Monday 27 June 2016

The Cinnamon Club, Westminster

In celebration of the arrival of our baby girl, last night hubby and I headed into the Big Smoke to enjoy some Indian fine dining at The Cinnamon Club in Westminster. We were invited along by to try out the restaurant's Lazy Sunday 3 course menu, which comes with pre-starters and a glass of champagne as standard, all for £40 per person.

We had heard only good things about this restaurant, which, incidentally was named Bookatable's 'Best Indian Restaurant in London, 2016'. So we had high expectations! 

The booking process through the Bookatable website was faultless - the website provides ample information about the venue, along with pictures, reviews and sample menus to look at, as well as a link to the restaurant's official website. The deal is clearly explained for the customer, and it took a matter of minutes to search for available dates/times for us to visit. After booking I received a confirmation email instantly, as well as a reminder email shortly before our visit and our table was ready and waiting for us on arrival, and I hadn't even had to pick up a phone! Result. 

It was an amazing treat to head out on a date night with Liam minus the kids - the last few months have been a bit of a blur, with the slog of being heavily pregnant, followed by Connie's super speedy/crazy birth (you can read her birth story here) and then the foggy haze that is the first two weeks with a newborn - we've sort of been in auto-pilot mode: making bottles, changing bums, washing clothes, not it felt really great to get dressed up, straighten my hair, and head out without a changing bag and buggy in tow. 

The Cinnamon Club, Westminster.
The Cinnamon Club, Westminster.

Set in the historic Grade II listed former Westminster Library, The Cinnamon Club is an institution in the world of Indian fine dining. The original modern Indian restaurant in London, The Cinnamon Club has a long history of serving innovative and creative Indian cuisine in a magnificently majestic setting.

Re-opening in 2015 following a major refurbishment, Executive Chef Vivek Singh and Head Chef Rakesh Ravindran Nair have developed a stunning new menu that combines The Cinnamon Club’s signatures with new dishes and celebratory platters.

We were so excited to try the special Sunday menu!
Library at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
The restaurant decor is perfect for a bookworm like me. 

The decor inside the restaurant is traditional meets modern with a rather large nod to the building's library roots: the walls are lined with hundreds of beautiful old books...I genuinely felt like I was deep within the Beast's library (I'm a HUGE Beauty & The Beast fan!) The interior really did take my breath away. 

Library restaurant at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
The Library within the main restaurant at The Cinnamon Club

Bookshelf of old books at Cinnamon Club, Westminster
Books, books, books! 

The deal we booked with Bookatable meant we had to order from the Lazy Sunday menu, and we were so pleasantly surprised by the array of choices on this menu: there is absolutely something for everyone with five starter options, six different main courses, and four desserts to choose from.

pre-starters at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
Pre-starter at The Cinnamon Club

We firstly enjoyed a selection of pre-starters: delectable Indian finger-food to whet our appetites and get us fired up for the meal to come. Each morsel on this plate was not only beautiful to look at, but a marvellous eat - considered, beautifully balanced between spicy and sweet, with a creaminess and tang from yoghurt, a zingy freshness of herbs and some wonderful textures made this a beautiful eat and the perfect way to start the meal. 

Duck breast starter at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
My Starter: Seared Gressingham duck breast, spiced leg and mappas roll, sesame peanut crumble.

My starter didn't disappoint - the duck was perfectly pink (what a treat to be able to eat rare meat again, after 9 months of a cautionary pregnancy diet!) with a delicious nut crumble to add bite and texture. The duck was served over a sweet and creamy coconut flavoured sauce which had Thai influence, all served with a side of beautifully cooked and subtley spiced greens. The spiced leg mappas roll was really quite something - soft, juicy leg meat - spiced to perfection with a decadent crispy outer shell - I could have eaten a plate of them alone! 

Romney Marsh Lamb Main at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
My main course: Roast saddle of Romney Marsh lamb, corn sauce, pickled root vegetables, masala cashew nut. 

I definitely made a sound choice with my main course - stunning Romney Marsh lamb (my first time eating this wonderful lamb, but definitely not my last!) served with a corn sauce reminiscent of a chowder but with incredible Indian spicing - the crunch of the cashew nut worked so well with the silky sauce, and I loved the addition of the pickled vegetables which added sourness to the dish while you got a warmth/heat from the garlicky spinach, and some delicately flavoured rice to bring the whole meal together. I fear I may of devoured this whole dish without looking up or making conversation with Liam! Ha! Romance is dead. 

