Saturday, 30 June 2012

Herman the German Friendship Cake: The Bake Off

 My 10 days are up and my time with Herman the German Friendship Cake is drawing to a close. Both myself and The Boy have become quite close to him and enjoyed watching him grow and develop. But we cannot run from our destiny forever. Yesterday was the last time Herman needed feeding, and as he reached his most bloated proportion, I sectioned him up into four mini-Herman's - three to give away to deserving friends to restart the cycle of life anew. Sunrise, sunset.


And so the time has come to make my remaining portion of bubbly goo into all that he can be. There are lots of lovely recipe ideas on the Herman website, but I decided to adapt the normal recipe slightly, according to what I had in the cupboard.




Lo-Lo's Fruity Herman the German Recipe


200g mixed dried fruit
100g pitted sour cherries
Splash of Muscat or other dessert wine
100ml apple puree


1 portion of Herman
175g sugar
300g flour
pinch of salt
130 ml vegetable oil (I didn't quite have enough so I added a bit of butter and milk)
2 eggs
Vanilla extract
Cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder


Method

Mix your dried fruit and cherries with a good splash of Muscat. 
Leave to macerate for a good hour or so.




Put your oven on to heat at 180'C. Put all the other ingredients, bar the apple puree into your bowl with Herman, and mix them all together (tricky recipe this one)


When everything is well mixed, add your dried fruit, cherry, Muscat mix, 
then lightly fold in the apple puree to get a marbled effect.
Pour into a greased tin. I decided to make my Herman into a giant cupcake, 
because that is a pretty decent size! He's quite a big cake and does rise.
Bake until cooked. Do the trick with the skewer - poke a skewer in the middle 
and when it comes out clean, your Herman-cake is cooked. Mine took about 1 hour 15 minutes. 
Keep an eye on it, I had to turn mine regularly because my fan oven browns things much quicker in the back right corner. I took the smaller cake out of the oven a bit later than I should have as well, so that has a very crispy crust!


Thursday, 28 June 2012

Miss England 2012

So randomly and without prior notice, we won a pair of tickets to attend the Miss England final at Athena, Leicester. Beauty pageants are totally and utterly outside of my experience, so it seemed like an excellent idea to go along, see what it was all about, rather than judge something I didn't have any knowledge of.


At £50 a ticket, we were expecting something pretty special. Guests arrived, men in penguin suits and ladies in all manner of evening gowns. We were, naturally, a bit (but not too much) under-dressed. Ah well, no one was there to judge us, were they? I must confess that being immediately confronted by skinny types in St George's cross bikinis, covered in silver body paint juggling fire or stilt walking did little to redress the stereotypes I walked into the event with.


We've been to Athena for mass catered events before, so when we were invited into the main hall and told that the starter was served, we knew we were likely to get a decent meal. And we were not disappointed. A vegetable tart for starter was simple and a little pastry heavy, but was served with a lovely beetroot coulis. 



The main course was a roast chicken breast with a strip of bacon (pancetta? maybe) wrapped around it, a potato tower and green beans and cabbage. And weirdly, one singular tiny carrot. To keep you on your guard. The chicken was moist, the vegetables were nicely cooked - it was enjoyable.

 Finally we had a chocolate cheesecake with strawberries. It was lovely, it tasted like chocolate cheesecake, so there wasn't much room for error!
And all of this took place while the show was happening, sometimes seemingly in the background. I felt a bit bad for all of these girls, having their moment at the head of the catwalk, while we were more focused on trying to eat daintily in a dimly lit room without dropping gravy down our frocks. But the show did go on. Last year's Miss England gave an extremely long and frankly bewildering speech about her experience over the last year. It seemed to boil down to two things - a. she's had a lovely time and b. she had done lots of charity work. Unfortunately, it was a bit rambling and confused and, dare I say it, a little bit condescending towards the 'poor unfortunates' she'd helped through her charity work. I don't think at all that was her intention to come across as such, I just think public speaking is not her key strength. I for one was pleased to have a meal to concentrate on so that my furrowed brow wasn't pointed at the stage.



