No matter how far away you live, a sunset on Camber Sands is the answer to most questions. It just sets you free somehow… Such space, such quietness. It’s all yours. The sky explodes in vibrant apricot and mango colours, the wild grasses like Chinese shadows, seagulls suddenly flying away in a theatrical way, the wet sand turning into a mirror…
Have you noticed how tricky it is to find a good lip conditioner? Too creamy or even oily, too rich or not enough. When transparent they often make your lips paler. When glossy, it’s a little bit too much. Fruity, they make you lick again and again for the sugariness until it’s all gone. I have tried brand after brand, never totally convinced.
Caudalie seems to have found the perfect balance. A very light softness, a texture you will forget about but that really does the job, repairs beautifully, nourishes deeply, even if they’re at their driest. It discreetly makes your lips look slightly plumper too, innocently. The fragrance is very natural, an addictive hint of vanilla and I’d love to find a perfume that would hit that note as perfectly. The bonus point? 99.5% naturally-derived ingredients. On a very cold day, try it on your cheekbones too…
Time Out had crowned Scoop Best Ice Cream in London. No less. Top 5 star rating and all, praising the quality, totally melting for these gelati. Spring is back, there was a little sunshine, we stopped by, intrigued and in need of something sweet. Oh, to be welcomed by the scent of warm waffles and fresh coffee, what a nice introduction! A quick look at the winter selection and my mouth was already watering: the ice cream looked so supple, so light, I could already feel it melting on my tongue. Everything is prepared on site, explained the founder, Matteo Pantani. His eyes sparkle when he talks about the ingredients, first class all the way: the best vanilla possible, organic eggs and cinnamon, Grand Cru single origin cocoas, almonds from Piedmont. No colouring nor fake flavours here! Each year, he surprises scoop lovers with events and ideas. Ice cream cookie sandwiches. Chocolate popsicles. Cocktail-sorbets (champagne, mojito, cosmopolitan)… He was the very first one, as early as 2008, to try molecular gelato, using liquid nitrogen, giving the parlour a Harry Potter atmosphere. All the more reasons to like his Facebook page and be the first to know about his new creations.
Being chocoholics, we indulge in the 2 chocolate treats available that day. The Cioccolato Fondente offers a beautiful creaminess, enveloping the palate, gorgeous with the Sicilian pistachio gelato. Kids (or cheerful adults like me) will be easily seduced by the hundreds-and-thousands cone – adding a festive touch, makes you feel on holiday. Do try the Cioccolato Extra Fondente, a more intense sorbet (indeed, dairy free), such a long, strong bodied note. Takes me instantly back to that special hot chocolate served at a palazzo in Turin.
Every fusion is possible here. A waffle, a meringue, a cake with your gelato? Or would you prefer it as a milkshake? And of course, it’s Shrove Tuesday next week. There will be a special chocolate selection to be served on pancakes, with no less than 8 superb choices. They all look so fantastic I cannot make up my mind. I think I will need three at least! Origins will go from Ghana to Venezuela via Sao Tome – a cacao tour of the world. No, there is no way you can resist this…
Go on. There are 3 delicious addresses in London to enjoy. Ice cream on a waffle or pancake on a chilly day is guaranteed to make you feel better.
40 Short’s Gardens
WC2H 9AB London
53 Brewer Street
W1F 9UJ London
St George’s day for England. St Andrew’s day for Scotland. St Patrick’s day for Ireland. For now, it’s time to celebrate St David’s day, the Green Man with our Welsh friends. So for Saturday, go and experience all things Welsh at the Cecil Sharp House – from music to literature via ales and cider. Cheerfulness guaranteed. As usual, scroll down for our favourite 10 ideas to enjoy London this weekend.
1. On Friday, don’t forget the V&A late evening and its super cool free workshops. This time, artists from Hackney Wick will share their universe with you.
2. The most beautiful art collections are private, museums being only a low percentage. On Friday and Saturday, Open Art gives you an opportunity to see a few gems rarely shown to the public.
3. Book yourself a glamorous time with this retro-revival make-up workshop on Carnaby Street on Friday evening.
4. For once, a beauty surprise-deal. Throughout March, Debenhams will have a free Benefit brow bar.
5. Divine chocolate has opened a pop-up shop on Monmouth street. Free coffee and chocolate bar if you stop by, until March 9th.
