Couch to 5k: Week 5

Picture stolen from week 6…soz!

Week 5 had been looming over me for weeks. On the app, they describe it as “where the fun really begins” but, having flicked through each day’s description a few weeks back, I was inclined to disagree. After weeks of merrily jogging about for 3 mins at a time, during week 5 my pal Laura threw a series of 3 different runs upon me.

The first was easy enough, with 3 x 5 minutes of running punctuated by 3 mins of walking. I managed that no problems.

The second, I attempted to do on a sunny Friday. On the news that morning, there had been a warning of record pollution and advice to exercise inside, in air conditioning, especially if you knew you would be affected. Now I have recently developed mild asthma, so in my infinite wisdom, off I headed just before midday to complete run number 2: 8 minutes run, 5 mins walk, 8 minute run.

Needless to say, I failed. I made it about 5 minutes down the road, feeling pretty good, but as soon as I turned away from the river I basically thought I was going to die. I decided to quit while I was ahead (or at least still breathing), and slunk back home to the safety of my flat. It was the first time I’ve failed a run on the plan and it did not feel good!

In a weird way though, this spurred me back on. I’d been getting kind of complacent, I guess – I hadn’t found anything that hard so I figured I’d just meander my way to 5k. Nope! I nursed my wounded pride for a day or two and then (more sensibly, on an evening, when I know I like to run) I headed out to complete it for real. The first 8 minutes were a bit of a struggle, to be honest; I think I panicked myself a bit. But after the 5 min recovery walk, I found the second 8 minutes much easier and felt much more satisfied on my route home (the fact that Matthew lapped me during this time was not so satisfying, however!)

The final run of week five featured a solid 20 minute run and marked the first run that didn’t include a walk. Needless to say, after the ups and downs of the week so far I was basically terrified and put it off for a few more days (at this point I gave up on the “week” aspect of the plan). Finally, the night before Copenhagen I could put it off no longer and so off I went.

Now, first things first I’m proud to say that I managed it no problem at all. However, time seemed to be going by awfully slowly. After running a fair distance and far further than I usually run in an effort to match my route to the running time, I checked the app to see that, apparently, I had been running for a grand total of 3 minutes.

Suspicious, I started taking note of the time on my phone each time Laura popped up to update me on my progress. Long story short, according to the clock on my phone, I ran for 35 minutes straight. What was supposed to be 5 mins walk + 20 mins run + 5 mins cool down took 50 minutes to complete.

Now obviously I am not complaining that I was able to run for that amount of time, and my indignance was definitely mixed with a sense of pride that I’d managed it at all. But there was definitely something fishy going on. I felt almost manipulated by the app (not to mention annoyed that my quick 30 minute run, crammed in between packing for Copenhagen, had taken up SO MUCH TIME!).

Now that I’m more or less in the habit of going out for runs and I’ve started to feel sluggish and gross if I don’t, I’m debating switching off the plan altogether and using a regular running app, but another part of me really wants to “officially” complete the program. I don’t know whether it’s just a weird problem with the timer on my app or what, but I’ve definitely lost a bit of faith in C25K; has anyone else had any similar problems?

Springtime in Notting Hill (& Ottolenghi)

This was supposed to be my Easter post, but honestly it’s taken such a long time to get myself in gear that Easter feels like it was about a million years ago.

In one of my most shameful moments yet, I was basically too hungover to go home, so Matthew and I found ourselves with a sunny Easter Sunday on our hands. After swapping Easter eggs and enjoying pancakes for breakfast, we headed off to pastures unknown, i.e, West London. It’s been over 2 years since I last visited Notting Hill, so that was the destination of choice and it was looking suitably fresh and Spring-like.

I was particularly excited to spy George Orwell’s house…

And of course, Portobello Road was its usual treasure trove of trinkets & tacky tourist shops, which are one of my guiltiest pleasures in life.

http://i95.photobucket.com/albums/l126/bjollyblog/IMG_3281_zpsjqih3nj8.

We had watched Paddington the night before (told ya we were hungover) so I was also VERY excited to come across what I assume is the antiques shop they used in the film.

Just as our stomachs started grumbling, we chanced upon Ottolenghi, which has been loitering on my to-visit list for months now. I couldn’t resist dragging M inside for a look.

How could anyone resist those salads?! As luck would have it, two spots were just coming free at the one, communal style table, so Matthew and I staked our claim and splashed out on main dish + 3 salads each.

I went for salmon, with slaw, broccoli, and some new potatoes that I am still dreaming about 2 weeks later. Seriously, they were so good.

And Matthew went for panko-crusted seared tuna, green beans, sweet potato, and a cauliflower dish.

