Broke in the Big Smoke

Life in London on a Budget

Three years on

It’s been three years now since I moved to the Big Smoke which seems to have passed in a blink of an eye. You may have realised that things have slowed down around here a lot lately and for that I apologise. I try not to whine about it too much but my health, both physical and mental, really hasn’t been in a great place for the last few months.

Add to this the fact that I’m potentially being made redundant in a couple of weeks you can see why this little space might not be to of my priority list at the moment but I promise you I’m not going anywhere. In fact, I have some pretty exciting plans afoot they just might take a little longer to get off the ground than I would like!

In the last year of living here I have;

Spent the night in jail

Saw Taylor Swift in concert. Twice. Within the space of a week!

Discovered Yelp London and the amazing team behind it

Took a speedboat ride down the Thames

Started a shopping ban with a twist

Visited the IceBar not once but twice

Started a second YouTube channel #NotaBeautyExpert

Joined Bloggeration Magazine as their money editor

Ate an awful lot of afternoon teas!

Finally moved self hosted

Things are really kind of up in the air with everything in my life at the moment so who knows if I’ll even still be in London to see my fourth anniversary? It kind of feels as though my life in on hold and I’m waiting to see how it’s going to turn out but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Everything happens for a reason and I’m sure these current events are no exception to that!

April 2016 NET Worth

Credit

Cash – £2.06
PayPal – £126.93
Santander – £891.91
Halifax C/A – £4,406.09
TSB- £342.65
Tesco – £750.20
Credit total – £6,519.84

Debts
Capital One C/C – £581.48
MBNA C/C – £3,301.53
Virgin Atlantic C/C – £2,512.55
Halifax C/C – £2,716.84
Loan from Mum – £4,000.00
Loan from Dad – £2,000.00
Debt total – (£15,112.40)

Net worth
£6,519.84 – £15,112.40 = –£8,592.56

The Brunch Diaries: Hard Rock Cafe

Just before I went on holiday I was invited by the Hard Rock Café to pop down and check out their brand new rock n roll brunch. It was an early start as the brunch runs from 10am (*yawn*) til noon every Sunday. The Hard Rock Café might be seen as just another chain but it’s also a pretty well-known institution so when I rolled up 10 minutes early there was already a queue forming outside!

My friend Emma soon joined me (you can read here review here) and at 10am practically on the dot the line started to move and we were shown inside to our booth by the window where not only could we enjoy a little bit of spring sunshine but could also see the band who would be playing throughout the morning. You see as well as providing delicious food to its customers in true Hard Rock style each month will see a different band take to the stage and entertain you while you eat. For us that was AJ Moore and I have to say the choice in covers was amazing!

Hard Rock Cafe Brunch Band

There were some slight teething problems with timing, which isn’t surprising given how busy it was and that this was their first ever brunch service but the staff made sure to keep us up to date with what was happening as well as making sure we had plenty to drink (the brunch includes unlimited mimosas and bloody mary’s as well as tea, coffee and juice) while we waited.

Hard Rock Cafe Brunch Mimosa

Now when I first saw the menu I thought we had to choose between the three platters that seemed to be on offer; baked goods, meat and veggie but in actual fact for the £29.95 price tag (remember that includes unlimited drinks for 2 hours) you get ALL THREE! There was so much food.

Hard Rock Cafe Brunch

The first platter included a toasted bagel, American style pancakes and lots of toppings.

Hard Rock Cafe Brunch Veg

They very kindly separated the meat from the veg on the platter (normally this would come altogether) so we had mushrooms, courgette, potatoes, tomatoes, waffles and baked eggs on one platter then fried chicken, sausages, bacon and cowboy beans on another plate.

Hard Rock Cafe Brunch Meat

I tried absolutely everything on offer (obviously) and while it was all delicious (those sausages and that chicken in particular) there was just too much food for two people to get anywhere near finishing. I kept nibbling well past the point of being stuffed because it was just that good! Too much food isn’t ever really a bad thing but a quick look around at the other tables before we left proved that we weren’t the only ones struggling.

