Seasonal Chocolate Delights at Aubaine…!

Is it that time of the year already? Its nearly the end of 2018 and I’ve been busy sampling seasonal menus, exploring the bright lights in London and generally making the most of what is left of the year before I relax in the holidays!

This is a chocolatey dessert menu I was able to try at French restaurant Aubaine recently, which involved a very chocolate hot chocolate plus a chocolate log to enjoy! I opted for the creamy Javara hot chocolate, while my friend went for the ‘blond’ and more sweeter Dulcey hot chocolate. We’re both chocoholics so it was ideal for us!

Floral Cabanas at Coppa Club

I’ve been hearing (and seeing) a lot about the Coppa Club beautiful cabanas (especially after they had some very cosy igloos in the wintertime for customers!), and took the chance to go there recently with a couple of friends to try some lunch there on a warm day. The restaurant is situated next to Tower Hill, and has a perfect view of the River Thames and its various buildings, so unsurprisingly, it was extremely busy and most of the tables were taken!

We didn’t get to spend long in the cabanas as they were all booked up, but the staff did let us sit in one for a short while, until we were moved to our proper table. The hanging flowers looked beautiful, and made us feel like we were in a secret garden – a really lovely atmosphere.

As for the food, we ordered some light lunch – a salmon and cress toast, a watermelon salad and a fruity trifle with some mocktail drinks. The food was not bad, but I did think it was slightly pricey for what we got – I imagine this is due to the prime location of the restaurant. The salmon was pretty standard, but the dessert was nice – the only thing I was a little disappointed with were the drinks, which didn’t have anything special about them.

I’ve been meaning to go Coppa Club for a while now since they’ve had the cabanas, and it was lovely to sit and enjoy the view. However I will say that it was very, very busy which definitely affected the customer service – we asked the staff several times for a few things and they just never came back to us, or said they would speak to the manager and then didn’t give us an answer. One of the things we wanted was to change our tables, as we were seated in a very uncomfortable spot under a very hot sun, but despite asking for over 45 mins if we could change, we never got another table and eventually just left after we ate. For me, this affected the experience pretty negatively, which made me feel like the hype wasn’t enough for the quality of food and customer service you get.

One of the things which is on the rise is beautiful looking food, flat-lays and pretty restaurants, especially with food bloggers and Instagram making everything look so appealing. My experience here has warned me not to always believe the hype – it may look pretty in the pictures but sometimes it might not be as amazing as it looks!

EVALUATION:
HALAL : NO
VEGETARIAN & VEGAN OPTIONS AVAILABLE: YES
PRICE : £10 UPWARDS FOR light lunch, £15-30 FOR LUNCH
RATING OUT OF 10: 4
LOCATION: 3 Three Quays Walk, Lower Thames St, London EC3R 6AH

Carnaby Street Eat

I was lucky enough to be around central London last weekend with a friend, so that we could make the most of the annual Carnaby Street Eat – a mini food festival perfect for foodies like us!

I love hearing about events like this around London, especially since it’s such a diverse, busy place with plenty happening (like my favourite event from this year, Lumiere London) – and the the best thing is that a lot of these are free (if you hear about them in time and know where to find them!) and usually involve wandering around discovering London!

My friend and I headed down to Carnaby Street and found plenty of food stalls, which was perfect with the summer weather and the beautiful surroundings. I didn’t take as many pictures as I wanted to, but here’s a few pictures from my Snapchat app!

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One of the things I love about Carnaby Street is the decor – there’s plenty of colour all year around and the shops regularly have funky decor to match. Carnaby Street had some added decor around the street, with plenty of food trucks, DJ decks for music and even a long strip of (false!) grass patch for people to sit and relax in.

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The food, of course looked amazing – most of them were from restaurants and bars nearby, so it was nice to see that you can sample food from new places. Unfortunately not a lot of these places had halal food, but there were a few vegetarian options, and we did manage to find an Indian restaurant selling burgers! As well as savoury food, there were plenty of desserts – rainbow meringues, cupcakes and biscuits, as well as free lemonade and ice-cream sandwiches being handed out.

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My friend and I managed to find a spot on the grass to sit and relax (and also manage to snag a huge floor cushion to sit and relax in!) and we enjoyed the beautiful sun and sights. We also stopped for desserts and plenty of drinks!

