It’s not me sharing outfits today but Victoria. I saw her recent escapades on Facebook and just had to ask her to share her outfits, pulled together for what looked like a fabulous Indian wedding. Victoria is always glamorous and her four (yes, four!) outfits didn’t disappoint so I hope you enjoy looking and perhaps get some ideas for weddings you are attending this summer (or share some of your own outfits.)
I used to buy something new for each one – a new hat or dress, shoes or clutch… but then I totted up 12 invites in one year, some of them being two or three day events (so you know, you also need a special outfit for the big “night before” dinner and then something fancy-but-hangover-comfy for the morning/day after “survivors” gathering) and seeing as I’m neither a Kardashian nor a Middleton, it all got a bit much for my bank (in)balance and so I started recycling. I now have a pretty good suite of “occasion wear” from which I can mix and match future outfits.
So for 2014′s five weddings I sorted all my outfits out at the beginning of the year and knew exactly what I was going to wear…. and then I realised one was an Indian wedding and I had literally no clue where to start.
Thankfully the bride was on the ball, arranged a number of shopping trips for us less-clued up guests, provided a handy “what to wear, when” guide for the girls and boys for the various events and was kind enough to pick up little bits and pieces for us on her numerous trips to India.
So, here’s a run down of what I actually wore…
Thankfully, the bride’s mother had pre-folded and sewed the pleats at the front, so when I arrived (in essentially my underwear at a posh five star hotel (The Grove) it was only a case of wrapping, tucking and draping in the nearest toilet cubicle (which was thankfully rather plush, considering the venue). I found someone to pin everything in to place so I flashed no tummy (too soon in the year for that!) and to keep everything secure. I accessorised with big gold earrings, a sparkly hair band, more bangles from India (another gift from the bride) and some gold sandals I wore as a bridesmaid 7 years ago, from Faith, which are still going strong! I took along my trusty Lulu Guinness lips clutch for a pop of colour!
I accessorised with a box clutch (a fiver in an Oasis sale years ago, and until now, unused, due to its rather unuseful size!) pewter peep toe heels from the Ted Baker sale, also years old but dead comfy, some Swarovski earrings which were a 30th birthday present, a super-bling chunky bracelet – also a 30th birthday present – and again some bangles from India, given away as favours at the Sangeet/Mehndi party.
On Monday I wore pyjamas, lots of Sudocrem and Vaseline on all my sequin chafe and allergic flare ups from all the safety pins and soft, soft socks on my dance-weary feet.
I can’t publish photos of the bride without her permission, but rest assured, no matter what effort we put in, we paled in comparison to how stunningly breathtaking she was. Her outfits (designed bespoke to match each venue, theme and setting), accessories and make up had my jaw on the floor.
When she’s back from her well-deserved honeymoon, perhaps I’ll convince her to give you a sneaky peek.
How do you plan for wedding outfits? Or is it just me that’s this bonkers about planning?
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…
The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable – A Punchdrunk production
There’s not a lot I can say about The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable without ruining it, other than, it’s not really a play, it’s more of an experience, an emotional journey. One designed to take you out of your comfort zone and make you think – even if you’re not thinking about the play itself, even if you don’t like the story, I guarantee you’ll be thinking about the dance talent, the amazing sets and the curious artefacts you’ll find along the way, for a long time afterwards. Let me also qualify this post by saying that this is not a review, I’m not a theatre critic, I just like to be entertained. And entertained I was. In fact I still am. Since seeing the play I’ve lost hours on the internet Googling reviews, reading online discussions and stalking the cast members on Twitter to see what others made of their experience.
I booked tickets upon recommendation that it would be “weird, thought provoking, like nothing you’ve ever seen before and right up my street”. I was glad I took up the suggestion and I reiterate the advice to you!
It’s a promenade performance, by the brilliant Punchdrunk, set in a disused four storey building next to Paddington station. Upon arrival you check your bags (so you don’t pilfer things from the amazingly intricate, lovingly accessorised sets), you are issued with a mask (to clearly mark out the audience from the actors), and given a slip of paper with two paragraphs which loosely detail the two parallel story lines of love, adultery, paranoia, betrayal, social struggle and murder.
You are welcomed to “Temple Studios” by a glamorous employee with a brief introduction and then you are encouraged to leave your companions behind, open your mind and follow your own path…
And for three hours that’s what I did.
I lost my family within minutes as I got my bearings in a dark “street” lined with “shops”. I found a few characters and became engrossed in their stories, following them in earnest as they tore through the “desert”, “forest” and on to “movie sets” up and down stair wells, through dimly lit corridors and feeling uncomfortably voyeuristic as I peered through key holes and “bedroom windows”. I got hot and sweaty running up and down staircases (one covered in fresh, bloody hand prints), I shivered as I watched a narrated movie scene play out on a snowy mountain and I ruined my suede boots on a sand dune and had to step through a puddle of water around a bathtub in the middle of a “chapel” in a “trailer park”.
