Thursday, 2 December 2010

A Real Life Fairytale

Last week, I was in the presence of real life magic. It all started when last Tuesday, I met one of Disney's most popular princesses. Cinderella, my favourite one (she was always the most down to earth - literally a floor washer and scrubber), stopped by my office for an exclusive showcase of her jewelry.

No, I am not talking about the real life Disney Princess, God, get a clue. And no, do not worry about me, Zesties, I'm not going insane - though some Christmas holidays would be very much needed right now. Rachel, the closest thing to the collection's namesake and Brazilian muse, Cinderela, is the mastermind designer behind Cinderela B, a beautifully eclectic and utterly whimsical jewelry collection, which is based right here, in the heart of one of London's hippest area, Spittalfields, E1. And she can even visit your office or a girly night in, if you fancy the VIP experience.

Her line ranges from a colourful set of pearls and beads, necklaces and bracelets, pendants and charms, all made from the real thing and marked with a "made with love" stamp; a wide variety of DIY charm necklaces, for which you have an extensive choice of charms, from cutesy stars and boy and girl kissing, to rock n' rollin skulls and angel wings; and finally chains up the wazoo, gold, silver and bronze, dangly and neck-choking. 

It's a miracle Harvey Nichs hasn't whisked her away yet, and an even bigger miracle that I only got myself this adorable rose quartz star-charm bracelet. I wish I had filled up a cart full of goodies before Cinderela flew away in her pumpkin carriage.

If I were you, I'd give it a visit sooner rather than later. The prices are friendly and there is even a sale going on right now. Or, get Prince Charming to go there instead. Christmas is around the corner after all. 

Here are some of the places you can spot Cinderela B:

Sunday-Up Market (every Sunday 10am-5pm)
Just off Hanbury Street, Spitalfields, London, E1 6QL
Lucas Bond, 45 Bedford Hill, Balham, London, SW12 9EY
Tickled Pink, 2 Bellevue Rd, London, SW17 7EO

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Westfield of Dreams

The last time I was in a real shopping mall, I was about 12 years old. Walking hand in hand with my American Grandma, in the dead heat of Los Angeles summer, I could think of nothing better than the Thousand Oaks shopping mall to indulge on a Haagen-Dasz ice cream bar, salty popcorn and an air-conditioned movie. Looking back on those fun-filled American old days, I actually remember enjoying these luxurious moments of convenience and practicality. Today, there’s nothing I hate more than an over-crowded, over-heated shopping center. To me, they’ve always come to stand for everything I dislike about American culture, be it sterility or over-consumption. Or so, I thought.

Never in my wildest dreams could I fathom once again setting foot in the prison cell that is the American shopping mall. My London years have led me to erase and forget about the concept of shopping malls all together. It’s just not something I’ve missed or been longing for - at all.

I was taken to Westfield Shopping Center last weekend when I met my friend for a movie at the Vue Cinema in Sheperd’s Bush. Walking towards the designated address, I looked up and was immediately startled by the gargantuan size of this unusual building. I nearly turned my heels in refusal to walk ahead. It was almost organic.  But I fought the urge to walk away and I slowly climbed up the steps of the stadium-looking facility, and little by little, entered the chaotic and euphoric - almost magical world of Westfield. My eyes were gorged with micro-tears of fascination and excitement. How could I have missed this modern marvel these past two years without even the simple curiosity to take a peak? I was disappointed with myself and my judgmental attitude.

So I decided to let myself be carried away. The inside of the monster’s chest is even more enchanting than its asymmetrical and origami-shaped outside façade. While the practical aspect of malls has always bothered me, I’ve never witnessed such brilliant engineering inside and outside the walls of a shopping mall. I looked around me; I transport myself next to Ethan Hawke in Gattaca and Tom Cruise in Minority Report. But this is not a movie; this is not the future; this is real; this is now. This is the pure brilliance of modern mankind. And then I remember to keep walking. I am not in Hollywood, I am in Shepherd’s Bush!

I am surrounded left and right, up an down, by Miu Miu, Dior; Prada; Zadig & Voltaire, Whistles, Massimo Dutti and Cos; Habitat, Waitrose, M&S and H&M; all within a few feet of each other. I suddenly love shopping malls! What was I thinking this whole time? It’s suddenly all about convenience and practicality. I go up numerous escalators and flying elevators and am in awe, even more bewildered by the countless choices of lunch spots. From Pho and Wahacca to Tossed and Chipotle, I cannot think of a better place to be than standing in the middle of London’s best fast food joints. 

