South Africa – The Panoramic Route

Its been a while since my last South Africa post, I thought I would give you all a break! One thing that amazed me most about South Africa was it’s ever changing landscape, there is just so much to see that its impossible to do it all in one trip. Leaving our lodge on the edge of Kruger we travelled to Hazyview which is further south but still on the edge of Kruger and used by many people as their base for safaris. We used Hazyview and our lovely hotel, the Hippo Hollow as a base to explore the region and of course the world famous Panoramic route.

We had been blessed up to this point with great weather, however that all changed the morning we were due to head out onto the Panoramic Route – the heavens opened and it didn’t look like it was going to stop!!

As we left Hazyview behind and wound our way around the hills and climbed higher, even through the rain soaked windows we could see the amazing scenery outside – deep valleys, thick forests and stunning waterfalls, we were a long way from the flat savannahs we had experienced while on safari. On a clear sunny day this would have been a photographers paradise.

Our first stop was Blyde River Canyon, the third largest canyon in the world. As we stepped out of the bus to make the short walk to the viewing areas it suddenly stopped raining, we couldn’t believe it! As you approach the viewing areas the sheer vastness of the canyon becomes apparent, its beautiful. You feel like you are not in the modern world but this is the landscape for some prehistoric era. This was certainly the place to just sit on a rock and take in the majesty of your surroundings.

Panoramic of Blyde River Canyon - the rain stopped just long enough to get a couple of photos in

Panoramic of Blyde River Canyon – the rain stopped just long enough to get a couple of photos in

 

Blyde River Canyon

Blyde River Canyon

This is of course the ideal place for great photos, and we ladies did not hesitate to get some posed photos in while the sun was trying to come out.

Selfies at Blyde River Canyon, of course!

Selfies at Blyde River Canyon, of course!

 

Now of course the Canyon is stunning but it’s not the only stopping spot on the Panoramic Route. Our next call was Bourke’s Luck Potholes. Now I had no idea what we were going to see when I heard the name, to me potholes are the things in the road that cause all sorts of trouble! However when you see these potholes you are in awe of the sheer power that water has to shape rock. The power of the river has over centuries formed amazing rock formations and pools in the striking red rock.

Bourke's Luck Potholes

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

Bourke's Luck Potholes

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

 

Bourke's Luck Potholes

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

Now I would have loved to have filled this blog with fabulous panoramic views of the valleys and scenery we passed but unfortunately the rain came back and the rest of my photos are pretty grey and miserable.  The weather got so bad that we had to skip Gods Window! The Panoramic Route is definitely worth a visit as it gives you a whole different view on the country but also lets you delve into its history and see what life was like back during the days of the prospectors and gold rush.

The chance to go on an elephant ride - amazing!

The chance to go on an elephant ride – amazing!

While we were in Hazyview we got the opportunity to go on an elephant experience with Elephant Whispers. I have had the amazing chance to ride elephants and play with them before but in Asia, so the chance to get up close to an African elephant was a definite must. We spent about an hour learning about the elephants, getting to feed them, touch them ( the back of their ears are SO warm and soft!), it was truly unique. After that we went for a short ride, not the best I have done, but the first timers loved it.

Standing between an elephants legs.... not in the least bit scary!

Standing between an elephants legs…. not in the least bit scary!

One thing that we all enjoyed was the Boma Dinner that our hotel put on. We had an amazing traditional dance show which was so high energy, I don’t know how they kept going for so long! I know it’s quite a ‘tourist’ thing to do, but it was really fun!

Boma Dinner - traditional South African dancing and music- the energy these dancers have is amazing!

Boma Dinner – traditional South African dancing and music- the energy these dancers have is amazing!

Panoramic Route - South Africa

Fabulous dancing!

It’s such a shame we had such terrible weather the day we were due to drive the Panoramic Route but we still got to see some of it and it did not disappoint. Spectacular scenery that just made me further fall in love with South Africa. Having Hazyview as a base was great as we got to further explore and enjoy a bit of the culture. We were here for three nights which was enough time as we had already done our safari. Next and final stop on the adventure was Cape Town!