I put those words in quotes as I was well aware I was walking on a set, amongst scenery, but the eerie lighting, disconcerting music and smells, mist and different underfoot textures made the sets feel spookily real. Although I knew I was perfectly safe and was watching a show, my over-active imagination went hell-for-leather and I had a few freak out moments as an audience member was “kidnapped” by a cast member and taken in to a locked room, and I was left virtually alone in a dark corridor next to a shrine to an “ageing actress” and was then taken by surprise by an elegantly dressed lady, appearing at my shoulder literally out of nowhere.
I know, I know. It sounds like I’m talking gobbledegook!
Well I am. And that’s all I’ve done since leaving that building, talking non-stop about how amazing it was to people who haven’t seen it, who clearly think I must be going crazy.
I managed to follow only one of the stories, albeit twice over, thus from two viewpoints, and at the climax I realised that not only was there the parallel narrative detailed on the slip of paper at the beginning, but a number of other subplots and about 10 additional members of the cast that I’d completely missed! I also had a small tantrum (in my head) at the beginning where I got all stroppy that I had absolutely. No. Idea. what was going on. But on speaking to other people, I clearly wasn’t alone at that stage.
I was also worried that I wouldn’t know when it was over, that I’d end up wandering the deserted floors until the small hours, but after a very definitive ending we filtered through in to an on-set bar to be reunited with our companions where we flitted between stunned, reflective silences and garbled chatter where we all spoke over each other in our excitement to relay the things we’d seen, done, felt, touched and experienced. Each and every one of us had seen a different story. Different details, characters, rooms and props. We’d all had utterly unique experiences within the same building in those three hours. Our discussions continued via text and email long in to the night.
Even if you don’t like it, I guarantee you you won’t regret it. You can book tickets here.
And if you’ve seen it already please, please, message or call me so I can talk to someone about it.
It seems I lied in my first line. There IS a lot I can say about this play, in fact I can’t stop saying things about this play…
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:
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.]
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.
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!
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…
I like a quirky bar. I like something odd or different. I like drinks and dining to be a bit of an “experience”. I used to be all about a fancy restaurant with white linen and a silver cloche, a grand dining room or a room with a view, but recently I’ve been going in for furniture glued to the ceiling, themed dining and broth served in a halved Diet Coke can. This year for our anniversary I set Mr G the task of finding somewhere “awesome” for dinner. I asked for Sketch (I took him there for patisserie back in April, because we were too broke for dinner, but I quite fancied an actual meal there). Apparently Mr G did not feel that our fourth wedding anniversary constituted a good enough reason to batter our overdrafts and make ourselves homeless. Hmph.
Hours of Googling “coolest/funkiest/oddest/quirkiest cocktails in London”, looking for something on a level with Sketch in terms of the fun factor but not on a level with Sketch in terms of the cost factor, made me realise we’d already visited quite a few cool places, so I thought I’d tell you about some of my favourites here.
I booked Inamo via a deal website a while back and managed to get a good chunk off the bill. The tables themselves are the menus, becoming giant “touch screen” displays through which you can scroll for food items and drinks and then select your choices. You can order items and, without ever speaking to a human, they turn up at your table. Run out of cocktails? Order more! Fancy some more rice with that? Double tap and it’s on its way. “What’s that you’ve got there? Can I try it? No? I’ll order some of my own then…”
Once you’ve stopped ordering food and drinks (and it can get dangerous, ordering at the swipe of a finger – a bit like drunken iTunes purchases at midnight because you “really feel like dancing to that great Pitbull song” – you know what I mean… don’t you? Anyone?) then the real fun starts. The games! You can challenge other people to games like battleships, scroll through various electronic “table cloths” or use the table as an interactive area map to see where you should go next. Hours of fun!
I’m obsessed with Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass. It’s all the theming, oddness and quirkiness that makes the story so appealing to me. It’s only natural then, that a bar named for one of Lewis Carroll’s poems is full off oddness and quirkiness.
The seats are claw footed baths filled with cushions, the menu is themed like an american year book, some of the cocktails are borderline weird (mine tasted like a chilled thai green curry… odd, an acquired taste, but actually delicious!) and there are hidden bars access through a mirrored wardrobe. What’s not to love?
Flesh and Buns
I’m not going to lie, my friend and I booked this place, not for the funky group dining set up, the cloud-soft hirata buns filled with super-tasty teriyaki salmon or the fruity cocktail list, but for the dessert menu. We kept our savoury order to a minimum (squid, broccolli, teriyaki salmon buns. Yum) so we could focus on pudding.
In particular the s’mores! A fire bowl was delivered to us and we squealed with delight as we toasted our mashmallows on skewers over the flaming coals, squished them between biscuits with matcha paste, and then proceeded to get marshmallow all over our hands and faces. Not cool, but lots of fun! We also saved some room for hot, fresh, black-sugar custard doughnuts. We did a lot of finger licking.
