Iconic, quirky and utterly beautiful – Sketch London has been one of my favourite dining experiences I have had in London. There are five rooms spread across a three-story Georgian style townhouse on Conduit Street, The Gallery, The Parlour and The Lecture Room and Library, The Glade and The East Bar.
My mum took me last June for my birthday, where we had dinner in the dreamy pink Gallery dining room. Founded in 2003 by Algerian born Mourad Mazouz, this venue has now become the most weird and wonderful spot to be in London. As soon as you enter the building, you come across a hop scotch and that is only the beginning of all the little quirks you are about to come across.
The Gallery is the flagship dining room within Sketch due to its candy-floss pink design from the ceiling to the bubblegum pink velvet armchairs with the only exception being the floor which is contrastingly a beautiful mix of white, cream, teal and navy marble with gold specs. It is a truly stunning room, all designed by India Mahdavi (I mean great name). Lining the walls is 293 art line illustrations by David Shrigley and even designs on the dining wear. This is one of the cool touches which Sketch London does so well. From the salt and pepper to the bottom of your desert bowl, words or sayings are on each dish.
We ordered two cocktails as we were celebrating and starting to look at the menu. Maybe we looked confused but the staff were very attentive and helped us work through the menu, asking what we liked and recommended dishes to us. Pre-vegan days, I opted down the fish list, whilst my mum looked for a meat option.
We began our meal with campagne sourdough mixed cereal bread and Abernethy salted butter. Followed by our dinner and then tiramisu for two dessert. Do remember if you do get the chance to go, order the mash on the side. It needs to explanation to why once you have had a spoonful of this creamy, potato heaven! I mean it was my birthday and it is not every day you are lucky enough to celebrate at Sketch London, so we were making the most of it! I even had a glass of champagne also which they poured in the most amazing way, from a very great height lets just say that.
Not only did we get to experience the iconic Gallery restaurant but even the toilets are a unique experience. You pee in a pod, literally. It definitely has to be one of the weirdest toilet experience to date in my 22 years. Under a multi-coloured ceiling, similar to a disco dance floor, large egg-shaped pods are scattered around, where inside the toilet awaits. Even the mirrors above the sinks are quirky! You could visit Sketch London just for the toilets themselves.
I would really love to go back to Sketch London and try all the other stunning bars and restaurants but I would also like to go back to The Gallery and have afternoon tea.
It was such a lovely afternoon with my lovely mum, celebrating my birthday and one that I will cherish forever! I hope everyone gets to experience the mad hatter world of Sketch London. From the decoration, to the staff, to the food, to the drink – it was exceptional.
This week has been a great week for working out! They have been hard, sweaty and I definitely can tell that I have been pushing myself that bit further. I must admit, I do go a little easier in fear I cannot do it. But something has changed in me. I am on it! Feeling strong and have kept on track with the food side of things also, which is mainly what I struggle with.
Lets get to it then.
PM – The shake off the weekend cardio class. This workout only really would work in a group as you each do one thing and carry on the other moves until the whole group has each done that move.
Round 1 / each person in the group does 20 burpees / whilst each person takes turns to do their burpees the rest of the group do 10 wall balls / 10 star jumps / 10 lunges
Round 2 / same concept with only 15 burpees / 10 kettlebell swings / 10 jump squats / 10 tuck jumps
AM – I actually had a personal training session on Tuesday, which was fun, with Sam from Renegade gym, as I just feel like I need some extra guidance on how to achieve my goals.
Barbell strict overhead press 5 x 10 (30kg) / Cable overhead press 21, 18, 15, 12 with a-frame press ups in between each rep for 10 / Cable overhead press dropset for as many reps as possible x 3 / Lateral raise 3 x 12 (5kg)
AM – Burn baby, burn! And, did this burn. I still have an achey neck now from the amount of wall balls…
Bench chest press 5 x 5 (42.5kg) / 150 calorie row taking turns in pairs (if doing workout on your own, you could just do 75 calories) / 150 wall balls (6kg ball I used) and then every time you pause or put the ball on the floor you have to do a 200 meter run (!!)
I managed 75 wall balls in a row, which left me feeling very dizzy lol. Then did the rest in 2 goes. So, overall, I ran three times.
PM – Again this class was based on a group but you could just use this as a circuit. Similar layout to Mondays class with the time it takes for one person to do their exercise, you keep going with your exercise until they are done.
300 meter row (timer for rest of group) / butterfly sit-ups / kettlebell USA swings (overhead) / dumbbell thrusters / do this circuit three times
120 calories row race / we did this between four people.
