Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Six Fab Summer Sandals

There are few things as redolent of balmy summer days as a pair of sandals. A leather thong, canvas espadrille or rubber flip flop suggest lazy days in the sun like nothing else, which is why they're my favourite type of footwear. Forget sky-high Louboutins or toe restraining trainers; my feet are their happiest when slapping about in a lovely new pair of summer flats. 

If your toes feel the same way and you're looking for an update to your sandal collection, take a look at some of my current favourites below...

Give your ankles some fringing with these expensive looking, Isabel Marant-y flats. The right side of boho, just add pretty painted toenails. And perhaps a beach in the Balearics...

Aren't these special? An antidote to the 'safer' brown and black shoes in your collection, these leather sandals would be equally at home on a festival field, summer city break or sun-soaked Mediterranean island. Palmairas have the added romance of being handmade on the island of Menorca. 

If you tend to be a little dismissive of 'safe' Next I would urge you to reconsider your position, particularly with regard to its footwear - there are some amazing gems within its collection, all at affordable price points. Like M&S, Next can usually be relied on for comfort and durability, too. I think these simple black sandals are chic and smart without being too conventional.

A good way to tap into the 'gladiator' trend without feeling, well, too gladiator. I don't see myself working the whole laces round your calf look too well, so this is a nice way to do laces without cutting off your circulation. Or looking a bit daft while wandering the aisles of Tesco. These sandals also have a pleasingly expensive look about them.

Gah! So lovely. But so expensive. A bit of a 'wish list' addition, to be honest, but if you're feeling flush I don't think I've seen another pair of sandals as lovely as these for a while....


Thursday, 14 May 2015

Three Special Places to Eat in Bristol

Since I turned 40 I've been mentally compiling a bucket list of sorts. In amongst the stuff that defies budgetary concerns (I won't be taking off on that Ibizan yoga retreat or hiring a vintage Fiat 500 and navigating my way around Tuscany anytime soon) there are some rather more attainable things to strive towards - not big, life-changing goals, but realistic things I've always wanted to do but haven't quite got round to; learning to surf, partaking in some wine tasting, dining in a Michelin-starred restaurant...you get the picture.

So you can imagine my delight when I came across a Groupon offer for Casamia Restaurant in Westbury on Trym, owner of one Michelin Star and widely regarded as one of the best - if not the best - places to eat in Bristol. Since visiting on an offer back in the winter (it was my Christmas present to myself) I've been back again, also on a Groupon offer, and absolutely recommend this method as a way to sample award-winning, experimental cuisine for a fraction of the usual price.

Our return trip to Casamia this week got me thinking about the other really special places I've eaten in Bristol; restaurants that exceed expectation and have that certain something that elevates them beyond other places in the city. Here are my favourites...


Well, of course. Hidden away in the middle of the affable but unassuming suburb of Westbury, Casamia might have a Michelin star, but it's not in the least bit snooty or discomforting. If you're lucky enough to spot a Groupon offer like we did (let's hope there will be another one coming soon...) you'll be able to sample its award-winning cuisine for a fraction of the normal price. Our offer included a 5-course set lunch menu for £76 for two (not including drinks) which, while not super cheap, is a relatively affordable way of doing the Michelin thing. And the food is truly outstanding. I had previously been a bit sceptical about the use of things like liquid nitrogen in cooking and have always preferred Jamie Oliver over Heston Blumenthal, but Casamia did a very good job of converting me to the merits of rehydrating things and scattering dishes with leaves and flowers. And it is just a bit exciting to have your dessert arrive in an undulating cloud of fog.

I won't go into too much detail about the dishes we ate and the complicated processes involved in their creation - there are numerous blogs and reviews out their extolling the virtues of Casamia. But suffice to say everything we ate was amazing and delicious. Even the butter is on another level (freshly churned Jersey cow stuff) You'll eat the kind of food here you won't eat anywhere else in Bristol, served with a theatricality that makes it a real treat if you usually find yourself beholden to the restaurant choices of little people. In short, this place makes a great change from Pizza Express, and if you have a special occasion coming up soon, I can't think of a better place for your celebratory meal.


