Staying active during COVID-19

Due to the current pandemic, it seems like most of us are staying indoors more. Although, I can still work from home, with my gym closed, I’ve started being less active than usual which is really affecting the way I feel and look. Can you relate to that?

Getting active can be challenging sometimes – especially now when we need to remember about socially distancing ourselves. We all know that exercise provides many mental and physical health benefits so I’ve decided to put a few suggestions of what you can do to enjoy your time outdoors, connecting with mother nature and implementing a healthy routine. This approach worked for me and I hope that it will also help you.

  1. Find an outdoor exercise routine that works for you. It’s been proven that exercising outdoors lowers blood pressure and reduces stress. Studies have also shown that physical activity outdoors lowers a person’s blood pressure and heart rate. Whether you decide to go for a run, walk or a bike ride – it’s free of charge and offers you a variation to your regular workout sessions at the gym. Also, if the weather is nice then you can exercise in the sunshine topping up your vitamin D levels. The most important thing though, is to do something that you enjoy so that it’s not a one off activity and you stick to it.
  2. Invest in some quality outdoor wear. Looking good makes us all feel better, isn’t it? As I spend more time exploring outdoors, I’ve decided to get some quality outdoor clothing from Maier Sports which I could use for trekking, hiking and discovering the countryside. Firstly, I got my new outdoor ‘Tangstad’ jacket – I absolutely love this durable and sporty 3-layer jacket with reliable weather protection (it’s both waterproof and breathable). It provides a few great design features such as grown-on hood which can be stowed in collar, underarm ventilation and spacious pockets. AEB95DFF-EB43-4CF2-89C9-BD0A51904193Secondly, I’ve chosen some ‘Ophit’ outdoor tights. These are fabulous – they look like your regular leggings but they are made from robust stretch fabric which is both water-repellent and environmentally friendly (PFC-free finish). They also have a concealed side pocket and soft and smooth comfortable waist. What I like the most, is that they are quick-drying thanks to dryprotec. Lastly, I completed the look by getting ‘Sinnes Tec’ trekking blouse. It’s super comfortable and made using 4-way stretch for complete freedom of movement. As most of Maier Sports products, this stylish blouse has a great design including underarm ventilation, quick-drying feature due to dryprotec in addition to turn-up sun protection collar. Simply amazing!
    Check out some photos I took wearing them – don’t they all look stylish?
  3. Try something new. Find something new that you enjoy doing. I moved to Essex a year ago and I am now close to beautiful countryside. It’s always great to discover new places and I love exploring local seaside, hills and tracks. I’ve started hiking with my husband during the weekends and during the weekdays I am fitting in some short 30-min running sessions discovering my neighborhood streets and nearby parks. Many outdoor areas include benches allowing anyone to use them for a variety of resistance-training or post-workout stretching exercises.
  4. Find time that works for you and stick to it. I need to be honest here – when I had to commute to my office in London daily, I had a set routine but since the lock-down started I became a bit lazy. Waking up at 5:45a.m. previously was a norm but now I tend to stay in bed much longer. Nevertheless, I try to wake up at 7a.m. three times a week and go for a run. When I arrive back home, I am normally already fully awake, my endorphins are at their highest level and I am ready to rock!
  5. Set realistic goals. Try doing a challenge for 2 / 4/ 8 weeks and don’t forget to set milestones where you review your progress. Perhaps invest in a training diary to monitor your progress or get a fitness tracker which can monitor your physical activity.
  6. Don’t give up and enjoy it! My parents always told me that the key to succeed is to never give up. I am quite active and I am trying to be healthy however like all of you I have my weak points. I am a massive foodie and if I wasn’t working out I would probably be massive now! You need to be realistic with your goals and at the same time enjoy your life. I never say ‘no’ to a sticky toffee pudding but at the same time I know my limits and I try not to have it too often. Having a ‘cheat day’ once a week when you indulge or have a treat is OK as long as you stay on track and limit it.

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Pauline

Photowall – My house transformation during COVID-19

As some of you know, I moved into a new house last year. It took me almost a year to furnish it. Due to COVID-19, we have more spare time so during the Easter weekend me and my husband decided to transform a couple of rooms further by wallpapering them.

