Dancing like no one’s watching through a London Bucket List

One is no ballerina, but who cares - dancing is for everyone!

One is no ballerina, but who cares – dancing is for everyone!

Part of the reason why I’m not the size of a house (even though it feels like it sometimes) is that I try my best to keep fit or at least enjoy myself through a decent run-around. Until my knee failed me after having BLC I was all about the running and as you know, swimming is still part of my regular work-out schedule, but also in there has been boxing (which is awesome and I really recommend it if you need to get your fitness back quickly) at Left Hook Boxing Gym in Shadwell and then there is dance.

I LOVE TO DANCE.

Dancing away at Hackney Weekend 2012

Dancing away at Hackney Weekend 2012

I can’t dance.

But I don’t care. I just let myself dance like no one’s watching, whether that be at a wedding, a Zumba class, out with my friends or just hanging out with BLC on our weekends together. The louder and cheesier the pop music, the more I’m there. It seems fitting that I write about dancing my way around London as my last post before I take a break from blogging for a while (I say the summer, but we’re in England, that summer may only be a few weeks, it may be longer).

Friend's wedding

Friend’s wedding

So when I discovered that Frame does antenatal fitness classes (BLC is going to be a big sister later this year~) and they don’t freak out when faced with a bump in the room at their other classes, I was all over it like a bad rash.

For about six weeks now I’ve been attending Frame’s 80’s Aerobics, Get Leggy, Beyonce Music Video and Frame Bumps classes. I generally only make it there once or twice a week but it has made a difference to my life. It makes me happy but also, I ache for days after so it must be good for toning those muscles, ridding one of the dreaded summer chub rub (some of you will understand what I’m referring to here, apologies for TMI~).

I love it. Get down there. It’s not full of hipsters like you’d expect a gym in the heart of Shoreditch to be; it’s full of people of all shapes and sizes/fitness levels who enjoy their fitness classes taught by world class instructors with amazing taste in music.

Here’s a tiny snippet of Frame’s Dance Fit classes:

But I just wanna dance like this…

Frame was actually on my London Bucket List. I am determined to make it to some more classes taught by West End dancers before we pack the family up and leave the UK some time in the next year or so. Frame hits that spot every week but I wasn’t expecting to also be taught by a former West End actress the art of burlesque at a recent blogger evening.

Though not something I’d ever considered doing, I was too curious not to attend a class taught by The Cheek of It at Cafe de Paris, especially after I saw the infamous West End institution (celebrating 90 years of operation this year) on, ahem, Made in Chelsea a few weeks ago. Out of sheer curiosity and bribed to attend with the promise of delicious House of Cuckoo cupcakes (they were amazing, I may or may not have have eaten three~), I walked on down to Leicester Square (still my least favourite part of London) and learned all about the history of this art form born out of satire.

First of all, I didn’t know that burlesque is actually satire. It started with the ancient Greeks and the Victorians took it on in their own form (it was a regular part of the East End’s Wilton’s Music Hall‘s line up back in Wilton’s heyday) – all using it as social commentary. It then moved to the States where it became somewhat raunchy, then Playboy turned it into an extension of it’s genre – hence you find American and British styles of burlesque are very different.

I found The Cheek of It’s class funny, sassy and quite enjoyable. I didn’t leave as a seductress or wanting to do more but I learned loads and totally applaud those who use it as a form of female empowerment. I actually found it quite a workout and finally know how Beyonce gets some of her moves.

I must admit, I wasn’t overly impressed by Cafe de Paris – especially after I heard the host of the evening swearing away on his way out cursing the mobs of people wanting his picture, almost shoving the poor pregnant girl (that was me) to the wall on his way to the dressing rooms, then being forced to leave the premises to hail a cab (basically thrown out by the bouncer while trying to get my 3G to load as they don’t like customers waiting at the front entrance, CHEERS FOR THAT CAFE DE PARIS, if you’re going to do that then at least allow free wifi inside). Cabaret just isn’t my style or sense of humour and as I said, Leicester Square on a Friday night is my idea of hell on earth – but I do think it would be a fun ending to a hen night.

