Monday, July 28, 2014

The Bluebeards Revenge Eau De Toilette

Until I started this little corner of the Interweb, I had never knowingly smelt, seen or bought any products by The Bluebeards Revenge. I'm pretty certain my vice like memory that never lets go, would remember the very cool styling of the packaging had it ever crossed my vision.

The first time I clocked (that's Mancunian for saw) the brand was over on The Ged Lab blog, where I can recall leaving a comment that I needed to get my hands on some of their stuff to try.

Roll forward a couple of months and the beautiful, nay gorgeous PR people at the company asked if I would like to try their aftershave and moisturiser. I didn't have chance to respond myself, BeautyqueenUK had already said yes (made me think I might be starting to smell a bit).

Enter via my local Royal Mail sorting office a 100ml bottle of The Bluebeards Revenge Eau De Toilette which has a recommended retail price of just £19.99, yes under 20 pounds! 

The last time I bought aftershave for under 20 quid it was vile, gave me a rash and generally was used to keep foxes out of the garden all summer (seriously Diesel Zero Plus trickled around a garden fence will keep 'em away).

The Bluebeards Revenge Eau De Toilette

The Bluebeards Revenge Eau De Toilette

The Bluebeards Revenge Eau De Toilette

The marketing blurb for the aftershave says:

'The Ultimate Fragrance for Real Men! - Refreshing new fragrance aimed at the modern, masculine man

This refreshing new fragrance opens with ozone notes accented by Sicilian bergamot and Ligurian basil. The heart features a rich blend of jasmine, black tea and watermint, while the rich base notes include Madagascar vanilla highlighted by sandalwood and patchouli along with oakmoss and musk.

Inspired by the real life heroes and other larger than life characters who put the "Great" into Great Britain, this eau de toilette features an atomiser spray that is easy and efficient to use.'


I didn't investigate the notes before trying this, so without any preconceptions of what it would smell like I just sprayed and prayed (hey I managed to get a MAC10 machine gun joke into an aftershave post) - and to cut a long story short was impressed, not just by the fragrance, but also by the bottle, the lasting power and the way in which it changed but remained as marketed.

As soon  as it is sprayed from the atomiser you know that it has a cool and refreshing aroma. Yes you can detect citrus but to me it had hints of what I would call soapy and quite rich, almost bitter on the nose. It is far more lighter on application than CK One or Acqua di Gio but seems to warm up within minutes with subtle hints of warm spice before drying down to a masculine woody base.

After an hour I can still smell this on myself and that is quite rare. What you can pick out is black pepper that gives the masculine edge with warmth through the spice down to the base.

It is just simply stunning to experience this fragrance change and even better, to smell it again 10-12 hours later as good as it was when it was applied. This has strength and longevity that gives the highest of the high end brands a run for their money.

On a personal note I like the aftershave a lot. It's hardwearing and excellent value for money. It will turn heads and is very different to anything I have smelt recently, but I will be using this for office wear and maybe the odd night out down the  pub.

If you like Fahrenheit by Dior but want something cheaper and lighter then you should get a bottle without delay.

RECOMMENDED

Finally the last cool thing about this company? On the inside of every box there is an advert for Orchid, the charity that fights male cancer along with advice for men in relation to lets be frank, their balls and checking for lumps.

Gentlemen, you should visit the Orchid site just for information.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kitchin N1

There is such a thing as a free meal, well there is if you respond to Twitter requests from PR companies.

About 6 weeks ago I sent a random tweet saying that I would like to try Kitchin N1, a restaurant in Kings Cross, just around the corner from my offices and one I’d passed a few times but never ventured in.




Taking inspiration and influence from Indian, Chinise, Italian and Thai recipes the restaurant gives off a vibe of eastern promise and aromas that will assault your sense (in a nice way) while you try and resist the temptation to bury your head into the huge selection of dishes on offer.

Not only does Kitchin have so much food my stomach started to rejoice but the island preparation area allows you to watch in amazement as the chefs cook away.







Entering the restaurant, we were shown to a table and handed a drinks menu which had something for everyone, whether you like your wine, champagne, cocktails, beer or soft drinks, every need is catered for.  The joy of doing a restaurant review allows you to have the attention of the manager for some of the time to throw questions at him, nothing was too much for any of the staff and as we got to grips with how everything worked, I couldn't help but notice the number of people who came in, had their meals and left.

When you go to Kitchin N1, you have your table for around 1.5 hours, 2 hours at the most and as it is buffet style, essentially you can eat as much as you like, but be warned, if you waste excess food, you will be charged for it.

Their is a choice of cold or hot starters and your choices include Greek Salads, houmous, opinion rings, Sushi, onion Bhaji, prawn toast, soups and many many more, you simply go up, take a plate and choose whatever you fancy eating.




These are just some of the starters and main dishes that we made our way through.  Each dish tasted freshly cooked, if it was meant to be hot it was and likewise if it should have been cold it was.  There was nothing I disliked or wouldn't have eaten again.

