Tag Archives: London

Bucket List No 2. Enjoy a 5 star afternoon tea / No 676. Enjoy a hotel tea

5 Oct

Afternoon tea is brilliant.  You get to eat all that stuff that’s not so good for you, but it’s served up so daintily that you really don’t care. Mostly though, it’s the whole ceremony of making time with people and spoiling yourself which is so much fun.

Apparently, afternoon tea came about in the early 1800’s. Traditionally, two main meals were eaten – an early breakfast and an evening dinner. How did people cope?! Well Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, couldn’t and started having tea and a snack in the afternoon to keep her going. At first secretly, but then word spread and well to do friends started joining her and so the afternoon tea tradition was born.

Afternoon tea

Girl’s day out

If you’re going to do this, you need to spoil yourself. I took my mum to the Dorchester and we absolutely loved it. Partly because it all felt so decadent – the staff are lovely, the room where tea is served is stunning with a live pianist, but also because it is one of the first girl’s dates we’ve had in a very long time.

Swit swoo!

Swit swoo!

After some wise advice from a friend at work, we paced ourselves. The regular process of afternoon tea is sandwiches, followed by scones and finishing off with cakes and pastries. It’s the scones that will take you down, especially when served with clotted cream, so go easy on them and save some space for the end.

Less scones = more of these

Less scones = more of these

We even got an extra little something of white chocolate, pear sauce and a sliver of gold before the scones. The Dorchester, unsurprisingly, know how to do a cracking afternoon tea.

This is the perfect girlie day out so take your besties, your sister, your mum or all of them and book yourself a swanky afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea at the Dorchester from £45

http://www.afternoontea.co.uk/uk/london/mayfair/the-dorchester-hotel/

No 308. Salsa dance/Bucket List No. 16 – Try Ballroom Dancing

9 Dec

I am obsessed with Strictly Come Dancing. It’s guaranteed to get me in a festive mood and was also the perfect inspiration for giving ballroom dancing a try.

With a lot of dancing styles to go for, I chose one which took me back to my days living in Colombia. And who better to join me than my lovely friend Katie who I met in Bogota and have known ever since. Salsa dancing was a lot of fun in Colombia and while the Brits were known for not having much rhythm, it never stopped us giving it a go.

Salsa 1

Salsa pics

There is a wide array of salsa bars in London to choose from and most offer free salsa lessons on certain nights, followed by music and dancing. The great thing about salsa bars is that a lot of people are there just to dance and have a brilliant time. There might be some sleazies (aren’t there always?) but the large majority of people just want to practice their salsa moves and have fun. Although if you are single, this is not a bad way to meet someone – you know you have at least one interest in common and you can check out their dancing moves at the same time.

We chose Friday night at Bar Salsa and I was really looking forward to it. The baby was at home for some father-daughter time and it had been a while since I’ve been out dancing.

The food is good with Latin American dishes and tapas on offer. For those who are feeling nervous about getting on the dance floor, there’s happy hour from 5-8pm for some reasonably priced Dutch courage. We booked a table for 6.30pm right by the dance floor which is when the free lessons start, so for the next couple hours we watched a massive group busting out their salsa moves.

The dancefloor

The dancefloor

We then had a go ourselves, although it was mostly me encouraging Katie to dance much to her annoyance. I understood her irritation after a while; not all the guys know how to dance and if you’re a beginner, you need someone who knows what they’re doing. Also at 5 foot 9, several of her potential suitors were a couple inches shorter than her, which is fine for some but not her bag at all.

In Katie’s wise words, this is a place of quantity over quality but she had fun and so did I.  Good food, good music (if you like salsa of course!) and a lively vibe. It is a great place for letting your hair down and for us it was perfect for reminiscing about our Colombian days.

http://www.bar-salsa.com/whats-on/

No 37. Eat Breakfast at Roast and No 376. Have the best cup of coffee in town

19 Nov

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s also the best. Especially the long, lazy weekend breakfast.

There are some very good breakfasts in London (Breakfast Club is my current favourite) and one which comes highly recommended by Time Out is the breakfast at Roast in Borough Market. With floor to ceiling windows and set high up overlooking the market, it’s a great place to watch the hustle and bustle of Borough Market.

