Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Balthazar London, The Bobbi Brown Afternoon Tea

Recently my very good friend, Jade, was in London for a whistle-stop break, having recently moved to Abu Dhabi. This coincided with a family wedding and trip to Ireland for a week of her stay, so we had a very small window of opportunity to catch up so booked something lovely, befitting the occasion.

We both love an afternoon tea in London, and both love good make up, so the Bobbi Brown Afternoon Tea at Balthazar – a celebration of the brands’ 25th year, in sandwiches and confectionary was the obvious choice.

These were some of the best afternoon tea sandwiches I’ve had in a while, with a nod to tradition in the cucumber sandwiches and smoked salmon with a lemon crème fraiche – both delicious. We opted out of the egg mayonnaise, as neither of us is keen on egg, so just loaded up on more of the alternatives, but absolutely devoured the grilled chicken with guacamole – slightly more modern and a mouthful of heaven. 

Bobbi Brown afternoon tea at Balthazar, London

The true star of the sandwich show though, was a definite homage to the New York heritage of both the Bobbi Brown make up brand and Balthazar; a pastrami, pickle and mustard fougasse - insanely good. The bread alone was like a culmination of all that’s good in Mediterranean produce, olive oil, olives, sun dried tomato and then topped with a strong, salty melted cheese – just divine, and the filling oh-so New York and oh-so good. Perfection.

Staff here, were very willing to replenish the sandwiches too and offered before we could ask which is a nice touch and isn’t offered everywhere.

There was a plate of both plain and raisin scones – equally warm, soft and crumbly with the mandatory clotted cream and jam – perfectly acceptable and glorious with our English breakfast tea.

However the true masterpiece from the kitchen’s head pastry chef, Regis Bearegard and his team of artists, were the very recognisable and iconic Bobbi Brown make up items in confectionary format. 

Bobbi Brown confectionary at Balthazar, London

There was a sache torte, the traditional Austrian chocolate torte with a rich, unctuous chocolate cream filling, but this had been re-imagined as the Bobbi Brown gel eyeliner and the filling was in fact, a blackberry jam. Visually very attractive and a treat for the taste buds too.

A marshmallow red dusted kiss was perfectly edible but did fall slightly short of the taste and artwork sensations of the remaining cakes.

The foundation stick was a tempered chocolate cylinder filled with a delicious praline mousse and on top of a passion fruit sticky biscuit – it looked fantastic and tasted great too.

My favourite two items were the infamous shimmer brick that Bobbi Brown is well-known for and any self-respecting make up lover has in their armour, this was a rhubarb tart, infused with Champagne – what’s not to like? The other favourite being the rouge; a redcurrant macaroon with a lemon Chantilly filling, really delicious and very recognisable.

The Balthazar Bobbi Brown afternoon tea is reasonably priced at £27.50 for the basic afternoon tea or £37.50 with a cocktail or glass of Champagne. I can’t indulge at the moment due to my pregnancy, but Jade certainly did.

Each guest also receives an invitation to have a personalised lip make-up lesson at the Covent Garden Bobbi Brown store too, which is a fantastic coup.

My daughter, Bridget is nearly two and she woke up from her pram thirty minutes before we left – the staff were incredibly accommodating of her too, and this made all the difference for me. This is the second time I’d been to Balthazar with her in as many months – it’s becoming a family favourite for us.

The Bobbi Brown Afternoon Tea will be available at Balthazar until Thursday 29th September and is available daily.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Greek Chicken One-Pot

This is a gorgeous, quick and easy Greek-inspired chicken one-pot dish that’s packed full of flavour, takes very little time to prepare and goes with an array of different accompaniments, from bread, rice, couscous, and as I have done here: chips and pitta.

I created it, based on my favourite Greek flavourings, and out of necessity for a number of things left in my fridge – new one coming tomorrow, so we’ve been ‘running it down’.

I used a red onion, garlic, two different coloured peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes in this dish – but what really gives it some punch is the salt, pepper and dried oregano coating the chicken has before going into the dish to be fried – a real taste of the Mediterranean for me, just delicious and exactly what I’d been craving having putting up with Instagram snaps from Mykonnos and Athens all week from my brother and his partner.