 

Afternoon Tea at the Ham Yard Hotel

Behind buzzing Shaftesbury Avenue and the throngs of people who fill the street lies a haven. A small paved courtyard lined with trees, sits hidden behind one of the busiest streets in London, and this little courtyard belongs to the Ham Yard Hotel. In the heart of Soho hides a respite from the chaos, an elegant hideaway. It is here in the cool and quiet courtyard that I devoured a beautiful afternoon tea, it was so very easy to forget that I was in London in the middle of Soho.

From the moment we got to the Ham Yard Hotel you felt relaxed, the staff were lovely and nothing seemed too much trouble. Afternoon tea can be served in the bar, restaurant or lounge area, but our waiter had assigned us a table outside presuming that we would want to enjoy the glorious weather, he presumed correct. I had a quick snoop around the lounge (and the restaurant area of course!) and in autumn or winter this would be a great place for tea, big deep sofas and chairs, a place you could while away the afternoon away from the cold and enjoy delicate cakes and tea.

From the moment we sat down I felt taken care of, our waiter returned now and again throughout the tea to make sure we were ok, and chat away with us, he was such a sweety! The staff were friendly but not overbearing. We choose the basic afternoon tea, you can upgrade for a little more money and have their speciality teas but I was more than happy with my Earl Grey. As our afternoon tea arrived I could feel myself wanting to dive on it straight away, everything looked amazing.

Afternoon Tea at the Ham Yard Hotel

Afternoon Tea at the Ham Yard Hotel

Love the china pattern

Loving the china pattern – I want!!

The savouries included a chorizo sausage roll ( so going to have to make some of these myself), pea and mint tarts, sandwiches of course (salmon and black pepper and cucumber) and a duck slider with hoisin sauce. This is clearly not your delicate traditional tea but a great modern spin using a range of flavours that made it exciting. Each individual item was full of flavour, not to big or over powering, they all just worked together.

The tower of delightful treats

The tower of delightful treats

the savoury selection

the savoury selection

Going up we had the cakes, yum! There were chocolate macaroons, a pretty little éclair filled with crème patisserie and gold dusted blueberries, strawberry mouse, chocolate and lemon battenburg, bakewell tart and a coconut cupcake. Nothing was too overwhelming, sometimes you go to a tea and the cakes are all to big, they are meant to be small and delicate, these cakes worked well. They all had a slight twist on the traditional which I liked and surprisingly nothing disappointed me, the sponges moist, the éclair crisp and the macaroons delightful.

Cake anyone?

Cake anyone?

the delicate and delicious strawberry mouse and meringue

the delicate and delicious strawberry mouse and meringue

Now I always find the real test of an afternoon tea are their scones. So many places give you massive scones or they are dry, it’s hard to find a really decent scone, but the Ham Yard did pretty well. Their scones were small which I liked, you were not faced with a scone eating challenge, and instead you were given several small scones which were light and fluffy. With two types of jam and plenty of clotted cream it was really hard not to try to devour them all at once. I managed to maintain a small amount of ladylike behaviour while eating them.

As we lazed away the afternoon with our tea I could have quite happily stayed there all afternoon, the bar certainly looked tempting and as I walked through they were making some interesting looking cocktails.

On first visit to the Ham Yard Hotel I instantly loved it. I of course have a great love of the Firmdale brand as the Charlotte Street Hotel’s restaurant and bar are a favourite, it’s so annoying living in London as I have no excuse to actually try them out as a hotel! The Ham Yard is now a firm new favourite and with the afternoon tea being so reasonably priced at £18, I know! The quality of the food was worth much more, but at this price it means I can keep going back without having to make up an excuse for a treat, plus the menu changes every week so there is always a new surprise waiting. I look forward to experiencing the restaurant and bar as well as more tea!

Jimmy’s Underground Pop Up Restaurant

Jimmy’s passion and excitement for his food is infectious as he explains the evenings menu. The food is locally sourced as much as possible and carefully considered. From the rabbit that was shot by his friend to the chorizo from his grandmothers village in Spain, it all gives such a personal touch that I think is sometimes forgotten in many restaurants today.

