29 July 2014

Mum's Birthday: The Chiltern Firehouse & Artisian

The Chiltern Firehouse: the restaurant of many a Daily Mail article. It only opened in summer last year but already it appears to rule the roost when it comes to places in London where it's really hard to get a table reservation. Housed in an old fire station in Marylebone, it serves modern American cuisine and is attached to a rather fancy hotel of the same name.

It was my Mum's birthday so Alex and I wanted to treat her to a lovely lunch for generally being awesome. Somehow, Alex - being the wizard that he is - managed to get us the perfect slot at one-thirty on this sunny and warm Monday afternoon. The red-bricked building has a lovely big garden area reminiscent of The Ivy in Los Angeles. Both the courtyard and inside are very beautiful, decorated with hanging pot plants, flowers, antique lamps and marbled tables.

The clientèle are generally as you would imagine; they're the ones that can get the table reservations for whatever time they damn well like. The important, the rich and the botoxed. Men who somehow get away with wearing a full suit with shoes and no socks but still look okay.

 And did it live up to the hype? Did it cut the proverbial mustard? Well, yes and no.

The atmosphere was wonderfully relaxed - a bit like chilling in a millionaire's back garden. It was great just sipping on our Strawberry Blonde champagne cocktails, chatting and people watching to our heart's content. Although the place sadly wasn't crawling with celebrities this lunchtime, I did see Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass), Stephen Dorff (faded movie star) and - for the The Hills fans out there - Lisa Love.

So what was wrong with it? We found the service rather slow throughout. It wasn't too much of an issue most of the time as we were in no rush but when we ordered a second portion of fries that didn't arrive until the end of our main course, it was a little frustrating.

Whilst my main course of monk fish and fennel was one of the nicest fish dishes I've had in quite some time, I wasn't quite so impressed with my starter of the blackened salmon salad and I've definitely had better pecan pies in my time.

But for presentation across all three courses, full marks!

Having said all that about the food, my Mum absolutely loved all of her courses and that was the most important thing. So would I go back there? Yes, in a shot! If I can ever get another reservation!

Whilst Alex had to head back to work, Mum and I decided to round off our long lunch with a couple of fancy cocktails at Artesian

You can find Artesian in the Langham Hotel. It's a place of elegance, high-class service, great nuts and some of the most beautiful, elaborate cocktails I have ever seen. 

It's no wonder that the bar has won multiple awards. What a wonderful way to end such a gorgeous birthday afternoon for Mum.

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27 July 2014

Camden Beach Is Back!

Last year I found out about Camden Beach right at the end of its run. I wrote a post about my day in one of the beach huts and so many people said how they wished they had known about it earlier. So here I am, letting you know that it's back! And this year, it's going to be even better!

You can find the beach on the sunny terrace of the Roundhouse in Camden. It's 900 square metres and 150 tonnes of sand. On a standard day you'll find yourself surrounded by great food, live music, ice cream, cocktails, ping pong, beach balls and a brand new rooftop garden complete with swimming pool! Get a better idea of what it's all about here!

On Friday night it was the official launch party. 

In hindsight, high heels may have been a bad choice!

Luckily the flats were on hand to make my night at the beach a little easier

The private huts are awesome. They house up to 8 people and I've already booked one for a blogger's ladies day at the beach in mid-August! You get yourself some comfy seating, your own little fenced off beach area, television, a fridge of beer, a platter of gourmet hot dogs, ice cream, candy floss, rock and waiter service!

You can book one here but they're going fast so I wouldn't hang around!

The launch party was good fun although I did miss having my own hut! Instead, I grabbed a couple of the sun loungers next to the rooftop swimming pool and chilled out up there as the sun set over Camden.

So if you can't get away this summer, Camden are bringing the beach to you! It's a day out in London not to be missed!

The beach opens at 12pm Tuesday to Sunday and at 5pm on Monday. It will run until 23rd August.