Almond and Raspberry Pudding dessert at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
My dessert: Spiced almond and raspberry pudding with strawberry ice cream. 

The finale of my meal was this hearty spiced almond and raspberry pudding served with strawberry ice cream - all the flavours of a delicious Bakewell pudding/tart with added spice! The cake itself was moist and sticky, not too heavy but certainly substantial enough to live up to its title of a pudding rather than a sponge. The strawberry ice cream was beautifully creamy and tasted of ACTUAL strawberries, unlike the fake strawberry-syrup flavouring of your standard strawberry ice cream. There was added crunch from a stunningly delicate leaf-shaped sugar tuile biscuit, and some crunchy coconut pieces on top of the pudding which ensured the dish echoed Indian vibes to the end. 

Hubby went for three different dishes to me - and I got a try a mouthful of each, and he a mouthful of each of mine, and they were equally as impressive and delicious as my choices... 

Kedgeree starter at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
Hubby's starter: Kedgeree with smoked haddock and poached egg. 

Liam is notoriously brave with his menu choices when we eat out - he loves to try new things, and this was his first taste of kedgeree. He loved it, especially the delicate spicing and he said he will definitely look out for it again on future menus. 

Minced lamb main at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
Hubby's main course: Curried lamb mince with fried egg, layered paratha and coriander chutney

This dish fascinated me and I couldn't wait to try a mouthful - the flaky paratha was the best I've ever tasted, and dipped into the coriander chutney it was a true triumph. Hubby loved the heat from the spiced lamb mince, and the creaminess that the fried egg bought to the dish - quite an egg-centric meal for a man who only ate his first egg as an adult, due to an egg allergy as a baby! 

Spiced Red Pumpkin and corn cake dessert at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
Hubby's dessert: Spiced red pumpkin and corn cake with popcorn ice cream

Finally, hubby ended on this spiced pumpkin and corn cake, with popcorn ice cream. The cake smelt incredible as the waiter placed our desserts in front of us, and Liam couldn't wait to dive in. The cake was as light as a feather and the balance of spice was absolutely perfect. A subtle flavour of popcorn filled the ice cream, along with a slightly chewy texture from the actual popcorn pieces set within the ice cream itself. Crunch was achieved from a lovely little addition of a biscuit/tuile and it was finished with a fresh vibrant green fruit gel which bought the whole dish together perfectly. A match made in heaven. 

Mr and Mrs Bishop at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
CHEERS! Mr and Mrs B enjoying a glass of bubbly or two at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster. 

We washed our three courses down with some rather magnificent drinks. Firstly, we had our complimentary glass of champagne which came as part of the Bookatable deal - it  was such a lovely rare treat to enjoy a glass of bubbly in peace with Liam. Secondly, we opted for a Cinnamon Bellini: it was a warm and decadent drink - the perfect thing to accompany my spicy lamb main course. Finally, we chose a sweet, palate cleansing Sesame Vanilla Lassi drink to finish the meal off, we wanted to stay true to an authentic Indian experience, so we were eager to try The Cinnamon Club's take on this classic Indian yoghurt-based drink: this particular lassi was made with a mixture of sesame seed oil, vanilla, maple syrup and yoghurt, it was a slightly bitter, smoky, smooth drink with a subtlety sweet aftertaste, and was very soothing and cleansing after a spicy meal.

Sesame Vanilla Lassi at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
Sesame Vanilla Lassi to end the meal

I cannot fault the service we received when visiting The Cinnamon Club, it is really no surprise to us that they've won 'Best Indian Restaurant in London, 2016' as they really do seem to have the winning combination of beautiful food, stunning surroundings, impeccable service and good value for money. The staff were friendly, warm, attentive but not overzealous (there is nothing worse than a hovering waiter asking how your meal is every 5 seconds!) 

Now then, I wouldn't be able to truly review a restaurant without talking about the loos - I find you can pretty much get the gist of a place, it's standards, from the rest room. Important factors for me are: cleanliness, decor, quality of cosmetics, hand drying facilities and space. The Cinnamon Club wins on all counts - the rest room was impeccably clean, modern and bright in it's decor, and had no other than L'occitane liquid hand soap (in Verbena, my fave!) on tap. There were fresh towels for hand drying as well as disposable paper towels (of very good quality) and there was plenty of space and mirrors to adjust your outfit, touch up your hair and make up etc without feeling cramped or uncomfortable. 

