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    VIP Eats: London Restaurant Festival

    October is the month of the London Restaurant Festival – yes, the whole month – so if you didn’t know this already you have been missing out!

    It’s an excuse to visit places you’ve never been before and a really good chance to try the venues you read about in magazines and newspapers but never thought you’d be able to afford. There are money-saving deals to be had everywhere. Visit the London Restaurant Festival website and you’ll see what I mean.

    The deals on individual restaurants like Atelier De Joel Roubouchon, STK London and Babylon Roof Gardens are fantastic but what’s really cool about the festival is the opportunity to visit several different restaurants in one day. Why have the starter, main and dessert in one place when you can visit up to six restaurants and sample a dish and a drink at each? It’s a great opportunity to see what eateries you like the most so you know where to book in for a full meal another time.

    The tours available are a Japanese Journey, a Chinatown Tour, a Tapas Tour, a Cicchetti Trail and a Carnaby Village tour. I tried the Carnaby Village tour to test out the concept. The best thing about this one is you get to try a variety of flavours with Indian, Italian, American, Chinese,  Japanese and even Peruvian restaurants.

    This is how I got on:

    (1)    Cinnamon Soho


    Bengali spiced crabcakes with tomato and mustard mayonnaise and a Mango Kick cocktail.

    They weren’t wrong when they said this vodka based cocktail had a kick!

    (2)    Kua-aina


    Blueberry and bananas with maple syrup pancakes or half 1/2 lb classic cheese or pineapple burger

    If I was on death row, these pancakes would form part of my last meal…

    (3)    Pizza Pilgrims


    Slice of Ndjua pizza or Tomato arancini stuffed with buffalo mozarella

    This restaurant serves up pizza with an added slice of humour. The pizza dough is incredible – so light!

    (4)    Shoryu Ramen


    Ganso Tonkotsu pork broth ramen


    OR barbecue char sui pork hirata bun

    I could live on these buns for breakfast, lunch and dinner and I’d still enjoy each bite. The hirata bun is like a little cloud from heaven which contrasts with the sweet and succulent pork.

    (5)    Senor Ceviche


    Sea bream and king prawn ceviche with aji amarillo tiger’s milk, red onion and crispy baby squid

     This fish was so soft. I am a sushi addict and I would say this is better than some of the sashimi I’ve had at Nobu. I want to go back for more!

    (6)    Cha Cha Moon


    Spring rolls or Crispy Chilli Beef

    This is one posh – but affordable – Chinese. It’s owned by Alan Yau of Hakkasan and Yauatcha fame and there’s just as much skill in the cooking as well as a super cool interior. We’ll be back!

    Was I satisfied at the end? Absolutely! The highlights, for me, were the  pancakes at Kua-Aina (it satisfied my sweet side and having blueberries baked into the pancake kept it juicy) and the Char Sui pork bun at Shoryu Ramen (as the meat had a sweet glaze that contrasted perfectly with the light dough).

    As we walked in between restaurants I didn’t feel as uncomfortably full as I would have done if I sat in the same place. If you consider that tickets are £55 and this is basically your lunch and dinner, refreshments and 6 hours of entertainment then it’s pretty good value for money.

    The only catch is that you need to book quickly if you want to join in! The next date – and final – date you can book a tour is Saturday 25 October. So get to the website quickly.

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    VIP Night Out: La Sala Restaurant

    La Sala restaurant in Marbella is an institution. If you don’t dine there at least once during your holiday to Puerto Banus then you just haven’t had a very good holiday. With gorgeous cocktails, gorgeous food and even more gorgeous people to watch (and flirt with) I’ve often wished I could go more often.


    Fortunately, now I (and you) will have many more opportunities to go as the legendary restaurant has opened it’s first UK branch. It’s located in Woodford, Essex and so I grabbed my sister to go and investigate.


    The night itself was amazing (more of that below) which could partly be because it’s got some high profile VIPs as investors. Footballers Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Raheem Sterling,Paul Robinson and David Bentley (who co-owns the Marbella La Sala) all have shares in the venture. With Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville investing in Cafe Football at Westfield Stratford and Rio Ferdinand owning Rosso in Manchester, it seems to be the big trend for footballers to back restaurants so the first thing I did was find out why!

    David Bentley (below) seems to know his stuff when it comes to food, I was happy to learn. Here’s my exclusive Q&A:


    QS: Why did you decide to back a restaurant?

    I’ve also enjoyed visiting La Sala in Spain and when I heard that the concept might be coming to the UK I was keen to be a part of introducing the same vibe and values into a restaurant environment.  And I’m a big fine food enthusiast!

    QS: What is your favourite item on the La Sala menu.

    I love all of the fish dishes – the garlic prawns and whole Dover sole right through to traditional fish and chips.

    QS: What dishes do you cook at home?

    A real mixture, loads of lean, fresh cuts of meat from the butchers, lots of seasonal veg – I like quick dishes but with lots of flavour.

    QS: What dish would you cook to make a great impression or treat a loved one?

    Tricky one – I would probably try and impress with Japanese food or something a little different.

    QS: And who would be your dream dinner party guests and why?

    I would have loved to have dinner with James Gandolfini before he sadly passed away.

    On the night itself, we saw some appetisers, including sushi, lamb cutlets and spring rolls – which looked tasty –  but as the venue is so popular already it was more about the mingling. George Thorne, Jordan Segal and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain swapped their football kits for smart jeans, shirts and blazers.

    George Thorne, Jordan Segal, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain_La Sala

    There was entertainment from stilt-walking dancers and an amazing female singer.


    Gary Hobson and Tim Sherwood looked like they put the waiters to the test. Their canapes look tasty though.

    Gary Hobson L & Tim Sherwood R_La Sala

    For private parties there’s not one but two private rooms, which mean you don’t have to share your night with the rest of Essex. Plus the Laurent Perrier room (which seats 8) is upstairs so you get to look down on the main restaurant and bar.


