Live: Jhené Aiko @ YouTube

Friday, 28 March 2014

Last night I was one of the lucky ones. A select audience had been invited down to the YouTube studios for a very intimate acoustic gig from R'n'B songstress of the moment, Jhené Aiko. 

Now you might be an old school Jhené fan from back in the day when she guested on B2K's album or maybe like me you started to appreciate a couple of years ago when she dropped her mixtape 'Sailing Soul(s)' which featured the likes of Drake, Kanye West, Miguel and Kendrick Lamar. Perhaps you've only recently discovered her delivering sugary sweet hooks on 'Sparks Will Fly' on J. Coles 'Born Sinner' or 'From Time' by Drake but chances are if you've heard Miss Aiko's delicious vocals then you're a fan. And there were definitely lots of fans in the room yesterday, who judging by the singing along have not stopped playing her latest EP 'Sail Out' for the last few months. No seriously, it can't just be because everyone was singing word for word with me, ad libs and all. 

Yep I was really that close. I managed to bag a seat literally front and centre, on a cushion on the floor directly in front of Jhené. I was in full fan girl mode and I was not ashamed!

The soft spoken, doll like Jhené won over the crowd the moment she arrived on stage, politely asking if she could remove her big heels before treating us to guitar accompanied renditions of 'Bed Peace', 'Comfort Inn Ending' (which she informed us she has just filmed a visual for, which she also directed) and of course, the new female anthem 'The Worst'.

A front runner in a new wave of R'n'B, Jhené's vocals are light and breathy at times and I was pleasantly surprised by the strength of them live. There's a lot of technical control even though her music is often dreamy weed type tracks perfect for those late smoky nights. Her lyrics are always astoundingly real, whether that be in grief like the song 'For My Brother' written when her brother was dying of cancer or on 'The Worst' where she talks about an ex lover who she called a dickhead but thanked for giving her the inspiration. She said she feels one of the reasons the UK and Europe in general have supported her so readily is due to a connection with the rawness of her lyrics. She loves London the best. Okay she said we came second to Paris in terms of audiences on the Would You Like A Tour tour she's just done with Drake, but she did say London shows her a lot of love and aren't afraid to support like some American crowds are. 

And she loves British tea!

After the short set Clara Amfo interviewed Jhené and we really got a sense of her kinda hippy, spiritual vibe. She seems super chilled and aware of herself! She spoke of her beautiful 5 yet old daughter who recently took over her Vine account, of shaving off all her eyebrows when she was younger and how she was homeschooled as she has been in the music game for so long. There was a great discussion about treatment of women in the industry, and although she said she wouldn't describe herself as a feminist she said she feels she deserves to be treated as equally as any hard working artist male or I kinda think she is without realising it! 

"A girl can show a little skin and not be a hoe". A girl after my own heart!

Jhené is very adamant about maintaining her own sense of reality in her music and fighting the fake shit that the industry is permeated with, so seeing her conviction is heartwarming. I'm looking forward to hearing a little bit more of her rapping alter ego J Hennessy too, and she let us in on the fact that they had been waiting for a rapper to record a 16 for The Worst when No ID, who signed her, told her "Fuck these rappers!...But don't fuck these rappers". And so J Hennessy did the damn thing instead!

If you haven't heard of Jhené Aiko yet then where have you been? Get to a computer right now...

Pinning up her Polaroid in the YouTube studios. 

The Upside Down Dream

Friday, 21 March 2014

I'm having my first baby this year.

In another life that statement could have been true. Cocooned by love, that was the agreement my first boyfriend and I came to; he wanted kids before 30 while I wanted to wait until later so we compromised with this year, when he would be 29 and I 27.
This year he turns 29 and is married, becoming a father for the first time last year. He is right on schedule.

I always knew that I wouldn't be ready for kids by now, even back then, and unsurprisingly I still don't feel that it is my time to become a mother. While my ex, who is the picture of settled contentment, is married, has a good job and has moved outside of London, I had a few intensely passionate but doomed relationships before sticking with my current beau and I live the bohemian (here read unsettled) life of an actor.

