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Travel Guide – Washington DC

We spent 5 days in Washington DC this summer which felt just right to visit the various iconic monuments and museums dotted around the capital city. Whilst this wasn’t my favourite US city, it is definitely worth a visit and was a lovely ending to our most recent trip.

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EAT

Luke’s Lobster

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I became a little bit obsessed with lobster rolls on our two weeks away and we had a great early evening dinner at Luke’s Lobster where we had crab, prawn and lobster rolls with a few sides.

Shake Shack

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We had an awesome burger here that definitely lived up to the hype.

Oyamel

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We ate at this Mexican restaurant and had an amazing meal. I am used to Mexican street food-style places like Wahaca but this was a much more refined version of my favourite dishes. We had fresh guacamole made at our tables, margaritas and some great fish tacos.

DO

Visit the Newseum

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Probably my favourite museum of our whole trip, the Newseum is just fascinating. I love the ins and outs of the media and seeing how different events are reported around the world and this place had such interesting exhibits. My favourites were the Vietnam War, 9/11 and the Pulitzer Prize winners gallery. I even had a go at some news reporting in the interactive gallery!

Walk through the Sculpture Garden

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We stumbled upon this quite by accident on our way to a museum but it is a lovely little park to have a wander through. The Roy Lichtenstein ‘House 1’ is very cool to view from different angles.

Go and watch The Nationals

We’ve been to see a couple of baseball games in America now and although I’m a little fuzzy on some of the rules, the atmosphere is always great! It also feels like you are doing something non-touristy and on certain nights, there’s a fireworks display after the game and who doesn’t love some fireworks?!

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Take a Bus Tour

We found that Washington DC was very spread out so trying to do everything by foot in the August heat was impractical. We bought tickets for a 2-day hop-on/ hop-off bus tour which took us all over the place.

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Hang out in Georgetown

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My favourite district in DC, this place is so cool and doesn’t feel like a city at all. Im just annoyed we found this on our last day as I would have loved to come back. I did quite a bit of damage in Sephora here!

STAY

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We stayed at the Hyatt Place Hotel and had a bit of a mixed experience. The hotel itself was amazing; probably the best we stayed in during our two weeks away. The room was modern and had a cool lounge area, the staff were ridiculously helpful and there was a really tasty free breakfast option which we took advantage of. If I could pick the hotel up and drop it in a slightly more central location, it would have been perfect. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the nicest area, especially after dark, which just took the shine off our stay.

TIPS

Watch House of Cards before you go!

This brilliant political drama on Netflix gives a great insight into the inner workings of Washington DC and meant we knew quite a few of the famous landmarks before we went.

Restaurant Review – Wahaca, Bristol

It is tricky to write a review about a chain restaurant as quality control means a certain dish in one location is pretty much identical to that in another. However, Ian and I had such a good meal at this new branch of my favourite Mexican restaurant recently, I thought it merited a blog post!

We went to Wahaca, at the top of Park Street, a couple of weeks ago, getting a table with no problem at about 7 on Saturday night. We started with a couple of margaritas; Ian went for a classic and I tried a passion fruit one which I think added a lovely tropical twist.

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We are both big fans of the ‘Street Food‘ part of the menu and, so that we could try as much as possible, ordered a sharing menu, plus some of my favourite taquitos.

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The stand-out favourites for me included a broccoli and avocado side dish, the smoked salmon tostadas and the chipotle chicken quesadilla.

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We even had a little portion of churros y chocolate to finish the meal.

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Usually reserved for visits to London, I am so happy there is a Wahaca close by so I can now satisfy my Mexican cravings in under an hour! x

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Travel Diaries – Washington DC

Washington was our fourth and final stop on our East Coast road trip – you can read Part One and Two of our New York trip and all about Atlantic City and Philadelphia by clicking on the links!

Day Eleven – Thursday 6th August

I couldn’t have left Philadelphia without running up and down the ‘Rocky Steps’ so I dragged myself out of bed early, put on my trainers and ran out to the art museum, up those famous steps, posed for a quick pic with Sly then headed back to our hotel room to pack our bags again.

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We caught a bus to Washington which was fine (it had free wifi!) then taxied it to our hotel – you know it’s going to be an interesting ride when you tell the taxi driver your hotel address and he asks you “Where’s that?”

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We stayed in Hyatt Place and we loved the room. It was a pretty new hotel and had a lovely little lounge area to chill and watch TV and a really modern, cool bathroom. We weren’t that impressed with the area our hotel was in. NoMa is apparently very up and coming but I just don’t think it was quite there yet and although it seemed quite vibrant in the daytime, it didn’t feel the best place to be walking about at night.

