Sunday, 26 February 2017

As most people already know, I'm pretty much obsessed with London. I love exploring the city, I love writing about it and I love showing my friends and family around when they visit. I also love reading about London - ever since I started visiting London frequently and especially after I moved here, I've acquired quite the collection of London books, ranging from guidebooks to fiction.

As I love going through all of my London based literature from time to time, I thought I should share a few of my favourites with you as well. I hope you'll enjoy them as much as I do - here's to getting inspired to explore this lovely city and its surroundings!



GUIDE: LONDON BY TUBE
Christopher Winn

I found London by Tube by Christopher Winn from the bookshop of the National Portrait Gallery last summer and I just couldn't resist buying it. I'm a sucker for any book about London, but even more so for the ones that are filled with little trivia and interesting walks you might have not been familiar with, even after living in the city for a long time. Even if you're a local Londoner I think this book could help you find some of your new favourite places if you just let it!

It doesn't cover all the tube stops (that would be one big book if it did!), but it does cover few of the main stations of each line, such as Walthamstow Central on the Victoria Line, Hampstead on the Northern Line and Ealing Broadway on the Central Line. My favourite thing about the book, aside from the great walks, are the little pieces of trivia you get to learn of each station/area. For example, did you know that Britain's first ever department store was in Brixton in the Bon Marche building, now used for offices? If you remember to look up when you pass it, you can still see the old sign up on the roof!



FICTION: NW
Zadie Smith

Aside from the Bridget Jones books and the Shopaholic series, I haven't actually read that many fiction books where London played a big part as the backdrop of the story, so I was very excited to read Zadie Smith's NW as soon as I received it. The title of the book stands for the North West postcodes of London, and, aside from a few scenes playing out in central London, the book mostly concentrates on this one small part of the city.

The plot mostly follows the lives of two childhood friends, Leah and Natalie, who grew up on the same estate in NW London. The book tries to explore how two people with quite similar backgrounds can turn to lead very different lives and still stay friends, and what kind of bumps there can be along the road. Smith tries out a few different writing styles, and the book can be difficult to get into at the beginning, but believe me, if you persevere, it's going to be very much worth it! The book portrays a very different picture of London that tourists, or even me, hardly ever see, and even though it's not always exactly light reading, it makes you think, and sometimes that's exactly what's needed.




DAYTRIPS: ESCAPE LONDON
Yolanda Zappaterra

Now, I know this one's a bit of a cheat as it's not specifically about London, as much as it is about escaping it, but I thought I would include it anyway. I think anyone who lives in London will agree that no matter how much you love the city, sometimes it's lovely to get away for a day or two to recharge a bit. Plus, the book does mention Hampton Court Palace as one of the trips, and that's technically in Greater London, so...

Escape London is divided into five different categories such as Family Friendly and Culture & Heritage and I basically want to visit every single little town and attraction that's mentioned. The book is so beautifully illustrated too, which just adds to the desire to go to tick off ALL of the places - I especially want to go to Rye, Lavenham and Whitstable. Where do you want to go next?

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Wednesday, 22 February 2017

I came back from Berlin two days ago and, to my disappointment, I didn't end up having as many pictures as souvenirs as I would have liked to. It was raining a lot which meant we mostly hid inside cafes, restaurants and bars and so I didn't get to snap as much as I perhaps thought I would. I didn't even get to take pictures of all of the food I ate (tragic!) but as I did manage to photograph about half of them, I thought I'd put together a sort of guide to a few foodie spots I loved in Berlin.

(Useful) tip: Book, book, book! We were very lucky because we managed to get tables in places that were really full (the people that came after us were turned away on two separate occasions!), but we also missed out on one breakfast spot we wanted to visit because they didn't have any space. Berlin is full of lovely restaurants, and they are there for a reason - Berliners love dining out. So yes, whenever you can, I would recommend trying to book a table - especially on weekends.




BREAKFAST

Spreegold

Spreegold is a small chain of restaurants serving everything from breakfast to dinner, and they cover all those bases very thoroughly. They have a massive breakfast menu with egg dishes, sweet options, breakfast "stacks" and so much more. They also have a long list of drinks with juices and smoothies as well as the more traditional hot drinks such as the lovely fresh mint tea that I went for.

