Girl About Town: The Art of Dining – The Colour Palate

With the job that I do, I regularly get emails full of “check out this amazing experience” ideas, lots of which actually aren’t that exciting or innovative. However a few weeks back, one thing did stand out amongst all the “uber cool” Shoreditch bar recommendations or “uber exclusive” private members club launches (with “live PAs form the cast of the latest reality TV series” no less!), and that was a link to the Art of Dining website. I’ve never heard of them before, but have seen similar concepts and so I was eager to try them out.

So I hit up a foodie friend of mine who I knew would also be in for a colour-and-light themed dining experience and booked us some tickets.

We arrived at a non-descript building, not far from Baker Street tube, identifiable as our destination only by a man with a clipboard standing next to instructions chalked on the concrete step outside. We were ticked off a list, ushered down some candlelit stairs to an underground space, washed in green light, handed a Green cocktail each and showed to our seats at the long communal table, laid with green paper, the usual dining accoutrements and, unusually, rather large tree centrepiece.

Once the room filled up with guests we were called to attention by the creative team behind the concept, who briefly talked us through the evening’s proceedings and we were then served our first course: the Green course, consisting of light, leafy, herby, green food on green plate with green napkins accompanied by a paint pot of green sauce and a paint brush (not green) with which to serve it!

When we had finished, serving staff informed us we should rip off the top layer of the “table cloths” to reveal the next colour: White. The tree was taken away and replaced with a silver candelabra and the green light slowly transitioned to soft white.

As a quick aside, a lot of my GCSE science and art came back to me. White light is actually a rather beautiful combination of colours, and it seems that green light washes out colour entirely so my dining companion and I looked like black and white photographs of ourselves! Which is a good point to note if your complexion is looking less than flawless in real life before a big event – put on some red lippie and change your light bulbs to green, you’ll look like a thirties movie siren!

Sorry, back to the dining experience. With the White course (a soup) also came a small glass of colouring pencils so we took to doodling all over the table tops as our neighbours played a heated game of hangman. We decided against the corresponding White cocktail, and stuck with the Green as it was so tasty!

After White came the main course, Yellow, complete with massive vases of sunflowers, yellow table tops and sunny yellow light followed by Black, where the lights were dimmed to almost complete darkness, as we finished off the savoury dishes with black food almost invisible against black plates and table tops by the light of tiny candles.

We ordered some Orange cocktails to match our Orange pudding which arrived (along with the matching tableware, of course) as the lights came back up to a warm glow and our tables were adorned with sprays of orange roses.

The food was interesting and tasty, enhanced by the “concept” in which it was served, and overall it made for a really great night out. Tickets cost £50 for five substantial courses and a welcome cocktail. Drinks thereafter were very reasonably priced for London.

As it’s a pop up, The Colour Palate disappeared as quickly as it arrived, but keep an eye on the Art of Dining website for future pop ups, and check out some of their previous events here which look equally as interesting and exciting.

With my appetite for concept pop-ups fully whetted, have you lovely readers any recommendations? Let me know!

Victoria x

PS! Find Victoria over on her blog Sugar Plum Slipper or on twitter @VictoriaHale.

Recommended: Wilderness Festival

Florence Finds, Michelle Kelly, Pocketful of Dreams

Today the very lovely and stylish Michelle from Pocketful of Dreams is taking over the blog with her review of Wilderness Festival. If you happen to be a festival aficionado or just like to see how other people get their groove on, then you’re in the right place as this particular one looks EPIC…

I seem to be the only 30-something in the land never to have attended a music festival. Madness I know, particularly given the fact that I plan events for a living. But all that has now changed and last weekend I popped my festival cherry with the one dubbed ‘Poshstock’ otherwise known as Wilderness Festival.

Held in a tranquil lakeside setting in the Oxfordshire countryside, this festival, I imagine, is the antithesis to all other festivals. Magnificent curiosities abound and you would never find yourself short of something to do at Wilderness, from the sumptuous wood-fired hot tubs lining a lake filled with brave swimmers, to the gourmet banquets and food trucks galore and the plethora of workshops, talks, activities and live music taking place across the weekend. It’s a culture-seekers delight, a little too try hard at times, but a lot of fun nonetheless.

My attendance at the festival was a totally last minute affair, I was gifted the tickets just last Monday by clients of mine as a thank-you for planning their own festival wedding, and by Thursday we had packed up the car and headed South. This spontaneous adventure meant we were attending with a totally open-mind and lack of preconception about what was in store. It also meant we’d well and truly missed the boat when it came to trying any of the fantastic activities in offer, everything from the yoga sessions, to the hot tubs to the gourmet banquets was fully booked and despite asking at the elusive ‘info tent’ on arrival the only way we could get in was to keep calling back 10-minutes after each thing was due to start to see if there’d been any no shows, needless to say we opted out of that kind of to-ing and fro-ing.

