Category Archives: London

London Photo Diary | A Spring Walk in Hampstead

I’ve been feeling a strong pull towards getting outside and enjoying the fresh air as much as possible lately, so when what felt like the hottest day of the year so far dawned on Thursday, I closed my laptop and set off on a walk to Hampstead. Taking my own advice, I brought my camera and resolved to capture some of the blossom and spring blooms I encountered as I wandered around my favourite corner of London.

I’m lucky that it only takes me about 1/2 an hour to walk to Hampstead village, and it’s a particularly pretty walk too, taking me past beautiful, historic houses and banks of daffodils. I waved at the old studio flat I lived in for 4 years and took a steep, winding path towards Fenton House. The house’s beautiful garden and orchard is one of London’s best kept secrets and is always a favourite destination of mine. Although the orchard is glorious when the apple trees are blossoming, at the moment it’s a sheer delight as well, with the grass carpeted with crocuses and daffodils.

I also paid a visit to some of my favourite haunts: Ginger & White for truly delicious carrot cake and tea; Judy’s Garden Store and the secondhand bookshop on Flask Walk.

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Whereabouts have you walked recently? Have you been noticing any signs of Spring?

Fun Things To See And Do | March 2017

So far, March has definitely lived up to its reputation of coming in like a lion, with plenty of wind and rain to make one truly tired of winter. There have been the odd sunny days, though, which have served as a welcome reminder that spring is very much just around the corner. Here’s my monthly list of fun things to see and do to make the most of this month.

1/ Offer your support to other women. March 8th is International Women’s Day, which serves as a timely reminder to seek out ways to encourage the women around you. This challenge can be simple: say an encouraging word to a female colleague, or support a girl friend in a new project. If you’re feeling inspired to do more, however, then here are some excellent suggestions for how to get involved in mentoring young women.

2/ Add an item of clothing you’ve been needing for a while to your wardrobe. I bought a new pair of trousers over the weekend, and I only wish I’d got them sooner! I’d been wanting a pair of easy pull-on, cotton trousers for a while, and now I’ve found just the right pair I’m over-the-moon.

3/ Go on a blossom hunt. Clouds of pink and white blossom are starting to appear all over London. Hampstead, Notting Hill, Chelsea and Primrose Hill are especially good places to search out the prettiest trees. Snap photos as you stroll around, or bring along a pencil and sketch-pad to draw these beautiful early signs of spring.

4/ Spoil your Mum (in the UK, Mother’s Day is on the 26th March). Here are some ideas: have a Victorian afternoon tea at the V&A, go for a facial at Elemis in Debenhams, or enjoy a glass of champagne somewhere decadent, like the Connaught bar.

5/ There are some fantastic sounding shows at the Royal Academy right now. I want to see both the Russian Art and America After The Fall exhibitions.

6/ Focus on the things that make you feel revitalised and refreshed: use crisp, fresh perfumes; eat grapefruit for breakfast; splash your face with cold water; take a long walk and end a tiring day with a long, relaxing bath.

7/ Send some special snail mail. Naomi Bulger’s amazing instagram account and blog is full of the most beautiful post inspiration. I love her illustrated envelopes and incredible creativity. If you sign up to her newsletter, you get free monthly downloads of templates so you can start decorating your own envelopes.

8/ Watch Dancer with a friend. I was completely mesmerised when I saw this video featuring Sergei Polunin dancing to Hozier’s Take Me to Church, and now I can’t wait to see this documentary exploring the life of the ‘bad boy of ballet’ (talk about heartthrob material!).

9/ Have a go at writing a short story, using a particular theme, like ‘food’ or ‘home’ to spark your imagination.

10/ Pay attention to the people who take the most of your time. Are they always the people who make you feel your best? Set yourself a challenge this month to pour your time and energy only into those relationships that make you feel energised, supported and loved. You may see fewer people, but when you put effort into nourishing your very best relationships, you’re guaranteed to end the month happier.

A few more things…

Going to Rye. I’m off on the train tomorrow and just can’t wait! I’m staying at the Gallivant Hotel, which sounds blissful. I used to visit The Hamptons regularly when I lived on Long Island as a child, and this definitely sounds the next best thing. I’m channeling my inner Revenge vibe.

Taking part in the #femmemarch book challenge through my @mirandasbookcase account, as well as the Ruth read-a-long hosted by @thenobbylife.

Attending this talk in celebration of International Women’s Day at Foyles.

Celebrating a friend’s birthday on Friday.

Recording a lot of fun interviews for Tea & Tattle – can’t wait to publish the ones I have coming up!

Reading Longbourn in preparation for the next Miranda’s Notebook Book Club discussion!

How about you? What’s on your list for fun things to do this month? I’d love to hear what you’ve got planned!