We researched a lot of designs and companies which create beautiful, custom made wallpapers and wall murals. We came across Photowall – a Swedish wall-art company passionate about creating inspiring living spaces with personality. This Scandinavian company is well-known for its top-quality wall décor that can transform any room and give them a brand-new look and feel. You can select from thousands of designs and motifs which are handpicked and printed to order. In addition to stunning wallpapers and wall murals, Photowall offers a range of other products such as canvas prints, framed prints and posters. We decided to order a small wall mural for our study and a larger one for our spare bedroom.

Before I tell you about our wallpapering adventure, let me share some background on the company. Photowall was established in 2006 when brothers Niklas and Charlie Johansson realised that there was a gap on the market when it comes to personalised wall art so they decided to try something new – printing wallpaper digitally.

Environmental work

Photowall strives to minimise their environmental impact and due to that only produces made to order products so that there is no need to hold anything in stock or discarded unnecessarily. In addition to that, I’ve learned that the printing ink used for their wallpapers contains no solvents or hazardous chemicals and is biodegradable. I wish more companies followed this ethos!

Transformation:

We wanted to add a bit of glamour to our study. They say that the preparation is a key so I ordered a Wallpaper Kit which contained everything we needed. 14C4430C-D2D4-4E58-87D7-B436DF29B305For our study, we selected a modern wall mural called ‘Golden Blush’.

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Before we started, we read the instructions carefully. Our wall mural was printed to the specific measurements we provided so we received a number of the strips to be attached to the wall. This made hanging our wallpaper fun and easy. The panels were clearly numbered in the order they should be hung on the wall. We begun by cutting them one-by-one. Next we prepared the wallpaper paste which was included with each mural free of charge and mixed it with some warm water. After a few minutes the paste was ready so we applied it onto the wall. Next step was to glue the wallpaper straight onto the wall and hang the strips from edge to edge. We used a level to make sure that each panel was applied in a perfect horizontal position. The paint brush and our hands were used to get rid of any air bubbles. Next we applied the remaining panels making sure that the pattern aligned between them and no joint-lines were visible. When we finished, the wall looked extraordinary.

We were encouraged to continue our transformation – this time in our spare guest bedroom. We selected ‘Antique Stone Wall’ design.
F58133C1-4E06-4F5D-9D0E-EA04DDA989C8We repeated all steps and once applied, I think it looked even better than on the pictures. What do you think?

Verdict:

I was surprised how easy the application of the wall murals was! Judge it yourselves but I think that both rooms – my study as well as my guest room look stunning now. Photowall has thousands of different designs so everyone can find something they’ll enjoy and love once applied. What’s more, although the company’s headquarters are based in Scandinavia, all orders are shipped in 1–2 days. In the event of a production delay, you can cancel your purchase free of charge. Isn’t this amazing?

I will definitely use Photowall again as I still have quite a few walls to transform.

Don’t forget to order yours today from:

https://www.photowall.co.uk/

I have also a great treat for you all. If you insert firstclassloungepw2020 you’ll receive 25% off all your Photowall products. You need to be quick though as the offer expires at the end of May 2020.

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Pauline

Magical Afternoon Tea at Cake Boy, Battersea, London

I love catching up with my friends and what a better way to do it than over a glamourous afternoon tea. I have recently visited ‘Cake Boy‘ in Battersea, London and I was really impressed.

Venue and location:

Cake Boy is located in a quiet, residential development on the award-winning Battersea Reach next to the river Thames in South West London. It can be easily reached by the public transport and Clapham Common station is only a short 10-minutes walk from the venue.

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Service and atmosphere:

The Afternoon Tea is served daily from 12 noon to 4pm. Cake Boy offers its guests a relaxing environment in beautiful surroundings. Guests have an opportunity to sit inside in a colourful lounge, in an outdoor seating area, or next to an open fire for those colder afternoons. Wherever you decide to sit, rest assured that you will have an unforgettable experience.

The menu: 

Cake Boy’s afternoon tea was created by its founder Eric Lanlard who has become a well-known global baking ambassador responsible for creating bespoke afternoon teas and sweet treats for the award winning P&O Cruises , Virgin Atlantic Airways and Marriott International .

