Hot on the Highstreet Week 247 – The Braid Bar

The Braid Bar has arrived at Selfridges London – an answer to stylish, braided hair on the go.

Open for two weeks only, this new pop up founded by West London duo Sarah Hiscox and Willa Burton is exclusive to the Beauty Workshop on G.

From French plaits and fishtails to stylish corn rows, you can choose from a menu of 12 styles named after supermodels and stars, priced between £10 and £25, and style takes no longer than 20 minutes.

After repeated requests from Sarah’s daughter Lucy to braid her hair – she realised that there was nowhere in London that she could take Lucy to get a quick braid and not have to pay a fortune for it. With the help of Willa, fashion stylist and girl about town, they saw there was a gap in the market that needed to be filled.

The Braid Bar was born! With Suki Waterhouse and Davina McCall, amongst others, giving them a name check on Instagram – they gained a huge following in a very short space of time. And the demand for braids seems to be growing at speed with stars like Rita Ora regularly sporting the look.

With my new short crop haircut I’m not sure there are many styles suitable for me, but I’ll be going along to Selfridges at some point this week to trial the pretty plaited look.

More information on the braiding bunch here: 

To book call The Beauty Workshop, Selfridges, London on 020 7318 3647.

THOROUGHLY MODERN MAN: Lobster Kitchen, Tottenham Court Road

Lobster has undergone something of a rebrand in recent years. Gone are the snooty connotations of words like thermidor and accompaniments like champagne; in their place we now have sliders and craft beer (ok, so thermidor is still on the menu). Lobster Kitchen in Tottenham Court Road has continued this revival with a reimagined New England lobster shack nestled away in the heart of London.

A steaming open kitchen bustles in front of you as you take your seats, either at the bars around the room or on the giant communal table in the centre. The space is decorated in true New England style, with tacking and lobster pots adorning most walls and hung from the ceiling. It’s a lot more tasteful than it sounds, I should add.

A good bisque should be a simple warming staple of any New England eatery, and this lobster offering was no different, if slightly unspectacular. Our selection of lobster rolls was beautiful, the brioche bun the right balance of sweet and crispy and rich while the lobster meat took on the subtle variety of flavours, as one would expect. Asian, garlic, classic cocktail sauce, and an innovative Italian twist with garlic and chilli, inspired by co-founder Valeria’s background.

Sides are almost as important as the main event at a spot like this, and they do not disappoint, with the oh so trendy-at-the-moment mac n cheese taking centre stage, although the fries and were decent and the deep fried lobster legs were an interesting twist on an otherwise unused part of the animal.

The cocktail list is short and sweet, and specials rotate through the board, including offerings from the public. If you like your lobster a certain way, if it’s tasty enough then it can become part of the menu!

So get involved, duck in out of the rain and cold for a hearty filling feast, and you can show off to all your friends through the power of social media as you take nautical themed photos using the iPads generously strewn around the tables as you peruse the menu. Just remember to stick in a #lobsterkitchen for good measure.

More information here:

Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, James Bomford.

The Crown and Two Chairmen, Soho

There are a lot of loud people in the Crown & Two Chairmen pub. When we arrived I wondered where on earth we would sit, and indeed if they even served food. Centrally located on Dean Street in Soho, this rowdy inn has recently been refurbished and is busier than ever. Fighting our way through the crowd, we were led by the multi-tasking barman to a small table at the back as the restaurant area upstairs was booked out for a private party.

What I could see of the interior was warm and cosy, dark traditional colours and comfortable materials. The pub was full of pre-dinner and post-work drinkers, and around eight o’clock the venue began to calm. Although the atmosphere was jovial and pleasant for a friendly catch-up, we found ourselves shouting across the table to be heard by each other, within minutes my throat was sore.

The menu features well-loved pub dishes like fish and chips and burgers, and there are delicious craft beers and a carefully curated wine list to drink your way through. We began to feel more at home once our drinks arrived and we’d decided our dishes from the tempting options. Warmed hummous with bread and vegetables was a healthy and tasty platter to start the meal. The homemade hummous had a coarse texture with a hint of garlic and was particularly nice with the lovely sweet baby carrots. We also tried the Salt and pepper squid with spicy mayonnaise – the seafood pieces were fresh and soft but the coating could have been crispier and warmer.

