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Photography: A northern fragility

During a trip to Liverpool I was able to seize a few stolen moments and selfishly indulge my passion; photography.

I could take photographs of landscapes, architecture, food or cars, but it’s pointless, I’m not very good at it and there are many outstandingly talented photographers already doing that. For me it’s people. Not models in thought-through choreographed poses, but people. Normal everyday people.

I’m drawn towards the fragility of human beings. We are such delicate flowers, all of us, no matter how we perceive our external armor, and every now and then you’ll find one of those micro fragilities in someone.

Normal everyday people and their micro fragilities.

Woman in Liverpool

Woman in Liverpool

Woman in Southport

Woman in Southport

Man in Southport

Man in Southport

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DIGITAL review – The best night out we have EVER had! (expect much hyperbole …)

A few of you may know that I’ve been a professional reviewer for some years now. I’ve reviewed some of the finest restaurants in the world, the most incredible venues, five-star hotels, exclusive spas and some of the craziest events around.

It takes an *awful* lot to impress me.

As for Mr B, well – his deliciously northern stoicism means that it takes a fair amount of magic to get him really excited – so if I tell you now that at one point during this review Mr B was so in awe that he asked a perfect stranger if he could hug her – then you’ll start to get an idea of why this review is entitled “the best night out we have EVER had”!

The Hippodrome Casino, Leicester Square

The Hippodrome Casino, Leicester Square

We arrived at The Hippodrome Casino having done our homework – steeped in history, this fabulous building directly opposite Leicester Square tube recently underwent a £50 million refurbishment to turn it into a 24-hour casino complete with a restaurant, six bars (with a 24-hour licence), meeting rooms, private dining, shisha lounge, cigar lounge, circus and burlesque show.

What an entrance!

What an entrance!

Upon arrival we were whisked to the cocktail bar (always a good old place to start if you ask me). Now, being the pain in the ass that I am I always like to peruse the cocktail list then order off-menu … it’s the inbuilt reviewer in me – I like to catch people off guard. Plus, a simple dry martini is a pretty sure-fire way to get an swift idea of what to expect drinks-wise.

The menu we were offered had a small array of cocktails, but taking one look at the back bar I was pretty sure these guys could handle anything.  Of course, I was right. My dry martini was gorgeous – and their choice of gins was super-impressive (I opted for Sipsmiths and olives, in case you care). Mr B hit the floor running with a Sipsmiths G&T (can you guess our gin-crush of the moment?).

Now, what first hits you about the Hippodrome is the gosh-darn-it size of the place. Having been a formidable theatre in its (glorious and hilarious) past, you may wonder how everything works layout-wise. Well, to put it basically, (and whilst failing to do it justice); each floor remains as it once was – it’s just that the rings of theatre seating have been replaced with bars, a restaurant, gaming areas and, as you head into the gods, a poker floor. So, as you sit in the bar you can look down onto the large gaming floor below (one of many!), and across to what was once the stage. This, however, and rather cunningly, still *is* a stage. Now, though, the stage is inverted; hidden behind a very effective sound board – the shows take place facing in the opposite direction to how they would have back in the day … if that makes sense.

A perfect blend of traditional and ultra-modern

A perfect blend of traditional and ultra-modern

The second thing you get to learn about the Hippodrome (especially when you have the huge honour of being shown round by the truly amazing Simon Thomas – Chairman of The Hippodrome Casino) is the versatility of space. The sound boards can be swished out the way, opening the theatre area up to the rest of the space. More than that, each area is both separate and inclusive. This, frankly, is kind of hard to explain … but, putting it simply, you can manipulate the spaces in myriad ways, allowing you to accommodate, say, 1000 people for a film premiere after party, or a handful of birthday celebrants looking for a slap-up meal.

Oh yes, the food. Oh yes. OH YES. After being delightfully distracted by martinis and much meandering with Simon, we finally settled down for some food. Beautifully fresh asparagus, delicate tartlets, huge perfect hunks of steak topped with enormous king prawns … the food at Heliot Steakhouse really is superb.

