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Petersham Nurseries, Richmond Park

January 3, 2017
Petersham Nurseries, Richmond

Going for a walk in Richmond Park is something I don’t do enough.  And every time I go I remind myself how beautiful it is, how tame the deer are and how it actually feels like you’re in the countryside [for a little while].  And now I have another excuse to keep returning: Petersham Nurseries.

Richmond ParkRichmond Park

It’s one of those places where I wondered why on earth I hadn’t come sooner.  First and foremost it’s a garden centre, which doesn’t sound hugely appealing in itself.  But then you get there and you understand what all the fuss is about.  Even in early November, when it gets dark early and Richmond Park is soggy and your hands are freezing, Petersham Nurseries is like a flowery fairytale.  Everything is ridiculously pretty, without being kitsch.

Petersham Nurseries, Richmond park

But flowers aside, there’s a lot more to Petersham Nurseries.  Namely the restaurant and cafe, both in glasshouses.  In fact, it reminds me a little of a British version of South Africa’s Babylonstoren.  Arguably without the sun, the winelands, and the Cape Dutch architecture, but Babylonstoren does also have a cafe and an excellent restaurant (Babel) in glasshouses.  There’s something about eating in a glasshouse that clearly appeals, I for one love it.

Petersham Nurseries, Richmond park

We came here for tea, having walked our on-loan dog Amiga through an autumnal Richmond Park.  Dogs are allowed too (in the cafe).  Even in the winter this place gets busy, and the restaurant is always fully booked (so book ahead).   The cafe is teaming with life; from dogs barking, children laughing and friends gossiping.  The cakes are so good you could sit here for hours and work your way through the (considerable) selection.  They – of course – also have a large range of teas, from mint to English Breakfast, and also serve more casual, hearty lunch options like quiches and roasts.   It’s cosy and warm and the best place to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Petersham Nurseries, Richmond

Petersham Nurseries’ more formal restaurant made a name for itself when chef Skye Gyngell (who since left to set up Spring) became Head Chef, and it was awarded a Michelin star.   I’m yet to eat here, but I’ve only heard good things.

But quite honestly, Petersham Nurseries was one of my 2016 highlights.  And I look forward to returning many more times in 2017.

Petersham Nurseries

Church Lane, Petersham Road,

Richmond TW10 7AB

Photo credit: my own and Stephanie Wolff’s photos

Blog, Do, Drink, Eat, London

Clerkenwell London

October 3, 2015
155 Bar & Kitchen, Clerkenwell

When About Time invited me to a Cocktail Masterclass blogger evening at the newly re-opened and stunningly renovated 155 Bar & Kitchen, (part of the stunning Clerkenwell London) I accepted immediately.

Clerkenwell London is a design junkie’s dream, and they describe themselves as ‘a new destination for the discovery of niche and established designers, creatives and artisans’.  Angelica from About Time gave us the grand tour around this huge 13,000 sqft space, with every room showcasing something different: from women’s fashion to home-ware, from jewellery to art.  Every room has an individual theme, and I loved every one of them.  They even have a spa, which they were still working on when I was there, but which as now finished.

Clerkenwell LondonClerkenwell LondonClerkenwell LondonClerkenwell London

Apart from being a boutique, there are plenty of rooms to lounge in, with comfortable sofas and arm chairs covered in sheepskin rugs and where you could easily sit all evening sipping divine cocktails.  Downstairs they also have a very tempting wine bar.  The style of a number of these rooms reminded me a bit of the interiors in one of my favourite films ‘A Single Man’, set in 1960s California.

Clerkenwell LondonClerkenwell London

We were here for the cocktails, and on our arrival we given a ‘Lavender Refresher’ (Gin, cranberry juice, lemon and lavender) in a beautiful copper mug, which certainly set the scene for the evening.  The ‘Buffalo Berry’ was next, which was Buffalo Trace, lemon, strawberry jam, lemon and basil leaves, served in a jam jar.  I won’t take you through all the cocktails we tried, but there were quite a few, and we finished with a ‘Pinkster Bakewell tart’ which was so good it was like drinking a desert (Pinkster gin, Raspberry liqueur, Amaretto, apple juice and almond cream floated on top).   I’ve gone a little off cocktails recently, opting either for red wine or vodka and soda, but these cocktails were phenomenal – refreshing and unique, and I happily drank all six of them.  It helped that the bar was so beautiful, and that the bloggers were so lovely.

