PAUL Éclair Baking Masterclass in Covent Garden 

Paul Eclair Masterclass One of my goals after our wedding and honeymoon was to take more cooking and baking classes because anybody who knows me, knows I am absolutely rubbish at both! I can cook and bake a few things really well, but I really want to learn how to do more! When I was invited along to the PAUL Éclair Baking Masterclass at their Covent Garden patisserie, I was ready for the challenge! 

For those who don’t know, PAUL is a delightful French bakery and patisserie with locations all over the world, and all of their pastries and treats are absolutely beautiful and scrumptious. PAUL opened its first bakery in Lille France in 1889 and the company is still family owned, having been passed down through five generations of bakers! They still use traditional methods to produce the freshest bread and finest patisserie – you feel as though you are being transported to Paris every time you try a PAUL delicacy! PAUL has become a household name here in the UK and their French breads, cakes, tarts, macarons and the gorgeous éclairs are some of the best I’ve had and make wonderful little gifts for family and friends (ahem, Christmas is right around the corner!)Paul Eclair Masterclass Anyways, being masters of traditional French baking, PAUL has introduced a new series of classes where you can learn the art of making your very own éclairs and bread, just like the pros. 

As I walked into PAUL located in Covent Garden, I was met by friendly faces and our éclair extraordinaire, who talked us through a bit about what we would be learning. We headed downstairs to the kitchen, threw our aprons on and got started!

Ciaran has always told me that baking is super easy if you stick to the exact measurements, and baking éclairs, I learned, takes quite a bit of discipline and it’s imperative to stick to the exact quantities to get it just right. If you can do that, you will end up with stunning éclairs to impress your friends.

The class is organised in to three parts: choux pastry basics, making pastry cream and making the fondant icing, followed by the fun part – icing your masterpieces.

Paul Eclair Masterclass Before each part, our instructor talked us through each and every step, demonstrating what to mix, how to fold, and what to add in when! After watching him once, we headed off to our stations, which conveniently have all ingredients laid out in the exact quantities, so you can’t really mess anything up! (Unless you are me, who accidentally added eggs and poached them on the heater and had to start over again….). Anyways… having all ingredients pre-measured helped us focus on the actual technique of creating our pretty éclairs instead of worrying about getting the measurements exact and fiddling around until they were right. 

Paul eclair masterclass The class itself is about three hours long, which I found to be perfect as it gives you enough time to observe the instructor at work, and you don’t feel too rushed whilst you are creating each part on your own. The instructor is fabulous as well, coming around to everybody and ensuring nobody is lost! He also helps you out big time with the mixing, which is a bonus if you have no muscles as choux pastry is very thick and difficult to mix. Paul eclair masterclass

Paul Eclair Masterclass

Once we finished creating our choux pastry, and learned how to pipe the pastry onto the partridge paper, off to the oven they went and within about 10 minutes, they came out beautifully golden brown, ready to be iced with pastry cream and lashes of fondant icing in all my favourite flavours – chocolate, coffee and vanilla – yum. We also had raspberries to include in the middle of our éclairs.

Seeing our pillowy perfect éclairs at the end of the class put a smile on my face and I was so proud after all that hard work, they turned out looking pretty lovely! They tasted fantastic too – I brought some home for Ciaran and they were devoured in a mere matter of moments.

At the end of the class, we treated ourselves with a glass of wine and charcuterie upstairs, which the perfect way to end the class!
I learned so much during the éclair masterclass, including how to make choux pastry, how to make my own fondant, and how to make my own icing as well as how to pipe the choux pastry properly to achieve the perfect shape, how to pipe the fondant and who to glaze each one with icing to make them look stunning. You learn quite a bit in a three hour span of time, which is awesome and it’s just a really fun class to do with a group of girlfriends!

The class costs £80 and you get éclair masterclass instruction, wine and charcuterie afterwards, a limited edition PAUL apron piping materials to take home with you and recipes/insturctions to make your very own delicacies at home! The class is perfect for a fun day out or even as a team building activity. It’s something so unique and fun to do and it gets you out of your comfort zone! If you want to learn something new or brush up on your baking skills, I highly recommend it! You can book the Éclair masterclass online from the 7th November onwards or email: masterclass@paul-uk.com! 

