Thursday, 15 June 2017

Time for an Update: Meet 'Soup & Champagne'

I think it's time for an update. 

A revamp. A make over, a bit of an overhaul. 

Over the last few years, I have been blogging here and there about my life. From small updates to places I've been and things I've experienced. My blog has always been a place where I've enjoyed writing my memories (mostly so I don't forget them!) and sharing details of my life with anyone who can be bothered to listen.

However, as time has passed, I've grown up and the contents of this blog has evolved along with me. When I started Katie's Rose Garden, I was a student studying law. In the time since, I've graduated university, done a fair amount of travelling, moved to London and started a job in tech consulting. 

Two and a half years into this job, I reached a milestone - promotion time! (Woop woop!) But this got me thinking - maybe it was time Katie's Rose Garden reached a milestone too. A re-branding one to be precise. 

So, with no further ado, mean 'Soup & Champagne', aptly named after the contents of my fridge (or rather the lack of it). 

 (For those who may be concerned, I most definitely love to eat. However, as busy city girl, my fridge tends to be rather empty and any food I cook tends to go straight from shopping bag to stove...) 

So, raise a glass and join me in toasting to this new chapter. Cheers!

Please bare with me while I get everything transferred over - hopefully everything should be fully working soon! Let me know if you spot any issues :) 

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Seaside Escapes: Brighton

Bank Holidays are both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because, well, you get an entire extra day off work for completely free. A curse because inevitably, you over stuff them with so many activities that the lovely refreshing rest you really were rather in need of just doesn't happen.

Following this pattern, it was hardly surprising when this May bank holiday I perhaps overstretched my time just a tiny bit.

So, after a whistle stop visit to my Mum's and a rather boozy brunch in Covent Garden, I found myself on a train to Brighton on the Sunday evening.

I arrived just in time to drop my stuff at our lovely little Air BnB, before being whisked out the door and off to cocktails and nibbles.

Frankie, like the organised lady she is, had managed to find a wonderful little cocktail bar hidden away in what seemed to be quite a residential area. 'The Cocktail Shack' (inside what we later realised was a boutique hotel called 'The Artist Residence' was rather snug, with plants hanging from the ceiling and a bar which took up most of the floor space.

The menu was definitely not bog-standard and before long we were happily sipping away.

Once we'd finished our drinks, we popped next door to 'The Set Cafe' where we ordered a collection of small plates to share, which turned out to be the perfect amount of food for a warm Sunday evening.

Having finished eating and drinking, it was time for a bit of an explore, so off we wandered down to the sea front.

Being a Bank Holiday weekend, it seemed like half of Brighton was out to celebrate! The bars and restaurants by the sea were heaving and music pumped out over the pebbles.

We paused to pose by the sea (much to our own hilarity), before heading on to the pier for essential ice cream and sugared doughnuts.

Finally, feeling rather full, we headed back to our apartment for a good night's sleep before the next day's activities...

Monday morning we were up bright and early for one reason and one reason only. We were going to Choccywoccydoodah for breakfast...

Now, if you haven't heard of Choccywoccydoodah, you might have to ask yourself why on Earth not?! But, to fill you in, let me tell you that it has to be one of the most spectacular chocolate companies in England. Starting in Brighton, (but now with a branch in London too) this rather avant-garde company makes towering cakes coated in chocolate models or, sometimes, forgoes the cake entirely.

Coincidentally, it's also not perhaps the place to visit if you're on a diet....

Anyway, back to breakfast.

We turned up outside the store at exactly 10am, queuing up expectantly outside the door. Once opened, we trooped up stairs to the little cafe and took our seats on a FANTASTIC chaise lounge.

Then, we ordered our breakfast cake. Having perused the menu, we decided that the cake sharing plate (at £24.99) made both economical and practical sense.

The ensuing conversation with the waiter went something like this:

"May we have the cake sharing platter please?"

"You know that usually serves 8 to 10 people?"

*Three pairs of eyes are met, nods exchanged*

"We'll have the platter please."


It was quite large.

Especially for breakfast....

Luckily however, we could box the (large amount of) leftovers up and took them with us...

After our monster breakfast, we didn't have a huge amount of time left in the city, so we just went for a wander around the shops, taking in the sights.

Beautiful tall town houses and twisting little lanes are everywhere. We even got lost in an Aladdin's cave of a vintage store which seemed to have everything from beautiful piece of furniture to seemingly ugly and useless fragments of broken knick-knacks.

Sooner or later however, it was time to hop on a train home.Laden with our uneaten cake slices, before we knew it we were trundling away from the sea side.

Brighton is super close to London and for that reason alone it's worth a visit. There's a whole host of things to do and it's easy to walk everywhere (especially if you don't mind a hill or two!). Combined with large volumes of reasonably priced chocolate cake, it's a recipe to please all!