 

The Simple Things | February (List #01)

The Simple Things | Flower Crown Headpiece

I felt it was time for another round-up chat, sharing some of the simple pleasures I’ve been enjoying lately. I thought it would be fun to turn this into a semi-regular feature (akin to my book round up posts, which I had originally planned to be monthly, but I think more realistically will be every other month or so). I’ve been thinking more and more lately about ways to slow down the rhythm of my days; to appreciate each moment and take joy in small things.

M A K I N G     A     F L O R A L     C R O W N

The Simple Things | Flower Crown Headpiece

My lovely friend Talitha invited me along to a floral wreath making workshop with the Flower Appreciation Society, as part of an airbnb ‘London experience.’ We all gathered for tea at the Hackney City Farm cafe before choosing some pretty blooms at Columbia Road Flower Market, and then jumped in a taxi to the flower studio to learn how to make our crowns.

I can’t imagine it will come as a shock to anyone that I’m rather partial to flowers. They’re a simple pleasure that never fail to make me happy, and I love having flowers in the home, as well as seeing them growing wild in the countryside or planted in parks and the grounds of beautiful stately homes.

Much as I appreciate everything floral, however, I hadn’t ever done a floristry workshop before, so I was very excited to learn how to make a headpiece. A florist once told me that flowers are often used in therapy, to help patients feeling anxious or depressed, but I was still surprised by the calming influence I felt as I bent my head over my crown. Everyone was very concentrated on the task at hand: carefully selecting each flower head to use and delicately taping the stems to wire. We munched chocolate and ginger biscuits, sipped tea and chatted sporadically, delighting in the abundance of gorgeous bouquets before us.

Another girl mentioned how therapeutic it was to work with flowers, and I agreed with her, but what also felt so good was to be completely focused on a single (and fun!) task; there was no where else I should be, no nagging chore at the back of my mind. I gave myself up completely to the joy of deciding whether a rose or ranunculus should come next along my wreath and felt wonderfully relaxed.

After completing my crown, I fastened it round my head, wrapped up the generous bunch of left-over flowers I was pressed to take home and waved goodbye to Talitha at the bus stop. I sauntered along the street to Haggerston station (getting some rather odd looks as passersby took in my flower-bedecked head), and reflected on what a happy morning I’d spent.

B R U N C H     W I T H     F R I E N D S

The Simple Things | Pancakes at The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant, London

I was lucky enough to get to try out the new Gate Vegetarian Restaurant breakfast and brunch menu (of course, I opted for pancakes), which was delicious (remember my lunch there?). I took a friend along with me, and it reminded me that brunch is probably my favourite way to enjoy a meal out with friends. Lunch (at least during the working week) can feel too rushed, and supper can often be overly-lengthy affairs, leaving me tired the next day.

When brunching, though, everyone enjoys lingering over the teapot; you can take pleasure in a long conversation, but still have the satisfaction of the day spread out before you, hopefully filled with more fun plans.

N E W     P J S

The Simple Things | New Pjs

I’ve been in desperate need of new pjs for a while, but hadn’t found a pair I liked. I love silky, button-down pyjamas, but wouldn’t ever want a pair that is actually silk. Apart from being horrendously expensive, they’re tricky to clean (who really has time to hand wash?!). Perhaps for one’s wedding night (although, in all honesty, that’s probably the one night I wouldn’t opt for pjs…), but apart from a special occasion, I’m happy with materials I can throw in the washing machine, at least when it comes to nightwear.

I was excited, then, when I realised Ted Baker (always a favourite of mine – the florals!) was doing an affordable collection of nightwear and lingerie for Debenhams. Luckily for me, I had a £50 Debenhams voucher to use up, so I went along the other day in search of the perfect pjs. I really loved the Ted Baker selection, but unhappily they were completely sold out in my size. Just when I was resigning myself to the ultra baggy look, I noticed this pair by Savannah Miller for Debenhams. They had my size in stock, and I pounced, completely in love with the Liberty-esque paisley print.

It’s amazing how a very simple addition to your wardrobe can add a lot of joy, but I really am quite swept away by these pjs and am already planning on packing them for pretty much every upcoming trip I’ve got planned.

G O O D     R E A D S

The Simple Things | The Good People by Hannah Kent | Pretty Books | Books Photography | Books Flat Lay

I’ve had the pleasure of reading a lot of good books lately. Pachinko (out at the end of the month in the UK) is wonderful, and I’m currently immersed in Hannah Kent’s The Good People.

I’ve also rediscovered my taste for magazines. I hadn’t read any for a while, but now I’m thoroughly enjoying The Simple Things, Harper’s Bazaar (the recent issues have just been excellent; I no longer buy Vogue etc, but Harper’s is always a treat, as there’s always interesting and thought-provoking content, alongside sumptuous images) and Lionheart Magazine.