Cake Boy offers 2 types of Afternoon Teas – Classic Cake Boy Champagne Afternoon Tea or a Classic Vegan Cake Boy champagne afternoon tea. We decided to experience a ‘Classic Champagne Afternoon Tea’. When we sat down, we were offered to choose from a selection of exclusive TWG teas. Next, we received an absolutely stunning set of beautiful sweet and savoury delicacies. Our waiter walked us through what was presented to us and, before he left, he sprayed some edible perfume. We started with a few finger sandwiches including:

  • Smoked salmon Zaatar croissant – Inspired by the Middle East this fragrant and buttery croissant is fill with smoke salmon topped with salmon caviar;
  • Ras el hanout chicken petit pain – A sweetly spiced Moroccan roasted chicken in a buckwheat sourdough bread;
  • Serrano ham pretzel – A light pretzel loaf with caramelised onion marmalade and sweet Serrano Ham, oven roasted tomato and baby basil buds.

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They were all tasty and beautifully presented. It was truly a feast for all senses! Once we finished our savoury treats, we moved to a selection of sweet cakes and pastries. I enjoyed them all but my favourite 3 were:

  • South American Rain Forest colonnade – A 72% towering Kayambe chocolade cylinder filled with Valrhona pistachio praline, passion fruit gel and a 66% dark chocolate mousse;
  • Red berry & lytchee pearls tart – A all butter shortcrust pastry filled with a red berry mousse topped with fresh forest fruits and juicy lytchee pearls;
  • Rum Baba verrine – A twist on this Parisian classic soaked in a lovely Madagascan vanilla syrup layered with crème patissière, Fresh berries in hibiscus nectar and an injection of dark west indies rum
  • Assorted macarons.

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Overall experience:

What can I say? Wow! Wow! Wow! Cake Boy is definitely a hidden gem and anyone travelling to South West London should stop by for some refreshments. This boutique patisserie’s décor is vibrant and lively, service is exceptional and our treats not only looked wonderful but they were also all extremely tasty.

In addition to the fabulous afternoon tea we experienced, Cake Boy is also a perfect destination for breakfast or lunch. Alternatively, if you would like to improve your cookery skills then you should check out Cake Boy’s state of the art cookery school where all classes are taught by Master Patissier Eric Lanlard himself who is according to Vanity Fair magazine, one of the best pâtissiers in the world.

I will definitely visit again soon!

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Price:

£45 per person

Website:

For more information and to book visit:

https://cake-boy.com/afternoon-tea/

Address:

Unit 2 Kingfisher House

Juniper Dr, Battersea

London SW18 1TX

I hope that you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

Christmas Entertaining at Leiths School of Food and Wine in London

Let’s be honest, I am not an experienced chef and most of the beautiful pictures of food many of you admire on my Instagram are of the dishes made for me at the restaurants I dine at. Nevertheless, I love a challenge and I decided to eat out less and learn how to prepare some delicious dishes at home. As my family is joining me and my husband for Christmas this year, I decided to impress them and attended ‘Christmas Entertaining’ class at Leiths School of Food and Wine.

Location:
Leiths School of Food and Wine is located in a quiet area of West London close to Shepherds Bush. It is easily reachable by a public transport.

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Classes:
Leiths School of Food and Wine is the most prestigious and respected cookery school in the UK and it offers a range of classes for all ages and abilities in addition to longer courses and professional certificate and diploma qualification for aspiring chefs. You can learn many practical skills ranging from discovering world food recipes to knife skills to healthy eating as well as masterclasses with guest chefs. If you wish to polish up your cooking skills or simply learn some new recipes then I would suggest you to check a range of themed classes. They will help you to understand how to cook perfect curries, sauces, desserts or a perfect steak to name a few. The school has a purpose-built demonstration theatre, seating 40, as well as 4 fully-equipped teaching kitchens, each accommodating 16 students.

My experience:

I arrived at Leiths School of Food and Wine around 15 minutes before the class started and I was welcomed by a friendly receptionist who asked me to wait on the first floor with other attendees. There were some pastries as well as coffee and teas provided.

Our class begun with an introduction to Angela – a very friendly and approachable chef who taught our class that is also running her own successful catering business. We were put in pairs as our class comprised of a mixture of hands on cookery and demonstrations performed by Angela.

