London: birthday dinner at The River Café

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It seems very fitting that the hottest day in the UK, probably ever, also happened to be my birthday. As my boyfriend will tell you, when it comes to body temperature and sun worshipping I have more in common with lizards and humans.

But even I was a little warm this day. At least indoors. The whole week it had been around 33C, sunny and humid and I think most people were hoping for a thunder storm to clear the air.

Of course I wasn’t, as I was hoping we could sit outside for dinner at The River Café, and luckily the birthday girl got her wish (after a quick downpour earlier in the evening but sans thunder and lightning) and we had the most wonderful evening on the beautiful terrace overlooking the Thames.

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It was a lovely balmy evening and we immediately ordered champagne and plenty of water while we browsed the menu and tried to decide what to order – because I honestly wanted to eat every single thing on the menu – but we settled on a nice selection.

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First we had the most wonderful fritto misto with scallops. The perfect starter for a hot day and we thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity and the perfection of it.

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As I can never ever resist pasta (or carbs of any kind) we shared two half portions of pasta; the buffalo ricotta ravioli of dreams and the most delicious girolle pasta.

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For the main course we shared the sirloin with various beets and rosemary potatoes. Wonderful flavours (although I would have expected the meat to be a bit more tender at a restaurant like this)!

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And of course we had to order the famous chocolate nemesis cake for pudding, but also had some roasted almond ice cream on the side.

Even though we shared everything we were so full after this feast of a meal! And it was just perfect for a low key, but still special, birthday celebration.

As much as the food is wonderful here (and it really is!), I think what makes this restaurant so wonderful is the combination of the food and the ambiance. You’re in a beautiful spot in London by the river surrounded by fun and interesting people all enjoying themselves, and I think that is part of the allure of some restaurants. They have ‘it’ even though as you break down each element they may not all be perfect, but together they work so very well.

The River Cafe, Thames Wharf, Rainville Rd, London W6 9HA

Back in London and a country weekend

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When the third week of August started I was back on British soil, having landed at Heathrow late the night before. Not one for wasting time I started working on the Monday morning and finished unpacking in the evening. But as the fridge was empty and the week ahead busy with social events I opted for a takeaway instead of cooking. My favourite gyro from The Athenian.

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The next evening after work I met up with Gaby for a catchup over prosecco and pizza at bustling Franco Manca. But after dinner we moved to a nearby hotel bar for another drink in a quieter place. We might be getting old, but I for one have never been a fan of shouting conversation.

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On the Wednesday evening I met up with a group of ex-colleagues at our usual place, over prosecco and nibbles. As everybody rushed to catch their trains I found myself with plenty of time to spare before bedtime (as the night owl I am) and went home to watch TV.

The next evening my boyfriend and I went to the cinema and watched Blinded by the Light. I really enjoyed it and although it’s foremost a feelgood film I found the story (based on true events) really charming. Before the cinema we usually have burgers at the nearby GBK for dinner but this time we tried our luck at Nando’s instead since we’re both a bit tired of GBK. Especially the service. I just wish there were some better fast food restaurants around, like Shake Shack or Franco Manca, but in the meantime Nando’s hit the spot. Mainly because they have mashed potatoes. Yum!

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On the Friday we drove to Northamptonshire where we were staying the weekend with a group of others. On the Friday we had a lovely casual dinner and when everybody but us had turned in we ended up watching a comedy program I actually found funny. It was pretty harsh but still (or maybe because of it) really funny!

The rest of the day consisted of croquet, swimming in the pool and rosé in the sunshine followed by a more formal dinner. On the Sunday I didn’t feel very well and so had to stay in bed all morning, but at least I managed to get up in time for lunch so I could say goodbye to everyone. The rest of the afternoon we took it easy and in the evening I took the train back to London.

 

Monday drinks, pub party and a baby shower!

 

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The third week in July started with drinks! My food blogger colleague and friend Malin, from Malin’s Diner and her friend Jenny were in London for a few days. So on the Monday night we met up for drinks at Rooftop St James’s by Trafalgar Square, to enjoy some mojitos and the lovely view! 

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It was lovely to catch up and chat for a bit, but afterwards I went home to have an early night after a full-on weekend away. 

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On Tuesday I worked as usual and in the evening I made scrambled eggs for supper. I topped them with parmesan and served them with wilted spinach and fried courgette. Super simple but sooo yummy!

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Wednesday I had another night in, but had store-bought mushroom ravioli with fried mushrooms and heaps of parmesan for dinner. A quick supper I eat fairly often when I want real (i.e. not processed or takeaway) but can’t be bothered to cook.

