Posts Tagged ‘child friendly’

Mind the Map

Funny how the tube map proves fascinating. Stations like stars in a galaxy, modern labyrinth of connecting lines, Harry Beck’s vision of it including a bottle shape in the heart of the network. It inspires so many artists -  remember Simon Patterson whoreinvented by thems, changing each stop name to footballers, comedians, saints, philosophes… The London Transport Museum has recently opened their Mind the map exhibition – fabulous cartography, some historical, other imaginary, some more contemporary, even created for the occasion. Quite fascinating indeed, this walk through lines coming alive, in MacDonald Gill’s universe (his Wonderground – 5th picture down – would fit into any Terry Pratchett novels),  sweet wishes of favourite places sent by internauts and projected on a Greater London map, but also through a digital dimension where you can create an emotional tube map based on your fondest memories. For lovers of beautiful graphic designs, intricate cartography and urban poets.

Mind the Map, until October 28, 2012.
The entrance to the museum costs £13.50/adult (exhibition included but allows you to come back as many times as you wish for the following 12 months.)
London Transport Museum

Covent Garden Piazza
London, WC2E 7BB

Iles aux cygnes (Swan island), Paris

An artificial island that turned into a little piece of dream. The gentle Paris, you could call it. It could have been all concrete and grey -  what can you do with 890 metres long for 11 metres large? A countryside-like promenade with a wide variety of trees, lilac and wild flowers here, branches leaning towards the water, curves wooden benches. It also hides a copy of the statue of Liberty, more reasonable in size, of course, saluting the passing boats proudly. Start at the Grenelle bridge and walk towards the Bir-Hakeim bridge for a peaceful view of the Eiffel Tower so much more beautiful than the tourists’ one…

A week-end in London: March 29-Apr. 01, 2012

Look. This is my secret weapon for challenging weeks. You know, those when files build a China wall around you. This perfect butter and honey flajack, with a layer of caramel, another of chocolate, sprinklend with hazelnuts and pistachios take all the trouble away, one bite at a time. Of course, you have used more than your calorie allowance but yes, it is that good, even if it seems simple enough. Stock on those at Prêt-à-manger. And to burn the extra energy, choose in the week-end ideas below!

That’s art baby:
* On Thursday, dress 1930ies style to see the Mondrian exhibition.
* Friday, the late evening of the V&A celebrates Persia.
* A musical sculpture in Canary Wharf? Now that will make you love modern art.

Yummy time ahead:
* A speakeasy behind a sex-shop in Soho, how intriguing!
* The food market on Southbank will be all about chocolate this week-end.
* Indulge at the chocolate lab too. They even do brunches.
* The best Sunday idea ever -  a roast with a “Make your own Bloody Mary” option. And a kids club!

Take the little ones along:
* The Harry Potter studios are opening on Saturday – magic!
* Dimanche, sortez les cerfs-volants.On Sunday, go and fly a kite.

Out of the ordinary:
* Try Kicktable - an amazing way to discover new skills or share yours.
* Revise your London ABC.
* Kensington Palace has reopened, even more magical than before.

Walking along the Thames – Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf is much more suprising than you expect. Have a look around -  plenty of fountains and modern sculptures there -  then walk along the Thames towards Tower Bridge. Ever so soothing, far from the crazy rythm of Oxford street. This will sometimes follow the river, sometimes take you to parallel streets and you will be amazed by the buildings  that used to store spices and silk and have now been renovated into offices and flats. You knew there were there but never expected so many. As in Hammersmith, there will be plenty of pubs with a view on your way. And if tiredness strikes, just jump on a Boris bike – the streets are so quiet around here and it is definitely the best place to enjoy cycling.


Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace reopens to the public on March 26, next Monday. 2 years of impressive work, 12 millions pounds invested. And such magic, as if you were turning the pages of the most beautiful fairytale. Wooden partitions whisper secrets, rooms open on amazing art displays, drawers reveal treasures, the imposing stone stairs are decorated with delicate miniatures worthy of the most elegant chess game, play cards will give you clues to talk to characters in costumes who in turn will reveal funny anecdotes ou moving stories about momarques of the past.

