Category Archives: London

The Best of London Set Menus | Sardine, Hoxton

Sardine Hoxton | London RestaurantsPart of a series in which I bring you the best set menus on offer in London.

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending an event at Daunt Books, with Signe Johansen in conversation with Diana Henry about the latter’s just-released cookbook, How to Eat a Peach. Diana’s new book is based on her love for menus; not fancy, slaving for hours in the kitchen affairs, but simple dishes thoughtfully put together to create unforgettable gatherings around a table. It’s just the sort of cookbook I most enjoy: chatty, imbued with a strong love for culture, travel and literature (all of which influence Diana’s menus), and with recipes that inspire, rather than intimidate.

I also share a passion for a truly great menu, and not only for those served by the home cook, but also when dining out. I mean in particular the set menu. Set menus have so often enabled me to try the very best of local cuisine when traveling, and – always friendly to a limited budget – have been my ticket into many of London’s pricier foodie destinations. I love the element of surprise in a set menu, which are changed daily in the best places. The lack of a great deal of choice never bothers me: I like the fact that a limited range generally pushes me to try something new.

Before attending the How to Eat a Peach Event, I’d enjoyed just such a brilliant set menu at Sardine in Hoxton (there was a wonderful moment of serendipity during Diana’s talk when she mentioned Sardine as one of her favourite restaurants in London!). It was a particularly wet day, and, as the strong gusts of wind tried to tug the umbrella from my hand while I walked the 15 minute stretch from Old Street Underground Station, the thought of Sardine’s southern French dishes spurred me to hurry even more.

Sardine didn’t appear particularly prepossessing from the outside. Ironically, it looks directly onto a large McDonald’s, and road works have currently dug up the street in front of the restaurant, so it’s caged in by cones and trucks. As I neared the door, though, a delicious smell filled the sidewalk, which promised plenty of gastronomical delights in store. I met my friend, and we walked in and were shown to our table. 

Sardine Hoxton | London Restaurants

Being in a celebratory mood, we ordered two Lillet Spritzers and chinked our glasses, before turning our attention to the menu. Sardine’s set menu is available Monday-Friday 12-3pm and 6pm-7pm. It’s terrific value with two courses £16 and three £20, and I was told by the attentive waitress that they update it regularly, depending on the season and what looks particularly good in the markets. The food is unpretentious, relying on the best quality ingredients to make each dish shine, and is inspired by the South of France.

Our starters arrived quickly: radicchio, radishes, creme fraiche and herbs for me, and purple sprouting broccoli with anchoïade (a classic Provençal dip, made with anchovies, good olive oil, white wine vinegar and garlic) for my friend.

Sardine Hoxton | London Restaurants Sardine Hoxton | London Restaurants

Every bite of my dish was a tribute to the fresh vitality of spring. The bitterness of the radicchio balanced well against the peppery sweetness of the raw radishes, and the perfectly seasoned creme fraiche provided just the right touch of richness. I didn’t taste the broccoli, but was assured it was exceptionally tasty.

Uncharacteristically, I’d gone for the vegetarian option when choosing my main course: artichoke, spinach, white beans and aioli. It wasn’t a choice I regretted, though! I was amazed by the robustness of flavour from such a simple dish, and it was a real treat to have artichoke. I had a nibble of my friend’s choice too – simply described as ‘braised lamb and lentils’ on the menu, but we both agreed it was one of the tastiest lamb dishes we’ve ever been served.

Sardine Hoxton | London Restaurants

Although the dessert choice for the set menu was tempting (poached pears and nougat parfait), I couldn’t resist suggesting we go off piste when I saw tarte tatin on the à la carte. I always find tarte tatin is a good test of a restaurant, and to my mind it’s one of those desserts that’s classic for a reason: when done well, it’s perfection.

I took advantage of the fifteen minute wait to prepare our tarte to observe my surroundings a little more closely. I liked Sardine’s communal, comfortable feel, with its open plan kitchen, showing off stacks of glazed clay bowls and gleaming pots and pans. There’s a long communal table that stretches the length of the dining area, with other tables clustered around the walls. The sandy tones of the decor, offset by grey and mixed with pops of orange and blue and darker browns, reminded me of the café au lait coloured buildings and brightly painted shutters that I’d seen in the towns I’d explored on my last visit to Provence.

Sardine Hoxton | London Restaurants

Our tarte tatin arrived on the table, ice-cream and caramel oozing into the cracks of the pastry and pooling on to the plate as we cut into it, slicing it up and helping ourselves to quarters. Is there anything that beats an exceptional tarte tatin shared with a friend on a cold, wet day? To my mind, it’s hard to better the combination of caramelised apple, hot pastry and vanilla ice-cream.

Sardine Hoxton | London Restaurants

Finishing our meal with chamomile tea and coffee, we chatted into the late afternoon, and then made our way back to the tube, where even severe delays on the Metropolitan line couldn’t upset my contented spirit.

London Stories | A Trip to Godiva, Covent Garden

London Stories | A Trip to Godiva Covent Garden

Godiva has always been one of my special treats. One of my favourite things to do (a habit started as a teenager!) is to choose just two of their truffles, have them tied up in a little bag, and then enjoy each small bite whilst reading a magazine and a cup of tea. I was certainly delighted, then, to be offered a Godiva gift voucher in exchange for a blog post about my shopping spoils at the Godiva Covent Garden branch.

