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Boulevard Restaurant and Bar, Croydon 17/04/2014

Dining in the Boulevard

Boulevard Restaurant and Bar, Croydon When my friend Juliet invited me to her birthday lunch I automatically said yes, even though I didn't know the restaurant, and it was completely on the wrong side on London to where I live. Juliet already knew where she wanted to go, having been here several years ago for her birthday. She is a popular girl, so needed somewhere that could cater for large parties thus picked this restaurant in South Croydon which is local to her. So one hot, sunny Saturday, last year fifty of us rocked up here for lunch. The invite said 12.30 for 1pm, but my sat-nav sent me in the wrong direction once I was within the vicinity. I wasn't the only one, so be warned if coming here with a sat-nav and print off directions from the Croham Arms pub/Croham Road area. Fortunately my friend Amy was kind enough to run around the streets of South Croydon to rescue me. It is also worth noting that parking (which is available on the street outside the restaurant and nearby) is £4.50 for a maximum of two hours. A lengthy lunch is always going to take longer than that, so under Amy's local knowledge we parked about 5-7 minutes walk away on a residential street at the other end of Selsdon Road where I could park for £2 for three hours. The reason that parking is difficult is that the station is nearby - the restaurant is just a five minute walk from South Croydon over-ground station, and a longer walk or a bus ride from East Croydon station. The restaurant is located on Ruskin Parade on Selsdon Road, but the ...

Jar City - Arnaldur Indridason 15/04/2014

Ok Read

Bella Naples, South Woodford 09/04/2014

Ciao Bella!

Bella Naples, South Woodford Bella Naples is a family owned and run restaurant in South Woodford, East London. Situated on the High Road, opposite the cinema, I parked in nearby Sainsbury's car park and walked over to the restaurant, when I dined there as a part of a group of seven one Friday evening. There are local buses that run nearby or you can walk up from the tube station (Central Line) which will take about 10 minutes up hill. The restaurant is fairly small, but has a lay out that means it isn't too cramped. Upon arrival at 7pm, there was only one other table occupied, and only a few others got taken throughout the evening. The décor is simple and understated - wooden tables and chairs in a well-lit, glass fronted space. To be honest, a week on and I can barely remember what it was like, so it obviously didn't make much of an impression on me. At the end of the day we were here for the food, and if that is nice, does the décor really matter? The lavatory is at the back, up a few steps. It was clean, but running low on toilet paper. The food menu doesn't mention all the drinks; they have a separate wine list that wasn't on our table when I arrived. I decided just to have a glass of house white (£5 for 250ml) whilst we waited for the rest of our party to arrive. The House white was perfectly chilled, crisp and refreshing, leaning towards the medium end of the scale. People mostly had wine, bottled beer (Peroni, Stella and Bud were available) or soft drinks. Prices are not on their online menu ...

Bengal Spice, Loughton 04/04/2014

Local Spice

Bengal Spice, Loughton To congratulate ourselves on a job well done, some colleagues and I decided to go out for a curry. We decided to visit Bengal Spice, on Forest Road, Loughton, Essex. A few of us had been here before, but not recently, so decided a re-visit was on the cards. We booked a table for 5 at 8.30pm one Friday. I believe the restaurant was an old furniture showroom, and it has a bit of a strange layout. There is an open reception area where you can wait if collecting takeaways, but the actual restaurant is quite a way back, down a long corridor. I sometimes find not being able to see the restaurant quite off putting, but it has been here over twenty years now, so they are obviously doing something right. The restaurant wasn't that busy - about a third full and we were seated promptly and handed menus. We ordered poppadoms (I had a spicy one, everyone else went for plain) and they came over promptly with dips - mango chutney and the mint yoghurt are always my favourites. They also have the onion dip as well as a pickle one. We skipped starters and got on with the mains. I am a creature of habit in Indian restaurants and went for my vegetable dhansak (£6.90). It is a hot and sour dish with lentils, and the Bengal Spice use the spices to enhance flavours rather than blow your head off. The curry was flavoursome, with good sized pieces of vegetables, cooked so they can be cut with a fork, in a lovely, spicy sauce. Others in the party went for the Cashew Chicken, Dargiling Chicken Tikka ...