I'm under no illusions that at that age, comfortable setting down would have been just that for me, settling. I would always have wondered about the characters I could have played in the films I could have made; the wild nights and sordid sex I could have had, the people I could have met, the countries I could have visited. I would have craved it all until I became consumed with feeling unsatisfied and resentment pickled me from the inside out.

That's not to say I don't sometimes envy my ex or my friends who are settled down, married or engaged, soaring up the corporate ladder or planning babies. I sometimes wish I had that reassuring constant in my life and the certainty of a cohesive plan to follow because my life can be so haphazard. But beautifully so!

I have done many things that would have tormented me I had settled down early, experiences I couldn't have even dreamed of at that age. I've come to appreciate lessons I've learned from my unconventional life with its lack of structure. I will not pretend that financial security isn't something I long for but I think I've become more creative with resources and hopefully am becoming better at managing money. Not being tied into an office job has allowed me to explore avenues of creativity I probably would have ignore otherwise. The friends I have made, not only in different parts of the world but also here in my hometown of London, have taught me and encouraged me to grow not just a an actor and creative but as a business person and just as that - as a person, to be more well rounded, more understanding, more forgiving, more open.

I'm not saying my path is any better or any worse than anyone else's, just different. In fact my path currently is a bit winding with lots of forks in it! I'm exploring different options and discovering new dreams along my journey. I don't know if it's an age thing but lots of my friends are currently retraining in different areas or or considering a new career or re-entering education.

If it's never too late to dream it's also never too late to change your dream or add a new dream to the old dream. You don't need to worry that your path has changed a little, it's all part of the journey. Keep dreaming. Dreams are what keep us going.


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Jacket: Adidas x Mrs Jones
Bralet: Topshop
Leggings: Miss Selfridge
Sunglasses: RayBan Wayfarers
Trainers: Adidas

Tomorrow, March 20th, sees the launch of the first Adidas oiginals/Topshop collaboration, so to celebrate that fact I'm wearing my own little Topshop and Adidas combo. The jacket was actually a gift from Adidas and was a sample from a capsule collection they did with designer Mrs Jones.

The sports luxe trend is obviously huge right now and is set to carry on through spring/summer 14. 
The 20 piece collection fuses the sports style of Adidas with the more feminine, trend led style of Topshop and they've come up with some great pieces including this hoodie and those gorge shorts. Pictures from

Shanika Says: Roll on Thursday!

Food: Darjeeling Express

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Two of my closest friends are also Pisces so we had a little Pisces dinner to celebrate our recent birthdays earlier this week. We headed down to the Darjeeling Express which is an Indian pop-up restaurant at Soho boozer The sun and 13 Cantons.

The pub itself was busy when we arrived just after 7pm, crammed with young professionals having after work drinks. We fought our way to the room just off the back and managed to scoop a table as some people were leaving. The back room was lined with tables on both sides, very sleek with large mirrors covering the walls, dimly lit and loud with chatter.

And nobody was eating.

We had to go to the bar to enquire about food. And then Asma Said Khan appeared.

Despite clearly being in a busy, noisy pub she immediately made us feel like we had just popped over to her house for dinner. My friend Coco had done her research and asked a few questions so Asma told us her amazing story. She had been unable to cook when she first moved to the UK and when she grew tired of eating her husbands chicken curry every day, headed back to India to learn. There she learned techniques from an assortment of Indian women who were eager to teach her everything they knew. It was an insight into Indian culture as she explained none of the women in her immediate family could teach her to cook as this skill signified that you couldn't afford staff. Now she has learned all the tricks there are to know, her grandfather is keen for her to cook for him as she is the only one who can make all the dishes her grandmother used to!

Asma gave us some extra treats as we were the only ones ordering and talked us through the dishes as they came out. Samosas for Coco first up.

