Sunday, 14 December 2014

Afternoon Tea at the Savoy

This summer I went to a charity fundraiser and bought some tickets for the raffle. One of the prizes was Champagne afternoon tea at the Savoy. The voucher expired at the end of the year, but I left it until The Strand was decked out in Christmas lights and the Savoy had included Christmas Chai in their selection. I'm so glad I did!

We arrived about 5, and the entrance was filled with a huge Christmas tree, poinsettia and crystal vases filled with candles. They have a cloakroom, so we were told to drop our coats off and wait a few minutes for our table. I was wearing a blue satin high waisted skirt with a basic black tshirt, both from Primark, with a Dorothy Perkins necklace, New Look shoe boots and wrapped up in a Ted Baker coat. While we were waiting we took the time to have a look at their shop and watch the chocolatiers spray painting edible baubles with chocolate mist.

At 5.10, our table was ready and we walked through the gorgeous lounge to our table, the comfiest sofa ever with a piano playing, a christmas tree and a lovely place setting. We had just started playing 'spot the designer' with the outfits around us when a waiter came over and gave us a box of chocolates and some tea to apologise for the fact we'd had to wait! Lovely service and really added a touch of luxury. I had barely noticed the wait but it was so nice. 

I didn't really know what to expect, food wise, from the afternoon tea. I've never really been to one before, but I knew it would be little finger sandwiches and nibbly bits. I wasn't expecting it to be filling, so I'd had quite a big lunch. Oh, how wrong I was. If you go, go hungry!

Traditional afternoon tea is sweet, and consisted of four courses. After our champagne, we chose the tea we wanted, and it gets topped up for you for the duration. I went with Christmas Chai. The first course is unlimited finger sandwiches- Egg mayonnaise, ham and mustard cream cheese, duck and chicken parfait with chestnut and cranberry, smoked and poached salmon with dill creme fraiche, and cucumber, fleur de maquis cheese and dried tomato. You can have as many plates as you want!

The second course is homemade scones- cranberry or plain, with raspberry conserve, cornish clotted cream and homemade, sharp lemon curd.

The third and fourth courses are as many little, delicate tea pastries as you want. The waiter brings around the selection. I went for a raspberry matcha sphere, with a hidden white chocolate ball in the middle with a fruit purée, and an orange tart. My date had a banana and peanut butter meille feuille, and a passionfruit cheesecake tart. The fourth course is either chocolate cake or creme brulée. I love creme brulée, but I was feeling the chocolate cake...which was served with the most amazing hazlenut cream which was exactly like the middle of a kinder bueno (like a posh, 5 star version!).

After all of this amazing food- which I have been daydreaming about ever since- I needed to walk it off. We walked to Covent Garden to go and see the Christmas lights and for a cocktail.

The afternoon tea is usually £50,00- a bit extra (£52.50) for the savoury high tea. Champagne is extra. I know I won it in a raffle but it was absolutely worth every penny and I would go again. It was an amazing experience, the food was yummy and it is really filling. A perfect way to get in the Christmas spirit.


Friday, 5 December 2014

A message to other bloggers...

I'm really not one to be ungrateful. I'm not. You can ask my mum. But I feel compelled to tell you guys about a blogging event I went to recently where I was really not impressed. In fact, it sort of ruined my evening and made me sad about the blogging community.

I'm part of a few different groups where bloggers get invited to see new collections, and sometimes recieve samples of products that haven't been launched yet to share with you. They can be a win-win- my readers get to see new stuff, I get more blog content and to try new things, and the brands get exposure.

Brands know that once you've found a blogger you trust you'll take their reviews quite seriously, and that means a higher 'conversion rate' for them. Think about it.... If you saw an advert for say, a L'oreal shampoo, you probably ignore it. This might have a conversion rate of say, 0.5%. 0.5% of people who view the advert will go and buy the shampoo. And it probably cost L'oreal millions to make.

Now say your sister or best friend said to you 'I got the best shampoo ever the other day, it's the L'oreal one', you are much more likely to go and buy it. Say, 80%. Because you know and trust your sister, want to get in on the action. It's a sense of community. Blogging is big business because it works much the same way. Once you find a blogger you like, you trust their reviews and feel part of the community. The L'oreal conversion rate for sending a blogger some shampoo, could be say, 40%. That's probably high. But even 10% is much higher than tv ads. All for the cost of some free shampoo.

Blogs are built entirely on trust between readers and bloggers. So why are so many other bloggers giving confusing messages, not being part of communities, and selling themselves out for freebies?

The event I went to recently was so disappointing. I got there as soon as I could after work, and the room was filled with bloggers on their phones. Which you sort of expect...except nobody was willing to talk to each other. I try really hard at these events to talk to other bloggers even though I find it really hard- not only to make friends, but also to learn from them, to grow my business and to make my blog better. At this event, nobody welcomed me with a warm smile, nobody would engage in a conversation, and it was all just fake, fake, fake. I honestly look through the pictures people posted afterwards and despite all the 'sooo good to finally meet @otherblogger" I doubt any of these girls are actually friends or ever going to talk to each other again.

The other thing was that I go to these events, often after work and across London, to collect samples of things to talk to you guys about. I know it sounds like I'm just after a freebie, but I am really really not. I want to make this blog financially successful on it's own, and I want to create good content. I don't need a freebie- I am lucky enough to have a job that means if I want to buy new eyeshadow, I buy new eyeshadow. I go to these things so I can get things early, get new things, and tell you about them and if they're worth the hype that will surround them. I read other blogs who do the same thing for me so I don't waste my money. That's the point. I got to this one, which was an hour journey, and they gave all the samples out at 4pm. What?! That makes the whole thing biased against people with jobs. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I have a different take on products, because I commute and work 12 hour days sometimes. I will have a totally different opinion than someone who can spend all day on their make up.