The staff were extremely friendly throughout our meal, attending to our every need. After energetic gossiping we were ready for our main course. The fish cakes looked a bit sad on the plate, but were well seasoned and carefully cooked. They were served with a punchy lemon crème fraiche, paprika potato wedges and coleslaw. I opted for the 21 day aged rib-eye steak with fries, watercress and peppercorn sauce. It was a good but thin steak, lightly grilled to give a delicious chargrilled woody edge. The peppercorn sauce was very creamy with whole peppercorns adding spice and crunch.

Desserts rotate regularly and we weren’t over-excited with the options. Raspberry and peach crumble with apple sorbet was a strange dish. Presented flat in a bowl with an excess of crumble it was overpoweringly sweet and the sorbet had a slightly fake taste. I think we had bad luck as I’d spied some delicious sounding salted-caramel dishes on the pub’s website prior to visiting.

There is a surplus of pubs in Soho and The Crown & Two Chairmen is a rare venue which pairs a lively ambience and good food. This winning combination would explain why it was so busy when we visited.

More information here:


The run of consistently excellent productions from the ENO hit a slight bump in the road last week with the opening night of Peter Konwitschny’s La Traviata. Perhaps this more negative reaction is because of the proximity of the opera to the premiere of the outstanding Meistersingers production a few days earlier. The set was very sparse, verging on excessively minimal; a lone chair and some scarlet drapes set the scene for what is usually a lavish and luxurious backdrop appropriate to courtesans and upper class socialites. The chorus, however, was much more engaging. They were busy, buzzing and bustling all over the stage underscoring Konwitschny’s vision of Violetta being the only ‘real person’ and her surrounding company being wired, cavorting ‘city folk’ who are constantly searching for new dramatics. The most creatively choreographed scene was the gambling scene in which the chorus paced back and forth flicking cards in a nonchalant manner – once again reiterating the blasé and indifferent nature of the upper classes of the time. Verdi’s music was as rousing as ever under the baton of Roland Böer with only a few timing snags. The stand out voices were Elizabeth Zharoff, who seemed to come into her own as the opera progressed, and Anthony Michaels- Moore who sang Germont’s role. As with many Traviata performances, the famous ‘Drinking Song’ was performed with great enthusiasm and gusto.

There were moments of awkwardness in the production – most obviously the decision – reminiscent of pantomime – for members of the cast to break the fourth wall by climbing awkwardly over the front row of the audience. As well as this, the translation could have been more artfully done – but perhaps this was just noticeable because of the familiarity of the much-loved Italian libretto.

Though the production was perhaps too modern and slightly undeveloped for such a classic and famously luxurious and musically lush opera, nothing could detract from the beauty of Verdi’s music. Though the ENO have been facing difficulties in recent weeks, their productions are still deserving of the company’s high reputation. La Traviata was less polished than previous productions in recent weeks, but nonetheless is still a showcase of excellent operatic singing talent.

La Traviata continues until 13 March, more information and book here.

Written by Thoroughly Modern Missy, Angelica Bomford.

Ena Salon, Holborn

I only go for a radical hair change when I really trust the salon. At Ena Salon I immediately noticed the creative energy combined with a reassuring professionalism. And so I decided there and then to be bold and undergo a makeover.

Owners Pedro and Johnny both started their hairdressing careers at a young age at Vidal Sassoon. As colleagues and best friends, they opened Ena Salon in 2009 with a desire to do more with their experience. They have quickly garnered a keen following and have won many accolades over the last few years. Their close-knit team of stylists and colourists are a friendly family, fiercely proud of their workplace: a unique Georgian townhouse in Holborn. Inside they have created a salon, a beauty retreat, a teaching academy and a home. The interior is beautifully designed with charming original features and contemporary touches. If you look carefully you will spot baby photos of the staff throughout the building – emphasising the importance of the people who make Ena Salon such a success. Ena’s education company Allilon also continues to thrive, and the salon staff regularly travel to teach their craft to eager hairdressers around the world.

Ena is also the flagship store for Davines products, a sustainable and ethical Italian brand. The products are attractively packaged and the pastel liquids sit on the shelves waiting to be picked for application. They used a variety on my hair, helping to enhance the colour, strengthen and polish.