I would have also preferred for everything to have come out together so that I could have planned my eating strategy a bit better (ha) but this was simply a timing issue which I’m sure they will nail down fairly quickly.

Such Stuff as Dreams are Made On, Sedos

Such stuff as dreams are made on is a brand new immersive adventure loosely based around Shakespeare’s The Tempest (with a twist of course) by amateur theatre company Sedos. It’s been a while since I’ve seen an immersive theatre production, it’s such a difficult genre to get right and so many companies fail.

When I first arrived I wasn’t 100% sure I was in the right place but upon entering Capstan House (basically just a regular office building) I was directed to the first floor where the magic takes place. I checked in my coat and bag then took a seat in the main room where I read the program I had been given upon entering. My confusion grew even more as it looked as though there was going to be an introduction to the show by a well-known Shakespearian historian before the show began… as I’d been given a press ticket for this show I wasn’t sure if this was perhaps a special event they were holding (the couple sat next to me seemed to be family members of one of the cast). After far too long I realised that the show had actually already started the moment I stepped through the door to take my seat! When you don’t even realise you’re being immersed the immersion is clearly pretty damn convincing.

After a short introduction we were given fairy lights in jars to differentiate cast and audience then finally let loose to roam around the sets and follow characters of our choosing. Now to be honest I should probably have at least read the cliff notes of The Tempest before going to watch the show (there is actual a short synopsis on the back of the program you are given at the start which definitely helps) as I am still none the wiser as to who several of the characters that I chose to follow actually were but this is a minor point as I know had I stuck with them long enough I would have figured it out.

I am absolutely terrible at making decisions and forever spotting someone who looks more interesting (some performances were better than others which is to be expected from any amateur production) to me than the person whom I am already invested in, switching to follow them only to miss out on something awesome by the character that I ditched! As the show progressed I became braver, ending up in a completely dark room with only a handful of other audience members and crawling through a tunnel as a way of escape.

Set design, even in traditional theatre is something that I always enjoy and I have to say that I was incredibly impressed with the scale of the work that had been done for this show that has such a short run time. Attention to detail was immense and something else I particularly enjoyed was how some areas were cut off until later as the story progressed so there seemed to always be something new to explore.

It’s difficult not to compare other immersive shows to the fabulous Punchdrunk but I will say that this show is the closest I have come to feeling the same magic that The Drowned Man made me feel each time I entered its space and I am so grateful to have been able to see it during its short run. I really cannot recommend the show enough and I urge you to check it out if you have an  interest in either Shakespeare or immersive theatre. Sedos is definitely a company I will be keeping an eye and ear out for in future.

Such Stuff runs at Capstan house until 23rd April 2016 and you can purchase tickets here.

{Guest Post} Sweet treats in EAST by JessEatingEast

I’ve asked a couple of people to guest blog for you here on Broke in the Big Smoke about their favourite thing about living in London. Today Jess from Eating East is here to tickle your tastebuds with some of the best places for sweet treats in East London.

Hi I’m Jess from the blog Eating East and I normally write about restaurants in East London, whether it is a new opening, pop up or an old favourite, I love to try everything. I do have a huge weakness for sweet treats and East London has an awesome selection on offer, after some extensive research 😉 here are my TOP 5:

Violets bakery

  1. The quirky one: Violets bakery, Hackney

Hidden away in the back streets of a residential area near London fields this little bakery fits into the neighbourhood excellently, being a local I appreciate it so much. Anytime of the day you pop in they are always pulling something fresh out of the oven, using local ingredients their menu is seasonal and ever-changing so there is always something new to try. Violets is long established with a strong folllowing of locals in the know, also don’t miss out on their Salted caramel cupcake is it my favourite treat from them.

http://www.violetcakes.com/

Belle epoque

  1. The classic patisserie: Belle Epoque, Newington green/angel

Belle Epoque started out as a little French patisserie in Newington Green over 15years ago, they recently opened a new cafe in Angel, a little something most people may not realise is that they stock Selfridges patisserie counter. So why not go sit in one of their picturesque cafes and enjoy some of their wonderfully crafted patisseries that look almost too beautiful to eat! They may be long established but the chef is always making new innovative patisseries with interesting flavour combinations; not to mention they French classic of course.

