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 The Feast Clutch - Marie Turnor (see it here:
http://bit.ly/1BivPEO ) //
Aquamarine Bib Necklace (see it here: http://bit.ly/1LwespT) //
Zeus & Dione "Themis" trousers (see it here: http://bit.ly/1LpKqDM) // 
Electric Paint Deco Yellow Necklace (see it here: http://bit.ly/1KciPW4) //
Tory Burch Canvas Espadrilles (see them here: http://bit.ly/1gkVOYd) // 
"Sugar Lychee" Eau de Parfum - Fresh (see it here: http://bit.ly/1Ma67It) //
San Diego frayed Brim Fedora (see it here: http://bit.ly/1F7TWHK)

Atomic Burgers & Rooftop Cocktails in Oxford

The closest to a real "Big Bang Theory" day out you'll ever get...with a hint of 80's "Goldbergs" & a touch of "Star Wars"!

Boozy milkshakes under Spiderman's watchful eye in the Atomic burger

If you are not watching any of these shows, or if you are not an 80's child like the rest of us, here's what I'm going on about: first of all you are in Oxford, home of academia and all the creativity that comes with student life.

Don't be fooled by the seriousness of the old part of the city, just cross the river Cherwell next to the very romantic gardens of Magdalene's college and you are in the cool part of the town.
Take the "Ultimate Picture Palace" for example, a bijou independent cinema, standing there, in all of its' glory with an art-deco aura amongst a very hip neighbourhood.

Then you step into this seemingly easy-going burger joint the "Atomic Burger", where you are caught off guard with all of the 80's gadgets and Star Wars figures. A geek's paradise!  

Oxford's skyline from Varsity Rooftop's Bar

This week has been very strange weather-wise - we're in England, the weather IS a point of conversation, don't shrug your shoulders! Rain one day, sunshine with 24C the next and then down to 11C again. I'm stuck home with a cold as a result. 

On one of those warm spring evenings that we've had a couple of weeks ago (summer is over by the way, hope you all enjoyed it) my husband had an unexpected burst of energy and announced that he's taking me out for dinner after work...in Oxford! 

Oxford is 35 minutes from us and I knew just the place to go for drinks: The Varsity Club, with a rooftop lounge, right in the middle of it all, overlooking the colleges and the church roofs. 
The entrance to the Varsity Club is in Oxford's Covered Market, where I had my first encounter with English sandwiches 22 years ago.
I was in a language summer college in London and on a daytrip to Oxford the school packed jam sandwiches with gherkins for us, for lunch. Imagine a Greek girl, who's idea of a "simple" lunch is moussaka and pasta with meatballs, having to eat jam for lunch?
I remember actually looking at this piece of bread with pink jam and saying out loud: "Is this a joke?"
Oh, how times have changed  since then, my dear Watson!  

Anyway, the Varsity Club is spread over four floors, stop on the third floor to grab a cocktail (for a wonderful £6-£7, you don't get this view and price combo in central London!) and carry on to the fourth floor for the most breath-taking view. 

The rooftops and spikes of colleges and churches form a spectacular honey-coloured dancefloor for the evening colours to develop on.
A massive spotlight shone straight into the sky, it made me wonder: "is Batman going to be joining us for drinks?"   There are lovely blankets and covers to keep you warm and the tall fire heaters provide quite a gothic frame for the landscape around.
After drinks, we walked across the river and noticed this playful burger joint the "Atomic Burger".
It started raining so we didn't give it more thought, in we went!

We sat down, looked up: there was Spiderman's perky backside shadowing my boozy milkshake - nope, not complaining! 

The menu will take you a while to get through.
Pick your burger wisely: beef, chicken or veggie and pimp it up whichever way you fancy!
You can go as simple as "Forrest Gump", burger standing proud on its' own, as they put it, or you can go "Dolly Parton": double freaking everything, as I put it!
Don't try to save face with your choice of side: you want to go for "Trailer Park fries", covered in pulled pork and cheese. Kaboom! A meal on its' own!
Then come the dogs...mine came topped with pulled pork. My side of choice: home-made spicy coleslaw, a bit heavy on the garlic, or whatever it was that made it sharp, but I finished it nevertheless!  

I lost my husband for a while shortly after we ordered though. He was like a kid in a candy shop, drooling over Star Wars figures, an Optimus Prime model and lots and lots of other cool preps from all of the geeky movies we've all been brought up with.  

Word of advise girls: don't bring your boyfriends here if you expect to be the centre of his attention for the evening, you'll lose miserably to R2D2! 
Unless you dress up as Princess Leia,  off course - what's up with that, by the way, I just don't get it!

