Monday, 18 August 2014

Brunch Club - August: Canteen and the Festival of Love

Although I do enjoy pottering around an exhibition, I'm much more likely to get out of bed on a Sunday to visit if there is also going to be food involved. So, with this in mind, we decided to initiate Brunch Club - where we go for brunch and then go to an exhibition, in a nutshell, with the idea being that we take it in turns to choose an exhibition to visit and then pick a brunch spot nearby.

The Festival of Love is the Southbank Centre's summer program, and seeing as summer is nearly over (sob!) we decided to visit this one first while we still had the chance. Of course, the obvious choice for brunch then was the Royal Festival Hall branch of Canteen.

As I already knew exactly what I would order at Canteen we power-walked over there as soon as we arrived in town. I've had the bacon, eggs and bubble & squeak before and loved it, so I didn't even need to look at the menu - the other half had a classic sausage and onion butty. I've already documented my love for Canteen so I won't go into it again - all I will say now is that it was the usual relaxing and delicious time I've come to expect.

The Festival of Love centres around the seven different types of love - the love of humanity; family love; love which endures; self-respect; shared experience; flirting, playful affection, and romantic and erotic love - with each weekend across the season focusing on one of these and hosting a range of activities to suit. There are certain parts of the festival which you need to pay for, but the majority of things are free of charge and this is definitely a family-friendly festival - the petting-zoo for one was pretty popular with all the younguns we saw running around! Our favourite bits were the tunnel of love - a love-heart scented tunnel plastered with pictures of hearth-throbs past and present, that leads into a room with, amongst other things, a game of giant twister - and the Museum of Broken Relationships. This was something that I had read about with interest before and so was super-excited to visit. It contains a collection of various tokens and keepsakes from failed relationships, with the accompanying story behind them. Funny and heart-breaking in equal measure this is a definite highlight.

The Southbank Centre (and Hayward Gallery) is one of my favourite London attractions and I'm really pleased we got round to visiting this. This season is finishing on Sunday 31st August, so there are only two weekends left to visit - make it a priority!

Friday, 15 August 2014


So it seems like I'm the only one in the world who hasn't got on board this Bloglovin' train, so I guess now is the time to start…

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Friday, 8 August 2014

My Favourite London Restaurants

I quite often get asked for restaurant recommendations, which I always find slightly tricky. It's one thing to love a restaurant yourself, but eating out means something different to everyone and what I love about a restaurant might not be the same as what someone else would love. That said, there are a few London restaurants that I personally love, and have returned to again and again (and will continue to do so!) Here are some of them.

Quick Eats and Budget Treats

Everyone knows about the burger ting. London is awash with awesome places to get an awesome burger and I could quite easily compile a list of my favourite ones (note: do this). However, one of my all-time favourites is MEATliquor - maybe because it was one of the first dirty burger places I visited - and I have never had a bad time there. Although they have one of those dastardly no reservations policies (though their Hoxton branch is bookable), the place is big and if you time your arrival right then you won't have to wait more than 20 minutes. Get the Dead Hippie burger with some cheese fries (chili cheese fries if you're a piggy like me) and prepare to get deliciously filthy.

Fried chicken is another one of those on-trend phenomenons, and there are loads of places you can find that do this both well and terribly. Clockjack Oven is awesome, because for the location (off Leicester Square) you would expect it to be busy, expensive, and terrible - and it is none of those things. You can book a table here, but I've also been able to walk-in without a wait and it's one of those great places that is cosy enough to go to as a couple but also completely family-friendly if you are that way inclined. 

A bombay-fusion cafe, there are two branches now - one in Covent Garden and one in Shoreditch. This is a great place for group dining and a good one for recommendations as the food is not only delicious but also quite unique and interesting. Although I love the dinner food, I ESPECIALLY love their brunch menu - the bacon naan roll has a reputation that precedes it, for all the right reasons.

Special Mentions: Slider Bar, Kimchee, Koya


Mishkins is probably my favourite London restaurant. It's super cosy, with a different daily special as well as a bunch of staples. It leans towards a jewish deli vibe, but has got the mix between authentic and accessible bang on. I have taken dates here, had a birthday dinner here and visited with my papa, and each time everyone has left vowing to return. This is one of those restaurants that is permanently on my list, it's a safe choice that has never let me down.