www.belleepoque.co.uk

MollyBakes

  1. The Instagrammable one Molly bakes, Kingsland Road

New on the block is Molly Bakes, previously only doing online trade they recently opened a cafe on Kingsland Road and have really made a name for themselves with customers queuing up for over two hours to get their hand on a Freakshake! Made famous in Australia, this is the first cafe in the UK to sell these monster milkshakes topped with doughtnuts, brownies and even melting marshmallows. If you are in need of a sugar hit or an entire weeks worth of calories in one go, may as well make it worth it and try a freakshake.

https://www.mollybakes.co.uk/

LilyVanili

  1. The Sunday one: Lily Vanilli, Columbia Flower market

A warm sunny Sunday in East London has punters flocking to Columbia flower market, this is my perfect Sunday routine and washes away any hangover. Holding an over sized bunch of flowers, listening to all the talented buskers, the next stop is Lily Vanilli bakery which only opens on a Sunday and sells cakes and pastries straight out of the oven. They stock Coleman coffee and do a great flat white, which goes perfectly with their salted double chocolate brownies, the only catch is you have to get in their quick as everything usually sells out by 2/3pm! They have recently started to stock Fortnum and Masons cake counter if that is more convenient.

www.lilyvanilli.com

fabrique

  1. The Scandi one: Fabrique, Hoxton

 Another Bakery that you need to be in the know about is Fabrique located near Hoxton station it bakes fresh Scaniavian inspired breads such as rye and sourdough but the show stopper is their cinnamon bun; warm out of the oven sticky sweet with a crisp glaze, fragrant with cinnamon and a touch of cardamon. My Swedish friend swears these are the best cinnamon buns in London and that is praise indeed. They also now have branches in Covent Garden and Notting Hill, but it all started in Hoxton under railway arch where you can sit in the sun and enjoy a ‘Fika’ break (swedish for a coffee and cake break).

www.fabrique.co.uk

 

Want to know more great restaurants and foodie delights in East London come and check out my blog www.wordpress.eatingeast.co.uk or say hello on twitter @jesseatingeast

 

{Guest Post} 10 of London’s best cheap eats by Cake + Whisky

I’ve asked a couple of people to guest blog for you here on Broke in the Big Smoke about their favourite thing about living in London. Today Sandra from Cake + Whisky tells you all some of London’s best cheap eats.

Dining out in London needn’t break the bank. Despite it being one of the most expensive cities in the Europe and the world, it’s also one of the best when it comes to dining out on a budget.

Of course, you can find cheap food pretty much everywhere in the world, but London is quite different, both in terms of the quality and the diversity of what you can get for £10.

When in many other European cities, your choices will be limited to fast food burgers or greasy pizza, in London, your budget dining options are much more cosmopolite…

And the proof is in the Top 10 list…

Cake + Whisky Borough Market 3

  1. Borough Market

If you’re a foodie, Borough Market is really close to the idea you have of heaven. They have everything you could possibly wish for, from gorgeous fresh fruit & veggies to mountains of cheese and every kind of baked good you could possibly think of.

It also is an excellent choice if you’re after delicious, cheap street food. Borough Market is home to some of the city’s best street food stalls.

Favourites include Kapacasein’s Raclette & Brindisa’s chorizo sandwich, and there’s so much to choose from I’m sure you’ll find just what you’re after!

How much it costs: about £10 for main + dessert

Cake + Whisky Brick Lane Beigel Bake 2

  1. Brick Lane’s Beigel Bake

Beigel Bake on Brick Lane is a London institution: it’s open 24/7 and there is always, ALWAYS a line. Not really surprising considering the value for money those guys offer!

All the bagels are made on site (watching the bakers make the bagels will keep you busy while you queue!), very generous (I swear there was half a pack of cream cheese in my bagel!), and stupidly cheap too!