This is a great food for all of the family too - our toddler Bridget absolutely wolfed it down.

Serve with a Mythos or a lovely Greek wine such as a Robola de Cephalonie – yammas! This serves 3.

Greek Chicken One-Pot

Here’s how:
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Greek olive oil
  • 1 orange pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 100g mushrooms
  • 50g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tin plum tomatoes or passata
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 50g Kefalotyri (Can use Pecorino Romano)

Firstly pour the olive oil into a cast iron casserole dish and place on the hob, on a low heat, to warm through. Pre-heat the oven to 180°.

Slice the red onion and garlic and add to the pan to slowly soften and flavour the oil.



In the meantime, mix the salt, pepper and oregano and scatter over a plate or bowl, then dip each chicken thigh into the mixture, using a fork to turn and evenly coat.

Once the onions have softened, add the chicken to the pan, keeping on a low heat and sear on each side.



In the meantime, wash your hands after handling the chicken; then slice the peppers and mushrooms and set aside.

Once the chicken is whitened, add the peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes and allow to cook for a couple of minutes. Add the tin of tomatoes and the paprika and stir.



Now cut the Kefalotyri or Pecorino Romano into small cubes and scatter over the dish, place the lid on the casserole dish and then pop into the warm oven for thirty minutes.



Serve with your preferred accompaniments – enjoy.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Slow Cooked Mexican Beef

I'm a real advocate of cooking things low and slow, either on the hob or in the oven; it can really yield some fantastic results and this beef dish, was an experimental triumph.

I used braising steak here - an economical cut, but you could use skirt, shin or any other tougher cut that benefits from slow cooking.

I served this with a quick homemade guacamole, a dollop of sour cream, some sliced jalapenos and a simple salad, but it would go equally well with rice or a filling for a tortilla.

The below serves 3-4 adults.

Slow Cooked Mexican Beef


Here's how:

  • 350g braising steak
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • Tin of good quality plum tomatoes (I use Cirio)
  • 150ml chicken stock (I use Knorr)
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 tbsp chipotle paste
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano

For the quick guacamole:
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 red chilli
  • Pinch sea salt

Place the oven on at 180 degrees for the moment to pre-heat.

Now prepare all of the vegetables - slice the onions and peppers and place into a casserole dish with the tomatoes.

Add all the seasonings and set aside for the minute.

Now drizzle just a little oil in a pan, and quick-fry the braising steak to just sear and brown the meat.

Once browned, place into the casserole dish, and cover with the chicken stock.

Give a good stir, place the lid (or some foil) on top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes.

Now remove from the oven and stir, then place the lid back on and return to the oven. In the meantime turn the oven down to 150-160 degrees and set a timer for 3 hours.

If possible, check the dish every 30 minutes and stir, to ensure the meat is still immersed in the liquid and avoid it drying out at all.

When you remove the dish from the oven, check the meat with a fork and spoon to see if it will easily fall apart; if not return to the oven for a further thirty minutes. Then remove from the oven and leave to stand with the lid on for a few minutes.

Whilst standing, this is the time to prepare your salad and any other accompaniments.

If preparing the guacamole, simply slice the avocado and use a pestle and mortar to bash up a bit. Crush in the garlic and slice the chilli as fine as you can, then squeeze over the lime juice and stir. Garnish with sea salt before serving.

Enjoy!

Tip: if you have more time, make a chunkier guacamole with chopped red onion, tomatoes and coriander - the one above is a quick one that can be ready in two minutes.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Sea Bass with a warm Jersey Royal Salad and Garlic Sauted Asparagus

Having visited Jersey at the weekend, and picked up some Jersey Royals fresh from a hedge veg honesty box, I was excited to get cooking with them.

The Jersey Royal season is a favourite in our house and serving them cooked, simply drizzled in butter with a little sea salt and either a few chopped chives or mint is always a winner; but I fancied trying something different.