 

I like that there were things around all of Carnaby Street to catch your eye and add a little colour – from silly signboards and beautifully decorated walls to foosball table games and deckchairs – something for everyone. It’s not often an event like this comes to London, and it was great to see everyone come out to enjoy themselves.

We had a great time at Carnaby Street Eat, and manage to catch a little suntan as well – although I don’t think my tan lasted too long! I’ll be keeping an eye out for more events like this in London, especially as summer as finally arrived and there’s plenty of sun to enjoy!

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Journal Your Ramadan – Day #10: J is for Juice

One of things which I feel the most in the heat of summer days is that longing for a cool drink in the middle of the day – here’s what I wish I was drinking today (although I’ll stick to water for now!)

One of the things that Ramadan really makes me appreciate is the abundance of water we have at the tip of our fingers, which we can take for granted – we all know how much gets used washing, drinking, doing laundry, for toilets – and it’s easy to forget what a valuable commodity it is in countries where there are those who are less advantaged than we are.

During the heatwave which has been gradually climbing towards us, I also turn to those in Pakistan who have been hit by extreme heat of 45 degrees celsius and above recently, and who struggle to fast – which makes me re-think the stick and humid atmosphere that we call heat here in London, and how lucky we are that it is bearable at least, for us.

It also makes me appreciate the luxury of cold drinks when we do open our fast at iftar time – it can be one of the biggest challenges of Ramadan to not think about your thirst and keep a cool attitude, and focus on getting through the day. It’s certainly  made me change my attitude towards our luxury of water – I try to drink as much water as I can but it feels more striking when you know how much you’ve longed for it.

So here’s a drinky post for you – and also a request to keep the people struck by heatwave in Pakistan in your prayers.

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Journal Your Ramadan – Day #2: B is for Breakfast

Or in the case of Ramadan, our suhoor which we eat in the morning before sunrise. Being so early in the morning, I don’t exactly whip up an English breakfast meal, but it is important to have something filling which will give you enough energy through the rest of the day. These days I’ve been going for a banana and some cereal, otherwise some chicken in a sandwich and plenty of water. I’m trying to build myself up to eating more as the days go on – usually by the end of the month I have a decent appetite for such an early time in the morning!

What have you been eating for breakfast?

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A Chocolatey Time at Choccywoccydoodah

Whenever I tell people about Choccywoccydoodah, some of them accuse me of making the name up. I’m not of course, it’s an amazing chocolate-and-cake shop off Carnarby Street, in Central London, and definitely somewhere to go if you love eye candy and mouth-watering treats.

My best friend and I decided to reward ourselves by taking a visit there, we’d never been and decided to live up to our chocoholic natures and indulge for the day. It took us a while to get in (there was a 40 minutes queue on a busy Saturday afternoon) but this just gave us an opportunity to browse cakes, chocolate slabs and basically have a good look at the store below, while we waited to get into the eaterie on the first floor.

I’ll let you feast your eyes on the pictures, they’ll do a  better job of showing the amazing talent at Choccywoccydoodah and the beautiful (and edible!) things we saw than I can decribe. The theme at the moment is spring and florals, we were going to go a few months ago during the winter months, and look at the Halloween themed cakes, but I’m glad we didn’t now becaues the floral theme was so beautifully done.

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On the first floor is a cafe, where an afternoon tea is available, there’s a huge selection of cakes, treats, drinks and beautiful decorations, and there’s a very bohemian, arty feel for the whole place which is a delight to sit in.

We ordered a slice of cake with drinks (I had a pink lemonade, naturally), with me choosing chocolate praline cake and my friend going for a chocolate gateux. Each cake slice was huge, with about five layers of icing, buttercream, sponge and cream, encased in solid chocolate and drizzled in three different sauces. Sadly to say, it was an amazing slice but neither of ours barely managed to finish, which put a stop to us asking for a second slice.

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Harlequin Pics www.harlequinteaset.wordpress.com

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There’s plenty of beautiful decorations all over the store and the cafe, paper hearts cut out and hung on walls, embellished mirrors and crown motifs, and greenery everywhere. The seating area is just as electic and mixed, but goes with the decor and huge cake decor brilliantly.

