New Blog, Shop, Facebook: Little Observationist

In April, I started Little Observationist, a new blog where I can explore topics that go beyond the boundaries of London that confine LLO. I’ll be interviewing creative and inspiring people all over the world and posting more about travel experiences, some recipes and general lifestyle posts. LLO will stick around, of course, for as long as I live in London, but check out the new blog when you get a chance.

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Some of the highlights so far are:

To keep everything on the same page, I also closed my old Etsy photography shop and opened a new one called Little Observationist which will hopefully help me make a bit of money to put toward my wedding next year!

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And of course a new blog calls for a new Facebook page so hop over and follow me there if you like:

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Follows, links back, likes, shares, etc would be fabulous and highly appreciated to help me get the word out about these new sites! Thanks guys!! I’ll have some colourful Holi Festival photos on LLO for you tomorrow or the next day.

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A Picnic in a Garden of Roses

Sunday was the first truly hot day of Summer in London, with temperatures up to 26C/80F.

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Apart from the inspiring plane trails soaring across the sky to and from Heathrow, and one or two whispy clouds, it was a vibrant, brilliant blue.

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After a morning pedicure at The Nail Boutique in the Chelsea Farmer’s Market I headed home to decide on the best place for an afternoon picnic!

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There was no way Jorge and I were staying indoors.

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After packing our new bamboo basket with goodies, we headed to our favourite local green spot: the picturesque public gardens next to St. Luke’s church.

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This time of year, they are bursting with roses, an assortment of other pretty flowers and full green leafy trees.

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We chose a quiet green patch, away from the children running half-naked through the sprinklers on the other side of the park, just next to a lovely circle of roses.

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I loved the contrast of the bright colours against the deep blue sky.

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When London is sunny, it really comes to life.

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Blanket spread, we settled in with a bottle of wine.

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Which we polished off by the time we left.

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I apparently forgot sunglasses existed, hence the look on my face in this photo!

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Next up, food!

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We had lots of nibbles: Spanish omelette, a few types of cheese, grapes, olives, chorizo, ham, pate, baguette, salad, crackers, prawns, sun dried tomatoes.

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Jorge even bought fun yellow plates from Anthropologie and matching yellow silverware. Not to mention pretty napkins and a checkered blanket.

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Love it when guys pay attention to all the little details!

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After lunch, we poured a bit more wine and lounged around for a while.

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I took a few photos of the pretty park.

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Jorge, of course, knows all the names of the flowers, which he was telling me, and of course I’ve already forgotten…

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Aren’t they pretty?

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At certain angles, the sun shone through the petals, making them look translucent.

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Around the garden, there were couples lying on blankets, men with canes resting on wooden benches quietly observing life go by, a few dogs chasing pigeons.

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I was happy enough to be outside without a coat, so the sun was a real treat.

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Eventually we even moved to find some shade!

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I went on a hunt for tea and a cappuccino from Paul and we fiished up with some mango and passionfruit cheesecake.

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I got a bit snap-happy with the flowers, but they were just asking for it.

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So many colours really stand out when the usually grey London sky turns to Summer blue.

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It was most definitely a beautiful and memorable mid-Summer’s day!

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If you’re in the area, head across the street for a drink or lunch at the new Bumpkin Secret Garden restaurant or have a wander around Chelsea

La Bodega Negra: Dinner in a Dark Cellar

There is nothing to indicate that La Bodega Negra (literally The Black Cellar) is a restaurant.

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It’s plopped in the middle of SoHo on Old Compton Street and hides stealthily behind the façade of a sex shop, or a live peep show.

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A bright neon sign that says “Come” entices you inside an unmarked door to be greeted by a mannequin in a mask, all dressed up bondage style with leather straps crisscrossing its body and a fake bullet belt.

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From there you are welcomed inside and pointed toward a staircase that leads to the basement restaurant.

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In a similar style to Gordon’s Wine Cellar, but more roomy, the walls are chipped away creating a cave-like underground atmosphere enhanced by glowing candlelight, a large collection of Tequila and décor like a wall mirror cut out in a silhouetted shape of a woman with a semi lopsided breast.

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We kicked off the night with drinks, of course. As expected, Leslie made a beeline for the tequila section of the menu, which she stuck to the whole time. I chose an apricot margarita then a pear one and Carolina decided on something called a Jim & April before switching to margaritas.

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The first bit of food we ordered was a Quesadilla Rustica, which was like a sauceless pizza built on a thin tortilla  covered in four cheeses, roasted tomatoes and some herbs. Yum!

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This is the point where I got told off for using a flash which means the rest of the food photos are pretty crap and look unappetising  but, oh well – their loss. So, next we went for a round of small tacos that come in rustic looking logs with cut out slits to hold the tacos. They come in pairs. We ordered two soft shell crab, two pork belly carnitas and two braised beef. All delicious.