London Stories | A Trip to Godiva, Covent Garden

My voucher was certainly enough to get me far more than two truffles, and a lot of the joy in my expedition was in deciding what treats to get for friends and family. Of course, I wanted to get a big box of chocolates for my Mum, but I also had a friend’s birthday in mind, as well as stocking up on some useful hostess gifts.

London Stories | A Trip to Godiva, Covent Garden

There was so much to tempt, I spent a lot of time dithering! In the end though, I settled for the Chocolate Truffle Delight Gift Box for my friend’s birthday, three boxes of milk chocolate biscuits for hostess gifts, or be stashed away for when friends pop by for tea, and a gold box of hand-selected truffles for my Mum. I couldn’t resist a cone of chocolate-dipped strawberries, which are only available in the shops, for myself! The strawberries have tiny, Hercule Poirot-like chocolate moustaches, in a nod to Godiva’s Belgian roots. Isn’t that adorable?! I think the Great Detective would have approved – he had a sweet tooth after all!

London Stories | A Trip to Godiva, Covent Garden

After my shopping, I decided to have a wander around more of Covent Garden, which was still dressed up in all its Christmas glory (is it Scrooge-like of me to feel Christmas decorations look rather tired after the 6th?!).  I stopped by Aesop to pick up a new cleanser, and then headed to Petersham Nurseries for a cup of tea and to admire their flowers.

When I got home, I unpacked all my purchases, stopping to take a few photos, of course!

I hope my friend will like her chocolate box – isn’t the blue and pink pretty? And here’s a shot of some of the truffles I chose for my Mum (who’s being very generous with sharing them! ).

I like the chocolates with little bows on especially – they’re so pretty, as well as being delicious! If you’re a fan of coconut, I particularly recommend the yellow ones….

Thanks very much to Godiva for the fun afternoon out!

Find Godiva on Instagram at:
@govidauk #alwaysgodiva #godivauk

Christopher Brown’s London Pop Up

The other week, I popped along to Christopher Brown‘s pop-up shop, which is running until the end of November and is next to the fabulous Pentreath and Hall. I’ve long been an admirer of Christopher’s distinctive artwork, and his book, An Alphabet of Londonis a must for any fan of the city.

If you’re in need of some Christmas shopping inspiration, I definitely recommend visiting the pop-up. I picked up an adorable tea-towel (the one with the tipsy robins), and there were plenty of prints, ceramics, scarves, lamp shades, books, cushions and tote bags that would make excellent gifts as well. Afterwards, you could always drop by Persephone Books (just around the corner) for a few presents for any bibliophiles in your life too. And if you fancy a pick-me-up after all that shopping, I’d suggest a glass of wine at Noble Rot or the newly opened branch of La Fromagerie.

I was so pleased that Christopher kindly agreed to answer some questions about the inspiration behind the pop-up shop and his career. It was so fascinating to learn more about his friendship with Edward Bawden, as well as his creative inspiration and favourite London haunts.


MN: Would you tell me a little about yourself and your background? Did you always want to be an artist?

CB: I would encourage people to read about my childhood in An Alphabet of London.
Every child loves to draw to make pictures, and I was no exception. My father would sit me on his knee with a large sheet of paper on the table and draw the most intricate scenes. I would suggest a subject – usually a medieval battle scene!

My real ambition as a child was to be a History don at Oxford. Then I wanted to be an archeologist, and then a marine biologist. At school, my two best subjects were Art and History. I applied to both art school and university and was accepted to read History but went for Art – a choice I have never regretted. At art school, boys did graphics and girls did fashion and textiles. I spent time in the fashion and textile department, and, unknown to me, was offered a transfer, but was never told about it! Again, I don’t regret it; as a designer/illustrator, I can still apply myself to other forms of design.

MN: I know that you were an assistant to Edward Bawden. How much did he influence you as an artist?

CB: Greatly – from my first meeting with him in 1979 we got on well. He opened my eyes to not only working methods but books, art and drawing en plein air. We also shared a similar sense of humour, which, for me, is vital in friendship.

MN: What do you find particularly appealing about creating linocuts?

CB: The process – the planning, the cutting and because you’re working in reverse the end result is always a surprise. I’ve been doing it for a long time now, but it is still pleasurable, even if I moan sometimes. The sense of craft is also important. Though I would never describe myself as a great printmaker, the inking up and rolling under the press is still as enjoyable as when I first started.

MN: Who are some of your favourite artists?

CB: So many and many anonymous – Egyptian Art, Medieval illuminations and vernacular and folk art. Mr. Hockney has always been a favourite as has Jean Cocteau. Others include Morandi, Ben Shahn, Matisse, Fra Angelico, Herge, Giotto, Chardin, David Jones, Edward Burra, Edward Gorey…really the list is endless. Mr. Bawden is in there to of course!
There are also so many of my fellow illustrators I admire: Chris Corr, Jeff Fisher, Angela Barrett, Jonny Hannah, Paul Slater, Mick Brownfield, Pierre le Tan, Ian Beck….

MN: I love your pop-up shop in Bloomsbury. Would you tell be a bit about the concept behind it?

CB: It was Diana Parkin who had the idea. After over thirty years of chipping away on bits of lino I have so much work! The idea was to apply it to other materials to reimagine it. Working as an illustrator, too often one produces work that is so ephemeral
(apart from books), in that it’s been for magazines or periodicals that people generally don’t keep.

MN: Which are some of your favourite pieces in the shop?

