Dominique Ansel Bakery – Home of the Novelty Baked Treats

I recently visited the famous Dominique Ansel bakery in London with a friend, which is famous for the Cronut, as well as a lot of other baked delicacies.  We got a little over-excited and ordered a bunch of treats, all of which we had fun tasting – the cookie shot (a cup made of cookie filled with milk), the peanut-butter creamy cake, the Frozen S’more (a marshmallow-ice cream combination), mini Madeleines fresh and hot from the oven and a yummy hot chocolate with a marshmallow flower which opened up from the heat of the drink.

As I’m sure you can imagine, we were stuffed after all of this, and had to walk around the streets to burn it off a little, but it was worth it! If you’re around the area, I’d recommend this place to sit and try (although it can get very busy so there may be some waiting time!), and it’s not super-cheap (although not overly-expensive either) – sometime to try at least once!

Sweet Art: A Maynard-Bassett Art Gallery

My sister and I recently went to a pop-up gallery – made of sweets! Sweet Manufacturers Maynard-Bassetts (the Jelly Baby and Wine Gum people) held an art show that we managed to get tickets for, featuring their ‘sweet’ takes on different types of art.

The first one we saw when we walked in was the ‘Mona goes Pop’ art below – a Mona Lisa piece made entirely of square liquorice sweets –  I think this was one of the best pieces we saw too!

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There were art pieces dotted all around the room – such as the poster art with sweet wrappers, the various emojis made of sweets, and the very cool Underground Tube map made of sweets.

The venue was a really relaxed place to walk around – thankfully we missed the crowd by going at lunchtime before it all got busy!

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We also got a chance to be a little creative with the sweets at the DIY table, where there were lots of sweet-animals and sweet-people – I loved all the different things people were making!

We also saw various cute pieces of art scattered around the room – I think my sister and both loved the pink mouse best!

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The pop-up gallery also gave every guest a chance to take a bag of sweets from the Pick’n’Mix section home (most of them weren’t halal, so I gave them to my work colleagues, who were ecstatic!) and also had a machine to try and grab a free bag of sweets too!

It was a really fun art show, and a very generous one on the part of the Maynard-Bassetts company, who organised the event and gave out sweets and drinks for free. I’ll be looking out for more events like this in the summer, and will post them as I attend : )

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Making the most of Ramadan

As the next few weeks progress, the special month of Ramadan is something we all want to make the most of. I’ve not been the best in the past in doing this – usually I often struggle to do more than my daily salah and a few pages of the Quran, along wish full-time work and my usual chores at home. I think we were lucky this time around to start Ramadan on a long weekend, which has given us time to get used to the long hours and make the most of the time, as well as get enough sleep!

One of the things I wanted to explore this month is how to make the most of the month and also make it easier for ourselves. I’ve put some goals below, as well as ideas on new things to try. I’d love to see what your goals are for this month too, so please comment below and let me know!

Food ideas

  • My sister posted a long list of 200+ food ideas here – so have a look and see if there’s something new to try!
  • Looking to eat out? There’s a few food bloggers who have posted places in London which are iftar-friendly, sehri-friendly and offer prayer spaces – you can see a list here and here.
  • Make it fun! My sisters and I always send iftar pictures before/while we eat to show what we eat – it gives all of us ideas and also makes the eating side of it more enjoyable.  It’s always fun for someone like me, as it’s usually just me and my husband for dinner, so it feels like the whole family is there!

Spiritual readiness

  • Reading the Quran – we all know it can be difficult to read the whole Quran in 30 days (I certainly struggle to). I’ve seen a lot of ideas on how to break this down to make it easier for ourselves – one of the ones I really liked was reading 4 pages of the Quran after each salah.
  • Set goals for yourself, and keep them realistic. Learn an ayah a week, or look at the English translation of a verse to truly understand what it means. Look at the proper Arabic pronunciation of the words so you can read them properly
  • Read the English translation of the Quran . I’m lucky in that I’m a pretty fast reader (in English!) and this would be a good time to learn from the Holy Book, take lessons from them and to reflect.
  • Do something different – go to an Islamic talk or lecture, meet with prayer circles, host a gathering to share knowledge – it can feel pretty amazing.
  • Do what you can. A lot of people (myself too) feel guilty that we don’t make enough time to pray, whether it’s doing all 20 rakats of the Taraweehs in the evening, reading the whole Quran, or just doing simple dhikr. We are all human, and it is our intentions which count the most.

Energy

  • Eating well really makes a difference with having energy – look for slow-releasing food for sehri and nutritious food for iftar. Since I’ve been married, my husband and I have cut down on fried food (*sob* samosas!) hugely, and have noticed an equally huge difference – less bloating, our complexions feel clearer and it’s less havoc on our stomachs. We make a point of always having fruit – something like watermelon which is perfect for the heat, and is full of water.
  • Try to get enough sleep – easily said if you have work, housework, children (or all three!) but the good thing about the long day is that you can sneak a nap in somewhere!
  • Exercise – one of the things I want to carry on doing during Ramadan is exercising. Usually I don’t bother, and feel unfit by the end of the month (although those long evening prayers do help the legs!), but my aim this time around is to do some light exercise – walks before dinner, light exercise on the treadmill, or just simple stretches – it can be done!