L'occitane in the rest rooms at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
I do love a good rest room - especially when it's full of L'occitane products! 

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to The Cinnamon Club and would whole-heartedly recommend you try it out - the Bookatable dining offer (of which there are a few from £30 per head) was incredibly good value for money. If you're a fan of Indian cuisine but so far have only sampled a madras from your local curry house then I urge you to try Indian fine dining for comparison - you'll never look at an onion bhagee or keema naan in quite the same way again.

To book your own amazing dining experience at The Cinnamon Club with Bookatable then head to this website. 

Disclosure: We were gifted the full cost of this meal from Bookatable in return for our honest review. All words, pictures and opinions are my own. 

Thursday 16 June 2016

Introducing Connie Scarlett Bishop: Birth Story & Breast vs Bottle debacle

One week ago today at 4:39am my beautiful baby girl made her super-speedy entrance into the world. 

Connie Scarlett Bishop 
Born at 4:39am on 9th June 2016
Weighing 8lb 3oz

Meet Connie Scarlett Bishop - our beautiful baby girl!

The Birth

Six days late, she hadn't seemed in much of a hurry to come out and meet us, until last Wednesday in the early hours, when at 1:50am my contractions started. 

I was determined to labour at home for as long as possible, and obviously had no idea how long or short my labour would be, but in a matter of just two hours my irregular contractions suddenly dramatically intensified and we found ourselves having to make a rather dramatic rush to the hospital. 

I entered the Delivery Suite at 4.33am after the most insane car journey of my life, and she was delivered naturally within just 6 minutes of our arrival! 

Thank goodness for lack of traffic at that time in the morning, otherwise she'd have undoubtedly been born in the car!! 

I do love me a bit of drama! 

My 'Summary of Birth' notes - Duration of labour: 6m

A few minutes after delivery - Mummy and Connie

Mummy's little squishy! Connie - a few minutes old. 

A few hours after delivery - just waiting to be discharged. 

I managed the labour on 2 paracetamol at home, and then some gas & air for the very short amount of time I was in the delivery suite. The whole birth was a complete shock after the 30+ hour nightmare of Bert's birth (failed epidural, emergency forceps delivery, huge blood loss etc). A week on and it still hasn't really sunk in. 

She came naturally with just a few contractions in the delivery suite, and there were no complications. After delivering the placenta and having some stitches I was able to eat some breakfast, freshen up with a shower and start to get prepared to come home. 

Coming Home

I feel so blessed to have had such a remarkably different birth this time around, and I was genuinely pinching myself when just an hour after arriving at the hospital I was sat with my baby in my arms, sipping a mug of hot sweet tea and eating marmalade toast! We were discharged at 11:30 am that very same morning, and I was at home eating lunch with my lovely family around me on the very day she was born - how incredible!

I was even more thankful that Bert was none the wiser to the whole thing: he slept soundly while I laboured at home, and then blissfully unaware of my dash to the delivery suite - Bert snoozed on while his Grandad held the fort at home. He awoke at 8:15am to his two Nannies who told him his baby sister had arrived, and he'd barely had a chance to swallow his breakfast before Mummy, Daddy and baby Connie arrived home to meet him. 

Welcome home Connie B! 


Sibling love! 

He greeted her with lots of coos and ahh's and isn't she cute? He said 'Hello Darling!' to her completely unprompted, and then went on to ask her 'Connie, do you like Gorillas?' (he is rather fond of animals you see!)... the whole experience was just magical. And I have to say that one week in Bert has been a complete dream with his new baby sister - kissing her, cooing over her, being incredibly gentle, and always seeming so happy to see her. 

Long may it last!! 

Newborn Bert vs. newborn Connie - aren't they alike? 

What a family portrait! Hahaha! #toddlerlife

This first week has gone by in quite a haze - we've been so lucky with a ton of support from family and friends, the most beautiful cards and gifts arriving in streams each day, along with plenty of visitors all desperate for some newborn snuggles. We're obviously knackered, show me parents of a newborn who aren't...but we're loving it and we're so acutely aware of how super-fast these newborn days go and that they'll be over in a flash. We are trying hard to soak up every moment of Liam's 2 week paternity-leave (one week to go!) and we're relishing the slow pace of life at home together until we have to return back to the grind of work, routine and 'normality'. 

Our little squishy! 