Me and my friend both went for a breakfast stack - she for the avocado one with a poached egg and me for the vegan option with slices of smoky tofu with sesame seeds & lovely, mushy avocado. I think it's safe to say we both really enjoyed our breakfasts, and I was actually very pleasantly surprised with mine as I'm not always the biggest fan of tofu. Here it somehow worked really well and I would happily recommend it - although be warned that the avocado is more like guacamole, so if that's too much for you in the morning, maybe try out one of their other (many) options!

Allan's Breakfast Club

This is the one place that we stumbled on to pretty much randomly. Our plan was to visit another breakfast spot close by, but as it was completely full (hence my warning above!) we started wandering the nearby streets of Prentzlauer Berg and in the end found this lovely little gem.

Allan's Breakfast Club (or ABC for short) is a brunch spot, a restaurant and a wine bar run by a Frenchman called - unsurprisingly - Allan. The brunch menu is very extensive, ranging from the classics like Eggs Benedict to more exotic dishes such as Shakshuka, which is what I went for (and loved). The food was really lovely, the portions very generous and the service super friendly and efficient. Much recommended!



LUNCH/DINNER

Transit

This was the first place we visited after I'd arrived and oh my, what a place to start! Transit is a Southeast Asian restaurant, and the idea is to choose 2-3 little dishes and then share (or greedily keep them to yourselves as we did..!) with your friends. All except two of the dishes can be ordered with tofu which makes this place very vegetarian friendly too.

I had a green curry which was one of the best ones I've had in a very long time, and a yellow curry with sweet potato which was really lovely too - just the right amount of sweet! I only had two dishes and a one portion of rice and I'd say it was definitely enough, unless you really are monstrously hungry!

Kanaan

This was possibly one of my absolute favourites of the whole trip, but also one of the biggest disappointments. It was a favourite because the food was ridiculously good, but a disappointment because as we visited on a Sunday evening they had ran out of pretty much everything. We would've wanted to order a bit more after we'd finished our sharing platter, but they had absolutely nothing left. I just wanted to leave that here as a bit of a warning in case you're interested in visiting (which you absolutely should!) - maybe go during Friday or Saturday instead, and again, remember to book because this place seemed really popular too, even on a Sunday night.

As they didn't have the things we originally wanted to order, we went with the Sambusak (I think that's what it was called, anyway!) which was recommended to us by our lovely waitress. It was basically a big pastry full of veggies and mushrooms on a bed of hummus and a lovely side salad. I probably wouldn't have picked it from the menu on my own, but I'm so glad it was recommended to us because I absolutely loved it. I can't wait to go back to Berlin and try out their other dishes too - there's so much I still want to try!

Kimchi Princess

Kimchi Princess is a very atmospheric restaurant in the up and coming (or so I'm told!) Kreutzberg area serving Korean food ranging from bibimpaps to big Korean BBQ sharing platters. My friend actually wanted to go there for the latter, but turns out they only do the BBQ section of the menu after 5pm and because we met up for lunch this was not an option for us. However, she said that the platters are incredibly good, so if you do end up here during the evening, maybe try them out! They also have vegan BBQ platter which is pretty amazing.

We both had bibimbaps for lunch in the end - my friend the beef one and I the vegan one which came with tofu. The bibimbap is served in a sizzling dish where the food stays hot the entire time and is still cooking when it's brought to you. It's served with a miso soup which you're meant to pour into the bibimbap if it gets too dry or too spicy. You wouldn't think a soup would go well with a spicy rice dish, but they were a surprisingly good combination! I'd love to go back and try out their other dishes too - maybe in the evening so I can sample the vegan BBQ as it sounds very tempting.



DESSERT

Kauf Dich Gl├╝cklich

I couldn't end this post without a dessert recommendation, could I?! I know I've mentioned before that I'm not the biggest dessert person in the world, but I have to say that waffles are definitely one of the exceptions to this rule. Kauf Dich Gl├╝cklich is a lovely and cosy cafe/bar/shop serving both savoury and sweet waffles, as well as hot drinks and COCKTAILS!

