Posts Tagged ‘Covent Garden’
An elegant brunch that could be enjoyed with kids? Yes, at One Aldwych, of course, this sublime hotel near Covent Garden. Leave the buzz of The Strand and step down a spiral staircase, leading you to the soothing atmosphere of the Axis restaurant. Dimmed lighting, a crescent shape to the room, lined with silver birch like tree trunks, sculptural orchids, the quintessence of elegance. And, by the way, a dessert buffet. Yes, you can have as much as you like and that is enough to make anyone’s eyes sparkle with delight. As if Christmas had come early.
Most often, a smart restaurant with kids is a nightmare for parents. You have to keep them occupied, plan a few non-noisy toys, crayons, entertain them, keep them in their chairs. You would like to appreciate the magic of a well-deserved delicious meal. The little ones want some exploring on the menu. One Aldwych chose to treat the children as adult guests. Meaning my 8 year old daughter was treated like a princess. She was spoilt with attention, made part of the decisions when usually, the discussion is mainly with the parents. She liked the focaccia so much, the salt flakes melting on her tongue, that she was brought some more in a basket, just for her. With blueberry jam just because it made her so happy. She could choose between cold or warm milk, hot chocolate, including a Valrhona one, even homemade milkshake. Dishes could be made as smaller portions for her. What more could a mum ask for? She felt so proud of being a little in charge her cheeks took on a lovely shade of pink.
But let me make your mouth water. There is something for everyone on the menu, whether you fancy a refined dish like these juicy asparagus spears, grilled to perfection, tips melting beautifully on the tongue, matched with destructured deviled eggs and a few capers… or whether you have a sweet tooth and wish to indulge in blueberry pancakes with their irresistible crunchiness on the side, the fruit caramelised a little, the heart reminding me a of a summer flan. Topped with maple syrup or blueberry coulis, it proves irresistible. Just distract your friend or child and steal a piece or two!
My daughter decided on an English Breakfast next, digging in with great passion – the quality of the sausage and bacon remarkable indeed. The egg yolk was rich, silky too, wrapping each mouthful perfectly. I preferred the risotto, cooked to perfection, tender butternut, sage refining and intensifying the taste of the rice, the feta adding a pleasant creaminess. Bonus points for the chopped walnuts!
Keep your Prosecco for dessert as this is truly a celebration. The table is impressive. I think I circled it 3 times before even being able to begin making a choice. The kind of feast you expect in fairytales… Mini-treats all around to be able to taste a little of everything: crème brûlées, red velvet cupcakes, brownies, rhubarb trifles… cheesecakes with mango coulis, sprinkled with crunchy caramel… almond eclairs topped with popped rice… fresh fruit including a mountain of strawberries… jars filled with caramel bite cookies, popcorn, flavoured marshmallows… Generous cakes calling your name. And under a silver bell to keep it warm, bread and butter pudding. Willy Wonka must be around right? You could skip the rest of the meal entirely and just enjoy the buffet. Whenever else will you have a chance to delight in that many sweet gems?
To make the most of the magic, finish the afternoon at Somerset House, a minute’s walk from One Aldwych. The kids can happily play in the water fountains while you sip a coffee, read the Sunday papers and regret not having filled a third plate of cakes…
Details of the brunch this way. £30 per person (3 courses including the dessert buffet. Add unlimited prosecco for an extra £15)
The door sums it all up. The sign says “Adventure bar”. Yep. It’s tiny but wow, switching from Covent Garden to here is… how can I explain? Like taking a plane on a winter’s day, arriving in a tropical country and opening the door, that first blast of heat, of the vibrant surroundings. By the time you have reached the bar - it takes what, 20 steps? You will have: 1. already taken your coat off 2. stripped down to a t-shirt 3. started dancing to the reggae. Seriously. You actually feel like asking the way to the beach.
Welcome to Dub Jam. Rum Shack. Jerk BBQ restaurant. Quintessence of happiness.
