Last Chance!

Hello readers!

Just a little reminder for you today, about the Florence Finds meet up in London this Saturday.

First up there has been a change of location. All those attending the London meet up should have received email notifications about the change but please take note if you haven’t – The afternoon tea will now be held at Drink.Shop.Do at the altered time of 4pm. There will still be drinks afterwards 😉


Image

As a result there have been some people who have had to cancel due to time clashes with the new plan, so there is a little bit of last minute availability if you now find yourself free at the new time. Do get in touch on hello@florencefinds.com.

The Manchester meet up is all confirmed and filling up but please get in touch if you would like to come and meet the other readers on April the 1st in the afternoon at Great John Street Hotel.

I’m so excited about meeting you all!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS. If your payment is still outstanding, please hurry up and get it done!

How Florence found… Notting Hill

A couple of weekends ago, I headed to London for a weekend of investigating the areas I don’t normally visit as a tourist. One of my main missions was to visit Graham and Green, the interiors store that I obsess over but have never visited and I opted for the Notting Hill store thinking the area would be good for exploring too.

Being a complete novice to the area, we chose Saturday lunch time to head over from our base in Shoreditch, The Hoxton Hotel and emerged from the tube into the midst of the masses also heading towards Portobello Road and the market of the same name. In retrospect, I should have realised how busy it would be, but it probably wouldn’t have put me off despite my extreme dislike of being shoved around, which was totally inevitable.

We flowed along in the general direction of the crowd and eventually hit the market with what seemed like endless collections of almost anything you could possibly want, silver and lace being most popular. On the way we passed rows of pastel painted houses with brightly coloured front doors and pretty gardens, perfect for imagining who lives behind them…

The whole trip became a bit of a gastronomic walking tour and I was drawn into Arancina pizzeria with a classic orange Fiat 500 in the window, used to display long rectangular pizzas while they cooled. We bought a ball of risotto rice which in this case had cheese and ham in the middle and was covered in bread crumbs and went some way towards mopping up the hangover I was battling from the night before.

Before I knew it, we were upon the Hummingbird Bakery and tempted into buying a black bottomed cupcake which we shared as we carried on. My justification was that I’ve never made that particular recipe and it was worth every mouthful 🙂

When we finally got to Graham and Green I was a bit disappointed by the size of the shop although it was packed to the rafters with covetable items. Most annoyingly, my favourite items that I wanted to see up close before considering a purchase, (this desk, this mirror and erm, another desk in case you’re wondering,) weren’t on display. We could have headed to the other store but I decided I could live without seeing them for now. I left with a gift for Anna K, whose birthday party it was later, a single champagne flute and a ceramic tray, both for my dressing table.

Next we decided it was time for lunch and headed to Electric, as recommended by Rachel where the chicken, bacon and avocado salad was lovely and pete had a Croque Monsieur. We sat outside and watched the bustle from the market but the decor inside was right up my street, all oversized industrial lights, metro tiles and reused wood.

Although we were recommended Ottolengis, we decided we had had enough of the area and headed back to East London to make some headway on our epic to-do list over there.

I’d love to hear if you have any Notting Hill area recommendations that I’ve missed, be they shopping or food destinations… Do share them and help the travel section become useful as a resource for other readers planning weekend or needing a Notting Hill guide, particularly if you have lived or worked in the area. 🙂

Love,
Rebecca
xo

East London Calling…

This afternoon I’m hoping my readers will help me out, but not only me. Often when I write a post about something you guys chip in with brilliant suggestions and recommendations and today I’m relying on that. On this occasion it is purely selfish, as this weekend I’m heading off to London town for a weekend with Pete. We’ve been meaning to go for a while and I’m excited to be in London for once and not on business. Exciting though that often is, I never get to see the things I’ve earmarked, the shops I like or try the cool cafes and restaurants I rush past in a hurry. This weekend there will be serious lingering in coffee shops, mooching in boutiques, rummaging in markets and testing of cocktails. All in the name of research you understand.)


Image Credit: Andre Beato

And this is where you guys come in. I really need your help. I’ve got my hotel sorted (The Hoxton in Shoreditch, more on that coming soon) and now I need some places to go. My only must-do whilst in the big smoke is to visit Graham and Green, one of my favourite interiors destinations online and I’ve been desperate to see the actual shop for some years now. That will take us to either Regents Park or Notting Hill (I’m leaning towards the latter as I have always wanted to go,) but otherwise we’re pretty free to wander and explore.

The other reason I hope you’ll help out with your recommendations is that posts like this become a valuable resource for other readers, either searching for travel tips and stylish hang outs or inspiring trips away. The UK was one of the most popular destinations when you gave me your feedback on travel favourites here at Florence Finds and I’m hoping we can build that section up in the coming months.

So, spill the beans about your must visit areas or streets, foodie destinations, fascinating shops and favourite bars in the Shoreditch area, or around Graham and Green in Notting Hill.