CB: I suppose “Shadow Bunny” which was a little print I did for myself. My partner David Ivie  copied it on a plate for one of my Christmas presents. So really the little chap started the whole idea of my work on ceramics. My wallpaper “Albion” for St Jude’s has to have a mention as it was Simon and Angie Lewin who encouraged me to think big again.

MN: I love your book, An Alphabet of London. Which are some of your favourite London haunts?

CB: Anywhere by the river and my place of birth – Putney – rate highly. I love the Petrie Collection, the V&A and Ham House. Walking around my home city still inspires and surprises me.

MN: Would you tell me a little about the menswear course you teach at Central Saint Martins?

CB: I teach all years, and it is so inspiring. I have the greatest respect for fashion students and designers – gosh do they work hard! It is not illustration or drawing I teach – it’s about research, presentation, colour and proportion. Hopefully I can inspire then to think beyond the obvious.

MN: What advice would you give to young creatives starting out today?

CB: Don’t give up. Don’t force a style. Draw everyday. Read as much as possible. Look up when walking along a street. Be brave –  try something new. Be passionate about your work. Take advice; sometimes you won’t like what people say, but if you respect them, listen.

MN: Finally, what’s next for you? Are there any future projects or events coming up that you’re able to share?

CB: I am just about to start on designs for a scarf for a wonderful shop on Capri – Laboratorio. My book on England is still something I want to complete, and I have an idea for a book about my travels and friendship with Edward Bawden. It was good to see my Christmas packaging for Gail’s Bakery in their shops. Sometime soon my work will be seen in the Museum of London Docklands, which is exciting! All I hope is that I keep getting asked to do nice projects, make work for myself and have fun doing both.


Visit Christopher Brown’s pop-up shop at:
17a Rugby Street, WC1N 3QT
Open for the whole of November, Monday-Saturday 11am-6pm.

T&T 50 | Our Favourite Persephone Books

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes

Today on Tea & Tattle podcast, Sophie and I are in conversation about one of our favourite subjects: books! In this episode, we’re chatting about the London based publishing house, Persephone Books, which has gained a loyal fanbase of readers from all over the world.

Tea & Tattle listeners have frequently asked us both which Persephone books we most recommend, and so we decided to devote a whole episode to this topic. We hope that, by the end of the episode, we’ll have inspired our listeners with some excellent reading choices for the colder months ahead.

Persephone Books was founded in 1998 by Nicola Beauman and reprints neglected or forgotten fiction and non-fiction, mainly from the first half of the 20th Century, and mostly written by women. It’s easy to see why these books are such Tea & Tattle favourites! Oh, and if you’re wondering about my choice of pomegranates to illustrate the header image of this post, then you can read about the significance of this fruit and the goddess Persephone here.

The Persephone shop and office at 59, Lamb’s Conduit Street in Bloomsbury is an utter delight to visit, although do make sure to leave plenty of time for a thorough browse, as you’re likely to spend hours poring over the beautiful books, stationery, ceramics and fabric available to buy.

Persephone Books have published over 100 books, so it was difficult for Sophie and me to narrow down our selection to only a few. We may well have to do a Part 2 episode next year! Sophie and I decided to split our suggestions into categories: The Persephone Books Starter Kit for first time readers, The Best Comfort Reads, Gripping Page-Turners and Unexpected Delights. If you’re a fan of Persephone Books too, then we’d love to hear about your favourites as well, so please do get in touch.

Listen to learn more about Persephone Books and our top recommendations for both new and long-term readers.

Special Request!!

Sophie and I need your help! Our next conversation together will air on 7th November, which marks exactly one year of Tea & Tattle podcast. We are amazed and proud to realise how far Tea & Tattle has come in a year, and we’d love to have your help in creating a special celebratory episode to mark our podcast anniversary. Part of the episode will be devoted to questions from our listeners, so please do ask us anything you’d like to know about ourselves or Tea & Tattle. You can email us at, or find us on instagram (@mirandasnotebook and @sophie_perdita). We’ll do our best to answer all your questions!

P.S. Remember to subscribe to the Tea and Tattle newsletter to receive the latest episodes and exclusive weekly recommendations from Sophie and me. 

Creative Crush | Sara Gordon, Bloom & Wild

Sara Gordon Bloom and Wild InterviewSara Gordon, Brand and Creative Director of Bloom & Wild

I’m a big fan of Bloom & Wild, and I’ve been surprised by many a thoughtful friend who has sent me one of their fabulous letterbox bouquets. It never fails to make my day whenever I see one of their long, thin boxes on the doormat, as I know there’s always a sweet note and a lovely selection of pretty blooms carefully wrapped inside.

I’ve been especially enjoying the latest Bloom and Wild collaboration with one of my favourite London-based florists, Nikki Tibbles of Wild at Heart. The new bouquets are perfect for autumn, with their seasonal blooms showcasing rich, luxurious colours. The Woodland Walk arrangement brightened up my office for weeks!

I was so pleased to meet Sara Gordon, the Brand and Creative Director of Bloom & Wild, at the launch party of the new floral collection, and I was delighted when Sara agreed to answer some of my questions about her career and give me some tips for styling flowers this season.

Sara Gordon Bloom and Wild InterviewRed Skies Bouquet, Bloom & Wild X Nikki Tibbles


MN: Would you tell me a little about yourself and your career? Have you always loved flowers?

SG: I’ve always been a creative at heart and a flower lover. I studied design and psychology at University knowing I’d mix a passion for consumer behaviour with design in the digital age. After working in New York on everything from digital political campaigns to launching haircare lines internationally I became a seasoned digital brand strategist bringing together designers, content creators, social media experts and our clients to grow businesses beautifully.