PM – In all honesty, lacking motivation on this day, this was not my best workout of the week.
Barbell bent over rows 12/10/6/3 (increasing weight, 45kg for me) / hammer curls 12 x 3 (7kg) / banded bicep curls 3 x 20 (me and sammy basically did half of these…)
AM – My favourite class of the week – squat Saturdays. I love this class because George, who runs it, is also pushing you to try that little bit harder and it is jam packed full of exercises. Safe to say, my legs hurt today!
Wall balls followed by jump squats 12 x 3 / barbell back squats 10/8/6/3/1 (I hit a PB and managed 105kg 1 rep max) / back squat drop set 12/18 (I did 80kg then 60kg) / leg extension 3 x 15 with goblet squats (20kg) 3 x 15 / leg press 3 x 6-10 (however, me and Heather, tried 2 reps are 300kg! And smashed it) / weighted walking lunges 2 x 2 lengths with still leg deadlifts 2 x 12 (dead by this point, I did 6kg with the lunges and 40kg with the deadlifts)
Finally, giving myself a rest day!
Totally have the gym bug at the moment and I am absolutely loving each and every workout. Even when I am not really putting 110% into my workouts (aka, Friday), I still went and felt so much better for going and at least putting in 80% effort!
Last week was a good week as it involved two brunch dates. One at Chia for pancake day and one to Cultivo Lounge in Letchworth. In the heart of the town, this cafe is the perfect spot for meeting friends, drinking coffee and even having a cocktail or two.
We were meeting my cousin and her little one – Theo. But we also had two pooches with us so needed a place to meet that was dog-friendly. Luckily for us, Colvito Lounge was just the place and even has little dog treats on the side! Not only did we need somewhere good for dogs and young ones but also with at least one vegan option for myself. What a bunch we are aye. However, they pulled through not with just one option on the menu for vegans but a whole menu for vegans! So, Coltivo Lounge is good for those on two legs or four, aged two or 55, herbivores or carnivores.
We settled into plush velvet couches, surrounded by tassel hanging lampshades all over the shop and cool prints and mirrors covering the walls. It is packed with character, charm and quirky touches, bit like myself!
The vegan menu was also on the table amongst the others, which is much so much better than having to go up to the bar and ask for one! It also had so many options to choose from, I was sat staring at it for a good ten minutes before I could even narrow down my options.
Deciding to go down a healthier route, I opted for the vegan falafel salad with butternut squash, wood-roasted peppers, cucumber, edamane beans, black quinoa, mixed leaves, coriander and French vinaigrette dressing. I also had two oat milk flat whites which were, I think, the best flat whites I have ever had. I know, that was a big statement I just made…
When you order a salad, you are slightly gutted because it is a salad and really you do not fancy it. You are simply trying to make a better choice (especially when it is your second meal out of the week). Well, that is often my thinking! But, no word of a lie, this salad was so good! The falafel was baked perfectly, the quinoa was covered in a beautifully sweet vinaigrette and I just love edamame beans so it was a winner for me. My mum and cousin had the halloumi and falafel version, which they enjoyed equally as much.
Overall, our ladies lunch date was perfect thanks to Coltivo Lounge. But sadly, no brunches this week?! Have no fear my lovely readers, next week I am in London for two days which means one thing – food!
I have been home now from travelling for over four months. But as soon as I got home, it was like I had never even been? Not one for being quizzed, I loved hearing about what everyone else has been up to. Life went on, I signed back up to the gym, I went back to work and daily life continued on without much thought about what a big deal it kind of was?! It is only since someone said to me, “how mad was it that you went to Australia?” that I started thinking, yes, that was mad! I went to Bali and Australia all on my own.
Now, I know that really this is not that big a deal. I know people who have left for god knows how long, and I only went for a tiny dent of that time but it is the fact I still packed my bags and went. Personally, for me, I love to travel and experience the different cultures but I do not know if I could do that length of time, over the other side of the world for so long? Especially for my first trip. Just over three months was the perfect step for me.
So, this post is a reflection on my time as a solo traveller.
I was meant to go with a friend from home but as it turned out being it was not meant to be as she got ill and other things got in the way. Luckily, she is back to full fighting health and even got to do her stint of solo travelling! But I do think it was a blessing in disguise that we went separately. It would have been a completely different experience and looking back at my time away, I would not have wanted it any differently. Being solo forced me to be social, forced me to step out of that comfort zone and take risks you would not take if you had the comfort of a friend. It also enabled me to do what the hell I wanted! If I wanted to go to bed at 9pm (in true party style), I could. If I wanted to stop and have endless cups of coffee, I could. And if I wanted to go anywhere and do anything, I could. That is the beauty of travelling on your own. It is flexible and completely up to you.