Of particular striking note is the millionaire’s macaroni cheese. At a jaw-dropping £12, this SIDE ORDER (yes, this isn’t a main dish) of posho mac ‘n’ cheese was nothing short of a revelation. Topped with a glistening, perfectly poached duck egg and slithers of black truffle, this indulgent addition to my meal was really very special indeed. So much so you’ll excuse my Instagram image additions …

Fresh asparagus with duck egg

Fresh asparagus with duck egg

STEAK!

STEAK!

Millionaire's man 'n' cheese!

Millionaire’s man ‘n’ cheese!

After dinner we split teams; I headed up to explore the shisha lounge whilst Darren and the lovely Salvo (our host for the evening) headed off to take some more photos. After a while we regrouped, and suddenly, as if from nowhere, a rather striking redhead appeared at our table. This gorgeous gal was one of the Hippodrome’s resident magicians, and it was our very great pleasure to enjoy some close-up sleight-of-hand card tricks courtesy of this amazingly talented young lady. How good was she? Well, remember at the beginning of this post when I mentioned Mr B’s overwhelming desire to hug a perfect stranger? Well, it was either her magical skills or her frighteningly good looks – but so impressed with one (or either) of her particular assets was Mr B that he couldn’t resist requesting a little touch of physical affection upon her departure. And who could blame him?

The smoking terrace and shisha lounge

The smoking terrace and shisha lounge

All about the atmosphere ...

All about the atmosphere …

After yet another delicious cocktail it was time for pudding (that mac ‘n’ cheese had left no room for dessert so we opted to enjoy something sweet a little later on), and the Boom Bang Circus show. We took our seats inside the cosy but spacious theatre area behind the sound curtains, sipped on the rest of the lovely red wine we’d held back after dinner, and waited for the show to begin.

Once again, when it comes to circuses, it takes a lot to impress me. Having quit school at 13 to gallivant off to deepest darkest Eastern Europe to explore my options as a trapeze artist, juggler, unicyclist and all manner of other crazy pastimes (after three years I concluded that my options in these areas were probably reasonably limited and returned to school), I know my shows. My surname may be Barclay but Billy Smarts blood still runs through my veins, so it’s skill and grace rather than pomp and puff that gets my carnie-senses tingling.

Jonny Woo - Ringmaster extrordinare

Jonny Woo – Ringmaster extrordinare

The Boom Bang Circus was really quite spectacular. Considering the relatively restricted space, and the need to please all manner of visitors, late in the evening, this show was feisty, sexy (but never sleazy), exhilarating and tremendously skilful. Bravo indeed – I’d definitely like to see it again.

Quite honestly, we had a totally amazing time at The Hippodrome Casino, and we will certainly be back. Even if gambling just isn’t your thing, you can find myriad spaces in this cavernous, labyrinth-like building to suit whatever mood takes you. The staff are courteous, friendly, accommodating and helpful. The management are savvy, excitable, fun-oriented and incredibly knowledgable. The atmosphere is … well, you’ve read the review … really you’ll just have to go along and see for yourself.

For show times, events, restaurant information and all other enquiries head over the The Hippodrome Casino website.

Many, many thanks to Simon Thomas, Ian Duncan and their incredible team for making us feel so welcome.

DIGITAL review: Julie Slater and Son Sandstripe Satchel

The other morning I woke to bright sunshine, birdsong, fresh coffee and a parcel*.

*for bright sunshine, birdsong and fresh coffee read a wailing alarm, disorganised, noisy children and instant coffee that went cold because I was too busy to drink it. The parcel bit was true.

Wrapped in brown paper and clearly destined for my little hands (the address label with my name on it gave that away) was a shiny new Julie Slater and Son Sandstripe Satchel.

Swish!

Swish!

The funny thing about what I do is that, in many my little work avenues, I get free stuff. Sometimes it’s a trip or some perfume or some wine (good); sometimes it’s Vajazzle or a beauty product that burns my skin or chocolates that taste like bird poo – or, at least, how I imagine bird poo would taste (bad). However, on this occasion, this was a sample of the very good variety.

Spacious!

Spacious!