It was slightly disappointing to not be able to try these things out and I think we’d have had a very different and more rounded experience had we been able to sample a little more, but we still had a great time and saw a lot. Here’s some of my highlights and observations about the festival for those thinking of going next year…..

WILD SWIMMING & WOOD FIRED HOT TUBS

Perhaps something everyone should try at least once in their lifetime is wild swimming, the lake was pretty much always full of swimmers in the daytime, with many taking their pew along the lakeside to catch some rays (whilst the sun was out that is). It was reminiscent of childhood summer holidays in the alps and you couldn’t help but to feel adventurous and carefree even if not partaking in the swimming yourself.

Although we didn’t manage to enjoy the hot tubs at Wilderness we have seen these in action having booked the very same ones for our clients festival wedding earlier in August. By Bathing under the Sky, these beauties are divine and pure luxury, the staff are superbly attentive and really what better way to spoil yourself than in a hot tub in a beautiful forest, champers in hand?

FOOD AND DRINK

Wilderness is without a doubt a foodies delight and we were spoilt for choice when it came down to dining. From the breakfast trucks in the camping area we enjoyed toast, bacon rolls, tea and freshly brewed coffee. For a slightly more relaxing breakfast we headed to the Sanctuary to a lovely little pop-up restaurant (name eludes me) with red and white checked tablecloths enjoying Huevas Rancheros and a chilled coconut water, delish.

There was such a vast selection of food trucks serving a multitude of foods: burgers, hot dogs, pulled pork, curry, smoothies, ice-cream, fish and chips, paella, duck, lobster rolls, tacos, you name it you probably could have found it. For lunch I opted for a freedom Gyoza box from Rainbo which included a chicken and miso Gyoza with fresh slaw and edamame beans…..delicious, healthy and colourful. We also tried the wood-fired pizzas from Pizza Tabun which were so delicious we ended up back there again the next day. The food at Moro looked delicious too.

Drinks-wise there were a few bars onsite serving the standard spirit and mixer, priced around £5, we sampled a glass or two of the wine also but soon gave up as it was revolting AND warm. We were also a little disappointed by HIX as it looked fantastic and I’d heard great things, they had a cute outdoor chill-out section under a canopy with vintage furniture that looked so inviting, so we thought we’d enjoy a bottle of champagne and watch the afternoon unfold in front of us from the comfort of their lounge. Unfortunately though they didn’t offer ice buckets or any facility to chill it for us once purchased so we gave up and headed back to the Laurent Perrier Champagne Orangery for the second time since we’d arrived. This place was a little slice of refinement in the otherwise madness of the festival. I enjoy getting down and dirty at an event but sometimes you just want a cold drink and a comfortable seat.

Another favourite was the Zubrowka Bison grass vodka pop-up, a welcome respite from the rain on Friday evening with delicious cocktails, plus some pretty cool styling. Moro provided us with delicious white vermouth cocktails, refreshing and zingy.

FASHION

I could have sat for hours people-watching, everyone made such an effort with their outfits, even the kids with their face paints and funny tails. The festival themed each day with Altered States Friday, Disco Renaissance Saturday and the Cosmos on Sunday. And so ensued an explosion of glitter, sequins, spandex and feathers, with a few masks thrown in for good measure. Personally with little time to prepare it was a case of whatever we could get our hands on so I dug deep into my closet and picked out a few outfits, diy-ing a disco cape from some party decor I had knocking about my studio and buying a glittery cat mask online. Although we could have just turned up and headed to the various vintage and dressing up emporiums (so many) and found some outlandish outfits to wear.

I had a wander round a few and ogled the shiny delights on offer: Secret Emporium was like a party within the party and where I had my face painted by In Your Dreams, Rosa Bloom had some divine feathery and sequinned capes, Violets Box had a fab selection of outfits too.

It was clear this festival was a fashionista’s paradise and we saw so many fashion bloggers and fashion media strutting their stuff with plenty of street-style photographers snapping the action too. My only advice when it comes to dressing is to take lots of layers and flat shoes only, I ended up wearing mainly cut-off denim shorts with bodies and a variety of cover-ups, my anorak quite a lot as the rain was so sporadic and my hunter wellies.

THE DECOR

As a wedding and event planner I am always looking at how brands style and market themselves at events so for me it was like an being in an aladdin’s cave of inspiration. Colourful bunting as far as the eye could see and cute little styled spaces to interact with.


Some of my favourites included the Mulberry craft tent (annoyingly booked up all weekend so I didn’t actually get inside) and the Accessorize tent which had a cool wishing tree with colour-dipped feathers. I also saw lots of fashionable ladies walking around the site with their gold Mulberry balloons and branded picnic hampers, only to find out later that Cara Delevingne had been there to host a private picnic – my invite had clearly got lost in the post.



