♥ for Equipment shirts

Anyone who has ever hunted for the perfect shirt/blouse hybrid will have inevitably stumbled across the french brand Equipment.

(Sophie transparent stripe blouse, My-Wardrobe.com, £104)

Originally set up in the 70s by Christian Restoin, his focus was introducing the classic tailoring of the mens shirt to a female audience. Taking inspiration from 50s movie stars such as Lauren Bacall, combined with french sophistication, Equipment shirts became a firm fashion staple in the wardrobes of stylish women in the 80s. Having disappeared from our conscience somewhat, the brand resurfaced back in 2010, bringing a whole new generation the joy of their signature silk blouses in a wide range of colours!

My current favourites are the patterned shirts they have released for Spring – with spots, stripes and flowers. However the original block colour shirts continue to be bestsellers due to the diverse combinations of outfits they can be paired with. This is great when you need to be on form for an important business lunch or just look the part on a date. No other shirts compare – they have completely nailed the stylish, understated french look which every woman wants to achieve. Génial!

(Signature Two Pocket Square Print Shirt, ASOS, £275)

Stocked in most good online shops, you can also pick them up in person from Selfridges and Browns. Sales highly recommended!


Feast in the East

I finally made it to Pizza East last week and what a treat it was! Situated within the old T-Bar building on the corner of Shoreditch High Street and the Bethnal Green Road, you feel as though you’ve joined the cool crowd from the minute you step through the door. All exposed brickwork and stripped back wooden floors with plenty of steel it has an immediate industrial feel, however the warm glow from the oversized lampshades, creates an intimate and relaxed atmosphere.

We were seated at the bar which is where all the action is – watching the staff carve up endless slices of prosciutto definitely whetted our appetite for the main event. The pizzas are pricey if you want anything other than a basic margarita, but the combinations of veal meatballs with cream or the 4-cheese with Provolone sets this pizzeria apart from all the rest. There are also deli platters and hot dishes such as fried polenta or clams and nduja (sausage) if you don’t fancy a pizza. Delish!

I enjoyed the San Daniele, ricotta and fresh pesto pizza on a classically rustic base – it was nothing short of a delight. Because the ingredients are so fresh, the flavours are light and delicate, leaving you feeling comfortably sated as opposed to uncomfortably stuffed. Perfect for heading down to the basement bar – Concrete, for a cocktail and a dance afterwards. However, the big secret of this eatery are the incredible puddings – these deserve an entire blog dedicated to them alone, but I’ll leave that for you to discover. Happy feasting!

(Check out Pizza East for yourself, bookings recommended.) 

The great leather jacket search

Leather jackets – an essential in most girls’ wardrobes, but not always the easiest item to purchase.

I’ve recently spent some time searching for the ultimate leather jacket. Does it exist I hear you cry? Well, yes if you have £1ooo+ and can afford a Rick Owens. The rest of us mere mortals are neatly split between saving for the All Saints full-price version and settling for Topshop’s finest. (Both very worthy contenders.)

(Rick Owens Textured-Leather biker jacket, Net-A-Porter, £1,345)

There are a couple of ground rules when hunting for TULJ (The ultimate leather jacket.) Pleather is not a good look – PU, leather-look or plastic jackets are cheap and nasty. If you can’t afford leather, don’t wear fake. Stick to a nice blazer from The GAP and you’ll look a million miles more classy.

Also, beware of the ‘cheap-and-shiny’ leather jackets you can pick up on touristy streets in central London. They may be real, but they look fake and surely that’s worse – spending the money, while everyone else thinks you’re in PU!? No thanks! I found myself in this situation recently at the Reiss sales. There was the most beautiful tan leather jacket reduced from £300+ to £130..and it was IN MY SIZE. But when I tried it on, it looked pleather all the way. Gutting, but simply not worth it.

So, you may now be thinking that actually this is an impossible feat. But fear not, it’s my job to seek out the best! Occasionally the High Street comes up trumps, but my tip would be eBay. There’s almost always some All Saints past season leathers on there for half the price. However, if you really are after a Rick Owens lookalike, check out Black Scissors Tailoring who have their own eBay shop – they have some truly wonderful offerings and also provide a made-to-measure service. Happy hunting!

(Black Scissors Tailoring Leather Jacket, eBay, £149)

Heston’s dinner

So, where does one start? I was privileged enough today to go for lunch at the Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge to sample the food at Heston Blumenthal’s latest venture – Dinner by Heston. Having previously had an excellent experience at The Crown (one of Heston’s 3 restaurants in Bray), I could not have been more excited!