We were sharing a table with beautiful and intelligent Katrina, the model for Helen E Cosmetics who took to modelling after recovering from cancer. She was a strong woman, and very interesting to talk to. I couldn't help wondering why someone like her wasn't in the running for Miss England - later it turned out that it's probably because she's too old. That certainly out me off the contest. I don't see how you can put an age limit on beauty, talent, intelligence, community spirit and all the other things that I was given the impression the contest was promoting.


The show went on, the girls paraded out to say hello. Then someone who was on the X Factor once (but don't hold that against him, he had a very good voice) performed while the girls paraded out again. Weirdly, some of the girls appeared to have been assigned absolutely stunning gowns, while a number of them appeared to have had their dresses chosen by a myopic old aunt. The Boy and I really noticed this because we realised we were just looking at the clothes - not the girls, or their deportment, or anything - just purely judging them on their outfit. How shallow are we? Or not? I don't know.


Then, guess what? The girls paraded out round the stage. Again. This time they were wearing tiny shorts and t-shirts with the Mauritian tourist board logo on, one of the sponsors of the event. They had little flags with the logo on as well. They had to wave them literally the entire time we were treated to a traditional Mauritian music and dance piece. They must have had very tired arms and very tired cheeks from holding the fixed smiles for that long. I felt a bit bad for them. I liked the performance though, the drumming was awesome and the clothes were cool. It was my favourite bit of the night.


Then the final 17 were announced. It was a time of great excitement. The Boy and I were surprised that we weren't in the running at this stage of the competition. At this point, each of the finalists was asked a question. Hearing their answers was very much like the experience I was expecting. Obviously dreaming for world peace is out of fashion - but having confidence and passion and helping others are still very much de rigeur when it comes to answering absolutely any question on any topic ever.


Unfortunately, what with the three course meal and the endless parading, it reached a time where we had to leave to get the last bus home - thanks for your conveniently timed service First Leicester - not. So I imagine that someone was picked as the winner. I gather from Twitter that it was Miss Devon. Well done Miss Devon, I can't remember which one she is, but I hope that public speaking is one of her stronger points.


The Finalists
I have now been to a beauty pageant. I was a bit sad we missed the previous rounds (held over the previous 3 days, including a swimwear round and also a sports activity which we were shown a video of). I haven't got a clue what I think about Miss England and its portrayal of women. The event was very corporate and certainly hugely commercial, but at the same times it was clear that it was very important to the participants and that they truly wanted to win. And so if it makes them happy, then who am I to judge? No-one, that's who. But if Miss England is all about passion and hard work and confidence, I can't help but feeling it should be open to whoever wants to enter - because those admirable qualities do not have limits, whether those limits be imposed by age or weight or anything else.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Herman The German Friendship Cake

At work this week I was given a small tub of bubbly ooze and some instructions. I had been give a small portion of Herman, the German Friendship Cake. Herman is a sourdough starter, which you care for for 10 days and then bake into a delicious apple, raisin and cinnamon cake, or whatever flavour you want really, whilst also creating three more starter portions which you give away to friends. I am on day 4 now - I have been stirring Herman for the first three days and today I fed him for the first time. I thought you'd all appreciate seeing some bubbly sweet goo pictures. I am already quite attached to Herman.
Herman when he first arrived in my possession.
Herman enjoying a few days of contented bubbling.
Day 4, Herman is hungry. I fed him tasty flour and sugar and milk.
Herman is happy and bubbling away again. He is fat now.

Join me soon, for the next exciting installment of Herman the German Friendship Cake.

#SilentSunday


Silent Sunday

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Spanish-Like Aubergine Bake

I've had a bit of a splurge, when it comes to fairy cakes and beer today! Therefore, I've got home and quite wanted to make something vegetable based and slightly healthier for tea tonight, that will have leftover portions for lunch (and beyond). This is what I came up with, a sort of Spanish-inspired vegetable (and chorizo) bake dish. I really enjoyed it and the portion size that I thought would do 4 meals will actually do six as it is so filling - good news! As ever, the measurements in this recipe are approximate because I never measure anything and you shouldn't either.


