Saturday, 31 May 2014

Food Guide: My favourite meals in Japan

Food in Japan is such of high quality that it`s hard to have a bad meal no matter where you eat. The main focus in Japanese cooking is put on the natural taste of ingredients so everything feels very fresh. You`ll find that some of the best places only specialise in one type of dish which actually makes a lot of sense as it`s better to be the best in one thing rather than being mediocre in a lot of things. At one point of the trip we were so obsessed with the food that we started planning our day activities around where we`re gonna eat next which pretty much sums up the perfect holiday for me. 

The freshest sushi at Sushi Dai

The highlight of our trip was definitely this amazing sushi we had at Sushi Dai in Tokyo- a very small restaurant in the middle of Tsukiji fish market which is the biggest fish market in the world and the place from where the restaurants get their fish. Sushi Dai has a bit of a reputation now as being one of the best places for sushi in Tokyo at a very affordable price. We woke up at 3:30 am to get there by 4am and already found a huge queue waiting outside for the restaurant to open at 5am. Sushi Dai has only 12 seats and the demand is so high that people queue for 3- 4 hours to get in. We were "lucky" enough to fit into the second seating but still had to wait 1 hour and a half but boy it was worth it! Definitely the best sushi I ever had, so fresh and crunchy so I would definitely recommend it, just remember to get there very early in the morning. 
sushi dai
sushi dai review
sushi dai tokyo Delicious yakitori at Torito in Kyoto

Yakitori is a local favourite in Japan and it`s impossible not to find them around every corner. We ate quite a bit of these delicious skewers while we were there as it`s so easy when you`re tired from walking to get inside a yakitori place, have a snack and then walk some more. From all the restaurants we`ve tried two places stood out: one from a very tiny place in Asakusa where we stayed in the first few days which was a bit of a random find and can`t really remember the name as it was only in Japanese characters; and another great meal at Torito in Kyoto which is a more upscale version. The best dishes we`ve had here were the chicken meatballs with raw egg and the chicken wings. My boyfriend also tried the raw chicken but unfortunately I wasn`t so brave. 
torito kyoto
torito yakitori
torito kyoto review
Chicken sashimi
torito raw chicken
Crispy tonkatsu at Maisen

We`ve heard a lot about Maisen which is a tonkatsu restaurant in one of the Shibuya backstreets but when we got in we were slightly freaked out that all the waiters seemed to be wearing white lab coats. I do admit that it did cross my mind for a few seconds that maybe it`s a tourist trap and we`re gonna get butchered and served as tonkatsu for dinner. I know, I know, I`ve watched way to many Japanese horror movies. Fortunately that didn`t happen and the tonkatsu was made from pork and pretty delicious. 
maisen tonkatsu
The traditional kaiseki Japanese meal at Kappo Sakamoto in Kyoto

We`ve had another great meal (I know you`re probably bored by now of me constantly saying how great the food was but I can`t help myself), at Kappo Sakamoto which is a Michelin star restaurant in Kyoto in the old, historic part of the town. Here we got to try a very traditional multi-course Japanese meal which consist of loads of small dishes also known as kaiseki. The highlights for me were definitely the sashimi, the duck (amazing!), and the dessert which was a small tomato. This might sound really weird that I was so impress by just a tomato but it was a very special one that grows only in a certain part of Japan and is nurtured in a different way than your usual tomatoes. It was incredibly sweet, juicy and yet still quite crispy. I could happily have a bag of those any time instead of croissants. 
kappo sakamoto reviewkappo sakamoto review
kappo sakamoto kaiseki
best kaiseki kyoto
Udon noodles on the backstreets of Tokyo

Absolutely loving this chunky udon noodles that often come with soup or dipping sauce and I find it as a great alternative to ramen. Best places to have them is from local stalls or fuss free local restaurants.
udon noodles tokyo

Spanish cuisine at Sant Pau in Tokyo

Spanish cuisine is very popular in Japan, not sure why but we suspected it might be due to the fact that in a way it`s very similar to the kaiseki type of meals where you have a lot of small dishes, so if you`re looking for alternatives to Japanese food you`ll find a lot of tapas places around the city. We had a lovely lunch in Tokyo at Sant Pau which also has a location near Barcelona with 3 Michelin stars.  The food was a mix between Catalan and Japanese cuisines with my favourite dish being the foie gras and miso soup. 
sant pau restaurant tokyo
sant pau tokyo review
sant pau restaurant tokyo
sant pau tokyo review

