Stories of 2019 #51

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.

Stories of 2019 #45

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.

What did you top your pancakes with?

Stories of 2019 #37

The land of endless enchantment, where your ultimate Disney fantasy’s become reality.

As soon as I stepped into this park, I was mesmerized. Walking down Main Street with a smile on my face and my eyes wide to take everything in. It truly is the most magical place on earth. All my senses were going. I could hear people singing, see the iconic castle at the end of the street from the parade square, smell the delicious buttery popcorn from the stand and feel the sun beating down on my skin.

Where to begin? There is so much to do in this park from places to eat (honestly if I had not just eaten a massive buffet breakfast I would have eaten my way around the park), shopping and then there are the characters and rides! Our guide took us straight to Space Mountain before we had to meet the group at the castle for photographs. In Tomorrowland this thrill roller-coaster dips and whips around in the darkness as you shoot off in your rocket to space. Queue screaming…

Nothing like a fast roller-coaster to shake up the breakfast! After getting the adrenaline hit of the first ride of the next four days we went to the iconic Cinderella castle. Surrounded by lush rose gardens and a tranquil moat, the magical castle is the perfect place to get your perfect Disney photo.

We did not get to go inside the castle but they showed us from the outside the windows to the Cinderella suite. Imagine staying inside the suite! There is also the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where fairy godmothers can sprinkle their magical dust and transform you into a prince or princess. Or, dine with Cinderella, Belle and all the other Disney princess’s at Cinderella’s Royal Table.

We were so lucky also to have such beautiful weather.

But it was only to get better as we were led to a private rose garden just opposite the castle. And believe it or not, we were greeted by a very very special character. Cinderella herself had met us in the rose garden! Pretty as a picture she was.

Photos complete, me and my hair were ready to be thrown around on some rides. Starting off on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train before screaming our way around Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain and The Haunted Mansion. Then, we took a more relaxed route and went on “It’s a small world” as well as, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spinner.

One of the highlights of having the VIP Disney tour guides is that there is little to no waiting for rides, which is unheard of at Walt Disney World. You all have fastpass+ so you manage to get lots of rides done within probably the time you are queuing without it. I once remember we queued for three hours for the Peter Pan ride back in 2004!

With time to spare before the Festival of Fantasy parade we stopped for lunch. We went to Gaston’s Tavern and had, I think the world’s largest cinnamon bun. I cannot describe to you how amazing this warm, dreamy cinnamon bun was. Alongside this swirl of cinnamon dough heaven I had LeFou’s Brew. It was a must whilst there, so rude not to.

Topped up on sugar, we went to the parade. A celebration of your favourite Disney music and characters dancing their way through the Magic Kingdom. Be sure to spot Mickey and Minnie Mouse in a huge hot-air balloon, Alice in Wonderland chasing after her rabbits and Maleficent on her fire-breathing dragon!

And the excitement just continued as we headed to the Town Square Theater where we were fortunate enough to meet the duo Minnie and Mickey in their celebration outfits. This is a once in a life-time opportunity as you do not often get to meet them both together so be sure to meet them before the 30th September.

Turning dark, we finished off the busy day at the Magic Kingdom with the most spectacular firework display above the castle. Happily Ever After is a dazzling journey of colour, light and music that bought me and many others to tears. There is nothing more special than this firework extravaganza. Simply memorizing. Take your 3D glasses too to see the secret Mickey’s!

I know what you are thinking… India you have not had sugar in a while are you feeling OK? I know my cinnamon bun was what only a few hours ago? But do not worry, America have us covered and we arrived home to a cake on our bed!! I could get used to this life easily.

Tomorrow – Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios and of course, more sugar fueled treats!

Stories of 2019 #35

What an incredible trip I have recently had to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was truly MAGICAL! And yes, it deserves to be in capital letters because it was the most unbelievable week.

I have been to Walt Disney World before back in 2005 when I was only eight but I only remember a few things such as breakfast with Minnie and going on Splash Mountain and it being an amazing trip. However, going back as an adult, I found it so much more special. Previously we stayed in a villa just outside of Disney World but for this trip, I stayed in the Animal Kingdom Lodge and it was so special. I mean it was a dream waking up in the morning, stepping out onto your balcony and spotting giraffes!!