Friday, 9 June 2017

An Unexpected Development

Recently, I started doing something that I never expected I ever would. In fact, previously I've been so profoundly staunch in my opposition to ever undertaking said activity that, on finding my self heading out the door to undertake it, I had somewhat of an internal shock. That activity is running.

 What was my exact reason for rejecting running? Well, I had a few which, in my previous mind, were well thought out arguments:

1) I have delicate ankles and knees - running is high impact, ergo, a no go
2) I already go to the gym (although admittedly, NEVER on a treadmill)
3) I'm not the kind of person who is going to get up at 5am to plod around a park in all manners of weather, namely rain/frost/cold

 So, as you may imagine by now, my reaction to my boyfriend suggesting that we go running together was 'absolutely, no way, not a chance!' However, he wore me down and, a couple of weeks ago, I found myself off on a slow 5km trot around Wimbledon. This has been followed by a few runs since, including one particularly pleasant venture down the backstreets and along the Putney river bank.

 Now, I am a relatively fit 24 year old, but I can't say I've been finding 5km particularly easy. But I do enjoy one aspect of my trips which I feel reveals rather a lot about my personality... I love discovering all the little areas around where I live- essentially, being nosy! There's nothing quite like coming across a beautiful front garden or a weirdly built house in an unexpected place. Or even a corner store selling everything under the sun including those strangely posh brands of iced tea you never see anywhere but on restaurant menus...

 So, if you're adverse to running, may I make one suggestion? Look at it differently - it's not painfully drawn out exercise, it's actually a valid reason to (swiftly) wander down all those little nooks and crannies you'd never normally visit. And hey, you may get fit in the process!

Monday, 5 June 2017

London Bridge: London Theatre's Party at Gatsby's

"The honour would be entirely mine if you would attend my little party."

Last night, I went to a party at Gatsby's. It was a raucous affair, full of dancing, jazz and dramatic interludes. It was if I had slipped back in time to the 1920s, landing slap bang in the middle of all the action.

Earlier that evening, I donned my flapper dress and copious strings of pearls whilst Andrew dug out his finest braces, before we jumped on a train towards a secret location in London Bridge.

Down a quiet street, we were suddenly met with the sound of jazz and people chatting. Light spilled over the pavement as flapper girls raised their glasses. We had arrived.

We met up with the rest of our party as the metal shutters rolled down behind us, driving us deeper into the prohibition themed bar. Suddenly, Nick Carraway was in front of us, setting the scene and introducing us to our host, the notorious Jay Gatsby.

As the evening unfurled, so did the plot of this famous tale. We were lead from scene to scene, as scandal after scandal came to light. We were whisked away to rooms where juicy details would be revealed, before being taken back to the heart of the set to enjoy a song or a dance. Involvement was encouraged, with the audience being picked on to play the part of a waiter or bar tender. This was immersive theater at its best, where different strands of the tale were divulged before all coming together coherently to reveal the big picture. No single journey through the story was the same, yet all took you methodically through the plot's twists and turns.

We had an absolutely fantastic evening - the cast was incredible, the story consistently well told and totally immersive - it definitely exceeded our expectations and I would highly recommend the show to anyone considering getting tickets.

It was also great to see everyone there. Following the awful terrorist events of the previous night in London Bridge, I had called prior to arriving to check whether the event was cancelled, given it was being held very close by. The response I got? "The Show Must Go On!" And go on it did.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Mum's Birthday: Aqua Kyoto and Aline of Lebanon

Last week was my Mum's birthday and, since she was away in sunny Spain on the day, I took her off for dinner over the weekend.

 We met out the front of Liberty before going for a bit of a wander in the Spring sunshine (which translate 'sunshine with the occasional flurry/downpour of rain), popping into shops and galleries along the way.

 The Mayfair Flower Show was kicking off at Sketch so we paused for a moment to snap a photo in their doorway...

 ...Before popping into Aline of Lebanon for a quick drink. The place settings at Aline of Lebanon were just so beautiful I had to grab a snap before any beverages had even made an appearance!

 I had a banana and ginger smoothie which was just delicious (and two flavours I wouldn't have thought to put together) whilst mum had a rosewater lemonade.

 Shortly however, it was time to head to the 'main event' - dinner at the Japanese restaurant Aqua Kyoto. Located on Argyll Street, to access the restaurant we were whisked up in a lift to the 5th floor, before finding ourselves in a large space with an open sushi kitchen.

 We took our seats at the bar where we could watch the chefs slice and shape all the tasty food on offer. Before long, our cocktails arrived - a delicious 'mojito', although I can't say I've ever had a mojito quite like it - it had sherry and passion fruit in it!