We all had an opportunity to practice preparing some dishes to get confident in creating a perfect Christmas meal and to entertain friends and family in style during the festive season. I was positively surprised by how simple and effortless our menu was. Most dishes were designed in a way that they can be partly prepared ahead to enable you to spend more time with your guests and enjoy their company.

The dishes we created during the class included:

  • Hot smoked trout with roasted beetroot and watercress;

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  • Marinated venison steaks and red wine sauce, with braised cabbage and thyme rosti;
  • Plum streusel tartlets with calvados cream.

To sum up, I really enjoyed the whole experience of attending the class at Leiths School of Food and Wine and got confidence in preparing the dishes we created during our hands-on cooking which was overseen by our approachable teacher – Angela. The whole experience runs like clockwork and I would recommend these classes to anyone who would like to polish their cooking skills. Whether you are an amateur or a cook you will definitely find a class or a course at Leith’s that will improve your skills.

What’s great about this cooking classes is that at the end of each session you have an opportunity to sit down with fellow students and enjoy what you prepared with a glass of wine or some elderflower water. I was impressed by everything we cooked on the day!

If you are still looking for a Christmas gift then Leiths School of Food and Wine offers a range of gift vouchers (from £50-£900) which would be a perfect present for a food-loving friend or family member.

To book your place on the next available course or class visit:

https://www.leiths.com/

Address:

Leiths School of Food and Wine,

16-20 Wendell Road,

W12 9RT London

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Pauline

Festive Afternoon Tea at The Tea Lounge in St. Ermin’s Hotel, London

I moved to Colchester last December so I rarely travel to London now during the weekends. As a result, I do not see my friends often. As Christmas is approaching fast, I took my friend – Verity to a delicious and stylish afternoon tea in the pretty Tea Lounge at the St. Ermin’s hotel. I had a dinner this hotel at their Caxton Grill restaurant last month and absolutely loved it so I was really looking forward to having our Festive Afternoon Tea there.

Venue and location:

The Tea Lounge is located inside of Westminster’s exclusive St. Ermin’s Hotel which was voted a ‘Top London Hotel’ in Condé Nast Traveller Reader’s Choice Awards.

On my way to the venue, I decided to walk through St. James Park which is just around the corner but other attractions such as the Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland and the Houses of Parliament are only a short walk away. St. Ermin’s Hotel can be easily reachable by tube, bus or walking if you are exploring the central London.

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Service and atmosphere:

The Afternoon Tea is served daily from 12 noon to 6pm and sittings last 1.5hrs. We arrived at around 1 p.m. and we were welcomed by a friendly waitress. The St. Ermin’s Tea Lounge offers its guests a relaxing environment where you can indulge in the delights of afternoon tea whilst catching-up with a friend or spoiling someone you love. There was a soft, relaxing music playing in the background which was soothing after shopping on Oxford Street in the morning.

The menu: 

The St. Ermin’s Tea Lounge offers a variety of Afternoon Tea menus including gluten free and vegetarian options which are available on request. As soon as we sat down, we received a tea menu where we discovered a large selection of ‘Tea Makers of London’ teas. We both decided to have a pot of Festive Tea.

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Our tea arrived in no time and was followed by a beautifully presented stand of the sweet and savoury delicacies. We started with a range of finger sandwiches including:

  • Turkey, cranberry stuffing & baby spinach
  • Crayfish, rocket & lemon mayonnaise
  • Roasted squash, nut-free pesto & Somerset brie
  • Red pepper, hummus, mint & coriander
  • Salt beef, horseradish & mustard cress

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They were all tasty and presented well. Once we finished our savoury treats, we moved to a selection of sweet cakes and pastries. I enjoyed them all but my favourite 3 were:

  • Cranberry & vanilla verrine
  • Ginger mousse with mulled berry compote
  • Chestnut sponge, spiced pear jam, nutmeg custard & brandy cream

Lastly, we had some delightful freshly baked scones (Plain & fruit) which were served with some clotted cream and a selection of jams. What a perfect end to our festive Afternoon Tea experience!

Overall experience:

The St. Ermin’s Tea Lounge not only offers a welcoming atmosphere whilst being set in pretty surrounds but also offers a great selection of sweet and savoury treats which were all beautifully presented and tasty. What a great way to refuel after shopping all morning!

