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cheriecity

London, Restaurants

Deep South Chicken at Ma’Plucker, London

Southern-style chicken is my ultimate comfort food and its doesn’t come much better than at Ma’Plucker in Soho.  This colourful canteen on Beak Street (high five on that one) has acquired quite a reputation as a quality cheap eat and I was completely won over when I visited for a quick chicken fix last week.

Ma'Plucker Soho

Ma’Plucker keeps it simple with its 3-way chicken concept – well, that’s what you’re there for, right?  Choose from three types of chicken (or a crispy coated halloumi cheese fan), then add one of three bases and a mouthwatering sauce.

Ma'Plucker Soho

There are also a few main courses to choose from including Chicken Caesar salad, Buttermilk dipped chicken wrap and Sylvia’s Love Bucket – a proper feast to share.

Ma'Plucker Soho

Ma'Plucker Soho

I couldn’t resist the Crispy coated buttermilk dipped chicken breast with a freshly plucked salad and herb dressing.  The prime chicken breast strips were covered in crunchy, herby breadcrumbs and were succulent, non-greasy and plentiful.

Seeing the enormous portions sizes of the chicken and maple waffles coming out of the kitchen, I think I made the right choice with the accompanying fresh leaf salad with grated carrot and a tangy, mouthwatering herb dressing.  I also loved the onion and garlic dip that came with the chicken and liberally doused it over the chicken.

Ma'Plucker buttermilk dipped chicken breast

Steven tried the Hickory spiced pulled slow & low chicken (250g) and paired it with a brioche bun base and Kansas BBQ sauce.  The pulled roast chicken was so tender and well-marinated in a sticky, tangy BBQ sauce and the bun was fluffy with a buttery glazed top.

This kind of chicken didn’t really require a sauce, as it was already juicy enough, but the Kansas BBQ sauce came in handy for the side of fries.

Ma'Plucker rotisserie chicken

The side dishes are very tempting and we were both wowed by the indulgent Crack & Cheeze.  The gooey, velvety mac and cheese ball was served piping hot and covered in golden panko breadcrumbs.  The cheese and cream flavours were perfectly balanced and avoided being overly rich – I could have greedily devoured it all but it is actually big enough to share.

Ma'Plucker Crack n Cheeze

Fries were just simply fries – not triple-cooked, skin-on, skinny or posh.  Saying that, they were hot, crisp, tasty and just what we wanted to go with our chicken.

Ma'Plucker fries

Desserts at Ma’Plucker are more than simply an after-thought and it’s definitely worth saving some room to try them.  Our waitress recommended the Chocolate brownie and it was a slice of heaven – in fact, it reminded me of proper brownies that I’ve had in the US.  The brownie was airy and moist with a slightly flaky crust and was drizzled with glossy chocolate sauce.  What can be better and more homely than that?

Ma'Plucker chocolate brownie

If the brownie was subtle and moreish, then the Mini doughnuts with caramel sauce packed a crazy punch. A sundae glass was filled with freshly-made, sugar-dusted bites of joy that tasted like fairground doughnuts. An insanely sweet and smooth caramel sauce was served in a mini milk bottle and there was even a generous dollop of it at the bottom of the glass.  After finishing this dessert, I was on a real sugar high and felt a little delirious walking around Soho.

Ma'Plucker doughnuts

Ma’Plucker is a real gem among a cluster of more serious and grown-up foodie spots.  It’s also pretty accommodating, offering reservations rather than the usual walk-ins only as well as take-away collection and delivery within Soho.

This chicken restaurant really impressed and I actually think it would make a brilliant boutique chain across town, particularly in Shoreditch or Brixton.  I’m already plotting another visit to indulge in some of those giant waffles with chicken skin gravy and a big ole’ sundae.

Chérie City was a guest of Ma’Plucker

Food images by Chérie City (interiors by Ma’Plucker)

Ma'Plucker Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Christmas, Shopping

Harrods Christmas Carol Hamper

Now that the festive season is in full swing, it’s time to get gifting!  I always find that foodie presents go down a treat and what could be more luxurious than a hamper filled with the finest gourmet treats from Harrods?

The Harrods Christmas Carol Hamper is certainly impressive, arriving in a majestic bright red hat box with a silky ribbon and gold illustrations.  While some hampers can include a few wildcard items, this one is classic with a selection of sweet Christmas essentials done properly.

Harrods Christmas Carol hamper

As a tea lover, I was delighted with the cute red caddy of Spiced Black Tea that literally smells like Christmas.  The loose leaf black tea is studded with pieces of citrus peel and cloves and it tastes just as fragrant and bold as its aroma.  Spiced Coffee is perfect for those cold winter mornings and is full-bodied and richly-roasted.

Harrods Christmas hamper

In this hamper, you’re treated to not one but two packets of delectable biscuits, both topped with golden sparkle sugar for that Christmas party touch.  The delicious Honey and Clementine Biscuits are buttery and crumbly with a subtle orange flavour while the Winter Spiced Biscuits pack more of a punch with potent spices, black treacle and sultanas.