Calvin Klein CK Beauty Eau de Parfum Spray 01/04/2014


Calvin Klein CK Beauty Eau de Parfum Spray Wanting a change from my favourite fragrance (Chanel's Coco Mademoiselle), I had a sniff around my local department store over a period of a few months, and eventually decided on Calvin Klein's fragrance Beauty, which I asked for as a birthday gift. I was lucky to receive a 50ml bottle of eau de parfum. The bottle was in a slim, glossy box and was quite heavy. The glass is oval and was cased in a silver look metal outer shell, with a classic, oval shaped silver type stopper over the spray nozzle. Design wise, it is nothing special, not even a particularly classic or simple design which can look sophisticated. It is quite modern, but plain and as it is generally inoffensive I still keep it on my dressing table. Even now, when my bottle is almost empty, it feels heavy and chunky. Calvin Klein is and established American fashion and luxury goods brand, initially founded in the late 60s. This perfume is one of an extensive selection and as launched in the Autumn of 2010. Overall the perfume would be classified as floral, but is quite different from other floral scents I use. I read a blurb that claimed this fragrance was for the mature woman (eek!) in her 40s. Whilst that may be me technically, and I do think this is a sophisticated and elegant scent, I would not want this to put a woman in her twenties or thirties off, as I think a perfume either suits you or it doesn't, and these are personal factors. I also see no reason why a woman in her 50s, 60s or beyond would not wear ...

Nails Inc Nail Polish 27/03/2014

Pricey Polish

Nails Inc Nail Polish I received a Nails Inc nail polish in a Beauty Box that I purchased from Latest in Beauty. Whilst I was familiar with the brand, I had never used one of their polishes before and it was included in my box as Nails Inc was a finalist in the Best British Brand category in the CEW (UK) Beauty Awards. The company have been going almost 15 years, and have their own stores as well as being found in Boots and Debenhams. I received a 4ml bottle of Notting Hill Gate, a full on bright neon pink, which is a great summer colour, or looks fab giving a flash of brightness to a little black dress or other darker outfit. The colour has got me a few compliments when I have worn it. In an ideal world I would get my nails done professionally using gel polishes, so that they last a good few weeks, but time and money doesn't always allow this. Hence, for my first Christmas party of the season, I got the opportunity to try out this polish. I didn't do any nail prep beforehand, as I am too lazy. I unscrewed the silver top and was pleased to see a brush of a decent length. It was also quite slim, and not too wide. I started on my toes, which are not always easy to paint, but I found that even my littlest nails got painted without splodging. I only gave them one coat, which I thought was sufficient for the toenails, which won't get seen so much. My fingernails were a slightly different experience. I am right handed, so whilst application on my left hand wasn't too bad, I did make a bit of a cock ...

The Other Tudors - Philippa Jones 25/03/2014

More Miss Than Hit

The Other Tudors - Philippa Jones As a fan of history, especially the Tudor period, the choice of this book as a gift for me was an easy one for my friend. I knew nothing of the author, Philippa Jones, but this seems to be her first non-fiction book, published in 2009. I can find no information about her on the internet, so am not aware of her experience or qualifications as a historian. In the book, she introduces us to King Henry VIII and his wives, mistresses and children. With a gripping sub-title like "Henry VIII's Mistresses and Bastards" I was expecting some juicy stuff. The cover photo, of a regal looking lady, looked like it should be better suited to a historical novel rather than a historical reference book. Whilst I learnt some new information from the book, I also had some frustrations with it. Firstly, the introduction, which tells us what the author is going to tell us in the main body of the book. This all seems a bit pointless and repetitive, because when I get to the main part of the text I think "Hang on! You've already told me this". If you are going to introduce us to some new mistresses, don't tell us all we need to know in the first eleven pages, otherwise you may as well just write an article on it, not a whole book. This is then followed by a chapter on Henry's early years (also partly summarised in the introduction). The first 'real' chapter comes some 49 pages into a 306 page book (excluding notes and index). This, relatively brief section covers the rumours of a lady-in-waiting ...

