Testing the new cult £5 Nivea 'primer' + new beauty buys

I thought I'd post a quick round-up of a few new products that have hopped into my make-up collection in the last week - a Laura Mercier Primer and Tinted Moisturiser, a Mac Eyebrow Pencil, and a new primer, that also just happens to be a £4 men's shaving balm (more on this later)...

But first, the beauty products you'll find in the make-up aisle rather than your local Asda!

The is the second tube of the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser I've picked up as I first bought it a few months ago and as I use it most days it's almost run out.  I'm a huge fan of it as a light foundation - the lady in the shop recommended to me the oil-free version based on my skin type and I find it stays on for the majority of the day and offers a fair amount of coverage despite being labelled as a tinted moisturiser.  I've tried out several different foundations over the last year or so but I absolutely love this one as find that it's very kind to my skin and gives a lovely dewy, glowing finish.  If I want more coverage I mix a little bit of the Estee Lauder Double Wear Maximum Coverage foundation in with it and use concealer in my 'problem areas' to give an even finish.  This is the perfect foundation for daily wear though, and the SPF means I can wear it all-year round without worrying about sun damage to my skin.

The Laura Mercier Radiance Foundation Primer was a new try for me.  It definitely lives up to its name in terms of giving a radiant, glowing complexion.  It works really well with the tinted moisturiser and you could even wear it on its own if you wanted a day without make-up as it smooths your complexion and makes your skin look luminous.  I have only used this for a few days, but I've definitely found that it made my make-up last longer - the other bonus is that I've found that you only need a really small amount, so hopefully this should last a really long time.

I also needed to pick up a new eyebrow pencil - I've been using the Make Up Revolution Ultimate Brow Kit on my eyebrows recently and I absolutely love it, but I've worn down the little pencil that comes with it and I really needed a new pencil to fill in my brows with.  I have a big gap between the beginning of my left eyebrow and the main bit of brow and I have to fill it in top stop it looking really weird! I love that the pencil on the Mac Big Brow Pencil is really 'chubby' and thick, meaning it doesn't take long to create a full brow that's easy to build up.  The pencil is a blend of wax and powder, giving it a long-wearing, blendable finish.  Again, I've only been using this for a couple of days but I'm really chuffed with it so far and it will work really well used in tandem with the Brow Kit.

My other recent purchase is a Nivea Post-Shave Balm picked up in my local Asda.  Don't worry - I haven't recently grown a beard, I've just seen so many people raving about using it as a primer that I had to try it!

I spotted this recently on Kylie Jenner's Snapchat, and it's also been featured in the Daily Mail a couple of times due to recent claims that it's a better primer than even some high-end products, and with a less than £6 price tag.  The reason it works so well is because of its high glycerine content, meaning that make-up placed over the top of it basically 'glues' to your face (you can however take it off afterwards, luckily!).  Beauty bloggers and vloggers have all been putting it to the test and getting great results after NikkieTutorials posted about it last year.  The balm is lightweight, smoothing, hydrating and colourless, so it shares many of the same properties as popular primers.  It feels very moisturising and kind to the skin - the reviews on Boots show that it's as popular as a post-shave balm for women looking for a balm for irritated post-shaved skin (especially on sensitive areas like the bikini line) as it is for women trying it is a primer.

Of course an obvious observation is that it smells like men's aftershave, though I don't find that the scent lingers too long, and it's hardly an unpleasant smell.  You put a small amount in your palm (though it comes out really quickly so watch out!), rub it together in your hands and then spread it across your face, paying particular attention to areas such as your nose, under eyes and chin, and then leave it to sink in for a minute.  It feels instantly cooling and soothing, and I have a feeling it will work wonders for my winter-ravaged skin and help to ease away any redness.  I've only used it for a couple of days but I'd say it can definitely compete with primers with much more expensive price tags (though you don't smell like a bottle of Lynx for a short time when you're applying Benefit Porefessional of course!) I'll definitely be keeping a couple of bottles of this in the house from now on - it's a shame it comes in such a heavy, chunky bottle but I guess you could decant it if you were going on holiday or away for the weekend.  I'm going to carry on using it and report back again in a few weeks as to how I get on with it, but early indications are that this could definitely be a permanent feature in my make-up bag!