When it came to trying the mains which were on offer, again there is something for everyone, whether you want it cooked in front of you from the Wok station to make your own stir fry or from the grill station where an option of meats will be presented to you and cooked for you to your liking.  Choices of mains again include dishes such as Pizza of the day, curries such as Rogan Josh, Kormas, Thai Green Curry, italian pastas, chow miens, prawn dishes and rice or noddles.

The final test if all of that hadn't been enough to try is the dessert menu!  By this point, both Rachel and I had been feeling pretty full, but felt it rude not to try a few of the options on offer, well as soon as I saw the chocolate fountain and marshmallows I was in heaven.




There is also a bit of theme for Kitchin N1 at the weekend.  On Friday, Saturdays & Sundays there is a selection of fresh seafood, including Prawns and Mussels as well as certain fish dishes. On Saturday evenings they serve crispy Duck, spring onion, sarded cucumber, hoisin sauce & pancakes and on Sundays there is a full roast!

Price wise, well lunch will cost just £7.99 and dinner in the evening £14.99 with a slight variation at the weekend, all of which can be found on the Kitchin website and to make life easier, you can book your table online too, a straightforward easy to follow form and it is all done for you.

For a restaurant which is hidden away from the bustling streets of Kings Cross on Caledonia Road, it is one which is worth going to find.  The food is exceptionally lovely, there is something for everyone and the experience is something I had never experienced before. From salads which are fresh and crunchy, to meat that is cooked to your liking and hot, curries which are as tasty as they are from your local Indian and desserts which melt in your mouth, it is not somewhere that will break the bank to enjoy good quality cooked food.  

If you are out and about in Kings Cross and are looking for something a little bit different, I urge you to give Kitchin N1 a chance, it is worth every mouthful.

It is so good I’m going again soon.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Invictus by Paco Rabanne

It was back in March when I first exposed my nose to a tester of Invictus by Paco Rabanne and I was pleasantly surprised by the fresh new smell and had to get my hands on  a bottle as soon as possible.

The aftershave made it onto my aftershave wish list and the rest as they say is history. 

A bottle was purchased for £50 for a 100ml bottle and boom, my years of wandering in the Paco Rabanne wilderness were over. I had been a big fan of XS in my youth but had gone off it over time. As I said in my previous review, my tastes changed dramatically and the fashion house just didn’t come up with anything new to really grab my attention.

Oh how that has changed.

The marketing blurb for Invictus really does take creative writing to the extreme:

‘Created for contemporary heroes, Paco Rabanne Invictus is the ultimate scent of victory.

The eau de toilette is an ode to the unconquered and invincible triumph of athletes, a signature scent for sons of Olympus who exalt in the sensation of winning.


The quintessential essence for men who are modern champions, no matter their sport.’


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some numpty who rushes out to buy a fragrance just because I like the look of the bottle, but it was the bottle that made me investigate more. It is so unique, and looks cool. It reminds me of the European Cup (yes, the European Cup that Liverpool Football Club have won five times if reading Manchester United fans) and I‘d be lying if I said I hadn‘t lifted the bottle above my head to recreate Istanbul in 2005 (thankfully I wasn’t wearing a full Liverpool kit at the time - no excuse for a grown man to wear a full football kit).


Invictus by Paco Rabanne

Invictus by Paco Rabanne

Invictus by Paco Rabanne

Invictus by Paco Rabanne


The notes to Invictus give a good idea of what to expect and while reviewers would have you believe this is a ‘woody’ fragrance I’m inclined to disagree with this broad brush description. It’s far too easy to label an aftershave and put people off when actually they would be surprised. 
  • Head: Grapefruit Peel, Marine Accord;
  • Heart: Bay Leaves;
  • Dry down: Guaiac Wood, Patchouli, Amber Gris Accord.
First of all, the bottle is really easy to grip, with the atomiser located within the top. Three sprays and hey presto, you have enough of the fragrance dispensed to leave you smelling wonderful for over ten hours, in fact on a good day you can still smell it the morning after applying which represents one hell of a long lasting product, which if you consider the price actually makes this fall into the good value for money category.

But what does it smell like? Well, as soon as it leaves the bottle you are hit with a beautiful blend of grapefruit - rather than wafts of citrus though it immediately blends with the marine accord to give depth to the fragrance. It isn’t sickly sweet, instead it rests on the skin without irritation and stays fresh for a good hour or so until the heart and dry down notes come to the fore.

It’s a young fragrance at first but starts to change, becoming warm and sensual. The bay leaves give this an edge that make it that touch more masculine than you would expect.

After two hours, unlike other aftershaves I can still smell it on me and my clothes and I admit it, I do find myself staring into space when I catch a whiff of myself during the day - it is lovely. 