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24 July 2014

Latitude Festival

Having tickets booked for Latitude Festival made me feel a bit less bad about not going to Glastonbury this year. My brother Andrew and sister-in-law Sarah told me how great it was; they met at the festival six years ago and have been going ever since. It takes place in Henham Park in Southwold, Suffolk. It's much smaller than Glastonbury and is a lot more focused on elements like comedy, theatre, art, poetry, dance and literature rather than just the music (although music remains key). Also, you don't have to walk for forty-five minutes to get from one stage to another and the toilets don't stink. Winning!

Alex and I made our way to Southwold on the Friday morning. The sun was shining, the temperature was mid-twenties and I was in the festival mood!

Oh, Mr Whippy ice-cream. How I love thee.

I've been to Glastonbury three times before and I camped in a tent twice. The first time it was fun, the second time it was a pain in the ass. The third time we stayed in a yurt which was as far away from the Pyramid Stage as it could possibly be though it had been a relief to not have the hassle of a tent. So this time, on recommendation from Andrew and Sarah, we booked ourselves a Podpad - or a Luxpad to be exact - and I couldn't recommend one any higher. They're basically a colourful shed with a bed but it has electricity, lights, security and a surprisingly comfy mattress.

I was very happy to live at number 22.

You can wander to your heart's content at Latitude. There are lots of open grassy areas, a wood, a lake and the main Obelisk stage. Around these you'll come across all sorts of goings on. I don't just mean the things I listed about - music, theatre, etc - but also yoga, knitting, dance classes, wine tasting, meditation or a booth in which to confess your sins.

You'll probably bump into the raindow sheep too.

Latitude is children friendly. Part of me thought this might be a negative thing but it wasn't in the slightest - in fact it added to the fantastic, friendly atmosphere. It also gave me cute kids to coo over (yes, I'm getting broody...).

We spent a fair amount of time over at the main stage. It doesn't get ridiculously packed like it does at Glastonbury so you can find a good spot, throw down your blanket and just enjoy the sun, the music and the cider. 

Lily Allen - who stepped in as Friday's headliner after Two Door Cinema Club pulled out - was great. She was my musical highlight of the festival (along with Hall & Oates!)

The festival looks amazing at night, especially the lake and the woods which are lit up with an abundance of colourful lights. There is still tons going on in most of the twenty-three stages into the early hours. 

Somehow, I only needed my rain mac to save me once over the entire weekend. It happened on the Saturday night as Damon Albarn was being his usual pretentious self on the main stage. The cracks of thunder had been threatening us with a downpour for over an hour and finally, the skies opened and we were given a good soaking.

The rain didn't last long - maybe a couple of hours - but we weren't too fussed either way. We took sanctuary in the BBC Radio 6 Music Tent and then danced the night away with Buttoned Down Disco.

Onto the food and drink. Like Glastonbury, you're completely spoilt for choice. There's a stall for most cuisines you can think of. If you want to attempt to be healthy there are a number of  decent organic and vegetarian options.  Alex and I even queued up for a good twenty minutes for a man to open up a coconut with a knife and put a straw in it (but, my, it tasted good on a baking hot day). 

I started off with the weekend with the best of intentions.

Then there was a slow decline as everything with carbs, pastry and sugar became more and more appealing. Cider, wine, pies, Thai curries, churros, cupcakes, brownies and my favourite dish of the weekend that I had more than once: curly fries with chilli and cheese! 

I am one classy lady!

And let us not forget the cocktails. I had to see what was going on over at the cocktail van at least a few times for the sake of the blog; it wouldn't be right otherwise!

I had such an amazing weekend and I have to say - I'm going to be controversial here - I actually preferred Latitude to Glastonbury! There, I said it! 

So consider booking your tickets for next year. Bring your whole family! It's a festival that welcomes all. I'm pretty sure I'll be there again so do come and say hi. 

I think you know where to find me...

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