Monday, 30 October 2017

London: Honey Afternoon Tea and a Bee at The St Ermin's Hotel

I have often said and written that Afternoon Tea is one of my favourite meals.  I love lingering with friends and family over plates piled high with thin sandwiches with no crusts (I hate crusts on sandwiches so this is a plus point for me!), perfect little cakes each one cuter and more inviting than the previous one. And when you are full, and you can often have more of each section, they bring freshly baked scones, jam and cream! I don't often drink tea however it is an essential part of the afternoon tea ceremony.

When all of the hives are full and you are a bee in London you can always stay at the 'Bee and Bee Hotel' on the 3rd floor terrace of St Ermin's Hotel next to the line of bee hives also on the terrace.  St Ermin's is in close proximity to many large London parks which temp the bees to visit regularly to collect the precious nectar for that sought after sticky and delicious substance that I and others love so much!

St Ermin's Hotel around the corner from St James's Underground station is offering an Afternoon Tea with a sting!
The lobby of the hotel is clear and uncluttered and very understated luxury at every turn providing a very relaxing atmosphere.
On the first floor is the Afternoon Tea suite currently offering a Honey Afternoon Tea for £29.00 or With unlimited Prosecco for £35.00.  Given the current prices of afternoon tea in London this is a great bargain!

The tables are set with an eclectic mix of patterns that do not go together yet all go together along with very comfortable chairs.
We had a quiet table near a window to sit and enjoy our tea with no sense of urgency or rush which was much appreciated.
We were happy to sit and chat whilst we ate our way through the imaginative offerings.

The tables were set in a contemporary mix-match style with a combination of pink and white and blue and white however it all went together and set the tone of the innovative treats to come.
Our glasses of champagne were continuously being re-filled which was good because it took so long for us to pick a tea from the extensive menu selections.  The list includes black teas like signature St Ermin's English Breakfast, Darjeeling as well as Masala Chai; green teas Jasmine blossom, Oriental Sencha or Fujian Oolong or pick a herbal tisane of Chamomile, Rooibos Orange plus.
They lure you in with a relaxing glass of champagne, you pick which tea you want to drink and then WHAM! you are presented with a towering selection of tea time treats!  Each of us had our own platter, Manjiri wanted gluten free on the top row, Nayna is vegetarian so her middle platter was suitable for her preferences and I had the bottom row.
I had smoked salmon sandwich on white bread with creme fraiche and cucumber, Glazed pork loin with oak smoked cheddar cheese, caramelised onion and watercress on rye bread and Honey and mustard chicken with red cabbage coleslaw and rocket on white bread.  All really tasty then followed with my sweet selection of St Ermin's Mini Bee Hive - orange yogurt mousse and a honey sponge, Chocolate and espresso cup (and you eat the cup!), Honey & lemon cheesecake on sesame praline,
Feeling full but we were still excited when the freshly bakes scones appeared!  They were served with little bowls of jam and cream however they were supposed to come with honey too (as this was a Honey Afternoon Tea) but didn't.  The staff were friendly but the service was not up to my exacting standards - it is all about the attention to detail in my mind!
When we finished our tea we ventured up to the 3rd floor terrace to see the bee hives.  Unfortunately with the shortening of the days it was getting dark outside which was not ideal for our photos!
During October at the end of the visit you get a certificate of adoption for one of the 350,000 bees that live on the 3rd floor terrace in their own bee hotel!
It is always good to get another perspective so if you would like to read Nayna's account of our Afternoon Tea with a Bee click here.

You can read more of my Afternoon Tea visits by clicking on the link below:-

I was a guest of St Ermin's Hotel and the Honey Afternoon Tea however I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions and photographs are my own. No photographs may be reproduced in any manner without my written permission.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Winter Spice Apple Sauce Cake

I have been making my quick and easy fruit cake for years now and it never fails.  This time of year we have a surplus of really nice, heritage, cooking apples at the end of the garden.  Sometimes I make cakes with chopped apples or as in the case of my American 1-2-3 Cake where I use applesauce.

