London Hidden Gem: The Mansion Bar and Parlour

Tucked away down the quiet Barkston Gardens near the bustle around Earl’s Court station is the charming Mansion Bar and Parlour, a cocktail bar that opened less than a year ago on the ground floor of the 4-star boutique Hotel Indigo.


Dimple and I popped in for a drink on Friday night, but definitely plan to take advantage of the 2 for 1 happy hour that runs Sunday through Wednesday!


I didn’t have my camera, so apologies for the terrible iPhone photos.


It’s much better in person!


We didn’t know what to expect, but were happily surprised.


It’s sophisticated, elegant, colourful and contemporary with vintage vibes, taking inspiration from its original setting as a Victorian mansion.


The wallpaper is made of old classified ads and there are old school newspapers folded on each table.


After perusing the extensive cocktail menu, we put an end to our indecisiveness and took the advice of the waiter.


Hemingway Daquiris were an excellent choice.



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We noticed the staff’s name badges with Lord or Lady titles.


Apparently, according to View London, “Far from being an empty gimmick, each member of bar staff has been bought a small plot of land so they legally possess the title, making sure guests are really served by members of high society.”




I’m looking forward to going back on a Sunday when they do a traditional roast with live jazz in the afternoons.


The waiter told us to keep an eye on Living Social for deals and I see they have one on now.


They also run loads of fun networking events, molecular cocktail masterclasses and charity fashion soirees.


I can’t tell you how the food is, but the staff were lovely and so was the decor so hopefully it lives up to my expectations when I return!

December in Duke of York Square Market

When I was interviewed about my photography exhibition by Stuart from Inspiring City last month, we met near Duke of York Square on a Saturday – the only day of the week that the market springs to life.


The first thing he said to me was, “You know you’re in Chelsea when there’s people sipping oysters in the local market.”


Yes, there are buckets and crates of oysters, served front and centre when you pass by along the King’s Road. I haven’t tried them, but people seem to enjoy them.


One of favourite vendors in the market so far is the duck confit people who make “the best duck sandwich in Chelsea”. It’s the only one I’ve come across anyway, so I’d vouch for that.


Another good one is the dumpling stall. They are always fresh and tasty and the vendors are quite cheerful.

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The pie and quiche stall offerings look pretty delicious too but I haven’t given them a try yet.


If you’re after a quick snack, stop by the Brazilian table for a Coxinha De Galinha.


Plenty of samples are waiting to be snitched as well.


There’s other goodies to take home like buckets filled up with many flavours of olives.


You can choose a nice bit of fish to wrap up for dinner.


Then there’s sweets. Mountains of sweets.


And tasty loaves of bread in different flavours.


And cakes.


And more cakes.


And more cakes.


And more cakes.


And piles of meringue.

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And rows of sweets.


Finding desert won’t be a problem then (or if none of those appeal, there’s occasionally a donut stall too).

I also found something else that made me very happy to see: Colombian fruit – a whole table full of it – lulos, sapotes! When I lived in Colombia, the fruit was one of my favourite things and while I realised that ultimately I don’t belong in a tiny mountain village, there are a few things I miss. This is one of them.


They also had what we called mamones. They are sold in bags along the roadside, especially on the journey to Bogota and you occasionally see the shells and pits flying out of truck windows and littering the ground in traffic jams. You bite into the shell of the tiny round fruit and scrape the small amount of flesh off of the pit in the middle using your front teeth. It’s more a way to pass the time than pass the hunger. Here they are 10 for £10, but they were dirt cheap for huge bags full in Colombia. (Here’s the first three months worth of Little Colombia Observationist if you’re interested. Unfortunately I switched to for the second three months and ended up losing the domain when I came back to London.)


Around the holiday season, the mulled wine and chestnuts arrive along with a stall selling wreaths. One reason I’m always drawn to markets is that they are almost always lively and colourful. Another reason is for the smorgasbord of smells: the hot apple cider, then the fried dumplings, then the cheese wheels, then the stacks of fudge and the chorizo sandwiches. People tend to be in a bit of a jollier mood too.


Especially in the Summer, the square fills up with friends chatting and laughing. It’s a brilliant place for people watching. I spent hours there with my parents when they were here on a hot day a few months ago. There’s plenty to do nearby as well so it’s nice to make a day of it. Saatchi Gallery, one of my favourites, is just behind the market. The whole of King’s Road is filled with shops (try Claudie Pierlot – my new favourite), cafes (love Joe and the Juice) and places to eat (Sushinho!). There’s the Curzon Cinema as well. Plus, Hyde Park (and all the museums around Exhibition Road) and Battersea Park are within easy walking distance. (Here’s a little walk around Chelsea post in case you missed it with some other ideas).


If you have kids, take them to chat with Santa.


And, if you’re excited about sweet American treats like I am, you’ll be happy to visit the Partridges on the other side of the market. Jorge bought me some mini fruity marshmallows the other day and I picked up some Swiss Miss hot chocolate to accompany them. Mmmm, childhood in a mug.

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Now we just need some snow…Here’s a photo from last year to help you get in the Wintery mood.


(Catch me on my other blog, Little Observationist, as well.)

A Delicious Dinner at Iberica

Whenever my parents come to London, I take them to my favourite restaurants, so this time we ended up at Iberica in Marylebone for some of the best Spanish food we’ve tried in London. (Yes, I know, the second food post in a row…!)


Jorge was there too, of course. He’s the one who introduced me to Iberica back in June when we went for the first time. You may remember the blog post detailing our tipsy lunch. We sat by the bright front windows, mid afternoon with sun pouring in to light up the interior which made for some nice photos.