The best crepe of your life in Harajuku

And finally I had to end this long post with a dessert. If you`re in Harajuku, Tokyo don`t forget to try one (or more) of these weirdly wonderful crepes. There are street stalls basically everywhere in this area and they`re pretty hard to miss as they are very colourful and all have these display of plastic reproductions of what`s on the menu- which is especially useful if you`re a tourist as you can just point, pay, and eat. 
harajuku crepes
harajuku pancakes

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Friday, 23 May 2014

MEATmarket Review: Sinful Burgers without the Queues

MEATmarket burger (18/20) has been so far the best burger I have tried in London. I tried a couple of times going into MEATliquor but the queues were always enormous and they aren`t opened for lunch so I never got to try it. Not sure if MEATliquor burger is supposed to be similar but this one was a freaking amazing cheeseburger and there wasn`t any queue on a weekday evening. The bun was soft and small, the beef was cooked to perfection, and the cheese was in abundance and all melty. They have different types of burger options available as well as hot dogs and shakes which is for me pretty much heaven on earth. The place has also a very cool vibe with neon lights everywhere and stickers on the walls. 
meatmarket burger
Look at all that cheese!
meatmarket burger review
meatmarket review
meatmarket london

MEATmarket on Urbanspoon
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Monday, 19 May 2014

Top things to keep in mind when designing your blog

For those of you thinking of opening a new blog or just giving a makeover to your existing one here are a few easy tips that I`ve gathered from my own blog design experience as well as from my work projects where I`ve got the chance to work with a few web designers.

Whether you choose to have a web designer for your blog or you prefer to do it yourself these tips should give you an idea of what makes a good user experience for your visitors.

how to design a blog
intothegloss.com, whowhatwear.com, theprovocativecouture.com, cntraveller.com

1) Determine what you like

If you`re not exactly sure how you want your website to look like it`s very useful especially if you`re using a designer to choose a few websites and blogs that you like, save a screenshot on your desktop and pick on the key elements that you particularly enjoy on each page. This should give you at least a good start into what you`re after. 

2) Choosing a designer

Most designers charge by the hour so if you choose to use a designer then always make sure you negotiate upfront the number of hours he/she`s gonna spend for your blog and the approximate total costs this is gonna add up to.  When it comes to design it`s very easy to keep going back and forth with drafts and small changes and the costs will rise quite easily.

3) Use soft colours where possible

Dark text on light background is always easier to read than light text on dark background. Keep your blog colour palette as soft as possible as although you might love that neon pink not everyone feels the same. Too many bright colours can be very tiring for the eyes.

4) Keep it clean and simple

Similar to the point above, a simple, clean design is always much pleasant to browse through rather than one with loads of stuff going on. Keep your widgets and any other elements to a minimum.

5) Content above the fold

When I first started my blog I used the have this massive banner which took out all the space before the fold which meant not only that the page was loading slowly but also that visitors weren`t able to see anything else except my face unless they scrolled down. Keeping your content above the fold means allowing visitors to see parts of your content as soon as they land on the page without having to scroll down.

6) Use categorization for your content

This might sound like a no-brainer but it`s actually very easy to forget. Keeping you content organized and allowing visitors to quickly find what they`re looking for through categories can help in constantly bringing traffic & engagement to your old posts.

7) And the widgets you need to have

Your social media channels are an extremely important part of your blog as this helps your content to get shared across the web. Displaying social share buttons to your posts and having direct links on the sidebar to your official social media pages can help in bringing new visitors as well as keeping your current ones updated. 

Displaying the search tool on the sidebar is important in allowing your visitors to find what they`re looking for much faster.

Subscribe buttons are great for bringing visitors back to your site and letting them know when new content is published.

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Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Hartnett & Holder at Limewood: Beautiful Italian in Quintessential English Countryside

This was the best Italian meal I`ve had in a very very long time. My boyfriend and I took a spontaneous trip to New Forest in Hampshire on a sunny weekend day and popped to Limewood Hotel for a lunch in the sun. I`ve heard that the Hartnett & Holder restaurant was good but I didn`t expect it to be this finger licking delicious! 
We shared a couple of small dishes all of which were without fault. The meatballs with polenta (20/20) we finished in a few seconds, the squid with linguini (20/20) was incredibly delicate, the venison (17/20) was lovely seasoned, and the arancini (17/20) were one of the best I`ve ever had. For dessert we had an amazing lemon tart (18/20) which to be honest I regretted I had to share.
meatballs and polenta limewood
apero spritz limewood
squid linguini limewood restaurant
limewood restaurant review
arancini limewood restaurant
lemon tart limewood restaurant
new forest
new forest
new forest

