Review: Lunch at Indigo at One Aldwych, London (gluten free)

6 September 2018

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to be treated to a three-course meal at Indigo at One Aldwych by my husband for my birthday. It was so delicious that I thought I would do a short write-up of our meal (with apologies for the photos, which were just snapped on my phone), particularly because it's an entirely gluten free and dairy free restaurant and so it was extra special to have the freedom to order absolutely anything from the menu.

One Aldwych is a hotel located right in the centre of London - along the Strand and a stone's throw from Covent Garden. We started the day with a stroll around the Southbank and a visit to the Hayward Gallery, before crossing the river ready for some lunch. The hotel itself looks gorgeous, a real treat of a place, with a spa on site too. There's a cocktail bar on the ground floor, with amazing floral displays, and Indigo is located above this with a balcony area (where we were seated) from which you can look down to the bar below.

We started off with some cocktails while we browsed the menu - a strawberry and basil mojito for me, and a Rob Roy for my husband who likes his cocktails a little old fashioned (read: a little less fruity!). The menu itself changes seasonally, with the ingredients sourced from the British Isles. It was a really difficult choice! When we had chosen our starters and main courses, we were brought some freshly-made gluten free bread with a little bottle of rapeseed oil to dip the bread into. Oh that bread. It was still warm and seasoned with fresh herbs, and like no bread I've eaten at any hotel I've been to recently. In fact, it was particularly sweet as the memory of a hotel we stayed at after a wedding last weekend was still fresh in my mind - where they brought me three slices of burnt stale bread at breakfast, two of which were the ends of the loaf. Bread this good is a life-changing experience for a coeliac!

I opted for the cured Loch Duart salmon to start, which was served with grapefruit, coriander and puréed avocado. It was absolutely beautiful - so fresh and light. We both opted for fish to start, with my husband choosing the seared Orkney scallops served with sweetcorn, apple and truffle.

Although I was tempted by the fish and chips because I'm aaaalways tempted by fish and chips, based entirely on the fact that I was going to have a glass of red wine I opted for the Bavette steak instead with hand cut chips. It's not often that a coeliac can have those kinds of chips in a restaurant because they're usually wheaty (for no good reason!) so that was another major factor in the reasoning behind my decision. It was amazing - so tender and accompanied by a salsa verde that added a whole new layer of flavour to the dish. I inhaled it and only then remembered that I should have snapped a photo (hence that's the only one missing here!)

After much deliberation, my husband chose the Brixham plaice, served with Scottish langoustine, preserved lemon and fennel, with some Cornish new potatoes on the side. He was as happy with his choice as I was with mine - the plaice itself was particularly delicious, which I can attest to having snaffled an eager mouthful. 

The courses weren't overwhelmingly huge, which meant that we comfortably had room for dessert and after much deliberation, I choose the strawberries and custard with a digestive biscuit. I was really not picturing what arrived, which was more like a strawberry and custard tart. One taste of it brought me back to holidays in France when I was small and the strawberry tarts I used to love there - a taste I really thought I'd never get to experience again. My husband selected the custard tart with pear and, having experienced a great amount of really unfortunate gluten free pastry, he polished this off. Gluten free dining has come a long long way in recent years but this was another level altogether.  

We finished the meal with coffees, which arrived with petits fours. Somehow, we managed to fit them in and were very happily full as we walked back to the station through a very sunny London. 

If it wasn't clear from the above, I would wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Indigo. It's not cheap but for a special occasion, it's a real treat. The staff were lovely and you don't feel rushed in the slightest. I loved every moment. Bearing in mind its location, it would be perfect for a pre-theatre meal and there were so many groups enjoying afternoon teas too (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-themed, with some impressive candy floss!).

Do let me know if you've visited One Aldwych or if you're planning to go after reading this! Bon appétit!

One Aldwych
1 Aldwych

Wonderful Wednesday : August 2018

29 August 2018

It's been a while since I last sat down at my computer and tapped out a Wonderful Wednesday - life gets in the way, as always, and then it turns into a cycle of feeling guilty that I haven't taken part in weeks when I should just take this time for myself but then I don't because it's so much easier to pick up my phone or watch another episode of something on Netflix and then, another week has passed. 

