Friday, April 25, 2014

Excuse My Absence - I Absconded on Holiday

I mean to blog all about it before I left, but then I underestimated the amount of things that I needed to get done before leaving and my ability to procrastinate - so that didn't happen. I haven't been blogging for the last two weeks because I've been on holiday in Hong Kong and Indonesia! 




It was an amazing trip, and I am excited to share all of the details with you over the next week. I now also have a serious case of the wanderlust and have started brainstorming for my next excursions.

Have a great weekend, and I'll catch up with you next week with notes on what to do with two days in Hong Kong and tips on travel in Bali and the Gili Islands.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter in London


Happy Easter! I know that I'm a day late, but I took the weekend off, well and truly (part of that being forced by a spot of food poisoning, unfortunately).

The Brits do Easter way better than the Americans for one simple reason that clinches the win in any such debate - Good Friday and Easter Monday are bank holidays, which means that, unless you work in retail or the service industry, pretty much everyone has a four-day weekend for Easter.  Most people take advantage of this gift and go away.  Last year was my first non-student Easter weekend, and K and I went to Croatia for the weekend.  With four days off, this is an ideal weekend to go to Europe and still feel like you've gotten in a pretty decent holiday.

I'm off on a very big vacation next weekend, so I stayed in London this year.  I must say, a four-day weekend is ideal. I'm thinking of advocating for a four days on/four days off kind of schedule. London also offers tons of things to do for Easter for both families and adults.

Given that Easter is a distinctly Christian holiday, one would expect that Easter traditions would be largely similar Western Christian countries, but there are slight differences that stick out for me.  In the UK, children (and generally adults) receive a big chocolate Easter egg and some ancillary chocolates instead of a big Easter basket, as they do in America, although these are still brought by the Easter bunny. These are normally filled with smaller chocolates.



Perhaps my favourite of the English Easter traditions (apart from Pancake Day on Shrove Tuesday) is hot cross buns. These delightful little fruited and spiced buns are best cut in half, toasted and served with lemon curd. They are traditionally eaten between lent and Good Friday.

(Photograph by Kara Rosenlund)

I miss my family terribly on holidays like these, but I am very grateful for Skype and for my London family of friends. I hope that your Easter was great, and here's to another four-day work week!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Watch This: InRealLife

Last night, I went to a screening of the documentary InRealLife and a Q&A with the director. The documentary asks what the Internet is doing to children (largely teenagers) and tells the story of a number of teens representative of the types of issues faced by young users of the Internet.  I felt the documentary was slightly too broad in scope, although that is due to the large number of important issues that the director felt she should cover in the film, and it was not the best documentary that I've seen. However, it did create an impression and, coupled with discussions with the director following the film, it all certainly gave me a few things to think about. 

I thought I would share the trailer:




I think that I will certainly be examining more closely the type of content that I want to put on my blog and refocusing on quality over quantity.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

London Guide: Brunch at Caravan King's Cross

This week's London Guide regards another gem from King's Cross Granary Square (actually right next door to Grain Store) - Caravan. Sorry that I'm a day late.



Caravan King's Cross is an outpost of the restaurant, bar and coffee roastery in Exmouth Market. Caravan refers to its food as being well travelled, in that the restaurant sources seasonal ingredients to create dishes that draw influence from around the world.

The Granary Square location is decorated in an industrial style to befit its location in the old grain store. The large space still felt really cosy during brunch, although this may have been due to our party of ten, and the loud music playing gave the restaurant a very festive feel (although it was a bit too loud).


The brunch menu was very hard to choose from because I honestly wanted to try pretty much everything.  I ended up going for the courgette and corn fritters with feta, tomato jam and rocket.  The fritters were almost pancake-like in consistency, weren't too oily and were very tasty when combined with the jam and the pesto-coated feta. I definitely had some menu envy when looking around the table. The jalapeno corn bread with fried eggs, black beans and guindilla pepper and the kimchi pankcakes and pork belly both looked amazing. The coffee, which is roasted by Caravan, was also very good (strong and slightly bitter). My bellini was never going to disappoint by nature, but it could have used a tad more peach.

Ratings: (numbers out of 10, £ out of 4) 

Food: 9
Atmosphere: 9
Service: 8
Price: ££
Overall experience: 9

(Image from kingscross.co.uk)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Travel Wish List: Mama Shelter

With interiors designed by Philippe Starck and very reasonably priced rooms (double rooms from €89 in Paris), Mama Shelter hotels look like an amazing place to stay on a budget in some of France's greatest cities.  Mama Shelter has branches in Paris, Marseille, Bordeaux, Lyon and even one in Istanbul (the one exception to an otherwise all-French brand). 

The interiors may not be the plushest as far as luxury hotels go, but their fun and creative. Each room has an iMac, free movies and free wifi (why this still isn't just a regular feature of hotels, I will never know), and a lot of the rooms appear to come with cartoon masks over the bedside light fixtures. These hotels just look like fun.

Paris










Bordeaux





Lyon






Marseille




Istanbul







Monday, April 7, 2014

London Guide: Hill & Szrok


This weekend, I had dinner with a few friends at Hill & Szrok, a new master butcher and restaurant that just opened on Broadway Market near London Fields. Hill & Szrok is a butchers by day, selling free-range and rare-bread meats, and restaurant by night (from 7pm on Wednesdays to Saturdays and for Sunday lunch). The seating for the restaurant is in the shop itself, so places are limited, with the main table being the butchers block in the centre of the room and bar stool seating around the outside.  With two seatings, one at 7pm and one at 9pm, this place is already difficult to get into days after opening.


We were lucky enough to get places for 4 along one of the bar-style ledges for the 9pm seating, after stopping by the wine shop down the road (it's BYO).  The branding of Hill & Szrok is simple and classic, as is the decor of the shop/restaurant, with marble table tops, wooden stools, functional but soft lighting and an semi-open kitchen.

The menu for the night is written on a chalk board on the side of the room and, while the menu is not large, I definitely felt the anticipation of a really good meal and found it hard to choose.  While the three people that I was with went for the ribeye steak, I had the braised chuck and blade steak in a 4 pepper sauce. It was seriously amazing.  The sauce was thick and almost smoky, with a big pepper flavour that had a lot of depth and was not at all overpowering.  The meat was so tender and so well cooked - not at all dry or overcooked. I split an order of the midnight potatoes with a friend, which were thin sliced potatoes baked with onions, and I was glad that I did. They allowed me not to waste any of the sauce that came with my main.  I also split a broccoli, fennel, almonds and goats' curd dish - also very well-cooked, well-seasoned and delicious.


I left Hill & Szrok feeling warm and elated - a feeling only good food and good friends can give.

Ratings: (numbers out of 10, £ out of 4) 

Food: 9
Atmosphere: 9
Service: 9
Price: ££
Overall experience: 9


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