A London Life… at The Canary Wharf Sky Garden

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The Canary Wharf Sky Garden | Crossrail Place | Nearest Tube: Canary Wharf

Finding tranquility in London is a lot easier than some might think. Although I’m sure most of you would scoff at me if I said you could find it smack bang in the middle of Canary Wharf. An area known for it’s skyscrapers is the last place you’d expect to find a bounty of greenery. However a few weeks ago I made it my mission to find this hidden gem.

With V.A in tow, we battled the crowds of shoppers and made it out to the new Crossrail Place complex. It was eerily quiet outside amongst the skyscrapers, and I half thought we’d taken the wrong exit. However we soon realised we were in the right place, and so we crossed the bridge and rode the escalators to the heavens. Heavens is maybe a slight exaggeration here as the sky garden isn’t particularly high, although it does offer a lovely view over London. However what I enjoyed most was how serene the garden was. Everything has been carefully landscaped, and laid out alongside spacious paths. As we weaved in and out of the tropical plants, it was easy to forget that we were still in London.

Unfortunately the garden doesn’t go on forever, but there’s plenty to see (and Instagram). The variety of plants on display is amazing, and the contemporary architecture is astonishing – just look at that roof! I’m a big architecture/plant geek and I have to say, this is now one of my favourite spots in London. I could easily find myself relaxing here for the afternoon with a book, or sharing a coffee with some friends.

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Kopparberg Urban Forest Festival

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I think it’s fair to say that Britain goes a little festival crazy during the Summer. But I’m not in to camping, so I was all set for another festival-less year. That was until I was invited to the Kopparberg Urban Forest Festival. So on the longest day of the year I headed to Hackney Wick to celebrate the Summer Solstice – Swedish style.

I wasn’t entirely certain what to expect from Kopparberg, as I’d missed last year’s offering. The venue might have been slightly smaller than Glastonbury, but it had all the essentials. There were street food trucks, a photo booth, a couple of bars, hair braiding and even a DJ booth. I headed straight to the bar for a frozen Kopparberg. It sounds a little odd, but it’s perfectly refreshing on a hot Summer’s day. Next we went for food…we have our priorities straight. I chose Le Bun, a French twist on the typical American Burger. I went for Le Duck Frites; a duck confit burger with straw fries and champagne slaw. Ben went for a more Scandinavian affair with The Hackney Pearl’s Swedish Meatball Sandwich. We shared our dishes, and truth be told, we couldn’t decide whose was better. Both were delicious, and perfect alongside our ciders. After our mini feast, I decided to join the queue for the braid bar. The Braid Bar is pretty well known among beauty enthusiasts, and celebrities alike. With my short, thin hair, I wasn’t sure if they would be able to do anything. Luckily they cater for all hair types, as I saw whilst watching others have their hair braided. I went for the Eva – two small side braids. It didn’t take too long and I was pretty happy with the result (although I wouldn’t pay £10 for it in-store).

In true Scandinavian style there were plenty of fresh flowers. But instead of crowns, these flowers were being weaved into our braids, and the mens beards. As my braids were so petite and tight, I went for a more delicate look. I really loved how it complimented the style of the braids. Ben had actually had his hair and beard cut that morning, so I was a bit sad that we couldn’t adorn his hair too. We still had plenty of time left though, so we headed to the photobooth and snapped some memories. After a couple more Kopparbergs, the heavens began to open, so we scarpered. It’s fair to say that this is one festival I can definitely see myself going back to.

The Kopparberg Urban Forest is on until July 12th – entry is free.

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A London Life… in Stoke Newington

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Stoke Newington | East London | Nearest Tube: Dalston Kingsland Overground

As I prepare to say goodbye to the part of London that I’ve spent the 3 years in, I decided to take one last long photo walk around Dalston and Stoke Newington. I will still be living in East London, but I’m moving on to greener pastures (or something like that). I’ll miss this part of London, but I’m excited to start a new adventure and see even more of this amazing city.
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A London Life… in Dalston

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L’atelier Dalston | East London | Nearest Tube: Dalston Kingsland/Dalston Junction

As I prepare to say goodbye to the part of London that I’ve spent the last 3 years in, I decided to take one last long photo walk around Dalston and Stoke Newington (the Stoke Newington post will be up later this week). I will still be living in East London, but I’m moving on to greener pastures (or something like that). I’ll miss this part of London, but I’m excited to start a new adventure and see even more of this amazing city.

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A London Life… in Tokyo?