Get yourself a Jack Rabbit Slim - sounds like a condom make, I agree - a cherry liqueur-vodka-ice cream concoction and...enjoy the cherry on top! ;)  

Breakfast at Albion, Shoreditch

An East London dinner with a feel of coastal living. 
Albion café is at the ground floor of the Boundary Building, a Victorian warehouse-turned hotel, restaurant, rooftop bar and breakfast spot.

When my parents and little sis landed in Stansted early last Thursday morning, my dad requested that we went for breakfast to Shoreditch, just like last time.
We parked around Arnold Circus, my favourite little oasis amongst Shoreditch's madness. The choice for breakfast was either Dishoom or Albion, we went for Albion this time.

It's an interesting and very versatile space.
The way to the toilets for example, is covered in fun, playful wallpaper, fit for a nursery, while the white wood-panelled section with little splashes of red coffee pots and nautical lamps, made me think of  lighthouses and mornings by the sea in the Hamptons... time for a holiday me thinks!
Rustic feeling with fresh fruit & veg outside the front door, dozens of sweet pastries and cakes right inside and a very sleek entrance to the rooftop bar and hotel, right behind the refrigerators!

Around 10 in the morning, the place was already busy. A lot of business meetings taking place, but quite a few local couples were hanging out too, a good sign.
There is a full English breakfast option, off course, with bacon, eggs, tomatoes, black pudding, beans...the works. But there are lighter versions if you are calorie-counting too. My mum went for the spinach frittata and I went for the butternut squash & spinach with a poached egg. Yummy but a little bear for presentation, I guess it's part of calorie counting?
The bread was fresh and fluffy though and the butter disappeared pretty quickly. Why am I eating bread if I'm going for a lighter breakfast version? Balance people, balance; life is too short, to deny yourself all the good stuff, all the time. 
As a matter of fact, here's an article, I read recently about the whole debate on butter; as ancient Greeks used to say "pan metron ariston" in other words, moderation is the best option.
Lovely smoothies and detox potions are available too for a healthy start. I had the homemade lemonade, great zingy flavour to wake up and start the day with! 

Mushroom Strudel

It's the first May Bank Holiday weekend, hurray!
I'm sure you have lovely dinners & gatherings planned for this long weekend, so when vegetarian friends come over and you need something impressive for them, this is the recipe for you! 
I stumbled upon it thanks to my mother, who is always on the lookout for new recipes.
She gave me her recipe, but I changed it a bit, to make it more interesting. 

The trick is to use different mushroom kinds, in order to provide different textures, otherwise mouthful after mouthful of the same mushrooms can be quite plain. 

If you think I spent a fortune on these mushrooms, think again. As a matter of fact, our local Sainsbury's happened to offer a selection of assorted mushrooms and then I topped it up with a couple of other varieties. I'm sure other supermarkets offer similar varieties and if you happen to have a farmer's market close to you, even better! 
There is no rule, just mix & match and keep it interesting. 

Mushroom Strudel

- 200gr Assorted mushrooms (selection of Enoki, Shiro Shimeji, Oyster, Buna shimeji, etc)
- 250gr Chestnut mushrooms
- 15gr fresh Thyme
- 4 cloves of Garlic, peeled and chopped finely
- 1/4 cup Olive oil
- 10gr butter
- 3 tablespoons of Cassis de Dijon
(you know, the one whose famous court case established the notion of "mutual recognition" in EU Law. Yes, that's what I think of every time I see this bottle, since good old uni days!)
- Salt & Pepper
- 375gr Shortcrust Pastry - rolled out in a rectangular shape

Start with the mushrooms, don't wash them. Brush them instead, to get rid of any dirt that might still be on them.
Treat the mushroom individually depending on their shape and texture.
Split the enoki by hand in long strands for example, they create a pasta-like texture later. Do the same with the shimeji, no need to cut them further, as they will shrink. Tear the oyster ones apart in large chunks. Cut the King Oyster ones in flat long pieces, much like fillet, in a way. Finally, cut the chestnut ones in cubes.
This will create different textures and consistencies once all of the mushrooms are cooked and bathed in the garlicky-thyme butter.

Warm the olive oil in a broad pan and add the garlic and thyme.
Once the thyme starts sizzling, add the mushrooms.
On medium heat, keep tossing them around gently, in order to avoid creating too much steam. The mushrooms should remain juicy and not lose all of their water. But you don't want them to taste plain fried either.
After 5 minutes once they are almost cooked, add the nob of butter and the Cassis, salt & pepper.
Toss around for another 3 minutes and take them off the heat.
Put the mushrooms aside to cool down.

Lay out the shortcrust pastry on a slightly floured surface. If it comes in baking paper, leave it on the paper, it will be easier to transfer it to a baking sheet later. You mustn't let the pastry get too warm or it will be difficult to handle, so work quickly.
If the pastry is already rolled out you might want to roll it further, to make it thinner and the surface bigger. Try to maintain the rectangular shape though.

