Tag Archives: dining_out

London Restaurants | Ikoyi, St James’s Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

What was the last great meal you enjoyed?

Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

Last week, I joined a group of bloggers at the Artist Residence hotel in London for tea and croissants in the morning, before being bundled into Land Rovers and whisked to the new Artist Residence sister hotel in Oxfordshire, for lunch in the garden and a Dutch flower workshop with Bloom and Wild.

It was the perfect day for an outing, with bright blue skies and a pleasant breeze. The car journey seemed to take no time at all as I chatted with Milly (you may remember her from my Cornwall interview). We arrived just before lunch and were offered a glass of rosé and the chance to explore the hotel, which only opened in May.

I was charmed by the decor, especially the floral House of Hackney wallpaper that was such a striking feature. Some lovely ladies from Bloom and Wild, who were giving us a flower workshop in the afternoon, had set up a gorgeous display of blooms that made my flower loving heart very happy.

Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, OxfordshireBloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

I also got to peep into one of the bedrooms, which was gorgeous and looked extremely comfortable. I would have enjoyed lingering in the tub in the light, airy bathroom and writing postcards at the vintage desk.

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

After having a look around and taking a million photos between us, we headed out into the garden for lunch, our appetites whetted by the fantastic sounding menu that had been emailed round the day before.

Al Fresco Dining

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

Doesn’t that look a delightful table? I felt summer had truly arrived as I took my seat and was offered some more rosé. The outdoor dining area overlooked the hotel’s lawn and vegetable garden, and I was delighted to learn that many of the vegetables and salad leaves served for our lunch were freshly picked from the garden.

The hotel had cooked up a fabulous feast for us. To start, we were given sharing platters of crispy whitebait with garlic sauce; mozzarella, pea, broad bean and mint salad; heritage tomato salad with ewes curd and olives; and scotch eggs served alongside homemade brown sauce.

The main course was lamb wellington, with buttered Cornish potatoes, a green salad (from the garden!), barbecued radishes (also from the garden) and violet artichokes. I was beginning to seriously doubt whether I could manage dessert (strawberries with toasted marshmallows, lime curd and strawberry sorbet), but when it arrived it looked so delicious I couldn’t resist.

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

The food was all absolutely incredible, and it was glorious to enjoy it outside on a lovely day in excellent company.

Dutch Flower Workshop

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

After our meal, we went back into the cool, shady interior of the hotel for our Dutch flower painting inspired workshop. I was particularly excited for this workshop, as I love Dutch floral still life pictures, and there was a glorious selection of flowers awaiting us to help feed our inspiration.

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, OxfordshireBloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

Rowan, pictured above, talked us through the process of arranging our flowers, making it look incredibly easy as she finished her lovely floral display in about 10 minutes flat.

I settled down with a cup of chamomile tea and set to work, choosing a selection of blooms I liked best, and trying to create a loose, tumbling arrangement, featuring the striking colours that I often admire in my favourite Dutch floral artworks.

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

I sat next to the charming Briony from A Girl A Style, and we bonded over our mutual love for books, flowers and pretty teacups.

After a hair-raising moment when my display threatened to topple over, and I had to pop in a few dahlias to balance it out, I pronounced mine finished.

Bloom and Wild Dutch Flower Workshop at Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

I don’t think I’ll be setting up as a florist any time soon, but I was still pleased with my result.

On being told it was time to leave, we were kindly showered with leftover blooms to take back home with us (I got some funny looks later on the tube as I maneuvered my way along platforms, weighted down by my spoils!).

It really was the most perfect English summer day, and I’m now contemplating buying some florist foam so I can have a go at some more flower arranging – practice makes perfect, as they say!

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

A LONDON STAYCATION

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

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

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

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

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

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

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

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

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

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

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

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

ROOFTOP DELUXE ROOM

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

ROOFTOP VIEWS

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

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

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

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

COCKTAILS AND SUPPER

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

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

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel

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

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

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

BREAKFAST

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell

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

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

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

EXPLORING CLERKENWELL

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell

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

// The Cloister Garden //

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell

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

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

// Marby & Elm //

London Staycation | The Zetter Hotel Clerkenwell | Marby and Elm

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

// St John Bread and Wine //

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

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

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

// The Zetter Townhouse //

London Staycation | The Zetter Townhouse | Clerkenwell

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

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

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

UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant

UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore RestaurantThis post is part of a travel series on Miranda’s Notebook detailing my holiday in Penzance, Cornwall. Throughout the week, I’ll be sharing all about where we stayed and what we did, as well as restaurant recommendations and a general guide to the area, so do keep checking back for updates!