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I loved the style and luxury of Choccywoccydoodah, there’s beautiful creations everywhere you look, complete with plush armchairs, belljars with cake, handpainted signs and some seriously beautiful edible stuff – when gonig up the stairs I even saw a chocolate snail hidden in a crack in a wall! I loved the attention to detail, and the cafe itself was surprisingly reasonable priced. The cakes on display (which are the main focus of the tv show Choccywoccydoodah) are probably a different matter, and I can imagine seeing one of these beauties at a wedding (I remember saying to my friend that it would have been amazing to have a towering six-layered floral cake like this for mine!).

For anyone in the area, I’d definitely recommend a visit, even if it’s just to browse and look at the beautiful cakes and chocolate creations on display.

Containers: Not just about food.

I thought I’d contribute to this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge, which I thought was a good one, about Containers. It gives me a chance to reflect on the idea of the sort of containers I’ve been seeing lately, which is of food. Ramadan time for us is usually symbolised (among a lot of other things) by the samosas in my mum’s famous hot-pot container – the smell of samosas instantly brings back memories of early mornings with parathas (buttered chapattis) and iftars spent hovering over my mum’s shoulders while she fried delicacies which we usually see at Ramadan times; afternoons spent salivating over plates of watermelons and strawberries, and waiting for tall glass of cool water.

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Not everyone has the luxury of containers of food that we have though. The whole point of Ramadan, as well as getting close to our spiritual side, is to empathise with those who don’t have the abundance of food that we do, and those who don’t get to end their starving days with a feast. It is easy to forget your hunger when you are biting into a juicy fruit chaat or some hot pakoras, measuring your fasts by the clock instead of by experiences.

Not everyone in the world has the luxury of making everyone wait to eat while they take a picture (yes I’m one of those), while everyone sits back amused, because they know they’ll get their food once that picture is taken. Some parts of the world do not have food to Instagram/Facebook/Tweet the way we do, and do not have the choice of beautiful food.

Not everyone has the luxury of loving making their food, taking their time to eat and savouring their meal. I’m sure you have seen plenty of images and heard news about the horrific things which are happening in Gaza, as well as Palestine right now. There is growing unrest about this, not just the heartbreaking violence, but the lack of action from the Western world, the lack of reportage and the outright refusal to acknowledge events by the major powers – the Western media, the politicians and prime ministers, and those who do have a voice. We have seen protests, rallies and several movements, which are not just online but on the streets all over the world, and which are fighting to give these people a voice, to make change. I can’t help but think about these people who have lived their lives in fear, worrying about whether they will ever eat their meals in peace, whether the roofs over their heads will stay in one place, whether they can let their children sleep in homes without worry. I can’t imagine what Ramadan must feel like to the Palestinians right now – whether it is something they can experience without fearing whether they will see the end of it.

It is apt that it is Ramadan right now. It is the best time for us to truly reflect, think about what we can do to help the disadvantaged. If there is one thing I have learned it is that there is no point in bettering yourself, reflecting spiritually and empathising with the poor by feeling hungry if you don’t use those lessons learned to help others and to further the messages learned.

It is a container of samosas, yes. But it is also so much more – it represents all the luxuries we have which we can so easily forget in our sheltered lives and take for granted. I don’t mean to belittle the lives of our #FirstWorldProblems#, it is easy to be cynical and undermine the efforts of those who actually have tried to make a difference – the things I have seen recently makes me proud of so many of my brothers and sisters. But perhaps, this is a gentle reminder, to appreciate what we have – look at things from a different angle.

Tea and Cake (and a bottle of Coke) at Caffe Concerto

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a tea-place of any kind, so it was nice to catch with with friends recently while nibbling cake and sipping on tea (or coca-cola in my case,  I’m the only person I know from all of my friends who don’t drink tea. I’m also the only one who doesn’t think that’s weird!)

My friends and I went to the lovley Caffe Concerto, which consisted of some afternoon delight of scones with jam, lots of chocolate cake and some creamy tea (plus a bottle of coke for me). The place itself is beautiful and reassuringly quiet, we were in the middle of a busy shopping centre yet it didn’t feel like it because of how subdued it was inside. So here’s a few pictures of what we ate (I wanted to take more pictures of the surroundings but didn’t get a chance to!) – it’s nice to savour some cake and catch up with friends every now and then, I’m hoping that I get to do it more often!