Whilst in Jersey, we enjoyed several beautiful fish dishes amongst our group, and what I noticed was, whilst everything tasted great, there was a real simplicity that reminded me of Italian cookery. Rather than lots of complexities, instead, only a few, really good quality ingredients were used, and would be cooked well and did all the talking.

So for this dish, I simply created a warm Jersey Royal salad to go alongside pan-fried sea bass fillet and served with some sautéd asparagus and cherry tomatoes. Simple but it worked really well and we'll certainly enjoy again.

You could of course use an alternative potato such as Charlotte or simply New, but there is something extra special about the fudgey, sweet flavour that’s just better than the other varieties.

Bridget enjoyed this dish too so it's a great option for a family meal and the below serves three.

Sea Bass Fillet with a warn Jersey Royal Salad and Garlic Sauted Aspargus

Here's how:
  • 3 sea bass fillets
  • Bunch asparagus
  • Handful cherry tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Olive oil
  • 350g Jersey Royals
  • Three spring onions
  • Handful radishes
  • 3 tbsp peas
  • 1 tbsp sour cream (could use crème fraiche or cream cheese)
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard (I use Maille)
  • Sea Salt
  • Black pepper

Firstly rinse the Jersey Royals well. Remove the excess dirt but don't be too vigorous. Place in a deep saucepan and pour over recently boiled water and place on a medium heat with a pinch of salt.

Now finely slice the spring onions and radish and set aside to dress the potatoes once cooked.

Place a drizzle of oil into a frying pan on a medium heat with a peeled clove of garlic. Once warm, add the asparagus and cherry tomatoes and cook for 8-10 minutes. Now remove from the pan and wrap in foil to keep warm.

Cook the peas and also place into the foil.

Now check the Jersey Royals - if almost cooked, then leave the frying pan on and season the sea bass. Omit from using salt for any children's portion.

Place skin-side down into the pan and cook, on a timer for five minutes. This should allow a lovely crispy skin.

Whilst the sea bass is cooking, drain the Jersey Royals and shake out any excess water. Return to the saucepan and add the sour cream, Dijon and a generous drizzle of olive oil and stir through gently to evenly coat the potatoes in the quick-dressing. Now add the radish and spring onions, stir again and place the lid on the pan to retain the heat.

Once five minutes is up, use an egg slice turn over the sea bass fillet in the pan and cook for a further 30 seconds then remove from the heat.

Dish up how you wish, but to do as I have done in the picture, simply add the Jersey Royal warm salad to the centre of the plate first. Then add the cherry tomatoes, dotted around the potato salad. Now add a layer of asparagus and finally add the sea bass fillet on top of the asparagus.

Sea Bass with a warm Jersey Royal Salad and Garlic Sauted Asparagus
Enjoy!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

A Whistle Stop Tour of Jersey

I made the short 1-hour flight to Jersey for two days this weekend with some colleagues for a part-business, part-pleasure trip to take in what this beautiful little island has to offer and I was seriously impressed.

St Brelades Bay

We arrived at breakfast time to glorious sunshine and our first port of call was St Brelades Bay; a vast sandy beach with breath-taking views. 

St Brelades Bay, Jersey
St Brelades Bay, Jersey

We had a stroll along the sand and were four of only a handful of people on the beach. We stopped and had a coffee at The Wayside Cafe whilst watching the beach slowly come to life with families setting up plot for the day, couples walking their dogs and adventurers setting up boats to get out to sail. An inviting proposition.
Durrell

Our next stop was the Durrell Wildlife Conversation Park X, a huge wildlife and conservation park with an impressive array of animals to view in a natural-inspired habitat. Set over 32 acres, this would make a great family day out with adults priced at £14.50, children at £10.00 and under four’s free. We visited on a particularly special day too; a Durrell Dash was taking place, think Park Run or Race For Life, and there was an almost festival-feel to the park, with street food stalls, a live band and entertainers and plenty going on.

Jersey-born Superman and The Tudors actor, Henry Cavill had taken part in the race too and was happily posing for photographs in exchange for a donation to the running of the park. Naturally we obliged and this was just an added bonus of a great morning. 