However, I’d recommend The Cheek of It if you’re interested in learning another form of dance from a West End performer and ending an eight week course of it in front of an audience at Madame Jo Jo’s. The teacher was ace. She was really funny, a fantastic teacher and it was a highly entertaining class. Speaking of Madame Jo Jo’s, Lorde performed there last year and when I saw her at the Brixton Academy last month, I realised she also loves to dance like no one’s watching.

There’s something for everyone in this city. You won’t find such a range of options anywhere else on earth. I love that I can attend an 80’s aerobics class and get Cindy Lauper stuck in my head for days, or learn the art of something new in the West End.

And on that note my friends, I am going to dance my way into a summer vacation away from blogging (which I need after 10 years of blogging weekly in various guises) and spend the extra hours gained to hang out with Mr Man and BLC, my two favourite beings in the entire world.

Here’s Christopher Walkin dancing like a legend.

Cheerio,

Kat.

Frame can be found at 29 New Inn Yard, Shoreditch EC2A 3EY. They also have a branch in Queen’s Park. I pay around £10 per class and it is worth every penny. 

The Cheek of It has a range of classes that take place all over London. I was a guest of The Cheek of It for their blogger evening and also received £20 cab fare for the ride home with Hailo‘s black cab taxi service. 

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Filed under Dance, Experiences, Fitness, Life in general, London, Secret London, The East End, The West End

A bloggers’ outing to Kerb

One of the traders at KERB - she sold amazing iced tea.

One of the traders at KERB – they sold amazing iced tea.

What do you get when you mix up a bunch of food trucks, bloggers, a photography class and an absolute cracker of a Saturday afternoon in London? A magnificent day out would be the answer.

Just this weekend I was lucky enough to participate in Simply Health’s Healthy Smile campaign which involved a food photography class and ways to capture the perfect smile. The team behind Simply Health managed to identify some of the UK’s London’s most camera happy bloggers and invite them to show off their gnashers and learn how to take a picture of someone’s face along with some of the dishes they were eating.

Cameras - none of these are my teeny tiny Canon...

Cameras – none of these are my teeny tiny Canon…

Spot the bloggers

Spot the bloggers

I have been meaning to go to KERB for years. Thankfully the main part of Saturday’s class involved a trip to this fantastic array of food trucks scattered around Granary Square, just behind King’s Cross Station.

The photography class was great even if I did feel major camera envy for my handbag-sized Canon being dwarfed by other bloggers’ amazing DSLRs (oh hai Father Christmas, it isn’t too early to start saving for one~). I learned a lot from award winning photographer Paul Hames about where I’ve been going wrong (exposure, exposure, exposure) and a few things on what I’ve been doing right (not always following the rules). Also – girls blink way more than men. Check out his workshops if you’re keen to learn about your camera and also have a bit of fun while you’re at it. However, the highlight for me had to be a trip to the broke foodie’s mothership, KERB.

KERB Saturdays (a handy list of dates there~)

KERB Saturdays (a handy list of dates there~)

KERB is everything I hoped it would be and somewhat more.

There were people out enjoying the sun, their kids splashing in the fountains, most enjoying fantastic portions for around a fiver each from a range of food vendors.

As someone said to me on the DLR yesterday "when you're that age, life is so simple."

As someone said to me on the DLR yesterday “when you’re that age, life is so simple.”

You doughnut!

You doughnut!

Some of the places on site had crab or lobster burgers, there were beautiful spring rolls plus wraps from all cultures galore. The Bowler meatball truck was around, as were Kooky Bakes but the main feature of the day for Mandy and I (my partner in crime who I got to split £20 with and share goodies from four trucks) were Eton mess You Doughnut, a melt in your mouth katsu curry from Yu Kyu a phenomenal ox cheek Korean burrito from the Kimchinary and a splendid iced-tea from Good and Proper Tea.