Chasing away boredom

  • As much as we all try to do as much as possible to pray, read the Quran and go to Islamic talks, sometimes we need a break. So go for a walk. Look for things you wouldn’t normally have time for – art exhibitions, events in London, or just an afternoon with kids in the park for a battery re-charge.
  • If you’re anything like me, you use your free time to blog! Try your hand at a hobby, whether it’s blogging like me, or something like photography, drawing, cooking for iftar or just reading a good book.
  • One of the things a lot of my friends and sisters who have children are doing are Ramadan-related activies for their children to make it more fun and understandable. I love all of the ideas out there – whether it’s Ramadan calenders, getting children to help them with food preps, Ramadan-themed books and games, or just simply taking them somewhere like the mosque to learn something new.

The one thing I would remind everyone is to take it easy in the month where possible, don’t get too caught up on things like social media (guilty!), getting ready for Eid (also guilty!) or letting yourself get too lazy (although we’re all entitled to have some relaxing me-time!)

I would welcome any more tips any of you have, whatever they are – what will you being doing that is different this Ramadan?

Floral Vibes at Bourne & Hollingsworth

I recently met up with a very old friend for brunch, after a very long time (ten years!) and celebrated at the beautiful restaurant Bourne & Hollingsworth. They don’t have a halal menu unfortunately, but there’s plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, and I really enjoyed my order at this restaurant.

One of the things I loved about this B&H was the floral vibe it had going on – it really reminded me of Rudyard Kiplings stories which I used to read when I was younger, which gave a really lovely atmosphere. I also loved the fact that the company’s business cards are basically a sketch of the restaurant, such a cute idea!

There’s also outdoor seating too, it was a little chilly for us so we opted for the indoors, but it’s opposite a park and feels very peaceful and quiet to sit outside too.

So let’s get to the food, I ordered a poached eggs hollandaise, while my friend ordered the savoury courgette pancake. I LOVED my meal, it was light, fluffy and the sauce was amazing, while my friend’s pancakes were pretty tasty and full of flavour.

And of course, we couldn’t leave without dessert – we both opted for chocolatey brownies in hot sauce, which finished off the meal nicely.

The restaurant gets pretty busy (which we found when we had to book to reserve a table!) but the atmosphere is quite chilled out, and I love that there’s small details everywhere in the decor to create the look of the restaurant – a piano for the front desk, a vintage bathtub in the bathrooms, tiles walls in the private dining area – there’s something appealing for your eyes most places you look.

I really enjoyed having brunch at this restaurant, and would love to come back again. I can imagine that it’s perfect for a light meal, and somewhere to sit and feel like you’ve been transported to another era.

EVALUATION:
HALAL : NO
VEGETARIAN & VEGAN OPTIONS AVAILABLE: YES
PRICE : £7 UPWARDS FOR BRUNCH, £15-18 FOR LUNCH
RATING OUT OF 10: 7
LOCATION: 42 Northampton Rd, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 0HU

Chilli Burgers at Habaneros

I’ve seen a huge rise of the gourmet burger restaurant in the past couple of years, and I’m sure that the fact that there are a lot of halal restaurants make them even popular. I’ve been to quite a few halal (and vegetarian!) gourmet burger places, and am starting to get the hang of what makes a decent ‘gourmet’ burger, as well as what separates them from the standard ones you get in a normal chicken-and-chips shop down the road.

Hubby and I recently went to Habaneros, a gourmet burger chain in West London, which was a little out of our way, but having heard it was one to go to, we decided to give it a shot.

One of the things which makes a restaurant memorable for me is not just the food, but the atmosphere and the care taken in in the decor – it makes the place something more attractive for me to come back to. The decor in the place was pretty funky, lots of wall art, subtle lighting spaces for sit. Although the diner isn’t huge, there’s space to sit and eat and it gets pretty busy at lunch-times and after work!

This is what I ordered, a classic Habanero burger with cheesy fries, while my husband went for a spicy Samurai burger and fries. I liked that both burgers were big enough to be filling, but not too massive. As much as I like getting my money’s worth when it comes to food, I prefer quality and not overloading – I have been to some gourmet burger joints in the past where I’ve had to cut up my burger to eat it in portions!

The Habanero burger isn’t particularly spicy but is very juicy, the meat is tender enough to taste great but has a nice grilled taste to it, and blends well with the sauces and salad. I was slightly disappointed with the cheesy fries as I thought the cheese would be melted cheese on top of the chips, and this was more of a cheesy sauce, but they tasted okay and we did eat them all!

Hubby’s Samurai burger was surprisingly more chilli than mine – I think this was mainly due ot the sauce in the burger, but it was a lovely sweet-and-chilli taste which I liked.