I've finally come to the realisation that gems don’t have to be small and hidden. Sometimes, gems are right there in front you the whole time, before you even realize that you are standing right before one. 

Westfield Shopping Center
Ariel Way
London W12 7GF
020 3371 2300

Saturday, 25 September 2010

An Ode to Something British: The Sunday Roast

The Sunday Roast is a deliciously unique British culinary experience. For those of you who have known it your whole lives, you must know and feel a close and intimate bond with the dish itself. I know I've experienced the same feeling with my Dad's monthly langoustine platter. It's a special relationship. But for those of you who are becoming familiarised with the dish, it's a matter of time, you'll see. For me, the Sunday roast represents my experimentation with British food, but more importantly, my eagerness to embrace all things British - including, but not limited to, pubs, two-tiered busses, jacket potatoes, Marmite on toast, fish n' chips, tea and scones, James Bond, Wimbledon, the Queen, bowler hats, Wayne Rooney and last but not least, Yorkshire Pudding. To this day, I still ignore the properties, which make Yorkshire Pudding taste so fluffy and fantastic. But I will continue to test its value, on Sundays, as I continue my quest for London's zesty roasts.

Last Sunday was the first of my many zesty escapades down Sunday Roast lane. Camera in hand and a massive appetite to satiate, I walked into The Albion in Islington. The Albion has been a London Sunday Roast staple for many years and continues to thrive on the one divine British special and simple recipe for success- beer gardens and Sunday Roasts. What's not to like? This was my second visit to the Albion so I was therefore inclined to book a table a week in advance to get the time slot of my choice in the room of my choice. The pub's dining room is a relaxing place to lazy around with your mates in the cold but cozy winter days, while the beer garden is gorgeously green in the spring and summer days.

I ordered the Roast, without even taking a glimpse at the menu. I was not deceived and I was not mistaken. My memory had not failed me, this roast was by far the best one I'd tasted since my early days as a Londoner. I scarfed all of it down, scraped the plate to its very last crumb, to the point where my jeans cut into my belly like a sword. I looked around mischievously to check whether I was the only one with nothing left on her plate. Indeed I was- others were still chewing on crunchy potatoes dipped in gravy and cutting into smooth and red-tastic slices of beef. I was envious. I wish I had lingered a little bit more on my plate, tasted the flavours a little better, let the buttery potatoes and horseradish sauce melt on my tongue a little longer. But hey ho, all the more reason to try this again. 

In hindsight, I can't stop thinking what a gorgeous meal that was. And I'm ready for a redo. Anytime, anywhere, you name it, zesties.

The Albion
10 Thornhill Road
N1 1HW
0207 607 7450

Monday, 13 September 2010

Yummy Mummy Heaven

I'm young. Okay, I'm not that young, but I often daydream about what my life could be like as an adult. I have this vision of life in London a few years from now- lovely rich husband and kids in tow and gorgeous Victorian house in Holland Park, no professional obligation. Country house, beach house, fancy car, walk-in closet, nannies, live-in help, first-class travel, dinner parties. The list goes on. But it's only a fantasy - an artificial dream. Is there a job in my dream? Nope. Are there problems, financial, professional and personal, in my dream? Not likely. I am a Stepford wife in my dream; and then I wake up, and I hate that dream - this isn't what I want! 

Certain areas of London sometimes feel like that dream. Not only are the women gorgeous but they just look so relaxed, fulfilled and perky! They go on daily walks around the neighborhood, stop for tea, or - a low-fat, no-foam, extra-hot cappuccino (just so), shop at the Matches around the corner, attend 3pm Pilates classes, and send their nannies to fetch the children at school. Yummy mummies have the best life! But do I really want this?

Yesterday, I took a leisurely stroll down to Holland Park and the dream state kicked in. Holland Park is the hood I sometimes refer to as Stepford Central. What a beautiful area, though. Norland Square has it all, the restaurants, the shops, the spas, the gorgeous people, the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the epitome of English elegance. Wait a minute, I like where this dream is going.