When Coco commented on how they weren't greasy Asma told us it was because she used steak and that traditional Indian cooking isn't actually greasy because they use good quality cuts of meat over there. The samosas also came with their own tamarind chutney that was very yum.

Lyron and I were gifted onion fritters with chopped coriander that were sooo light. Asma let us in on her secret; she uses less flour so you enjoy more onion and less batter so again less oily and a perfect crunch.

The starters we actually ordered arrived next, spicy potato patties with chutney and masala fries with chilli and coriander dressing.

The Masala fries were like spicy potato wedges and the chilli and coriander dressing was delicious.

For main course Lyron went for Bengali Aloo Dam with Paratha and tomato prune and apricot chutney. The bread was light and fluffy and the chutney was delectably sweet.

Coco and I both went for the Prawn Malaikar with Lemon rice, which was served mild but with an extra spicy kick if you wanted. The lemon rice was fragrant and you could really taste the coconut milk in the sauce.

The prawns were so tender...I almost didn't realise they still had their shells on!

The adorable Asma then said that she and her sister were just making some darjeeling tea upstairs and would we like to try some? So of course we did. I like to think the smell of our food also enticed the group behind us to make an order.

Asma is so warm and hospitable, chatting away and explaining everything, and the food was soo delicious it's a shame more people weren't eating the food. The Darjeeling Express is at The Sun and 13 Cantons until mid April so Shanika Says go get some great traditional Indian food before it's gone!

Birthday Bonanza: Part 2

Friday, 14 March 2014

After our trip to the Tate we rushed home to get ready. Except I had no idea where we were going or what we were doing so didn't really know what to wear but seeing as the sun has been shining and spring is finally peeking through I decided to go for this highlighter pink skirt with floral pattern that I found at a carboot sale for only £2!

We went to Asia de Cuba at the St. Martins Lane hotel in Covent Garden. Asia de Cuba fuses Asian and Cuban food and is served in a sharing style. It's definitely a sophisticated dining experience with chic, minimialist decor and soft lighting provided by exposed lightbulbs extended low over the tables which created an intimate but relaxed vibe.

Large circular columns are dotted around the split level restaurant lined with books or crammed with framed black and white photographs of interesting Cuban people.

To start we ordered Crab Croquetas with jicama, mango and mirin infused slaw and roasted red pepper remoulade.

The crab was beautifully fresh and the slaw was equally zingy and sweet, the perfect accompaniment or just as nice on its own and the red pepper remoulade was divine.

I would have wanted more than just two if we hadn't ordered this amazing salad...

The Calamari salad 'Asia de Cuba' - crispy calamari with chayote, hearts of palm, banana, cashews, chicory and radicchio with sesame orange dressing. We squeezed over than chunk of lime which really brought out the flavours, the not too chewy squid and the sweetness of the fruit. We also had some fun identifying the different fruits and the crunchy cashews were and interesting addition that really worked.

For main the boy had Cuban BBQ chicken with Thai coconut sticky rice, avocado fruit salad and tamarind sauce.

The chicken was wolfed down so I'm guessing it was nice; the rice sure was, fluffy and just coconut-ty enough.

I went for the pan seared Ahi Tuna served on wasabi mashed potatoes and crunchy peas with a coriander chimichurri sauce.

I did ask for my tuna to be served medium well instead of rare as the menu suggests and the little slithers were just perfect, tender and melt in your mouth soft. The wasabi mash was only delicately flavoured so as not to be too overpowering. The portion size did look tiny but was actually enough to fill me up especially after the mammoth starter.

But obviously there was still room for dessert...

The Mexican doughnuts; sweet brioche in cinnamon sugar filled with butterscotch sauce. Yum!

I can't remember the name of my dessert but it came with a candle in! Our waiter even sweetly sang me the whole Happy Birthday song!

I couldn't quite finish it all but the chocolate sponge was moist even if the chocolate layer on top was a little too hard. The coffee ice-cream was mild and the sharpness of the raspberries complimented the chocolatey flavours.