6. On a budget? Don’t buy – exchange! The fantastic pub The Water Poet, close to the Old Spitalfields Market, will have a swap shop on Saturday.
7. Olympia grand hall becomes a giant contemporary art gallery for the week-end, Art 14.
8. You’re a parent. Given the price of a babysitter for the night, you haven’t gone dancing for ages. Well, Big Fish Little Fish offers a compromise, a family rave time. There will be a DJ, the kids can dress up and nobody will mind if you go crazy on the dance floor. Your little ones probably will think you are super cool indeed. Sunday, 2 – 4:30pm.
9. How about a narrowboat tour on a London canal? You can bring your own picnic.
10. The famous Barbican weekender is back. And it will be geek themed. Fancy climbing into a computer? Discovering yourself as an hologram? Yes? Then it’s for you.
♪♫♪♫ Click to locate the events ♪♫♪♫
The Greenhouse. Restaurant. 2 Michelin stars. Impressive business card, isn’t it? A culinary constellation, almost a little intimidating. Yet, what I took away from this incredible experience, besides the ingenious cooking, creativity, the refinement… is the human side of it. The passion. A discreet but sincere sense of humour. The kindness. The pleasure in sharing an entire universe. From the moment you step into this oasis of calm, you are made to feel special; a key part of the journey.
A little walk through magnificent Mayfair, admiring the sculpted façades and you will find an adorable yard, almost Asian-themed haven: luminous sculptures, ferns, palmtree, pineapple, a rich green, very vibrant in these surroundings of red bricks. The welcome is attentive, taking into account every detail. You will be doted on by several impeccably dressed and savvy staff, whose honest enthusiasm and expert knowledge quickly becomes apparent – quite a treat. They pride themselves on the details, whether relaying tasting tips or serving us both in exact synchrony. Our sommelier quietly waxes lyrical about the wines, their history, terroir and how they are in harmony with the dishes’ flavours – and culture. This is no charade. Everyone we speak to is in tune and engaging, one could most likely chat all day if desired, or be quietly left alone to your business lunch. They just know.
On the tables, a glass enchantment. One per type of wine. You see, a Bourgogne and a Bordeaux, let’s say both white are not savoured the same. The shape of the receptacle, ideally, should guide the nectar to the best place possible – understand the tastebuds best suited for sweetness, tanginess, dryness… to make it an even more memorable moment. Likewise, cutlery and plates are the ultimate tasting accessories. Our sommelier took the time to explain the link between Dionysus and theatre (oh, the things you will learn here!). On the slope of the acropolis in Athens is one of the major open-air theatres, used in Antiquity to celebrate the God of wine. Once a year, there would be songs, dances, amazing plays. Wine as an art, staged to amaze your senses…
This exceptional lunch opens with a glass of Drappier champagne. Mostly Pinot noir, grown in the sunniest part of the Champagne region, a pure line, a superb creaminess. Pear, grapefruit, floral notes, honeysuckle, white lily… The Greenhouse is also known for its unique wine list with over 3500 handpicked labels. Such quality that the restaurant has won the Wine Spectator Grand award each year since 2005, only shared with 3 other restaurants in the world, no less. Needless to say - trust your sommelier entirely.
Our dreamy champagne was shortly accompanied by three canapés, presented with understandable pride. Miniature marvels, an intelligent introduction. A pain soufflé, pillow of smoked salmon and arenca transports us straight to the pier, the deceptively delicate truffle ma(ca)roon explodes all senses before disappearing on the tongue, that tantalising aroma lingering, musky, overwhelming truffle (oil and purée were used here), mushroom dust. A gratifying pan-fried emmental-cauliflower galette brings us back to Earth, ready to enjoy some truly delicious wines.
Never before had butter made such an entrance on a table. Sculptural, almost oriental combed like the sand of a zen garden, gently perched on a pebble like dish. It’s not just any butter. THE best butter. Bordier. Creamy, sensual, reflecting the quality of the pastures. Churned, mixed by hand, lightly salted, as good on its own as it is on bread. The pyramid is unsalted, the barquette is seaweed, colourful confettis adding an iodized flavour.