It’s jam-packed on this Thursday evening. As soon as someone leaves, the place is taken. Quite a formidable mix of styles too. Impeccable suits (although I notice the ties get undone pretty fast). Trendy cool. Fashionistas with glossy hair, perfect nail art. A biker. Super flashy / eclectic. Jean-Tshirt-trainers-cap. Tweed.
The ceiling fan is painted to the colours of Jamaica. It’s rather hypnotising – I think I lost a few minutes of conversation just staring at it. The decoration is all about upcycling: graphic corrugated iron, graffiti, surfboards turned into tables, oil drums into stools, tins into spots or cocktail glasses. It’s funky, it’s colourful, it’s fun, it’s heart warming. Isn’t it cheersing time by the way? We’ll find something to celebrate. Now – you cannot not miss the special Reggae Rum Punch. The liquid is litterally pumped, cycling via the sound system to get, yes, reggae infused. It tastes… like that special drink in Mary Poppins. Pineapple tarte tartin with rum and a straw. The pina colada is a favourite too, a slush puppy for adults, coconut candy like…
Let’s talk about the menu. Go for the jerk rebel skewers - meat and fish marinated for 48 hours, slow cooked 8 hours then BBQ’d. Yes, I know, you can almost taste it, can’t you? Have a look below. We tried the so-tender jerk chicken with that final peppery note and the Kool Ruler with delicious King prawns and coconut. Each is served with mild or spicy salsa to heighten them even further and the best coleslaw in town. Oh yes, it is made with coconut milk, which gives it a sweet, thicker texture.
How about beach burgers? I devoured the Dub Shack, sweet and savoury, tasty patty, juicy pineapple and lots of melted cheese. I do have a preference for the Sound System, generous in avocado, bacon cured with coffee and molasses (wow). More, please? yes, you can order to take away. It’s a long journey back home after-all and you might get stuck on the train. They also serve bottled Red Stripe lager and Sarsaparilla. Caribbean style!
Given the success of Dub Jam, we first sat at the bar, waiting for a table. But really, this is where you want to be. The kitchen staff are brilliant. Fab anecdotes, lots of laughs, a few rather cool dance moves. You could spend hours there, listening and chatting. The ideal anti-blues solution. Food and atmosphere. Don’t worry, be happy, is definitely the motto here!
20 Bedford street
If you’re in Covent Garden, this is a must-try restaurant. Yet, from the outside, it remains discreet, so integrated in its surroundings you could easily walk past it. Still, the inside space is quite impressive, crossing all the way to the parallel road, even including a clever space in the basement, overlooking the kitchen. Stylish grey brick walls are softened by light falling from skylights, an industrial feel to the architecture mixed with designer touches, focusing on being a warm, welcoming cocoon. The perfect balance between contemporary Scandinavian chic and traditional Asian values. Because, yes, surprise, this chain is Danish, yet recognised in their country as a leader of Japanese cuisine. Their philosophy is all about quality, freshness, sustainability and a good sense of humour. Result? A zen impact, down to the pebbles supporting the chopsticks…
First – let the cheerful touristic bustle of Covent Garden fade away, relax, enjoy the peacefulness. Order some spicy edamame beans, served warm with a miso, chilli and sesame glaze. As addictive as popcorn and you won’t mind getting your fingers sticky. This is a good address for cocktails too, the list clearly oriental inspired. If you are a Hendrick’s fan, you will find the Kamahi much more interesting: a surprising mix of sochu, mint, cucumber and elderflower. Sweet, crisp green taste, very refreshing – definitely replaces Pimm’s in my book of summer drinks. If you prefer martinis, go for the Yuzu Zoo, a variation using gin, honey, umeshu and yuzu. Nicely sour, it will make your gaze sparkle, suave lyricism.
As the name suggests, Sticks’n’sushi will keep everyone happy. Sushi for me – yakitori for you. Or vice-versa. Or both, why choose after all? Bonus points for the menu illustrating every single option (since not everyone knows their kaburimaki from their futomaki). The problem is, you then want everything, really, you do. Take note to bring lots of friends next time to steal from their plates. Thankfully, a separate menu offers assortments. They did prove a lot bigger than we had imagined, always a nice surprise, especially as we passionately devoured everything.