I have admired JS&S bags, wallets and suchlike for some time – there’s something sturdy but stylish about the shiny oilcoth bags I’ve coveted online. In the flesh, they’re just as I imagined. The shining oilcloth glistens and quietly whispers of excellent waterproof qualities as you open it. The brown leather and cream strap has a shoulder pad and the stitching is sturdy and secure – unlike my Primark satchel that broke within a couple of days!

Stylish!

Stylish!

These satchels aren’t dainty, that’s for sure. They’re solid and large – more of a big-meeting-out-all-day or stylish school bag than gal-about-town handbag. I’ve used my satchel for blogger meets, work presentations and when I’ve gone to events – there’s plenty of space for all the essentials for a busy working girl such as myself.

I’m definitely a fan of Julie Slater and Son bags, and I would recommend them for anyone looking for a practical but pretty addition to their accessories collection.

Sassy!

Sassy!

Super!

Super!

Strappy!

Strappy!


You can see the full collection of Julie Slater and Son products over on their website.
The Sandstripe Satchel retails at £56

DIGITAL review: The Hoxton Pony, Shoreditch

Hoxton Pony

The Hoxton Pony isn’t sure what it is. Whilst we’re pretty sure we understand what it wants to be (a hip Shoreditch night spot that caters for both the after-work crowd and the late night reveler); when we visited recently, we found ourselves a bit conflicted.

Let’s start with the basics. If you want to take on the hard-to-please Shoreditch crowd, you need a pretty decent USP. Be it mind-blowingly good cocktails, awesome tunes or a consistent theme – whatever you do, you need to do it excellently. The Hoxton Pony is part lounge, part night club, part cocktail bar, part disco, and part restaurant. Whilst we appreciate all the effort, we’re just not sure how well this split personality is working out for them.

When we arrived, we were expected, and taken to our reserved table by the DJ. The DJ that was playing banging tunes. In every respect. Whilst we thoroughly enjoyed the mix, the volume was a bit much for 8pm, even on a Friday. The crowd at this point was more after-work-ers than ready-to-party-ers … and we found it a bit hard to hear each other.

Hoxton Pony

When we do a bar review we tend to take the lead of the bar – whatever they want to showcase, we will gratefully consume (unless it’s Jager bombs – they’re not fit for human consumption in our humble opinion). So, on this occasion we were offered a choice from the bar’s infusion jar selection (£60). After a bit of a ponder we opted for the Bell Vision, and sat back to people watch whist the uber-trendy bar staff got to work.

Hoxton Pony

Hoxton Pony

This cocktail is definitely a sharer – there’s plenty to go around! We appreciated the presentation and the cute tea cups, but I’ve got to say that this cocktail wasn’t for us. It was a bit warm (the internal ice container was full of ice chips, which melted super-quick); and was generally lacking a bit, taste-wise. However, we can imagine that for a group this could be a decent choice for a start-off round of cocktail.

We were provided with some cupcakes to accompany our drinks, but unfortunately these left a lot to be desired. They were dry and pretty grim, so after a perfunctory taste we left them be.

Hoxton Pony

The staff at The Hoxton Pony are hotties – we liked the ‘uniform’ – everyone was wearing black, but they get to express their personal style beyond that remit.

As the cocktail we were first offered wasn’t for us, we decided to put our hands in our pockets and buy a couple of classics to see what this bar is made of beyond the infusion jar cocktails. We ordered a classic dry martini and an aviation.

Mneh.

My martini arrived dirty rather than dry (as I had requested), and it was clear that it had originally been garnished with citrus before the staff came back to check what garnish I actually wanted (I wanted olive, obvs). Citrus *and* olive brine? No, that just doesn’t work.

Aviations are a staple choice for us, and great test of what a bar tender is made of. They’re not complicated, but the balance is hard to get right. At The Hoxton Pony, the tender put in a decent effort, although we’re pretty sure the ingredients weren’t quite what normally goes into this classic cocktail. Drinkable, but not mind-blowing.

Overall, we *did* enjoy the atmosphere, friendly service and attention to detail that’s clearly gone into the decor of The Hoxton Pony. However, we’d like to see a little more training when it comes to cocktails, and freshly baked cupcakes (if they’re going to offer cupcakes at all … personally we don’t know if these fit with the rest of the offering).