The patchouli and amber I had expected would make this really heavy on dry down but that isn’t the case, the fine blend is out of this world and doesn’t make it so warm you lose that young vibe it gives off on first application. This is where I disagree with the categorisation of the fragrance.

While this is a deep and seductive fragrance it can’t be placed strictly into the ‘woody’ category in my opinion. It is far too light on application, has a lovely citrus zing to it and when it dries down isn’t overly warm. Yes you can pick out the patchouli that gives a masculine and manly base but the head and heart notes don’t fade away completely giving this an edge that truly does make it the aftershave of winner, nay, the aftershaves of kings. 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

OK, well here is the picture of me pretending to win the European Cup....



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Monday, July 14, 2014

The Monday Montage

It’s Monday, and while I’ve had an epic writing session over the weekend I wanted to look back over the posts that have graced these pages over the last week before going into full blown aftershave and moisturiser mode.

As I’ve said before, and as you can see from the posts I’ve made over May and June I neglected the blog while off work really living up to the nickname of ’Sicknote’.

In something of a rare week, posts this week were a mix of things I really like and some products that I’ve been trying that to be blunt left me frustrated, angry and annoyed.  Seriously, this week some products had me venting my spleen (and then some)!

The Legends London Maximum Hold Hair Gel + Giveaway

The Legends wasn’t one that had me annoyed (frustrated yes that I couldn’t recreate a style isn’t their fault) in fact it has me fascinated in the fact that you can use one gel to achieve so many styles.

Not only is it a great hold gel, oh no, I have a giveaway of the stuff. You can enter my clicking here.


Commes des Garcons 2

Up next was Commes des Garcons 2, a unisex fragrance that costs the Earth and delivers as much as a Post Man on strike. This one really did rub me up the wrong way and I’m surprised I haven’t had a solicitor’s letter yet.

To view Stephen in full blown vent mode click here.


#BGOmeetup

In a stunning display of tardiness I posted up my thoughts on the #bgomeetup in King’s Cross. It was a great night; I met lots of lovely people but most of all I won a prize for the best selfie.

You have to click here to see the Lizard King in action with Verne Troyer.


Shockwaves Style Control Spray

The name of the product couldn’t be more misleading; it lacks the ability to control the shortest of styles. While it is cheap, it didn’t work for me and left my hands sticky and my hair looking a right state.

You can read more about the hairspray here.

Givenchy Pour Homme Blue Label

The last post of the week had me laughing - the bottle always reminds me of melting biros on Bunsen burners in science at school.

Is it aftershave heaven or hell? You have to click here to find out.


Coming up this week.........


  • We have aftershave with Invictus by Paco Rabanne;
  • A little bit of The Bluebeards Revenge moisturiser;
  • Groomed hair and body wash.


Hope you have the time to take a peek at my latest posts. Is there anything you would like to see me review here?




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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Givenchy Pour Homme Blue Label

Givenchy Pour Homme Blue Label came into my collection of aftershaves as a gift. Personally I had never heard of this fragrance but I assumed that it did indeed rival the "fit man smell" of Ralph Lauren Blue and Joop. 

Having owned previous Givenchy offerings and personally finding them all to be of a high quality I had no hesitation in trying this out.

I didn't buy my bottle, but you can expect to pay around £22 for a 50ml bottle and £33 for a 100ml bottle of the EDT. 

In brief this is one of those ‘nice’ fragrances in my opinion, it is nothing special to write home about and certainly not an aftershave I would be shouting a recommendation for from the rooftops.

The packaging to the fragrance looks rather refined, but once the bottle has been retrieved the first thing that strikes you is that it looks extremely tacky made up from clear chunky glass and melted down blue biro's. 






The blurb for Givenchy Pour Homme Blue Label states that:

An aromatic homage to the traditional gentleman, reinterpreted for the modern man of action. This fragrance embodies the energy, style and attitude of today's man. It goes on and on, but basically the fragrance should be cool, mixed with spices with woody undertones to give a warm manly scent.

The notes are:

Head: Grapefruit, hedione and bergamot;

Heart: Cardamom, davana and pepper;


Dry down: Olibanum, vetiver and cedar.


When I think of that description of a fragrance I think Fahrenheit with it's warm woody tones and before trying I actually thought this might simply be a rip off of the Christian Dior fragrance. 

One spray of the atomiser dispenses a large amount of the fragrance, and first impressions are of a light citrus fragrance that is easy on the nose and ultimately unique and refreshing - you really can pick out the grapefruit tang. 

It should be noted however that the refreshing feel is replaced by a severe burning sensation - Christ, this burns more than other fragrances when applied after shaving due to the high alcohol content.

After settling the citrus fragrance vanishes completely with warmer undertones coming to the fore. The cardamon and pepper really make this warm and spicy, and I swore that I could detect hints of tobacco and amber. 