Have you picked up any new beauty products lately?


20 facts about me

I thought I would post something a little different today - I've done a couple of review posts recently but I really love writing more personal posts, and I love reading these 'facts' posts when other people write them, so I thought I'd share my own as a bit of fun...

001. I can only sleep when the windows are wide open and there's lots of fresh air coming in.  Even though I'm usually a cold person I have to feel a breeze on my face when I'm sleeping, I hate being in a really stuffy room, I always wake up feeling terrible!

002. When I'm away staying in a hotel the first thing I do is unpack everything from my bag, hang and fold all my clothes and line up all of my toiletries.  I'm a total neat/organisation freak when I'm away from home - but when I'm home it's like, I've lost the battle and things will never be tidy, so there's clutter everywhere!

003. Unless I really think about it, I can't say hippopotamus - I end up saying hippotopamus.  I think it sounds better anyway (did you just say it out loud to check? I'm right, right?)

004. My favourite animals are badgers, foxes, lambs, bears and donkeys.  Here are some cool looking donkeys...

img credit: currarevagh.com

005. I like to collect watches, old cameras and Nike trainers.  I'm also a bit of a hoarder - I have a huge crate of toiletries like moisturisers, shower gels, bath bombs and all sorts in my room but I still can't resist picking things up from Boots every time I go in.

006. I pretty much always have a notebook on me - I like to scribble poetry, lines from books or do 'morning pages' in it.  My favourite time to write in my notebook is on trains and planes, or last thing before I go to bed.

007. I bought a pack of tarot cards a few weeks ago and I'm trying to teach myself about the cards.  My current ritual is to pull out a card at a time, write in my notebook what the card symbolises to me or what I think it means, and then write down the interpretation from my tarot book.  It's so interesting to see what comes out when you have a question in mind.

008. I'm embarrassed to admit that I have a total weakness for trashy TV.  Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Geordie Shore, Ex On The Beach and Made In Chelsea are always in my Sky Planner - I can't help myself!

009. Some of my favourite books are Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged, Donna Tartt - The Secret History, Douglas Coupland - Eleanor Rigby, Haruki Murakami - The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and Kurt Vonnegut - Slaughterhouse Five.

img credit: weheartit.com

010. When I was a teenager I had a major crush on Matthew Perry (Chandler from Friends). I thought he was just the funniest, coolest guy ever and used to buy all the Friends series' on video (showing my age there).  I might have even Googled his address and sent him a fan letter.  Might have.

011. My most treasured possession is Doggy, who is essentially a beanbag with a ribbon, one eye and a nose. I've had him since I was born and I have him near me any time I'm at home (and he sleeps in our bed).

012. I have the dinner preferences of a 10 year old.  When we go out to restaurants I always wish I was the person ordering the Sea Bass or the mussels, but I always opt for pizza, burger or scampi and chips.  I'm just not very refined when it comes to food! (Left to my own devices at home I will cook sausage sandwiches, beans on toast, potato waffles or pasta bake.  So uncouth).

013. I did a solo in the school choir at a Christmas concert once when I was about 13. I had to sing a verse of 'A Whole New World'. (Very festive).

014. Sometimes when I'm at work, I'll remember that I have no plans that evening and that I can just come home and do nothing, and I feel totally full of joy.  Early nights with a good book are the best.

015. Some of my favourite films are Amelie, Rushmore, Goodfellas, The Pianist, Closer, Juno and No Country For Old Men.  (If I'm feeling like an easy watch, then Mean Girls, Clueless, Napoleon Dynamite or Pitch Perfect).

016. I did Media Writing at University.  I always quite fancied doing a Masters in Creative Writing but nowadays I'm really interested in psychology, behavioural psychology and social economics so if I ever went back to University or studying again I think I'd try and do something in those fields.

017. I did Karate up until I was about 16, I got to brown belt and I really loved doing it but I was a bit too busy with GCSEs and the like to really focus on it at the end.  I'd love to go back to it one day though, I miss having a hobby to do on a regular basis and a discipline to stick to once a week.

