Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com title

If you’re planning a visit to London and want to stay somewhere a bit more edgy than the regular tourist traps, I’d recommend taking a look at hotels near Shoreditch. Colourful street art adorns the walls, trendy eateries like The Breakfast Club, Bike Shed Motorcycle Club and CookDaily all lie within easy walking distance of Old Street tube station and if you like shopping there’s plenty of independent goods on offer at Old Spitalfields Market, Brick Lane and the BoxPark popups.

Then, of course, for something a bit more boozy and a LOT more silly, there’s Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson* which is where Oliver and I ended up on Saturday!

In case you haven’t heard of it, here’s what is involved:

  • Unlimited pizza
  • Unlimited prosecco
  • Neon lights and pumping party music
  • An adult ball pit (!)

So how did we find it?

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com title

Well, first off, going in the ball pit was hilarious! I’m five foot tall and so I was just about able to stand up and see, but actually moving about was another matter. One minute I’d be fine and the next sinking uncontrollably into a sea of rolling balls, laughing my socks off at how ridiculous I must look as I struggled to right myself!

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com Shoreditch

Although we were there at peak time on a Saturday afternoon at no point did we feel overcrowded in the ball pit and we were free to lark about as much as we wanted. However the one thing I’d mention is that there is only one ball pit, so in all honestly 20 minutes in there was plenty and after that the novelty wore off.

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com Shoreditch

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com Shoreditch

…after that, it was all about the bottomless brunch!

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com Shoreditch

Periodically during our time there the staff would come out with fresh pizza on boards and leave them around the venue. That meant that near the beginning of the event it was a bit of a mission to get a slice of pizza as the trays were mostly laid out in front of large groups (there were several hen parties there) and these were snapped up very quickly. As the time went on though more and more pizza arrived until Oliver ended up with a whole board to himself.

Being vegan meant that I couldn’t just grab any slice of what was being freely laid out. However I’d notified Ballie Ballerson of my dietary requirements ahead of time and they were happy to cater for me too. When I arrived I was given a numbered paddle to hold so that they could spot me in the crowd and deliver my pizza directly to me.

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com

The prosecco was free flowing and plentiful the whole time. Bottles were left out across the venue so that we could help oursevles to refills whenever we wanted. I have a feeling that this was why the ball pit was never all that busy – everyone was too full and tipsy!

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com Shoreditch

Saturday afternoon is peak time and a 2hr afternoon slot costs £40 for an unseated ticket or £45 for one of the VIP tables upstairs if you book well enough in advance. This is a fair price if you’re a fan of bubbly and a fast drinker, but it’s worth mentioning that if you want a soft drink or anything other than prosecco then you have to pay extra. If you are willing to risk the Monday morning hangover, Sundays are cheaper!

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson

Location: 97 – 113 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3BS

Nearest tube: Old Street

Tickets: From £20 to £45, available here

LovedByLaura

*Disclaimer: This post is made in collaboration with Hotels.com who kindly gifted us our tickets to Ballie Ballerson so that we could try out something new during our visit to Shoreditch.

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Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

I was recently contacted by Bill’s Restaurant in Cambridge asking if I’d like to visit and review their vegan menu.

Damn right I would – I love that place!

I’ve been a normal paying customer at Bill’s Restaurants both in Cambridge and Peterborough for many years so it was an absolute privelege to be invited there in a blogging capacity. It was also the first time I’d visited since becoming vegan so I was keen to see how the experience would compare.

Upon arrival we were given some of Bill’s cocktails to sample. I found them very easy drinking as each contained deliciously fruity flavours which helped to tone down the taste of the various alchols blended through. The English Country Garden, for example, contained Bill’s Elderflower Gin aperitif with a mix of wild Sussex elderflower cordial, lime juice and cloudy apple juice – absolutely perfect for a hot Summer’s day!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

After sampling the cocktails we switched to soft drinks. I went for Bill’s Pink Lemonade which is my idea of a perfect non alcoholic Summer pick me up. It’s made for them by a small French artisan company that’s been around for more than 100 years and the quality shows – it’s super sparkly and refreshing and served in the cutest bottle. Sian chose a Botanical Ginger Beer and I had a taste of it, so I can vouch for that being another good option!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

