Monday, 30 June 2014

Romney Marsh Wools toiletries



The longwool Romney, or Kent Sheep, has roamed the Romney marsh since the 1300s. The dual purpose breed, officially recognised in England since 1800, is bred both for its wool and meat. The lush, cream wool is known for its versatile fleece that works well as knitwear, yarn and cloth.

The Romney Marsh Wools company has gone one step further utilising the wool and has created a range of toiletries in which they use lanolin, the natural occurring fat in the wool. Lanolin is a soothing and rich ingredient, which helps keep the skin hydrated, and we had the opportunity to try a selection of travel products which include this; bath & body gel, hand wash, hand & body lotion, shampoo and soap.

The first thing I noticed when looking at the packaging was that it proudly displayed an address in Kent. It is always a bonus, I find, to use a product that has been crafted not too far from where you live, rather than one which has traveled for thousands of miles to arrive into your home. Not only is it better for the environment, but using local businesses is also a great way to support the economy.

Next I had a look at the other side of the label which disappointingly included a variety of parabens on a few of the products. Parabens are chemicals used to prevent growth of micrcobes in toiletries, which on paper sounds like a good thing, however in recent years studies have uncovered possible health concerns related to the chemical. A lot of high street products still include parabens, but for a brand that claims to use only the highest quality of ingredients it's somewhat contradictory.

Opening the little bottles one at a time, the fragrances reminded me of the toiletries my grandmother used to have, way back in the day. I don't mean that it smelled old-fashioned or musty even, on contrary, but rather there was a sense of nostalgia associated with the scent. It was quite a natural one, without being overpowering floral or fruity.

I used the products with varying degrees of success. Where the shampoo felt just adequate as while it cleaned my hair it also left it feeling quite rough and stripped of its natural oils, both the bar of soap and hand & body lotion felt rich and hydrating, leaving my hands feeling much softer and nicer than before use. The bath & body gel and hand wash, finally, lathered well and did the job they set out to do.

In all, while this wouldn't be a range of products I'd necessarily seek out based on the ingredients printed on the label, I love that they're produced down the road from me in Kent and they are partly created with something as natural as the fat in sheep's wool.

Theatre review: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels [digital press night]


About: Based on the classic comedy film starring Sir Michael Caine and Steve Martin, be transported to the French Riviera and its decadent underworld, as two seasoned swindlers attempt to hoodwink a millionaire heiress. As the pair compete in the true art of the con, they discover there is only room for one of them.

The show stars three time Olivier and Tony Award winner Robert Lindsay, comedy legend Rufus Hound, Olivier Award nominee Katherine Kingsley and stage and screen icon Samantha Bond.

With direction and choregraphy by multi award-winning Jerry Mitchell, the book is written by Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner Jeffrey Lane and has music and lyrics by Drama Desk Award winner David Yazbek.


Rating:

Friday, 27 June 2014

Book review: The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan


My edition: Hardcover, published on 3rd July 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton, 406 pages.

Description: In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookery writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes.

Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs Eaden. There's Jenny, facing an empty nest now her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter; Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife's death; Vicki, who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it's like to have nothing and is determined her façade shouldn't slip.

As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest choux bun seems the least of the contestants' problems. For they will learn - as Mrs Eaden did before them - that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it's very much harder in life.

Rating:

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Interview with author Sarah Vaughan



The first novel by British author Sarah Vaughan will soon be landing in the shops and I couldn't be more excited for everyone to read this wonderful book. The Art of Baking Blind is a delectable story of baking and is filled with a great mixture of strong female characters (find my full review here).

In this interview, Sarah talks about her debut, the women central within the story, her writing process and she even reveals what she's working on now.

What did an average writing day look like when you were working on The Art of Baking Blind? Did you write full-time? And did you have any special rituals to get your creative juices flowing?

