Story Coffee, Battersea

Slowly but surely Battersea and I are becoming friends. My latest South London discovery is a small independent café, with great design and easily the best coffee in the area. Story opened a few months ago and is already a popular neighbourhood spot. I found it to be particularly lovely mid-afternoon when the venue is quiet and calm, with a few customers working, reading and enjoying their warming drinks.

Located on a charming corner of St John’s Hill Road, with a weather-worn historic sign above the door, advertising Peterkin Custard, the modern look of Story is striking and welcoming. Inside the décor is very minimalist and functional, with bespoke wooden furniture and plenty of natural light thanks to the big windows. The thick brown floorboards add a warm homely feel to the small café. I loved the colourful assortment of roses and jars of brown sugar on each table and I decided there and then to recreate these delightful bunches at home.

Story use Square Mile’s Red Brick espresso blend and milk from Goodwood Farm in Sussex, these fine quality components make the ultimate creamy coffee. My flat white was velvety and rich, petite in size and expertly poured. The baristas also offer filter and Aeropress coffee, tea is from Lanani & Co and Chocolate is by Kokoa Collection. Delectable edible treats sit tempting visitors at the bar. I’ve heard they offer avocado on toast for breakfast, so am already planning to return to try that!

The Story crew seem passionate about bringing good coffee to Battersea and they are definitely succeeding in their mission.

More information here:

Hot on the Highstreet Week 244

Fragonard is one of France’s most famous perfumery houses, located in Grasse in the south of France, an area known for its perfume making history. Fragonard makes its products in its own factory, which is one of the most interesting sights in the town of Grasse. Whilst in Provence this weekend I visited the wonderful historic museum and shop, a fragrant homage to the brand.

The house was founded by Eugene Fuchs in 1926 in Grasse. He named the company in honour of the French rococo painter Jean-Honore Fragonard who lived ion the town. Over time there have been hundreds of scents from this old perfume house. The earliest edition was created in 1928 and the newest is from 2015. The nose who worked on the fragrances most recently belongs to Jean Guichard, a true expert in the field.

The Museum offers free entry to all visitors, and is a lovely place to learn about this special company. With magnificent views over the Cote D’Azur and nearby cafes for lunch, Grasse is the perfect Provencal town to spend the day.

You can now buy a range of the Fragonard products at Marks & Spencer, one of the most familiar chains on the British highstreet. I particularly loved the Brioche-scented candle, which would make your home smell like a French bakery!

More information on Fragonard here, and buy the products from M&S here.

Radio Salon, Broadway Market

There is a real sense of community on Broadway Market. This buzzy street runs from London Fields to Regent’s Canal and has a host of boutique shops, cafes and restaurants to explore. Last week I went to check out the new Radio Salon, tucked in between the shopfronts glowing in the twilight with a mist of hairspray hovering in the air inside.

Radio Redchurch Street is an institution, I visited a few years ago and loved the personality of the salon and staff. Following on from this flagship salon’s success, the team has opened this smaller, quainter branch which has been redecorated and refreshed in the last few months. The trendy interior features distressed wooden floorboards, smart black leather barber seats and exposed lightbulbs – it is the look of East London.

Radio proudly use the whole Bumble & Bumble range in their innovative hairdressing. The flexible and light qualities of this brand suits their chic, catwalk-ready styles. The products are fun but reliable and I guarantee you’ll want to take a selection of coloured bottles home after your haircut – luckily Radio stocks it all so you can buy yourself a little treat on the way out.

Sipping a glass of chilled Prosecco, I sat back and let the staff liven up my hairstyle and mood. After an invigorating wash and massage, my stylist for the evening Vlad came over to suss out what to do with my tangled mop. We decided on a neat trim to remove tired split ends and a wavy blow-dry to add movement and volume. I didn’t even notice the haircut as we were so deep in conversation about the various Bumble products that would suit my hair. After various, deliciously scented serums, sprays and lotions, my hair was dried and twisted to create loose beachy kinks. Despite the summery look, my hair had infinitely more volume and the strands felt nourished and glossy.

I left with a swing in my step, even the rain, the bus strike and long journey home didn’t bother me with my new locks.

Here’s some tips from my stylist Vlad about his favourite Bumble and bumble products for my hair:

Bumble and bumble Thickening Shampoo and Conditioner

These products are designed specifically to give life to fine and limp hair making it feel fuller and thicker while smoothing flyaways.

