Winter is on the way

November already. This year has gone by so quickly.  I’m listening to the rain fall heavily against the windows and the heating is on full – I hope this isn’t a sign of what winter has in store for us.

Thankfully the bad weather only turned up an hour ago as prior to that we had a beautiful autumnal day. Our weekend has been productive and fun.  Das did a DIY plumbing course yesterday, which he enjoyed and learnt some good tips. In the evening we met at Bar Douro.  So a bit of background to this, when we were in Porto in June we went to the Churchills cellar and met Max, the owners son (the owner being John Graham, from Grahams port which he sold before starting Churchills,  the name coming from his wife’s maiden name… ) He told us about opening a place in London and we’ve been keeping an eye out since. I joined the mailing list so was informed of the soft opening this weekend. Well we went along for 5pm only to find them all getting ready for the evening but closed to customers. Well luckily Max recognised me from being up at the cellar, so said we could come in and have a drink. It was so lovely being the only customers – the place is only small but very cosy with extra friendly staff and once the wine cellar is opened there will be a huge array of wines and ports to choose from. Very pleased we had the chance to try it.

Sunday morning saw Das heading our for a run and me making granola. I was lucky enough to have a meal at Eleven Madison Park in New York. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had and at the end of the meal you are given a glass container with granola in it. It’s the most delicious granola ever and I found a recipe for it here and although not exactly the same it isn’t too far off. I also add almond slivers, sultanas and leave out the sour cherries. Today I added dried blueberries, cranberries, mulberries and golden berries and it was the best ever!

Once Das was home we headed into town and down the affluent New Bond Street to Sothebys as they are selling David Bowie’s art collection and are exhibiting it to the public. We were just interested in the art but some people were clearly planning on bidding when the items go on sale. Bowie had very eclectic taste in art and a lot of it was bright and colourful and alongside pictures were pieces of furniture, lamps and ceramics. 

LV’S window display
Jimmy Choo’s amazing window display

Das needed a new winter coat so off to Oxford Street where they were setting up for the Christmas lights to be switched on. The trip was successful and Das found a coat so we could then head off to Pho for a delicious Vietnamese lunch.

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From Balham to Shaftesbury Ave

London always has so much to offer and lately we’ve been trying hard to make the most of it. 

So a couple of weekends back we firstly tried a new (well new to us) bar then restaurant in Balham to catch up with friends. The bar is on the high street and is called Hagen & Hyde and was actually very cool. Friendly staff, plenty of drink choice, not too crowded (especially being a Friday night). We then headed to Bedford Hill and tried out a very friendly, Italian run, Italian restaurant called Caminata.  The food was gorgeous, atmosphere warm and cosy and the wine flowed freely. It was a great evening and I can highly recommend both places.

Saturday was another outing. First stop in the late afternoon was Talli Joe’s, a fun cocktail bar and eatery that does Indian Street food snacks and deliciously different cocktails.  We very much enjoyed both. For dinner we’d planned on Shuang Shuang, a place where you chose your broth then add sauces and noodles and finally from a conveyor belt you add your protein and veg. Given that reservations aren’t accepted we weren’t surprised there was a 20 minute wait so we headed off to our favourite Japanese spot, Taro. The owner recognised us as lately we’ve been there quite a bit so he said ‘no menu?’ – we didn’t need it as we knew exactly what we wanted! As usual I went for the vegetarian bento box. It is just soooooo good. Also tried the Asahi Black which was surprisingly good.

And finally it was a quick dash up to the London Palladium near Oxford circus tube for our final event ‘Alan Cumming sings sappy songs’. The name really doesn’t do the show justice. Yes he does sing some sappy songs however it is more than just a musical concert. He chats and tells stories of his life in musical theatre and as an actor, sings the odd mash up, tells a funny tale then a sad one… he is so comfortable in front of an audience that although I’m sure it is extremely well rehearsed, it didn’t in anyway way come across forced or false. He has a fabulous voice and I’d certainly pay to see him the next time he’s on stage.

So thanks again London for providing us with a brilliant weekend!

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Hagen & Hyde
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Hagen & Hyde
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London has some gorgeous buildings
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Talli Joe's
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Talli Joe's
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Alan Cumming is a little hard to see

Tooting just keeps getting better

I’m sure everyone is totally sick of hearing about Tooting.  But I just love it.  I’ve lived here since September 2000 so celebrate 16 years in the area.  And what better way with a weekend of wrestling and Tootopia 2016.