Roast's veggie breakfast

Roast’s veggie breakfast

We had the veggie breakfast which comes with eggs, tomatoes, mushroom, veggie sausages, a tattie scone and toast. The veggie sausage is delicious, it’s reasonably priced at £12.50 and the jams are delicious.  On the downside, the portion sizes are a bit measly. It comes with one tiny piece of toast and one slice of Portobello mushroom. Having said that, the food had a very British feel with good quality produce and I would love to go back and try the dinner menu.

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View over the market

 

Once stuffed (those veggie sausages were massive, very filling and made up for the measly amounts of other food), we wandered downstairs to the Monmouth Coffee Company.

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Queuing for coffee

 

I know a lot of coffee snobs. Sometimes they irritate me but mostly, they do have a point about good coffee. Even those of us who are not experts will enjoy a Monmouth coffee. The queue outside was massive so this one is obviously popular in guide books but you can find Monmouth coffee in a lot of decent coffee shops. We have one just down the road in Sydenham of all places. Monmouth also focuses on fair and open trading with their suppliers, who tend to be cooperatives and individual farms. So you can get your hit of caffeine with a clear conscience.

Overall verdict – I would happily queue up for a cup of Monmouth coffee and while the Roast breakfast was good, for now I’m sticking to Breakfast Club.

 

No 19. Beadle about Burlington Arcade and No 193. Listen to an Oration at Speaker’s Corner

14 Oct

Moving to South East London has made me lazy, but with the prospect of starting work after maternity leave looming, I’ve been trying to make the most of my weekends.

So on a sunny Sunday a couple of weeks ago, we went into town for a 1000 Things To Do outing.

First we paid a visit to Burlington Arcade, partly because it seemed like quite a relaxed one to do with a baby in tow and partly because it’s at the start of the book and I’ve been curious about it for a while.

The entrance (and a double decker!)

The entrance (and a double decker!)

Burlington Arcade opened in 1819 in the heart of Mayfair and is an arched walkway selling luxury goods. There’s a red carpet running down the middle which gives it a lovely, glamorous feel and a smell like expensive talc in the air. It’s not a place for bargain shopping. One of the shops offers vintage Rolexes personalised by birth year but you can pick up a Lulu Guiness bag for under £100 (ok, it’s the smallest bag they have but still…) and if all else fails you can pick up some delicate macarons from Laduree.

Sparkly Laduree

Sparkles and macarons at Laduree

Given it’s central location it is unusually peaceful. And for a city with a very fast pace and very little patience, there are no speedy walkers here because it’s not allowed.  And if you do decide to speed through you’ll be stopped by a very polite man in a top hat.

The Burlington Arcade Beadles, London’s oldest and smallest police force, watch over the arcade and make sure the original laws are enforced. These include no hurrying, no whistling, no singing, no carrying large packages and no open umbrellas.

Friendly Beadle (Amaya wasn't too sure)

Friendly Beadle (Amaya wasn’t too sure)

We met one of these lovely chaps who was happy to chat away about the Arcade. He told us the red carpet was going, that he loved the job and the history of the place, and that posh boys loved to walk down the Arcade whistling or singing and waiting to be reprimanded. If you do go here, make sure you have a quick natter with a Beadle.

Inside...

Inside – remember the rules…

We then took a short walk to our next destination.  Our little one is on the move now so parks are one of our new favourite places to go and what better London greenery to introduce her to than Hyde Park.

I love the British ability to make the most of an unexpected sunny day. Deckchairs were out, people were having a picnic and as always on a Sunday, there were some feisty exchanges at Speaker’s Corner.

Located near the Marble Arch entrance, Angela Merkel once described Speaker’s Corner as “legendary, the very symbol of free speech”. We often take that for granted in this country. If anything, Speaker’s Corner is often quite comical. I saw a Muslim man standing on his Speaker’s Corner stool and addressing the crowd but he kept getting heckled by an elderly Christian man in the crowd who disagreed with pretty much everything he said.  It was basically a face-off between these two men arguing about what the Koran and Bible says.

Heckling Speaker's Corner

Heated exchanges at Speaker’s Corner

The tradition of Speaker’s Corner started in 1866 after public riots demanded a “right to speak”. It’s easy to forget there are still countries around the world where such an exchange could never take place.  In spite of the humour of that morning, it reminded me how incredibly lucky we are that every Sunday morning, we can get up on a stool in a public park and get on our soapbox about anything bothering us. The comedy factor you often get is an added bonus.