Quite difficult to photograph (not to mention awkward on a communal table), but you can get the gist of all those colours and all that freshness. I love that Ottolenghi is so different from other lunch spots and I love the concept – just wished we lived closer to one!

After a few days of excess, it was SO nice to get some goodness inside us and it all tasted so delicious. It wasn’t ridiculously pricey, either, and we both felt it was a very virtuous kind of Easter lunch – we even managed to pass up on dessert! (Although next time I’m in the area I will definitely be back to rectify that.)

As you read this I’m off in Copenhagen for a snazzy long weekend, so I’m sure I will have lots more posts to share then and in the meantime – what’s your favourite Notting Hill spot?

Couch to 5k: Weeks 3 & 4

It’s been a while since I gave an update on my C25k adventures, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing it. That said – I have to admit I’ve slipped a little bit and am probably about a week behind where I should be (and suffering because of it!). But in my efforts to keep accountable, I figure it’s high time for a quick update.

To be fair, I continued to find weeks 3 and 4 relatively easy and rewarding. Week 3 involves 90 seconds of running / 90 secs of walking, followed by 3 minutes of running / 3 minutes of walking, then repeat. This sounds way more complex than it was, and I was surprised on my first go how difficult I found 3 minutes. But by the time the second repetition rolled around, and then the following two days, I got into my stride and consistently felt like I could do more. Good news! (Although it was a little bit disheartening when I figured out I was still only actually running for 9 mins total).

Week 4 sounded even more complex, with 3 minutes of running followed by 90 seconds of walking, followed by 5 minutes of running; 2.5 mins walking; 3 mins running; 90 secs walking; and 5 mins running. Mathematicians amongst you may have already figured out that this is quite a big jump in total running minutes (up to 16 mins from 9), and the first time I ran more than I walked. It was easier than I imagined and I found that the amount of sections meant that these runs went by fastest. Mind you, I was definitely ready to stop by the end of the last 5 minutes.

However, this was also the week where my routine & schedule went a little bit downhill. I’m going to blame the bank holiday (and a monster 2 day hangover that nearly killed me) – although it seemed like I’d have loads more time to run, I found that without my usual routine I didn’t really make the time. I did my last run on Easter Monday, though, after a weekend of excess and alcohol, and found that it was actually the easiest of the three. Take from that what you will, kids!

Since then I’ve embarked on week 5, which has been a bit of a rollercoaster so far and definitely deserves its own post, and rewarded myself with some jazzy sports leggings. Look out for that update next week!

If you’ve done C25K I’d love to hear about your experiences – at what point did you find it got really hard? What did you do to keep up motivation/

Percy and Founders, Fitzrovia

It’s all very well having a boyfriend to accompany you to every restaurant that takes your whim, but sometimes you just need a girl date, am I right?

When a work friend of mine offered me his table at the soft launch of Percy and Founders in Fitzrovia, I figured it was high time I took my BFF Kate on a girl-date and so on Wednesday after work we headed over (via a mediocre, but cheap, mojito at Simmons). Soft launches, by the way, are fast becoming my favourite ever thing. Generally, restaurants give you 50% off food if you go in the couple of weeks before they “officially” open, when they’re still testing the waters for the menu & feeling the service out. It is a great way to try out London’s hottest new restaurants while saving some money (or, if you’re like me, you can spend the money you “save” on cocktails and wine instead)

The restaurant itself is one of the most gorgeous I’ve ever visited. Inside it’s huge and feels decadent and special without being pretentious or stuffy. Kate and I were led to our table at the bar, which was great for us but I wasn’t sure I would have wanted to be seated there if I was on an actual date.

The menu is pretty small but ticks all the boxes, with about 6 starters, 6 sides, 6 mains and a few salads in there for good measure. We kicked things off with some bread and some wine, and skipped starters in favour of going straight for the main event.

Kate went for a very gourmet looking fish finger sandwich, and myself for the seabass, which came with charred broccoli and samphire and was one of my favourite fish dishes I’ve ever eaten. The samphire gave a gorgeous fresh lemony zest, and the skin of the fish was perfectly crispy. I didn’t try Kate’s sandwich because I have an aversion to tartare sauce, but it certainly looked great.

On the side, we had charred vegetables with sunflower seeds (a hit) and Jersey royals in butter & mint that came in an adorable Le Creuset-style pot. New potatoes are one of my favourite things ever and although there was slightly too much butter for my liking, they were still delicious.