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The Unspoken Rules of All Soap Operas

I don’t watch as much soap operas and those day-time tv series as much as I used to, mainly because they frown on watching television at my workplace (it doesn’t look good to have iPlayer running in the background of my reports, managers tend to frown on that), and also because after years and years of watching Eastenders, Emmerdale, Hollyoaks and Neighbours, I got sick of watching the same storylines being disguised and recycled with each generation.

How many times will Den die? Will Kat cheat again? More importantly, will she be wearing leopard-print while doing it? And how on earth do people like Tony from Hollyoaks and Ian from Eastenders convince so many women to marry them?

It got me to thinking about how a lot of TV’s soaps follow some unscripted rules which seem to be unchanging over the years – even if they’re disguised to reflect current issues. In the 80’s and 90’s there was a lot of controversy over story-lines like homosexuality and teenage pregnancy, these day the storylines will be about immigration, transgender issues, terrorism or just about Cornish pasties – but the results are the same, possibly because the soaps follow the same ‘rules’.

I expounded on some of my theories about soaps to a friend of mine and she urged me to share my theories so I can enlighten you all with them. Admittedly, her exact words were “write a post about it, it sounds funny”, but I’ll take that as a positive too. Read on follow soap-cynics, and tell me if you agree.

Rule #1: There is no such thing as a happy relationship or marriage.

No matter how long the ‘romance’ has been dragged out, and the suspense built up, when a couple finally ends up together or gets married, it will never last. I have yet to see a marriage which has lasted on any soap. Even those married couples who have supposedly been married for 50 years suddenly end up having problems with each other.

It is inevitable that there will be three possible outcomes in any relationship:
1. One of them cheats (which probably means nothing because the other one is likely to be cheating as well)
2. One of them dies (which forever immortalises them and makes them the perfect partner)
3.They just give up their relationship because it gets boring/one of them has to leave the country for obscure reasons/one of them turns gay (i.e. their relationship got boring and producers wanted to spice it up)

The best relationships have been the ones where one half of the couple is dead (probably because they’re too dead to argue or cheat) – in which case, the living half will remember the relationship with unrealistic fondness. Strangely enough, this doesn’t stop characters from having an impaired memory – the amount of times Pauline Fowler talked about her beloved (and belated) ‘Arfur’, despite the fact that he was a cheater and she was a husband-beater. Sounds like him being dead suddenly redeemed him.

Married and separated so many times, we lost count.

Rule #2: Everyone must visit the pub.

It doesn’t matter if you aren’t a drinker, every soap has a thriving pub which is at the centre of all business, drama and gossip, which means it’s a place that everyone eventually ends up being in the episode. Teetotal and/or ex-alcoholic? Why not go to the pub and surround your lemonade with some drinkers? Muslim and don’t drink? Down to the pub with you. Underage or with young children? Why not have a rest at the pub, there’s plenty of people to keep an eye on your children while you have a quick pint. Best of all, no one will ask you why you are at the pub at 11.00am, plus a possible pub lunch and a quick pint after your dinner too.

Some would argue that the pub is a great equalizer – the rich, poor, working class, middle class and people of all colours and ages congregate to the pub cos they all want a drink at the end of the day (or want to witness the latest debacle about to take place). But I’ll just say that the Queen Vic and Rover are too over-populated to be realistic, especially when you know most people would prefer to be at home in front of the telly (I wonder if there is a soap that the characters watch in Eastenders, something called The Market maybe).

Rule #3: Ian is always going to be a git.

I just don’t like him. ‘Nuff said.

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Rule #4: There should only be one taboo topic at any one time.

Every season in soap-world will have a new scandal going on, whether it’s affairs, crime-doings or someone ‘aving a go in the market. In order not to confuse us simple viewers, there’s only ever major story arc at a time, so that we can keep our bums on the edge of the seats without being distracted by other storylines. The downside of this is that a story can drag on for months until we stop caring. But it also means that you can watch a story about an affair in January, go on holiday for a couple of months, come back in April and the affair’s still going on. When it comes to ‘taboo’ topics which become major storylines like teenage pregnancy, homosexuality, immigration or similar issues, I can’t help but think that they’re dumbed down and simplified so that we are beaten over the head with the overall message.