All the people I met being away were my highlights! I made friends with people I never would have made friends with if I was not on my own. Once I had got into the flow of just being myself, I was chatting to everyone. I have got the traveller conversation nailed… What’s your name? Where are you from? How long are you away for? Are you going up or down the coast? How long are you at this hostel for? If you have stayed in hostels and travelled, I bet you have had that exact same conversation at least 20 times!
Rosa and Alex, were two girls I pretty much spent a whole month with and we would all get upset if one of us choose to stay somewhere for one day longer and then would be all happy again when we were reunited. It was hard to say goodbye to these amazing ladies but I am sure I will see them again. I also made friends with Tom in hostel bus after the Greyhound, Sean in a exercise class in a hostel, Ali over a box of goon, Jada on the Uncle Brians Tour in Cairns and Mary on our skydive. So many people make your experience whilst you are travelling and I know you would meet people if you were travelling with other people but being on my own made me chat to anyone who would sit next to me and I loved that aspect sometimes (yes, sometimes, if you carry on reading lol).
Really it is such a bizarre concept staying in hostels, sleeping in a room with people you have never met from around the world. But the people you met, are those who you would never have the chance to meet at home and that is one big highlight for me!
Another highlight for me was having that peace and quiet when you needed it. Travelling can be tiring. You are constantly surrounded by people and constantly trying to make some sort of conversation. Truthfully, the only time you are completely on your own is when you are in the toilet. The full door toilet, not even them cubicle ones. I remember in Melbourne, one girl even said she was so fed up with talking to people that one time she sat in the toilet and read her book for an hour just to have a break. For me I went the beach or the park but each to their own hey!
I remember one afternoon in St Kilda, Melbourne, I laid down for near enough two hours staring into the sky, relaxing my body and thinking about everything going on. It was beautiful. I also did this on the beach in Byron Bay one morning. If I was not on my own, I would not be able to do this (well, not without feeling a little bit bad). Taking a break where necessary is a hidden beauty of going on your own.
My not so highlights…
I had many lows when I was away. More lows in Australia than I did in Bali. I think this was primarily down to being on my own in Australia, compared to Bali, where I was with a big group of bloody amazing girls. Not having an organised day or group, made you have to make an effort and sometimes you were faced with a true sense of loneliness. Everyone you meet, is at a different point in their travelling experiences. I met people who were itching to meet people and go exploring but then I also met people who were on their second year, working and the novelty of the excited traveller had worn off.
I found this happened more in cities like Sydney or Brisbane, where people based themselves for jobs. Especially in Brisbane, I was hit square in the face with loneliness. It was horrible and an experience I really wish not to have again. Do not get me wrong, the city was lovely and I spent three days doing some fun things like seeing a circus show, eating I think the best pizza, petting joey’s and watching fireworks but I also cried in the cinema toilets, looked for tickets home and just wished I was moving to the next place already. I did not expect it to hit me like it did. You feel silly too (well I know I did) because I was in Australia?! Australia! Living the dream and travelling and you could not moan or be upset to those at home, in the cold, working hard. But honestly, talk to people. Let them know you are feeling low and they can send you virtual hug. Also, do things you enjoy. Yes, I may have cried in the cinema toilets but I also love the cinema and saw a really good film – Crazy Rich Asians.
I also had this feeling in Byron Bay. It was my first night after the overnight bus from Sydney, where I had the most amazing few days with Cole, and I had spent all of my first day in Byron Bay on the beach, alone. That evening, I cooked dinner and felt brave enough to go into the social area. All I saw was people on their phones (one time I think they are a curse travelling) or in big groups (intimidating…) and ended up rushing back to my bunk, feeling like a complete loser at travelling. I text my friend, Jessamyn, saying I can’t make friends and I am being unsociable. Upsettingly saying to her I thought travelling would be all party, party, party. But like she said, you do not need to make friends. You have friends at home! This was just what I needed to hear. Why was I putting such a pressure on myself to make friends? So, if you ever have this feeling of not making friends, just remember your friends at home waiting for you and simply remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day, ready for new adventures. You are there to see the sights and when you stop worrying so much, I found I relaxed and was able to speak to people. This early night was actually followed by two of my most favourite nights travelling, so it is proof it works!