Initial thoughts? Suitably impressive.. Having entered the restaurant via the perspex arches containing wines stacked to the ceiling, we found ourselves in the private dining room with a prime view of the spit-roast pineapples (our dessert dating back to c.1810 according to the menu!) The waiter informed us that the dishes we were tasting today had been compiled following research undertaken by Heston in conjunction with Hampton Court Palace and the British Library. I felt as though we had entered into a bit of an experiment in conjunction with someone who meant serious business!

Anyway, to the main act – the actual eating of the food. It more than lived up to our expectations. Our first of 5 courses was the calves tail risotto dating back to c.1390. Tender, slow-cooked meat with delightfully crunchy rice (at chef’s insistence) was the perfect entree. This was followed by Heston’s most celebrated dish – meat fruits. Seriously, this is incredible. The steps taken to construct fois-grois into a mandarin-shaped existence are mind-boggling, but results are suitably impressive. Even more so when the waiter tells you they make 900 per week! I’ve included a picture below because seeing really is believing in this case.

(Heston’s infamous Meat Fruit)

Main course, I opted for spiced pigeon which was accompanied by mash consisting of 45% butter. Decadent and full of flavour – the pigeon was so rich, it was comparable to duck. The table fell silent as we feasted. My fellow diner commented that this was pure ‘food porn’ – I think he may have had a point..

I won’t bore you with a play-by-play, but all in all, our experience was hugely positive. The service is second to none and this really does highlight why Heston Blumenthal is our chef of the moment right now. The attention to detail and hours of cooking which go into every single dish is the result of a chef’s passion for food like no other. Awarded 1 Michelin star in the Michelin travel publications 2012, this is more than deserved. The golden age of fine dining is upon us and Dinner is one not to be missed.

(Book a table at Dinner by Heston at the Mandarin Oriental)

Dress like your garden

Floral prints and garden greens may be everywhere right now thanks to designers such as Etro and Mary Katrantzou, but really, are they wearable? I’d like to say yes, but it has to be done tastefully and paired with the right items. Here’s how I intend to immerse myself in flora and fauna, without going full on David Bellamy.

Dior’s delicate minty-green nail polish is doing the fashion circuit right now and rightly so. It’s a great way to gently ease yourself into the garden trend and will give you a little bit of lift every time you look down at your beautiful spring nails!

(Dior Vernis nail polish in Waterlily 504, Boots, £17.50)

I’ve invested in a pair of floral-print trousers, also known as ‘jazzy trousers.’ While they may appear loud and poor-taste at first, you can pair these with a simple black tee and boots and make a proper statement. Try Topshop for an array of choices. They also have some picture-perfect shorts, beautifully illustrated and reminiscent of Kew Gardens in full bloom. How great will these look with a tan?

(Tropical Mirror Print Shorts, Topshop, £35)

However, if you’re not the shy and retiring type and are ready to embrace this trend with open arms then go wild and pick up something from the cheeky NZ brand – Stolen Girlfriends Club. They make edgy clothing which add serious personality to any look. This season, they’ve taken the floral trend and made it super punchy with acid injections. I love their ‘doll’ dress as it’s both girly and romantic, yet tough and confident at the same time. May need to start saving my pennies..

(Acid doll dress, Stolen Girlfriends Club, £465)

Squid ink on the menu

Squid ink – it’s a must-try in my opinion!

(Jamie Oliver’s crab and squid ink risotto, Jamie’s Italian, £13.50)

My first experience of trying squid ink was in a seafood linguine at a fine Italian restaurant in Guildford, Surrey named Cambio when I was 17. I was drawn to the colour palatte and was amazed that black food could be both tasty and beautiful. Cambio still offer a spaghetti neri (black spaghetti) with a lobster and prawn ragout on the menu, so it’s clearly a perennial favourite.

Squid ink is a highly prized cooking ingredient. Released from the squid as a defense mechanism, it seems like a rather unlikely choice, but apart from visually enhancing your cooking, it also adds a certain briney flavour to a dish. Nothing overpowering, but certainly a point of difference. Take Jamie’s Italian for example – he serves up a mean crab and squid ink risotto in his restaurants which I’ve enjoyed twice now – large portions too so it’s well worth the spend.

So where can you buy this delightful spciality for cooking yourself I hear you asking? Good question, as it’s certainly not a mainstream purchase. I’d recommend Selfridges foodhall – the mecca of all things foodie, your local Italian deli (if you have one) or alternatively a specialist online shop such as Melbury and Appleton, based in North London if you want to visit them yourself.