Both my children are now at primary school and so I try to write from 9.30am to 3pm, but when I started The Art of Baking Blind my youngest was on half days so I had to cram a lot into the mornings and then work in the evenings.

In the run-up to publication, I’m working longer hours than my usual steady rate – as I know I’ll do in the run-up to deadline. Having young children means I can’t lock myself away for hours on end – but that’s no bad thing: I don’t think I can do more than four or five hours of really sustained, fresh new writing a day.

My day starts with a brisk walk or cycle to school and back. I’ve learned that I need that bit of fresh air and exercise to stretch my back and set me up for the day. I don’t have any other rituals except for making a huge pint of tea, or a cappuccino from my coffee machine. I do need some caffeine to get those creative juices flowing.

I tend to check my emails and social media before starting – a bit like checking in at an office – but try to stop faffing by 9.30am. I usually re-read the previous day’s work before diving in.

There is an abundance of delectable baked goods within the novel, did you spent many hours baking them yourself to conjure up such vivid smells and flavours with your descriptions of the edible delights?

How did you guess? I didn’t bake all the goodies in the novel – I never made Chelsea buns, for instance – but I did make most of them. It was "research", ahem. How else could I write about making choux pastry, for instance, without trying it out?

The germ of the idea for the book came from baking with my children and at one stage I was baking – as opposed to cooking – four times a week. I wrote The Art of Baking Blind in the kitchen on a very basic laptop with the screen perched on a pile of cookery books: Nigella, Dan Lepard, the Bake Off books, even Mrs Beaton. Every now and again, I’d compare recipes, so somehow this seemed appropriate.

I loved all the women in the story - from baking legend Kathleen to the contestants - how did you create such a diverse cast of mainly female characters, and was there anyone in particular you felt drawn to?

I think I wanted to explore what it is to be a woman, if that doesn’t sound pretentious, in an era in which we still put tremendous pressure on ourselves. Like any first novel, there are elements of my personality in some of the characters: I’m a perfectionist like Vicki, for instance, and, much as I adore my children, I found it hard adjusting to being at home after having a high-powered job on the Guardian.

Similarly, although I’ve never ever had an eating disorder, from the one occasion I’ve gone on a diet – before my wedding – I could see how you might become obsessed with the calorific value of food. I imagine most women will identify with that. But I am most emphatically not any of these women – thank goodness! - and the awful things that happen to some of them are purely the result of my imagination.

I felt huge sympathy for Jenny but, if I have a favourite, it’s Kathleen Eaden. I saw her as a woman constrained by her time who wanted to break free of the expectations imposed on her; and I so felt for her in her struggle to have children.

The Search for the New Mrs Eaden reminded me of television show The Great British Bake Off, how much of your story was inspired by the reality contest and how did you decide on each of the stages of the competition?

There are very obvious parallels and the GBBO was one of the inspirations for the novel. I caught the very tail end of the 2011 series, in the autumn of that year, and it made me question why these contestants felt so compelled to bake that they were willing to compete on television.

A couple of weeks after the final, The Telegraph and Mail revealed that the husband of the winner was serving a prison sentence for his part in a money-laundering scam. As a journalist, I’m intrigued by people’s "backstories": the events that shape them. We all have them, and beneath the most apparently-ordinary appearances, a whole different reality may be going on – as clearly happened in this case. I began to think about why else someone might bake.

Regarding the stages of the competition, again I was influenced by the GBBO – and, magpie-like, filched this – though I didn’t realise this at the time. I think I’d just read so many recipes that the progression made sense. Bakers start off with relatively easy cakes before progressing to bread and pastry.

I hope you're working on another novel already, because I am definitely hooked. If you are, is there anything you can reveal about it yet? 


Thank you. Yes my second novel should be handed into my publisher at the end of this year. It’s not about baking but about nurture, identity, refuge, love, motherhood and atonement - and the strong emotions provoked by a certain place.