018. I really don't like getting my face wet, it's why I don't like surfing or watersports (much to Tom's disappointment).  I really love going swimming, but I have to keep my head above the water!

019. I constantly, constantly have songs stuck in my head.  Often just one line or a snippet of a song, it drives me absolutely crazy, I wish I knew how to stop it!  It's never good songs either, it's usually things like Little Donkey or 'I Just Can't Wait To Be King' from the Lion King (such a catchy song though...)

020.  I have a bath every night, without fail.  Sometimes at the weekend I have two; one in the morning and one in the evening.  I find relaxing in the bath with a Lush bath bomb and my Kindle or a magazine one of my great pleasures in life! (Although I'm such a fidget, I can't stay in there for too long or I get bored).

So there you have it, 20 little facts about me.  If you've done a post like this recently make sure you let me know the link; I'm such a nosy person that I love reading those funny little details that make a person 'them'... (Also I'm sorry if you now have a song from the Lion King stuck in your head...)


Next Easter DIY Challenge + my new cosy corner

Next Home Easter Styling Challenge

I'm so excited to share with you a little home makeover I undertook to create the perfect cosy corner in our living room.  Apparently. Easter weekend is really popular weekend for doing DIY or having a Spring clean (especially if the weather's anything like it is here), and so Next challenged me to take one of their products - the beautiful Carter chair - and have a go at a little Easter styling challenge...

The armchair is exactly my style - Scandi chic with a hint of retro; classic but still really on trend.  Our living room is a real mix of modern with retro and vintage touches thrown in, and it goes perfectly in this room.  We couldn't have a real wood-burning stove but we have the fan heater you can see further down the photos, and it creates a really cosy little space (and it's so warm!) I've always wanted to have an armchair next to the heater to create the perfect little corner to curl up in with a good book.

Next Home DIY Easter Challenge Next Home DIY Easter Challenge Next Home DIY Easter Challenge

Of course no cosy corner is complete without a mug of tea and these metallic mugs are perfect for a green tea (or a hot chocolate on a lazy Sunday afternoon).  The textured gold feels really retro to me, and reminds me of a pineapple ice bucket! It also goes perfectly with the brass legs on the side table - isn't that table a beauty? I'm totally obsessed with it and I love the hexagonal shape - I'd really like another one to go the other side of the sofa as it's just the perfect height and will stop me constantly leaving glasses on the arm of the chair (and knocking them off like I did yesterday!)

Next Home DIY Easter Challenge Next Home DIY Easter Challenge Next Home DIY Easter Challenge Next Home DIY Easter Challenge Next Home DIY Easter Challenge
Next Home DIY Easter Challenge

Carter Chair, Next Home, £199* | Hex Side Table, Next Home, £125*
Metallic Geo Mugs, Next Home, £15* | Alphabet Cushion, £10*

The & cushion is also the perfect touch to add a bit of cosiness to the chair and a little pop of white to break up the grey.  I love how it matches with the stone grey & symbol Katy bought me for Christmas too.

I'm over the moon with my new cosy corner - the chair is unbelievably comfortable too; I think it's such good value at £199 and feels much more expensive than its high street price tag.  The Next Home summer range is so bright and cheery - I've been getting really excited about decorating our new home with bright bold colours and retro stylings (though I do really love our current home, especially now we've got it just the way we want it!) I almost don't want to share it here because I'm so scared to jinx it, but we've had an offer approved on another house now and it's just so lovely.  We have to do all the boring mortgage bits now like providing payslips and bank statements again but it could be all sorted within a couple of months as we were so close to exchanging last time.  It would be amazing to be in our little house by the summer but after losing two places we loved, and two buyers prior to this, it makes you feel very vulnerable when you get attached to a property! Third time lucky though hopefully?

In the meantime, you'll find me spending Easter Sunday curled up in my new armchair with a book and a big mug of green tea (as well as my stash of Easter chocolate, of course!)


Good Friday (and Easter chocolate treats!)

