Every now and then I take a break from "things to do with the kids" and look (rather desperately) for an excuse for a little "me time". And no, by "me time" I don't mean time to chop vegetables for yet another chicken casserole or carefully laying out school clothes so they're ready for the morning.
By "me time", I mean the opportunity to do something that is genuinely a treat for myself - a chance to rediscover my identity, or whatever is left of it, and set aside the labels of Mum, Wife, Auntie, Name-Tag-Sewing-Person and everything else just for a moment.
Every now and then it also means dusting off that beautifully flouncy Frost French dress (for £100 it hides all sins without looking mumsy - result!) and patent leather heels and trotting out the door for a glass of champagne in the most sparkly part of London I can find.
And so with a rather lofty goal in mind, I set out the find the most luxurious London venue which would provide just the right spot for a fabulous night out, and the right setting to socialise with other London bloggers.
And here it is...
The Pudding Parlour at the Athenaeum hotel in Mayfair, London
My previous experiences of The Athenaeum hotel in Mayfair involved an afternoon in their Winnie the Pooh-themed children's play room, and a visit to the rather sumptuous Whisky Bar (for a coffee, I swear!) and sunny and elegant Garden Room.
In October 2011, The Athenaeum transformed their Garden Room into an intimate evening venue, an excuse to find a babysitter if I've ever seen one...
The Pudding Parlour features an array of desserts baked by their French pastry chef, with everything from rhubarb crumble and homemade macaroons to puddings especially created by The Boy Who Bakes, Edd Kimber, winner of the Great British Bake Off 2010. There is also a selection of pudding wines and champagnes which they promise will be the perfect counterpoint to their puddings.
Despite the five star venue, the Pudding Parlour is surprisingly affordable - £10 for as many puddings as you like, or £15 including your first glass of wine. It seems the perfect alternative to spending a small fortune on dinner with friends, or to heading out to a noisy bar - I wouldn't be surprised if Londoners begin following the Montreal tradition of "let's meet for dessert", and treating themselves to a few sweet treats somewhere like the Pudding Parlour.
We didn't need much more convincing, so the energetic Laura Evans Vogel (London-Baby) and I rounded up twenty of our favourite London bloggers and headed out for pre-Christmas pudding and drinks at the Pudding Parlour.
To say we were excited is an understatement - just going out to our local pub without the children is usually enough excitement for the month, let alone a genuine excuse to put on makeup and to wear clothes that aren't decorated with a little line of toddler-has-a-perpetually-runny-nose slime.
How did it measure up?
We loved it. It's simple, elegant, intimate, affordable, and a real treat. I must confess, I am not a pudding person and at restaurants I always opt for the cheese board or an extra starter. At the Pudding Parlour, however, the array of desserts is simply too tempting to resist. There really is something for everyone whether you prefer the intensity of a crisp dark chocolate, a delicate champagne jelly or a good old fashioned bread and butter pudding.
And as the saying goes, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating"... and eat we did. When I found myself eating my fourth rhubarb crumble, I knew we were onto a winner.
With us were 20 of our favourite London bloggers, writers and digital entrepreneurs, including a collection of influential parent bloggers and some foodies whose delicious blogs make our mouths water. I'll pulled out excerpts from their reviews of the Pudding Parlour below - please do have a read!
"ideal for Central London parents who can sneak out after bedtime and have a special treat without breaking the bank"
- Laura Evans Vogel, London-Baby.com
"a refreshing change from the usual wallet-emptying experience of socialising around the Green Park/Park Lane quarter"
- Jennifer Howze, Jenography and BritMums
"they [the athenaeum] pride themselves on their discreet, personal and friendly service and from my visit to the Pudding Parlour I would have to agree they are doing a fine job"
- Laura Porter, About.com London Travel Guide
"the reality was even better than we'd expected - with the retro bread and butter pudding and a very modern twist on rhubarb crumble (scrumptious!) particular hits"
- Rajul Chande, London Hotels Insight
"Top marks go to the lemon meringue pie, partly on the basis that a shortbread style 'boat' filled with lemon curd and topped with toasted meringue is probably as close to heaven as it is possible to get on this earth"
- Cari Rosen, Author of The Secret Diary of a New Mum Aged 43 and 3/4.
"I would thoroughly recommend this spot as a stylish yet affordable spot of decadence."
- Laura Scott, How to Cook Good Food
"The chocolate mousse was to die for. The fruit tart delicious. The cake pop divine... "
- Maggy Woodley (Red Ted Art), The Good Life Bloggers
"perfect for a bit of girly hedonism"
- Claire, Crumbs Recipes to Feed Your Family
"Each pudding is a piece of beauty, with delicate flavours, exquisite combinations and variety."
- Nazima, Working London Mummy
"the most elegant display of delicate and delicious puddings"
- Milly Hutchinson, South of the River Mum
"Dressy enough to get your favourite outfit on, low key and relaxed enough to not intimidate, popping into this hotel lounge to dip into their sweet table could well be the start of a new trend"
- Sarah Trivuncic, Maison Cupcake
"We would definitely recommend for a sophisticated girls night out or even a date with your husband or partner, provided he has a sweet tooth too. We will definitely be going again."
- North London Mums
"The perfect cheap date Date Night at The Pudding Parlour in Mayfair: why waste meaningless calories and babysitting funds on dinner when you can dive right into the desert and still make it home in time for bed?"