Breakfasting in Amsterdam: Pluk

If you thought that my last post looked suspiciously unlike London, you were right. Just last weekend Tiarnan and I hopped over to Amsterdam for the marathon. I refuse to allow our marathon weekends to only be about limbering up and eating shedloads of pasta, though. We had Saturday for exploring, and explore we did.

After some minimal research I decided that I most wanted to visit The Nine Streets, or De Negen Straatjes, area. Just outside the centre and the very heart of Amsterdam’s canal district, it is a beautiful place to wander with plenty of independent shops and small cafes along the 17th century canals. It was here that we discovered Pluk.

12

I challenge you to leave Pluk with just a full stomach. It is the most gorgeous café meets gift, stationary and interiors shop and not picking up an entirely unnecessary treat to self is almost impossible. From wooden platter boards, travel mugs, notebooks, photo frames and an enormous selection of fresh fruit and veg, it is only a small shop but you are completely spoilt for choice.

The café is on a mezzanine level overlooking the shop. The girls in there are absolutely lovely and as it was full when we arrived, while we were browsing the shop one of them hovered by the door looking for any leavers whose table we could take. Pluk’s menu is all about healthy and fresh food, with a huge selection of breakfasts, lunches and homemade cakes. We opted for breakfast and ordered a generous selection from the acai bowl to yoghurt to homemade banana bread – all delicious.

It’s only small and incredibly popular, so expect a little wait but the shop will keep you more than occupied. It is the perfect place to fuel up before a morning of wandering the canals. It was my favourite place that we visited over the weekend and the best introduction to Amsterdam.

345

Autumnal Pinks

I am not a pink person. In fact, I’m not really a colour person. I always end up in blacks, whites and – my favourite colour of them all – grey. I’ve had to ban myself from buying grey jumpers, it has got that out of control. But autumn is just such a colourful time. The leaves are putting on a firework display of reds, oranges and yellows and we haven’t even set off the real sparklers for the 5th November yet. So this is my attempt to put a bit of colour into my monochrome wardrobe.

1

Not only am I absolutely not a pink person, but it isn’t a very autumnal colour either. Spring and summer yes but autumn? No. But this dusky rose Topshop jumper absolutely fits the bill. I love how the colour is slightly unexpected, but still fits in. And it’s a great option if, like me, yellow makes you look a bit sallow and red is just a bit too bold. Baby steps. This jumper has an amazing fit – comfy and relaxed but still slightly fitted, and it can look smart if you want it to. It’s also not too heavy, so ideal for these warmer autumnal days we are still enjoying.

I am also completely in love with this H&M scarf. It is so soft, so comfy to wear and so cheap! And it looks perfectly autumnal without being stereotypically so. The mustard yellow brings it straight into the season, along with the dusky rose pink I am loving so much. It’s also not too heavy so, again, perfect for these crisp autumn days.

2.png3.JPG4.png

So if you buy one thing this month, make it colourful. Or at least slightly so. We are going to have plenty of time for monochrome when winter rolls round.

West London Weekends: Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries is the furthest away you will ever feel from London, while still in London.

It is bizarre. We hopped off the bus, rounded the corner and suddenly we were transported to the countryside. There was a dirt track. There were fields. There was a cute little church. There was mud. And of course I was entirely unprepared and had dressed completely inappropriately in my brand new pink suede trainers. So I spent the entire jaunt prancing around puddles like a real townie. But no matter. Besides the puddles, mud and other non-London elements, there was also cake. Which is why we are all gathered here today, obviously.

42-2

Petersham Nurseries is a garden centre meets antique and gifts shop meets restaurant meets tea rooms. It is a total delight. You can browse the plants like you actually have a garden to plant them in, frolic in the gift shop and then have a slice of homemade cake. Their food is seasonal so the menus are ever changing. And the cakes are exactly like you’d bake at home but more inventive and, let’s be honest here, better. The banana bread was excellent and they had interesting offerings like an elderberry drizzle cake and even gluten free chocolate cake.

The tearoom is in a glasshouse and the plants surround you, so you really couldn’t feel further from London. Petersham Nurseries say they are a refuge from the city, and they really are. They have a huge selection of plants and a big site, so you could browse all afternoon before having a cup of tea and slice of cake.

Being London’s answer to countryside, it obviously isn’t a particularly warm place to spend an afternoon. But wrap up, wear something appropriate on your feet and don’t leave before you’ve tried the banana bread. It is truly like no other place I have found in London.

35

London’s Prettiest Cupcakes: Peggy Porshcen

WELCOME… to London’s most Instagrammable cupcake shop. With pastel pink walls, beautifully designed cupcakes and an enormous flower garland crowning the door, this is a very hard one to beat.

img_3866-2

The Peggy Porschen parlour has become somewhat legendary on Instagram. The marble table tops, feats of sugar craft and general pink-ness were enough to make it so, but the flower garland is what really attracts the attention. Based in London’s Belgravia, this hub of pink on the corner is impossible to miss.