Here are some gems from my previous trip to Walt Disney World. Look how young we look!! These beauties are scanned in from the Florida photo album ha ha.

My friend Jess took me on her trip and we had such a lovely time. We flew out of Gatwick airport last Monday at 11:40am. Both very excited we bounded into the airport early in the morning, met the others who were also on the trip and got all set for our 9-hour flight to Orlando!

The time flew by (literally), especially with good films and food. Afternoon tea miles high in the sky was a particular highlight for me, with Rodda’s clotted cream too… Virgin knows how to do a proper scone.

Once we had arrived at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, we were greeted by Zoe and Dave – the amazing Disney PR’s that took care of us – in the grand lobby of the hotel with our magic bands and hotel packs. They took us to our rooms and that is when the excited screams began…

Towels, pillowcase, Minnie ears, personalised hats and tons of sweet goodies – Thank you, Mickey! We were completely spoilt from the word go. The room was wonderful, all African inspired with wooden interiors and quirky wallpaper with animals and mountains on.

It was quite late by the time we had reached the hotel and settled in but around 7pm we all met for dinner. The first meal was within a restaurant at the hotel called Jiko – the African cooking place. Food that was vibrant, spicy and packed full of flavours paired with South African wines set for a lovely evening.

To start, me and Jess shared the Inguday Tibs in Brik which was a samosa-like dish. Mushroom and spinach in a crispy Tunisian filo pastry with apple and curry vinaigrette. Following this for main I had the West African Koki Corn. Mushrooms and avocado on a poblano-tomatillo puree with roasted red pepper sauce matched with a smooth, rich red wine.

But jet-lag hit the group and everyone headed to bed as some stayed behind and had a slice of white chocolate cake – the first signs that I would not feel hunger for the next five days. Not long after we headed back to the room, excited for what was to come the next day when we were off for breakfast with the characters and a day in the Magic Kingdom!

Stories of 2019 #24

The food of the Gods… Hummus!

Roasted red pepper, Moroccan, sun-dried tomato, caramelised onion, avocado, the list goes on. I am a lover of hummus. I even went to a hummus restaurant over the other side of the world. The Hummus Club in Northbridge, Perth if you live that way!

Hummus is soooo easy to make, with only two ingredients for a basic hummus – chickpeas and tahini. But for this hummus, I have mixed it up. Instead of chickpeas, I have used butterbeans. In my opinion, it actually tasted much nicer than using chickpeas as it was smoother and not so thick.

I added in garlic granules and a pinch of salt with my 250 grams of butter beans and 20 grams of tahini before blitzing it all with my hand-held blender.

Would you believe it is that easy to make and much cheaper than shop bought.

It passed the taste test by me and my rice cakes anyway and that is all that matters haha.

Stories of 2019 #17

I confess. I am a smoothie bowl addict. I do not care if they contain hundreds of hidden calories, they look and they taste bloody delicious! Pink, purple, blue, Halloween themed, topped with heaps of peanut butter, fruit, granola (best part), flowers, who knows you may even find a mermaid in the depths of a smoothie bowl. I mean there are even Instagram accounts dedicated to the smoothie bowl… How can you resist when they look THAT good.

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Yummy Blue Smoothie Bowl by @isiaaak

A post shared by Smoothie Bowl Recipes (@smoothiebowls) on

You do have to go out and source a smoothie bowl if you want them to look good, unless you are just a domestic goddess and can blend up something as good as this. I know I can’t, so I go on the global smoothie bowl hunt.

They became popular in 2016 and was a huge Instagram trend due to their drool-worthy look. But what really is a smoothie bowl I hear you ask? Well, it is a mix of frozen fruit, vegetables and other so-called superfoods such as yogurt, avocado and oats. This forms a ice-cream like texture, so instead of putting your smoothie in a cup and drinking with a straw, you pour it into a bowl and eat it with a spoon. Then it is time for the crown jewels – the beautiful toppings that are carefully placed sometimes in lines on top of your smoothie, which can be pretty much anything. The aim of the smoothie bowl is supposedly to make you eat more mindfully as you cannot gulp it down – unless you want brain freeze…

However, they are said to be very high in sugar so maybe consume in moderation.

