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Bonnie Gull Seafood Bar, Exmouth Market

I’m a big seafood fan, but because it’s generally expensive for shellfish and I wouldn’t know how to cook a whole crab if it crawled into my oven and shouted out directions, I never make my own.

So when I saw Bonnie Gull Seafood Bar had relaunched, I got flashbacks of food envy at reading the Londoner’s blog, and immediately booked in a table.

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It’s tucked away on Exmouth Market, which is King’s Cross way. I live near Wimbledon, so this was no mean feat to get there- especially considering I had to drag Jonathan round the Piccadilly line moaning “why are we going this far for posh fish and chips?” the whole time.

When we eventually rocked up, our chirpy waiter seated us and explained the Bonnie Gull concept, and more importantly, the daily specials.

We opted for five dishes, all from the Sea section of the menu (when in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in a seafood bar, leave the steak behind). Potted clams, beef dripping chips (to die for), a mackeral pate with sourdough, fillet of mackerel with gnocchi, and, the main event- Smash your own crab.

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Jonathan’s eyes lit up when the waiter delivered a board of freshly caught and freshly cooked crab, complete with hammer, and crazy claw crushers. It was like playtime and dinnertime rolled into one, and all complaints about the tube crowds and the rain were replaced with joyous smashing. The meat was wonderful- light, fresh and lots of it. Who says you shouldn’t play with your food?

I ordered my first ever Bloody Mary, and I know I have friends who may disown me for this, but I really didn’t like it. I’m sure the quality of the Bonnie Mary is just fine, but I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy drinking a savoury drink. First and last!

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On the plus side, the Bonnie Mary came with a fresh Britsh oyster, ready for knocking back. Unsure of oyster etiquette, I gave it a sort of quick half chew before swallowing, meaning what should’ve been a moment of luxury- elegance at a push- was actually more of a brief choking and glamorous eye watering. Totally worth it.

Overall, I loved Bonnie Gull. It’s ditsy sixties seaside decor and the novelty of playing with tools to get to your lunch makes it a real contender for dates, and it’s smart enough to show off to your foodie mates too.

If you’re going to go, my recommendation would be to get the whole Smash Your Own Crab (we got the half) and a couple of sides/things to pick at, and you have to promise me you’ll handle your oyster better than I did.

Bonne Gull Seafood Bar

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Dirty Bones London

In my opinion, the best way to spend a celebratory evening is by feeding and watering your nearest and dearest. Luckily for me, that’s also how Dirty Bones London wanted to spend it’s one year anniversary, so Jaime, Jonathan and I rocked up to wish them Happy Birthday.

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Unlike every other birthday party I’ve been to, it wasn’t BYOB. In fact, Dirty Bones were rolling out the free cocktails like there was no tomorrow and if there was, it certainly wasn’t a school night.

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We hung out in the underground bar area, supping our freebies and snapping up mini burger canapes, until our table was ready. We were led into the smaller of the two dining rooms, snuck in an extra free cocktail and ordered away. They had a set birthday tasting menu on for the evening, so the toughest decision we had to make all night was whether to go for the Dog, Burger, or Wings. Ever the optimist, I suggested that in my group of three we should order one of each and all try a bite of each others…

No chance with these hustlers.

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To start, we had a giant lamb rib with spicy chicken wing- that’ll be the Bones, then- followed by our incredible main course. I had the wings, which were succulent and crispy and had just enough kick. All mains were served with a portion of fries and mac’n'cheese EACH. That’s six sides between three people, and though I’d like to say we were far too sensible to attempt scoffing the lot, I just can’t lie to you guys.

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The mac’n'cheese was especially delicious, and I say that as someone who usually resents paying for pasta I’m used to tipping out of a microwave packet. I don’t know what they put in it to make it spicy- it didn’t seem like paprika- but there was enough zing in there to make me grateful we all got individual portions.

You can definitely see where they get the Dirty part from, not only was the food unapologetically unhealthy good for the soul, we were all covered in sticky sauce, mac and cheese, ketchup and grease by the end. The staff were in no rush to kick us out to refill the table (a novelty in itself in London restaurants), so we had plenty of time to groom ourselves into looking presentable again, soundtracked by the amazing chilled covers the live band next door was crooning.

