Hen Party #2 - Sushi Samba

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As promised in my last post, today's is all about my sister's second hen party. Like me, she opted to have two - one for family (Afternoon Tea at the Ritz - all details are here), and one slightly more "party party" affair for friends. For this, she wanted dinner and drinks at a really special location - the word "luxe" was mentioned several times - so who better to turn to for inspiration than Rosie from The Londoner? I remembered a fairly recent post of hers about great places to go in London and that's how we found Sushi Samba. It was such a useful post so if you haven't read it you can find it here.

Sushi Samba is located on the 38th and 39th floors of the Heron Tower in Bishopsgate, just below another restaurant called Duck and Waffle which I am sure I have heard mentioned in the blogosphere before now. It's incredibly popular and we were lucky to get a table, despite booking two months in advance. As it was, we had to settle for dining at 6pm, which meant that we felt kind of silly getting all dolled up at 4pm, but needs must! Stephanie kindly took a quick outfit shot for me in the garden before we set off.

#OOTN featuring Zara dress

Dress, Bag and Heels - Zara

Sorry about the dopey look on my face, but this is the only photo where you can see my outfit properly and I always like to include what I wore if I can! I love this Zara dress. It's still available and is only £29.99 which I think is amazing for such a lovely piece. The shoes and bag you have all seen many times before - I wear both of them to death! Sushi Samba's dress code is "casual elegance" and I felt this outfit fit pretty well with that. As my sister put it - as if we'd be anything but!

We made our way into London and were greeted at the entrance to the Heron Tower by a lift attendant who politely ushered us into the glass lift. It shot up pretty quickly, and we all felt slightly giddy watching the ground disappear beneath us as we were whisked away to the 38th floor.

We soon recovered, however, when the doors opened and we stepped out into the beautiful restaurant we were about to spend the next few hours in. It's a stunning, modern, square dining area surrounded by glass, through which you can catch glimpses of the incredible view below. The ceiling alone is spectacular, with hundreds of light bulbs suspended from a bamboo frame. It gets more spectacular later at night as it gets dark.

Sushi Samba

Sushi Samba

Sushi Samba

Sushi Samba

Eight of us sat around a big table and as you can imagine there was a lot of chat and a lot of laughter and not very much reading of the menu. We decided to order some cocktails first to ease ourselves into it.

Now, I've always believed in setting goals in life. And sometimes the silly little attainable goals bring as much pleasure as the big momentous ones. One of mine has always been to drink a cocktail from a glass shaped like this:

Sushi Samba

Another was to drink a cocktail in a fancy bar with amazing views of London, and I ticked both of these off my list at Sushi Samba! (Just so you know, not ALL my life goals are cocktail-related, but it just so happened that both of these events came along at the same time.) 

The drink I chose was called Nina Fresa and was made with vodka, strawberry and grapefruit juice. It was delicious. I can also recommend Shiso Fine, which was served long over ice, again with vodka, apple and lime juice and Thai basil.

Once we were settled with our drinks, we got down to the serious business of choosing our food.

Sushi Samba

Sushi Samba

The food at Sushi Samba is a mix of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian and works best when you order a selection of dishes for everyone to share, especially with larger groups like ours. We opted to try something from nearly every section of the menu and were happy to go with many of the suggestions from our very helpful waiter. The quality was outstanding and the Japanese style dishes were some of the very best I've ever had. In fact, I don't think there was a dish on the table that I didn't love, and the same went for everyone else.

We chose Yellowtail sashimi with jalapenos and lemongrass (possibly my favourite - this was amazing.)

Sushi Samba

Salt and pepper squid.

Sushi Samba

Tempura prawns (different to how I've had them before, with the coating more like a sauce).

Sushi Samba

Tiger Maki roll (with crab, prawn, beetroot yogurt and wasabi mayo.)

Sushi Samba

Glazed pork belly with orange.

Sushi Samba

One thing I particularly loved about this place was how relaxed it was. The food came as and when each dish was ready, and no one batted an eyelid if you wanted to get up and wander out onto the terrace in between courses. 

And this was well worth doing, because, well... just look at the view.

Sushi Samba - View

Sushi Samba -View

Sushi Samba - View

Sushi Samba - View

It had looked pretty good from the windows, but it was only when we stepped onto the terrace itself that we realised just how stunning it actually was. We could see Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge, The Gherkin, The Shard, and of course the curve of the Thames winding its way through it all. We all agreed we were happy that our reservation had been made so early, meaning that we got to enjoy the view in daylight.

