I hadn’t planned on blogging about my hen do (so I’m sorry about the rubbish pictures!) but when a day is this perfect I feel like it’d be a shame not to – even if it’s just for selfish reasons so I can look back in the future and smile 🙂
I absolutely love surprises and I didn’t know a thing about the day. My Maid of Honour had told me a couple of days before to pack an overnight bag and book a train ticket to London and that was all I knew. It was weird not having a clue what we were doing; usually when I go out with friends it falls to me to plan the day – especially the food parts, and I loved not knowing and trying to guess where we could be going!
The day started with brunch! My absolute favourite meal and literally a perfect start to the day. I’d actually (stupidly) already had brunch before meeting everyone! I’d woken up due to my back hurting and I couldn’t get back to sleep because I was so excited, I wasn’t sure what the plan for the day was or when our first meal would be so I decided to head to my favourite local bakery before getting the train – woops!
Thankfully it didn’t stop me ordering plenty of food at brunch because my friends had chosen an absolutely lovely place! A few of us met at The Thistle Hotel (Barbican) to drop our bags off before getting the tube to Victoria to go for brunch at No. 11 Pimlico Road. We started with coffees and juice – three of my poor friends had been waiting at the brunch place as one girl’s train had been late – but luckily they were chatting (and not moody like I am when I’m waiting for food 😛 ). From 11.30 the breakfast menu is replaced with lunch but there are still some all day breakfast items on their brunch menu. I was tempted by a couple of things on their lunch menu – two of my friends got the halloumi and courgette veggie burger which sounded (and looked) divine, but true to form I ended up with eggs. Shocker. I went for the breakfast sourdough bruschetta (roast tomatoes, spinach, avocado, dry cured bacon and breakfast mayo) but swapped the bacon for smoked salmon and added poached eggs (obviously had to be awkward). A couple of my friends went for the same and one ordered the mac and cheese. Despite only being a side it was a decent size, and it was delicious – possibly the only thing better than mac and cheese is truffle mac and cheese.
After that everyone seemed pretty stuffed but one of my friends had tactically left half of her main to leave space for sweet stuff. I whipped out my second (third?) stomach and we shared the blueberry ricotta pancakes (with maple crème fraiche and syrup). They were bloody incredible. Light, fluffy and delicious – an absolute winner!
It’s amazing how quickly time passes in good company and after a few more coffees it was already early afternoon so we set off to our next activity.. via Sainsburys where we bought mini eggs (okay my lovely friends bought mini eggs.. I ate them!) on our way to.. the Apollo Victoria theatre!! Before the day started I wouldn’t have guessed this in a million years (though I did hear my sister discussing musicals with one of my friends at the end of brunch which did give me a clue!) – we were going to see Wicked!! I’d heard so many incredible things about it – everyone from work colleagues to my mum had recommended it to me and I couldn’t wait to watch it. It absolutely lived up to the hype surrounding it – I often find that when people rave about something it never quite meets expectations but it was a stunning performance. I had no idea of the story line (one of my friends had suggested I was told about this beforehand so I could watch the Wizard of Oz) but it didn’t detract from the performance at all; the acting was incredible, the singing was breathtaking – I got goosebumps! (but miraculously didn’t cry!) – and I loved the story line. It was so thought provoking; I love shows that have an underlying meaning and I think it’s an incredibly clever alternative take on the traditional story, as I feel that people being prematurely judged, misunderstood or simply not given a chance just because they may be a little different is an all too frequent occurrence. As if the show wasn’t amazing enough, I was spoilt with drinks and fed chocolate and popcorn too!