We certainly did a lot of good eating whilst in Penzance, but there is one meal in particular that stands out as a highlight of our trip. I admit that The Shore will likely fail to please if you’re not a fan of fish, but for those of us who enjoy nothing better than a taste of the sea, The Shore is a must-visit on your Penzance list.

Bruce Rennie runs the restaurant, which is essentially a one-man operation; a labour of love that pays homage to the bountiful offerings of the Cornish coast. Having previously worked in the prestigious, two-star Michelin restaurant Martin Wishart in Edinburgh, Rennie has been long-settled in Cornwall and delights in producing a regularly changing small menu that showcases freshly caught, local fish and produce (a lot of which is foraged by Rennie himself).

UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant

We had a booking for supper on our first night in Cornwall, and ambled along the twisting streets from our B&B to the restaurant, enjoying the golden glow of the evening light.

On arriving at the restaurant, we were greeted warmly and shown to our table, where some thickly cut slices of homemade bread and a generous helping of Cornish butter appeared at our table, alongside the bottle of prosecco we ordered. The Shore has a fuss-free, pleasant interior, with painted white walls and a blue ceiling, light wooden furniture and silver light fixtures and wall displays reminiscent of coral. It reminded me of the beachside restaurants I grew up with on Long Island, and I instantly felt at home.

UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant

Sipping my fizz, I turned my mind to the menu and began the hugely enjoyable task of choosing what I’d like. I adore fish, so it was a real treat to sample the local catch, and I had a hard time deciding which dishes to choose. Did I fancy pollack or brill? Red mullet or hake? Or possibly a spider crab broth?

In the end, I settled on Cured Pollack with Apple, Dill and Wasabi, and Mum chose Brill with Cafe de Paris Hollandaise and Asparagus.

UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant

Both dishes were incredible: everything on my plate was fresh and vibrant, the delicacy of the fish balanced perfectly against the sweet crispness of the apple and slight heat of wasabi. My mum pronounced her hollandaise sauce utterly blissful alongside expertly cooked brill.

For our mains, I’d chosen Sole (a favourite of mine) with Artichoke and Asparagus Nage, Orzo Pasta and Tarragon. Mum went for Cod with Potato Terrine, Cockles, Celeriac and Sprouting Broccoli.

UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant

My choice tasted like spring on a plate: the tarragon in the broth brought a wonderful zest to the dish, and the vegetables were cooked just right. I loved the mix of radish, asparagus, carrot and artichoke, and of course the fish was beautifully done, standing up well to the heady mix of flavours. I tried a little of my Mum’s plate too, and agreed it was superb.

By this point, it was getting dark, and the candles flickered in their shell-like vessels as we took a little break before choosing dessert. It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that I can rarely resist a chocolate-based pudding, so eventually I put in my request for Valrhona Manjari Chocolate Delice with Passion Fruit Sorbet and Honeycomb. Mum was less predictable with her order of Banana Parfait with Hazelnuts, Lime and and Coffee.

UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant UK Travel, Penzance | The Shore Restaurant

My dessert was a rich, deep, velvet chocolate that was extremely satisfying, and I loved my Mum’s playful concoction too, which was just as delicious as it was pretty.

As we were finishing our meal, the Chef himself came out to greet us and chat about his menu choices and love for Cornwall. It’s clear that Bruce Rennie is extremely passionate about what he does, and puts a great deal of thought and care into every detail of his restaurant, including the exact shade of blue paint, which he told us took him months to decide. His strong vision and desire for the very best shines through his cooking, and I can’t wait for whenever we can return to Penzance and to The Shore. As my Mum said, the food alone is worth the train journey from London!