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We decided to head out and do some exploring that afternoon so walked down to the Capitol Building (which was stunning but covered in scaffolding!), wandered through the parks, saw the Washington Monument and had a great dinner of prawn, crab and lobster rolls – yum!

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Day Twelve – Friday 7th August

After breakfast at the hotel, where I tried my first ever ‘biscuits and gravy’, we spent the morning at the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the media. Outside, there is the front page of every main US State’s newspaper as well as some from the UK, Spain, Brazil, China, France and so on.

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This was a fascinating museum and there was such a good variety of exhibits including the Berlin Wall, the history of comic strips in newspaper, a huge archive of the most important headlines over the past two hundred years, a September 11th exhibition, the challenges journalists face in different parts of the world, the dogs of the White House (loved this one!), the Washington Nationals and my favourite which was all about the Vietnam War and the influence the media had on changing public support for it. There was also a section where you could record yourself as a news anchor on screen which was really fun! This was probably my favourite museum of the whole trip (OK, maybe joint favourite with Ellis Island in New York and the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia!)

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We refuelled with some chicken wings and pizza before a wander through the Sculpture Garden on our way to the Museum of American History. On paper this place looked cool but it was very much aimed at a younger audience so we only did a couple of exhibitions…obviously the one including food and a visit to Julia Child’s kitchen!

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That evening we caught the metro over to the Nationals Park to watch a baseball game. This was so much fun especially the firework display at the end of the game.

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Day Thirteen – Saturday 8th August

After a few days in Washington DC, we started to realise how huge and spread out it was so in order to cover it all and not add to our blister count, we bought tickets for another hop-on/ hop-off tour bus. Whilst it wasn’t as good as the Philadelphia one as it was a recording and felt a lot less personal, it did take us everywhere and also to places and memorials we probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise such as Arlington Cemetery and the Pentagon which are over the water in Virginia.

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Lunch was my first ever Shake Shack and was as good as I had hoped! That afternoon we visited the Vietnam and Lincoln memorials before heading to Chinatown for happy hour cocktails and an amazing Mexican meal where our waiter made our guacamole at our table…I grilled him for his recipe!

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Day Fourteen – Sunday 9th August

Our last full day in America! It was Liverpool’s first match of the new season and I read about a Liverpool supporters’ bar not too far away from us. We spent the morning there and it was such a good atmosphere and a chance to chat with some locals too. We left a bit tipsy and realised it was still only about midday!

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That afternoon we went to Georgetown, one of the oldest parts of Washington and one I’d heard was a bit less touristy and cool. I loved it here and wish we could have spent longer wandering around the shops and trying out the bakeries and bars. We had a really nice lunch here (ribs!) before hitting Sephora where I got so excited running up the stairs that I tripped and fell! I was so embarrassed and ended up overspending to hide my shame – like in that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie falls over in Dior and ends up buying loads to make up for it!

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We spent our final night packing, eating doughnuts and watching Sons of Anarchy and I also cracked open my new Essie polish to try out!

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Luckily our flights home were a lot less stressful than when we left the UK, although I suffered with horrendous jet lag for the next few days and was a bit zombie-like most afternoons!

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So that is the end of this ‘Travel Diaries’ series. I think you can probably tell we had an absolutely incredible couple of weeks and I feel a bit lost now I don’t have something to spend my spare time planning for…I may have to get our next trip booked soon! x

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Travel Diaries – New York (Part Two)

If you haven’t already, you can read Part One of our New York trip here!

Day Three – Wednesday 29th July

We were up bright and early for another beautiful, sunny day in NYC. We jumped on the Metro and headed for breakfast at Tick Tock Diner. I love American diners, especially their breakfast and brunch menus, and I had some delicious lemon and ricotta pancakes with a raspberry sauce and maple syrup.

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That morning, we decided to head up to the top of the Empire State Building. It’s one of those iconic New York buildings and just has the most breath-taking views, including my favourite building, the Flatiron. Weirdly, this also really helped me get my bearings and see how far apart various areas were – there was also another good audio guide session here!

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After we had taken in the views, we walked the High Line. This wasn’t in existence the last time we visited New York so was something I really wanted to do. An abandoned railway line, it is now an elevated walkway lined with wild flowers, art work and great views over the surrounding neighbourhoods. We wandered along, cooling off with some ice lollies (I had a refreshing cucumber and mint one), adding to the Lego artwork, dipping our feet in the water features and relaxing on the day beds.

