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64 posts categorized "London calling"

08 September 2006

Shopping Notting Hill - Part 1

I thought we’d start our little trip round Notting Hill on the south side of Westbourne Grove, the beautiful street which winds through the heart of the area. It used to be full of antique shops and galleries, but now, while some of these remain, it has been overtaken by some very chi-chi shops indeed, including big designer brands such as Joseph, Mulberry, and Ted Baker.

However there are still some absolute gems to be found.

The first place to show you is Tavola - the Italian deli which is top chef Alastair Little’s (scroll down for biog) latest venture. Alastair runs a cookery school in Italy and clearly spends a lot of time out there sourcing wonderful products, though he can also often be seen in the deli preparing fabulous pre-cooked food to take away. It’s the deli I visit least as it’s furthest from my apartment, but, being half-Italian, the one I think I love most. The staff scrub up quite nicely too....

Just along from Tavola is the Tea Palace, another newish venture - a large and beautiful room dedicated to the great British tradition of afternoon tea (though you can get a light lunch there as well).

It feels like such a treat to go there - your cakes arrive on silver stands, the table linen is thick and luxurious and I love the wallpaper covered with cake doilies. The homemade crumpets with butter and honey are stratospherically good. The range of teas on the menu is quite breathtaking and are all for sale in elegant purple tea caddies, as well as a lot of other teamaking paraphernalia. The only downside is that they don’t take reservations, so sometimes it’s really difficult to get a table.


The final stop on our trip today is the Diptyque shop, which requires no introduction except to say that it’s scented candle heaven and they always have lovely window displays.

06 September 2006


I thought that regular readers might like an update on the temporary summer pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery - which this year basically comprises a round polycarbonate structure with a white balloon forming the roof.

To be honest I was a little disappointed when I saw the finished article. The initial artist's impression had suggested an ethereal transparent balloon which would, I think have been a lot more amazing than the opaque white which has been used in the final building.

From some perspectives it just looks rather ordinary - as ordinary as a white balloon in the middle of a London park can look. Occasionally though, as you catch glimpses of it through the trees, it looks like the aliens have landed, and from close up it does have a real sense of silent majesty and grandeur.

The Minx and I were most impressed by the 'furniture' inside. The pavilion functions as a cafe' by day and the 'tables' and 'chairs' are just very dense foam blocks - perfect for the Minx to climb all over and looking rather like an abstract art installation.

01 September 2006

Commenter of the Week - Atelier 455

Go and say hello to the lovely Joanna at Atelier 455. Her blog is a treasure trove of design ideas with a vintage twist and she also sells her framed vintage ephemera through her Etsy shop. The rest of the time she is a freelance web consultant, who can be contacted here.

Example of Joanna's work from her Etsy shop

I've been particularly enjoying a series of blog posts she has written recently about Marylebone High Street and its truly wonderful shops. Last year I took myself down there to do my Christmas shopping and managed to do everything in a single afternoon which was gobsmackingly amazing. And it wasn't too crowded either. If ever we launch an offline version of mirrormirror then Marylebone High Street would be the perfect place for the flagship store.

Before I go to Seattle I think I'll depress myself entirely by doing a similar series on Notting Hill shops - watch this space.

29 August 2006


This year we foreswore the banging sound systems and took the Minx to see the Carnival parade. And yes, I do need to set up a Flickr account.

06 August 2006


Or the Minx attends her first music festival.

Saturday saw a glorious summer's day in London, so we hooked up with a bunch of friends and headed for Fruitstock in Regent's Park.

Fruitstock is a free festival organised every year by the genius people who make Innocent smoothies. It was incredibly well-organised and friendly, and particularly welcoming of children, with lots of activies including a play area for toddlers and buggy park. So nice to do something which wasn't specifically kiddie-oriented but where children were positively encouraged rather than tolerated.

So we drank Pimms, and danced and listened to Norman Jay and Arrested Development and the Minx got grubbier than one would have thought possible and stayed up well past her bedtime as the sun set over Regent's Park.