    Based on the launch party, the backing of the footballers and the fact that bookings are now being taken til February, I would bet my Mulberry handbag on the fact La Sala is going to be one of the hottest restaurants in Essex.

    I would advise to visit the La Sala UK website for booking details and location and follow @lasalauk on Twitter for up to date news. We plan to visit again soon and report back on what food you can expect, but we can tell you that if you want to dine in a fun environment surrounded by cool people then you need to visit La Sala. We’re so happy it’s arrived in the UK!

    PHOTOS: Christopher, lookingoodimages.co.uk

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    VIP Night Out: CORE Bar

    Do you know what you’re doing on Friday night yet? You’ve worked hard all week so you don’t want to waste a night out on anything average. That’s why I’m reviewing the hottest places in London, to see if they live up to the hype…

    CORE in the City of London is owned by Late Night London, which celebrates it’s 15th birthday this year, so I was hoping this is a good sign that I would have a good night there. I mean, a business – especially a nightlife business – doesn’t last for 15 years unless it knows how to deliver what it’s customers want.

    So what do you look for on a night out? I have been told I have high standards as my perfect night out involves great drinks (bubbles and cocktails and maybe bubbly cocktails), tasty food that I could never cook myself, a dancefloor and a late license so I don’t have to leave when I’m having fun. Is that too much to ask?

    photo 3

    As I took my seat in a gorgeous booth on the top floor (the restaurant’s above and the party floor’s downstairs) I found out that the cocktails at CORE were so good, I would happily have abandoned everything else I look for on my perfect night in favour of one more drink. That’s not to say I was disappointed in other ways as you’ll find out if you read on, but the cocktail menu at CORE is pretty special.

    Firstly it’s special in a looks way as it comes with blank pages at the back, which you are actively encouraged to doodle in. Then it’s the imagination that’s gone into the creation of the drinks. For example:

    photo 1

    I started with a Sour Puss (above) which is house infused lemongrass Bombay Sapphire Gin seduced with Elderflowerand lemons served over ice with a splash of soda – guaranteed to turn that frown upside down! I mean, I wasn’t exactly frowning at the start but after tasting this delicate, light and refreshing concoction I had a spring in my step.

    Kiwi Sangria – Sangria has shed it’s usual red & donned a new coat of green with fresh kiwi, lemon & coriander smashed together with Finlandia vodka, a splash of melon liqueur all lengthened with white wine for a cosmopolitan new look

    The Gaffa – “The Daddy” of all cocktails. A rum based concoction of Sailor Jerry’s and Woods 100, sweetened with peach liqueur and apple juice, topped up with fresh lime and spicy ginger beer. Accompanied with a temporary tattoo to show who’s boss.

    I also tried a Punk Fizz, which is pineapple puree, prosecco and Chambord. It tasted slightly like a porn star martini, but less sickly.

    photo 1 copy

    My friend had a Moroccan Julep, which was served in a jam jar with a straw. It was so refreshing and tasty, it reminded me of high summer. It was Bacardi Carta Blanca steeped in green tea with
    fresh mint & apple juice, a splash of sugar & pomegranate molasses churned with crushed ice then crowned with mint. I had cocktail envy!

    photo 2 copy

    After these drinks, we thought it was time to check out the food options. At night-time, the menu consists of bar snacks and a selection of burgers. If I ever see burgers on a menu then I want them to be so amazing that I couldn’t conjure up ones like them myself at home so I had high expectations. The waitress explained that the meat for the burgers came from the Queen’s butchers, Donald Russell, which got me excited as I don’t normally shop at the Queen’s butchers (obviously!) I don’t know whether it was the quality of the beef or how the burger was cooked or a mixture of both but I wasn’t disappointed. It was moist and tender and I asked for extra cheese and bacon to make each mouthful a taste sensation. I have to say I ate it so quickly I forgot to take a photo myself, but it did look like how it appears on Core’s Fascebook page.


    My friend had something similar but with blue cheese on top and he said he hasn’t had a burger like it in ages. This is a boy that managed 6 burger meals on a weekend city break to Cologne, so he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to burgers. We both agreed that the fries sprinkled with Rosemary Salt were just how we liked them – crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy in the centre. Yum!

    Now, I don’t think I even need to describe this chocolate brownie as the photo itself speaks for how good it was. Look at the photo, multiply it by 100 and then think of warm chocolate chunks and a melt-in-the-mouth taste. It’s all that and more! I was grateful of the ice cream to balance out all the chocolate.


    We also ordered a lemon cheesecake, which came in a super cute jar. What I liked about this was the base as it wasn’t too buttery or biscuity, more crunchy. The base tasted a bit like granola and it was less heavy than a lot of other cheesecakes, which is what you want if you’ve just scoffed a burger!


    They don’t always offer the dessert options at night-time, but we asked the waiteress to ask the chef if we could have one that was available from the lunch menu. We figured if you don’t ask then you don’t get and it was good to see the CORE staff could be flexible.

    So what about the music? I have to say I was blown away by how big CORE was. Downstairs is a massive party venue, which stays open late on Thursday and Friday and until 12am on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. No matter what day of the week you go there will be something going on but it gets better as the week goes on – Thursday and Friday nights are the party nights!

    So now you can see we’ve had tasty cocktails, food we couldn’t cook ourself, a dancefloor and a late license – CORE ticked all my boxes. My only regret? That it took me 10 years to discover it. I won’t leave it that long to visit again!

    Visit the Core bar website for the full menus and details of how to book

    Tweet us @livelikeavip and let us know how you get on!

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    VIP Night Out: Forge Bar And Restaurant

    Do you know what you’re doing on Friday night yet? You’ve worked hard all week so you don’t want to waste a night out on anything average. That’s why I’m reviewing the hottest places in London, to see if they live up to the hype…

    There’s a real buzz surrounding Forge Bar in London both from celebrities and the media so I was looking forward to trying this one. Singer and OK! columnist Michelle Heaton loves it, comedian Russell Howard visited on a rare night off and the Vogue magazine girls have been very complimentary.