Bb Thickening Hairspray

This is one of my favourite products from Bumble and bumble because you can play with it in so many ways. From applying it to the roots to spreading throughout the lengths it gives incredible hold, lift and body to even fine and limp hair. Once applied to the hair the hold gives you control so you can play with your hair throughout the day making it bigger or sleeker depending on your mood.

Bb Mending Complex is another favourite product of mine because it brings chemically treated (highlighted, bleached, over-processed) and damaged hair back to life. This product strengthens the hair from the medulla to the exterior and can be used as a repairing treatment every single time you blow dry your hair or dried into partially damp hair to give a moisture boost.

Bb Surf Spray – This product makes me feel like a magician as it literally recreates the texture created by nature and the ocean in your hair. I like to spritz this product into the hair from a distance after blow drying loose waves to give that natural texture and movement. You can also spray evenly on damp or dry hair and let it dry naturally for a more undone look.

And I always hear this question… Why does product make your hair greasy? Well the answer is it doesn’t, it’s our hands and the habit of touching our hair that cause grease so long as you are using the right products recommended to you by your hair stylist. Keep in mind that we are all different and have different hair types so what works for your friends will not necessarily work for you. Find what works for you and stick to it!

More information and book an appointment here:

Peckham Bazaar, Peckham

I’ve tried to visit Peckham Bazaar several times now but their small restaurant doesn’t accommodate many and it is always full to the brim with ravenous locals. Last Friday however I managed to secure a table for two at 9.30, a chance at last to try their highly regarded cuisine.

It is a bit off the beaten track, and even after I had convinced my parents that Peckham is not ‘a bit stabby’ (their words, not mine) I was beginning to reconsider. There is a distinct lack of street lights and the towering housing estates on either side of the road create an eerie wind tunnel. Freezing and hungry, we arrived at the shabby but grand ex-pub, which houses Peckham Bazaar on the ground floor.

They describe the food as Pan-Balkin, and cook the majority of the dishes on a giant, smoke-pumping grill, which leaves a tempting scent in the air. Albanian chef John Gionleka is found engulfed in a cloud of charcoal smoke, we nodded in appreciation as we walked in. Sitting at the back of the venue we could survey the room, and all the groups of friends joyfully consuming the tasty grub.

The room is not fussy or trendy but comfortable and welcoming. After a nice glass of light house white, we tucked into Charmoulah chicken wings (£6.50) which are marinated in a delectable mix of spices and skewered on sticks. Served with a sweet roast butternut squash puree, kohlrabi and onion, there are a lot of vibrant flavours to excite the tastebuds. The chicken is encased in a caramelised crunchy skin, and yet remains tender inside.

For main course, we took the waitress’s advice despite eyeing up the pork chops on the neighbouring table. Grilled English rump steak with winter artichoke and new potato stifado was a tour de force, lean chunky strips of meat on a sumptuous pile of potatoes and vegetables, seasoned immaculately. The Grilled marinated quail is a speciality and did not disappoint. I carefully stripped it of every scrap of meat, charred and delicious on the outside, succulent inside. The accompanying herbed pilaf, moutabel (aubergine dip) and adjika (red pepper sauce) were a little sweet for me but texturally worked well, pomegranate and mint leaves added dashes of colour.

Peckham Bazaar definitely serves the best Greek food I’ve tried in London; in fact… I challenge you to find better. Guess that’s another restaurant to add to my ever-growing Peckham favourites list.

More information here:

The Jones Family Project, Shoreditch

Most would assume the Jones Family Project is set up by a family, and in a way it is. Husband and wife team Anna and Duncan have been in the restaurant industry for a number of years and have brought colleague Amit and their trusted chef Christiano on board for this venture. A group of individuals who strive for the same goal, they each bring their own character and assets to the JFP business. ‘Jones’ seemed like a fitting surname to unite the group in this joint project.

The venue in Shoreditch can cater for numerous occasions with a large versatile space. The upstairs bar is often used for private events and parties, downstairs there’s another bar with high stools and booths, also an ever-evolving themed table and a smarter sit-down area for a la carte feasting. We sat at a quiet booth chatting to owner Anna while sipping a deliciously fruity Saffron Sour and a refreshing Langley’s No. 8 gin and Fever-tree tonic served with basil and fresh grapefruit.

