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Bournemouth Hilton, Schpoons and Forx + The Sky Bar

I must admit that I got that little bit more excited about our imminent move to Bournemouth when I heard about the new Hilton Hotel that opened in the city centre last month.  Normally the opening of a new hotel wouldn't incite this level of enthusiasm, but with a Sky Bar with views over the city, an upscale restaurant (Schpoons and Forx) where the interiors are as stunning as the menu, and an eforea spa - I knew it was going to be somewhere we would end up spending a lot of time when we move in.

Schpoons and Forx, Hilton Bournemouth

We were kindly invited to try out the Level8ight Sky Bar and Schpoons and Forx restaurant, to indulge in some cocktails and road test the restaurant menu.  Myself and Emma from The Style Box joined a host of other bloggers and arrived on a recent chilly Thursday - taking the lift straight to the eighth floor to arrive at their 'destination bar'.  The Level8ight Sky Bar boasts dramatic coastal views as well as the claim of being the 'highest bar in the South West'.  Inside, it feels plush and exclusive; the drinks menu offers inventive cocktails and premium spirits (including 49 different gins!), and the bar's food menu features tapas small plates and afternoon tea.

We started our foray into their cocktail menu with Bournemouth Sours - their most popular cocktail.  The Bournemouth Sour encompasses Conker dry gin, lemon juice, egg white, sugar syrup, Havana club fruity essence and Angoustra bitters topped with pinot noir, and is priced at £14.99.

Schpoons and Forx, Hilton Bournemouth
Schpoons and Forx, Hilton Bournemouth Schpoons and Forx, Hilton Bournemouth

After a couple of delicious cocktails we were invited into the restaurant by Matt Tebbutt - the chef who oversees the beautiful Sky Bar and the Schpoons and Forx restaurant.  Having Matt heading things up - Matt, who often pops up on Saturday Kitchen and presents Food Unwrapped, and more importantly, who graduated from Leith's School of Food and Wine and trained under Marco Pierre White - is a total coup for the Hilton and has really served to put the new restaurant and bar on the map.

Schpoons and Forx, Hilton Bournemouth

We were seated in the restaurant and took in the stunning surroundings.  The open kitchen sits in the heart of the seating area and features a tandoor and stone oven, as well as boxes full of fresh herbs and crates of baked breads.  Wooden spoons and industrial lighting hang from the ceiling, tinges of gold and copper glimmer in the soft lighting, and the whole restaurant is filled with unique and quirky touches, from pots full of bendy spoons and forks (of course) to hand painted plates hanging on the wall.

Schpoons and Forx review Schpoons and Forx review
schp008Schpoons and Forx, Hilton Bournemouth

We were treated to a mind-blowing assortment of dishes - get ready to get hungry! We started with cockles (lemon juice expertly squeezed by the lovely Rhiannon Duffin...)

Schpoons and Forx, Hilton Bournemouth

We then moved on to truffle oil and cheese flatbread (totally delicious), raw vegetables served with a garlic and anchovy dip and mackerel cooked with cumin and coriander...

Schpoons and Forx, Hilton Bournemouth

... scallops with ham hock and salsa verde, mozzarella with roasted figs, and medium cooked steak served with chunky chips.  The steak was undoubtedly the best I've ever tasted - utterly tended; meat that just melted in your mouth.

We had mussels, clams and red mullet cooked in vermouth, loin of lamb served with flatbread and tzatziki, halibut with seaweed butter and smoked haddock and mascarpone risotto.

Schpoons and Forx, Hilton Bournemouth schpoons015 Schpoons and Forx, Hilton Bournemouth

Matt took the time to explain every dish as it was served to us, and it was clear that selecting every addition to the Schpoons and Forx menu has been a total labour of love.  Then Matt uttered the words that everyone longs to hear - "Shall I bring the puddings out?" (Just when you thought we couldn't possibly eat any more...)  For dessert we had vanilla pannacotta with 30-year-old Port, banana tart with caramel and amaretto, creme brûlée, chocolate tart, wafer thin pineapple with passion fruit and soft meringue, a red wine and mint sorbet, and rumbaba.

Schpoons and Forx, Hilton Bournemouth Schpoons and Forx, Hilton Bournemouth

I hadn't imagined that the restaurant's dessert menu could be as good as their main dishes, but everything was absolutely delectable.  The passionfruit and pineapple meringue was my favourite - the soft, chewy meringue and the sweetness of the fruit were a perfect match.  The restaurant prides itself on using fresh, local produce and seasonal ingredients - the apples in the apple and calvados clafoutis for example are sourced locally - and it really shows.  I also love that the majority of the items on the menu are Sharing Plates.  It makes it so much more pleasurable - so much more of an experience to share food with friends and family, and to be able to taste just how delicious that steak is together.  (Though, hands off my pineapple and passion fruit meringue).

