And, the chips are in ..

20141125_210552It is the season in London where the Christmas decorations and lights are up and Christmas carols are playing almost everywhere.  Among the many festivities, there are the markets.

The market at Southbank has begun and it is early enough that there is not a big crowd yet, so it is still magical and joyful to walk along the river bank and enjoy the atmosphere. Plus, the slightly foggy autumn evenings make it cosy.

This year, contrary to previous years, there are a few food popups – which is great! No longer do we need to stick to soggy burgers or tasteless pulled turkey, we can now go for duck burger or a goat cheese and honey waffle!

For my part, outdoors often means hot fluffy chips. To my surprise,  near the entrance for  The Winter Festival, there are three food stalls all serving chips (among other delicious plates). I aim to try all three of them! Three visits to this particular market before the end of the year? Very feasible, I would say!

Round 1 – The Frenchie


The Frenchie UK 's chips

The Frenchie UK ‘s chips

It was cooked in duck fat and served with truffle mayonnaise.  It had a crisp outside and starchy inside. It was good. I prefered the bits that got bashed and thus, crispier during the deep frying.

(I’ll update for part 2 and 3 as I make the visits)

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Day out in London – Bonfire night

If I could, this Saturday 08 November 2014, I would be in the Vaults of Waterloo station to watch an underground movie (“The fault in our stars” would match timewise) before taking the train to Queenstown station and do a short walk to Battersea Park to watch the fireworks.

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Day out in London – Lego bricks at Brick Lane

Work of art by Nathan Sawaya - muse - lego bricks

Work of art by Nathan Sawaya – Muse

London in the summer is great – there are events happening everywhere; food markets, outdoor cinemas , gigs and so much more..even a Hippopo roaming the Thames and a floating market in Covent Garden.

As autumn comes in, it feels like things start to slow down – but does it?

Last weekend, I spend a great day out at The Old Truman Brewery – even the weather cooperated! It was sunny, but not too warm – the type of day where you can wear a scarf and be fine – a scarf only day!

Started with a visit at a Lego Exhibition – Art of the Brick by artist Nathan Sawaya – where all the pieces were made out of lego bricks! Pretty cool. There were reproduction of classics such as the ‘The Scream’ or ‘Le Penseur’ but also, new and interesting pieces such as the blue man or the artist hiding inside the lawyer suit. It’s novel and fun and inspiring – go see!

The day continued with a leisurely lunch at one of the many nearby food markets namely Elys Yard. After a white fish ceviche and fried plantains,  it was time for a stroll around the area; window shopping at the vintage shops on Brick Lane, checking out random designer sales that popped in the area and lounging on benches in leafy parks (indeed as most of the leaves were floating down – it’s autumn afterall).

The day was rounded up with a nice coffee and cinnamon bun from Swedish restaurant Fika – which by the way has a cosy and lovely garden rooftop where you will definitely feel out of everyday London.

Until the next time ..bye!

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Come rain or shine

London Skyline from Horse Guards Parade

The preliminaries for beach volley went on whether it was sunny or raining . The games took place in Horse Guards Parade, somewhere behind Bukingham palace and with a great view of part of the London skyline!

It felt very well organised, there were clear direction to where we should go and lots of attendants to help. There were different queues at various entry point which meant that it didn’t take long to go through security and into the venue.

We had nice seats with a good view to the volley ball pitch which the day before we saw on TV.But being there in person was fun and exciting; lots of cheering happening all the time. When it rained and hands were busy with umbrellas? Well, we stomped our feet instead. Nothing stopped the games and nothing stopped the spectators. In between the matches, there was entertainment in the form of dancers, something that you didn’t get to see on TV (as they would then zoom to the presentator)!

And the facilities at the venue were good, many food stalls and attendants selling water and drinks. But, with that many people, there was always a long queue at the food stall.  I wasn’t too sure about using the toilet facilities, but they turned out to be proper toilets (ie not portables) and clean.

The best part of the day was to watch team GB win the last game in our session. The whole venue was alive, spectators were dancing, cheering, clapping, yelling, stamping, mexican waving and at one point, a rendition of Rule Britania was even sung. The weather in the UK is capricious but the games indifferent to it’s moodiness had a whale of a time.

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Fancy a burger?

There is something addictive about eating beef burgers. Making it at home is nice but it cannot compete with going to a burger joint. And adding a side or two, and a good shake with it only adds to the high. On this pursuit, I’ve been checking out some burger places around town over the year. Here are a few that calls for more than one visit!

Byron Hamburgers

This is a chain burger joint, but it’s not cheap fast food and the burgers are tasty. They serve a range of sides, sauces and toppings (about 5 types of cheese). And don’t miss their courgette fries when you want something different from chips. I’m lucky to have two of their locations within reach. So, if I need a greasy fix of minced meat in a bun, that’s where I’ll head. The burgers are normally cooked medium and the rest ie the sides, toppings, etc, you can choose. Similar to Byron is Gourmet Burger Kitchen, they definitely have a bigger selection of burgers (for example buffalo burgers), but for me Byron has that something something that makes it more special.