The pop up is located beneath Dvine wines in Clapham North, which is a great place to grab a bottle of wine. There was the choice of matching wines to each course for £15 but we decided to just grab bubbles.

Down the stairs you are whisked away to Jimmy’s Underground pop up. There are two tables of 8 and one of 10. If your party doesn’t fill a table then it all gets a bit communal so get to know your neighbours it makes for a much more fun evening.

In the intimate setting you are never far from the food!

In the intimate setting you are never far from the food!

The food itself was delicious, everything was brilliantly cooked, full of flavour and beautifully presented. The evening started with a trio of canapés, two were presented on slate and the chicken lollipops in a jar – very fun! For starter and main you get a choice, I went for the Duck and Orange Salad, which was a mince duck ball breaded and fried ( a touch of foie gras in the middle) with duck skin and fresh orange. It was light and fresh and just the right amount to get you salivating.

Duck and Orange Salad

Duck and Orange Salad

In between starter and main comes the surprise course, this was one of my favourite things, rabbit ragu! This rabbit ragu however had a Spanish twist with chorizo in it. It was lovely ( not sure it was as good as mine – sorry!) and I liked the idea of adding chorizo, something I will try next time I make my ragu. The main course was what we were all waiting for – Old Gloucester Pork and Apples- pork loin, crispy bacon and pork belly served with apple puree and fondant potatoes. Pork belly is one of my favourite things and when served with two other types of pork – divine!

Wild Rabbit Ragu

Wild Rabbit Ragu

Gloucester Old Spot Pork and Apples

Gloucester Old Spot Pork and Apples

Now desert…… what can I say it was like a girls dream desert! Chocolate brownie, nutella ice-cream, shortbread and raspberry coulis – yum!! The brownie was delicious and I am determined to get the recipe, it was rich, dense and not too sickly, perfect!!

Desert!! Nutella Ice Cream and Chocolate Brownie!

Desert!! Nutella Ice Cream and Chocolate Brownie!

Overall this was a fabulous introduction to Jimmy’s cooking skills, especially as I had heard so much about them from his girlfriend! We all enjoyed the evening immensely and all said we would go back. This of course isn’t Jimmy’s only venture, he has a pop up in Brixton on a Tuesday and also does catering for weddings – he is one busy chap! Next on the list is heading over to his Tuesday night in Brixton, and I really should squeeze in a night at his Burger and Bordeaux before he disappears to France for the winter.

I would recommend a trip to Jimmy’s Underground Pop up to everyone, as it is great, fresh food with little fuss and if you live in SW London then its just around the corner!

Sinabro

As I walk to work everyday across Clapham Common and down Battersea Rise its hard not to look in all the shop windows that I pass, it allows your mind to wander and get ready for the day ahead, however one day not so long ago I noticed a new restaurant was opening, Sinabro. Then a couple of days ago my colleague walked past and said it looked like it was open, oh the excitement, somewhere new to try!

So like eager children we got on the internet and pulled up the website, a soft launch today and tomorrow – half price, well that is just an offer we couldn’t refuse. So a table was booked for a thursday lunch time and we patiently waited.

The freshly painted blue front is instantly welcoming, as you step inside its simple decor, with light and airy colours used to create the illusion of space. There is no getting around it, this is a small restaurant of only 30 covers. There are two tables in the window and then a bar that overlooks the kitchen and round the back there are a handful of other tables, which in an evening if looking for a touch of romance it would be perfect as its quiet. We were instantly greeted by Sujin Lee the manager and chef who is also partner to Yoann Chevet the head chef and owner (both their CVs are detailed on their website which is an interesting touch but emphasise how much they want people to know their background and food pedigree). It was quiet but it was lunchtime and they have only been open for a day so its to be expected.

Inside the restaurant

Inside the restaurant

the small tables nestled at the back of the restaurant

the small tables nestled at the back of the restaurant

We were seated at the bar and had prime seats to see everything that was happening in the small but proficiently organised kitchen. The menu is short and simple and with a kitchen the size they have anything more would be overly ambitious. With a choice of three for Entrée, Main and Desert it doesn’t take long to decide what to have. Its a nice change to go into a restaurant and not be faced with a ridiculous number of choices and then be faced with food envy when someone elses plate arrives – I like this simple menu, may it spread to other establishments!

