I can map this city in layers. The food eaten; the shops and cafes I’ve loitered in; the people I’ve loved; the otherwise mundane benches and phone boxes that have been the scenes of important conversations and epiphanies. I could tell you about bickering with a now-absent friend over whitebait in a family-run Italian before I even moved here. I could sit you down in the pub where my heart burst with love for my mother. I could give you a run-down of what the bridges have meant to me, and recant tales from the very different new years eves I’ve celebrated. The Soho tattoo parlour where I got books inked into me. The train stations that have led me to new adventures. I could show you the city that shaped my life as I grew from a fresh-out-of-uni innocent moving to the big city to hopefully a more fully-formed woman, with a pair of santoku knives I refer to as “my babies” and more than a handful of stories to tell. Read More
“Someone describe gelato to me, in layman’s terms, without saying the words ‘ice cream’, and I shall begrudgingly repent.”
The middle of the day; the middle of an honest-to-god argument about frozen desserts via WhatsApp, the friendship group split as battle raged between gelato fans and gelato, well, deniers. Read More
There’s one thing in particular that made it a dead cert I’d head to KERB Camden when it opened this week: I’m a total sucker for a good Instagram picture. I’m far from alone from this, and you can call it voyeuristic or narcissistic or any other kind of -istic, but as a generation we love to keep an eye on what other people are doing and share what we’re up to. We love it even more than mums on Facebook love sharing baby photos or inspirational quotes. More than sexists love hounding women off Twitter. More than Thailand holidayers love using photos of themselves next to drug-addled tigers on Tinder to show how well-travelled they are. That’s how much we love posting photos of lattes and avocados and our own faces (this remains the best quote on selfies).
So as much I’ll roll my eyes at restaurants saying their food is “Instagrammable”, I’m happy to use social media to find new things and places. Which is exactly what happened with Blu Top ice cream (pictured above), which serves up ice cream cookie sandwiches slathered in sauce and lured me to the KERB Camden street food market launch.
We all do different things to unwind. I can’t fathom going for a run to clear your head, or playing first person shooting games for hours. But one of my old post-work rituals was befitting of someone about 40 years older than me and the opposite gender – a nice quiet pub, a pint of ale, and a book. Shoes off and feet up on the sofa like I lived there, it was a sanctuary away from work stress and, crucially, out of the tiny flat I lived in. It’s also where I became “a beer drinker”.
There’s this idea, somehow, that women don’t drink beer, that all we really want is a white wine or maybe a G&T. But, although an adolescence that featured only Fosters or Boddingtons should have put me off, I can attest firmly to the fact that we quite like a pint, too.
So of course, when an email landed in my inbox about the Ladies Love Beer night at Neighbourhood, near Stratford, I was quick to confirm that I’d be there with bells on.
I went into the event a little sceptical – purely because my taste is quite specifically the darker, richer end of the spectrum. I’m not into “hoppy”, or “citrus”, and I’m certainly against lagers, which to me often taste more like they should be in the back room of a doctor’s surgery in a sample pot. So I headed off to Very East London, and I was pleasantly surprised. Read More
Each year I experience three weight spikes. Holiday. Christmas. Birthday. It’s inevitable, and it’s earned.
True to form, the majority of birthday presents this year revolved around my two main interests, books and food, including what I seem to have decided is called “cocomond and almonut butter”. This year was particularly good, with a parade of meals out – that sounds fancier than it was – and a whole load of new discoveries. We’ll be here forever if I run you through it all, so instead, here’s my best bits. Read More
wish I could tell you when it happened, but it seemed to occur all of a sudden. One month, nothing, and the next: a whole new city to discover.
Norwich, dear sweet little Norwich, got…cool.
Somewhere between then and now, grotty little shop fronts gave way to swanky barbers and coffee shops, and people started talking about where’s good for brunch. All the boys grew beards and got undercuts. Food started being served on slates and wooden boards. Pockets of the city became like London, full of independents and entrepreneurship, but without the tourists and grime.
But it’s not the first time Norwich has had excellent food. Read More
orwich, my darling hometown, is a weird and beautiful little jigsaw of terrible 1960s architecture and hidden cobbled streets, of modern malls just a hop, skip, and a jump away from a cathedral and a castle. It’s cute independents and funny accents and surprises at every turn. It’s not really home anymore, but it’s still a sanctuary, only two hours and yet a whole world away from London. And next month, it’s going to be even better, as it hosts a chocolate festival.
It’s easy to miss the hints these days, now that Norwich is known more for mustard and popping in and out of the Premier League, but for 100 years Norwich produced chocolate which rivalled Swiss products and was sent to British troops on the frontline during the First World War. The first Rolos, Munchies, and Caramacs even dropped off the belts at the Chapelfield factory, which changed hands from Caley’s, to The African and Eastern Trade Corporation, then to John Mackintosh & Sons, and finally to Nestle, in the 1980s.
Caley’s is still going to this day, 158 years after Albert Jarman Caley opened a chemist’s business in London Street, but for two days the city will also play host to chocolatiers from across the UK and the world, championing not just quality but also Fairtrade, vegan, and free-from treats. Read More
made the mistake a couple of months back of impulse buying a book while on a Sunday mooch around the city. I do this quite a lot, but it’s rarely a mistake (I said rarely. Looking at you, Cloud Atlas). But, having wandered into Angel after a visit to the Ray Stitch haberdashery, the lures of Waterstones and coffee were too strong and I ended up walking out with the London Coffee Guide*.
You know what’s in the London Coffee Guide? Recommendations, broken down by area.
You know what’s abundant on the internet for free? Recommendations, broken down by area, with loads of photos and personal notes.
As much as it kills me to admit that a book might have been made a touch redundant by the wealth of information online, it’s true in this case. So, here’s a few of my favourite ways to find out about London’s best coffee shops. Bring on the flat whites, chilled out music, and cosy nooks. Read More
ancakes and waffles and bacon and toast and granola. Coffee and hot chocolate and a cheeky glass of fizzy. Brunch, the meal-between-meals, has crept into the hearts of Britons, years after it became a ‘thing’ in America and not a moment too soon. London’s Breakfast Club has long been the sweetheart of pancake aficionados in the capital, but these days cafes catering for this almost-meal are springing up around the country, often in the form of Bill’s or Patisserie Valerie. As it’s become a cultural phenomenon in itself, a symptom of a desire to show class status, whether it’s through getting smashed on prosecco at 11am or being dedicated enough to wait more than an hour just to sit down, a backlash has even started.
But let’s face it – it’s the ultimate diverse meal, a no-rules affair that let’s you go savoury, sweet, or that excellent mix of both. It’s a relaxed couple of hours with friends, not over cocktails in a noisy bar, but over coffees. You don’t have to get up early for it, and leaves enough of the day spare that you can crawl back into your pajamas to binge on Netflix if you want to. And when the economy is still struggling, it’s a little indulgence that stops short of costing the £40 you could easily spend on lunch. Why would you not love brunch?
On Sophie’s (The Cake Hunter) recommendation, the morning after her wedding, Em (Mbakes) and I headed to Moose Coffee in central Manchester for brunch before embarking on the long drive back to London (shout out to Em’s boyfriend for being an absolute gem and driving the whole way). And, um, I think I need to go back to Manchester just to go there again. Read More