Given an hour to settle and this certainly does become more of a manly, warm and rugged spicy musk smell, although it isn't overpowering in the slightest. It's masculine but exceptionally subtle. The fragrance remains faint but is noticeable on clothing and when stationary for well over eight to nine hours.

The actual results of applying this fragrance were not unpleasant, I do like the smell, however I just don't think it suits me personally. 

Initially this is a light and refreshing fragrance but this fades too soon for my liking and I am not a big fan of deeply woody fragrances, they remind me too much of Old Spice. 

Although my wife liked this when she purchased it, she went off it very quickly and it now is only used for casual wear and for around the office during the day, I certainly wouldn't be spraying this on myself if I was embarking on a romantic evening out, there are better fragrances that guarantees the right type of attention. 

At most, only two sprays of the atomiser are all that is needed to give good coverage making the actual product very good value for money. 

All in all Givenchy Pour Homme Blue Label is not an offensive fragrance that will have people walking past holding their noses and judging by the price and bottle design it isn't trying to capture the crown of the more exclusive male fragrances on the market. 

I'll continue to wear it until the bottle finally runs out but I won’t be rushing to replace it. 

If you are looking for a fragrance that is fairly cheap, long lasting and spicy/woody in nature this is for you. 

If you are looking for something light, refreshing and will make you stand head and shoulders over everyone look elsewhere.

RECOMMENDED………….at a push
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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Shockwaves Style Control Spray




After having my hair cut quite short I went through a rotation of trying different hair products to find the best hold that looked cool. I first picked up the Shockwaves Style Control Spray from Boots after being impressed with their mousse and at £2.79 for a 250ml can the voices in my head said give it a try - nothing ventured, nothing gained.


The spray once dried is meant to give a strong hold for hours for every type of style. I chose the ‘strong’ version thinking it would be easy to apply as my hair tends to spike naturally after years of the same style - how wrong I was.

After washing and drying my hair I held the can five to six inches away from my hair and started to spray fairly liberally. 

Having something of a childhood flashback I expected the spray to have a strong chemical smell that would seem to remove all oxygen from the room. Instead I was greeted with an extremely pleasant clean and fresh fragrance (bonus). It wasn't as harsh as other brands and didn't make me cough or retch.

I had spiked up my damp hair and after spraying noticed that they spikes had gone flat very quickly, and before it had dried. I put this down to fact that I might not have dried my hair enough and set about styling the spikes back in.
My can went straight in the bin after a styling nightmare, hence a stock image

The spray seemed to dry very quickly after this (in less than 30 seconds) and my style was set. In the time it took top put on a shirt and return to the mirror the spikes that I had thought had dried solid had actually become lopsided and weren't being held up at all by the spray (not a good look - think Tin Tin stuck in a wind tunnel).
I applied more spray and tried again to style, by this point I had used what felt like a third of the can. Again, after around five minutes of restyling my hair had gone flat again, my hands were sticky and I had to go back and wash my hair before using a different product. 
The actual feel of my hair when styling with the spray was crisp to say the least and it gives the impression that your hair isn't going to fall out of place. The problem though is that the solid crispy hold was of a style I didn’t want. 

Even though I was trying to get my hair styled into a spiky effect I have in the past used hairspray that did the job very well. The Style Control Spray didn't come close to having the hold of other brands. 

So, the good points:


  • Cheap. Usually retails for £2.79 in most supermarkets and large chemists.
  • Dried quickly. No hanging about waiting for it to dry.
  • Nice smell.


The bad points:


  • Doesn't give a strong hold, although it does give that impression on first application.
  • Lasts for about 10 minutes at a time!


Overall I wasn't impressed with the Style Control Spray. It didn't do the job it was meant to and in comparison with other sprays it is a weak contender in the market. 

In short, it’s a lemon on short styles and there are much better products out there.

NOT RECOMMENDED

Have you picked up a lemon hair styling product? What would you avoid in the future?
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Thursday, July 10, 2014

#Bgomeet up - Beating the boss

As a fairly new blogger I always get a little rush of excitement when a PR or organisation contacts me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t sit there all day (OK boss?) clicking refresh in the hope of an invite but it’s nice to know that one of the visitors to my site likes how I write and my style.

I was invited to the #bgomeetup on 26 June and due to a hectic backlog have only just got around to writing about a fantastic night in the heart of King’s Cross - special thanks go out to James from the Joe Blogs Network.

I was lured in by two things that are special to me, no not the fact that it was a charity event (yes, I can be that cold) but the offer of risk free gambling and lots of Prosecco. How could I resist? If you throw into the mix the offer of pizza (that I don’t have to cook myself - the only thing I can cook) and the aforementioned charity element it had everything.



Don’t get me wrong, I’m no wallflower, but entering a room of beauty bloggers straight after work (I work around the corner) looking like death warmed up, hair growing quite long and if my memory serves me correctly about a weeks worth of facial hair growth I was actually nervous! I looked anything but a beauty. I looked rough (the voice in my head says something far more crude that can’t be written here).

