London Diaries Week 11: Day 2

We were pretty tired from our previous jam packed day so we had a late start to the day. Our first stop was a tour of Westminster Abbey. The building has a beautiful gothic design which was very popular at the time. The tour is self guided through an audio guide and was super interesting. You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside but I snapped a few of the courtyard and the outside.

We then rushed off to make a train for Windsor which we had already booked tickets for. At the station you change to a smaller tram to make your way to Windsor Castle. We saw Queen Mary’s Dolls House, St Georges Chapel and the state apartments with an abundance of art. If you are pressed for time I would skip this as it does take up a good chunk of a day to visit. Whilst waiting for our train back to London we shopped at the Windsor Royal Shopping Mall which is conveniently located at the train station. Lunch was a quick meal at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen which wasn’t as good as the Oxford one.

It was a spontaneous decision to book tickets for the Lion King performance that night. I knew i wanted to go I just didn’t think I would book that last minute. Tickets were £75 each and expensive but worth it as we had good seats. I absolutely loved it and can’t wait to see the production again when it comes to SA. Watching a musical at West End is a definite must do in London. You can get discounted tickets for the less popular musicals at the ticket booth at Trafalgar Square.

1-7. Westminster Abbey / 8-29. Windsor Castle / 30-38. Gourmet Burger Kitchen / 39. Windsor Station / 40. Shaun the Sheep at Paddington Station / 41. Multiple red phone booths / 42-47. The Lion King

Theatre & Travel,
CG

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London Diaries: Week 11 Day 1

A lovely after work walk in Embankment Gardens started the week off. We wandered across the Millennium bridge to the South Bank where I got to capture as lovely a sunset photo that is possible in London. No matter how many times I had walked alongside the river Thames during my stay I could never resist a photo of the river, Big Ben or St Pauls. We also discovered the South African store selling Niknaks, Mrs Balls and biltong to name a few items. I started becoming slightly obsessed with spotting all the Shaun the Sheep sculptures around the city.

We purchased a 6 day London pass and I was determined to see as much as possible on it. We visited the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, London Dungeon & Curzon Soho on the first day which was quite action packed.

The Tower of London is an absolute must. My favourite part was the Beefeaters tour and getting to see the Crown jewels. The tour is a fantastic way to learn about the history while still being entertained.

Tower Bridge exhibition is something I would recommend skipping. You climb all the way up to watch a short video, read information about the bridge construction and then attempt to take photos on a very small section of glass flooring. Unless you are a bridge enthusiast, skip this.

Aboard the HMS Belfast you learn plenty about the ship while exploring the different decks. It is something different to the usual museums but also more suited to ship enthusiasts.

I loved the London Bridge experience. Its a journey through London’s past told by actors on different sets which you walk around and experience. A really fun way to learn about London.

We then visited pretty little Neal’s Yard to have dinner at Homeslice. Even though we were there early we had to wait ages for a table. When we finally got in the pizza I wanted was sold out, I ended up having a pizza that didn’t have cheese on it (how is that pizza?!) and spilt the drink of the person next to us which we then paid for. Needless to say Homeslice proved to be a horrible experience and somewhere I wouldn’t be revisiting. The pizza is not worth the price or wait – you can find better at Pizza Express.

After some tears the evening was redeemed by a trip to Curzon Soho. We watched Wild Tales which told six seriously over the top apocalyptic tales of revenge that was seriously funny. Movies in London are super expensive so I am glad we had the London pass. The great thing about London is that is something to do no matter what your taste is. There is actually such an abundance of activities that even those living there can’t do it all. I guess it really is true than when you are tired of London you are tired of life!

1. South African Store / 2-5. Embankment Gardens / 6. Obligatory red phone booth picture / 7-21. Embankment & South Bank Surrounds / 22-23. Shaun the Sheep / 24-50. Tower of London / 51. Roasted peanuts / 52-60. Tower Bridge / 61-65. Views from South Bank / 66-72. HMS Belfast / 73. London Dungeon / 74-78. Neal’s Yard & Home Slice / 79-81. Movie at Curzon Soho / 82. China Town

London & Life,
CG

Mosaic at The Orient

Mosaic at The Orient hotel is currently the number five restaurant in the country. Its setting is in a lush conservancy. As you travel down the winding road and glimpse your first look of the Moorish architecture you quickly forget that you are in fact in Pretoria.