But I do want to keep up with this tradition because it's a really lovely opportunity to sit and reflect on the good moments, so I've decided to follow Lynsey's example and opt for a monthly round-up - all of the wonderful but once a month and something that, no matter how busy I get, is completely manageable. All of the goodness and less of the guilt - I'm in!


♥ Cooler weather... While the sunshine was lovely at first, it was quickly *too* hot for this pale, freckly creature. This month, for the first time in a while, I've felt a cool breeze on the air when watering my little plants in the evening and it's been wonderful. And as August comes to an end, there's been a bit more of an Autumnal chill going on and I'm excited for it (although slightly scared by how quickly this year is flying by!) Here's to candles, scarves and walks through the woods crunching through the fallen leaves. And on that note:

♥ Noticing the seasons... Since moving out of London, I've really stopped to notice the seasons more. Everything was green when we first moved in - the crop fields were lush and budding, and all around were grazing fields full of buttercups and wild flowers, with blossom in the trees. We've noticed the crops continue to grow and over the course of this month, be collected in. Last week, as I left the house to walk to work, there was a powerful smell of manure in the air (that one, perhaps not such a positive) and traces of straw along the side of the road as it had blown off the back of the trucks transporting the bales. Although the year is flying by, I really do feel that I'm stopping to savour the passing of the seasons as I see what's happening around me. 

♥ Visits from friends... One of my friends came to stay in the middle of August and it was such a highlight this month. She arrived on Friday evening so I met her in town after work, giving her a little tour which coincided with a visit to one of my favourite old pubs. A few drinks and the world put to right later, we headed home to show her the house and to order a curry - the perfect Friday! The next day, we headed to the V&A for a few hours, then grabbed dinner before going to the cinema to watch 'Heathers'. I haven't watched that film in years and had forgotten how much I loved it - there's also something really special about watching an old film at the cinema, surrounded by people who love it as much as you do. Such a great weekend. 

♥ Long weekends... I'm going to struggle in Autumn because this week is actually another short week for me, falling immediately after the August Bank holiday. I'm not working Thursday and Friday because tomorrow's my birthday, so I've booked the time off! Tomorrow's going to be spent with my Mum - lunch and the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the V&A, and then celebrating with my husband on Friday. I actually cricked my neck last weekend so here's to a long weekend in excellent spirits and no injuries! 

♥ Blackberry picking... I haven't done this in yeeeears but last weekend, I went for a walk in the woods with my neighbour and her dog, and we brought bags and boxes to collect some of the blackberries dotted all around the woodland. I collected two pots' worth and have frozen them all in readiness for a few crumbles as the nights draw in. I also collected more for my neighbour to add to her collection and this morning, she presented me with a jar of blackberry jam which I'm so excited to tuck into this weekend with breakfast!

Last night, we decided to harvest the bunches of grapes that have been merrily growing on our grapevine. A few bunches turned into a few more and it quickly became clear that we had vastly underestimated the sheer quantity of grapes that have been growing! The plan is to turn this vast array into grape vodka, which should keep us going for quite some time...

August, you've been super. Here's to an even better September!

♥ Do let me know what's made your week/month a little rosier by leaving me a comment below or dropping me a tweet (I'm @happygoluckycat) or better yet, why not join the fabulous bunch of #WonderfulWednesday bloggers? Pop over to their blogs for a dose of mid-week happiness - SallyMichelleHelenKateJo, LauraSarahPetaElMimmiLynseyKatie and Em (I think that's everyone - shout at me if you're not on the list!) - and then join me in counting down the days until the weekend. It's in sight! 

A week in Ortygia, or why everyone needs to plan a holiday to Sicily

12 August 2018

Next year we're absolutely going to travel somewhere different. Absolutely. Maybe. Well, if I can find somewhere just as beautiful, fun, relaxing but cultural, and with such good food as you find in Italy.

Back in July, we hopped on a plane bound to Catania. My husband had just celebrated a milestone birthday (it's still a few years away for me - phew!) and I was determined to do something really special to celebrate, despite the fact that buying a house earlier this year was also a wonderful achievement and one which used up a fair amount of annual leave (and those all-important pennies).