We decided on the Greenkeeper, served on two plates. How to explain? Look at the first picture. The top line is of avocado maki, marvelous creaminess. The middle one is a mix of vegetarian daikon/cress rolls, nice and crunchy with hosomaki, avocado, cucumber, rice, spicier. It’s quite extraordinary, once you start a row, that’s it, no way to stop. Last, 3 nigiri, little cushions of happiness: tender brocoli, velvety tomato, tofu & tamari (a kind of soy sauce, sweeter with a richer texture). The wasabi has been sculpted as a delicate flower, pleasure for the eyes and tastebuds alike.
That’s not all – the Greenkeeper also includes on a separate slate a selection of yasai (raw vegetables: broccoli, carrot, juicy daikon, cabbage, peppers) with a delicious miso dip, very moreish. Another corner offers grilled edamame, another great way to enjoy a classic, smokey, charred. The yakitori skewers are lovely too – grilled vegetables really enhancing the flavours and oyster mushrooms with such a natural richness they remind me of my beloved cèpes… This is the perfect healthy treat while not sacrificing taste. Indulging without once considering the calories.
We had also ordered the Sashimi De Luxe, a feast for two, sure to delight sashimi snobs and to convert sushi fans. And what a beautiful presentation – sparkling, glacial freshness, gradually transforming throughout the meal like a Nordic ice flow. It feels like… exploring a new land but culinary wise. We started with extra thick slices of delicious salmon, tuna and yellowtail kingfish, a celebration of freshness and obviously well sourced; responsibly so one can enjoy freely and happily. Time simply stops, such difference in texture and tastes between these three varieties, barely the need to chew.
Rightfully presented on a little wooden plinth are succulent scallops, beautifully accented with orange trout roe and green lime, little saline bursts seasoning the palate. Amazing how melt-in-the-mouth this is when you are used to it pan seared… These are flanked by shake daikon rolls, white radish enclosing such divine flesh, a touch of avocado and crème fraîche on top. Crisp and refreshing, a fantastic low-carb alternative to sushi.
The tasteful squid salad offered a delightful alternative to the usual ginger, in perfect sympathy with the sea. But the Pièce de résistance, in our opinion, is the spicy tuna wrap. What an understatement! Tuna tartare, small, shiny morsels, luteous quail’s egg nestled in the midst, a touch of spring onion… and in our case, a teaspoon of decadent caviar. Wrapped in just a lettuce leaf a kaleidoscope of flavours illuminates your mouth. For some time after, those tiny black cherrybombs of sea-essence keep delighting your senses. Very tempting to eat in one go, so just as well it is slightly too big… otherwise you will have one very jealous partner!
Two vibrant sauces in cute artisanal jugs: ginger infused ‘ultimate soy’ and tangy, citrus ponzu for dipping.
Japanese restaurants usually stop their creativity at dessert, advising matcha or sesame ice cream. Not here – with two whole pages of not seen before treats. We did not even consider resisting. At least, try the Small and Sweet, a perfect selection when you have had quite a feast but need the finale. Three original bites, each on a drop of chocolate fondue: dark chocolate and caramel wrapped in sesame… white chocolate and miso with crunchy popped rice… and a very interesting raw cake with dates, coconut, orange, goji cardamom, cinnamon and more. You really have to enjoy this one slowly to understand its complexity and fully appreciate there is no flour nor egg in it.
If you still have a little space for decadence, then order the Lemon, Yuzu and Meringue: sumptuous lemon curd mixed with juicy orange flesh, contrasting with a zesty yuzu sorbet and crunchy meringue. And mini marshmallows. Because it makes the world a sweeter place. Great balance, not as sugary as you might expect and crowned with tiny lime pearls for a tequila effect.
Finish on a frothy matcha, prepared energetically with a proper bamboo whisk at your table… But you will have to come back, you know. You barely have tried a tenth of the menu!