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Eat Tokyo, Hillgate Street, Notting Hill, London

One of the best things about London is being able to find authentic food from pretty much any country or region. That isn’t to say though that there aren’t imitations. Unfortunately for every Asakusa, there are ten Wagamamas. Still, part of the fun of discovering new places to eat is in whether or not they will be true to form. One place I had heard about through the grapevine was Eat Tokyo. I’d heard several people say “this is the real deal” or “it’s the best Japanese food in London”. However I’m pretty critical of cuisines I know well, and I’d also heard some not-so-great reviews, so I decided to take these opinions with a pinch of salt. In fact I’d resigned myself to never visiting the restaurant “chain” (they currently have 6 locations in London). Yet last week V.A and I found ourselves unsure of where to go for dinner after our SHOW DRY salon visit. Low and behold, there was Eat Tokyo on our Zomato app with a 4.6 rating. So we decided to give it a go.

First off, let me say, the Notting Hill location is small. VERY small. In fact we were lucky enough to get the last table, right next to the front door. The layout of the kitchen and seats – this location features seats where you can watch the sushi chefs at work – reminded me very much of a typical izakaya. Even though the restaurant was full, the staff were efficient. We were given the ginormous menu (really guys, it’s too much) and took our time looking through it. I took charge and ordered a whole selection of my favourite dishes for the both of us, as V.A wanted to try something new. This included: Natto (fermented soy bean – Japan’s marmite), Unagi Don (grilled eel on rice), Wakame-su (pickled cucumber and seaweed), Agedashi Tofu (fried tofu in a tentsuyu broth), Salmon Sushi Rolls and Karaage (fried chicken). The chef also accidentally made us some natto sushi, which we were given for free.

As for the food, was it authentic? Everything apart from the wakame-su (it should have been sunomono) tasted exactly as I remembered it from Japan. The flavours and textures were all there, but something was lacking. Unfortunately whereas Eat Tokyo excels in bringing authentic Japanese dishes to London, it did not excel at bringing good quality ingredients and well cooked food to our table. The karaage wasn’t bad and neither was the age-dofu. However the unagi was overcooked and chewy, the sushi was cold, the natto didn’t come with a side of tare or mustard, and the wakame-su wasn’t pickled, and had ginger on top?! Overall not a great experience, but not one that I regret. I won’t be heading back anytime soon, but if I had nowhere to go I’d probably give them another chance.

You can read more of my restaurant reviews on Zomato.

Afternoon Tea at The Mandeville Hotel

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Vintage Afternoon Tea at The Mandeville Hotel – Reform Social and Grill

Afternoon tea symbolises everything great about English food; cake, sandwiches, scones and tea. It’s also the perfect introduction for anyone visiting or moving to the country. It truly is a relaxing and indulgent treat. That’s why I decided to treat my mum to afternoon tea at The Mandevlille Hotel in Marylebone, when she visited for her birthday.

We started with a mango bellini, which we were served as we were seated. The menu mentions being able to choose from a selection of seasonal bellinis, but this wasn’t the case for us. Though we were offered a choice of which tea to accompany our food with – I chose the refreshing organic mint melange, which was clearly a quality tea. Next up were the sandwiches, which were light and flavourful. The cucumber and cream cheese was my favourite of the selection. I know cucumber sandwiches sound incredibly boring, but they’re one English tradition that I dearly hope will never fade.

One of the most integral parts of afternoon tea are the scones, of course. These ones looked as good as they tasted – rustic (there’s something just not right with a smooth scone) and slightly sweetened. The jam was store bought, but was sweet and not overly sugary. However the pièce de résistance was the clotted cream – something I’m always very critical of – which was rich and sweet. And before you ask, I always put cream on first, then jam.

The apple and custard pots were by far the best sweet offering on the table. The soft, tart apple contrasted perfectly against the sweet custard, and the crunchy, sugary crumble. Both me and my mum agreed that we would quite happily eat a plateful of them. However the rest of the sweets on the table were a bit of a let-down, the raspberry meringues and battenburg cake were good, but nothing to write home about. However the biggest upset of the afternoon was the cake, and as we all know, cake is an important part of afternoon tea. So to be served up dry coffee and walnut cake/chocolate fudge cake (that tasted a day old) was quite upsetting for me. Luckily my mum had left hers until last, by which point she was quite full, so she wasn’t upset. Though if I had been taking anyone else here, I would have complained.

The hotel itself is a comfortable setting, and the afternoon tea area is quite intimate (around 6 tables), making for a lovely experience. However whilst I felt that we ate and drank plenty, I felt that the quality of the food was lacking slightly. It’s not one of the best afternoon tea’s I’ve had, and I probably wouldn’t go back, but for the price it isn’t bad. Afternoon Tea at The Mandeville Hotel is £26.50 each with a free bellini (minus service charge).

You can read more of my restaurant reviews on Zomato.