There is prettiness around every corner of the property.

I loved the lushness of the trees everywhere coupled with the terracotta buildings which transports you to Morocco for the day.

The huge wooden doors offer you a glimpse of inside.

A bonsai tree and pond greets you before you enter inside.

The entrance hall is certainly very impressive.

A very French and cute bicycle that looks suited for a bread run.

The Sommelier’s selection of aperitifs was available to those who wanted a drink while they waited.

Beautiful drinks table set up and ready for serving.

An intricately built wooden house which forms part of the decor.

The area which we waited before being seated was so richly decorated.

Our first amuse bouche was a rice paper roll filled with vegetables, nuts and truffle mousse. We also had an avocado and cheese mousse. They were both delicious.

The spoon used to serve the amuse bouche was beyond pretty.

We had an adorable lunch booth for the next few hours of dining. Chef Chantel Dartnall came out to meet us and take us through the menu. The menu changes seasonally, we had the Celebrations of Spring menu. Mosaic offers two menus which are very reasonably priced. The market degustation has eight courses with the food costing R850, R425 for enthusiast wine pairing and R550 for connoisseur wine pairing. The grande degustation has eleven courses with the food costing R1250, R550 for enthusiast wine pairing and R685 for connoisseur wine pairing. We opted for the market degustation with non-alcoholic pairing for R155. I didn’t like the pairing as all the drinks had the same artifical taste to them. I did love that the natural spring water was complimentary.

The freshly baked bread selection included Aggie’s seed loaf, green olive rye bread, basil pesto & sundried tomato rolls, crusty polenta & calendula rolls and a cranberry & pear cheese bread.

There were a range of butters to try including Mooiriver salted farm butter, honey & cinnamon, anchovy & caper and lastly melon. I would recommend trying the salted butter with a flavoured bread and a flavoured butter with a plain bread as the butter flavour can be quite overwhelming. The honey & cinnamon and melon butters were quite sweet. I loved trying them out but I found them too sweet for the bread.

The set up for a romantic table for two. Doesn’t it look so quaint and intimate?

Cracker breads served with a cucumber juice. The cracker bread was pretty bland but i liked the juice.

This pretty platter contained macarons, madeleines, parmesan cheese, butter and an aubergine cone. The macarons and the madeleines are sweet so its a little like having your dessert first.

The oh so daunting wine list. I think this book is mainly for show as there is no way you would open this and pick out a wine. That is why there is a very clued up sommelier to suggest a wine should you not opt for the wine pairing.

I decided to be adventurous and try out the frogs in the pond amuse bouche with tempura frog legs, wild mushrooms and nettle jelly. They don’t taste like much but the thought of it being a frog and the oily batter put me off a bit. I am glad I tried it so I won’t ever have the urge to try it in say Paris. 

We received a detailed menu containing the name of each course, the inspiration behind it as well as the information on both wine pairings and non-alcoholic pairing.

Celebrations of spring is an ode to the European Chef Michael Bras. It’s a vegetable dish combining marinated and fresh young vegetables of the season. I loved how the dish certainly captured spring with its presentation. It tasted like a salad I make at home although mine isn’t so beautifully presented.

The Genesis course is inspired by life as we know it and made with a delicate outer layer of lemongrass and Japanese miso set around a fragrant sphere of rainbow trout surrounded by a burst of pomelo. I loved the combination of trout and pomelo presented beautifully with an added touch of dry ice for drama.

Mousse de Mer with rooibos, langoustines and risotto draws its inspiration from a walk on the beach. The langoustine shell is just for presentation as the meat is in the rooibos risotto below it. The tomato beach sand was delicious in combination with the langoustine risotto. I’m not sure what the brown accompaniment on the plate was but I didn’t like it.

The garden pea palate cleanser with matcha, sweet pea and lime draws inspiration by the abundance of fresh sugar snap peas grown in Mosaic’s garden. This was refreshing on the palate but super frozen and difficult to eat.