A lovely glass of Prosecco

A lovely glass of Prosecco

Vichyssoise amuse bouche

Vichyssoise amuse bouche

Naomi, my lovely colleague, went with entrée and main while I, having an enormous sweet tooth, went for main and desert. Her entrée was Mackerel, Beetroot and Spinach – mackerel filet on a bed of wilted spinach with beetroot puree. It was simply but elegantly presented and tasted lovely. Unexciting we both went for the same main dish of Risotto, Green Vegetables and Parmesan. The risotto was beautifully cooked, creamy and not too rich. The saltiness of the parmesan created a slight edge to the fresh asparagus and broad beans, I couldn’t find a fault with it.

Mackrel, Spinach, Beetroot

Mackerel, Spinach, Beetroot

Risotto, Green Vegetables, Parmesan - delectable!

Risotto, Green Vegetables, Parmesan – delectable!

Desert of course is the real test, my favourite thing. Overlooking the kitchen meant I got to see the whole dish get put together. Crisp short bread topped with piped creme patissiere, artfully positioned strawberries and sweet strawberry ice cream. To top it all off chewy meringue sticks. This was a beautiful looking desert, all the flavours and textures worked together, it was summer on a plate.

Strawberry, shortbread, meringue - perfect!

Strawberry, shortbread, meringue – perfect!

I couldn’t fault the food it was all delightful and I would go straight back to try the other menu items. I am, however, not sure I would want to sit at the bar again, being so close to the kitchen does mean you can feel the heat from the oven and on a warm summers day it’s not the best seat in the house. The restaurant is small and they have gone for optimising space which is great, other people may enjoy being able to see into the kitchen and seeing these chefs at work and not bother about the heat, but for me I think I will ask for a table next time.

Overall this was a great introduction to a new Clapham Junction restaurant and one that I know I will go back to. Speaking to Sujin you can feel their enthusiasm and their drive to do well, and I really hope that they do well as the food was fabulous, simple and flavourful, Yoann has really bought a little bit of French fine dining to the area.

Duck and Waffle

Located on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower is the UK’s highest restaurant, and that restaurant is Duck and Waffle.

I have been wanting to go there for a while as I only hear good things and lucky enough so did my sister so as her birthday present I took her there for lunch. We were blessed with the weather, gorgeous blue sunny skies, so the views out over London were superb! One of the things that they are known for is being open 24 hours……. the food was great but it’s definitely not the sort of grub I want at 2am when I have had a little bit too much to drink or danced my socks off…. but I guess everyone is different. I know people who have booked a table for 4am just so they can watch the sun rise over London, nice but I like my sleep, so I think I will stick to lunch and dinner visits.

So when you arrive you get up to that magical 40th floor by a dedicated super fast lift, yes your ears will pop a little, but going up the views are pretty cool of the City. To get to the restaurant you head through the bar area which is all open plan and basically a holding pen for those waiting for their table ( they do say on their website that you only get it for 2 hours if there are two of you, saying that we never felt rushed). The restaurant area itself is all open plan, with an open kitchen at one end and floor to ceiling windows on the other three sides. I would recommend requesting a window seat, however if there are more than two of you that won’t happen as its only tables of two around the windows, the bigger tables are situated in the middle of the restaurant. The views do not disappoint, and on a sunny day you can see the very edges of the city, it makes you remember why you love London town so!

View from Duck and Waffle

View from Duck and Waffle

Now of course what is a restaurant if it’s just all views and no substance – Duck and Waffle impressed as it had the views and the substance. The food was amazing and instantly decided after the first mouthful that I was going back! We were there for brunch so had the choice of breakfast or their brunch menu. As much as the Colombian eggs tempted me we decided on the brunch dishes. The house bread which was freshly baked, puffed up and delicious, accompanied our foie gras crème brulee ( possibly my new favourite thing) which was rich, creamy and sweet and hit all the right notes. The wild Cornish Pollock meatballs in a lobster cream sauce were light and flavourful, the lobster cream was rich but light and to round it all off so we were not completely comatose in cream and butter we opted for the smoked mozzarella salad which was fresh and completely the right thing to go with our rich dishes.