Imagine that the rectangle is split in three pieces, lengthways. Do not cut it in three pieces however, just plan it out visually.
Lay out the cool mushroom mixture in the central piece. fold the top and bottom end in over the mushrooms.
Use the right piece to fold over the mushrooms, like a little blanket.
Then take your knife and divide the left piece in long strands, up to the mushrooms line. Make sure they are still attached to the central piece though.

Fold each strand over the right piece of pastry, interlining them over each other, to create the usual strudel pattern. Transfer to a baking sheet.

Bake in 200C for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden.

Unfortunately, I did not manage to take any pictures once the Strudel was out of the oven, my guests attacked it quite rapidly.
But take my word, it was all puffed up and golden and went down a treat!

Roadtrip to Champagne - Michelin Star dining at Le Foch, Reims

We left Paris behind on a Saturday afternoon to start our adventure in the Champagne region.
The trip only takes about an hour and a half but after taking it easy in Paris, we arrived in Reims around 5ish in the afternoon and everything seemed shut already. So we didn't bother with trying to visit any Champagne Houses.
Big mistake. 

The impressive Reims Cathedral, that has hosted crowning ceremonies for most of France's monarchs. 
It took us two days to realise that all of the Champagne Houses in the area do not have info on their websites about visiting and even calling them doesn't get you far either. 
Your best choice is to walk into the Reims Visitor centre, just next to the Cathedral and get an update on all of the opening times, make appointments etc.
The Vranken - Pommery House for example, stays open until 6 on most days.

Since it was Saturday night, we walked around the town to find a nice spot for dinner. We were on our way to Café de Palais, just a stone's throw from the Cathedral for some nice croquet monsieur and a traditional brasserie setting.
Instead we stumbled upon Le Foch, a Michelin star restaurant.
Shall we give it a try? Let's!
We were lucky to get the last seats in the house, Saturday night at 20:45 the place was already buzzing. Well, since it's a "grown up" establishment, maybe buzzing is not the right word but, it was full nevertheless, particularly with locals. Always a good sign in our book!
The décor was a bit confusing with splashes of modern glass art-features and colourful wallpapers, certainly in need of updating or should I say, homogenising.
We went for the Menu Degustation at 70 Euros each, plus wine.

First up amuse-bouche packed with sharp flavours: a buttery cracker with an intense parmesan crisp topping and then a shortcrust pastry with fishy-fish mouse: wakey-wakey taste-buds!
To smooth it all out last but not least, an espresso cup with a mint and pea mouse with cream cheese topping.

For my starter I picked the "tartar of wakamame, langoustine, white cheese and yuzu";
yuzu being a Japanese mandarin hybrid.
I expected intense flavours from this combo, which didn't really happen. My langoustine did arrive angry however,  it was foaming! Clever presentation, I have to admit!
My husband went for the "royal foie gras with asparagus and an emulsion of smoked eel" now that's a mouthful! He loved it but found it a bit too heavy for a starter because the foie gras was cooked.  

Then came the main; we both went for Provençale Lamb with parmesan macaroni.
Sounds harmless right?  Well, it was cooked to perfection and I rarely say that about lamb in restaurants.
By mid-main we were both getting happily full, with three chunks of lamb on each plate.
Did I mention the macaroni? It resembled rail tracks. I can imagine some poor sous-chef spending all of his morning setting out rows of macaroni, in perfect alignment. You have to suffer for your art, my friends!

Suffering for our art came shortly after the main, in the form of cheese!
Oh my, how can you say no to this little treasure of local cheese? Amongst others we tried a local goats cheese, which resembled more of a creamy camembert but left your mouth numb after the first bite - it was very sharp. It went down a treat though with sweet sultana bread and hay chutney, yes hay!

And then when the waiter proclaimed an orangey-looking cone "the smelliest cheese" in France, we just had to try it. Now, let me tell you that I LOVE cheese and the smellier, the better. This one however, smelled like death, in loss of a better description. And it wasn't the smell so much rather than the taste that hit you, very dense. Oh, we demolished it don't get me wrong. We are just not going to be looking for it in Carrefour on the way home!

Left: royal foie gras with asparagus and an emulsion of smoked eel,    Right: St Honore revisited!

And then came dessert.
By now, we were suffering. But how can you say no to a "St Honore revisited"?
Thin, crispy wafers sandwiching choux puffs and chiboust crème...lighter than air, my friends! Cheesy comment, sorry, it was delicious though and didn't help my suffering.
Then came coffee and blue chocolate petit four to finish us off, smurf chocolate I called it!  

We always take Michelin star places with a pinch of salt, because we've had mixed experiences.
This time the menu developed slowly but steadily both in flavour and presentation and we left thinking: money well spent!
© Life Love London

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