The Big Chill

This is not just a burger place… In the morning, you can grab a nice breakfast there, during the day, why not have a coffee while working from your laptop at one of the seats by the wide windows. And in the night, expect DJs mixing some fun grooves (check out their Events section). And on top of all that, the place makes great burgers!? Heck, if I lived nearer, I’d be there more often! The burgers are served medium and you got to love the twists you can dig from their menu: rum and honey marinated pineapple topping, a side of crispy fried baby squids, chipotle chilli sauce…one word: yum!

Honest Burgers

If you want a no fuss great burger, head for Honest burger. Located in Brixton Village, you generally have a long wait (they don’t do reservations) but you can give your name, go for a walk or drink and they will call you when the seats are available. The burger, as its name indicates, is honest, straight on a bun, with some salad. The chips are a bit fancier with sea salt and rosemary and the whole is served with what tastes like homemade tomato sauce on the side. Straight, mean and worth the wait!

Ed’s Easy Diner

This one is a long running classic American diner. If you want to try the original, head for the Soho branch and either sit at the bar and watch the chef in action or grab one of the few seats by the window. I prefer the latter as I love sitting back and watch the awesome frenzied london life. Situated in a corner with a musical theatre in front, a pub opposite, a tattoo artist and hairdresser on the left and a japanese restaurant next to an italian place on the right, there is no better place to see London while eating a burger. The burger is good but not amazing; the shakes are excellent, good onion rings and the chips fluffy and crispy as I like them. But, with the location, the feel good retro American atmosphere and the jukebox, it feels like the genuine product.

If not for London, I’d probably not have tried that many burger places. And I still have many joints left on my list! Lucky Chip, Meat Liquor and Burger & Lobster to name the next in line.

Have you tried those burgers and if so, what do you think? Do you have other places you’d recommend whether in London or elsewhere?

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Scones, Cream and Tea – Kew

Scones, Cream and Tea is a running short review of London teahouses/afternoon teas that have a little something different..

Place: The Original Maids of Honours
Where better than opposite Kew Gardens! After a visit to the gardens or a walk by the river from Richmond to Kew, why not stop for some tea and goodies? It makes for a nice day out in west London.
The lil something:
The tables are in a quaint room and everything is served from lovely porcelaine english plates, teapots, cups and saucers.
They have a decent selection of teas, delicious quiches and pies and the scones are a good size; satisfying and with an old-style powdery finish (flour) on top. Those are pretty nice things to have, but what takes you out of this world are their unique melt-in-the-mouth Maids of Honour pastries; fluffy, with a tasty sweet tart filling. It’s a secret recipe and it’s said to have been one of Henry VIII favourites.

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Covent Garden Piazza – Egg Sculptures

A few of the 210 eggs displayed on the Piazza.. so many eggs in one place, I was tiptoeing around lest I break any. The display was a great collection of work by various artists; egg designs that were sometimes breathtaking and sometimes amusing.

Kept wondering which beautiful creature one could see coming out of such an egg…tinkerbell?

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It is now Easter… egg time!

Spring is in the air, the sun peeks in almost everyday and there are chocolate Easter eggs everywhere! And in London, some not so chocolatey ones as well, more on that later. But yes, it is that time of the year; from the little shop around the corner, to the supermarket, to the outdoor markets and to the specialist shops – little oblong chocolates and other novelty ideas make their appearances. Making me wonder what’s being laid more often these days, the chocolate eggs or the hen’s eggs? 😉

Thus, there are plenty of choices around the price, quality, size, look and taste of the Easter chocolate.  I went for the traditional (it has to be an egg! or a bunny?), the unique (or at least new to me and my family) and the colourful. So here is my share of candy this Easter weekend:

The Mignon (how cute is that name!) made by Fazer. It has almond and hazelnut. And so far, you are thinking, these fillings are fairly normal and you can get this type of chocolate anywhere, right? But, would it be in a real egg shell! A very clean egg shell I may add.

Another discovery I made earlier this year is Lucky’s London – it’s an online shop (or alternatively, they retail in Harrods).  Their cake inside a chocolate (no, not cakes covered with chocolate but chocolates filled with cakes and other delicious things) caught my eyes. I liked this novel idea. And checking further at the time, I found that they have an Alice theme, a superb ‘concept’ website and for Easter, Humpty Dumpty on his wall would be sitting around. Of course, I had to get a couple of these and I am sad to report, that Humpty Dumpty in my household has fallen from his wall, broke into many pieces, the caramel oozed out and the pieces were quickly hoovered into many tummies. Horrendous, horrendous moment. There is no mess but hope is lost that Mr Dumpty can be repaired at this point of time.

Easter for me, as you have figured out by now, is an excuse to eat candies, lots of chocolates and candies, and sweets, and …you get my drift. So, I got myself a big Scandinavian papier-mâché egg shell and filled it with sweets, chocolate, candies, more get my drift.  In my shell to enjoy this lovely sunny (so far) weekend, I have some of my favourite goodies (Melt vanilla caramels, brazil nuts covered chocolate), some that yells Easter to me (Easter is not Easter without Cardbury’s Creme Egg. The rest of the year, have a Kinder Egg.) and lots of colours (Carluccio’s ‘precious Dragons’ eggs’  as I call them and which were my Easter candy from my sister. And why not, I added some pink smarties).

