i never worked behind a bar in my university days, much preferring to be propped up on the other side nursing a cocktail that hopefully received a nice mates rate discount from one of the many friends i knew that did bartend part-time.
a buddy of mine is an extraordinary mixologist, even winning bartender of the year in london a few years back. i could spend hours gazing in awe as he pours, shakes, flairs and creates extraordinary flavours in front of my eyes. and last week, i finally got my chance to channel my inner tom cruise when sarah and i visited taste of london. (see her mouth-watering post on the food here).
en route to our four-course meal by theo randall, we stopped for a quick refreshment in the cocktail house by first drinks brands. we got chatting to lovely aussie bartender glen, who said he’d let us try some of his finest cocktails on the house… on the condition that we worked for it. i was about to get a little lesson in mixology.
we chose a muddled raspberry cocktail as my first attempt. glen showed us how to count out a second of pouring per shot of spirits. i managed to splash half the bar while trying to somewhat elegantly pour out my vodka, sugar syrup and lemon juice quantities, eventually giving up the fancy way of holding the bottle by the neck after drenching one unlucky scotsman in vodka.
i was instructed to muddle my raspberries and measure out two parts spirit to one part sweet and one part sour, followed by soda water for fizz. we taste tested and perfected the flavour, finishing off the pretty pink cocktail with a few raspberries and a slice of lime to garnish.
next was a gorgeous rum cocktail, made with grapefruit juice, sugar syrup and ginger ale. this time i even got to do the fun cocktail shaker thing – can you see the absolute glee on my face in sarah’s pictures? i was having fun.
glen explained that we drink with our noses as well as our tastebuds, so showed us how to rub the oil of a citrus peel (grapefruit, in our case) around the rim of the glass, and even the outside of the glass so the cocktail’s aroma is present on the drinker’s hands, leaving them with the memory of the flavours long after the drink has vanished. a final spritz of citrus oil over the cocktail has the scent wafting towards your nose even before that first taste.
sarah judged that my cocktails passed the taste test, and we walked away with our hard-earned drinks in hand. the soaked bar and bystanders perhaps hinted that fancy flairing is not my thing, but i now have a couple of delicious and easy cocktail recipes in my repertoire to impress guests with. i predict a cocktail party in the very near future. cheers!
i adore anything shiny. gold, silver, bronze, metallic… and as fun as last week’s scary ghetto nails were, this week’s far more demure take on the metal look is more my style.
this shimmering style is a subtle take on the gradient manicure currently taking the nail art tribe by storm. following this step-by-step tutorial from brilliant nails blog the nailasaurus, i also tried this out last week in blue to mint green (and forgot to take pictures, well done me).
using sparkly gold and silver polish makes the gradient far more subtle, but just as beautiful, as the gold-to-silver progression catches the light and draws the eye. using block colours achieves a very different result – bright and fun – but you have to take even more care with your sponge application. this more forgiving style is best for your first attempt.
you can use any household or make-up sponge (i cut up one of those big yellow ones), just make sure the side you are using is flat. paint on your first colour (gold for me), a few coats to get the best contrast with the second colour.
then, using a plastic sheet or baking paper, pour your first and second (silver) colours in a litle puddle next to each other, and mix slightly at the edge with a toothpick or cuticle stick (the larger the mix area, the longer the graduation on your nail). dab your sponge in and press on to your nail. you can repeat a few times to achieve the exact gradient you want, just make sure you let the previous coat dry.
you’ll have a big old mess around your nail bed, so clean that up with a cotton wool bud and tidy up the edges with a corrector pen. finish off with a few layers of top coat to smooth things out, as the texture will be smudgy from the sponge.
this is a littly fiddly, so don’t try to do it in a rush. the result is metallic, shimmering nails (that are damn hard to capture on camera thanks to their sheen, even with my fancy pants new toy, so apologies for the picture quality!)
once you’ve mastered this look, be brave and try it with brighter block colours to really show off the look to its full potential. i’ll be trying hot pink to pale pink, turquoise to aqua, and black to grey. what colours will you try? send us your pictures!