Thank you so much PAUL for hosting us – I had a blast! 🙂 Now it’s on to conquering my very own éclairs at home… I’ll let you know how I get on! 😉

Have you ever made your own éclairs before?

Pumpkin Picking in London

 Pumpkin pickin’ season is upon us ya’ll! Growing up in the US, there wasn’t a year that went by that we didn’t go pumpkin picking in October. It signifies the start of Autumn and is such a fun activity to do on the weekend. When I was little, we used to go to this farm in Kansas with a huge field all full of pumpkins and pick out our own to bring home and carve for Halloween to put out on the door step. As we got older, I’d go to the pumpkin patch with friends when that snap of cold air hit, drink apple cider, enjoy apple cider donuts and pick out pumpkins to decorate our house with.

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VINtwined Presents Champanois

This past weekend, my older sister Chrissie was in town visiting. In fact, this has become a routine occurrence, for which I feel incredibly thankful for! We have our little traditions every time she comes to London – we always go to see a play and indulge in quite a bit of champagne. When I was invited to come along to Vintwined’s Champanois event, I couldn’t think of anybody else I’d rather experience it with than my sister!

Now, for those of you who aren’t yet familiar with VINtwined, it is a fantastic new venture founded by ex-pharmaceutical strategy consultant Neil Deacon.

Neil’s philosophy is one I can definitely get on bored with – “Life’s too short, so why wait?”

Despite an established career, Neil took his passion for phenomenal wine and started VINtwined – a company that takes unique wines and uses them for culinary inspiration. Instead of the typical food with wine pairing, Neil uses the wine as inspiration for the dishes.

Neil, along with Head Chef James Welch, have been showcasing their passion for great wine and food with a series of supper clubs and we got to experience the very special four-course wine-led dining experience featuring exquisite grower champagnes this past weekend. To say it was superb is an understatement.

Taking place in Clerkenwell Kitchen, we were greeted with smiles and a glass of Gounel Lasalle Prestige Brut paired with Comte and Brioche rarebit fingers. A delicious combination as the flavours of the brioche in the canapé distinctively mirrored the creamy buttery notes of our champagne. We met Neil, who told us some hilarious stories about travelling throughout France, knocking on wine-makers door to discover the next big thing.

I have a real appreciation for smaller, lesser known wineries and prefer to drink wine from small production companies when possible as opposed to mass produced wines. I find the stories behind them to be quite fascinating and like to support smaller companies as much as I can. I also find that a lot of the times, the wine is much better quality!

Neil told us all about how he wasn’t having much luck going door to door when he was in France. He was about to give up on the expedition and head home when a surfer-looking dude walked up to him and asked him if he was looking to try some different wine. Neil said yes, and the surfer took him to a shed, where he kept several barrels of wine on reserve. The surfer happened to be the owner of a small production winery that had been in his family for years and Neil ended up bringing some of the wine back to serve at his Vintwined dinners.

We sipped on our lovely first glass of champagne and chatted with the rest of the group before sitting down for the main event…

The first-course was a Ployez-Jacquemart Extra Brut Vintage 2005 paired with a Salmon tart fine, chestnut mushrooms, watercress and creme fraiche. The champagne itself is fresh and palatable, with hints of honey and spices that paired incredibly well with the salmon tart. The champagne itself wasn’t heavy and didn’t leave an acidic taste in your mouth like many champagnes can. It was lovely and light – one that is perfect to drink at the beginning of the evening. The Salmon Tart was delicious, with the pastry underneath adding a rich buttery texture to the overall flavourful fish. Lovely indeed.

The next course was my absolute favourite of the evening, and very well may have inspired my wedding menu!

Duck breast served with potato terrine, turnips, red cabbage and a rich blackberry jus. The inspiration for this dish comes from the Louis Casters Cuvee Superiore Brut, one of the most special champagnes I’ve had the pleasure of sampling. The champagne itself is crisp and decadent, with notes of blackberry, apricot, brioche and lemon zest. It paired exquisitely with the duck and the blackberry jus that accompanied it. It is a very distinctive champagne and one I would love to try again soon.

The duck itself was cooked to perfection and melted in our mouths. I really liked the freshness that the blackberries brought to the dish – it was fantastic! Hat’s off to the chef.