As we have so many apples and following a massive applesauce making session I decided to combine the two recipes somewhat.

I make my applesauce with loads of ground cinnamon and freshly ground nutmeg that I bring home from my adventures in Grenada each spring.
To make my Winter Spice Apple Sauce Cake follow the recipe below:

6oz/170gm butter - melted
12oz/340gm Self Raising Flour
6oz/170gm sugar
12oz/340gm mixed dried fruit (this time I used chopped dates, dried pineapple, apricots, cherries and prunes)
1/2 pint cooled apple sauce
2-3 Tbsp milk
2 eggs
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger

* In a large bowl put all of the dried ingredients.
* Stir in melted butter and apple sauce.
* If batter is a bit dry add 2-3 tablespoons milk.
* Mix well and put into a greased and floured baking tin (I also use a greaseproof bottom liner to help the cake release)
* Bake at 180 degrees for 50-60 minutes in the centre of the oven however my oven takes another 10-15 minutes
* Cool 5 minutes
* Take out of the tin and cool until completely cool
* Slice and serve with a thin layer of butter and a cup of tea!!

All opinions and photographs are my own. No photographs may be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Southampton: A Day on a Big Ship - the MSC Preziosa

A Day on a Big Ship, the MSC Preziosa, with a lot of fellow bloggers. Every year Flea Enterprises invites bloggers registered on Foodies100/Tots100/HIBS100/Trips100 to BlogCamp - a gathering of bloggers from all walks of blogs along with great workshop sessions, networking, learning and cake; oh yes there is usually cake!

This year we were invited to attend BlogCamp which would be held on board the cruise ship MSC Preziosa, scheduled to be docked at Southampton for the day.  There was a flurry of excitement on social media and we all gathered in Southampton with some arriving the night before and others on the day itself.

As we arrived by taxi this super large vision appeared ahead and we realised it was the MSC Preziosa, our host for the day! I have been on a similar sized cruise ship once before with a blogging group however I have not been on a modern day cruise.  The sheer size of this ship dwarfed all around it eliciting gasps from all as we approached.
Fellow blogger Manjiri aka Travels for Taste and wearing her nautical striped top was rather excited to step on board her first cruise ship.
We had an introduction to MSC Cruise Lines meeting the mascots with a short presentation of the activities available for children from infants to teenagers.  The children can join the DoReMi Club on board.  The parents receive a newsletter each evening with the following day's activities for adults as well as children.  Do your kids want to disco dance, play computer games, swim, make a digital movie, sing or just colour and relax - there will be something for every child or of course they can spend the day with their parents!  On thing is sure boredom is not allowed on board!

If you don't have children try to borrow some just to see the delights on their faces as they have so many new adventures!
Even babies are catered for with fully trained staff with their own colourful room.
One of the places that really took my attention was the indoor pool area.  There is a choice of pools both indoor and outdoor and the size of all of them really is larger than life.
Don't want to swim? That's OK you can just sit in the jacuzzi and meditate.
The roof can roll back when in good weather - instant outdoor pool!
Or spend time outside at one of the outside pools (there is a huge water tunnel on the other pool).
When the sun comes out there are vast lines of deck chairs to rest, drink cocktails, read your kindle or just plan your next cruise!
Manjiri was only too happy to take the weight off her feet and try to catch a few rays of sunshine that kept peeking out!
Making time for yourself is no problem on board with spas offering some special time with a long list of treatments - why not book yourself some 'me time' while the spouse or family do their own thing!
Feeling a bit flabby after all the food or just want to keep up your normal fitness routine there will be no problem with all of the state of the art fitness machines available on board.
Whether your favourite is Blackjack or Roulette you can feel like 007 and make the evening special in the on board casino.
And you have never seen so many staircases, sweeping staircases, glittering staircases, opulent and outrageous staircases!
The staircases that lead down to the Golden Lobster restaurant where there is table service or a huge buffet. You can have one or the other or both - whatever you fancy eating it is there for  you. And if you fancy something different there are a number of other restaurants on board to choose from (some require reservations).
The buffet is stocked with huge platters of food that are topped up regularly as needed.
I had the seafood salad from the daily menu - a sort of deconstructed seafood salad with a twist and a delicious 'Marie Rose' sauce.
Main course I had spinach and ricotta ravioli with a brown sage butter.
For dessert I picked from the pudding buffet.  That chocolate tart at the back was my favourite!
We ended the afternoon with some workshops, fizz and tea&coffee, disembarking with a taste for the cruise life!
And now for some fun facts!
MSC Cruise Lines is the No 1 cruise line in Europe, South America and South Africa .......
over 170 nationalities have sailed with MSC ..........
17,778 employees on board and on shore work for MSC .........
50,541,060 + meals have been served on board MSC fleet of cruise liners ..............
with over 199 ports of call ..........
over 1,8 million guests have been welcomed on board MSC ships ..........