Yves Rocher So Elixir Purple eau de Parfum 21/03/2014

Purple Passion

Yves Rocher So Elixir Purple eau de Parfum Last year I took a subscription to Glossybox, a beauty club that sends you monthly boxes of beauty based goodies. I my first box contained a 5ml sample of So Elixir Purple eau de parfum by Yves Rocher. Although I was familiar with this French mail-order beauty company, I had not used any of their products before. Inside the box, decorated with a purple lily design, was a dinky miniature bottle. The bottle design is fairly unremarkable, clear glass with a bulbous bottom, with the name printed on it. The liquid inside is purple (no surprise there!). On the box is the text “Reveal your seductive power with an incredibly feminine flora-woody elixir”. I am a big fan of feminine, floral fragrances, usually with an oriental twist, so was looking forward to trying this. The bottle did not have a spray nozzle, I think that this is just because it was a miniature, so I applied it to my wrists and neck with my fingertips. I always think of Yves Rocher as budget fragrances, and at first found it quite strong. Official top notes include bergamot essential oils, but whilst I got a heady fruity scent, I didn’t pick up the citrus aspect that I associate with bergamot. This smelt more like Welches Purple Grape juice, if you have ever had that (it is very nice, I do recommend it!). As much as I love the juice, I am not sure I want to smell like it. I found this first layer a bit too sweet and cloying. Fortunately the scent settled down within the hour and I could pick out the tuberose as ...

Bukovyna Hotel Complex, Chernihiv 18/03/2014

Dated but pleasant

Bukovyna Hotel Complex, Chernihiv The pleasant Hotel Bukovyna was the hotel selected by our tour company for our one night stay in the University town of Chernivtsi, in Ukraine. The town is in the country's smallest region, which is called Bukovina, and nestles between the Carpathian Mountains and the borders of Moldova. It is a fairly large hotel, I suspect one of the largest in the city, at 154 rooms. My guide book certainly didn't offer up any larger alternatives, and is apparently one of only a few hotels in the city which accept credit cards, which I didn't expect to be a problem, but worth checking if you are browsing hotels in this area. The hotel is based just outside the centre of town, which is just 10-20 minutes' walk away depending on how far into town you wish to go (there is a lovely pedestrian street with some nice cafés at the closest end). The hotel is opposite the attractive and vibrant Shevcheko Park (there are restaurants here, as well as concert facilities), there is also a supermarket just a few doors away as well as a restaurant on-site, so you do not have to go far if you don't want to. I believe the hotel also houses conference facilities, a gym, a salon and a tourist office. The communal areas were fairly unremarkable. We had room 512 which involved negotiating the small, quick lifts which liked to shut their doors just as the second person entered. This is often quite typical in Ukrainian hotels and we were sort of used to it, so tended to get ourselves into position ready for ...

Ullswater Steamers 11/03/2014


Glass Geishas - Susanna Quinn 07/03/2014

Breaking Glass

Glass Geishas - Susanna Quinn I picked this book because I thought the topic of British hostesses working in Tokyo bars could potentially be an interesting one. Many will probably remember the case of British air hostess, Lucie Blackman who was kidnapped and murdered in 2000 whilst working as a bar hostess in Tokyo. The newspapers obviously had a lot to say and various publications made certain implications as to the lifestyle of these hostesses. So what is the real story? Well, Susanna Quinn's novel is just that, a novel, but I hoped for a well-researched one, which would give me an insight. Although published in 2012, the book does not allude to Miss Blackman in any way (I am not sure if the book is set in the current day or perhaps longer ago - e-mails are mentioned, but not mobile phones). Ms Quinn, an Essex girl (I like her already), also worked as a hostess in Japan which makes this book seem quite scary. Hostessing is not for the faint-hearted or those with limited alcohol tolerance! Firstly I would like to debunk a few myths, as covered within the novel, but not covered by reading a Daily Mail article on the web (for example). Hostesses are not geishas. Being a geisha is an art form to the professional Japanese geishas, who train from a young age for many years and are skilled in music and dance amongst other things. Nor are hostesses prostitutes. Some may indeed sleep with clients, for money or just because they want to, but it is not expected. The idea of a hostess is to keep a wealthy client ...

Ternopil, Ukraine 04/03/2014

Time in Ternopil

Helvellyn and Striding Edge Walk, Lake District 28/02/2014

Hiking Helvellyn

Border Crossing - Pat Barker 25/02/2014

Blurred Lines

Lviv - Ukraine 20/02/2014

Lovely Lviv

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