S U S S E X     M O D E R N I S M

The Simple Things | Two Temple Place | Sussex Modernism

I popped along to Two Temple Place last week to see the Sussex Modernism exhibition, and I absolutely loved it! I’m already planning a return trip at the start of March, as there was a lot to take in, and as entry is free, I’m determined to make the most of access to this beautiful building, which is only open a few months a year.

Sussex Modernism is definitely a must see for lovers of all things Bloomsbury Group and Charleston. Highlights for me were: a beautifully painted chest by Duncan Grant; Vanessa Bell’s self-portrait; gorgeous editions of some of Virginia Woolf’s books; paintings by Peggy Angus, as well as a letter written by her to John Piper, and an Eric Ravilious print of Furlongs.

The exhibition is on until April 23rd, so if you’re in London, do go! Also, I can recommend the cafe, where I enjoyed a very nice light lunch and attractive surroundings. Oh, and don’t miss the adorable pug sign at the building’s entrance! I think it’s my favourite in London.

What’s been making you slow down and smile more lately? I’d love to know!

P.S. For weekly London recommendations, sign up to my newsletter. A postcard sharing a favourite haunt of mine will land in your inbox every Wednesday!

5 Incredibly Romantic London Meals

5 Incredibly Romantic London Meals

Written in celebration of ‘romance,’ February’s blog word of the month. 

This article is a contributor post by Claire Jones. As well as being a fantastic writer, Claire is known amongst her friends as always having exceptional food and book recommendations. I knew she’d be the perfect person to write about her most romantic London meals, and this fabulous list, from the most beautiful proposal to a perfect date night, definitely has my heart fluttering! – Miranda

The 5 Most Romantic Meals I’ve Had in London

by Claire Jones

The most personal of these romantic meals was a picnic in Kensington Gardens where my boyfriend – now husband – proposed. Picnics have always been special to us, marking several defining moments in our relationship, so it was the perfect way to pop the question in a semi-secluded area beneath a tree. London spoils us with a variety of romantic picnic spots and shops, delis, or restaurants that provide lush picnic food. We chose to go to the nearby Whole Foods for cheese, charcuterie, and pink champagne. We had brought our picnic bag from home that, unbeknown to me, carried new picnicware, our cutlery and napkins from home, and a surprise ring box. Even if the picnic is not going to be as momentous as a proposal one, it’s still a delightful way to while away a dry afternoon in London, spending quality time together.

Our engagement came in two parts: the following evening we celebrated at City Social, Jason Atherton’s Michelin starred restaurant in Tower 42. We toasted our future with quirky, imaginative cocktails while looking over the city at dusk; we moved from aperitifs to a secluded table that looked out the floor-to-ceiling windows to the Gherkin. A year later we celebrated our wedding in the private dining room, again looking out at the city lights.

A highlight of City Social is the apple tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce to share – what’s more romantic than a dessert between two?! If you don’t have a sweet tooth, or you are simply not inclined to share food, then there is also a delectable cheese trolley.

Love is in the air. There are now several restaurants in London skyscrapers that provide breathtaking views of London, but Duck & Waffle is the highest and does so twenty four hours a day. Watching the sun rise together high above the city is a special experience to have but it helps that breakfast is great too! Order individual dishes but be sure to share a portion of the signature duck & waffle, the sweet and savoury components complementing each other as all good relationships should.

Whoever said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, has never eaten in Hawksmoor… Hawksmoor’s steak is the way to everyone’s heart. Purveyors of the best steak in London, it’s not a conventionally romantic venue but it makes for a wonderful date night. I prefer the ambience of the Seven Dials restaurant but each of the Art Deco outposts offer elegance, fantastic food and drinks, plus unsurpassed levels of customer service. Hawksmoor offers sumptuous, indulgent food and a well-stocked bar for pre-dinner or post-dinner drinks.

Situated in The Berkeley, Marcus is the eponymous two Michelin starred restaurant owned by Marcus Wareing. Whether you opt for the seasonal tasting menus or a la carte, both using British ingredients, Marcus is an unforgettable meal. It is a restaurant that creates memories while serving precision cooking and an extensive wine list. The Berkeley is an impressive venue and the restaurant is highly acclaimed and deservedly so. Desserts are especially sensual and well-recommended. Marcus is very much a special occasion restaurant and one to go to when romancing or being romanced, to wow or be wowed.

Paris may be considered the city of love but London is most certainly a city of romance.

***

Claire Jones is originally from Glasgow, but now lives in London and works in publishing. You can follow her adventures in London and beyond through her fabulous instagram account. If you like adorable pictures of cats and great food and book recommendations, then Claire should definitely be on your ‘following’ list.