    My own first impressions were good. It’s situated very close to Bank underground station, which is easy to get to on the central line, and it’s a refreshing change to go to a venue that’s not in Mayfair or Soho. This is because you get a very London crowd, people that work or live in the city, rather than the trust fund kids, rich students and foreign businessmen that frequent Mayfair.


    On the night my sister and I visited – a Wednesday – there were some very good looking men at the bar! So we made the most of that by having a cocktail before dinner. There are lots of delicious drinks to chose from on Forge’s cocktail menu but what’s cool about it is that it’s clearly divided up into old fshioned drinks, high balls, martinis and Champagne based cocktails. OBVIOUSLY my sister and I went for a Champagne based cocktail. I had the best, in my opinion, which was the no. 81 – a refreshing and lightly fizzy mix of Champagne, St Germain elderflower liqueur, mint and peach bitters. My sister had the very green coloured no. 82, which tasted deceptively like it was good for you even though it was an intoxicating mix of vodka, Champagne, lemon juice, peach syrup, cucumber juice and green cardamon. It came with thin slices of cucumber, so maybe it counts towards the five a day?

    I was really impressed by how the restaurant an bar are decorated. The bar is cosy, with it’s low lighting and candles, and cleanly industrial looking. It’s not like some of the bars in the area that are stuffy with lots of cushions and chintz. It is functional and modern and reminds me a bit of New York. The dining room also has a smart New York vibe to it and my sister and I got a great table near the kitchen (as you can see from the pic of my sister, above right).


    I love the fact that I was able to watch the chefs in action from my spot at the dinner table, although I might have had to apologise to my sister for drifting off mid-conversation to see what the chefs were up to! I was waiting to see them argue with each other or shout like you see with TV chefs like Gordon Ramsay, but everything seemed better organised than that.  The waitress wrote down our orders with pen and paper in an old-fashioned way and red it back to us to make sure she got it all correct. (This may sound like a small thing, but I’ve been to a lot of restaurants where the staff try to memorise orders and then mess it up and its so annoying!)

    These were our starters:

    photo 3 (2)

    At the top you can see pig and fig terrine, served with deliciously fresh walnut bread. It’s a magical combination with the sweetness of the fig offsetting the rich meaty pork and the walnuts add a nutty crunch. I would totally order that again. Chicken skewers with  a peanut butter, coconut and lemongrass glaze were moist and tender, although I couldn’t really see or taste the peanut butter.

    After the starter, we were asked if we wanted wine but the cocktail menu drew us back again…
    photo 4 (2)

    My sister tried the one on the left  – the No. 21 with Zacapa rum, velvet falernum, lemon juice, pineapple juice and angostura bitters – and she said she preferred the flavour to the Champagne cocktail, which is high praise given she’s a huge Champagne fan. I picked the and the No 35 with vodka, martini bianco, elderflower cordial, lemon juice and mint and found it similar to my sister’s first cocktail, deceptively healthy, but without the fizz. The elderflower and mint made it really light and it brought back memories of summer, which was nice given that we visited on a rainy September evening.

    There’s a spit inside the kitchen so Forge’s food menu is divided into From The Pit (eg steaks and burgers) and From The Spit (eg spit roast chicken). I went for Scottish salmon marinated in honey and soy and served with a whole food salad as I always love fish dishes. The portion was satisfyingly huge – excellent value for £13.50!

    photo 4

    My sister ordered grilled fillet steak, which was sightly small given that it was £24, but each mouthful was packed with flavour. It came with a horseradish onion bhaji, which I tried a bit of and I have to say I wish they did side orders of these bhajis!

    photo 5

    Sometimes if you’ve been happy with the starter and the main course the chef isn’t so great with the desserts but this was far from the case at Forge. A strawberry sundae had a creamy kick of panacotta and you can see by the smile on my sister’s face how much she’s enjoying it.

    photo 2

    But if you love chocolate then you cannot leave without trying the warm, gooey, rich, lucious, moreish, smooth chocolate brownie, served with salted caramel ice cream. The waitress said that most people share it as it comes with two slices of brownie and two sccops of ice cream but once  I tried it I knew that if anyone tried to take it off me I might kill them. (I’m possessive over chocolate like that). The brownie alone is worth going back to Forge for!

    photo 1


    It’s rare you can find fabulous cocktails, tasty food at affordable prices and a good city atmosphere in the same place and there’s even a nightclub downstairs if you want to dance off the calories of your dinner. If you visit it this weekend, you won’t be disappointed!

    Visit the Forge website for  menus and details of how to book.

    Tweet us @livelikeavip and let us know how you get on.

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    VIP Day Out: Vinopolis Wine-Tasting

    How’s your summer going so far? Don’t worry if you haven’t been abroad anywhere glamorous as I think you can have just as much fun in the UK. I was recently invited to try the new Summer of Love experience at the Vinopolis wine tasting experience in London and here we’re not just talking mild amusement, we’re talking laugh out loud plus a bit of learning at the same time. Win, win!

    Vinopolis is such a fabulous space, located a stone’s throw from London Bridge Underground station, so it’s been used for a few celeb parties. The last time I went I bumped into gymnast Louis Smith and comedian James Corden at a British Airways event, but I have never been to taste wine so I didn’t have any idea what to expect. Also, the wine-tasting experience and the spaced hired for events is completely different.

    AN25037602The launch of Bri

    From now until the end of August 2014 is Vinopolis’ Summer in Love event. I’ve never been before, so I don’t know how it differs, but a whole lot of extra touches have been added to a normal wine tasting experience including free cocktails, fashion, music and a dressing up box!


    What I liked a lot about it is that it’s not a traditional tour, led by a guide. We were free to act just as silly as we wanted!