When it came time to order food I made my server aware of my dietary requirements and she was happy to offer some recommendations. The menu itself was really easy to follow as all vegan friendly dishes were clearly labelled VE. If you have another type of special dietary requirements or need to avoid a certain allergen there’s a more detailed menu that they can bring out to help so if in doubt, just ask. They clearly take it very seriously and are well prepared if you have questions.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge Vegan Food Menu

We decided to start off with some nibbles, so we ordered flatbread, hummus and nicoise olives to share. The flatbread was fresh and warm from the stove with just the right texture for tearing and dipping into the hummus. The hummus itself was incredibly moorish.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

The nicoise olives were another hit with us, they had a salty tang and happily were already pitted.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Being gluttons, we’d ordered proper starters too! I chose the Roasted Butternut Squash and Lentil Salad which was a feast for the eyes as well as my tummy. The lentils had a wonderful delicate flavour owing to their lemon dressing and every so often I’d get a little sweet pop from the pomegranate which worked surprisingly well with the squash.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Sian chose Crumbed Halloumi Sticks which came with a pot of garlic and lemon mayo. This is a vegetarian rather than vegan option so I couldn’t try it myself but Sian assures me that it was delicious!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Despite already having had squash for my starter, I chose the Rustic Butternut Squash Stew for my main and I’m not overstating things here to say that this dish is an absolute sensation!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

The flavour profile was like nothing else I’ve eaten this year. The freekeh grains were a perfect vehicle to soak up the rich sweet smoky sauce, the chargrilled red pepper and onions added depth, kale kept things fresh and the toasted pistachios provided a satisfying crunch. Honestly – go have this immediately even if you usually prefer a meaty or cheesy option – it’s perfection on a plate.

This look probably says it better than words can.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge Vegan Food Menu

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Sian chose a meaty option of Gnocchi Bolognese with Basil Pesto and Gran Moravia Cheese. Definitely not vegan!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

We were probably supposed to have completed our review by eating dessert too, but we were so full by this point that there was no way that either of us could have managed another morsel. This actually worked out fine for me because there was only one vegan option on the dessert menu and it contained coconut which I have an intense dislike for.

Thus if I could offer any suggestions to Bill’s on improvements to the vegan menu it would simply be to add a second dessert choice. The same is true for all other non vegan restaurants I’ve been to, the choice seems to stop once you get past the mains and sometimes there’s no option at all.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Before leaving the manager at Bill’s very kindly gave me a goodie bag from their own range of produce to take away and try at home. They are very proud of the items and rightly so – everything has been carefully sourced and developed with independant suppliers and artisans. I was very happy to find another bottle of Pink Lemonade in there which lasted approximately 2 hours at home (it didn’t even have time to chill properly!) as well as a big tin of Sevilla Green Gordal Olives, a delicious Raspberry Jam, Slow Baked Granola and a bar of White Chocolate Eton Mess. Sadly I had to give the last one away as it wasn’t suitable for me but that made me very popular at home so I’m not complaining!

I thought I’d leave you with a short video of our visit so that you can see what went into the making of this post – basically a lot of standing up in the middle of a restaurant to take photos and rearranging the table… no wonder we were there for about 3 hours!

Videography and the photos of me in this post are by the wickedly talented Sian’s Photography

Food photography is by me, as seen in the video!

Music by Eme Hache: http://freemusicarchive.org/…/EME…/Chasing_Time/Help_me_1484.

LovedByLaura

Disclaimer: I’d like to extend a big thanks to Bill’s Restaurants for providing some wonderful hospitality. As stated above my food and drink on this occassion was complimentary, but this just meant was that I got to try out a few more things than I would normally order on a trip there to give a more comprehensive review of what’s on offer there. The friendly service and the quality of the food lived up to my past trips as a paying customer and I’d thoroughly recommend a trip to Bill’s in Cambridge if you’re in the area, or your nearest local branch if not!

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Tried & Tested Vegan Suitable Recipes

Even though I no longer eat meat, eggs and dairy I still like to enjoy a varied diet. I love spending time at home adapting recipes to make them vegan, or trying out vegan suitable recipes that I find online.

I thought I’d share some of my favourite tried and tested vegan suitable recipes with you from the last few months so that you can see how they turned out in real life. The great thing about each of these is that they are delicious meals in their own right that just happen to be plant based, so I recommend giving them a go whether you’re vegan or not.