There are three main courses to choose from: quail, fish and beef. The birds of a feather course with quail, goose and capon draws its inspiration from a classic Coq au Vin. Free range Carmey King Quails are glazed with raw honey and an aged Italian balsamic. This is served with saffron scented tortellini filled with mushrooms. I really did not enjoy this main course except for the pasta and the foam which were delicious. The quail did not have much flavour and was extremely chewy. We could only manage to eat a little of each piece of meat. We were brought three other mini portions of quail in Le Creuset pots with the idea being that people can share mains. This was a little strange to me seeing that we ordered two quail and one fish I would have expected two portions of fish and one quail not all three being quail.

The bouillabaisse course with saffron, seasonal vegetables and kabeljou is inspired from visiting the Cote-d-or region of France where tasting this dish is a must. I found this dish highly inedible due to the flavours of the fish soup. Overall the mains were extremely disappointing and the reason I left a little hungry after our visit.

I love this cute teacup with TWG Sweet France ice tea which was paired with the bouillabaisse.

For dessert there was a choice between the cheese selection and chocolate cherry. You can choose five cheeses of the cheese trolley to be served with bread, figs, preserved orange and onion marmalade. There is a range of local and European cheese to choose from the highlights of which are the Epoisses de Bourgogne, (Napoleon’s favorite cheese), Belnori Phantom Forest and Dolcelatte Gorgonzola. The cheese course can be added to the market degustation at R185 supplement (a little expensive considering the tiny size of the cheese served-rather just skip the other dessert option).

Chocolate cherry course with Ivoire Vairhona chocolate and a composition of cherries. This dish is inspired by a pairing of velvety ivoire chocolate and a sweet port with an aftertaste of cherries discovered on a trip to Portugal. This dessert was yummy but mainly tasted of cherries as there was very little white chocolate on the plate. Timing was very off serving this course, the boys were almost done with their cheeses and this was served with ice-cream that had already begun to melt.

How cute is this washing line of sweets with Turkish delight, nougat and fudge. 

Macarons and Turkish delight petit fours.

Lollipops in the shape of flowers presented as flowers in a vase.

A picture of my fellow lunch companions. 

A present of sourdough bread to take home with us.

After lunch we went to check out one of wine cellars which boasts a an extensive collection of wine. 

I wish I had more time to spend in this beautifully decorated space. There was even a piano. 

In house guests can enjoy a plush and intimate cinema experience.

This personalized Rolls Royce is brought out for special occasions like weddings.

There is art to behold everywhere including beautiful sculptures.

Service was not up to scratch. The amuse bouche course and bread were served practically all at once in an ambush that didn’t afford us the opportunity of enough time to appreciate and enjoy what we were eating. The explanations of these courses which are not on the menu was often rushed. There was then a long wait till the first courses. In general the timing between courses didn’t feel evenly spread out. The pairing of one meal was not served until we had already started with our food and had to request it. We accidentally spilled the entire non-alcoholic pairing and was not offered another one. The sommelier forgot he had already served a wine pairing and attempt to do it again. There was also the wait for dessert and the pairings which were served way before the food arrived. Overall the service was very disorganized and not what I would expect from a top five restaurant.

The highlights include the beautiful setting, great dining area, delicious amuse bouche, detailed explanation of the menu, Chef Chantell coming out to meet us, a non-alcoholic pairing as well as a local and international wine pairing, wide selection of bread and butter, complimentary spring water, two different tasting menus, plenty of petit fours and bread to take home.

The low lights were the service and poor execution of timing, main courses and taste of the non-alcoholic pairing.

I had high expectations of Mosaic and left feeling a bit underwhelmed with the food. I enjoyed everything I ate apart from the mains but nothing wowed or stood out. The setting was beautiful and there were plenty of added extras but I expected something a little more extraordinary from the food and presentation.

Overall I would recommend you visit as its one of the few fine dining restaurants we have in Gauteng and it offers a little escape from day to day life. Its also a great place to splurge on for a special occassion. I would visit again when its a menu I like. Lunch is perfect for a day visit but I would recommend staying over for dinner as it would finish quite late and the roads are not great.

Click: https://www.restaurantmosaic.com/
Ring: (012) 371-2902
Hop: The Orient Boutique Hotel, Crocodile River Valley, Elandsfontein

Morocco & Mosaic,
CG

Skin Creamery Everyday Cream, Facial Cleansing Powder & Facial Oil Review

The Skin Creamery is a local skincare brand with very aesthetically pleasing packaging. I saw everyone rave about the everyday cream which is why I decided to try it. There are just five products in the range – everyday cream, facial cleansing powder, facial oil, skin tonic and oil-milk cleanser.

