Posts Tagged ‘London’

A week-end in London: August 01 – 03

On a tight budget this summer? East London should be able to help you out. On Sunday, have a walk through the Jumble Trail in Hackney (the map is here). Residents are allowed to set shop outside their home and legally sell what they wish: secondhand items, plants, homemade jam… The Vintage kilo sale is also back on Sunday. No need to break the bank, look around and pay by kilo rather than item. Stocks are filled up through the day so don’t rush, have a brunch first! As always 10 more ideas below to enjoy London this week-end.

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1. On Friday evening, cheer to the week-end with a gin and tonic in the Dickens Museum’s walled garden. Our favourite gin these days, by the way is Opihr, cardamom infused and love at first sip guaranteed.

2. Eid celebrates the end of ramadan. To join the festivities, go to Trafalgar Square this Saturday and enjoy the music and the food market. Lots of different cuisines will be represented: Malaysian, Turkish, South Asian, Egyptian, Lebanese, Indonesian, Arabic and more. Kids will have lots to do too with facepainting, calligraphy and henna workshops.

3. Have a look at the Tower of London tomorrow. 58 000 ceramic poppies have been planted in memory of WW1, 900 000 planned in total, until November… An ocean of red. The Somerset House had done a similar flower field a couple years back, at much lower scale, do you remember?

4. On the festival side – heard of Shuffle? Set in a cemetery with film projections and pop-up swimming pool. Yes, in London.

5. London has its sweet crazy moments. That’s the main reason to love the city. Want an example? In Shoreditch is reopening a tiny boutique, The Corner Shop. All the products have been hand stitched/knitted, from cereal boxes to soda cans!

6. On Saturday, take the children to the free theatre in Canary Wharf. Horrible Histories in on the program, they’re sure to love it. Open air to better enjoy the summer.

7. Still on Saturday, you can travel on the London Underground… on a steam train. Talk about a unique experience.

8. On Saturday evening, go clubbing for less at the Village Underground. How? Strange but fun, you just need to draw yourself a cat’s nose and whiskers.

9. If you missed Holi last time, here is your chance to catch up. This one will take place in Wembley Park on Saturday, with lots of colour powders to be thrown in the air!

10. Looking for inspiration to keep the kids busy this summer? Here are 20 ideas to keep you smiling.

♪♫♪♫ Click on the map to locate the events ♪♫♪♫

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Kids in London – Top 20 summer ideas

Summer Holidays! No school run, no homework, no… Oh wait, that means you also have to keep the kids entertained and you’ve already covered all the London must-see places. Don’t worry, we have it sorted. Here are 20 special summer ideas to surprise, amuse and make them laugh out loud (but at least you will have had time to drink a coffee or two)…

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1. Go to the beach! Well the one in Camden, at least with its 150 tons of fine sand, its ping pong games, deckchairs and yes, there are refreshments and cool food on site. Free.

2. Buckingham Palace has reopened its doors to the public for the summer, this time with an exhibition on Royal Childhood. If your kids already dream in front of the toys at the V&A Museum of Childhood, they will not resist this gorgeous selection.

3. Finally! Here is the map to find the 7 noses of Soho, these sculptures placed in secret places in Soho… Free

4. The Tate Modern has a room just for families, inspired by Matisse’s cut outs. Lovely light and musical effects. Free.

5. Kids too love afternoon teas - a festive side and finger food, you are sure to win them over. Try BB’s, aboard a double decker going around town. Or One Aldwych’s inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

6. Let them discover this poetic trail in King’s Cross. The texts have been written by children. Free.

7. If they do like trails, you’ll find quite a selection to download here, organised by neighbourhood. They are quite fun and should keep them rather busy!

8. At Kew Gardens, a multi-sensory walk takes you on a stroll between the trees, a path to walk barefoot.

9. On Saturday mornings, the Soho Hotel has a Children’s film club with a buffet (and a glass of prosecco for parents).

10. They’re longing for a pet but you neither have the space nor the time? Here is an easy compromise: Lady Dinah’s emporium, the first cat café in London. Feline fascination guaranteed.

11. Enjoy Kid’s Week, which in fact lasts the whole of August. Kids can go free to quite a number of shows and musicals (Billie Elliot, War Horse, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda…)

12.Too hot? Click here to find fountains in which the little ones can play. Free.

