However my wardrobe is still bulging and my clothesrail has collapsed for the umpteenth time. I fear I may have a bargain addiction. Here is one of my recent splurges, plus a little cocktail review...
First, my totally tropical Dune mules. These were brand new (labels still on) in our local Barnardos. The (shall remain un-named to protect the innocent) branch of Barnardos has recently taken to some very random pricing - you'll find 60s Denby (5 pieces £10) for less than 80s Eternal Beaux (6 pieces £30!!) - I think they are trying to compete with the Oxfam up the road and pricing vintage accordingly, but whoever is doing it has little knowledge and just doubles the price on Floral/Victorian-looking items with no understanding of branding, true age etc'. Equally, off-the-market Gucci looking stuff will often gather dust, woefully overpriced- whilst something genuine with a subtle label is snapped up for pennies.
Anyway, although genuine top-end-high-street, there's nothing subtle about these (£3, with the £80 tag still on) mules which I picked up en-route to watch Reading lose in the playoffs a couple of Saturdays ago:
|Never mind Reading, these are a Norwich FC WAG's dream shoe|
Typically for me, I didn't actually get any photos of the rest of my outfit: capri length fitted jeans and a loose chiffon blouse (over a body, I am tres modest) in yellow, green, mauve and orange abstract patterns, tied at the waist. 50s Atomic BBQ crossed with 70s Mustique chic. Via Oxfam and Primarni, natch.
We went to Balans, part of the cafe-bar chain. The one in Chiswick has a terrace in the front, sheltered from the sound of Smartcars, Fiats and yummy mummies saying 'No Tarquin, don't put that in your mouth darling...' by a large board with rather un-Balans-like chalk offers on it and a much more brand-friendly row of neatly trimmed hedges. I was going to say 'neatly trimmed bushes' but that sounds rude. So yeah, I just said it anyway.
So, we sat out. The waiting staff are all young and toothsome (and possibly students at Arts Ed theatre school, waiting to be discovered-if you'll excuse the pun. Which you shouldn't, it's terrible). They're sometimes forgetful but always pop back with a smile rather than letting an error get too far. On weekdays in the early evening, there's a happy hour for a limited number of their cocktails. These are all the same price and come as 2-for-1. The only problem is they have to be the same two: fine if you have an even number of people with similar taste. Luckily that's how LL and I roll:
|Sicilian Kiss: deliciously lemony (the pink is passionfruit)|
Oh No! Blogger has deleted the end of this post including the cocktail reviews. Grrr. Please hang on whilst I attempt to recover it all/re-write it...excuse rushed copy below...
The cocktails at Balans are far from goldfish-bowl-and-pitcher student fodder - they're utterly, deliciously fresh and well presented. Frozen ones ooze, temptingly, over the top of their glasses, leading to icecream moments of 'quick, drink it before it melts!'. I particuarly enjoyed the Margaritas, although LL found them to have too much of a tequila punch (I don't think there is such a thing as too much of a tequila punch, personally).
They go with my shoes and contain tequila. Happy!
|Diaquiri - too sweet fot me but oozingly delicious|
for those who like their drinks fruity.
Which brings me to my only other gripe with the bar. Two gripes are, for me, quite a low number. I am a notorious fusspot. Twas this; in most cafes, bars, restaurants-with-bars and indeed hotels, you can usually buy nibbles for pre-dinner drinks. Things like cashew nuts, rice crackers or wasabi peas: essentially, posher versions of crisps or peanuts. Indeed at some - pricier - places, a bowl is offered gratis. To make you thirstier, natch, but still offered. At Balens, it is cooked starters/sides or nothing; the jars of nuts and twiglets most mid-high end bars and cafes have behind the counter, and the pre-starter bites section on the menu are absent. This seems odd when they clearly cater to a happy-hour crowd who will be eating later (whether with them or elsewhere) and might well want some salty snacks to share. We had booked for a Thai at 8pm and wanted a little nibble to for the table. The waiter suggested a 'side' (mmm, yes, I'll have a bowl of mash with my Singapore sling). Very odd.
All in all, a delicious afternoon. Balans have branches all over London, so check out their website for a full drinks (and food) menu.