Artisanal breads are served throughout the meal. Frequent deliveries from a dedicated bakery ensure that wonderful freshly-baked aroma reaches all the way to your plate. As you know, bread is everything to the French. You cannot fail this. As with wine, it has to be perfect – and it is. Perfect crunchiness, fluffy inside. Mini-batons for the purist, snappy seaweed and lemon for the adventurous, piquant parmesan and chorizo for a Spanish twist. The one below, shaped as a kouign amann, is in fact chestnut favoured, generous in nutty nuggets.
We could not resist the Tasting menu, paired by our sommelier to exceptional wines. Six extraordinary dishes which descriptions which sound like delicious haikus…
Mint jelly / Cauliflower / Granny Smith apple / Curry
It takes a second to process. The beautiful curves. The vibrant spring green. The pure white crowned with sharp yellow. We are advised to dig deep with the spoon and it is quickly clear why. So many interesting layers! Complex yet wonderfully light: tangy green apple, unctuous cauliflower cream liquefying in the mouth. Follows a refreshing mint and cress jelly then tender crab, enhanced by curry, a little lemongrass. As if you could have a summer picnic by the sea but sitting on freshly cut grass… So many pictures come to mind when savouring it.
This was matched to a Clos Floridene 2009, a gorgeous white Bordeaux. Sauvignon and Sémillon, citrus, basil, fruity and - very unsual for the whites of my region, a hint of spice.
Pan fried / Beetroot / Smoked eel / Spelt
Being from the South of France, and no matter how many times I have enjoyed it, Foie Gras is a celebration. I anticipate the melt-in-the-mouth feeling, the almost pink creaminess. But this one, oh, this is a little revolution in itself. Perfectly cooked, pan fried, but that, I was expecting. Salt flakes for the contrast. We are still on classical. But then it hits you - salty eel has been grated on it, just a little, just enough to bring a formidable smokiness, finishing on nutty spelt, infusing it too. The chef has succeeded to make it a real feast, to reinvent the dish, bringing together earth and sea whist avoiding the usual heaviness of foie gras. The beetroot brings a refreshing, fruity, not yet sweet caress.
Rather than the usual Sauternes, our sommelier recommended the Château de Fonsalette 2003. To the nose, it seems to be a sweet dessert wine. Yet, to the palate, though it retains the honey, it is soft, not too sugary. Dried flower petals, rose, cornflower. Let it roll within your cheeks, enjoy its roundness, opening on quince and vanilla, echoing the fruitiness of the beetroot.
Nori / Cockles / razor clams / Dashi / Gnocchi
This dish was quite a show. Served under a beautiful china belle, it reveals an opalescent ingot of substantial flesh, surrounded by salty, crispy Nori seaweed, samphire, cockles, razor clams, delicate but dense gnocchi. Different textures, yet all so moist and tender. Then comes the tiny, transparent teapot… steaming, heady broth theatrically poured to complete the experience. The monkfish, cooked to true perfection, offers a reassuringly firm texture whilst remaining supple and juicy. That clear stock, dashi, pulling it all together, both as a maritime concept and a tasteful harmony of flavours that stand out as well individually as they do in unison.
Take a sip of Jean Collet et Fils, a Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2010. Its intense minerality is a lovely parallel to the light seaside saltiness of the dish, as if being refreshed by sea spray. Nectarine, almonds, apple. I can imagine this with oysters too.
Welsh organic lamb “Rhug estate”
Miso / Puntarella / Mooli / Onion / Anya potato
Starting with the perfect presentation, the care taken to deliver this incredible morsel was immediately apparent. Welsh Rhug Estate prides themselves on the remarkable texture and flavour of their organic lamb, accentuated by salt marsh grazing. A zingy miso crust livens the flavours yet more while the accompanying jus complements perfectly. One is forced to slow, re-divide the portion, savour every sliver. Nutty anya potatoes, tasty puntarella lardons, mooli and onion are beautifully prepared so as to delight in those rare moments of distraction. An improbable little forest, playing on geometrical shapes and colours. The depth of flavour and character of the meat does not twindle and I challenge you not to leave a substantial piece to finish on.