Having always loved flowers, and their meaning, it really inspires me to come to work every day and be able to say that we’re all collectively working together to help brighten people’s days around the UK, France and Germany through flowers. We’re designing and delivering next generation gifting in the palm of our client’s hands.

Sara Gordon Bloom and Wild InterviewAutumn Mornings Bouquet, Bloom & Wild X Nikki Tibbles

MN: How did you first come to join Bloom and Wild? 

SG: I was actually sent a box of Bloom & Wild letterbox flowers very early when the company started by a friend of mine, Camilla, who was looking to invest. A year or so later she asked me for some help to recruit for my role… so I thought, why not join and help build a brand from the start?

 MN: Would you tell me more about what your role as Brand and Creative Director involves?

SG: Brand starts at our company’s heart – the culture we create internally and the behaviours we have. I look after ensuring that we’re a value-driven company that cares for our customers through a real mission: to make sending and receiving flowers a joy again. This means my team and I look after everything from the copy our Customer Delight team send to clients to the unboxing experience of our flowers to the photography on site and our marketing campaigns. Every day there’s something new to tackle which makes what we do really interesting. I’m currently working on our PR launches for France and Germany and how we make them truly memorable for consumers and journalists – it really stretches my brain to try and think of new experiences with flowers that haven’t been done before!

Sara Gordon Bloom and Wild InterviewWoodland Walk Bouquet, Bloom & Wild X Nikki Tibbles

MN: I absolutely love the Bloom and Wild X Wild at Heart collaboration. Would you tell me about the process in designing a collection together?

SG: Nikki is one of our design muses and we’ve always looked to her floral style for inspiration. It was a dream to work with their team to come up with seasonal collections that change every two months and to really design with stems that push up the luxury element of our letterbox and hand-tied bouquets. We focussed heavily on seasonality and trends puling from fashion and interiors. For example, a year ago small micro-florals were really popular but for Christmas this year its all about dark, big, blousy stems that make a statement. I can’t wait for you to see the next collection!

MN: Do you have a favourite bouquet from the collection?

SG: Hydrangeas are my absolute favourite flower – so it’s Red Skies hands down! Also the idea of burgundy skies in the late autumn… just dreamy.

Sara Gordon Bloom and Wild InterviewRed Skies Bouquet, Bloom & Wild X Nikki Tibbles

MN: What are some of your favourite ways to style flowers in the home for Autumn / Winter? Are there any colour combinations you’re particularly drawn to this season?

SG: In the autumn, I love adding big unruly branches to a huge apothecary jar as a centrepiece, it’s low maintenance and lovely for the home. For sending as a gift, contrasting textures like we’ve got in our Woodland Walk bouquet really makes a unique statement and feels truly seasonal. I always tell friends to find a vase that nips in at the mouth to give the blooms a bit of a lift and a round shape and to criss cross foliage first, then sturdier blooms followed by the really delicate bits popping out ever so slightly.

MN: Finally, what do you enjoy most about being part of the Bloom and Wild team?

SG: My favourite part is the people! We have an outstanding team that is impressive, has grace and grit, and I’m always happy to share a drink with on evenings and weekends. You spend most of your life at work so a mix of people and brightening people’s days with flower delivery keeps me going.


Thank you so much again to Sara for her wonderful answers to my questions. I’m inspired to arrange to track down an apothecary jar for arranging some big hydrangeas or branches of berries!

You can follow Bloom and Wild on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter  and Pinterest. Check out their website and the Bloom & Wild X Nikki Tibbles range.

Note: All photographs used in this post courtesy Bloom & Wild.

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, you may like to read my interview with the floral photographer and author, Georgianna Lane.

Diary of a Flâneuse | First Signs of Autumn on Hampstead Heath

This post is part of a new series on Miranda’s Notebook, Diary of a Flâneuse, which is inspired by my interview with Lauren Elkin, author of Flâneuse, and offers photographs and observations drawn from what I see in my strolls through London.

Towards the end of summer, I went on a stroll through Hampstead Heath, when the sun was setting and the light was golden. Here are some of the things I noted and photographed along the way:

swans gliding on the ponds
golden reflections
blackberries ripening
dappled shadows
people dog training, almost getting pulled over by their canine friends
picnic baskets being packed away
families on bikes
a fallen log that made a good bench
deserted pathways
rustling willow trees

Seeing the blackberries made me think of one of my favourite poems, and -incidentally – made me crave blackberry crumble, served in pretty bowls with a jar of cream to go round.

for Jo

On the high iron railroad they drag their barbed wires
Through ditches, and twist
Up paths that look down over Consett, its fires gone out.
You are too young to remember.

But the sky is the colour of iron.
There is slag underfoot.
The hawthorn grows rusty. The dock rattles its seeds
Down the steep track. Each September,

Every year of our lives, Jo, we’ve climbed up here with
Where the fat berries blacken on clinker.
The urge to pick them comes stronger than hunger.
Very soon, it says, it will be winter.

So fill your pails now for the time when there will be no
Go home. Bottle them up,
Black as the midnight sky above the ironworks
Flaring red before the furnace doors clashed shut;

And over the sweet steam of the jam-pan, dream of
And blackberries in February, and the shoots that already
Shove through the dust a gift from the dead to the living,
Older than words, Jo. As old as loving.

