Category Archives: London

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.

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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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The Miranda’s Notebook Newsletter!

Miranda's Notebook Newsletter Launch

I’m so excited to announce the launch of the Miranda’s Notebook Weekly Newsletter!

I’ve been working hard this week designing the type of content I’ll provide Miranda’s Notebook newsletter subscribers. I want to give original, exclusive content that I hope will be a pleasure to have landing in your inboxes on a weekly basis. Subscribers to the newsletter will receive:

++ A weekly ‘could-do’ list, filled with my suggestions of what to See, Read, Eat, Watch and Shop each week. Through these letters, I’m looking forward to sharing recommendations that I don’t always get to write about on the blog, from TV series I’m hooked on, to a brilliant novel I’ve just put down and my latest fashion find (like the dress I recently bought for my 30th Birthday celebrations in London).

++ Postcards from London (and beyond). Whenever I go somewhere especially nice or interesting, but don’t always feel I have quite enough material for a full blog post, I’ll be sending out some virtual postcards, rather like the one below, to keep you updated with my latest recommendations.

Postcards from London | Miranda's Notebook Newsletter

++ Downloadable resources. Subscribers to my newsletter will have access to free resources I’m currently creating, such as my favourite places to have Afternoon Tea in London and a collection of my Best Loved Recipes.

++ Latest announcements. Get on the list to be the first to know about my latest launches and events. You’ll get the inside scoop about when Tea & Tattle is going live, as well as further news about the Online Book Club I’ll be launching later in the winter.

++ And more! You know I love to plan new things for this online space all the time, and I can promise I’ll be working hard to think of ways I can make the newsletter more engaging.

The first ‘could-do’ list will be sent out tomorrow (Saturday, 15th October), so make sure to sign up quickly!

Fill in your details to sign up below:

Thank you so much for your support, as always!

Fun Things to See and Do | October 2016

Fun Things to See and Do | October 2016

This post marks a year since the first of my ‘Fun Things to See and Do’ articles. I’ve so enjoyed thinking of pleasurable activities each month, and I do hope you enjoy these posts as well! Here’s my list for October (my very favourite month, and not just because I was born in it!):

1/ Attend the Daunt Books Autumn Festival later this week (6-7th October). As you know, Daunt Books is one of my very favourite book shops in London, and I’m so pleased they are now hosting an Autumn Book Festival. The Spring Festival is fantastic (I’ve tried to go every year since it first began), and I’m very sorry I’ll be missing the first Autumn one, as I’ll be in Geneva. Please, someone go and tell me all about it! If you’re in a particularly bookish mood, then you may also want to drop by the London Literature Festival at South Bank.

2/ Book in for a facial. I always find October-December an exceptionally busy time of year, and remembering to pamper yourself a little is a good way to stay sane and keep a youthful glow! I really like Clarins Skin Spa for treatments.

3/ Try out a new bar during London Cocktail Week (3-9th October). I’m always surprised when LCW rolls around again (where does the year go?!), and as usual it looks like there’s a good selection of bars participating, so round up some friends and prepare to have fun!

4/ Invite friends round for a low-key Sunday roast. I recently bought Diana Henry’s latest cookbook, Simple, and I was very much taken with her description of an ideal Sunday roast as involving minimal fuss (only 2 side dishes!), but still a lot of flavour and elegance. It’s inspired me to try such a Sunday lunch at home myself sometime soon.

5/ Take a trip to the countryside. One of my all-time favourite blog posts is when I wrote about my day trip to explore Sissinghurst Castle Gardens last October. It was the most perfect autumnal day, and I so enjoyed spending it in such beautiful, tranquil surroundings.

6/ Embrace the  fika and hygge craze by finding the best Scandi baked goods in London. I haven’t been to Scandi Kitchen yet, but since getting the marvellous book, Fika and Hygge, by the lady behind the Scandi Kitchen cafe, Bronte Aurell, I’m determined to try it out asap (later today, even!).

7/ Treat yourself to some pretty candles. I love getting cosy in the evenings at this time of year, and a lighted candle always makes me feel instantly more relaxed. Heal’s has a really nice selection, and as I’ll be in the area, I think I’ll pop by today.

8/ Start the season of giving a little early and make someone you care about a gift basket, just because. The hamper could be really simple (dry pancake mix, a jar of maple syrup, some fresh blueberries, arranged in a pretty bowl with a tea-towel and magazine for a Sunday morning treat, or even just a bottle of wine and a selection of cheese, crackers and grapes), but would still make someone’s day.

9/ Admire Rodin’s exquisite sculptures at the Rodin and Dance exhibition that opens at the Courtauld Gallery later this month.

10/ Revitalise your living space. During the autumn and winter, I spend much more time at home, and it’s fun to add some extra touches that make my flat more inviting. Arranging brightly coloured berries in a vase in the fireplace, adding a new cushion to the sofa and finally getting all my pictures hung are on my list. If you’re looking for a great interior design blog for some inspiration, then I highly recommend Little Big Bell. Geraldine’s house looks so amazing, and I fully empathise with her love for colour!