It’s set on a farm in north Cornwall and involves a contemporary story and a time-slip one – set seventy years earlier, in World War Two, when Cornwall was seen as a "place of greater safety" for evacuees.

My great grandfather was a farmer in Cornwall and a photo of him leading his horse and plough sits on my desk as I write this. I want to draw on those roots and yet depict his harsh world in an unsentimental way.

I’m deep into the first draft at the moment and very excited about it.

The Art of Baking Blind is published on 3rd July 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Book launch: The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me by Lucy Robinson



The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me is the laugh-out-loud funny and sob-equally-loudly brand-spanking new book from fabulous women's fiction author Lucy Robinson. The novel was published yesterday, which was the perfect excuse for a celebration in central London with a bunch of fellow book geeks while enjoying a glass of wine (I say 'a', but we all know there is no such thing as a single glass of wine...).

I read the novel a few weeks ago and fell head over heels in love with Lucy's witty writing and loveable main-character Sally. After finishing the book I was gushing about it all over the Internet, as you do, and Lucy was so grateful for my incoherent ramblings that she invited me to her launch party with the promise of wine. I never say 'no' to an offer of wine anyway, but having the chance to attend the launch for a book that I absolutely adored and meet its talented author in the process? Yes, please!


The brilliant evening was a who's who of wonderful people, with publishers and book bloggers in attendance alongside an abundance of fantastic authors, such as Victoria Fox, Hannah Beckerman, Ali Harris, Paige Toon, Matt Dunn, Rowan Coleman and Novelicious funny-lady, Rosie Blake! Lucy was the star of the evening, of course, and she even sparkled like one in her stunning dress as she gave a heartfelt thank you speech.

Befitting the book's operatic theme there were also two breathtakingly beautiful performances by some very talented people. I had absolutely no idea what they were singing as it was sung in a foreign language, but their emotional performances were an awe-inspiring experience. I was already interested in watching an opera in the theatre after reading The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me and after witnessing these mesmerising performances I am especially keen.


Other highlights of the evening included meeting the ever so lovely lady of the hour herself, Lucy was such a sweetheart and I'm glad I wasn't the only one actively encouraging group hugs on the night; plotting the perfect murder with the glamorous Victoria Fox; and walking up to Ali Harris just to give her a hug and tell her how much I love her books. This is what a few drinks on a nearly empty stomach does to me. I am so very sorry, Ali!

Despite my over eagerness to hug authors it was a truly ace night. Thank you very much to Lucy for the invite.


This post first appeared HERE on Novelicious.com

Friday, 20 June 2014

Book review: Waiting for Doggo by Mark B. Mills


My edition: Paperback (proof), to be published on 20 November 2014 by Headline Review, 207 pages.

Description: No-one ever called Dan a pushover. But then no-one ever called him fast-track either. He likes driving slowly, playing Sudoku on his iPhone, swapping one scruffy jumper for another. He's been with Clara for four years and he's been perfectly happy; but now she's left him, leaving nothing but a long letter filled with incriminations and a small, white, almost hairless dog, named Doggo.

So now Dan is single, a man without any kind of partner whether working or in love. He's just one reluctant dog owner. Find a new home for him, that's the plan. Come on...everyone knows the old adage about the best laid plans and besides, Doggo is one special kind of a four legged friend...and an inspiration.

Rating:

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Surya Brasil Color Fixation Single Application



One of the most frustrating things is when you go through your entire morning routine and by the end of it, and despite all your efforts, your hair still looks lifeless and limp. A combination of lotions and sprays can only conceal so much until there is nothing left for you but to admit defeat and move on to your final resort: hiding your bad hair day under a hat or scarf. It doesn't have to be such a struggle though, especially in the morning when you're already rushed for work. Treating your locks well every day and helping them along with the occasional restorative mask to hydrates and revitalize them from root to tip can make a world of difference.