What a genteel place Wilks is. If you're after sublime modern cooking in a friendly but formal setting, this is the place to enjoy it. The service here is amongst the best I've experienced in Bristol, or indeed anywhere, and the cooking is outstanding. Oh, and yes, it's also got a Michelin star. Visiting at lunchtime for the set menu makes eating here much more friendly on the wallet - the weekday lunch menu is £19 for two courses, £23 for three. 

I ate perhaps the best piece of fish I've ever had here, as well as an exquisite risotto that rendered both me and the other half speechless. What I really liked was the unobtrusive service - no "how is everything, guys?" every two minutes - allowing us to quietly chat and get on with enjoying our meal without constant interruptions. That we liked very much...

The Ethicurean

A mythical sounding place, located in a similarly fairytale-esque setting...this place had me at 'walled garden', to be honest. Situated just past Bristol Airport in the village of Wrington, the Ethicurean is truly magical. The restaurant occupies a conservatory-type building, with windows looking out across the kitchen garden and surrounding rolling hills. It's a breathtaking setting in which to enjoy your dinner.

Our visit seems like a long time ago now (last summer) but the memory of our evening there hasn't faded, perhaps because the whole experience made us feel like we'd been transported to a corner of southern France for the evening - not a feeling you often get when dining out in Bristol. Aside from its beautiful location, the food at The Ethicurean is pretty special too. Completely seasonal, locally sourced and ethical, it's no wonder everything we sampled was delicious. The cocktails are pretty amazing too - you might want to think about booking a taxi to take you back home...

(images courtesy of the Bristol Post and Guardian)


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Summer in Denim

Typing to the sound of a gale force wind and lashing rain, it seems a bit previous to be talking about summer fashion. But despite pulling out the comfy knits again and realising that it's not quite sandal weather yet, I think it's okay to indulge a little in the idea that sometime soon we'll be basking in sunshine again.

However, said sunshine will, for the most part, be BRITISH sunshine, which always calls for something a bit heavier than a slip of cotton or spaghetti strap dress; and in my particular case, the mercury really does have to spike before I'll shed my jeans and long sleeves. That's why I love denim so much - it has that extra bit of weight and warmth that makes it perfect for dealing with the caprices of a British summer. It's all well and good having a wardrobe full of barely there dresses and tops for your two weeks of foreign sun, but for the most part, summers at home call for something with a bit more substance.

In a bid to distract myself from the thoroughly un-summery winds currently assailing the UK, I took a little wander along the virtual high street to see what's new in the denim world. Here's what I found...

Raw hem, right side of faded, pencil cut - a nice update of the classic denim skirt, don't you think? And priced at a very reasonable £39. 

Not widely available in the UK, Madewell is a bit like an upmarket Gap, selling lots of cute denim pieces, albeit at quite expensive price points. These jeans are on sale via American department store Nordstrom, at the reduced price of £55.78 instead of £96 - quite a saving. I've been coveting some patched jeans for a while but hadn't found the 'right' kind of patch until stumbling upon these beauties.

Erm, what's not to love about an espadrille. Made from DENIM. Just take my £29.99...

Granted, this one's perhaps more Marrakesh that Minehead, but it would be cynical not to buy just one new summer dress - and this one benefits from the addition of long sleeves to counteract chilly UK weather. £45.99

I find some denim dresses a little cutesy but this one has a bit of an edge. Unfortunately only available in size 4 online right now...£35

A cute alternative to the standard t-shirt 'n' jeans combo - this lighter wash shirt works the double denim look and it has a nicely utilitarian feel to it. £34.99

Oh, to be the right side of 40 to pull this one off...I am still undecided as to whether I would personally feel comfortable strolling around in the sort of garment I last wore age 7, but if I was in the market for tapping into the dungaree trend (and was perhaps a few years younger), this is how I'd do it. £29.99

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