There was a long weekend here in Northern Ireland mid-July and I could have picked somewhere I had not visited before but I was in need of something familiar. Having been to London many times over the past few years, it was the perfect place to spend a mini break.
So, I ended up booking tickets for just one exhibition and a reservation at a fancy dessert restaurant. The rest was just a matter of taking long walks and showing up at restaurants or cafes as a last minute decision and see if there was a table. I also met with two different friends while there and on those occasions, I spent time catching up on everyday life at their homes. Summer time evening aperitif, dinner and chatting with friends is the type of ‘taking it slow’ moments I really enjoy. Hyggelig summer evenings, if I may say.
While I will not go into details about my time spent with friends, I can tell you about the places I visited or ended up in on my walks, and where I ate delicious things.
The station I ended up at was Notting Hill Gate. The area is quite lovely if you are into pretty houses, a lot of them with beautiful flowers cascading along the facade this time of year.
After grabbing a bit of lunch, I continued my walk towards Kensington Gardens. I walked in via the Diana Memorial Playground (North-West entrance near the Queensway tube station) and was immediately welcomed by the sweet scent of jasmine flowers. It was rather warm that day but it was easy to find shaded areas where to sit on the grass.
Hyde Park is connected to the gardens and I walked across it along the water to reach the opposite corner. The park has deck chairs you can rent if you feel like lounging by the water under the trees.
I then took a walk towards Buckingham Palace. It is incredibly touristy and crowded, plus I have already been there a couple of times but since I was enjoying my walk, I thought I would pass by it too. The aim there was to avoid being accidentally hit in the face in a forest of selfie sticks. I managed this but I am sure I now feature on a dozen people’s family photos in the background…
I was meeting my friend Caroline of Bisou les Madeleines late afternoon so I made my way back towards Kensington Gardens since her and her business partner were presenting their delicious madeleines at the French Ambassador’s Bastille Day garden party in the area. We then headed to her home for an evening of catching up over aperitif and a delicious dinner.
The next day, I had booked a morning visit to the ‘Food: Bigger Than The Plate’ exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum. It will be on until 20th October of this year and if you get a chance to visit London before then, I highly recommend you book a ticket. From compost to table, elements of the food system are spread throughout a really well-put-together display. Everything about food really interests me but I was particularly drawn to the exhibition part that relates to compost and sustainability. I feel those are very important subjects nowadays and I was amazed by all the possibilities of working with food waste to create everyday objects (coffee cups made from coffee waste, ceramics made from urine or milk waste etc. some of it was incredibly baffling but it really shows the amount of possible reuse from various food waste).
This was followed by lunch and a long walk from South Kensington towards St James’s Park via Chelsea and Belgravia before a late afternoon treat of amazing desserts.
Sunday was a slow and relaxed day. It involved not rushing anywhere but rather enjoying a long brunch followed by a walk before going to catch up with a friend for the rest of the day.
After dinner, I popped by St John Bread and Wine (94-96 Commercial Street, London, E1 6LZ) on the corner and grabbed a few sweet things to take away for dessert. The chocolate brownie I picked was to die for with the most incredible melt-in-the-mouth texture. I also got a cinnamon rum bun to have for breakfast the following day. I ate it warmed up a bit and it was quite delicious.
The next day, I went to Pophams Bakery (19 Prebend Street) to grab a mid-morning pastry. My choice was one with tonka bean crème brulée and apricot. The pastries at Pophams are made with croissant dough that has 27 layers of butter. Believe me, as far as pastries go, this was a thing of wonder: a whole plump and juicy apricot encased in tonka cream and buttery flaky pastry; the most perfect summer time sweet treat. I also got a rosemary and sea salt twist to take away. Cut up into small slices, it was a great addition to aperitif that evening.
Lunch that Friday was a quick one and consisted of a small plate of salmon tartare served with avocado, green apple, tangerine, sesame seeds and sesame oil at Jusu Brothers (147-149 Westbourne Grove) in Notting Hill. It was refreshing and just what I needed in between my walks in the London summer warmth.
Later that day, my friend Caroline gifted me a lovely box of madeleines from Bisou les Madeleines. I had a selection that included the Biarritz (with cocoa, dark chocolate and caramelised nuts), the Tahiti (with coconut and lime zest) and my favourite of all, the Brittany (with vanilla and salted caramel). The latter was so wonderful that I nearly ate all of the madeleines in one go. The company is based in London but they deliver those delicate little French cakes all over the UK.
After the exhibition at the V&A Museum the following day, I had lunch at Le Comptoir Libanais (1-5 Exhibition Rd, South Kensington) where I ordered a small mezze platter with hummus, baba ganoush, tabbouleh, falafels, labneh, cheese sambousek, flatbread and pickles. It was a perfect assortment of small dishes that I really enjoyed while sipping a refreshing iced rose mint tea.
I had made a reservation for late afternoon desserts at Cakes and Bubbles by Albert Adrià (70 Regent St) and this was the next stop after a long afternoon walk. Albert Adrià, of now closed three-michelin-starred El Bulli and once named best pastry chef in the world, opened this dessert restaurant back in November inside Hotel Café Royal. I will not describe the desserts in detail because I feel this is something that needs to be experienced in person but the ones I tried were: strawberry and milk ice cream sandwich, golden egg flan, stroopwafel ice cream sandwich and the famous cheesecake made with brie. They were all delicious and sometimes very surprising. Out of all this selection, my favourite was definitely the golden egg flan. It does sound like a lot of desserts but they are small sizes, plus I did share them. I also had a glass of pistachio agua fresca which was a very flavoursome refreshing drink and not heavy like it might look at first sight.
I did not have any plans for Sunday. The idea was mostly to take my time and go at a slow, relaxed pace. I was staying near Spitalfields so I walked to Ottolenghi (50 Artillery Lane). I had not made a booking but was able to get a seat at the bar. I ordered a few things for brunch and started with a fried halloumi, lemon labneh and walnut salsa dish served with a middle eastern salad, tahini, mulberry molasses and the most wonderful chargrilled pieces of focaccia. For something sweet afterwards, I had a bread board with an almond croissant and a selection of spreads: chocolate, raspberry jam and banana compote. I have been to a few of Yotam Ottolenghi’s restaurants in London and was never disappointed. As always, an amazing selection of ingredients all very well combined together to create great flavours. I also got a few desserts to take away and bring at my friend’s home for an after dinner treat that evening. A delicious white chocolate cheesecake with raspberry compote and a lemon and mascarpone tartlet to end the weekend nicely.
Podcast and playlist listened to: My Favorite Murder podcast on iTunes and Summer Hygge on Spotify
Book read: ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ by Cheryl Strayed
Do you like slow holidays or prefer keeping a busy pace and visit as many places as possible?