Spanishish Aubergine Bake (Serves 6 portions)


Ingredients


1kg potatoes, roughly chopped
Olive oil
1 large aubergine, cubed
100g chorizo, chopped coarsely but reasonably fine
5 spring onions, chopped
Half a bulb of fennel, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
200g mushrooms, chopped
Hot paprika
Cayenne Pepper
Cumin
Red chilli flakes
Coriander (powder)
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Squeeze of tomatoe puree
Tin of lentils
Salt and pepper to taste


Method


* Put your chopped potatoes on to boil for 20 minutes
* Preheat oven to 200'C.
* Meanwhile, heat up a pan and add a squidge of olive oil. Add the aubergine and lightly fry down for about 7 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the chorizo about halfway through so it starts to cook down and release its lovely juices.
* Once this has started to cook down, add the spring onions, fennel, garlic and mushrooms and allow to cook down.
* Stir in the spices and give a moment to cook in.
* Add the tomato paste and allow to cook in, then add the tin of tomatoes and lentils and cook down. Season to taste.
* Pour the aubergine vegetable mixture into an oven proof dish and top with the drained, cooked potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika and a glug of olive oil. Put into the oven for about 25 minutes, until the potatoes start to brown.




Take out of oven and eat, preferably with crusty bread. Nom. I enjoyed mine with some spelt and pumpkin bread. I found there was a nice mixture of textures, a good kick from the spices and nice bite from the occasional piece of chorizo and some good fillers from the potato and lentil. Definitely a winner for me, give it a go!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Cartoon Family Portrait

After a long break, I have finally finished my cartoon family portrait. I started it last September, with the intention that I would complete it within the month, but unfortunately, projects such as making mosaics out of 55000 coffee beans and 9963 cupcakes and the other everyday stuff like that has gotten in the way.




I got back on to the painting in early June and it has only thankfully taken me two sessions to complete. It is painted in acrylic, poster paint and matt emulsion and finished off with permanent black marker. Because I am not talented in this way, I used some online software to mangify me and The Boy and used some tutorials for making the Furry Babies into their fun cartoony selves. You can find more information in my first post.




I think I am going to hang it in our hallway which we have recently repainted, next to my Sylvia Plath poster. I think they will make a good pairing. While I've been writing this I've just realised that I've missed outlining my piercings on the final version, so I will have to go back and sort that now!






What do you reckon? Are mangaesque family portraits the way forward? Or should I stick to curating?





Thursday, 14 June 2012

Dress for success

I have had occasion to wrestle with my inner slob this week and try to figure out a way to look smart. This was such a struggle for me that I had to bring in reinforcements for advice, reassurance, and to make sure my lager consumption kept pace with the amount of shops visited. I've definitely decided that shopping online is the way forward for me now, but you can see the outfit we settled on in the picture. I wore a Kenzo jacket picked up for pennies in a charity shop a few years ago and some new skinny stretch jeans from H&M for £9.99. More on the jeans below. Definitely worth a read if you're considering buying some.




Whilst browsing through the Next Blogger Network website, I saw coincidentally that they had a feature on gentleman's tailoring. This got me thinking about good tailoring, and wearing a suit and I wondered just what is workwear like around the world?


Having visited a number of countries, including India, I know that the Western ideal of the well tailored suit is a must in many business environments, with styles like the Nehru collared jacket having been popularised through Hollywood and celebrity culture. But does it have to be the way? Why is a tailored jacket our automatic recourse when we aim to dress smartly? 


I had a little Google around and found an extremely interesting article about a Reuters' poll on workwear attire attitudes around the world. It shows that Asian countries tend to have a higher percentage of people wearing 'smart' work attire, suits and the like, than Europe or the States. Predictably, 45% of employees think that casual attire increases productivity - a concept that I wholeheartedly agree with. Most amazingly for me was the slide that read 56% of employees think it would be acceptable to wear a bikini or speedos to a company beach party. Now setting aside the fact that this is England and the idea of a company beach party is more alien than Bruce Forsyth hosting Robot Wars, I just simply can't imagine getting that up close and fleshy with my colleagues! Perhaps its a cultural thing, but I think I'd draw the line at a light cotton dress at a company beach party...


Naturally, this line of enquiry led me to reading about etiquette abroad instead of what I was originally looking for (damnable internet), but I still quite enjoyed that. Although it was a bit weird that they said the Spanish spoken in Argentina is weird and sounds like Italian. It really doesn't. I am pleased that I know for definite now that slurping is a Japanese way of showing appreciation for food. Having hung out with Japanese people quite a lot, that was always a bit mad - but I shall join in with gusto next time! I enjoyed the quote about Panama - "Expect a little confusion if you’re a business woman attending a meeting. Be clear you’re representing your company." - I wonder if that still holds true? I've found Central America to be reasonably progressive in the gender stakes!