How much it costs: Ridiculously cheap: the salt beef bagel is around £6, the smoked salmon one £2

Cake + Whisky Franco Manca 1

  1. Franco Manca

One of London’s best sourdough pizzas. That’s what they’re known for and that’s what they do well, so definitely one for the carb lovers out there! Don’t bother with dessert though, it’s not really their forte!

How much it costs: about £10 per person (and I promise you won’t go hungry for a while!)

Cake + Whisky Hoppers 2

  1. Hoppers

Have you ever tried Sri Lankan food? If not, make a beeline (a.k.a put your name down and go for a drink until the restaurant rings you to tell your table is ready) for Hoppers.

Serving up flavourful curries and excellent hoppers (a sort of pancake made of fermented rice flour and coconut milk), it’s probably the best value for money place I’ve come across in a while!

How much it costs: Just above £10 per person for a hopper and a curry. Ridiculously good value.

Cake + Whisky Battersea Pie Station 1

  1. Battersea Pie Station

I tend to hate touristy places, especially when they’re really crowded, but there’s something about Covent Garden I simply can’t get enough of. However, food (especially on the cheaper end of the spectrum) is a bit meh around there. But, as for any general rules, there are always exceptions and Battersea Pie Station is Covent Garden’s.

It’s nothing fancy, but they serve up some of the city’s best traditional British pies at prices that can’t be beaten!

How much it costs: Somewhere between £5 & £10 for pie and all the trimmings.

Cake + Whisky Bibimbap 2

  1. Bibimbap

One for the more adventurous eaters, Bibimbap takes its name from a signature Korean dish of fried rice, topped with vegetables and soy sauce, served in a hot stone bowl.

You won’t quite understand how truly brilliant a thing a bibimbap is until you taste one. But take my word on it, it’s Asian comfort food at its very best!

How much it costs: For around £10, you’ll get enough food to feed even the most puckish of dinners!

Cake + Whisky Herman ze German 2

  1. Herman ze German

They say that their Wurst is Ze Best and truth be told, they’re probably not far from the truth!

Head to Herman for a taste of German street food, mainly German sausage in all its forms (including vegetarian), grilled and served in buns, with chips or a side salad. But trust me, you’ll want the chips!

How much it costs: One of Ze Best deals in town: Currywurst + Pommes is £6.

Cake + Whisky Hummus Bros 2

  1. Hummus Bros

Hummus Bros does very much what it says on paper: hummus. And then a few extra stuff to eat it with, including a lovely falafel salad and great, warm pitta bread.

How much it costs: The hummus bowls are around £6 (and you get to pick your own toppings! Avocado hummus anyone? #yesplease)

Cake + Whisky Melt Room 1

  1. Melt Room

This place is the best for cheesy dates. Nop, not that kind! No red roses or candles there, just loads of melted cheese and bread. It is London’s first grilled cheese shop after all.

Oh, and they do a nice lil’ mac n’ cheese number you won’t want to miss. Especially since it’s only £5…

How much it costs: Cheap as chips! All the grilled cheese sandwiches are £5 or under.

Cake + Whisky Gelupo 2

  1. Gelupo

A paradise for anyone with a sweet tooth, Gelupo is a cute little ice cream parlour down Archer Street and they serve London’s finest frozen treats.

The milkshakes, cakes and cookies are all well and good, but they’re nothing compared to the gelato.

Ricotta & Sour Cherry and Blood orange sorbet are firm favourites, but they always have new flavours to try on, which is a great excuse to keep going back!

How much it costs: £2 for 1 scoop, £3 for 2 and £4 for 3

March Favourites

It’s April already. We’re a freaking quarter of the way through 2016. I turn 30 next month and as yet have made zero plans for it. March wasn’t actually the best month for me which I can’t really write about yet but if you follow me on Twitter you’ll know what I mean (if you aren’t why the heck not? follow me here!) that said every month has it’s good moments so here are some of the things that have been making me smile this month.