First red wine of the meal, but sure to make me smile as it is also from my region, the Côtes de Castillon, the Château La Gasparde 2009 brings a luxurious ruby colour. I do love the voluptuous grandeur of Saint-Emilion and Bordeaux but often find that the tannins crush more delicate dishes with their heavy red fruit taste. Now, this is more cheerful, almost energetic but silky, fragrant with red currant but not overwhelming, matching the meat divinely.
Green Chartreuse / Exotic fruits
I had discovered the concept of pre-dessert at the Saint-James (one Michelin star) and I succumbed to it. Who wouldn’t? Perfect transition between savoury and sweet. And such beauty! Topped with a flower, it looks like a sugary lily pad floating on a milky river, luxurious offering to an exotic deity. Tangy pineapple contrasting with creamy sabayon, citrus notes, glorious finish on refreshing mint and green Chartreuse. Such a wow effect. A little jewel, really, with the edible silver leaf, pure luxury.
With this, you need a sweet wine. The Domaine Chiroulet, Le Vent d’Hiver 2009 was again a dazzling choice. The harvest is in December, when the sugar is most concentrated in the grape. Candied fruit, fleshy apricot, a hint of spice, mellow. Between Sauternes and Armagnac.
Saffron / Date / Filo pastry
The culinary journey then brings a sunny finale. Orange sorbet, zesty, long on the palate. Juicy fresh orange alternated with candied dates leaves a sugary trace on the lips. The mille-feuille is quite exceptional, such suppleness, butterfly wings, icing sugar dust. Pearls of saffron cream, unexplainable, not so spicy but exotic, not too sweet but unforgettable, a force of its own. Heavenly.
We need a coffee. Don’t get me wrong - this is in no way to wake us up. Our senses are fully awakened. We arrived 3 hours ago and the service has been perfectly paced. We have enjoyed every bite. We have listened to amazing anecdotes, tasting tips sounding like poetry. The room is emptying. But we just do not want to leave. It’s just the perfect excuse to enjoy a moment suspended in time.
But of course, this is The Greenhouse. It’s not just coffee. Call it fireworks. The menu offers a fantastic choice of cafés. We tried the Jamaican Blue Mountain, medium roast, silky and the Malabar Monsooned, perfect for chocolate lovers, stronger, more on the cacao. It is clear that the quality of the water has been taken in account too - no acidity, very pure taste. It would be a heresy to even consider sugar or milk.
There are petits fours too, served on a carpet of grass. Paradisiac bites: matcha tea tart filled with lemon curd and meringue… Yuzu and passion fruit pate de fruit, tropical dew drop… and on the wooden spoons, creamy mango mousse with a coconut crumble effect.
You will be treated to chocolates too - very VIP. Masterpieces. 3 origins, 3 adventures. Andua chocolate, olive oil, basil - both fruity and aromatic. Manjani chocolate, raspberry, pequillos – rich jam, memories of garlands of piments on the white house in Espelette. Equatorial chocolate opening on a liquid heart of yuzu and saké, between tangerine and grapefruit…
Spell binding. This will make your eyes sparkle, make you feel you are walking on a cloud the rest of the day. Cuisine d’exception - roaring rounds of applause duly deserved by chef Arnaud Bignon. The atmosphere is elegant, refined but warm and friendly thanks to the exceptional staff, their enthusiasm, their subtle sense of humour, their kindness all along. The prices are not as vertiginous as expected. This Tasting menu in 6 dishes (not counting the wine) is £98 per person which comes as a surprise considering this is a 2 Michelin star restaurant. The menu changes every few weeks, keenly following seasonal products. For just a little more, you can indulge in the Discovery menu (£120/person), each dish a surprise depending on the Chef’s current choices: Chef/ Explore/ Flavour/ Ingredient/ Inspiration.
An experience and a fabulous escape from normal life.
27a Hay’s Mews
Remember JUST EAT, this super cool website that lists the take away close to where you live, by proximity, by theme, even by opening hours? Once you’ve tried it, it makes its way to your favourites immediately, such a life saver. The menus are online (no need to keep dozens of outdated leaflets in the kitchen drawer), as well as the prices. And you can pre-order dinner if the restaurant is not open yet. Efficient. In my world, anything that saves time and energy is worth a round of applause.