    There are several different experiences available, both all year round and in August, but the schedule lined up for August sounds particularly fun. For example, every Thursday and Friday is date night. Two people can share 20 tokens, a plate of tapas and a full bottle of wine for just £55 for two. Alternatively, every Wednesday is Wine Wednesday where it’s Buy One, Get One Half-price for the tour. Or how would you fancy tasting wine with live music in the background? Mark 29th August in your diary for the Classic Wine Experience with 12 tokens to redeem on your choice of wines, spirits and champagne, a delicious cocktail, tasty tapas and live music from 7:30-9:30pm.

    There’s so much choice, I suggest heading to the Vinopolis website to check out what’s available and to book tickets. However, there are some things that remain constant throughout all visits.


    After a 15 minute talk about how to taste the wine and where the different wines are located (divided into whites / reds / spirits and ones to watch etc) it was time to explore. I like the fact that you can be hands on in your own learning. The initial talk was good but I was hungry, or thirsty, to get going.

    There are computer screens dotted around the venue telling you about how soil influences a wine, the difference a climate makes and games designed to help you work out what you might like best. Also, there are plenty of seats for when you just need to take a rest.


    With the classic wine experience, we got 12 tokens each to taste a variety of wine. These are pre-loaded onto a card, which you insert into the machine above the wine. Push the button and the wine comes into your glass. It’s very clever. Even more useful is that you can register your card at the machine if you want an email reminding you of all the wines you tasted. I found this very useful, as the more wine I tasted the more I forgot.


    Some wines are 1 token, whereas others are 2 and some are 3 to 4. I went for a mix of 1 and 2s with the occasional three, which meant I got about 5 or 6 samples of wine. There is the option of spitting it out but most of them were too nice to waste.

    By the end, I was quite tipsy but not too tipsy for cocktails. They looked too good to resist! Throughout August B.Y.O.C cocktail club are making everyone a free cocktail. Mine contained watermelon puree, cucumber tincture and gin and it was absolutely incredible. I had to sit down for a while afterwards because it was deceptively strong. Just the way I like it!


    The whole experience made me think that while it’s nice going abroad to sit on a beach with a cocktail it’s even better to walk round London with several glasses of wine and then a cocktail afterwards. No jet lag, no sunburn and no insect bites. What do you think?

    Tweet @livelikeavip if you go and love it. We’ll RT. We love hearing how you get on.

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    50% Off At Steam & Rye: We Try And Test!

    Last week, I wrote a blog post about how girls can get 50% off at Steam And Rye, the city bar that is part-owned by the gorgeous Kelly Brook. I thought it sounded such an amazing deal that I grabbed my sister and we went down to check out the cocktails, the food and the general vibe.


    The bar’s really easy to get to, just a few steps from Monument / Bank underground station, which was great for us as we were wearing ridiculously tall heels. Girls appreciate shoes, right? And girls also appreciate cocktails, which Steam and Rye has definitely thought of. I can honestly say I have never seen such a creative cocktail menu and I’ve been living like a VIP in London for a long time (eg I set this blog up in 2011).

    To show what I mean, check out the cocktails my sister and I started with.

    image(1) copy

    The one on the left is a Five Dollar Shake (which comes with a Fab lolly) and the one on the right is a Monica Lewinsky with chocolate sauce, amaretto, whipped cream, hazelnut liqueur and oreo cookies. YUM!

    While consuming these little beauties we spotted these mad creations:


    The one on the left is called Maize Balls and that is actual popcorn at the top of the ‘glass’. Inside is  Mount Gay XO, Lemon, Coconut and Caramel Popcorn Syrup. On the left we have a Mile High with rum, lemon and bubbly plus a paper aeroplane. But, of course!

    Then you have a Kansas City Shuffle (below left) made from a blend of rums, absinthe, port and grenadine which is then topped with a handful of monkey nuts or the Dead Man’s Boot, chilli-infused Don Julio Tequila, Vanilla, Ginger Beer and Lemon.


    The Mississippi Lullaby was also pretty impressive. It was served flaming inside a fire bucket!


    Normally these cocktails would be good value for what they are (between £9 and £12.50) but remember there is 50% off! None of the cocktails above are more expensive than £6.25. That’s less than the price of a glass of prosecco / vodka lime and soda in most bars and WAYYYYY more interesting.

    But as the drinks are so spectacular. does this mean that food is just an after-thought? Not at all. My sister had a 500g cheeseburger served with a lobster tail and fries. Look at this juicy spread:

    image(1) copy 2

    I opted for the lobster itself, which was served with a delicious creamy and herby butter. A small lobster is normally £16.95 but this was £8.50. Lobster for under £10. If heaven was a place on earth then Steam and Rye would be part of it.

    image(1) copy 3

    I wasn’t sure if the photos I took did it all justice so I found one online that looked exactly the same as what we ate. The onion rings (bottom right) were huge with crispy batter and a perfectly soft onion. Just the way I like it, especially dunked in ketchup.


    At Steam and Rye you can definitely pig out, which is what we did, but if you want a lighter meal so you can focus on the drinks, try a lobster roll. Its lobster and mayo in a tasty brioche bun. I think I need to go back to try this and at 50% off I certainly plan to.


    My sister and I shared a single portion of ice cream (salted caramel) to finish, which came with banana and pecan nuts to add eve more interest – this place is full of little extras that you don’t need but love.  If you were in a big group then you could order a sharing dessert, which is a sundae big enough for six people. I saw the table next to me order it and it came in a Martini glass that was bigger than my head. I would not order a big main course if you were considering ordering this!



    As for the venue itself, it was packed. There was a live band playing as we ate, which added to the atmosphere but I did find it a bit noisy at times. This would be good if you were going with someone you know well and don’t want to make small talk with and it’s definitely good if you want to dance off the calories. But I would say that maybe don’t expect to have a conversation with the person sitting opposite you.

    Aside from that, a lot of effort has gone into the venue which manages to look like a moving train and a train station all at once. The booths in the restaurant have screens with scenery showing on the walls, making them the windows of the train. The bar is the station and it reminds me of Grand Central in New York. What do you think?