Meeting Henry Cavill, Superman

Rozel Bay

Next we drove the short distance to the picturesque little area of Rozel Bay. A small cove of sand and pebbled beach, where children played happily in the sand and a throng of people queued outside The Hungry Man food kiosk, and sat eating their lunch overlooking the bay. We opted for lunch at an intimate little restaurant overlooking the bay, The Navigator.

Rozel Bay, Jersey
We were late in arriving for lunch and the chef happily accommodated us, and a few things had sold out so we all ended up opting for the cod dish of the day.

The dish proved to be utterly delicious. Pan fried with a golden brown crispy skin, the cod was fresh, flavourful and just cooked beautifully. It was served on a bed of Jersey Royals, and roasted tomatoes, green beans, olives and capers in just a drizzle of oil and a parsley pesto-like sauce. Just gorgeous.

Cod at The Nagigator

Not content with the one course, I opted for the Apple and Calvados Parfait which was served with a delicious apple in the guise of an apple filled doughnut, deep fried in batter and dipped in cinnamon and sugar - fantastic. Offset really well by the calvados infused parfait which was cool and refreshing. 

Apple and Calvados Parfait, The Navigator, Jersey

Between the ladies we also had a Little Pot of Heaven – a dark chocolate mousse topped with crunchy amaretti biscuits and a selection of sorbets and all were very happily received. 

Little Pot of Heaven, The Navigator, Jersey

Where to stay – The Club Hotel and Spa


Having been up since four AM, we took the post-lunch lull as an excuse to check into our hotel, The Club Hotel and Spa in St Hellier, the capital.

The hotel is simply and subtly attired but incredibly comfortable and we found the staff very helpful and accommodating too.

My room, a double, boasted a queen-sized bed topped with memory foam that proved an idyllic sleeping haven later that evening. Elemis Spa products were provided in the bathroom with bath robes and slippers as well as a well-stocked mini bar. When we returned from dinner that evening too, our beds’ had been turned down and two homemade pieces of shortbread made it into a pot, ready for a delicious morning snack.

I took advantage of our down time by checking into the hotel's spa facilities. Two pools - both freshwater and saltwater, a sauna, steam room and salt cave are some of the facilities afforded here but for me, I was after a massage. A week of little sleep due to my toddler being poorly, meant my muscles were aching and the 1-hour long energising Aromatic Fusion Massage was just fantastic. I actually found myself drifting off to sleep towards the end, that's how relaxing it was. This massage cost £68.00 - money well spent, and the spa had a menu of other health and beauty treatments available.

Jasmine and I enjoyed an apres-dinner cocktail at The Bohemia following our meal and before bed; another place where staff were helpful and the ambience was appealing.

After a restful sleep, we enjoyed a continental breakfast at The Club including an array of fruits, yoghurts, cereals, cold meats and cheese, toast and spreads. There was the option for something cooked for a little extra, but after our indulgence on Sunday evening, the Continental suited us. 

An overnight stay at The Club starts from £89 per room.

Food at The Oyster Box

We enjoyed a beautiful three-course evening meal at The Oyster Box, back at St Brelades Bay, which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone visiting Jersey.

Myself, and my colleague Jasmine enjoyed a fantastic scallop starter - pan-fried and delicious, with a golden crisp outside and soft, perfectly cooked on the inside. A true taste of the sea. The scallops were served with crispy pancetta, fresh peas and some micro-herbs that tasted a little minty and every morsel was delicious. 

Scallops with Pancetta and Peas, The Oyster Box, Jersey
Izzy enjoyed a beautifully rich and unctuous Seafood Bisque and Sam had a simple, yet seasonal asparagus dish, served with a homemade Hollandaise. A great start to the meal. 

Seafood Bisque, The Oyster Box

Asparagus and Hollandaise, The Oyster Box

For the main event, I chose a Jersey special, Jersey Chancre Crab, with a simply dressed salad and served with a side of beautifully buttered Jersey Royals. The freshness and flavour of the crab was sensational, and even though it was a decent sized crab, it felt a lovely light meal too. 