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We ended up at the end of the High Line near Gansevoort Market, aka foodie heaven! There was such a lovely selection for lunch but I opted for another lobster roll, a mint iced tea and macarons for pudding.

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After lunch, we had a wander around Greenwich Village, visited Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker (which was a huge let down!) before popping back to the hotel for a cat nap as I had something very cool planned that evening…kayaking!

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I found a place online that offered free kayaking on the Hudson River and was slightly worried it sounded too good to be true. However, it was so much fun and such a pretty sight as the sun set although we did get very wet bottoms so had to go back and change before dinner!

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That night (the last in my twenties!) we went for wings and margaritas at Hooters (I love their chicken wings!) before heading back up the Empire State Building for a second view of the city at night. Although we had to queue for a bit longer, this was just as magical and I just don’t think I could ever get sick of the 360° views up there.

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Day Four – Thursday 30th July (and my 30th Birthday!)

I started my birthday off with another Central Park run and chai tea from Argo then opened my presents from Ian. He knows I can sometimes suffer with post-holiday blues so he bought me tickets to see three of my favourite comedians so we would have something to look forward to over the next few months – an excellent present!

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We went to Stardust Diner for breakfast, near Times Square. This place is so much fun – the waiters sing (mostly show tunes) as they serve and there is just a great atmosphere inside and the food was good too!

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After breakfast, we hopped on the Metro and spent a few hours at the Natural History Museum before a spot of shopping, which included theatre tickets for that night.

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I love Mexican food so we had an early dinner of taquitos and margaritas at a place near our hotel (it even had its own mariachi band!) before going to Broadway to watch the play ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’. I enjoyed the book of this and had wanted to see the play for a little while. I loved it and thought the staging was excellent, although some of the Wiltshire accents were a little off!

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We ended my birthday with beers and mini birthday cakes in bed.

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Day Five – Friday 31st July (and our two-year wedding anniversary!)

For our last full day in New York, we hopped on the Metro again (we definitely got our money’s worth from our weekly passes!) and went for breakfast in Grand Central Station. The building upstairs is stunning but it also has a really nice food court downstairs too.

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We then had a very cultured morning visiting the Guggenheim and the Met. This was my first visit to the Guggenheim and I loved it. Lots of variety inside and I really love the way the curved inside of the building guided you through the exhibitions.

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We then walked up through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This place is huge so we decided to just pick a couple of exhibitions to enjoy and explored the Ancient Egyptian section, the featured ‘China’ one which had lots of Chinese-inspired clothing from the major fashion houses and then saw some Monet paintings (one of my favourite artists).

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It was getting on to lunchtime then so we headed to a New York institution – Katz’s Deli. The queues were out the door but well worth the wait. We got one pastrami and one beef brisket sandwich and they were huge! I think I preferred the brisket but both were exceptional…my Dad was very jealous of this visit!

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We decided to spend our last afternoon chilling in Central Park so grabbed some drinks and snacks, a good book and found a quiet spot on the grass. On the way we bought each other our anniversary presents too. You are meant to give cotton after two years of marriage so we bought each other an ‘I Love New York’ t-shirt to remember where we spent the day.

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We had planned a big, posh anniversary meal that night but were so stuffed from the huge sandwiches at Katz’s that we just decided to do that the following evening and opted for cocktails and a slice of pizza near to our hotel before cheesecake and wine in bed!

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And that was the first stop on our trip. We love New York and cannot wait to return. Next up, Atlantic City…

Recipe – Fish Tacos

Phew – it is hot! I have been loving the sunshine so far this week – we are even thinking of an impromptu camping trip at the weekend if it continues. My weekly food shop reflected this today too with lots of lovely fruit and salad ingredients and treats coming in the way of salted caramel ice cream!

One of my favourite summery recipes is fish tacos. They are light, vibrant and full of flavour and don’t take too long to cook either. I serve my fish with a salsa, salad, sour cream and hot sauce. I would usually have guacamole too but my avocado didn’t ripen in time for this recipe!

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Ingredients

Olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

A handful of fresh coriander

The juice of one lime

Salt and pepper

4 small white fish fillets (you can use any firm white fish for this recipe – I picked up haddock this time)

A handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped

About 1/3 of a red onion, finely chopped

A couple of radishes, chopped

Mini tortilla wraps

Salad leaves

Sour cream

Hot sauce

How to make it

  • Begin by making the marinade for the fish. In a bowl, add a glug of olive oil, garlic, coriander and most of the lime juice (save a squeeze for the salsa!)