Julie's is one of the highly popular spots for the yummies of Holland Park. It's a lovely place to stop for a nice salad. No, but seriously, in reality, you can cozy up and sink into the delicious velvety sofas and enjoy the wintery feel of the dark-wooded walls in the winter and bask in the sunshine on their outdoor terrace in the summer. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this dream sounds amazing!

The dream doesn't end there. After lunch, comes the shopping! Virginia is one of those gorgeous secret gems only a handful of Londoners know about- and those who know about it covet it like a super exclusive members club. This treasure trove is filled with one-of-a-kind vintage designer dresses, shoes and other mysterious accessories from now back to the 1930s. The prices match the intimidation factor of the shop window and you can be sure to find many elegant fashion-forward yummies, and sometimes even celebs such as Kate, Sienna and Naomi, chatting up the very rude but brilliant shop owner, Virginia herself. I think I like this dream?

After the shopping, comes the spa.  If the dream hasn't been tough enough, what with the many coffee breaks and shopping excursions, there is no better way than to really work it hard in Holland Park's luxurious Cowshed spa. Enjoy a freshly squeezed juice or detox green tea to completely indulge yourself after your massage. Invite the ladies, the nannies, but not the kiddies. After consideration, these places sound great. But I like my reality better than my dream. What about you, zesties? Any fantasies of the yummy mummy lifestyle?

Julie's Restaurant & Bar
135 Portland Road
W11 4LW

Virginia Vintage & Second Hand
98 Portland Road
W11 4LQ

Cowshed Spa
119 Portland Road
W11 4LN

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Hot Wheels in The City

I've been on a motorcycle once, maybe twice in my life. I was the passenger, of course, clinging the the coat of the driver and closing my mouth, for fear of losing my tongue in the hard whipping wind. I clung to him for dear life and shut my eyes tight. We were driving from one village in France to another, which took us approximately 7 minutes by bike, instead of taking us around 16 minutes by car. We took the scenic route, he told me. I saw none of it. At the end of our journey, I hopped off, well more like, let myself be carried off, and promised myself never to experience this again. 

So when my friend informed me yesterday that Addison Lee's cab services offered a taxibike service, which he had tried last week, I shrieked at the idea of it. "But is it safe?" I asked. "Extremely, they are chauffeured by these expert motorcyclists or something." he answered. "Do they go fast?" "They are twice as fast, and it's awesome, they'll take you anywhere you want for half the time." I couldn't believe my ears. I rely on Addison Lee almost once a week, when too lazy to grab the 390 bus back to Notting Hill from Central London. But this is different. Would I ever consider putting my life in someone else's hands again? Would you, zesties? I'm thinking long and hard about this, still this morning as I write this post. The last time I rode on a motorcycle, I was brought into the harbour safe and sound.  What could happen to me now, with one of London's most reliable taxicab and courier services? I mean, yes, motorcycles are dangerous, and they do kill thousands of drivers each year in this country. It's terrifying how you can feel so powerful and yet so vulnerable on these vehicles. But oh, how exhilarating!

Addison Lee Taxibike Services
020 7255 4269

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

LondonZest & the Chocolate Factory

Not being a total chocolate addict like other people women I know, I've never really understood what the fuss is all about. I've always had more of a savoury tooth myself, so it goes without saying that I kind of remained stoic when my friend yanked me by the hand to go check out the Brit-born chocolate shop, Rococo, on King's Road. It's funny. I guess when some of us need that daily choc fix, I get mine from a bag of Kettle S&V crisps. I'm not one to order the chocolate cake for dessert. I'm never one to binge on an entire chocolate bar at the 3pm mark at the office. I enjoy a Ferrero Rocher once in a while but it doesn't send me to the moon. But these are different, she said. Cross my heart, she promised me, once you go Rococo, you never go back. She stared at me, wide-eyed and concerned, as if I were a leper, or missing out on one of life's most heavenly gifts. Perhaps I was.

I walked into the shop with low expectations and no appetite at all, after scarfing down a copious brunch at the diner next door, and walking around all morning in 30 degree heat emanating from the city pavement. But all I had to do was open my eyes to the edible jewels around me, clear my nostrils and breathe in the lovely scent of rich cocoa, surrounding me left, right, and center and I was won over. Chocolates of all kinds found their way into my shopping basket, through no fault of my own; my friend is still in the doghouse for converting me to chocolateism; praline, hazelnut and gianduja; white, milk and dark; rich, light and crunchy, they just kept on creeping up on me.

