7th April 2015

From its exterior, Mamounia Lounge Mayfair appears to be another sub-par shisha café, surrounded by a sea of hazy shisha smoke, clinking glasses and a legion of people outside. The elegant Arabian décor inside is a pleasant contradiction. As I was shown to my candlelit table, I took in a place resembling an upmarket nightclub. The waiter greeted me with a warm smile and made casual small talk before taking my order.

First up was the Caribbean breeze cocktail, a mixture of fresh pineapple, passion fruit and raspberries shaken with Appleton Extra, Flor De Cana and vanilla essence. The smell of alcohol was disastrously overwhelming, possibly because I’m normally teetotal. As I bravely took a sip, the sharp sting attacked my throat. My friend, a social drinker, also found the drink overpowering. The waiter was happy to provide us with a weaker version of Caribbean breeze, although the mixture of Flor De Cana and the squash-like fruit juices made this an unpleasant experience.

Our starter ‘Mamounia Arayes’, grilled pitta bread with halloumi cheese, fresh mint and dried chillies, arrived promptly. At first bite, my arteries screamed due to the unforgiving amount of salt and oil, it was a shame as I enjoyed the freshly made pitta as it momentarily masked the prospect of an impending heart attack. The waiting time between the starter and main course was at least forty minutes. However, it is understandable as adequate time is required for grilled meat to be thoroughly cooked, which I was more than thrilled with – I’m not an advocate of vampirism.

Finally, the mixed grill, including shish, chicken and lamb softie, arrived on what could only be described as a wooden slab. We decided to order a bowl of ‘Mamounia Special Rice’ too, brown rice fried with chermoula, garlic butter, peppers, pine, nuts and parsley. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the blandness of the meats. As a predominantly Moroccan restaurant, my taste buds were eagerly expecting to be transported to an Arabian odyssey with tongue tingling, rich flavours, I could not finish the meal. The rice was light and flavoursome – the perfect accompaniment.

The highlight was dessert, three hearty scoops offerrero rocher, vanilla and chocolate ice cream served with the most divine wafer. The combination of flavours complimented each other effortlessly, while chocolate has a tendency to be incredibly rich because of its cocoa component, in both the ferrero rocher and chocolate ice creams, it was perfect.

Overall, Mamounia Lounge is pleasing to the eyes, but will leave your stomach unhappy and your bank account £73.00 poorer.

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Originally published in Macs Magazine London

9th August 2013

Shake Shack originated in Madison Square, NY starting in a road side hot dog cart. After becoming a success, it reopened during the summers of 2002 and 2004 before gaining a permanent kiosk in 2004. Success spread and Shake Shack launched over 26 kiosks in America. The franchise spread to the Middle East and Turkey before coming to the UK. I was eager to check out this new restaurant which opened in the UK only 5 weeks ago, situated in Covent Garden.

At first glance of Shake Shack gave off a positive, summer vibe, the kind of place you would go for a quick lunch with friends while enjoying the sights of Covent Garden.

I was met by the friendly face of the manager David who quickly got me seated. David informed me that I had arrived at a brilliant time as the queues are usually very lengthy ranging for a 30 minute to an hour wait. My first thought was “this must be some seriously bloody good food.” As a reviewer, I felt it was necessary to sample a wide breadth of the menu in order to be able to review effectively. I trusted David to pick the selection; after all, he does know the menu better than me. When David told me that they weren’t strict with their menu, I realised at this point that Shake Shack take customer service very seriously. This was perfect as I requested my burger well done – I’m not an advocate of sanguinarnian vampirism.

As I waited in anticipation, I was served with Shake Shack’s very own hand-spun vanilla milkshake. I’d like to think of myself as a milkshake connoisseur – I know a good milkshake when I taste one. This didn’t disappoint. The milk used was very fresh which gave the milkshake an overall professionally handmade sapor which I thoroughly enjoyed. With milkshakes, consistency is important. It cannot be too thick that your pucker face is in full throttle and cannot be too watered down that it tastes like water. This was the right consistency, unlike milkshakes from most fast food restaurants, I was able to enjoy my milkshake without fearing it would becoming watery quickly.