And as mentioned above the Zubrowka space with its forest-inspired teepee and 3-D paper art installation hanging from the ceiling was definitely one of my favourites and the most thought through design-wise, it looked like a mystical magical space that had literally grown amongst the woodland.

The Laurent-Perrier tent also looked beautiful with a gorgeous string installation over the bar – but I had already spied this on pictures from a previous year so was surprised they’d not done something fresh.


Oh how I’d love to design one of these spaces one day….brands take note.

ENTERTAINMENT

The music side of things, I felt, was quite average, and this comes from someone with hardly a passing interest in current music. It did seem that this element really took a back seat to everything else going on and I rarely saw the stages fill up with the kind of crowds we’ve all seen at the likes of Glastonbury et al. We watched a couple of sets on the main stage but couldn’t even tell you who.



For us the highlights were the late night revelry acts in Pandemonium, an amphitheatre in the valley which came alive at night. We had such a blast dancing our masked faces off to Horse Meat Disco, Greg Wilson and Futureboogie, the sound and lighting was immense topped off by a theatrical acrobatic performance by The Box. The Styx stage was another cool highlight, held on a carousel, as was the burning of the effigy which we watched from Pandemonium. Finally the hidden gem we found was the Artful Badger tent, a tiny space with fabulous music.

ACCOMMODATION

And now for the more practical elements which is where I feel Wilderness fell a little short of the mark and I guess this is the events organiser in me that has little tolerance for poor organisation.

With your ticket you also get access to general camping which allows you to pitch a tent in the main campsite. It has a few different sections including a Quiet Camp for those who actually want to sleep, a Family camp for those with kiddies and the free-for-all general area. There are food trucks close-by this area, plenty of toilets, showers etc and also the big green lockers should you wish to keep things secure (which are actually tiny and just fit your phone and wallet in them ), but definitely worth paying £25 for a weekend pass as you can also charge your phone in them.

This is where my experience was marred slightly with an unfortunate incident occurring on the Friday morning when we were abruptly awoken by a team of security guards telling us to move our tent as we’d pitched in a fire lane, along with about 100 other tents. Annoyingly when we’d arrived Thursday evening, after our 5-hour drive it was pretty dark, there were no maps and limited signage to direct you where to go. The campsites seemed pretty full and and were spilling out into the area we ended up camping in. We checked with the stewards and security manning these areas and we’re told it was fine to camp there so felt pretty irate when told we had to move the next day, particularly as the campsites were full to bursting by this point. Several hours later we’d managed to pack up, repitch the tent and unpack again but it left a pretty sour taste in the mouth. We actually ended up in the Quiet Camp which was anything but, the stewards tried to keep noise levels to a minimum but failed miserably resulting in quite a few sleepless nights.

Overall the camping facilities seemed to be badly organised and we heard many people complaining about it over the weekend, it seemed they had not anticipated the capacity with some reporting 30,000 people this year compared to 15,000 last year. If I attend again then I’ll definitely be glamping or staying offsite.

TOILETS AND SHOWER FACILITIES

This was the part I was dreading the most but I needn’t have been concerned, there was an abundance of toilet areas both in the main arena and across the campsite and I never once had to use my own loo-roll as they never ran out. The queues were pretty much non-existent apart from key points in the day, mainly mornings and early evening as everyone started to get a little inebriated but even then I never queued for longer than 5 minutes.

The showers were clean and HOT, but annoyingly were only working one out of the four times we tried to use them on both the Friday and Saturday. I imagine we were probably cleaner than most festival goers having showered and washed whilst there, but still, if you promise hot showers at least make sure they are working!!

MAPS AND SIGNAGE

Again another element that needs improving, finding your way around is difficult and no-one knows what’s going on when you ask them. You don’t get any kind of map when you arrive and have to pay £8 for a programme containing one which then doesn’t tell you the various food trucks on offer so for me was a waste of time.

It would have been much better with large maps dotted around the site or at least having something online that you can print yourself and /or work things out before you get there.

Despite all the above it was an incredible first festival experience and even though I was terribly sleep-deprived and had to pack up our tent in the midst of a hurricane I look back now with only fond memories of my experience. Roll on next year, who’s with me?

Michelle x

You can find Michelle at www.pocketfulofdreams.co.uk, an experienced events organiser planning individual and spectacular weddings and parties for clients across the UK and Europe.

Barcelona Day 1

I promised after asking for all of your Barcelona tips that I would share what we did on our Babymoon back in March.

We stayed for 4 nights at the RoomMate Emma for about £300 and I would definitely book again. The breakfast was amazing and the staff were lovely too. We were woken up one night by screaming European teens but that can happen anywhere and the reception sorted it straightaway. The room was clean and modern, the only thing lacking was an exterior window. We were offered a very cheap upgrade when we got there which we normally would have taken but figured we wouldn’t be in the room and it wasn’t worth it. In fact I wish we had, as we banked on staying out for evening drinks as we would do normally and felt obliged to because the room was a bit dark, but really given how tiring the sightseeing was, it would have been nice to have some downtime back at the hotel in a slightly nicer room. Don’t get me wrong though, it was still great, cheap or not.