– Katrina Porteous

Note: poem from Poetry Please: The Seasons

London Restaurants | Ikoyi, St James’s Market

Fans of my podcast, Tea & Tattle, may remember my interview with Lopè Ariyo, author of the cookbook, Hibiscus, which celebrates West African food and culture. During the interview, Lopè mentioned that she was about to start a job as a chef at a newly opened restaurant in Mayfair: Ikoyi, which specialises in West African dining.

After hearing my interview, my friend Claire, who’s a true foodie and always knows about the latest hot restaurants in London, suggested that we try out Ikoyi together. Of course, I said yes!

Ikoyi is situated in St James’s Market, a rather curious mix of chilly corporate aloofness, with its rising towers of office buildings, and an increasingly interesting food scene. Veneta, which I reviewed last autumn, is just around the corner from Ikoyi, as is the Scandinavian cafe Ole & Steen, which boasted a truly enticing window display of freshly baked buns and cakes (I’m planning a return trip to try them asap!).

Unlike its environs, Ikoyi manages to strike a welcoming, stylish interior. I liked the mustard yellow cushions and vibrant artwork. The restaurant is intimate, with a striking bar along one wall and a glimpse into the kitchen where the gastronomical magic occurs. I spotted the lovely Lopè working away, and had a chance after our meal to say hello and how much we’d enjoyed the food.

But let’s start at the beginning, with the cocktail list. Claire ordered a Roast Plantain Old Fashioned, and, on the waiter’s recommendation, I went for the Kunnu Punch. Drinks in hand, we caught up on each other’s news and perused the menu, which is small, but well-chosen.

It was a warm, sunny day, and the punch was the perfect refreshment – light and tasty. Claire said she enjoyed her cocktail a lot too, although it was decidedly stronger than the punch.

On looking at the menu, we agreed on some nibbles to share alongside our cocktails, followed by mains and dessert. We settled on the chicken oyster, tamarind and penja pepper and the buttermilk plantain and smoked scotch bonnet. It was my first time eating plantain, so I was particularly excited to try it.

Both snacks were delicious, and the plantain was much as I thought it would taste: rather like a banana, but more savoury. The spice of the topping gave it a real kick, and for a moment I was worried that all the food would be spicy, which I never handle very well. Happily though, the spice of the plantain dish soon settled down, and by the time our mains had arrived, my mouth had stopped burning.

I’d heard that the pork dish was something special, so I’d ordered it for my main, and Claire had gone for chicken, benne and okra. We also ordered a side of jollof rice and smoked bone marrow to share.

My pork was the tastiest I’d ever had and truly melted in the mouth. I was pleased that it wasn’t spicy either. Claire said her chicken was exceedingly good, with the okra cooked to perfection. We both agreed our side dish was out-of-this world as well. We were instructed to scoop the marrow from the bone and mix it into the rice – honestly, it was sublime! I would have polished off every last grain if I hadn’t been worried about leaving room for dessert. I definitely wanted dessert!

Claire and I both settled for the special of the day: milk bread pudding with white peach sorbet and apples. Oh my! This was one of the best desserts I’d had for a long time – the white peach sorbet especially was heavenly.

I certainly plan on going back to Ikoyi again soon – it’s a great destination for either a full meal, or a drink and snacks at the bar.


What was the last great meal you enjoyed?

The Curated Month | September 2017

The Curated Month | September 2017

Welcome September!

Happy September everyone! It feels so good to be back to blogging after a break over the summer, and I’m also pleased to be ushering in the season of misty mornings, rusted-gold leaves and pumpkin pie.

September is set to be a busy month, with the diary crammed full of work and play already, but I’m ready to hit the ground running, invigorated after my summer of rest and reflection.

The Curated Month | September 2017

September’s Theme Word: Work

Back-to-school season seems the perfect opportunity to examine the work that you do. Are you happy in your job, or your subject material if you’re a student? This month, I’ll be providing content surrounding the ways we work best and how to love what you do.

A List for September

bake an apple crumble
treat yourself to a bunch of dahlias
have an ‘autumn clean’ of your home
reexamine your goals
complete a nagging task
buy a pretty new notebook
bite into a ripe fig
light candles in the evenings

The Curated Month | September 2017

The Londoner’s List

1/ Ikoyi is one of London’s latest hot new restaurant destinations- just read this Time Out review. I enjoyed a mouthwateringly good lunch there myself a few weeks ago, so expect my own review in a few days. Also, one of the chefs at the restaurant, Lopè Ariyo, was a guest on Tea & Tattle – even more reason to go!

2/ I can’t wait to get to the Matisse exhibition at the Royal Academy.

3/ Lindsey Tramuta (another Tea & Tattle interviewee) is speaking at one of my favourite wine bars, Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels in Covent Garden, on September 16th. I’m so looking forward to hearing her chat about her book, The New Paris, in person.

4/ Taking a boat from London Bridge pier to Greenwich is always a fun thing to do this time of year, when leafy Greenwich looks particularly pretty in the autumn. I’m planning a trip with some fellow Instagrammers and am so looking forward to it.

5/ There are so many excellent speakers at the Chiswick Book Festival this September (15th-19th), including Paula Byrne, Maggie O’Farrell and Anne Sebba.

The Curated Month | September 2017

The Book

For me, September is the month when my love for stationery reaches fever pitch, and so 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff is my read of the month. It’s the perfect inspiration for letter writing and will have you reaching for your ink pen and a sheet of attractive notepaper in no time.

The Curated Month | September 2017


The Podcast

One of the podcast interviews I’ve most enjoyed listening to recently was Lewis Howes in conversation with Mel Robbins, author of The 5 Second Rule. I’ve been trying out the 5 Second Rule (which Mel explains in the interview) ever since listening to this episode, and it’s been helping me to be more productive.