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  • Add the fish fillets and allow to marinade for at least an hour
  • Next, I made up my salsa by mixing up the tomatoes, red onion, radishes, some more coriander, salt, pepper, olive oil and a squeeze of lime juice

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  • Heat a griddle pan to a medium heat then lay your fish fillets in the pan
  • Cook for a few minutes on either side

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  • Now layer up your tacos! I like to start with salad, then the fish and finally the salsa and sauces…sooooooo good! x

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Restaurant Review – Lucha Libre, Manchester

We were in Manchester this weekend and I had a real craving for some Mexican food. After a quick look on Google, we decided on Lucha Libre in the centre of town as it looked cool and had tapas-style Mexican street food meaning we could try lots of smaller dishes.

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After a quick drink at BrewDog, one of Ian’s favourite places for a good pint of ale, we walked over to Lucha Libre and sat down with the menus. The restaurant itself is in a huge, converted warehouse and I loved the decoration of bright sugar skulls, garlands of red chillies and lots of Mexican food packaging.

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I made my first fundamental error by allowing Ian to order a cocktail for me…cue this enormous green skull and two flaming limes! Despite taking up a fair proportion of our two-person table, this tequila-based cocktail was actually pretty good, with a refreshing hit of apple and grapefruit juice.

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After a look through the extensive menu (which reminded me a lot of Wahaca with its fresh, street-food style dishes), we settled on a sharing platter with a side of ‘Dirty Fries’.

I was really impressed with the selection we received on our ‘Street Food Tray’; pulled pork tacos with pickled red onion, buttermilk fried chicken tacos with an amazing coriander sauce, rib taquitos, chicken tostadas and a chorizo and potato quesadilla. My favourites were the quesadilla and the fried chicken – if I wasn’t so stuffed, I could have ordered another portion of them both!

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The side dish of fries was a mix of white and sweet potato, topped with beef brisket chili con carne, cheese and sour cream.

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Mexican cuisine is one of my favourites and one I almost always choose to eat at when we have the chance. Previously, I had to wait until I was in London but I heard this week that Bristol is getting a Wahaca so my craving can be easily satisfied now!

We had a great meal at Lucha Libre and if it were closer, I would definitely be back! x

Sunday Catch-up #25

Well, I have had the BEST weekend! I mentioned a few days ago that Ian told me to keep this weekend free as he had booked me an early birthday surprise. I went through every possibility of what it could be from glamping to skydiving to a cookery school to getting a sausage dog puppy but he managed to surpass all of these options…he booked me tickets to see my all-time favourite band The Movielife!

Gig tickets may sound fairly normal but this band were extra special to me as I loved them as a teenager and saw them play once at Reading festival. I then had tickets to see them play in my first year of uni (back in 2003!) but they split up about a month before I was due to see them. I was gutted but resigned myself to the fact that I would never see them play so when I opened the tickets for this reunion tour I actually cried. We ended up having such a fun weekend together in Manchester – I persuaded Ian to push to the front with me to the gig so we had the best view in the room! We have just got home and Ian has nodded off so I through I would squeeze in a quick blogging session.

This week I have been…

Making: our way through the Trafford Centre – such a good place for shopping

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Going: to watch The Movielife!

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Wearing: my new sugar skull nail decals

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Eating: really good Mexican food (restaurant review coming tomorrow!)

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Drinking: rum cocktails

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Reading: this guide book for some trip planning

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Watching: Jurassic World – far-fetched but I loved it!

Buying: boots, cardis and make-up bags in Forever21

Planning: a healthy week ahead to offset this weekend

Cooking: lots of fresh fish this week

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Baking: nothing but I did receive this big box of shortbread from Scotland which should keep me going

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Writing: a blog post almost every day

Favouriting: this blog by Stacie who finally got her transplant

Working on: packing light

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Trying to decide: what colour to paint my nails tonight

Wishing: my best friend a very Happy 30th today

Enjoying: my first ever Five Guys burger – man, it was good!

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Needing: to go up the garden and cut some roses for my bedside table

Feeling: slightly delicate after the aforementioned rum cocktails!

Giggling at: this ridiculous drink Ian ordered for me…and yes that is a huge skull glass with two flaming limes on top!

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Restaurant Review – Wahaca, Islington

I have eaten in a couple of Wahaca restaurants now (and bought the cookbooks!) but I don’t think I have ever done a proper blog review so here is an ode to my favourite Mexican restaurant. It’s not a cuisine that we have very easy access to (the nearest decent Mexican restaurant to us is in Bristol) but one that I love…tacos, nachos, guacamole, pulled pork, margaritas – I love it all!

