Review: Windows Phone – Nokia 1020 #MSLoop

20 Apr

A couple of weeks ago a friend was over at my house. I received an email and was swiftly notified by not one, not two, but five devices. All around us, the room was either buzzing or singing notification tunes. She wondered why on earth I had so many gadgets and I told her it was because I love them. I could happily fill my room with 100 different gadgets and find a use for every single one of them. My nickname at school wasn’t gadget for nothing!

As part of the Microsoft Loop programme, which I was invited to join at the tail end of 2013, I received a bright yellow Nokia 1020, which I have been using as my primary device ever since. I was also given a Nokia 920 last summer (read the review here), but this post is to explore the 1020, which has been affectionately named ‘Big Yellow’.

As an advocate of Samsung devices, switching to the Windows phone was a big deal for me. The reason I didn’t stick with my Nokia 920 was primarily because apps like Instagram and Spotify weren’t available at the time and as I use Instagram for food and travel pictures, I couldn’t ditch my trusty Samsung. This time, however, was different; and I was particularly excited about the whopping 41 mega pixel camera.

I’m going to share with you some of my favourite features of the phone and as you can see from the pictures in this post, the camera really is pretty good! You can see the rest of the pictures on my Instagram profile.

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HERE Maps
This app was literally a life saver when I visited Paris and Milan earlier this year. To save roaming charges, I simply downloaded maps for the each of the regions and I was able to use them with no internet connection.

HERE Transit
A great alternative to Google Maps when I’m out and about in London. This trusty little app provides me with the best routes to get from A to B.

Nokia Camera
Not only can you take amazing pictures with the auto camera, the Nokia Lumia 1020 also has a Smart Cam feature where you can do everything from changing a face in a group photo to removing an object in a photo, yes really! I take lots of pictures of food, particularly in low lighting situations and with a camera that allows an ISO of 4000, it’s the perfect dining companion.

Social accounts
As I have linked my phone up with my social accounts, I can access my friends’ info, profile information and images in different apps. I can also access my friends’ Facebook profile info and see all of our history from my phonebook and send status updates and share across all of the social channels that my phone is connected to.

Nokia Mix Radio
Enter your favourite artist and Mix Radio will recommend a whole host of other songs that you might like based on that artist. This is perfect for someone like me who loves to discover new artists.

Microsoft Office
What’s not to love? Read, create or edit any office document wherever you are.

Design
I really love the customisable home screen. You can make any of the tiles large or small and change the colour depending on your mood. Some of the tiles are also live so they update in real time.

As much as I have grown to love Big Yellow, it is not without its little faults. One of my favourite apps, Nike Run, still isn’t available on Windows phone and Spotify, one of my most used apps, doesn’t seem to be compatible as it crashes a few times a day. Still, it’s not enough to put me off it and I shall no doubt be using this handset for a while longer yet.

Karpo, King’s Cross

20 Apr

When I first moved to London nearly 9 years ago, the only reason I would go to King’s Cross was to catch the train home. It wasn’t exactly a desirable area, but in the last few years the area has undergone a serious transformation and has become a destination, particularly for food. Caravan and Grain Store sit next to the canal in the beautiful new Central St Martin’s campus and the likes of Honest Burgers has opened just around the corner.

Another new addition to the area is Karpo, an independent, modern neighbourhood brassiere, which is part of the 4* Hotel Megaro situated right opposite King’s Cross station. I had heard about Karpo, mainly because of the bright mural on the wall of the hotel and I remembered a range of pictures of the interior that really caught my eye.

I am always wary of restaurants that have the brasserie label as I have sampled some truly terrible food at ‘brasseries’, but what I have found over the last few years is that it’s always better to visit somewhere with low expectations because it makes it even sweeter when they blow your socks off. Enter Karpo.

We arrived at 7.30pm on a Saturday evening and were surprised to find that the restaurant wasn’t busy at all. We were only the second couple to take our seats but it soon changed and not long after we were seated, a few large groups arrived and provided much needed atmosphere.

The menu is intriguing and includes dishes such as baked beetroot with goats curd, blood orange and candied walnuts and yellow leg chanterelles with parmesan, wet polenta and ricotta; but it was the hand dived scallop ceviche with Jasmine tea, white soy and black radish that caught my eye for start and the pork belly for main. The portions at Karpo are well judged. A nubbin of bread and the most divine salted butter arrived at the table before the starters – just enough to keep us going. The scallop dish was delicate and well balanced but it was the pork belly that stole the show – two neat squares of pork sat on Jerusalem artichokes, spring onions and crunchy hazelnuts. I have ordered pork belly many times but never had it served with such an interesting combination of flavours and textures.

We skipped dessert, which at the time seemed like a good idea but I am regretting it now, particularly the hot chocolate pot with vanilla ice cream and the Vacherin cheesecake with quince and walnuts. It’s no biggie, though, as I’m sure I’ll be back soon enough.

