Ray, I often find her music a bit heavy going and samey, but this track is stunning and flawless. Her voice is truly beautiful and the song perfectly matches the mood of the film, it shows the shades of darkness of the characters mixed with the light and hope shared by them for the future.

I love the line of the song, towards the end, that goes:

“He’s my sun, he makes me shine like diamonds.”

It just captures the feelings shared between Daisy and Gatsby so beautifully, a feeling I know well, that one look from the one you love can set you alight and bring you to life. Stunning all around. I love this film and I love the fact that this film has made by boyfriend, who has never really like Luhrmann’s films, think again.

Only problem is that I need to win the lottery in order to fulfil my wish of hiring a mansion or stately home to hold a fabulous twenties-themed Gatsby party with everyone I know. I want to have everyone dressed up in gorgeous flapper dresses, feathers and beads. Everyone would be swing dancing all over the place with my friends from Swing Patrol and the music would be big band and lively. Plenty of cocktails and sparkle everywhere. It really would be the party to end all parties, but how on earth I would put this on – why knows without the funds!

Who else has seen The Great Gatsby that has read the novel? What did you think of it?