David spoilt me with an assortment of dishes. Crinkled fries, cheesy fries, a ShakeMeister sausage hot dog, a ‘Shroom burger and a ShackBurger. Generally, fast food burgers tend to be sloppy when it comes to presentation with beaten looking buns and expiring lettuce – not at Shake Shack. I was presented with a tray with burgers enveloped by paper bags, a hot dog in a cardboard hotdog box, disposal cutlery and a choice of dips, all in true American cafeteria style.

The first bite of the ShackBurger and it dawned on me why so many people seem to love Shake Shack. The tomato and lettuce were tucked neatly and restored my faith in fast food burger exhibition. The Aberdeen Angus beef was cooked precisely as requested, although there is a tendency for well done meat to be dry, this wasn’t evident. The succulence of the beef combined with the Shack sauce, lettuce, tomato and the softness of bun was a mouth watering experience.

I am a self confessed carbohydrate addict and my needs were met. The crinkled cut chips were slightly crispy with a dash of salt, just enough to savour the side dish but not enough to raise blood pressure levels. When it comes to food, I’m a texture enthusiast as I am certain it adds more depth to the gusto of the meal. A healthy dollop of ketchup and I was a happy woman.

Unfortunately, the cheesy fries didn’t tickle my fancy purely because I’m not a fan of cheese, particularly cheddar cheese because of its pungent after taste. However, if you’re a cheese fanatic I would definitely recommend ordering this.

The hot dogs I have previously sampled are usually made with cheap tasting, almost plastic meat so I usually steer clear of them. I can proudly that Shake Shack’s ShackMeister Sausage hot dog has completely changed my outlook. I was treated to a delectable pork hot dog bursting with flavoursome juice, the icing on the cake were the marinated shallots.

Penultimately was the vegetarian option – the ‘Shroom burger. Crispy fried Portobello mushroom with melted cheese, lettuce, tomato and shack sauce. Sadly it was a combination of two foods I hate – mushrooms and cheese which had a distinctive onion taste that was too sharp pour moi.

David gave me a tour and enlightened me to the fact that they had invested in over 200 umbrellas for customers in the queue because of England’s unpredictable weather. I became acquainted with some of the staff and was impressed by the cultural diversity with employees from America to Dubai. A great microcosm of London’s population. I finished off with a Drury Lane Jam concrete (the name scared me too) a “frozen custard ice cream blended at high speed with mix-ins”. This consisted of vanilla custard, local strawberry jam, St John bakery brown sugar biscuit and fresh banana. Although I love bananas, banana ice cream doesn’t tickle my fancy, but this wasn’t too overwhelming, the biscuit was a sweet addition though slightly stale. My only wish is that the vanilla custard was more prominent.

Conclusively, I had a positive Shake Shack experience, the intimacy, friendly staff and of course the food. They even offer dog treats! Don’t be deceived by the small portions, it may not be as gargantuan as American portions but it is very filling. Unquestionably I’m going to go extra hard with cardio this week.

Originally published in Macs Magazine

9th August 2013

Ghana’s annual Party In The Park took place Saturday 3rd August 2013 in Trent Park, Enfield. The gathering is recognised as one of the biggest African events for the Ghanaian community in the UK and attracts over 6,000 visitors in the UK ,surrounding European countries and America. The event is a real celebration of the real beauty of Ghanaian culture. Described as a “fun family day out”, Akwaaba UK ensured there was something for everyone – young and old. This included poetry, cultural dancers, a live band, fashion shows, bouncy castles, ice cream vans, face painting.

Ghanaians are well known for their great hospitality and this was second to none. Luckily, I had purchased a ticket prior to the event so I was able to beat the lengthy queue and given a stamp which read ‘Akwaaba’ meaning ‘welcome’ in Twi, an Akan language spoken by 58% of Ghana’s population. This welcoming aura had manifested which was evident by the different nationalities and smiling faces that could be seen throughout the park. As I entered, I was greeted by the sound of traditional Ghanaian drumming before witnessing the female dancers as they moved effortlessly to the beat. As a woman of Ga heritage, their swift movements and gyrations were evocative of the Kpanlogo, a dance created by the Ga of the Greater Accra region used to entice and distinguish the young generation from the elders. As an audience member, I was completely enthralled while the smooth saxophone undertone added a classic bearing to the performance.