Kooky Bakes

Kooky Bakes

The Kimchinary

The Kimchinary

Mandy and I took our findings to Granary Square’s grassy knoll (turf) by the canal and sat down in the sun to eat what was a truly great lunch after hurriedly photographing the food (tip, burritos aren’t that photogenic!).

My attempt at taking a good food photo - we didn't pick the most photogenic of dishes, but my god were they delicious...

My attempt at taking a good food photo – we didn’t pick the most photogenic of dishes, but my god were they delicious…

Mandy took probably the best picture of me ever - thanks Mandy! And thanks Mum and Dad for spending a fortune on braces~

Mandy took probably the best picture of me ever – thanks Mandy! And thanks Mum and Dad for spending a fortune on braces~

It was gorgeous. I want to go back to KERB every day for the rest of my life.

The Royal Academy of Arts

The Royal Academy of Arts

This guy had an amazing smile.

This guy had an amazing smile.

Afterwards I met one of my oldest friends for an evening of culture at the Royal Academy of Arts. While it was a lot of fun and very pretty, it just didn’t compare to my awesome lunch. This girl’s heart lies with her cheap-eats. The girl in the painting below clearly didn’t get the memo about our outfits the day she posed for her picture did she?

Ahem... I've had my top for ages...

Ahem… I’ve had my top for ages…

I was a guest of Simply Health, an insurance company that specialise in affordable dental plans. They held the workshop to show bloggers how to capture a perfect smile which was awesome of them. Tip from them – the best way to get someone to smile for a photo isn’t to say “smile” but say something that will make them grin from ear to ear – in Mandy’s case this was “Michael Fassbender!”

KERB can be found at Granary Square once a month but their city markets are on all over the place on various days of the week – it pays to check out their website. The next KERB Saturday will be on Saturday 19 July – you’ll find me there being really indecisive somewhere between the Korean burritos and crab burgers… 

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Filed under Cheap Eats, Eating, Experiences, Food, Life in general, London, Market stalls, Secret London

Brunch at Workshop, Clerkenwell

The achingly but delicious Workshop

The achingly cool but delicious Workshop

Everyone’s favourite international woman of mystery, Friend N, was recently in London for a conference. She now lives in Wellington, New Zealand but her secretive job sent her to London for 10 days on a conference. Thankfully she was able to escape her top secret activities to convene brunch with the old gang, and the beautiful brunch club was reunited for a couple of hours.

Mrs Bu insisted that she had an incredible brunch at Workshop recently and was very keen to repeat the experience of their French Toast as soon as possible. Not ones to deny a request from this super foodie, we all rocked up at 10am in order to ensure we could snatch a table for seven without getting any evil looks.

10am is a good time to arrive at this very popular cafe.

10am is a good time to arrive at this very popular cafe.

Thankfully we all made it on time and we sat down for an incredible brunch, N regaling to us tales of her mysterious international work, discussing the progress of the entrepreneur in the group’s latest adventures, discussing two pregnancies and hearing all about the exciting travels of the rest of us.

The perfect flat white

The perfect flat white

The coffee? Perfection.

Very good quality oolong tea

Very good quality oolong tea

The food – friggin brilliant like a good antipodean brunch should be.

THAT French Toast

THAT French Toast

Corn fritters

Corn fritters

Poached eggs

Poached eggs

Smashed avocado - I loved this.

Smashed avocado – I loved this.

Some of the ladies went for poached eggs, others for corn fritters with halloumi, French Toast that looked insanely good and for me, smashed avocado with dhukka and roasted tomatoes on granary bread. All of us sat in food happy silent appreciation for a moment before we turned the volume back up and got chatting over an awesome ladies brunch.

We unanimously agreed that Workshop’s brunch was super, their coffee fantastic, the atmosphere brilliant and definitely one to add to the repeat list.

Workshop can be found at 27 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5RN. Nearest tube stop is Farringdon. 