We were totally spoiled by Schpoons and Forx and we all came away with very happy bellies indeed - I just can't even explain just how amazing the food was and how much I would recommend it to others.  I loved it so much that I dragged Tom there for lunch on Saturday, and he was bowled over by the food too.  If you're anywhere near Bournemouth or planning on being in the near future then you must try Schpoons and Forx and the Sky Bar - you won't be disappointed!

Have you visited the new Bournemouth Hilton yet?


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Copenhagen Travel Diary: Day Two

Copenhagen Day Two

We started our second day in Copenhagen with breakfast at the Laundromat Café, which was conveniently located on the same road we were staying on (if we were staying longer we definitely would have gone several times!). We had spotted the café in the Lonely Planet guide as serving excellent breakfasts, so we earmarked it as a must-visit. I thought that the Laundromat element was just a catchy title, but it turns out that the café does indeed offer laundry services - so you can wait for your clothes to wash whilst eating pancakes, drinking a milkshake and reading the newspaper. The breakfast menu was amazing - serving healthy and veggie options such as the 'Clean Breakfast' (Greek yogurt with homemade muesli, fruit, cheese, scrambled eggs and marmalade) to Croque Madames, omelettes and pancakes. Of course I went for pancakes - five homemade blueberry pancakes stacked high and served with maple syrup and butter (priced at about £6.60). The pancakes were totally delicious and definitely set us up well for a day of exploring.

The Laundromat Café, Copenhagen The Laundromat Café, Copenhagen The Laundromat Café, Copenhagen

We then caught the Metro to Christianshavn Station and walked to our first 'tourist spot' of the day - Christiania (it's about a six minute walk from the Metro station, but as with the last post, not if you walk in the wrong direction first - oops!) Christiania is a residential area but also a 'self-governing free-town' within Copenhagen - it's basically a large commune with its own set of laws; a haven for people seeking escape and sanctuary from mainstream society. There are cafes, a theatre, music venues, grassy areas for sitting in (though these were obviously covered by snow when we visited!) and even a beautiful lake which you can walk around. Christiania also has an infamous 'Pusher Street' or 'Green Light District' where there is open cannabis trade. For this reason, you cannot take photographs here.

Christiana, Copenhagen
Christiana, Copenhagen

Walking around Christiania is an interesting experience - I found it had a very calm atmosphere and it's enjoyable to just amble around and take it all in. There are lots of unique, quirky looking houses (many of which are self-built), and walking to the end of a quiet snowy road, seeing chocolate box style houses with puffs of smoke emanating from the chimneys made me feel like it would definitely be a fun place to live (though, it's not without a chequered history of unrest).

Christiania, Copenhagen

After our visit to Christiania our next stop was Nyhavn Harbour - another must-see when visiting Copenhagen. We caught the Metro to the Korgens Nytorv station, and from there it's about a 10 minute walk (this time we walked in the right direction - hooray!) When we turned the corner into the Harbour the view almost took my breath away - the colourful buildings and bobbing boats in the canal are such a stunning sight and I can imagine it would be even more beautiful in the summer. I think it would be the perfect spot to enjoy a glasses of wine and a spot of lunch in the sunshine on one of the tables outside the many restaurants and cafes. You can also take canal tours from here - we decided against it as it was frankly far too cold to entertain the idea of being outside for much longer, but I'd imagine it's one to add to the list if it's a little warmer. In search of some warmth we popped into the Hyttefadet Nyhavn pub for a hot chocolate, and spent about half an hour hugging the radiator and defrosting our frozen toes (I am not used to -5 degree temperatures!)