Two exhibitions can be seen – one, tiny, is dedicated to Lady Di as a fashion icon. The other is more grandiose and reveals Victoria as the strongest woman, very imvolved in politics yet romantic and touching. On May 23rd, her birthday, will open another part of the floor, focusing on her own jubilee – she was the first to celebrate 60 years on the throne. It will be quite something to compare those festivities, the souvenirs and decorations of another time.

A must-see if you are coming to London for the first time. To be rediscovered, absolutely, if you thought you knew the place quite well -  a refreshing new angle. Little ones will be as seduced by it as you will.

Kensington Palace
Kensington Garden
London W84 PX


A week-end in London: March 22-25, 2012

What sound represents spring the best to you? Birds chirping happily? I would say the ice-cream van returning to the neighbourhood. Right after school or on clue for dessert. This cheerful music that stays in you head the whole evening. Children rushing to their parents (well, the one with a wallet nearby), then to the ice-creams. Flake, sirup or both, that is the question! Kids laughing. Even if it is only 09 degrees outside. I once saw the ice-cream van serving treats as it started snowing. Spring is weather resistant my friends. Looking for ideas to put sunshine in the week-end? Scroll down!


That’s art, baby!
* Loved The King’s speech? It is now played on stage at  Wyndhams theatre. Don’t miss this!
* Try the Polaroid workshop at Rough Trade on Saturday.
* Have a look at Bernard Cohen’s futuristic art -  the level of detail is quite hypnotising.

Take the little ones along:
* Take them to the Crafty Fox Market -  there will be lovely workshops there. Lots of hints on the website.
* Passez-y! Roots & Shoots is a real piece of countriside hidden in the city – they are having an open day on Sunday, do go and discover it.

Yummy time ahead:
* On Thursday, get a free Austrian lunch on Soho Square.

Out of the ordinary:
* For 6 weeks, a free music festival settles in St Pancras. Might be worth making a detour!* Add a little touch of crazyness on Thursday and play musical bingo.
* Did you know there is a scooter club in London? 300 of those will drive through the city on Saturday, leaving from the London Eye.
* (Re)discover Wandworth. or see Spitafields a different way.
* Go treasure hunting on Saturday.
* See the city from a different angle with this tour by Occupy London.

Walking along the Thames – Hammersmith

Get out of the too touristic Southbank. On a sunny day, walk along the Thames but around the Hammersmith Bridge. You will glimpse rowing boats racing by and will fin plenty of pubs with a view (like The Dove) along the way…

Milestone hotel – afternoon tea

Or the best way to fade the rain away, even with little ones sparkling with energy.

You could not dream of a more British atmosphere – the Milestone seems right out of a novel. The salons are ever so elegant, a timeless charm, that you will just want to cuddle close to the chimney fire, pour youself a cup of tea from the silver teapot and read a Jane Austen book for the rest of the day. Through the old-style windows, you can glimpse the vibrant green trees of Hyde Park.

Children are welcome too and can order their very own afternoon tea, served on a smaller stand, each their own. Even better, they can wear apron and chef’s hat then go down to meet the cooks in the kitchens, where they will decorate cupcakes with gorgeous icing, fresh fruit, sprinkles and even help to prepare their hot chocolate. Their eyes will sparkle with pride and the treats will taste even more wonderful to them.

Indulge in the slightly smoked Russian Caravan tea, the chicken and mayonnaise sandwich enhanced with almonds, the macarons with their intense ganache, the tartlets topped with exquisite fresh fruit, the gorgeous homemade raspberry jam on warm scones. A delicious afternoon – you will wish for the rain to last just a little bit longer!



Milestone Hotel
1-2 Kensington Ct
London  W8 5DL

Afternoon tea £31.50
Ruinart champagne afternoon tea £39.50
Princess/Prince afternoon tea £12.50

Huge thanks to the Milestone Hotel team who were absolutely charming to the girls, making them feel like VIPs and to About London for this ray of sunshine.