Sister restaurant to La Bodega Negra, Casa Negra sticks in my mind not because of the delicious mexican food, but because of their thoughtful cocktail menu. If like me you often can’t decide which concoction to order, their Margarita Flight is perfect. Undecided on which flavour of frozen margarita to try, they brought me a miniature one of each on a tasting board! Now that’s my kind of drinks menu!
I’ve mentioned the Electric Diner on this blog before as a great place to take the boys and it’s sister restaurant Soho Diner is much the same. But when I saw that they had cocktails on tap it’s since become one of my fave girly haunts, and it’s perfectly acceptable to drag along the boys as well. Cocktails on tap? That’s right – think of the increased bottle-to-glass speed as they cut out the measuring, mixing, muddling, shaking and stirring and decant perfectly concocted classics straight to your cup.
The build-your-own burgers aren’t bad either. I often while away an hour or two day dreaming about what we now refer to as the Burger of Doom (christened by Mahj)… double cheeseburger with sliced avocado, fried egg and maple-smoked bacon. Mmmmmm… *Homer-style dribble*
I spotted this on an episode of The Apprentice and, after talking about it excitedly for weeks, my friends surprised me with a booking for a special birthday dinner. We dined on tasty Asian dishes and slurped yummy cocktails whilst being entertained by a variety of burlesque cabaret acts through the night. Most of the acts take place on or above a large catwalk running down the middle of the restaurant which also doubles as a group dining table and my group was lucky enough to be seated at this table! At the end of the night they clear away the plates and glasses and they encourage you to get up on the table and dance. It’s not often the restaurant staff assist you in getting up on to the table, rather than escorting you down from it…
London: standing up high
I work in Canary Wharf and although people say it’s not “proper London” (pah!) I love it for many reasons, one of them being the beautiful views I enjoy day in day out of the London skyline, especially at sunset. From this vantage point, I watched The Shard emerge from its foundations near London Bridge on to the London skyline and then creep its way in to the sky, overtaking the City’s high-rise towers and iconic landmarks to become the “tallest building in Western Europe”. I became rather fond of its glassiness, boastfulness and “Shardiness” in my eye line out across my favourite city, so it was a foregone conclusion that as soon as it was open I’d be in the (online) queue for tickets to visit the viewing platform.
And so a week ago, with my family in tow, I found myself in the queue for The View at The Shard at the front gate ready for our time slot.
Entry is timed in half hour slots, presumably to control the flow of people and prevent overcrowding at the top, but also to increase the “experience” factor. It’s much cheaper to book these slots in advance online so do plan ahead, but if you have a spare £100 in your back pocket, they will grant you a “let me in immediately” pass.
Anyone that’s been to Disneyland or a theme park will immediately recognise the anticipation tactics they employ during the entry procession (and some health and safety reasons too, of course) – checking of the tickets, metal detectors, searches, scanning of the tickets, switch-back roped-off queuing, theme park ride music piped in to the cool, dark, themed spaces in which you wait for the lifts, all overseen by the most non-London-but-very-Disneyland staff who are cheerful, helpful, upbeat, knowledgeable, friendly, happy and willing to engage in small talk with their charges. In fact I’ll go so far as to say that some of them even initiated it!
Two sets of lifts and a stair case (wear big knickers – you can see straight up the skirts of the people above you!) and you enter the panoramic viewing platform.
Loving London as much as I do, it literally took my breath away. I’ve gazed from the top of much higher buildings but I wasn’t looking down on my beloved London. Despite being incredibly scared of heights I loved it.
In terms of the main viewing area, there are faux “telescopes” dotted around with electronic screens for you to pick your views (day, dusk, night and live), scan the horizon, zoom in on buildings, attractions and areas and click on information links for more detail. Also on each window are icons of the famous landmarks found if looking in that direction. Helpful for someone like me that navigates London via my photographic-memory-recall of the Tube map alone and a constant recital of “Never Eat Shredded Wheat” to get my bearings!
Also exciting is that, as a purpose built viewing platform, no view up, out, left or right is blocked. In fact it’s built so that you can almost look directly down underneath your feet… if you are mad/brave enough to do so. Therefore, we were able to see straight down in to the beer garden in which, only moments before, we had been staring up at The Shard whilst enjoying a last minute pint and a Pimm’s to help my dad pluck up the courage! It was a little bit surreal.
For me, what really sets The View from The Shard apart from the other viewing platforms in the city, such as 30 St Mary Axe (aka The Gherkin) and Tower 42 is the next level up – the same view, but open to the elements! 72 floors above the street and you can feel fresh air on your skin. For me, working in air conditioned glass towers for the last six years, the feeling is utterly bizarre.
Seeing that my poor father was sweating buckets with fear we took pity and headed out to order a glass of celebratory fizz in one of the two bars (slightly lower in the tower), we were however scuppered in our attempt by a very strict door policy and refused entry on the basis that I was wearing flip flops (they were strappy leather flats!) and Mr G was wearing shorts (it was 28 degrees!) so we took ourselves to All Bar One next door instead… and happily saved ourselves a quid or two!