And back to the black jeans. As I mentioned, I bought these black stretch, skinny jeans from H&M for an important business engagement. I took a friend with me to adjudicate when I tried them on and we both agreed the fit was good and they projected the image I was looking for. So the day of wearing came and I put them on. However, within an hour of having them on I realised they had two faults. One was what I would call a major fault. Firstly, once I had sat down once (something I did not think to check in the chairless changing rooms) the knee area went all baggy and saggy - very odd for something in a stretch fabric and not great when you're trying to project a professional image. The second flaw, certainly more major in my book, was that the cut of these particular trousers means that they don't stay on. As I said, I tried the jeans on and had independent confirmation that they fit well. However, as soon as I tried to walk anywhere, fast or slow (and trust me I experimented to try and get the darn things to stay up) they slipped down your legs and hips. I realised that half the time the back pockets were slouching around my mid-thigh, rather than crowning my peachy ass. And so, at great inconvinience, general panic, additional expense and annoyance, I had to abort mission, hotfoot it back home as quickly as possible, with one hand apparently nonchalantly in pocket but actually attempting to hold the stretchy buggers in a vice like grip that STILL didn't keep them up. I got changed and just made it back in time to get my train for said vital business appointment.

Amazingly, the shop assistant at H&M was not having any of it when I tried to return these useless trousers. As I had worn them, they were not in a saleable condition, therefore I could not have a refund. No hint of an exchange was offered in case the cut of this particular pair was faulty. I'm inclined to think she knew they were crap trousers and that I would have similar difficulties with a replacement. Weirdly, if I was offered store credit, I would have bought the £29.99 pair that I was looking at when I first went to the shop, so by being obtrusive she did the company out of an extra twenty quid.

She continued to repeat her mantra that the trousers were not in saleable condition, usually cutting me off when I was trying to explain to her that a. I had been sold a product that was fundamentally not fulfilling its purpose, that is keeping my arse covered so therefore I would like my money to be returned, and b. I did not expect her to resell those particular trousers anyway, because they are faulty, in that they are unable to act like trousers and have weird baggy knees, which is not characteristic of skinny fit jeans. I also tried to reason with her that if I hadn't 'worn' the trousers, I would have no idea that they were badly made and not functional in respect of being a pair of jeans. Indeed, had I kept them in the H&M bag, or perhaps framed them and hung them on my wall, I would still be completely satisfied that I received top notch value for my £9.99 expenditure. Perhaps that was what she was expecting me to do. Perhaps it is I that have been labouring under the misapprehension that H&M intends you to actually wear the clothes you purchase, possibly even during day to day life. If that is the case and H&M intends you to simply look at, but never wear its clothes then I retract my complaint.

After about 5 minutes of her talking over me, I decided to give up on a bad job and leave. So now I have one pair of faulty trousers that I can't get rid of, nearly made me late and are frankly a plain nuisance. And I am £9.99 + additional transport costs lighter for the privilege. Next time I have an important business occasion, suffice it to say that I will be wearing something tried and tested, casual and comfy. And anyone that doesn't like it can choke on their cummerbund. 

Gardeners Review: 2012 so far

The more observant of you may remember that the lovely folk at Gardening Express sent me a bundle of plants to review at the end of last year. I thought perhaps it was time to give you a little update on their progress, as well as letting you know how the rest of this year's vegetable crop is getting on.


Unfortunately, as I had guessed at the time, it was a little late in the year to get new plants established in the garden, so we did our best to over winter them in the house or in the greenhouse as appropriate. The Skimmia 'Magic Marlot' did well and gave us lots of joy from its pretty flowers. It made it through the winter, only to give up the ghost in early Spring - just as I was preparing to plant it out in the border sadly. This is a great value little plant though which I would really recommend for adding some vibrant colour.