Did you know there is an award for take-aways too? Tried and Tasted, now running for the third year, encourages the quality of both food and service for London. Out of the 3800 London restaurants listed on the website (they have 20,000 in the UK), divided among the 6 areas of the capital, JUST EAT selected the best rated addresses. The ones that you, me, anyone loving an easy but delicious treat brought to their doorstep, have highly recommended.
Have a look. We all have a local we cherish, that makes our mouth water in advance. Now is your turn to give something back. Have a look – is it on the list? Yes? How about giving them a little push and vote for them? It’s easy, only takes a second, exactly 3 clicks in total. It’s a nice way of saying thank you and to support your community too. You have until March 31st to send this virtual smile. It does matter.
The winners will be crowned ‘Best Chinese in North London’ or ‘Best Italian in South West London’ and so on. Go on. Get that mouse clicking.
And who knows? You might just win one of these 25: JUST EAT branded onesies, iPad Mini 16GB, £25 JUST EAT voucher, Kindle Fire HD, Samsung Galaxy Tablet.
Golden letters, round and curled beautifully, Guerlain, like a secret code for elegance and beauty. Of all the luxurious brands, this one, to me, still has a soul. It means more than just fashion, it recreates the elegance of a past era where beauty was highlighted, not faked. The case reminds me of a pebble, polished by the waves, finding its place naturally in the warmth of your hand, monogrammed with transparent copper initials. It feels like opening a jewel box. Each time the same pleasure of discovering the meteorite effect, splashes of colours like an artist’s palette. Sun kissed petals. Guerlain describes these five hues as iridescent, a harmony. The fragrance is also a signature, poudre de riz enhanced with jasmine, bergamot, gardenia, ylang-ylang… Like holidays under the sun…
Dale Chihuly, glass-whisperer, should I say. You already know this artist for his chandelier extraordinaire in the V&A entrance, sprawling, alive, mastering the cupola entirely. His work is designed to bloom in botanical gardens, Victorian style conservatories, unroll in landscapes, appear and reflect on mirror-like ponds, compete with the most exotic flowers. The Halcyon Gallery presents his latest masterpieces, Beyond the Object. On the ground floor are some of his signatures, bright petals, transparency playing curved reflections on the walls, intricate octopi, fierce glass flames.
But go down the stairs, and wow, what a different universe entirely, words swiped away. Between Lovecraftian jungles, complex water lilies, dangerous beauties, vibrant, tantalising, daring you to touch them, ready to absorb you into their world… and mysterious ocean flora, anemones, clams, corals, which you expect to start moving any second. They belong somewhere extraordinary. Others are deliciously erotic, female. Do take the time to appreciate the architecture of each creation, the waves, the multitude of patterns on a single piece… Such power embodied in a fragile material…
Dale Chihuly: Beyond the Object Until April 05, 2014 – free
144-146 New Bond Street
London W1S 2PF
Mawgan Porth is one of Cornwall‘s most beautiful beaches. Two cliffs softened by a valley in between, offering a sweet bay, sheltered from the winds, beautiful fine sand, some rocks on the sides, covered with shells, water ponds here and there that will keep the kids amused for hours. Soft waves caress the shores but in the distance, it’s a surfer’s paradise. They will be the first to arrive in the morning, the last to leave in the evening. Drawn-out sunsets turn the sea into liquid gold. Little tip, there is a coastal path leading to the cliff, perfect spot to see the sun melt down. Bring a picnic and champagne!
A discreet Parisian garden, but do take the time to sit down and enjoy. At first sight it is very French – straight lines, topiaries, framed. But look at how golden the stone is. The beautiful curve of the corridor, the arches, a wooden bench. A curious sculpted face atop a door. There is a second courtyard, with a more romantic side, a darker green, a statue softened by a little moss, the music of a fountain, drops of water dancing in the air. Such a lovely occasion for an impromptu teatime – Pain de Sucre is nearby and always has nice surprises – rosemary, angelica, edible flowers in or on the cakes. We chose an Evasion: sweet little boat of almond biscuit, orange cream, candied grapefruit, orange blossom foam, refined, a little dream. Oh and a pistachio and cherry heart for a splash of colour…
Musée des Archives
60 rue des Francs Bourgeois
Pain de sucre
14 Rue Rambuteau