The whole shebang (that’s three freebie cocktails, a starter, main with two sides and a dessert each) cost £20 per person. Which is probably the best deal for food I’ve had in like, ever, so as well as feeling enormously fat proud of ourselves for finishing everything, our pockets weren’t that much lighter afterwards either.

All round, I massively enjoyed Dirty Bones London and will definitely be back.

Dirty Bones, 20 Kensington Church St

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Soften The Grey: Theatre Challenge Review

I know everyone is busy these days, but believe me when I saw I was busy when Sofie, invited me along as her plus one to review two-man-show Soften the Grey earlier this week. Normally I’d have said no, not enough time to look at this link, sorry can’t go. I glanced at the buffering screen on my phone as I waited for a synopsis to shuffle into view and before I had time to click away I’d decided, ah stuff it, I’ll go.

So off we went.

We went for dinner at La Cafe Divina, where, true to form, I was a whole hour late (thanks TFL!) and had to trust Sofie with placing my order despite having practically stood her up. Maybe it shows that I’m a lesser person and would have sabotaged her order had I been the one getting pitying looks from waiters for an hour, ordered her a bowl of pasta with no sauce/cheese/meat and shrugged when she arrived- but alas, Sofie is a much better person than I am and gracefully ordered me a lovely and filling seafood linguini (thanks girl x).

Scoffing that down in enough time to guarantee indigestion and the new possibility I could enter speed eating contests in the future, we made it to the Hope and Anchor pub with just enough time to grab a (very flat) cider and pull up our seats before the show started.

Soften the Grey is a teasing look into the afterlife, written, directed and performed by Jake Hassam and Nigel Munson. We’re onlookers in a Citizen’s Advice Bureaux beyond the grave, after a poor unfortunate soul dies in a diving incident.

Sounds a little macabre, doesn’t it? Well surprisingly, and refreshingly, it’s not. The dialogue toys with deep dark questions and with softer, lighter moments to avoid becoming an angsty piece- the last thing anyone needs after being stuck on the Central line for fortyfive minutes, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The Receptionist fronts the Bureaux, echoing every public sector customer serviceman in his deliberate pencil pushing. There’s something child-with-ant-under-a-magnifying-glass about the way he puts our dear dead diver friend through his paces when deciding on the outcome of his life- which afterlife is for you? What have you done right? What have you done wrong? What was it all about? Who let the dogs out? The questions I’m know we all ask ourselves on lonely nights.

We flash back through the diver’s life, witness to important moments that will decide his eternity, which pave the way for some wonderful intimate scenes that have every audience member holing their breath- Damien’s kiss being a notable highlight of the entire hour. Led by the Receptionist, we are welcome to make our own judgements about the ol’ diver’s life value, who is purposefully relatable in a hundred ways- not least that he spends most of the show in a Zebra onesie.

I’d sensed a little ghosts-of-Christmas-past-future-and-present in the Receptionist, who lauded his knowledge and position of the diver- so I put it to Jake and Nigel when we met with them after the performance. They were delighted. “It’s nice to hear that there are more layers to the show than we expected!“. The definite Dickensian undertone of the Receptionist reaches out in other ways- the punishment scenes are dramatically Victorian- but there’s always a steady undercurrent of chirpy humour; “I can’t die, I’m only 25″ -”The early bird catches the worm!”.

Overall, I’d say the name Soften the Grey doesn’t do this play justice. It’s deliciously thrown in, but gives no clue as to the lightness of the show, despite the big questions. This was an absolute joy to watch, and I absolutely demand that you get your butts down to Hope and Anchor to catch it before it leaves us for wherever plays go when they pull the final curtain.

THEATRE CHALLENGE TOT UP: 

 

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Last year’s resolutions- how did I do?

Last year, I wrote a pretty impassioned defence of New Year Resolutions. I was sick of people patronising resolutions, and in either a heartfealt attempt at self-improvement or a long moment of intense boredom, I wrote seven pages of resolutions.

So, money where my mouth is, let’s see how I did.

Resolution One: Career

“I want to be happy in a position that I can sustain myself in, with good prospects and opportunities. I want to learn more as a professional, and I want to be good at what I do”

Well, I’ve definitely made strides in this area. Even though when I wrote this, I didn’t forsee leaving GoodPeople, that’s precisely what I’ve done. I have a new job. I’m now working at a food and lifestyle marketing agency, Sauce, as an Account Exec. (Technically I’m a senior now, so let the LinkedIn congratulations messages roll on in.)