Of course, this last week hasn't been all blissful newborn snuggles and milk-drunk has been horrendously tough at times too and it would be irresponsible of me not to talk about the tough bits too. 

Breast vs. Bottle 

Aside from the multiple stitches and the pain that ensues, the three slipped discs in my back that were naturally badly affected by another labour...I also had a pretty horrendous time attempting to establish breast feeding. With Bert, I was unable to breast feed him due to him having a very severe tongue tie...we bottle fed him from the off and to be honest, after such a touch and go labour spread over so many hours I was too exhausted to even think about it that much. This time round I had really hoped to be able to try and breast feed, so I was chuffed to bits when just minutes after having my stitches Connie had latched on and proceeded to feed from me for nearly an hour and a half (greedy baby!) Perhaps foolishly I had thought I'd cracked it instantly. 

Two days in I was yet to sleep because she was feeding twice an hour, every boobs were huge, hard, lumpy, my nipples were cracked and bleeding, and my back was the worst it has been in a long time due to being sat upright in a chair constantly feeding. One of the things I stupidly hadn't considered about breast feeding was how all the responsibility (obviously) would fall to me - no one could help me to feed her, no one could sleep for me, and aside from bringing me plenty of tea, pain killers and giving me some moral support, I was on my own.

Whether it be down to hormones, or my naturally anxious nature, I also found it crazily hard to get my head around not ever knowing how much milk Connie was getting from me, and whether she was getting enough. With Albert we'd been able to keep track of exactly how many ounces of milk he was taking at each feed, and I felt totally reassured by the numbers. This time I just felt panicked and afraid that I wasn't doing enough for her. 

The pain in my boobs and my back got worse, the sleep deprivation ensued and by the evening of day four I was a crying heap on the floor. I knew deep down that I would really struggle to maintain breast feeding long-term with my back in the state it is (I'm in need of spinal fusion surgery), and with a toddler to look after and a business to run I was starting to get panicked about how on earth I could possibly maintain feeding her alone. I read up tons about the possibility of expressing milk and combination feeding, I chatted to lots of friends who have managed to successfully breastfeed, but in the end, I just knew that I couldn't continue. 

Yes, it was a selfish decision - it was to save my own pain, to make my routine and day to day easier, it was because I want shared responsibility of feeding, and I want reassurance from the numbers that bottle feeding brings, I stopped because I was completely and utterly exhausted and needed a break, I wanted to sleep and I could feel my mental health taking a tremendous battering, and that scared me.

I'm a firm believer in happy mum = happy baby, and honestly, those first four days with Connie really were marred by the breast feeding experience. Maybe it would have got easier had I pressed on, but maybe it wouldn't, and I genuinely couldn't take even another feed. I was dreading each and every one and I didn't want that to be the feelings I was experiencing when holding my beautiful daughter in my arms. 

So, the bottles were sterilised, the Perfect Prep machine ordered (they are MAGIC!), the Aptamil powder was opened and I headed to bed for a blissful 6 hour sleep while Liam took over. He was so relieved by my decision - he hadn't wanted to pressure me either way, but once I had decided to stop breast feeding he had admitted how hard he was finding it, and how much he was missing being able to be hands-on with the feeding. 

Three days on, and I know it was the right decision for us as family. She took to the bottle effortlessly and now she's more settled, content and sleeping for longer, she's going 4 hours between each feed, I know she's getting enough milk and everyone has been able to give her a feed. I've been able to sleep for longer than 15 minute cat-naps and I'm beginning to feel human again. My back is starting to ease a little and I'm no longer dreading feeds. My boobs are still horrendously sore - your milk drying up is not a pleasant process, but hopefully I'm past the worst of it. I've got my body back, and I'm excited to be back in control again. 

I have a new-found deep respect for any mother who is able to maintain breast feeding long-term, I think you are amazing, I really do. Maybe it comes more naturally to some, but I'm damned sure it is pretty blooming horrendous for most women, and you're made of tough stuff if you continue past those first few days. 

Her favourite place to sleep! 

Mummy and Connie, feeling much more human after we switched to bottle feeding. 

I'm excited for our final week all together at home as a family of four before Liam returns to work. We're looking forward to more visitors, plenty more cakes and biscuits to fuel the night feeds, and a lovely family BBQ at my in-laws' on Sunday to celebrate Father's Day. 

Just some of Connie's visitors over the past week, lucky girl! 