Thanks guys! I’ll love you forever 🙂

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Real Rooms: A modern Edwardian kitchen

This morning, I hope you are all feeling suitably excited as I have got a real corker of a Real Room to share with you all. Anna sent in her beautiful Kitchen renovation to me before Christmas and I saved it up to inspire you all in January – I’m considering a kitchen re-do myself and Anna’s period meets modern style really works for me. I hope it inspires you all too and thank you Anna!

In a fit of desperation that we would indeed find the House of Our Dreams before Christmas 2010, I instructed Mr. R to make an offer on ‘the one with the sunken bath’.
It ticked all the boxes (mostly). Perfect location twixt high street (jammed full of kitsch boutiques, organic fooderies and gastropubs) and the park; west-facing (stamp-sized) garden; right price (give or take); nice front door (very important).
It needed a little work. But we were more than happy to take this on, quite excited in fact at a) having a project and b) getting to chose exactly what we wanted in the new kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms etc.

So, from February to July we planned, sketched, looked at magazines, measured, and argued about discussed how our house was going to look. With electric and damp issues to resolve and new floors throughout, no room was to be spared. Without a doubt, however, the biggest changes were going to be going on in the kitchen.

Previously this was a pokey little number that could only be accessed through a pretty pointless long corridor from the front door and equally useless dining area. We knew from the start that we wanted to knock through to make one great big kitchen/diner.

The false ceiling (which housed the bottom of the sunken bath) was the first casualty. Just removing this and restoring the ceiling to its original height instantly made the room feel much bigger. After hastily arranging a party wall agreement with our neighbours (by phone from Boston – note, don’t leave admin until the very last minute, it’s not ideal to be doing it on holiday) the builders knocked down the original archway and doorway et voilà, goodbye small Edwardian rooms, hello brand spanking new kitchen/diner.

White gloss units and black granite worktops give the room a contemporary feel alongside the period features. We developed a hankering for classic wood furniture in our previous house which we would have to make fit (in both literal and decorative senses). Installing a solid oak floor not only added a touch of timeless elegance but also pulled together the sleek modern kitchen area with the wooden dining furniture.

Then we added lights, and lots of them.

Of course, we put a great deal of thought into our juxtaposition of contemporary and classic furniture. But most of our decisions we based on choosing things we liked and putting them together, hoping they’d work. We think they do.

Please do drop a comment in the box below if you are planning a kitchen make-over or just love this one… 🙂

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS If you’d like to see more real rooms on Florence Finds, then please send yours in – you can find out more information on the Submissions page.

The Soho Hotel Afternoon Tea

This morning, for Tuesday Travels we’re staying close to home, in our fair isle’s capital, London. Afternoon tea is not only a national pastime, but a completely decadent opportunity to eat cake and drink champagne tea, which makes it perfect for a get together. I think it’s a brilliant day out too, with your favourite girls, to treat your mum, for a hen do, or even as part of a weekend away with your man, so I’m happy to be sharing this review with you from Victoria of Sugar Plum Slipper.

Victoria is quite the ‘girl about town’, and I’m looking forward to hearing more from her!


Image Credit: Victoria for Florence Finds

Anyone that knows me, knows that afternoon tea is one of my favourite meals of the day, followed by brunch, midnight snacks, supper, dinner, cocktail-hour “picky-bits”, breakfast and lunch – in that order.

I love the fact that afternoon tea, what is meant to be a light, ladylike, delicate afternoon snackette to keep energy levels up for gentle croquet on the lawns and some light needlework before dressing for dinner, is basically just an excuse to eat a massive brunch. Well, I’m not eating lunch and I have to survive until 2.30pm on just breakfast… and then to stuff my face with naughty delicacies all afternoon with some of my best girls (and ladies) until they send the pastry chef home and bring in the dinner chef and then we get started on the cocktails.

I’ve worked my way around London and a few other cities sampling the afternoon tea delights on offer and thus, I feel like I’m a bit of an afternoon tea aficionado, if I do say so myself.


Image Credit: The Soho Hotel

This weekend’s afternoon tea date was at The Soho Hotel with my mum, and some close family friends. (two of whom you could refer to as my “god family”) We try to get together every couple of months for a catch up of some kind, and afternoon tea always wins out. This weekend followed the usual schedule: we met at 2pm, ate afternoon tea for three hours, then worked our way through the cocktail list for a another three hours, before rolling home! The first time we went out, my lovely hubby agreed to pick us up in the evening, but was incredulous as to how afternoon tea can last until ten pm. He has since learned that afternoon tea means that most of the weekend is a write off!

So anyway, I digress. This isn’t supposed to be about my eating habits, but about the venue, menu and service.