11 Henrietta Street
London WC2E 8PY
If you are fan of organic products, Melvita is already on your favourite list. The founder, Bernard Chevilliat, a beekeeper passionate about nature and traditions, created the brand in 1983. Melvita wmade a name for itself before the trend for natural and organic cosmetics took hold and remains one of the most important French names in that field. There are two dedicated boutiques in London and they are so worth stopping by. Recently invited to discover the one in St Martins Couryard, I remain quite impresed with the range of products – more than 200! – and the so fluid textures, deliciously perfumed.
The most iconic is without doubt Apicosma. Based on 3 organic honeys (thyme, acacia and orange blossom), the spa and cocoon effect is immediate and the hydratation maximum. It will like a velvet glove. Don’t forget the healing powers of royal jelly - magic words in the winter season. Why not try the discovery box? It includes a body milk, a hand cream and a fantastic lip balm. So much softness in those 3 products…
Still in the gift category (plenty of assortments for Christmas!), the rose one is a must-buy. Using wild rose petals, it is surprisingly modern, delicate and so, so refreshing. Such a nice combination: a rose water splendid as a tonic, a divine shower gel reenergising fantastically after a day running around and a divine cream hand.
On that evening, hand massages were proposed. The first step was a scrub - funny how you never think of doing that at home. Like for the body, the skin needs to be cleaned of dead cell to absorbe hydration best. And such a difference, such a suppleness! I always have found difficult to find the right grain: too small and it disappears quickly, not coarse and it proves aggressive. But this one is just right, a lovely roundness that soothes nicely. Oh and the smell - so fruity. Almost dangerous, like a dessert. The yellow fruit ones – quince, apple and hazelnut is splendid.The extraordinary oil is worth trying too. It groups 5 different ones form around the world (Moroccan Argan oil, Kendi oil from Indonesia, Buruti oil from Brazil, Pracaxi oil from Amazonia) for their fortifying, regenerating, hydrating qualities. So rich, such a discreet yet cheerful fragrance yet it is absorbed so very quickly and radiant-looking skin. Brilliant as a hair mask too, you will be amazed at how supple it will be. Oh, and their is a gold-dust version of this to look even more festive.A last love-at-first-sight, the jasmine-bergamot perfume. So unique, so unusual… for an exceptional woman, of course.
Still a few presents to make? Great range for guys – you would be amazed how the word “organic” makes them happy to take care of themselves but also a nice collection for mums-to-be/yummy mummy/babies. Oh and most of the iconic products exist as bag-size versions so use them as stocking fillers!
St Martin’s Courtyard
Some days call for a celebration, a little extra sparkle, some wow yet comfort delicacy, a little more sun and cheerfulness. I find mine at Champagne + Fromage, a couple of streets away from Covent Garden. Close enough to make you feel in the buzzing heart of London, far enough to get away from restaurants filled with tourists. It has a French bistrot feel, the warmth of wooden tables and this special red that will get glossier with as time passes. A beautiful line of glasses glistens above your head, the air is filled with delicious smells of saucissons and Basque cheese. The team is already smiling at you. they know just what you need. Bye-Bye London fish & chips, bonjour terroir!
Rather than a wine bar, this cute little address has opted for the champagne option. Thankfully it has left the cold style of the City version – suits and way too much seriousness - to focus on the important thing: a bubbly time and making your cheeks pinkier with happiness. No need to be an expert. There is such a huge difference before the drink usually served in launches – bland, flat – and one single glass of one chosen with passion. Your tastebuds suddenly come alive, your eyes wil open wide, the flavours are so very intense. Like tea, champagne can make you forget the noise of the world.