The night started brilliantly with fake money being handed out to play on Blackjack or the Roulette tables in an attempt to ‘Beat the Boss’ - a life-sized cut out of Austin Powers star Verne Troyer.

Just before being let loose (I was sweating and shaking just wanting to get at the Blackjack table) we were told there would be prizes for the person with the most chips at the end of the night and another for the person who could take the best ‘selfie’ with the cut out of Verne and post to Twitter (more of this later).

Needless to say I posted enough Prosecco to kill a large donkey as my chips melted away. Sensing the fact that I was only one of two males in the room I was quickly drawn away from the wine that I was drinking like water to bottles of lager - thanks guys.

I’m not sure whether to be pleased or not but I did win a prize - no, not for the most chips, they were in the bankers pocket faster than a speeding bullet. I even used all of Rachel’s! I was probably first out (fixed deck in my honest opinion- who uses 7 decks for Blackjack apart from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas?) and took the time to build up the courage for this selfie.

Here it is - sorry if you have just eaten!


Oh dear lord, when I look back now I know that the people at work will probably die laughing when they see it - bonus (just kidding people).

On the upside of the Lizard King selfie I did win something I have always wanted - a magic 8 ball that spews forth wisdom (it’s now making all life changing decisions for me).


Thank you Joe Blogs Network - I had a great night, met some wonderful people and most of all (I was kidding earlier) we raised money for the WWF.

Apart from being called Andy a lot* the night flew by and reminded me that I should quite clearly never, ever use real money to play Blackjack in a casino!!

GREAT NIGHT

You can read more about it here.


*I haven't named the guilty party but needless to say they also 'cleaned' the keyboard on the slot machine and played like a millionaire! 
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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Comme des Garcons 2 - Unisex Fragrance

It’s rare that a lemon falls into my aftershave collection and it has been a long time since I made a schoolboy error and bought an aftershave that could stun a wild boar at 20 paces - Gucci Rush and Diesel Zero Plus spring instantly to mind. All this changed recently with the deliver of a Selfridges&Co male grooming box.

The box contained a 9ml bottle of Comme des Garcons 2, a unisex fragrance I confess I’d never heard of until I opened the box of other grooming goodies to see what was inside.

Comme des Garcons 2 - Unisex Fragrance
Comme des Garcons 2 came in the silver packaging

If this was actually a lemon it would have the saving grace of having a nice citrus aroma, the blunt truth is that it’s overpriced, way too feminine and has the staying power of a car on the slope of a mountain with the handbrake (parking brake for my American readers) left off.

It started with such promise, a whiff from the bottle and it doesn’t seem that bad but that doesn’t last, oh no, it dries down, and down and down in the same way my expectations plummeted through the floor.

Comme des Garcons 2 Eau de Parfum is a unisex fragrance marketed as an aftershave/purfume that has a powerful presence (hmmm, yes, for about 45 minutes and not in a good way).

This is the first time I’ve tried a fragrance with ink in it - the ingredients list like they have thrown what was left at the end of a shift into the mix in an effort to get to the pub while the sun still shines. With baldheads, orange, mandarin and magnolia it also combines the ink, patchouli, labdanum, amber, vetiver along with cedar and juniper.

The full notes are:
  • Head: Aldehydes, Orange Mandarin, Tea, Angelica, Mate
  • Heart: Nutmeg, Ink, Magnolia, Coriander, West Indian Bay, Cinnamon
  • Dry down: Patchouli, Cedar, Vetiver, Labdanum, Amber, Incense

Comme des Garcons 2 - Unisex Fragrance


Comme des Garcons 2 - Unisex Fragrance

Considering that a 100ml bottle of this will set you back between £55 to £75 it isn’t cheap so I was expecting class, style and quality like you get from established fashion houses such as Bvlgari, Ralph Lauren and Prada. What I got was an assault on my senses.

I used about 2ml of it the first time I tried it and my hand to god I gagged as I splashed it on. It’s like a combination of old gran smell. In fact I had a flashback to being younger trying to escape the clutches of a ‘huggy’ gran welcoming her not so favourite grandson into her house.

Vile - you can pick up strong hints of the magnolia straight away and the labdanum comes through far too much. After 5 minutes my eyes were streaming and I considered washing it off.

As it started to settle my ability to smell it diminished but the cedar was still evident. However, after 45 minutes of wearing I asked a friend to tell me what she thought of it. Her response - “are you wearing any aftershave” which made me think “what they hell”.

Undeterred by this (and stupidly) I tried to apply even more thinking I hadn’t put enough on. Again the gagging and streaming eyes until it clamed down a little. I asked again, what do you think after an hour to get the same response. Not good, not good at all!

I asked for thoughts about 30 minutes after applying in the hope that I’d get some decent feedback on how it smelt on my skin - the pick and most positive of the comments received was:

“You could spray that to keep flies away from the door.”