The waffle was really good, and the one I had was actually vegan too - win win! They had about 5-6 vegan options, from which I chose the maple syrup one - of course - and then had a lovely rum cocktail to accompany it. Aside from the vegan options they had so many other choices too - there was literally (yes, actually literally) a whole blackboard full of them. One thing I would say though is that the portions are absolutely HUGE, so if possible, it might be a good idea to share - especially if you're already a bit full and have a tendency to feel ill from too much sugar. If not, however, just go for a full one - you definitely deserve it after all that walking around in a new city..!

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Saturday, 18 February 2017



BRIGHTON
How long to get there? From 55 minutes to 1.5 hours
Notable sights: Brighton Beach, Royal Pavilion and the Brighton Pier
Where to eat & drink? VIP Pizza & The Mesmerist
Where to shop? North Laine

Brighton is almost like a mini London, only by the sea, which, in my eyes, makes any place 100% better anyway. It's a small-ish city with approximately 300,000 residents, but considering how much there is to do it feels a lot bigger. Brighton is known as a very vibrant and bohemian city, and it's also the only place in the UK that has elected a Green MP.

The city's greenness is also quite apparent when looking at all the local business in the streets - there are lots of organic shops, second hand clothes stores and vegetarian/vegan restaurants - there is even a vegan leather shoe store!




MANCHESTER
How long to get there? 2 hours and 10 minutes
Notable sights: John Rylands Library, Heaton Park
Where to eat & drink? Rudy's, Yard & Coop & Terrace NQ
Where to shop? Record and vintage shops in Northern Quarter

I first visited Manchester about 7-8 years ago, and while I only spent 2 days there, I completely fell in love and have been wanting to return ever since. I finally went back last summer and it was every bit as wonderful as I had remembered.

For me Manchester will always be a music city, as I'm sure it is for a lot of others too. A lot of my favourite artists have come from here and so I have always thought that a city that has given us Oasis, The Stone Roses and The Smiths (and all of those other greats!) has to be something pretty special. I haven't had as much time to explore Manchester as I would have liked to, but just from spotting quite a few record shops and music venues on the streets makes me think that that spirit is still very much alive!




ST ALBANS
How long to get there? 30 to 45 minutes
Notable sights: St Albans Cathedral, roman ruins at Verulamium
Where to eat & drink? 23 George Street, Beech House & The Pudding Stop
Where to shop? The traditional street market every Wednesday and Saturday

St Albans is my new favourite London escape as it takes less than an hour to get there and yet feels like miles and miles away from the capital. The city is well known for its many historic features, as well as its gorgeous cathedral and great eating and drinking opportunities - I can definitely vouch for all of these myself!

The most breathtaking sight is, of course, the cathedral which beautifully dominates the cityscape. The surrounding park is also well worth a stroll - it's also where I saw possibly the most beautiful sunset I've ever seen in my life! After you've exhausted the cathedral and its grounds, it might be a good idea to go grab something to eat, and, luckily, at St Albans, you've got ALL the options. For a small city like this, I was very surprised how much choice there was when it came to eating out and going for a drink - I don't think I've ever seen so many pubs in one place..! So basically, if you like history, food and a drink (alcoholic or not!) you'll probably love St Albans. And who doesn't love all of those things?




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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

As I've been getting really into Instagram lately, I thought it would be a nice idea to share some of the London adventures I've had recently that never made it over to the blog. There's a tiiiiny possibility I might have also come up with this idea because I forgot to take my camera with me last weekend and hence got absolutely no pictures for new content... IRREGARDLESS, I hope you enjoy this and manage to get some London-y inspiration for your next days off!



NEW LONDON CAFE (picture 1)

I met my friend for a late brunch one Sunday a few weeks ago and I have to confess - I was extremely hungover. This level of nausea and headache combination happens very little nowadays (thank god for that!) so I didn't quite know what to do with myself. Food, combined with the company of a good friend and some fresh air seemed like the right thing to do, so I dragged myself out of bed and headed for brunch.