Fresh bread!

Fresh bread!

Pollock balls in lobster cream sauce - heaven"

Pollock meatballs in lobster cream sauce – heaven

Foie gras creme brulee my new favourite thing

Foie gras creme brulee my new favourite thing

Yum!!

Yum!!

We of course went for desert, you cannot go to a restaurant with waffle in the name and not have a waffle. I went for the banana waffle with caramelised banana, nutella and ice cream – divine, while my sister went for the rhubarb compote option.

fabulous banana and chocolate waffles

fabulous banana and chocolate waffles

The food just didn’t disappoint, it was simply presented and left all the impressions to the skill behind the cooking and flavour. This may be a hip place to go and you have to book months in advance to get a table but it has the substance behind it so you know what…. I just don’t mind!

Now I am no wine connoisseur, but the wine list is pretty hefty in price, however, the wine by the glass wasn’t too bad. The cocktail list is definitely worth checking out though, it has a list of the usual suspects but with the D&W spin on it, plus their own creations.

Overall this was a rather lovely visit. The staff were all very friendly and attentive, the food wonderful and of course you cannot argue with the views. I will definitely be returning and would recommend it to anyone that asks!

Its all gone a bit Mexican – Black Bean Quasadilla

With the sun shining and the temperature rising, the summer really did arrive in London this weekend. So why not bring some of that sunshine into the kitchen! The weather always ends up inspiring me, and the sun it really inspired me to make dishes full of colour and full of summer flavour, and for some reason I turned to Mexico for inspiration!

Now I have never been to Mexico but its very much on my list. With holidays for 2015 already in the pipe line Mexico will have to wait in line but I will go and when I do it will be an amazing foodie experience. I love the flavours and the spice that comes out of Mexican food, plus they love to put cheese on things so how could you possibly complain. The food is so simple yet full of flavour and the ingredients so versitile, its fun food to make!

So with the sun out, it of course meant picnic on the common, and once you are full of food it of course means a nap. As I dozed in the sun I pondered new recipes, food to try ( yes thats right all I do is think about food!) and new sources of inspiration, and of course something Mexican inspired popped into my head. Returning home I raided the cupboard and there they were black beans, a lovely little tin ready to cook with. With a fridge full of cheese, a quasadilla was the only way forward!

Of course I cannot just have a quasadilla on its own, and will some lovely ripe avacados sitting in the fruit bowl fresh from the farmers market they just screamed GUACAMOLE!!!

Guacamole is so quick and easy to make that it feel wrong to buy it in the shop. Here is my super quick recipe. Once you start making your own guacamole you will never go back!

Guacamole recipe

1 1/2 ripe Avocados, skinned and chopped

2 spring onions roughly chopped

3-4 small cherry tomatoes chopped in half

a few springs of coriander

1/3 chilli ( add more if you want some heat)

Squeeze of lime

Throw all the ingredients into a food processor and whizz – pop in a bowl and serve!

such simple ingredients

such simple ingredients

...... and just whizz

…… and just whizz

And Serve!! delicious

And Serve!! delicious

 

Now you need something to go with that amazing guacamole you just made so here is a recipe for a super easy and tasty quesadilla, and the best thing is you can vary up the ingredients, add in some beef or chicken, or keep it veggie and fill it with peppers.

Quasadilla Ingredients ( for 2-3 servings)

Spray oil

1 red onion thinly sliced

1 garlic clove crushed

1/2 tsp chili flakes ( add more if you want the heat)

1 400g tin of black beans

5/6 tbsp. pasata

2 teaspoons of Schwartz Fajita spice mix

2-3 small tortilla wraps

cheese…. as much as you like.