(With the exception of the vegan bacon which I appreciate is a bit more specialist!)

Vegan Ramen with Creamy Sesame Broth by Cilantro & Citronella

I’ve tried out a few recipes for ramen now, this one is my favourite by far.

Tried & Tested Vegan Suitable Recipes

The broth is wonderfully creamy and takes no time at all to make so if you were short of time you could just make that part with some noodles and throw in some stir fried veggies.

Tried & Tested Vegan Suitable Recipes

If you have a bit more time on your hands though I thoroughly recommend making the crumbled tofu, a sweet and salty concoction that I think resembles bacon bits! I find that it takes a long while to get the tofu mix crispy in the pan so once I’ve cooked it as per the recipe instructions I transfer it to a heatproof bowl and leave it in an oven set to 100 degrees C, then I prepare the rest of the dish. This helps it to dry out a bit more which gives it a wonderful texture.

Quick and Easy Basil Avocado Pasta by Nourish Your Glow

I always feel a bit guilty about eating pasta dishes since the main ingredient is a complex carb that in itself isn’t particularly nutritious. However the simple all in one blended creamy sauce used in this recipe is packed full of good fats and nutrients.

Tried & Tested Vegan Suitable Recipes

It helps that it’s an absolute cinch to whip up in a blender too, it takes me less than 15 minutes start to finish, most of which is just time spent waiting for the pasta to cook!

Vegan Streaky Bacon by Avant-Garde Vegan

There are a number of reasons why you might not want to attempt this recipe. The ingredients aren’t all readily available in supermarkets, the ingredients list is long which makes it costly if you’re buying everything from scratch, it takes a long time to put together with lots of steps involved, including upwards of 20 minutes of elbow grease if you don’t have a machine with a dough hook.

Tried & Tested Vegan Suitable Recipes

Having said all that, if you DO decide to give it a go the end result is nothing short of genius and perfect for anyone being tempted off the vegan path!

Thickly sliced, the seitan resembles maple glazed gammon and when cut wafer thin and fried it really does become a convincing copy of actual bacon rashers.

Tried & Tested Vegan Suitable Recipes

Oliver made a ‘bacon sandwich’ from it with HP sauce and is convinced that our friends wouldn’t know the difference if we served it to them that way.

Here are a few tips I’ve found to ensure that your vegan streaky bacon is a success!

  • Ingredients such as the liquid smoke, vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast can be found via Buywholefoodsonline.co.uk or in Holland and Barrett.
  • I use my Kenwood KMix with a dough hook attachment to knead the dough, reducing the kneading time by 4 minutes to make sure it doesn’t get overworked.
  • Make sure to choose a thick grease proof baking paper and wrap the raw bacon as tight as you can, making sure that it’s fully sealed. This is to avoid water getting in whilst it simmers as otherwise it is an absolute pain to get the paper off at the end! I use three generous layers of cling film.
  • Wait until the bacon is completely cooled, preferably refridgerated for at least an hour, before trying to remove the paper and slice it. This lets the seitan rest and firm up which makes things a lot easier.
  • Sharp knives are a must and you want to get the slices as thin as possible for an authentic bacon result. I use a meat slicer (rather ironic since I’m vegan but it is perfect for the job!).
  • Sprinkle an extra bit of salt on each side as you fry the bacon – it makes all the difference!

Smashed Avocado with Lime and Chilli by BBC Food

Tried & Tested Vegan Suitable Recipes

I serve this on it’s own with toast for a filling breakfast or lunch, in tortilla wraps with fajitas as an alternative to proper guacamole, or as pictured above with some vegan bacon. I am generous with the lime juice as I love the zingy tang it gives, and I use a mini food processor instead of mashing it by hand to speed things up even more!

Chocolate and Cherry Cake With Vanilla Frosting by Sainsbury’s Magazine

Tried & Tested Vegan Suitable Recipes

Oh yes – I found a really indulgent dessert cake without the need for eggs or butter! The rich chocolate cake works so well with the tang of the cherry jam and the sweetness of the frosting. I throw an extra handful of chopped cherries into the mix itself before baking it but this is completely optional. It also looks a bit of a showstopper with minimal effort required thanks to the chocolate dipped cherries on top.