with the promise of sampling sumptuous cuisine from michelin-starred restaurants, decadent flavours from around the globe, and world-class chefs including the likes of wolfgang puck, nuno mendes and david chang showing off their kitchen flair, I was more than just a little excited about taste of london. actually, I was drooling just thinking about it.
with more than 40 restaurants and over 200 food and drink producers on show we found ourselves completely overwhelmed – there was so much to try. andrea suggested starting at asia de cuba, starting at the beginning of the alphabet did seem sensible, and our first dishes of the day consisted of pork belly and ceviche – both were beyond divine.
after moseying around the stands and nibbling on cured meats and breads from everyone who offered, plus paying a visit to the secret garden area, we decided to take a load off our feet and headed to the wedgwood tent. i could have spent the whole day there – it was ever so relaxing and oh so pretty.
beautiful bunches of flowers adorned every surface and the stunning fine-bone china tea ware were laid out all around the space to show off the intricate designs. our teas were served in the gorgeous cups and saucers and came accompanied with a card providing information about the blend as well as a miniature chocolate. my sencha, a green tea, was divine and the paul a young goat’s cheese treat was a little peace of heaven in one tiny mouthful.
after sampling several different produces we decided to indulge our tastebuds with something a little alcoholic. although the laurent-perrier bar was temping we decided it was cocktail time and andrea somehow managed to wangle a lesson on how to make the perfect tipple. judging from her bar flair mixology might be a good career move for her!
the main event of the day, where we found ourselves the most spoilt, was at the san pellegrino vip dining experience. we were treated to a four-course lunch prepared by theo randall. what happy girls we were. the food was impeccably presented and we feasted on smoked eel, penne pasta, a fish stew and for spectacular finish lemon tart, each dish trumped the previous.
by the time we put our forks down i could not have eaten another morsel, no matter how badly I wanted to finish off the yummy lemon tart. next time i’ll remember to take some trousers with a bit of give! we found ourselves in the grip of a food coma, but we didn’t care it was oh so worth it! it wasn’t just the food, we were also treated to a different glass of wine with each plate – who knew fish stew could be complimented so well by a delicious red?
plus, we were so full after our tasting experience that we couldn’t sample any more food, we were particularly upset about missing out on the peanut butter ice cream.
despite this, taste of london has proved to be the most delicious event in town and it’s definitely in our diary for next year.
my home friends appeared to all be flocking to a restaurant called australasia in manchester so upon returning to the city, nine months after my last visit, pals recommended going for dinner, or at least a drink in the bar.
never one to enjoy the feeling I’m missing out – particularly when food is involved – i decided to make a reservation and see what everyone had been raving about.
the eatery is located just off deansgate, the main artery of manchester, in the new spinningfields complex. while the masses of offices, apartments and swish clothes shops have been present in the city for a few years it has taken time for the area to be busy; now it is thriving.
to enter the restaurant you make your way through a glass triangle and descend underground down the stairs. If you are already in the restaurant it’s a great place to people watch – there’s no slinking in and out here. the décor is modern and bright with high ceilings, neutral colours and low lamps dangling over the tables.
according to the website the cuisine “combines pacific rim flavours underpinned by european cooking tradition, a blend of Indonesian, southeast asian influences and australia’s ties with japan also help determine the taste and style.” this might sound a bit pretentious but it basically means sushi, sashimi and various asian-style dishes, as well as steaks and fish dishes. this is my kind of meal.
we ordered plates of sashimi, sushi, california rolls, tempura as well as a few beef dishes and blackened cod, all to share. there are main plates available but we stuck to smaller dishes.
while the cod was no nobu (I just adore their special sauce) it was as fresh and as light as can be – we even got a non-fish eating member of the party to try some.
we were served several plates at once with the waiters substituting new dishes about three times – this kind of dining is my favourite because it gives everyone a chance to sample a lot over the course of a few hours. in fact i was so consumed with savouring each dish i forgot to snap them before we had all tucked in.
although we visited on a tuesday night there was a full restaurant plus plenty of people popping up the bar sampling a cocktail or two.
there is a distinct lack of good japanese-inspired restaurants in england particularly in manchester and having lived in australia where the eateries are plentiful I’m so glad britain finally catching up. anyone visiting manchester should definitely pay australasia a visit, i can see why it is a firm favourite with my friends at home.