Nyhavn Harbour, Copenhagen
Nyhavn Harbour Nyhavn Harbour Nyhavn Harbour

Nyhavn Harbour was only a 10 minute walk to our next stop, Christiansborg Palace (where the Danish Parliament sit). Nicole had noted from the Lonely Planet guide that both the Medieval Ruins and The Tower were worth a visit, and the Tower is free admission, which is always a bonus! We came across the entrance to The Tower straight away and (after going through security!) caught the lift up to the 106 metre high Tower viewing platform. Here you can get panoramic views of Copenhagen - you can even see all the way to Sweden on a clear day.

daytwo004
Christianborg Palace

The snowy rooftops of various buildings and palaces were quite a sight to behold, and another way to appreciate just how beautiful a city Copenhagen is from a different angle. There's also a restaurant in The Tower should you wish to linger over the views whilst enjoying lunch or dinner.  After visiting The Tower we walked around the grounds of the Palace looking for a way into the Medieval Ruins and the Palace itself. Finding the entrance to the Ruins (these are medieval ruins dating back to 1167 that were discovered when they laid the foundations for the palace), we discovered that they were closed. They're not seasonal and it wasn't a Monday (the Palace is closed on Mondays) so I think it must have just been a one-off. Lots of the other entrances were closed too, so we gave up and proceeded onto the next stop on our list.

The Tower, Christiansborg Palace

But first - lunch! We'd highlighted Next Door Café as a lunch spot - a quirky little eatery and coffee spot near the main shopping street. They're famous for their coffees and breakfasts, as well as their homemade cakes (and the characterful interior and lively music). They had a small sandwich menu and we ordered sandwiches and chai lattes (we needed warming up again!) I had mozzarella, tomato and pesto in a huge chunky rye bread roll, and Nicole had bacon, lettuce and tomato. Mine came with the biggest hunk of mozzarella I've ever seen in my life - it was delicious and very filling. I think that the sandwich was about £5 and the chai latte about £2 - the prices were certainly very reasonable, and the staff were really nice and very welcoming and chatty.

After lunch we went for a walk along the main shopping street, the Strøget (Europe's longest pedestrian shopping street). Here you can find H&M, Cos, & Other Stories, Monki, Vero Moda and lots more (including a three-storey Tiger that we spent quite some time in!). I didn't find that anything was significantly cheaper than back at home, and with only hand luggage capacity, we weren't able to go mad with our shopping. I'd been told that the side streets off the Strøget had lots of quirky boutiques and independent shops, but we couldn't really find these; I think we might have been in the wrong section of the street. After being very tempted by a jacket in Zara and pretty much everything in & Other Stories, we spent a bit more time ambling around before deciding it was time for dinner (yes, we did basically concentrate our efforts on eating our way around Copenhagen).

Norrebro

We'd highlighted Cocks and Cows for dinner - also a recommendation from the Lonely Planet. Cocks and Cows have been awarded 'Copenhagen's best burger' three years in a row, and any restaurant with that accolade is definitely a must-visit on my list. The restaurant was only a few minutes away from the shopping street and we were seated straight away - though again, I get the impression that it isn't always this easy. We ended up sat in an outdoor marquee area with lots of heaters - still slightly chilly but we were just glad to not have to wait for a table. I took lots of photos on my phone of the restaurant and my burger, but accidentally deleted all my photos instead of transferring them onto the computer, so you'll just have to imagine what my burger looked like! Here's a snap from another blog instead, just so you can get a feel for how cool the interior is...

img credit: theslowpace.com

I went for the New Yorker - steak, pickled shallots and pesto (£13) with salt and vinegar chips on the side (£3). Nicole went for the Cheese and Smoke - bacon and cheddar (£10). My large glass of wine was about £7. This was one of the more expensive places we ate but the food was really good; my steak was cooked to perfection (it was a little pinker than I would normally have it but I discovered that it's actually must tastier!) After a long day of exploring (and with it starting to snow again, and temperatures getting even colder outside) we decided to again wander back to the apartment for a glass of wine and a loll on the sofa (my FitBit says we walked 17km that day, so I think we had a good excuse!) As with the night before, we lit some candles, put the telly on and ate snacks under the cosy blankets in the lounge. Bliss.

Daily expenditure: 
Pancakes and green tea for breakfast - £10
Hot chocolate - £4
Sandwich and chai latte - £7
Burger, chips and glass of wine - £21 = £40


Have a nose at my first day in Copenhagen...
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Fitness planning + Pink Soda Sport


Okay so, are we all agreed that we can call January a blip, and from a health and fitness perspective at least, say we're starting the year with February? I'll be completely honest and say that I have fallen off the wagon in a big way.  I got so much chocolate for Christmas that I'm still trucking through it by having a bar of chocolate most days, I get home from work and immediately reach for the crisps cupboard, and I'm still drinking glasses of wine and prosecco like it's the holiday season.  Apparently I can't sustain eating like 'the calories don't count because Christmas' for seven weeks in a row, and the scales tell me I've put on about a stone.  And my work trousers don't fit any more.  Ouch.