The dessert menus came on branded clipboards that I loved. There were a few things that caught my eye, but in the end I was too tempted by the idea of a “crepe souffle.” Our waiter didn’t disclose much about what this was (when I asked what a “crepe souffle” was he just looked at me and said “crepe souffle”), but as it turned out it was literally a crepe with a cloud of fluffy souffle in the middle. It was delicious, so unbelievably light – like eating a cloud.

Kate had the “whipped chocolate,” which turned out to be a small mountain of chocolate mousse with huge slabs of honeycomb and brownie in it – as she put it, it was like a grown up kids’ dessert. I sampled and can confirm it was very good (although I probably couldn’t have managed the whole thing).

Having sat at the bar for all that time, and with service so fast we were done eating in about an hour, we couldn’t resist prolonging the evening with a cocktail each. My “La Vie en Rose” tasted exactly like jellybeans and was the most gorgeous colour, while Kate’s was a warming, nutty affair that tasted faintly like Christmas.

To be honest, even without the soft launch the prices at Percy & Founders aren’t bad at all and I think I’ll definitely be back. They do a weekend brunch menu and it seems like exactly the sort of place I could while away a good few hours with some good friends. They have a couple of sharing dishes on the menu that are already popping up all over my Instagram – a chicken Wellington and a sharing beef dish – that I’d love to get my hands on!

Dandelyan and the Oxo Tower

Last week, Matthew’s sister turned 21 and I was lucky enough to be invited to her family celebrations.

Festivities began at Dandelyan, in the Mondrian hotel. Every time we’ve walked past, Dandelyan has looked super busy but when we were there it was just nicely so. Their extensive menu is inspired by the botanical and is split up into several different sections, including  like “cereals”, “grains” and “florals” and M and I took our time getting to grips with it. I kicked things off with a Monroe, which is a blend of vodka, pommeaux (whatever that is), lemon, wheat, and passionfruit, and which arrived looking suitably beautiful.

Round 2 saw a Dandelyan Sour from the “floral” section, which apparently contained dandelion capillaire and garden bitters and which tasted grassy in a good way. Also, I went on a little snoop around on my way to the bathroom and concluded that the Mondrian is a seriously gorgeous hotel. If I ever have the cash to take a little staycation, I would definitely want to stay there.

Soon enough, it was time to head next door to the Oxo Tower for dinner. We were a little early for our reservation so took up seats at the bar, where I had a quite unmemorable cocktail that was a little too sweet for me.

From there, though, things only went up. The service was so slick and so personable, and although our table was in the middle of the room with not-great views, I was more than fascinated by watching the waiters’ station instead.

Foodwise, I stuck with just bread rather than a starter (if you go, I totally recommend the potato & rosemary bread), but Matthew informs me that his smoked salmon scotch egg was out of this world and also on the table was a sharing dish of langoustine and avocado puree that looked pretty damn impressive.

I opted for the monkfish for my main course, which came with clams, a “tomato and potato nest,” and a kind of tomato sauce that they poured over the top. I’ve never had monkfish except in Portugal but this was delicious – perfectly meaty. The tomato and potato nest seemed like an odd concept but was also great, with what I can only describe as little crunchy sticks poking out for texture.

At first glance, we weren’t too enthralled with the dessert menu but M and I begrudgingly agreed to share the most chocolate-y looking of the bunch:. This turned out to be arguably the greatest decision I have ever made because it was DELICIOUS. They don’t have the dessert menu online and I can’t remember exactly what it included/all my pictures are awful, but it was basically four little mini chocolate desserts and each of them were sublime.

On the way out we couldn’t resist popping out onto the balcony to get some pictures of the view, which from only 8 floors up still holds its own against the likes of the Sky Garden.

I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Oxo Tower, but the super-slick service & the food more than convinced me of its merits. I’d certainly go back for a celebration meal!

PS. Apologies for the lack of photos – I don’t like to take my camera out at family celebrations (especially not ones that aren’t even my family) but I couldn’t resist posting anyway!

In Brief: March

Sorry to be a cliche, but…is it really the end of March?! Despite my best efforts to get fit & healthy (or maybe because of them) this month has not involved any less trips out and I’ve got quite the list of places I’ve been frequenting over the past 4 weeks.

Banh Mi Bay, St PaulsI met M here for lunch on a day off and we were impressed. Their Vietnamese bread was absolutely delicious and SO CHEAP. I felt like there could have been a tad more meat in my sandwich, though. We also shared delicious prawn crackers & caramel pork summer rolls which were fab. The highlight of the meal for me, though, was the “coconut juice” which was SO good. Rating: 4/5.