When I was in London recently with friends, we were going to try out Five Guys but when we saw a Wahaca next door, we quickly changed our minds!

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The brainchild of Thomasina Miers, Wahaca serves Mexican market food with the option of small plates to share or something a bit heartier. The thing that always impresses me is how fresh and vibrant everything tastes and the specials are constantly changing with the seasons.

We started off with cocktails and guacamole – my hibiscus margarita was great!

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Unable to choose just one dish, I went for some sharing options with Ian and my friend Hannah.  My highlights included:

Crisp quesadillas

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The most delicious fish tacos

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Sweet potato and feta taquitos

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Pork pibil tacos

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All utterly delicious and a great selection for vegetarians too…I can’t wait for my next visit! x

Restaurant Review – DF Mexico, Shoreditch

On a recent mini-break to London, Ian and I looked to our hip London friends (yes Cat and Lucie, that’s you!) for some restaurant recommendations. Neither of them have let me down yet and this choice was a good’un too!

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Located near Spitalfields market and part of the Wahaca group, DF Mexico offers fresh ‘New York-style’ Mexican food. I really liked the interior of this place. I believe it is housed in an old brewery and it definitely had that industrial factory feel to it.

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After we had been shown to our booth and perused the menu, it was time to order. This is a kind of self-service restaurant where you go up and enter your food requests onto a screen and collet your drinks. I didn’t mind doing this too much as it was a casual mid-week dinner but it doesn’t really make your dining experience feel as much of a treat as good waitress service can.

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I opted for a raspberry and hibiscus frozen margarita which was sharp, fruity and refreshing. Ian had the original and enjoyed the lime and tequila kick too.

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Despite ordering at pretty much the same time, our food didn’t all arrive together which meant we had to find a member of staff and have a moan…the sassy side of me would say this probably wouldn’t happen with decent waitress service but there you go!

However, once the food was on the table, it was really good. We shared some veggie nachos which came piled high with tortilla chips, guacamole, salsa, refried beans, cheese sour cream and some lovely pink pickled onions. I could have devoured the whole tray myself!

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I have a weakness for fish tacos and these panko-covered cod tacos were incredible. Served with a red slaw and chipotle mayonnaise, the balance of flavours and textures were perfect. I had some red rice on the side which was fine but nothing special.

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My dining companions tried the burrito (huge and stuffed to bursting), burgers (more of the same) with a variety of sides and all agreed this was pretty good Mexican fare and well-priced too.

I have to compare this place to my absolute favourite London Mexican restaurant, Wahaca, and I don’t think DF Mexico is going to take that title yet. Whilst the food was amazing, the menu was pretty standard Mexican fare and I wasn’t a huge fan of the self-service ordering system. Saying that, we quite often pop to Spitalfields market for a wander when in London, and I would definitely head back to DF Mexico for a bite to eat and a few margaritas! x

Recipe – Pork Fajitas

Hello! I have had a fabulous time with my class today. You may or may not know that today is the European Day of Languages, so we have spent the day studying Spanish; where it is spoken, what Spain and Latin America are famous for, singing Spanish songs and trying lots of different types of Spanish and South American food…I think I liked this last part more than the children did!

In order to get myself in the mood for this day of festivities, I decided to cook a meal that became a bit of a Friday night staple during my uni days…fajitas!

I have used pork in this recipe as I like using a tougher meat that has a bit of a bite and offers a different texture to the variety of vegetables included.

I love how flexible this recipe is – if you want to make it veggie, use a different meat or use more or less of a certain vegetable then do so!

Ingredients

A good glug of olive oil

1-2 onions, chopped

1 red pepper chopped

1 courgette, chopped

10-15 mushrooms, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

A few pieces of chorizo (optional, but it adds a lovely smoky flavour)

2 pork steaks, diced into bite-sized pieces

Salt and pepper

2 teaspoons of smoked paprika

2 teaspoons of cumin

A pinch of chilli flakes

A couple of chopped tomatoes

To serve

Flour tortillas

Grated cheese

Sour cream

Guacamole

Salsa

Chilli sauce, if you want some extra spice

How to make it

  • Begin by heating the oil in a large frying pan, on a medium heat
  • Add the onions and fry until softened
  • Add all of the vegetables, garlic, chorizo and the pork then season well
  • Add the paprika, cumin and chilli flakes and cook until the vegetables have softened and the meat is cooked through
  • Just before serving, add the tomatoes and stir through
  • Serve with flour tortillas and any of the above accompaniments…for me the holy trinity is cheese, sour cream and guacamole