Harrods Christmas biscuits

Harrods biscuits

Harrods Christmas biscuits

Also included is a duo of preserves and they’re so good it’s hard to pick a favourite.  Clementine and Sweet Orange Marmalade has an intense, zesty flavour and is packed with slivers of candied orange peel.  Spiced Plum and Fig Jam is sticky-sweet and bursting with fruit flavours, and also contains a generous amount of mouthwatering dried plum and seeded fig.  I think they go particularly well with scones, brioche and even on top of warming porridge.

Harrods Christmas jam

Harrods Christmas jam

The only part of the hamper that I haven’t yet tried is the Christmas Classic Pudding accompanied by Brandy Butter with Courvoisier VS Cognac, but I’m tempted to crack it open this weekend when it’s officially December and I can hang the Harrods shiny red bauble on my tree.

The Christmas Pudding is matured for nine months before Christmas Day and is made to the signature, time-honoured Harrods recipe.  It’s full of dried fruit, walnuts and almonds and infused with lashings of cider and brandy – the ultimate boozy festive dessert.

Harrods Christmas pudding

The Harrods Christmas Carol Hamper makes a fabulous gift for everyone that loves good food and especially those who are hard to buy for.  It’s also worth noting that the hamper can be sent worldwide, so you can treat overseas loved ones to a taste of London this Christmas.

All photos by Chérie City

Sample

London, Restaurants

Dan Doherty Dumpling Takeover at Mamalan

Good news for east Londoners, Beijing street food cafe Mamalan has just opened in Shoreditch, to accompany its other spots in Dalston and East Village.

To celebrate, founder Ning Ma has collaborated with Dan Doherty, executive chef at nearby Duck and Waffle, on a special limited edition duck dumpling.  But to taste it, you need to get a move on, as it’s only available until the end of the month.

Mamalan Shoreditch

I popped along a few days ago to check out the new cafe and of course, try this VIP dumpling.  The space is petite and bright with a warm atmosphere and friendly, relaxed staff.  It has a really homely, neighbourhood feel, echoing Mamalan’s roots as a low-key supper club six years ago.

We sat at one of the simple wooden tables and ordered a few bites while sipping on home-made rose lemonade and ginger beer (there are also Chinese-style cocktails if you’re in the mood).

Mamalan Shoreditch

The first dish to arrive was Dan Doherty’s duck dumpling – a celebration of his favourite meat, made with duck, salted cabbage, duck broth, roasted chili oil, fresh coriander and spring onion.

The duck was perfectly seasoned and the pan-fried dumplings were kept tender with a subtle and aromatic broth with soft morsels of duck skin and goji berry.  The chili added depth without overwhelming the broth and I liked that it was quite gentle in flavour, rather than being too punchy or salty.

Mamalan Dan Doherty dumpling

It’s hard to pick a favourite, but Pork buns were seriously delicious and I can see myself ordering a plate of them all to myself next time.  The Beijing toasted buns are quite different to the fluffy steamed buns that most of us are used to – they’re like lighter versions of English muffins with a crisp, bubbly outside.

They were generously filled with the most juicy slow-cooked pulled pork and accompanied by pickled cucumbers – so satisfying and moreish.

Mamalan pork bun

We also enjoyed the Fried vegetable balls, which were served piping hot with a side of sweet chili dipping sauce.  The balls were crispy but not at all greasy and filled with shredded, lightly picked vegetables in an airy batter.

Mamalan vegetable balls

Dumplings are a big part of the menu, and what Mamalan is known for, so we ordered a few more plates to give them a good try.  Beef and spring onion dumplings were generously filled with hot, slightly oily minced beef and just a hint of spring onion, and the dumpling skin was pleasantly on the thicker, chewier side.

I liked that Mamalan’s hand-made dumplings are quite meaty with simple, pure flavours.  The dumplings are so authentic that they’re actually from a family recipe created by Ning Ma’s grandad when he ran a dumpling stall in the street markets of Beijing.

Mamalan beef dumplings

Pork and Chinese leaf dumplings were equally tasty and bold – they went particularly well with the dumpling vinegar at the table.  Be sure to order them alongside the beef dumplings for a nice contrast.

Mamalan pork dumpling

The buns were so yummy that we couldn’t resist trying the Prawn buns.  The grilled buns were filled with a plump and succulent prawn patty and garnished with slivers of iceberg lettuce and sriracha mayo.  They were super-tasty and fresh, but the Pork bun had the slight edge.

Mamalan prawn bun

The dumplings and buns can be intensely flavoursome and rich, so I highly recommend balancing them with the light and refreshing Seaweed Salad.  A plentiful amount of chilled seaweed was doused in a mouthwatering mix of soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil, topped with toasted sesame seeds.  It was so tangy and silky and the portion size was large enough to order it for the table.

Mamalan seaweed salad

Mamalan is perfect for a quick and affordable dumpling fix in east or south London.  I know I’ll be back soon for more dumpling takeovers and to try those big bowls of noodle soup…and obviously more buns.