No experience is smooth sailing and we all need them times were we are suffering to realise what we are made of. So, as much as I did not like the low points I had, they made my trip what it did and made me stronger for future ones. I am still amazed I actually went. But even though I have been to the other side of the world on my Tod, I still get incredibly nervous to do things on my own. I am not now this independent women, I get nervous going to bloody London or have spent the last few months deciding what to do next and whether I could do that trip on my own (totally forgetting I have done it before…). We often forget what we have achieved when we get more concerned with worry about the future, filling our heads with self-doubt. I remember feeling so incredibly nervous waiting at Heathrow Airport for my flight to Bali but then I also felt incredibly nervous waiting for my flight home, wondering what is next for me? As deep as this will sound, you are solo in life, whether you are in Boxfield Green or a hostel in the depths of Cape Tribulation being bitten alive by mossies! I somehow managed to get the courage to go away solo then and now I need to get the same courage to do my next trip or next step in life and my time away solo has taught me that for me, India Paine, this is possible.
That took a turn there at the end but that is me always going off on tangents! If you want to travel solo, I highly recommend but just expect you have to take the rough with the smooth. However, it will be the most amazing time.
My week in workouts! I am thinking of making this a regular Sunday blog post and trying to incorporate more health and fitness into Stories of Adventure, as it is a big passion of mine and something, at the moment, I am doing regularly. Let me know what you think or whether you prefer to see more travel related posts?
This week I have worked out 6 times. Six times a week tends to be what I am doing at the moment, however, I did do a double session on Monday. So, I have technically only been to the gym 5 times, which has been quiet nice to have 2 days off.
It has been a tough week of workouts and I am starting to see more definition in my abdominal muscles but over the next 6 weeks I am really trying to lean out, as I do feel I have put on some extra fat in certain areas, ready to go to Seville in April. I am calling it #6weekstoseville – my new mini series – and I am planning to show/track my workouts, how I feel and food!
Less of me rambling and on to the week in workouts…
AM – upper body / pull-ups 3 x AMRAP / barbell bent over rows 4 x 10 / cable lateral pull 4 x 12 / rows / 4 x 12 / lateral raises 4 x 8 (heavy I use 6kg) drop set straight away and do 4 x 15 (light weight I used 4kg) / bicep curls 3 x 15 / tricep dips 3 x 15
PM – cardio / 5 x 10 calorie watt bike (horrific, actually thought I was going to throw up) / 200 meter run followed by kettle swings 30 reps x 5 (together)
PM – Iron class / pull-ups 5 x 5 / handstand push-up 5 x 5 (amazed I could actually do these against the wall) / floor chest press 4 x 8 / deficit push-up 4 x 12 / renegade rows 3 x 10
AM – Blitz class / round 1 x 3 / 400 meter row / 15 deadlift (40kg) / 15 burpees / 15 push-ups / round 2 x 3 / 15 calorie watt bike / 15 overhead press (20kg) / 15 jump squats / 15 wall balls (6kg)
Thursday – rest day!
PM – Did my own upper-body work out inspired by NaturallyStephanie / cable chest press 3 x 15 / incline dumbbell flies 3 x 15 (6kg) / incline chest press 3 x 15 (12.5kg) / round 1 x 5 / 10 overhead press / 20 kettlebell squats / 20 upright row / 15 press up / round 2 x 3 / 8 hanging leg raises / 10 cable oblique twists / 10 cable chest press
AM – Squat Saturdays (my favourite class of the week) / wall balls 3 x 15 (in pairs, whilst partner doing wall balls you do body weight squats) / squats 5, 5, 3, 1 (increasing weight – I hit another PB of 100kg!!) / 20 x 3 cable goblet squats / 12 x 3 leg press / 12 x 3 split leg squat (12.5kg each side) / 12 x 3 leg extension… legs are sore today!
Sunday – Rest day! Not planned but we had been out Saturday night and I missed the 9am class… oops. I did go for a walk though and battling the gale force winds was a workout within itself!
International women’s day is upon us! A day to celebrate the amazing women which paved the way to a better future for us, the women working tirelessly to make change, the women who you meet for coffee, the women who are your mum’s and all the other trailblazing women there are in this world today.
There really are some truly inspiring women today and I think it is so amazing also, that you can follow them on social media. Which more often than not leads me down the road of becoming a complete fan girl, scrolling down until I am back in 2010 or something… Admit it we have all been there!
To celebrate such a day, I thought I would tell you my ultimate female inspirations.