If your knowledge is minimal, fear not. The menu matches each dish with a perfectly chosen glass of champagne. The team is incredibly helpful and will make your mouth water in a few words description. Just have a look below at the gorgeous pale gold of this Pertois-Morizet. Brut, round, with elegant red fruit touches that will leave you hungry for more. We tried it with Poilâne bread tartines – crisp slices, this unmistakable nuttiness. Our choice was the Auvergne - rich roasted figs and melted Fourme d’Ambert. But you could also go for other unusual options: Armagnac prunes and roquefort… Pear and Langres cheese… Tomme de brebis cheese, roasted pepper and mango chutney. French stereotypes also are given a twist: snails are served as a raclette salad with Mesclun, tomato and creamy Morbier. Oh, and frogs legs are transformed in to tempura, with a roquefort sauce.
The menu also is thought for sharing - how about a board of cheese or charcuterie? And trust me, the latter is of a rare quality. The peppery of a ham, the tenderness of the freshly cut meat, the floral of a saucisson, the crunchiness of a gherkin and teasing of a pickled onion. Both aromas and flavours are amazing, exquisite. Surprise - this is served with a pink champagne, a Michel Furdyna brut, a fantastic choice to which I would not have ventured on my own. I guess there is a misconception linked to rosé wines (cheaper, less “serious”, lighter too) that leaves you with the thought that this is just about the pretty colour. But ah, chilled and crisp, a very frank taste, an elegance. It brings an amazing structure to savory food. It is strongly recommended with lamb too and I cannot wait to try this combination. And although your eyes are already sparkling from the brilliant selection of dishes, it is the dessert that really will leave you speechless. Yes, you will have a slight doubt when reading Chocolate fondant with Basque blue. Yet cacao and cheese can match - I have tried brownies made with goat’s cheese in the past and apart from having a special creaminess, you could never have guessed. Go for it. It is divine and will indeed surprise you. The melting heart has a mmmmh texture. The chocolate and blue both have their own strength but complement each other rather than clashing. And so you go back, trying to place, enjoying each spoonful, spiced with some Espelette chili. A sudden thought comes – why be reasonable? Yes, do order another… It is either that or licking the plate. Finish with a glass of Lacroix La Réserve, admiring the complexity of its blend – Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier et Chardonnay. A hint of vanilla, ripe fruit, broche. A sigh of pure happiness.
The bistrot doubles up as a boutique and yes you can buy the charcuterie, cheese and champagne. As well as rillettes, cassoulet, terrines, soups, jams to die for. Eurostar to France can wait - there is a lovely slice of it in Covent Garden…
Champagne + Fromage
22 Wellington street
A little while ago, I was invited to the KLM evening with other travel bloggers. To present their flights to Amsterdam (no less than 79 each day from 16 UK airports), the team had invited us at De Hems, the only Dutch bar in town. Situated just outside the Chinatown, it makes you feel you have travelled around the word in a couple minutes. There, you can indulge in a Texel Wit with its touch of orange, a Witbier underlined with coriander notes, a Trappe Dubbel – liquid caramel – and so many more. Your mind will wander, dreaming of the famous Netherland breweries: Bavaria, Alfa, , Gulpener, Budels. You can already picture enjoying a pint along a canal… Remember, it is just a plane away! And if you are staying in London this week-end, scroll down for ideas.
That’s art baby:
* Try an art walk.
* Lovers of urban poetry and fascinating cartography, do have a look at the Mind the Map exhibition at the London Transport Museum.
* Artists to be will love trying this Damien Hirst style painting style.
* Add some magic! Wonderground on Southbank promises an unforgettable circus show tinted with a little Tim Burton.
* Street art goes digital with USB keys planted in walls…
Out of the ordinary:
* Indulge in a street food part in Camden on Friday.
* Or listen to storytelling for adults aboard a candlelit narrowboat.
* Discover the Alfie’s Antiques Market.
* Ever wondered what Covent Garden used to look like, when it was still a market? Have a look here.
* Oh, and do go there on saturday, there will be plenty of vintage routemasters.
* Decipher the London alphabet.
* Fancy a litteray afternoon in an orchard to celebrate the summer?
* On Sunday, Marylebone high street will turn into a giant party.