Our next stop was Chalk Farm – a tube station I’d never been to before so of course I had absolutely no idea what was next. I thought we’d be going out for dinner so when my friends said we should grab something quick to eat before the next activity I was even more confused! We wandered past a few places but I wasn’t sure how much time we had and an Italian place (La Porchetta) caught my eye so we ended up in there – you can’t go far wrong with Italian after all. All the cheesy carbs. I’m usually slow to decide what I want to eat but at an Italian place it’s pretty easy for me – I’m only ever stuck between pizza or calzone! It wasn’t an amazing pizza but it was nice – the crusts were lovely and doughy (though not sourdough.. I’m such a pizza snob!), it was layered thickly with cheese and it was falling off the edges of the plate, so no complaints from me!
I was a little disappointed when no one but me wanted dessert.. but my disappointment was very short lived as we walked a few minutes down the road to our final activity of the day. I followed my friends to a random hotel (I can’t even remember the name!) with a forgettable green painted front entrance and dull grey carpets. I was seriously confused. I had no idea where we were or what we were doing. And then the smell hit me. That unmistakably, deliciously sweet smell of chocolate. I couldn’t believe it. CHOCOLATE MAKING. I mean, is there an activity more perfect for me!? I’d been wanting to do it for longer than I could remember and with a big group of friends it couldn’t have been a more perfect end to the day.
We started off trying chocolate samples – good and bad quality chocolate (the difference was ridiculous – the poor quality one was almost inedible!) and a few others including chilli chocolate (which was surprisingly good), followed by a brief demo and then it was time to make our own!
The ganache was made the opposite way to usual – rather than heating the cream and using the warmth to melt the chocolate we did the process backwards to speed it up (we obviously didn’t have hours to wait for it to set in the fridge!). We were given a bowl and the cream and chocolate to mix but it solidified so quickly – we really had to work fast to fully combine the two before it hardened. It was surprisingly hard to get a smooth mix!
That look of determination clearly paid off – they definitely had the neatest looking truffles!!
A few in the group ended up with some very dodgy, lumpy looking ganache.. which we then had to pipe into beautifully appetising lines 😉
By the time we’d piped out all of our mix the first ones we’d piped had already started to set (and the ganache left in the piping bag was melting – perfect for eating straight from the bag!) so we were ready to roll and decorate. We dipped each one in melted chocolate then rolled them in a variety of coatings. There were marshmallows dotted around the table too which we all dipped into the chocolate – I think less half of the melted chocolate actually ended up in the truffles!
Yep.. we made a lot of mess! A delicious mess though! And the best part is we didn’t have to tidy up afterwards 😛
The mix made a surprising number of truffles – judging by how many I came home with (after munching more than a fair few along the way) we must’ve made about 80 between each pair! I can’t take credit for the masterpiece below though – two of my friends kindly decided to make “Marcus” out of chocolate 🙂
Isn’t he beautiful in chocolate form.. 😉
After we’d finished making them we were given beautiful cellophane bags, cones and ribbon to package them up in. I love making things look pretty, even if I was only gifting them to myself! They only last a few days – I did actually want to share some with Marcus (I can practically hear your eyes rolling but it’s true!) and be slightly less of a pig but he was away competing 😦
It was almost 10pm by the time we’d finished and I couldn’t believe how quickly the day had gone. I was staying over in London with a couple of my friends but everyone else understandably headed home – London hotels are not cheap! It felt so strange staying over with my school friends just like when we were younger.. and not much has changed! We chatted for hours and then they both fell asleep while I lay wide awake as always – I have no idea what it is but right from when I was a little child I would always be the one who would either be last to fall asleep or (in this case) just not sleep at all. It was a long night but not being able to sleep did give me more time to spend at the buffet breakfast the next morning after I gave up trying!
Yep.. fluffy pancakes, a whole array of soft buttery pastries and all of the other usual breakfast items – there was even a vat of porridge with all the toppings – heaven!
Perhaps not your typical hen do, but I’m probably quite different to most girls! This was everything I love, nothing embarrassing and essentially just an amazing day out with the people I love the most! I honestly couldn’t have hoped for a more perfect day or a more incredibly lovely group of people to share it with. I felt completely spoilt to pieces and I feel so blessed to have such amazing friends 🙂