This was my second visit to St.Ermin’s hotel and once again I left impressed. I will definitely visit again soon!

Price:

£49 per person with unlimited prosecco is available throughout December.

Website:

For more information and to book visit:
https://www.sterminshotel.co.uk/eating-drinking/afternoon-tea/

Address:
Tea Lounge at St. Ermin’s Hotel, Autograph Collection
2 Caxton Street
Westminster
London SW1H 0QW

I hope that you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

Learning how to cook at the Cookery School at Little Portland Street

I eat out a lot as I travel for work and when I am back home I do not always have time to prepare complex meals. When I cook though, I tend to prepare the same things over and over again. I decided that this has to change as I’ve put on a lot of weight recently. I spoke to my husband and researched some cookery schools. As we live in Colchester, I decided to travel to London and join some classes at the Cookery School at Little Portland Street.

Location:
Cookery School at Little Portland Street is perfectly located in central London – just around the corner from Oxford Circus station. If, like me, you need to travel to London then after your classes you can stay shopping and enjoy the hustle and bustle of this vibrant city.

Classes:
This cookery school offers a range of day, evening and weekend cooking classes for all ages and abilities. You can learn everything ranging from short courses in knife skills to preparing complex stews or pastries. In addition the school also offers some theme based classes such as ‘A taste of Mexico’, ‘Spanish Home Cooking’, South African / Indian cooking classes. If you wish to impress your family with some delicious dishes then perhaps you could join one of their Christmas specific classes – they all look fabulous. Similarly, the Cookery School at Little Portland Street also offers some great cooking courses which run over a number of days / weeks. Definitely worth checking out!

My experience:
Let’s be honest, I am a beginner when it comes to cooking and any fancy food you see on my social media is normally prepared for me. Nevertheless, I’ve always wanted to learn how to cook well and how to make delicious dishes that can be prepared speedily. It’s not that I am lazy but as I commute on a daily basis, in particular during week days I am just too tired to cook from complex recipes.

So far I have attended 2 classes at Cookery School at Little Portland Street.
Firstly, let me tell you about my ‘ultimate fish and shellfish’ class. Our day began with a welcome of freshly baked cheese scones accompanied by some tea and coffee. We started our day by learning how to buy the best quality, sustainable fish and shellfish. I found the shopping tips extremely useful and I know now what to look for whilst selecting fish – i.e. did you know that the eyes, smell and feel should be all considered? I certainly didn’t before coming to this class. Throughout this cooking class, different techniques of preparing fish such as skinning, filleting and boning were presented. All students also had an opportunity to practice them before we moved to trying different methods of cooking, including grilling, frying, baking, poaching and steaming. Our teacher – John explained which methods work best for different fish types. We were working in pairs  to prepare lovely dishes such as:
• fish stew with a lobster bisque base;
• calamari braised in red wine;
• pollack with a black butter, parsley and caper sauce;
• moules marinieres;
• catch of the day en-papillote with hollandaise sauce;
• griddled diver scallop salad with an oriental dressing;
• grilled prawns in the Mozambique style with green salsa or a fresh chilli sauce;
• fish cakes with tartare sauce;
• mackerel with a gooseberry sauce;
• smoked mackerel pate.

The session ended with a feast around the Cookery School table where we all had an opportunity to taste the dishes we created during the day. They were all tasty and cooked to perfection.

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Secondly, I attended a short cake baking class. During a three hour session, all participants learnt the all-important rules for successful baking. The class was led by Ghalid who was superb to learn from. I’ve never baked before so I warned him before I joined the class but with a smile on his face he was extremely supportive and provided me lots of valid tips and tricks to start baking my own cakes.

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Once again it was a hands-on class where we were creating some cakes from the recipes provided including:
• Victoria sponge cake;
• Lemon cake;
• Devil’s food cake;
• Olive oil & sauternes cake;
• Swiss roll;
• Carrot cake;
• Basic sponge;
• Gluten free orange cake;
• Chocolate ganache and a variety of icings.

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A few cakes were pre-made so that we could experience their appearance and texture. At the end of the class, we all sat down with a cup of tea and were able to sample all that we had made during the afternoon. In addition, we were given a take-away box to take home any leftovers with us. Simply amazing especially if you are a complete beginner to baking.