The main restaurant area was busy and lively when we sat down for dinner, surprising considering it was a mid-week evening in January. Apparently the eatery is also popular for business lunches, and the special offers ensure guests return again and again. When we visited the seasonal offer was £40 for two burgers and a bottle of Burgundy. Steak is the speciality at JFP, supplied by Ginger Pig and cooked on a Josper grill, it is unmissable. We tried the juicy sirloin and the Pork rib-eye (a unique cut for JFP from Ginger Pig). Both were cooked exactly as we requested emphasising the fine quality of the meats whilst also giving a caramelised crunchy edge. Chef Christiano also offers shavings of luxurious and rich Belper Knolle cheese on top of the steaks, a very special addition which we loved. I was particularly impressed with the pork which was unlike any cut I’ve tried before, presented on a bed of chorizo, potatoes and savoy cabbage. The perfect warming winter meal.

Of the sauces, I would recommend the utterly wonderful Béarnaise – perfect consistency and perfectly seasoned. The classic Argentinian chimichurri is good too, more like a herby dressing for your meat. The peppercorn was a bit disappointing, and tasted more like gravy or red wine sauce. Steak frites is out of fashion and steak and mac is in, it was the truffled macaroni cheese from JFP that caused a stir on my social media, and trust me, it tastes as good as it looks, a cheesy crispy indulgent pasta bake with a hint of truffle.

Fitting in dessert was a struggle after we over-indulged on the savoury delights… but we managed to share a Triple Chocolate Brownie with coconut sorbet and salted caramel sauce! We were pleased to find it served warm along with a drizzle of caramel sauce and a contrasting clean cold boule of white sorbet. In retrospect the Gin and Orange Semifreddo may have been a more palate cleansing option to finish on.

As well as their creative cocktails, the Jones Family Project pride themselves on offering all guests a selection of great wines. Owner Duncan has a keen interest and knowledge of wine and uses this experience to create an extensive and varied list, many wines are available by the glass encouraging you to try something unfamiliar.

The Jones Family Project is a terrific venue for all occasions. They are placed in a great location, with tasty food and drinks, but it is the character and enthusiasm of the team that give the place such a happy, fun atmosphere.

More information and book here:

London Art Fair 2015, Business Design Centre in Islington

Previewing tonight and continuing until Sunday, London Art Fair is the UK’s premier Modern British and contemporary art fair.

The 27th edition of the Fair features 128 galleries and takes place at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London, from 21-25 January 2015, open until 9pm some nights.


One thousand three hundred and five  2014

at England & Co (stand 28)

More information here:

Hot on the Highstreet Week 243

As London approaches the coldest week of winter I have selected my five favourite cashmere blankets to snuggle up and keep cosy.

Urbanara – Uyuni Cashmere Blanket £199

The Uyuni Cashmere Blanket is one of the finest cashmere blankets from the large Urbanara collection. Beautifully soft to the touch, this luxurious fibre is sourced from cashmere goats in Inner Mongolia, where the supplier carefully monitors the production process from start to finish, ensuring only the highest quality material for the Uyuni. The blanket displays an intricate, two-toned diamond motif with a delicate ‘eyelash’ fringe along the width to complete its look. Available in 140 x 200 cm, with a choice of three colours.

White Company – Cashmere Rib Collection £400

This blanket is from the incredibly luxurious featherweight-cashmere collection. Whisper-soft against your skin, it features a stunning all-over ribbed texture and is gorgeously finished with a deep, double-knit border. Presented in a suitably beautiful white box, it also makes a wonderful gift to treasure. The double-sided, ribbed cushion cover with a lovely plain-knit envelope closure finishes the look perfectly.

Johnsons of Elgins – Cashmere Reversible Throw £450

The ultimate luxury blanket from the Cashmere kings, Johnsons of Elgins. This versatile blanket is reversible to give a bright (Sky blue) and light (Ecru) appearance, depending on your mood. 190 x 140 cm, it is currently reduced in the new year sale.

Brora – Cashmere Woven Blanket £499

The ultimate and undisputed mark of luxury, to label this blanket as soft simply doesn’t do it justice! In deliciously new, bright Brora blends there is a shade to suit everyone, I love the tangy Pumpkin colour. This piece is an investment you won’t regret, a beautiful woven blanket made from the finest Scottish cashmere.

Burberry – Cashmere Check Blanket £995

This soft cashmere blanket has a sophisticated tonal check pattern and fringing at both ends. From the designer British brand it is as indulgent as you can get and will last you a lifetime.