In summary, it’s a great way to view the city, spot famous London landmarks, get your bearings and appreciate the sheer size of our sprawling capital. But, I think £25 is steep for essentially standing at the top of a sky scraper. If you want more of a special experience, or want to enjoy the view in a more refined manner, my recommendation would be to book dinner at either Hutong* or Oblix* and put that £25 towards some pricey cocktails instead, blag your way to the top of The Gherkin or book a table at Duck and Waffle or Tower 42 instead and enjoy a glass of bubbly with your view!
*NB I’ve tried neither Hutong or Oblix due to my unfortunate shoe situation, so I have no idea on the quality and prices – if you go – let me know!
London: standing down low
In keeping with the theme of standing for a view, as well as standing and looking down, I also did some standing and looking up.
I’ve long fantasised about seeing A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe, because it’s my favourite of the Bard’s plays and it feels only right to see it in such authentic-feeling surroundings.
Add to this, my long standing obsession with seeing A Midsummer Night’s Dream at midnight and I had no qualms with booking standing tickets in order to make my dream come true. For years I’ve missed out on the one-off show they put on around the Summer Solstice so this year I was tipped off by a friend-of-a-friend at a Midsummer Night’s Dream themed wedding (not a coincidence!) and managed so get some of the last few tickets.
I’ve never been to the Globe before and I was as excited about the setting as I was the play itself. A modern glass exterior leads you through in to a replica Elizabethan open air theatre with wooden seating, a yard for us plebs to crowd in to and a raised, covered stage with beautiful detailing. It would have felt magical at any time of day but arriving in the dark, as the previous audience were heading home for bed, was utterly enchanting.
Like I said, sadly we didn’t have seats so I was slightly worried about having to stand up for over three hours, but in the run up to the evening, Globe theatre aficionados informed me that standing is the best way to see a play there. I wasn’t convinced at the start but really I needn’t have worried. I’ve done longer stints standing at festivals, concerts, on stage myself, and all in less comfy shoes so it wasn’t so bad at all really and in the end I was so engaged and invested in what was happening on the stage I barely noticed that I wasn’t seated. I think I could have been wearing five inch stilettos and I’d still have stayed until the very end. At 11.59, prompt, a band of Ye Olde Englishe musicians came out and played some Ye Olde Englishe folk music to set the scene, and from the first note at the open, to the last hum at the close I was spell bound. I laughed out loud, I grinned, I gasped and I sighed as the hugely talented actors brought Shakespeare’s words to life. In the spine-tingling finale, as the fairies bless the temple, tears pricked my eyes and goosebumps appeared on my skin with the emotion… and perhaps just a little fatigue!
Sadly they only do one midnight show a year, so get your mouse hand ready for next year, but in the meantime, if you love the play I’d highly recommend seeing this version, it’s on until October!
I’d also recommend dinner at The Swan before or after the show for some tasty dishes and a reasonably priced set menu but mainly for the stunning view of St Paul’s across the river.
By now you all know Victoria and I don’t usually butt in on her posts but today I couldn’t help myself. I don’t know about a boy, but this might just be my most perfect day out ever. I am so going to be visiting these hotspots next time I’m in the big smoke. Thanks Victoria!
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m a bit of a girly girl. Which means that when I’m out and about attempting to be a Girl About Town my eye is drawn by the girliest of locations, my interest is piqued by the pretty, my attention is grabbed by the glitzy and my appetite is whetted by sugar and spice and all things nice.
Sometimes, though, I feel like I’m leaving the Mister out of all the fun so every now and again I look for things a bit less frou-frou and frilly and with a slightly more manly edge so he can come along. To that end, I’ve pulled some of my recent slightly-less-girly exploits together in to one man-friendly post that could form the basis of a whole day out or just a quick date or catch up with the man in your life, be he your husband, boyfriend, brother, father or even the next door neighbour who did some of your “Blue Jobs” and now you owe him a drink*.
Let’s start at the beginning (a very good place to start) with breakfast, or in fact…
Brunch at The Wolseley
It’s not just for boys, but I think the old-school opulence and masculine colours and décor makes for a great setting to get a special day out started. Eating breakfast in such grandeur feels rather Bruce Wayne/Sports Superstar/other male “icon”-cool.
Mr G is a bit of an eggs benedict aficionado and I’ve eaten my fair share of American-style pancakes (with berries, maple syrup and crispy bacon, of course) in my time, so we know our stuff and I think we both whole heartedly agreed that it was one of the best breakfasts we’d eaten in the UK. The service, quality and prices were everything you’d expect from such a well known restaurant, but equally it’s not as stuffy or expensive as you’d think. We went on a weekday and it had a bustly, buzzy atmosphere with suited-and-booted corporate meetings, obvious regulars looking dapper and reading the business pages at their usual tables and a few (slightly) famous faces having discreet catch ups. Be sure to book in advance for the weekend as they get very busy.
