Qype: Salvador and Amanda in London

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If you love eating out and haven’t got a Taste Card yet, you absolutely must. Salvador and Amanda is one of the places where you get 50% off food Monday-Thursday so that’s how we discovered this place, which is a stone’s throw from Covent Garden and Leicester Square stations.

This is one of the few tapas bars I’ve been to in the UK that has a genuinely Spanish feel to it. It’s underground, it’s candlelit, it’s warm, it’s ambient and throughout our entire meal we were accompanied by a guy playing Spanish guitar on a little bandstand in the middle of the restaurant. All of which made for an incredibly pleasant dining environment.

Inside Salvador and Amanda, London

I’m not ashamed to say that between four of us we TOTALLY pigged out, ordering the Tortilla Española, Patatas Bravas, stuffed peppers, mini tuna pies, grilled queen half shell scallops with crispy Iberico ham, pan-fried baby chorizo, meatballs in tomato sauce, chicken wings roasted in lemon and chilli, chicken breast wrapped in Serrano ham… oh, and a lovely bottle of wine: the Terrassa Tempranillo Spain 2009.

The best bit? With our Taste Card discount, all of that cost us £19.50 a head. Not half bad for dinner in central London, eh?

The only downside of the place was that the service was a little slow, despite it not being that busy. We had to walk up to the bar every time we wanted to get the attention of a member of staff and our dishes were all served randomly and at different times. However, seeing as we got such a great bargain on the Taste Card, we didn’t make a fuss. I wouldn’t have been so happy to overlook it had we been paying the full price of about £40 per head though.

Web: www.salvadorandamanda.com

Menu: www.salvadorandamanda.com/menus/food.html

Check out my review of Salvador and Amanda – I am Alice_Reeves – on Qype

Qype: Westfield Shopping Centre in London

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I make no secret of the fact that I absolutely love shopping, although I prefer to go at times that are a little quieter so that I’m not waiting in endless queues or being elbowed out of the way whilst browsing the sale racks. This is why I absolutely HATE shopping on Oxford Street as soon as we begin to even vaguely approach Christmas time. So, for a change, my boyfriend and I decided to head to Shepherd’s Bush and explore the enormous shopping mall that is Westfield.

I must admit, I was rather dubious about this place – I expected it to be crammed, busy and generic – but it wasn’t. There are several different parts to the mall – first, there’s ‘The Village’ where you’ll find the places that I can only dream of being able to afford to shop in: Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, Burberry etc. I had a little nose around in these places, but everything costs about a squillion pounds and the ludicrously well turned-out shop assistants and their burly security guard chums don’t make you feel very welcome. After a very short while I felt it was time to seek out the more familiar environs of H&M, New Look, Topshop and Accessorize.

My enormous salad - yum!

In this place you’ll find every generic high street store you can think of, and as they’re all flagship stores they’re all huge and incredibly well-laid out. It’s an absolutely pleasure to shop here. The sheer enormity of the place is quite dizzying though – you could easily lose an entire day wandering around (which we pretty much did).

My favourite part of Westfield though, was the food court. There’s a Pho (Vietnamese street food), a Mexican canteen, a mini Indian restaurant, Italian food, salad bars, a fish and chip place… it smells absolutely divine. I went to a little place called Ooze Risotteria where I had the most enormous salad for the bargain price of £7.95. Utterly delicious.

Check out my review of Westfield Shopping Centre – I am Alice_Reeves – on Qype

Review: Première of the Starlite Urban Drive-In

Roller-Skating Waitresses - (c) Mary Rhiannon Pryce

As I trundled up Brick Lane on a beautifully warm July evening, taking in the scent of curry from all angles and smiling politely at invitations from various dashing-looking Indian gentlemen inviting me in for dinner, I was still finding it hard to envisage exactly what an “urban drive-in” would look like. When I thought drive-in, I couldn’t help but think of undulating Hollywood hills with a space full of battered old cars housing snogging teenagers. Very difficult (nay, impossible) to imagine in East London.

I eventually found my way into the exclusive VIP party at The Brickhouse and I was bowled over by what I saw. After helping Starlite founder Damian Barr with Silent Cinema back in 2008, I knew that he put on a damn good party – always full of glamour, always special – but this time he utterly surpassed himself.

Damian Barr - (c) Mary Rhiannon Price

On arrival, I gave my name to a very smiley lass at the door (phew, on the list) then walked past an enormous flashing neon drive-in sign and up the red carpet to be confronted with row upon row of shiny, beautiful, brand-new Volvos with tops down and doors flung open, full of glamorous people drinking cocktails. Waitresses in costume and on roller skates glided around with trays of Hendrick’s gin-based cocktails and retro canapés, including mini hot-dogs, espresso cups of sweetcorn chowder, mini prawn cocktails (which were divine) and spoonfuls of macaroni cheese. I just couldn’t stop staring at everything like a kid in a (very high-end) toy shop – it was like stepping into a world that’s normally reserved for the movies.