And miss it you should not. You’ll get some beautiful pictures, but fortunately this place really does taste as good as it looks. You need a sweet tooth, but the selection of ready to eat cupcakes, layer cakes and confectionary are delicious.

We visited on an unseasonably hot day and with tables spilling out onto the street, it was the perfect pit stop for pink lemonade and people watching. And cupcakes of course. It’s a little out of the way but certainly worth it.

Picture4 (2).pngimg_3864-3Picture1 (2).png

London Cupcakes: Crumbs & Doilies

To say Soho is a busy place would an obvious (and rather stupid) statement. But today I have a quiet little corner right at its very centre for you, and they serve London’s best cupcakes.

Crumbs & Doilies is quite easy to miss, hidden down a little cobbled street from Kingly Court, but you absolutely musn’t miss it. The shop is only small but the selection of cupcakes, cakes and brownies is enormous, with inventive flavours and excellent coffee.

IMG_2427 (2)

Crumbs & Doilies is the mastermind of Cupcake Jemma who shares all of her baking genius on YouTube and she’s just released The Cake Book with over 50 recipes. Crumbs & Doilies also have a Saturday stand on the Kings Road and deliver their cakes all over London. Using just the finest ingredients and no weird additives, preservatives or short-cuts, there are over 40 flavours of cupcake to choose from and the selection is changing all the time.

If you can make it to the shop in Kingly Court, it feels like a calm, cupcake oasis in the middle of the Soho hubub. For the huge selection that they have on offer it seems a little small in the shop but the flavours are always incredibly inventive and varied, and if you really can’t decide they have selection boxes that you can fill to enjoy at home. And if cupcakes aren’t your favourite sweet treat, there are plenty of others to choose from. From tiffin to rocky road to shortbreads and brownies, there really is something for everyone. Wash all that down with some excellent coffee and you’ll never want to leave.

Picture6IMG_2430 (2)

New on the Block: Farmacy, Notting Hill

There’s a new kid on the block in Notting Hill, and it’s one of my favourite recent discoveries.

Farmacy opened just last month on Westbourne Grove. It is open throughout the day for breakfast, lunch and dinner and already causing a bit of a stir. Their philosophy is ‘clean indulgence’ – something I’m very willing to get on board with.

IMG_2598 (2).JPG

Their menus are all about healthy choice comfort foods, no rabbit leaves here. It is incredibly rare that I look up a health restaurant’s menu online and decide I’d rather go for dinner than brunch. I’m all about the healthy brunches – homemade granola, smoothies and (if all else fails) avo on toast – but Farmacy’s evening menu was unmissable.

The menu is still a little small and rather pricey, but with delicious options such spelt sourdough pizzas, a clean curry and the Farmacy “burger”, I was willing to forgive those drawbacks. I opted for the porcini mushroom spelt pasta, which was delicious. If you’ve never tried spelt pasta before, then definitely do. It doesn’t have the grainy texture of other wholewheat pastas, but remains all the health benefits.

They also have a really interesting drinks menu (again, I’m never particularly fascinated by drinks menus, my interest can only be slightly piqued by cocktails). I went for the lemon-aid, an alkalising lemon juice, apple syrup and coconut water. It was amazing. I’m normally a bit scared of those kind of lemon drinks, as often they are too sharp. This was nice and sweet, but not sugary, as well as being healthy.

IMG_2594 (2)IMG_2592 (2)

If you’re in the area be sure to swing by (and don’t under any circumstances miss the lemon-aid!).

Bank Holiday Brunching: 26 Grains

It’s been a little while since I last ventured into London on the blog, but today I’m making up for it with a great recommendation.

With the bank holiday weekend happily freeing up a sunny Friday, I decided it was about time I started ticking off some of my London bucket list. Neal’s Yard is a colourful corner of Covent Garden, tightly packed with health food eateries and, of course, Neal’s Yard Remedies. It’s only small, but there’s more than enough to keep you occupied.

12

For this trip though, we had to sample London’s prettiest porridge. Absolutely dominating Instagram, 26 Grains is a teeny tiny little health cafe serving wholesome, grain based dishes. Don’t be put off by the health side though, everything they serve is ridiculously delicious.

They aren’t limited to enormous bowls of steaming porridge either. As they source their fruit and veg from local producers, their menu changes seasonally. Currently they have an enormous array of porridges (sweet and savoury) as well as bircher muesli, a winter smoothie bowl and lunch bowls if you’ve already had breakfast. They aren’t preachy about health either, and will enquire whether you want almond or whole milk in your coffee (a nice touch, I thought). Definitely worth skipping the main drag of Covent Garden for.