Jersey Chancre Crab, The Oyster Box, Jersey

Jasmine opted for the fish and chips - haddock in this instance and she was impressed. Izzy had the crab linguini which looked stunning - dressed in chilli, coriander and some chives on top, it instilled some real food envy from me.

Crab Linguini, The Oyster Box, Jersey
Sam our resident seafood and fish-avoider, opted for the burger, which came with bacon and cheese, some fresh chips and a rocket salad. Again she was impressed. 

Burger, The Oyster Box, Jersey

The Oyster Box had a great selection of alternative dishes should you not wish to enjoy the local catches too and even includes a surprisingly good selection of vegetarian options.

Our desserts here were quite phenomenal. We each had one but chose just two different options and both were fantastic. Sam and I had a mint and dark chocolate marquise, served with a little salted caramel Jersey ice cream and a shard of tempered dark chocolate. It was like a richer, denser After Eight taste, and was a really refreshing finish the meal.

Dark Chocolate and Mint Marquise, The Oyster Box, Jersey

Izzy and Jasmine, once again elicited food envy from myself and Sam; choosing a pistachio creme brulee, which was incredibly. Vivid green in hue and served as an individual portion, rather than the usual ramekin affair, the brulee was soft, light and high on delicious pistachio flavour, whilst the burnt caramel added another dimension. Served with a sharp raspberry sorbet to set the whole thing off. Really well done.

Pistachio Creme Brulee, The Oyster Box, Jersey


Jersey War Tunnels


We had a meeting in the afternoon before our flight back to London, so spent an hour relaxing at the hotel before heading to the Jersey War Tunnels. We discovered that Jersey had been the only place in the British Isles to have suffered being under occupation and that islanders had fled to the mainland of the UK with only a few hours’ notice before the arrival of German soldiers onto the island.

The War Tunnels offered a really interesting insight into island life during this occupation, and a great contrast of perspectives. A worthwhile attraction on the island and entry is only £12.00 for adults and £8.00 for children.

Hedge Veg – Jersey Royals


After our meeting we took a drive along the north of the island before heading to the airport and took advantage of the honesty boxes of Jersey Royals dotted along the way to bring some home. A fair exchange -2lbs of freshly picked potatoes for £2.00 and I’ve already been experimenting with them, inspired by a wonderful foodie experience in Jersey.

Jersey Royals, Hedge Veg
Jersey is a true combination of beautiful beach, harbour and seaside scenery, juxtaposed with lush green hills and cliffs and a booming farming and agricultural landscape. It made a stunning setting for our whistle stop tour and in only two days, I felt we barely touched the sides.

It’s a gorgeous place and it’s not hard to see why it has been voted as Trip Advisor’s ‘Best Island in the British Isles’ for two year’s running in the Travellers’ Choice Awards.

I have vouched to return with Glen and Bridget and take in more of what Jersey has to offer – the walking tours, Elizabeth Castle and La Mare Wine Tasting are all extremely attractive propositions, as is a few days, or even a week spent trying more of the delicious local produce and spending time on the delightful bays of Jersey.

Visit Jersey has all the information you could possibly need if planning a trip to Jersey. Visit at www.jersey.com

Monday, 9 May 2016

Rome in Food

One of the key ‘best bits’ of our recent Rome mini break, for my three good friends, Jemma, Stephanie and Jade was undoubtedly the food. We enjoyed fantastic morsels of food from the moment we arrived till the very last moment we left (cramming in last minute bruschetta en route to the airport).

Here’s a breakdown of some of our best bites during our four-day stay in Rome over the Easter break,

At Osteria Da Vita & Dina, a little trattoria close to the Vatican, was where we enjoyed our first meal and this opened our tastebuds up to the endless delights of Roman cooking. I shared a pizza so light and so crisp but with a rich, delicious topping of cheese, pig’s heat meat and mushrooms - a Bascaiola with a fresh, light and beautiful Caprese Salad of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil with Jade and we were literally groaning in delight at every mouthful. Jemma enjoyed a pizza and Steph some ravioli and we shared a carafe of wine – equivalent to a litre and the meal was less than £40 in Sterling. The pizzas were something we enjoyed all around Rome too.