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
I love, in the London tube stations, look for little details. All of them have a secret to tell – maybe an art work, a beautiful mosaic, a detail from the past… What is your favourite one? Scroll down to find ideas for the week-end!
That’s art, baby:
* Indulge yourself with a ticket to see Babel – an amazing outdoors theater play of epic proportions. Get one for a mere £10 for Sunday May 13 by calling 020 7223 2223 or visit BABELLONDON.com promo code: Blogger.
* On Saturday, the London Symphony Orchestra will delight music lovers on Trafalgar Square.
* Hermès celebrate 175 years of exquisite skills with a free exhibition that will make any fashionista sigh in envy.
* Have a look at artists’ studios in Wimbledon.
Take the little ones along:
* The Punch & Judy festival in Covent Garden always is worth the detour - even better, it’s free.
* Dream with the miniature world of doll houses - a whole festival in Kensington.
* Add to the magic and enjoy Narnia in Kensington Gardens.
Out of the ordinary:
* Be zen and celebrate Bouddha’s birthday at Leicester square.
* Saturday, Morris dancers will make Westminster so much more cheerful.
* Another look at the jubilee but on the stamps side.
Seeing this installation in the Fortnum & Mason’s windows, I immediately thought of Postcrossing. In a world where we all tweet faster than our shadow, this excellent website put postcard, pens and stamps back on the table. Set up your free account and you will get the address of a total stranger, a few lines describing their hobbies. Write a kinf note a little hello, good wishes for the day, a quote. Some time later, you will in turn receive a card from another total stranger. So much nicer than ads and bills when going back home…
St George’s day:
* Not to be missed on Saturday. For St George’s day, Trafalgar Square turns into a garden for an afternoon. Bandstand and 3D effect included.
* A movie? Yes, but with style at One Aldwych, martini included!
* Or see Hitchcock classics in London churches.
* Try Bugsy Malone at the Troxy. Not just the movie, the setting and the atmosphere. A fantastic experience.
Take the little ones along:
* On Saturday, ride on a vintage bus.
* Meccano fans, feel like a child again at the Kew Bridge Steam Museum.
Out of the ordinary:
* Have lunch at the Hackney homemade food market.
* At the Horse Hospital, play with the strange and the occult.
* Go for a romantic walk.
* A new exhibition space is opening in Covent Garden, dedicated to movie stars. Amazing iconic pictures - a must see.
* To celebrate record store day, independant shops are planning free concerts and nice workshops. Have a look here.
I love April skies. Indecisive, tortured. A ray of sunshine, a shower of rain, the sudden music of hail. Of course, it may lead to a certain surcharge (shirt, scarf, hood, sunglasses - be prepared for everything. In the same day.) But as dusk approaches, clouds take a velvety appearance, get painted with even brighter colours if only for a minute, like a luxurious marble… Get your umbrella and scroll down to discover ideas for your week-end in London!
That’s art baby!
* Rediscover London through photographs of its past at the Wandworth museum
* Be amazed by Cate Blanchett, on the stage of the Barbican for a few days only.
* Fall for the “Afternoon tea in the park” hampers by Bea’s . Ah, if only we also could order some sun!
* This week-end, the Southbank market celebrates India.
* Dine as on the Titanic - the final menu is recreated at Hix for the centenary.
* A mobile tea-room – love it! Follow it in Soho.
Take the little ones along:
* A delicious idea from Carluccio’s: a biscuit workshop for bakers-to-be.
* Take them to see the newborn ducklings - nothing could be cuter.
Out of the ordinary:
* On Thursday, shop rock’n’roll at a cute themed vintage market.
* Abracadabra, have a look at the Magic Circle Museum.
* On Friday, indulge in a free concert at the V&A, a mix of jazz and Indian music.
* Every Sunday until the end of August, the Spitafields City Farm proposes an outdoor “eco-chic” market - worth a detour if you are around Brick Lane.
* Did you know you can swap your books on Carnaby street?
* On Sunday, to celebrate the Olivier Awards, the place to be will be the Covent garden Piazza with performances from top West End shows.