I liked that this is a very reasonably priced place to go – burgers cost about £5.95 each and they are made pretty quickly – perfect for any rush-hours too. I’ve already been back to this place to get another burger, although I will admit, as an east-Londoner it is a little far!

Evaluation:
Halal : yes
Vegetarian options available: Yes
Price : £5.95 upwards, depending on whether it’s just a burger or a meal
Rating out of 10: 6.5
Location: 3A Walm Lane Willesden Green London NW2 5SJ

Bright Lights at Dalloway’s Terrace

My friends and I managed to get a table at the constantly-booked Dalloway’s Terrace restaurant, which took us about a month to get, but was worth it for the visual experience and the ambience. The restaurant is known for it’s pretty decor and looks lovely at night – which was the first thing my friends and I noticed as soon as we got to the restaurant.

The decor which was up was mainly lights and lanterns, painted pine-cones and white trees and rushes, which made for a very intimate feel to the restaurant. The seating is centred around the trees and the lights and it feels pretty surreal to sit in the middle of it because it feels a little like being in a fairy-like enchanted woods (without the cold, there were heaters everywhere!)

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The food itself is a little limited in terms of halal, but we were re-assured that the chicken in this restaurant is halal. There is a mix of cuisine, with mainly English and a dash of Meditarranean and Asian. We all opted for some fondues and also chose a meal each as well – I picked a miso cod on a bed of quinoa, with spinach leaves in cream (and we also got chips for everyone to share, becuase why not!)

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My friends also picked a mix of food – one went for a mixed sea-grill, another went for bruschetta, while my other friend was in the mood for dessert and went for fruit-tarts and a hot chocolate! The food was presented quite nicely, and I personally liked the dish I picked – it was tender, juicy and had a good mix of sweet and savoury. I think our favourite thing was the fondues though – we ordered a cheese one with fruit, and another white chocolate fondue with strawberry which really completed the night (not to mention fighting over and stealing each other’s fruit from the fondue pot!)

The bright lights have been taken down from Dalloway’s Terrace now (which will be back at the end of the year at Christmas time) but it’s still worth a visit when the restaurant re-opens in May with their springy green decor. I really enjoyed myself at this restaurant and would love to try afternoon tea in the summer at this place – I’m sure it will be just as fun an experience!

Have you been to this restaurant? What dish did you like best?

Rainbow Popcorn

My sister-in-law just came back from sunny, luxurious Qatar recently and brought us all gifts – huge bags of multi-coloured, multi-flavoured popcorn for us to enjoy. My husband and I enjoyed guessing the flavours (after I took about a hundred pictures and wouldn’t let him touch any) – and this is my favourite.

Who said you can’t play with your food, eh?

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Foodie Review: Sweet, Mile End

I was recently invited to a Blogger’s Meet at Sweet, Mile End, a trendy dessert place in Mile End who wanted us try their desserts to review whether we would enjoy the food. I was pretty please to be invited, as I would be going with with some bloggers I know (either in real life or online!) and it was a great opportunity to hang out, gossip, eat great food and relax.

You can see the other blogger’s reviews here: Hijabi in London; Yasmins Intro; The London Haloodie – be sure to check their blogs out!

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Sweet is mainly a dessert restaurant, which provides a wide range of milkshakes, mocktails, cakes, waffles, crepes and cookie doughs – as well as their signature ‘Alto-Shakes’, which are crazily-extravagant milkshakes topped with icing, cakes, syrup, more toppings and chocolate!

 

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We were lucky enough to try a range of desserts and drinks and we each decided to try a few different things so we can mix-and-match and share our treats. Funnily enough we all had very different tastes – I’m a huge cheesecake and chocolate fan, while the others loved the idea of a waffle, milk shake or the salty desserts. You can see below some of the things we ordered – don’t they look amazing? They actually tasted yummy, the desserts were presented amazingly on each dish and tasted great, balancing salty flavours with sweet, rich flavours with sharp and tangy.

Having tried a lot of options, I loved a lot of these desserts, but my favourite was the Ferrero Rocher chocolate cheesecake (I’m a sucker for cheesecakes!) and the fruity mocktails, although I did like the sound of the ‘gulab jamun’ and ‘gajar ka halwa’ ice cream! I also really liked the mocktails – perfectly fruity and not too icy cold.

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I also liked the decor in this restaurant, which was very London-centric with the pencil-drawing art on the walls, mixed with muted colourful lights and a soft atmosphere – a great place to sit and unwind after work.

I had fun at this restaurant and it was great to meet like-minded bloggers (sharing blogger problems like the art of taking ten thousand photos of food pictures to get the right angle!)
Dessert places in London are becoming pretty popular and it’s not surprising, they’re the ideal places for hangouts and who can resist a good dessert? The other thing I loved about this place was that it’s fully halal, so there’s no worries for Muslims in east London looking for a sweet treat after dinner in this area. I’m sure I’ll be dropping by in Sweet again – let me know if you’ve been and what you think of it!

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