The Creative

The Curated Month | September 2017

I’m a huge fan of Emma Lacey‘s gorgeous ceramics, which she makes in her home studio in North West London. I have a wide range of her everyday mugs (which also double up nicely as vases), and I love their pastel shades, and the indentation at the side that just perfectly fits your thumb as you grasp your mug.

The Film

The Curated Month | September 2017

When it comes to this time of year, there’s always one film I want to watch: You’ve Got Mail. I quote Meg Ryan’s line about ‘bouquets of sharpened pencils’ every September.

The Great Buy

I found my quintessential everyday autumn dress in TOAST. The dark khaki version is my favourite, although I’m also keen on the black olive, and may be getting that one later in the season too!

The Wild Card

I adore this letter writing paper by Alice Pattullo (read my interview with Alice here), available in mint green as well as the mustard yellow. I’m on a mission to bring snail mail letter-writing back in vogue, so I’m very happy to see attractive letter writing sets appearing.

The Curated Month | September 2017

What’s on your list for September?

5 Helpful Tips for Photographing Peonies

5 Helpful Tips for Photographing Peonies || How to Photograph Peonies Guide on Miranda's Notebook

One of my favourite things about June is the abundance of peonies. Evoking romance and early summer, these beautiful, billowy blooms are often sweetly scented and come in a variety of charming colours: white, pink, red, yellow and coral. Understandably, peonies are enormously popular on Instagram, as it’s hard to resist liking a snapshot of fluffy pink petals, and they’re a delightful flower to photograph.

Unfortunately, though, peonies are notoriously pricey, so whenever I buy a bunch, I like to think I can make the most out of my money. I work hard on photographing a variety of different shots to showcase my blooms, without (hopefully!) boring my audience, and I also take care of my peonies so that they last as long as possible.

In celebration of June’s theme word, bloom, on Miranda’s Notebook, I thought I’d share my tips and ideas for getting the most photos out of your peonies.


5 Helpful Tips for Photographing Peonies || How to Photograph Peonies Guide on Miranda's Notebook

++ June is the height of peony season and is the best month for buying them. I especially like to buy my blooms from flower markets, where good deals are offered. Columbia Road Flower Market generally sell three bunches of peonies for £20 – just make sure to get there early to avoid the overwhelming crowds! It’s also a good idea to check your local farmers’ market; I recently picked up four bunches of peonies that were going for a great price at my market in West Hampstead.

++ An important tip to remember when buying peonies is to go for bunches where the buds are already starting to open slightly. Peonies should be harvested when the buds are at the ‘marshmallow’ stage – they should feel soft and spongy to the touch. I’ve learnt that very tight, hard buds often never open, which is a disappointing waste of my flower budget. When I know that I want to photograph my peonies very quickly, I’ll go for ones that are, for the most part, fully opened. These blooms won’t have such a long vase life, but they’re great for when I’m in a rush to get photographs.

5 Helpful Tips for Photographing Peonies || How to Photograph Peonies Guide on Miranda's Notebook || Scarlet and Violet Florist, London

++ If you’d like to treat yourself to more unusual peonies in a wider variety of colours, then it’s sensible to fork out for special ones at a good quality florist. So far, I’ve found that the standard pink and red varieties are easily found at markets, but for more unusual blooms, I head to my nearest first-rate florist: Scarlet & Violet. Some gorgeous varieties to look out for are: Coral Charm, Raspberry Sundae, Bowl of Beauty, Fairy’s Petticoat and Duchesse de Nemours (aren’t the names delightful?!).


5 Helpful Tips for Photographing Peonies || How to Photograph Peonies Guide on Miranda's Notebook

++ Peonies have a good vase life and – if well cared for – should last a week or two. On returning home with your flowers, cut their stems straight away, as this helps them to take up the water. Remove excess leaves and any below the water line. Regularly (every other day) recut the stems and add fresh water. You shouldn’t put too much water in your vase, as you should be replenishing with fresh often anyway.

++ If you don’t want to use your peonies straight away, then it is supposedly possible to store your buds for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator. Simply remove all leaves and put your stems into a plastic bag, lined with paper towel to absorb excess moisture. Check every few days and discard any that show signs of mould. When you’re ready to use them, pop them into warm water with some flower food. I’m keen to try out this method myself sometime! I’ve also heard that you can preserve any heads of flowers you snip off in tupperware in the fridge for a few weeks, so I want to give that a try too.

5 Helpful Tips for Photographing Peonies || How to Photograph Peonies Guide on Miranda's Notebook

++If your peonies are taking a while to fully open, then try holding them over hot, steaming water (I’ve had mixed success with this, but it’s worth a try if you’ve got some very stubborn ones!).

++ Apparently a splash of lemonade mixed in with water encourages flowers to bloom quicker (I’ve yet to try this and am keen to find out if it works!).

++ It’s always a good idea to keep some flower food to hand, but if you run out, then ½ a teaspoon of sugar and a drop of bleach in the water will do the trick.


5 Helpful Tips for Photographing Peonies || How to Photograph Peonies Guide on Miranda's Notebook

++ Planning is arguably the most important step in my photography process. I have a strict weekly budget on flowers (I don’t usually spend more than £10 on average), and yet I use blooms in every single flat lay I photograph, so I need to make sure that I get a range of images from every bouquet I buy. Whenever I buy peonies, which are a more expensive purchase, I’m especially careful about the planning stage in my photography.

