Blackbird Bar & Restaurant*

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Living in Edinburgh, you get pretty used to grey evenings, but last Friday was grimmer than most, with lashings of rain and near gale winds. So, having a booking at Blackbird Bar & Restaurant was pretty much the best way to spend an evening. Located on Leven Street, right on the way into Bruntsfield, Blackbird has been one of those places I’ve been dying to try, so when I was asked along to try out supper, I just jumped at the chance!

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The interiors of Blackbird are the definition of cosiness. Split into two halves, one containing the bar, the other, tables for diners – it’s a snug little nook to tuck yourself into for the evening. The walls are original stone, whilst candles and chandeliers shimmer in corners. Despite heading in pretty early, there was already a pleasant buzz as families and couples pondered the menu.

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Coming in out the rain, we fancied something light to start off with, while we decided on cocktails, so we opted on a sharing plate of Crispy Plantain Chips (£6.95) which came with guacamole and spiced yoghurt.

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Sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, the chips were deliciously light and crisp, and the guacamole was just a delight! I can be rather fussy about the ‘green stuff’ but Blackbird’s was a delight – creamy and flavourful with chunks of red onion and chilli.

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As we crunched through the sharing platter, our thoughts turned to cocktails – it was Friday night after all! Perhaps unsurprisingly since half the place is a bar, the drinks menu is incredible – pages of choices encompassing old favourites and new creations. We plumped for two off the ‘Long’ page – a Rhubarb and Elderflower Collins (£7) and a Spiced Pear Buck (£7). Both were perfect – icy cold, refreshing and almost juicy in flavour, I could have easy sipped on them all night!

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The first of the mains we ordered was The Blackbird Steak Pie (£12.95). Served with a generous portion of twice cooked chips, this was the perfect choice for such a grim evening.

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The steak pie came in it’s own little cauldron, and was a hearty mix of crisp and flaky puff pastry with a meaty and rich gravy below. Well flavoured, with huge chunks of steak – it was a hot pot of comfort!

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I opted for the Sumac Crusted Chicken Breast (£11.95) which came on a bed of fried new potatoes and grilled lettuce. The chicken was moist, juicy, and absolutely huge – the sumac gave it a zesty freshness which sat well with the lime butter and vegetables. The grilled lettuce was an absolute revelation – salted and drizzled in lime butter, I’ve already copied this at home! The dish was well balanced and incredibly satisfying – just the way to end a busy work week!

Urban Decay XX Vice Reloaded*

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Whenever Urban Decay release a new palette, it’s almost as if you can hear the world’s intake of breath. There have been a couple lately, and I got my hands on the brand new XX Vice Reloaded Palette, and spoiler alert – it’s a good one!

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Packaged in a slick black compact, complete with jewelled logo, XX Vice Reloaded is something special to behold. It’s big, weighty thing, with a push button which releases the spring-loaded lid. I just love it, and it looks incredible. There’s no doubt about it, this palette is all about celebrating the best of Urban Decay!

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Inside there are 20 shades (to celebrate 20 years of the brand), some new, some classic, and some re-releases, as well as a double ended brush, and a huge mirror. At first I was a little daunted by the shades selection – there are some true jewel colours in there – particularly ones like Acid Rain and Asphyxia which are just breathtaking. But there is also a great selection of neutrals in there too! Perfect for using on a more regular basis.

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The beauty of XX Vice Reloaded is in it’s adaptability. Day looks revolve around the colours Suspend, Shallow and Midnight Cowboy. They’re a mix of matte and satin finish shades, which provide a subtle wash of definition without looking too dramatic.

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In the evenings, I’ve been smoking everything out with shades like Oil Slick, Smog, and Twice Baked. As we’ve come to expect from the brand, Urban Decay’s XX Vice Reloaded’s shadows are buttery smooth and apply like a dream. I’ve noticed that the matte shades do seem to have the very best colour payoff, whilst the shimmers and glitters are a touch sheerer, so when I want a really vivid look, I apply using a dampened brush.

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Like most of the brand’s palette, this one comes with a double-ended brush which is surprisingly useful. I just love that Urban Decay include real tools in their kits, rather than the usual sponge applicators which I throw out immediately!