13. If you hadn’t been to The Orbit tower yet, now is the time. Creative workshops are hosted every day from 2 to 4 pm. And there’s a fabulous playground nearby.

14. Did you know kids can follow a Sonic Trail at the Tate Modern? Borrow a MP3 player – it’s free – and discover lots of different sounds around the museum, some linked to the paintings, others referring to the place at night… As if it had a life of its own.

15. Make the most of your time out! On Saturdays, the Spitalfields City Farm hosts a small market.

16. No need to go to Camden anymore to find liquid nitrogen ice creams. Just stop at Somerset House (they have fun fountains too) and indulge in one of Churn2‘s delicious creations. You are sure to wow the kids.

17. Rediscover Alice in Wonderland, on stage this time, played in the adorable garden behind Covent Garden’s church.

18. Let them climb trees at Alexandra Park.

19. Try the Family trail at the Barbican and get to know all the secret places. Free.

20. The Royal Parks have a fascinating nature program for kids this summer covering everything from insects to a camping evening with a fire (and hopefully some marshmallow toasting).

♪♫♪♫ More kids ideas in London this way! ♪♫♪♫
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Anges de sucre – macarons and marshmallows

It is early yet in Kensington High Street, this little village waking up slowly. On Holland Street, a door opens ever so slightly, releasing a beautiful aroma of warm croissants and pains au raisin, calling your name it seems. Anges de Sucre‘s shop window is as cheerful, handpainted with blooms and birds. The word coffee, in golden letters, seems suspended in the air, between garlands of macarons and reflections of the neighbouring houses.

Magic unfolds inside too. A mirror ribboned with flowers, a decorated silver tray, a marble counter. The marshmallows look like little jewels, each flavour in a glass casing. Light as a cloud, full of flavours, just enough sugar, very natural. Pop’s Tate (raspberry coulis and purée), Road to Ispahan (rose and pistachios), Passion Pillow Talk (passion fruit swirled with raspberry)…  A nice collection of macarons will also make you mouth water, thin biscuity crunch, so light, a creamy core that melts slowly on your tongue. Wimbledon (strawberry and cream), Pina Colada (pineapple and coconut), All Americana (banana, chocolate and peanut butter)…

If you long for Parisian coffee, rejoyce – they store Coutume beans, which they grind freshly. Oh, and the only OJI machine in town to make the most extraordinary cold drip, infused, drop by drop over 24 hours. Talk about an intensity! If you are more of a tea lover, there are 3 ravishing blends including a peach one that will be gorgeous iced. And shhh, the hot chocolates, which you can also buy as a mix to prepare at home, sold in retro bottles: velvety and to die for… They will really remind you of Valhrona.

Kensington Gardens is a mere two minutes walk from there. And yet, this place feels a little like home to the point that you will delay leaving a few more minutes. Just the time for an extra macaron

Anges de sucre
1 Holland Street
Kensington
London, W8 4NA

More pictures on Bianca‘s blog

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London restaurants: Notting Hill Kitchen

Notting Hill. Its pastel painted houses, Bohemian Chic feel, its independant boutiques… And yet, most people stay on Portobello Road. Next time, head for Kensington Road instead: jewel gardens, an explosion of flowers, Edwardian architecture radiant in white paint.

Further down the street, you will find a blue and white tiled mosaic, a patchwork of designs, reminiscent of the gorgeous azulejos in Porto. This is the Notting Hill Kitchen, serving authentic Iberian cuisine. Chef Luis Baena plays with both Spanish and Portuguese influences, adding a pinch of modernity. Add to this his own creativity - it is not simply about beautiful dishes here but designing whole palettes of flavours.

Choose your room. One is nicely dimmed, the other more private, the last two open up on the street through admirable arched windows. Sunshine filters softly through, makes glasses twinkle, echoing on the sculpted contour of the ceiling. Foodies will nod at the salted flakes in their liège box, the olive oil on the tabel. Why not start with a glass of Quintaluna 2012, a white Spanish wine produced by Ossian. Its hues might look like a Sauternes but this is deceiving. Crisp, refreshing, pure as spring water, a fantastic minerality (the rain is filtered by sand before reaching the roots of the vines), citrus and vanilla. Indulge in a few tapas too. I recommend the spider crab brioche, sprinkled with cumin and warmly spiced, filled with the tender flesh mixed with a silky, enchanting mayonnaise… and the Oyster croqueta, an inconic recipe created by the chef in 1982, still having the same success today. Crispy outside, creamy heart, all the flavours of the sea are there. Close your eyes, you will almost feel the salty mist around you. And look, see that edible leaf? It’s all in the name. Oyster leaf, tastes exactly like it.