***

Goodness, I can’t wait to try out all of these restaurants! I completely agree with Claire that Hawksmoor is the perfect setting for a date: steak is certainly a way to my heart, and one of the best dates I’ve been on was at the Covent Garden Hawksmoor branch. And Marcus sounds the perfect setting to get swept off my feet…. I love how in the end, though, Claire’s most romantic meal was a simple picnic in a London park.

How about you? What are some of the most romantic meals you’ve ever had? Are you keen to try any of the restaurants Claire recommends?

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Fun Things | January 2017

I always enjoy writing my ‘fun things to see and do’ posts each month, as they encourage me to seek out the best of what’s available in London, as well as more general ways I can get the most enjoyment from the passing months. There are some especially good exhibitions currently on or just about to begin in London, so I foresee a lot of cultural outings at the start of the year.

1/ Go to the Dulwich Picture Gallery. It’s definitely time to renew my membership to the DPG, as 2017 looks set to be a stellar year for this beautiful gallery. There’s still time to catch the fascinating sounding Am I Rembrandt? show, which I’d like to see. Also, Bloomsbury Group lovers can rejoice at the upcoming Vanessa Bell exhibition (incredibly, the first major solo exhibition of her work), which opens the beginning of February. I’m also extremely excited for the John Singer Sargent exhibition (one of my very favourite artists, and his paintings are always even more luminescent in person) and the celebration of Tove Jansson’s The Moomins. If you know any children who love Moominland, then be sure to drop by Adventures in Moominland at the Southbank Centre too.

2/ Continuing the Bloomsbury theme, on 28th January Sussex Modernism is opening at 2 Temple Place and is a must-visit for fans of Charleston. The exhibition is free entry so there’s no excuse not to go, especially as this beautiful space is generally closed to the public.

3/ Go to the cinema. A friend and I got each other membership to the Prince Charles Cinema as a Christmas present, with a resolution to see more films together in 2017. The cinema is fortunately easy on the pocket, with members’ tickets costing as low as £1, so it’s a perfect January activity!

4/ Eat what you love. I very much enjoyed this timely article describing food writer Ruby Tandoh’s philosophy on eating for pleasure, as well as nourishment.

5/ Join a library. It’s definitely the month to curl up with a good book in the evenings, but January is generally also a time when you’re watching your pennies, so why not check out on what’s on offer at your local library, rather than buying something new? It’s also worth noting that library memberships often give you (free) access to online sources of audiobooks. I’m currently working my way through a vast list of Agatha Christie books, which I listen to as I cook or embroider.

6/ Celebrate Chinese New Year (28th January). Indulging my love of dumplings, I’m thinking of making this soup from Smitten Kitchen. I would also love to see the Magical Lantern Festival at Chiswick House & Garden.

7/ Visit Greenwich to see the raved-about Emma Hamilton exhibition at the National Maritime Museum. If you happen to be called Emma, then you can even visit for free this weekend (14-15th January)! Just bring along some proof of ID….

8/ Celebrate Burns Night at Mr Fogg’s in Mayfair. From 6pm on the 25th, guests will be greeted with bagpipes, haggis canapes, whiskey and a poetry reading in honour of Scotland’s much-loved poet, Robert Burns.

9/ Do Yoga for your face. Much as I appreciate a great moisturiser (and sun block!), I also believe that exercising the muscles in your face is as good as exercising the muscles in your body. I keep this book by the mirror in my bedroom and have started trying to incorporate some of the suggested movements into my morning skincare routine. This article has some quick and easy to do exercises too.

10/ Write your thank you cards. I managed to send some of mine off just after Christmas, but then I lost momentum and still have a few to do. As I recently reorganised my office, I realise I’m positively overflowing with pretty stationery, so there’s no excuse not to write all my thank you notes!

A Few More Things

++ Meeting a blog reader for the first time in Richmond today, as well as attending a fun skincare related event at Debenhams.

++ Cocktails with friends at Quo Vadis (my favourite Soho hangout).

++ A day trip to Cambridge. There were some fabulous £6 ticket deals available for trains to Cambridge, so I’m treating myself to an afternoon exploring a different city.

++ Spending a week in Geneva at the end of the month.

++ Having an ‘Ask Miranda’ Skype chat with Melanie.

++ Working on my current embroidery project.

++ Meeting up with some of my lovely blogger friends, Milly and Isla.

Has anything on my list resonated with you? What are you looking forward to this January?

P.S. If you love London, why not sign up for my newsletter? I send out a weekly ‘Postcard From London,’ featuring bitesize information about my favourite London discoveries, as well as a monthly roundup sharing what I’ve been doing and loving most lately. Simply fill in your email address below (or go here) and check your email to confirm your subscription.