Tried & Tested Vegan Suitable Recipes

The recipe requires you to make vegan buttermilk by combining soya milk and apple cyder vinegar together until the mixture curdles, but it doesn’t tell you how long this takes. I recommend leaving the mix to sit for 10 minutes before moving onto the next step in order to get the best end result.

Tried & Tested Vegan Suitable Recipes

I also find pitting cherries a really monotonous task so I bought myself a cherry pitter (this is the one I’ve got which is fab) which makes the task a doddle!

These are just a handful of my favourite tried and tested vegan suitable recipes from around the web. I’ve got plenty more that I can share along with my tips on how to get the best results so let me know in the comments if you’d like me to turn this into a series.

LovedByLaura

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Snacks Suitable for Vegans | March 2018

Giving up meat and cheese to adopt a vegan diet hasn’t proven as difficult as I’d imagined, but milk powder is now my arch nemesis! It’s found in so many foodstuffs that it has made it quite a challenge finding snacks suitable for vegans and I’ve had to give up lots of my previous favourites.

On the positive side though, this has given me the perfect excuse to munch and crunch my way through the month in my quest to find new healthy(ish) nibbles that are 100% vegan, diary free and delicious.

Here are my favourite finds in March:

Doisy and Dam Dark Chocolate*

Although I was gutted to learn that my previous favourite Doisy and Dam flavour Date and Himalyan Pink Salt isn’t suitable for vegans, I was relieved to find that many of their darker chocolate varieties are. My new love is Maple, Toasted Rice and Pink Salt; there’s just something about salt and chocolate that I adore and it’s got a really nice crispy element to it too.

Snacks Suitable for Vegans | March 2018

You can buy it in normal chocolate bar form but they also do ‘Snaps’ sharing packs which contain shards of the chocolate. I had this at Easter instead of an Easter Egg.

Snacks Suitable for Vegans | March 2018

I was kindly sent a couple of the Snaps packs to try originally and enjoyed them so much that I was soon back on the website ordering more. I have a new found appreciation of their website shopping pages now as there’s an option to select the ‘vegan only’ varieties on each page, so you don’t have to spend an age checking ingredients.

I also love supporting this brand because there’s real heart and purpose behind what they do. Not only do they create unusual but seriously tasty flavours of chocolate, but they’re also a small company with big goals to create a positive environmental impact on the world.

Propercorn Sweet and Salty

Propercorn Sweet and Salty has been one of my go to low cal snack options for a long time and I’d have been gutted if I’d had to give it up, especially after the heartbreaking discovery that my beloved Barbecue Popchips contain powdered milk, or as I like to call it, Satan (not that I’m still bitter about it or anything).

Luckily, it’s another one to add to the list of snacks suitable for vegans – halleluja!

Snacks Suitable for Vegans | March 2018

On a side note, we had a movie day over Easter and I’m still finding bits of popcorn around my living room – at least 50% of any handful escapes before it reaches my mouth. I thought it was just a ‘dark cinema’ thing but clearly not!

Itsu Crispy Seaweed Thins*

These Seaweed things are a bit difficult to describe – wafer thin vegetable crisps that almost feel like paper when you first put them in your mouth, but then they melt away leaving you with the salty taste of the sea. They won’t fill you up as such but are perfect if you’re not really hungry, you’re just looking to satisfy a snack craving. At only 24 kcals per packet they are a guilt free option too.

Snacks Suitable for Vegans | March 2018

I really like the strong Wasabi edition, but you can get them in a Sweet Soy and Sea Salt version, and just Sea Salt on its own too. All are vegan suitable. I absolutely love them, but they are an acquired taste I think. Oliver tried some on my recommendation and was not a fan, he found the saltiness too much.

Snacks Suitable for Vegans | March 2018

Itsu Vegetable Fusion Gyoza

I discovered these in the freezer section at my nearest large Tescos about a month ago and sweet baby cheezus where have they been all my life?! No packet lasts long enough for photographic evidence to exist other than this weird alien style photo that I took for Instagram and then regretted but couldn’t delete because people had already started ‘liking’ it. #InstagramProblems

https://www.instagram.com/p/BgzMALUlaM6/?taken-by=lovedbylaurac

But anyway, if you can find these, try them! They take 2 minutes in the microwave and 8 of them are less than 200 calories. I dip them in lashings of soy sauce and they are so good. SO GOOD.