This time we went for dinner and sat in a cosy area upstairs. It was atmospheric with dim lights (although that didn’t help with the quality of the photos!)


We settled in with a complimentary bottle of champagne (thanks Iberica!) and picked through the menu. We already knew most of what we planned to order since the food we enjoyed last time was so delicious we wanted more of the same.

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We started with olives and bread with olive oil for dipping. Then we shared a board with of three types of jamón, which came from three different areas of Spain, each with slightly different flavours. Following closely behind were the gooey croquetas de jamón with their crisp outer layer. Then we had one of our favourites – pulpo a la Gallega – octopus with potatoes and paprika. Yum!


And what are Spanish tapas without a dish full of pimientos de piquillo? You never know when you might pull out a spicy one! Of course we added a Spanish omelette to the table. We also went for something new: fried chorizo lollypops with pear alioli sauce which were fun to eat and full of flavour.

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My mom and I washed it all down with some daiquiris (which came in glasses with the straws “magically” stuck to the condensation on the outside).


Dessert followed. We all shared a tarta de Santiago and a tarta de la abuela.

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Not only is the food delicious, but the decor and atmosphere are really inviting and the staff are fun, friendly and attentive. They seem to enjoy their jobs, which makes a difference!

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Eventually it was time to head home, but we’ll be back before long, I am sure! Maybe we’ll try the Canary Wharf branch next time…

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Leave me your best London restaurant recommendations in a comment, pretty please!

A Healthy Lunch at Ottolenghi

Last Saturday’s rain was relentless. My parents were here from New York and my dad left my mom and I alone to spend the day together (ie – he didn’t want to be dragged around the shops!). So we were out and about, dodging puddles and rain spray from cars, trying on silly glasses and enjoying some rare mother-daughter time.

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In the Spring, Jorge and I were lured in to Ottolenghi on Motcomb Street by the piles of baked goods beckoning us from the windows to find plates of delicious and colorful salads filling the counters inside.


That warm and sunny day, we sat outdoors in the small quiet courtyard sipping fennel soup and dipping in pieces of fresh bread. So Ottolenghi popped into my mind again as a place to take my mom when we were in the area hunting for lunch.


Not only is it healthy, but it’s also delicious.


It’s a tiny little place so they only have one big communal table inside. We managed to get a seat with a few fellow diners and ended up shuffling around to fit more people in. Sitting outside would have been preferable but unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans and everything was soaked. While we surveyed the menu, we started with some tasty juice – carrot, apple and ginger – which was tangy and sweet and refreshing.


The menu might change every day. It had a date on top. Also, they didn’t have the fennel soup we enjoyed before, so we looked over our options.


One of the deals was that you choose a main and two salads. I was going to go with the croquettes but they had run out so I chose the “lamb, pistachio and bulgur kebab with green tahini sauce and parsley”. My salads were “butterbean hummus with dukkah, basil, rose petals and parsley” and “grilled fennel and courgettes with sweet pistachio relish, dill, lemon, goats cheese and watercress”.


My mom also had the lamb dish but for salads she chose “basmati and wild rice with sultanas, nuts, lemon, chilli, spring onions and herbs” and “roasted aubergine with saffron yogurt, hazelnut, pomegranate seeds and mixed herbs”.


All of it was filling and delicious. The only disappointing thing was that we were too full for dessert!


It was time to head back into the rain. But there’s always a next time! Next time, dessert will be mine!


Where’s your favourite restaurant in London for healthy food?

London’s Best Crepes at La Crêperie de Hampstead

La Crêperie de Hampstead is a London institution. It’s a place I’ve been meaning to write about for a while now but I’m always too excited to remember to take any photos.

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It serves up the best crepes I’ve ever eaten. Fact.


It was sometime back in 2007 when my good friend Danny first introduced me to this little stall, manned by native French chefs, that’s been parked outside the King William IV on Hampstead High Street since 1980.


This time, I went with Carolina to introduce her to the glory that is La Crêperie de Hampstead.

I’ve been back many, many times over the last six years and it’s always the same debate: sweet or savoury?

There’s inevitably a queue. Sometimes you’re lucky and it’s only 10 minutes, but I once waited for an hour and a half and still thought it was worth it. It just goes to show how tasty they are.


The chefs navigate a tiny kitchen space with effortless efficiency while I consider the sweet versus savoury dilemma. I settle for a minute delicious spinach, garlic, cheese and ham option. Hmmm….

But no, it has to be sweet this time. Milk chocolate, banana and rum it is – my all time favourite. And Carolina goes for the same.


You can smell the butter as it slides across the hot griddle, bubbling as it spreads. The batter is poured on top and spread to the edges where it sits for a few seconds until it is flipped and golden brown.


It’s transferred to the second griddle for toppings.


There, it is loaded with chocolate chips.


They melt into a gooey puddle.


A sliced banana is slipped into place on top.



This is covered with a good swirl of rum and then folded up neatly.


Once it’s in a little triangle shape, it’s deposited into the cardboard crepe holder and handed over with a fork.


We settle on the pavement nearby and discuss our creative projects and an upcoming Cornwall retreat. Life is good.

And so are the crepes.


They are fabulously messy and I drop a glob of chocolate on my trousers. We laugh. It blends in. I’m having a blissful sugar high and don’t mind one bit.


Eventually we finish and head next door for Summer fruit smoothies.

Carolina’s review? “Best crepes ever”.