I have to say, not to blow my own trumpet, but I like to now call myself the global smoothie bowl connoisseur. Ubud, Canguu, Byron Bay, London, Townsville, Hitchin, I mean do I need to convince your further? Joking, when I am making smoothie bowls good enough to go on the smoothie bowl accounts, I know then I am the connoisseur.

Anyway, here are where I have had the delicious smoothie bowl.

The Avocado Factory, Canguu // Avo Island Smoothie Bowl
Watercress, Ubud // Acai Superfood Smoothie Bowl
Puri Garden Hotel and Hostel, Ubud // Smoothie Bowl
NUUT Nutrition Bar, Fremantel WA // Nourishing Glow Bowl
Acai Brother, Byron Bay // Ain’t Nothin’ Butter Bowl
The Beet Bar, Townsville // Peanut Butter Swirl
Pluk, Amsterdam // Unicorn Acai Bowl
Feya, London // Pastel Rainbow Smoothie Bowl
Chia Cafe, Hitchin // Acai Smoothie Bowl

By the looks of things I need to take my own advice and think about moderation ha ha. Now make sure you share your smoothie bowls with me and I can go and try too!

Stories of 2019 #11

Turquoise seas, white sand beaches and hidden fairy pools – Noosa is a must visit spot when on your East Coast Australia road trip!

Noosa National Park, Australia

Located appropriately on the Sunshine Coast, Noosa is the go-to destination for the fellow Aussies but for a first-timer Australia is big, if you hadn’t notice, so finding the right places to stop at can be hard.

For me, it was sandwiched between the city of Brisbane and the small town of Rainbow beach (mainly used for Fraser Island). I found that Noosa was the perfect place to practice your surfing, do a spot of shopping or fill up on delicious food from Hastings Street.

As a typical backpacker, I stayed at Flashpackers on Pacific Avenue. I have to say this was one of the best hostels I stayed at during my three months away. Family run, small and had all the amenities any backpacker could dream of! They had breakfast each day and even held a cheese and wine night whilst I was there. See, who said backpackers had to slum it!

The hostel was around a 10-minute walk to the bus station, where you pick up the Greyhound bus, and the liquor store (result). And, then a further 10 minutes walk was the main area of Noosa, Hastings Street.

I had some delicious meals here in Noosa, mainly for lunch as I would often cook in the evening. If you walk along Hastings street or the beachfront you will find plenty of places to stop and have a bite to eat. For me, I choose Blended Health Bar, Raw and Rice and Noosa Acai Brothers.

I also walked off this delicious food with the 6.5km walk along the picturesque coastline, from Sunshine beach to Noosa Heads main beach. I spotted whales and dolphins jumping about in the sea. It is said you can also see koala bears in the trees but unfortunately we did not see any. You have to really keep your eye out for them!

The main part of the walk I was looking forward too was finding the fairy pools. A wild swimming spot where the waves have filled deep pools in the rocks with the bluest water. The perfect spot for a refreshing dip after a long, hot walk. It was not too busy when I was there, as I hear it can get super busy with lots of tourists trying to also get in the pools. Thankfully, for us there was only a handful of people jumping in and out, myself included!

Noosa Fairy Pools // I am in there by the rocks!

Now you have walked your daily quota of 10,000 steps, it is time to chill on the beach. Lie back on your beach towel and listen to the Laguna Bay waves as they crash against the sand. Writing this is making me wish I was right there, right now! It is also an excellent spot to watch as the surfers ride the waves or, like me, catching the waves into the shore with the bodyboard. Noosa is one of the best spots for surfing and attracts plenty of them long-haired, toned surfers! Especially in March when they hold their annual Festival of Surfing. Sounds terrible to me *wink wink*. If you don’t fancy the main beach and want something a little more private, Noosa has plenty more to offer. Check out Visit Noosa for more information.

That is all I got up too on my few days in Noosa but there is also the Noosa Everglades, where you can go kayaking. Some friends from the hostel did a tour of the Everglades and said it was lovely. So another one to add to your list of recommendations from this post.

I did really enjoy Noosa, apart from here I was chased by a magpie down the road! A genuinely terrifying moment in my life ha ha. But my time to get back on the Greyhound bus came around too quickly but at least I left wanting more.

More Australia posts to come!