Fun Things to See and Do | December 2016

Fun Things to See and Do in London and Beyond | December 2016 via Miranda's Notebook

I love December, and I have to say that Christmas in London is remarkably pretty, with the city going full out on sparkling lights, colourful decorations and plenty of winter markets. Here are a few ideas to make this December even more magical, in London and beyond:

1/ Colouring. I definitely recommend this as an antidote to all the general business and rushing around that December brings. I had so much fun going to an event with the fantastic Johanna Basford earlier in the week with my lovely friend (and fellow blogger) Talitha. We sat and coloured in Johanna’s beautiful Christmas colouring book and chatted, with Christmas carols playing in the background. It was bliss, and I felt a new woman after, refreshed and ready for the day ahead.

2/ Meet friends for cinnamon rolls and coffee over a lunch hour. I’ve got plans for exactly that today, and I can’t wait! It will be very hygge.

3/ Create your own Christmas tradition. Some of my favourite traditions are to buy a new Christmas book each year and to shop for one special Christmas ornament.

4/ Start to reflect on the past year and think about what went well and what you might want to change in 2017. I’m looking forward to spending part of the holidays looking over my blog analytics and forming some fresh ideas and plans for content in the New Year.

5/ Go to a Christmas Carol Service. I’ve booked tickets to attend this special concert with my Mum.

6/ Organise fun plans for January. After the excitement of Christmas, January and February can feel particularly dreary, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead and make sure you have some fun in your diary. So far, I’ve scheduled cocktails with friends, meeting up with a blog-reader and a week in Geneva. These plans have definitely made me more excited for my least favourite months of the year.

7/ See the Winterlights at Dulwich Picture Gallery. The gardens of this lovely Gallery have been completely transformed and look magical.

8/ Make the rounds of some of London’s biggest Christmas Markets at the Southbank, Leicester Square, Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland etc. The Southbank in particular is my favourite!

9/ Enjoy a special afternoon tea with your girlfriends. Here are suggestions for some of the best Christmas Afternoon Teas in London.

10/  Buy a pretty new diary and calendar. I can’t wait to start using this diary from kikki.k.

A Few More Things I’m Looking Forward To This Month…

++ Having a small gathering of friends round for mulled wine and mince pies.

++ Meeting Sophie for a festive lunch at Pidgin.

++ Recording Tea & Tattle interviews for January – there are some great ones coming up!

++ Taking it easy and having a break from social media over the holidays.

++ A day in Cambridge. I’m hoping to pay a return visit just before Christmas.

What are your plans for December? I hope you all have a thoroughly jolly festive month ahead of you.

teaandtattlebutton

 

 

London Food | Veneta, St James’s

London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook

A few weeks ago, my friend Arthur took me to lunch at the newly opened restaurant, Veneta, in St James’s. Veneta is the latest enterprise under the Salt Yard Group, and its menu is inspired by Venetian cuisine. The restaurant’s interior evokes the beautiful city too, with its watery green colour scheme, elaborate chandeliers and ironwork reminiscent of long, black gondolas.

London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook

It’s been many years since I was in Venice, but I still remember ordering my first proper fritto misto there, which was delicious. There’s nothing so obvious as fritto misto on the Veneta menu, but there is plenty of fish and seafood, as well as imaginative pasta and risotto dishes.

Arthur and I started off with some deliciously plump green olives as we perused the menu and caught up on each other’s news.

London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook

The menu is tapas style, with a suggested 2-3 plates each to share. I have to admit, I’m getting slightly bored of tapas; to me it feels like the trend has been rather over done in London. However, it is a nice way to sample different dishes, and the Veneta menu certainly has a wide-range of options, so even if you’re dining with people with certain dietary requirements, you shouldn’t find your choice too restricted. Arthur and I decided to sample a dish from the raw bar first: Cornish mackerel tartare with fennel pollen.

London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook

This dish was exquisitely done: the mackerel had a surprisingly delicate flavour (it’s quite a pungent fish when cooked!) and the light dressing was the perfect match.

I settled down to thoroughly enjoy my meal, soaking up the warmth and vibrancy of the restaurant, as it was a decidedly damp and cold day outside.

London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook

Next up was a bowl of steamed clams and cockles in a garlic, parsley, lemon and cinnamon broth, as well as wild mushroom and truffle risotto with gremolata (a chopped herb condiment made with parsley, lemon zest and garlic).

London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's NotebookLondon Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook

Both Arthur and I agreed at the end that the stand-out dish of the whole meal was the risotto. Far from the typical second-rate offering many restaurants include as a nod to vegetarian diners, this mushroom risotto was a spectacular addition to our feast. The truffle brought out the earthiness of the mushrooms, and the addition of gremolata (usually served with meats) was sheer genius. The pesto-like herb mix both lightened the dish and gave it an extra boost of flavour. Delicious!

Sadly, the least successful dish of the meal was definitely the clams. I usually enjoy cinnamon, but it was rather overpowering in this dish, and I can’t say I like it in combination with garlic and slightly briny seafood.