The packaging for the Skin Creamery Everyday Cream looks great but the glass bottle did irritate me as there was plenty of product (around 20%) left at the bottom that it wouldn’t pump out. The scent is very minty. When applied to my face I felt like I was in the movie Mean Girls since peppermint is usually reserved for feet. I don’t particularly like the scent but that is a personal choice. The texture is more liquid than the rich hydrating cream I expected it to be. When applied it doesn’t easily sink in and leaves your skin with a soapy sticky feeling. The Body Shop body butter is way more hydrating at a fraction of the price. 

Application to my face made me break out in the most horrible way that I have never experienced in my life before. My face was covered in little bumps filled with liquid which didn’t even go away after a week of discontinued use. I eventually had to apply plenty of cortisone and was left with a little scarring. When I checked the ingredients it completely made sense why I broke out. The product is packed with so many different oils which are sure to irritate your skin. People need to realize that just because something is natural doesn’t mean that it is good for you. I tried to apply this on the rest of my body but I realized it also made my whole body itch. If I didn’t wash my hands after applying, even the slightest contact with my face would cause it to break out. 

The funny part of this scenario is that I was stupid enough to buy three bottles of this crappy stuff which I am now stuck with. My fiancé also bought a bottle which he doesn’t use because it also makes him itchy. I contacted the owner who agreed to a refund and never followed through. Absolutely not so awesome service. This is what deters me from trying to support local, the horrendous customer service. Had this been from a department store I could have returned my unopened products without a problem and got a refund for the one that was opened. The Everyday Cream is the worst product I have ever bought in my life. I absolutely hate it. Should you choose to ignore my experience you can purchase a bottle for R285 and a refill for R250.

The Skin Creamery Baobab Bentonite and Buchu facial cleansing powder packaging is not practical at all. After only a few uses my cork is starting to crumble and disintegrate. It’s not very easy pouring the powder out and I inevitably end up pouring too much. There is wastage that happens from pouring it back as the powder spits back out when you close the cork. This product is just so messy and impractical to use. It is difficult to know how much powder and water to attain the right consistency. The scent resembles one I associate with old people, sickly sweet & powdery. There are little shells in this which serve to exfoliate but probably do more harm by creating tears in your skin. It leaves my skin squeaky clean. This is a quick fix if you are too lazy to use a mask as you feel a difference for one day only. You can purchase the facial cleansing powder for R250.

The Skin Creamery Jojoba, Melon seed and Baobab facial hydrating oil is different to other oils. This is because you should mix the oil with a few drops of water to activate and help absorption of the oil. I can’t tell the difference of this step except that it seems annoyingly unneccesary. This is a very light facial oil which didn’t feel hydrating or absorb easily. The facial hydrating oil retails for R295.

Overall I wasn’t impressed by the range and wouldn’t repurchase anything. I did learn three very valuable lessons:

Natural doesn’t mean that it’s better. Snake venom is natural and you wouldn’t use it on your skin.

Only purchase one item of a product you have not used before. 

Don’t trust product launches and beauty bloggers as they get the product for free and are paid usually without them disclosing it.

Click: http://www.skincreamery.co.za

Skin & Cream,
CG 

Topo Gigo

Topo Gigo is an Italian restaurant located in Greenside. The inspiration behind the name is no doubt based on the main character from a popular Italian puppet tv show with the same name. I definitely think the little mouse drawn below represents him. 

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The decor is understated with all the TVs bringing to mind that of a sports bar. We visited on a Saturday for lunch and it was very quiet. I expect that it gets busy much later on. 

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It seems to me that the real reason everyone visits are the half price jugs which are on special every day of the week just at different times. They might not taste like much but it’s probably the cheapest way to get drunk.

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Pizzas are a speciality here with close to 40 options for you to choose from and majority of them priced at under R100. The pizza we ordered resembled junk pizza with plenty of toppings and a very thick gooey cheese.

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I tried the calamari and chips. The chips were really delicious and seasoned well. Sadly the calamari was very average and didn’t taste fresh. 

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I spotted these stickers up on a wall and thought they were quite funny. 

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Topo Gigo can be best described as a place you go for drinks where food is just an after thought.