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We shared all the food so we split two mains. The first was Pork Belly which was really tender and laid on top of beans (which I don’t like, so while the meat was good, that wasn’t my favorite).

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Then the one I liked the best, which had a paella sort of vibe to it – the Mixed Seafood and Rice Cazuela. It was very delicious, full of mussels, squid and other seafood on a bed of rice but very juicy, almost like a soup.

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For dessert we had churros which we were too excited about to remember to take a photo before we gobbled them up. They are lighter than usual because they are made with a waffle iron instead of deep-fried, smothered in sugar and cinnamon and with a chili chocolate dipping sauce.

With two overpriced drinks (£9.50 for a small cocktail) each, we spent between the three of us about £185.00

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All in all a good night with great company, tasty food, friendly staff and a fun atmosphere apart from the couple sitting next to use who were outright bickering before storming out…which was, at least, entertaining.

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La Bodega Negra fills up quick so book a day or two in advance, especially if you plan on eating around 8 or later. They let you keep your table for two hours though we managed to stretch it to two and a half. Remember you want the restaurant on Old Compton Street (not the café which is on Mare Street).

For reservations, call 0207 758 4100.

Three Days with Hello Fresh

Ever come home from work and look around the kitchen feeling uninspired to cook anything more ambitious than a Waitrose meal ready to pop in the oven? That’s pretty much every night for me. So I am fully on board with the concept of Hello Fresh, especially for their encouragement of incorporating a bit of creativity with weeknight meals.

At the beginning of 2012 when the company first launched in London, I had the pleasure of reviewing Hello Fresh. They were fabulous then and even more fabulous now. And I’m not just saying that because they gave me three nights of free food!

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What’s it all about? You choose a number of days and how many people you want to feed. Hello Fresh then puts together a box of fresh ingredients for you along with a few recipes they select. The quantity of the ingredients matches pretty much exactly to the recipes included. Each night, you cook something new!

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The recipes come on sleek black colorful cards with pictures of the ingredients on the front along with all of health information (ie – Kcal, fat, carbs, protein) and on the back an easy list of instructions that are also illustrated. It’s affordable too as well with 3 meals for 2 people costing £39 (or £36 for a vegetarian box) and free delivery in mainland UK.

My three recipes this time were:

  • Chicken Paillard with Crushed Rosemary Potatoes, Rocket and Gremolata
  • Roasted Coconut Cod with Shiitake Mushrooms, Mange Tout and Egg Noodles
  • Roasted Chicken with Chorizo, Pearl Barley and Cous Cous Jumble

Here’s a better look at the recipe cards and my finished masterpieces:

Chicken Paillard with Crushed Rosemary Potatoes, Rocket and Gremolata

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Roasted Coconut Cod with Shiitake Mushrooms, Mange Tout and Egg Noodles

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Roasted Chicken with Chorizo, Pearl Barley and Cous Cous Jumble

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How did I do? Our favourite was the coconut cod. Such a mix of flavours! But they were all delicious!

A LITTLE LONDON OBSERVATIONIST DISCOUNT

Hello Fresh have offered us a special LLO reader discount. So if you’re keen to give it a try, visit the Hello Fresh website, choose your meal plan and enter the code LITTLELONDON at checkout for £15 off your first order. Let me know if you go for it and what you think. Enjoy!

Gözleme on Brick Lane

The bland colour of the pastries didn’t stand out to me from the boiling vats of vibrant Sri Lankan curries or bright green veggie plates covering the Ethiopian stall, but the lovely Turkish cook handed me a piece of Gözleme and all other options went out the window.

I’ve tried the Spanish paella, the Tibetan momos, the Peruvian quinoa stew and the Japanese okonomiyaki and all was delicious so it was time for something different.

Last weekend, I brought a few friends to the East End to experience Brick Lane and Columbia Road on a Sunday afternoon. We shuffled through the crowded flower stalls listening to the Cockney vendors shouting their wares and then slowly made our way down Brick Lane (where we saw a photographer taking photos of the backs of people’s heads with a wide angle lens), in search of lunch.

The mingling scents of different types of food hit you as soon as you walk inside the main food hall. It’s overwhelming. But I know have a new favourite – the Turkish Gözleme from the friendly vendor who tossed an extra tomato over my shoulder into the little container as I walked away. He told it’s food to avoid bad eyes (göz means “eye”).

It’s made on thin pastry, with bits of tomato, mushroom, spinach, parsley, feta cheese and mince meat. And it’s delicious. The pastry is filled and folded and cooked on a hot griddle until it’s golden brown then cut up and stacked in four pieces (of which I could only manage to eat two…so share!)


The end – iPhone photo with suicidal tomato

We ate outside in the courtyard, in the sunshine, before heading off to one of my favourite places – 1001 – to wash it all down with some drinks!