++ Most weekends, I set aside a photography morning or afternoon and snap the majority of my indoor shots featuring flowers. I generally buy my flowers the evening before or on the same day, so I photograph them at their freshest, although I’ll also take the odd picture during the rest of the week too.

++ Although I’m often inspired by the flowers I buy each week and the props I have at home, I’ll also research possible shots by spending time browsing Pinterest or the books I collect that feature exceptional floral photography. Taking time to seek inspiration helps feed my own creativity and keeps my ideas feeling fresh.

5 Helpful Tips for Photographing Peonies || How to Photograph Peonies Guide on Miranda's Notebook

++ I also take time to think about upcoming blog posts I have planned, or products that I want to feature, and what types of floral photographs I’ll need for them. For instance, I knew I wanted to get a photograph of the lovely book, Paris in Bloom, alongside a bunch of peonies, as I thought the matching pinks would look lovely. Also, I regularly use floral backgrounds that I photograph myself for the imagery on Tea & Tattle, so I try as often as possible to get suitable photos for the podcast, especially when I buy peonies, as they look particularly pretty as backdrops (like this one).


5 Helpful Tips for Photographing Peonies || How to Photograph Peonies Guide on Miranda's Notebook

++ A great way to get the most out of your peonies is to tell the whole story of your purchase. Photograph the market stand or shop where you bought your flowers; the peonies at your feet in an attractive market basket (perhaps with some other market purchases too); you walking along a pretty street with a big bouquet over your shoulder; the peonies laid out on a table at home, as you trim the stems; and finally arranged in a beautiful vase. Even if you don’t use all of these images on your instagram grid, they’re perfect to share on stories.

5 Helpful Tips for Photographing Peonies || How to Photograph Peonies Guide on Miranda's Notebook

++Try to photograph each stage of your peonies too: first in bud; then as they blossom and  colours change and fade; and finally the petals dropping from the vase.

++ Take photos from different angles and focus in on details or zoom out. You can photograph the bouquet as a whole, but  also zoom in to snap individual flowers.

++ If you’ve bought a bouquet featuring lots of different kinds of flowers, then after photographing the bouquet as a whole, separate out the flowers and photograph them  individually, or as smaller posies.

5 Helpful Tips for Photographing Peonies || How to Photograph Peonies Guide on Miranda's Notebook

++ Finally, once your flowers start to fade a little, snip the heads off to use as a pretty feature in your flat lays.


5 Helpful Tips for Photographing Peonies || How to Photograph Peonies Guide on Miranda's Notebook

++ As they’re so popular, peony shots can occasionally border on the cliché. There’s nothing wrong with the familiar, but try not to just snap your bouquet next to some macarons and Love X Style X Life by Garance Dore. Instead, get creative and think of ways to add an element of fun and surprise to your images. Thinking a little more outside of the box is a skill I’m trying to develop in my own photography at the moment, and I had fun playing around with the above peony ‘ice-cream’ shot last weekend.

5 Helpful Tips for Photographing Peonies || How to Photograph Peonies Guide on Miranda's Notebook

I hope you find these tips helpful! If you’re inspired by this post to photograph some peonies, then do please let me know – I’d love to see what you come up with.

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5 Helpful Tips for Photographing Peonies || How to Photograph Peonies Guide on Miranda's Notebook

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel


Last week, I was lucky enough to celebrate the start of half-term by spending a night at The Zetter Hotel in Clerkenwell, one of my favourite areas in London. I’d never had a proper London staycation before, but after my wonderful time, I hope to have a few more! It was one of the most fun, relaxing experiences I’ve ever had in London.

Checking into The Zetter Hotel definitely felt like checking into 24 hours of fun and freedom, but without any of the hassle that usually must be got through before a holiday: no panic over passports and tickets, no drama when trains to Gatwick are  inevitably cancelled, no 5am alarm clock…etc etc. I simply hopped on the metropolitan line for 20 minutes, before getting off at Farringdon station and ambling happily towards the hotel.

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

If you’re visiting London, then Clerkenwell is a lovely location in which to base yourself. Full of history, fantastic restaurants, and independent shops, it still has an undiscovered, unspoilt air that makes it special to Londoners (scroll to the bottom for some of my suggestions as to what to do in the area).

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

Only a short walk from the station, I passed through an ancient archway to find myself at the hotel, which is situated in a very pretty courtyard, across from The Zetter Townhouse (a sister hotel, serving fantastic cocktails in a beautiful setting) and The Modern Pantry (I love their afternoon tea).

The Zetter Hotel is housed in a renovated Victorian warehouse and is beautifully designed, befitting an area that celebrates urban aesthetic (I’d just missed Clerkenwell Design Week, which ended before my stay). The hotel is also notable for its sustainable features and was given a Gold award for Green Tourism. I was amazed to learn that the hotel’s water comes from their own bore-hole under the building!

Downstairs is the stylish restaurant and wine bar, and these rather gorgeous lifts lead up to the 59 rooms:

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

Aren’t they fabulous?! Here’s a closer look at the quirky wall design:

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

After ogling the lifts, I was warmly greeted at the Reception desk (this marked the beginning of the absolutely outstanding service I received at the hotel) and told I was being checked into a rooftop deluxe room on the top floor. I was then whisked up in the elevator and shown around my room.


London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

My rooftop deluxe was absolute heaven – spacious and comfortable with floor to ceiling windows opening out onto a gigantic private balcony. I loved the soothing colour scheme and mid-century style furniture, which added such elegance to the room.