The other plants did not make it through the winter, so we only had two short, but beautiful months of enjoyment from them. And the hardy warrior (and luckily my favourite of the plants!) is the Brazilian Dipladenia. It over-wintered in the house and is now happily putting out new leaves despite having being knocked over and de-potted by the cats on not one, but three occasions! I hope we will get treated to a couple of its beautiful vibrant pink blooms. I am tossing up whether to plant it out as I'm not convinced it would survive the winter in the border and I would like to keep it as long as possible. Unfortunately, Gardening Express do not stock the Dipladenia at the moment, but keep an eye out as they are always getting new and exciting plants in stock. At the moment I am eyeing up the Chicken of the Woods mushroom log, which looks so much fun, and the black grape vine - totally want to grow my own grapes!


As for the rest of the garden, well after the enthusiasm and industry of early Spring, things have been incredibly slow. The epic amount of rainfall we have had meant that there is, if nothing else, a bumper crop of slugs and snails which have been eating my precious seedlings faster than I can grow them. My exciting new space, where we took out a rubbish mini conifer, and I hoped would have a giant and prolific courgette plant in by now, is the Barren Corner. I've put literally 9 or 10 courgette and assorted squash plants in there and they have all been eaten, right from under their cloches. Devastating stuff!


I do have a small selection of courgette and squash plants that made it through the slow moving gauntlet of the local slug population, thankfully, although the weird weather conditions mean that they are nowhere near as large as they should be, they do at least seem to be thinking about flowering soon. Not quite the glut I was hoping for from my first year of the raised beds!


Some other bits and bobs have struggled through the adverse conditions as well, my three little strawberries are growing quite vigourously and have started to produce a good number of fruits. A couple of other bits, although smaller than I would expect, are making it through - tomatoes, onions, leeks, radishes, beetroots, carrots, a couple of parsnips and 4 little cabbage plants. The perpetual spinach endures, unsurprisingly, and it looks like I got the pruning of my blackcurrant bush right as that has a good number of tight green berries ripening on it. There are a couple of sweetcorns that have survived as well, so that's good news. Unfortunately, this year's ambition of growing my first ever aubergine has been thwarted at every turn. After a promising start, two waves of seedlings have been gobbled up and I've now given up for this year. Maybe in 2013 I'll have more luck.


A surprise winner this year has been the garlic. I've never tried it before and just picked a pack up in passing at B&Q because it was reduced. I assumed it might be a bit late to plant it out, so just whacked it in the border and hoped for the best. And it is absolutely thriving! In fact, it's getting to the point now that I'm worried they're too close together - I had assumed that most of the bulbs wouldn't even sprout when I put them in. If these all crop successfully I will be able to make my own Frenchy plait of garlic for wearing around my neck when I go cycling in a stripey shirt. Which we all know will look awesome. Go garlic go!

How are your gardens getting on? Has the weather been a blight on you as well?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

REVIEW: Zaggora Viva Hotpants: The Results and The Winners

I've had my Zaggora Viva HotPants in Green for about a month now. I must confess to have been absolutely rubbish at sticking to the rules of the two week challenge, but I think that's probably because I've already done a two week challenge for original HotPants and for Zaggora Flares, so the whole challenge thing has lost its sparkle for me somewhat! However I have been wearing them at different times, in different places and doing different activities, so I can give you a good review of the product nonetheless!


Zaggora Viva HotPants make use of a Celu-Lite technology fabric lining to utilise body heat in increasing energy expenditure. Ultimately, this means that you burn additional calories than you would when doing any activity without HotPants. The more you do, the more you burn. I've been using Zaggora products for nearly a year now and I can certainly attest that they increase your body heat and you can really achieve some great toning results.


Pros


* The new, thinner fabric of the Viva HotPants is a great improvement on the old design. It gives you greater flexibility of movement and is easier to get on and off. It also makes the Viva Hotpants feel ever so slightly less 'wetsuity'!
* The new colourways are also an improvement on the black, much more cheerful for sportswear, but the hideous yellow lining remains! Never mind that, another pro is that only you see the lining. I do quite like the contrast seams in bright colours though, so all in all, designwise I am very happy with Viva HotPants!
* They do work. I have experienced good toning effects with Viva HotPants, although not particularly inch loss. I think this is because I have mainly used them when cycling and my thighs are not really flabby any more - it's just pure cycling muscle!! So that's not going to get any smaller and I don't really want it to, because those muscles are what get me up hills! However, still on the positive side...
* They leave your skin feeling really soft. It's a weird side effect of your legs getting all sweaty I think, but they definitely have a groovy exfoliating like effect on me!!


