Sticks and Sushi

IMG_2575For absolute yumminess my fave place to head to on the island has always been Roka (especially with their fab weekend offers – another great perk of being an Island-er) but with Sticks and Sushi opening up in Greenwich recentlyIMG_2572, I think we may have some contention for the top spot locally. I first visited Sticks and Sushi Covent Garden in Jan with some yummy mummy friends and they did well to accommodate our 4 prams around a huge table in the middle of the restaurant on a Friday lunch.

The Greenwich location has a relaxed low lit entrance with a few large tables, it seemed like the perfect place for an almost asleep baby. However, we were unfortunately seated in the windowless central part of the restaurant with bright white walls and lighting that led to a very awake unhappy baby. When booking, I would definitely recommend asking for a table near the front to ensure peaceful baby time. Regardless the food was delicious. The menu is more of a picture book, gorgeous glossy pictures of sumptuous sushi and juicy cuts of meat and fish –  it makes you want to order everything and we almost did.

IMG_2574First, lets talk sticks. The sticks are delicious and perfect bites that you order individually so you could, if really hungry, try them all. Ok, that’s maybe excessive but my hubby certainly did attempt to try as many as he could. The picture on the left starts with Panko breaded Duck with caesar dressing, Salmon wrapped in smoked bacon with miso herb butter, miso marinated salmon and finally lamb chop with miso herb butter.  The duck was melt-in-your-mouth tender, the added lime made the flavours pop. I love any kind of lamb and especially when it’s perfectly pink. The first time I had this in Covent garden the lamb was pretty good but this time it was just ok. Roka is still my favourite place for lamb chops – the Korean spiced morsels of deliciousness are just the best ever.

IMG_2569The sushi was delicious. The Kaburimaki (topped rolls) are not only gorgeous but taste just as good as they look. My fave rolls, were Hells Kitchen and Salmon Ceviche. The latter was fresh and zingy, the salmon über silky with a great crunch of red onion. The Hells kitchen, is tempura shrimp topped with tuna and spicy barbecue – it was so damn good and I normally don’t like tuna anything. The hand-rolls were too dense for my liking but the tempura shrimp inside was delicious with a super crispy panko crust. We tried the Kataifi scallops with miso aioli, I wasn’t keen on the trout roe garnish but the hubby thought they were yummy.

IMG_2576The standout dish for me had to be the ribs. They were so moreish; spicy, sour and candy sweet with a delicious burnt garlic sesame crunchy topping. The meat fell off the bone it was so tender, my mouth is watering as I type. I think I will have to pop in soon just for a plate of them and a bowl of my new fave drink – iced matcha latte. Sticks and Sushi serve matcha in these amazing huge terracotta white bowls (see below), you have to sort of slurp it out as delicately as you can.

IMG_2573The dessert menu is a selection of bento boxes or you can pick and chose the elements you want to try. We decided to share the white box, we swapped out the yuzu curd for the chocolate marcel cake and glad that we did – it was the best one. The little light refreshing tastes were perfect after the copious amounts of herbed miso butter and sushi rolls.

It’s a great place for good quality interesting sushi, yummy anything-you-can-imagine yakitori sticks and delicious ribs. Seriously, the ribs are so good.

Happy Eating.

Island life for the new mummy… part 2

An aspiring tiger mom myself I have my little lady at classes everyday and why not when the choice of classes is so phenomenal for such a small area.  There is everything from yoga to sign language to mandarin lessons for the babies of today. I have reviewed a few of my faves for you below.

IMG_2456Yogabellies is an institution on the island with just about every class you can think of. There is antenatal, mum and baby yoga, baby massage, yoga kids, yoga belles, monthly lunches and the occasional girls night out all run and organised by the fabulous Sharon. I first met Sharon last year when I was about 16 weeks pregnant and started off with her Friday night prenatal class. I never thought I would be giving up the ubiquitous after work drinks for the yoga mat, but I did and so happy I did too – even now, I miss the Friday night zen aura I had walking home from class. The mum and baby yoga is run on Friday afternoons in the Barkantine Center and is a gentle practice for you to enjoy with your little one. The class starts with a personal highlight sharing every week, which is great because sometimes you just need some advice, which always generously offered by Sharon and the other mums, we then have some singing and stretching for the babes and there are simple poses and sequences you could easily learn and repeat at home. Then there is mummy practice and we end with a calming mantra and affirmation. My little lady is always fast asleep after class and just as well as we always tend to go for post yoga coffee and cake, we are a social lot here on the island aren’t we. You will find yogabellies mums everywhere and everyone knows Sharon, we go for lunches monthly and nights out too, so it is way more than just the classes – it’s a mummy network!  You can contact Sharon at Yogabellies or check out her Facebook page.