In summary, this takes the mantle for worst aftershave ever to enter my sizeable collection. It’s overpriced, smells like my gran used to, dries down to give an Old Spice vibe and lasts as long as a candy bar in Death Valley. 

It’s a massive no from me and it’s going in the bin.

AVOID AT ALL COSTS

What’ has been your worst aftershave/perfume experience? Why not tell me in the comments below. I always try to respond.

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Monday, July 07, 2014

The Legends London Maximum Hold Hair Gel + Giveaway

On 30 June I had an out of body experience - I visited The Legends barber shop in Holborn. If you haven’t seen how they knocked years off me with the best haircut ever (what the hell have you been doing?) you should as they also gave me a bag of goodies to give away. You can read about the out of body experience here

I have to confess I was cheeky and asked for a tub of The Legends London Maximum Hold Hair Gel for myself as I really liked the style my barber Darius had managed used it. 



In the shop Darius used just a tiny bit of the gel, explaining that it was unique in that you could achieve different styles depending on how, and how much you apply. It says that it is a no flaking formula (oh god, there really is nothing worse - especially in a black or dark blue suit) medium matte finish. 

The marketing blurb/instructions say:

‘Spike it up or slick it flat, get that wet look or keep it dry, Maximum hold hair gel gives maximum hold and frizz control without flaking for your every style.’

For my cut my hair had been dried and a little massaged into the shaft of the hair which resulted in a fantastic matte look.

The day after I tried applying to my hair while still damp which the blurb says should result in a wet look and guess what, it did, in fact the hold was solid once the gel had been absorbed and absorbed in my hair. Styling was a breeze with damp hair and while the gel does leave a sticky residue on the hands to wash off it has a reassuring crisp feel to the touch. 

When applied to damp hair I found myself checking throughout the day that it hadn’t flaked onto my suit jacket. I’m happy to report that there were no such signs all day. In fact, on examination the morning after applying there were still no flakes in my hair - result.



I really wanted to recreate the style that I had in the shop so applied to dry hair, styled and then dried it on a low setting so not to blow out the style. Styling wasn’t the easiest - I think more down to my ability rather than the product. After a few tries I managed to get close to the style I wanted and my hair had a great matte finish, in fact it looked and felt a little ‘fluffy’ as though it had more volume than usual rather than when I have sharp spikes.

The dry, matte style also didn’t result in any flakes being visible. It’s a big bug-bear of mine that most products do but this doesn’t.



Again, even when applied to dry hair it holds, and holds and holds. 24 hours after applying the style has remained rock solid and for a hair gel to can’t beat that. Even better, if you want to re-style while out and about you simply run a damp palm through your hair and hey presto you are ready to go again.

So, what can I say? This gel has a 1980’s retro feel to it. It looks great in neon pink and has that retro hair gel fragrance, an almost chemical aloe vera aroma that doesn‘t overpower aftershave.

At £8 for a 220ml tub of The Legends Maximum Hold Hair Gel this represents great value for money. Less than a pea sized amount is enough to style hair at about an inch in length which means that this will last month after month after month.

You can find stockists at their website here.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

I have a 220ml tub of the gel, a smaller travel tub and some alum matchsticks to give away thanks to the lovely people at The Legends. To enter just click here and fill out the rafflecopter entries.




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Sunday, July 06, 2014

Honest Burger - Camden Lock Market

Confession time - I’ve become slightly addicted to finding and trying out burger joints in London. 

After an enforced break from work due to illness and suffering from extreme cabin fever I spent day after day trawling the internet looking for the best, more succulent looking places to try.

I have 10 places in my sights and aim to have them all visited and reviewed by the end of September. 

Burger at the Oasis (sadly no longer with us), a burger joint in Las Vegas sits at the top of my all time favourites while Dirty Burger is the best I’ve tasted in my adopted home city. Can I find anywhere better? The challenge is on!

I had seen Honest Burger in Brixton Village when I attended an ilumi event a few months ago, and had that not been a food tasting evening I’ve have wandered straight in and bought one. The smell wafting from the kitchen was rich and meaty while the place was packed which tends to be a good sign. 

I vowed there and then that an Honest burger needed to be consumed.

The first branch opened in Brixton in 2011 and since then a further five have opened in Camden Town, Soho, King’s Cross, Portobello Road and Oxford Circus. 

After a visit to London Zoo and with a stomach that was growling louder than an Asian Tiger we descended on Camden Lock in search of food. The many amazing stalls aside (that’s for another time - in short, it’s a foodie dream on a Sunday afternoon) had me drooling but I was on a burger mission and after searching high and low (seriously, 15 minutes) we finally found the entrance to Honest Burger. 

To say that it’s a narrow entrance is something of an understatement. If you blink you will miss it, it’s actually opposite Shaka Zulu and Gilgamesh.