The Manor, Clapham

Clapham is now a destination on London’s food map thanks to The Dairy and The Manor, two restaurants with the same ownership, style and food finesse. Tucked away just off Clapham High Street, halfway between Clapham North and Clapham Common stations, you will find The Manor, a charming modern bistro. It has only been open a few months but the reservation book is filling up fast as foodies migrate south to try chef Dean Parker’s creative cuisine.

Warm bread in a sack was soon placed on the table alongside a precariously balanced lump of whipped ‘chicken skin’ butter on a pebble. The waitress kindly delivered a second bread and butter after we polished off the initial offering at staggering speed. We accompanied our bread with thick and meaty pork and fennel salami, delicious but rather a stingy portion for £7. BBQ crispy chicken skins and kimchi is a must, a crunchy salty and sweet mix of oriental flavours.

We opted for vegetarian starters, not intentionally: fermented potato flat bread with smoked aubergine and mint and Burnt kale with cavolo nero and toasted almonds. Both offer unusual tastes and were presented beautifully on unique ceramic platters. The kale had a beguiling bitter aftertaste complemented by a cooling creamy sauce made of something I was unable to identify. The smoked aubergine was delicious too, and would be ideal as a dip at the start of a chic dinner party at home.

Of the meat courses, I recommend the Suckling pig belly with braised head, morcilla and squash, an irresistible array of textures and tastes. The pork was carefully cooked so the meat was tender and the fat nicely crisped, the squash was surprisingly sweet and soft and morcilla (blood sausage) sauce in the centre is rich and indulgent. Hay-smoked pigeon with fermented grains, parsnip and malt granola was a little bizarre for my palate but is a hit with other foodies. The gamey meat is topped with crunchy cereal-like grains and the sauce is milky, qualities I expect at breakfast time.

Frozen chocolate fondant, dulce de leche and milk is for the chocolate lovers, a light yet punchy dessert. Granny Smith apple parfait with meringue and brittle sorrel is the showstopper. A light and refreshing pudding served in a small bowl is topped with leaves that are zapped with liquid nitrogen at the table, causing a stir all round. It was both exciting and tasty.

Clapham’s newest restaurant is quietly upping the ante for restaurants in this area. For me, it is very exciting to discover an eatery that illustrates the skill of a fine kitchen with the flair and character of a trendy young café.

More information and book here:

Salto Restaurant, Warsaw

Before heading to Warsaw I contacted the man in charge of Poland’s only Michelin star kitchen, Modest Amaro… although his restaurant was shut he highly recommended Salto Restaurant. This relatively new eatery is housed in the luxurious Hotel Rialto (elegant art deco accommodation in the city centre) though operates very much as its own entity.

Salto is the creative venture of Argentinian-born Martin Gimenez Castro, winner of Poland’s 2013 ‘Top Chef’ competition. Passionate and innovative, Martin has carefully designed every aspect of the venue, including the beautiful unique plates and bowls in which his food is served. The food is intricate but employs bold flavour combinations and unusual cooking techniques. It is like nothing else I tried in Poland, the recipes are braver and tastes more powerful.

Salto features frequent reminders of Martin’s background and heritage, with South American flavours, an abundance of fish and seafood as well as famous Argentine beef. I peeked in the small kitchen where Martin and his petite team conjure up endless immaculate plates of food. Out in the full restaurant, guests seemed to be audibly enjoying their food, discussing the successful dishes amongst themselves.

We had our fingers crossed for steak, and four courses in, an impressive cut of Argentinian beef tenderloin was placed in front of each of us, perfuming the air around us. Alongside the steak came white truffle sauce, pak choi and baked Jerusalem artichokes. It was wonderful, a triumph of indulgent ingredients and fine silky meat.

Salto is known also for its remarkable wine list. The eager staff chose wine expertly to complement each course, producing one rare vintage after another. Particularly memorable was the 2004 Cavas de Weinert from Mendoza which married well with the steak.

A colourful and light dessert arrived to mark the end of the meal. An artistic arrangement of chocolate and beetroot components. It was my favourite flavour pairing of the night and I embraced the final plate of creativity gratefully.

Poland’s food scene is flourishing, and Martin Gimenez Castro is one of the most talented chefs leading the revolution. A meal at Salto is a must for any foodie visiting Warsaw.

More information and book here:

Things to do in Warsaw

Poland is not a top tourist destination and the capital city Warsaw is always in the shadow of the more architecturally attractive Krakow. Recently though this industrial setting has become home to many culturally ambitious and successful projects. The city has been destroyed more than once and the proud and patient Poles have rebuilt a glorious new “old town” for whimsical wandering. The landmarks are sparse and yet explore a little deeper and you will find cool contemporary art collections, trendy and cheap underground bars, design focussed concept stores, and daring and delicious eateries. Even after three days in Warsaw there was more to do and see, and discovering this lesser known city brought me great joy and excitement.

To stay

H15 Boutique Hotel – the only design hotel in Warsaw starts from just £50 a night. Housed within a transformed 19th century building just south of the city centre it has 46 spacious rooms and suites imaginatively designed by Mariola Tomczak.

To eat

Salto – this is the creative venture from Argentinean-born Martin Gimenez Castro, winner of the 2013 edition of Poland’s ‘Top Chef’ competition. Passionate and innovative, Martin has thoughtfully designed every aspect of the venue. The food, though intricate is full of bold flavour combinations and unusual cooking techniques.

Concept 13 – found on the fifth floor of the smart Vitkac shopping centre, this stylish restaurant offers panoramic views of the city. The food lives up to the luxurious location with indulgent international dishes including foie gras with quince and sichuan pepper, and tagliatelle with truffles. The service and atmosphere are lovely ensuring you will have a special evening.

Kraken Rum Bar – just across the street from our hotel Kraken provided us with a hearty lunch in Warsaw. Wonderfully fresh fish dishes are available, and next door at Beirut Hummus bar you can feast on Middle Eastern delicacies. Kraken is a lively evening venue too, filled with young locals.

Warszawa Wschodnia – one of the places I discovered in the Soho Factory area of Warsaw. Chef Mateusz Gessler offers a delicious three course lunch for the equivalent of £4. Sit at the bar and enjoy the show from the open kitchen.

To drink

Ministry of Coffee – arguably the best coffee in town, this café serves coffee from Sweden’s Koppi and is also the host of the Polish AeroPress Championship. I had a smooth and tasty Flat White here after arriving off the flight from London.

Pies Czy Suka – a little design shop with an in-house bar. We tried the unusual molecular foam cocktails one night before going on to dinner, and the classics looked good too.

Café 6/12 – this sophisticated venue has a grand marble floor and high ceiling, and with 76 types of smoothies it is the ideal stop for breakfast. I had a punchy freshly squeezed juice here in between shopping stints.

Filtry Café – a 10 minute tram ride from the city centre, this speciality coffee shop was the first of its kind in Poland. Filtry opened in 2007 (apparently the first venue to serve brewed coffee) and has had many renowned Polish baristas behind the bar. It is a charming café serving a variety of seasonal blends and the Kofi brand.

To do

Palace of Culture and Science – built in 1955 this impressive building is the tallest in Poland. Travel up in the lift to the terrace on the 30th floor to see amazing views over the whole city.

Museum of Modern Art – we wandered around the intriguing building on New Year’s Day and saw a great architecture exhibition. Offering temporary thought-provoking shows it is definitely worth checking out whilst in the city.

Wilanow Palace - this royal residence was built in the 17th Century. As well as the impressive palace building itself, the accompanying gardens are worth seeing (in either sun or snow!)

To see

Neon Museum - based in the Soho Factory complex, the Neon Museum displays a huge collection of cold war neon signs. These important signs which were used to glamorise consumerism in the mid-century slump and illuminated the cityscape.

Poster Museum - Opened in June 1966, The Poster Museum is the oldest institution of its kind in the world, and has a collection of over 55,000 posters.

Fotoplastikon Warsaw - A Fotoplastikon allows viewers to watch changing three-dimensional images. Built in the early 20th century, The Warsaw Fotoplastikon is one of only a few in the world still in working condition.

To shop

Galilu Olfactory – this airy and bright little shop stocks a wide range of wonderful perfumes. The sophisticated scents are from unique brands all over the world and the staff will give you expert help choosing the right bottle for you.

Horn & More – a seductive girl’s boutique stocking fine underwear, statement jewellery and aromatic scented candles. It is a treat for all the senses.

Magazyn Praga - Located in a former glue warehouse this little shop features relics from its industrial past that mix with their high-profile selection of new and vintage fashion and furniture. There are irresistible design items everywhere, I wanted it all!

Wedel – this renowned Polish confectioner is the ultimate chocolate emporium. Leave the chilly streets and head inside for the creamiest cup of hot chocolate, or a taste of the famous handmade torte with layers of wafer and chocolate. We returned several times for more.