We think, with a little more focus, The Hoxton Pony could turn itself into a super-trendy cocktail bar (we’d love to put them in touch with the word-class mixologists at Mixology Group for some masterclasses). Alternatively they could dispense with the mixology and instead focus on getting people dancing – the DJ knew his stuff, and with the dance floor downstairs, this could become quite the hipster nightspot.

Either way, if these guys can perfect a killer martini and a to-die-for aviation, we’d happily return.

Hoxton Pony

The Color Run Brighton in association with Living Social UK

We didn’t let a few clouds get in the way of some seriously colourful fun this Saturday when we joined up with Living Social UK’s awesome team of bloggers and journalist to take part in Brighton’s first Color Run (that’s their spelling, not mine!).

Team DBTH/Living Social!

Team DBTH/Living Social!

The run, fondly described by its myriad fans as “the happiest 5k on the planet” took place from the Marina at one end of Madeira Drive up to the Palace Pier and d back again. At each kilometre checkpoint, runners are covered head-to-toe in bright, cornflour-based powder paints; a different colour for each kilometre. The whole race ends with an impromptu dance-off and mega paint fight – it’s seriously fun!

Mr Heritage makes it over the finish line

Mr Heritage makes it over the finish line

Krystian and Tasha - thrilled with the experience!

Krystian and Tasha – thrilled with the experience!

Well done team Living Social!

Well done team Living Social!

Dan and Nicky - proud as punch!

Dan and Nicky – proud as punch!

We were lucky enough to spend the rest of the day with the Living Social team, enjoying a bite to eat at Oh So Social then heading to the marina for a totally awesome speed boat ride. We were ferried all day in style and comfort thanks to our very own Big Lemon bus, and the day ended with a little dilly dally around the pier with the team.

Ready to get wet?

Ready to get wet?

The day was awesome, and we can’t wait to work with Living Social on their next awesome blogger expedition!

Guest Post: My Posh Pop-Up Picnic

We’ve got the gorgeous Aimee Claire guest blogging for us today. Aimee’s already written beautiful features for our sister sites live.love.space. and Kitchen Bitching, so we’re thrilled to have her back here on Db.

As my friends all know, I am pretty useless at organising anything. In fact, the words “organise”, “out of” and, “paper bag” are regularly bandied about whenever my name is mentioned. While I’m usually happy to sit back and let others do all the list-writing and chasing, there comes a point in any girl’s life when, for once, she wants to take some of the glory; for her event to have been the social highlight of the summer. It was with this thought, and some very Enid Blyton-esque nostalgia in mind that I decided to organise my very own posh pop-up picnic.

Alfresco eating - perfect!

Alfresco eating – perfect!

Now, the picnic part was simple enough. Everybody’s been to a picnic before and experienced the unrivalled joy of eating al fresco on a lazy summer’s day, while sipping juice straight from the cool bag; but how to make it ‘posh’? I jotted down a few foods I assumed one might have at such a ‘do, cucumber sandwiches and fruit, hummus and breadsticks, whiskey and wine, falafel and decided to add a nice sponge cake, strawberries and cream and some posh cutlery.

Posho!

Posho!

I’m afraid, dear reader, that this was the extent of my so-called organisational skills. I asked everyone to bring their favourite ‘posh’ food and encouraged a ‘summery with a hint of class’ dress code; pretty dresses for the girls, linen suits and espadrilles for the boys, and hoped I wouldn’t either be sat on my own or surrounded by mountains of sausage rolls. And do you know what? The day couldn’t have gone better if I’d planned it myself, which, hello, I did! Okay, so not everybody embraced my dress code, and we did end up with a few too many cucumber sandwiches, but I can confidently say that everybody had an absolute ball. We had food, we had lashings of ginger beer; okay, whisky, wine and lager, all served in appropriately grown up champagne flutes and whisky tumblers. We even had a little light entertainment in the form of a friend with a guitar and a game of rounders, both accompanied by a few utterances of “spiffing” and “jolly good show” for good measure.

Strawberries - a British picnic essential!

Strawberries – a British picnic essential!