1. Spray a frying pan with a few squirts of oil and add the onions and garlic. Let the onions cook on a low heat until soft and add in the chili flakes. Then add the black beans fajita spice and pasata, stir all together and turn the heat down to low.

such dull looking ingredients but they make such an exciting dish

such dull looking ingredients but they make such an exciting dish

into the frying pan

into the frying pan

 

2. While the beans are heating through get another frying pan out and spray with a little bit of oil, put on a low heat and add a wrap. Gentle heat for about 20 seconds on each side, then on one side spoon some of bean mix onto the wrap and top with cheese. Then fold the wrap over and turn the heat up a little bit and cook on each side for a couple of minutes so each side browns and the cheese melts. If you are doing more than one then keep them warm in the oven, otherwise serve with a salad and home made Guacamole!

fill half the tortilla wrap and top with lots of cheese

fill half the tortilla wrap and top with lots of cheese

brown each side lightly until the cheese melts

brown each side lightly until the cheese melts

Serve with yummy home made guacamole

Serve with yummy home made guacamole

Enjoy! xx

Venetian Duck Ragu

“I cannot believe the price of duck legs, they are extortionate. How much are they in your supermarket?” That was the conversation that introduced me to this lovely recipe for Venetian Duck Ragu. My mother moaning about how expensive duck legs were in her supermarket, and I broke the news to her that they were on special offer in mine, so I promptly headed out to buy some so I could make this slow cooked dish of yumminess.

The recipe is from Good Food, and is so easy to make. I like a good slow cooked dish, it means I can just leave it and get on with other things, it’s a great Sunday cooking project. It’s also great because it freezes brilliantly. This recipe makes about 6/7 portions depending on how hungry you are.

Ingredients

1tsp olive oil

4 duck legs

2 onions, finely chopped

2 fat garlic cloves, crushed

2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp plain flour

250ml red wine

800g  chopped tomatoes

1 chicken stock cube made up into 250ml stock

3 rosemary springs, leaves picked and chopped

2 bay leaves

1 tsp sugar

1. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the duck legs and brown on all sides for about 10 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside. Then add the onions to the pan and cook for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute and then stir in the cinnamon and flour and cook for a further minute. Return the duck to the pan, add the wine, tomatoes, stock, herbs sugar and seasoning.  Bring the pot to a simmer and then lower the heat and cover. Cook for 2 hours stirring every now and again.

Brown those duck legs on all sides

Brown those duck legs on all sides

Brown the onions until soft and add the spices and flour

Brown the onions until soft and add the spices and flour

One the onions are soft add the duck legs back in......

One the onions are soft add the duck legs back in……

..... then add some non descript red wine.... cooking wine had to do as there was not Chateaux Neuf du Pap left!

….. then add some non descript red wine…. cooking wine had to do as obviously there was no Chateauneuf du Pape left in the flat!

add the wine and stock and leave to simmer covered ... this is when the magic happens!

add the wine and stock and leave to simmer covered … this is when the magic happens!

2. Carefully lift the duck legs out after the 2 hours of cooking and place on a plate. Pull the fat off and discard. The meat should just fall off the bone at this point. Shred the meat and return it to the sauce. Simmer the sauce for a further 15 minutes. While it is simmering cook the pappardelle .

After their long simmer take the legs out and shred the meat off the bones

After their long simmer take the legs out and shred the meat off the bones

Then add the meat back to the pot and continue to simmer while the pasta cooks.... yum!

Then add the meat back to the pot and continue to simmer while the pasta cooks…. yum!

serve the ragu with fresh parpadella and lots of parmesan..... now that is a good home cooked meal!

serve the ragu with fresh pappardelle and lots of parmesan….. now that is a good home cooked meal!

Serve the sauce with pasta and topped with lots of parmesan cheese.

This is such a low effort dish to make, you just leave it and it does its own thing!

Enjoy! xx

101 Posts! Where does time go?!

‘You have reached 100 posts’ ….. say what!! That was the message I got when I posted about my visit to Bounce…. how have I written 100 posts already – how time flies! Which makes this 101, that’s right I have enough posts to make a blog post coat!!

I jest of course, you cannot make a coat out of blog posts… unless I printed them out, laminated them and stapled them together…. hrm….  clearly the terrible weather has gotten to me today.

So what does one talk about on their hundred and first blog post? It should probably be something prolific, profound and meaningful…. but then again none of my other posts have been so why start something I will not continue. Things like this always make you reminisce and ponder what has been but also it is great at making you think about where you are going!