Senor Ceviche, Kingly CourtIt’s hard to go wrong in Kingly Court so K, S and I thought we were probably in for a treat when we booked a table at Senor Ceviche and we were right. We tried the eponymous dish, and “The Spaniard,” which were fresh and light, with just the right amount of zingy citrus, and I thought the accompaniments and garnishes were paired really well – there was some great crunchy corn that I couldn’t get enough of. We also sampled yet more delicious ribs, and crispy pork belly, as well as a couple of slightly less interesting vegetable dishes. Service was friendly and fast, and the small plates/sharing style worked really well for us. Cocktails weren’t bad either! Rating: 5/5.

Antidote, CarnabyGranted, we only popped here for a glass of wine and in fact we didn’t even venture into the restaurant, but sitting outside under the heat lamps in a quiet corner of Carnaby, I felt like I had been transported to France. The wine list was HUGE and I’d definitely like to go back and sample a bottle or two. I don’t feel I can give it a fair rating on the strength of a quick glass of wine but I’d go so far as to recommend it!

Duck & Roll, Hawker House: Street Feast in all its various incarnations is a highlight of the London food scene and so when I heard that my pals at Club Gascon were launching a pop up at Hawker House, I knew I had to go. Hawker House itself is 3 floors of street food fun, but Duck & Roll can be found right at the top, with neon lights aplenty. Their menu is distinctive and unusual, with “popcorn mussels” and duck pastrami featuring, but I went for that week’s special, the Espanola – duck, potato frittata and chorizo sauce in a wrap – and fries with their signature “crazy duck salt.” Rumour has it that this week’s special is a bbq duck bagel which sounds positively divine so I’d definitely recommend a visit (it closes this weekend!) Rating: 4/5 – I wish I’d have been brave enough to try the more experimental stuff!

Scoopsy Daisy, Hawker HouseIn the mood for something sweet, we meandered downstairs and set our sights on Scoopsy Daisy. Once again, more neon lighting and a super cool ice cream machine, this is ice cream with a difference. You can pick up to 2 flavours from a list of 6, and they mix them all up with frozen yoghurt ice cream and swirl it into a cone. It almost looked too pretty to eat but luckily it tasted better (although be warned, it left seeds in my teeth for days). Rating: 5/5, because it did exactly what it said on the tin.

Soul Food at Borough Market: I have a bad habit of always accidentally getting the same thing at Borough Market (falafel wrap from Arabica, if you’re interested) – I think all that choice just gets to me. On my most recent trip I was determined to try something other than falafel, and although a bbq chicken wrap might not be much more interesting, Soul Food just called to me. They had several options, including bbq chicken, prawn, steak, or some sort of crazy combo, and the service was super friendly and fast (much appreciated as I watched Matthew queue for legit 15 mins for a salt beef bagel). Sometimes you can’t beat clean and simple and I’d recommend in a pinch. Rating: 3/5.

As well as the above, I also somehow managed to squeeze in a trip home where I visited the Kino Lounge for brunch and old fave The Pheasant for dinner, standard trips to Byron, TGI Fridays and Nandos, and a 21st birthday celebration split between Dandelyan and the Oxo Tower which more than deserves its own post. Is it any wonder I need to keep up running?!

SE1 and St Katharine Docks

I’ve been a little quiet on the blog front this week, and the reason for that is that half of my camera charger has completely vanished. I’ve finally given in and ordered a new one, but in the meantime I’ve been a bit uninspired without my trust little Canon by my side!

Last week Matthew and I spent a very pleasant Friday afternoon wandering Borough Market (actually, fighting our way through the hordes of crowds) and then on down the river towards Tower Bridge and beyond. Without my camera, I was left to test the capabilities of my iPhone, but actually it was quite fun seeing what it can do.

Round that neck of the woods, Tower Bridge is the obvious choice for photos and it was looking particularly striking in the sun as we meandered by.

The buildings around The Scoop are really stunning. Is it okay if one of my career goals is to work in one of those super slick offices?!

Our walk then took us down to Shad Thames, which cuts a pretty sharp contrast against all that glass. The bridges between buildings were once used for docklands workers to transport goods, but now they make for super cool “balconies” and M and I had fun imagining summertime soirees on them.

Since we were so close, we decided to cross the bridge itself and head to St Katharine Docks, an area I have heard and read a lot about recently and never actually visited.

I’ve picked up a bit of a thing about marinas from my dad, so safe to say I was in my element at the docks. There are tons of restaurants, coffee shops and the like which I have stored up in my head for future visits, but for now we were happy just wandering about.

Our journey home took us back across Tower Bridge and we ducked under the Shard to get the train.

Discovering new corners of London is my favourite thing to do and with spring and summer fast approaching, it’s so nice to think that there are so many more we have yet to visit! Where are your favourite spots?