After some to-ing and fro-ing, we decided to go back to Ortygia - the old town of Syracuse, on the south-east coast of Sicily - where we went on honeymoon a few years' ago. It's quintessential Sicily - historic buildings overhanging tangled alleyways, romance and bustle, and food to make your heart sing. But at the same time, the atmosphere is a world away from rambunctious Palermo, which we visited last year. With our last visit to Ortygia not being too long ago, we knew it would be comfortingly familiar while at the same time opened up options of new things to discover and the promise of a bit of a break as we didn't have to worry about fitting everything in as we'd already done that not too long ago.

Where we Stayed

We did something we've always wanted to do in Italy throughout all of our previous trips - we decided to opt for an Airbnb to enable us to cook some of the amazing food that you see in all Italian marketplaces.

We chose an apartment that was incredibly central, on the Via Maestranza, but really Ortygia is the perfect place to discover on foot so you'll never be too far away from anything. We popped to the market on the first day and picked up an array of treats, and developed a bit of a morning ritual of waking up to fresh coffee, succulent doughnut peaches and a fresh caprese salad. I also found delicious gluten free sliced brioche in the supermarket, which I enjoyed with very liberally-applied Nutella, which is a bit of a holiday tradition for me.

In the evenings, we enjoyed some fresh swordfish - simply fried with a squeeze of lemon juice, a rocket salad and the best aubergine I think I've ever tasted - honestly, anyone who's asked me about the holiday has heard me wax lyrical about this aubergine but unless you tried it you just don't know...

We didn't just eat at home though - having been here before, we had some favourite restaurants to go back to and I've mentioned them below, just in case you ever find yourself in Ortygia at a loss for where to eat.

What we Did

Ortygia is best discovered on foot - its maze of tiny backstreets and its winding paths along the seafront with rusting rails that look fit to crumble at any moment. It's not a 'beachy' location. There are a few tiny little beaches and more further along the coast but the sea front of Ortygia is quite rocky and there's one particular spot where people like to sunbathe/swim from the rocks and a platform is set up there each summer for people to swim from more easily. One morning, we got up early (around 7) and walked down to the seafront. There were just two old chaps there, taking in the early morning sun before going for a swim. The water was slightly chilly to start but you soon got used to it and it was like a delicious bath. We swam out and floated on our backs, looking back at the old city walls and the buildings above us with their faded shutters and peeling-painted fronts. I think I was happier at that moment than I've been in a while. The sea is always my happy place.

We also went back to the Duomo - the cathedral at the centre of the city, in a beautiful piazza that's particularly stunning to walk through at night. The Duomo was a 5th century BC Greek temple that was converted into a church and you can still see the huge Doric columns inside and outside the church.

One thing we didn't do this time but I'm mentioning it here for anyone taking a trip to Ortygia is the miqwe - an ancient Jewish ritual bath that lies buried beneath the Alla Giudecca hotel in the told Jewish ghetto, called the Giudecca. It's absolutely fascinating - three deep pools that were only rediscovered relatively recently. They were once connected to a synagogue but were blocked up when the Jewish residents were expelled from the island in 1492. 

Parco Archeologico della Neapolis

For me, a holiday isn't a holiday unless it includes a visit to at least one historical place and you're spoiled for choice in Sicily. We visited the archaeological park during our last visit to Syracuse and it was top of my list of must-revisits. There's a Greek Theatre, which this time was set-up for its annual season of classical theatre, the Latomia del Paradiso, deep limestone quarries riddled with catacombs, and the Orecchio di Dionisio or Ear of Dionysius, an eerie grotto hewn into the rock. For a few blissful moments, we were in there on our own without any tourists and it was like stepping back in time. 


On our list visit to Ortygia, we took the train to Noto - a historic little town with stunning red-gold buildings, baroque churches and the best granite (drinks made of crushed ice). Taking the train in Italy is an experience in and of itself so we decided to use one of our precious days to visit the town of Modica - a hill town famous for its chocolate and churches. (I'm a big fan of an old church!)

Modica has two distinct areashigh Modica, where most of the churches are, and low Modica, where most of the restaurants (and the station) are located. I think our trip to Modica fell on one of the hottest days that we were there and it was a long climb and a lot of steps to get to the Chiesa di San Giovanni Evangelista, a wonderful baroque church which is itself located at the top of its own sweeping staircase. It was so worth it though - the church was beautiful and the views over the countryside were stunning.