Clerkenwell London

But apart from furniture, fashion and cocktails, there is also the food aspect: 155 Bar & Kitchen.  And while we did not have a full sit down dinner, the canapés were fantastic and I’ve since heard great things about the food.  The restaurant is as stylish as the rest of Clerkenwell London, with a Scandi minimalist feel to it.  Perfect for a date night, though brunch it meant to be wonderful too.

155 Bar & Kitchen, Clerkenwell155 Bar & Kitchen, Clerkenwell

Clerkenwell London really impressed me, and going there was an experience I would recommend to all.  I loved the feel to the place, the people and the interiors.  The concept of going to one beautiful place to indulge in some shopping (they truly sell some stunning things, as well as clothes which I wish I could afford), drinking and eating is brilliant, and I’m sure this will be a huge success.

Clerkenwell London

Clerkenwell London

155 Farringdon Road
EC1 3AD

Blog, Do, Healthy, London

Get Fit for Free (or for a bargain)

April 3, 2015

London has an incredible array of fitness classes on offer, but with classes sometimes at £30 a pop, they’re pretty expensive.  Since I’m a bit of a bargain hunter, I’ve explored some of London’s fitness options, and have noticed that many offer a free introductory class (or classes) to get you interested.  I would also recommend signing up to the Time Out offers – they will send you daily deals, often with fitness deals throughout London.  For example, I got 10 Transformer classes for £19 through Time Out – and I absolutely loved the classes.  Now with Class Pass, you can do unlimited classes around London for £89 a month.  But for those of you who don’t want to spend that much on work out classes, below are some great deals to get you in shape for the summer.  Enjoy!

Speedflex

Speed flex

Where is it: In the City of London, close to Bank Station

What’s the deal: First two weeks unlimited classes for free (with multiple classes a day this is a great deal for any City worker)

What’s the work out: Low impact, High Intensity.  Circuit training; usually about 30 seconds per ‘Speedflex machine’.  Your heart rate is measured and they tell you how many calories you burn at the end of every class. Oh, and Alan Shearer is a fan.

 

Project Fit

Project Fit

Where is it: City of London, close to Bank Station

What’s the deal: First class free.  Bundles can be bought thereafter (works out at about £12 a class).

What’s the work out:  My favourite work out in London, but also the hardest.  HIIT training, pushing you to the maximum.  The class is split between the running machine (sprints and incline) and ground work (weights and resistance training).  Expect thumping beats and neon lighting to get you in the mood to push yourself.  Not for the faint hearted.

 

Fitness Fusions

Fitness Fusions

Where is it: Clapham Common

What’s the deal: 5 classes for £25

What’s the work out:  Classes offered are Yoga, Pilates, Boot Camp and Barre Concept. Barre Concept is a great class – perfect for women who want to tone up, focusing on all the right areas.  The locations of the classes have a slightly amateurish feel to it but the instructors are good and friendly.

 

Transformers

fitness2

Where is it: Notting Hill, Oxford Circus, Clapham, Battersea

What’s the deal: First class free

What’s the work out: Go for the ‘Transformer’ class in Notting Hill on Monday or Tuesday evening at 7pm.  David, who leads the class, will absolutely kill you by making you do countless burpees, tuck jumps, push ups and mountain climbers.  You’ll hate it when you do it, but feel incredible afterwards.