Snacks Suitable for Vegans | March 2018

So there you have it, the snacks that fuelled my month. Let me know what you think if you try any of them and if you have any recommendations for snacks suitable for vegans please share them below in the comments!

LovedByLaura

*Disclaimer: Items marked with an asterisk are PR samples. I only ever post those that I enjoyed and would (and do!) repurchase.

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Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

I was incredibly excited to hear that The Ivy was opening a new restaurant in Cambridge and nearly fell off my chair when I received an invite to their opening day breakfast celebration – what a privelege! I’ve been to the original restaurant in Covent Garden a few times and it still remains up there as some of the best food I’ve ever eaten, so it’s fair to say that I had high expectations for The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie.

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

The interior is just stunning. The emerald green chairs, brass, marble and sparkling glassware evoke an opulent, art deco feel and there are splashes of colour in every corner from the mustard yellow and cerise cushions to the bold and bright art work on the walls.

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

I wasn’t sure if I’d over dressed for a breakfast meeting in my floral dress and pink blazer, but I felt right at home as soon as I sunk into one of those chairs. This, I thought, is how to do breakfast right!

Since it was a little early for cocktails, I chose a refeshing Beet It Juice made from beetroot, carrot and apple. The rest of my table opted for the Green Juice with healthy spinach and avocado cleverly hidden beneath the delicious flavours of apple and mint.

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

I’d notified ahead of the day that I was vegan and thus dairy free and The Ivy couldn’t have been more friendly and accommodating. Our impeccably dressed waiter directed me to the suitable options on the menu but also reassured me that if I had any questions or special requests just to ask.

I opted for the crushed avocado on gluten free toast and was a bit worried when it came out that the caraway toast might be a disappointment as it looked very dark and dense, but I was proven wrong. It was full of flavour and a perfectly pairing to the zesty, creamy topping.

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

I make avocado on toast at home but The Ivy’s was elevated to something much more finely tuned and accomplished. I’m totally stealing the idea to add pomegranate seeds to the top, they gave it a little fruity pop of sweetness that I adored.

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

It shouldn’t really be any surprise that the food at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie is so good, after all the Head Chef Stuart Conibear was personal chef to Prince Charles for 3 years. The phrase ‘food fit for a king’ has never been more apt.

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

Other options on the seasonal menu include Eggs Benedict (which Kat raved about), hot buttermilk pancakes and there was another vegan option too – coconut yoghurt and berries with crushed pistachios, chia seeds and basil.

I loved the attention to detail on all of the cutlery, condiments and china. It’s all very discreet but there are little ivy leaves everywhere which somehow made the experience feel even more special. Even my cappucino got ‘The Ivy Treatment’. (It was a damn good cappucino too by the way!)

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

Feeling happily stuffed, our group were invited to go have an explore of the rest of The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie. It’s a lovely big space which goes back further than I’d have guessed from the outside, with an impressive onyx bar running along one side. I can see myself partaking of a few cocktails when I’m next there – they even have a signature Cambridge cocktail on the menu.

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

Added to this, there’s a hidden room tucked away downstairs…

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

…The Boat Room.

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

Now this is a little bit special, because it’s designed specifically for the Cambridge restaurant with wall to wall prints celebrating the city’s heritage and history. It’s a room that can be hired out for private dinner parties or special events and it’s certainly got the wow factor to it. Can you imagine holding your birthday or maybe even an engagement party in here and sitting down to a 3 course meal surrounded by seasonal flowers and tea lights? They even produce complimentary menu cards and place cards – how dreamy!

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

Now let’s talk about the prices. My avocado on toast cost £7.25 and a Full English Breakfast is £13.50; mains from the A La Carte menu start from £12.75. It’s certainly not somewhere I could afford to eat every week, but for the exceptional service,  sophistication of the food and the overall experience it fits very nicely into the ‘once in a while as a special treat’ category.

A huge thanks goes to The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie for hosting our group, and a big hello to all the lovely Cambridge bloggers that I met and chatted to whilst there!

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

LovedByLaura

Disclaimer: Our food was complimentary on the day but as always I’ve provided my honest views.

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