Happy Good Friday! I wish I could tell you I've spent this beautiful, sunny, warm Good Friday wandering through fields of Spring flowers, drinking a cool cider in the sunshine or whiling away the afternoon in my garden, but instead I've either been in bed, or in my car.  I flew up to Glasgow on Wednesday for a meeting and arrived back at about 8pm last night, but when I went to pick up my car from work, lots of people were in the pub and I popped over for one drink.  Of course 'one drink' turned into two drinks, someone bought a round of jagerbombs and before I knew it I was in Popworld in my work clothes, my handbag full of boarding passes and 100ml sized toiletries in a clear bag, wondering how I was going to get home.  (It reminds me of that Micky Flanagan sketch about how you don't mean to, but you bump into a friend in Asda, go for one drink and then end up 'out out' in a horrendous nightclub in your slippers with a pint of milk).

My friend gave me a lift home last night but it meant I had to go back to work today to collect my car - as you probably know from my incessant whinging, I detest my 50-mile round trip commute and so having to get back into Southampton and then drive back in Bank Holiday traffic with a raging headache today was not the way I planned to spend Good Friday! The rest of the day has been spent in bed, convincing Tom to bring me food, or lolling on the sofa.  To make matters worse, I had a load of things I'd had on me in the airport, including my iPad (which I use for reading via the Kindle app) and a stack of magazines, and I left them in my friend's car, so I can't even catch up on my to-read pile this weekend! Boo blimmin' hoo eh?

I always get really cross with myself if I feel rubbish and waste a day after a night out (I want to write a blog post separately about guilt and shame and beating myself up for things as it's been on my mind a lot lately), and today was no different.  But it's been a long week and it's good to let off a bit of steam once in a while.

My plans for the rest of the weekend involve more relaxing (minus the headache), Netflix, blogging, blog reading and hopefully staying overnight somewhere in the van, though the weather might have other ideas.  My other very key item on my to-do list this weekend is getting stuck into some serious Easter chocolate eating.

Hotel Chocolat Easter Review
Hotel Chocolat Easter Review

I received a lovely little package from Hotel Chocolat to celebrate Easter, and having a peek on their website at the rest of their Easter chocolate made me desperate to stock up on treats - I've already popped into the Southampton store to grab a few other bits.  How amazing does this Giant Chocolate Easter Egg look? Imagine if you had that waiting for on Sunday...

Hotel Chocolat Easter Review Hotel Chocolat Easter
Rocky Road Extra Thick Easter Egg, £27*
The Easter Goody Bag, £18*

I absolutely love Hotel Chocolat chocolate and their Easter chocolate definitely hasn't disappointed this year.  I'm saving the egg for Sunday but I've been naughty and dipped into the Easter goody bag - the scrambled pralines are incredible, the milk chocolate bunnies only lasted a few minutes and the raspberry egglets are the perfect blend of sweet with the hint of tartness from the raspberry - yum.

Hotel Chocolat Easter

What are your plans for the Easter weekend? I've been loving all of the recipe posts I've been seeing go up over the last few days - the lovely Sarah at essbeevee posted a round up of Easter chocolate recipes, Lyzi at Being Little posted Spring cocktail ideas and Eddie at The Portmanteau Press posted a recipe for Hot Cross Bun truffles - yum! I definitely fancy spending some time in the kitchen this weekend (I might save the cocktail recipes until at least tomorrow though...)


Review: Franco Manca Pizza, Bermondsey

A couple of weekends ago we hopped on a train to London to stay at the citizenM hotel at Bankside, mooch around London and meet up with some friends.  We arrived into London mid-afternoon, and with a selection of train snacks not being enough to satiate our appetites, we decided to head out for a late lunch.  We had seen Franco Manca featured in citizenMag (the citizenM magazine, in case you hadn't guessed) and being die-hard pizza fans, we thought it sounded like just the place to while away an afternoon with some delicious sounding food and drink.