 

Absolute Pilates Plus

Absolute Pilates Plus

Where is it: Near Parsons Green

What’s the deal: £24 for 3 classes

What’s the work out: Dynamic Reformer Pilates (machine based full body work out)

 

Heartcore

Heartcore Chelsea

Where it is: Fulham Road, Chelsea

What’s the deal: First class free

What’s the work out: 55 minutes of Dynamic Pilates, High-Intensity TRX (HIIT) or Barre

 

Nike Run Club

Nike Run

Where it is: Nike Town, Covent Garden, White City

What’s the deal: Free to run – just sign up to the Nike+ Run Club London

What’s the work out: Do either 5k, 7k or 10k runs through London.  There are also womens only runs.

 

Blog, Do, Eat, London

New Tom’s & Westbourne Grove Shopping – Notting Hill

December 11, 2014

New Tom’s & Westbourne Grove Shopping – Notting Hill

There are few London shopping streets more lovely than Westbourne Grove in the heart of Notting Hill.  While, especially on a weekend just before Christmas, it’s buzzing with people laden with beautifully branded shopping bags, it is miles away from the heaving, horrifying nightmare that is Oxford Street.  Westbourne Grove is sophisticated, atmospheric, colourful and – most importantly – a place which makes Christmas shopping a pleasure.

IMG_1504

Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill

If you do choose to do your shopping on this street, fuel up at New Tom’s.  It’s small and busy, and while this means you’ll often have to queue, or put your name down on a waiting list (they don’t take bookings for brunch), we didn’t have to wait more than 15 minutes for a table.  And there are plenty of distractions in the area to keep you entertained while waiting.

New Toms, Notting Hill

New Tom’s has recently replaced ‘Tom’s’ (or formally ‘Tom’s Deli’).  The décor, which apparently used to be slightly more romantic and old fashioned, has been modernised, though they still have the charming booths at the back.  December brings Christmas decorations, but New Tom’s clearly need to either invest more in theirs, or perhaps not attempt at decorating the café at all, as it all felt a little amateurish.

New Toms, Notting Hill

New Toms, Notting Hill

New Toms, Notting Hill

New Toms, Notting Hill

It was, as can only be expected on a Saturday morning, fairly hectic inside – with staff running around looking slightly harassed.  The service was, therefore, a little on the slow side.

But this, for me, is where the criticism stops.

I ordered poached eggs, avocado and sour dough bread.  Without exaggerating, this may have been the most delicious version of a fairly classic egg/avocado/bread dish.  The eggs, with yolks a startlingly dark orange, were clearly so fresh and organic they may as well have been plucked from under a hen that morning.  The addition of caramelised onions is one I am definitely going to try at home, the sweetness combining perfectly with the creamy avocado and the guacamole.  Yes – lucky me – two variations of avocado on a plate, and one ideal for spreading on toast.  It all worked so well.  And was devoured within minutes.

New Toms, Notting Hill

New Toms, Notting Hill

New Toms, Notting Hill

Jo had already had breakfast, but her latte and her lemon poppy seed cake went down a treat.  And the bill was perfectly reasonable for a Notting Hill brunch; the prices fairly similar to neighbouring cafes and restaurants.  But beware, this is Notting Hill, so nothing’s cheap.

New Toms, Notting Hill

New Toms, Notting Hill

Another good brunch option on Westbourne Grove is 202 London.  I spotted some rather beautiful looking people walk into which from the outside looks like a trendy clothing boutique.  But then had a good look through the window and saw that there was in fact an elegant cafe behind the boutique.  202 London claims to bring ‘fashion, retail and modern eating’ together.  The menu – especially the butterscotch pancakes – looked good too (the prices again quite reasonable).  I’m heading here when I next hit Notting Hill for brunch, but I hear booking is essential as this is clearly where all the cool kids go.

202 London, Notting HIll

202 London, Notting HIll

202 London, Notting HIll

202 London, Notting HIll

Now, as for the retail therapy.  Where to begin?  There is no better time than a visit to Dalesford in December.  It is simply the most beautiful delicatessen, offering incredible organic food and it works the Christmas theme so well.  I bought some of their Sloe Gin, because I couldn’t resist.  It’s a great shop for stocking fillers (they have wonderful scented candles), but also to buy the freshest, most delicious food and booze to enjoy over the festive period.