Our next two orders were more successful: roast duck with peverada, pickled pear and radicchio and red prawn agnolotti, shellfish brodo and oregano.

London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook

Of these two, the duck was especially my favourite. It was perfectly cooked – blushing pink in the middle and crisp on the outside. The red prawn agnoletti were delicate, but still flavourful, and we happily tucked into both plates.

Feeling rather full, we decided to share a dessert, and settled on the Frittelle (Venetian doughnuts served during the Carnival) with cinnamon cream, hot chocolate sauce and fruit compote.

London Food | Veneta St James's Review via Miranda's Notebook

The frittelle were a little dry (I think they would have been lovely filled with either the cream or the fruit compote, with the chocolate sauce for dipping), but we slathered on the toppings and still managed to polish off every one!

Overall, I very much enjoyed my lunch at Veneta, and I highly recommend ordering the mushroom risotto if you find yourself there for a meal!

Have you tried the menu at Veneta yet? What did you think of it? Do you love tapas restaurants, or do you also feel they’ve been a little over-done in the last few years?

P.S. Making pumpkin pie next week for Thanksgiving? Make sure you download my recipe!

Fun Things to See and Do | November 2016

Fun Things to See and Do November 2016

The start of a month just doesn’t feel right without a ‘fun things to see and do list.’ Here’s mine for November:

1/ Watch the first episode of the Gilmore Girls, A Year in the Life, whilst eating Thanksgiving leftovers. This is absolutely my plan for 25th November. Until then, I’ll have the trailer on replay.

2/ Celebrate Bonfire Night. I had originally planned to go to Lewes, East Sussex, with a group of friends to see their famous 5th November celebrations, but disrupted trains and rail replacement buses put us off (eh, we’re not as young as we once were…). Instead, I may go to one of the firework displays in London, or I may just have a cosy night in and cook something easy and warming like a one-pot sausage bake (I admit, I much prefer firework displays in the warmth of summer!).

3/ Get some hair inspiration by visiting the Hair by Sam McKnight exhibition at Somerset House.

4/ Diwali celebrations continue until November 3rd, so why not be inspired to visit the magnificent Neasden Temple in North London? The temple’s beautiful stone and marble was hand-carved in India before being built in London, and it’s certainly a sight worth beholding.

5/ Try recipes from Ina Garten’s just-released cookbook, Cooking for Jeffrey. I received my copy in the post over the weekend and have been reading it avidly ever since. I love the many personal anecdotes Ina shares about her 40+ year marriage with Jeffrey (they are my ultimate #relationshipgoals couple), as well as the growth of her business and adventures in cooking. The recipes look as mouth-watering as ever too; I can’t wait to cook some. If you haven’t got this book for yourself already, put it on your Christmas list!

6/ I like to reread Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club around Armistice Day.

7/ From November 11th, the Southbank Winter Festival returns. It’s the perfect place for a romantic stroll along the river and is guaranteed to get you into the holiday spirit. Also, catch the first of London’s Christmas Lights.

8/ Get excited for the release of the KENZO X H&M collection on 3rd November. I’ve fallen for all of the stunning, brightly printed tops and dresses.

9/ Treat yourself to an express service at the newly opened Elizabeth Arden Red Door experience at Debenhams. I went to the opening event last week and got to try out their 15 minute oxygen beauty blast (£20, redeemable against products). I had skin supporting minerals applied to my face through a cool mist which felt wonderfully refreshing at the end of a long day and left me glowing. I want to take my mum along soon as I know she’ll love it too, and we all need a little pampering when the cold weather truly sets in.

10/ Plan an intimate meal at a favourite restaurant with your best friends. The lead up to Christmas can get frenzied, and I like to make sure I take the time in November to plan some memorable, fun occasions with my closest friends.

// A few other things I’m looking forward to this month //

++ The launch of my podcast, Tea & Tattle. It’s coming very soon…!!! I’m hosting some exciting interviews this month that will be featured on the podcast, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

++ Plans to meet some lovely girl friends for cocktails. I’m trying to decide which bar to go to – decisions, decisions!

++ The launch party of my friend Milly’s beautiful new Cornwall Guide.

++ Fun blog events, including a press breakfast for a fabulous sounding pop-up shop in Lamb’s Conduit Street.

++ Planning a trip. I had hoped to go to Geneva this month, but as I’ve got a lot of commitments in London at the moment, I may have to put it off. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy planning my next visit there, or perhaps I’ll be spontaneous and end up going somewhere else!

What are your plans for November? I’d love to hear them!