The Original Urban Drive-In - (c) Mary Rhiannon Pryce

50s-style entertainment was provided by toe-tapping leggy lovelies The Tootsie Rollers and Pippa the Ripper,  the most phenomenal hula-hooping act I’ve ever seen in my life. Then, it was time for jiving with some rock ‘n’ roll choons before the drive-in entertainment began.

The fabulous Tootsie Rollers - (c) Mary Rhiannon Pryce

After a fair few cocktails (and a fair amount of wishful thinking) I decided I could totally see myself cruising along Brighton seafront in this, the ice-white Volvo C70. Clearly the lady sat next to me could see the lust in my eyes and said: “They are discounted by about 20% tonight you know?” Somehow, I didn’t think my credit limit would stretch quite that far… so a cab back to Victoria station it was.

Fabulous photos all courtesy of Mary Rhiannon Pryce.

Starlite: The World’s First Urban Drive-In

As a kid, Grease was undoubtedly my favourite movie. I knew all the songs and all the dialogue inside-out, I loved the 1950s glamour and the dancing, but most of all I loved the drive-in. Row upon row of convertibles in front of a huge screen created (in my eyes) the potential for the most romantic setting imaginable – cuddled up watching a movie under the stars.

Now, thanks to Damian Barr, the retro American-style Drive-in is being revived 2010-style… and it’s coming to London. The ultra-trendy Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, to be precise.

The man who brought us Silent Cinema, the Shoreditch House Literary Salon and Reader in Residence now, in partnership with Volvo, brings us the Starlite Urban Drive-In: “We all grew up with the drive-in dream,” says Damian. “But it never happened in Britain because we don’t have the space, the weather, or that car culture. I wanted to update the idea and make it work for an urban, eco-conscious audience and this seemed the perfect way to do it.”

For just £25 per person, you get to kick back in a shiny new Volvo convertible, order cocktails and popcorn from roller-skating waitresses and enjoy fabulous retro canapes. There’ll be no “sshh-ing” of the crowds either, as you’ll be enjoying the film through your car’s stereo, adding that extra level of intimacy to the viewing experience – which is what Silent Cinema was all about.

On Friday night (2nd July) there’s the chance to go all girly over Patrick Swayze with a screening of Dirty Dancing, then on Saturday (3rd) you’ll be transported back to the 50s for real with the ultimate drive-in movie, Grease. Although advance tickets for both nights are sold out, there’ll be more released on the day – so make sure you join the Facebook Group and keep an eye on the website for more details.

Keep an eye on Alice Writes for my review of the VIP screening on July 1st…

Vodka Tasting at Bob Bob Ricard

London – Eating & Drinking – Restaurants – British – Eating & Drinking – Pubs & Bars – Bars

Vodka: Kauffman Special Selected Vintage 2006

Having never officially ‘tasted’ Vodka before, I had absolutely NO idea what to expect at Bob Bob Ricard’s tasting (a Qype event organised by Qype London Guru, Siany). As it turns out, it’s nothing like wine tasting AT ALL. With wine tasting, you look at it (a lot), sip it, swill it around in your mouth, make appreciative noises like “Mmm” and “Ahh”, then say things like: “The legs on that are rather impressive, don’t you think?” While doing this you nibble on things like cured meats, cheeses and smoked salmon blinis talking about how they complement your wine perfectly.

When you taste vodka on the other hand, you knock it back then quickly take a bite of a bizarre salt-saturated Russian snack. You know what though? I thought it was absolutely brilliant, despite being incredibly dubious about drinking neat vodka with my meal. But hey, they do it in Russia all the time apparently!

Jellied Ox Tongue with Creamed Horseradish

We were expertly guided through a range of vodkas served at BBR by co-owner Ricard, including the Kauffman Private Collection Luxury Vintage 2003 – only 25,000 bottles were produced and at £18 per SHOT, it’s something I could only dream of being able to afford. The general consensus of the group was that our favourite was the Kauffman Special Selected Vintage 2006 (about £8 per shot). So we all had another one at the end. I was also impressed by the Imperia by Russian Standard which, at £4 a shot, is much more in my price range.

Scallop, Black Pudding and Cox Apple Slices with Baby Watercress and Chive Salad and Truffle Dressing

In terms of food, I got the opportunity to try things I’d never usually dream of ordering like Jellied Ox Tongue with Creamed Horseradish (which was surprisingly delicious), Salmon Row and Quails Eggs (hmm… not so much) and Scallops and Black Pudding with Truffle Dressing (SUPER yum!) I also was very impressed with the Wafer-Thin Cured Orkney Beef and Pickled Beetroot and Goat’s Cheese Salad. You can see all my piccies of the wonderfully unusual food (if you like) here.

Everything was enjoyed in a beautiful private room adorned with Art Deco-themed decoration. This is definitely a restaurant with a big ‘WOW’ factor (helped immensely by their ‘Press for Champagne’ buttons at all the tables) and I cannot wait to get the chance to go here again.

Check out my review of Bob Bob Ricard – I am Alice_Reeves – on Qype