Discovering Japan | Osaka Travel Diary

osaka travelDiscovering Japan | Osaka Travel Diary

This year’s Japan trip included a few days in the land of takoyaki, comedians and awesome old ladies. Yes, Osaka was new ground for me. I’d visited the city ever so briefly 5 or so years ago, but had never fully discovered the city. I was eager to see if the people were as friendly as my friends claimed, and whether the food really was some of the best in Japan.

Osaka Travel: Where to Visit

I already had a few ideas of where I wanted to visit whilst we were in Osaka, but we also made some time to catch-up with friends. As someone who only experienced Osaka properly (and trust me, we went for it) this year, I feel like I can give you a few hints and tips on where to visit, and what to do:

  • Wander Around Osaka Castle – I’m not saying you should go inside and do the whole tourist thing. No. Check it out from the gardens (it’s beautiful), then spend your time eating ice cream – try matcha or kinako – and people watching. If you’re lucky you’ll catch the groups who hang out with their pets – on a good day this may include dogs in costumes, birds of prey and owls. Yep.
  • Go See The Running Man – Glico’s running man sign is a famous tourist spot for the Japanese when visiting Osaka. Situated in Dotonbori, the running man has been towering over Ebisubashi (ebisu bridge) since the 1930s. It’s a popular spot to take photos – whilst impersonating the sign – and there’s plenty of cool shops and food stalls to check out nearby.
  • Try Some Takoyaki at Wanaka – Takoyaki (battered balls filled with octopus) is the dish of Osaka. You’ll find this popular dish all across Japan, but it originally comes from Osaka. Wanaka is one of the best in Osaka with a variety of flavours, and prices ranging from £2-£4. Try the Ooiri Set for a taster.
  • Visit Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan – This walk around aquarium is one of the largest in the world, and includes a large variety of sea animals. The venue is laid out with 18 areas that represent various countries and regions across the world, with the corresponding sea life.
  • See Osaka from the Sky – Umeda Sky building may look like a rather impressive office tower, but it’s actually full of restaurants, arcades and a viewing platform. The view from the top is impressive, especially at night.

So there you have it, my Osaka Travel Diary. Feel free to leave your tips for others, and let me know your favourite things to do in Osaka.
See more posts: Japan Travel Diary

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Good and Proper Tea – The New Afternoon Tea in London

afternoon tea in londonGood and Proper Tea* | Brunch/Afternoon Tea in London – Cafe | Nearest Tube: Chancery Lane | Website

One of my favourite anecdotes from my time in Japan is the afternoon tea tale. Whenever I met someone for the first time (who had not been to the UK/had any British friends), they would without fail ask me “what time is afternoon tea?” This question came up again and again, and I quickly realised that people genuinely see afternoon tea as a part of everyday life in the UK. Unfortunately most of us Brits know this isn’t the case, but I do love to indulge a little every now and again.

The New Afternoon Tea in London

For me, brunch is the new afternoon tea, in London anyway. I love to spend a weekend morning – or a weekday if I’m feeling particularly luxurious – just relaxing with a cup of coffee, and a decent selection of hot food and pastries. In fact I enjoy it so much, I’m constantly searching for new brunch places. Luckily for me, I was invited along to the launch of Good and Proper Tea‘s new Leather Lane store.

Crumpets and Tea!

Ok let’s get to the food! VA and I shared a selection of G&P’s famous handmade crumpets and cakes:

  • Egg, Mustard, Ham and Cheese Crumpet – Subtle flavours on top of a pillowy crumpet. A unique take on the Croque Madame!
  • Marmite & Cheese Crumpet – Melted cheese oozes over a soft crumpet, whilst everyone’s favourite yes-no condiment adds a tangy edge.
  • Blood Orange & Poppy Seed Cake (vegan friendly) – Sweet and a little tart. Stodgy, but in a good way. I could eat this everyday.
  • Honey and Orange Madelines – These were so delectable and flavoursome. They are definitely my favourite sweet treat at G&P.

Alongside our food I tried the Dragonwell Tea and a Chai Latte, both are personal favourites of mine. Dragonwell tea (aka Longjing) is a roasted green tea. It went extremely well with my breakfast, as it isn’t too bitter or strong a flavour. My Chai Latte was made using milk, however dairy-free versions are available, which I do appreciate. It was a little spicy, and very creamy. Just the way I like it.