Franco Manca Bermondsey Review

Franco Manca have 19 restaurants across London, including one in Westfield Stratford Shopping Centre.  Their pizza is made from sourdough that is left for a minimum of 20 hours to slowly rise, and then cooked in an authentic wood burning 'tufae' brick oven made on site by specialised artisans from the homeland of the pizza itself, Naples.  Franco Manca have pizza making to a fine art - or science even, as each pizza oven has to be an exact dimension to get the heat and humidity right; a fine balance that ensures the pizza doesn't burn, the crust is light and chewy and the toppings gooey and cooked to perfection.  Because the oven produces a heat of 500 degrees celsius, the pizzas are only cooked for around 40 seconds.  It's clear that Franco Manca take pizza making very seriously indeed, and I for one could not wait to taste the fruits of their labour.

Franco Manca Bermondsey Review

We were told that most of the Franco Mancas tend to get quite busy around peak times, particularly the ones on Tottenham Court Road, Covent Garden and Brixton Market, and that you often have to queue.  We arrived about 4.30 and it was still relatively busy, but we were shown to a table straight away.  We were originally given a small table near the front door, but the waiter then offered us a quieter table near the back of the restaurants which we gratefully opted for.  (They really do cram the tables in though, so you might have to accept being elbow to elbow with another pizza lover!)

Franco Manca Bermondsey Review

There are six pizzas on the main menu, with delicious sounding ingredients like Gloucester hand sliced sausage, buffalo ricotta, cured organic chorizo, wild broccoli and mozzarella.  As well as the six pizzas, there's always a Meat Special and a Veg Special.  I opted for the Meat Special - Franco and wild mozzarella, organic tomato, wild pig fennel salami, provola cheese and wild broccoli.  Tom went for the same (copycat).  They also had a selection of 'bites' and we went for the burrata pugliese with prosciutto di norcia and roasted almonds.  Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream - the waitress described it as having a soft exterior with the inside much more creamy and goo-ey (I was sold)

Franco Manca Bermondsey Review
Franco Manca Bermondsey Review
Franco Manca Bermondsey Review

The burrata board was big enough for both of us to share and cost a very reasonable £7.75.  True to the waitresses description, the burrata was absolutely delicious - when we cut into it the inside just leaked out and was so butter-y and rich - perfect accompanied with the rocket and prosciutto.  The cured meats served at Franco Manca are sourced from an organic estate in Tuscany, the mozzarella comes from a little closer to home in Somerset and the other meats are from Gloucestershire.  These selections are not just by chance, but have all been chosen with the best fare in mind, with the tomatoes sourced from a cannery in the mountains next to Naples to ensure that authentic taste.

As well as our starters, we also ordered a glass of wine for me (£3.75) and a bottle of craft-brewed pale ale for Tom (£3.35).  My wine came in a little tumbler and again, was very good value for what was actually a really nice glass of wine.  You can get a bottle for a very reasonable £14.95; so you really can have a delicious meal and a bottle of wine without breaking the bank.

Franco Manca Bermondsey ReviewFranco Manca Bermondsey Review

Our pizzas arrived not long after the empty plates from our starters had been whipped away.  I was very impressed by the size of the pizzas considering they were only £7.95 each (that wouldn't get you much in another pizza chain, let alone in central London).  True to their description, the dough was chewy and tasty, the cheese the perfect mix of melted and soft and the toppings all complemented each other perfectly.

Franco Manca Bermondsey Review Franco Manca Bermondsey Review

I'm a bit naughty and I usually leave the crust on pizzas, but Franco Manca say that the charcoal-flecked edge ('cornicone') is excellent and shouldn't be discarded, and who am I to argue with people who are clearly so passionate about pizza? (They were right - it was delicious).  I fancied another glass of wine but by now it was starting to get busy and the waitress was running from table to table trying to keep up with the many pizza-hungry clientele and I couldn't get her attention, so we decided to go back to our hotel for a drink.  My only complaint about Franco Manca is that it really is a victim of its own success - once it got busier the service got a little slower and I did feel a little we didn't want to outstay our welcome with people starting to queue at the door; but with pizza this good it's unsurprising that there would be others keen for your table!

Franco Manca Bermondsey Review

All in all I was incredibly impressed with Franco Manca - it was excellent value and I must say, probably the best pizza I've ever tasted (and I have tasted a lot of pizza and don't make this statement lightly).  Tom loved it so much he took some colleagues there for a second visit last week, and they were similarly enthused about the food and wine (and the value for money).  I'd go there again in a heartbeat and I hope they consider rolling them out a little wider (though their pizzas are definitely worth making a trip to London for).