So what did we do?


Our walking tour day 1 – Port Vell, Port Olympica, Barcelonetta, Parc Ciutadella and the beach. Click here to view an interactive version of the map.

Well, the answer is a lot of walking. Normally when we’re on a city break we do everything, but this time we didn’t want to go into museums, enjoying the sunshine instead, so we saw everything from the outside while walking. The first day was predicted to be the best weather, so we got the underground metro to Port Vell and wandered around looking at the boats and enjoying the weather.

We walked though Barceloneta which was cute in parts and quite run down in others so we kept going. It didn’t take us long to get to the beach so and we carried on all the way along until we reached Port Olympic, and then walked on to Parc Ciutadella. The fountains and space there was great. If we hadn’t been going to the beach later I would have parked myself on the grass there to read and enjoy the sun.

By then we were starving and headed onto El Born, where we ate a tapas lunch at one of the places on Placa des les Olles before heading back to the beach where we just lay on the sand for a couple of hours and read. Bliss!

Once we were ready for home, we headed in to the atmospheric gothic quarter and stopped in Placa Reial for a drink. I loved this square – there aren’t that many in Barcelona which are big enough to hold the sun into the evening, particularly in March but this one is so pretty and great for people watching.


I was so exhausted that night after walking so far that we ate at an Italian just down the road from our hotel and collapsed into bed early.

I’ll be back with Days 2 and 3 soon!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Girl about Town: Chocolate walking tour of London

Easter weekend is on the way. I am excited for three reasons:

1) Two free days off work! Oh how I need the sleep.

2) Family time! In my house, Easter is like Christmas we gather, we play games, we (even in adulthood) hunt out eggs and we dine en masse.

3) Gluttony! If you’ve been abstaining from treats and indulgences for Lent, Sunday is the day it all comes to an end (just to clarify, I have abstained from nothing this year, I’ve been a glutton throughout Lent. My bad).

In light of this list, Rebecca thought I should tell you about something that combined all three, in particular a chocolate walking tour of London, that I did with my family over a chilled weekend the end of last summer. I booked it through Great British Tours with a 50% voucher from one of those well known discount sites (either the pink or the green, I don’t recall) which made it very reasonable indeed. During the tour we visited some of my favourite chocolateries (where we had tastings and were entitled to a discount on most purchases), wandered through Soho at a leisurely pace soaking up the atmosphere and we found a couple of hidden gems that I’ll definitely be re-visiting.

The meeting point was the Algerian Coffee Store on Old Compton Street where our guide greeted us with a large cup of chocolate coated coffee beans and a gigantic grin – imagine if your job was to wander the streets of London eating free chocolate? I’d grin a lot too!

First stop was Hotel Chocolat where we bought chilli hot chocolate powder and tested out their new line of chocolate themed toiletries…

…then on to Paul A. Young where the team introduced us to unusual recipes such as limoncello and cucumber, pink guava and lychee, goats cheese, rosemary and lemon and Marmite truffles and where we also sampled their delicious Aztec hot chocolate…

… a quick pit stop at Freggo to refresh the palate with some Malbec and berries sorbet (new fave thing ever!)…

…a browse around the sweet counter (and a quick dash to the loo) at Fortnum and Mason…

… a brief history lesson about the birth of the truffle at Prestat and sampled some boozy treats…

…all ending up at Charbonnel et Walker where I stuffed my face with my favourite violet and rose crèmes (apparently also the Queen’s!).

All in all a fun filled day!

Great British Tours do some other interesting walking tours including a cupcake and macaroon tour which I have my eye on for my next free weekend…

Victoria x

PS! Find Victoria over on her blog Sugar Plum Slipper or on twitter @VictoriaHale.

Barcelona Babymoon

Next week, Pete and I are off to Barcelona for a bit of a getaway. It’s not really a babymoon but I’m grateful we’re getting some time to ourselves as work plus incessant house worries and a serious lack of holidays was really starting to get to us. We didn’t think we could afford to book something for just us, (as well as the wedding we are going to in Italy in May) but I was determined that we should make the most of the last few months before we are a three. I scouted around for cheap deals and booked some EasyJet flights for £100 each and found a cool looking cheap hotel – Room Mate Emma. We’re both exhausted and just want to chill out, eat nice food, enjoy some sun (fingers crossed!) and walk around taking in the sights, and each other.

So before we go I need your recommendations readers, on things to do and see. All we have in mind so far is The Gaudi Park, (I have been before and seen La Sagrada Familia and the Picasso museum,) but I’d love to hear your restaurant recommendations, cool areas we should experience and relaxing things to do and see. Oh and I’d like to go down to the waterfront too.