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London Food | The Gate, Islington

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

I was put off vegetarianism / veganism at a very young age, when my family was on holiday in Vermont, and we stopped off unsuspectingly at what we soon found out was a vegan restaurant. This was a good 20 years ago (goodness, that makes me feel old), when veganism was far from the relatively mainstream diet it is today, and vegetarian/vegan cuisine has certainly improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. I still remember the plate of strange tasting, cold noodles, served with a drizzle of olive oil and nothing else that so unimpressed my 10 year old self (I’d spent the past 5 years in California after all; sushi was my favourite food).

Ever since then, I’ve tended to view vegetarian/vegan restaurants slightly suspiciously; however, when I had the opportunity to try out The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant in Islington, I leapt at the chance, as I’d read so many rave reviews of it in the past. First opened in 1989, The Gate has long been topping the lists of the best vegetarian restaurants in London, and I was soon to find out why!

Earlier in the week, I took my friend John along with me for what I thought would be a fairly quick lunch, but in fact our meal turned into one of the most leisurely and delicious I’ve had for quite some time. It was wonderful, and a particularly great half-term treat to be able to spend so long over a mid-day meal.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, LondonThe Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

The Gate Restaurant’s original branch is in Hammersmith, but as well as the Islington location, it’s opening a Marylebone branch in December, which is super news for me as Marylebone Village is always a favourite area of mine. I chose to try the Islington restaurant, as I noticed how nearby it is to Sadler’s Wells, and I always find it so useful to know of good dining options close to a favourite theatre. The Islington branch is a large, attractive space, with plenty of natural light streaming in from from a wall of windows.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

John arrived, and we decided to order a carafe of wine to share between us (I always appreciate restaurants that offer you the choice of a carafe, as it’s definitely a more lunch-friendly option, and I generally wouldn’t want more than a carafe to share between two people anyway). Our waitress helpfully suggested a wine she thought we would particularly enjoy – the Picpoul de Pinet, Mirande – but also said she would bring it for us to taste, as well as a Sauvignon Blanc, to see which we preferred. She was right – her recommendation was by far our favourite and proved to be the perfect accompaniment to our meal.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

Apart from the food, what really stood out for me at The Gate was the exceptionally good service. All the staff were so friendly, knowledgable and attentive, which added a great deal to the pleasurable experience of our meal. The quality of service can sometimes be a little hit-and-miss in London, so it was really refreshing to be in a restaurant where the staff hit just the right note.

Feeling our stomachs beginning to rumble, we perused the menu. I should mention that all dishes are clearly marked as being vegetarian or vegan, as well as gluten free. Some vegan dishes can be made vegetarian, and vice-versa, and there are options to have nuts or not in a dish, depending on your preference. The restaurant is also child friendly, with a menu offering kid friendly options like potato and cheddar croquettes and the pasta of the day.

We decided to start with the mezze platter: an inviting dish to share between two people, offering a taster of the a la carte starters. The mezze selection takes about 15 minutes to prepare (and is marked as such on the menu), so our waitress suggested we enjoy some bread, tapenade and olives whilst we waited.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

The homemade warm, crusty bread was perfect for dipping in the olive oil and tapenade mix (we both love tapenade so particularly enjoyed this over the more usual plain bread and butter offering). The olives were tasty as well, and we nibbled happily away, catching up on each other’s news and exchanging recommendations for TV shows and books we were enjoying (I’m currently gripped by The Missing – anyone else?!). Our platter arrived, looking stunning, and John got his first proper taste of what it’s like to dine out with a blogger: lots of camera snapping and me exclaiming ‘oh! I must post this as an instagram story!’

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

We tried: miso glazed aubergine (my favourite!), three lentil pate terrine, hazelnut and honey crusted goat cheese with beetroot carpaccio, couscous fritters with a Moroccan style carrot puree and a three onion tart. Everything tasted so fresh and flavourful and looked so pretty on the plate (I always think food should be pleasing to the eye, as well as the stomach!). The miso glazed aubergine was the standout for me: the mix of sweet and salty was just right, and the scattering of nuts and sesame on the top gave a pleasing contrast in texture to the meltingly soft aubergine.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

I loved sharing the platter: it was such a fun way to start the meal, and it was nice to get such a different variety of mezze from the more typical mix of dips and salads. John pronounced everything as exceedingly good too, and we managed to polish off so much we began to worry we’d have enough appetite for our mains!