We picked the hotel as it’s part of the Firmdale Hotels group and I’m slowly working my way through their entire portfolio. This time I picked the Soho Hotel for the Pommery Autumn Tea menu, convenient location for us all (a five minute walk from Tottenham Court Road tube station) and it’s a funky design hotel.

The Soho Hotel was awarded the accolade “The Most Glamorous Hotel in the World” by the 2005 Tatler Travel Guide. It was a lovely, stylish, funky hotel but if I’m honest I think I’ve been to slightly more glam hotels in my time (not on my own account, unfortunately) but the accolades aside, it was pretty impressive.


Image Credit: Victoria for Florence Finds and square image (middle right, The Soho Hotel.

I’m the first to admit I’m an utter pleb when it comes to art, design and architecture but what I feel I do know is when something is aesthetically pleasing, when the surroundings are comfortable, whether the cuisine is tasty and when the service is attentive, so those are the aspects I’ll be reviewing.

On arrival we were greeted by the giant Botero cat sculpture often used in the hotel’s logo and a spacious lobby filled with colourful artefacts. We were shown through to the Refuel restaurant and bar whilst they located our table as we were slightly early.

Booking had been very easy, the staff were helpful and polite and when I requested that our booking be in “the pretty pink and green room with the squishy sofas” they said they couldn’t promise that area to any booking, but that they would do their best to accommodate my request.

It turned out that they had indeed honoured their promise and we were seated in the Drawing Room around one of the large shared tables – Wagamama-style.

Seeing as

a) we were early
b) one of our party couldn’t make the date
c) I spied a nicer spot across the room
d) I spent nine years as a waitress in a tea shop and so have an almost algebraic talent for table re-organisation, and
e) I’m a bossy boots

I spoke to the waitress and pointed out that by moving us, she’d have three much happier parties, with much more space. Luckily she agreed and I helped her move our crockery and glasswear across the room, and she was either a really good (but out-of-work) actress or she really was happy I’d suggested it. I like to think the latter.

While we waited for the other members of the party, and while we had the room to ourselves, I had some time to take in the décor and surroundings. There were more sculptures, carved lamps balanced on large books, the most enormous Welsh dresser I’ve ever seen and masses of soft furnishings in fuchsia and lime green. It’s definitely not a place for the guys, and the room was filled entirely with women, but it’s worth noting that the Library and the bar area were a bit more “guy-friendly”.


Image Credit: Left, The Soho Hotel and right, Victoria for Florence Finds

We ordered the Pommery Autumn afternoon tea which started with a glass of bubbles and a selection of sandwiches including cheese and chutney, ham and mustard, smoked salmon and the ubiquitous cucumber. These are replenished on request, and when I asked for a few more of the cheese I received an entire plateful. Heaven.

Just as an aside, the Great British High Tea is a bit more expensive and includes a selection of slightly more “fancy” sandwiches, and so these are not replenished. The servers do explain all this at the start though and also what can be switched in and out of the order. So we requested a few plain scones with our quince, apple and rosemary scones (which came as standard in the Pommery Afternoon Tea).

The pastries and cakes were also plentiful, and in fact we left quite a few, which is a bit of a travesty but I think I gorged on too many scones and cheese sandwiches at the start. A mistake I always seem to make!

We were advised on arrival that we’d have to vacate the table two and a quarter hours after the reservation time, which in my opinion is unusual as afternoon tea is always a leisurely, drawn out affair and most places (bar The Ritz) allow you to languish at your table for as long as you need. But I suppose it’s a popular place, and they worked hard to accommodate my wishes and were incredibly polite about asking us to move, so I can’t really complain. They helped us re-locate to the bar area where they replenished our tea, and added a few more cakes to the stand and left us to peruse the cocktail menu.


Image Credit: Victoria for Florence Finds

The cocktails aren’t cheap, and despite being used to inflated London prices, even I baulked at the pricier ones, choosing to stick with the lower end of the price scale (still costing upwards of £11 though), with one tequila and strawberry concoction and then a fruity take on a mojito. To be honest I found the cocktail menu hard to deal with as there were just so many – I find it hard to take in if there is too much choice. I spend too long focussing on the pretty names not the content! Thankfully they were separated into sections based on their key (alcoholic) ingredient so I just kept my eyes on the rum and tequila pages. A few members of our party chose wine instead of cocktails and the prices were even higher(!!) which, personally, I think is crazy – but it’s a good excuse to stick to the pretty concoctions on the cocktail pages I suppose.

After six or so hours we felt it was time to take our leave (having a few group photos with the giant cat on the way out, of course) and despite the high prices I think it was money well spent for an indulgent afternoon with my girls. The atmosphere was buzzy, the staff were great, the food was yummy, the décor was lovely and the company was divine. I’ll defo be going back!

Victoria xo

Have you taken tea at the Soho Hotel, or can you recommend another spot for delicious cakes and decadent cocktails? I’ll add your recommendations to my ‘must try’ list…

Love,
Rebecca
xo

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