30/04/14 - Exploring Liverpool: Lucha Libre

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I've been really busy with commuting and working recently (bet you didn't know that, did you?  Because I never mention it...I promise I'll stop whining about it soon!) so when I realised that the third part of this little series was well overdue, the chance to have a social life and chow down with one of my besties was exactly what I needed after a long Monday at work.

After a little wander up and down Bold Street in search of somewhere that took our fancy, Heather and I ended up settling on Lucha Libre.  Nestled just off the main street and right next to FACT, this little haven of Mexican street food is somewhere I'd heard a great deal about but never had the chance to experience myself.

The atmosphere inside is lovely; really relaxed with very friendly and approachable staff.  The decor is sort of quirky and nicely thematic, featuring among other things a wall of hot sauces with names like 'Muerte' which look absolutely terrifying.  Also, mega props to whoever created the playlist that was playing because there were some serious tunes on there!

Even the mirrors in the toilets warranted a photograph!

A quick perusal of the menu brought us straight to the cocktail list which is abundant with different varieties of margarita.  Now, while I may not be able to handle the Mexican spice, I am a tequila girl through and through.  An extensive selection of tequila-based drinks is guaranteed to set my heart aflutter and it took a really long time to choose which we wanted.  In the end I opted for a frozen pomegranate margarita, while Heather chose the tamarind flavour (£6).  Mine was very sweet and Heather's was nicely tangy, both were delicious and made even better by being served in those red cups you see in American movies about frat parties.  That was more exciting to me than it should have been.

Margaritas in hand, we could turn to the very serious business of choosing our food.  There was a lot of choice and it all sounded absolutely delightful, so it was really tough to narrow it down.  After much deliberation, we decided to share tiger prawns flambeed in tequila, caramelised in agave and lime syrup (£6.50) and a big old plate of the most incredible nacho-type things I have ever experienced.  Their actual name was chilaquiles and apparently it's something that people sometimes have for breakfast in Mexico?  Nachos for breakfast is something I am definitely on board with, especially when they're this good.  Tortilla chips with mild salsa, melted cheese, fresh coriander, jalapenos and...a fried egg on top?  Sounds bizarre but it totally worked (£7.50).

For my main dish, I went for a veggie burrito containing beetroot puree, sweet potato, roasted peppers, red onion, cherry tomatoes and goat's cheese (£6.75) and my word, it was good.  I was surprised by what sounded like typically Mediterranean-influenced ingredients, but there was a distinctly Mexican smokiness to the roasted vegetables and the goat's cheese added a really nice depth of flavour without being at all overwhelmed.  It's more like you can tell something else is going on but you can't really pinpoint what it is.  Heather ordered the tacos served with beer-battered white market fish, caper aioli, radish, cabbage and tamarind salsa (£5.50).  The fish was really gorgeous and flaky, and the other elements added a lovely combination of flavours and textures to the dish.

Alongside all this food, we decided to take a little risk.  As I mentioned before, tequila is clearly a major element of this particular restaurant and the menu has a whole section dedicated to all the different kinds.  Apparently, most meals in Mexico are accompanied by tequila in one form or another whether that is as a shot, in a cocktail or sipped with a little glass of what is called sangrita.  Despite both being fans of the concept of tequila slammers - personally, I really like the sense of camaraderie that comes from a group of people knocking back their shots and then simultaneously shuddering/wincing/groaning as they desperately attack a paltry sliver of lemon or lime - neither of us are exactly connoisseurs of  the spirit.  We decided to change that.  After asking our waitress for her recommendation and learning a little more about the different varieties, we braved the idea of sipping tequila the way some courageous souls sip whiskey.  Glasses of the Calle 23 Anejo (£4 a shot) were delivered to us along with fresh pineapple juice, coriander, mint and green chilli better known as green sangrita (50p a shot).  In all the different brands of tequila, there tend to be three varieties and the distinctions between them is in the aging process.  'Anejo' is the most heavily aged and this supposedly results in a much smoother flavour and a slightly deeper colour.  I won't pretend that I didn't still have to brace myself before each sip and that I didn't wrinkle my nose a little as the liquid burned its way down, but I have to admit that it's the first time I can say that I've actively enjoyed and properly appreciated the taste of tequila.  The sangrita was a great addition; the pineapple sweetness ramped up with the kick of chilli really offset the alcohol and was much more effective that sucking the living daylights out of a slice of lemon. Perhaps this first foray into the world of proper tequila will pave the way for a new interest in my life.  I can think of worse things to have as a hobby.

For once, we actually ordered just about the right amount of food rather than totally overstretching ourselves...see, we're learning!  Originally, we thought we were perfectly full and could forgo dessert...until we looked at the menu.  No way could we skip over a whole course when we looked at the options on offer and all for very reasonable prices.  We shared a key lime and hibiscus cheesecake (£3.50) which was utterly amazing.  The lime was perfectly sharp, the hibiscus added a gorgeous fragrant note and it was beautifully light - the perfect way to wrap up the meal.