Lime Wood on Urbanspoon
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Monday, 12 May 2014

The Stylish Mallorca Travel Guide

mallorca travel guide

Where to stay in Mallorca
  • Sa Cabana Rural Hotel & Spa: We had a lovely stay at this very stylish hotel and the service was exceptional. You can read my full review here.
    mallorca hotels
Restaurants in Mallorca
  • Es Verger (Alaro village): a bit of a hike but well worth the effort and the scare as it`s on top of the mountain. The restaurant looks very rustic and the food is very old school cooked in a stone oven. 
restaurants in mallorca
where to eat mallorca
  • Ca`s Patro March (Cala de Deia village): perfect lunch spot on the beach in Deia where the speciality is grilled fish brought from the sea just below. 
mallorca restaurants
  • Ca`n Molinas bakery (Valldemossa village): bakery in the beautiful village of Valldemossa, perfect for trying out some traditional Mallorcan sweets. 
Things to do in Mallorca:
  • Visit the beautiful villages & beaches: the best way of seeing Mallorca is by car. We rented one from the airport and it was definitely one of the best holiday decisions we ever made. We got the chance to explore so many of the beautiful tiny villages and beaches that otherwise we wouldn`t have had the chance to. A few of the highlights included: Valldemossa, Deia (beautiful village on the hills), Soller, Pollenca and Cala Sant Vicenc (a tiny, less touristy beach).
  • Hiking: the mountains in Mallorca are perfect for hiking and the views of the island are breath-taking. This was one of our favourite moments on the island. 
  • Market shopping: there are plenty of small markets worth visiting with the main focus being on food. Soller & Pollenca market are two worth checking out, and if you`re in Soller make sure you don`t miss out on their sweet, famous oranges.

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Sunday, 11 May 2014

Blogging tips: How to put together a blog content plan

Putting together a content plan for your blog can be very helpful especially if you`re a full time blogger or plan on blogging a couple times per week as it will help you stay organised, make your blog look much more professional to your readers, and give you ideas and insights into future content topics. 
blog content plan

1. Set up your main content themes

This is the first step into determining what type of content would you like to share with your readers. Some bloggers focus only on one niche such as fashion, food, travel, while others prefer to handle a larger variety with bits and bobs from various niches like in my case. Both options are fine but try to keep to a number that won`t confuse your readers. 

2. Set up your subthemes

After deciding your main content themes it`s time to break those even further into subthemes. For example if one of your main themes is fashion you can further expand this into various themes such as: fashion tips, shopping, trends, outfits, collections, etc. This breaking down will be especially helpful when you`re trying to come up with new topics but also for setting up your weekly blog content schedule. 

3. Start adding blog topics

Once you have decided on your subthemes you can start adding topic ideas into your file. I try to continuously keep adding topics whenever I find some inspiration so I always have something to write about even when I`m going through “writers block” phases.

blog content schedule

4. Decide on your blog content schedule

Creating a blog content routine is one of the most mentioned tips given by bloggers. And this is because visitors will start developing a routine when reading your blog. For example they`ll know which time they can expect a new blog post to come up, on which days, and what topic they should expect on that day. One of the most used schedule themes that you might have noticed on other blogs is “Friday favourites”. 

5. Measure your success

It`s good to once in a while go back and write down how successful particular blog posts have been on your blog in terms of visits, comments, and social shares. This can help with analyzing which have been your most successful topics with your readers as well as trying to figure out why some didn`t do so well.

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Friday, 9 May 2014

Hoi Polloi Restaurant Review: And Yet Again Another Stylish Place in East London

Damn those East Londoners they always get the coolest places while in West we`re just left with the stuffy, no-slippers-inside spots. Hoi Polloi has a very youthful, relaxed atmosphere paired up with a cool soundtrack that makes you feel you`re somewhere in the 90s in New York. We went here for dinner quite awhile ago- I had the burger (14/20) with chips which was pretty good and my boyfriend had the beef (13/20) which was nicely cooked although the portion was quite small. For dessert we shared the chocolate pave (12/20) and even though it was nice it was slightly too much chocolate for my taste (I know I can`t believe I`m saying "too much chocolate").
hoi polloi burger
hoi polloi beef
hoi polloi chocolate pave

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Hoi Polloi at The Ace Hotel on Urbanspoon