We had a cute tea party on Sunday for the Queen's 90th Birthday - I love this photo we snapped, such a fun one to look back on. 

As ever, I've taken a million photographs and have so enjoyed sharing them with everyone. Social media is a wonderful thing, and I've been so overwhelmed by all the amazing comments, love and support that's been extended to us through my social profiles. Who doesn't love a cute bit of baby spam, eh? 

newborn feet

baby jeans
Jeans and shoe socks...jeez! Cutness overload Connie! 

Four cousins.... Connie (6 days), Andreas (8 months), Albert (2 years 10 months), Paris (3 years 11 months) 

Today (Day 7) was Connie's first outing and Bert's first ride in the double buggy - it was nothing glamorous, just a walk to the post office and Tesco for supplies, but it was great to get out, get some exercise and some fresh air. I love our Cosatto double buggy, it's fab! 

**Some of you might wonder why we even need a double buggy with Bert being nearly 3 and totally capable of walking now - but we need it because I don't drive and so we walk absolutely everywhere in Bedford...I can't expect Bert to walk the miles I do, or stand on a buggy board for often 45 minute+ walks so for now a double buggy will be the answer when I'm out and about with the both of them.**

My world: Connie and Bert in their double buggy ready for an exciting trip to Tesco! Ha! 

Right, I'll leave it there for now as I've waffled on enough - but I wanted to get this post written and published asap - I hoped that the sooner I got it down the more raw the feelings and emotions would be. I know I'll love to look back at this in years to come and remember those first heady newborn days and all that they bring!

Mrs B 


Thursday 2 June 2016

Homemade Fig Rolls: Mrs Bishop is still baking...literally!

So, it's due date day tomorrow - I'll be officially 40 weeks and there's no sign of baby girl yet... 

I'm getting to that "I'm really fed up of being pregnant" stage now and I'm so excited about her arrival. Obviously, I'm slightly dreading the birth part...but I'm also feeling weirdly excited for the challenge of it all too. 

I'm trying to fill my days with lots of nice things rather than just sitting around waiting and fretting (plus, I want to try to stay super-active until the end in order to hopefully aid a speedy/stress free birth!) so I've made sure to plan meetings with friends, trips out, walks, and even managed to squish in a baking session today! 

I saw this recipe on The Guardian last week for homemade fig rolls by the super Felicity Cloake who does a brilliant regular series of "Perfect" recipes. I've been using these recipes for years now, they are always fail-safe and super-reliable as she does all the hard work for you by embarking on testing multiple versions of a recipe for you and coming up with her own final "perfect" version based on what she's learnt. Aside from being great recipes the columns are always a good read if you're a foodie like me! 

I knew I had to give these fig rolls a try as soon as I saw them as the classic fig roll has always been my twin sisters absolute favourite biscuit and as she was coming up to visit me this week (for half term, she works in a school) it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get my bake on! 

Mrs Bishop's still baking - bump shot 40 weeks
Mrs Bishop's still baking! 

(makes 16)

Ingredients for the pastry:

150g plain flour
75g plain wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
140g cold butter, diced
1 egg yolk
About 2 tbsp milk

Ingredients for the filling:

200g dried figs, stems removed, roughly chopped
Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
25g almonds, roughly chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp granulated sugar

(Head over to Felicity's recipe for the super simple method)

homemade fig rolls ingredients
Figgy jammy filling ingredients

pastry for homemade fig rolls
My super-short, rich, sweet pastry all ready to roll.

assembling fig rolls
Assembling the fig rolls - 5mm thin pastry with the figgy, spicy, homemade jam down the centre...

homemade fig rolls ready for the oven
Rolled, cut, glazed and about to be sprinkled with sugar before a 25 minute bake. 

Golden and baked to perfection! 

Felicity's recipe was absolutely spot on as usual - the only change I made was adding a little more mixed spice, as I know I like my bakes to pack a punch (especially where mixed spice is concerned!) ... this is definitely a personal taste thing though. 

Reminiscent of a mince pie, these buttery, crumbly pastries are truly delectable and FAR superior (in fact, you just shouldn't compare them) to their shop bought peers. 

Each pastry/biscuit works out at around 165 calories, so they're most definitely a treat to be savoured, but I would highly recommend giving this bake a whirl - it is very easy and super-satisying. 

I wonder if I'll get the chance to bake anything else before baby-girl Bishop makes her arrival? 

Mrs B

Homemade Fig Rolls Recipe
^^Pin this for later ^^