Gail’s bakery – Exmouth street

Artisan bakery is how the chain defines itself. Oh, and what a beautiful of gorgeous breads they do. Always a lovely, very natural atmosphere, shelves piled with baguettes, sourdough, seeded  or potato and rosemary breads, beautiful crusts. Counter overloaded with savoury or sweet tartlets, pastries and spiced buns, chocolate and pistachio bites. A little further, you will find splendid organic jams in generous jars, apricot and lavender, redcurrant and rose. In some, you can sit down, relax, sigh in happiness and even lick your finger after a well-deserved treat. You’ll leave with a tigerr bread for dinnetime, which you probably will have considerably started before reaching your home.

If I were to choose just one, this would be the Exmouth Market location. Far from a touristy crowd, lounge spirit, central table for cakes which you can circle until you have made your choice, wide space between tables thought for pushchairs, bottles of tap water on the side for endless refills, smiling and fun team, thick, creamy hot chocolate made with ganache and not cacao powder. Every monday, from 16.00 to 17.00, a story teller enchants kids who can then enjoy a glass of mik and a cookie, all for free. There is even an adorable, renovated, futuristic-looking playground at the end of the street for afterwards…

Gail’s
33-35 Exmouth Market
London EC1R 4QL
(and many more addresses through London)


One Aldwych: a family heaven (part III)

Discovering One Aldwych is like opening a treasure chest -  full of surprises.

The Lobby bar, elegant and spacious, has been my favourite meeting place recently. Imagine enjoying an afternoon tea (and believe me, their Battenberg is worth stopping for) or a cocktail here, amidst works of art and floral scenes… The tables are set to create mini-lounges and facilitate conversation, the atmosphere therefore cozy, intimate. You never have to raise your voice to make yourself heard, which in London is quite precious indeed.

Ideally, if it is just the two of you, try and get a space at the bar. The mixologists here have style. I expect Bond could not do better would he consider a change of career – something in the elegance of the gestures, even the way they pour the drink. Ask for one of their flamed cocktails -  the preparation is fascinating. Rory Slater, their Food and Beverage Director mentioned on the hotel’s Facebook page(worth following as they also include London tips!) he is looking at creating a signature drink which would become as iconic as the Singapore Sling is to the Raffles Hotel. I certainly will be delighted to discover this – watch that space!

The lounge also welcomes children and has mocktails on the menu (although I have seen them challenged with a glass of warm milk with a touch of cocoa sprinkled on top and yes, they will get it for you with a smile). Louise*Anne, whose favourite colour as you can guess is pink, never hesitated: the Smooth Berries (£6) had her name on it. Blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate and cranberry juice – 5 a day in a glass! The waitress even brought a second straw so she could share with her favourite fluffy bear as well as a plate of homemade biscuits in case she did not like the savoury mix. At that, my daughter whispered to me: Is it like that every day in a princess’ life?


Note this down – dessert cocktails. What a fabulous idea to finish a meal on a lighter note or simply add a little more magic after seeing a musical -  after all you are in the heart of theatreland. You will fall for the Sweet Temptation (£11.50) : lemon sorbet mixed with gin, pistachio liqueur (how had I not heard about this before?) and almond oil. Close your eyes and dream of Italy. It is very addictive and you will need sip after sip to get the full extent. This will make you forget your love for chocolate treats!

It is easy to chat the whole evening there. Yet at some point you are bound to feel hungry. No need to run around Covent Garden, just go to the first floor to discover Indigo. How pleasant to dine sitting in real armchairs, being able to put your arms down and relax the whole body! If you can, ask for a table near the balcony to glimpse down on the Lobby Bar. The sight reminds me of Vienna Cafés – musical sounds of glasses being cheered, silkiness of dresses, candles flames dancing. I expected the guests to suddenly start waltzing.

Through the arched windows, you can see the Lyceum where the Lion King is played. Shrek is also a street away – ideal with kids, you can walk everywhere.