At the start of the month Das, myself and another couple met in Tooting and started with lunch at Mesa.  We’ve not been there for some time so it was nice to return and to enjoy a delicious meal.  The food was a good as I remember it.  Then after that it was off to watch some cage wrestling run by BEW – British Empire Wrestling.  I was totally sceptical about this but ended up having a great time.  Wow, even though the wrestling is ‘fake’, they certainly take a beating – and given we were so close you can really feel (and hear!) every hit they take.

Then this weekend just gone it was Tootopia weekend.  I wrote a blog about this last year, so this link takes you to that post and explains what it’s all about – but really it’s just a celebration of all that is good in the area.

However before I get to Tootopia, let’s go to the Friday night as we had a lovely evening in town.  First stop was Opium, a really cool cocktail bar in the centre of china town.  Not our first time here and a really chilled place to enjoy a drink or two.  And then on to the Curzon Soho – a fab cinema (that’s currently in danger of closing down, like it’s sister venue Curzon Mayfair).  What a super cool place to watch a movie – we could buy a bottle of prosecco and enjoy that whilst watching the movie, with plenty of leg room and comfy chairs.  So what were we seeing?  Hunt for the Wilderpeople – a fantastic kiwi movie with Sam Neill.  It was so awesome!  The scenery was spectacular, the acting incredible, the storyline fabulous.  Go!  Then after the movie we wandered along the back streets to Pic Circus to get to Brewer St – I forgot how much of a buzz London has on a Friday night, and that whole area around there has totally changed – there were restaurants and bars with bifolding doors flung open, laughter floating out and smiles on everyone’s faces.  So cool.  Anyway, back to Taro, our favourite Japanese café for a brilliant veggie bento box.  We left having eaten way too much.

So Saturday saw us heading to Graveney and Meadow, their garden bar transformed in to a street food area.  We got there around 1230 and it was PACKED!  A small craft market was also housed indoors (I bought some cool earrings and Das bought us a slice of vegan choc cake made by a member of the WI).  We bought a beer and just waited in the sun until a table became free.  It didn’t take long and we shared a table with some friendly guys and settled in to enjoy a host of Beavertown beers and a delicious tofu bahn mi (Vietnamese baguette which is a name that doesn’t give it justice as it was so full of flavour).  It started to get really busy with people standing inbetween the tables so slightly uncomfortable so we then headed off to Unwined, a wine bar – stopping at New Look for a cheap scarf as the evening had turned chilly.  Tooting Market was buzzing!  Unwined and We Brought Beer were crowded so we headed to the end of the market and The Secret Bar, a tiny little place that was cosy and warm and just the ticket.  We sat in here for a couple of hours, before Das did a reccie to see if Franco Manca was free – massive queue.  Also there were going to play True Romance in the market, but couldn’t get it working so decided to show Pulp Fiction, but being only 8pm and with lots of children still around, after 10mins they decided it might not be child friendly so stopped it!  The organisers told the DJ just to do his thing!  Well we had True Romance stored on the Sky Box (I’d never seen it) so we went home to make our own dinner and watch the movie.  Great day!

Sunday we continued with the Tootopia theme by heading to the Grenada – the old awesome cinema that is now a bingo hall (better than just being left to decay – it has Grade I listing).  I’d seen it last year but as Das had been away he’d missed out.  He was blown away, as much as I was the first time I’d been in.  Also this time it was even better as the bingo hadn’t started so we had free reign to wander around and also, as a treat, someone had come in from Pinner to hoist up the old Wurlitzer from under the stage floor.  Apparently it’s a famous Wurlitzer, it’s very cool!  After that we needed brunch so back to Graveney and Meadow for their special brunch menu – sadly though they had counted on so many people so they weren’t taking any food orders – 20mins to get a coffee!  So off to Sainsburys to buy sourdough bread, avocados, tomatoes and mushrooms to make our own brunch at home 🙂 Yum.

Tooting you just keep on getting better!