+++ The Shore restaurant is open for lunch Friday-Saturday, 12.30-13.30 and for supper Tuesday-Saturday, 18.30 – 21.00. It’s strongly advised that you make a booking and give notice of any dietary requirements or allergies in advance of your meal. +++

Note: our meal at The Shore was complimentary for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.

UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room

UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room

This post is the first in a travel series on Miranda’s Notebook detailing my holiday in Penzance, Cornwall. Over the next week, I’ll be sharing all about where we stayed and what we did, as well as restaurant recommendations and a general guide to the area, so do keep checking back for updates!

First Class Tickets to Penzance

I never would have thought that a train journey could feel like a holiday, but then I’d never travelled First Class by Great Western Railways before. I was so excited to be headed to Cornwall with my Mum, who happily had some annual leave and so was able to accept my invitation to travel down with me. It had been a while since we’d had a proper trip out of London just the two of us, and as soon as we wheeled our luggage into Great Western Railway’s first class lounge at Paddington Station, I knew that this would be a holiday neither of us would forget.

UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room

After a 5am start (we were keen to arrive in Penzance in time for lunch), I wasn’t feeling at my brightest, but after helping myself to the complimentary pastries, fruit and tea on offer in the waiting lounge and sinking into a comfy leather armchair, I began to perk up. This, I reflected, was a rather splendid contrast to my typical dash for the train, preceded by a coffee-to-go from Starbucks.

UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room

The train journey felt just as luxurious, and proved the absolute ideal situation for me to work. If only I could write all blog posts in a comfy chair, with room to spread out my papers all around me, beautiful scenery flying past, and a trolley wheeled by every 45 minutes or so, dispensing free tea, coffee and delicious fruit cake (there were other nice snacks, but I was particularly fond of the fruit cake). I’m sure I’d never procrastinate again! I certainly flew through the work I had to get done, and by the time the train entered Cornwall, I was able to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

It felt like no time at all before we were pulling into Penzance, and (despite the fruit cake), I was looking forward to the first stop on our agenda: brunch at The Front Room.

The Front Room

UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room

The Front Room is a charming cafe a mere 3 minute walk from Penzance train station, so a great place to know about if you’re hungry on arrival! It gets very busy over the lunch hour, but fortunately there are lots of nooks and crannies, as well as a pretty little garden, offering plenty of seating.

Katie, one of the owners, gave us a warm welcome when we arrived and was a fabulous source of knowledge on places to explore in Penzance, filling me in on which bookshops, independent shops and pubs she thought I’d enjoy in the area. I scribbled down all her suggestions, and we managed to make it to all of them in the time we were there!

Eating at The Front Room feels like you’re having tea or lunch in someone’s home, as the service is so friendly and the decor so cosy. It’s a very inviting space for children too  – there’s even a playpen tucked under the stairs, full of toys for your toddlers to enjoy as you eat your lunch in peace! Let me take you on a tour:

UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room

For brunch, Mum opted for the Full Cornish Veggie (toast, eggs, beans, avocado, veggie sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes and hashbrowns), and I went for the traditional Full Cornish (sausage, bacon, black pudding, eggs, beans, toast, hashbrowns, tomatoes and mushrooms). I do think the sausages in Cornwall taste particularly good! Mum had coffee, and I – predictably – ordered a pot of tea (I must be 80% tea).

UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room UK Travel, Penzance | Brunch at The Front Room

We both thoroughly enjoyed our brunch, which was all cooked to perfection and was just what we needed to set us up for an afternoon exploring Penzance. I rather regretfully decided I was too full to try one of the delicious looking cakes placed invitingly in the window and contented myself with pouring some more tea. Mum is the coffee expert (I rarely drink it), and she said her cup was wonderful. Katie told us all the coffee she uses is by Origin, which is renowned for its exceptional brews.

I’d discovered that EE phone network coverage doesn’t operate in Penzance (apparently you have to be on O2), but happily the Front Room had free wi-fi, so I was able to look up how to get to our B&B.

I’ll be sharing the details of our charming B&B overlooking the sea tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Have you ever travelled first class by train before? Did you enjoy it? Are you as partial to a Full English (or full Cornish!) as I am?!