Have you visited Franco Manca?

I visited Franco Manca as part of my collaboration with citizenMag.   All opinions are my own.


Reflecting on New Year's Resolutions - a March update

Back on 2 January I enthusiastically blogged about my 2016 resolutions, as well as my 'core desired feelings' and a few thoughts about the year ahead.  I generally think it takes a few weeks, maybe even the whole of January to get into the groove of a New Year, but come March I think it's a good time to check in and think about resolutions and how the year is going (I wrote flowing, but that sounds a bit 'woo woo' doesn't it?) These were my aims for 2016.

Here are some things I've done to keep on track with my resolutions - I won't go into every resolution as this post would last forever, but here are some notable bits I'm already feeling positive about >>

Travel to: I went to Copenhagen with my friend in January, we've booked a couple of weeks in France in June (and we're taking Bodhi!), we have a Cancun holiday in August and I'm hoping to go to Turkey with a friend in May, so I'm well and truly on track with travel aspirations (the Norwegian Fjords cruise might have to wait until next year!

Achieve: I've managed to secure a new job within the same organisation that starts in April, and I'm really excited to get my teeth into it. Ease and balance will be a longer-term goal but I'm already trying to ensure I have free weekends for relaxing and having 'me time' rather than arranging back to back weekends of social activities.

Eliminate: I went on a training course last week, and one of the learning points was that your behaviour does not create your identity.  So if you make a mistake, or you do something that isn't very nice, then this doesn't mean you are a bad person, or that you are lazy or sloppy.  I'm really working hard on the negative self-talk and trying to challenge the cycle of guilt and shame that I get myself into.  Again - this is a longer term goal, but is something I am consciously working on.

Create: I actually have been writing a little more poetry, and I have been trying to be more creative on the blog - though time has been a barrier to this.  I know that creating things is a real antidote to stress and feeling overwhelmed for me, so this is definitely something I want to focus on more in the coming months.

Improve: I blogged about having lost my weight loss mojo but this week I'm determined to get it back.  I'm back on clean eating, and I went for a run and a bike ride this weekend - I'm feeling motivated to be happy and healthier and get back into some positive habits.

img credit: ohgravy.tumblr.com

Learn: My yoga practice has totally fallen by the wayside in recent months, which is a shame as it's one of the things I identified quite quickly has a real impact on my health and happiness.  One of my goals at the moment is to try and commit to a regular but achievable practice (for example, my target at the moment is to run once a week and go from there - because once a week is better than never and it provides a realistic platform that I can then build on).  So my plan is to ease myself gently back into yoga without putting pressure on myself to have a really frequent practice.  As regards mindfulness, although I haven't been as dedicated to a mindfulness practice as I would like, I'm currently listening to the audiobook of A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled by Ruby Wax, and I'm looking forward to putting her tips into action (and I'm loving geeking out about neuroplasticity and learning new things about the brain!)

Read: I'm trying really hard with my reading too - this year I've already read Luckiest Girl Alive, Girl on the Train, Spectacles, and Year of Yes, and I'm currently reading Secrets Of The Sea House. (I should mention that some of these I've listened to the audiobook rather than reading - I'm trying to make the best use of my commute!) I still have a major issue with the amount of time I spend on social media though and I know this is something I can improve on. I need a constant nudge to stop Twitter scrolling before bed and get my book out - who knew it would be such a hard habit to break?

Organise: I read The Lifechanging Magic Of Tidying Up in January and immediately was motivated to have a huge clearout - I think I got rid of nine bin-bags of clothes to the charity shop! I re-folded all my clothes according to the KonMari method, hung all my clothes neatly in the wardrobe (on matching coat hangers - it's a thing of beauty) and it makes me so much happier seeing everything well-organised and in their place.  I also got rid of two big boxes worth of books and lots more clutter and unwanted bits.  However - there's still a lot left to do before we move out (provided we ever find somewhere to live!) and I want to continue the momentum with the tidying and de-cluttering. We also had a meeting with a cleaner this evening who we're going to get in once a week to help us keep on top of that (but I need to clear the crap before they can get anywhere near dusting the shelves!)