Enough about candies now, how about just eggs?  There is plenty of competing shop decors everyhere to make a walk around the city interesting. As well this year, there were some giant hidden ‘Eggs’ sculptures! They could be ‘hunted down’ to win a prize, or if you are like me, I enjoyed coming across them randomly. This also meant that I didn’t get to gawk at all the 210 eggs – so this Easter weekend, I’m making a trip to Covent Garden Piazza where all the eggs are on display before they are auctioned off by Monday 09 April. I wonder if they will be on display mainly during Easters in the home of their owners?

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My Valentine Chocolat!


I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s day, not really – I assure you!  Ah, but my ears and taste buds do not agree; they sure do look up when there are Valentine’s day chocolats (mmm les chocolats sounds more ‘gourmande’ in french) around!

So, pretending not to be interested, I stroll about the London streets and the internet looking for some chocolatey goodies – and mind you, they are not for my partner, but for my own indulgences. This year I was on the lookout for the surprising and the tasty.

There has always been a chocolate heart at Melt Chocolates. And what a good idea –  a hollow heart shaped chocolate in which one can hide a message. It’s made with delicious milk or dark chocolate and is a gift for any occasion. For Valentine’s, they played on this concept; instead of just a note, you can choose any object to hide in the heart. Plus, you can design your own decoration for the heart. A wholly customised heart to bring your heart’s desire out. As well, they have their own design, a chocolate heart with a gold leaf decoration and a love bracelet by Assya hidden inside.

Another item that caught my eye and though maybe not designed specifically for Valentine’s day, is the Rose Bonnet boxes from House of Chocolate. The boxes alone would make a pretty gift, but with a nice selection of chocolate, it’s magnificent!

It seemed however rather pointless to hide something for myself in a heart and since I did not have the patience to wait for a delivery, I went for a classic that I could easily pick up during a quick trip to the Special Valentine’s Market (10-12 Feb) in Southbank: brownies. I returned home with a precious sea salted caramel and cocoa nib brownie, created specially for the occasion by Paul A. Young.  And yes, it was gooey, tasty and a perfect dessert for a lovely Sunday. (It didn’t hurt either to have a leisurely walk around the market during the cold morning with a spiced hot chocolate from Rococo.)

Next stop? Easter chocolats!

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London – What’s your favourite train station?

Lots of love flows on the rails from London; you could be going to Edinburgh, to Paris , to Wales, even to a magical land from a certain platform 9 3/4 – and the list goes on. All these journeys start from a train station. Most of the stations still have that old air feel that to me is quite romantic. However modernised, many still keep their charm . Who hasn’t stopped to watch the lovers in St Pancras? But one station that holds dear to my heart, is London Paddington station.

Call me crazy, but I find this station with its high dome, glazed roof, its long beams, its wrought iron arches, the multi sided clock and the muted light during the day, a great place to stroll about with a latte while waiting to catch your transportation.
My love for the station possibly comes from one of the most blinding moments of my life. I was stepping out of the tube station escalator and into the train station – I was just under the glass roof – it was a fairly grey day and the light was muted. At that precise moment, it started raining. I was only some steps in, the sound of the rain drops all around, echoing and it had been so sudden  – it stopped my world for a few seconds. Everything else faded back, leaving me alone, looking up and experiencing a wonderful moment. Every step, every second I used that morning to catch my train to work took me to that one point in time. Amazing, isn’t it?

I’m eagerly awaiting a next rainy day at London Paddington. So far, I haven’t been there at the right time. Meanwhile, I take a latte, I sit in a train that departs from either platform 6 or 7 during late morning. I take a window seat to the right and facing backwards, I watch. As the train route curves, you get a great view of the station. And it’s a nice way to start any day.

Paddington station also fascinates the part of me that has always been interested in Isambard Brunel’s engineering work. I’m not from Bristol, but I spend much time there. The Clifton suspension Bridge is one of his famous projects. The bridge is more than 150 years old and to this day is used daily in the Bristolian’s commute. So, no wonder, anytime we have a visitor, a trip and a walk along the suspension bridge is obligatory! Accompanied by the story of the Victorian lady jumping to her death from the bridge – although, her billowing dress acted as a parachute and she landed safely on the river bank (whether the story is genuine is anyone’s guess!)

Brunel was a world leading engineer during the 1800s. His touch can be found in various works in the south of England, including the beautiful Bristol Temple Meads train station, which is at the other end of the railway route from London Paddington. His vision was that passengers could travel to New York via a steamship from the Bristol Docks – a journey from London to New York!

London Paddington was a collaborative work by Isambard Brunel, his associate Matthew Digby Wyatt, who did the majority of the architectural design, and Owen Jones, who designed the once colour scheme. I still have many things to learn about this railway station; I keep my eyes and ears open and appreciate any new tidbits. And when I’m there, I make sure to look away from the busy station life and take in its engineering and architectural beauty. It’s a delight to all my senses. And as I learn more about it, I fall deeper into its charm.

Paddington, as you can tell, is my favourite London train station. What’s yours?

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