Unfortunately, the quality of my photographs deteriorated over the course of the evening and that wasn't due to the tequila before anyone asks.  We arrived when the lights were still fairly bright in the early evening and as the night wore on, the lights were steadily lowered to that atmospheric level restaurants favour and bloggers hate.  After nattering for ages about everything under the sun, we settled the bill and headed for our favourite post-dinner port of call.  We can't stay away from Alma de Cuba for too long!

I would definitely head to Lucha Libre again in order to sample a wider selection of the menu.  According to their website, there's one in Manchester as well so if you fancied sampling their wares and you're not in Liverpool, you do have that option!

Where is your favourite place to go for Mexican?  Let me know in the comments, I'm always looking for new places to eat!

19/04/14 - A Very Special Birthday

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My entire life currently consists of sleep, trains, work and not a whole lot else.  My throat is raspy, my legs ache from spending hours running around, and I spend half my time being a little bit delirious...but I couldn't be happier.  Well, I could.  If I had a bit more blogging time on my hands, everything would be perfect.  I have a couple of things coming up that I can hopefully write about, but before that I of course wasn't going to miss the chance to share a little of what we got up to on my baby brother's eighteenth birthday.  It was actually over a week ago now, which shows how little spare time I have on my hands!

In what world is this something that's happening?  In my head, he'll always be a cheeky little scamp running around wearing his round Harry Potter-style glasses before they were cool and eating sand, but nope.  He's a fully-fledged adult now, heading off to university in September, and this required some serious celebration!  We headed to Jamie's Italian in Liverpool, the first time I've been since my own birthday last summer.  Yet again, I was impressed by the whole experience, although I will say that sitting inside meant that it was a little dark for those of us who wish to snap photos of every element of their meal.  I had to use the camera on my phone, as the flash on my little digital camera is a bit harsh when it comes to food photography.  Please excuse the slightly grainy images, I edited them up the best I possibly could!

We began the meal with a plank of various starters which included, among other things, some of the best mozzarella I have ever eaten and an absolutely beautiful bruschetta-type affair.  We also got a selection of bread and some delicious olives which were served with some gorgeous tapenade.  I'm a big fan of having a selection of starters to dip into, and it gave my brother's girlfriend a chance to sample a few things she probably wouldn't have ordered herself.

The buffalo mozzarella was just perfect.
When it came to ordering a main course, I was torn between having something I'd tried before or going down a new path.  Some cryptic negotiations with my father who "didn't want to sway my decision either way" led me to order the honeycomb cannelloni which I had last time, on the assumption that my other option was the one that he wanted and I'd therefore get to try both.  Turned out my second-guessing was entirely wrong, but at least I now know what I'll be having the next time I go!  The photo I took of my meal was utterly terrible, but you can see a much clearer picture here.  Fortunately it tasted much better than it looked on my phone and I would certainly recommend it, particularly to anyone who likes a bit of variety in their meals.  The pasta contains three different fillings (aubergine and sun-dried tomato; spinach and ricotta; pumpkin) and is served with a rich tomato sauce that doesn't overwhelm the rest of the dish.  Delish.

We also sampled, on something of a whim, some polenta chips served with rosemary salt and parmesan.  I am a massive advocate of polenta and these were fried to perfection, lovely and crunchy with that soft centre.

Unfortunately, none of us were really feeling up to dessert after an utterly delightful but incredibly filling meal.  However, of course, I am never one to pass up a cocktail course.  The cocktail menu is updated every year, with the results of a nationwide cocktail competition influencing which mixes the public get to enjoy.  That meant the gin and Earl Grey cocktail that I had last time was no longer available, a fact that I was mighty disappointed by.  But all is not lost, there are plenty of other fabulous options to choose from and it means there will be a bit of variety every time you go.  I had some kind of elderflower-and-prosecco-and-something-else concoction which was really lovely.

Overall, the meal was a roaring success.  We ate our fill of delicious food, and the staff were all very attentive and friendly.  Also, because my dad's a member of Jamie's Gold Club or whatever it's called, we got a sample of some tasty lemon and ricotta ravioli which was lovely and fresh. I'm a big fan of the between-courses treat!  And on top of it all, it was a fantastic opportunity to get dolled up...a nice change considering I only ever seem to wear my work uniform these days.

I'm wearing: H&M blazer, Miss Selfridge dress, New Look shoes, and the bag is the
clutch section of my Zara Combined City Bag.
Have you ever been to Jamie's Italian?  Let me know in the comments what you thought of it!