Great Western Railway First Class journeys from Padding to Penzance start from as little as £56. See more details and book tickets here (make sure to book ahead to get the best deals!). 

The Front Room serves wholesome breakfast, brunch, light lunch dishes, cake and cream teas Monday-Saturday 8am-5pm and Sunday 10am-2pm.

Note: our train tickets and brunch at The Front Room were complimentary, but – as always – the opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

UK Travel | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 2)

UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook

I have been having so much fun travelling around the UK lately. I’ve just returned from a few days in Penzance, Cornwall, but before I get started on those travel posts, I wanted to share my final day in York with you. We had a brilliant time, and I discovered some fantastic places that I wanted to tell you about.

York Museum Gardens

We started the morning walking up from the station, admiring the gorgeous blossom and daffodils along the way, to the York Museum Gardens, which are set in the surroundings of the picturesque ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey. It was a superb park to visit in the spring, where blossom peeked through the ruined archways. It was so warm that I didn’t need a coat or scarf and could just enjoy my floaty blue dress (another wonderful gift from TOAST, which has already become one of my travel staples, as it’s so comfy and doesn’t crease!).

To my delight, there was a birds of prey show on in the gardens, where you could pay a few pounds to hold any of their birds. I felt a little intimidated by the goshawks (despite being rather fascinated by them ever since reading H is for Hawk), so I picked a snowy little owl that reminded me of Harry Potter’s Hedwig. She was a delight to hold, and I even got to stroke her incredibly soft feathers.

UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's NotebookUK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's NotebookUK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's NotebookUK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's NotebookUK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook

York Minster

After enjoying our time in the park, we ambled our way towards York Minster and had a thorough rummage through the interesting shops (especially the secondhand bookshop!) and stalls that are clustered near the Minster. The main branch of Bettys  – my favourite Yorkshire tea shop and well worth a visit if you’ve never been – is also very close to York Minster, so we took the opportunity to pick up a few goodies for the train journey back to London.

UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's NotebookUK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's NotebookUK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook

York’s Independent Shops and Cafes

By this point, it was definitely time for some lunch, so we wound our way to Fossgate / Walmgate, which are parts of a lovely stretch of road (divided by a pretty little bridge) full of interesting independent shops, bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, being Sunday (remember my point about opening hours outside London?!), most places were closed, but whenever I’m next in York, I’m definitely stopping by The Hairy Fig, a fantastic looking deli, and Paper Pod, which looked like it had beautiful stationery supplies.

UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook

We did pop into Spring, which was happily open and is reported to have the best coffee in York. My Mum loves her coffee, and she pronounced her cup delicious!

A Fantastic Wine Bar

Feeling in the mood for something more substantial than a hot drink, though, we continued down the street until we stumbled on a charming little wine bar, Cave du Cochon, which had a very tempting sounding BBQ and glass of wine deal on for lunch. It doesn’t take much to persuade me into a wine bar, and the delicious aroma of a smoky barbecue wafting into the street, coupled with the promise of a cool, crisp glass of wine, had me bounding through the door.

UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook

As it was such a nice day, we took advantage of the bar’s pretty outside terrace, which we had almost to ourselves. Cave du Cochon has a sister restaurant, Le Cochon Aveugle, which is said to serve delicious French food (another place on my list for when I return!), and this means that great attention to detail and pride in serving delicious food has spilt over to Cave du Cochon, which served up some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had. A perfectly toasted bun was covered in BBQ-ed beef, with toppings of pickled carrots and cucumber and a dollop of well-seasoned crème fraîche.

The wine was excellent too; we were guided by the hugely informative and helpful barman to choose a lovely French white, and he also gave us a little lesson on natural, organic and biodynamic wines, letting us taste a couple, which was fascinating. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we contemplated lingering in the sun over a second glass, but I wanted to explore a little more, so we headed out to take a walk along the city walls instead.

Fantastic Views and Terrific Brownies

UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook

The ancient walls are incredibly narrow, so progress is a little slow, as you repeatedly stand aside to let people pass, but that means there’s all the more time to admire the gorgeous view of the city spread out before you. I especially enjoyed getting a glimpse of York Minster towering above the rooftops.