    If you’re interested in doing this and getting 50% off all food and drink on a Wednesday just email Laura@steamandrye.com.

    Tweet us – @livelikeavip – and let us know how you get on.

    Visit Steam And Rye’s website for more details.

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    Date Like A VIP: DoingSomething.co.uk Tea Date

    ‘If you keep doing the same things you will keep getting the same results.’ This is  actually what my fitness Personal Trainer said to me when I asked him why I hadn’t noticed any changes in my body in the past few months (it turns out it might have something to do with the fact I keep making the same excuses for why I eat out so much and fail to order the healthy option). But until recently, this phrase applied to my love life too – I was single because I was stuck in a dating rut.

    And then I found DoingSomething.co.uk (re-read about my experience in an Igloo at the top of The Shard) and realised there was a dating website for single people who wanted to make every moment of life count. Just because we’re single, it doesn’t mean we are destined to spend millions of nights in bars until we find ‘The One’, awkwardly asking our First Date about their favourite movies, favourite films, if they do sport and how their last relationship ended. No, we can do something fabulous – suggestions on the site include supper clubs, gliding, art classes, sushi classes – the sort of thing that you’d happily do alone and having someone to do it with is a bonus. In fact, some of my friends who are in relationships are really jealous at the potential candidates / date suggestions I’m looking at on this fun dating website.


    I’m not the sort of person to do things by halves – I mean, I don’t think you can be half fabulous – so I jumped into DoingSomething.co.uk not only head first but head first from the 10 metre diving board with a parallel pike and a few somersaults, Tom Daley style. I started off the traditional way by browsing the suggestions and then scrutinising the photos of the potential dates (and I can honestly say that the quality of photos is 100% betters than those on Match.com). And then I put myself up as a competition prize with DoingSomething.co.uk advertising me in their weekly newsletter, as I thought it would be a clear way to show all of their members that I was available. I mean, think about it statistically – the more people you reach, the more your chances of finding a match.

    So what’s it like being a competition prize? To be honest, it was pretty scary and probably not something I would repeat. Next time, I would take a step backwards and use the site the way it was intended – by scrolling through the options and choosing the men based on their criteria. I don’t regret doing it as it was (a) no work for me as all I had to do was turn up rather than pick a date and (b) a gentle re-introduction to get me back on the dating scene as after several bad experiences on Tinder I had lost confidence in my ability to pick a good guy. But this was a completely blind date. I exchanged one or two messages with him beforehand to check he was turning up (and one heart-stopping moment when he didn’t get back to me for two days leaving me thinking he’s stood me up) and then when I walked into our date venue, I had no idea what to expect. We met in a room that was upstairs and with every stair I took I felt like I wanted to be sick with nerves. And I’m saying this as a girl who has met tons of celebs and doesn’t get star-struck.


    The venue for our date was the Hush restaurant in Mayfair, tucked off a side street near Bond Street. Sounds pretty standard for a date, some might think. No way, this is DoingSomething.co.uk so we were there for afternoon tea. But not just any afternoon tea – a Hendricks gin-based afternoon tea! This meant we got gin cocktails served in tea cups as well as a selection of sandwiches, scones and macaroons.Talk about a VIP way to spend an afternoon. A big smile came across my face as I walked in and realised I was finally out of my dating rut. I mean how could you fail to smile at a scene when walking into a lovely room like this?



    This is the gorgeous array of treats we had to nibble on:


    Here’s a close-up:


    In the past, one of my worst habits when it came to dating was to judge the man too quickly. If I didn’t fancy him straight away then I would lose concentration quite easily. I would start to think about other guys I met recently or mentally schedule time to go back on the site and look for someone else, even when I was still on a date. So even though there were no shiny stars of attraction, no butterflies in my tummy, when I looked at my date, I vowed to enjoy it no matter what.

    The fact that it was at Hush and over afternoon tea made it a lot easier to make the most of the occasion. As we looked at the gin cocktail menu, we laughed at the names of the cocktails – we had something to talk about. Top Tip: Try The Grandma’s Cottage made with fresh pear, blackberries and cinnamon syrup. It comes in a teacup on a stick (like a martini glass)!


    My date was from Devon and explained to me that the way that you approach scones in this region was cream first then jam. We argued a lot over this (but in a good way). Thankfully we got two scones each so not only could we try the three types of jam (strawberry, raspberry and blackcurrant) but we could try the cream-jam and jam-cream technique. I still maintain that jam first then cream (the Cornish way) is better.

    After bonding over the scones, it was time to get onto the usual date stuff – job, upbringing, where they live now etc. On paper, he ticked all my boxes. He was an actor, he was 6 ft 4, his dad was a doctor and he grew up in a good family in Devon and he now owns his own house in Gospel Oak, North London, close to my favourite open space in London, Hampstead Heath. But I still didn’t fancy him and hated myself for it. (If you want to know who he is, email zoe@livelikeavip.com and I’ll pass on his profile from the dating site. He is a catch!).

    But, anyway, faced with no chemistry, the only thing to do was to order another gin and see if the situation changed. While we were waiting for our drinks we did the standard dating thing of talking about current affairs. We talked about the missing Malaysian plane, we talked about conspiracy theories in general – Harold Shipman and Princess Diana – and we talked about newspapers and television news and the spin on which the media reported events. It was clear that my date was super intelligent, which is a good thing, but I also felt like he was testing me slightly. On a first date, I like to have a good conversation, I’m not interested in dating a man with all brawn and no brains, but I don’t want to have a full blown debate on the first date. I’d rather be playing footsie under the table than justifying why I’m more of a Tory supporter than Labour and giving the reasons why I like Angela Merkel.


    Thankfully, the macaroons saved the day. Yes, I’m serious. It’s impossible to have an in-depth chat when faced with something as light and delicate as a macaroon. So I changed the subject from Merkel to macaroons, telling my date where the best macaroons I’d found were in London (Fortnum and Mason instead of Laudree, for me). I’m not sure he was that impressed as he only ate one of the four macaroons – leaving me to eat three. Happy days!