For more information and to see the menu, visit: www.mamalan.co.uk

Chérie City was a guest of Mamalan

All photos by Chérie City

Mama Lan, Shoreditch Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

London, Restaurants

Taste of London: The Festive Edition 2016

It always feels like the festive season has begun when Taste of London: The Festive Edition  comes to town. Really, what could be better than one big party with delicious small plates from top restaurants, gourmet tasters from producers and copious amounts of mulled wine?

Taste of London Winter

Taste of London Winter

I visited last night to try some tasty bites created by some of the city’s best chefs and pick up some foodie treats for the cold winter nights ahead.

Taste of London Winter Edition

We started at T2 Tea to sample the latest teas, infusions and flavoured matcha while deciding what to eat from the menu.  I love how creative and enthusiastic the T2 staff are, mixing up hot spiced chai on the stove and blending different teas to make new flavours.

T2 Taste of London

Action Against Hunger 5 Star Burger Restaurant is always the hot ticket, so we arrived early to get our pick of five burgers by five top chefs.  Pascal Aussignac’s Duck’N Roll burger was absolutely outstanding.  The well-seasoned minced duck patty was full of aromatic flavours and was elevated by a tangy, spicy sauce and crunchy paille potatoes, packed inside a brioche slider bun.

Taste of London Action Against Hunger burger

We also couldn’t resist Sophie Michell’s Classic burger with special burger sauce, melted Ogleshield cheese and fairground onions.  The high quality beef was cooked medium-rare and I loved the addition of the pungent, nutty and gooey Olgeshield (a British cheese made with Jersey milk and washed with brine every three days), as well as the sweet and sticky caramelised onions.

Taste of London Action Against Hunger burger

The key to a good Taste of London menu is balance, so we opted for an indulgent and shareable veggie dish by Oldroyd.  Porcini, truffle and chestnut risotto was just heavenly – insanely rich and punchy.  The rice was perfectly-cooked with tender mushrooms and a generous dollop of truffle mascarpone that started melting nicely before we could even get stuck in.

Oldroyd porcini truffle risotto

Another highlight was the Chicken schnitzel sub with red pepper relish from Tom’s Kitchen.  Last year, I really enjoyed the Truffle Mac and Cheese (which was on the menu again this time) and the schnitzel was just as delicious.  The herb-marinated chicken breast was so succulent and finely coated in crisp breadcrumbs and the red pepper relish gave it a touch of zingy sweetness.  It was hard to pick a favourite dish, as they were all winners.

Tom's Kitchen chicken schnitzel sub

Have you been to Taste of London: The Festive Edition?  Which were your favourite dishes?

All photos by Chérie City

Beauty

Aveda Tulasara Skincare Range

I’ve always been curious about ayurveda and how it brings the body, spirit and mind into harmony.  It’s a fascinating way of life and its techniques and teachings are at the core of holistic beauty brand Aveda.

For years I’ve been using Aveda, particularly its haircare collection and calming oils, so I was excited to discover its highly-anticipated new skincare range, Tulasara.  The name Tulasara means ‘moving towards balance’ in Sanskrit and that’s exactly what the range seeks to achieve.

Aveda Tulasara

Aveda consultants Drs. Vinod and Kusum Upadhyay describe balanced skin as ‘the absence of negatives; it is free from stress and looks healthy and beautiful’.  The daily demands of life such as stress, anxiety and lack of sleep, not to mention pollution if you live in the city, can really take their toll on the mind, body and skin. Tulasara has therefore been created to restore balance and offer a mindful ritual that you can take pleasure in.

The facial dry brush is the first part of the routine to gently exfoliate dry and dull skin cells.  Dry brushing is an ancient Ayurvedic technique known as ‘gharsana’ and it also helps eliminate toxins and impurities from the body.

The brush is so soft and luxurious with contoured bristles, so you can give your skin a deep massage or a quick brush to stimulate circulation.  I found it quite easy to incorporate it into my routine, as it really wakes up my skin, prepares it for absorbing the products and doesn’t require a lot of effort.

Aveda Tulasara

Tulasara Radiant Oleation Oil is a gorgeous pre-cleansing oil that really nourishes and calms the skin with a blend of six plant oils.  I can’t explain it, but the pleasant aroma reminds me of the hot, dry wood of a sauna – perhaps it’s the combination of rosehip, apricot kernel and sweet almond oil.

Leave on the oil for at least four minutes and glide it across the skin with a thorough facial massage to promote radiance (you can even wear it overnight for an intense treatment).  It’s suitable for all skin types, however unlike some oils, it doesn’t emulsify when splashed with water, so you will definitely need to follow with a good cleanser.

Aveda Tulasara

The collection also features three beauty concentrates – calm, firm and bright.  I tested two and was so pleased with the results that it was hard to pick a favourite.