She started one of my favourite magazines at the age of 22, whilst still undertaking her third year of university in Paris. Now, her innovative and beautifully crafted magazine is printed in 35 different countries alongside their ever-expanding website bursting with content. To take such a big step, where you have had to learn everything about the magazine industry, is truly inspiring and something, as a magazine journalist, would love to do. She had a passion, found a niche and went for it! Being 22 myself now, I am blown away buy her guts to just go for it. Taking inspiration from that, let alone all the other achievements Suitcase magazine has achieved.
If you speak to me often, you will know I speak about Venetia a lot. She is my go-to podcast (Talking Tastebuds), YouTube channel and Instagram for all things sustainable, plant-based and food related. Her views on sustainability and the clothing industry have made me question my purchasing habits, which I never thought would happen, and made me think twice about the things I am consuming. Not only this but she is super cool and so creative with her food. I mean, just look at that bowl of goodness below…
Sorry, another plant-based inspired pick but Ella Mills and her husband Matt, of Deliciously Ella have done so so well in building their brand and changing the way people see plant-based or vegan food. I recently bought their cookbook, which contains their whole business story, and it was really inspiring to see how they got started to where they are now. They simply began in a tiny kitchen serving their dishes through delivery apps to having their own deli in the center of London, a range of frozen meals and protein balls and two cook books, which is growing into three. I am also a big fan of their podcast where they discuss all issues surround health and well being, including lessons in happiness, diet myths unpicked and marathon training 101.
Selfies at five in the morning, stories of her doing yoga at sunrise and images with wonky pears – this is why I love Fearne. She tells it how it is. She uses Instagram how it is meant to be used, uploading relatable and unstaged images, creating the instant effect. Her captions also have a big impact, speaking a lot about her mental health and the daily life of Fearne Cotton. Her unfiltered way she uses social media I think is inspirational within itself. (Also, another one with a great podcast… Happy Place)
I did not know much about Bryony, until I was listening to a podcast where she was a guest and was speaking about her experience with mental health and running (she ran a marathon in her undies – amazing). Interested by what she was saying, that night I started reading her book, Eat, Drink, Run. I think I finished it within a few days, I was so engrossed. She has suffered so much with her mental health and the way she has gained so much confidence through running is so motivating. Her story really brings to light how much people can be affected by mental health. Not only has she wrote books sharing her experiences but she has raised money for charity, created a meet-up with people sharing the same mental health experience which has gone world-wide and she completely is herself on social media which I think is amazing. I love her – simply put. Also, her and her husband make me laugh in the book! Highly recommend reading.
Loraine and Sian Paine
Awww, I had to include my mum and sister! Wonder women in my eyes. They both work so hard, look after their homes and deal with me (lol I know can be hard) and are both so loving and kind. What I would do without them both, I do not know. But they constantly inspire me so I saved the best till last.
Wasn’t pancake day good! I mean, I and my mum did not even bother to attempt to make them, we chose the sensible choice and decided to head out for elevenses pancakes. We are not just pretty faces, we knew somewhere else would make them better than we ever could!
Already in the area, we went to my absolute favourite cafe – Chia Naturally Healthy. A cozy plant-based health cafe in the center of Hitchin. So aka, we had healthy pancakes…
Every time I have visited this cafe I have had the most delish food so it is no wonder they have been voted top three of The Sunday Times best plant-based cafes.
For pancake day they were also offering not only 10% off pancakes but also had two exclusive flavour toppings. Pancakes on offer were…
Coconut sugar and lemon
Banana, pecan and maple syrup
Cinnamon and blueberries
Thankfully the words, “shall we get two different and share” come out of my mum’s mouth and I was at the counter ordering one maple and pecan, one blueberry and cinnamon. Coconut sugar and lemon sounded lovely too but I mean if I am going for pancakes, I want all the toppings! We also had an English breakfast tea with oat milk and a matcha latte with coconut milk.
My excitement was building when they arrived and we tucked straight into the three-stack, heavily (thank god) topped pancakes. I was in almond butter heaven and we were switching forks trying to decide which ones we preferred. Both equally as good I reckon and thinking to myself what a great idea this was whilst trying to savour every last bite.
Eyes bigger than my belly, I also ordered a slice of their ginger cake to-go… I mean by the time I am writing this blog post (2:30pm) I have had a sneaky spoonful and I mean it is safe to say the cake will not be there for long!
Once again, Chia Naturally Healthy has wowed my tastebuds and I am itching to go back already!
Not only do they do pancakes but they do a whole range of tasty, wholesome food from burgers to smoothie bowls, to beetroot lattes to protein smoothies.
I am beyond happy that this gem is in Hertfordshire and I highly recommend a visit if you are nearby, even if you are not plant-based.