I was directed upstairs for my colour transformation where I was greeted by Madeleine, a cheerful colour director. We briefly discussed options and perused a colour chart before deciding on a dark reddy brown. The colouring session was blissfully quick and easy, and Madeleine’s expertise was demonstrated in her ability to attend to my hair efficiently and effectively. Within an hour I had my head in a smart sink and I was a new girl. An invigorating wash and massage followed, and my hair was left with a red tinted Davines conditioner.

Next it was master stylist Jonathan’s turn. I wanted to look different so we decided on a bob, about three inches shorter than my previous hairstyle. After shortening the length, Jonathan perfected the style, creating a sleek, chic look. I felt grown up, sophisticated and looked not dissimilar to Jessie J, which they assured me is a good look! Various Davines products were brushed and scrunched through my hair, a volumising mousse and a medium hold hairspray, both felt light and natural in my hair.

After a morning of enjoying copious tea, gossiping and reading magazines, I was ready to hit the streets with my new look. I had so much fun at Ena, I barely noticed all their hard work; it is only now that I am appreciating the thorough and brilliant job they did.

More information and book an appointment here:

Hot on the Highstreet Week 246 – Shopping in Brussels

I’ve just spent a lovely weekend in Belgium, here are my favourite shops in Brussels for fancy food and fabulous fashion… and a little stationery store that I can’t resist mentioning!

Maison Dandoy - we stumbled across this charming little biscuit shop, also recommended by knowledgeable blogger Jess on Thames. A sweet institution established in 1829, Dandoy produces irresistable oven-fresh biscuits. Coincidentally the original shop is found in Brussels on rue au Beurre (Butter street).

L’Antichambre – an unmissable boutique on the Brussels shopping scene. Owner Anne Pascale has created a sensual shop with the highest quality scents from Grasse, and will work with clients to create their very own bespoke fragrance. I was lucky enough to make my own, which I named Resolument Moderne including Chocolate, Spicy Pepper and Fig ingredients. L’Antichambre also produce a range of beautiful scented candles, try the unique flavour Le tomate verte.

Mary – this pretty feminine shop has packaging that is just as lovely as the chocolates. There are now a few branches of this artisan brand, all stocking the signature illustrated boxes filled with seriously delicious treats. My favourite chocolate shop in Brussels, a box of Mary chocolates would be a memorable gift for someone special.

Hunting and Collecting – this spacious, cleanly arranged shop stocks a range of labels, which are rotated regularly, so you are bound to find a new gem every time you visit. The basement hosts art exhibitions whilst upstairs you can browse the tailored clothes, and lust after the design objects and striking accessories.

Pierre Marcolini – when you ask the locals in Belgium for the best chocolate, most will point towards the haute chocolatier, Pierre Marcolini. The shop is more like a museum with immaculately presented chocolates everywhere you look. I loved the coloured heart collection, which are almost too pretty to demolish!

La Fabrika – Opened by Kelly Claessens in 2010 this design haven stocks a beautifully curated collection of classic furniture, unusual books and chic accessories that would complement any home. La Fabrika is a trendsetter in Brussels and is popular with the stylish Bohemian locals.

Le Typographe – I have been excited about my trip to this stationery emporium for months, so entering the doors of the perfectly ordered shop was a joy. Alongside the carefully hand-picked pens, pencils and other writing paraphernalia Le Typographe stock their own brand, often neon, cards, envelopes and notebooks. An atelier of the finest stationery, I wanted it all.

THOROUGHLY MODERN MISSY: The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

As I am becoming a frequent attendee of the ENO, I am starting to notice patterns in their productions – starting with the consistently brilliant interpretations of opera director extraordinaire, Richard Jones. In his 25th year with the company, Jones has brought to the coliseum stage a production worthy of the quarter of a century celebration. Being a relatively naïve Wagner listener, having only been to one other opera of the composer, I was relieved to be watching the Mastersingers of Nuremburg in English, a trademark feature of all ENO operatic productions. The fact that the translation is one of immense artistry and delicacy merely helped make the production a memorable and beautiful gem in the ENO 2015 programme.