Tulasara Bright Concentrate feels instantly uplifing with a zingy citrus aroma and a very light serum texture.  It’s targeted to help even and balance the skin, reducing pigmentation and promote cellular turnover.

So far, I can tell that it has helped brighten my skin and subtly reduce the appearance of pigmentation, dark spots and redness.  I also like that it’s easy to wear under moisturiser and make-up, as some serums can feel too sticky.

Aveda Tulasara

Tulasara Firm Concentrate is also super-effective, this time for anti-ageing, smoothing out fine lines and wrinkles.  Bio-fermented peptides, almond seed extract and safflower oleosomes deeply hydrate the skin, leaving it feeling plump and healthy.

The texture of this concentrate is also different – more like a silky lotion – and it has an earthy, rich aroma.  The concentrate is easily absorbed and feels very hydrating.  I often like to use this one at night when my skin is thirsty and I wake up feeling the benefits.

The Aveda Tulasara range is perfect if you love natural skincare that restores balance and leaves you feeling good.  For more information and to buy online, visit: www.aveda.co.uk

All photos by Chérie City

Samples

Food, London

How to Cook Japanese Wagyu Beef

Have you ever tried the world’s most luxurious and expensive beef?  Japan’s prized Wagyu beef is on most foodies’ bucket lists and once you’ve experienced this melt-in-the-mouth meat, it can be hard to go back to regular fillet steak.

On Friday, I headed to the Japan Livestock Products Export Promotion Council stall at the BBC Good Food Show at Olympia to learn more about Wagyu beef and how to prepare this sought-after delicacy.

Daniele Codini Percy and Founders

So, what is it that makes Wagyu beef so special?  Wagyu beef is famous for its high levels of fat marbling, which gives the meat a superior flavour and texture.  The ‘Wa’ in Wagyu means Japan while ‘gyu’ refers to cattle and as the name suggests, proper Wagyu beef only comes from Japan.  In fact, the Universal Wagyu Mark, established in 2007, proves its authenticity and unrivalled quality.

Wagyu Beef

The difference with Wagyu beef is achieved by nuturing the pedigree cattle from birth to adulthood.  Wagyu cows are massaged to improve circulation and fat distribution and avoid stress.  They are also hand-fed individually, allowed to graze freely and are even given hand-made jackets for the colder weather.  At maturity, the cows tend to weigh around 700kg, following gradual fattenening.  The meat is then graded and the highest quality cuts can command a top end price, making it a very exclusive artisanal meat.

Japanese Wagyu beef

The Japan Livestock Products Export Promotion Council stall was quite a hotspot with Wagyu fans and curious gourmands gathering to watch a series of live cookery demonstrations with top chefs.

Benihana Executive Chef Toshio Suzuki kicked off the cooking sessions but I was there in the afternoon to catch Daniele Codini, Head Chef of Percy and Founders, at the stove.  A long-time fan of Japanese beef, Chef Daniele showed that Wagyu can also work exceptionally well with British and modern European dishes.

Chef Daniele Codini

He demonstrated how to cook two different dishes and spoke about the benefits of using Wagyu beef.  The first was Beef Tataki with pickled carrots, ponzu jelly and charcoal mayonnaise.

The Wagyu beef was cooked on a very high heat to sear the outside while leaving the inside pink and rare. The pickled carrots added acidity to the richness of the tataki and the ponzu jelly was tangy and sweet.  Chef Daniele told us that to get the smoky barbecue grill flavour for the mayo, he dropped a piece of charcoal into hot oil which was then used in the mix (perhaps don’t try it at home though, as it will fill your kitchen with smoke).

I found the Wagyu beef silky and satisfying with a subtle and clean flavour.  While the tataki is usually served at room temperature rather than warm, the heat from the tongue and mouth helps melt the fat.

Wagyu Beef Tataki

The next dish was a Japanese spin on the classic British Sunday Roast.  Chef Daniele had already slow-cooked the large joint of Wagyu beef in a bag and then seared it to finish.  The beef was served with baby potatoes cooked in the beef fat (don’t discard it), pickled girolles and horseradish cream.

Wagyu beef chef demonstration

The tender, juicy Wagyu beef had a pure flavour and the high amount of velvety fat made it ever so indulgent.  It was the perfect choice for a special Sunday meat and I could have easily devoured more.

Wagyu Beef Sunday Roast

Both dishes can be recreated at home, however if you’d rather have a chef lend their creativity to your Wagyu beef, head to Benihana, Tokimeite, Tokyo Sukiyaki-Tei or Harrods in London.

Are you inspired to try cooking Wagyu beef?  What is your favourite dish made with Wagyu beef?

All photos by Chérie City

Sponsored post

Beauty

Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa, London

The Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa arrived in the beauty hall of Debenhams Oxford Street last week and I popped along to check it out.  This new spa’s arrival caused quite a buzz with beauty bloggers raving about the treatments, plus you really can’t miss the enormous Red Door billboard outside.