And then it hit me. Wait a minute, could it be? I like chocolate!? And not any kind of chocolate. Not only is the packaging most delightful and authentic, but the quality is something to write home about. I even purchased an armful of bags of Unsweetened Scorched Almonds as gifts for future hosts, just because they are by far the most scrumpscious drops of low calorie heaven I have ever tasted and I think everyone I know should experience the same kind of joy I felt when biting into one of these. So now, you can have have your chocolate, and eat it too, and not have to worry about those hips. It's a win, win, win!

Rococo Chocolates
Chelsea: 321 Kings Road, SW3 5EP
Belgravia: 5 Motcomb Street, SW1X 8JU
Marylebone:45 Marylebone High Street, W1U 5HG

Friday, 9 July 2010

No Beauty School Dropouts

Jumping back in time on the page has been the general trend this week so I thought it only natural to reminisce on another girly trend, but this time, on the 1950s: glamourette-style beauty parlours.That's right, Pink Ladies, it's time to puff up your lips, paint your nails and powder your noses. I've had enough already. Enough saving-up and enough self-pampering. I'm tired of counting every pence in my coin purse and I'm tired of using my home as a beauty salon. While I am one to generally lean towards the "do it yourself" treatments at home, you know, for the conscience, I also like to think of myself as a working woman, sometimes, albeit very rarely, who needs some QT with luxury and superficiality.

So this is my new haven of girliness, The Powder Room, by the one and only Powder Puff Girls, who successfully opened shop last year on Columbia Road and who have decided to lend us ladies a good hand by opening a Pop Up location on Marshall Street, in the delightful Newburgh Quarter by Carnaby Street. The little boutique is always buzzying with cheeky girliness, as you listen to side conversations of surprise engagements and wedding proposals at the counter next to yours. The staff is delightfully 1950s, with bleached-blonde chignons and long false lashes. Not to mention adorably dressed in pastel pink uniforms. You'd think you were transported back to Frenchie's Beauty School in Grease, and Frenchie is your stylist though she's no dropout.

So go ahead, indulge. Whether you need a quick fix like the "Busy Bee " manicure, the "Speedy Hairdo" or the "Jiffy makeup" for £15, or a more luxurious experience like the "Late for a Date" expert package for £30, you'll be sure to get exactly what you want. And if you're around on the weekend, you can get yourself the royal treatment by snacking on biscuits and sipping on tea while getting your makeup done. Walk in or book an appointment for yourself or a group of girlfriends. I guarantee you, it's well worth it, and well deserved.

Powder Room
Pop Up Parlour
34 Marshall Street

Powder Room
Full-Time Parlour
136 Columbia Road
E2 7RG

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

A Swell Spectacle

With the Mad Men's season 4 premiere just around the corner, it's only natural to start daydreaming about the beautiful 1960s fashion: powder-blue pouffy skirts, frilly blouses, big hair, voluptuous red lips, kitten heels, lace garder belts and secretary glasses. Most of all, secretary glasses. How great that a pair of large reading spectacles can make any regular gal look like a sex kitten. I sort of envy women who can accessorize their face daily with more than a dab of makeup. It always seemed to me like it gave them an extra splash of power and confidence. 

So forget about the secretary thing. My very good friend C. has recently been gifted with these perfect pair of spectacles. Now is it me or does she look like she means business? Meow. Jokes aside, she's alot of fun. As a matter of fact, she's a total hoot. And guess what? She's no secretary, she's an ad lady too. And an important one at that. If I could allow myself one more observation, I'd say it's because of her glasses.

My very special model is sporting the swell and unique Knightsbridge-based Cutler & Gross eyewear, only suitable for over the top fun gals. If you are an over the top fun lady yourself, you could be the perfect candidate for these super stylish twins. They come in all shapes, colours and sizes, but more importantly whether you're interested in reading lenses or sunglasses, C & G epitomise glam and sophistication without screaming "label" or bling like other eyewear brands. They are imaginative and original, fun and playful, vintage and futuristic and always ones to grab attention.  