And that is where Surya Brasil comes in. The country of origin may currently be dominating the headlines because of the World Cup, but that isn't the only thing they're good at. Surya Brasil is a vegan and cruelty-free body care company and I tried the Color Fixation Single Application, part of a collection of shampoos and conditioners which are to be used after colouring your hair to keep it smooth and radiant and ensure a continued vibrant colour. The deep restorative treatment aims to extend the life of the hair colour with cupuaçú butter and buriti oil, which absorb the sun's ultraviolet rays. The formula is also enriched with rice proteins which should strengthen the cuticle of the hair, restoring shine and manageability.

The first thing I noticed when trying the product was how thick and creamy it was. Much more so than an average conditioner, and lathering it onto my long locks was a very pleasant experience. I already felt like I was treating my hair to an intense mask, rather than going through the normal motions of applying a conditioner after washing it. I also relished the spicy notes in the subtle fragrance emanating from the product, which gave the whole process a warming and calming feeling, and I was almost sad when the five minutes advised on the packaging were up and I had to rinse it out.

As my hair is dyed, I am always excited to try a product that claims to bring out the colour as I do find that even after an intense dyeing process it more often than not loses some of its vividness and shine soon after. Unfortunately I didn't notice the intensification of my hair's colour after using this product, despite this being one of its main selling points. My locks did feel very lush and manageable after use, but not more so than after applying a regular conditioner.

Would I use this product again? Yes. Though I would choose it for its effective hydrating and smoothening qualities rather than expecting it to refresh the colour of my hair. The reason I didn't notice much difference could be because I've been very lucky with my conditioners in the past, or maybe the real change doesn't take effect until used more regularly.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Book launch: Say Her Name by James Dawson



Last week was the book launch for British author James Dawson's new novel, Say Her Name, at Waterstones in Islington. I absolutely loved his latest creepy offering (find my review here) and his previous novel too (read review here), so I of course jumped at the chance to attend the book's launch party. As I already knew that Vicky was going as well, so we met up slightly before and made our way over together.


As soon as we arrived we were greeted by James himself - who even remembered our names (I assume as we'd both been Tweeting about going earlier that day). Despite meeting authors regularly, every once in a while I do feel a little starstruck and having just finished the AMAZING Say her Name, this was one of those occasions. We did shake hands and I'm pretty sure I muttered a 'Nice to meet you'.

There were drinks and cupcakes (James joked there were only 12 cupcakes and since we - and the other people there - were the first 12 people arriving, we'd better be quick), which of course we'd happily devoured. That was dinner sorted.

Funnily enough, Vicky and myself both opted for a different style cupcake which ended up matching the book each of us brought to get signed! And yes, we got them signed by James, who was incredibly nice and generous with his time despite Waterstones quickly filling up with lots and lots of people celebrating the book launch with him.


It soon was time for a speech and none other than Bloody Mary (the character referred to in the book's title and pictured on the cover) showed up! Oh dear, I guess James said her name five time in front of a mirror at midnight resulting in her taking his place...

The speech that followed was really inspiring and I particularly loved how he compared the journey of writing a book to the struggle of a newly hatched baby turtle:

"Sometimes publishing can feel like a bit of a fight. I was thinking the other day that it was a bit like those BBC nature programmes where the tiny little baby turtles are hatched out of their eggs quite high up the beach and then they sort of  have to flipper their way down to the sea before the giant seagull can eat them. And it only feels like every 1 in a 100 books is a little turtle that makes it to the sea and so it feels like you're the little baby turtle desperately trying to make it there." 

In all it was a fantastic evening with lovely people and cake (can't go wrong when there is cake), thank you very much to James for making the book launch a public event so we could be a part of it!

Kudos to the person who baked this gruesome creation

This was right before 'Mary' cut the cake Psycho style

Vicky and I with the one and only Bloody Mary

Friday, 13 June 2014

Book review: Thirteen Weddings by Paige Toon


My edition: Paperback, to be published on 22 May 2014 by Simon & Schuster, 448 pages.