Visually, the production is engaging and enchanting. From the beginning of the rousing overture, the audience is presented with a game of ‘who’s who’ in the form of the front cloth; it is covered in faces of German cultural figures from Handel to Freud which firmly establishes Wagner’s ideologies of culture as the basis of the opera rather than the less fortunate reputation that the opera has acquired of extreme nationalism. As the overture comes to an end, the curtain rises to show a large ensemble – one of the largest I’ve seen on the Coliseum stage – in the midst of a church service. The 90 strong chorus are magnificently accompanied by the steadfast ENO orchestra under the sensitive and musically fluid baton of musical director Edward Garner. It is in this first scene that the audience is introduced to the blossoming romance that will keep the momentum of the opera and the storyline going.

The enormous scale of the production would deter many able and talented singers; however, every one of the 17 main singing parts were performed with such gusto and aplomb that the heavy demands of this lengthy opera seemed irrelevant to them. Hans Sachs is one of Wagner’s most developed and multi-dimensional characters. Often, performers fail to convey the depth of this character, but Iain Peterson’s interpretation was nothing short of faultless. His body language, acting and voice coalesced so well that from the second he entered the opera (running late to the mastersingers meeting), his presence dominated the stage. The ‘love-to-hate’ character, Beckmesser, was masterfully performed by Andrew Shore who played more on the insecure rather than outright malicious features of the character. Shore infused light comedy into the role, a welcomed feature for such a thematically gigantic opera. Having said that, Mastersingers is, on the whole, not a very heavy opera with many comedic parts and this was excellently carried out by the ENO company.

This production provided many moments that justify a prominent place for it in The ENO’s history, however, for me, the crowning glory was the beautifully choreographed quintet in the 3rd act. The two pairs of lovers, Magdalene (Madeleine Shaw) and David (Nicky Spence) and Walther (Gwyn Hughes Jones) and Eva (Rachel Nicholls), and Hans Sachs sing the enchanting song in his exquisitely busy cobblers workshop and create something of a religious experience for themselves and the audience. The song is meant to act as a ‘baptism’ for the stunning prize song that Walther has created – the piece of paper is hoisted into the air, much like a symbol of the holy spirit and the lighting is done in such a way that the paper seems to glow. This, paired with the breathtaking execution of the quintet was an incredibly moving moment in the already affecting opera.

Do not let the nearly six-hour running time deter you – this is a production worth making the time for. It is an art lover’s masterpiece and justifies the ‘noble German art’ of which Hans Sachs sings at the end, as a vibrant component of today’s performing arts repertoire.

Show continues until 10 March, more information and book here.

Written by Thoroughly Modern Missy, Angelica Bomford.

Chinese New Year at Hakkasan, Hanway Place

Hakkasan has been on my ‘desperate to try’ list for a while and their special Chinese New Year menu seemed like the perfect opportunity to visit this renowned eatery. This modern Michelin star awarded restaurant is one of the most successful ventures from famous restaurateur Alan Yau. He opened Hakkasan Hanway Place in 2001, and has since opened a further eleven branches around the world. Executive Head Chef Tong Chee Hwee has remained at the Hanway Place kitchen since opening creating contemporary Cantonese cuisine.

Hidden around an unremarkable corner near Tottenham Court Road, the glamorous venue is dark and mysterious with stone steps leading to a regal red and black dining room. I immediately felt engulfed by the exoticism. We passed by hanging red tags annotated with guests wishes for the year ahead and sat at a quiet table.

The special New Year menu at Hakkasan features some of the restaurant’s signature dishes alongside some new creations. Diners can choose from the a la carte selection or opt for the set menu which is priced at £88.88 per person. We started with a refreshing and bitter Kumquatcha cocktail made with a tropical mix including Germana cachaça, Campari, Kumquats and lime. It was tasty but with almost every mouthful I had to dodge fruit pips.

Many of the ingredients and details of the recipes are emblematic and relate to Chinese beliefs and traditions. The Dim sum platter was delicious, an assortment of light dumplings filled with syrupy sauces and finely chopped vegetables. They were delicious, despite the sometimes intriguing textures. Golden fried soft shell crab with red chilli and curry leaf was a favourite for my guest who hoovered it up in seconds. The impossibly light crab covered in crispy salty topping and fried fragrant curry leaves. I thought the Spicy lamb lupin wrap was the highlight: soft spicy lamb marinated in a heavenly array of spices and wrapped in a delicate skin.