Cons


* My cyclist thighs, as mentioned above, seem to be not the only thing that has increased in size. According to the Zaggora sizing guide, the small Viva HotPant should fit a UK 6-8, which should be fine for me. As the month has gone by while I have been wearing the HotPants I have noticed a definite improvement in the ease in getting them on, compared to when I first tried them. However, they are still extremely tight around the knee, to the point where I get red marks on the back of my leg, just under the knee where they have been digging in. On this basis, my ideal would be to have HotPants that have the cut of the original, coming to just above the knee, but the thinner, more colourful fabric of the new Viva HotPants. Do bear this in mind when selecting an appropriate size of Viva HotPants. I wouldn't say I have fat knees, but what do I know?!


* The Viva HotPants don't come up as high around the waist, so I don't feel that this area has benefited as much as my legs in the toning stakes. Again, this is an area that the Original HotPants win out in.


So all in all, the new Viva HotPants do what it says on the tin, in a slightly more colourful and flexible way than either the original HotPants or Flares. For my tastes, I still prefer the cut of the original though, I just hope they get upgraded with the new thinner fabric soon. Have you tried any Zaggora products yet? How have they worked for you?


And finally, the winners of my competition to win one of three pairs of Viva HotPants have been drawn! Unfortunately, the first winner selected had an invalid entry, as they were not following my blog, so a new winner was selected. The three valid winners were then notified. One winner got back to me saying they hadn't ever been on my blog and how did I get their email address, so I promptly drew another winner knowing full well that loads of you out there would be grateful to receive some free Viva HotPants!! And so we have three awesome winners -
LILY J
BOO R
GILLIAN H
Congratulations!
Check your email account which you used to register with Rafflecopter as there will be a little message from me waiting. Make sure you get back to me in 48 hours though, as otherwise I'll have to draw yet another winner and it's getting tedious now!!

Monday, 4 June 2012

REVIEW: Marriot on West India Quay

The Marriot on West India Quay,
Canary Wharf
We spent Saturday night at the Marriot on West India Quay, as part of a prize I won. Therefore it didn't cost me anything to stay there, but the Marriot have no part in my writing this review either. We've been lucky enough to stay in a few hotels around this price bracket over the years, so I feel relatively well qualified to comment on the level of service we received. Our room cost £149 for the night.


After being told in no uncertain terms by the receptionist that we would not be able to check in before 3pm, 3pm was the time of check in and if we thought there was the slightest chance we could check in before 3pm then we were kidding ourselves, we decided to start our visit having a drink and some lunch in the Marriot's Manhattan Lounge. After waiting for about 20 minutes in a lounge that was empty except for our table, the waitress finally came over to take our order. This complete inattention from the staff continued throughout our stay. 


I finally had a nice glass of Shiraz (£6.25) and The Boy enjoyed a pint of Stella Artoios (£4.00). We looked through the food menu and decided that we fancied the Burrito from the main menu. I noticed that it didn't mention any sides came with it so suggested the Boy and I split a portion of fries. Turned out this was the right decision!!!


The food arrived and the burrito was very nice - big chunks of steak and some quite tasty and well seasoned beans. It was served with the oiliest serving of guacamole I have ever seen in my life, literally swimming in oil and no taste of fresh avocado in the slightest, and some sour cream, which was unremarkable. At £10.95, I think the Marriot could be over valuing their food ever so slightly. I think that about £2.95, maybe £3.95 would have been reasonable. And at £4 for this little bucket I think we were both slightly surprised at the quantity of fries we received. We came to the conclusion that the lounge bar was priced in the 'more money than sense' category and thanked our lucky stars (literally) that we weren't paying. We were then left to enjoy the view of our dirty plates for a good half an hour or so, even though the waiting staff managed to come over and check that we needed our drinks refreshing and eventually, bring us new drinks. Perhaps they thought the sight of our scraps would entice other guests into ordering food.