(Sepia spaghetti, 500g, Melbury&Appleton, £3.99)

The perfect court

(Christian Louboutin Pigalle 85mm shoes, Matches Fashion, £375.)

I’m sure anyone who works in an office environment can relate to this, but I think finding the perfect mid-heeled black court shoe is possibly the biggest challenge any woman can face when it comes to office-wear. Am I right?

For example, how high is too high? Does patent look cheap? Is a platform inappropriate?  Coupled with that, you’re investing in something which you will potentially be walking around solidly in for approximately 10 hours per day so they HAVE to be comfortable, but you don’t want to be shuffling around in a pair of old lady Gabor specials. Style is key!

So, after trying on numerous pairs and having failed on as many occasions, I think I can now confirm a few items. A heel any higher than 8cm is going to be challenging. Cheap unfortunately means painful – if you can, try and go for real leather as the shoes should be gentler on your feet and therefore more comfortable. Try New Look or Marks & Spencer for affordable options – they also do wide-fit.

(Autograph Leather Pointed Toe Court Shoes with Insolia®, Marks & Spencer, £45)

Delectable italian goats cheese

I’ve had a long standing love affair with goats cheese. It serves as a delicious snack by itself as well as being a great ingredient in savoury tarts, salads or even a frittata. Over the years I’ve tried (and been disappointed with) all the supermarket offerings – surprisingly CostCo’s ‘Heritage’ range goats cheese is one of the best! Hmmm.

Anyway, my latest discovery is the delicious caprino which is being sold at my local Brixton grocers – A&C Co. situated on the corner of Atlantic Road and Brixton Road.

A specialist grocers, they sell a diverse range of cheeses, salamis, fresh breads and olives in addition to standard seasonal veg and there is a friendly, welcoming atmosphere whenever I visit. This is probably the reason I always end up leaving with far more than originally intended!

Highly recommended are the olives stuffed with garlic and mature manchego, but by far my favourite is the italian goats cheese – caprino fresco (meaning fresh). Half the enjoyment is just unwrapping the traditional waxed paper in which the cheese is carefully packaged. Inside resides the creamiest, whitest goats cheese I have ever tasted. Crumbly and melt in the mouth, this is best enjoyed pared with a slice of portuguese sour dough bread.

Believe me, other goats cheese pale in comparison. Yum!

Putty is the colour

(See by Chloe April bag £345, My-Wardrobe.com)

It may be snowing outside, but the shops are full of new season brights and pastels which are designed to get you spending and revitalising your wardrobe after a cash-strapped January.

However, I don’t know about you, but I can’t see myself popping out in the freezing cold in a pair of powder blue jeans right now. Instead, I will be working all things putty-coloured.

It may not sound glamorous, but putty is a subtle natural-beige colour which works with everything! From Anya Hindmarch’s Huxley clutch, to Topshop’s skinny grunge studded belt, there’s something for every budget. Pair it with your dark wardrobe staples now and pastels come spring – the perfect trans-seasonal shade.

I have fallen head-over-heels for this Zara leather jacket which fits the bill perfectly from my point of view. Race you to the tills!

(Leather jacket £149, Zara)

Brilliant bisque

Last night, I finally fulfilled one of my foodie fantasies and visited The Orrery on Marylebone High Street. Situated within a converted stable, The Orrery makes for a cosy, yet intimate setting with starched tablecloths and large, O-shaped picture windows overlooking the churchyard. It also has a roof terrace which will be a complete gem in the summer. (I’m coming back for Pimms with the girls!)

This restaurant is part of the D&D London group so you are guaranteed a certain standard of cuisine and having read excellent reviews of The Orrery, I was keen to try this for myself. The menu centres around modern french cooking using fine ingredients – something head chef Igor Tymchyshyn takes great pride in, particularly his truffles which have a menu of their own!

The highlight for me was the handmade seafood tortellini in a lobster bisque. For those of you not in the know, a bisque is a rich and creamy soup, traditionally made with pureed seafood or vegetables. This particular bisque was foamy, yet full of flavour and the tortellini was light, filled with with delicate segments of crab meat and prawns.

I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say after 3 courses, 3 amuse-bouches and a delicious bottle of Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand we were all suitably content. I will certainly be returning in the summer and taking advantage of some roof-top sun worshipping!

(Book a table at The Orrery or pick up a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc at The Wine Reserve for £10.99.)