IMG_2521

Sing and Sign is a great class and has been proven to advance speech development. The class is run across the borough by Sukie and she offers trials if you’re not quite sure if it’s for you. The class is a singing extravaganza and teaches your baby everyday useful signs to go along with popular nursery rhymes. I find myself singing the songs across the week to my little girls delight. And there’s a very cute postman pat-esque black and white cat called Jessie that my little lady tries to grab every week. Jessie even has his own FB page and is running the London Marathon this year too! My fabulous nearly 2-year-old niece started making actions when we would sing nursery rhymes to her, we all assumed it was something she had picked up in nursery but lo and behold she was actually signing every single step and had picked it all up from the sing and sign DVD that she would watch completely mesmerised. I’ve seen developments while in the class with my little lady, even at the initial taster at 4 months she started blowing raspberries and we nearly had her crawling in class last week, so it’s one class I really do recommend. The classes run on Tuesday mornings in a new gorgeous location in Burrell’s Wharf and you can contact Sukie for more info on her FB page she runs a number of classes throughout the week across the borough.

10003946_306689539483781_5675703574616724652_n

Waterbabies is one of the more expensive classes available but also one of the best in my opinion. I absolutely love the water so want to make sure my little lady is more than comfortable poolside. Classes are held all across the country in hydrotherapy pools in schools, specialist facilities and even hotel swimming pools. The classes are roughly 30 minutes and start with a warm up, lots of jumping on your part, a few underwater moments and plenty of splashes. It is pretty daunting when you first have to dunk your baby in the water, it feels sort of unnatural but you soon see how easily they take to water – these babies are a lot braver than we think. My little lady can be screaming down the changing room but the minute her tootsies hit the warm water she is as happy as a cupcake. Lets not even get started on “splish, splash, splish, splash, around in a circle and up in the air” – that little mantra can calm her down even on dry land!! Swimming is great for your baby’s health and development, it stimulates heart, lung and brain development. A German study even found that swimming babies had advanced motor development, social skills and intelligence. I clearly recommend the classes and the facilities at George Green School near Island Gardens Station are fantastic, the pool room is warm and cosy and the babes have the best naps after swim class. For more info on Water Babies locally visit the NE London page for all classes in the Docklands and Isle of Dogs area.

Baby Sensory is brilliant but can be pretty intense especially for the younger ones. We took our little lady to a Christmas special and I guess she must have been the youngest at just over 3 months and I think it was far too chaotic for her – bubbles, balloons, blow up christmas tree’s, tinsel galore it was confusing even for me. However, at 7 months we got the chance to attend another class with the NetMums group and it was just brilliant. Anna leads the class across the borough, she is engaging and obviously very creative. The venue is not the most charming but once the class gets started you could be anywhere. The theme for our class was under the sea and I assume Anna must create these magical tinsel laden canopies (see picture) for each class or theme. She started off with a lovely welcome song that uses sign language, this is the same every week so that you will learn and pick up some basic signs. Then there was a succession of different songs with a sensory object, for example rattles for sound, coloured scarves for sight, tinsel pom-poms for touch. The pinnacle of the class was the underwater canopy of bubbles, tinsel anemones, glitter fish and a foil coral reef. There are classes across the borough and Canary wharf class has just started this year but with demand so high the places go quick. You might not get as much out of the class if your baby is too young but I would definitely recommend a trial to see if it’s for you and your baby. You can find out more about Anna’s class and try out a free taster yourself by visiting The Baby Sensory website.