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Thursday was very similar but I made rosti with creme fraîche, lumpfish roe and chopped red onions for supper. Another speedy weeknight favourite.

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On Friday after work I quickly whipped up some cake bases before I went to Earlsfield for a friend’s 30th birthday celebrations.

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It was a fun evening and I was clearly too busy chatting as the only picture I took was this one of my burger. IMG_6356.jpg

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Saturday I woke early (for me) to get the cake ready for my friend Laura’s baby shower. I panicked slightly decorating it and although it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it too it looked quite cute and tasted lovely (always use tried and trusted cake recipes when attempting more advanced decorations, as that way at least you know the cake will taste good!).

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It was a cosy Mummy-to-bee themed brunch in Wimbledon and afterwards we mooched around the shops for a bit before saying goodbye.

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Sunday I had a long awaited LIE-IN and as I didn’t have any plans (that was my plan!) and needed to recharge I stayed in bed reading most of the day. What an utter luxury! In the evening I ordered sushi instead of cooking to really have a full day to myself without any chores or tasks. Heaven!

 

Cinema, nights in and a weekend in the country

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Last week was really nice! On Monday after work we had dinner (steak frites and affogato for me) at Sophie’s Steakhouse before we saw Yesterday at the cinema. It was the perfect summer feel good film! So cute and great music of course, but fairly predictable.

I was supposed to meet up with friends on Tuesday but it got cancelled so instead I had some leftovers from the weekend for dinner and watched Big Little Lies.

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Wednesday I went down to The New Forest for work and had lunch in the sunshine. In the evening I had some more leftovers (so handy) for supper and chilled out with Chicago Med.

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On Thursday I packed for the weekend and caught some sunshine on the roof terrace.

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And on Friday I took the train north to spend the weekend in the countryside. Friday evening we had a cosy dinner and on Saturday there was a big party with people of all ages, games in the garden and a lovely lunch outside! In the evening we had a small dinner and on Sunday we slept in, had a nice breakfast and watched the Wimbledon final (so intense!!).

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We went back to London in the evening. It was a full on weekend but it’s also very restorative to get away from London for a few days and breathe some country air!

 

Girls night, pub dinner and another concert!

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I started last week with a terrible head cold, so apart from work I didn’t do much the first three days of the week. Monday I worked, heated a frozen pizza for dinner (oh, the glamour!) which I ate in bed in front of Chicago Med before going to bed early.

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Tuesday I substituted the pizza for a Shake Shack delivery and on Wednesday I ordered a gyros, but otherwise the days were very similar.

By Thursday I finally felt well enough to leave the house in the evening and met up with my friend Laura for a burger and a catch-up which was SO lovely!

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Friday I did some work errands in the day (coincidentally the weather was lovely!) and in the evening we had dinner (calamari, steaks and fries) at the pub in the beer garden. So nice to sit outside and eat!

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On Saturday we slept in and had eggs and pancetta for breakfast. Then we just chilled and watched some How I Met Your Mother before we got ready to go to yet another Wembley concert.

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We wanted to get there early so as not to miss the bands we wanted to see and the concert started already in the afternoon. We really enjoyed Kaiser Chiefs, Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam and of course the main attraction – The Who! Such fun!

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For dinner we got burgers as soon as they opened at 5pm, as everyone in our little group of four either already were, or were about to be, hangry. We had some drinks too and before The Who came on stage two of us got a Belgian waffle with chocolate sauce and ice cream to share. Yum! As the concert ended we left as soon as we good and as it was raining we walked as soon as we could to the tube station. So lucky not to have to queue like we have done in the past.

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Sunday morning I had a lovely lie-in (while somebody else was playing golf), ate cold pizza for breakfast and read on the sofa with a face mask on.  In the afternoon I went food shopping and later I cooked us a nice dinner of baked aubergine with tomato and mozzarella, creamy chicken thighs and roasted vegetables and salad. For pudding we had berries and lightly whipped cream. We also managed to book flights for a little trip in August!

 

Opera and a sunny weekend in Norfolk!

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Last week was great fun, but as usual I started the week quite calmly. On Monday I had Ocado deliver my food order and for dinner I just had an oven pizza. Not terribly exciting but I was so tired from all the concerts the week before.

I had another evening at home on Tuesday when I watched the latest episode of Big Little Lies and made a cheese toastie with pancetta for dinner. Another chilled night as I tried to get rid of my cold.

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Wednesday it was nice weather and I went down to The New Forest for work. I had breakfast on the train down and lunch outside in the sunshine. The train was freezing as always but I came prepared with two large wraps despite the sunshine!