When we'd finished admiring all the sights and taking photos, we felt it was about time we had some dessert. So back inside we went. Steph and I ordered the organic red chocolate chili peppers, which was lovely and really unusual. The tuile had a spicy kick to it that made a sharp contrast with the creamy chocolate, while the sorbet tasted almost like an ice cold red bell pepper. Some of the other girls ordered a passion fruit cake which looked amazing but which I didn't taste.

Sushi Samba

Sushi Samba

Sushi Samba

After dessert we headed back outside for more cocktails. The atmosphere here was even more relaxed than inside the restaurant, with cushioned seats to sink into and blankets and heaters on hand to protect us against the chill. As we sipped our drinks, we watched as the evening set in and London began lighting up beneath us. Magical.

Sushi Samba - View

Sushi Samba - View

Sushi Samba

Sushi Samba

Sushi Samba - View

Sushi Samba - View

I really can't recommend Sushi Samba enough. It was such an amazing experience and I hope to visit again some time!

What's the most memorable place you've ever dined at?

Kate x
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Hen Party #1 - Afternoon Tea at The Ritz

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Time has flown over the past couple of weeks, and after a whole year of planning and preparation my little sister Stephanie got married a week last Saturday. I seem to have been going on about the wedding forever so I can hardly believe it's finally happened! It was a beautiful day, and I'll definitely be sharing the hair and makeup I did in a future post. We did our own and it turned out well, with no last-minute meltdowns, which I have to say I was pretty impressed by! 

Anyway, it seems about six months ago now, but a couple of weeks before the wedding, we had Hen Party Number One. This was a blatant excuse for me, Steph, our Mum and our Aunty to do something we'd wanted to do and talked about doing for ages - go for afternoon tea at the Ritz in London.

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

I've been in two minds about whether to write this post or not, simply because the photos didn't turn out as well as I would have liked. I was over-excited because of the occasion and my mind wasn't really on the job. I also didn't want my sister's hen party to turn into a photo shoot for my blog and as a result the photos I got weren't the greatest. Even so, there are enough to at least give you an idea of the experience, and speaking for myself I would always rather see what someone got up to than not, even if the pictures aren't spectacular. I'm nosy like that! So I hope you are too. ;-)

Let's start with what's really important - what I wore.

#OOTD featuring blue floral Asos wiggle dress

Dress - Asos, Shoes and Bag - Zara, Necklace - H&M, Ring - Accessorize, Watch - Jord

The dress is the Asos wiggle dress which is available in about a squillion different colours, prints and variations (front splits, open backs, etc). For a fancy afternoon tea I wanted something floral and lady-like and this fit the bill perfectly. I added nude heels and a structured bag, then threw on the statement necklace just to keep an element of fun.

Once I had finished taking selfies, I met up with my Aunty and the two of us caught the train from Doncaster to London. (Pretty soon after we had set off, we realised that we were in fact on the wrong train, and would have to pay for new tickets, but let's just pretend that didn't happen.) We met Steph and my Mum in London and took a taxi to the Ritz. I'd never actually been inside it before, so I couldn't wait to see what it looked like.

I wasn't disappointed. The interior is just how you might imagine a royal palace to have looked about 100 years ago, opulence and grandeur around every corner.

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

#OOTD featuring blue floral Asos wiggle dress

Our tickets had instructed us to arrive early, and after a couple of minutes exploring our decadent surroundings, it was time to take our seats in the Palm Court, where tea would be served.

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

We were so busy catching up, admiring the table settings and generally being over-excited that we totally forgot to look at the menu. The waiters, who were very friendly and kind to us throughout the whole afternoon, simply poured us some champagne and left us for a few more minutes to choose our tea.

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

There were dozens of teas to choose from and they all sounded so mouth-watering that it was really hard to pick just one. In the end, most of us opted for the Ritz Royal English - mostly because of the name - while my Aunty chose Darjeeling First Flush, the "champagne of teas", according to the menu. Both proved to be excellent choices.

Tea arrived along with a plate of mouth-watering sandwiches and dainty cakes. I must confess, we all enjoyed the sandwiches a little too much. We had ham and mustard, egg, smoked salmon, chicken and cheese and pickle. All very classic flavours and beautifully done.

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

As I said, we felt so happy sitting there sipping champagne, sipping tea and chatting about the wedding that we didn't quite realise how many of those tasty little sandwiches we were putting away. We even said yes when we were offered another plateful. As tiny as they look, they were surprisingly filling, and we were forgetting that there was so much more to come. We soon remembered when a waiter swept by and deposited a plate of scones on our table. There were other delights to be tasted and it was time to step away from the sandwiches.