Click: http://topo-gigio.co.za
Ring: (011) 646-9573
Hop: 12 Gleneagles Road, Greenside

Topo & Gigo,
CG

Bellagio

Bellagio is a Mediterranean restaurant located in Illovo. The restaurant itself is classic and upmarket with seafood being their speciality.

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I am not too fond of the outside area which is very open and looks out onto the parking lot. Check out the Bellagio number plate sign in the parking bay.

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This is the smaller inside section. I found it strange that all the specials were displayed on the other side of the restaurant.

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Bellagio is a perfect spot for date night. I love the fresh flowers on the table.

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The restaurant is small and intimate with the wine on display and the specials written on a blackboard.

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A very clean yet chic table set up. 

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I love the huge complimentary bread basket that is served up.

Deep fried calamari served with home made tartare sauce for R175. We weren’t offered the option between tartare sauce and basil mayonnaise. The calamari was delicious and I couldn’t finish it.

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My mother loved the grilled kingklip served with lemon butter, rocket mash and veggies.

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I love this beautiful side dish of vegetables that isn’t overcooked spinach or butternut. 

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The size of the flame grilled queen prawns was disappointingly more like prince prawns. The seasoning also had a weird taste to it.

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Chargrilled calamari with ginger, chilli and lime for R175. I love the unique flavour combinations in this dish. 

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Prawn, coriander, ginger and chill stirfry for R175. This had the same flavour as the calamari. We really enjoyed this dish the first we ordered it. The second time it had more lemongrass shoots than anything else making it unpleasant to eat.

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Mixed seafood grill with prawns, kingklip, calamari and mussels served with lemon garlic and peri peri sauce. I feel that seafood platters are always disappointing. It’s generally a lot of different food with nothing done particularly well. This was no different. The calamari was rubbery & bland, the fish overdone and prawns had a strange taste yet again. It was only the mussels that had a nice flavour although quite dry. 

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Orange soufflé served with grand mariner cream was cooked perfectly with a very subtle orange flavour. The cream ruined the dish as it was very alcoholic. I personally prefer my desserts to be way more sweeter than this.

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Overall Bellagio offers a nice dining experience which is a little on the pricey side.

Ring: (011) 268 0869
Hop: Unit 1, Oxford Manor, 196 Oxford Road, Illovo

Bellagio & Illovo
CG

7 rude things people do in public

1. Wear sunglasses indoors. I absolutely do not get this ridiculousness unless you are going for the douche bag look. Maybe if you took your sunglasses off then you would see where you are going instead of being in everyone’s way. It’s also just so rude to be speaking to someone in a store with them on.

2. Smoke anywhere & everywhere. Smokers are as inconsiderate as they get. Don’t smoke in front of entrances or shared walking spaces where non-smokers have to pass by. I put smokers in the same category as people with body odour and personal hygiene problems. 

3. Have no sense of personal space. We have all experienced this standing in a queue. Someone stands too close to you, so you move away and then they get even closer. If your purpose is to climb into my body then you are probably not standing close enough. If not please repeat after me, standing closer to someone doesn’t get you to the front of the queue any faster. Speaking of queues don’t be a queue jumper!

4. Stand in the middle of nowhere. It makes no sense to me whatsoever why people will stop and stand in the middle of nowhere in everyone’s way. You can be just as stupid on the sidelines out of the way.  

5. Being unnecessarily noisy. There is no need for the entire restaurant to be involved in your group antics, no need for everyone sharing public transport to partake in your cellphone conversation and no need for the rest of the office to bob along to the music blasting from your earphones. 

6. Having no regards to rules. I don’t know why people think disobeying makes them cool. It isn’t school anymore. If it says no taking pictures, don’t take a flipping picture. Don’t trespass. Don’t sit in a seat you didn’t pay for. Pay your fines, pay your etolls and don’t bribe cops. It’s not difficult. 

7. No control over their kids. Now I know kids will be kids. We were all there and misbehaved but within some sort of reason. I can’t expect you to leave your kids at home so unfortunately we have to coexist in public spaces. While I don’t mind a crying baby I do mind kids who wreck havoc. They kick people, drop items in stores, touch people’s stuff with their dirty hands and sometimes are just in the way by rolling around on the couch while you trying a pair of shoes on. Don’t bring your kids to confined spaces where they will be bored and act out. Rather take them to Papachinos and do your shopping online. 

Common & People,
CG