IMG_2163 (2)FullSizeRender (2)IMG_2184 (2)

A London Bucket List

As you all know from my 2016 Goals post, exploring London is one of my resolutions. There’s just so much to do here, you can never run out of inspiration. As promised, I am blogging all of my adventures, but I’ve been creating a mental list of ‘places to visit’ for quite a while now and I thought it was about time I shared.

Whether you live here, are planning a trip or just need some inspiration for your own hometown, I hope this comes in handy!

IMG_0301 (2)

*26 Grains: This is top because it was my obsession with wanting to go here that inspired this blog post! Neal’s Yard is a little crook of Covent Garden that I’m desperate to explore anyway, but 26 Grains serves up London’s prettiest porridge. If you like Instagramming your food, bookmark this one.

*Bob Bob Ricard: This wonderfully eccentric restaurant is decorated in the style of a first-class dining car of an Edwardian train, with Art Deco booths and the infamous ‘press for champagne’ button. It’s a little pricey so best saved for a special occasion.

*Columbia Road Flower Market: A blogger’s favourite. If you haven’t admired pictures of the blooms at Columbia Road, I strongly suggest you do. East London’s flower market is open every Sunday and with independent shops and cafes also lining the street, there’s plenty to explore after picking your bunch.

*Madison: Famed for it’s incredible view of St Pauls, I am cheating a little bit here because I’ve already visited this rooftop bar. But that was a few years ago and I’m itching to go back! With an amazing cocktail menu and plenty of tapas to choose from, this is the perfect stop for evening drinks.

P1020776 (3).JPGIMG_1068 (2)

*National Portrait Gallery, Vogue 100: A Century of Style: I love the National Portrait Gallery, it is easily my favourite museum in London. Their Audrey Hepburn exhibition caused quite a stir last summer (and it was amazing), but I’m now desperate to visit Vogue 100. Celebrating British Vogue’s centenary by showcasing its photography through the years, this one is a magazine junkie’s dream.

*Duck & Waffle: London’s highest restaurant and open 24/7 – I’d love to get up super early and watch the sun rise over London from here. The lift is almost as well known as the restaurant itself, glass-sided and ‘express’, it whizzes you up those 40 floors in unbeatable style!

*Modern Pantry: Apparently, this is the spot to eat amazing eggs. Though to be honest, it was the seating thar first caught my attention. Set in a traffic-free courtyard which acts as a suntrap, it sounds like the perfect place for a casual, alfresco brunch one summery weekend. 

*Go to the ballet: When I was younger, I was a very keen dancer so I’ve been lucky enough to see a few ballets in London. It’s been a few years though, and I’d love to go back. My preference would be The Nutcracker (because is there anything more festive?) but I’m keeping an eye out for anything that looks interesting before next Christmas.       

Memories from Paris

Do you ever find that life can get so busy and crazy things completely pass you by? That’s exactly what happened to me last month with our little weekend away in Paris.

Tiarnan and I went two weeks before Christmas and it was wonderful while we were there, but the second we got back we were drawn into celebrating Tiarnan’s birthday, finishing the Christmas shopping and then all of the Christmas and New Year festivities. Now, looking back on it, I feel as though I instantly forgot about our trip. I didn’t even look through the pictures.

On a rainy evening wishing I was planning a trip, I finally got round to flicking through our Paris snaps, and I instantly wanted to share them all with you. I did give you a glimpse into our visit with Teatime in Paris, but today is going to have a more relaxed vibe and just document our wanderings. Paris is such a beautiful, wonderful place, it seemed such a shame not to!

12

This was not our first time in the city of lights. We visited as part of our interrailing trip in summer 2013, and then again in April 2014 for Tiarnan to run the Paris marathon. Both trips were done at lightning speed and completely crazy. This time we wanted to wander, not plan too much and just see what we stumbled across.

We also tried Air BnB for the first time which was a resounding success. If you haven’t done it yet, definitely consider it for your next trip. We found the cutest little apartment on Île Saint-Louis, just above Berthillon ice cream parlour. It really was tiny, but being tucked into a little mouse hole is all part of the Parisian experience!

Having our own apartment was amazing because we could cook for ourselves and come and go as we pleased, with no strict check in and out times. It was also in such an incredible location, everything was on our doorstep. Every morning we took full advantage of this and popped into our local boulangerie to pick up pastries and coffee to enjoy by the river for breakfast, before setting off on the day’s adventures!

3

One of our first stops was the Louvre, as it was our favourite spot when we visited a couple of summers ago. The glass pyramid is surrounded by water fountains, so after a particuarly busy day we had sat outside and dipped our weary feet into the water. Of course, we were absolutely not repeating that this time but to just admire the grandeur and take silly tourist photos was definitely worth the visit. We didn’t venture inside as we had plenty more to see, but it’s something that will remain on our Parisian ‘to do’ list.