How we rock a pub crawl in Tooting

We start at Chennai Dosa with a gorgeous Indian buffet, plus masala dosa’s and steaming poori’s.
We have our first drink at the Wheatsheaf – a lovely pub that recently went through a big renovation. 
We meet friends at Tooting Broadway jumping on a bus for a short 3 stop journey to By The Horns, a small brewery that this year celebrates its 5 year anniversary.  And that’s where we stay for a few hours sampling plenty of delicious beers.
We decide it’s time to move on so another bus trip back to a Tooting Broadway and in to Tooting Market. With a brand new Franco Manca right at the heart of the market we stop for very tasty sourdough pizzas. Fantastic staff, fantastic food.
So didn’t I say this was a pub crawl?  We move to We Bought Beer – a tiny craft beer shop where unfortunately one of their fridges was on the blink – yes it was a deliciously hot day!! So a quick beer there then on to The Castle which has the most fantastic outdoor space that was fantastically full! However nice comfy couches inside invited us to sit down…
What next? Time to sit outside and enjoy the amazing weather and that was done at the Graveney and Meadow – no beers on tap though, too hot!  I’ve been to some hot countries and never heard that happening – we don’t deal with extreme weather very well here….
The pub crawl ended at Sainsburys for drinks and snacks to take back to our house – with everyone but me rocking away till 4am! I went to bed at 1am.
And that’s how it’s done Tooting style ☺

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Enjoying what London has to offer

I’ve been a bit useless at getting my posts up lately. Not sure where the time goes.  Anyway wanted to highlight a couple of highlights from the last few days.

Firstly, Mayfair – specifically the area off Piccadilly, opposite Green Park. Turn down White Horse Street to find it. It’s a little sanctuary of bars and dining, a lot of it alfresco. I’d been here years ago and don’t remember it being this good! It was with a girls night with work colleagues and we had a fab meal at Al Sultan to start – Lebanese cuisine.  Yum. And then on to Kitty Fisher’s to sit outside (yes it was warm enough! ) to enjoy a bottle of bubbly. Lots of fun!

On Saturday it was Das and my cultural day. So we started with a visit to ‘Painter’s Paintings’ a really brilliant exhibition at the National Gallery. It was interesting to see what paintings the likes of Degas, Matisse, Van Dyk had bought or traded their own work for.  And whether what they owned had influence over what they painted. It was beautifully curated.

And a trip to town of course means choosing somewhere for lunch. I recommended an old favourite that I first went to 16 years ago – Taro. It’s a great little Japanese eatery on Brewer Street. The food was as fabulous as ever, my veggie bento box so good I had to eat it all even though I was stuffed!

Looking forward to the next cultural day out – next weekends is a vegan beerfest!

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Instead of bread you get veggies at Al Sultan!
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View from Kitty Fisher's
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View from Kitty Fisher's
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Delicious meal at Taro

Cuisine in a carriage

So you’d think that having to take the tube twice a day I’d do all I can to avoid it when it’s not necessary to use…

Well no, not when you get the chance to dine in a carriage.  Our friends invited us months ago and we eagerly accepted the invite.  There were no tables of four left so we’d be dining at a communal table but little did we know the that this would be what made the evening!

We were going to meet near Liverpool Street station, but with our friends jobs keeping get them at work, Das and I had a drink with Das’s boss at Blackfriars and then caught the overground to St James’ Street, E17. We first stopped at a pub called 56 St James’ where we were warmly welcomed and also met someone who used to work at an old workplace and recognised our faces! What a small world it is. Anyway once  we were all together we walked the short distance to the Pump House Museum, where our carriage awaited us. We had a glass of bubbles on entry and then sat down to enjoy a fabulous evening. Our table of 8 was made up of another couple and 2 friends – we all got on really well and thoroughly enjoyed both the company and food. They catered for Das and I perfectly with a delicious menu, better than a lot of restaurants take on vegan cuisine.  We left in high spirits and stopped at the pub again for ‘one (well two) for the road’ another very warm welcome.

Excellent evening.  Here is the link to book if it takes your fancy.

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Lazy Sunday afternoons

This weekend just gone, Das’s parents arrived in the UK, staying with us for one week.  We went out to Heathrow to pick them up. I love arrivals so much more than departures. It’s a happy place, the tears people shed are of joy for seeing friends and family, not sadness because loved ones are leaving. So I really liked that as people came through a young boy was playing, very beautifully I must add, a cello.

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On Sunday we woke to a lovely sunny day so decided to make the most of it by taking a trip down to southbank.  We had a lovely time, enjoying street food at Kerb, the market place filled with various choices, mainly Indian due to an Indian festival being on.  We had a delish mung dhal dosa with some bhal puri and das also tracked down a guy who had been on TV, he sold amazing snacks.  Chan wanted to see the Globe, so we walked in that direction – encountering a South American festival, the lovely Gabriels Wharf and lots of street theatre.  A fun day.

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