Let’s round it up

First things first, I’m the realest… Wait no, that’s not right. The decor! The decor is insanely gorgeous – there are some definite #interiorgoals going on here. Luckily Good and Proper Tea are as much about substance as they are style; as is reflected in their food and tea offerings. We may have gone for brunch, but you could easily while away an afternoon here chatting with friends, “working”, or of course, for afternoon tea.

You can visit Good and Proper Tea in Clerkenwell, Old Street and Brockley Market (find them here).
Read more: Where to Eat in London | A London Life

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Where to Eat in London: Hurwundeki

hurwundekiHurwundeki Cafe | Bethnal Green | Nearest tube: Bethnal Green/Cambridge Heath | Website

Where to Eat in London: Hurwundeki

A couple of weekends ago I was invited to stop by Hurwundeki’s cafe, to try out their new brunch menu (Tues-Sat until 3:30pm). For those that don’t recognise the name, this Korean cafe-come-salon-come-restaurant is almost a Bethnal Green institution. Believe it or not, as big of a fan of Korean food as I am, I’ve never been to Hurwundeki. As a resident of East London I have no excuse. Luckily for me I chose the perfect sunny weekend to head over with Ffi, to finally see what they had to offer.

How is the food and coffee?

We ordered two dishes to share: the Avocado & Bacon with chilli, and the Homemade Falafel with beetroot and sesame, both of which came on toast. The former was slightly spicy, and used good quality (crisped) bacon; a well loved favourite that has been executed well. The latter falafel dish was my favourite though. The unique flavours (for a typical brunch) really made this dish stand out. Both came in light, smallish portions, which were the perfect serving sizes for us. That said, they may be a little small for some people. On the bright side, this does leave room for cake – so no need to worry! We tried the Gluten Free & Vegan Peanut Brownie, and the Almond and Chocolate Bread Pudding. Neither were overly sweet or heavy, which I loved. I also appreciated the options for coeliacs and vegans – nice one Hurwundeki!

I grabbed a coffee (easy to do when I have Drip App), which uses Workshop Coffee’s Cult of Done espresso. I loved how smooth and flavoursome (sweet notes of cocoa and maple syrup) this Brazilian coffee was.

Final Thoughts

My only complaint is that Hurwundeki doesn’t carry over the Korean food into their cafe. I would have loved to have seen some Korean-inspired dishes or ingredients pop up on the brunch menu. I imagine this is because a lot of people expect certain foods at brunch in London, which is a shame really. That said, the food here is presented well, and tastes delicious. With dishes starting at around £4.50, this is more than affordable. I’ll definitely be stopping by for brunch again.

 

You can visit Hurwundeki at 296–299 Railway Arches, Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9HA or online here.
Make sure to check out Drip App for some of London’s best independent coffee shops!

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The Fabulous Adventures of 698b | London Supper Club

london supper clubThe Fabulous Adventures of 698b | London Supper Club

A London Supper Club…

You may remember me listing The Fabulous Adventures of 698b as my top London supper club to attend  in 2016. And that was only based on their canapés! Of course I had to remedy this, and luckily for me I was invited only a few days after meeting the lovely people behind the supper club. It’s fair to say that I was ridiculously excited. You all know how much I love food, and this was one food event I could not wait to attend.

The Food

The food. Oh the food. Where do I begin? How about the fabulous amuse bouche? As delicious as they are beautiful, these paired perfectly with the seasonal prosecco bellini. The starter of Asparagus with quail eggs and yoghurt was light and fresh; the caramelised yogurt was the star here. The fish course: Steamed Halibut with barley samphire and sea purslane, was again light, and carried subtle flavours throughout the dish. My favourite course of the night was the Rib of Beef with wild garlic; tender high quality beef was accompanied by wonderfully fresh seasonal produce.

The dessert. I don’t want to say much, as this is something you really need to experience yourself. I will say though that it involves an awesome soundtrack, a variety of delicious desserts, and a completely immersive experience. It’s not to be missed!

