Friday, 19 February 2010

Make Mine, Make Yours

Who would have thought seeking out a New York style "make your own" salad bar was going to be this challenging? I guess it's that much harder to find something you like when you have your heart set on something in particular. Like when you have to pick out a dress for an event and you know exactly what you want. Somehow, the stores never carry that one dress that you have a perfect picture of in your head. Well, for salads, it's pretty much the same deal. 

I have had my heart set on finding that one salad bar, that New York Style salad bar that would make all of my tough lunch questions go away. My ten minute walk down Dean Street on our only sunny day this week, led me to this fantastic place called Make Mine- a Make Your Own Salad Bar, and I had my answer.

At Make Mine, they make it for you. For £4.35 a pop, you can add 4 ingredients of your choice, which are close to your heart. No additional cost-surprises. Choose your type of lettuce, romaine, mixed or rocket and add on top of that butter beans, avocado, sundried tomatoes, parmesan, jerk chicken or even Hoisin duck! Fresh ingredients and exciting salad dressings are sure to make you salivate in the queue on your way to the counter. From pesto and lemon to French and balsamic, a perfect vinaigrette is key in the making of a perfect salad. So if you're in the mood for some salad individuality and you're in Soho on your lunch hour or shopping hour or whatever hour, stop by Make Mine for a bowl of your own salad to go. You'll love every bite of it.

ps: For the boys who think salad is a waste of stomach space, you can make your own sandwich.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Like the Scrooge on Bank Rob Day

East London still seems like such a daunting place in my puny narrow mind. Not because it has so many fantastic secrets to offer, and it does, but because it will take someone like me ages to discover even a third of them. Everything is so spread out. Shoreditch, Faringdon, Hackney, and that's just a fraction of it. And my legs are not what you would call short and stubby. They have taken me places before, and I still believe that they will take me to see the world on other zesty adventures. But there are still so many places to see, so much to discover, and I still now, after many escapades East, will have my eyes glued to my stupid iPhone Google maps like paparazzi to Kate Moss.

But my adventure out to Columbia Road Market last month was so much more than the discovery of another open market. It was yet another daunting realisation that there is more to London than the W11 and W1 postcodes. At least in terms of secrets to discover. That time, when I was wandering down Columbia Road Flower Market, I kept hoping to stumble upon that gem that would prove me wrong again in my assumptions about the East. And that it did. Yet again.

A treasure chest full of jewels, L'Orangerie is that magical place, in which the owner Caroline, a relentless European traveler, manages to bring an ecclectic flavour of European delights into one place. Necklaces, bangles, big fat rings, long chains and vintage pieces of furniture and knick knacks alike, you'll feel like the Scrooge on bank rob day. You'll want to take it all, all of it. And then you'll bathe in it, like there is no happier moment in life.


As you walk in, you'll find yourself ducking under dangling tree branches and bopping oranges. You'll suddenly smell perfumes and fragrances from Spain, Italy and Portugal, which will then magically turn into much cooler scents from the pine trees of northern Europe. You'll hear things scintillate as you slip your fingers through them, play with them and try them on. First make your way to Columbia Road Market if you haven't already. Then, step into a world of all things magical at L'Orangerie. You'll want it all. And you can, it's affordable. It's East London.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Friday Night Delight

With no plans in sight on Friday night but a spontaneous pub dinner with friends in the neighborhood, I cycled down my street to meet my friends on Notting Hill's notoriously wet Westbourne Park Road to grab some grub at the famous Conran-owned pub The Cow. I dismounted my bike only to find that the buzzing pub was already packed with people and the windows were steamed from the warm breaths of giddy English drinkers. 

I smiled, it was exactly what I needed. I was home. My friends were already there, waiting, sipping on a pint or two. And the great thing was, as we looked around curiously, we all turned back to each other, and smiled at the fact that it was Friday. We were all so pleased to be there. After waiting for our table, the waitress sat us down at the cozy corner by the fire place where we were sure to get overheated. But we didn't care. The menu came by, we didn't dare to open it. We knew what we wanted. There is no point in denying it, we all skipped the part where we all pretend to be open-minded about what we're going to order, and we fast-forwarded to the part where we call upon the waitress for three fish stews and a chilled bottle of cabernet. A small grin appeared on her face, as she is of course, is used to this non diversity of orders, since the place is, after all, renowned for its mouth-watering fish stew.

The plates arrived and there are no words to describe our sense of ecstasy. It was like we had been working hard that whole week and waiting for a moment special like that one to make all of our troubles disappear. One sip of the soup, one bite into the aioli toast, and one munch of the steaming fish chunks later, it was done, we were in paradise. If you ask me, there is noting more satisfying than going to a restaurant where there is no choosing to be made. You've known what you wanted to eat that whole week, have been day dreaming about it for the last couple hours and you know this will hit the spot just right if you accompany it with a glass of wine. But then again, that's just my idea of a perfect Friday night. What's yours?