I liked the sound of the butternut rotolo: layered potatoes stuffed with butternut squash, Italian sundried tomato and basil, served alongside celeriac puree, apple and celery salad, sweet potato crisps and a creamy sorrel sauce.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

It was a wonderful autumnal dish, and despite my fears, I managed to polish off every bite! The sweet potato crisps were delicious – I insisted John try some too – and I loved the butternut rotolo, which somehow managed to not be too starchy. The celeriac puree was perfectly seasoned, and the salad provided a welcome freshness and bite. When done well, I love how vegetarian food tastes luxurious and delicious, and yet doesn’t leave you feeling too heavy and sleepy at the end of a meal.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

John went for tortillas filled with black bean, sweetcorn, soft onion and coriander in a lightly spiced tomato sauce, with guacamole, green tomato and sweet pepper salsa. He had the non-vegan version, opting for a topping of sour cream. A confirmed meat eater, he still thoroughly enjoyed this dish, as he did all the food, and neither of us missed the presence of meat at all.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

For sides, we had some mixed steamed greens (I always love getting as many greens into a meal as possible!), and our waitress told us the chunky herb polenta chips with garlic aioli were a must-try. Again, her recommendation was spot-on: the chips were beautifully crispy, with just the right amount of salt, and were exceedingly more-ish. We both loved them!

Of course, when the dessert menu appeared, I found I couldn’t resist. I love anything with almond in it, so settled on the apple and almond tart, with apple and calvados sorbet.

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

John, as I could have predicted, ordered the sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel ice-cream (I have yet to know a man who doesn’t say yes to this pudding whenever it’s on a menu!). We sampled each dessert and pronounced them both delicious!

The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant | Islington, London

John and I agreed that we’d both had the most lovely lunch, and if you find yourself in Islington, Hammersmith or (from December!) Marylebone, then I definitely suggest planning a meal at The Gate.

I would equally recommend the restaurant for a quick, working lunch break, as well as more leisurely meal in the day or evening. There is a shorter lunch menu that is offered, which lists extremely reasonable dishes (£7-£8.50) that are ideal for a healthy, satisfying mid-day meal if you work in the area and fancy popping out for your lunch break. The Islington branch is where I’ll be booking for a pre or post theatre supper next time I’ve got tickets to see a show at Sadler’s Wells or The Almeida. I would also suggest The Gate Vegetarian Restaurants as ideal places to book if you’re planning a meal with friends who you know have specific dietary requirements. With a flexible menu and wonderful service, you’ll all be guaranteed to enjoy a lovely meal (even the die-hard meat eaters amongst you!).

Have you been to any of The Gate Vegetarian Restaurants? Which dish would you most like to try from the ones we ordered?

** This meal was complimentary, but as always, my opinions (and those of my friends) are my own and theirs. It is my policy to share only the best on Miranda’s Notebook! 

** Want to read more of my restaurant reviews? Check them out here.

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Feeling Like a Henry James Heroine

Feeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, Hampstead

Over the weekend, I spent the most marvellous Saturday afternoon in Hampstead. Whenever you’re lucky enough to get a sunny weekend in London, it’s absolutely necessary to take full advantage and to get out of the house. I’ve been reading the marvellous Signe Johansen’s new book, How to Hygge, over the past few days, and in it she discusses the importance of being in nature as much as possible. Her descriptions of picking lily of the valley in the woods near her childhood house in Oslo filled me with wonder and determined me to get outside more. I fear I’ve yet to work my way up to embracing the outdoors in all weathers, and I hardly feel a wander on Hampstead Heath in heels and a long, floaty dress is quite the way to bring out my inner Viking, but baby steps…

I’m wearing
Maxi Dress | Laura Ashley c/o
Clutch Bag | Anthropologie (a lovely birthday gift! Thanks Cat!)
Ankle Boots (similar) | L.K. Bennett

Feeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, Hampstead Feeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, Hampstead Feeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, Hampstead Feeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, Hampstead Feeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, Hampstead Feeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, Hampstead Feeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, HampsteadFeeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, Hampstead

I visited Kenwood House, a beautiful historic house on the Heath, famed for its stunning architecture and wonderful collection of artwork (boasting paintings by Vermeer, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, and Gainsborough, to name a few). If you’ve never been, then do put it on your list next time you’re in North London: entry is free, you’re allowed to take photos and there’s a very nice tearoom. If you’re a fan of the movie Notting Hill, then you’ll be pleased to know that Kenwood House was where they filmed the Henry James scene. I felt rather like a Henry James heroine myself, as I swept through the house and grounds in my long, Victoriana inspired dress.

Feeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, Hampstead Feeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, Hampstead Feeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, Hampstead Feeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, Hampstead Feeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, Hampstead

The library was, predictably, my favourite room in the house. I think you’ll find it easy to see why. Aren’t those ceilings breath-taking? I think we stayed in this room a good 20 minutes, just enjoying being in such a lovely space (and me of course getting a little snap-happy with the camera).

Feeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, Hampstead Feeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, Hampstead Feeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, HampsteadFeeling Like a Henry James Heroine at Kenwood House, Hampstead

I was thrilled to be featured on the Laura Ashley blog yesterday: take a look at the post to read why I love this maxi dress so much and for more pics!

Have you ever been to Kenwood House? If not, have I inspired you to make a trip?

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