After our walk, we realised we had about an hour to spare before catching our train, so we decided to have a cup of tea and one of the famous brownies from Brew and Brownie.

UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook UK Travel | York Travel Guide Part 2 via Miranda's Notebook

We both went for the triple chocolate brownie, which was just as good as it sounds, and set us up nicely for the journey home!

Have you been to any of the places in York that I enjoyed? Are you planning a trip to the city soon?

P.S. Read my other posts about our York holiday here and here.

T&T 24 | Brontë Aurell and Scandi Kitchen

Bronte Aurell and Scandi Kitchen

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle Episode here or on iTunes.

There’s a change to the Tea & Tattle routine today, as because Sophie and I have had conflicting schedules lately (she’s been in the States and travelling around the UK, and I’ve been juggling a lot on my plate lately too), we couldn’t quite make a date work for recording. Happily, though, Sophie will be back on the podcast for our first episode in May, and I’ve got a brilliant guest for you today: Brontë Aurell of Scandi Kitchen.

Originally from Denmark, Brontë now lives in London, and she founded Scandi Kitchen, a charming cafe on Great Titchfield street, with her husband several years ago. Since then Scandi Kitchen has gone from strength to strength, garnering a large base of devoted customers. I love to drop by for a cheeky post-gym serving of meatballs, or one of Brontë’s delicious cinnamon buns.

Brontë has also written some brilliant cookbooks – The Scandi Kitchen and Fika and Hygge – as well as the recently published, The Essence of Hygge, which I have yet to read, but I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy! I own both of Brontë’s cookbooks and am a huge fan of her tasty recipes. In fact, as a little thanks for all the support we have had for Tea & Tattle so far (we’re coming up to our 6 month anniversary in May!), I’ve decided to give away a signed copy of Fika and Hygge to a Tea & Tattle listener (the giveaway is open to international listeners too).

***To enter the giveaway, simply put a comment on my instagram picture and tag a friend who you think would enjoy Tea & Tattle podcast too.*** 

I so enjoyed this chat with Brontë, where we discussed how Brontë’s childhood influenced her love of food, as well as how she balances her busy professional and family lives and some of the biggest challenges she and her husband have faced in running a small business in London (including giving birth on the day Scandi Kitchen opened!). I was also fascinated to hear Brontë explain what hygge means to her and how she finds moments of hygge in London.

Listen for an interesting conversation on  Scandinavian culture, the difference between hygge and lagom, some great baking advice and much more. 

T&T 23 | All About Wine With Amelia Singer

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle Podcast Episode here or on iTunes.

This Tuesday, I’m joined by the utterly delightful Amelia Singer, a wine educator and expert. You may recognise Amelia as a host on ITV’s The Wine Show and also from her videos on Jamie Oliver’s Drinks Tube. Amelia runs her online website and event business, offering a range of events, wine tastings and insights into the wine industry. I can’t wait to book one of Amelia’s Mews House Musings supper clubs, which she hosts in her own home in Notting Hill.

Amelia Singer and fellow co-hosts of The Wine Show. Photo credit: The Wine Show.

I’m a big fan of Amelia’s fun, accessible approach to wine, and I had a wonderful time chatting to her for this episode. Our talk ranged from what it’s like to be a woman in a fairly male-dominated industry, to Amelia’s favourite book and wine pairings.

We also discussed the best way to serve champagne (and surprising food that goes particularly well with bubbles – who knew fish & chips would be such a hit?!), as well as great wine bars in London and what drink to order on a first date. Amelia is such an incredible source of knowledge on everything wine related – I could have spoken to her for hours!

Middlemarch by George Eliot (one of Amelia’s favourite books)

Listen for a fun conversation on women in the wine industry, book and wine pairings, what to drink on a first date and so much more. 

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Review

You know those days when you’re craving a steak? Or a proper burger? Possibly a milkshake too? Well, I’ve got just the place for you. Dirty Bones in Shoreditch is a mere 2 minute walk from Shoreditch High Street station and is a great option for when you’re in the mood for some American comfort food.

I met a friend for lunch there last week, and our meal brought back memories of my childhood growing up in California and New York. There are many American classics listed on the menu, from hot wings to proper mac and cheese, but with an updated twist that elevates these traditional comfort foods to a fantastic dining experience.