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Thursday was also lovely and in the evening we went to Opera Holland Park to see Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera about Swedish king Gustav III and the masquerade ball, really enjoyed it! I didn’t have time to eat dinner before leaving work so I was very happy when I could have a big hotdog and camembert popcorn in the interval. Great dinner!

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I cooked a lot more on the weekend though… We went up to Norfolk on Friday night and went straight to the beach for a sundowner.

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Then back to the house to cook. We had a an elevated caprese salad as a starter, with buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, basil, tomatoes and rocket.

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For the main course I barbecued pork fillet which had been marinated with lemon, garlic and herbs, a potato salad and parmesan crème.

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We had pudding (strawberries and ice cream) inside as it got really cold in the evening, but still it was such a lovely evening first on the beach and then eating outside. And love a barbecue!

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On Saturday we had breakfast in the garden before we went to the beach.

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We had brought a picnic for lunch and as it was lovely and hot (30C) we even swam in the sea. Well, I didn’t really swim, but I did go in twice! The North Sea was cold but it was still really refreshing on such a hot day.

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We lit the barbecue again in the evening, but not until we’d each had a nice shower and an ice cold gin and tonic.

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Our starter was ham and melon (so simple but very summery!) and pan con tomate.

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For our main course we had barbecued chicken (I spatchcocked a whole chicken and marinated it in a barbecue type sauce), with it we had sweet potato oven fries, Mexican corn salad and homemade mayo. So yummy!

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For pudding we had strawberries and ice cream again while watching Stan Lee’s Lucky Man.

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The weather was a bit cooler on Sunday so I stayed in resting and trying to get rid of my cold and read a book. For dinner we finished off all the leftovers before going back to London. It was such a lovely weekend it felt like a mini holiday! Much due to the gorgeous weather – more of that, please!

A week of concerts!

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Last week started with grey skies and boring weather, but as Mondays are my least favourite day of the week the weather fit my mood quite well (and no, it’s not working I have a problem with – it’s the Monday morning alarm!). For dinner I had leftovers from Saturday’s tapas (one gets many portions out of an eight egg tortilla, I can tell you!), did some chores and watched the new episode of Big Little Lies. Then I went to bed early (before 10pm) as I needed to catch up on sleep after the concert the night before.

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Tuesday was also grey and rainy (seriously, what happened to summer?) and I had another night in. I made a lovely salad with new potatoes, rocket, lardons and girolles for dinner, watched an episode of Tin Star (love it) and Madam Secretary before bed.

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It rained all day Wednesday but it had stopped in the evening so I seized the moment and went for a walk along the Thames. About halfway on my walk it started raining again so I was rather soggy by the end of it, but still lovely to go outside, breathe fresh air and listen to a good podcast.

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Thursday the weather wasn’t bad! It wasn’t that sunny but around 20C and no rain. I had chicken and potato salad for lunch and in the evening we went to Twickenham to see Metallica perform. It was a great concert and a real stage show with fire and flames – just what one would expect really! And they played lots of the old songs I like. The food and queues however were not to my liking, but all in all a great night!

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We finally had nice weather on Friday (hurrah!) when it was time for another concert – Bon Jovi, supported by Manic Street Preachers! Jon Bon Jovi was even more charismatic on stage than I had imagined and he had so much energy! One could really see how much he loved being on stage performing, and it was so special seeing them perform live in front of a completely full Wembley Stadium. Pretty epic with a 90,000 people singalong!

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Saturday we had a much needed lie-in, followed by a cooked breakfast and some chilling in the park. It was nice weather so we walked to St James’s Park near me, put down our hammam towels and just enjoyed the sun on our faces. For lunch we shared a toasted sandwich from the park café and had some homemade cookies we’d brought with us.

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For an early dinner we had some pasta back at mine befor meeting up with friends and going to the third concert of the week – the legend Billy Joel! It was another amazing evening and such a treat to hear his classic songs like Piano Man and Uptown Girl live. I swear I had goosebumps!

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I was pretty tired the next day, but we had a lazy morning and my dear boyfriend cooked me breakfast. As the weather was quote cloudy we stayed inside and watched the last episode of Billions in the afternoon. We also had some visitors calling and then we were off to Wembley yet again.

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This time to see the Eagles, but Sheryl Crow opened for them. In between acts we had a quick dinner of burger and chicken and chips at one of the restaurants and then we sat down to enjoy our final concert of the week.

 

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It was really great and of course everybody loved Hotel California. The stadium vibrated as they played the opening chords. So special to experience a song I grew up with like that! Afterwards we hung back to allow the crowds to dissipate before we left, celebrating our amazing week with a drink. It will definitely take a while to digest it all!