Notes on an Anniversary

This weekend marked one year since M and I made our relationship official, and so of course we had made big plans to celebrate. I wasn’t planning on really documenting the occasion on this blog because I didn’t want my camera to be the third wheel & I’m not one for public gushiness, but we had such a good time I couldn’t resist a quick post.

After a LOT of deliberation and no less than three reservations made, we ended up changing our minds last minute and booking a table at Wright Brothers in Soho. Turned out this was a great decision; the atmosphere was exactly what we were hoping for, the whole place smelt like seafood (in a good way) and, at our table hidden away above Kingly Court, I could easily have kidded myself we were in France.

We couldn’t not order oysters in a restaurant that calls itself an Oyster house, so to start, we went for 3 with chilli jam, and chilli prawns to match. The prawns in particular were great, and M (a bit of a seafood connoisseur himself) declared them amongst the best he’s ever eaten. It was my first time trying oysters and I think the chilli jam probably made for a perfect “beginner’s oyster.”

For the main event, we shared a steak & lobster sharing plate. My only criticism would be that it wasn’t really big enough to comfortably share. However, the steak was absolutely faultless and we both enjoyed the lobster: it was our first time trying it, as a warm up for our hypothetical future trip to Burger and Lobster.

Other than the food, the service was swift and friendly (enough so that I let myself be talked into trying calvados…never again) and the wine was good. Embarrassingly, we polished off a sharing dessert AND  a sticky toffee pudding on the side – for the record, the sharing crumble there IS big enough to share, and the bread & cinnamon ice cream it comes with is dreamy – and headed out into the streets of Soho to find somewhere for a drink.

This is where the night’s big triumph comes into play. Quite by chance, we stumbled across Cocktail Trading Co, which I had read about earlier in the week as one of January’s “ones to watch.” Located in the basement of Central and Co, this bar might just be my new favourite place in London. We were greeted by a ludicrously friendly team, nabbed two seats at the bar and spent a good few minutes in awe watching the bartenders expertly managing the crazy rush of orders before flicking through the tiny, brown paper menu.

Cocktail Trading Co has received a fair amount of press already for its inventive cocktail vessels and for good reason: the four drinks we sampled came in a bell, a porcelain owl, a welly, and a legit takeout container. Those noodles? Real, bacon-flavoured (but vegetarian friendly), dried noodles. My favourite garnish though was the shortbread, which I was encouraged to dip into the cocktail itself. Surprisingly, it works.

Perhaps most importantly, the drinks actually taste good, with my favourite being the “#festivalchic” – the welly one – and as I mentioned, the service was second to none. I will most definitely be back – I just hope all of London doesn’t discover this secret too quickly!

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The Paddington Trail

So as some of you may have noticed, in the (few) posts I managed before Christmas, I became a little bit obsessed with the army of Paddingtons that had sprung up around London. I set myself a mission to see as many of them as I could, and so it was in these interests that Matthew and I set off to Paddington itself one day in early December in order to cram as many as possible into one day.

We started, of course, with a traditional Paddington. Having since seen the movie (which is GREAT), I was very pleased to note that actual Paddington stands in this exact spot!

There were, obviously, a lot more Paddingtons in the area around the station. I’ve never really explored it very thoroughly so it was nice to walk around and I fell in love with Little Venice. It may be an hour’s trip by tube but it is so nice and I am excited to go back in summer.

I particularly enjoyed this stylish Lulu Guinness suitcase…

…And Johnathan Ross’ contribution was interesting.

Our stroll took us down into Hyde Park, which we hit just before sunset. It was suitably stunning!

This is Hugh Bonneville (Mr Brown in the movie)’s design, which I loved (and which also has one of the best locations, in my opinion)

And from there, it was down to the Palace to see one of my most-anticipated Paddingtons – one Mr David Beckham’s.

And finally, into Soho and Central London. I’m still not entirely sure what I made of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” Paddington…

Leicester Square was eyewateringly busy but we battled our way through to find this gold number.

I had a bit of a I Love London moment in Trafalgar Square, standing watching everyone come and go and all those endless “floating” street entertainers: it had been the most perfect day!

Our final stop was Covent Garden, where we spotted our last 2 Paddingtons of the day. It was dark by this point and Covent Garden was suitably packed, so my photographs were suffering!

We wrapped up our day with a visit to Shake Shack, where I had an incredible (although very small) hot dog (celery salt = my fave) and we then “accidentally” bought 7 Ben’s Cookies between us, and headed home. It was the kind of day that made me feel very lucky indeed to be living in a city where you can walk from canal to park to palace to Theatreland all in the space of a few hours, and I guess I have Paddington to thank for reminding me!