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Filed under Brunch, Brunch in London, Food, Life in general, London, London cafes, The East End

We get virtuous in Pantry at 108, The Marylebone Hotel

108 Marylebone Lane

108 Marylebone Lane

Melissa and I always leave it way too long to have our catch-ups. She is fascinating and brilliant company, as a fellow expat blogger usually is – plus, she’s Canadian and Canadians always have a unique bond with us Kiwis given that they also frequently get mistaken for their louder neighbours. Anyway, we had planned to meet up over the bank holiday weekend – that one where it rained non-stop.

Thankfully, I’d been invited to do a High Tea Society review at the Marylebone Hotel meaning the only rain that cursed us was the short walk there and getting drenched while struggling against the crowds on Oxford Street after (but that was my fault for suddenly deciding that I had to buy a yellow bag~).

It really was the perfect day to head inside for several hours. The friendly staff and the daylight that they’d managed to naturally build into the hotel actually made it seem like it was nicer outside than it was.

Nothing like a good magazine on a rainy day!

Nothing like a good magazine on a rainy day!

I arrived early and thankfully was sat in ridiculously comfy furniture with a convenient magazine rack beside me. I enjoyed a healthy juice while reading Red. Then lovely Melissa turned up and we enjoyed Pantry at 108’s fantastic gluten free afternoon tea which they’d asked me to review. Below is an amended version of what I wrote for the High Tea Society.

Selection of all sorts of delicious looking cakes

Selection of all sorts of delicious looking cakes

Interior

Interior

“High Tea Society had a lovely afternoon enjoying afternoon tea at Pantry at 108 in the Marylebone Hotel. This is a friendly establishment not far from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street and the perfect anecdote from a day’s shopping.

We were there to sample Pantry 108’s latest gluten free and healthy afternoon tea. Recently created by Executive Chef, Russell Ford, this is a healthy menu which begins with a selection of sandwiches and salads served on light and fluffy gluten free bread, some of the softest and freshest bread of its type that we have tried in London.

Afternoon tea spread

Afternoon tea spread

Along with sandwiches that included cucumber with cream cheese, smoked salmon, egg, and ham, we were also served buffalo mozzarella with spiced lentils and rocket salad along with a delicious quinoa salad. These went well with the Rare Tea Company Darjeeling and fragrant Earl Grey teas which were refilled when needed.

Savouries

Savouries

Feeling virtuous, we moved onto the gluten free scones with clotted cream and fresh home-made strawberry jam. For us, these were the highlights of the afternoon tea – their lightness made them indistinguishable from normal scones, a rare feat. The jam, delicious.

Scones

Scones

For our final course, we were treated to a selection of gluten free cakes which included coconut and date, pomegranate and banana along with blueberry and coco, a flapjack and a delicious elderflower trifle. These were also served with seasonal berries which went down nicely.

To complement what was a relatively healthy afternoon tea, we were able to choose from a selection of juices and smoothies from The Juicery, many made with superfoods and well needed given London’s recent daily forecasts of four-seasons-in-one-day.

Cake stand

Cake stand

Taking design inspiration from the Edwardian history of The Marylebone Hotel, the light-filled interiors at Pantry at 108 convey a welcoming and sophisticated feel through the use of 19th century inspired furnishings, contemporary fabrics in vibrant colours and traditional materials such as painted panels, timber flooring and marble. One of our party arrived early and enjoyed a selection of magazines in comfortable surroundings sipping on a juice made with rose water and berries.

Pantry at 108’s service was fantastic. Our waiter friendly and knowledgeable. We appreciated his enthusiasm for the menu and stories behind each of the teas we were served.

Juice

Juice

All in all, we had a great time at Pantry at 108 and will definitely return. We liked the enthusiasm of the staff for their menus, the light and airy décor and the effort that they have put into their gluten free offerings – the scones to go back for more of. We would recommend this venue for gatherings of the girls (perfect for a classy hen party or baby shower) or just a quiet break after a shopping spree in nearby Oxford Street.”