Let me have it readers!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS, I’ll review the hotel and where I go afterwards, of course!

Dream Destination: Tuscany


Tuscan Landscape

In May Pete and I are attending a wedding in Tuscany and it’s time to get planning the rest of the trip. We’re travelling on a Saturday and returning 9 days later, the last 3 nights of which will be with the wedding party about 45 minutes south west of Florence. So that leaves us 6 nights to explore by ourselves. It’s our main holiday since South Africa last year, due to the move and renovations, so I want it to be relaxing, but I have also always wanted to go to to Tuscany so I’d like to make the most of the area.

And that’s where you guys come in!


Borgo Santo Pietro, via Mr & Mrs Smith

I need to know your recommendations – we have nothing booked yet, other than flights in and out of Pisa. I have been to Florence before (but Pete hasn’t,) so I wouldn’t be adverse to a day there but don’t think we need much more. I’m also not that bothered about hanging around in Pisa.


Image via Mr & Mrs Smith

So, I need to know… have you been? Where did you stay? Which of the many beautiful towns are the most worth visiting? Where is the very best Pizza? (I’m prepared to try several establishments to make sure it’s a fair independent review.) ;)

Please let me know and help me plan the trip – I promise I’ll report back!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

#JanuaryJoy: Plan a Trip

Todays #JanuaryJoy prompt is definitely one of my favourites and sure to become a Florence Finds tradition. For last years ‘Plan a trip’ I talked about safari and what became my epic trip to South Africa. I’m so glad I took some time over planning it and your advice. Today after hearing a few people talk about it (and having a long term ambition to visit myself,) I’m sharing Becky’s trip to Norway, Sweden and Denmark, in the hope that it inspires you to explore. Please do sure your travel plans for this year in the comments!

Oslo


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SLEEP
We enjoyed our stay at the Hotel Guldsmeden

EAT
We ate a fantastic Easter lunch at the Ekeberg restaurant. Ask for a table by the window or if you’re visiting in the Summer, the terrace would be my choice.


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SEE
A lot of our exploring was on foot. Walking to the top of the opera house roof was fun – A fantastic example of architecture and landscape rolled into one.
We took a boat trip to The Viking Ship museum and The Norsk Folk museum.
We also got the underground to the Holmenkollen ski jump and museum. The view from the top of the ski jump across the fjords is breathtaking and certainly made us want to return to do a fjords trip one summer.

Stockholm


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SLEEP
The Rival hotel is a converted cinema owned by Benny from Abba. It was great and the cocktail bar was buzzing every night as was the adjacent cafe every morning which does a good breakfast. The location was amazing for getting around too.


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EAT
As I was in the first trimester of pregnancy and feeling pretty ropey, dining out in fancy restaurants wasn’t a priority but we had a good meal at Riche restaurant and the bar had a great atmosphere too.

Under Kastanjen cafe was a nice stop for a coffee whilst walking the streets exploring Gamla Stan

SEE
The Vasa Museum
Skansen open air museum – A combination of a Zoo and folk museum. Probably best seen in late Spring and Summer.
Hallywyl Museum.
We also wandered around Gamla Stan – The Old Town and got around predominantly on the underground or walking.

Copenhagen


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SLEEP
We stayed in the Marriott as my husband had points from work so got a free night. Sure you can find something with a bit more character – We did walk past the ‘floatel‘ a few times and thought it looked interesting… as long as you don’t suffer with motion sickness!

EAT
We decided not to go to Noma due to the bump but if you fancy it, I expect you’ll need to book your table now for June.

We enjoyed a really good fish lunch at Kastellet, Nordre Toldbod 12-20… a warehouse style informal dining restaurant & foody supermarket next to the water. Expect it’s lovely on a sunny day

SEE
Again, we explored the city on foot unless we got a boat. A visit to Christiania was eye opening.
Nyehaven shouldn’t be missed and a good point to start a boat tour from. I found the most dreamy shop… Illums Bolighus, Amagertorv 1-11
See The Little Mermaid – the clue’s in her title….she’s little!
Rosenborg Castle
Tivoli gardens…. All in all a pretty naff amusement park. The lights make it look pretty at night!
Louisiana Museum of modern art is a pleasant train ride north of the city and on a clear day you can see over to Sweden from the galleries gardens.

So readers… have you ever been on a Scandanavian trip? It’s Stockholm that has always tempted me – all the islands are supposed to be beautiful in the summer.

Where are you headed in 2014?

Love,
Rebecca (& Becky)
xo

Recommended: Lion + Pheasant, Shrewsbury

Last weekend we took a trip away to Mid-Wales for the other half’s birthday, staying at the Drawing Room in the Elan Valley (on Rebecca’s recommendation) over the Friday and Saturday evening’s. As it’s somewhat of a tradition for us to head out for Sunday lunch somewhere new at least twice a month we wanted to add this into our weekend somehow. We have tried almost every decent gastro-pub across Lancashire and Cheshire in our quest for the best Sunday Lunch, so after reading with interest in Red magazine about the Lion and Pheasant in Shrewsbury we added in a short stop on our way home to the Ribble Valley.