Children have their own menu. The selection offers classics such as fresh spaghettis with homemade tomato sauce, mini-hamburgers. But also soups, chicken salad, yakitori brochettes. The quality of those dishes, I have found usually is lesser than adults’ portions in restaurants but not here -  I tried the fish & chips: just excellent. The team will also adapt to the family needs. My son fell in love with the sesame seed bread: the staff offered him a few more slices. My daughter fancied a simple apple for dessert: they found her one. Always with a smile, finding each request perfectly normal. This, to parents, is simply priceless.

Let me warn you. Shall you decide to keep on reading, your mouth will water and you will end up emptying your fridge. I know because I have just worked on the pictures and done this exact thing. Look at this amazing presentation of the crab tempura (£15) -  how refined, how tempting! Delicate flesh, grilled scallops, seaweeds for an additional sea touch, a little dill, touches of juicy grapefruit, orange, lime, bites of gorgeous sea bass infused with saffron, dollops of cream with herbs. Refreshing and ever so different from anything you have tried before – you won’t leave a single crumb in your plate.

The fish soup (£7) also is succulent. A light texture but filled with flavours. No need for the usual sauce, better enjoy this first class mix on its own, or maybe just some baguette croutons. At the first spoonful, you will realise how generous in clams and mussels it is. A wonderful winter option, especially if you have just walked in the cold. Ever so comforting.

As main dish, we really need to give an award to the Cumbrian chicken (Chef Tony Fleming sources as much as he can British products). The most tender I have ever tried, reducing any conversation to a mmmmh. And I do cook an excellent one myself. What is the secret? An extra ingredient? I really felt like going to spy in the kitchens. This sits on a bed of cauliflower mash enriched with tarragon jus. On the side where rich cèpes which made me nostalgic of the Bordeaux region where they are a favourite dish -  these tastes just like the way we serve them at home. perfectly cooked purple broccoli sprout added a perfect more peppery note.


Having recently succumbed to the luxury of truffles, I ordered these poached eggs infused with this exceptional mushroom. Ah, la, la mes amis -  as the Froggies usually exclaim. An exceptional polenta, creamy, melting in the mouth. The egg offered a rich golden yolk. All around, wild mushrooms in a dense parmesan cream, that you will let linger on your tongue. All this crowned with shavings of truffles. I could easily enjoy this for breakfast, lunch and dinner and never tire of it. It takes quite some skills to balance these very strong flavours so elegantly without saturating the palate.

We chose an Argentinian white wine to match the dishes -  quite a discovery for me as I usually go for Malbecs. Almond, oak, vanilla -  I will definitely need to investigate more about this region! We were delighted to see the sweet options included Canadian Ice Wine, too rarely served in London.


One Aldwych have thought of their guests with a sweet tooth -  meaning people like me who start reading the menu by the dessert part then select the rest of their meal accordingly. I was spoilt for choice. Apples with Sauternes jelly and mini-doughnuts, banoffee macarons, all chocolate plate… I could have gone for a starter-main-treat all in this section but I am told that it is not reasonable and not a good example for the kids. Such a pity. Ask about their  10 after 10 offer, though: a glass of wine and a dessert for £10 after 10pm. A delicious idea to discuss a theater play for example…

Lemon fans have to try this citrus assortment (£7). Slices of candied orange, a moist sponge cake so fragrant it wins your heart even before the fist bite, a mille-feuilles of lemon shortbreads with layers of thick vanilla cream, tangy lemon curd, orange and lime zest in a sugar syrup. Crunchy, tender, unctuous.


If you are after exotism, have the lemongrass parfait (£7), ideal to conclude such a feast. Biscuit moist with the juices of caramelised pineapple, spice up with star anise, topped with a lemongrass cloud-like mousse and some fresh pineapple. Divine. It is served with a verrine on the same theme but different textures such as this tropical granite. Someone has to tell Pierre Hermé to come and try it.


I cannot believe this restaurant does not have a Michelin star yet -  it certainly deserves it. Rush before it gets too famous -  especially as the pre & post theatre offers (17.30-19.00 then 22.00-23.15 or 22.30 on Sundays) are quite well prices: £18.5 for 2 courses and £21.75 for 3.

(To be followed -  breakfast at One Aldwych is quite something too)

One Aldwych
London
WC2B 4BZ

 

London

This Week End in London

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