    I tried to like him, I really did, but after two hours you know if you like something or not. I LOVED the gin afternoon tea at Hush and I liked the fact I didn’t feel like I had wasted an afternoon because I got to try something I’d never done before. Have you ever had a first date that you come away from thinking ‘Well that was a waste of time?’ I have and this definitely wasn’t one of those occasions.

    Looking on the bright side, the fact that I’m still very much single gives me an opportunity to do DoingSomething.co.uk the right way. I’m going to use the site to find a date that I choose, which is exciting! However, I am more looking forward to doing something new and seeing whether Hush can be topped. Is that wrong? Should I be more excited about the man or the venue?

    Watch this space…I’ll be tweeting about my progress as well as writing about the full experience here on the blog. Follow @livelikeavip on Twitter!

    LiveLikeaVIP.com readers get £10 off DoingSomething.co.uk subscriptions by entering the code VIPLIFE when signing up at DoingSomething.co.uk

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    Eat Like A VIP: The Real Greek Restaurant Review

    When was the last time you ate Greek food? When was the last time you went to a restaurant and a delicious, filling and memorable meal for two with a bottle of wine was less than £30? I bet most of us aren’t able to remember a time for either, which is why I am happy to offer you one simple recommendation – go to your nearest branch of The Real Greek as soon as you can!

    It was the venue for my interview with Greek chef Tonia Buxton (photographed below) so I asked her to order when we met for lunch at the chic and cosy branch in Marylebone. There are six locations around London so check the website for one near you.

    Before I went in, I was slightly apprehensive. I’d heard it was part of a group of restaurants with locations across London and often I find these sort of restaurants bland (I’m thinking Carluccio’s or Jamie’s Italian). I also have limited knowledge of Greek cuisine. I know it’s famous for vine leaves (which I’ve always found oily), taramasalata (which is very easy to make over fishy) and moussaka (and this solely depends on how long they’ve cooked the aubergine for and how much cheese they’ve added to the mix). But I wanted to make the most of the experience and I was willing to change my mind so I told Tonia to be adventurous in the order and push me out of my comfort zone.

    As Tonia ordered, she put to bed one of my misconceptions that the food might be tired and bland by assuring me that as much of the fresh ingredients as possible in The Real Greek came from Greece. The feta, the tomatoes, the breads – all were as authentic as they could be. And then as she read out the menu to me, she explained the origins of some of the dishes. As Greece is such a vast space varying from tiny islands to a mainland that is large and mountainous, the food changes from region to region. While we may think dishes like calamari are traditionally Greek, you’re not going to get that up a mountain, are you? The dish at the bottom of the tower in the photo below is htipiti, which is Greek cheese with peppers and a touch of chilli.


    On the top tier we have Tzatziki (rich and tangy yogurt with cucumber and garlic) and Taramasalata (cod roe). I have to admit I had more of the soft, fluffy bread than the crudites as it was so more-ish.

    When I say the word ‘Calamari’ what do you think of? Order this in a pub as a starter and you may get some rubber in a circle that’s been deep fried. I’ve certainly never had calamari that looks like this before and now I know how it should taste if you get it right I never want to compromise again.



    The calamari had been grilled not fried and as The Real Greek has calorie information on the website, I could see that a portion of calamari had just 286 calories.

    Crispy Pork Belly prepared with 0regano, paprika and red onion has just 257 calories per portion. And remember, you’re sharing so at most you’ll eat half or a third of that. With moist, succulent meat, it was a real treat but without the accompanying calories.1658174_10151969807207776_817573203_o

    Each of these hot dishes is around £6 while the cold ones are £4 – you really do eat like a King or Queen (not just a VIP) at The Real Greek – and the prices are excellent value for money.

    I also advise you to try a Souvlaki, which is a Greek wrap, slightly like a kebab but way better. It’s a greek flatbread wrapped around meat or falafel, tzatziki, onions and sweet paprika. Each mouthful floods your tongue with a variety of flavours that complement each other but it is very filling!

    For dessert, a portion of baklava – light, crisp filo pastry with walnut and honey – is just £4.25 for two pieces. This photo shows one of them – divine!


    After that I needed a coffee to aid digestion. At The Real Greek it comes out thick and strong – very authentic to Greece. It made me more awake for at least an hour after my visit. Just what the doctor ordered.

    I’d go back to The Real Greek for lunch or dinner with mates or with dates. If you’re going partying in central London it’s the perfect pre-party meal as you feel satisfied without feeling stuffed and as you’re not paying silly prices for the food you can spend more on drinks.

    Let me known if you go and Tweet me your photos. I’m @livelikeavip. You can follow The Real Greek @realgreektweet

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    Date Like A VIP: We Try DoingSomething.co.uk

    It doesn’t matter if you’re single or you’re in a relationship – we all deserve to feel like VIPs. I am single and I’m not ashamed of it. I’d rather be single than go out with a love rat douchebag like Russell Brand (no offense, Jemima Khan!) However, until recently the nights I went out looking for a potential Mr Right have not been very VIP. And to be honest, neither have the first dates.

    On 12 February 2014, something happened that I am pretty positive will transform my dating life and make it as fabulous as the rest of my life. I found the dating website DoingSomething.co.uk and I sat in an igloo on the 69th floor of The Shard.  (These two are related, trust me ).

    But first, let me put into context why I personally need something like DoingSomething.co.uk. Being an open minded person I once accepted an invitation to speed dating. This is where an equal number of guys and girls sit opposite each other on a row of tables. After three minutes the girls stay where they are and the boys move down the row, taking their seat opposite a new girl.The idea is you can fit 20 ‘dates’ into one hour.