Lego Games

I’ve been playing my way through the Lego Harry Potter games over the last couple of months and it reminded me how much I LOVE these kind of games. I finally hit 100% on both last weekend so I’m going to trade them in at CEX and get myself another to play. The question is which to get? I’m thinking the Jurassic World one maybe. Any thoughts?

lego-harry-potter-years-5-7

Me Before You

I have already waxed lyrical about why I love this book in my most recent reading update post but this book definitely deserves a spot as one of my favourites here too. It’s heartbreaking yet beautiful and the absolute babes at Penguin UK have sent me a copy of the sequel After You which I can’t wait to read while on holiday.

Can't wait to read this! The first literally broke my heart 💔

A photo posted by Leanne Fraser (@msleannefraser) on

S+ by ResMed

I’m a bit of a stats junkie so when I was asked to trial the new S+ by ResMed which tracks your sleeping patterns I immediately said yes. For those that don’t know one of the biggest issues I face with my IBD is fatigue so finding out ways in which I can improve the quality of my sleep is a big thing. I’ve really enjoyed using it so far and I’ll write more about how I’ve found it in a future blog post.

IMG_9566

Crystal Maze

I don’t know if y’all remember me saying that I’d helped fund the kickstarter to bring the Crystal Maze to London as an actual real life version that you can play but it finally opened and I went along and Oh my god. Best day EVER. Not even kidding. I’ll be writing a full post about this very soon so watch this space. In the meantime, beg, borrow or steal a ticket any way you can. I PROMISE you won’t regret it.

Crystal Maze Selfie

Shadowhunters

I actually really love trashy TV OK? And while this show has been slated almost everywhere I’ve really enjoyed The Mortal Instrument books that I’ve read so far (if you’ve been following me long enough you’ll know I broke the tablet I was reading them onShadowhunters

Murad Sun Undone Facial at Spa London: Kensington

This year I’ve been making a real effort this year to take better care of my skin and I’ve been enjoying documenting this on my YouTube channel: Not a Beauty Expert so I was delighted when I was invited by the team at Spa London to venture over to their Kensington location for a facial.

I’ve only ever had one facial in my whole life or at least I thought I had but having now had this one I’m not certain if the other wasn’t more of a peel/exfoliation treatment as this one was so totally different. As I’m so new to the whole beauty thing I left it up to the therapist to decide what facial type would be best for an almost thirty, city living woman with dry skin and it was decided that the Murad Sun Undone Infusion facial was just the ticket.
Spa London Products
This is a “vitamin C rich facial designed to reverse- and protect against- the signs of ageing caused by environmental factors such as sun, stress and city living. Pigmentation will be lightened and clarity improved, leaving the complexion radiant, bright and beautiful in just one treatment.” Sounds good to me! I was left alone in the treatment room to undress including removing socks and hop on to the bed. If like me you haven’t had many treatments before, you might wonder why this was necessary for something that focuses on your face but I’ll come to that shortly.
Spa London Kensington Treatment Room
After a quick discussion around my current beauty regime (it was suggested that I should add toner to my daily routine as well as the cleanser and moisturiser I’m currently forcing myself to get used to – baby steps ok?) the lights were dimmed and the facial began with a quick foot wash and massage. I’m not sure what the purpose of this step is but I did find it quite odd at the time. (To be honest, I’d completely forgotten about this until I started writing this post. The next 45 minutes were spent with various lotions and potions being applied to my face and receiving mini massages on both my arms and shoulders while the masks were left to work their magic.
Post facial relaxation
I thought it might be quite weird just lying there with someone else in the room but my therapist was wonderful and made me feel incredibly comfortable and relaxed during the process even to the point where I could quite happily have gone for a quick snooze while she worked away. Straight away I noticed a difference in my skin, not so much in how it looked but how much deeper within the skin I could feel the moisturiser – I don’t even know if that makes sense but I hope so! The next day, and ever since my skin has felt so much plumper and glowy and it also that my daily moisturiser sinks in to the skin much more easily as well. It’s a definite winner in my book.

Spa London Facial Deal

I guess the only negative thing is the cost at £65 per treatment it’s not exactly cheap but Spa London actually have a deal for buy one get one half price at the moment which helps brings the costs down and as a treat for your skin every couple of months it’s definitely worth investing in my opinion.