And boy are we glad we did!

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The Lion + Pheasant, a pub with 22 rooms and a Mr & Mrs Smith property, is a stunning conversion from coaching inn to stylish townhouse with a scandi-chic meets colonial New England interior. The Farrow and Ball-esque grey painted walls sit perfectly alongside pale oak and flagstone flooring with mismatched wooden furniture and industrial tolix chairs and stools creating a stylish yet laidback space. From the entrance on Wyle Cop we were greeted by a light and bright open-plan bar and reception area, where there is a wide variety of seating on offer from long dining tables to sofa’s and comfortable little nooks for two. Every aspect of the interior feels well thought-out with many clever designer touches that I loved, like the mason jar lighting over the bar area and the simple Christmas decor of holly branches in clear glass vases.  The hotel was actually remodelled by Rachael Chidlow of Paul Keogh Architects who is related to the owner and it is quite evident there has been a professional design-hand at work here.

We chose to dine in the buzzy bar area instead of the more formal split-level restaurant space upstairs, inviting as it was dressed with crisp white linens and gleaming glassware. We had a lovely long table to ourselves tucked away in a corner by the bar offering some privacy but still feeling part of the action. There’s also an inglenook, open-log fireplace in the bar area, perfect for enjoying a mulled wine (or three!) on long, lazy winter-days.

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Images by: Steve de Jetley Marks via Mr & Mrs Smith

The cocktail list was incredibly enticing, with seasonal variations of the classics on offer, I plumped for a Pear and Port fizz whilst the other half stuck with his standard Peroni. Despite arriving over an hour early for our reservation the staff could not have been more helpful and accommodating, seating us straight away.

Head chef Matthew Strefford has been awarded two AA rosettes for his outstanding and innovative dishes. We plumped for the traditional Sunday lunch menu and I wished we’d not spent the last two days stuffing our faces so I could try the full 3-courses on offer. The Mr opted for a root vegetable soup with creme fraiche, served with a basket of different breads which I helped him to mop up, the soup was perfectly spiced with the delicate creme fraiche and chives adding an unexpected yet delightful twist. We also both chose the Rib of Beef next with all the trimmings which included perfectly fluffy roast potatoes, caramelised whole carrots and parsnips with a delicious meaty gravy and of course crisp yorkshire puddings. The meat was served pink, which our waitress checked was okay for us, and it literally melted in the mouth. One of the best Sunday roasts I’ve tasted in a while – also on offer was belly of pork and turkey (given the proximity to Christmas). The wine list was extensive with both standard, purse-friendly options through to the more extravagant. A glass or two of cassis-rich Cabernet Sauvignon was the perfect partner to our lunch.

The dessert choices were mouthwatering to say the least with treacle tart, orange cake and many other delights on offer. Our waitress insisted we could still order after resting for a while, despite the fact the kitchen stopped service at 3.00pm and it was now some way past that – another little tick in the goodbooks and so refreshing against other establishments and their ridiculous ‘rules that cannot be bent’. Alas it was not to be I’m afraid, I just could not fit it in….a reason to go back if ever there was one! The other half however had room for more and chose a cheeseboard which came with 6 delicious cheeses, a variety of artisan crackers, celery, walnuts and a slab of quince, all served up on a wooden cheeseboard and cleverly delivered to our table with two plates so we could share. And I can confirm every bit as delicious as the other two courses, I managed to squeeze in a few mouthfuls, much to the Mr’s disgust (hates sharing food!).

As a pub with rooms these guys have hit the nail on the head, combining superbly warm hospitality with delicious, flavoursome food and stylish yet unpretentious surroundings.

Also try….
Whilst there we had a little walk around Shrewsbury itself, meandering the olde worlde streets filled with independent boutiques and historic buildings. Unfortunately for us most of the shops were shut but I quite quickly determined this was a place I could easily spend hours having a good old browse. Some of the shops that caught my eye included:

  • Urban Folk - Hidden down an alleyway off Wyle Cop is this really quirky and creative shop with design-led gifts and accessories
  • Rustic and White - a beautiful French Vintage shop, selling home accessories @RusticandWhite
  • Vintage Shrewsbury - A shop that celebrates good ‘old-fashioned’ design
  • Appleyards Fine Foods - Located on Wyle Cop – luckily for us this one WAS open and it’s fair to say I was like a kid in a candy shop. A totally traditional deli packed to the rafters with gourmet fine foods. We stocked up on stinky cheeses for Christmas.