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

++ My birthday! My 30th birthday is on Friday, and I’ll be celebrating it in Geneva with family which will be lovely. I’ve also got plans with friends in London later in the month: a birthday afternoon tea at The Modern Pantry and cocktails at Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings. I can’t wait!

++ Speaking at the Women in TES (Times Educational Supplement) group. I feel very honoured to have been asked to speak about my experience teaching and blogging (and balancing both) at this group next week. It’ll be my first time public speaking in this way, so I’m both nervous and excited!

++ Blog events. There’s another line-up of fun sounding blog events this month, including an event at the British Library I think sounds excellent, and the launch of an Elizabeth Arden Flagship Counter at Debenhams is bound to be great.

++ Half-term. What teacher doesn’t look forward to half-term?!

++ Eating plenty of pumpkin pie. I’m always happy I have my birthday to call in as an excuse whenever I want pie (which is often) this month.

And Most Especially…

Recording my first podcast episodes for Tea and Tattle! We’re currently picking our theme tune, so it’s all starting to feel very real. Thank you everyone who is signing up for our Newsletter already. I’m so excited to share more with you soon!

What are your fun plans for October? Do you enjoy this time of year as much as I do?

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London Food | Date Night Suggestion

London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho

If you’re looking for a fun place for your next date night, then I’ve got just the spot for you. Duck and Rice is a pub and dining room that serves some truly stellar Chinese food in Soho. Famed for founding Wagamama and Hakkasan, Alan Yau has struck gold again with his latest London eatery. In a box-shaped building with food stalls jostling the pavements outside the front door, Yau has created what no-one knew London was missing: a Chinese gastropub, and as incongruous as the combination might seem, it definitely works.

London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, SohoLondon Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho

A week or so ago, I took my friend Arthur along for lunch, as we’ve shared a love for gossiping over crispy duck since our university days at SOAS. Fun as it is for lunch, though, I think Duck and Rice would be an especially good setting for a low-key date night (and have filed it away as such under my London restaurant recommendations).

The interior of the restaurant is sure to impress: downstairs is more pub like, with gleaming tanks of beer in the entrance, a sweeping bar and lots of cosy nooks.

London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho

Duck and Rice offers a terrific selection of beers and wines, as well as some delicious sounding gin & tonics and even beer cocktails (beer negroni, anyone?). I’m not much of an ale drinker, I have to admit, so I was happy with my glass of wine. I really was impressed with the wine list, which offered a wide range of choice, from very reasonable (starting at £2.60 for a small glass), to more decadent options. The tea list got Arthur’s stamp of approval (he was President of the Tea Society at SOAS, after all), and we ordered a pot of tea to share between us, which was generously refilled throughout the meal.

For our meal, we decided to go for a selection of dishes to share, starting with salt and pepper squid, prawn dumplings, vegetarian lettuce leaf wraps and spring rolls. Crispy duck, accompanied by handmade pancakes and all the trimmings, arrived too, and our waiter shredded it in front of us. The duck was superb: perfectly moist with crispy skin, and it has been a long time since I had such delicious dim sum. The squid was excellently tender, and we thoroughly enjoyed every dish, polishing off every last morsel.

London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, SohoLondon Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho(Thanks for being my hand model, Arthur!)

We were seated at a table in the restaurant proper upstairs, which boasts another magnificent bar and beautiful interiors. I loved the blue and white decor with touches of gold. It would be lovely to sit out on the upstairs balcony on a warm evening, watching the heaving crowds of Soho from above.

London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho London Food | Date Night Suggestion: Duck and Rice, Soho

The restaurant, by the way, wasn’t at all empty over the lunch hour (it was packed), but by the time we’d finished eating at a leisurely place, it had emptied out a lot upstairs so I was able to get some clear shots. Heading back outside, we decided to walk off some of the excellent meal by winding our way through the streets to Holborn for iced coffee (sadly we were too full for any cake) at Fleet River Bakery. The perfect finish to a lovely afternoon!

Have you eaten at Duck and Rice? What are your favourite suggestions for a date night in London?

**This post was done in collaboration with citizenMag, and for another take on the same story, you can read their review of Duck and Rice. Of course, as always, all opinions (and those of my friends I bring along!) are unbiased and theirs and my own. 

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London Food | Theo’s Simple Italian

London Food | Theo's Simple Italian

A couple weekends ago, I was lucky enough to be invited along to the Hotel Indigo in Earl’s Court for a pasta-making masterclass by Theo Randall and to try out the new Italian Brunch menu he has designed for his Theo’s Simple Italian restaurant at the hotel. This four course bunch menu is available from Saturday 24th September for £35 a head (and includes a glass of prosecco on arrival). I suggest booking pronto, as the food was incredible, and it was the most enjoyable tapas style sharing spread that I’ve had in a long time.

I was very excited to attend this event, as not only is Theo Randall an amazing chef (he was head chef at The River Cafe for over 15 years), but I had also been able to ask some other bloggers to join me. I contacted the lovely ladies I met in Paris and was looking forward to a little reunion!