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Coming back from the US inspired by surf’n’turf, I decided on the Octopus Rice, a traditional risotto in Portugal. The rice, you see, is cooked with red wine, infusing its very fiber, bringing the red fruit across, sharpened by fresh coriander. Chorizo adds the pepperiness, spicy, full of sunshine vibe. The octopus was very tender indeed, very theatrical in presentation, rising up, wrapped in the crunchiest batter you can imagine.

London restaurants: Notting Hill Kitchen London restaurants: Notting Hill Kitchen London restaurants: Notting Hill Kitchen London restaurants: Notting Hill Kitchen
No hesitation for dessert - I stopped right at the words olive oil sorbet, bringing the chilly, velvety, fruity emulsion to absolute perfection. I will take this over chocolate any day. The cake brought juicy grapes and dulce de leche like caramel together, another slice of heaven. Even better with a glass of tawny or a nice espresso.

A quiet, soothing atmosphere, away from the touristy crowd. Refined cuisine - a different side of Spain… Ideal for romantic dinners. And brunches, they do brunches, my friends!

Notting Hill Kitchen
92 Kensington Park Rd
Notting Hill
London W11 2PN

London restaurants: Notting Hill Kitchen London restaurants: Notting Hill Kitchen

Hema comes to London

Hema has saved me more than once. The Dutch brand is my favourite treasure chest – hundreds of colourful, fun, adorable accessories. More importantly, perfectly prices. Not too expensive, not too cheap – exactly what I would have paid had I been asked what the value was. With no guilt in mind, you fill entire baskets! This is where I find inspiration for photoshoots, nice touches to highlight a picnic, a brunch table, kids parties (from the organisation to the birthday presents), even rather cool office supplies. Little nothings that make such a huge difference.

I first discovered the brand in Antwerp. I knew it was popular, got curious. The result? I filled half a suitcase with melamine plates, T-shirts for the children, funky sweets. Later, they set up shops in Paris and in my hometown, Bordeaux. Each time I go back, I stock up. Closer to me, not close enough. But hey, this is it, Hema has finally opened not one but two shops in London. A third is on the way!

Why so happy? It just makes my life so easy. My daughter wanted to plan a sleepover with her best friend. She’s 8 but these days, it almost means they are teenagers. Pop songs and neon colours, dancing and singing, giggling and whispering. But still on the sweet side – there are still hugs and My Little Ponies, modern version. And so we made cupcakes with a twist, baking them in ice cream cones instead, adding rainbow sparkles. On the table, paper umbrellas, sugar confetti, doilies turned into favours and filled with treats, I recall them jumping in joy. I also got them notebooks and stickers, turned within minutes into secret diaries. Add a manicure session with sorbet-coloured nail varnish (at that price, the fact that it would have to disappear before Monday morning barely mattered. We’re all princesses at heart). And you know what? It cost me less than taking them to see a movie with popcorn and sodas.

As addictive as Ikea.

Hema Victoria
Victoria Place Shopping Centre
115 Buckingham Palace Road
London SW1W 9SJ

Hema Kingston
24 Clarence Street
Kingston upon Thames
Surrey KT1 1NX

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Brunch in London – unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych

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.

Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych

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!

Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych

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!

Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych

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…

One Aldwych
London
WC2B 4BZ

Details of the brunch this way. £30 per person (3 courses including the dessert buffet. Add unlimited prosecco for an extra £15)

Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych Brunch in London - unlimited dessert buffet at One Aldwych

Dalston Eastern Curve Garden

Created on an old railway line, the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden is a real peace haven. It’s surprisingly huge too. Half planted, half wild. A Stik mural. Calling to be explored. There is even an allotment on the side, complete with a shed AND a disco ball. Here and there are kids’ works of art. And toys – this is a family friendly place. You’ll find a café and they do bread and pizza in their clay oven each Sunday afternoon. So brilliant you’ll consider moving to this neighbourhood!