With this in mind - I needed some inspiration to get me back in the gym (or at least a gentle first step towards it with a few morning runs or spins).  I needed to swap my boxes of Toffifee for green smoothies, and I needed some new stylish sportswear, STAT.  This, however, has not been an easy quest.  Fashion brands from the budget to the designer seem to have recently cottoned on that most women these days have a sportswear wardrobe (and like to look good when they're working out), and there are so many more options for stylish gym-wear than there ever were before.  This can only be a good thing, right?

Pink Soda Sport review

However.  I have found these new sportswear ranges a mixed bag.  I've bought sports wear from two online fashion brands recently only to find the material either cheap, see-through, or so un-breathable that you're uncomfortably sweaty by the time you've walked into the gym.  Looking good, it seems, comes at a cost.  And that cost is often that their sportswear is totally unsuitable for a workout.  I began to wonder if it was impossible to get gym-wear that was a) comfy, b) stylish and c) well-made (well, not without totally breaking the bank).

That was until Pink Soda Sport came into my life.  Their sportswear is so cool that I can totally imagine myself going for a morning yoga class and then a green tea at Starbucks without changing out of my gym gear (it's also so cool that I feel a little bit like I'm heading off for some trendy new yoga class in LA or something; I just love the designs!)

Pink Soda Sport review

I've been wearing the crew neck sweatshirt with jeans as well as just to the gym - after throwing away half of my clothes recently and trying to cut down on how much I own, it's important that the items I do have in my wardrobe are multi-functional, and this is definitely a hard-working piece.  (Also after seeing how awesome Lydia Millen looks in hers, I have even more gym inspiration/envy than before - what a babe).

Pink Soda Sport review
Pink Soda Sport review

Thankfully, as well as ticking the 'stylish' box, Pink Soda Sport also ticks the 'well-made' box - something that for some reason seems mutually exclusive when hunting for cool sportswear.  I just love the ribbon logo on the inside of the hood, and the contrast of the pink against the grey marl.  This is another item that's barely been off my back since I received it - it's so cosy and fleece-y inside, perfect for throwing on after a run, or for a dog walk or a nip to the shops!

Pink Soda Sport review
Pink Soda Sport review Pink Soda Sport review
Pink Soda Hoody: £32*

I would be lying if I said it hadn't got me down that I've added a few (more than a few!) extra pounds over the last few weeks.  I know that exercise makes me feel good - my happiest periods have been when I've been really active, getting lots of fresh air and fitting in a few gym sessions a week.  But I've been so busy lately that I haven't had the motivation to go to the gym after getting home from a long day at work and an hour in the car.  It's such a vicious cycle that the more active you are, the more energy you have, but until you take that first step it can take a lot of motivation to drag you out of bed in the morning!

Pink Soda Sport review Pink Soda Sport review

We're moving soon from our sleepy little village to Bournemouth city centre, and I'm hoping that being within walking distance from various gyms (as well as slightly cutting down my commute) will give me the motivation I need to get moving.  Plus I think we'll be booking a couple of holidays imminently for June and August, and I always find that the thought of being in a bikini gives me that burst of inspiration to blast away the belly!

How have your New Year health and fitness plans taken shape? Have you had an active start to the year, or, like me, are you still knee deep in tins of Celebrations?


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Copenhagen Travel Diary: Day One + Air BnB

Copenhagen Day One

The week before last, my good friend Nicole and I jetted off to Copenhagen for two nights for a little city break.  We booked the flights a couple of months ago when Ryanair had a £9.99 flight sale, but you can usually get some pretty good deals on flights with Ryanair to Copenhagen.  We flew from London Luton and return flights were £19.98 return - a bargain!

Our flight time was about 1h 40m and we arrived in Copenhagen at about midday on a chilly Thursday (our flight was actually delayed by about an hour, but since we only paid a tenner I tried not to complain too much!) We arrived to thick snow and temperatures of about -2 c - luckily we had packed thick coats, boots (well, my trusty Nike Air Max), hats and gloves!

Copenhagen is well served by a Metro system that has stations within good distance of all of the main tourist spots.  You can catch the Metro right from the airport - we bought a 24 hour ticket for all zones for about £9.  Our Air BnB apartment was located in Norrebro, a short walk from the Norreport Metro station (though a short walk is made longer when you a) walk in the wrong direction for ten minutes first and b) have a wheel-y suitcase you're trying to negotiate through snow).