    The one I did was at a nightclub in the early evening and you could really see why the venue was only normally used in the dark. The club was dirty and it smelled! The night also stank ( although not in the literal sense) as we got three cringeworthy minutes to chat about ourselves with a series of men. I didn’t find any attractive.  If you don’t fancy someone then spending three minutes talking to them is too long. I think you can tell if you fancy someone in the first 30 seconds. This makes it two and a half minutes too long…every single time. Ok, I know it gives people a chance to use their personality to win others over but  I would rather stand up instead of sitting round a table and have the option of talking to some people for more than three minutes and others for less than three minutes (or not at all).

    Next I decided to try Tinder, which a lot of my friends seem to be on. The advantages are that it’s super quick – all you need to do is download an App, register your details, pick five of your best photos and you’re ready to go. There’s no need for a cringeworthy description of yourself and you can’t message anyone unless you find out your potential love interest has shown interest in you too, thereby eliminating lots of messages from annoying suitors. Another advantage is it seems more socially acceptable than a ‘dating website’. My friends and I are not ashamed to admit we’re on it. In fact, sometimes we help each other decide whether to swipe yes or no for a potential date when we meet up on a night out.


    However, after meeting two guys in person (and talking to a lot more through the battery-draining App) I felt there were more negatives than positives. As it’s so easy to meet a guy it’s so easy to lose one…mysteriously. You might be chatting to a guy one day, exchanging flirty banter and sharing witty anecdotes, and then you might not hear from him again…ever! It’s not like they say ‘goodbye’, it’s like a crater has 0pened and swallowed them off the face of the earth. And then I worked it out – the crater is someone else they find more attractive than you, solely based on the photo the other person has uploaded to the App. How shallow is that?

    Secondly, even when you do get round to meeting a guy, pretty much the same thing could happen again. I truly believe people are only as faithful as their options and Tinder opens up a whole new world of opportunity. If you meet up with someone and they don’t like the way you eat an endamame bean, they can arrange  a date with someone else the next night. People are scared to commit as they never know who is waiting a few swipes away. And yet again, the manners to say ‘I’ve met someone else’ or ‘thanks but no thanks’ doesn’t exist. You’re just left in limbo, and you sort of start to analyse what you did wrong until you realise it’s the other person’s loss. If Tinder makes you feel anything less than your gorgeous and amazing self then please don’t do it. It’s not VIP to suffer a crisis in confidence.


    However, what I do find VIP is sitting in an igloo, looking out over London’s skyline, which I did thanks to the website DoingSomething.co.uk, as you can see from the photo above. How many people have ever experienced as random as this? Exactly! That’s why it’s VIP.

    The USP of DoingSomething is that you decide on something you really want to do and see if there’s anyone out there that shares your date idea. It could be one of London’s museums or art galleries after hours, it could be a ghost walk or it could be a sushi making class but what it won’t be is boring. A reason I don’t enjoy the process of dating is because I get bored going for drinks with someone new, asking the same old questions and giving the same old answers. And if you know you don’t like someone in the first few minutes you feel like you’ve wasted an evening that could have been better spent in a gallery or museum or even at the gym. With DoingSomething you’ll have had a fun evening, even if you don’t meet the person of your dreams.

    photo 4

    I have to admit this is kind of what happened to me at The Shard event. I was able to enjoy a party in a fabulous venue and look out over the London skyline (check out my view of Tower Bridge above) but I did not leave with a phone number. And you know what? I genuinely d0n’t care. I’d rather not meet anyone at all than meet a Fake Tinder Type who is all into you at first then disappears without any excuse at all.

    I feel like I should go back on DoingSomething, invest time in a few more dates and see what happens. And at least the time I spend dating. I feel like I’m using enriching my life as there are things I’ve always wanted to do in London and been too shy to ask my friends to do with me.

    The toilets in the Shard are quite unique – as you can see from the photo below – and I think it was while I was in the loo that night that I had a lightbulb moment. Look at how big and how fabulous London is and it’s just one city in the world, not even a big city if you compare it to somewhere like Mumbai. My Prince Charming is waiting for me and I need to get out more (in a non-work related capacity) to increase the chances we find each other.

    photo 1

    I’ll  keep you posted on any dates I go on! And I am up for any matchmaking any readers want to throw into the mix as well. Please Tweet @livelikeavip if you know of any hot single guys for me. You can also email zoe@livelikeavip.com

    Are you single? Enter your details in the box below, hit SIGN UP and you’ll be added to our mailing list to receive email alerts about dating offers (cheap drinks!), singles events and even more of the Live Like a VIP team’s adventures:

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    Top Ten VIP Places For Thanksgiving Dinner

    Hands up if you like roast turkey and all the trimmings? Thanksgiving is on 28 November so you really need to start thinking about it now. All the best places are going to get booked up early and you wouldn’t want to compromise with second best, would you? If you don’t act quick, you may end up having to cook it yourself and just think of all that washing up – eek!

    The 10 places I have listed below are all taking bookings at the time of writing this and I know from personal experience that they are all fabulous. I have been to each and every one of the places I recommend below with the exception of the London Wall Grill (but it is part of the Benugo group, which never fails to disappoint). Some of the venues are formal and posh (and a fab excuse to dress up) while some are more suited to a rowdier night. Take your pick from:



    This is a glamorous, decadent and visually captivating dining room and the menu is equally lovely. Christopher’s are renowned for creating a menu that reflects the true American thanksgiving spirit in London. Priced at £48 per person, an extensive set menu offers the likes of Grand Central Oyster Pan Roast, Slow-Cooked Ballotine of Organic Turkey, and Pumpkin Pie. Open all day for nonstop service on Thanksgiving (Thursday 28th November) from 12pm – 11.30pmSee full details on the website

    18 Wellington Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7DD // 020 7240 4222

    Village East


    A signature dish created by executive chef Toby Stewart showcases the impressive ‘Confit turkey leg with wild rice crispies and jus’ (£16), which you can see in the photo above. YUM!!!! Fast becoming one of the most talked about dishes in the area, due to its size and original presentation, the question is, ‘are you man enough to take it on?’ Guests can pick from a variety of inventive side dishes such as ‘Smashed potatoes with crispy chicken skin and chicken gravy’. In place of the traditional pumpkin pie, why not tuck into a delicious American style ‘Blueberry Cheesecake Sundae’ to wind up this thanksgiving feast.