Description: Last year, Bronte left Sydney for a wedding in England, where she met newly single Alex. After a night of passion they parted ways, and Bronte returned to Australia.

Now working on a picture desk for a magazine in London, Bronte is about to meet her new colleague, who turns out to be all too familiar. Although awkward at first, as Alex is now engaged to the girl he was on a break from when they met, they soon become friends.

But as the two get closer, and the wedding day looms, it is clear that Alex and Bronte have unfinished business


Rating:

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Book review: Say Her Name by James Dawson


My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 5 June 2014 by Hot Key Books, 240 pages.

Description: Roberta 'Bobbie' Rowe is not the kind of person who believes in ghosts. A Halloween dare at her ridiculously spooky boarding school is no big deal, especially when her best friend Naya and cute local boy Caine agree to join in too. They are ordered to summon the legendary ghost of 'Bloody Mary': say her name five times in front of a candlelit mirror, and she shall appear... But, surprise surprise, nothing happens. Or does it?

Next morning, Bobbie finds a message on her bathroom mirror... five days... but what does it mean? And who left it there? Things get increasingly weird and more terrifying for Bobbie and Naya, until it becomes all too clear that Bloody Mary was indeed called from the afterlife that night, and she is definitely not a friendly ghost. Bobbie, Naya and Caine are now in a race against time before their five days are up and Mary comes for them, as she has come for countless others before...

Rating:

Monday, 9 June 2014

Gingling with London theatre bloggers


Mid-May I received an email from Rebecca, editor of OfficialTheatre.com, with the question if I would be interested in a meet-up with fellow theatre bloggers. My first thought was "Yes, please!", quickly followed by "How did she find my blog?!?" Rebecca's mad blog-searching skills aside, I thought it was a brilliant idea to bring together the bloggers and reviewers of the London theatre scene. And when the official "Ginvite" came through closer to the meet-up on June 2, detailing not only a fun evening of theatre chat at London cocktail bar Central and Co but also a gin-tasting session with Martin Miller's Gin, I was definitely sold. (Yes, you can basically ply me with the promise of alcohol.)

The evening was everything I could've hoped for and then some. Rebecca was incredibly lovely and a fantastic host, not to mention that she had some great ideas to unite the blogging community and spread the theatre love. Attendees varied from people running little-known blogs like my own to more established theatre sites such as The Public Reviews, Views From the Gods and West End Wilma. It was a really nice mixture and I enjoyed getting the chance to gingle with so many different people who, at the end of the day, were all just as passionate about theatre as I am.

There was also a cocktail making session and as soon as Rebecca said that we'd be naming the drinks ourselves I thought of the "Ginterval", as that would nicely fit with the theatrical theme of the night. Our team eventually settled on "Let the Right One Gin", which we all felt to be superior, so imagine my surprise when another team came up with the Ginterval... and won! I'm not a sour loser (ahum) but just as an aside, our delectable concoction was the only one completely finished after the judges had a taste of all the entries ;)

Alcohol makes the stomach growl, so I got very excited when big platters of food arrived for us to tuck into; pieces of rustic bread with olives and soft butter, gooey cheeses with oat cakes, grapes and onion chutney - yum! It was a gin-tastic evening combining pretty much all of my favourite things (theatre, cheese, alcohol, blogging and did I mention cheese?) and I cannot thank Rebecca enough for the Ginvite and for making it such a successful night.

If you want to follow what us London theatre bloggers get up to besides drinking gin and eating cheese, check the #LDNtheatrebloggers tag on Twitter.


Let The Right One Win, eh... Gin!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Book review: The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81 by J.B. Morrison


My edition: Paperback, published on 5 June 2014 by Pan Macmillan, 274 pages.

Description: Frank Derrick is eighty-one. And he's just been run over by a milk float. It was tough enough to fill the hours of the day when he was active. But now he's broken his arm and fractured his foot, it looks set to be a very long few weeks ahead.