One of the best things about Karpo is the fact that I know I have found a little gem in London and one that I imagine I’ll be going back to again and again.

Karpo on Urbanspoon

Karpo
23-27 Euston Rd
London
NW1 2SD
+44 20 7843 2221

Mother’s Day Treat – Afternoon Tea at Milliennium Hotel, Mayfair

15 Apr

I have eaten my fair share of Afternoon Tea’s over the last few years; some of them incredible and others totally forgettable. It baffles me how some establishments feel that they can serve below average food and charge extortionate amounts for what is essentially just a few slices of bread with minimal filling and unappetising cakes.

Not all of them are tarred with that brush though and one that I attended recently has shot to the top of my list. It was Mothering Sunday and me and my mum, who had come down to London to visit from Nottingham, joined me and a number of other bloggers and their mums for a luxurious afternoon tea at The Millennium Hotel in Mayfair.

After wrestling with what felt like the whole world on the walk from Oxford Street tube, we turned left and ventured our way down into Mayfair. The streets became wider, less busy, the cars more expensive and the atmosphere far more relaxed. To my knowledge, my mum hadn’t visited Mayfair before so I strolled her along a few of the impressive streets and across Grosvenor Square. We eventually ended up at the hotel for a prosecco reception and a tour of the hotel, which I really enjoyed, if only to catch a glimpse of the grand function room and amazing views of Grosvenor square from the bedrooms.

By the time we sat down to eat, we were starving and anticipation was high. My mum is one of the friendliest and most talkative people I know and she wasted no time getting to know our dining companions. After choosing our teas, we were served a range of crustless finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, jam and a rather unconventional lemon curd, plus a range of cakes and pastries, including a fruit tart, a mini crème brulee and macarons, which all arrived on beautiful Wedgwood Wild Strawberry crockery. A lack of savoury food is a real bugbear of mine when it comes to afternoon tea and one of the best things was the fact that as soon as we had run out of sandwiches, a fresh plate was brought to the table. It took us a few plates to fill up before moving onto the sweet stuff but we made sure we left enough room!

After a couple of hours we were well and truly stuffed. I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and my mum loved it even more – the company, the food, the hotel, the location. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

Full Afternoon Tea – £24.95 per person, based on a minimum of two people

Celebration Tea – £34.50 per person, based on a minimum of two people

Flesh & Buns, Covent Garden

7 Apr

In association with match.com

London is a great city for dating. I can guarantee that no matter how hard you try, you will never be stuck for an idea, particularly when it comes to dining out.

Personally I always prefer a casual dining experience when it comes to dating as I find stuffy service awkward at the best of times and I would say the best areas in London for this are Soho and Covent Garden, the Kings of casual dining.

My newest date spot is Flesh & Buns, which I visited last week with my mum. Yes, I know that it technically wasn’t a date, but the thought about it being a great date venue was in the back of my mind throughout the meal.

Flesh & Buns is the second restaurant by the guys behind Bone Daddies in Soho and is situated just off Covent Garden’s busy Neal Street. The basement restaurant screams cool from the minute you set eyes and ears on it as the unmistakable logo protrudes off the side of the building and music blares out of the speakers on the walk down the stairs.

Once inside the restaurant diners can choose between a booth, a round table, or a seat on the long bench, which sprawls across the length of the room, all of which offer a view of the impressive open plan kitchen and bar areas at opposite ends of the restaurant.

The menu is split into sections – raw and snacks, small dishes , flesh & buns and sides. We wanted to try as much as possible so ordered asparagus, broccoli with yuzu kosho mayo, soft shell crab, flat iron steak and enough buns for two. I was tempted by the lobster tempura special, but at £35 a portion, I thought better as I preferred to have more dishes to try. The broccoli and sashimi were the stand out dishes, the sashimi some of the freshest I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. The flat iron steak was tasty, but ever so slightly chewy, which made it hard to eat once inside the bun. We weren’t complaining, though, it just meant our buns were better eaten deconstructed.

As well as a pretty amazing food offering, Flesh & Buns serves a good range of drinks, including Japanese beer, sake, cocktails and for the none drinkers out there, some pretty delicious non alcoholic juices, in particular the ginger and honey nectar.

The restaurant is slightly on the pricey side compared to sister restaurant Bone Daddies, but for a hot date, Flesh & Buns is the way to go. Just go easy on the sake!

Flesh & Buns
41 Earlham St
London
WC2H 9LX

Flesh and Buns on Urbanspoon

Headmasters Blow Dry Review – 90′s Style

26 Mar

Hot… And Not Bothered, as it was affectionately known, was a Brit Pop, garage and cheesy pop fun filled extravaganza held at Biddle Bros in Clapton. It was my first 90′s club night, a resounding success and we’re looking forward to planning the next evening.