What we Ate

Oh Italian food, how I love you so. I know I must have mentioned this about a hundred times before too but Italy is fantastic for us gluten free folk. There's an array of choice in the supermarkets and most restaurants have at least gluten free pasta in the kitchen and generally speaking, a much better understanding of what a coeliac can and can't eat than I've found here (although that is improving every day).

The Syracuse region is famous for its seafood, meaty ragus, lemons and tomatoes. If you pop to Noto, you'll get some of the best granite and Modica is famous for its chocolate.

I would particularly recommend the following restaurants in Ortygia:

Trattoria la Foglia, Via Capodieci 21
This is the oddest little place - mismatched tables with crocheted napkins, porcelain dolls sitting in the window and a huge old wadrobe are just some of the decor choices making this more Edwardian drawing room than restaurant at first sight but this place is always busy for a reason. The food is amazing - cosy, comforting and very reasonably priced. I opted for the mackerel pasta on our first visit (this time) but the ragu is delicious and the local chilled red wine slips down a treat. Don't miss the local cheese platter either.

Taberna Sveva, Piazza Federico di Svevia
This little restaurant is tucked away in a quiet piazza near the castle and is hugely popular with the locals so I'd recommend arriving early or booking a table. It serves traditional Sicilian food. (I went with the sea bass and we shared the house antipasti to start - olives and cheese and meats, oh my!)

In Modica, we chose the Osteria dei Sapori Perduti, Corso Umberto I 228-230 as it was recommended for its Sicilian specialties and it was very meat-heavy. We didn't have too long there unfortunately because we were keeping a close eye on the train times but it was full of local families enjoying a long lunch. It's one of my favourite memories from our trip though because they made me homemade gluten free ravioli with a simple tomato sauce and it's one of the best things I've ever tasted. It was exquisite, I wish they delivered to England.

There are lots of bars in Ortygia but our favourite from our honeymoon (and we were so pleased to see it still running and very popular) was Solaria Vini & Liquori on Via Roma 86. It's a small place, with a few places to sit inside and about 4 or 5 tables outside but the wine list is extensive and it's a wonderful place to sit and people-watch, while enjoying a glass or two of a particularly fine wine. You can also get small platters of food too - cheese, olives, prosciutto and the like. I can wholeheartedly recommend the dessert wine from Noto.


And with that, I'm practically booking my next trip again... Do let me know if you're planning a visit to Sicily anytime soon, or where I should visit next!

Wonderful Wednesday 55

27 June 2018

Since I sat down at my computer at the weekend and loaded up this dear old page, and typed out a brief ramble that had been going around my head for the preceding days, I've done my best to put my money where my mouth is (was?!) and focus on one thing at a time, to try to give myself time to truly concentrate on a task and do it well. I sat out in my garden on Sunday evening, taking only my book with me and enjoyed a glorious hour or so just reading. Right now, I'm just sipping a cup of tea and taking the time to think back to what has made me smile in recent weeks and it feels like I'm able to think a little more easily, with less actual and imagined background noise going on. I know it'll be a work in progress but here we go...


A visit from my brother... My brother and his girlfriend came to stay with us this weekend and it was so much fun! I'd been looking forward to their visit all week and, you know when you don't sleep properly the night before Christmas because you're just too excited for the next day? That. I woke up in the middle of the night and was exhausted the next morning, so much so that I had to put a podcast on and have a little power nap first thing in the morning to keep me going!

It was their first visit to our little house and I'm sure that that was one of the reasons for the excitement because I'm just so happy to show it off and have people to stay! And the sun shone gloriously all weekend and really made the visit that bit more special. Doesn't everything look better in the sunshine?!

I met them from the train and took them back to the house for a little tour before we headed out for a walk through the fields - they live in London so we wanted to give them the full countryside experience! Just as we were all starting to feel a little parched, we headed back to a brewery shop that's been high on my beer-appreciating-brother's list of must visits in our new town for a couple of drinks in the sunshine (they do a really tasty gluten free beer!) We knew that the weekend was going to be a gorgeous one so we'd decided to do a bbq and it was the best choice really as we sat out in the garden for hours enjoying good food, the sight of the sun setting over the hills and lots of conversation. What good weekends are made of.