IMG_2383Not to dwell on the subject having already written a whole post on it, but The Creation Station baby art classes are the highlight of my week. It’s a fun, social class with a major competitive twist – that being all us mummies attempting to create best in show every week. The paints are edible and I assume incredibly tasty by how much is eaten every week. The class is great value, we create a take home item every week and I am super impressed by the quality of the supplies we use. Last week, we made these rather fetching fish mobiles and for mother’s day gorgeous hand print canvases (see our Tree creation below) that I can’t wait to frame and hang up in my little lady’s nursery. Julia, who runs the class, offers a great buy one get one free taster so essentially you get to try two weeks to see if you really like it. This term, we have explored colours and we move on to shapes next term and its great for building not only creativity but developing hand-eye coordination too. The classes are held south of the river in East Greenwich but it is really easy to get to on the DLR. To get your creative on get in touch with Julia at The Creation Station website.

I have also reviewed Gymboree in a previous post, but feel it deserves a mention as they have so many options for pre-schoolers and its also a great venue to host a party on the island too. The Gymboree in E14 is based at the top of the island closer to Blackwall DLR and Poplar. Gymboree have a number of classes including baby sensory, play and learn, music and arts. My little lady loved the session and it was the first time she started attempting to crawl.

IMG_2628The highlight was definitely the magical non popping bubbles they have (and sell too apparently) – amazing fun for the mummies too. What I love about the set up at Gymboree is that you can buy a flexible package and attend when you want across 3 months, we never know when our baby will be ill or you just can’t make it to class – sometimes you really should not wake a sleeping baby – trust me it’s not pretty. For more info on Gymboree check out their docklands website and sign up for a free trial.

Bali bliss in your own bathroom…

The serenity of a spa is a long world away from my new normal of late night feeds, nappy changing and teething baby drama. So given a quick break by my hubby for some me time was an absolute dream. But when I mean quick I’m talking 40 minutes, clearly not enough time to indulge in a spa day… So I brought the spa day to me!!!

I received a delightful gift set from one of my lovely sister in-laws recently, the Temple Spa – Spa Retreat Discovery Collection. Temple Spa is a company founded by the husband and wife team that took The Body Shops Colourings brand from a turnover of £4million to £124million they also created and launched the Virgin Vie brand for Richard Branson. Temple Spa was born as their own baby after inspiration from travelling the Mediterranean and wanting to create a niche brand that evoked the principles of retreat and restore.

The collection comes in gorgeous packaging, a beautiful box with the most brilliant concept. Inside the gift box along with 8 bottles and jars of magic potions there is a card that details “15 steps to create your own spa, wherever you are”. This innovative concept takes what looks like a normal gift set to a whole new level and prescribes a recipe for utter relaxation. I’m more of a hot shower kinda girl than a lounge in the bath for an hour kinda girl, I cannot stand it when my fingers go wrinkly, yuck! So I adapted the process to suit me and changed a few of the steps around, but it was just the relaxation I needed. The quality of the products is outstanding – no wonder Harrods bypassed their usual 3 year wait list and got the products on their shelves within a week of being introduced to them. They all smell delicious, are super rich and my skin honestly feels lovely even a day later.

As per step one, I carb-ed up with my late lunch of supposedly “gourmet” pizza from my local Firezza, ran the shower at max to steam up the room and created a spa like ambience by lighting my new decadent Lelo Vanilla and Creme de Cacao flickering massage candle (Available at Selfridges). I used the Be Gone kind-hearted Cleansing Lotion first and as I couldn’t find my organic cotton face towel, a bright orange baby muslin would have to suffice. The cleansing cream is rich and soft and I instantly felt refreshed, it is made with aubergine, liquorice, cucumber and basil. The creme has an overwhelming smell of lavender which just took me straight back to making a heart-shaped lavender pillow for my sewing badge at brownies when I was 9. Regardless of the random flash back I was suitably relaxed and ready to start my “at home spa ritual”. Next up was the delicious Breakfast Smoothie exfoliator that is just edible (not literally), its unctuous and delicately grainy. You are supposed to leave this on for ten minutes so after a quick massage in to my pores I hopped in the shower and used a little bit of the Drift Away Relaxing oil on my skin, the smell of Jojoba, frankincense and patchouli coupled with the candle light, the veil of steam and Tibetan healing sounds on YouTube lulled me right in to a false reality of actually being in a spa (just need to pretend the baby bath and laundry bag aren’t there!!!).