We ended up in the New London Cafe in Highbury which was a new discovery for both of us, but the menu sounded so promising we wanted to give it a try. It wasn't mindblowingly good or innovative, but it was just what I needed at that specific moment. I had the Mediterranean breakfast with lots of fresh veggies, fried peppers and halloumi, and I think it definitely cured me a little bit. My breakfast also had fried eggs and sausages (I switched mine to veggie) but for me it was all about the fresh stuff - sausages just felt a bit too heavy for my fragile state!

I'd give the place 3/5 stars - it wasn't anything special but it did the trick and had something for everyone. Their berry smoothie was also very good and refreshing so make sure to try that out too if you do go!

BRICK LANE (picture 2)

I used to visit Brick Lane pretty religiously - it was the best place to spend a Sunday afternoon (it's basically surrounded by food - what else do you need on a lazy Sunday?). I don't really know why I stopped going, but I'm very happy I've recently rediscovered it!

We went with my friend a few weeks ago, and even though the weather was absolutely miserable, it was so much fun. I think it might have actually been a good thing that it was a bit grey and rainy as there were definitely less people than on my previous visits! I just love the colourful street art, the vintage shops, and most of all, ALL of the street food stalls that are dotted around the street and the surrounding area. The Rough Trade shop is also always a must visit - don't forget to take your pictures in the photo automat before you go!

GOODGE STREET (pictures 3-6)

I've already written a post about my love for Charlotte Street and Fitzrovia, but I wanted to give a quick special mention for Goodge Street too because it's full of so many amazing little restaurants, pubs and cafes, all ranging from chain places to lovely independents.

I spent a lot of time here, and have recently fallen in love with the new Fabrique, the outside seating area of Dickie Fitz (best for people watching!) and eaten my weight in tapas in Barrica. If you're ever in need of a place to eat or drink in central London I'd strongly recommend to head here, as even though the pubs are very full on Fridays, the atmosphere totally makes up for it - at least when the weather gets a bit better and standing outside won't be so bad!

PS. My Instagram is middleofadventure in case you'd like to take a look!

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Saturday, 11 February 2017

Let's continue with the Brixton theme a little while longer, shall we?

Coldharbour Lane's Nanban has been on my must-visit list for a long time. It's a Japanese restaurant by Tim Anderson, the winner of Master Chef 2011 and was also voted the best restaurant in Brixton last year. With all of these credentials, combined with a great menu, it was a place I knew I needed wanted to visit.



Nanban's menu is divided into a few different sections; there's your typical big dishes like ramens and curries but you'll also find a selection of little dishes where the recommendation is to choose two of three depending on your hunger levels. I'd had a massive breakfast on the day we visited, so I decided to try out two dishes first and then order more if I felt the need.

It turns out two dishes was just the perfect amount for how I was feeling, but if I had been really hungry I think three would have been the optimal amount. That, or a bowl of hearty ramen which is definitely my first stop on the next really grey, rainy day. Knowing the British weather, I probably won't have to wait for that too long...





Our "Japanese tapas" spread - looks SO good, doesn't it?


My first dish was this amazing invention, called 'KFJ' aka Kentucky fried jackfruit, which, of course, is a veggie version of the famous chicken dish. It was served with a honey-miso mayonnaise and I seriously can't decide which I liked more - the dip or the actual dish! Maybe it was the combination... Whatever it was, I would wholeheartedly recommend trying them out!


My other dish was this lovely sweet and mushy sweet potato (my first time trying out the white variety!) which was served with ponzu butter and black sesame salt which were just the perfect compliments for the sweetness of the dish.

Aside from the food, I also really loved the decor of the restaurant. The walls downstairs were filled with Japanese records and road signs where the upstairs was decorated with vibrant blue sofas & beautifully patterned tables. There were lots of thought put into the space and to all the little details which is something that I love to see in a restaurant. The food comes first, of course, but a good atmosphere and decor is a close second! Nanban ticked both boxes which is why I'll definitely be going back - next time for the ramen!

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