Unlike a lot of wine tastings I have been to in the past, the dinner is formatted perfectly in that Neil talked briefly about the champagne and how it inspired the dish that we were about to eat. It wasn’t overwhelming or too complicated. His outlook on wine is that is is supposed to be fun, not daunting and while I can’t speak for everyone, I know that I walked away feeling a lot more knowledgeable than when I came!

I also want to note that the thought and effort that went into choosing the specific champagnes we tried on the evening as well as the pairing of the dishes was so evident and Neil’s passion for what he does shined throughout the entire evening.

For our final course, we were surprised with a sweet dessert wine called Pierre Morlet, Rattafia paired with a Cherry Bakewell Tart, almond crumble and vanilla cream. I am not always a huge fan of dessert wines as I find the consistency can be a bit too syrupy, but this sweet wine was delightful and the soft cherry notes mirrored those in the Bakewell Tart. There was a bit of acidity to the wine, which balanced out the sweetness of the overall dessert. It was a wonderful way to end our superb evening.

For a digestif, my sister and I ordered one more glass of the incredible Louis Casters champagne and chatted along with Neil about his future plans. This was one of the last of the Champanois dinners, but he is hosting a new series called “This is English,” celebrating English wines just in time for English Wine Week coming up in London.

The four-course event will take place at Stepney City Farm on 18th March, 15th April and 27th May. Tickets are £65 and can be purchased here. The Champanois event was truly spectacular and I would expect nothing less at his next series! If you are a big wine fan or just want to meet some new people and learn more about it, I can’t recommend Neil’s relaxed Vintwined series enough. The wines are outstanding and the food is divine – a truly winning combination.

*I was a guest of Neil’s, but all thoughts and opinions are my own and I am really excited to see what VINtwined has in store for the future and really looking forward to the next event. Thank you Vintwined for a most memorable of evenings!

The Fawlty Towers Dining Experience

For those of you Americans reading this, you may be wondering what exactly Fawlty Towers is? Well, it’s one of the most hilarious British sitcoms from the 70s. If you’re a fan of British humour – go watch it, and even if you’re not – still go watch it. The show takes place in a hotel and features Basil, the inept hotel manager, his bossy wife Sybil and Manuel, the funniest Spanish water that has a knack for ruining everything Basil tries to do right.

Well, I was so intrigued by the show and after spending 2.5 years here in the UK, I decided it was time to experience the Fawlty Towers Dining experience for myself! Currently playing at the Amba Hotel in Charring Cross and the Kingsway Hotel in Covent Garden, the show is literally everything you will remember from the hit BBC sitcom rolled into a two hour sit down meal, where the audience are used as props and the food is too…

The performance features the three main characters, Basil, Sybil and the hilarious Manuel – all of whom were spectacular and looked so similar to the original cast.

For those of you that know Fawlty Towers well, expect to see the funniest scenes played out from the original show, including Manuel and Basil the Rat, Basil trying to get Manuel to bet on a horse, the scene where the Americans come to town with the Waldorf Salad, and the inevitable build up to that German scene where Basil goes insane….

Having not watched the show loads before we went to the experience, I still found it to be incredibly humorous and a great laugh all throughout dinner, even when Manuel accidentally chucked me on the floor in front of everyone!

You can’t help but laugh throughout the entire show…

On to the food… Well, truth be told, the food wasn’t as great as the performance was but you don’t come for the mind-blowing food, you come for a really fun evening out. Bread rolls used as props were flung across the room by Manuel, pumpkin soup that arrived later than expected…

Roast Chicken with veggies and a potato..

And Black Forest Gateaux Cake …. I think we were all a little disappointed to see no Waldorf salad but that’s neither here no there!

I personally loved all the jokes and how they got the crowd really involved and immersed in the entire experience. It was a really fun evening full of surprises and the script (they say) is different each time. The characters were all so spot on and overall, it was a very unique night out and something a little bit different! The Fawlty Towers Dining Experience would make for an excellent gift for a relative and would also be great fun to do as a group.

Have you been to the Fawlty Towers Dining Experience yet? What did you think?

Book now! 

I was a guest of the Fawlty Towers Dining Experience, but all opinions are my own, and I wouldn’t trade this exceptionally funny night for anything.