From 2018 Southampton will be the home hub for the MSC Magnifica which will have a few extra things to make you feel more at home like kettles in every cabin and Yorkshire tea will be available on board.  One of the perks of sailing from Southampton is that you can take loads of luggage to have the perfect outfit for every occasion without having to keep to airline strict luggage regulations.  Car parking is free at Southampton which makes quite a saving.

It has been a long time since I took a cruise and I know cruise liners have changed so much since then so maybe it is time for this 'Reluctant Cruiser' to give it another chance!

I was a guest of MSC Cruise Lines aboard the MSC Presiosa.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All photos are my own and may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Premier Inn Review

I was recently taking part in a Blogger convention in Southampton.  I was attending with blogging friends/colleagues Manjiri from Travels For Taste and Nayna who writes Simply Sensational Food.  We needed to stay over night for two nights.

Southampton has plenty of accommodation for students, visiting parents and holiday makers alike. All the big names are there as well as a plethora of small B&Bs and AirBnBs.  We stayed at one of the two Premier Inns in Southampton, up a short hill and about a 10 minute walk from the station.  The other one is in the West Quay shopping centre.

There is a comfort in knowing you will get the same brand standards and this Premier Inn did not let us down. The bedroom was spacious and clean. When I stay away from home for a conference I really don't spend much time in the room except to sleep and wash but I do like to do this in comfort.
Plenty of room to set up laptops, plug in all your devices and of course make that needed cup of coffee while you work.
The bathroom was a standard size with plenty of shower gel and hand wash.
Breakfast was an optional extra charge and since we had an early start we declined to try the breakfast. Premier Inn guarantee you your money back if you do not have a good night sleep which is a nice touch. However with such a comfy mattress and pillow selection it is difficult not to have a great sleep.
I was given a complementary two night stay at Premier Inn Southampton however I was not required to write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photographs are my own. No photographs may be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Giveaway: Lobster Apron

I was asked if I would like to review an apron.  I have loads of aprons so what could be so special about this one I asked.  Let us send you one and you will see.

So the Lobster Homeware apron arrived! I love the lobster print
The attention to detail is really well executed - the neck strap is easy to adjust, no more fiddling with awkward buckles.
My little assistant Little Miss was visiting so it seemed natural to get her to model the apron for you.
You can see the pot holders are attached so you have them when you need them.
The aprons come in bold colours, signature lobster and denim.  The aprons are all machine washable and as well as attached but easily detachable pot holders they also have a tea towel loop and the utmost essential - a mobile phone pocket!

Would you like to have this beautiful apron on your kitchen peg? You can win one if you follow the Rafflecopter instructions below.  

This giveaway is open to residents of the UK only.  The prize will be sent by Lobster Homewares. All entries will be checked for validity.  The winner will be notified by email and must respond within 3 days or another winner will be selected. Good Luck

I was sent an apron to review and offer one as a giveaway. I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions and photos are my own. No photos may be reproduced in any form without my written permission.

a Rafflecopter giveaway