Daylesford, Notting HIll

Daylesford, Notting HIll

Daylesford, Notting HIll

Daylesford, Notting HIll

Daylesford

Daylesford

Those in search of a flower shop have also come to the right place.   Wild at Heart is the prettiest flower stall you will find, and I especially loved their penguins.  Too cute.

Wild at Heart, Notting Hill

Wild at Heart, Notting Hill

Another great place for – albeit rather expensive – stocking fillers, is Aesop.  I have long been a fan of this Australian brand, which sells the most incredible products for your skin, hair and body.  I love their traveller gift sets.  And their lip balm is one many people swear by.  It is also a beautiful shop and the shop assistant was incredibly helpful and knowledgable.  It is a place where you can easily spend a bomb, simply because everything smells out of this world, so be careful.

Aesop, London

Aesop, London

Aesop, London

If after all that shopping you get hungry again, then fear not, you’re in the right place.  Head into Wolf & Badger (another pretty boutique, which supports independent fashion, jewellery and interior brands – so great for finding unique gifts) for a Raw Press cold-pressed juice to give you that health-kick.  Or swing by Ottolenghi’s ever-popular cafe around the corner, with the most divine selection of cakes in the window (definitely going to get the polenta cake next time).  The Christmas hamper there is mouth-watering too.

raw press, notting hill

raw press, notting hill

Ottolenghi, NOtting Hill

A very successful day!

IMG_1554

Blog, Do, Drink, Eat, Healthy, London

Five Reasons to hang out in Marylebone

October 19, 2014

Five Reasons to hang out in Marylebone: Natural Kitchen / Wallace Collection / 106 Baker Street / Roots and Bulbs / Nordic Bakery

Marylebone

I don’t spend enough time in this part of London.  So when a free Saturday appeared, I chose to spend the day discovering more of what Marylebone has to offer.

Breakfast at the NATURAL KITCHEN

Yes, it’s a chain, but there are three main reasons why I love this place:

1) It serves a large variety of healthy but delicious dishes

2) All their food is organic and fresh

3) The duck logo

There are two Natural Kitchens in this part of town, one on Baker Street (the one I visited) and the other on Marylebone High Street.  The Baker Street one is large and spacious, divided in the Deli/Juice Bar area (where all the skinny bitches hang out in sports wear, sipping green super juices) and the main restaurant area, with long wooden, basil pot adorned tables, retro lamps and window seating.  It was full for the entire two hours I was there, a mixture of friends brunching, families bonding, a few kids making too much noise.  It has a nice feel to it.  It’s a place where you can come and work/blog (like I did), or read the papers, or be sociable.   The Marylebone High Street one is their flagship – and is first and foremost a shop/deli, but also has a cafe.  I can completely see why they have become such a huge success around London.

Natural Kitchen, Baker Street

Natural Kitchen, Baker Street

Natural Kitchen, Baker Street

Natural Kitchen, Baker Street

Natural Kitchen, Baker Street

Natural Kitchen, Baker Street

Natural Kitchen, Baker Street

Natural Kitchen, Baker Street

Natural Kitchen, Baker Street

Natural Kitchen

55 Baker Street

London

W1U 8EW

0207 935 0987

Culture at the WALLACE COLLECTION

It is very strange that this stunning National Museum is always so empty.  And that so few people actually know it exists. The Wallace Collection is home to a stunning private collection of 18th and 19th Century works of art, once belonging to the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace (son of the 4th Marquess).  Now there is free entry to the public, to wander through the stunning, colourful rooms of Hertford House.  What I like about this museum is that it’s not too overwhelming.  The lack of crowds mean that you can amble from room to room at your own pace, and that you don’t have to strain your neck trying to get a glimpse of the lovely van Dyk portraits.  My favourite painting?  The Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals.  But I also adored the room of the paintings of the views of Venice, mostly by Canaletto.  Make sure you’re around at either 11:30 or 14:30 for the complimentary guided tour around the museum.