The service was very efficient and within minutes our main courses and accompanying glasses of red wine arrived at the table. We were treated to a few off-menu dishes as well, due to my fussy fish requirements. The black pepper rib eye beef with merlot was a luxurious dish arranged ornately within circular rice cracker strands. The meat was wonderfully smooth and richly flavoured, stir-fried with spring onion. We also tried an extravagantly sticky sweet and sour crispy chicken and stir-fried lily bulb with garlic shoot, which tasted far too good to be a humble vegetable! The anomaly on the table was the duck and truffle dish, which seemed like it had been stolen from a French kitchen, though apparently the truffle is used regularly in Chinese cooking. It was immaculately cooked and seasoned but it tasted foreign compared with the rest of the meal.

Dessert was a perfectly petite taster of rich dark chocolate mousse with caramelised macadamia and kumquat. By this stage my tastebuds were tired of the sharp kumquat flavour, but the presentation of the dish was truly beautiful, replicating a fruit tree.

When I think of New Year in the UK several rather depressing things come to mind: waiting for fireworks in the rain, drunken revellers everywhere and hopeless empty resolutions. Chinese New Year however conjures up images of colour and celebration, dancing and feasting. A traditional annual festivity which is recognised and embraced all over the world.

After a cup of fresh mint tea, all that was left to do was scribble a wish down on a red tag and secure it to the wall. I left Hakkasan full of food and full of hope for the year ahead.

More information and book here:

Hand and Flowers, Marlow

After thirteen months of waiting, the special Saturday finally arrived to claim our table at Hand and Flowers. This charming gastropub in Marlow has received phenomenal accolades, the only venue of its kind to be awarded two Michelin stars. Considering the menu features simple British classics like fish and chips, it is an impressive feat for chef Tom Kerridge.

I am a great fan of Kerridge’s enthusiastic food and wine programme, where he takes to the stove with many of London’s most notable chefs. Winning Michelin stars was never his main ambition but his food has been recognised thanks to his dedication and natural talent for creating blissfully delicious comfort food. After stints in various kitchens, Tom and his wife Beth opened Hand and Flowers in 2005 and he recently took over the Coach pub down the road as a second, more casual venue.

We arrived early and sat in the cosy bar area, sipping on locally produced Perry whilst greedily perusing the menu. After a year of anticipation, I felt under great pressure to choose the best dishes on the menu. We followed the waitress through the narrow corridor to our corner table. The interior is decorated in a farmhouse chic style with mementos on the walls that indicate the chef’s jovial character. I felt like I was in the middle of the countryside, in from the cold and ready to tuck in to an indulgent meal.

Rustic bread and unsalted butter arrived, along with tiny crispy whitebait poking out of a homemade newspaper cone. The non-fish eaters were offered thimble sized bowls of piccalilli salad. The starters demonstrate Kerridge’s ability to elevate basic ingredients to create sophisticated dishes with just a few simple flavours. Potato “Risotto” with Pied de Mouton mushrooms and samphire was the perfect example of an original but humble dish, woody mushrooms, a hint of sage and a flawlessly executed potato invention. Crispy pig’s head with spiced date puree, apple, plum and pancetta was a boy’s starter with bold and rich flavour pairings. I stole several mouthfuls and enjoyed the tenderness of the softened pork covered in an irresistibly crispy crumb coat. I chose the dainty Roast English Onion Tart with Etuve Alliums, smoked butter and salt cured pork, it was a sensation of different textures, most exciting was the pile of crispy onion shards on top.

My dad chose a unique Christian Lauverjat Moulin des Vrilleres rose Sancerre – we are all still dreaming about it, light and smooth and the prettiest pale salmon colour. Despite the big flavours of our meat course, the versatile wine suited every plate. These dishes were a triumph, I’ve never seen so many happy customers round one table. The renowned Hand and Flowers fish and chips was a hit, the lightest Whiting coated in a non-oily crispy shell and served with the famous triple-fried chips, that did not disappoint. I had been alerted that the Slow Cooked Duck Breast is must-try, accompanied by Savoy cabbage, Duck Fat chips and gravy. The duck was silky smooth with almost a liver-like texture, perhaps from the sous-vide (water bath) method of cooking. The duck fat chips were richer and even more tasty than the standard chips.