After Brunch, my second favourite meal of the day is Afternoon Tea (Dinner, Lunch, Midnight Feast and Breakfast being third, fourth, fifth and sixth respectively). Traditionally, or at least as far as I’ve experienced, afternoon tea is always a very feminine affair. Dinky sandwiches, light-as-air patisserie, miniature scones and tea and fizz scented with floral aromas served in girly surroundings on delicate china. Afternoon tea is not often top of Mr G’s list of things to do. Until now…
Burger afternoon tea at BRGR.co Soho
Milk and sugar with your tea madam? Not here – American style iced tea, thank you very much!
Cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off? Nope – a trio of sliders (lobster, chicken and beef) and a portion of fries, complimented by BBQ sauce, burger relish and mustard.
Scones with jam and cream? Nuh-uh – how about a bowl of creamy vanilla milkshake. Yum.
Your choice of cake from the sweet trolley? Save it for next time – I’d prefer a selection of mini desserts thank you very much. Specifically, a salted caramel “doughnut hole” (sorry – that should probably be “donut hole” in here), a brownie and a de-constructed raspberry cheesecake.
Situated in Soho, literally just off Oxford Street, I knew it’d be a super-cool venue as the name of the restaurant contained no vowels! We were a large group and I don’t queue so I booked a table in advance for a Sunday afternoon as they don’t take Saturday bookings. The style and decor is simple, modern and understated, but colour is injected here and there with kitsch cow heads mounted on the walls. These are designed by artists, designers, celebrities and creative individuals and auctioned for charity. Click here to check out the hall of fame, or to submit an idea for your own. We were seated in front of the open kitchen and bar so there was some added theatre to the dining experience. The service was brilliant, in fact almost up to US standards, and the afternoon tea price was, in my opinion, a complete bargain!
After taking your fill of brunch and burgers (with maybe a short break in between for some culture, walking, sightseeing or shhhh, shopping?) what about a trip to the cinema to see a boy-friendly film? But not just any cinema..
Situated on Portobello Road, maybe a five or ten minute walk from Notting Hill Gate tube, The Electric Cinema is definitely the coolest place I’ve ever been to watch a film. The foyer feels like a cross between a ticket tent for a circus and a Victorian grocery shop, with a small booth in the corner to collect your tickets, a wall lined with wooden drawers full of traditional penny sweets and a vintage till at the Electric Donuts stand.
After loading up on goodies it’s straight in to the auditorium, full of squidgy red leather armchairs, love seats at the back, and double beds in the front row. Each seat has its own little polished table (no arguing over the cup holders), a vintage-style lamp and a leather footstool (no putting your feet on the chair in front and being told off by an usher), which contained a cosy cashmere blanket for each person and has space to store your belongings. Not really something that the boys will care about, but this made me squeal with delight as I always take an over-sized scarf or pashmina to the cinema with me to snuggle under or hide behind during the scary/gross bits, and I refuse to put my handbag on the sticky, dirty floor, instead clutching it on my lap all through the film. How very civilised!
There is a bar at the back of the auditorium which serves alcoholic beverages and yummy snacks, so your boy can kick back with a movie, a beer and a hot dog like he’s in his own living room… the living room he’d have in his Bruce Wayne/Sports Superstar/other male “icon” mansion, of course.
There are minimal pre-film adverts, so be on time, with just one or two that fit the profile of the main showing and then in to the usual, but in fact, unusual, “housekeeping” about phones off, exits, drinks/snacks and where to find the rather pretty loos. Pay attention to this bit – there are some fun surprises!
It’s not cheap, but for the experience of watching a special film in style, it’s worth every penny. After the film, if brunch, afternoon tea and Electric Donuts haven’t filled you up, you can head next door to…
Electric Diner for a late dinner:
The menu is full of simple but tasty American diner-style treats and the short but sweet drinks list contains some powerful cocktail concoctions, alongside a variety of beers and wines. I chowed down on a super-tasty cheeseburger with a shared side of fries, broccoli and the tastiest, juiciest bacon I’ve eaten in a long time washed down with a Grey Goose le Fizz (Vodka, elderflower, lime and soda). I’d highly recommend the lot!
*Apologies for the slightly anti-feminist statement there, but you know what I mean, some things are just meant for boys to do and I’m always eternally grateful to the men in and around my life for stepping in when Mr G is unavailable. This mainly involves being rescued from arachnids or collected from train stations that are not my intended destination after (ahem) missing a stop here and there late at night.
This month I was going to write about a recent glamping excursion to Jollydays in Yorkshire, but I realised that Rebecca had already done that. So I racked my brains trying to think about something exciting from the past four weeks to tell you about. I’ve been to plenty of bars and restaurants, but none of them could have filled a whole post. Then I remembered that I was taking a work trip for an event in Rome. Granted, the places we visited were a bit out of my usual personal price range but they were great, so for a special weekend break I’d definitely recommend them. I’ll certainly be re-visiting the city with Mr G (and his credit card) in tow.
In a similar style to my Dublin piece I’ll open with one or two recommendations for eating, drinking, sleeping and exploring and then I’d love you guys to pitch in with some of your own!