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

Scones aren't usually my favourite thing, but served like this with jam and cream as part of an afternoon tea I find myself only too happy to indulge. These were freshly baked and delicious, and not too big, which I appreciated as I was beginning to wonder if we'd have any room left for cakes by this point! As dainty as everything is, we found the portions very generous. There were enough scones on our table for us to have two each - one plain and one with fruit, although in our case no one could manage a second.

Just when I was beginning to cast my beady eyes towards the pink macaroons and layered chocolate cake on the top tier of our tray, along came the waiters with yet more cakes which they sliced and served to us from a trolley. We were getting pretty full by this point, but we all felt that on such an occasion we really ought to say yes to everything. So we had some orange and lemon drizzle cake.

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

Well, it would have been rude not to.

And then, finally, it was time to sample the delights of the top tier.

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

Both the raspberry macaroon and the chocolate cake were delicious but sadly I only had room left for a forkful of each. I probably would have preferred these to the drizzle cake, but I guess this was one important life lesson I just had to learn the hard way!

The experience of afternoon tea at the Ritz was every bit as lovely as we'd imagined, and perfect for a genteel, relaxed alternative to a traditional hen party. It's incredibly popular and my sister had to book a few months in advance to make sure we got a table. While the couple of hours we spent there seemed to fly by, we never felt rushed in any way despite how busy it was. The atmosphere was lively but chilled and we were surrounded by the chatter of other diners and some pleasant, unobtrusive music from the piano. 

We paid £66 per person for the champagne afternoon tea and in my opinion it was well worth the price. (Without the champagne it's £50.) Would we go again? Definitely, though I think we would try somewhere else first. Claridges perhaps. That's next on our list!

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

Is afternoon tea your thing and have you visited the Ritz?

Stay tuned for Hen Party #2, coming soon!

Kate x
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The Matalan Jumper Challenge

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Recently, I was invited to take part in the Matalan jumper challenge. It sounded like just my kind of challenge. After all, a girl can never have enough knitwear. Am I right or am I right?! 

With the transition from Summer to Autumn just around the corner, Matalan have brought out this relaxed fit, super-flattering jumper in a range of colours. I went for the grey, because it's so versatile and goes with absolutely everything, but it's also available in black, navy, cream, light blue and light pink. It's the perfect weight - light enough to throw on now if it gets a bit breezy, but substantial enough to see you well into the cooler months too. The best part? It's only £8! I'm seriously impressed with the quality for this price. 

OOTD Matalan Jumper Challenge

JumperJeansShoesBag - Matalan

The challenge for myself and a few other bloggers was to style up the jumper using other Matalan pieces. Apart from my sunglasses and the white tee you can just see under the jumper in a couple of the shots, my entire outfit is from Matalan, and comes in at less than £50. Amazing!

OOTD Matalan Jumper Challenge

Now I do know that jeans and a jumper doesn't exactly make me fashion innovator of the year, but I wanted to style the jumper the way I would genuinely wear it in real life, and this is it, my friends! Faded denim, flat pumps and a cute bag - all day every day!

The jumper is round necked and a flattering cut with a dipped hem, making it slightly longer at the back. It's also got this zip detail which I really love.

OOTD Matalan Jumper Challenge

OOTD Matalan Jumper Challenge

It's just the sort of piece I gravitate towards once the Autumn starts to appear and I'm sure I'll be getting plenty of wear out of it next season.

As for the rest of the outfit, the jeans are soft and comfortable to wear, and a good fit. The bag is like a mini version of one I already have and I knew as soon as I saw it that it would be something I'd use a lot. For a tiny bag you can still fit a surprising amount in it, plus it zips across the top, which is something I appreciate as a lot of bags don't these days. The shoes are very similar to something I was eyeing up in Zara a couple of months ago, but at a fraction of the price. I don't seem to own many flats that aren't plimsolls or sandals so I'm sure I'll find these useful. I love the pointed toes. In my opinion, this detail makes them more wearable with dresses and skirts as well as just jeans.

OOTD Matalan Jumper Challenge

OOTD Matalan Jumper Challenge

(Don't you just hate getting photo-bombed by a duck?)

OOTD Matalan Jumper Challenge

So there you have it! If you like this look and feel moved to show your approval in some way, you could always vote for me to win the jumper challenge by liking my photo of the outfit over on Matalan's Facebook Page. Everyone who likes one of the pictures will be entered into a competition with a chance to win a Matalan gift card worth £100, so it's well worth your while to pop over there and cast your vote. Doesn't have to be for me, but it would be lovely if it was! ;-)

Thanks Matalan for inviting me to take part!

How would you style this jumper?

Kate x
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