Bascaiola Pizza and Caprese Salad in Osteria Da Vita & Dina

Raviolli at Osteria Da Vita & Dino


Seafood Linguini at by the Grand Caffe Maggiore by the Basillica Santa Maggiore washed down with delicious Birra Morretti. Such a simple 'sauce' or coating to the pasta made up of a little oil, a few sweet tomatoes, prawns, mussels and clams plus the tiniest pinch of basil - stunning to see and to taste. Lasagne here was also a treat - the meat was ground so finely, and it was rich and filling and made all lasagnes I've tried in the UK pale into insignificance. 

Lasagne at Grand Caffe Magiore
Seafood Linguini at Grand Caffe Maggiore
When visiting the Colosseum we enjoyed a hearty and delicious lunch at Messenzio Ai Fiori, a really great find. Jemma and I both had melt-in-the-mouth tagliata on a simple rocket salad and topped with sea salt and shavings of Peccorino. Beautiful. Jade had Saltimboca and Steph had Escalope de Millanese and both were equally fantastic. The calamari sharing appetiser we had here was mind-blowingly tasty, fresh and cooked to utter perfection. 

Saltimbocca at Messenzio Ai Fiori
Tagliata at Messenzio Ai Fiori


The best calamari at Messenzio Ai Fiori

Another great meal enjoyed was at a restaurant in the Piazza Navonna area after wondering around taking in the many foodie shops in the area. Here we had one of my favourite charcuterie Selections and the creamiest, most delicious burrata - stunning. I had the osso bucco - veal shin, slow cooked in a gorgeously rich tomato based sauce – beautiful. Other dishes here included a pork with truffles and cream that was so rich and delicious we were all jealous of Jade’s choice, a rabbit ragu with tagliatelle and a grilled seabass – all great.

Burrata

Osso Bucca

Rabbit Ragu

Pork with Truffles

Charcuterie all around Rome was good – whether in a nice restaurant or as a bar snack and the bruschetta was unlike anywhere I’ve enjoyed before – the flavour, although using a few very simple ingredients was just incredible. Also the olives, which all seemed to have been sourced locally, were sensational. I’ve long been a fan of Greek olives as my favourites, but these proved a fantastic contender.

Bruschetta

Charcuterie

Charcuterie

Sweet treats are not to be sniffed at it Rome either, whether a gelato, a pastry or a pudding such as the most beautiful looking (and tasting) tiramisu; you’re sure to find something to appeal to your sweet tooth.

Pastries at Grand Caffe Maggiore

Tirimisu - the best pick me up

Italians take food incredibly serious and it shows. Rome was one of the finest culinary trips I’ve ever been on and left me seriously hungry for more, not to mention a few pounds heavier. If you like Italian food, Rome is an absolute must-visit city for you.

Enchanted by Rome - A Travel Guide

For the Easter break, three of my girlfriends and I, traveled to Rome for a four night break - a chance for us to spend quality time together in the enchanting city.

Whilst we certainly had tourist attractions and a slice of culture on our agenda, also featuring on our wish-list was delicious food, great wine and lots of fun - all of which scored highly.

We managed to pack quite a lot into our five days - especially given two of the days saw each of us with a hangover and I’ve pulled out some of our favourite experiences and places to pop onto your must-do/see list if you find yourself in Rome.

Tourist Attractions

The Vatican Museum

Whilst I'm not personally religious, I doubt anybody could fail to be moved by such unfaltering beauty, sculpture, beautiful floor-to-ceiling tapestries and the astonishing attention-to-detail that were created way back before the likes of motorised engines and exist throughout the Vatican. The ceiling paintings are simply stunning and I found each area incredibly moving but nothing more-so than the Sistine Chapel - just astoundingly beautiful. 

Inside the Vatican

Beautiful icon inside the Vatican



Vatican selfie with Stephanie, Jemma and Jade



Obviously we went at an extremely busy time, but it’s apparently always like this – be prepared for huge crowds, and some areas, particularly the Sistine Chapel, you’ll feel slightly like cattle being moved along by the masses. Ensure you’re well covered as this is a religious venue, and prepare to be silent in some of the spaces for the same reason.