Food was in abundance. Being of predominantly Ghanaian heritage I have grown up with full awareness of the many dishes that Ghana has to offer as each region is known for certain delicacies. The Gas and their love of kenkey with kpakpo shitto alongside tilapia, Akans and their fufu and okro soup and Krobos of the Eastern Region with their love of joma (green plantain).Guests were treated to jollof rice with a choice of accompaniments, banku with fresh grinded pepper, charcoal grilled kebabs and chicken and fried yam to name a few. Additionally, my favourite Ghanaian pastry bofrot (also known as togbei) was on sale as well as plantain chips and Ghanaian cakes. The cuisine wasn’t limited to Ghanaian exclusively but reached out to the wider Black community with Nigerian suya kebab and Carribbean jerk chicken and ackee and salt fish among other entrée.

The occasion served as a platform for networking and advertisement as business representatives came to sell not only food, but hair product, clothing, cupcake, drinks such as Ultimalt and subscriptions for Ghanaian television. The express fufu struck me particularly as the thought of consuming fufu that has been made in 2 minutes and mixed with a cake mixer is highly unappealing. The current Miss Ghana UK 2013 attended alongside the runners up while the 2014 finalists promoted the final ceremony. All the ladies were dressed to impress.

In terms of musical genres, party goers were spoilt for choice. Ghanaians love to dance. Funky House, Hip-Hop, High-life, Afrobeats, Garage were on rotation with a segment from BBC Radio 1’s Tim Westwood which really gave the crowd a rush of excitement as they sang along to Drake, Lethal Bizzle, Wizkid and R2bees amongst others. Mista Silva, Flava and Kwamz hit the stage, as well known artists in the UK Ghanaian community, spectators screamed at the top of their lungs. The penultimate performance was led by the rather attractive E3 Brothers who were forced to overcome a technical difficulty. Luckily, this worked favourably as I was able to appreciate their harmonious musical skills which the audience (particularly the visibly excited ladies) lapped up. Fuse finished the event with his song ‘Antenna’.

Ghana Party In The Park 2013 exceeded all my expectations, a perfect blend of the UK’s Ghanaian society with the key fundamentals of Ghana’s tradition. The gorgeous weather was reminiscent of

Ghana’s own sunny climate which amplified vibes of positivity. I will definitely be present at Ghana Party In The Park 2014 and I hope you are too.

Originally published in MACs Magazine

5th August 2013

Justin ‘Trousersnake’ Timberlake is back with a bang with his hugely anticipated third studio album ‘The 20/20 experience’. Arguably a stark contrast from the eclectic, hip hop beats of his last studio album ‘FutureSex/LoveSounds’ it appears that the former Disney star absence from the music industry has allowed him to mature both in his wardrobe choices as well as the rich nature of his voice. I can definitely see direct correlation to Canadian crooner Robin Thicke’s sultry sound so if you’re a Robin Thicke fan, you will love this album.

Fans will be familiar with Timbaland’s production skills within this album as well as JT’s previous albums with the use of layered sound and his occasional random feature. Personally, I believe that the sound production adds to the auditory enjoyment of this album, not only is JT giving you brilliant vocals, but they are accompanied by great beats.

There is something on this album for everyone, ‘Spaceship Coupe’ would help to set a intimate atmosphere with your other half whilst ‘Let The Groove Get In’ will definitely get those hips going. I’m impressed with how he’s managed to cater for a wide range of listeners because of his broad ranging sound. The romantic tracks seem to have been influenced by Timberlake’s own personal life with his nuptials to actress Jessica Biel last year. I love how Justin has incorporated aspects of Motown music, classic instrumentals and African sounds as he sampled a track from Burkina Faso. He’s managed to create such rich harmonious depth and broken away from the generic bubblegum pop of contemporary music to create a refreshing sound. Not only has he created refreshing music; the Memphis native has really showcased the breadth of his musical abilities.

All in all, Justin Timberlake just seems to get better (and more attractive) with age. His fusion of genres from R’n’B to rock alongside orchestral and jazz elements is a perfect blend that is guaranteed to become a classic. If ‘Suit & Tie’ or ‘Mirrors’ didn’t tickle your fancy, I definitely recommend giving the rest of the album a chance. You will not be disappointed. Without sounding euphemistic I can’t think of a better way to spend 1hour, 10minutes and 2 seconds.

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