01/04/14 - What's In My Bag

I would like to start this post with an apology.  I know that I've been a bit AWOL from the old blogging sphere recently; no new posts on here, my Bloglovin application on Google Chrome is constantly warning me that I have '+99' unread posts...it's been a bit of a disaster.  As some of you may know, I have just started a new job which requires me to work some pretty long days and spend a lot of time commuting.  While three hours (at least) a day on a train is great post-planning time, it's not conducive to actually creating said posts.  Hopefully the lighter evenings will mean I can take photos after work sometimes and once I start getting paid, I might have some cash to do exciting things to tell you about.  Until then, please bear with me.  I appreciate every single person who reads this blog and I really love doing it, so I just need to find a way to strike the balance between work and writing. 

Now let's crack on!  This is something of a handy filler post for anyone feeling a little uninspired as it's a nice easy one to do, but at least that makes it perfect for my needs...something nice and quick to let you know that I've not forgotten about you.  I've been wanting to do a What's In My Bag post for ages but I've only recently had a bag I felt was worth blogging about.

This beauty is the Zara Combined Office City Bag and I looooove it.  It features the front white pocket with a red zipped pouch/clutch bag inside and a large inside section with a couple of smaller pockets built into the back wall (is that the right term? I'm sure you all know what I mean regardless).  I tend to overstuff my handbags a little, so investing in a properly gorgeous one was kind of my way of paring back what I carry with me; the last thing I want it to wreck my bag by squeezing too much junk into it.

On an average day, this is more or less what I have with me.  For work, I might sometimes have a packed lunch in there (not as often as I should do, bad Hannah) and often a folder with all kinds of bits and pieces of paper that I need for the day or week.  There's normally a lipbalm in my bag as well, but I know for a fact that the one that was currently residing in here has been relocated to the pocket of my leather jacket for reasons I can't quite recall.

Let's begin with the front section.  The red pouch is so handy and makes a lovely clutch when removed from the rest of the bag.  It also houses the little bits and bobs that might get lost at the bottom of the main section.

1) I couldn't tell you where this little mirror came from, but it's incredibly handy for carrying around.  The baby blue leather(ish) is cute too.
2) NARS bronzer in Laguna, something I mostly carry around for the large mirror rather than because I feel the need to bronze up at intervals throughout the day.  I mostly just use it for contouring.
3) Collection black eye definer.  I never leave home without some form of pencil eye liner and this retractable little number never needs to be sharpened.  Lovely smooth formula as well.
4) L'Occitane hand cream in Date Bouquet, another thing I will never not have in my bag.  This one came off the front of a magazine a while ago and is lasting amazingly well, with a gorgeous scent.
5) Collection pressed powder in whatever the palest shade is, and a little brush which I believe is from Superdrug.  Handy for those all important shiny moments which are often unavoidable.
6) Tic Tacs, as those packed lunches I mentioned earlier almost always feature onion.  I'm an onion fiend, which isn't great when my job involves talking to people all day.
7) Gloves from Asda.  These probably won't be a permanent feature in my bag as we get further into the summer but they make me feel super sophisticated when I wear them.

And now onto the main event!
1) I always have a book or my Kindle with me for those long monotonous train journeys.  Obviously it's not always Megan Abbott's Dare Me but I'm really enjoying it so far.  If you want to know more about what I'm reading, check out my Goodreads - I promise I'll stop nagging about that soon...
2) My trusty Filofax is the reason I get anything done in my life without having a breakdown.  I have the personal sized Saffiano and I adore it.  Without it, I would be at a loss.
3) Until a few days ago, I didn't actually own a working umbrella; it turns out I have a real knack for breaking them.  But after getting utterly drenched, I invested in this handy dandy bag-sized one.  Everyone should have one, it's just common sense.
4) My Bobble bottle is another one of my life's loves right now.  Not only does it encourage me to drink more water, the filter means that I can worry slightly less about the water I'm drinking when I fill up straight from a tap.
5) Passport, fairly self-explanatory.  I couldn't tell you where the funky shiny holder is from as I have had it for years.
6) I never leave home without my iPod.  Ever.  It's full of audiobooks and musical theatre soundtracks and all the things I need to not go insane when I'm travelling.  It too has a funky turquoise case, but you can't see it.
7) Throat lozenges are a must, because my job involves a lot of talking.  I can't afford to be croaking all over the place.  Ricola are great, but I also love Vocalzones for something a little more heavy duty.
8) My purse in invariably stuffed with more receipts and used train tickets than actual money.  I bought it from TK Maxx about three years ago and it's by Fenn Wright Manson.
9) Perfume is another handy little addition.  This particular one is from Zara and it's called 1193 Nanjing West RD Shanghai.  I think they did a sort of...cities range (?) at some point, because I got a set of three and they all have different addresses as names.  This scent is quite mature for me perfume-wise but I like it, and the Zara rollerballs are incredibly reasonably priced.

I realise that this has been a very lengthy What's In My Bag post and that very few people will really care enough to have read all the way to the end.  I got a bit carried away and before I knew it I'd rambled on for a really long time so if you've made it through, congratulations!  

If you've done a WIMB post on your blog, link me in the comments!  I'm so nosy, I love reading them.