London Restaurant Review | Best Italian Brunch

I’ve been to a few events at the Hotel Indigo before, and I always love returning. It’s a really gorgeous space; somewhere equally nice for a pot of tea, lunch or a cocktail in the evening. If I’m ever at a loose end and have time to kill when I’m in Earl’s Court, then I will inevitably find myself loitering over tea (and something carb-laden) at the hotel. There are plenty of cosy nooks:

London Food | Theo's Simple Italian

As well as light, airy dining spaces:

London Food | Theo's Simple Italian London Food | Theo's Simple Italian

Yes, it’s definitely always a pleasure to pop into this hotel! My arrival on this occasion was made even more joyful, as I was immediately handed a glass of the most delicious peach bellini. On my first sip, I felt all the cares of the week slip away, and I settled down to enjoy a fabulous start to the weekend.

London Food | Theo's Simple Italian

As well as the lovely ladies I’d met in Paris, there were several other bloggers at the event, and it was a lot of fun to meet everyone and discover some new-to-me blogs. After chatting for a bit, we all gathered round to watch Theo demonstrate his recipe for fresh ricotta and spinach ravioli.

London Food | Theo's Simple Italian

Theo had a brilliantly down-to-earth manner and was charming to everyone, giving some great tips on how best to cook pasta. I’ve already started incorporating his advice into my cooking and have been very pleased with the results! According to Theo, you should always undercook hard pasta by 2-3 minutes less than directed on the packet. Rather than draining the pasta over a colander, remove it from the water with tongs or a slotted spoon, adding it straight to your pan of sauce. Add a ladleful or two of the water that boiled the pasta to the sauce and stir through for a few more minutes. Your resulting pasta will have nicely absorbed the sauce and be perfectly cooked.

London Food | Theo's Simple ItalianLondon Food | Theo's Simple Italian

Theo was also kind enough to give his recipe for the fresh pasta dough he used for the ravioli. I couldn’t find the note I made of it, but I tracked down a recipe of his that’s very similar here. Now I just need a pasta machine!

After seeing one of the pasta dishes we’d soon be served prepared in front of us, our appetites were definitely whetted for the Italian feast ahead. It was certainly a good job we were hungry…to kick things off, enormous platters of antipasti, focaccia and bruschetta arrived, along with some white wine.

London Food | Theo's Simple Italian London Food | Theo's Simple ItalianLondon Food | Theo's Simple Italian

I absolutely love this kind of spread, which is ideal for sharing, and we all tucked in, dipping our focaccia into bowls of olive oil, piling marinated artichokes, prosciutto di Parma and buffalo mozzarella onto our plates and exclaiming over the sweetness of the perfectly ripe tomatoes.

Next came bowlfuls of pasta so tasty that I felt if I closed my eyes I could imagine myself twirling spaghetti round my fork outside a restaurant in Rome. Very Eat Pray Love style. The pastas served were the spinach and ricotta ravioli we’d seen Theo making, dished up with a sage and butter sauce, as well as a mouth-meltingly good pappardelle con ragu di manzo (fresh pasta with slow cooked beef in Chianti and San Marzano tomatoes) and seafood linguine.

London Food | Theo's Simple ItalianLondon Food | Theo's Simple ItalianLondon Food | Theo's Simple Italian

Next up, we were served fish, pork and frittata, with red wine to accompany the pork. Theo’s passion for using top quality ingredients to create simple, authentic and flavourful Italian dishes really shines in this menu. Every plate was a beautiful example of a classic dish created with expert care and attention.

London Food | Theo's Simple ItalianLondon Food | Theo's Simple Italian London Food | Theo's Simple Italian London Food | Theo's Simple Italian

Finally, dessert arrived: a platter of tiramisu, Amalfi lemon tart and ricotta cheesecake with pears marinated in Marsala and vanilla. I am going back to Theo’s Simple Italian for the ricotta cheesecake alone. My favourite Italian restaurant on Long Island served the most delicious ricotta cheesecake I’d ever tasted (Mum and I sometimes used to stop off on my way to ballet class, just so I could have a slice of that cake!), and I’ve been searching for one just as good ever since we moved away 15 years ago. Now, I’ve finally found the equivalent (if not even a tiny bit better – the pears really add a lot), and I’m taking my Mum as soon as possible so she can try it too.

London Food | Theo's Simple Italian

Feeling exceptionally full, I bemoaned the fact that I had to head off to the gym to do a weights session (not the pleasantest thing I’ve ever done, let me assure you), so I waved goodbye to the others and headed to the tube. It had been such a fun afternoon, and I really can’t recommend Theo’s Simple Italian enough. I don’t always enjoy sharing menus, but this one really is fantastic, and I like the way you can choose which Primi and Secondi dishes you would prefer. Importantly, the serving sizes are definitely plentiful too so there’s no danger of feeling hungry!

Are you keen to try Theo’s Simple Italian yourself? What are your favourite Italian restaurants in London?

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