If you want to read an inspiring business story, read this about how Innocent started up. Their marketing is incredible - everything from their logo, their packaging, and their vans (dressed up as cows) to their website copy and their TV advertising is different, compelling and fits perfectly with their healthy, funky, trendy hippyish brand.

I have no idea how much it cost them to invite the whole of London to a free party, but from what I saw yesterday an awful lot of brand goodwill was being generated.

26 July 2006

E&O (OR reasons I will be devastated to leave Notting Hill - part II)

Was childishly excited yesterday. Not only had I secured an evening pass to go out for dinner with a girlfriend, but I'd managed to get a last-minute 8.30 pm cancellation at E&O.

Now, ever since it opened in 2002, E&O has been phenomenally busy and getting a table there at a time when a sensible person might be feeling hungry is well-nigh impossible, even if you only live three minutes round the corner as I do.

E&O is a 'see and be seen' sort of trendy West London media place - the sort of place you have to pretend to be slightly disdainful of whereas in reality you really want to join in.

And yes, it is full to bursting with beautiful people (particularly beautiful men dining in pairs), the decor (though not really my taste) is coolly minimalist, featuring lots of black wooden slats, and the cocktails are New York excellent. However I suspect the real reason why it has been so consistently popular is that the pan-Asian food is beautifully presented, reasonably priced for the area, healthy enough for the thinnest supermodel to tuck into and uniformly delicious.

My friend and I shared the edamame, steamed prawn and chive dumplings and the famous chili-salt squid from the dim sum menu - all superb - followed by the mixed vegetable tempura, duck and watermelon salad and peppered tuna sashimi. Everything was perfectly cooked and the flavours crisp and clean and perfectly combined. We finished our meal with a selection of sorbets - mixed berry, melon and coconut.

I hadn't seen my friend for over a year, so we had a good old gossip and left feeling relaxed and beautiful - and you can't say fairer than that about a restaurant.

22 July 2006

Commenter of the Week - Lottie

Photo by Lottie

This week's top banana is Lottie - she of the fabulously cool ancestor and the beautifully-written blog about life in London.

From what I can gather she lives close to proper, grown-up London, historic London - the London of monuments and landmarks, palaces and skyscrapers, bridges and tunnels - and the Thames, the real Thames of docks and embankments, not the Thames of mudflats and rowers as it is near here. This is the London I used to work in until I started working from home, had a baby and my landscape shrank.

Our Lottie is, moreover, an ace photographer. I love the way she plays with light and captures her river in all its different moods and incarnations. Her amazing Flickr album is already making me nostalgic and I haven't even moved yet.

Check it out now because, come October, it will be damp with my tears and the pages will be stuck together.

Photos by Lottie

17 July 2006

Reasons I will be devastated to leave Notting Hill - part I

Yesterday the Minx and I were making our way along Portobello Road on our way to feed the ducks in the park, when we came across a car with a band playing on the roof.

Soon a crowd started to gather.

And one of the shopkeepers brought out a tambourine.

The stuff they were playing had a really cool summery vibe which somehow reminded me a bit of the Avalanches, so we bought a CD (which is really rather good), and then moved on since we had urgent business with ducks. So we didn't see whether it all turned into the Kids from Fame or not.

Thanks to Summer Holiday for making us smile and thanks to Notting Hill for its essential nuttiness.

24 April 2006


KEW GARDENS - April 2006

Saturday ushered in the most glorious Spring day here in London, so we abandoned all plans and set off for Kew Gardens in search of bluebells. Which, because Spring was so late this year, were nowhere to be seen.

So we had to make do with magnolias instead.

05 April 2006


Please forgive the blurry image - it's an artist's impression scanned in from last night's Evening Standard - but was enough to make me very excited. This is the new temporary pavilion which is being built this summer at the Serpentine Gallery. By Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, it is made from translucent material and can be lit from within at night. The walled enclosure below the canopy will be used as a café and events forum.