Frank lives with his cat Bill (which made more sense before Ben died) in the typically British town of Fullwind-on-Sea. He watches DVDs, spends his money frivolously at the local charity shop and desperately tries to avoid the cold callers continuously knocking on his door. Emailing his daughter in America on the library computer and visiting his friend Smelly John used to be the highlights of his week. Now he can't even do that.

Then a breath of fresh air comes into his life in the form of Kelly Christmas, home help. With her little blue car and appalling parking, her cheerful resilience and ability to laugh at his jokes, Kelly changes Frank's life. She reminds him that there is a big wide-world beyond the four walls of his flat and that adventures, however small, come to people of all ages.

Rating:


I'm thrilled to be part of the blog tour for this wonderfully funny yet also poignant novel today and to be able to share the below Q&A with author, J.B. Morrison.


Why did you decide to make your protagonist 81 years old?

JB: I was spending a lot of time with my mother, who was 81 at the time. Like Frank, she lived on her own in a first-floor flat in a small Sussex village. People were always telling her to get her roof fixed even though there was nothing noticeably wrong with it. She was getting a lot of junk mail too and annoying telephone cold calls. I wanted to write about that in some way.

Who is the inspiration for Kelly Christmas?

JB: She's entirely fictional, although because Kelly is the same age as my daughter, that hopefully helped me not make her completely unbelievable.

How did you become an author?

JB: It was an accident. I had a fairly long career in pop music and wrote an autobiographical account of that. Having the book published was such a genuine thrill that I wanted to write more. I've been very lucky being able to somehow follow one pretty dream occupation with another.

What do you enjoy most about being an author?

JB: When I really get into a writing flow and I can't get things down quick enough. With my way of writing it doesn't happen too often. It will usually be in a long section of dialogue when the conversation between two characters just takes over and it's like they’re actually having a real conversation and I'm just writing down what they say. I also love it when I think of something that in a moment makes the whole story suddenly make sense.

Describe a typical day in your life.

JB: I'm terrible at the whole getting up at five a.m., taking the dog for a walk, dropping the kids off at school, grinding my own coffee beans and then writing a thousand words before lunch thing. I haven't got a dog and my daughter is twenty-seven, so that doesn't help of course. I really have no discipline or routine other than getting up whenever I wake up, watching BBC Breakfast news roll over and over again and then going on Twitter. As an example, while I'm supposed to be writing this I'm on Twitter pretending I'm at the Q Awards. I do go swimming on Tuesday mornings. In the water I tend to come up with my best writing ideas, which is a bit inconvenient.

Many thanks J.B. for answering these questions! Please find my review for his delightful novel below.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Dinner at Ekachai Liverpool Street



In the heart of London, just a stone's throw away from the hustle and bustle of Liverpool Street station, lies an oasis of calm in the form of the Arcade; a quiet and narrow little street which offers passers-by an eclectic mix of dining options, including the South East Asian spicy flavours of oriental dining room Ekachai.

The Liverpool Street location is one of four in London and Birmingham and recently had both an interior and menu makeover, which is evident as soon as we walked into the beautifully rustic space. The service matched our first impression, with not only very friendly and accommodating waiters but also an incredibly swift delivery of the food we ordered.


I love the flavour of duck in South East Asian cooking and since the option on the main menu (a dish which sounded a bit too meaty, combining roast duck slices with BBQ pork) didn't particularly appeal to me, I opted for the Duck Spring Rolls for my starter.

It was a very good choice indeed. I was presented with two large spring rolls cut in half, filled to the brim with succulent duck and veggies, which went really well with the thick and rich sauce it was served with. I'm not always a fan of spring rolls, as they can easily be made too greasy, but these were deliciously crispy and perfect in my eyes.