The future, such a scary thought! I am quickly spiralling towards a landmark birthday, although I will continue to lie about my age, but there is so much to look forward to coming up, holidays, gigs, new restaurants to try,  birthday PRESENTS, more holidays…….  and more holidays, that I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to think about the future. For me there is a lot of planning at the moment with regards to the old blog and writing as I am really trying to get my freelance stuff out there and always looking for new inspiration.

The future is also exciting as you do not know what is going to happen. One very exciting future, is that of my darling friends Ailsa and Rich who got married at the weekend – they are two people setting off on an awesome adventure - a future together… FOREVER! It was such a lovely day ( yes I am doing a wedding shout out!) and a wonderful chance to catch up with people who I haven’t seen in ages and again reminisce about the good old days of youth!

Anyway, that’s enough pontificating from me! The future, it’s an adventure, and in my blogging future there will be lots more food…. quite a bit of beer…. and travel stories. I hope you continue to join me on these adventures and share your thoughts with me for the next 100 posts!

Enjoy your pondering of the future!

 

Bounce Ping Pong

Now when I heard about a bar / restaurant that had ping pong tables I got a little bit excited. I am easily pleased and love a bit of novelty, so of course I went the first opportunity that arose. As always I am a little bit behind the hype and Bounce has been open for a couple of years so forgive me for getting excited about something that is old hat, but I don’t care!

Bounce prides itself on the fact that it is located on the spot where ping pong was apparently invented, how true that is, I don’t know, how much it means when you get there, not a bit. Although one nice little feature is that they have the ping pong table from the 2012 Olympic final!

I thought that maybe there was going to be too much hype about this place but it was so much fun and we all agreed that we needed to go back. So how does it work I hear you cry! If there are more than 6 you can book tables in advance, otherwise they keep a bunch of tables back for walk ins. We were the walk ins, so when we arrived at 6.30pm we booked ourselves a table, and got one for 10pm ( that was the first one available). This wasn’t a problem for us as we were going to eat and were waiting for another friend to join us later on, but if you want something a bit earlier I would book a table as soon as you get there. You can book a table for 30mins or 60mins, we just went for 30mins which was just right because after wine your skills are not exactly Olympic standard. If you want to make a real ping pong night of it then go for the hour, I think we will next time!

We ladies are ping pong ready

We ladies are ping pong ready

The bar which sits in the middle of the ping pong area has a great selection of cocktails, however there is limited seating, mainly because the ping pong tables, the star of the show, take up the space but it’s quite fun standing around and watching everyone play. Plus once you are at your ping pong table you get table service so no need to worry about your glasses running dry.

Always ping pong ready!

Always ping pong ready!

The restaurant which is located away from any flying ping pong balls on a raised area towards the back is nice and airy but void of atmosphere, and its not somewhere I would rush back to for food. The choice of antipasti and pizza is pretty wide but the food itself is mediocre. We had an antipasti platter to share and this was the highlight of the meal. The pizza’s were nothing special and definitely lacked flavour. If you are heading to Bounce I would say eat somewhere else first otherwise you will just be disappointed!

Down in the ping pong zone it is full of atmosphere and it screams fun from the moment you get there. Going down the stairs from street level you enter a world of music and ping pong. The entire night the air was filled with a range of awesome tunes that you could sing and dance along to. Everyone was having such a great time, it was hard not to join in. Throughout the evening, there was the opportunity to play group competitions on the main table. We joined in on many ’round the table’ games which led to great competitiveness and hilarity and then they put the black light on and it just becomes a great party atmosphere. The crowd thinned a bit around 10:30ish but that just gave people space to dance to the brilliant tunes!

Fabulous black lights and fluresent ceilings

Fabulous black lights and fluorescent ceilings

This was one of the best nights out I have had in a long time, Bounce knows how to put on a great night and I will most definitely be going back on many occasions, but I may need to work on my ping pong skills first!

Love London

I love living in London, I know I say it a lot but I really do. There is always something going on and I am always finding new things, hidden gems. It’s so hard to be bored in this fabulous city… well until you run out of money and then have to spend the week before pay-day being a hermit….doh!

Last week was particularly busy with numerous cultural engagements on the cards, I have truly been emersing myself in this delightfully cultural city!