Having never been to the chain before I had no idea what to expect but I had seen a few reviews that suggested I was in for a treat. What struck me first of all was how close the tables were together. While the place was empty when we arrived this wasn’t a problem but as it started to fill up on a warm afternoon it became quite stuffy inside and when I’m eating I don’t particularly like to be nearly sitting on the lap of the stranger sat at the table next to me - it’s one of the reasons I try to avoid places like Wagamama.

Browsing the menu doesn’t take long. Like Dirty Burger the choices are quite limited - a picture of the menu is below.


The menu
The staff were really attentive, they gave us time to cast an eye of the menu before taking our drinks order - I opted for traditional lemonade which looked great when it arrived in a jam jar with plenty of ice. It was so cool and refreshing and set me up for the meat treat on its way.



I ordered the tribute burger at £10 while my partner in crime had the cheese burger priced at £8.50. Not cheap by any stretch of the imagination but the burgers do some with fries. Again, the staff knew their stuff and were attentive, they even came back to check how we wanted the burgers cooked.

The waiting time was reasonable, a good ten minutes to sip at our drinks while watching the world go by and there is no better place to people watch than Camden Lock Market on a warm sunny afternoon. 

As the cheese burger was placed down I think I drooled a like bit with envy, especially when my burger rocked up with a film of grease covering the entire top of the brioche bun. I was so hungry even this couldn’t put me off. There were plenty of crispy fries that were perfectly seasoned and full of flavour.


The Cheese burger
After dismantling the burger to take a look I was impressed that the bacon was cooked really well and was crunchy, just how I like it. There was plenty of American cheese and the relish mixed with the mustard pickles combined wonderfully. The patty was cooked medium and again I couldn’t argue with the preparation, it looked fantastic and as I took the first bite there was a taste explosion in my mouth. The beef patty was rich in flavour and juicy without releasing a spray of grease and fat onto my shirt. 

As we entered I was really hungry but after finishing the burger I was actually so full I struggled to finish the fries. 


My Tribute burger
While I think it is slightly overpriced and I was disappointed by the seating layout, how greasy the brioche bun was I couldn’t argue with the fact that it tasted amazing and filled me right up. Chomping away on a burger where you can taste the rich beef while watching the world pass you by was a fun experience. 

I don’t think I’ll be visiting the Camden Lock branch again unless it’s empty however I will be trying the  larger Honest Burger in King’s Cross on a more regular basis, especially as it is just around the corner from my office.

Honest Burger doesn’t beat Dirty Burger or the specials at Bryon Burger but you could do a lot worse, especially in Camden Market with the ‘special’ £4 Chinese meals on offer.

RECOMMENDED

Where is your favourite burger joint? Why not let me know in the comments below?

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.
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Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Legends London + a Giveaway!

Any readers of the blog with a Rain Man like memory (and stamina for wading through my musings) may recall that I once took the plunge and admitted to having a morbid fear of hairdressers and barbers.

It stems from a trip of young Stephen to the barber (known as whip it off Wilf) for what I thought would be a trim, instead Wilf, god rest his soul (no I didn’t kill him, he was old and it was 30 years ago so safe to assume) took his cue from my dad (no, I haven’t forgotten dad) and proceeded to shave my head. Imagine a peanut that has been in the sun for a week and you get the idea of what I looked like.


This fear has meant that trips for haircuts have been few and far between throughout my life. I once found the perfect stylist when working in Southwark, London – Trevor was the first hairdresser who could cut my hair to perfection but sadly he moved on, it was also expensive at the time circa 2005 at £40 for a wash and cut. Trevor’s departure resulted in very infrequent visits to my local barber shop for an acceptable cut at £10.


Out of nowhere I received an e-mail from The Legends, a traditional barbershop based in Holborn, London asking if I would like to try a cut and some of the treatments they offer. Their full contact details are below and directions can be found from their website


After considering the phobia I tentatively accepted and on Monday (30 June) I made the short walk from my office to the shop to see what they could do with the face and hair only a mother could love. Below is the arty shot taken before I stepped in (and after about the third cigarette smoked with shaking hands)!




So what do The Legends say about themselves?

‘The Legends Barber Shop carries you back to a time when taking care of the way you look was part of being a man.


With uncommonly friendly service and a passionate attention to detail, the trained professionals at The Legends Barber Shop are schooled both in the time-honoured traditions of barbering and shaving.


With skills firmly rooted in tradition, all of The Legends barbers will work hard to give you a haircut you can be proud of.


Our friendly and talented staff will hook you up with the latest styles as well as a fresh interpretation of the classics. From the traditional and short hair cuts, through to old-fashioned hot towels and a straightedge shave, to the head massage you enjoy when you are finished.


At The Legends Barber Shop, we bring you the nostalgia of yesteryear with a modern twist.’