Not much more to say really! I enjoyed this afternoon tea a lot but I must admit, I will likely go for the non-gluten-free option next time as I do like my pastries and did miss them a bit. However, if I was gluten free, I would have been delighted with this as the sandwiches and scones rocked my world. Also, I think Pantry at 108 would be a great place just to pop in for a pot of tea and slice of cake – they had a great range of cakes and slices and Marylebone is such a great area to have a stroll then something to eat.

Pantry at 108 can be found 108 Marylebone Lane London W1U 2QE. Nearest tubes are Bond and Baker Street stations.  We were guests of the Marylebone Hotel. 

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Filed under Afternoon tea, Afternoon tea London, Cake, Eating, Experiences, Food, London, London cafes, Tea, The West End

My fish out of water experience – stranded in the desert…

Baja California Mexico desert

Baja California Mexico desert

I keep forgetting to join in the expat monthly travel link-ups, but thanks to Kelly and Emma kindly reminding me that it’s “that time of the month” again, here is this month’s post. This time everyone’s talking about their Fish out of water experiences. You can check out plenty more posts on this over on Kelly, Emma and Rebecca’s blogs.

Today’s post is not food related. It is stupidity related.

It was 2008 and after nearly two years of doing long distance, Mr Man and I were finally reunited. I was moving back to the UK from New Zealand, he was about to start a new career and had a few months break. It was the perfect chance to do “the last big trip” before we saved for a deposit on a house and gained a few more commitments. We both vowed that we’d never stop exploring the world but this was likely the only time we’d have the luxury of 10 weeks to ourselves.

Mr Man and I in Bolivia, a few weeks after this incident.

Mr Man and I in Bolivia, a few weeks after this incident.

Sunset on our first day back together in San Francisco

Sunset on our first day back together in San Francisco

We met up in San Francisco and the plan was to go overland from there to Panama before flying into Bolivia and doing the rest overland to Buenos Aires. We were 10 days into our trip when this happened.

Despite a few rows over my appalling map reading and his tendency to test the local speed limits, we were having an absolute ball. We had loved California and had rented a tiny silver two-door hatchback in Tijuana, Mexico, who we named Jalisco. She was to be our chaperone around Baja Californa, a massive peninsula which is mostly desert with Dr Seuss like cacti and fishing villages. We had five days to drive from Tijuana down to La Paz then straight back up again. Taking turns on driving and navigating we were having a really good time, even doing the occasional couch surf.

Jalisco

Jalisco

Boojum trees

Boojum trees

It was while heading back up the middle of this peninsula that we were really pushing it for time. We were meant to stay with a man called Bill in Mulege and were expected to arrive around 8pm that evening. Bill was a man known to leave bad references if you were more than a few hours late but he was a nice guy and we’d met him on the way down. The roads were straight and there was generally only one road we were meant to take anyway. I was on navigating duty for a few hours but the Baja desert heat and our determination to save petrol money by not putting on the aircon made for the perfect nap conditions.

I woke up after I don’t know how long, realising I didn’t recognise any of the scenery that we were meant to have passed on the way down the peninsula. Mr Man had said there’d been a fork in the road so he took the straightest looking way. So we carried on, assuming we were on the right track.

Then that track literally turned into a track. Jalisco was going on all sorts of dog leg turns, which then turned into dirt/sand roads and we were passing signs that said beware of rattlesnakes and all sorts of other nasties. This was not a place to get lost or stuck. So I looked at the map and saw that we were actually on a short-cut to Mulege and it wouldn’t take us more than a few hours to get there. Jalisco was managing the track despite her small size so we continued on. We hadn’t seen another car or house for miles.

We then came to a turn in the road. Straight ahead was a massive sandpit but also a track around it. So we curved around the sandpit. It was as we were turning back onto the straight that we got stuck in sand. Calmly we tried our best to get her out of the sand but the more we tried, the more the car sunk in further. The sun was starting to set and inside we were both starting to panic. We decided to grab our rucksacks and walk to the nearest “house” (it was more like a shack) a few miles down the road.