To sum up, classes offered at Cookery School at Little Portland Street are relaxed and casual nonetheless at the same time they are all well organised. What I enjoyed the most was a mix of demonstration combined with some hands-on cooking which was always led by qualified and approachable teachers. The whole experience ran like clockwork with kitchen helpers assisting the teachers and students doing all the washing and tidying in the background making sure that the whole day is enjoyable. Although, I attended only two classes, I learned a lot and I have already started recreating some recipes at home to the delight of my husband. There was a range of dishes that were cooked / baked during my sessions and they were perfect for anyone no matter if you are an experienced cook or a beginner like myself. I would recommend these classes to anyone who would like to improve or polish their cooking skills. I will definitely enrol on some more classes as they’ve been a great help and I cannot believe how much knowledge I consumed during 2 sessions. Correspondingly, my teachers provided me with some tips on how to cook sustainably which were all very enlightening.

To book your place on the next available course or class visit:

https://www.cookeryschool.co.uk/

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Pauline

Dinner at Kahani, London, United Kingdom

My husband loves Indian cuisine, so this week we decided to experience Kahani – an exclusive, Michelin star, fine-dining Indian restaurant in central London.

Location:
Kahani is located opposite of the iconic Cadogan Hall, besides being on the doorsteps of luxurious boutiques and department stores such as Harvey Nichols and Harrods in Chelsea, London. It is easily reachable by public transport and is within very close proximity to Slone Square tube station whilst Knightsbridge station is only a short walk away.

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Atmosphere:
Kahani’s décor is simply stunning – the restaurant is both modern and chic with the earth tones of green, red and brown as well as a reoccurring theme of the Hamsa hand (symbolizing the Hand of God) visible throughout the venue.
The restaurant is perfect for an intimate dinner date where you can start with a drink or two at the bar followed by sharing some amazing Indian cuisine. Large groups can also be accommodated as the restaurant sits up to 90 and has a separate, private dining area above the kitchen. The service was faultless so I would also consider it as a venue for business lunches or dinner as I am sure it would leave your colleagues or clients impressed.

The menu:
Indian cuisine has been established in the UK for over 200 years with the first British curry house being opened in 1809. The restaurant’s Head Chef – Peter Joseph was raised in Chennai in India and his objective was to bring a fresh approach to Indian cuisine, starting with naming his restaurant ‘Kahani’ as it means ‘story’ in Hindi to combining the traditional take on Indian cooking with his experience in British kitchens and adding his signature modern twist. He achieved that by creating an artistic menu combining the best seasonal and traditional British ingredients with Indian spices and culinary techniques.
We decided to be adventurous and asked the chef to prepare some of his signature dishes to share. We started with a selection of starters. They were all full of flavour, but we absolutely loved these 3:
• Soft shell crunchy crab with Mangalorean spices, kachumber and smoked tomato chutney;
• Octopus and calamari chaat served with some kasoondi mustard, sweet potato and grapefruit;
• Smoked Malabar prawns marinated with fresh turmeric, coconut, curry leaves.

Our starters were not only presented beautifully but they were tasty and original. My personal favourite was octopus and camari chaat – the combination of seafood with some sweet potatoes and grapefruit was simply perfect as it was both refreshing and flavoursome.

Next, it was time for our mains, we were again positively surprised by a chef with his modern take on a butter chicken and Kerala Fish Curry based on Halibut simmered with shallots, turmeric, tamarind and coconut. Our mains were served with some rice and nan bread which were all scrumptious.
Lastly, we decided to order a dessert platter to share. My sweet tooth was definitely satisfied as all of the desserts featured were mouth-watering.

Overall experience:
Kahani is a hidden gem in a busy Chelsea. It is the best Indian restaurant I’ve visited so far in London and it offers great traditional Indian cuisine with a modern, British twist. I would recommend it to anyone who wishes to experience Peter Joseph’s signature blend of spices and flavour pairings. He will take you on a journey and paint a story of an incredible Indian cuisine. Menu has a lot to offer so if you would like to experience the best Indian cuisine has to offer then you should definitely visit.

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Website:
For more information and to book visit:
https://www.kahanidining.com/

Address:
1 Wilbraham Pl
Belgravia
London SW1X 9AE

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline