Category: Lifestyle

Canela – Portuguese Restaurant in London

We recently visited Canela, a Portuguese restaurant in London’s Covent Garden area, before catching the matinée of The Death of Stalin at the nearby Curzon Soho Cinema.

We were able to book a table online via ‘OpenTable’ the night before and were greeted by the friendly, but not overzealous, staff on arrival.

The decently sized menu caters for all appetites, with dishes ranging from light bar snacks to hearty traditional Portuguese dishes such as Moelas em molho do Chef (chicken gizzards in sauce). As it was lunchtime and we did not want a heavy meal before our visit to the cinema, we opted for a small selection of sharing dishes, followed by a Bifana (pork loin steak sandwich), finishing off our meal with a Pastel de Nata (custard tart).

‘Alheira’ mini burgers with quail eggs

The first sharing dish to arrive was ‘Alheira’ mini burgers with quail eggs – which were so beautifully presented it seemed a shame to eat them. They consisted of a mildly spiced sausage meat topped with a fried quails egg, had a smoky flavour to them – and were delicious. As soon as we cleared our plates we were presented with Pastéis de Bacalhau (salted cod croquettes) – our only disappointment, as they were lukewarm and a bit on the bland side. The last sharing dish to arrive was the Camarão ao Alho (garlic prawns) which consisted of perfectly cooked fresh prawns engulfed in a rich sauce – absolutely marvellous.

A Bifana is a  traditional Portuguese sandwich, consisting of marinated pork loin steak with mustard wrapped in rustic bread. In this case they were served with salad and crisps (the crisps might seem a little strange but it is a common combination in Portugal and works very well).

Bifana (pork loin steak sandwich)

Although they lacked the authentic ‘slightly burnt’ look, the Pastéis de Nata (custard tarts) were very good, the pastry had a nice, crisp consistency and tasted very fresh. Mine was washed down with a delicious Galão (a type of latte, served in a tall glass).

The interior of the restaurant was simply decorated with subtle nods to Portugal; the marble tables for example, and the carefully chosen Portuguese wines that adorn the walls, rather than the gaudy souvenirs or ’reminders’ of the restaurant’s authenticity often found in places heavily frequented by tourists.

Camarão ao Alho (garlic prawns)

The meals were served in white ceramic dishes with a blue rim – the subtlety here lies in the fact that whilst these are traditional Portuguese plates they did not have ‘Portugal’ written on them and nor were they embellished with scenes of the Motherland.

It is also worth noting that the prices are very reasonable, especially given Canela’s location. The aforementioned dishes and a bottle of wine set us back £90 – there are very few places in this part of London where you can find fresh food at so low a cost. The most expensive dish on the menu is Bacalhau à Brás (salted cod with potatoes and eggs), which are priced at only £13.90.

Currently there are some special offers available, including:

‘Afternoon Offer’: free coffee with any cake

Monday to Friday 3.30pm–5.30pm and

‘Lunch promotion’: Portuguese daily dish for only £6.50

Monday to Friday 12pm–3pm.

Check out the menu here

Overall I would say that Canela is worth visiting and makes a refreshing change from the surrounding ‘gimmicky’ or, heaven forbid, chain restaurants so prevalent in this area.

For those of you who might be interested, we thought that ‘The Death of Stalin’ was a decent enough film. Whilst it was by no means a masterpiece of British comedy, it was nevertheless an enjoyable watch, which was surprising considering the subject. Some of the acting was superb.


Product Testing – Free Products in Exchange for Feedback

Unbranded product testing.

Since I started working from home, I have signed up to most of the product testing companies in the UK. It is, after all, always lovely to receive free products in the post! There are many companies that offer products ranging from books to electric shavers to test in return for feedback; if you would normally buy them, it can also be considered money saving!

The amount of work required in return for the products varies enormously; whilst some companies expect you to send in videos of yourself using the product or lengthy conversation reports, others simply require you to fill in a short questionnaire. Over the years, I have weeded out those that demand what I consider to be too much effort for a freebie – two hours work for a toothpaste? No thanks! In no particular order, here is my list of the product testing companies that I believe are worth signing up to.

Alba Science: Specialises in cosmetics and toiletries and trials are frequent. I have received many products including shampoo, facial toner, night cream and lip salve from them in the past year.  They send out an email with a questionnaire in order to apply to trial the product and if you are successful it will arrive in the post a couple of days later. Most of their products arrive unbranded, in plain packaging (see my photo), and are usually premium high street brands. After the product has been trialed, there is a follow-up questionnaire which usually takes about 3 minutes to complete. Join here.

Clicks Research: Trials are mostly cosmetic and food orientated. There is a lengthy profile questionnaire on this site, but it is worth completing (and keeping updated) as they do send out some lovely beauty products, which are also usually unbranded. Once signed up, you will start to receive invites to join trials – these do fill up in a matter of minutes though, so it is best to use an email address that you check regularly. Join here.

Boots Review Panel: If you are lucky enough to be chosen for this panel you are in for a treat! They regularly send out products – ranging from £7 Lip Crayons to £200 perfumes and ask for a short review on their website in return. They send out emails before posting products and you can decline them if you wish. Sign up here.

Supper Savvy Me: Offers trials of Procter & Gamble products. I have found it is best to be selective with this company as there is quite a lot of work involved in the trials. Typically they require at least 3 written reports on conversations about the product, a starter, half-time and final survey, posting on their blog, uploading photos on their website, etc. Whilst this is fine for a high value product such as a hairdryer or epilator, I don’t feel it is worth it for, say, a cleaning spray and a few vouchers. Register here.

BzzAgent: This company’s trials are also worth being a bit discerning with and can include anything from chocolate to beauty products. In return for your freebie, you are expected to submit conversation reports, share posts about the product on social media, write a review, send photos, etc.  There are some great products on offer which vary in value. Apply here.

Home testing Club: Focuses on new product launches. Most of their trials are of items usually found in the supermarket. Product trials are posted on their website (although sometimes you will get an email invite). If you are accepted they will post the products out and you will subsequently receive a link to a very short questionnaire. I have tested facial wash, mayonnaise and toothpaste for them. Apply here.

Tesco Home Panels:  According to Tesco, this panel is based on your Clubcard data. They usually send out trial invitations that fill up very quickly, particularly for clothing, and follow up with a short questionnaire a couple of weeks later. Most of my trials have been clothes or shoes. I have heard many differing reports about the frequency of trials. My experience has been that for a year and half I received about 2 products a months and then the trials stopped. Tesco have told me that because there are a large number of people on the panel there are sometimes delays between trials. They also send out some very short surveys which are rewarded with Bonus Bond vouchers. Not currently recruiting, but it is worth checking here from time to time.

Pinecone Research: This is predominantly a survey company, albeit one of the highest paying ones.  Sometimes they will send out a product to trial after you complete one of their surveys and you will get another £3 for filling in the follow up survey. I have received a variety of products including crisps, juice and floor wipes from them. It is an invite only panel.

Senses Club: Is a French company that focus on scents and flavours. They conduct surveys that used to be very lengthy and tedious, but have improved considerably in the last couple of years and are rewarded quite generously with Amazon or Debenhams vouchers. I have had two £50 payments from them this year for about 10 mins work each time, answering questions about my washing machine use. Occasionally they send out products to trial and so far this year I have received fabric conditioner, floor cleaner and shampoos. They are not currently looking for new panellists, but is worth keeping an eye on this page.

Beauty Bible: As you may have guessed by the name, this company specialises in beauty products. If you are fortunate enough to be the right fit and make it to the top of their waiting list you will be emailed a short questionnaire so that they can tailor  your package according to your skin type, hair length etc. They are quite unusual in the sense that they ask for a £30 contribution – but it is totally worth it, as you will usually receive over £100’s worth of goodies. Apply here to join their waiting list.

Do you do any product testing? Would love to hear your comments on this!








Arancina Restaurant – Notting Hill Gate

The warm and inviting seating area

Earlier this week, my partner and I decided to have a meal at Arancina, one of favourite local restaurants. It is one of the places we go when we just fancy a cheap, no frills eat that does not consist of processed food – a rare find in London these days.

Arancina serves this purpose beautifully as they serve up homemade Sicilian Pizza and hearty meals including Lasagna, Aubergine Parmigiana and Chicken Milanese with roast veg. The pizza prices range from £7.95 for a 35cm x 20cm Margherita to £23.50 for a huge 70cm x 28cm Carnivora. The ‘hearty meals’ will set you back a mere £7.50 and they also do some combo deals, such as a pizza slice, Arancina ball and a soft drink for £8.10.

There are two Arancina restaurants in London, we visited the Notting Hill Gate branch – it is quite unusual in that there is no proper table service. Instead, you order and pay downstairs at the deli-style counter and then carry your tray of food to the seating area upstairs. However, if you order a whole Pizza, rather than the slices on display, staff will usually bring it upstairs when it is ready.

We ordered two arancina balls as a starter and a 35cm x 20cm Carnivora – together with drinks the bill was under £30. The food, as always, was delicious. In case you are not familiar with them, the arancina balls are deep fried risotto balls with a filling of either beef ragu with peas or ham and cheese.

arancina balls

The pizza we opted for was the Carnivora (Margherita, Spicy Salami, Ham and Italian Pork Sausage) in ‘Paletta’ size (35×25 cm). It was full of flavour, the base was crispy but not too thin, and the toppings are made from good quality ingredients. (Sorry I completely forgot to take a photo of it!)

The only complaint I had this visit was about the music, for some reason they decided to play an old Beyoncé/Destiny’s Child CD at full volume, which didn’t quite fit in with our ‘relaxing after work’ vibe. To be honest, lyrics such as “I don’t think you ready for this jelly ….cause my body too bootylicious for ya babe” are never going to quite work for me whilst I am stuffing my face with pizza. I asked one of the staff to change it or at least turn it down, she obliged but seemed really taken back that I didn’t share her taste in music. The other clientele consisted of three young, trendy twenty something lads and two Japanese tourists – I am quite sure that they were not enjoying the music either!

Arancina opened in 2006 and is known locally as a success, evidenced by the queues of Italian tourists on a Saturday afternoon, eager to get their fill before hitting Portobello Market. I would wholeheartedly recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for a decent slice of pizza in west London. A menu is available here.

Don’t feel like going out? If you live locally you can order it from Deliveroo here.




Glasses Direct

Glasses Direct


I must admit I was a little dubious about this offer, the idea of two pairs of prescription glasses for £19 seemed far too good to be true, but after checking Glasses Direct’s returns policy and noting that I could return the glasses if I was unhappy with them for any reason, I thought what the heck? I’ll give it a whirl.

Am so glad I did, after carefully choosing my glasses (all the measurements are clearly posted and you can even virtually try them on), a few days later I received 2 rather delightful pairs of glasses complete with a hard case and cleaning cloth, all for £19 including postage!

The first pair, the Sapphie have very thin black lenses and the frame is very lightweight but at the same time, feels very sturdy. The design is perfect for those seeking a minimalist look and would suit most face shapes.

The second pair I chose is the Daisy in Matt Navy – described on the website as a cross between the  ubiquitous Wayfarer and Clubmaster styles, they are not only great value for money, but very trendy too! The navy blue colour is accurately portrayed on the Glasses Direct website and like the Sapphie have a lightweight, yet sturdy frame. I have received many compliments on these.

Glasses Direct have a wide range of frames and offer additional services including sunglasses, digital protection shields and light adaptive coatings on your lenses. After choosing the frames there is a click through menu that allows you to choose the lens type, e.g. bifocal or varifocal etc, and then selecting any additional extras, if required. Finally there is a form to enter your prescription details.

Glasses Direct also offer free home trials. Check them out here.