The Paddingtons have sadly disappeared, but if you get a chance to see the movie, you definitely should because it is funny and wonderful and great.

adventures in the city

This week has been a busy one – between seminars on Monday and today, I fitted in a little jaunt to London for Tuesday and Wednesday. There is a productive reason I promise: I was asked to go up for an interview for an internship and since I’d be there anyway I decided to make a little trip of it and arranged to meet up two of my BFFs from our year abroad, Emily and Josie.

My interview wasn’t till 3:30 and so after the longest, dullest train journey from Exeter in the world, I arrived at Shepherd’s Bush with just enough time to have a little wander around Westfield before I had to venture back out into the cold to find the Sauce office. Before I left Exeter I’d been literally terrified by the prospect of this interview – as far as I was concerned it was my first proper big girl interview. The girls that interviewed me were both absolutely lovely though and made me feel very at ease. It seemed to go well and as soon as we can sort out dates I think I’m set!

I spent a happy couple more hours in Westfield (where I basically tried to buy everything in Zara – their sale is just too good) before it was time to head to Oxford Circus to meet with the girls. We’d sensibly agreed to meet “outside” Topshop, but I just couldn’t resist wandering in and admiring all the nail varnishes…at which point, obviously, my phone died. No worries, though, eventually we all found each other and were happily reunited. We settled on The Diner in Soho for dinner: our friendship was born and bred in the US of A and it seemed only fitting. The menu is mostly burgers and hot dogs, but with serious amounts of different variations, and they also have a “blue plate” section just like real US diners, and my favourite – an extensive cocktail list.

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Actually, the menu is so large and we’re so indecisive that we had to take at least 20 minutes to look it over and then had a slew of questions for our waitress, who was very patient and very very helpful. In the end, I opted for the “Yankee Pig Dog.” which was a hot dog topped with pulled pork, pickles and mustard. I thought the mustard was going to be a strange accompaniment for the pulled pork but it actually worked very well, and the roll was really nice, too – it was almost like pretzel bread. It was a lot of meat though what with the sausage and the pork, and I ended up leaving half the sausage for Emily to finish. To drink, I had the “Kentucky Mule,” which had Southern Comfort in place of the vodka usually used in Moscow Mules. It was strong, but tasted good – I’ve recently developed such a taste for cocktails involving ginger beer.

The Diner also do hard shakes, which we were intrigued by, but we decided that they would be too ice-cream-y and filling and we were already really full from the huge burger/hot dog situation! So instead of dessert we decided to head over to Covent Garden to visit one of my very favourite places, Adventure Bar. To anyone that hasn’t been: GO. You will not regret it. It was 8PM on  a freezing cold Tuesday and we were slightly worried that it might be a bit dead but no, the place was buzzing and we had sooooo much fun. All the bartenders are great; this time, we befriended Robin, who had us shaking our own cocktails and chatting away about life. Plus, every week day (I think – don’t quote me) they have 2 for £10 on certain drinks, and if you sign up to the mailing list you get a free drink – bargain! The bar just kept filling and by the time we left just after last orders at 11:30 it was completely packed. Really fun crowd and a cocktail list I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of – trust me, go there.

adventure bar

Next morning, I joined Emily on the bus to Oxford Circus, waved her off to work, and headed on my way for a morning spent wandering the streets. I decided to treat myself to breakfast at Patisserie Valerie, alone, which felt half terrifying and half liberating. Since it was so cold outside I went for green tea and apple and cinnamon porridge, which was full of seeds and absolutely delicious. It’s actually the only thing I got to take a picture of the entire day/weekend, so here you go:

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Apologies about the shadow – I was already feeling quite awkward & lame enough taking a photo of my solo porridge trip. Anyway, the staff at PV were really lovely and wished me a very cheerful farewell as I left which left me feeling very chirpy as I headed over to Liberty, which is basically my favourite place in the world. I could honestly live in the stationery room, and I spent a very happy hour or so stroking the leather of all the bags and plotting which ones I’ll buy when I have a real job and a real salary (as if).

Eventually I headed over to Covent Garden, where it started to snow! I was very, very tempted to go to Meat Market and got as far as walking down to look at it, but it was still too early for lunch really so I just wandered some more and eventually ended up buying a delicious chocolate praline cookie from Ben’s Cookies, watching the snow for a while, and then succumbing to the cold and parking myself in Starbucks with one of my dissertation books until it was time to head to Waterloo to catch my train back to Exeter.

All in all, a very successful couple of days (assuming this internship comes through – I’ve suddenly become hesitant to say I’ve got it!) and a lovely little break away from uni. Apologies about the lack of photos in this post: my iPhone battery just couldn’t take the pressure!