Inspired by the new look Red Door Spa at Union Square, New York, the Elizabeth Arden spa at Debenhams is a relaxing urban retreat with stylish design and innovative treatments.  It’s all about ‘beauty on the go’ with a Speed Services menu of effective 15-minute treatments that you can easily squeeze into your lunch break.

Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa London

Glossy treatment counters are dotted around the beauty hall, where you can enjoy a range of complimentary treatments such as Pampered Hands and Lady Liperty, as well as the Pollution Solution (£15), which is redeemable against any Elizabeth Arden purchase.

I was taken to one of the counters at the launch event to try out an Oxygen Beauty Blast (£15) – the perfect end to a long day.  When my therapist told me that the Duchess of Cambridge had this very treatment on the morning of her wedding, I knew it would be something special.

A mist of serum infused with 16 trace minerals, botanicals and hyaluronic acid was sprayed across my skin using a low-key pen device.  It was then followed by a blast of pure oxygen that pushes the product into the skin and leaves it feeling cool, refreshed and plump.

Surprisingly, my make-up wasn’t removed for the taster facial, but I was told it didn’t make too much of a difference, as the shot of oxygen drives the product deep into the skin, penetrating through the make-up (and I have the New York CEO’s word on this).

I didn’t feel any product residue on my skin and it instantly made my make-up look fresher, so it’s a great treatment if you’re on your way to a party.  My skin also felt really hydrated and nourished for the next few days.  Of course, if you have the full 15-minute treatment (for a redeemable £15), the skin is thoroughly cleansed and toned before the oxygen is delivered.

Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa London

For an even more relaxing experience, there’s the luxury treatment room, offering facials using professional products that are exclusive to Red Door Spas across the US.  Treatments include the Ultimate Arden Facial, Elizabeth Arden Essential Facial and the Ceramid Anti-Aging Facial, which I’m particularly excited about as I love some of the products from the Flawless Future Ceramide range.

The treatment room offers that intimate spa atmosphere in the middle of a busy department store and the prices are very reasonable – on average £1 per minute.  You can also book online, making it even easier to indulge in a bit of Red Door pampering.

For more information and booking, visit: www.elizabetharden.co.uk

Berlin, Theatre

24 Hours in Berlin

Last weekend, I hopped over to Berlin for a magical night out at the cabaret.  However, it wasn’t the kind of decadent, kitsch show you might expect to find in Berlin – Chamaeleon Theater is all about ‘new circus’.

The whirlwind trip started with an early morning Eurowings flight, where I met the other lovely UK bloggers.  After an easy journey from Tegel Airport into the city using the Berlin Welcome Card, we checked in to the Scandic Hotel Potsdamer Platz, but more about that shortly.

Berlin Mitte

Our first stop was lunch at Oliv Eat, a stylish, healthy eatery just 15 minutes walk from the hotel on Potsdamer Strasse.  It’s in a quiet yet creative neighbourhood next to Acne Studio and the famous variety theatre Wintergarten, as well as a cluster of art galleries.

Oliv Eat Berlin

The menu is a mix of all-day breakfast dishes as well as larger plates and home-made cakes.  I had Avocado on sourdough toast, which included chunky avocado with a lemon dressing and the most delicious bakery-fresh bread and a perfect poached egg.  The others also enjoyed their colourful quinoa bowls and warming home-made soup.

Oliv Eat Berlin avocado toast

After a quick look around Potsdamer Platz, we drove over to Rosenthaler Strasse in Berlin’s hip Mitte district for our night at the theatre.  Chamaeleon Theater is tucked away in the Hackesche Höfe, a large complex with eight curious interconnecting courtyards.

Chamaeleon Theater Berlin

The former ballroom was built in 1906 and its original Art Nouveau facade with decorative tiles has luckily survived until this day.  Inside, the theatre is set up in a cabaret style with table seating and you can enjoy a full meal or antipasti board ahead of the show.

Chamaeleon Theater

We met with the brilliant team behind the theatre and German bloggers over Champagne and nibbles on the newly-renovated balcony before heading down to our seats ready for the show.

1chamaeleon_berlin_underart

The programme at Chamaeleon Theater changes twice a year and the current show is UNDERART: Ode to a Crash Landing, performed by Swedish new circus company, Cirkus Cirkör.  To say the show is an understatement – it’s awe-inspiring, moving, jaw-dropping and very cool.  A real must-see, especially in this characterful venue.

The concept of the show is about overcoming the trauma of a crash and working back to a good place.  Director Olle Standberg broke his neck doing a triple somersault in 2005 and was paralysed from the neck down.  The show is based on his experience and begins with a harrowing expressive dance interpretation of his life-changing condition.

Chamaeleon Theater Berlin

However, the show is much more uplifting than it may sound, even though I almost cried during one of the more emotional moments.  It’s a stunning mix of dance and gravity-defying acrobatics set to mesmerising live electronic and acoustic music (think Goldfrapp and Fever Ray with a dash of lo-fi indie).