A review from them: "Gorgeous coverage, worth the tricky application." Which is useful, in it's own right.
A review from me, who couldn't get there at 4pm:" I can't get it on in the work bathroom in under 4 minutes and it makes a mess and stresses me out. Got though 10 paper towels. For weekends only." Again, useful but totally different! Different lifestyles!!

Also, while I'm continuing on the rant train...why are so many bloggers sell-outs to brands? I appreciate that getting a freebie can feel like success...but it is at the value of integrity. So many blogs recently are doing work with brands and it's confusing what they're being paid for, which means I don't really trust them any more. I hate it when a post says 'I've been working with'. What?! What does that mean? Does it mean I can't trust this post? It's so hard trying to wade through and find some truth in posts.

I deliberately keep it very simple. I monetise my blog through google ads in the sidebar and comission on links from my outfit posts. I mark freebies with an asterisk, and if I was to ever write a sponsored post, I would write in the top *this is a sponsored post*. Why is this so complicated?

Here's to bloggers maintaining their integrity, keeping their readers their priority and their voice real.  Oh, and my quest for blogger friends who subscribe to this philosophy and will look up from their phones continues.


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

The Christmas Tag!

There's a tag going around the blogging world at the moment, started by the lovely Becky from Milkbubbletea. I have really enjoyed getting all christmassy and reading these, and so I thought I'd join in! The pictures are from a trip to Sloane Square on Sunday.

1. What is your favourite Christmas Movie/s? 
I never really watched lots of Christmas movies growing up, Christmas was always a whirl of preparation and family. We'd only turn the tv on on Boxing day for the news! Now though, one film that is always guaranteed to get me in the Christmas spirit is Love Actually. I also like Elf and The Polar Express. My housemate is the biggest Christmas fan ever- he is literally like Elf, so I think this year I will watch loads!!

2. Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?
Christmas morning!! I wake up really, really early on Christmas morning- like 4am. I used to get so excited when I was little that I'd feel sick! I'm not allowed to disturb anyone until 7am, when I open my stocking in my mum and dad's room. We then have a big breakfast with bucks fizz, get dressed into something sparkly, and shirts for the boys, and start unwrapping about 10 or 11. We go one at a time in age order and so it take all day with loads of breaks.

3. Do you have a favourite Christmas memory?
One of my favourite parts of Christmas now is looking back at what my parents used to do and understanding it from an adults perspective. It's funny that 'Santa's favourite' was red wine and mince pies, which are my dad's favourites! My mum must have stockpiled for ages because she used to do such good advent calendars and stockings. My dad used to do big 'santa prints' in the snow and paint 'reindeer prints' on the patio door. It makes me smile thinking of their creativity now I'm an adult and I can't wait to start my own traditions for my kids.

4. Favourite festive food?
I love the run up to Christmas...Christmas coffee and festive sandwiches, the big meal we have on Christmas eve for my Nan's birthday and the red wine in front of the fire with my sister. On actual Christmas day, I am that massive weirdo who loves all the vegetables. Red cabbage, sprouts and parsnips. It's such a change when veggies get the love treatment. Having said that and sounding all smug and healthy, I also love stuffing and panettone.

5. Favourite Christmas gift?
One year my parents got me and my sister a keyboard and hid it behind the curtains so when we thought presents were all over my dad opened the curtains and there was a huge box waiting for us. Last year was really special too..I'd had such a difficult year and was feeling really vulnerable. Everyone treated me with meaningful things and things to really look after me. I got lots of bath bombs and snuggly scarves and things that were really 'me' after a long time getting joint presents with my ex. I felt like I'd found me again and got really tearful that year. It's weird, but I still really treasure and get a bit emotional when I use something from that year.

6. Favourite Christmas scent?
Christmas spice- those candles and mulled wine and panettone.I currently have a Christmas spice candle burning in my bedroom- you can see it in the background of my Barry M post.

7. Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?
It's my Nan's birthday so if she's with us we usually make the house feel like a birthday rather than Christmas. When she was a kid she only got one present for both, so we make a point of using birthday paper, changing the decoration and making a 'birthday' day for her that isn't Christmassy. 

8. What tops your tree?
We used to have an angel that I think my mum made. Our tree was always very thrown together and messy with homemade things and me and my sister were in charge of it. I still did it last year. I think we have a star now. Either way the tree is always wonky and the angel looked drunk all the time. My new flatmates and I just decorated and it has a bright red star now!

9. As a kid what was the one (crazy, wild, extravagant) gift you always asked for but never received? 
I don't really think I did! I wasn't really a materialistic kid..and I'm not really now which is why most of my blog revolves around experiences with the occasional product thrown in. I think we care far too much about stuff!! 

10. What's the best part about Christmas for you?
Being with everyone I love and care about within a very short space of time. Especially now because I don't live at home, it's nice to get to see everyone. I also love getting to cook with my dad- he usually gets one meal to do and basically spends hours with a bottle of wine messing up the kitchen. I usually help out and between the two of us we end up a little bit merry and create something edible at about 10pm. I also love seeing all my mum's hard work come together and she creates something amazing. It's so nice to see it all pay off.  I also love having a cuddle with the family cat by the fire. She's 19 now, and a complete lunatic.

What are your favourite Christmas traditions? If you'd like to do the tag, just copy and paste the questions and make sure you link back to my blog and Becky at milkbubbletea! I'd also love to hear your answers in the comments :)

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