45

You already know about our visit to Angelina’s from my last post, but it is one of the best things to do in Paris in winter! They are famous for their hot chocolates for a very obvious reason, they are so thick and creamy. Angelina’s also have a gorgeous little shop so you can buy the mix and recreate your own version at home.

67

We spent the rest of that afternoon wandering through the Jardin des Tuileries, Place de la Concorde and the Champs-Élysées. We found the enormous Christmas market and most of the afternoon was spent perusing the stands, choosing the best crepe for lunch and singing along to the Christmas tunes while watching the world go by. I picked out some gingerbread to take home and agonised over choosing a beautiful bauble for the Christmas tree (which smashed on the way home! Sad, sad times). There are a few markets but if you are in Paris at Christmas time, I would definitely recommend the one on the Champs-Élysées. There’s a huge variety of stands, plenty of places to sit, eat and be merry and even an ice rink.

8

We walked back along the river to our apartment, and stopped off at the love locks bridge which is always a sight to behold. We put one on a couple of years ago but failed to find it, concluding it has probably been cut off. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to have had any negative consequences…! We decided to not risk any future severing of our love and passed on putting another one on, instead browsing through all the others and wondering if the couples were still as in love.

910

The next day, we wandered further up the river to see all of the sights we’d missed. It’s a fairly long walk, but by far the best way to get around and soak up the city. It was very quiet on Sunday morning and we were mainly joined by early morning runners. On our way to the Eiffel Tower we stopped off in a little cafe by the river for breakfast, and guiltily ate pain au chocolats while counting the runners.

11P1030420 (2)

You don’t need me to tell you that the Eiffel Tower is a must, but do make sure you visit! I would highly recommend whizzing up to the top, whether you opt for the lifts or are a little more hardy and take on the stairs. Get there early to beat the queues and the panaromic view is definitely worth the climb! This time we passed on going up, as we had in the summer and when we arrived the top was shrouded in a pretty atmospheric mist.

We finished the trip by walking through the fancier shopping districts admiring the stores (and the high end shoppers), even though we could feel our bank accounts screaming whenever we got too close… We spent the rest of the morning in Ladurée taste testing the iconic macaroons before reluctantly getting back on the Eurostar to London.

I really hoped you enjoyed this little recap of Paris – it turned into rather an epic! If you have any suggestions for Paris then I would love to hear them. There is still plenty on my list, including an Alice in Wonderland tearoom, the department stores, actually going into one of the museums and cocktails at Hotel Costes! Now just to plan the next trip…

Teatime in Paris

This weekend, Tiarnan and I popped on the Eurostar over to Paris. They say “the best thing about London is Paris” and while I can’t entirely agree, we are certainly very lucky to be able to visit so easily.

Christmas meant that our budget had taken a hit, so we decided to skip the restaurants and soak up the cafe culture instead. What is more French than sitting out on the pavement drinking coffee? Here is a little round-up of my favourite places we stumbled into when it got too chilly outside.

P1030301 (2)

*Angelina: Paris’ most famous hot chocolate. As it’s just behind the Jardin des Tuileries on Rue de Rivoli, it is the perfect pit-stop after a morning in the Louvre or some shopping on the Champs-Élysées. They are known for their signature Chocolate L’Africain, and we didn’t even hesitate in ordering it. It is the thickest, creamiest hot chocolate I have ever had. It is made from four different cocoa beans to make it really rich and sweet but be warned, finishing one is no easy feat.

Picture7P1030299 (2)

*Ladurée: A towering force of all things sweet on the Champs-Élysées, we felt we couldn’t leave Paris without a quick visit. As the best known maker of macarons in the world, we left Sunday afternoon open to sample some, just before we got back on the Eurostar. Inside, the decor is wonderfully decadent, with queues stretching through the boutique with everyone desperate to get their hands on the iconic green box filled with pastries. We were settled on a table in the corner, where we could watch the hustle and bustle and compare macaron flavours. Our verdict: don’t miss the pistachio.

IMG_1369P1030420 (2)

*Berthillon: This is one of my stranger suggestions for deep midwinter, but bear with me. We tried Air BnB for the first time on this trip, and got a really cute little apartment on Île Saint-Louis, just above Paris’ most famous ice-cream parlour. It seemed rude to not try some! We skipped the queues by going late in the evening as an after dinner sweet treat. If you are there around Christmas, try the gingerbread ice cream. With little pieces of gingerbread mixed into the deliciously smooth ice cream, you won’t regret feeling a bit cold after eating it!

P1030425 (2)

These are Paris’ most celebrated stops for coffee and pastries (or ice cream), but we also spent the weekend grabbing breakfast from boulangeries and stopping at cafes by the river to warm up. And we are already planning a return trip to try more … a weekend in Paris is just not enough.