It was getting darker and we were miffed as to what on earth we could do. Being in the desert, our mobiles had zero signal, it wasn’t even like we could contact Bill and ask him to pick us up or at least help out in some way.

Eventually a ute passed us. We yelled and yelled and this old couple and their son thankfully turned around to pick us up. On the way to where we were going we saw the most incredible sunset of our lives – bright purple sky with cacti lining it. To this day I wish I’d taken a picture but that was not the right moment to do so. In our very beginner Spanish we tried to explain what had happened. They took us back to their house, which was basically a wooden gazebo with three beds plus a lot of dogs and goats. These people were not friendly and there was no friendly connection to be found on either side. They clearly didn’t know what to do with us and were not prepared to tow us out. We spoke crap Spanish, they spoke no English (and why should they, we were the stupid tourists).

We were asking them to take us to the nearest village that we’d passed about an hour before we got stuck but they were refusing. Fearing the worst, I burst into tears. Eventually the youngest of them, a rough looking man in his forties, waved to us to get into his ute. We were on our way to the village pub an hour away. It was a very silent ride.

When we arrived at the village, the one English speaker in the place, a very drunk man named Alfonso, said that the guy who drove us there wanted US$150. That was without taking us back to tow the car out. We had $100 on us and weren’t prepared to part with more than $50. We spent several hours haggling over this. In hindsight we should have just given him what we had.

At 1am we were back at the car, the silent man in his forties towing Jalisco out with Alfonso translating, Mr Man charming both of them and me trying to hold it all together. Silent guy left us at his ranch, Alfonso keeping us all alert and awake while we carefully drove back to the village over a lot of rocks, boulders and dog leg turns in the road.

3am and we were crashing in Alfonso’s aunt’s spare room. Knowing we had 16 hours to drive to our next stop if we were to make our flight out of Tijuana two days later, we were up at 5am, taking turns of two hours each to drive then sleep. I was driving the first leg and saw that we were out of petrol. Desperate to make it out of this godforsaken desert and our own stupidity, I watched the dial with baited breath. Jalisco was huffing and puffing as we saw the petrol station, which thankfully took credit cards and we ate for the first time since lunch the day before. That packet of crisps and a coke felt like the best meal on earth.

When we eventually arrived in Mulege to apologise to Bill we were greeted with a somewhat angry response. We explained what happened and left on relatively ok terms – him agreeing that yes, we had no possible way of contacting him and accepting our apology. Then carried onwards and upwards, eventually arriving at a hotel for the night where we crashed and had the best sleep, and the best fish tacos of our lives.

And that my friends, was my fish out of water experience. Life is made by memories like this which at the time feel like the worst situation on earth but in hindsight make for a great story and discovering the depths of your own strength. It was there that I realised that Mr Man and I actually make for a pretty awesome team.

Now it’s time to go and check out everyone else’s awkward travel moments. Thanks for reading.

The beautiful Baja coast

The beautiful Baja coast

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Filed under Life in general, Mr Man, Travel

Braving the west – I dip my toes into Notting Hill’s foodie scene

The fabulous Notting Hill

The fabulous Notting Hill

A lifetime ago (ok, we’re talking 7 years) West London was my stomping ground. I shared a room with two of my best friends in a Shepherd’s Bush basement. This was while they were building Westfield and instead of going to their lovely champagne bars we could more often than not be found in Belushi’s and the Walkabout (even that’s gone now!). We were 25 and having a total blast and I wouldn’t change those days for the world.

One of my favourite things about living in Shepherd’s Bush was just how close it was to Holland Park and Notting Hill – in other words, wonderful places to mooch around on the weekends. It was probably these two suburbs that really sold me on London. I dreamed of days when I would come back, marry a Russian oligarch and move into one of those pastel coloured houses you see in the movies.