Now, I won’t spoil the surprise too much, but there are some real ‘wow’ moment, as the agile performers leap off each other’s shoulders, balance on wooden stilts, hang suspended from the lighting rig and end up submerged in water upside down.

Chamaeleon Theater Berlin

After the show, we had the chance to meet some of the performers at the bar and they really are such magnetic, interesting people.  They all arrived at the new circus company from different disciplines – Anna Ahnlund is a musician who found participating in the acrobatics a fun challenge while Methinee Wongtrakoon started as a contortionist and combines these impressive skills with dance.  The company is one to watch and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

We then met with a tour guide who took us on a night walking tour of Berlin, passing sights such as Museum Island, the Berliner Dom, Hackescher Markt, Berlin Public Library, the River Spree and even Angela Merkel’s apartment building.  It was a great way to see some of the city’s highlights in less than an hour and prepare our appetite for our evening meal.

Käfer Dachgarten-Restaurant Berlin

Dinner was a suitably spectacular affair at Käfer Dachgarten-Restaurant Berlin at the top of the Reichstag.  Even at 9pm, there were queues for a tour of the historic German parliament building, but you’re able to skip the lines by dining at the high end restaurant (an early breakfast is a popular option).

Käfer Dachgarten-Restaurant Berlin

The rooftop boasts some amazing views over the city and the glass dome looks magical lit up at night.  Just like Norman Foster’s iconic glass dome, the restaurant has a sleek contemporary style and the menu is modern German to match.

We started with a warming, velvety Asian-style Hokkaido pumpkin soup with styrian oil and roasted sunflower seeds.  I couldn’t help mopping it up with many slices of excellent German rye bread with salted butter, as I was feeling really peckish after the walking tour.

Käfer Dachgarten-Restaurant Berlin

Next up was a super-indulgent Saddle of beef with Caesar crust, creamy savoy cabbage, carrot terrine, potato and hazelnut purée and Dijon mustard sauce.  The beef was tender and juicy and the creamy, garlicky accompaniments and rich red wine mustard sauce complemented it well.  Surprisingly, the portion size was enormous – it could have easily been halved – and I struggled to finish it.  Be sure to bring your appetite and a stretchy waistband!

Käfer Dachgarten-Restaurant Berlin

Dessert was more dainty yet still elaborate – Valrhona chocolate mousse with pear sorbet and rosehip pears. The chocolate mousse was exemplary and I loved the tiny, chewy chocolate macaron, dark chocolate curl and the refreshing, sweet pear sorbet.  We finished the meal with coffee and tea served in cute ladybird china and left feeling full and happy.

Käfer Dachgarten-Restaurant Berlin

After dinner, we arrived back at the Scandic Hotel Potsdamer Platz, ready for some much-needed sleep.  This enormous, shiny hotel on Potsdamer Platz has a contemporary Scandinavian style and is the most eco-friendly hotel in Berlin.  It also brings a touch of nature to the city with fun features such as birdsong in the lifts, tree trunk patterned carpets and majestic elk Lasse guarding the hotel.

Scandic Hotel Potsdamer Platz Berlin

Scandic Hotel Potsdamer Platz Berlin

My Superior Room was spacious yet cosy with a comfortable bed, large LCD TV, floor-to-ceiling windows, a rustic shearling-style chair, tea and coffee making facilities and best of all, a complimentary minibar stocked with premium soft drinks, water, wine and beer.

Scandic Hotel Potsdamer Platz Berlin

Scandic Hotel Potsdamer Platz Berlin

The bathroom was also modern and pristine with a bath and shower, a decorative nature window and wall-mounted bathroom products by Face Stockholm.

Scandic Hotel Potsdamer Platz Berlin

A perk of staying at Scandic Hotel Potsdamer Platz is the amazing buffet breakfast.  The third-floor dining room is huge with a number of stations filled with over 150 breakfast items.  There’s a hot selection of dishes, cured meats and cheeses, cereal, yoghurt, mini pastries, different breads and plaited brioche and the most delicious iced lemon cake.  Guests with allergies or intolerances are also well cared for with a whole area dedicated to gluten- and dairy-free items.

Scandic Hotel Potsdamer Platz Berlin breakfast

My 24 hours in Berlin were so magical and it reminded me just how much can be packed in to a small amount of time.  It’s the perfect itinerary for a memorable night out in Berlin

Many thanks to Chamaeleon TheaterKäfer Restaurant and Scandic Hotel Potsdamer Platz for an amazing time in Berlin.

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by Käfer Restaurant and UNDERART images by Chamaeleon Theater).

 

 

Beauty

Estée Lauder Pink Perfection Color Collection

To mark National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Estée Lauder has created a stunning new eye, cheek and lip palette.  Estée Lauder Pink Perfection Color Collection is a dreamy combination of shades that complement all complexions.

Everything is packed neatly inside a stylish hot pink textured case adorned with the signature breast cancer ribbon charm on the zip.  It’s really luxurious and smart and can be reused once the palette is finished.