It's clear to me on reflecting on these that I've done the more 'process-y' tangible bits - I've ticked off booking the holidays, reading the books, getting the job and de-cluttering the house.  But have I stopped my cycle of guilt and self-limiting beliefs, slowed down, practiced gratitude, generated ease and balance in my life and taken time for mindfulness and gratitude? Not so much.  These things can't be achieved in a few weeks, but like anything, they take time and dedication and don't come without some focussed effort.  Now I've ticked some practical things off the to do list I hope I can spend the remaining nine months of the year really trying to achieve those things I set out at the beginning of the year that I really wanted to feel - ease, balance, curiosity and fulfilment.  

How are you getting on with your New Year's Resolutions?


Review: citizenM Hotel, Bankside, London (my new favourite hotel!)

Finding a nice but reasonably priced hotel in London can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack.  A haystack populated with broom cupboard sized rooms, hotels in insalubrious districts or, if you don't want those, then sky high prices that make a weekend away in London the same price as a foreign holiday.  I've stayed in my share of rooms where you open the door and a single bed is tucked awkwardly behind wall, with a tiny shower crammed in the other corner.  I find myself falling asleep to the cacophony of sirens as I internally chunter about the £150 I've spent on staying in a room smaller than my utility room.

This was until I discovered citizenM hotels, and notably their hotel in Bankside, London.  Rooms start from £109, have free wifi, soft king-size beds, rain showers, a 24/7 canteen and the sort of quirky, trendy interiors that make me want to redecorate my whole house.  So what's the catch? I went all Hotel Inspector and hopped on a train to London to find out.

Citizen M Bankside Review

Their Bankside hotel is located in a quiet street on the southern bank of the Thames, about a 7 minute walk from Southwark tube station - a great base for exploring London from.  I love Bankside and Southbank; with the Tate Modern, Globe Theatre, Borough Market and lots of great restaurants, bars and pubs on your doorstep, you could spend a weekend exploring without having to stray too far from the hotel.

When we strolled into the lobby, I did have a bit of a 'wow' moment.  It's hard to not be impressed by the contemporary décor - all retro seating and lighting, quirky ornaments and books and brightly coloured murals. The lobby expands into a bar area, huge seating area with computers, canteen and seating area for eating.  It's such a funky open space, buzzing with people grabbing a beer, eating lunch, holding meetings or tapping away on laptops.

Citizen M Bankside Review
Citizen M Bankside Review

Slow check-ins are an absolute bugbear for impatient me (me, who frowned and huffed incessantly last week when queueing for about 10 minutes to check into a hotel at Heathrow) but to say this was a breeze would be an understatement.  A bank of computers allowed me to tap in my surname, and it instantly recognised my booking, notified me of the cost and spat out my room key.  Friendly, chatty hotel staff were also there to help if there were any issues.  The whole time we were there, the staff constantly said hello and asked if we needed anything and wished us a good stay (I don't think I've experienced such positive, warm hotel staff before).

Armed with our room keys, we took the lift up to our room.  I must admit that at this point I was prepared for the 'catch' to be the room itself - with such an impressive lobby and check-in facility they had to scrimp somewhere, and I was sure that the room size would be it.  I was pleasantly surprised upon opening the door however - and immediately struck by the great use of space, and again the stylishness of the interior.  Soft lighting filled the room with a purple glow (more on this later), and whilst the room wasn't huge by anyone's standards, everything had been thought of, and had a place.

The shower and toilet were contained in a 'pod' - a sort of separate compartment in the room - but the shower was a huge rain shower (and - a small thing, but the AM and PM shower gels, one to 'revitalise' and one to 'relax' smelled just amazing).

Citizen M Hotel Bankside Review
Room at CitizenM Bankside

The king sized bed was at the foot of the room, with the TV hung on the wall at the foot of the bed.  The whole foot of the room was also a floor to ceiling window, giving views down into the atrium below (you have to make sure you shut the blinds before you get changed as you can see into other people's rooms!)