It wouldn’t have been a 90′s night without the fashion to go with it. My friends Lex and Olivia rocked the best 90′s looks and I wore a black mini dress but jazzed it up with a new ‘do’ by James at Headmasters in Mayfair, who refreshed the colour and gave me a 90′s inspired blow dry from the new blow dry menu.

Before:

I usually go for a polished blow dry with bouncy waves but considering I was hosting a 90′s night, James suggested we go for a crimped look. I agreed and he set to work. How did he do it? He rough dried my hair, separated it and plaited sections. He then got a pair of straighteners and straightened each plait a few times over. Following this, he took them out, roughed up the hair and rubbed product through it to smooth the frizz.

After:

My hair is a bit unruly and didn’t respond the same way as the model on the picture, but I was happy with the outcome. The colour was beautiful and my usually straight style had been transformed to resemble the 90′s popular ‘bed head’ style.

You can see the new Headmasters blow dry collection here.

Foodie Milan for The House of Peroni

11 Mar

A few weeks ago I was approached by The House of Peroni. They wanted to know if I was up for being sent to Milan to review a couple of restaurants for the magazine. What do you think my answer was? You guessed it, YES! So a couple of weeks ago, I packed a rucksack and headed on my merry way to one of the world’s most fashionable cities for a couple of nights.

I was in Milan to try U Barba for lunch and Cascina Cuccagna for dinner. But I knew my trip would not be complete without sampling the incredible aperitivo on offer, so I arranged to meet a friend of a friend on the Friday evening and trundled alongside the disused canal on Ripa di Porta to meet her at Rebelot for aperitivo, a gin based cocktail and to sample three dishes from the sharing menu.

The cosy and atmospheric restaurant, which shares a kitchen with Al Pont De Ferr, a Michelin starred restaurant a couple of doors down, was the perfect introduction to the Milanese food scene. Not only was the aperitivo offering of a plate of cured meats and grilled pardon peppers a delight, the three plates that we shared were beautifully presented and a total steal at 18Euros.

Everyone knows that I have a sweet tooth and a trip to another city wouldn’t be complete without snooting out the best bakery. So on the Saturday I edged my way through the hustle and bustle of paparazzi, Italian stars and Ferraris walking down Via Montenapoleone, Milan’s most fashionable street (it was fashion week when I was there, afterall) and paid Cova a visit. As soon as I entered, I could feel a wave of indecision come across me but, undeterred, I made a beeline for the pastry cabinet where I chose three small perfectly formed mini pastries, which were placed on a gold tray and wrapped up in the most elaborate fashion! As soon as I left, I found an empty bench and ate all three in quick succession. Delicious.

Sadly that was all I had time for but my fleeting visit has given me a taste for the Milanese way of life and I’m already looking forward to planning another trip.

My U Barba review will be live tomorrow on The House of Peroni website and keep your eye out for Cascina Cuccagna, which will go live next week!

Five Guys, Covent Garden

6 Mar

Us Brits love a queue. It’s just as well, as every good no bookings cheap eat restaurant seems to have one.

I am not a massive fan, though. I would rather not spend an hour of my life salivating and unable to concentrate on anything else other than getting inside and sliding my order in quick, sharp. Whenever I see a queue, I’ll recoil and either visit another day, or go back outside of peak hours.

I visited Five Guys a couple of weeks ago. I had seen the queue many times as I walked past but never plucked up the courage to join it. But I did and was prepared to let misery take control. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when after just five minutes, we were in. What I didn’t realise was there there is a huge seating area downstairs and it’s not exactly the kind of place you will sit and lounge around for hours, so I imagine the turnover is quite high.

The concept is simple – choose your burger (hamburger, cheese burger, bacon burger or bacon cheese burger) and choose as many toppings as you like. If you want all of them, your burger would be stacked HIGH. There are also hot dogs and sandwiches available, but most people around us seemed to be munching on burgers. There are two types of fries – cajun and Five Guys special fries, which are cooked in no cholesterol peanut oil, making them healthier than your regular fries. There are also 100 drinks flavours on offer from a self service machine and free refills. Bonus.

Our burgers arrived and they were massive. The large fries were served in a large drinks cup and overflowed into the brown paper bags that they were served in. Definitely American sized portions!

As well as thoroughly enjoying the burger and fries, I was particularly interested in the drinks machine. I tried a few flavours of coca cola and lemonade, which was a novelty and I felt like a child getting all excited about the huge variety of sugary drinks available.

I enjoyed Five Guys and liked to hear about the quality of the food and the fact that there are no freezers, so you know that you’re not eating anything that has been frozen.

Five Guys does what it says on the tin and I’d definitely return to get my burger fix.

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