Sunday 31 July 2022

Restaurant review - Lutyens Grill, The Ned, London

Since having our daughter the only time my husband and I seem to go out for a meal by ourselves is a birthday or anniversary, and we haven’t even managed that most of the time for the past few years, thanks to covid and limitations on free babysitting.

We managed to celebrate our first anniversary after the birth of our daughter (pre-pandemic) in style, going into London to dine at the Ned, a swanky private members club (with restaurants and bars that are open to the public) near Bank.

It’s also a hotel, but the rooms are a little out of our price range (!) at over £300 for the smallest ‘crash pad’ room going up to over £2,000 a night for their most luxurious suite. They also have a pool, spa, various restaurants, a jazz and cabaret club and more.

After opening in 2017 in the historic 1920/ building designed by Sir Edwin - ‘Ned’ - Lutyens that was the headquarters of Midland Bank, the Ned quickly became known as a celebrity haunt. It probably helped that the Ned was set up by one of the founders of Soho House - and it’s not often you get the chance to visit somewhere like that unless you are a member but the restaurants in the Ned are open to the public too. There is an Italian called Cecconi’s, the Nickel bar, which has American staples and cocktails, an American diner called Electric, Malibu Kitchen which has healthy Californian food and smoothies, Asia Pacific-inspired restaurant Kaia, Lutyens Grill which serves steaks and fish and the Parlour which is a jazz and cabaret bar.

I was tempted by most of them and knew my husband would prefer either steak or the American diner, but the latter didn’t seem posh enough for an anniversary meal so I booked Lutyens, and it didn’t disappoint.

The building itself is impressive and we walked through the bar to get to Lutyens - It looked really lively and vibrant. Lutyens itself was a lot quieter and much more traditional in feel with banquette sofas and wood-panelled walls. It used to be the bank manager’s office when this was the Midland Bank. The trolley service where meat is brought alongside your table to be carved adds to the old school - and dare I say it slightly stuffy - feel.

The food was top notch - I had a steak with a side of Mac and cheese and ‘happy anniversary’ was written on the plate with our dessert. It was definitely a restaurant to try but the prices were steep - more expensive than Hawksmoor, which is also a premium steak restaurant in central London, and one which overall we prefer. But I’d still be keen to go back and try some of the other restaurants in the Ned - and if I won the lottery stay in the hotel as well!

Friday 29 July 2022

Butlin's Bognor Regis restaurant reviews - part 2

Following on from this post about the restaurants at Butlin's Bognor Regis and the Dinearound plan, I've written a more up to date review, having returned to Butlin's some seven months later. We are in some of the same restaurants and tried some others, and I've answered some of the most common questions I see about the Butlin's meal plans.

Head over here to read the full reviews.

Sunday 10 July 2022

A beginner's guide to swishing

What is swishing? What to expect from a swishing event - and top tips to make the most of a swishing event!

When I first told someone I was going to a clothes swapping event they gave me a funny look and asked if it involved keys in a bowl. But swishing, to use its proper name, means keeping your clothes on - and doing your bit for sustainable fashion.

A clothes swapping event involves bringing along clothes that you don’t want any more, and swapping for ones that you do. No money changes hands, though you usually have to buy a ticket for the event - and it’s a great way to get a few (or a lot) of new items for your wardrobe.

Such events have become popular for the last few years and I suspect even more so now that we are facing the combination of heightened urgency to fight climate change and a cost of living crisis.

I’ve been to two swishing events and have booked for a third, with an organisation called A Stitch to Wear. They run events in and around Sutton in south London and they are brilliant! They are run in a particular way that might be different to other events so I’m going to share my top tips for getting the most out of a swishing event but my description of how it works may be different for other events.

What do you do at a swishing event?

You come to a swishing event with clothes you don’t want any more - at A Stitch to Wear, you are allowed to bring up to 10 items of clothing plus one item of homeware and one and unused makeup item or beauty product.

You are allocated points based on the brand of the clothing or item, which are written on a little card.

Then, you are free to rummage through the clothing rails - at this event they are arranged by size with separate clothing rails for different sizes. Pick out anything you want and take it to the desk to ‘pay’ with your points!

If you have points left over you can keep them until the next event and spend them there. 

A Stitch to Wear sells tickets (it’s £6.50 to go) for different time slots 45 minutes apart, so there aren’t too many people in the room at one time - and it means you don’t have to come right at the beginning in case all the good stuff is gone, because new clothes are added at each time slot. It means it comes down to pure luck as to what is there in each size at the time you go, but that’s part of the fun!

At the last event I went to my haul included clothes from Oliver Bonas, Mint Velvet, M&S, Primark, Gap, Crew Clothing Company and M&Co, plus two brands I hadn’t heard of which I looked up and seem to be mid-priced labels - Klass and W - and a more expensive brand I wasn’t familiar with called Hampton Republic. Not everything was for me as I picked up a few bits for my mum as well. You also get a hand made cloth tote bag at the events so I've got two of them now!

Top tips for getting the most out of a swishing event

  • If you’re just going for a browse and to try your luck then there’s no need for a game plan – but if you are on a mission to restock your wardrobe it may help to have a strategy – what I mean by that is, an idea of what you want to get. Are you in the market for clothes for this season (e.g. summer), or next (winter)? Do you want to aim for the best brands, perhaps labels you wouldn’t normally be able to afford to buy? Are you looking for a new outfit for a night out, or some work wear, or summer holiday gear?
  • The reason I mention this is because the event can involve a bit of fast-paced rummaging through rails with other people going through the same rack as you. The events I’ve been to have always been very good natured – no sharp elbows or grabbing something from under someone else’s nose – but it is very much a case of first come, first served. So if you have particular items or labels you are after, have that in mind, and do a quick sweep of each rail to see if you can spot anything quickly, before going back through and having a closer look.
  • It doesn’t matter what slot you book as clothes are restocked between events as well – but it makes sense to arrive at the start of your time slot and try to be near the front of the queue, then you get first dibs on whatever is there – and keep an eye out as the volunteers restock the rails as each person hands over their donations.
  • Take a rucksack or small shoulder bag that won’t get in the way as you will need your hands free to rummage
  • Take a large bag (I find the Sainsbury’s extra strong fold-up bags are the perfect size) to carry the clothes and items you want to buy. The first time I went, I draped clothes (still on their hangers) over one arm, and quickly found it difficult to keep browsing the rails with only one arm free (and the clothes were getting heavy). The second time I went, I took clothes off their hangers and left the hangers on the rails, and put each piece of clothing into the bag that I could easily carry in the crook of my elbow or put down on the floor while I rummaged.
  • Check the other size rails too. At the A Stitch to Wear events, clothes are arranged in pairs of sizes, so there are a couple of rails for 10-12, a couple for 14-16 and one for 18-plus, as well as separate areas for denim, bags, shoes and so on. It’s always worth checking the other rails in case items have ended up in the wrong place.
  • You can’t easily (or privately) try clothes on at the swap - but as they are free once you have paid the entry fee, I have no problem with using my points to buy something and seeing if it fits when I get home - and if not it can go to the charity shop or I can bring it back to the next swap!

Swishing events are really good fun and a nice way to change up your wardrobe at no more than the cost of your entry ticket. I’m currently loving my two floral maxi dresses from the last swap and have already bought a ticket to the next event in September!