BitBS Rating – £££

*Disclaimer: My facial at Spa London was complimentary
in exchange for a review.
The above opinions are still my own and not influenced by this in any way.

The Ship Tavern, Holborn

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a restaurant that I’ve been invited to but after seeing The Ship Tavern pop up on a few of my favourite blogs I was excited when an invitation popped into my inbox a couple of weeks ago and swiftly made arrangements for myself and my friend Jen to visit last week. Unfortunately, Jen was put out of action by a horrendous migraine and I was unable to find someone to take her spot at the last minute. Never one to be beaten when it comes to food I headed along to the Holborn establishment for a date night for one!

Approaching The Ship Tavern down the narrow lane directly next to Holborn station that I’d never even noticed before I was surprised to see the outside was incredibly busy with people having post-work drinks with their colleagues. Luckily the restaurant is upstairs and has its own entrance so I didn’t have to battle my way through.

Ship Tavern Holborn Interior

The ‘Oak Room’ is quite a cosy little place, illuminated beautifully by candlelight (although this does make it rather dark so apologies for the photo quality – I left my camera still plugged in at the wall charging that day, so these were taken with my phone) and it was really busy when I arrived which made me feel a little guilty about taking up a whole booth to myself. It was great news for me though as it meant I could indulge in a spot of people watching which is always fun!

It took me a long time to decide what I wanted to eat given that I didn’t have someone else with me who’s food I could steal a taste of and the menu is incredibly comprehensive. In the end I went for what I hoped would be a light starter option of seared scallops, garden pea puree, crispy pancetta and blackberry. I was not disappointed.

Ship Tavern Holborn Scallops Starter

The scallops were cooked to perfection which in itself is a tricky feat but complimented with the pancetta and surprisingly the blackberries made for a taste sensation. I scraped that plate clean!

I can’t say the same about my main course but that was not in any way a fault on the dishes part but my inability to eat the huge pie that was laid in front of me! You see every day the restaurant offers at least one different type of pie topped with a puff pastry crown and served with a generous portion of mashed potatoes and seasonal veg.

Ship Tavern Holborn Chicken Leek Pie Main

I had the chicken and leek version which must have had at least half a chicken inside it! The mash was incredibly creamy and moreish and several times I attempted just one more bite only to be defeated after only eating about half of what was on my plate. I’d love to see if even my dad would manage to eat a whole one! They also do a larger pie for two people to share and I honestly can’t comprehend how big that must be.

Now we all know that humans have a second stomach just for pudding so I couldn’t resist ordering one and thought I’d be safe with the lighter option of passionfruit panacotta.
Ship Tavern Holborn pannacotta pudding

Unfortunately, this was the most disappointing part of the meal for me. I didn’t feel that the raspberry coulis went particularly well with the passionfruit but I’m not sure if this was more because I was extremely full by this point or not.

The staff were all super lovely checking that I was OK and telling me a bit more about the restaurant and dishes. I wasn’t rushed out the door as soon as I was done either which was nice as it’s such a lovely atmosphere just to sit and relax in. It’s definitely somewhere I’ll consider visiting again when I’m in the area, especially if it means I can avoid the atrocity that is the Central line at rush hour!

BitBS Rating – ££

The Ship Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

*Disclaimer: My meal at The Ship Tavern was complimentary
in exchange for a review.
The above opinions are still my own and not influenced by this in any way.

March 2016 NET Worth

Credit

Cash – £2.07
Santander – £703.99
Halifax C/A – £2,840.97
TSB- £826.71
Tesco – £598.85
Credit total – £4,972.59

Debts
Capital One C/C – £61.38
MBNA C/C – £3,334.87
Virgin Atlantic C/C – £2,532.88
Halifax C/C – £2,744.28
Loan from Mum – £4,000.00
Loan from Dad – £2,000.00
Debt total – (£14,673.41)

Net worth
£4,972.59 – £14,673.41 = –£9,700.82

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