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Since both ends have quite long and fluffy bristles, it’s a good tool for creating subtle blended looks – and what more can I ask for in the mornings?!

Urban Decay XX Vice Reloaded is priced at £43 and is available here (UK) and here (US)

Real Techniques Ultimate Base Set*

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I’m a big believer in getting your base right, and then everything else will follow. It’s true in most things, but especially in makeup. Start off with a streaky or blotchy base, and there’s no way your makeup is going to look right! So, with that in mind, Real Techniques have released a limited edition Ultimate Base Set.

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The set contains the trio of tools necessary for perfecting your base – the much loved miracle complexion sponge, expert face brush and a deluxe concealer brush.

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I’ve never tried a Real Techniques sponge before, and I’m not really too sure why. It feels soft and firm to the touch, and it expands when damp, feeling a little springier than when dry. It applies foundation smoothly, leaving me with a medium coverage, and it doesn’t soak up too much product either!

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To be honest, I was a little apprehensive before using the Expert Face Brush. It’s described as extra firm, and I’m never really a foundation-brush fan. Usually it takes me an age to buff foundations in using the regular ones, but this one has completely changed my mind! Super soft acrylic bristles don’t soak up my foundations, and I only need a pump or two each morning. The brush doesn’t leave any sort of brush marks in my makeup, and leaves me with the perfect level of natural-looking coverage.

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Last up is the Deluxe Concealer Brush – another tool I had no idea I needed! At the moment, I’m pretty lucky in the fact I’m only wearing Diorskin Star concealer under my eyes (review here) I’ve upped my green tea consumption, and I’m sure it’s made a difference to my skin! So, after applying a light base, I paint on the concealer-triangle under my eyes, then use the Deluxe Concealer Brush to buff everything in. It feels so soft, and doesn’t pull or tug on my delicate eye area. Instead, it just erases dark circles, leaving me ready for a dusting of bronzer and a slick of liner and mascara and I’m good to go!

Real Techniques Ultimate Base Set is priced at £20.99 and is available here (UK) and similar here (US)

Co-Lab Active Dry Shampoo*

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If you’re blonde, like me, chances are you have a few dry shampoos tucked away in your hair stash somewhere. I love how handy they are if I’m just popping out for a starbies or the gym, and can’t quite face the hairdryer. Even when my hair is freshly washed, I usually give my roots a bit of a blast just to give me some volume and texture.

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Colab has just released a brand new ‘Active’ dry shampoo that’s just perfect for getting rid of post-cardio ick. As someone with naturally dry, wavy hair, I pretty much write-off my hair after working out. It’s usually big, pouffy and a bit damp. Not exactly what you’re after, but now the gym has installed a whole range of GHD dryers and straighteners, I don’t need to look like quite the sweaty mess I’ve looked like in the past. Instead, I give my roots a good blast from the dryers, mist the dry shampoo into roots, massage in, then run the straighteners over everything. My hair looks soft and fresh, and I’m not left with any sort of residue. It means lunch-time workouts are now actually a possibility!

Colab Active Dry Shampoo is priced at £3.99 and is available here

 

Burberry Summer Glow Warm Glow Natural Bronzer -04*

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When it comes to packaging, I’m not sure that there is a brand that out-glams Burberry’s beauty line. Filled with graphite coloured compacts and etched in subtle checks, pulling out my Summer Glow bronzer is an absolute joy.

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It’s one of those products that causes friends to grab it out your hands to have a closer look, and then hop on the internet and order one for themselves!

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The joy of my Burberry bronzer isn’t just in the packaging though, thankfully it’s a product which I’ve been absolutely loving, and it even made it into my top 3 bronzers post!

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The powder itself is pressed into the iconic checks, and it’s beautifully silky soft. After a light application of foundation, I use a big fluffy brush to apply it to the apples of my cheeks, temples and chin. It gives a really beautifully natural glow, and it never looks too powdery or warm. There are four available colours, 04 is the deepest, but it never strays into the dreaded orange territory! Instead you’re left with a believable bronze which lasts all day!

 

Burberry Warm Glow Summer Glow Bronzer is priced at £31 and is available here

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