And so to organising; the ‘where’ was easy, as a friend of mine has a rather handy field, which, most of the time just sits around doing nothing. The date was also fairly straightforward; with a royal baby due imminently and some of the warmest weather on record, the first weekend in July was the ideal time to celebrate being British. I’d even handpicked a vintage theme, conjuring images in my mind of the halcyon days of my childhood. Or, at least, the childhood I would have had if I’d been in the ‘Famous Five’. A few invites, fashioned out of old bunting, naturally, and a mass social media message later and the plan was set.

Strawberries and Cream - even better! (image courtesy of Jennifer Lyons)

Oooh Eaton Mess! (image courtesy of Jennifer Lyons)

I’ll leave you with this thought though; you can have the greatest of intentions when it comes to a posh pop-up picnic, but the minute one of your rag-tag bunch hurls a scone there is only one way the day’s going to go – food fight. I am pretty sure that, to anyone passing by, we must have looked like the rowdiest bunch of big kids that you ever did see; surely George, Anne, Dick and Julian had never descended to such behaviour, although I’m pretty sure Timmy would have done, given half the chance!. All that matters, though, is that we had a superb time, ignoring those work emails and enjoying each other’s company for a few sweet hours. Eton Mess comes out of clothing…right?

Vegas: The Suite Life

After our amazing adventure at The Hippodrome Casino, Leicester Square, I decided to re-watch a Louis Theroux documentary about so-called high-rollers in Vegas. Staying in some of the most lavish suites in the world and being treated to insane freebies, these big-money spenders escape the stresses and strains of real life for a few days, replacing big business with big betting.

So, we can’t all escape to the bright lights and crazy times of Vegas, but we can certainly dream! I thought I’d investigate some of the most impressive hotel suites that Vegas has to offer … if you don’t spend all your time playing roulette or blackjack, of course!

Duplex Apartment at Encore Hotel

Duplex Apartment at Encore - around $8,000 per night (image via wynnlasvegas.com)

Duplex Apartment at Encore – around $8,000 per night (image via wynnlasvegas.com)

Flying high on the 63rd floor, this apartment sits beside the world-famous Sky Casino – reserved for high-rollers with a whopping $300,000 credit minimum. Boasting 5,800 square feet of living space, this apartment has three bedrooms and four bathrooms, a billiards room, private massage room, and even a dedicated private lift to take you between the apartment’s two floors. Perfect for when you’ve totally over-indulged on Champagne and caviar, I imagine …

Duplex Apartment at Encore - around $8,000 per night (image via wynnlasvegas.com)

Duplex Apartment at Encore – around $8,000 per night (image via wynnlasvegas.com)

Hugh Hefner Villa at Palms Hotel

Hugh Hefner Villa at Palms Hotel $40,000 per night

Hugh Hefner Villa at Palms Hotel $40,000 per night

This is the most opulent of the hotel’s “Fantasy Suites”, and it’s been named the Vegas equivalent of the Playboy mansion. With a massive 9,000 square feet of space (enough for around 250 of your nearest and dearest Playboy bunnies), and spread across two storeys, the Hugh Hefner Villa offers a modest selection of amenities including: private lift; media room; gym; dining room; private spa and three bedrooms. Oh, did I mention that one of those rooms features an 8-foot rotating bed?! You can also relax in the outdoor Jacuzzi that juts out from the suite, giving you uninterrupted views of the strip. Not bad … but this level of Playboy status will cost you $40,000 a NIGHT. Eek.

Hugh Hefner Villa at Palms Hotel $40,000 per night

Hugh Hefner Villa at Palms Hotel $40,000 per night

The Octavias Villas at Caesars Palace

The Octavias Suites at Caesars Palace

The Octavias Suites at Caesars Palace

Each of these villas cost the hotel a whopping $15,000,000 to build, and each offers around 10,000 square feet of space to get lost in. The Grecian-style villa boasts four bedrooms, a media room, formal dining room, gym, private balcony and, of course, the obligatory private Jacuzzi. You’ll also have a private 24-hour butler. So that’s $40,000 per night well-spent, then …

The Octavias Suites at Caesars Palace

The Octavias Suites at Caesars Palace

*this is a sponsored post*

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