Having not read the next step properly, I was supposed to put the face mask on before my shower and use cucumber slices on my eyes while languishing in the bath. Instead, I decided to lay on my bed for a few minutes with a towel over as if I was waiting for a massage therapist to walk in and knead out my muscles, however, she did not appear so I went on to the next step! The Becalm Soothing Face Mask feels like a uber rich moisturiser, on putting it on I had to double-check that I hadn’t mixed up products as it seemed to just sink in to my skin rather than lay on my face and pull it tight like most traditional masks tend to do. You could actually feel it instantly plumping up your skin, much what I imagine a collagen shot would do to your cheeks but without the need for medical grade needles thankfully. I have never much cared for toner after almost burning my skin off with the wrong clique three-step programme when I was about 15 that I stole from my sisters make up bag. However, given that the ingredient list reads more like a salad than a beauty product the Toning Essence Essential Mist Toner is gentle and light with an orange blossom fragrance. It includes lemon, lime oil, lavender, tomato, bitter orange, basil, mandarin, melon extract, rosemary, rose geranium and sweet orange. You seal the moisture in with the Be Still Settling moisturiser, it is marketed as liquid velvet and I think it would be great under make up with no need for a primer.

Step 10, was quite a challenge – my hair is notoriously knotty and I loathe brushing the knots out but this step actually requires you to brush your hair for two minutes. After hacking away with my detangling brush the process of simply brushing my hair through was utterly relaxing and my hair is silky soft today but I credit that to the new Elvive Fibrology shampoo that I’m currently using – super cheap and much better than the Toni and Guy stuff I was using before that is literally 10 times the price. At this point, I could hear hubby and baby lingering outside the door to hurry up as they both needed feeding so I briefly massaged in the Aaahhh! Soothing Balm for Aching feet and limbs which I could still feel tingly away while little one was devouring her avocado puree on my lap 10 minutes later. I finished up with the Repose Aromatherapy Resting Cream. Packed full with vitamins galore, bitter orange, black pepper oil, geranium it literally relaxes you in to a tranquil daze – it was the perfect ending to my few moments of Home Spa bliss.

Now, I just need to get my hands on the coveted award-winning Skin Truffle moisturiser to continue my new obsession with Temple Spa. And I think my mini Me is a fan already, I found her trying to eat the gift box this morning!!!

For more information on Temple Spa products check out http://www.templespa.com or visit one of their affiliated spa’s http://www.templespa.com/spa

Island Life for the New Mummy

No I am not talking about pina colada’s, white sand beaches and tropical heat (if only), the island I am referring to is that of dogs. I have been partially living in North London since my daughters birth while my house gets renovated, so I was somewhat out of the mummy social scene here on the isle of dogs. However, in the last few weeks I have met so many fabulous mummies and got the run down of what’s what and what’s hot here in E14.

With every new mum I meet I hear about or am recommending a class, meet up, event that they or I don’t know about so thought it was only fair to share this information to all the new mummies in the area. This post will go through free classes and meets ups and a follow on post will detail a plethora of classes to keep you and your little one busy all week-long!

Throughout my whole pregnancy I had the best intentions to attend the NCT meet ups but being to chicken quite frankly I only went to my first NCT meet up a few weeks ago. At first I felt completely shy and insecure, like it was my first day at high school. However there was no need for any fears, everyone was super warm and welcoming. The Tower Hamlet NCT coffee meet ups take place every Monday between 2-4pm usually in Tom’s Kitchen or the Little Unicorns nursery. In Tom’s there is a private dining room that the staff lovingly lay out play mats and toys for the babies to play and serve delicious cakes and coffees for the mummies to devour! Little Unicorns Canada Place is a great space, it is one of the prominent nurseries in the wharf. The best bit is you get to see what they offer so if you’d want to use their services for day care when/if you go back to work its a great way to get your little one used to the surroundings. You can find all the details about the meets up in E14 and the rest of Tower Hamlets on their Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/TowerHamletsNct