Wallace Collection

Wallace Collection

Wallace Collection

Wallace Collection

Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection

Hertford House

Manchester Square

London W1U 3BN 

A juice at ROOTS & BULBS

I’ve been following these guys on Instagram even before they opened shop on Thayer Street.  They’re the ones who started the trend of cold-press juice bars, and now there are many more like Raw Press and PRESS.  I love their sleek but practical interior.  Their fridges, lined with a range of colourful, uber healthy bottles of juice, make you want to turn your life around and become healthy forever.  As unrealistic as that may be, buying a  ‘G1’ bottle (Celery/Spinach/Cucumber/Lemon/Ginger/Spice) or a gluten free avocado wrap or a chia seed pot is certainly a step in the right direction.  Go check it out.

Roots & Bulbs, Marylebone

Roots & Bulbs, Marylebone

Roots & Bulbs, Marylebone

Roots & Bulbs

5 Thayer Street

Marylebone

Lunch at 106 BAKER STREET

Baker Street itself is far less appealing than the charming Marylebone High Street or one of the cuter, cafe-filled roads in the neighbourhood.  Baker Street is busy, noisy and not as trendy.  But it’s slowly changing for the better, and 106 Baker Street is a representation of that change.  This is a pretty white-washed cafe, with a lovely little street side terrace and a bright and airy, clean-lined interior.  The staff are super friendly and enthusiastic, but it’s the food (and the value of it) that you’re here for.  Keeping in line with healthy eating, they offer a ‘main’ (choose from a grilled chicken steak, a salmon steak, or a veggie option) and three salad choices – all for £7.50.  That’s a bargain in London these days.  The salads change regularly, but you can expect red quinoa with pumpkin, giant cous cous, beef tomato salad, creamy humous and much more.  You get a full plate and it’s delicious.  And if you’re still not full after this, try one of their gluten free carrot or beetroot cakes (£1.50 a slice).  Perfect place for breakfast (they have the weekend papers) or lunch.

106 Baker Street

106 Baker Street

106 Baker Street

106 Baker Street

106 Baker Street

106 Baker Street

106 Baker Street

106 Baker Street

A Cinnamon treat at the NORDIC BAKERY

Scandinavian food continues to take London by storm, but the Nordic Bakery has actually been around in London for over 3 years now (there are now two others in Soho and Golden Square).  Even from afar it’s clear how Scandi they are – a dark grey, minimalist exterior and interior, a limited menu (expect lots of dark rye and smoked salmon for lunch) and simple wooden furniture.  But when it comes to the sweets & pastries, there is nothing minimal about it.  Their in-house bakery ensure that the buns/cakes/cookies are all super fresh and all look mouth-wateringly delicious.  When we asked the smiling staff which bun to go for, the over-riding recommendation was one of their Finnish Cinnamon Buns.  While harder on the outside than expected, I loved unravelling the layers of cinnamon sweetness.  The perfect afternoon treat.

Nordic Bakery, Marylebone

Nordic Bakery, Marylebone

Nordic Bakery, Marylebone

Nordic Bakery, Marylebone

Nordic Bakery, Marylebone

Nordic Bakery

37b New Cavendish Street

Marylebone

I will definitely be back, to check out the creative foodie hub Carousel and try my luck at getting into Chiltern Firehouse...

Blog, Do, Drink, London

London Cru Urban Winery, Earls Court

June 13, 2014

When I got an invitation to go to a wine tasting session at London’s only winery I was excited, but also a bit confused.  Especially when I found out it was around the corner from my house, right by Earls Court Exhibition Centre.  My main question was, how one earth can you make wine in central London?

London Cru Urban Winery

ROBERSON WINE ARE LONDON CRU’S FINANCIAL BACKERS


The wine tasting hour I had with London Cru last Saturday explained all.  Along with about 18 others (a mixture of Brits and Internationals) the very friendly co- owner Adam Green introduced the business, the process and the wines.  Turns out that while London Cru is the first ‘Urban Winery’ in London, there are a number of urban wineries worldwide, from Hong Kong to New York. San Francisco has a number of them, made easy by its proximity to Napa Valley.  But London, Adam pointed out, has the grapes of all of Europe on its doorstep.