Every year for the past seven years, the Serpentine Gallery - a gorgeous little avant-garde art gallery in Kensington Gardens - invites a different world-famous architect to build a summer 'pavilion' on its outside lawn. The structures are only open between July and October each year, so the architects are encouraged to go a little bit crazy.

My favourite in recent years was the Oscar Niemeyer pavilion in 2003 which echoed the profile of the Victorian building behind (though I wouldn't have painted the ramp red) and I didn't much like last year's brutalist tortoise-shaped effort. It sounds like this year's giant light installation will reach new heights of superb nuttiness though.



15 March 2006

The street where I live

I am lucky enough to live just around the corner from Portobello Road - home of the world-famous Portobello Market and the heart of Notting Hill.

A good friend of mine edits a number of lifestyle magazines in the West of England and asked me to take some photos of the area for an article she is writing on weekend breaks to London. It was a glorious early-spring day and the colours were just zinging. I think I was having a Mario Testino day-glo moment...











12 March 2006


Kensington Gardens looking bleak (who said winter is over?) on our weekend-ly 'giggie' hunt.

08 March 2006

Cultural afternoon

Six mummies, six babies and six buggies (and NO lift, thanks V&A) finally made it to Fashion-ology - the V&A exhibit on Anna Piaggi, the legendary writer for Vogue Italia and designers' friend and muse.

The exhibition was interesting but ultimately slightly disappointing - too many display cabinets showing back copies of Vogue and not enough of her fabulously eccentric clothes. I must confess that I also didn't really know enough about her to understand exactly what I was seeing at the time - now that I've had a chance to read the excellent mini-catalogue, I'd like to go back and see the exhibit again.

To me there was also an element of 'The Emperor's New Clothes' about it all. It can't be denied that her clothes, while undeniably striking, eccentric and most beautifully made, are often completely ridiculous. Still it must be nice to be able to just phone up one of your designer friends, tell them that you want to look like a magazine or such like and have them run up a little number for you.

We also applauded the fact that Anna checks out the location of a soiree or reception ahead of time, to ensure that her costume is appropriate.

I actually much preferred the second fashion exhibit currently on at the V&A - Popaganda: The Fashion and Style of Jean Charles de Castelbajac . This was much more about the clothes, cabinets full of crazy, experimental, humorous Pop Art clothes, which, with the benefit of hindsight, one could tell had been both hugely influential on recent fashion trends and occasionally looked surprisingly wearable.

I loved the iconic fur coat made of teddy bears, the 'Tribute to Jimi Hendrix' mini dress with afro hair tutu and the parachute ballgown, though I must confess to having a soft spot for de Castelbajac ever since someone gave me his perfume when I lived in France twenty years ago, which I wore all the time until I ran out and couldn't find it in England.

Interestingly the Minx was also completely captivated - though I think mostly by the accompanying pounding music and the great lighting. She did however stare long and hard at this outfit before looking away rather bewildered. Surrealism is clearly wasted on the young.

We repaired afterwards to Patisserie Valerie on the Brompton Road, which was VERY child-friendly, with handsome waiters for the Minx to flirt with and the best 'pain au raisin' this side of of the Channel and agreed that our cultural afternoon had been a roaring success.

25 February 2006

It may be winter outside

Today we went for a walk en famille in Kensington Gardens. It has become a regular weekend habit as one can always guarantee a veritable cornucopia of 'giggies' (doggies) to send the Minx into paroxysms of delight.
It was bitterly cold with a biting wind, but the sun was glorious, the sky was a clear, crisp blue and the Serpentine was (honestly) the same colour as the Aegean. To cap it all we met a very nice dog called Myrtle, who let the Minx stroke her ears, and bumped into our lovely Australian friends and their baby, of whom the Minx is inordinately fond and whom she likes to cuddle rather viciously.
After coffee at Island (this was not, in truth, a very strenuous walk), we took the Minx for her first ever go on the swings (a big hit), watched an immense ochre sun set behind Kensington Palace, and admired the profusion of snowdrops and crocuses in every hidden corner of the park. Finally, spring really has nearly sprung.