    See full details on the website

    171-173 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3UW // 020 7357 6082

    Bea’s of Bloomsbury



    Sweet potato with marshmallow anyone? Bea’s is THE PLACE for anyone with a sweet tooth. I LOVE IT!  Roast Turkey, Mash, Sausage Stuffins, Sweet Potato with Marshmallow, Buttermilk Biscuits, Pumpkin Pie…..yes please!

    Bea does Thanksgiving with ALL the trimmings. Family style, eat until you fall into a turkey coma. Big tables, lots of friends and LOTS of food. Softdrinks and juice included. Locally sourced beer, wine and mulled wine available with a cash bar – or there’s an all you can drink option too! It’s £45 for eat as much as you like food or £65 for eat and drink until they carry you home.

    Buy Tickets on the website. Bea’s is located near London Bridge train station at Arch 76, Druid Street, SE1 2HQ

    Sophie’s Steakhouse


    Sophie’s Steakhouse & Bar has been celebrated for years as being one of London’s best loved steakhouses. The 220-cover flagship restaurant is situated in the heart of Covent Garden, ideal for business lunches or for those visiting the shops and neighbouring theatres. In addition to this, the original outpost of Sophie’s, is on the Fulham Road in Chelsea and has recently celebrated their 10th year of continued success. Both restaurants include separate cocktail bars, well known for their oversized 10oz martinis, inspired by the great cocktail bars and steakhouses of Paris and New York. To celebrate Thanksgiving the specials board will feature Peacan Pie and a Turkey Dinner.

    See full details on the website

    31 Wellington Street, The Opera Quarter, London WC2E 7DB // 020 7836 8836

    Cafe Anglais


    The menu – £55 inc coffee – features bib lettuce salad with pears and walnuts, ham and corn fritters, oyster po’boys, pickled squash and shrimp cocktail, not forgetting the trad turkey (halibut with clams for dissenters) pecan or pumpkin pie – and rip roaring music from their very own house bluegrass band, the good ol’ café boys.

    This is another glam dining room with a fantastic atmosphere and I saw Elle Macpherson in here once.


    See full details on the website



    Bodean’s is classic American BBQ at its BEST and it’s offering one of the cheapest Thanksgiving menus. You will be stuffed for just £22.95 for three courses – starters (their pulled pork quaesadilla or clam chowder), turkey main and key lime pie or pumpkin pie for afters. You probably will need to ask for a doggy bag but that’s never a bad thing…you’ll be ‘thankful’ for it the next day too. I’ve visited (and enjoyed) the Bodean’s in Soho and Fulham but there are venues across London.

    See full details on the website

    Blues Kitchen


    Camden’s The Blues Kitchen offers a taste of the Deep South on home soil, The Blues Kitchen dishes up hearty BBQ dishes, authentic creole cuisine, jaw-stopping burgers and naughty fried chicken. This November they will be hosting a Thanksgiving Feast of roast turkey with all the trimmings you could imagine, roast potatoes, vegetables, cranberry jelly, cornbread, steamed greens, mac & cheese and corn on the cob. Dessert will be a classic pumpkin pie (£16 per a person, booking required). Well known for an extensive selection of drinks, the bar is fully-stocked with rare bourbon and rye (over 100 varieties). This year’s drinks special will be pumpkin ale. Looking for any excuse for a party, enjoy live music throughout the evening from The Untouchables from 7pm and Djs till late.

    111 Camden High Street, London NW1 7JN // 020 7387 5277

    See full details on the website

    Ridinghouse Cafe



    In keeping with the thanksgiving tradition of bringing together the community, this Thanksgiving The Riding House Café will be inviting guests to come to together and celebrate with a sharing feast. Upon arrival, guests will be greeted with a complimentary cocktail, followed by a two course set menu, which includes a Norfolk Bronze Roast Turkey, served with delicious Calvados Gravy and Cornbread & Sausage Stuffing. Side dishes include Cranberry & Orange Relish, Maple Butter Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Creamed Corn Casserole, Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Truffled Mac & Cheese and Green Beans Almondine. Seasonal desserts include Pumpkin Brûlée Pie or Chocolate Pecan Pie.

     Priced at £35 per person but reservations are selling out quickly. Book on the  website now. The sitting is at 330pm.

    43-51 Great Titchfield Street, London W1W 7PQ // 020 7260 2560 /


    London Wall Grill



    Celebrate Thanksgiving Holiday at London Wall Bar & Kitchen with a set menu priced £25 featuring a starter of Roast pumpkin soup. The main event will be a Pecan & maple stuffed turkey, orange & cranberry jelly. Side dishes include Sweet potato mash, Brussels sprouts with crispy pancetta and Cornbread. Traditional dessert will be pie with classic flavours such as pumpkin and apple, with ice cream.  Often considered a rare find in The City of London, this superb restaurant offers a great getaway from the chaos of the City. When the sun is shining, guests can enjoy the outside terrace and enjoy stunning views overlooking the public gardens.

     London Wall Bar & Kitchen is a welcoming, family-friendly restaurant, located right next to the Museum of London. Guests can enjoy their meal knowing that a portion of your bill will be contributed to the Museum of London to support its work.

    150 London Wall, London EC2Y 5HN // 0207 600 7340 //



    Pumpkin soup, turkey and pecan and boubon pie with coffee and truffles for £55 – this is not cheap compared to Bodean’s but probably the cheapest way you will ever experience Hix. Located in the heart of Mayfair in Rocco Forte’s Brown’s Hotel, this is one of the poshest places in London. If you want to treat yourself to a stylish, sophisticated night then this is the place for you.

    See full details on the website

    Brown’s Hotel, Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4BP // 020 7518 4004 

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