MumsNet have monthly meet ups in the Wharf and they are organised by the friendliest mummy I’ve met yet. The last one took place a couple of weeks ago and was hosted at Gymboree. The Gymboree in E14 is based at the top of the island closer to Blackwall DLR and Poplar. Gymboree, essentially interactive soft play, have newborn classes on Thursday afternoon but have so many options for pre school age kids and even have a Saturday open gym sessions that you can attend as a non-member for only a fiver and just have a play. My little lady loved the session and even started attempting to crawl. The highlight was definitely the magical non popping bubbles they have (and sell too apparently) that adorned all the little cuties like gorgeous translucent pearls. For more info on Gymboree check out their docklands website and sign up for a free trial – http://www.gymboree-uk.com/f/docklands/ The March MumsNet meet up details just got posted today but the places are limited and fill up quick, so join now! You can find more info about the all things mumsnet at http://local.mumsnet.com/tower-hamlets/group-meet-ups/canary-wharf

Living pretty much next to Mudchute farm its pretty disgraceful that I haven’t visited even once in the last 8 years. But now having my little lady to take to the petting zoo I really have no excuse so will make a trip pretty soon. Muddyboots, is the much sought after nursery in the area, I was recommended to get my name on the list when I was pregnant as the demand for a coveted place is so high. On Mondays, in partnership with a number of local organisations, Muddyboots are offering a free stay and play session for little ones and their carers from 10am – 12pm. They even have a lovely cafe on site for you to get your coffee and cake on afterwards. Check out http://www.mudchute.org/childrens-young-people-services/mudchute-nursery

My favourite class has to be Pilates, selfishly this ones for me and the whole time I am there I’m silently praying that my little one is either asleep or happily playing in her pram. The instructor is amazing and It’s not like your usual softly softly postnatal workouts; so if you’re not up for pushing your core to its max then I would give this one a miss. The class is offered free through a local scheme – the Community Parents Project. There is also a weekly bumps and babies meet up at Cafe Forever (they do a good jacket potato) every Monday at 1.30pm. The project even provides trained volunteers that act as support and mentors to new parents. More info on classes and meets up can be found here http://www.island-house.org.uk/projects/community-parents/

There’s a great group I joined a while ago on Facebook called Walking Mums London. It was set up by a rather adventurous North London Mummy, whom I assume loves to walk. Anyone in the group can arrange a walk which goes out to all members and they can decide if they want to join the walk. I went along for the first time last week and given that they were walking past my house it would be rude not to. The day was brilliant and I met some lovely ladies and babies that I am already planning on meeting up with. Our walk started at the top of the wharf all the way to the Greenwich observatory, we even did the immensely steep hill up to the top (See picture for proof). It did completely exhaust me! Need to do more Pilates clearly! There are different walks across London all the time so definitely have a look at https://facebook.com/WalkingMumsLondon – today they are off to Kew Gardens.

Now, I haven’t been to the children’s Center yet and given its in the park next to my house again I really have no excuse. But I have heard the nursery time and stay and play are great fun. The Isle of dogs CC is located in Millwall Park right next to Island Gardens DLR. They have baby play on Tuesday’s at 3-4pm and baby massage on Wednesday at 10am. They also provide advice on breastfeeding, weaning and when the time comes they even have potty training support. For the current timetable check here http://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/idoc.ashx?docid=7c2a736a-e543-48ed-9cea-c59cddd61397&version=-1

You didn’t think I’d forgotten about the daddies on the island now, did you? The fabulous people at the Idea Store Canary Wharf have put together a Saturday Dads Club. It’s story time for dads and their under 4s. The info can be found https://www.ideastore.co.uk/idea-stores-canary-wharf-activities-events. I’ve heard it’s brilliant for baby daddy bonding and gives the mummies a couple of hours of respite to catch up with friends, go shopping or even enjoy the luxury of an undisturbed shower!!! Who knew that post baby a shower in peace could be as zen as a whole day at the spa!

Do share in comments or email me through any other classes and events you’d like me to feature.