It’s fair to say we fell a little in love with our short visit to Shrewsbury and the Lion and Pheasant and will definitely be adding it to our hitlist of places to visit again to stay for a weekend in the future.

So readers have you been here? or do you have other recommendations of similar places to try across the UK?

Michelle xx

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Girl about town: (Working until) Midnight in Paris – Part 1


A few months ago I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to spend some time working in my firm’s Paris office. Erm, sorry, let me pinch myself whilst I just digest that.

You’re going to put me in a rooftop apartment in central Paris, send me to work in the most beautiful surroundings (on Place Vendome, next door to the Ritz,) and you’re going to pay me whilst I do it? Amazing! Where’s the catch?

Oh… I will be doing two jobs and working 13 hour days, every day, for the entire six weeks? Ahhh, there we go!

Needless to say, I didn’t get to spend a lot of time “about town” and I’m not going to lie I spent a lot of my spare time sleeping off my exhaustion. However, when I did get out, I wandered, ate, drank, observed, shopped, snapped and absorbed everything Paris had to offer with the hugest smile on my face and a skip in my step. After six weeks literally living la reve en Paris, I returned to rainy London (and my husband) last weekend and thought I’d share some of my favourite Parisian delights:

Brunch
I didn’t realise brunch was a “thing” in France. I went out there three days after landing back from the US, where brunch is the biggest “thing” and I was surprised to discover that they do it just as well. A colleague recommended the Marais area, specifically Rue de Bretagne, for brunch and made a few restaurant suggestions.

I picked the Grizzli Café, mainly because of the name, but also because of the description of a four course feast for a very reasonable price… “reasonable price” not being a phrase you hear often in Paris. It turned out to be a great decision – we started with fresh coffee and juice with a bread selection and pastries, followed by Eggs Benedict, a choice of salmon skewers or steak tartare and finished off with fromage blanc and fruit coulis. We got there just in time to get a seat, but it’s recommended that you book on Sundays as it gets busy! [For more details/pictures check out this post.]

Treats
I was undecided whether to tell you about the Laduree Salon du The or Angelina under this heading. I weighed it up and decided that it’d have to be both. The hot chocolate served at Angelina is infamous for a reason – it’s amazing. Thick, creamy and with just the right balance of bitter and sweet – it was totally worth queuing.

Although the sweet treats served here are as famed as the hot chocolate (in particular the Mont Blanc speciality,) I think the confections on offer at Laduree just edge it.

Of course there are the quintessential macarons (pistachio and orange blossom on this occasion), but in addition my mum and I tried the pistachio éclair and the rose raspberry Saint-Honoré which was almost too beautiful to eat. It consisted of a puff pastry base, topped with dinky cream puff pastry balls filled with light rose petal custard cream and raspberry compote, rose-flavoured Chantilly whipped cream, rose syrup fondant and raspberries. Of course there’s only one thing to drink with such pretty, delicate, pastel coloured confections – pink fizz.

Dinner
As I mentioned in a previous post, I like a restaurant with a difference, so when Mr G came out to visit me, I tasked him with finding a restaurant to fit the same brief. He did well and found La Gare not far from Trocadero.

As the name suggests, it’s an old train station that has been transformed in to a restaurant. You enter at ground level in to a funky bar (that serves a decent margarita whilst you wait for your table) and then head down a very grand staircase in to an enormous dining hall. At first glance I was worried that the size would make it feel over-crowded and like a canteen, but a clever layout and good interior design means that when you’re seated it feels much smaller and intimate. We went for a three course set menu and wines and fizz by the glass, all of which was delicious, and in a city notorious for its awful service, we were pleasantly surprised by how good it was!

Cocktails
At the other end of the size spectrum to La Gare is Jefrey’s. At about midnight one Saturday, my friend and I went in search of the Paris branch of the Experimental Cocktail Club (also very good and worth a visit). We were wandering down the road and saw the door to a teeny-tiny bar standing open. It was so small and well hidden we almost missed it, but after a double take and a quick confirmation that it was in fact a drinking establishment and not someone’s house, we took up residence at the bar and started working our way through the cocktail list.

Good cocktails are hard to find in Paris, but we were lucky enough to stumble across some of the best. Like I mentioned it was tiny, with only three stools at the bar, two small coffee tables and armchairs on the ground floor and a smattering of wing back chairs and banquette seating on a small mezzanine. If you turn up too late you just won’t get in, and the cocktails were so good it’s worth turning up early to bagsey your seat. The cocktail menu is inventive and the bar is stocked with weird and wonderful liquors from around the world, homemade infusions and syrups and fresh ingredients such as mint, fruit and spices. It evoked mental images of ye olde apothecary shoppe, and the painstaking care and attention with which the drinks are made only added to the feeling that the mixologists really are creating amazing potions! Add to the mix a great playlist full of new tunes and old classics (sadly not played on the vintage gramophone by the door) and an interesting menu full of tick boxes for DIY martinis and I think I found my favourite bar, ever.