Estée Lauder Pink Perfection Colour Collection

I love the eye colour quad, as it gets you from day to night – perfect for travelling.  Provocative Petal 3 is a lightly shimmered rose-mink base shade, while the two colours from the Ivory Power collection include a flattering champagne highlighter and a matte, smokey dark brown liner.  Untamed Teal 3 is the clever one that can transform your look – it’s a bold silver metallic that can be used for a bit of subtle sparkle or high-octane glamour at night.

Estée Lauder Pink Perfection Colour Collection

Pink Ingenue blusher gives a healthy rosy glow without too much shimmer and the Pure Color Envy Lipstick in Powerful is a creamy, glossy vivid pink.  It’s a striking party shade but can be toned down for daytime wear with a more neutral lip gloss.

The Estée Lauder Pink Perfection Colour Collection is a lovely, uplifting palette and the gorgeous pink case makes it highly covetable.  It’s definitely one that you should add to your collection – and for a good cause, too.

Estée Lauder Pink Perfection Colour Collection

20% of the retail price is donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation® (BCRF) and it’s available to buy in-store and online until June 2017.

Photos by Chérie City

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Films

London Film Festival 2016: La La Land

If there’s one film you’ll fall in love with this year, it’s sure to be La La Land.  Oh, and it’s a musical set in Los Angeles…still reading?

Whiplash director Damien Chazelle’s modern musical feels fresh and relevant with two unbelievably talented leads, memorable songs and a dash of irony.  It simply bursts with sunshine and uplifting numbers, however like any great musical, there are a few bittersweet moments.

La La Land film

The film opens amid the greyness of Los Angeles rush hour traffic, but soon even such a dreary highway scene transforms into a Technicolor song and dance extravaganza.  Aspiring actress/barista Mia (Emma Stone) is stuck in her car in the queue and is rudely beeped to move forward by impatient jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) – not exactly love at first sight.

They later spot each other at a Hollywood event – Mia and her housemates are there to network and meet screenwriters who might give them their big break while Sebastian plays in a cheesy 80s bands to make ends meet.  Romance isn’t on the cards – in fact they seem to find each other stubborn and irritating – that is, until they share a song and dance at an LA viewpoint and start to warm to each other.

La La Land film

Sebastian comes to see Mia on her break at the coffee shop and he takes her to the cinema as research for one of her acting parts.  A budding relationship begins and they support each other to realise their dreams – hers is to become an actress while he want to open his own jazz club.

One night when Sebastian is out performing, an old friend called Keith (John Legend) offers him a job playing keyboard on tour with his band.  Their new style of popular jazz fails to excite purist Sebastian, but he accepts just to hold down a steady, well-paid job and get closer to his dream of opening the club.

Meanwhile, Mia throws herself into staging her own ill-fated ‘one woman’ play.  With Sebastian’s long absences on the road and their glaringly unequal levels of success, their relationship hits the rocks.  Missing the opening night of Mia’s play for a band photo shoot is the final nail in the coffin and she flees LA, abandoning any hope of an acting career.

However, when a casting agent calls for Mia after being one of the few people to see her play, Sebastian drives the long distance to Mia’s parents’ house to persuade her to take one last shot and go to the audition.  Flash forward a few years later and life is rosy for both of them, having fulfilled their dreams, albeit separately.  A final chance meeting, as Mia stumbles upon his jazz club Seb’s, reminds them of how entwined their lives were and how they owe part of their successes to each other.  It’s a poignant moment, seeing how far they’ve come, but also how things could have been if they’d stayed together.

La La Land film

La La Land is a real feel-good movie with stunning cinematography and stellar performances from both stars.  It’s a love letter to Los Angeles and showbiz, and while it lacks depth in places, you can’t help feeling charmed and a little bit giddy (aka the Gosling effect).

La La Land is showing on Sunday 16th October at Curzon Mayfair Cinema as part of BFI London Film Festival 2016.

Films

London Film Festival 2016: American Honey

Teen ‘coming of age’ films don’t come much cooler and sexier than American Honey.  In fact, I don’t think I was the only one who left the screening searching for the soundtrack to delve back into that sunkissed, Instagram-filtered, hormone-crazy world.

British director Andrea Arnold presents a curious phenomenon as the film’s subject – youngsters working as travelling magazine salespeople (‘only in America’, you might say).  She immersed herself in this nomadic world, examining the often troubled backgrounds of the workers and as such, cast mostly unknown kids with no acting experience but tons of appeal.

American Honey Sasha Lane

Newcomer Sasha Lane was discovered by Arnold on Panama City Beach, Florida, and takes the lead as rebellious ingenue Star.  Her life in Texas is poverty-stricken and hopeless, caring for her unruly siblings and trying to fend off the advances of her grabby step-father while her absent mother is out line-dancing.  At a supermarket, set to Rihanna’s We Found Love, her eyes meet with Jake (Shia LaBeouf) and he asks her to join his crew on the road to Kansas City.