Where I stayed
The event was for a rather large group of people, and we required conferencing space so that ruled out most of the city centre hotels, due to their age and size. The central hotels in Rome are much smaller and tend to have less on-site event space, so we stayed just outside of the city at the Rome Cavalieri. A grand hotel in a traditional style, full of super-sized art work, furniture you can’t sit on, relics, artefacts and sculptures that make you jump at every corner – especially in the dark after only a few hours of shut eye, and a flute or two of bubbly! My favourite pieces were glass cases in one of the lift lobbies that contained the actual Rudolf Nureyev costumes from a staging of Giselle. He was surprisingly tiny!
Because it’s out of town guests also benefit from a resort feel at the hotel, with an indoor pool (part of the impressive spa) and a large outdoor pool set in beautiful gardens, overlooked by a lovely patio area – perfect for al fresco cocktails before heading in to the city for dinner. The view from the rooms is also amazing, stretching right across the city to the famous Seven Hills.
We made use of this view, taking lunch and breakfast on the roof terrace and it really is breathtaking. There’s a reason that this hotel, and specifically the top floor, is home to La Pergola, Rome’s only three Michelin starred restaurant. Needless to say, the closest I got to dining in here was when I stood outside it, with some Haribo (that I had packed for those low-blood-sugar-stress-out-moments) peering through the gap in the doors.
Shuttle buses from the hotel operate free of charge and frequently in to the city centre, so despite being a little bit out of the action, you’re never far from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
Before my big event kicked off, we had to stay in a smaller, city centre hotel as the Cavalieri was full to bursting with ATP tennis players. (Yes I did spend a vast proportion of my [very little] free time scouting the halls for them. And yes I did spy one, from afar). We stayed in a much more budget-friendly hotel closer to the city centre which was at the other end of the design scale entirely. Modern in style and compact in design, the Hotel Metropolis is walking distance to some of the city’s main sights and a great choice for a long weekend.
Where I drank
All over the place, and whenever I could, basically! I’m a big prosecco lover, and it was a very stressful weekend!
In terms of an actual recommendation, you can’t beat the Hotel de Russie, one of Rome’s most famous hotels, and it’s beautiful courtyard gardens for a swish drink, some posing and some people watching! Set between the Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps it’s right in the heart of the action. The drinks aren’t cheap, but the setting, the service and the styling make for a special evening out,especially if you have something to celebrate. Also, if you fork out for a couple of drinks, you can save some cash and skip dinner with the amount of freebie snacks they bring out! We ordered some Italian cocktails and then gorged ourselves on fresh mozzarella and crudities, spicy meatballs, gigantic juicy green olives and small salty black ones, deep fried polenta and still-warm foccacia with oil.
The vibe is elegant, but with a funky air as the mixologists fling their shakers about to the sounds of a DJ, ensconced in a balcony high up on the wall, not too dissimilar to that famous one in Verona…
Where I ate
I tried to pick between three restaurants but I couldn’t pick a favourite, so I’ll recommend the three but I’ll keep it brief!
Something fancy: Casina Valadier is set in the Borghese Gardens, and is an old private residence, converted to a beautiful restaurant and event space. The décor, location and view are all so beautiful it made me want to fly all my friends and family out to renew my wedding vows. Speaking to some locals, it seems that Casina Valadier is something of an institution, and all “special” evenings out in the city start with aperitifs in the gardens, overlooking the cityscape. Take your camera!
Something traditional: Antica Pesa is a little bit out of the way, in one of the oldest parts of the city, Trastevere, set amongst old crumbling buildings, windy streets and cobbled paths, but it was worth the taxi ride. A lobby literally covered in photos of famous faces (James Bond through to Taxi Driver, via Sharon Stone and Will Smith – who both sent hand written notes) suggests it’s going to be a good night! The service was brilliant, the wine list was longer, bigger and heavier than the Bible (we took a recommendation!) and a menu full of traditional dishes and local ingredients all eaten in the courtyard, under the stars, made for a wonderful meal. What absolutely made my evening however, was when I chose a “traditional Roman picnic” as my starter and, expecting a plate of antipasti, was amazed when an artist’s case came out. I actually did I little squeal. I love an innovative serving suggestion!
Something modern: Molto, located in the upmarket Parioli area of the city, is contemporary and stylish. Pre-drinks on the decking outside with some nibbles (local parmigiano dipped in lavender honey. Swooooon), and then modern Italian cuisine in the trendy, black and white interior made for a perfect evening. There are wine bottles lining the walls at one end of the restaurant, a sleek bar at the other end, and slap bang in the middle, a big food station where they slice the cold meats, mash potatoes and plate up your pasta.
What I did
Of course there are the usual recommendations to visit the main tourist attractions, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Sistene Chapel, Colosseum, Vatican City, Pantheon, Borghese Gardens, the Roman Forum and the giant “Wedding Cake” (which my dad used to tell me about as a child – and was most disappointed to see when I finally visited Rome for the first time as a teenager!), the famous Piazzas Navona, del Popolo and della Repubblica and of course the famous streets of Via dei Condotti, Via del Babuino and Via Veneto with their bars, restaurants, designer shops and cafes.