I went back repeatedly.

I want to go back right now.

Come back next week for the Dancing, entertainment, shopping and sightseeing…

Victoria x

PS! Find Victoria over on her blog Sugar Plum Slipper or on twitter @VictoriaHale.

Introducing Esme: Family Lifestyle

Good morning readers! Today I have another lovely lady joining the Florence Finds team. Esme is a smart cookie, great writer, and Mum to 7 month old Freddie. As I know so many of you are mothers, I want to include more family life here on Florence Finds. Esme is going to be our family lifestyle contributor, talking about all things family. This month, think Girl about Town, with a BabyBjorn :)


Hello lovely Florence Finds readers! I’m absolutely thrilled to be here writing for one of my favourite blogs, especially as I will be writing about one of my favourite topics: family. So, let’s get started, shall we?

Long before we welcomed our little boy Freddie into the world, my husband and I were big fans of the National Trust. We’ve been members since we were about 19 and were lucky enough to be given a joint lifetime membership as a wedding present, so we’ve been to our fair share of properties and gardens. But since we’ve become parents our love for this British institution has grown even more – National Trust places are ideal for family day trips.

Here are my top picks for family (and especially baby) friendly days out with the National Trust.


Aberaeron

Baddesley Clinton
A 15th century house with large gardens and, most importantly, a great restaurant that offers a selection of homemade hot and cold food options (along with tea and cake, of course). We visited Baddesley Clinton not long after Freddie had started on solid food and they didn’t even bat an eyelid when he threw his mashed swede around the highchair, one member of staff was happy to show me how to use the microwave available for baby and children’s food you’ve brought yourself and there was even a bottle warmer. Baby changing facilities are in the disabled loo, which is the usual, and everything was pushchair and wheelchair accessible.

We stopped off here halfway round a circular walk that started at Packwood House and takes around 2.5 hours in total. The route is beautiful, taking you along the Stratford-Upon-Avon canal passing plenty of canal-side pubs if you fancy Sunday lunch rather than tea and cake. Unfortunately it’s definitely not buggy-friendly, but there are plenty of things look at to keep slightly older children entertained.


Anglesey-Abbey

Knightshayes
We only discovered Knightshayes this year, but it’s so lovely we’ve been there twice already and it is certain to become our default place to stretch our legs when driving to the South West (it’s 7 miles off the M5, not far from Exeter). It’s got a beautiful kitchen garden (perfect for inquisitive little ones), acres of grass for letting off steam and a perfectly manicured garden with funny topiary.

The cafe has a larger-than-average selection of cakes and I can confirm the staff are definitely not anti-breastfeeding.


Snowshill-Manor

Brockhampton Estate
This is one we’re looking forward to exploring further next time we go to visit my mum as we literally drive past it on our way to Mid Wales, but have only managed to stop for a quick lunch and to give a grumpy baby a break from the car. This is one of the things we love about the National Trust: when you’re travelling and need to stop for anything other than petrol, you can’t beat them – the food is often homemade on the premises, you’re guaranteed to find something more interesting to look at than a service station car park and the toilets are always clean and have somewhere to change the baby.

Lanhydrock
We tend to spend most of our time outside or in the cafe when we visit somewhere National Trust owned, but one of the properties you have to take time to look around is Lanhydrock in Cornwall. I probably wouldn’t recommend taking your 4 month old baby if you really want to appreciate the 100 plus rooms (like we did), but if you do then rest assured that although you can’t take your pushchair around with you, there is somewhere to lock it up securely and they will lend you either a sling or a ‘hippy chick’ (a belt that clips around your hips/waist with a hard ledge that you can rest the baby on to give your arms and back a rest) and staff will coo over them in every room even if they are crying and/or grabbing at everything.


Lanhydrock

Also, the cream tea in the cafe comes with a proper pot of tea, a large pot of clotted cream and two scones (as is only proper in Cornwall, but is unfortunately not always the case).

I can’t wait to take Freddie to some of our other favourite National Trust places such as Anglesey Abbey, which is just outside of Cambridge and has one of the best selections of trees in the country, and Llanerchaeron, the 18th century Welsh estate with a home farm that will definitely be combined with a honey ice-cream and a stroll by the sea in nearby beautiful Aberaeron – my four year old niece’s favourite day trip. Oh, and Snowshill Manor  with its quirky model villages, but maybe that’s one for when Freddie is a bit older.

I hope I’ve inspired you to take a trip to your local National Trust property, garden or coastline or to revisit somewhere you used to visit as a child.

Love, Esme.

Find Esme on her blog Esme Wins or @Real_Married

** The National Trust have currently got a special offer on membership where if you pay by annual Direct Debit, you get 3 months free! A family membership with two adults (under 5s are free) is £75.72, an absolute bargain if you ask me **