Rule #5: There is always a loophole for characters to come back, regardless or how they leave.

Death is not a preventive factor because there’s always an explanation , even if it’s not a realistic one. We may have seen someone get shot/stabbed/go on the run for twenty years, but it still means that there’s a small lee-way for them to come back. Yes, you, Dirty Den, we’re looking at you. What do you think this is, the Resurrection?

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Rule #6: There is always a villain that we love to hate in every soap

It’s practically a requirement. In Eastender it’s Ian (for me), but there’s plenty of real ‘baddie’ characters to spice things up a bit. And there’s different strands of baddies too, whether it’s the gangster type;, the smarmy type who everyone hates; and, worst of all baddies, the ones who pretend to be good but have serial killer eyes and end up going cuckoo crazy before they get carted off in a wheely bin to a local asylum (which they’ll probably escape from). Think Annie from Sunset Beach, maybe.

Rule #7: The token ethnic person is never accurate.

I have a personal gripe about this because every time there has been an Asian, particularly a Pakistani character in a soap, they’ve never sounded or behaved like anyone I know. The Masoods are a classic example of unrealistic storylines which have either been lifted straight from a Bollywood serial or just made up by non-Asian people who think that Pakistani families are like this. Coronation Street was just as bad, although the only thing they got right was that the Indian family owned the corner shop. As for Emmerdale, well, I have yet to see any Asian people out in the fields.

Put some more of these in Coronation Street.
Rule #8: Time is irrelevant in soap operas and doesn’t run at the same speed as real life.

Don’t try to make it make sense of it, it’ll only give you a headache. A character may find out she is pregnant in May and then be ready to give birth just two months later, pay no attention to that, it’s just producers speeding up time for us. Similarly, a baby will grow into a toddler and suddenly get replaced into a teenage character in a couple of years (I may be exaggerating here, but still). And if it’s highly convenient that Christmas day in Soap World is on the same day as real life, well that’s just clever timing.

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Rule #9: Every character has potential to have a huge (translation: stupid) secret

This ‘secret’ will cover a storyline that will drag on for weeks until we stop caring and the producers are forced to do a ‘big reveal’ so they can try to save the storyline and make us all interested again. Usually the secret is something like having a criminal past or that they’re really someone’s secret mum, or that they were the one who stole Dot’s sandwich. Admittedly, there have a been a few interesting storylines in the past, like the secret serial killers, the complicated affairs and the random storylines which make no sense but which still are fascinating. At the core of soap operas, the moments we all hang on for are the ‘Big Reveal’ parts, the moment everyone finds out something that we knew all along – even if it’s a boring secret.

Rule #10: I can’t think of any more rules so here’s a picture of a cute turtle.

Look how cute it is.

That’s all I could think of folks, I know some of these are silly and some of you might not agree with these, but a lot of these are silly and down to the fact that I watch a lot of rubbish TV which doesn’t always make sense, so I may have done some over thinking here!

Next up, clichés and rules about Bollywood films (and Indian TV serials) – expect some silliness!

Journal Your Ramadan – Day #25: Drink

Here’s what I wish I was drinking today, although these days I’ve been sticking to cold glasses of water for iftari (and the occasional sneaky coke).

During Ramadan time, I’ve really learned to appreciate drinks, particuarly water, in this heat. It’s made me think about those less fortunate than us who don’t always have access to clean drinking water, and how we have it in abundance in the comfort of our homes. Ramadan has also been slightly harder this year because it’s during the hottest month of the year, in the sweltering heat and thick, sticky and humid atmosphere. For myself personally, this has been one of the bigger challenges of Ramadan this year, keeping your mind distracted from thirst, and keeping a cool attitude. Alhamdullilah, I’ve managed okay so far, I’ve been drinking glasses of water before bedtimes (which I never used to do), and I eat more water-based fruits which also help a lot.

Still, I’ll be looking forward to a nice fruity mocktail in a few weeks, though!

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