Citizen M Hotel Bankside Review Citizen M Hotel Bankside Review

But here's the really cool bit... the whole of the room, from the blinds to the temperature, the TV channels to the lighting, is all controlled by an iPad that sits neatly on your bedside table.

Citizen M Hotel Bankside Review Citizen M Hotel Bankside Review

You see that colour wheel on the iPad? That's how you change all the colours of the lighting in the room, how cool is that?  There's also preset settings like 'Business Meeting' or 'Movie Night', which adjust all the lighting, blinds and TV for you.  Hitting movie night lowered the blinds, dimmed the lights and meant we could access their huge bank of movies to watch (at no extra cost) on the widescreen TV.  There were tons of really recent movies - we settled in on the comfy bed and watched Straight Outta Compton; it felt so cosy and relaxing (the hotel is also incredibly quiet and there's no road noise, nor did we ever hear any noise from the other rooms).  One more thing - if you use Apple TV you can also use that in the room, and there's free wifi throughout the hotel - such a bonus for people who resent paying £5 a day for wifi when you've already paid for the hotel (that's whingy old me again!)

We had arranged to meet some friends who live in London at the hotel bar for a drink before heading out for drinks and dinner.  I hopped in the rain shower whilst getting ready - it was the perfect temperature and pressure and the towels were fluffy and soft - no complaints here!

The bar itself is similarly cool, with a reasonably priced cocktail menu and a wide selection of wine and beers.

Citizen M Bankside Review

You can just see the 'canteenM' behind the bar area.  It's a big open plan 'larder' and hot food area stocked with sandwiches, salads, sushi and a hot dish.  Whilst we were there the dinner dish was a curry - we didn't have it but it looked delicious.  You can serve yourself from here 24/7 - there's also an M&S Food right across the road from the hotel if you want to do a Percy Pigs run!

We had planned to go out for more drinks with our friends, but with the great selection of drinks, comfy seats and great atmosphere we ended up just staying at the hotel bar! (There's a stash of board games in case you get bored - but we didn't have to crack open the Cards of Humanity as we were having lots of fun just catching up and enjoying the ambience - and the wine).

We returned to our room and, I must admit, had a great night's sleep - it was just so quiet! (We had a courtyard facing room, which I would definitely recommend - although it's generally quite a quiet area so I imagine you'd find the same for the majority of rooms there).  Although the hotel was already majorly ticking my boxes, I was holding out for the breakfast before I made my final assessment, and I fell asleep dreaming of croissants and bacon and eggs....

The breakfast is available for £13.95 per person, and included a huge selection of warm pastries and jams, yoghurt, muesli or cooked breakfast items (the usual fare - hash browns, tomatoes, bacon, eggs etc).  I loved the really unique touches, like the Lemon and Earl Grey Marmalade - it felt more like an independent organic café than a hotel chain breakfast.

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We settled into the cool seating area with our feast of a breakfast and reflected on our stay.  It's fair to say we both absolutely loved the citizenM Bankside (and if you think I'm over-egging this then just check out their TripAdvisor reviews - it's ranked 67 of over 1000 hotels in London).  We both agreed that it was cool but not so cool that you didn't feel at home in the bar in jeans and a t-shirt - just comfortable and quirky, with happy, friendly staff and a great atmosphere.  I'm not normally one for sitting alone in public places, but I'd be happy to curl up in a chair with a book or my laptop and sip a green tea all afternoon in their lobby area.  It's just that kind of place where you feel content to just sit and watch the world go by.

Citizen M Bankside Review Citizen M Bankside Review

As much as I want to be a stern and unforgiving Hotel Inspector, I couldn't fault the citizenM Bankside Hotel. From the handwritten note in my room welcoming me to the hotel - to the fact that I never saw a member of staff without a big smile on their face, it felt welcoming and warm; just what you want from a London hotel stay. I'll definitely be returning, and I'd have no hesitation in recommending - make sure you bookmark it for your next London hotel stay!

Prices for rooms start at £109 - as an example, a room next Saturday 19th is £135.  Breakfast is £13.95 per person. I was offered a hotel stay in exchange for a review, but all opinions are my own.