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Comfort, as well as style, is clearly carefully considered at The Zetter Hotel, and there were lots of pleasing touches, like the snazzy espresso machine (which made very good coffee), free wi-fi, fresh milk, a well stocked fridge and nibbles, REN products in the bathroom,  fluffy bathrobes and the wonderfully comfy bed. There was even a hot water bottle, complete with knitted cover, for colder nights.

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

I also appreciated the thoughtfully chosen bedside Penguin books (I adore Margery Allingham mysteries!), magazines, bottled still and sparkling water and delicious chocolate truffles. If only my own bedside table was kept readily stocked with such lovely supplies!


London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

To my mind, though, the truly spectacular feature of the room was the magnificent balcony. I made a cup of tea and sat and drank it on one of the deckchairs, enjoying the sunshine and the fantastic views of the city.

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

I had a few hours to spend before supper at the hotel,  which my lovely friend Claire was joining me for, so I passed the time happily reading on the balcony in preparation for an upcoming Tea & Tattle interview and having a few more cups of tea (room service responded instantly to my request for more milk).


London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

It felt no time at all until Claire was tapping at my door, and after showing her round my room and admiring the views together, we made our way downstairs for the complimentary wine cocktails that are one of the perks of booking a room in advance at The Zetter.

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

We both went for white wine sangrias (so refreshing!), which arrived with a serving of plump green olives, and we happily chatted away as we perused the menu, trying to decide what we fancied. I snapped a few photos of the Wine Room and Restaurant, as I loved the striking bar and plush, jewel-coloured furniture.

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

I was very impressed with the menu, which was reasonably priced and offered a delectable selection of dishes. I’d like to go back with my Mum soon, as she works very close by, and dinner at The Zetter would make a lovely post-work treat one evening, especially as it’s her birthday month!

In the end, I settled for English asparagus, crispy hen’s egg and cured ham, followed by rib-eye steak, chips and béarnaise sauce, with chocolate mousse for dessert.

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

Everything was mouthwateringly good. The asparagus was perfectly cooked, and my steak was fantastic: tender and flavourful. The chips and béarnaise sauce were dangerously more-ish too, and of course a chocolate dessert is always a winner in my book, especially when it’s so beautifully presented. The meal was excellent: classic, skilfully executed and exceedingly tasty.

We washed it all down with a carafe of white wine from their wine on tap selection, which is a super idea that means you’re offered many fantastic wines at very reasonable prices.

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

Claire very much enjoyed her supper as well, going for beetroot salad with goats curd, pine nuts and apple, followed by cod with seaweed crushed potatoes and creamed mussels, and Amalfi lemon posset with raspberry compote for dessert.

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell

I’d like to try all of those dishes on a return trip myself! It was so much fun chatting with Claire, who was filling me in on her exciting travel plans and great book recommendations. In contrast to our usual London meet ups, this time I had a 1 minute travel time back to my room after saying goodbye –  the ultimate luxury for a Londoner!


London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell

I had a fantastic night’s sleep; the pillows were incredibly soft, the room was the perfect temperature, and I was amazed by how quiet it was, considering I was sleeping in the heart of a busy city.

After my usual journaling, stretching and instagraming in the morning, I felt quite hungry, despite the impressive meal the night before. I got dressed, first delighting in the walk-in ‘raindance’ shower, before heading down to breakfast.

I went for the Zetter Full English Breakfast: eggs, toast, sausage, bacon, tomato, mushroom and black pudding, with copious amounts of tea of course. It was delicious and certainly set me up for the day!


London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell

I was quite sad to leave the hotel, but consoled myself by making plans to meet up with my friend Arthur later in the day and having a thorough stroll through Clerkenwell. I thought I’d list a few suggestions for fun places to go within the immediate area, should you fancy spending time at The Zetter Hotel yourself:

// The Cloister Garden //

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell

Opposite The Zetter Hotel is the Museum of the Order of St John, which is well worth paying a visit, especially for the courtyard garden, which is a beautiful and tranquil space.

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell

// Marby & Elm //

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell | Marby and Elm

This fun stationery shop, across the road from The Zetter, is the perfect place to go to stock up on quirky, colourful cards and notebooks, and it sells a lovely selection of candles inspired by London locations – I was particularly taken with the Hampstead Heath candle, but you could stick to your surroundings and go for the Clerkenwell Blue scent!

// St John Bread and Wine //

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell | St John Bread and Wine

One of my favourite places to go in London, St John Bread and Wine  is only a short walk from The Zetter Hotel. The St John Restaurant is fantastic too, but I generally stick to a glass of wine and the bar menu in the evening, or a cup of tea and sweet treat in the afternoon. Typically British fare is offered: the eccles cakes are famous, and I love the seed cake and vanilla custard doughnuts too.

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell | St John Bread and WineLondon Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell | St John Bread and Wine London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell | St John Bread and Wine

// The Zetter Townhouse //

London Staycation | The Zetter Townhouse | Clerkenwell

Finally, even if you’re staying at the The Zetter Hotel, it’s well worth nipping over the cobblestones to their sister hotel, The Zetter Townhouse, which has one of the prettiest front doors in London and serves fantastic cocktails in beautiful surroundings that make you feel as if you’re in a rather grand English drawing room.

+++ Rooms are available from £258 inc VAT at The Zetter Hotel. You can check availability and book here. +++

Note: my stay and meals at The Zetter Hotel were complimentary for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.