Friday, 12 February 2010

Hitting the Bars after Work

There seems to be quite a fascination with turning everything into bars here lately: you've got wax bars, nail bars, now you've even got brow bars. Yeah, brow bars. Kind of like personal grooming is now to be associated with something fun, like hitting the bar with your mates after work. If you ask me, grooming is not always fun. Waxing hurts the living hell out of me, and still does every time I get it done professionally. Getting my eyebrows done is a chore and I tend to do my nails at home mostly because mani pedis in London make me broke. I am starting to think this bar business is just a scheme created by grooming professionals to trick customers into thinking there is alcohol served at the end of the treatment just to relieve them of the pain.

Blink Brow Bar is yet another bar to be found at Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, though don't be fooled. It's for eyebrow grooming only. Don't go there with the hopes of getting tipsy cuz it's just not that kind of a place. For £17, you can walk in and get your eyebrows done right then and there and be out in a flash. 

The masterful Indian threading techniques (strings tangled up together to naturally pull each hair out of their follicles) are excercized to their full potential over at Blink, and they'll leave you feeling and looking clean and spectacular. You'll find yourself surrounded by girliness in a mini salon full of buzz but no fuss. It's quick and dirty and surprisingly good value for money. With such a meticulous technique as threading and results like these you'll find yourself quickly addicted. And for good reason. Good eyebrows are under-rated. But if you fancy a "facelift" and a natural "injection" of Botox, getting your eyebrows shaped at Blink gets the job done and will leave you looking something similar to this: (misleading marketing, moi?)

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

V-Day's Coming up: Give it Some Heart

I'm normally not such a big fan of Comme des Garcons. I find it quite intellectual, not that wearable and generally a little too...trying "too hard to be edgy." It's what I call "unnatural fashion", the kind of fashion that one wears to call attention to oneself. Not in the way some people sport the LV and Gucci print bags. But in the way that Comme des Garcons, just in its pure artistic form, is heardly ever a proper piece of clothing but rather an assemblage of fabrics put together hapharzardly to create what some people may call fashion.

The Dover Street Market, Mayfair

However, for the sake of following the footsteps of my fellow bloggers and buying into the media frenzy that is the commercial celebration of Valentine's day, I found it only appropriate to talk about the designer's Play collection at the Dover Street Market. Only because it's all about that weird two-eyed heart that pops out of the garment like a red pimple on a cheek, and only because I happen to love DSM. So here are some of my favourite pieces from the Play collection from Comme des Garcons, available upstairs at the Dover Street Market.

I'm loving the striped stuff these days so this one obviously caught my eye and I'm also really into polo shirts again, finding them much cooler now than I have in the past. For some reason, I could never figure out how to wear the preppy pieces "un-preppy" but I find that this one would look great with a pair of cut-off jean shorts and some Havaianas. And the thing that I love about the white tee with the giant red heart on it, well, that's just coz it's V-Day, baby.

For my other entry on Dover Street Market's Rose Bakery, please click here.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Video Killed the Radio Star

There's one city in the world where going to the cinema is considered to be as expensive as going out to a proper restaurant dinner; and that's London. For 10 quid a pop, I tend to prefer staying at home to watch a movie than to feel the pressure of making absolutely sure the movie is an Oscar winner before I break my twenty at the movie theater. Whoever said going to the movies is a an alternate evening activity option for those who are tightening their belts is clearly delusional. I have been trying that for a while and I've been seeing my belt getting tighter and tighter. I am a big fan of going to the cinema. I believe there is noting better than hanging out on a lazy Sunday afternoon with no plan in sight but enjoying a nice big bag of popcorn in front of the silver screen. Lately though, I've become a huge fan of the home cinema option, preferring to cuddle up on my couch with a warm blanket around my feet, a plate of pasta and our almost-there-but-not-quite-super-high-tech "surround" sound system. Since my channels at home are limited to the BBCs and the Hallmark channel, I have been tempted to seek my movie collection outside of my home.

Video City on Notting Hill Gate has been satisfying this craving just perfectly. As a the Mom and Pap indie video store around the corner, it gets the job done more than just fine. Actually that is a complete understatement. Video City is absolutely fantastic. If you're feeling poor on movie ideas, you'll find that the store clerks are quick to find you 3 quick and dirty movies that are sure to make your evening a great one. 