Churches

Aside from the beautiful Vatican, Rome has an abundance of churches, each beautiful in its’ own way. The architecture and composition of each is certainly something to behold. My Mum's side of the family are Catholic and so going into a local church in different cities to light a candle is somewhat of a tradition and I did so at the impressive Basillica Santa Maria Maggiore which was only a few minutes’ walk from our hotel.

Basillica Santa Maria Maggiore

Colosseum

The Colosseum, is one of the most recognisable buildings in the world – a huge oval, amphitheatre, built back in 72AD and still standing, almost in entirety today. The venue for gladiator fights and synonymous with that Russell Crowe film, the Colosseum is truly a sight to behold and it’s incredible to see the scope of the place – it’s absolutely huge. It apparently had an average audience of 65,000 spectators for gladiator fights so this should give you an indication of the magnitude. It’s a really beautiful building- we sadly didn’t get inside due to the huge crowds and having other activities planned for the evening we visited, but were able to spend some time here and around the ruins which surround the Colosseum. We acted very much like the tourists we were, and hired a Surrey Bicycle – a four-person bike, which was absolutely hilarious and a great way to move around Rome having plenty of giggles. We foolishly went up a huge hill and then, obviously had to come back down it – which is not necessarily to be recommended, but was great fun and we lived to tell the tale.

Colosseum
Colosseum selfie with my friend Jade

On the Surrey bicycle with Jade, Stephanie and Jemma

Roman ruins


Trevi Fountain

We were lucky to visit Rome during a warm weather spell and our experience at the Trevi Fountain was a cramped one - everyone was clamouring to get to the front and throw a coin in backwards for the mythical luck it brings – a guaranteed return to the city of Rome. Selfies were happening left, right and centre, including us. We grabbed a gelato before heading into this area and joined the masses in just stopping and admiring a beautiful piece of architecture.

Trevi Fountain

Food

Food was one of the biggest highlights for us – from the light and crispy pizzas, a variety of delicious pastas, risottos, and more classical Italian dishes such as tagliata, saltimbocca, osso bucco and the cheese and charcuterie that just made every mouthful delicious. Another more detailed foodie post to come.

Seafood Linguini

Tagliata

Charcuterie


Nightlife

There’s plenty to choose from in Rome, whether it’s a quiet drink in a bustling trattoria whilst watching the colourful world go by, a trendy cocktail in the Piazza Navonna area or a light night dance and drink at Testaccio – the clubbers area. We enjoyed all of these plus Trastevere for beautiful wine surrounded by beautiful people and a cheesy night at Campo di Fiori – a square full of bars then onto Shari Vari, a club in the area in a converted cave. A post with some further details is coming soon.

Drinks by the Basillica Santa Maria Maggiori with Stephanie

Shari Vari drinks and dancing with Jemma, Jade and Stephanie

Getting Around
We actually found the city fairly easy to navigate on foot, and were lucky we had good, dry and fairly warm weather to enable us to do so. We did grab a 3-day Metro pass for around 20 each, but only used it a handful of times as we were so close to most places.

Sleep

We stayed at the DVE Suites on Piazza de Vittoria Emmanuelle – a basic four bed room on a bed and breakfast basis. Due to enjoying the nightlife a little too much, we didn’t make it up for breakfast at all – but it looked great. We paid around £600 with for the four nights between us which was really reasonable in comparison to some other hotels we checked out. It was a fairly basic hotel but had absolutely everything you could want, was spotlessly clean, and the lovely staff were so accommodating and helpful – we just couldn’t fault them.

Rome is a stunning city - with tons to see and do and I wouldn't hesitate to book a return trip. Prices are on a par with London or any other big city, and you can either go upscale or down, depending on your budget. We paid approximately £130 each for flights with Easyjet outbound and British Airways inbound. One thing is for sure, I doubt anybody would leave Rome feeling disappointed. Enjoy!