My friend chose the Prawn & Crab Siu Mai Dumplings for her starter, which was an equally generous portion (a running theme throughout our evening). The sticky dumplings were tasty, although a bit too dense and filling for a starter, and she commented that she was particularly fond of the accompanying sauce.


For my main I ordered the Pad Thai, consisting of wok fried flat noodles with egg, chives, bean sprouts and chicken. First of all, let me take a moment to compliment the stunning and hugely effective presentation. The portions of chilli flakes and dried onions on the side not only make for a pretty picture, but it also means that each guest can flavour their own dish and ensure it is as spicy or mild as they prefer it.

Feeling adventurous I mixed all the ingredients together (including the slices of fresh chilli which I cut up into smaller pieces), which made for a very hot but also very appetising dish. I really love a good Pad Thai and this one was more than good. In fact, it was probably the best one I've ever had the pleasure to taste, so for me only being able to finish about half of the plate really is a testimony to how incredibly plenty the portions at Ekachai are.


Singapore Noodles were the main of choice for my friend, which was a perfectly cooked and well-seasoned combination of rice vermicelli noodles with prawn, egg, onions, spring onions, carrots, mixed peppers, beansprouts & fresh chilli. She too marvelled at the beautiful presentation and despite her best efforts, could not finish her main either.


For dessert I was tempted by the Pandan & Passion Fruit Creme Brule, which sounded like an interesting take one of my all-time favourite desserts. When it arrived however I was initially taken aback by the dish' almost poisonous-looking vivid green colour, which didn't make it look particularly appetising to me.

The moment I had a taste of the deliciously creamy sweet, my worries dissolved. It had the crispy, sugary coating of a crème brûlée, but to me any similarities ended there. The flavour wasn't like anything I've tried before and the warm pudding underneath also had a different texture. So while this dessert wasn't quite like what I had in mind when ordering, it was a very delicious surprise.


My friend opted for the Chocolate Chilli Mousse, which came with an ice cream accompaniment of her choice and she decided on the Toasted Coconut flavour. Unfortunately the mousse wasn't what she, or I, had expected as it seemed to lack any sugary flavouring to make the dessert suitably sweet. The hint of chilli also didn't come through, making it a flavourless pudding. The ice cream however was delectable, and she'd soon devoured the entire cold treat.

In all we had a delightful evening at this oriental dining room. With generous portions of lush food that is both cooked to perfection and beautifully presented, not to mention very affordable, we'd happily return and revel in the spicy smells and flavours of South East Asia.

Ekachai, 9-10 Arcade Liverpool St, London EC2M 7PN.

Book review: The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera


My edition: paperback (proof), to be published on 5 June 2014 by Abacus, 314 pages.

Description: Prudencia Prim is a young woman of high ideals, intelligence and achievement, with an extensive knowledge of literature and several letters after her name. But when she accepts the post of private librarian to a wealthy bibliophile in the secluded village of San Ireneo de Arnois, she is unprepared for what she will encounter there.

Her employer, a philosopher and intellectual, is dashing yet contrarian, always ready with a stinging critique of her beloved Austen and Alcott. And the neighbours are also capable of charm and eccentricity in equal measure, determined as they are to preserve their singular little community from the outside world.

Thoughtful, gentle Prudencia might have hoped for friendship in San Ireneo but she didn't expect to find romance - nor did she expect the course of her new life to run quite so rocky, to offer challenge and heartache as well as discovery, joy and delicious regional pastries.

Rating:

Monday, 2 June 2014

Theatre review: Bakersfield Mist


About: Inspired by true events, this sparkling and colourful new comedy-drama by Stephen Sachs asks vital questions about what makes art and people truly authentic.

Bakersfield Mist marks the return to the London stage of multi award- winner Kathleen Turner for the first time since her tour-de-force performance in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

She is playing opposite Olivier and Tony award-winner Ian McDiarmid (Life of Galileo, Faith Healer) and is directed by Evening Standard award-winner Polly Teale.

Rating: