A New Neighbour

I have to start off this post with an apology for the radio silence, however I do have a good excuse, the S.O. and I have spent the last month buying our first home! So it seems apt that today’s post is about our newest local restaurant, Neighbour. Located right at the top of Kentish Town high street, Neighbour serves up seasonal fair from brunch until dinner with a cocktail bar tucked away down the stairs.

 

Naturally we started the evening off with drinks from the ample Spritz menu and they did not disappoint;  chalice sized Aperol and Campari Spritz’s, with the perfect balance of bitter and sweet.

 

Neighbour offers a vast selection of small plates as well as mains, and after much deliberation, the four of us decided to order a plentiful selection of the small plates to share. I would highly recommend this approach to dining if the option is there, I always want to try as much as I can without feeling like I’m sharing all of my food! The standout dishes by far were the fried chicken with kale and siracha ketchup, the salt cod and fritto misto with salsa verde.

 

I have to confess we rather over ordered on our mains, so split two desserts, Pimms jelly with strawberry mousse and the chocolate salted caramel torte. The desserts certainly looked beautiful, however it was the mains that stole the show (or perhaps we were too full!).

For a new opening, I think Neighbour is onto a good thing; the space is stunning, with a warm atmosphere, good food and friendly service. I’m happy to count them as my new neighbourhood go-to.

Lunch of a Freelancer 4.0

For every rule there is an exception and in terms of City heat, I like to think of myself as that exception. I love the heat of the summer and how the pace of London life seems to slow right down. What then could be better than a luxurious lunch in the sunshine? In order to achieve the maximum amount of rays, I chose the Roof Deck at Selfridges. I also secretly wanted to impress my favourite American friend, Rosie Spinks to see if the promise of Californian style dining in Central London could live up to her discerning tastes.

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We started with the latest trend in drinks, Frosé aka frozen Rosé. I can confirm this is not just a trend, it is also one of the most delicious and thirst quenching experiences I have had; the sweetness was perfectly balanced with fresh berries and lemon mixed with a lovely medium dry wine.

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The tuna ceviche with plantain crisps was light and fresh, however the Cobb salad absolutely stole the show. Creamy blue cheese dressing, crunchy salad and ripe avocado paired with perfectly salty bacon. Rosie and I ate it so quickly I have no photographic evidence to show for it!

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If you are eating any meal in the sun, it has to be finished off with something very, very cold. Thankfully the deck offers an unusual and exciting dessert, avocado and pistachio ice cream sandwich. Held together with sweet meringue, the ice cream had a wonderful flavour, with a hint of avocado, leaning on the right side of savoury.

I adored the Roof Deck; the food is fresh and beautiful, the drinks cool and refreshing. The bill was the only thing that stung a little, the Roof Deck is not cheap, however for a special occasion or just a drink after work with a spectacular view of the City it’s one not to be missed this summer.

The Big London Bake (Off)

All I knew of Tooting Bec was that it was the place a couple of plastic bags went to “Waft about, mate, waft ableedingbout“. It turns out there is much more to Tooting Bec, including The Big London Bake. As a staunch North Londoner, traveling for an hour over the river is something I would normally avoid at all costs, but this is an event not to be missed.

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We arrived at The Castle pub and after navigating our way to the back of the garden, found the Big London Bake tent. Filled with familiar work stations, mixers and ovens, I felt nervous and excited in equal measure. There are ten stations and everyone competes in teams of two. To describe my baking skills as terrible would be an understatement, however my better half is excellent, so naturally I enlisted him as my team mate.

On our bench we found a basic recipe card and ingredients laid out for us. Our judge informed us we would have 80mins to bake and decorate our cakes before the winner would be decided. I felt that we started off strong, I mainly stood and drank whilst Charlie made the cake. He gently suggested I head over to the decorating station and choose items to beautify our cake. Once our cake was in the oven, we kicked back, had some drinks, checked out the competition and obviously argued about how we would decorate our masterpiece.

Praying that there would be no soggy bottoms, we took our cake out of the oven, argued some more whilst it cooled, heard the judge yell “9 minutes remaining” and proceeded to haphazardly adorn it with icing, smarties and crushed biscuits (I cannot be held responsible for the decisions made under extreme pressure). All contestants approached the bench with their cakes to be judged. As they were sliced and tasted, I made peace with the fact we had definitely lost until by some kind of miracle the judge announced that we were the winners, which goes to show that dreams really do come true.

I cannot recommend The Big London Bake enough, it was pure simple fun. Take a bunch of friends, or compete against strangers, just make sure you go! Have some drinks, bake a cake, possibly even win and then take your creation home. There’s far more to Tooting than merely wafting about.

Sunday Papers Live

A Sunday with absolutely no plans is my idea of heaven. It is a day spent lounging, reading the papers, listening to Radio 4, eating a decadent lunch and if I can face it, a walk. So, imagine my absolute delight upon discovering that this perfect Sunday existed outside of my house. Even better than that, imagine it being within a three minute walk of my house! Last Sunday I no longer had to imagine but simply enjoy, thanks to the genius’ behind Sunday Papers Live.

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Held at the beautiful Cecil Sharp House, SPL (as I shall refer to it) is an all day event in which each section of the broadsheets is presented by a speaker, with the stunning hall decked out as an oversized living room filled with sofas, cushions and blankets. I would recommend coming early if you want to snag the perfect (and most comfortable) seat.

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The hilarious Steve Cross acted as compere for the day, ensuring all speakers were welcomed to stage with rapturous applause. Robert Rowland Smith  presented his psychoanalysis of ‘The Donald’, concluding that what he seems to lack is the super ego. Robert also led the philosophy walk, a gentle gander to Primrose Hill, where we stood and discussed everything from Socrates to gender equality, to stress, which I learnt is simply ‘the inability to adapt’.

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Bruce Parry covered the travel section, with a fascinating talk about his discoveries of other cultures, particularly egalitarian tribes. He admitted to everyones amusement that his first screen tests were terrible, informing the crowd that being told to ‘act natural’ produced the exact opposite.

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Interspersed between the speakers were the fantastic Sons and Sons, in charge of the crossword. This was no normal crossword, as on our papers there were no clues. Instead the clues are acted out on stage by the comedy pair. Upon completing the crossword, participants are encouraged to run directly to the stage, paper in hand, for the chance to win a prize. I can honestly say I haven’t moved that fast for a longtime. Sadly I was not victorious.

Naturally, this being my new perfect Sunday, it had to contain two of my favourite things, booze and food. These were both in generous supply from Bloodshot Vodka who make a mean Bloody Mary and award winning chef Tom Hunt serving plates of slow roasted lamb shoulder and vegetables spiced with dukkah, barberries and chermoula. There is a dining room at SPL, however we ate at our seats, not wanting to miss out on a minute of the action.

State of The Nation was described as ‘Question Time meets Cage Fighting’ and it did not disappoint. The audience yells out topics / current affairs questions and the selection of panellists each have a few minutes to stand on stage and talk. By far my highlight on the panel was John Sweeny (alongside his dog Bertie) admitting he was too pissed to be on stage whilst making very valid points about utilising the right to vote.

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After we had calmed down from all this excitement, there was a pub quiz hosted by Sons and Sons. We managed to cobble together a team, including a man my sister had met at the bar and a couple who happened to be sat at our chosen table for the quiz. We were absolutely disastrous. Coming in third place, we were offered redemption and extra points in a game of egg drop. I would like to add at this moment, five extra points were on offer, however our team managed to convince the host to make it ten. Stacy (my new best friend and team mate) ran to a table with all assortments of ‘pieces of crap’ and wrapped our egg in foam tubing with two balloons on either side. This egg drop was our only chance of victory. All the teams went outside and I stood with our precious egg on the balcony, hoping as I let it drop. To our amazement (and the irritation of the other teams) our egg survived the drop and we won the quiz, proving that street smarts really do trump intellect when it comes to the most ridiculous of quizzes.

Sadly, I will have to wait until September for my next perfect Sunday out but until then I guess my living room will have to.

Craft Beer Rising

 

As the readers of this blog can probably tell, I regularly wax lyrical about how much I love a good drink and great company. Luckily, my career choice allows for both of these pastimes. I spent most of the last weekend at the Old Truman Brewery, photographing for Camden Town Brewery at Craft Beer Rising; a wonderful cornucopia land of beers, where guests wonder from stand to stand, sampling everything there is to offer from larger, to pale to dark ale (and even alcoholic ginger beer). The atmosphere is relaxed; everyone is friendly and a little bit tipsy.
I love shooting for Camden for so many reasons, they are a fantastic brand who make delicious beer and everytime I turn up to shoot somebody at the bar smiles and yells ‘hey photographer lady!’ which completely makes my day. In between photographing other people drinking beer, I had a chance to try some myself (naturally).
I usually opt for an Unfiltered Hells for it’s fresh full taste, however at CBR this year there was a new beer to try, Charlie Roper’s ‘Foolish’ Rhubard IPA. The first keg was tapped on Saturday, with the money raised from Charlie’s beer going to Medicines Sans Frontiers.
Sadly CBR is now over however do not despair! You can try Foolish at The Horseshoe or Camden’s Daughter and still raise money for charity. If you are a fan of a fresh, punchy and deliciously sour beer, this IPA is the one, and having tasted more than one at CBR, I definitely have the authority to say so.

Party at the Parlour

 

In 1999, aged ten, I received a fax whilst on a school trip to France. My sister had given birth to a baby girl, Ava. The letter was handwritten by my mother and I read it excitedly as my friends huddled around me. I was an auntie and for the first time in my life I had something that no one else had – and for perhaps the last time,  I was (for a moment) considered cool.
18 years later, we celebrated Ava’s birthday at the Parlour in Kensal Rise. I told the fax story over a crisp glass of Picpoul and salt baked chicken. Ava’s boyfriend asked me what a fax was and I suddenly felt ancient by comparison. We spent the entire afternoon sat in the main bar at a long table for 12 – laughing, drinking and reminiscing.
Everyone opted for a variety of roasts; venison, beef and of course the salt baked chicken. Each as scrumptious as the last, with lashings of gravy, huge fluffy Yorkshire puddings and of course buttery veg. Only one person broke the mould with chicken kiev with slaw. We finished our meal with cake (as one must) and espresso martinis – I highly recommend this combination.
The Parlour is a place for celebration. The space is light and airy, the staff are incredibly accommodating and made no objection when my sister covered the table with glitter and balloons, insisting her daughter was turning 12 and never 18! Every other table was filled with groups of families, all celebrating their own occasions, giving the whole place a contagious sense of joy.
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Lunch of a Freelancer

Freelancing has many perks, that I cannot deny. However, freelancing, for me, has one big downside: loneliness. Some days, when I am not shooting, will be spent at home, alone, staring vacantly at my computer whilst half heartedly watching ‘The Good Wife’. Now that I have painted this depressing tableau, let me tell you my remedy for it. Lunch. Lunch with another human, preferably a freelancer.

With this in mind, last week, my dining companion was one of my favourite freelance humans, Rosie Spinks. A hugely talented writer, self proclaimed Mouthy Woman (if you don’t know what that is then I strongly advise clicking the link) and a fantastic meal mate.

I suggested Polpetto for our lunch date, a small restaurant in the middle of Berwick St, and was overjoyed when Rosie told me she had always wanted to go there. I love Polpetto. Walking in through the heavy red velvet curtains feels like entering some secret place, chancing upon an intimate little world. Dimly lit, with candles on every table, it could easily be mistaken as a place just for dates. Do not be fooled, this restaurant is for everyone.

As it was National Pizza Day on our lunch trip, we of course chose the pizette; small delicious ovals of joy. Rosie’s choice won by a mile, the white pizzette with a beautiful combination of sweet caramelised onions and fresh, punchy thyme. To feel ever so slightly healthy we accompanied these with the Cavolo Nero Caesar and a broccoli, feta and pine nut salad. To feel ever so slightly naughty, I indulged in a cocktail; Rosie a glass of wine.

I am a huge fan of Polpetto because it embodies everything I desire from a meal. Simple, flavoursome food made for sharing, wonderful drinks and the feeling of being somewhere special (without spending a fortune).