After eating we rushed out, me still having no idea where we were going, but on the walk over it was revealed we were heading to see the hit show War Horse. I won't give away too much of the story, but it is an adaptation of the novel by Michael Morpurgo and tells the tale of the love a young boy Albert has for his horse Joey. It takes you from the countryside of Devon to the trenches in France during World War 1, with a folk-song singing narrator and beautifully rudimentary drawings by Rae Smith. The real star of the show however are the life-size puppets by South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company; it is so good you almost forget the puppeteers are right there on stage as the make the horses look so realistic in terms of movement and sound, right down to the canter, swish of a tail or jerk or a head.

The message of keeping the faith, believing in yourself and others and triumph against all odds is an enchanting one and War Horse is a great show for all the family.

I was completely and utterly spoilt. Bloody Brilliant Birthday!

Birthday Bonanza: Part 1

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

I'm a year older if not wiser!

Having not had a big birthday celebration for the past few years, this year I decided to do something, to get my friends together and party. I didn't want to do anything too glitzy or expensive and wanted somewhere I would actually be able to have a natter with people. In the end I went for The Playhouse a bar in West London that serves burgers and sides, drinks in ratchet red cups (my fave), has a dance floor for raving to the old school garage and house vibes as well as an outdoor area for smoking shisha.

I was completely overwhelmed by the number of my friends who turned up and touched by how well my mates from different groups and phases of my life mixed and caught up on the gossip since the last time I'd brought them together. Most of the pictures are too ratchet to put up on here and will instead be saved for a photo album...but this is what I wore:

Top: Vintage
Skirt: Topshop
Shoes: Zara
Bag: River Island

The day of my actual birthday started with crepes. Yes, I know pancake day was the other week but guess what I don't caaaareeeeee.

La Petite Bretagne is an adorable little French crepe place in Hammersmith, with French music playing and French staff chatting away in their native tongue and reading the menu in their sexy accent; very authentic!

All the savoury crepes are made with buckwheat flour and are gluten and wheat free. We went for the Veggie (cheese, spinach and mushrooms) and a Paimpol (mozzarella, tomato, fresh basil and substituted the ham for chicken)

You can watch your crepes being made and see how fresh the produce is; we literally saw the fresh basil being cut and sprinkled on.

La Petite Bretagne is also a deli where you can stock up on French bits, I for one will be back for a jar of salted caramel!

There is a vintage French village charm and although it was empty when we arrived just before noon it filled up rapidly for lunch so booking a table would be advised if you're making a special visit.

After devouring our savoury crepes washed down with award winning farmyard apple juice from Suffolk, we ordered our sweet crepes.

I ordered the Eton Mess because I love Eton Mess and wanted to see how it worked. Having overheard that it was birthday my crepe came out with candles - awwwww! 

While it was the right combination of cream, strawberry and coulis to pancake I was a little disappointed that there weren't actually meringue bits as this is what I was most interested in seeing how it worked with the crepe.

The boy had a Breton Treat - salted caramel, apple and cinnamon - tasted delish! We worked out that salted caramel basically tastes like melted Werthers Originals and the apples were just sweet enough. I didn't taste the cinnamon at all though so maybe they needed more than a sprinkle as promised on the menu!

All in all La Petite Bretagne is cute, the service is great and the crepes were lovely, I'd definitely recommend!

After we finished, we hopped on the tube down to the Tate Modern gallery to check out a few exhibitions. London is such a treasure trove of culture and we have so many museums and galleries that are often free to the public like the Tate Modern is, and we should all make more of them. The chance to open our minds creatively is a beautiful thing, made even more beautiful by the freeness! As Londoners, we often miss out on opportunities that are on own doorsteps, so I'm going to try my best to soak up as much as I can this year.

My favourite exhibitions were Poetry and Dream and the photography by Henry Callahan.

It's the perfect date or you could take a friend who'e visiting as a great way to spend an afternoon before your evening plans...which is exactly what the boy was doing but more on that later!