You can read about those in any guide book, and I suggest you pay them all a visit if you have time.
Having been to Rome before though, the best recommendation I was given for this trip was to visit Eataly. You may have heard about them as they are popping up all over the world, they are basically enormous food courts-come-marketplaces-come-cookery schools, you can park outside, pick up a basket (or a trolley, depending on how big your case is) and spend a good few hours shopping for fresh, local produce and traditional Italian foodstuffs, taste-testing your way around the various stalls and stations and then stopping for a bite to eat in one of the restaurants, and even book yourself in for a cookery lesson or some wine tasting. Located about 15 minutes from Fiumicino airport, you could stop by on your way home…
… and eat it all on the plane.
So, ladies, do you have any Roman recommendations? (Ed’s note – I’d particularly love to hear any more hotel recommendations you have!)
I constructed this post on the basis that there are two long weekends on their way (thank god!) and you lovely ladies might be looking for an idea for a weekend break.
I made a trip to Dublin in December to visit my cousin Jo, who is currently residing (and occasionally studying) at Trinity College. We managed to pack a lot in to three and a half days but I thought I’d make a suggestion for a place to stay, a place to drink, a place to dine and an activity and then open the floor (what is the blog equivalent in that saying? Keyboard?) for your suggestions as I’m sure there are many of you that know the city well.
So let’s kick off with Where we stayed:
We chose the Trinity Capital Hotel as it was directly opposite Trinity College where my cousin lives. We originally booked it, on recommendation, for logistical ease but it turned out to be a great choice.
The styling is eccentric and it felt like a cross between an early 20th century safari lodge, a Lewis Carroll book and, well, I can’t find any other word for it than imaginarium, really. The lobby and reception areas are filled with (faux) animal skins, gigantic chaise longes, racks of vintage luggage and super-sized arms chairs in sumptuous jewel-coloured velvets. The deep purple walls are adorned with beautiful maps, old and new, every pillar and alcove glitters with tiny mosaic tiles and gilded frames.
Matching black and white baby grand pianos sit in the middle of the lounge, huge mirrors invite you to walk down corridors that don’t exist, gargoyles of what looked like the cast of The Life of Pi perched on the roof outside my window and life-sized camel statues were waiting patiently for the summer to return so they have some company in the central courtyard.
It was one quirky hotel and I loved it! Such a great choice and I’ll definitely be going back. For a twin room in December it was approximately €150 per night, it’s walking distance to all the main areas of the city and, if you catch the bus from the airport to the city centre, it’s a stone’s throw case drag from the bus stop. We paid €12 per person per day for the breakfast buffet and I feel that it was worth the money for the selection and convenience.
We drank quite a few pre-drinks and nightcaps in the hotel as well, as the lounge sofas were just so squashy and inviting. The list isn’t extensive but the cocktails were reasonable for a city centre hotel bar and were tasty.
It’s also worth noting that my aunt, upon check in, was upgraded to a suite. Apparently the check in system picked her at random that day (they do one a day as standard), so that’s one to hope for, if you visit!
Another recommendation was La Stampa, but it was a bit out of my budget for that weekend. Has anyone stayed there? Was it worth a visit?
Where we ate
On our last night, after a trip to the theatre, we followed a recommendation to try The Pig’s Ear and we weren’t disappointed. We arrived at the hot pink door under a black and white striped canopy (how much did I love?) quite late in the evening but the staff were more than accommodating in finding us a table and talking us through the daily offering.
The menu was short but full of tasty dishes served in inventive ways and it was such a cosy setting it almost felt like we were eating at an old friend’s house. The best bit however was when I ordered a cup of tea at the end of the meal. I didn’t think there was a way to be inventive when serving tea. I was wrong! Too cute…
Where we drank:
Jo used the months leading up to our visit to trial a number of bars to take us to, one of which was 37 Dawson Street. This was by far my favourite drinking establishment of the trip. In the same style as the hotel, it was full of quirky artefacts with bemusing drawings and crazy taxidermy adorning the walls, vintage furniture upholstered in a patchwork of clashing colours and a neon sign proclaiming that “All is not what it seems”.
It seems that there is now a cocktail list available but when we visited, they were operating on the basis of “tell us what you like and we’ll make you something you love”. They were however more than happy to make us some classics as well. We drank our concoctions by a heart shaped fireplace, watched over by a giant moose head (that was wearing a giant red nose in honour of the festive season when we visited) before heading to the theatre and it was a fabulous way to start the evening.
We tried to book in for brunch the following day but sadly they didn’t start serving until after our flight check in time. So I suppose there’s another reason to go back. I hear they do an excellent breakfast martini…
What we did
I already mentioned in a previous post that we caught a train from Dublin to Belfast to visit the Titanic: Belfast exhibition, and of course as it was my first time in the city, I just had to pay a visit to the Guinness Storehouse, even if just for the free samples, the advertising display and the views of the city.