♥ Stationery... Always always a good thing and something that regularly pops into my list of things that never fail to make me happy. I've been disappearing into the stationery-ogling black hole that is Japanese stationery websites in recent weeks and it has been so much fun. Some people have Asos wishlists, mine is full of notebooks, pens and washi tape but I think I've whittled it down to a few key items that I've decided to treat myself to come payday in anticipation of our forthcoming holiday adventure. Just watch this space! 

♥ Sunsets... Haven't they been glorious over the last few nights? The sun is glowing gloriously in the sky behind me as I type this but nowhere near as intensely as Saturday night's fabulously red sunset. I wanted to record this here for posterity because, wow. Have the sunsets been as amazing where you are?

♥ Books upon books upon books... My parents have visited a few times over the last few weekends bringing with them my books, which have been boxed up at my parents' house for quite a few years since I moved out and into my first teeny-tiny flat with my husband. Opening these boxes up again has been so exciting - they contain my childhood books, my university texts and all the books in-between, comfort reads and books I can't even remember getting. I don't think I need to buy any new books for a while and I still don't know where we're going to put them all but that's half the fun, right?!

♥ Exciting discoveries... I mentioned this over on Instagram at the weekend but on Sunday, we decided to go and look for an old oak tree that one of our neighbours mentioned that's in a field not too far from our house and on which people often hang coloured ribbons. We followed the route that she'd described to us and there, looming in the distance was a huge old oak tree, with a variety of coloured ribbons hanging from the branches. Not just ribbons though, some people had hung medals and little carved items (I think I saw a dove), as well as placing other little remembrance items around the trunk.

When I got home, I got straight onto the computer to carry out a little research into this custom and discovered it's a really ancient tradition dating back to pagan times, when people would hang coloured ribbons in trees as a wish or a prayer to nature deities. I love seeing things like this continue into the modern day, even more so when it's so close by. I shall be visiting this dear old oak regularly from now on!

♥ Do let me know what's made your week a little rosier by leaving me a comment below or dropping me a tweet (I'm @happygoluckycat) or better yet, why not join the fabulous bunch of #WonderfulWednesday bloggers? Pop over to their blogs for a dose of mid-week happiness - SallyMichelleHelenKateJoSamKerri, LauraSarahPetaElMimmiMartinaLynseyKatie and Em (I think that's everyone - shout at me if you're not on the list!) - and then join me in counting down the days until the weekend. It's in sight! 

Too many tabs...

24 June 2018

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

So, I sat down with my laptop on Tuesday night to type up a Wonderful Wednesday post for the next day and...didn't get any further than the first few lines. 

I did, however, watch a TV show with my husband, catch up on Instagram and Twitter, browse birthday gift ideas for my mum and research some places to visit during our holiday next month. But if you asked me anything specific about what I was looking at or even what happened in the particular episode we were watching, I doubt I'd be able to tell you. 

I know that so many of us are guilty of doing too much, trying to cram too many things into every free moment we have and becoming distracted, particularly by social media (Instagram is a huge vice for me!) I've read so many posts about the quest to spend less time on our phones, which are a real distraction now and especially when you should be doing something else or even just devoting your time to one specific task. When did these little devices become so all-consuming? It's got to the point where I struggle to even sit down and focus on one thing without my brain constantly running through a to-do list of other things I should be doing at that very moment. So instead of just focusing on one task, I'm trying to achieve that and 8 others but getting very little done instead - so nothing is actually getting crossed off the list and the cycle repeats itself. I feel like my brain has too many tabs open and, just like they would on a computer, they're slowing everything down!

How to resolve this? As of right now, I really don't know. I suppose, like anything, it will take work and focus, which is an appropriate word for the task at hand - focusing on one thing at a time. And, as I do in the office when  I write my to do lists, I need to look at things in terms of the order of importance and just cross them off, one at a time. And, perhaps most importantly of all, recognise that when I'm doing something relaxing like reading a book, watching TV with my husband or sitting down to collect the happy highlights of the previous week, that those things are good and necessary too, so I shouldn't have to try to cross off other must-dos at the same time. Just being a little more mindful in my actions.

Are you guilty of the 'too many tabs' mentality too?!

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