You can find yourselves a pair of reading glasses or sunnies at the very swell Cutler & Gross boutique located in the heart of Knighstbridge. You'll discover that there is a Betty Draper within everyone, even you.


Cutler & Gross Ltd
16 Knighstbridge Green

Cutler & Gross Vintage
7 Knighstbridge Green

Friday, 2 July 2010

Snob Food Limited

My unequivocal love for food has made itself quite public through this blog, and I have no shame for it in my heart. I am, and forever will be, a die hard foodie; a closet fat kid if you will. I was once scolded by an English teacher for eating a candy bar in class. It was disturbing my classmates, she said. "It is frowned upon in this school to treat the classroom like a cafeteria." That God awful teacher with a God awful bad ear for foreign languages, and who insisted the sound "the" was pronounced "zhe". Keep in mind, this was the French system, where rules made educators feel more worthy than their students, and most of all - it made them feel powerful. Most of the time, these rules were completely uncalled for or even made up. Since when has eating a candy bar in class disturbed anyone? I don't think so. Ever since I was a little girl, I've tricked my mind into believing that I didn't like sweets - for the sake of keeping my grades up, I guess.  

But now that it's no longer a matter of grades and being liked by your teachers, it's a duty of mine to try to enjoy (and share) my guilty pleasures to their fullest potential. Like this new discovery of mine, the awesomely handsome snob food cafe called Napket. No guilty consciences allowed in here. Licking your upper lip like the first time you stepped into a candy store is recommended. Better yet, it's encouraged. Think of that movie Chocolat. Johnny Depp isn't the only delicious thing worth saving your appetite for. Think of a chocolate torsadé or a double chocolate brioche for breakfast. Think of colourful summer salads, made up of puy lentils, bloody beetroot, fresh parsley and feta cheese for lunch. Think of a bowl of freshly cut tropical fruit for dessert and a frothy chocolatey cappuccino to keep you from falling asleep at your desk. No sin here.

The makers of Napket clearly have a passion for design and beautiful things. What with the oak-wood walls, the library-bar look and the romantic lighting, everything about the decor shouts out elegance and taste. And of course, the yummy dishes are as fancy as they are delicious, and are best enjoyed on Napket's regal chairs, reading the latest Metro gossip under a stylish chandelier - no less.  Who's teaching who a lesson now? Or should I say "whom"...

You can find Napket in various locations throughout London:
61 Piccadilly, W1J ODY
5 Vigo Street, W1S 3HD
6 Brook Street, W1S 1BB
34 Royal Exchange, EC3V 3 LP
342 Kings Road, SW3 5UR

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

On Those Summer Nights

It's not that I'm a night junkie and that I'm one of the those girls who's out on the town every night. I'm not one to party hardy. Not at all. On the contrary, I've been much more of a homebody since living in London than I've ever been; and that has suited me somewhat. Perhaps because I'm a little older and I've been there. You know, done that. Perhaps because recuperating from a rough night is not as easy as it used to be. You feel me? I'm not so keen on those Sunday hangovers anymore, especially when they have the tendency to drag on through to the following Wednesday. I'm also not so keen on waiting in a queue to enter a members' club-only-"hotspot" just so I can say I "got in" and end up coming right out one hour later. These places are, might I say, a little too tired for my taste. I guess I've become a bit of a nightlife snob. Not because I like it posh, but because I like it comfortable and easy. But wait a minute, is that really too hard to ask?

Last weekend was my first encounter with real London nightlife. I know, sad. Forget about the Boujis', the Maddoxes and the Cuckoos of the world. The Paradise in Kilburn is where it all happens. It's the hidden treasure of London nightlife. Don't be fooled by its fanciful name, The Paradise is not a gentleman's club and it's not where your Granny plays Bingo. The Paradise is the real Londoner's night piece of heaven. Though decadent by nature, with its sexy crowds, hanging taxidermy and velvety sofas, The Paradise is nothing but an old-school place for a fun-filled night out with friends. 