For an utterly indulgent main the Fillet of Stokes Marsh Beef with Bearnaise sauce was a wise choice. A chunky compact piece of meat, garnished with butter and a skinny onion ring it was one of the very best steaks I have ever tasted. Again the meat was of the highest quality and cooked sensitively to ensure the best flavour and texture. I ordered the Tenderloin of Wiltshire Pork which was the only slightly disappointing dish, the meat was an unattractive shape and looked clumsy on the plate. Accompanied by pickled mustard leaf, malt glazed cheek, garlic sausage and potato dauphine, there were plenty of other things to enjoy on the plate, this assortment was more exciting and enjoyable that the main event.

We found the service a little hit and miss, and one slightly grumpy waiter (who had clearly cut his hand) wore a very unappealing blue plastic glove to serve the food. Considering the status of the restaurant and the length of the waiting list I expected the staff to be jollier!

Desserts were thankfully light and refreshing. Numerous recommendations led two members of our party to order the Bitter Orange Souffle with sweet toast crumb, cardamom ice cream and citrus syrup. The soufflé was the perfect light melt in the mouth texture and served with a delicious spicy ice cream, though we thought the intense citrus syrup was an unnecessary addition. I loved my pretty in pink Tonka bean panna cotta with poached rhubarb, ginger wine jelly and rhubarb sorbet. The wonderfully complex flavours worked well together, and in particular the miniature meringues and fuchsia, fruity sorbet was divine. The Hand and Flowers chocolate and ale cake with salted caramel and muscovado ice cream was an intriguing and successful pudding, delicately presented but with powerful flavours, served with a shot of ale.

Hand and Flowers has the perfect balance: inspired and delicious food and a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. You don’t need to worry about dress code and yet the sophisticated dining experience will make the meal feel special. Outstanding fine dining with chips on the side… this restaurant combines the best of both worlds.

More information and book a table for 2016 here:

THOROUGHLY MODERN MAN: Gods and Monsters, Southwark Playhouse

Gods and Monsters, based on Christopher Bram’s novel Father Of Frankenstein, tells the story of James Whale, the director of Show Boat, Journey’s End and classic horror films Frankenstein and Bride Of Frankenstein. Following a series of strokes, he is living out his final days in solitude and torment, with his once-sharp mind increasingly clouded with nostalgia and confusion.

His sexual desires now rule what is left of his mind, and lusty exchanges with a young film student interviewer land him in hospital again. Cooped up with his housekeeper Maria, and cut off from society, his life changes when he attempts to manufacture a friendship with the ruggedly handsome gardener Clayton Boone, who agrees to have his portrait drawn by Whale. It is from this moment on that events begin to quicken and spiral.

Ian Gelder’s performance as Whale is astonishing, expertly capturing the full range of emotions felt by a fading elder statesman. Bluster competes against frailty, with gallows humour punctuating the frustration and resignation of a man living his final days.

His interplay with fiercely religious Maria, played by Lachele Carl, show glimpses of his previous mental agility, and Maria’s unshakeable conviction that “Mister Jimmy” is bound irrevocably for hell mixes with a maternal tolerance of his vices, leading to a complex dynamic which brings its fair share of humour to an otherwise dark subject matter.

Will Austin, playing Boone, the muscle-bound object of Whale’s desire, delivers a nuanced performance of a simple hometown boy faced with an exotic unknown of Whale’s sexuality, which he struggles to reconcile with their friendship. His physical likeness to the Monster about which Whale wrote so movingly must not be by accident, and adds another layer to the author’s lusting.

Throughout the drama, Whale is tormented by flashbacks of significant events of his youth, from Dudley to the Trenches of the Great War, both involving innocent infatuations. These weave in and out of the present-day action on stage, brought to life by Joey Phillips and Will Rastell. These two actors also play Whale’s doctor and Kay, the film student, and their skill and sensitivity make Whale’s decline all the more heart breaking, as he contemplates a past that seems as real as anything, but that only he can see.

The staging at the Southwark Playhouse is such that as an audience one practically spills down into the stage from three sides, and as such creates an experience at times intimate and occasionally intrusive, as we witness the slow unravelling of a creative genius faced with the slow demise of his very identity. I advise you to catch it while you can, with its delicate consideration of universally applicable themes.

Continues at Southwark Playhouse until 7 March, book tickets here.

Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, James Bomford.