American Honey

Star then becomes the new girl on a minibus full of grungy stoner kids shouting along to hip hop who turn out to be an unlikely-looking magazine sales crew.  Top dog of this pyramid scheme is Krystal (Riley Keough), a formidable, gorgeous yet trashy ice queen suspicious of new recruits.  She takes the lion’s share of their earnings, handling logistics like picking lucrative destinations and sorting out cheap motel each night, but rides separately in a convertible with her ‘top seller’ Jake.

American Honey film

Star is expected to pull her weight from day one and shadows Jake on his doorstep sales pitches in a suburban middle-class neighbourhood.  She’s sassy and far from a natural, sabotaging one of his sales, as she disagrees with his lying methods.  However, a flirty and teasing relationship develops and Jake gives her little presents to keep her onside.

In one town, Star goes rogue and accompanies a group of rich old white guys to their remote house with an outdoor swimming pool for mezcal and barbecued meat.  Despite a whiff of impending danger, the men are simply friendly towards Star and buy some of her magazine subscriptions.  Unaware, Jake storms the house with a gun, threatening the guys, and Star begins to see the darker side of his involvement with the group.

American Honey

They have hot sex in fields and cars, but Jake warns her that their relationship can’t be public for fear of vexing Krystal or causing drama in the group.  As they move from town to town, Star becomes more reckless and agrees to meet an oil field worker after-hours for $1000.  It’s not exactly the night of his life and likely made him feel more lonely than before, but it blurs the boundaries of what she’s willing to do for cash.

Jake sees her coming back to the group’s temporary house after the encounter and goes nuts, accuses her of sleeping with the guy.  After a dressing down from Krystal, who gives her some home truths about Jake, Star is awkwardly relegated to just another girl on the bus and is replaced with fresh new meat.

The travelling lifestyle has taken its toll on Star and her friend Pagan and it begins to feel repetitive and still far from her dream of country life with a home and family.  The ending is pretty open-ended, but it feels like a rebirth for Star, as though change is on the horizon.

American Honey

American Honey is a euphoric journey through America’s heartland that may leave you feeling nostalgic for your teenage years when anything felt possible and the future felt so far-off.  There are echoes of Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers and Gus Van Sant’s early films in its depiction of hard-partying, nihilistic youth. With the tension and disillusionment in the world right now, you can’t blame them for taking to the road and rejecting a conventional life, even if their dysfunctional pack comes with its own problems.

American Honey is showing on Tuesday 11th October at Odeon Leicester Square as part of BFI London Film Festival 2016.

Films

London Film Festival 2016: The Handmaiden

Renowned Korean director Park Chan-wook’s erotic thriller The Handmaiden is a stylish film that grabs you right from the start and keeps you captivated throughout.

Set in 1930s Korea under Japanese rule, conman Count Fujiwara (Jung-woo Ha) enlists pickpocket Sookee (Kim Tae-ri) to help him defraud a beautiful, vulnerable Japanese heiress, Lady Hideko (Min-hee Kim).  They plot to coax her into falling in love the with the Count, who will then marry her, declare her insane, have her locked up in a mental asylum and then pocket her vast wealth and give Sookee her generous cut.  His offer is too tempting to resist and streetwise Sookee travels to the countryside to work as Hideko’s handmaiden.

The Handmaiden London Film Festival

Hideko is instantly trusting of her new aide and the Count makes numerous visit to woo her through painting lessons and cosy dinners, even winning over her seemingly bookish and secretly perverted Uncle Kouzuki (Jin-woong Jo).  Despite reservations of not being in love with the Count, Hideko agrees to marry him and they go to elope in remote Japan with Sookee in tow.  After almost a week of cabin fever in the forest, Hideko is taken to a mental asylum to be sectioned and betrayed by the two conspirators, but all doesn’t go according to plan.

The Handmaiden London Film Festival

This is where the film takes a dark twist and reveals the layers of duplicity in the story.  At first it’s a simple story set almost entirely in the creepy old manor house with beautifully-shot scenes, exquisite costumes and sexual tension that is only slightly released.  In the second and third part, it becomes much more sinister and a different side of the characters is revealed.  Cue an intense, electrifying (though rather gratuitous and eventually laboured) lesbian sex scene, ultra-violence and lashings of sadism for this extreme development of the story.

The relationship between the two women, from companionship to sexual desire and romance, is the lasting impression from the film.  The Count’s brash male dominance and egotistical advances are futile against the two women’s deep connection and loyalty.  In fact, the Count and Uncle become powerless as the women liberate themselves from their tyranny.

The Handmaiden London Film Festival

The Handmaiden is a sensory feast with stunning cinematography, a perfectly-crafted score and memorable performances from the mesmerising Min-hee Kim and rising star Kim Tae-ri.  There are a few moments of unnecessary repetition in an already lengthy film, but overall it packs a punch and is sure to thrill.  Just don’t expect a polite Korean period drama, it’s a whole lot weirder than that!

The Handmaiden is showing on Friday 7th and Saturday 8th October at Embankment Gardens as part of BFI London Film Festival 2016.