I didn’t marry a Russian oligarch but I am ok with that, Mr Man is pretty cool and we’ve probably had a bit more fun by being broke but bohemian in our East End Abode. I was never the type to spend my days in yoga classes trying to fit into Hermes string bikinis – but each to their own.

Daylesford Organics, Westbourne Grove

Daylesford Organics, Westbourne Grove

Recently I decided to meet up with my friend Tricia for brunch. Tricia left academia and the world of corporate consulting to set up Flow Mind and Body a couple of years ago and is a very talented reflexologist (I know this first hand) and is just hands down amazing. My brunches with her always turn into several hours so when we turned up to Daylesford Organics on Westbourne Grove we were pleased to just be left to enjoy our delicious flat whites and toast with fruity jams, eyeing up the amazing produce on our way out.

This is a boring picture of toast.

This is a boring picture of toast.

Gorgeous produce

Gorgeous produce

I commented to her how different everyone in Notting Hill looks to those of us rushing around the East End. We agreed that’s what London so brilliant and unique – these neighbourhoods that are such contrasts, reminding us that London really is made up of so many villages. Here’s an example – tanned and skinny people with bouncing blow dries and yoga mats tucked under their arms vs my people watching at Shoredtich’s Box Park where some looked like they were on their way to a dress-up party but at 2pm.

The BRILLIANT Notting Hill Kitchen

The BRILLIANT Notting Hill Kitchen

A couple of weeks later I was back in Notting Hill for Zomato’s foodie meet-up at Notting Hill Kitchen on Kensington Park Road. Men with great hair and immaculate suits were seated next to the windows with women in beautiful clothes and excellent blow dries. I felt a bit haggard in comparison having Boris Biked it in a hurry to make it through Hyde Park after work, but we were in for an awesome night.

Unfortunately I was batting a never-ending cold so had to leave before the desserts but this did not sway me from falling in love with this outstanding Portuguese tapas restaurant with the well-tailored clientele. I would love to go back there on a date with Mr Man.

The food was so unique. We had savoury doughnuts with spider crab mousse, cerviche made by the gods, mini cod burgers, croquettes and an exceptional pork main which was so tender and served with asparagus risotto which I couldn’t get enough of.

Terrible picture of the mains... but the risotto was divine.

Terrible picture of the mains… but the risotto was divine.

Unfortunately at that point I had to leave as the cold and flu drugs were wearing off and I couldn’t disguise it any more but I had such a brilliant evening there – great food and awesome company that you always get when you gather a bunch of London bloggers together.

Notting Hill, you have kept up your reputation with LLC. Perhaps I’ll make the trip out your way again soon, but next time I’m getting a blow dry on my way…

Daylesford Organics can be found at 208-212 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2RH, we paid just over a fiver each for a flat white and toast and a great dose of people watching.

Notting Hill Kitchen can be found at 92 Kensington Park Road, London W11 2PN. I was a guest of Zomato

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Filed under Brunch, Food, Life in general, London, London cafes, Restaurants, The West End

Matcha madness (in a good way) with Teapigs and that one time in Japan…

Lovely Japan - who kept the matcha secret from the world for years (I don't blame them!).

Lovely Japan – who kept the matcha secret from the world for years (I don’t blame them!).

As you all know readers, I’m a big tea nut. It has added dimensions to my travels and daily life that I could never imagined back when I was a coffee drinker in my student days, pre-moving to China.

Since those days of sipping long-jin in Changzhou tea houses with friends ten years ago, tea has integrated itself into my daily life. It has led me to seeking out tea plantations all over the world, interviewing owners of tea companies just out of sheer interest (I really should have published some of those on my blog, sorry!), sipping endless rounds in Istanbul cafes while doing long-distance with Mr Man and making sure I visited top Kyoto tea houses then using my bonuses from my private sector days to ship the nice stuff over from Japan.

