Wednesday, 23 September 2015

My Star for a Day... Weekend



You may remember me rallying the troops a few months ago after I had created a Matilda and Alice in Wonderland-themed Star For a Day itinerary as my entry into a blogger competition from Hotel Direct and thanks to all your amazing votes for my entry I won and got to experience all the literary London activities I'd been researching myself, which was very exciting!

I picked the August Bank Holiday weekend for the fun, so I had time to spread all the enjoyment over two days to really relish it all. Apologies for the delay in actually posting about this, but I've had some computer issues and was only able to transfer my images over last weekend.

Macaron making class with L'atelier des Chefs

I have been hearing great things about cooking classes at L'atelier des Chefs in London for a while now and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend a two-hour long class making macarons (which I am currently obsessed with anyway, they are SO delicious!) at their Oxford Street location.

The team was lovely and our chef was very informative as we went through all the steps of combining the ingredients conveniently laid out for us and adding different food colourings to create the vivid mixture you can see in the pictures below.


We were with a group of about 8 (me, my friend and people we didn't know) which meant that we didn't each get to create our own batch of macarons, instead it was a team effort and we all had a smaller hand in the creative process. It was a shame we couldn't make individual batches but I realise combining forces was more convenient time wise. I was in charge of making my part of the mixture bright green and it looks gorgeous, doesn't it?


Once the mixture was all done, it was time to create three different flavoured fillings that required a range of interesting techniques; chocolate ganache, salted caramel, and an addictive buttercream with cassis liqueur. They were all super tasty but the latter was the actual best and I would've totally eaten the whole bowl with a spoon, if we didn't need it all for fillings!


Once the macaron halves had baked and cooled down it was time to assemble the little towers of scrumptiousness and the best part of it all: have a little taster! We then got to divide the spoils to take home and even though it didn't look like much when we were making the macarons, there was actually a lot and I ended up taking about 12 to 14 of them home!

They were absolutely delicious (though they did stain my tongue and teeth blue, oops. Note to self: go easy on the food colouring). There was quite a lot of effort involved in making the macarons so I probably won't attempt it at home any time soon, I have however been completely sold on the baking class and would love to try another one!



Matilda the musical

After dropping the macarons off at home (and eating a few lot as a substitute lunch) we headed to the Cambridge Theatre in Seven Dials (just off Covent Garden) for a spot of bookish naughtiness with Matilda the musical. This show, you guys! Even if you've not read the book (though seriously, you should - regardless of age!) this is a tale you're bound to enjoy. Not only does it have some great characters, a heartwarming underlying message and encourages reading, the musical has turned an already wonderful story into something even more extraordinary with great songs and an impressive choreography.

The music has been written by Australian comedian Tim Minchin and my gosh is it clever! He has a brilliant way of playing with letters and words, creating not only highly catchy tunes but also genuinely intelligent and interesting lyrics, which in turn have been integrated into the imaginative staging. Matilda is a really special show, and I highly recommend everyone to check it out.



Ambassador's Hotel Bloomsbury

To finish the first day of my itinerary I rested my tired head at Ambassador's Hotel Bloomsbury, which is just moments away from the hub of Euston Station. Admittedly I was a bit disappointed that breakfast wasn't included (particularly because the website said there was free breakfast with all rooms booked for August, without any T&Cs saying it needed to have been booked by a certain day or through a particular link, yet reception said it only applied to bookings made by following that website link - so the wording of the offer was misleading) but in the end I slept so late - as it was super comfy and I was tired from the day before - that I wouldn't really have had the chance to eat much anyway.

The hotel is situated across the road from the Hilton (I could actually view the gorgeous building from the bedroom window) and despite being on a busy road it was surprisingly sound proof. It doesn't happen often that you can have a quiet night smack-down in the centre of London, so that was definitely a lovely surprise and surely attributed to my good (and long) night's rest.


Alice's Adventures Underground

The next day I got up bright but not so early (because the bed was so comfy!) to head to the Vaults underneath Waterloo Station for the first activity of the day: Alice's Adventures Underground.