The People

We were sat next to two couples, both go whom were absolutely lovely. We laughed and joked, and exchanged stories. Some people might say we were lucky, but I believe that the kind of people who attend supper clubs tend to be more outgoing and social. So you’re basically guaranteed a night of good food and socialising. There was a general atmosphere of good cheer all around. Four of us attended, but it’s fair to say we left with more friends that evening.

Final thoughts on The Fabulous Adventures of 698b

From the warm welcome, to the plating in front of the guests, and the adventurous dessert, The Fabulous Adventures of 698b is one of London’s best supper clubs right now. The accomplished Guillame and Maja – what a power couple – are using high quality ingredients, seasonal produce and innovative ideas. I genuinely felt like I was dining with close friends. Close friends who are extremely talented in the kitchen. At £44 per person, this is one treat I would gladly partake in again. This isn’t just good food. This is The Fabulous Adventures of 698b.

You can book tickets to The Fabulous Adventures of 698b at Grub Club and Tabl.

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Floresta Doughnuts | Japan Travel Diary

floresta doughnutsFloresta Doughnuts | Stores across Japan | Website

You’ve probably seen them on social media. Cute, colourful doughnuts shaped like animals. This delightful doughnut store has been open since 2002. Ever since the first store opened in Nara, this company has stood out from other famous outlets. Say hello to Floresta Nature Doughnuts.

What makes Floresta Doughnuts so natural?

Floresta means forest in Portuguese. This natural theme flows through to their handmade (in-store) doughnuts, which are made with organic ingredients, and little to no additives. The store also tries to keep waste to a minimum, making sure their impact on the environment is as small as possible. In fact the company are so transparent about these things, that you can find the basic ingredients list for their doughnuts on their website. No preservatives are used, so every doughnut is made fresh, daily. The company – which was started by a husband and wife – strives to bring healthier, tasty options to people. A guilt-free doughnut, that you can feel comfortable giving to your children…or for yourself.

But how do they taste?

Very good indeed. You might think that being “natural” and aiming for a healthier doughnut would take away the indulgence. Nope! These are just as delicious as any other doughnut you’ll try, maybe even more so. Floresta still fry their doughnuts, but they don’t taste heavy or greasy. The doughnut itself is relatively light, and the glazes (I tried matcha, of course) make for a subtle sweet contrast.

Which doughnut should you go for?

I would suggest trying a couple – one of their classic ‘nature’ doughnuts, and one of their ‘animal doughnuts’. The nature doughnuts are plain, whereas the animal ones come with a glaze (and sometimes nuts). Prices start at 130円 (around £0.83). The doughnuts may be cheap, but the taste isn’t.

Floresta make their doughnuts fresh, on a daily basis. As they don’t use preservatives, they prefer to make small batches, so make sure you get to a store relatively early. You wouldn’t want to miss out! I would suggest stopping by one of their cafes and relaxing with a coffee. It’s the perfect spot to while away the time.

You can find out more about Floresta Doughnuts here (non-Japanese speakers can use the Google translate version).

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24 Hours in Tokyo | Japan Travel Diary

24 hours in tokyo24 Hours in Tokyo | Japan Travel Diary

Yes, the frequently asked question “What do I do with 24 hours in Tokyo?”. Ok let’s be realistic, unless you’re on a stopover, you’re unlikely to only have one day in this exciting city. However, it can be difficult to decide where to visit, what to eat etc. So when faced with the task I like to think of all the places I would visit if I only had a short period of time in a city.

24 Hours in Tokyo: Harajuku

As cliche as it is, it wouldn’t be worth stopping by Harajuku without a walk down Takeshita Dori (take the metro exit of the same name). Grab some cute stationary from Daiso, pick up some vintage designer goods in the back streets, try one of the famous crepes for breakfast, and just generally basque in the atmosphere. It’s fun and it’s fast.

For those who prefer something more chilled, Meiji Jingu is just behind the Omotesando Exit of Harajuku station. It’s one of the most famous shrines in Japan, and is well worth a visit. Located in a small woodland, it’s hard to tell whether you’re still in bustling Tokyo or not. If you hang around for a while, you may even see a traditional Japanese wedding taking place.