Dalston Eastern Curve Garden
Next to the Hackney Peace Carnival Mural
13 Dalston Lane
London E8 3DF

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The Ampersand – Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon Tea

The steps of the hotel welcome you, already dressed up with a colourful pop-up installation by Ricky Paul Flowers. The Chelsea Flower Show is near and to celebrate the event, The Ampersand has re-invented its afternoon tea, making a delightful edible garden with delicious floral notes…

All around you, the Drawing Room adds discreet botanical touches. Roses and peonies on mirrored tables, reflecting them infinitely, opening blooms painted in black and white on the wallpaper, intriguing birds printed on the armchairs fabric. In the background a counter loaded with glass domes, cakes, meringues, delicacies making your mouth water. Champagne? Well… It’s Monday, there isn’t a cloud in the sky and my lunch will be mostly composed of sweet treats. Yes, this does call for bubbles!

The three-tiered-tower proves a petite merveille. No sandwiches here but gougères. Like chou buns, but savoury, nice and light, generously filled: cheese and fruit chutney… rich smoked salmon and melt-in-the-mouth cream cheese… thick, gorgeous ham with gribiche sauce… the most wonderful coronation chicken highlighted with paprika…

On the middle plate, a Chelsea Bun, an upgraded version of my beloved pain aux raisins as it includes a warming spiral of cinnamon. No, do not ask me to choose. It would be an unfair question! The scone rather surprises me also. The expected perfect crunchiness… but with white chocolate chips, a divine combination with the homemade strawberry jam.

And then, the highlight of the show. So prettily put together that it took me a good 15 minutes to convince myself to take a bite… Elderflower flavoured rice pudding, cut with a rhubarb compote. A layered cake, more angel cake than sponge, with rose cream. A violet macaron, its strength surprising, like a freshly cut bloom. And my favourite, biscuit base, dome of jasmine mousse, overwhelming, mixing with the powdery matcha finish, superb, mind blowing.

Quick, quick, the Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon Tea is only served till May 25th!

Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon Tea
£32.50 / person, £44.50 with champagne

The Ampersand
10 Harrington Road
London, SW7 3ER

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From Shoreditch with love – street art

Being a little too early for the Feel Good Café on Hoxton Square (do try it, the two course menu is free until May 23!), I indulged in a street art safari in Shoreditch. The neighbourhood seems even more vibrant with it than usual…

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Six1Six

Shoreditch street art
Lily Mixe

Shoreditch street art
Pure Evil

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Bunny M

Shoreditch street art Shoreditch street art Shoreditch street art
Gregos

Shoreditch street art
Monsieur Qui

Shoreditch street art Shoreditch street art Shoreditch street art Shoreditch street art
Borondo

street art shoreditch
Borondo

Hoxton Square – The Feel Good Café – FREE!

The Feel Good Café has just opened on Hoxton Square. It’s free and only open until May 23 so do go and try. Why? Because it’s surprising. This pop-up is in fact an initiative by Weight Watchers. The brand asked a chef to create menus (breakfast, lunch and dinner) showcasing their products. Simply because people like me expect any diet related product to taste like cardboard and are reluctant to compromise on quality. But this… was good, really good.

The point is not to serve only their product on a plate but to incorporate it in a modern, daily-life menu that you can easily recreate at home. And trust me, if you do not mention the name, I doubt your friends would guess you have served them a WW product. The chef and his team have really enjoyed the experience, praising the quality, even for sausages!

I liked the crème fraiche used in the salad dressing with lemon and olive oil. The coleslaw, much better than any supermarket brand I had used, fluid and sweet but still with a tangy kick. The pizza was brilliant too - the flatbead, sauce and cheese were all WW. Amazing. I am doing this tonight at home. Even the coconut Greek yoghurt was fantastic, very tasty, super creamy… but guilt free.

Go and try. You will get two courses for free and a drink. Try their wine too, the grapes are picked earlier in the season to limit the sugar and alcohol percentage. It’s more a light picnic wine than a grand cru but perfect for summer days. Much more pleasant than you expect.

In a hurry? The team has a take-away menu too!

The Feel Good Café by Weight Watchers until May 23, 2014
16 Hoxton Square
London N1 6NT

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