 Starters swiftly followed - a beautifully presented sashimi selection and an octopus salad. Mum and I quickly established that we would share all of our vibrant food in an attempt to try as much as possible!

 Mains arrived just as well presented - wagu beef with a yuzu dressing for me and mackerel with a ginger miso sauce for Mum. The mackerel was finished with a blowtorch at table which was a fun theatrical touch. We also had rather a interesting time trying to split up the filet with just our chopsticks - I think perhaps, we may need a little more practice....

 The beef however stole the show. Deliciously tender and rare whilst the yuzu sauce was sublime - I was practically licking my plate clean by the time I had finished!

 Pudding took on the form of a Japanese cheese cake. Not usually a cheesecake fan, I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed this one. For starters, the presentation was simply delightful, but I especially loved how the cheesecake topping almost had a 'mellow-y' texture, whilst the accompanying ice cream of sakura and strawberry cut through all the flavours deliciously.

 Dinner at Aqua Kyoto was a very enjoyable experience. The waitstaff were attentive, the food wonderful to look at as well as eat and the setting was vibrant. My only niggle would be that the bar was rather noisy. However, this wasn't the end of the world and we had a very enjoyable evening!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Extended Birthdays and Unicorn Cake

My little sister seems to have a rule. This rule is that birthdays, (well, her birthday to be precise,) can go on for as long as you jolly well feel like. Therefore this weekend I found myself trekking down to the edge of Essex with a 3kg unicorn cake. Complete with horn, ears and enough sparkle for it to blind you in bright sunshine.

Lets take a moment here to consider this monstrosity of a cake. Like many of you I'm sure, in recent months I have been blown away by the beautiful creations of companies such as Kek & Co. and thought I'd give it a go.

Just for reference, this is what a unicorn cake is supposed to look like:

A post shared by KEK & Co. (@kekandco) on

An effortlessly smooth tower of coloured icing.

However, as a distinctly amateur baker, the reality was far from effortless. This cake was much trickier to create than maybe you'd expect. My version took me a week. Yes, you read that correctly, A WEEK.

In light of this, I will outline some of my mistakes below in an effort to help you not make the same!

Firstly, there's the baking. Well, here I perhaps started off slightly on the wrong foot by using tins which were far far too large. It took ten eggs and two nights of baking to create the four layers I needed to get my cake to a reasonable height! However, one useful little trick was freezing my layers to make them easier to work with later. To do this, once baked, wait for them to fully cool before double wrapping them in cling film. Then, simply pop in the freezer. This kept my layers fresh for the duration of the week and also made icing them later easier as they stayed together better.

Icing the cake however is a whole other saga. You need two layers - a crumb layer (to lock down all those pesky crumbs) and a smooth outer layer. My tip here - definitely use a cake turntable  and an icing smoother (I borrowed both of these) and do not make your icing too thick! I found that my second layer of icing was just sticking to the layer below and peeling it up as I tried to smooth. This introduced more crumbs and for a moment, cake-y hell broke loose (quite literally). In the end, I didn't quite have the super smooth finish of the professional bakers, but hey, this had rustic charm!

The decoration wasn't too hard, although I was glad I had bought some official 'icing glue' and not just gone with my instinct that 'oh, using icing to glue should just work'. (I may have also cheated and used cocktail sticks...) The horn however did have a tendency to crack a little and was difficult to get straight... This is an issue I didn't really overcome but just did the best I could - if anyone has any advice on how to do it better, do tell me!

Finally, there was nothing left to do but transport the cake. This was a challenge in its self and unfortunately Mr Unicorn didn't make it to his destination without a couple of dents, scrapes and rough patches... Ah well, I tried.

Thankfully, despite the slightly battered decoration, the cake actually tasted delicious! I was a little surprised as I wasn't sure how well the whole freezing process would work, but it was a success! Maybe it was worth all that effort after all...!

Anyway, cake saga aside, back to the extended birthday.

We spent the first day down at the sailing club where Lulu bullied her boyfriend Alex into a wet suit and out on to the water, despite the poor boy never having sailed before.

I took refuge in the safety of the clubhouse, armed with a ginger beer and a packet of salt and vinegar crisps...

...before moving on to a 99 flake from the ice cream van parked next to the sea front.

The next day was spent on the beach and saying hello to the horses and other various animals, before getting ready for Lulu's birthday dinner.

The theme was 'multicoloured' and so all the food matched this theme, right down to the different flavoured cream cheeses on offer as part of the starters.

A musician came to play, spinning out indie classics ('Naive' by the Kooks, anyone?) followed by some more recent chart toppers.

The evening was finished off by slowly demolishing the cake and playing The Hat Game (a fun mix between Articulate and Charades) which my team proceeded to win, making it a good evening all round!