From Harajuku you can walk/hop on a train to…

24 Hours in Tokyo: Shibuya

Famous for it’s giant crossing, you really should try and get to high ground just to witness it. Even if that means stopping by Starbucks for one of their limited edition Japanese drinks. Afterwards, head to 109 for some retail therapy before checking out “Basketball St” and one of the various arcades. You must do purikura (Japanese photo booth)!

Stop by Nabe-zo for lunch, and all-you-can-eat Shabu Shabu (hotpot with thinly sliced meat). I’d suggest the sukiyaki and collagen soups. The staff here are helpful, and the meat is in abundance, so don’t be shy about asking for more. They’ll even replace your soups…if you can manage to finish them that is.

24 Hours in Tokyo: Asakusa

Asakusa is a haven for traditional Japan. Head through the large red gates of Senso-ji, and walk amongst the market stalls. Buy some Amazake (a sweet alcoholic drink made from rice), a side of Senbei (traditional rice crackers), and maybe a mask of your favourite childhood character. The souvenirs here are great for taking home to family. The shrine itself is beautiful, and the grounds ditto. Take your time here and find your inner Buddhist.

If you’re a stationary fan, make time to visit Kakimori for handmade, Japanese stationary. Afterwards, take a walk down Kappabashi-dori, a street famous for kitchenware and plastic food models. Pick up a bacon bookmark, or a pancake keychain etc.

Finally, go for dinner at Sometaro. This Okonomiyaki (savoury pancake) restaurant has been around since the 1930s, and it hasn’t changed much since. The friendly staff speak English, and can offer an English menu also. They’ll even show you how to prepare this must-try dish yourself. Truth be told all of the fillings here are delicious, but pork and seafood are great go-tos.

Of course there’s plenty more to do in Tokyo! Keep an eye out for more Japan Travel Diaries soon.
I’d also suggest checking out Alice’s Tokyo Travel Guides and Park and Cube’s 3 Days in Tokyo.

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The Canary Hair Salon and Vegan Cafe | Beauty

The Canary hairThe Canary Hair Salon & Cafe* | Bethnal Green, E2 6QA | Nearest Tube: Bethnal Green | Website

You know I love lifestyle stores. So imagine my joy when I was invited down to The Canary hair salon in Bethnal Green. Now I wasn’t giddy purely because I was getting a hair cut – although I do often feel like that – but because The Canary is a little different to most hair salons in London. Attached to their salon is a cafe. A vegetarian and vegan cafe at that! Good coffee. Good food. Good hair. You can’t ask for more!

The food

I popped by on a Saturday around 12. We grabbed a chair in the well lit space, and ordered a couple of coffees, which I handily paid for with my Drip App. I was introduced to my stylist Emma as I sipped on mine (flat white, no sugar), and I automatically felt relaxed. After my haircut we had a bite to eat. I had a blueberry muffin, and Ben tried a mushroom and tarragon croissant. We both agreed that the food was fresh and delicious. Even better, it tasted homemade.

The haircut

When I did eventually hop in the seat, we chatted about what I wanted done. I asked whether I should get some layers put in; something I hated years ago but somehow felt might finally suit me. Emma told me that she thought my sharp bob suited me style perfectly, and that layers might ruin what I was going for. She was so right, and I’m glad she said it, because it stopped me getting a hair cut I would have undoubtedly hated afterwards. No one was rushing me, and Emma seemed very professional and easy going. Conversation flowed smoothly throughout, so there were no awkward silences, and I was done in about an hour.

Final thoughts on The Canary hair salon…

As I suspected, Emma was very professional and did a wonderful job on my haircut. My fringe wasn’t exactly how I like it, but I’m pretty fussy about my hair. That said, overall I was happy with my hair cut. The Canary is still a little quiet, but with such friendly staff it comes to life. I have my favourite hair salon (because it’s directly under my apartment), but I would still go back for a coffee and to chill out. Whether you’re after a cut, or some sustenance, The Canary is worth stopping by for sure. Prices for womens cuts start at £56 and mens at £45.

You can visit The Canary at 61 Old Bethnal Green Road, London or online here.
Make sure to check out Drip App for some of London’s best independent coffee shops!

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