The afternoon arrived and we were allowed to check in. We went up to our room and had a very pleasant surprise. It was extremely sizeable, with a king sized bed and very pleasantly decorated. I found the bed to be extremely comfortable - both the mattress and the pillows were very soft and you sunk right into them, which I love and felt very decadent, but perhaps not so good if you are more of a firm bed fan! We were in room 414 which was a corner room and meant that two walls were full of windows which was rather funky. We had a flatscreen TV, ample tea and coffee making facilities which included china cups as well as two takeaway cups with lids, which I thought was quite a nifty touch. 


The bathroom was of a reasonable size, with decent toiletries and good soft bath sheets. All the extra touches that you would expect were there - ice bucket, wardrobes with lights in (!) and tonnes of hanging space), hairdryer, stationery and so forth. Even a choice between the Gideons Bible and the Book of Mormon lol. The only problem with the room was that we looked out literally directly on to a DLR station. There were nets on all the windows so being overlooked wasn't a particular concern, but the battery whine of the DLR coming and going was really quite annoying in the background and went on well  into the evening, starting up again at some godforsaken hour of the morning.


We had more experience of the food that the Marriot had to offer also. We took afternoon tea on the Saturday afternoon, which I was particularly looking forward to. At £25 each for a champagne tea this was not cheap, so I was expecting great things. First we were given a Prosecco Bellini each, much to my confusion. Given that the menu clearly stated regular afternoon tea was £15 and tea with a glass of Champagne was an additional £10 I most certainly was expecting actual Champagne and not Italian fizz, especially not with peach puree in it! Our tea tray came out and again was a little disappointing - in particular the three finger sandwiches. We mused what would happen if you ordered afternoon tea for one - do you just get 1.5 tiny fingers of sandwich?? 


Anywho, later on, we got a new waiter and he offered us additional sandwiches, which was well received, but a bit late since we'd already started on our cakes, but nevermind! The sandwiches we got were egg and rocket, coronation chicken and plain smoked salmon. Not a show stopper, but they did have the crusts cut off. Next we had our scones. By the time we got to them, we couldn't tell if they had been warm or not, as per the menu, but the jam and clotted cream were very nice. I think this was the nicest part of the tea, with a good glaze on the scones. Then we had the cakes which were 'specially prepared by our patissieres'. This special preparation included slicing some Battenburg, cutting a quite dry, but cinnamony fruit cake into a finger shape and making crown shaped biscuits like the ones you used to get a primary school and icing them  quite badly. There was also a sponge cake with some strawberries on, which was nice, a little chocolate tart with gold stars and (weirdly) toffee popcorn on top and most amusingly, a shot glass of trifle which we had absolutely no means of eating. The teaspoon with our cups was too big to put into the glass so we ended up having to get out what we could with our fingers! Not very dignified!



So we enjoyed the afternoon tea and because we only got one of each cake, we shared them all and enjoyed each little mouthful. I wasn't sure that I was particularly impressed by the French Patisserie but that's perhaps because I bake myself and know that there was nothing technically interesting in the bunch. We did notice that the Browns restaurant, literally next door to the Marriot was also offering Afternoon Tea At £23.95 for two people with champagne (actual champagne according to the menu, not prosecco) this would probably have been a better bet and half the price to boot. I've not tried the Browns on West India Quay, but the one in Cambridge was always excellent quality.


The other experience we had of the catering was the breakfast. Because we had to leave so early, the breakfast buffet would not have started so we were told to order room service. An eye watering £19.50 each plus £3 'trip charge' later and we had a basic cooked breakfast, very much cold by the time we received it, a selection of pastries, a glass of juice and a small pot of tea. All this extra expense because we had an early start, which I wasn't impressed with at all.


So all in all, a nice enough hotel. If I was paying £60 a night for a double room and maybe £10 each for afternoon tea I would have been very happy to stay there on my own money. As it was I found it extremely over priced and poor value for money with very low standards of service. We were going to have a drink there in the evening and were told to take a seat by the bar staff instead of being served there and then. After 20 minutes waiting for someone to come and take our drinks order we decided it wasn't worth it and went elsewhere. On that basis I can only think to give the Marriot West India Quay 3 out of 10 Extreme Points. It was comfortable but the service was extremely slow and usually lacklustre and in terms of bang for your buck, it was a lot of bucks in return for a damp squib. Save your money and stay at a family run B&B and you'll have a much better time.
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