Before we made it to the theatre however, we wandered through the graffiti tunnels, which we'd never been to before, and it was amazing to see all the cool designs on the walls. It was really quite spectacular and it's definitely a place I recommend checking out when you're visiting London and would like to do something a little different from the normal tourist fare!


Now, Alice's Adventures Underground was INCREDIBLE! I am a theatre geek and see a lot of shows throughout the year, but this was something unique and exciting, and the amount of thought that had been put into it was mind-blowing; definitely a 5-star production. This spectacular theatrical event has unfortunately closed by now, but I am hoping that it will return. If not to the Vaults, then perhaps elsewhere in London.


You're all familiar with the classic story by Lewis Carroll, I'm sure, and this theatrical re-imagining takes elements from the Wonderland we all know and love, such as the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, the Mock Turtle and the Red Queen, to create an immersive experience where as the audience you tumble through the pages of a book into Wonderland and meet all these eccentric characters, while trying to solve a mystery along the way.

The amount of detail that went into the design for each of the rooms we visited, as well as the overall story and how cleverly it all came together in the end, was phenomenal. They created an exciting experience unlike anything else I've ever had the pleasure to watch. It was really very cool and you MUST keep an eye on the theatre company to see what else they're doing in the future.


Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea

In keeping with the Alice in Wonderland theme for the second day, the final activity on my itinerary which we got to experience was the Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea at Sanderson London. I love afternoon tea and always take friends and family when they're visiting from overseas, but I haven't been to an literary themed one myself yet (though I did try a super tasty Indian themed one) so this was a very special treat.


It was very busy and the Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea wasn't in the main restaurant, instead it was under a sort of canopy set apart from the rest of the hotel. It was okay, but didn't seem to fit very well with the overall feel and design, which was absolutely stunning; from the menu, which was displayed in an old book, right down to the quirky crockery. It wasn't necessarily Wonderland-themed but it was very charming and got us excited for what was to come.


The first thing we did when we sat down was pick the type of tea we wanted. They had some stunning flavours on display in delicate glass bottles, so we could smell the tea, which included exciting flavours such as apple pie and rhubarb & custard. It was very tempting but in the end we stayed more traditional as my friend chose Earl Grey and I went for Darjeeling.


While we waited for the tea to arrive we enjoyed a glass of bubbles and admired the beautiful stands of cakes and sandwiches that were brought to the tables surrounding us. There had clearly been put a lot of thought into the delicate pastries and savoury treats to make them fit with the theme and they did a phenomenal job.


We loved the different flavoured breads used for the delicate finger sandwiches, especially the curry bread worked extremely well with the egg filling. And the overall look with the popping colours was very fun and definitely made us think we'd tumbled into a fantastical land where bread has such bright shades.

 

From the sweet offerings I absolutely adored the chocolate teacup filled with a green tea mousse and an edible playing card made out of white chocolate. It looked the part and was super delicious. Strangely enough I am not normally a fan of green tea, but the gentle flavour of the mousse worked very well and I could've happily enjoyed just that all afternoon.

 

I also loved the fun little glass bottles that had handwritten labels attached to them saying 'drink me', which is of course very wonderland - and it tasted incredible too. It was a combination of a cocktail and pudding and the overall flavour was very tropical and sweet. That is not to say that the other cakes, sandwiches and scones were not great, but the ones mentioned above were my favouries and I'm getting hungry just looking at the pictures depicting them!


After we'd already completely stuffed ourselves, the attentive staff brought over the above plate as a lovely unexpected surprise. How sweet is that?! It made an already fantastic experience at their Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea even more memorable.

London is a wonderful city to live in and visit, and I generally make an effort to appreciate the wealth of theatre, cultural and foodie offerings that we are lucky to have on our doorstep here. However, having a literary themed weekend made me view the city in a different light and it showed me what interesting and unique activities you can enjoy in the capital, outside of the ones I normally tend to go for.

I cannot thank Hotel Direct enough for this opportunity, we had an absolute blast experiencing it all!

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