We finally found our Air BnB in a quiet street in quite a trendy neighbourhood, with shop fronts that boasted hip clothing stores, trendy cafés and wine bars.  Having left the house at 3am that morning, it was a relief to be able to plonk ourselves on the comfy sofa for a moment and unpack.

Copenhagen Air BnB Norrebro Copenhagen AirBnB Norrebro
Copenhagen Travel Guide

We paid £89 a night for Kamilla's apartment via Air BnB (top tip: if you sign up here you can get £14 off your first Air BnB stay - bargain!) That meant that for the airport parking, the flights and the accommodation, we paid around £120 each - which I definitely call good value.  Our apartment had a lovely lounge/diner, a huge, well-stocked kitchen, a bathroom with a big shower, and a bedroom with a comfy bed and lots of blankets - what more could you ask for?

After getting settled in, we buttoned up our coats, pulled our hats and gloves on and went out to explore (and find some lunch).  Our first stop was Torvehallerne Food Market - two huge indoor warehouse style buildings hosting 60 food stands with a mix of fresh food like meat, fruit, vegetables, olives, etc, to café style corners where you can buy slices of pizza, tapas, sushi and even porridge (more on this later!)

Torvehallerne Food Market Torvehallerne Food Market Torvehallerne Food Market

The Food Market was a real glimpse into just how 'right' Copenhagen have got it - they call it a 'super market' rather than a supermarket, and boasting delicious, fresh, local, organic produce, you can see why it's popular with locals and tourists alike.

Torvehallerne Food Market

We decided to press on to find somewhere to sit and eat and have a glass of wine.  So many people had recommended Tivoli Gardens to us as a must-see; also mentioning that there are restaurants and bars on the periphery that were perfect for a bite to eat.  We hopped on the Metro and arrived at Copenhagen's Central Station, excitedly finding the right exit and crossing the road towards the huge Tivoli Garden gates.  At which point we immediately realised that it was very, very closed.  Word to the wise - Tivoli Gardens shuts between 31 December and 6 April, so don't make this number one on your to-do list without checking the opening hours.  Oh dear.

It was starting to get dark, and Nicole and I were both getting very hungry by this point (how was it that we were going hungry in a European city so famed for its food scene?) We decided to try another recommendation - the Meat Packing District in Vesterbro.  We hopped on the Metro to Vesterport, opened the map... and realised that the Meat Packing District was actually closer to the Metro station we were previously at.  Fail! We got the Metro back and began the 10 minute walk to the various restaurants and bars located in the Meat Packing District.  The warm glow of the warehouse complex in the distance was like an oasis in the desert, and we became increasingly excited as we walked past a cluster of inviting, hip looking eateries.  The warehouse complex still also serves its original purpose - and butchers and meat packing operations nestle alongside bustling bars and food outlets selling some of the city's best burgers, pizzas and organic food.

We arrived at Mother - an Italian restaurant which we'd been informed sold delicious sourdough pizzas (you had me at pizza). Luckily it was only around 5pm at this point so we got a table straight away - I got the impression it gets pretty busy at peak times.

I had a Gorgonzola and Nduja sausage pizza - gorgonzola, mozzarella, tomato and spicy sausage.  Nicole had the Prosciutto - prosciutto, tomato, mozzarella, pesto and rocket.

Mother sourdough pizza

The pizzas were around £14 - but they were huge and utterly, utterly delicious; frankly one of the best pizzas I've ever had.  A large glass of wine was around £5.  A few people had told me that the food was expensive in Copenhagen, but I would say that there are a lot of really great mid-range restaurants that are no more expensive than what we would pay in the UK.

Mother, Italian Restaurant, Copenhagen

We considered going for another glass of wine in one of the other bars (War Pigs was high on our list of recommendations!), but after being up since 3am, we decided to grab some snacks and a bottle of wine and go back to the apartment for a bit of 'hygge'.  Top tip: Always go on holidays with someone who you can say "Shall we just go back and chill and eat snacks instead?" to and they will say "YES".  We spent the evening in the apartment munching Riesen's Chocolates and watching trash on MTV (and having an early night in that king-size bed, under three different cosy blankets - what a dream!)

We had saved most of our exploring (and eating) for our full day in Copenhagen, so I'm excited to show you Day Two imminently, but I'm going to leave it there for the moment as that photo of the pizza is making me hungry!

Have you been to Copenhagen?

Day One Expenditure:
£20 Food and Drink
£9 Metro ticket
£15 on wine, chocolate and crisps
= £44


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