The most chain-esque one on my list, but one that is always a good recommendation to have in your back pocket. There are currently three branches (Royal Festival Hall, Spitalfields, Canary Wharf) and the focus is on that sort of home-away-from-home dining that sometimes you just need to have in your belly. My favourite is the Royal Festival Hall branch because I love the seating arrangements (especially the booths for two where you sit next to one another as this is one of those things that most people find awkward but I LOVE) and its proximity to the Hayward Gallery which is one of my London faves. For home-comforts this is a no-brainer, and although it's not the cheapest one on the list there are a wide range of pricing options for those who are on a budget. These days I am especially enjoying the bacon, eggs and bubble and squeak from their breakfast menu.

There are loads of Italian restaurants not just in London, but everywhere. If it's a chain, it's likely to be an Italian one. I think it's for this reason that Italian food has fallen out of favour somewhat - it's such an easy child-friendly choice that people associate it with unimaginative dining. However, there are some absolutely amazing family-run Italian restaurants in London and one of my favourites is Ciao Bella. It has that authentic feel that you want when eating out somewhere like this, and the most impressive parts of the menu are definitely the non-pizza options. Both the pasta and the meats here are delicious and this also happens to be on one of my favourite London streets.

Special Mentions: Elliot's Cafe, The 10 Cases, Medcalf

Special Occasions

I went to Bam-Bou again last week, and it was just as wonderful as I remembered. The food there is so tasty, the service is always right, and the Red Bar on the top level is perfect for a post-dinner cocktail. It's not cheap (though last week we had a toptable 35% off deal so keep your eyes peeled) but is so, so worth it for a special occasion meal. The food is a mix of chinese and thai (with a bit of a western influence) and all the flavours are just so interesting - it's one of those places where you feel completely justified shelling out the cash as you would never be able to recreate the dishes at home. I also completely love the cocktail bar, especially as last week they made me my favourite cocktail off-menu.

Pretty much a London institution now, the Hawksmoor brand has just run away with itself over the last few years. I don't think I've had a better steak in the UK, and anyone you take here would find it impossible not to be impressed. The staff all know their stuff and can talk you through the options in that quite hard to do non-patronising way, leaving you feeling like actually you were the expert all along. Despite the price (though they do a late theatre menu) this is a massive safe bet.

Home of the eponymous Press for Champagne button, this is the perfect place to have a special occasion meal. It is flamboyant without being over the top, with the food all being incredibly delicious. I last visited for my birthday, and I think I might just continue this trend for all my birthdays from this point onwards.

Special Mentions: The Wolseley, Mon Plaisir, Opera Tavern

Friday, 1 August 2014

July and August

The best thing about this time of the year is the weather, without a doubt. It seems that everyone is a bit happier and a bit more sociable, and so July has been a bit of a busy one for me!

So, what have I been up to?

First of all, the non-sociable stuff. I am still getting through Desperate Housewives and have just started season 6. I've also been keeping up to date with New Girl and The Mindy Project (love Mindy, love love love) as well as watching a few episodes of Life on Mars. I finished reading The Jane Austen Book Club (seemed a bit pointless), read the 2008 booker winner The White Tiger; Adventures In The Rocky Mountains, which is part of the Penguins Great Journeys series; and Shopping and Fucking, which is a 90s play. I also read and adored All My Puny Sorrows - seriously, one of the best books I've read in the last couple of years. I've now started reading The Art of Travel as it seems like one of those perfect ones for me!

What else?

I've had meals at The Noodle House, Chop Shop, Uskudar, Gourmet Pizza (twice...), Elliot's, Brioche at Pip's Dish and Bam-Bou. I spent a weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon on the hen-do, and a week in Llandeillo straight after it, I visited the Matisse exhibition at the Tate with my Mum, and also hosted my annual summer party. In other super exciting news, my new dishwasher arrived.

I've also created a few playlists; one for the hen-do, one for the summer party, one of all things x factor, and one of love songs.

And that leads me to the most exciting thing happening in August... the wedding! Tomorrow I will be maid-of-honour to my oldest friend and, despite the currently forecast weather, I know it's just going to be the most amazing day.

Definitely a good month, but I think the next one is going to be even better.