Competing at the same level as the high and mighty Shoreditch scene, Kilburn's night gem is the latest hot place to be seen at. With the best DJs in the West part of London playing 80s retro hits and 90s funky tunes, several floors to discover, a delicious gastropub serving some classics with a twist and two outdoor gardens, you won't find a better venue to enjoy those endless summer nights.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Back to the Retro Future

I'm normally not such a huge fan of the old rancid smell of vintage shops. It's nauseating. At times, completely repulsive and a huge deterrent in my ability to enjoy my time browsing through the racks of a shop. But my last visit to a certain vintage boutique made me feel quite open-minded about the whole experience. Yes, the smell of old clothes somewhat permeated the air above and around me, but taking it all in, I was more impressed by the quality of the garments than overwhelmed by the sweet smell of old clothing. Plus, it's always a nice surprise to leave a shop in London with only £40 less in your bank account.

Pinch your nostrils no more, zesties, as I am talking about London/Stockholm's one and only Beyond Retro, located in the West End and Brick Lane: the magical kingdom of retro shopping, and the best place to find a special something for a special occasion. Lately I've had quite a thing for vintage boots. I'm a big sucker for cool, riding-style boots, and I'm all about the summer dress-fall footwear combination. Check these out, for £35 or less.

Speaking of summer dresses, lately, and I don't know about you, I've been really eager to whip out that flowery summer dress from the dark corners of my closet. It's been just a tad too prickly outside though, and I haven't mustered up the courage or warm blood to slap one on. Here is an example of a summer dress, for less than £30, that will take you straight to the outdoors of California just by wearing it. Summer barbecue coming up, anyone? A chilled Margarita please, and some Mamas and the Papas as background music.

I've also experienced a sudden urge to acquire one of those awesomely cool felt hats - one with a feather sticking out from a silk ribbon on one side. The Bavarian-style one. Or just a simple English-style one like this one below. Gotta love the Alexa Chungness of this gorgeous piece of head-wear.

That's just it, isn't it? Alexa Chung shops here! Or does she? If not, does she even know that there are about a trillion denim shirts to choose from in this uniquely cool retro boutique? And that once you've got a denim shirt, well you pretty much got yourself an outfit. Oh, but smack something else on your toosh than a pair of leggings, please I beg you. There is nothing less sexy than a girl in just leggings.  Check out the rack on that girl! (or lack there of).

I mean, check out the denim shirts on that rack!

Beyond Retro - Vintage Shop
110-112 Cheshire Street, London E2 6EJ
58-59 Great Marlborough Street, W1F 7JY

Monday, 14 June 2010

The London Gelato Fan Club

I have decided to change my blog name to London Gelato Fan Club. Just kidding. No, seriously though. London has a number of things at your disposal, but one thing it lacks in is a half-decent gelateria. I should start a fan club. A place, where like-minded gelato aficionados like myself can gather around and discuss the latest gelato spots of London. Serious topics deserve fan clubs. Like football, cheese and musicians, gelato deserves a Facebook page too. And if there already is one, let me know and I want in. I have had a special thing for gelato ever since living in Rome a few years ago, but I haven't found an equivalent since arriving in London. I've missed a good double scoop of gelato. Back in Rome, almost daily, I would wander down the streets aimlessly, feeling the sunshine on my shoulders, hungry for the sweet kiss of an ice cream cone. Weirdly enough, I have always found the sensation of biting into a rich and creamy scoop of straciatella ice cream to be equally as satisfying as a first kiss. And like kissing, gelato tastes even better when it's the first in a while.

So hold onto your chair, Zesties, as I have had the pleasure of smacking my lips onto one of London's best gelatos, and one of the shops happens to be right around the corner from my flat! Gelato Mio, the ultimate and authentic Italian gelateria, is actually spread four ways throughout West London, and is conveniently located in Notting Hill/Holland Park, St Johns Wood and Fulham. They offer fantastic and original flavours from nutella and caramel, to melon and tiramisu. 

There is something there for everyone, even the football fans! Check out their website or go visit the parlour for a sneek peak at the national teams' flavours, with Italy being represented by Olive Oil, France by Goat Cheese, Brazil by Caipirinha and England by Pimm's! Not sure how I feel about the goat cheese ice cream, but you've gotta applaud the Italians for their creativity and their talent with producing delicious things.

Gelato Mio
138 Holland Park Avenue, Notting Hill
37 Pembridge Road, Notting Hill
138 St. John's Wood High Street, St John's Wood
495 Fulham Palace Road, Fulham