The shop itself is traditional in nature, the window display of antique barber ware struck fear into me but it does look cool. There are chairs for waiting customers but what strikes you from the moment you walk in is the feeling of openness and light. It is really bright considering the narrow shop front and as you walk down towards the rear it really opens up to reveal a host of barber chairs, sinks and the coolest cash register ever.






The barbers, all dressed in white look the part (always check out the hair of a hairdresser is my motto) and as soon as I arrived and before they knew who I was they were attentive, noticed I was a bit warm and offered to take my suit jacket.

My barber was to be Darius, a cheerful looking chap - he looks 35 (claims to be older) with a well groomed beard and moustache. He looked the part and after a brief introduction I sat into the chair of doom. 




I had considered letting Darius loose on my hair with a brief of ‘do what you think would suit this face’ but decided I might be a tad upset if he placed a paper bag over my head. Instead I opted for the sides to be shaved with really short top that could be styled into a bed head look.

After washing my hair and trying to keep consciousness (chilled out as my head was massaged by one of Darius‘ glamorous assistants - they set to work). A promise was made, “by the time we’ve finished you’ll look 16 again”. A pretty impressive boast I thought. 


Normally when I get my hair cut they start by shaving the top - instead Darius trimmed away at the top and as I gasped at the sheer amount of grey hair falling into my lap we struck up conversation about blogging, how they had found my blog, the history of the shop and his ethos as a barber. 


As the cutting continued I was surprised given it’s location tucked away between Red Lion Square and Theobalds Road at the number of people popping in to book appointments, having their hair cut or just stopping by on the off chance of a cut. This isn’t a place that needs bigging up in any way I thought to myself. 


The haircut took around 40 minutes and we chatted away, my nerves put completely at ease. We moved on to talking about shaving, blades etc as the clippers came out and the sides were shaved down to the bone. 


It was a completely painless experience and actually incredibly relaxing - I could have happily closed my eyes and slept I was that relaxed and at ease. 




Readers will have to wait for the final look at the bottom as the haircut wasn’t the end of proceedings - oh no. What I will say here is that for the first time in 10 years, and for only the second time I have found a barber who makes my hair looks simply amazing, is easy to style and does actually make me look substantially younger. 

Darius is a barber, not a miracle worker but I’ve been surprised at work with the number of really positive comments on how it makes me look younger (had three of these), that I now look like Andy Coulson the disgraced spin doctor who used to work for David Cameron (seven of these and counting - Jane Bailey*) and two where people had to take a second look to realise it was me.


You can’t beat that!


Anyway, I digress - I’d always wanted to have a traditional shave using a cutthroat razor and this is on offer. After applying lotion that cleared my sinuses in seconds (a lovely mint/menthol) a warm towel was placed over my face for a few minutes. Again I had to resist the urge to sleep I was so relaxed.









After wiping off my face shaving cream was applied. My leg started to tremble - I was nervous as soon as I saw the blade. Darius, sensing this put me at ease with references to the size of his liability insurance and some good humoured banter. The shave was such a unique experience and the final results were one of the closest shaves I’ve ever had.


His hands were steady (bonus), he didn’t cut me (bonus) and when the phone rang and I jumped he didn’t slash my throat (bonus)


As I left I had the biggest smile on my face in a long time. My hair looked great, my face was so smooth and I felt like a new man.


There are pictures littered throughout this post about my experience and they show the magic that is The Legends and in particular Darius who is clearly a hair artiste with skills other barbers can only aspire to.


The shave was £22.50 and I will be having one again, probably as a treat now and again or if I’m going to a special event.


The full price list can be found on The Legends website here but at £18.50 for a wash and cut that is only just a touch more expensive for what I have been spending to be under whelmed by my local barber. You could add £20 onto the price and I would still pay it.


When they claim to give you uncommonly friendly service, passionate attention to detail and give you a haircut you can be proud of they are right on the money. Everything they claim to be is true and that is rare in this day and age. 


In summary:


Darius = Legend

The Legends = Legends

I normally have a kind of scale that I use ranging from ‘avoid at all costs’, ‘not recommended’, ‘recommended’ and ‘highly recommended’. In this case I have had to add a new one ‘forget the rest and go with the best’.


Forget the rest, go with the best




*names have not been changed to protect the very guilty


THE LEGENDS LONDON GIVEAWAY


In addition to making my week, I also have some of The Legends products to giveaway to one lucky blog reader thanks to the generosity of the staff, the Rafflecopter widget is below.


For a chance to win:
  • 220ml tub of The Legends London Maximum Hold Hair Gel (another post on the way)
  • 40ml tube of travel sized The Legends London Maximum Hold Hair Gel
  • A pack of The Legends London Alum Matchsticks (used to mop up blood from nicks when shaving)
 



  • Sadly this giveaway is limited to residents of the United Kingdom (don’t worry; another giveaway for a global readers is not far away).  
  • If you are under 18 years of age, please ensure you have your parents permission to enter because I will need your address to post the prize.
  • All Entries will be checked
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