Me in a Sri Lankan tea plantation

Me in a Sri Lankan tea plantation

Long jin tea at the Szechuan opera

Long jin tea at the Szechuan opera

Kyoto tea shop

Kyoto tea shop

So you can imagine my horror recently when I was unable to drink tea for an entire month… For reasons I don’t wish to disclose on here, I found myself downing a daily espresso while simultaneously stuffing myself with a croissant in order to keep it down. Any hot drink was completely out of the question, so my tea stash both at work and home remained static and probably saved me a few pounds cash and a trip to the Japan Centre in the process.

Coincidentally, Teapigs happened to contact me at the same time asking if I’d like to participate in their matcha challenge. Desperate to do anything to keep my beloved tea down I very willingly accepted and within days I was on the magic green stuff.

Matcha in Japan with a sweet also made from it

Matcha in Japan with a sweet also made from it

Ever since being introduced properly to matcha on a trip to visit my sister who was living in Japan in 2009, I have adored this drink. I tend to come and go from matcha – I love it but part of what I love about drinking a long pot of tea is that it forces me to relax and enjoy a good dose of tea where as matcha is nice and quick.

Finding myself being unable to hold down a cup of tea, matcha suddenly became my saviour – I love the quickness of it, I liked that it stayed down when nothing else would, and I swear to god it gradually helped me feel better. I’ll never know if it did aide in my recovery but the facts are there – being 100% green tea with the leaves ground and included in your drink rather than being thrown away afterwards, this stuff is packed with antioxidants (apparently 70x the amount of orange juice).

It has a slow release so unlike the espressos which were sending me bonkers for 45 minutes or so then landing me with a big crash, I gradually felt awake and continued to do so for several hours.

Teapigs kit

Teapigs kit

Things were messy the first day I attempted to make it. Teapigs kindly sent me a tiny milk frother and a shot glass to make it in but eager to get this stuff in, I didn’t pay attention and it went all over my kitchen bench. Here’s a video on how to make it properly (then turn it into a lovely looking latte):

The next attempts were way better. I put it into my favourite Anthropologie mug which I drink my tea out of every morning and managed to froth it into a lovely foamy consistency that went down like a nice creamy latte, yet it was about a third of the size and made from green tea, not coffee and milk.

Matcha before adding water and frothing it up

Matcha before adding water and frothing it up

After I had perfected how to make it~

After I had perfected how to make it~

Throughout the two weeks I became quite adept at making an excellent morning matcha and was loving it.

While others have tried various ways of having their matcha (in juices, their own morning lattes, DOUGHNUTS) I was lazy and needed to be quick in the always too short morning rush so stuck to whisking it up and downing it almost all in one. I’ve heard people say that some brands of matcha are quite bitter but this definitely wasn’t the case with the Teapigs version who only use freshly plucked tealeaves (no stems in here!) which are ground by granite in darkness then put straight into tins, maintaining a deep green colour and all of its life enhancing goodness.

Near the end of my matcha challenge, my bug suddenly disappeared and I was in the position of being able to hold down a hot drink again, but I actually continued on my new morning matcha ritual. So I think matcha is here to stay for a while – I’ve ditched the espresso and save my big pot of green tea to that mid-afternoon low. Somehow I don’t think my British colleagues would take to me suddenly whisking up a matcha in the office, so it’s going to remain my nice little 6am ritual to start the day with and get those antioxidants down.

Have you tried matcha and are you a convert?

While this is not a sponsored post, my matcha challenge kit was kindly provided to me by Teapigs who sell matcha in a range of sizes and prices. You can find it stocked in Wholefoods, Selfridges, Harvey Nicks and Planet Organic. Teapigs also sell a massive range of other teas that have dotted my cupboards and work drawers over the years – I highly recommend checking them out. Annoying anecdotes purely from my travels!  

Towards the end of my matcha challenge I started to feel loads better - this is the Japanese secret to life long vitality!

Towards the end of my matcha challenge I started to feel loads better – this is the Japanese secret to life long vitality!

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