It was pretty tough leaving GoodPeople- I’d been there since I graduated, and the team there had become not only my only friends in London, but my sounding boards, the only people to find me as funny as I find myself, my shoulders to cry on and the people that paid for mdrinks. GoodPeople past and present all mean a lot to me, as was evident in the buckets (and buckets) of tears I cried at my leaving do. My new role is a lot more specific to marketing, and I’ve learnt so much already. As resolutions go, I think this one is a corking 8/10.

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Resolution Two: Houselife

“Arrange standing orders, keep records of expenses, redecorate my room, make changes to communal areas, get rid of all the junk”

Okay- this one wasn’t as successful. I still haven’t sorted out my standing orders or kept records of it, but in my defence, I forgot I ever said I would do this. That basically doesn’t count.

I have started to make minor changes to the house set up- mostly in my room- and I’ve thrown tonnes of stuff out. To be honest, this is kind of a boring resolution, so even though I didn’t do most of it, I totally understand past-me’s bored attitude towards it, and am gonna give myself a 6/10 for trying.

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Resolution Three: Food

“Prepare food in advance- you know you’re in late, stop buying crappy soup on the way home. Find time and money to go to the restaurants you’ve been pining after. More dinner parties!”

I have definitely upped my foodie game this year. I’ve been to loads of restaurants. I’ve stopped buying stuff to cook from frozen (except those vegetarian cheesey sausages from Sainsburys- love yourself and buy some), and I have been cooking stuff I’ve never tried before. I’ve not once had food poisoning this year, so 10/10 for that, but I have realised that I am not a finisher. Not in terms of eating food, you understand. In terms of serving it. I’ll be slaving over a hot oven for an entire day, and in the final ten minutes, totally freak out- like dishing up is causing me deep and extreme stress- and throw in raw fenugreek seeds to a perfectly good curry, or become so weepy trying to carve a roast chicken that an unimpressed flatmate will have to step in. I’m working on it.

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Resolution Four: Do shit!

“Read more, write more, go to more shows and talks and museums and on walks. Get smart.”

I think I’ve done pretty well here. I’ve attended talks that left me buzzing with inspiration, I’ve been to plays that made me cry, shows that made me cry laughing, been interested and outraged and impressed by the massive world of ‘writer/bloggers’ I discovered, got muddy through long walks and started writing fiction again. I definitely want to read more novels, and getting back into writing a blog properly, sooo I’ll give myself a modest 7/10.

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Resolution FiveGo places.

“Take trips, do new things there, travel with different people”

2014 was the best year of my life for travel. I was lucky enough to go to northern Italy, where I  pottered around Venice in a bottle green maxi skirt that matched the colour of the gondolas. I chaperoned my northern ladsladslads to Lanzarote, where I drank my way through the island’s rose wine reserves. I got to go to Croatia with Jaime, where we sunned ourselves like ladies of leisure and stuffed ourselves like pigs. I zipped over and under the north-south divide, and I also got to explore London, which is, dare I say it, slowly becoming a very important part of my soul. This year, my resolution is to take it outside of Europe.

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Resolution Five: Be happy.

Be happy, be willing, be positive.

It is very difficult as a natural pessimist to be positive. This resolution was almost certainly influenced by my hippy-friends who do yoga and meditate and all that. For me, this has happened disguised as self acceptance. I’ve never been particularly stressed about who I am, but I think everyone takes a long time to get into their groove and stop pretending.

I’ve very much come to accept that I will always be the loudest laughing at my own jokes, my voice is a little bit too deep, and if you offer me a single Haribo or crisp, I will inhale the thing, causing me to splutter and tear up. I don’t like at least half of my clothes, but I have about thirty pajama outfits I’d rather be wearing anyways. I suck at the Kim Kardashian game but I’m gonna play it anyway. I might be a smart-ass, but at least I get myself into enough stupid situations that I’m humble about it. I literally give no shits that my music taste consists of not knowing the words to any song, excluding Taylor Swift’s entire back-catalogue. And instead of being “okay” with all of this, I’ve come to love it.

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Have an amazing 2015 xx