 

Pergola on the Roof

There is no shortage roof top bars in London, but none as beautiful as the newly launched Pergola on the Roof, a stunning oasis on top of Television Centre in White City. I was super excited to check out the space, but wasn’t expecting it to be as dazzling as it actually was. We headed there for the press evening to support one our clients at work and I’m so glad that we got to have a sneak peek before the official launch.

When we headed 170 feet up in the air and stepped out onto the rooftop, my expression was ‘WOW.’ The incredible, alfresco space is covered with a whimsical canopy of wisteria, bougainvillea, ivy, flowers and twinkling fairy lights intertwined, creating a magical atmosphere with stunning views of London. It’s interesting to note that Pergola comes from the Latin word pegula, which means projecting roof (a very pretty one at that).

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There is plenty of comfy seating, featuring white washed tables and chairs and colourful cushions, taking inspiration from the Mediterranean. There are also daybeds that you can book out to bask in the sunshine on the weekends with friends.

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The brick walls feature pastel-coloured murals with the likes of flamingos, colourful houses, pelicans and a myriad of beautiful designs that provide an air of escapism from the hustle and bustle of London down below. One of the best parts about Pergola on the Roof, however, is the food offering.

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Featuring four of London’s highly reputable restaurants including Rabbit, Patty & Bun, Salt Yard and Le Coq, Pergola on the Roof is not only haven to relax and catch up with friends, but an ideal destination for London’s most discerning foodies. The menus at each pop-up feature some of the most popular dishes that are served in the restaurant…

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Such as these incredible Beef Cigars from Rabbit Restaurant in Chelsea with tarragon mustard dip. They were truly outstanding.

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As were these Rye Bay Scallops in Garlic Butter. They were, hands down, some of the best scallops I’ve ever had.

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We took a little wander around and checked out some of the other pop-ups and I marvelled at how well done and gorgeous the decor was. I already can’t wait to go back.

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Patty & Bun, a crowd favourite, had its iconic Ari Gold Burger on the menu, which is definitely a must try. The P&B Mayo is a real winner, you won’t regret ordering it!

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Over on the side of the roof, there is a gorgeous seating area with 2 boules pitches to play on a sunny day. We’ll definitely be dusting off our set to play here in the summer.

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In need of a few libations to go with our food, we headed over to the gorgeous bar area in the upper area of Pergola. There are two bars, one downstairs when you first walk in and another one in the middle of the four pop-up restaurants. We each decided on glasses of Rosé and toasted to the fact that it was finally summer (despite the chillier weather on this particular evening).

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Our last stop was Salt Yard, which had created a bespoke menu filled with classic tapas including charcoal grilled dry aged beef bocadillo with aged manchego, charred gem, aioli and onion marmalade, grilled spicy chorizo, and grilled aubergine, smoked burrata, phoenix farm leaves and an orange vinaigrette. I decided on the latter as burrata is a favourite of mine and wanted to try something a bit on the lighter side.

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It was a delicious and refreshing salad, but with that said, I don’t think you could go wrong with any of the options on the menu.

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As the sun set, the music cranked up and the fairy lights switched on, which made Pergola on the Roof even prettier than in daylight. Lively, upbeat music bounced throughout the rooftop and everybody was in great spirits as we chatted and sipped crisp glasses of wine late into the evening. As cheesy as it sounds, Pergola on the Roof had me at hello. It was definitely love at first sight and I can’t wait to come back with Ciaran and friends this summer. What can I say, I’m a sucker for pretty patios and rooftops.

Perfect For: Pergola on the Roof is the ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of Central London. It’s the perfect destination and something different to do with a big group of friends. There is an excellent array of food from some of London’s top notch restaurants and has an awesome cocktail, beer and wine list to try out. There’s also a retractable roof in case of bad weather, so nothing will rain o your parade. Entry is free and you can book a table or a daybed area for big groups. They’re even offering a cocktail on the house when you sign up to their Visitor Book. You can’t beat it. Take my word for it and head to Pergola on the Roof this weekend, you’ll fall in love, I guarantee it. Pergola on the Roof is open until 29th August.

Pergola on the Roof | Television Centre | Wood Lane | White City | London | W12 7JR 

Wed – Fri: 6pm – 11pm
Saturday: 12pm – 11pm
Sunday: 12pm – 9.30pm