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Review

The restaurant itself feels very ‘London’ to me, with its muted tones and piles of vintage books (and even a vintage typewriter) scattered about. I arrived rather early and snapped a few shots before tables filled up. Sunlight streamed through the windows, and I ordered a chai tea and some freshly pressed apple juice, taking a seat on one of the plush velvet sofas as I waited for my friend.

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review

I barely had time to pull my book out of my bag before he arrived, and we got down to the serious business of deciding what to eat, ordering a glass of prosecco to help the decision process.

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review

Dirty Bones’s menu is seriously tempting, and I was torn between a burger or steak. In the end I decided steak, but I think I’ll have to go back to try the burger soon, as it sounded amazing as well. To start things off though, I ordered salt + pepper squid (I can never resist this dish when I see it on a menu, as it’s one of my favourites, and it’s also a good test of a restaurant, as there’s nothing worse than rubbery squid!), and my friend ordered the chicken hot wings.

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review

I really loved the presentation of these starters, served in little enamel dishes, from which we could pile our plates. I’m definitely using this idea for serving snacks and canapes at home! My squid was beautifully tender, and – a little to my surprise, as I don’t normally like spicy dishes –  I loved the chilli and chipotle aioli drizzled generously on top. The sauce provided a great kick of flavour without being overpowering. My friend enjoyed the squid a lot too, but he was fairly busy demolishing the chicken wings, which I tasted as well, and thought were very good.

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review

Next up – the mains! I’d gone for the flat iron steak, and my friend plumped for the Shoreditch Signature dish: lamb cutlets served with a tangy jalapeño sauce. We’d chosen one side dish each too: I threw any thought of calorie counting to the wind and put my order in for cheesy truffle fries (yum), with my friend showing a little more restraint and opting for grilled aubergine layered with parmesan and a tomato, garlic and basil sauce.

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review

I hadn’t realised that what is stated on the menu really is all you get, so my steak wasn’t served with even a garnish of salad, and in retrospect, I would recommend ordering 3 side dishes between two people and making sure one of them is a leafy salad, or perhaps a ‘crunchy slaw.’ I must say though, that steak and chips is always a favourite combination of mine, and my steak was cooked to perfection: succulent, tender and pink. The cheesy truffle fries are layered with a  cheese sauce, cheddar, aged parmesan and white truffle oil and are just the kind of thing you fantasise about if you’ve been on a no-carbs diet for too long ( in my case, about a day).

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review

I was so busy polishing off my steak and airing my thoughts on The Lord of the Rings (my friend is currently reading it and isn’t too impressed, and we were both agreeing the book could do with some serious editing), that I forgot to taste my friend’s cutlets, but he pronounced them exceedingly good. We both shared our side dishes, though. Personally, I find it hard to beat anything involving carbs, cheese and truffle oil, but the aubergine was very yummy too.

Our decadence didn’t end there, as next we were presented with the dessert menu. I loved the playful choices that were a throwback to childhood: waffles, doughnuts, cookies and ice-cream. My friend went with the peanut butter cookie cup, and I chose the milk & cookie – milk gelato with a deliciously chocolatey biscuit.

London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review London Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant ReviewLondon Food | Dirty Bones, Shoreditch | Miranda's Notebook Restautant Review

The milk gelato was incredible – it had a delicacy to it that paired perfectly with the richness of the chocolate, but was also exceedingly good all by itself. My friend’s choice was also excellent  – perfect for peanut butter lovers!

We both thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Dirty Bones, and I definitely recommend dropping by next time you’re in Shoreditch. There are also branches in Kensington and Carnaby, and one about to open in Soho (which I think is great, as Dirty Bones has the perfect Dean Street vibe to it!). This is a terrific restaurant to go to with an old friend – someone you can split cheesy fries and ice-cream and cookies with without feeling self-conscious. I also think it would provide great atmosphere for a birthday gathering, and it’s worth remembering there’s a great cocktail hour and often live music in the evenings!

Do you like the look of the Dirty Bones menu? What are your favourite American comfort food dishes?

Note: our meal was complimentary, but all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and those of my friend. 

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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