First off the week started with a fabulous play called Birdland, I am not going to attempt to review, that is far beyond my skill but I very much enjoyed it. The play stars Andrew Scott, for those Sherlock fans out there, he is the one who plays Moriarty. Andrew Scott was superb, that is a man who pulls off crazy far too convincingly! The play is on at the Royal Court, which I have never been to until now and as theatres go it’s so very cute. Wait, can you describe theatres as cute?! oh well!  Its bar and restaurant, I have frequented before and very much recommend for a drink or dinner either pre theatre or just whenever. Its a great location next to Sloane Square tube station so perfect for a stop if you happen to find yourself shopping on the Kings Road.

Then from new play to a very old building. That old building being Wilton’s Music Hall. Wilton’s is a recent revelation to me thanks to a friend. It’s the worlds oldest surviving music hall and its a very cool place to hang out. Located down a side street between Wapping and Whitechapel and can be found by looking for a big wooden door set in a peeling wall. The cocktail bar upstairs is the oldest part of the music hall dating back to around 1725 and was originally a public house. Its striped down appearance just emphasises the age and uniqueness of the venue, and yes being in East London its a wee bit hipster but once you are inside you just don’t care because whether you are there for a drink, a gig or swing dance its welcoming and has a fine array of drinks behind the bar, this being another reason it gets my approval, its stocks The Kernal Bewery! Hurrah!

Love LondonIMG_3403Now the reason on this occasion for me being at Wilton’s was to the fabulous Kelis play! I know, it seems like an odd venue choice for a huge star like Kelis to play but as a venue it worked. The gig was part of her new album launch. Being in the old music hall, with its stage you are never far from the star of the show, this was one of the best and most intimate musical performances I have ever been to. The music was awesome, we danced all night with our Kernal Pale Ale in hand and left singing all the way to the tube. Wilton’s has very quickly become a firm favourite and I only hope more artists decide to play there. This is why I love London, because international performers come to visit, they love the unique locations that are on offer and places like Wilton’s really offer amazing atmosphere. Its a winner for both performer and audience.

The next day signaled my second gig of the week, this time something complete different, a charity gig by a band called Mullit! Now I had never heard of Mullit before and being a non skier it’s no surprise, but this is a band who play ski resorts and are a big hit amongst the ski community. My friend went to a charity gig they played last year and asked if a few of us wanted to go along again this time around. The selling point was they were playing a pub in Putney so very easy to get home from…… yes I know lazy but the route home always needs to be considered!

IMG_3411Now, its less the gig but more the venue that makes this a love London moment. Dont get me wrong, from the moment we walked into that back room we didn’t stop dancing, the music they were playing was awesome, you knew every song and it was like being back at some University Union night! Brilliant! But its the fact that we are blessed with, one so many fun pubs and secondly that so many pubs offer so many various forms of entertainment from pub quizzes to gigs by random bands. Now the Half Moon pub where we saw Mullit was also where we went to see…. wait for it …. Chesney Hawkes… yes you heard me, the one and only Chesney Hawkes. Pubs like the Half Moon try to distinguish themselves as a place to go not just for a pint but fun and it makes them more appealing. Now don’t get me wrong I know it’s not the only pub that has people playing music, and I know this is something pubs all around the country do, but for me the abundance of choice of live music is why I love London. There is always something going on be it a Tuesday night or a Friday night!

I know I am being very insular and London-centric but sometimes I am just because I love where I live so much and even with all my travels I always want to come home. I imagine living in other cities, and I would probably have a fabulous time living in my second ( Rome) and third ( Berlin) favourite cities but at the end of the day I am always going to want to come back to good old Londinium, its panoramic views when you cross a river, the lush green spaces, the shopping, the eating and the drinking! I know people who have lived in this city and not taken full advantage of it, they don’t explore, they don’t experience and its a waste. It’s possible to spend a lot or a little in this city and that is what is so great, we are spoilt for choice.

……….. right, ramble about my adventures in London over…. well until next time….. I want to inspire you to get out and explore, be it in London or where ever you are, take full advantage of everything you home city or town has to offer!