Their selection is fun, eclectic, international and always up to date and their staff is more than happy to recommend some zesty movies that are to your liking. If you're not a member, no worries, this is no Blockbuster. Just give them your name, a £3 deposit and take the movie home with you. If you think you'll be returning the movie more than 24 hours after the rental, just give them a call. It's that kind of a place.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Catch of the Day

Next on my list: set off on an adventure so kooky, no one will want to go along with me. I'm talking about an adventure so fishy, I'll stink up my flat, my fingers, my skin and my hair for days on end and no one will want to kiss me or come anywhere near me. Any takers? Maybe not quite yet...I'm talking about going on a Fish-cooking course, at the Billingsgate Seafood Training School.

If you're passionate about food and cooking, and you sit on your bumm at night watching Jamie Oliver cook miraculously easy dishes right before eyes on your telly, but never dare to bother trying them out on your own...and you need a little push, this is the place for you. Now, if you're into fish, you're thinking about including more fish into your diet, and believe fish oils and omega 3s will protect you against some types of cancer, or if you just plain love fish dishes, this is the place for you. If you're looking for a little fun and adventure in your life, this is THE place for you. How about now? Are you joining me yet?

The Billingsgate Seafood Training School, located at Billingsgate Fish Market right off Canary Wharf, offers 3 to 5 hour classes on weeknights and Saturdays from £80-165 depending on the time, depth and resources used for the class you're attending. You'll learn great things and skills from cleaning and cutting the fish open, which utensils to use for different types of fish and shellfish, to delicious and original recipes to take home with you. You'll also have the pleasure of enjoying one of the dishes you prepared for lunch or dinner, like this amazing looking fish pie (this is Britain after all).

If you ask me, it sounds like the perfect London-style evening or Saturday activity. Your Valentine may even fancy a fishy romance with his or her plus one. Wink. Think about it.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Everybody's Got the Vintage Fever!

I've never considered myself to be a Vintage-junkie, finding the new and fresh scent of never-worn clothing on my skin much more exhilarating than the old and stuffy smell reminiscent of an old lady's medicine cabinet. I guess I'm a bit OCD that way, scrubbing every corner of my flat, shining the kitchen counter til it shrieks and picking at every ball of dust I find in my way. At the risk of sounding like a hygiene freak, I have to admit I find my skepticism towards vintage clothing to be at par with my obsession with cleanliness- and in my mind skepticism and obsession are equally hard to shake.

I have, however, been surprisingly more open-minded towards vintage shopping lately as I continue my journey through London's hidden gems and observe that vintage stores actually sometimes protect the city's most bejeweled objects and garments.The West End treasure trove, Fever, is one of those places, one of those fairy-land magical places. 


Filled with unique and old-fashioned pieces alike, the racks of Fever feature quirky dresses, blouses and blazers, with fashionable cuts and trimmings, and lots more to dream about, for prices even dreamier, and scents even lovelier. 
The sale season is calling your name and spelling it out on the glossy windows of the Eastcastle Street vintage clothing boutique. You can't escape the Fever!

Monday, 1 February 2010

A Weekend Getaway-Nowhere Better Than the Cotswolds

To start the week with a fresh set of eyes, there's nothing better than an imaginary escape to the Cotswolds, London's most popular, yet under-rated weekend destination. A little while back, a lovely gentleman took me to the English country side for a little romantic getaway. For the first time since I'd moved, I saw the beauty that lies beyond the capital's borders and immediately fell in love with English nature and culture.


After a smooth two and half hour drive out of London (on the left side of the road, mind you), we were both still alive- and better yet, we were ecstatic. The beauty of the landscape took our breath away and it was as if we could have stayed glued to the scenery like glued to a Van Gogh painting. The next morning, we woke up in our small bed and breakfast to take a stroll through the teeny tea-cup-seized village of Cirencester. After lunch we meandered slowly towards the Barnsley House Hotel and Spa for some much needed R&R. Built using local natural stone the spa features Cotswold Stone floors, dry stone interior walls, floor to ceiling glass and English hardwoods, the heavenly contemporary spa is comparable to a Swedish winter spa. One massage, one twirl in the outdoor thermal pool and one sweat in the steam room later, we were finally beginning to feel the after-effects of too much relaxation and rejuvenation- basically we were in heaven. 


The Barnsley House is a historical mansion built in the 17th century and absolutely worthy of the adjective "historical." This special place tucked away between the multitudinous hilltops of the gorgeous Cotswolds countryside could not be more breathtakingly beautiful. I found myself being blown away by the untouched and virginal feel of this perfect story-book, doll-house style property. 


Strolling through the romantic gardens, and breathing in all the fantastic floral and herbal scents, I could have stayed there forever- just moved all of my things, my life, my belongings from London and migrated to this English haven of peace and tranquility. The only potential problem would have to be the price of the hotel rooms, but hey, it's always good to dream, right?