 

London Cru Urban Winery

READY FOR THE WINE TOUR


One of the big advantages? Picking and choosing the grapes from the regions which have had a good harvest.  Last year they were keen to make wine from grapes of the Bordeaux and Loire region, but 2013 was a bad year for these regions. So instead they decided to use the Barbera grape from Piedmonte (Northern Italy).  Flexibility seems to be key in this business.  Apart from Barbera, they got their grapes from the Langedoc Russillon region in France.

Would the grapes not be damaged transporting them to London?  Apparently not.  They are driven, carefully, straight to London after picking, and arrive in London the following day, 28-36 hours from harvest.  Looking just as they did at the vineyard.

I won’t go through the whole process of how the wine is made from when the grapes arrive in London, because you should go and see for yourself.  Adam has worked in wine for 10 years and is clearly so passionate about it, Will Monery, his partner has also been involved in wine for most of his life.  Adam briefly takes you through the process, showing you the space and the machines used.

 

London Cru Urban Winery

2,500 LITRES OF WINE PER TANK

London Cru Urban Winery

London Cru Urban Winery

Then, the ‘fun’ part. The tasting.

We tasted five different wines.  I thought the Barbera was going to be my favourite as I adore the grape, but it wasn’t.  For me the Syrah won.

London Cru Urban Winery

ADAM POURING THE CHARDONNAY


We tried the following:

First we tried the Chardonnay – from the Languedoc Roussillon region in France (the only white wine they do).  I thought it was fresh and light.  The wine is to be bottled in a month so it is very close to being ‘ready’. We drank it straight from the tank which was quite fun.  You can buy the wine in store in September.

London Cru Urban Winery

WE DIDN’T TRY THE ONE THAT LOOKS/TASTES/SMELLS LIKE VINEGAR

London Cru Urban Winery

THE WHITE CHARDONNAY

London Cru Urban Winery

Then we tried the Barbera wine. In fact, two of them.  One batch had accidentally turned into a Rose, which is very unusual for this wine.  Again, the great thing about London Cru is that they have the flexibility and creativity to try something new like this, even though it was unexpected.  And it turned out rather well, with a bit of a strawberry & cream taste.  They are so pleased with the result they are going to make another batch this year.

The red Barbera was a little disappointing, but it does need more time in the tank.

London Cru Urban Winery

THE ROSE

London Cru Urban Winery

Next came the Syrah, from Languedoc Roussillon – a dry wine, which I liked a lot.

London Cru Urban Winery

And lastly came the Cabernet wines (from near Beziers, in the South of France) – one aged in an old oak barrel, the other in a new one.  It was very interesting to try the difference: the old barrel wines are much more oaky than the new barrel wines and it is very clear in the taste.  The Cabernet ageing in the old barrel needs more time, and will stay in the barrel as long as possible since it needs more time to soften.  The Cabernet from the new barrel was full of body, a bit richer and more tannic.

London Cru Urban Winery

London Cru Urban Winery

On the whole the wines were all a bit too early to taste, since they are just getting into their stride.  But that made it fun too.  I look forward to trying the finished product.  The wines will all be sold for the same price: £15 a bottle.  Not cheap, but the team are confident the wines will be worth it.  You’ll be able to buy the wines at Marks & Spencer’s (under M&S brand ‘Spirit of London’). But you will also be able to buy the wine on their website: under the brand SW6.

They are having some problems about what the actual put not he label, since legislation is difficult.  They can’t say the wines are French or Italian, since the wine is not actually made in the regions the grapes are from.  Hence they will be go with ‘Wine of European Community’, which is a mouthful to say the least, but will have to do until they can think of something better or get around the legislation.

Bottom line: this is a fantastic tour which is both educational and fun.  The perfect thing to do on a Saturday afternoon with a partner or group of friends.  Or a father for upcoming Father’s Day.   Tickets are £15, and you can get them here: http://www.londoncru.co.uk/.

London Cru Urban Winery

 

London Cru Urban Winery

21-27 Seagrave Rd

Fulham, London SW6 1RP

 

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