However, I think my favourite tourist activity was the walking tour. We try to book one whenever we’re in a city for the first time, and we normally use Sandeman but this time we signed up with a local company that my aunt had used on previous trips. Historical Walking Tours are led by local history graduates and they demonstrate a real passion and knowledge for their subject. I’m ashamed to say I know little to nothing of Irish history so the three hours we spent walking the city were fascinating and went some way to alleviating my ignorance. The tours start at the Trinity College front gates and take in all the major sights including the old Parliament House, Temple Bar, City Hall, Dublin Castle and Christ Church Cathedral.
So Findettes – are any of you planning a weekend break in May? If so, let us know where and it may be our fellow readers have some recommendations.
This is the final post before the Easter break so I just wanted to pop on and say Happy Easter everybody! I’m heading home with Pete to spend time with family, planning an overnight getaway and culture filled day in Liverpool, some baking projects and downtime, to recharge before April arrives. I hope you all have a relaxing and fun-filled few days with people you love. xo
I can’t do art galleries. While others can look, feel and appreciate the skill and visuals, if it’s not “pretty” to look at, functional or historical then I just don’t get it. My brain isn’t wired that way. I’m always looking for an answer in amongst those little coloured dots, a hidden message in those scribbles. The solution to a centuries-old puzzle in a room full of butterflies or conveyed to us via the medium of oil paint… yeah, yeah, I know, I read too much Dan Brown when I should have been writing my dissertation and I regularly forget that I don’t live in a world of Horcruxes and Beedle the Bard.
Basically, unless there’s a curator there to talk me through it, art just stresses my puny brain out.
But, enough about my uncultured soul. Shall I tell you what I do like?
Nothing pleases my eye, my brain and my soul more than light! Soft light in my lounge for sofa snuggling, bright light over my front door to feel safe on arrival at home, daylight for wide-awakeness in the morning (and for doing make up) in my bedroom. Christmas lights, neon lights, festival lights, runway lights as you come in to land over your home city. You can keep your Caribbean beach scenery, rolling hills around the Med, the African bush, the Aussie outback and Santorinian calderas… nothing makes me catch my breath like a cityscape seen from on high, blinking to life as the sun sets and a galaxy of twinkles emerges to mirror the stars above (that we so rarely see these days)… sigh.
Nature’s great, but for me, a surge of electricity pulsing a current through wire filament in a gas-filled glass tube is better!
Sorry. I’m a philistine.
To that end, when I saw the exhibition Light Show advertised at the Hayward Gallery I thought it would make a good Mother’s Day present/activity from me and my Baby Bro. I then also realised that my father, who has worked with lighting for years, might also be interested in attending (d’oh!), so I booked tickets for the four of us and set about planning our family day out.
The exhibition starts off with, what is in my opinion, the most amazing piece of the show, Cylinder II by Leo Villareal. It was transfixing. I could have stood there for hours to watch it rise and fall, glitter and sparkle, pulse and oscillate, as patterns of light were born and died in front of my eyes. Each a unique pattern, never to be seen again. I didn’t want to look away in case I missed something even more amazing. Sadly, photography isn’t allowed, but then again, no iPhone snap would do it justice. If I one day won the lottery I would have one of these installed in my dining room.
From there the installations varied from tiny motorised sculptures to large interactive exhibits and whole rooms where you can even become part of the Light Show yourself, my favourite being You and I , Horizontal (ooo eer!) by Anthony McCall. Along the way I found not just examples of aesthetically pleasing light-art, but also instances of mesmerizingly-good scientific/mathematical calculations masquerading as art, as demonstrated in Jim Campbell‘s Exploded View (Commuters). Some items were funny, particularly Throw by Ceal Floyer which actually made me chuckle to myself, some made me feel (inexplicably) a bit sad, like Lamentable by Francois Morellet, while others were just a bit dull (naming no names!). It all adds to the variety.
I really enjoyed the Chromosaturation rooms by Carlos Cruz Diez which highlighted to our little group the amazing effect light and colour has on us as human beings, not just on our bodies, but on our moods and our interactions with those around us.
I’d also like to say a special thank you to Ivan Navarro for his Reality Show which caused me great embarrassment as I attempted to recreate Justin Timberlake’s Rock Your Body video, forgetting I was “hidden” behind one-way glass! You can take the girl out of Essex…
I’d also like to point out that we visited at around midday on a Saturday, and it surprised me there were a lot of children in attendance. It hadn’t occurred to me that it would be something that would appeal to those of a young age, being as it’s a gallery and there’s no touching/running/talking/fun allowed etc, but watching the kids interact with the exhibits and squeal with delight as they saw the effect they could have on the light made me realise that it’s actually a good place to take children – so if you’re holding back because of little ones, don’t! Equally, if you don’t like your outings kid-free, go at non-child-friendly times so as not to ruin your enjoyment of the lights!
So, after all this arty-farty ness, I’m feeling pumped for more gallery visits. Does anyone have any recommendations?