Naga, Kensington

The best thing about moving homes is discovering a new neighbourhood, and Holland Park has a lot to offer. Living in this area of West London definitely has its perks, with Notting Hill and Kensington so close there are always plenty of options for keen restaurant frequenters! I’d never heard of Naga, nor spotted it just off Kensington High Street, but I’m always enthusiastic to find somewhere new nearby.

This restaurant offers oriental food which I feel is best described as Vietnamese with a touch of Thai and hint of Chinese. Along with the new tofu bar (the first in London), Naga has a great deal to offer to Kensington and Chelsea residents, with food this good it is also worth travelling to visit.

Owner and general manager, Tri, was keen to select our meal and we were happy to oblige bewildered by the menu. Soon a bottle of Italian white wine was open and we enjoyed a glass while observing the jovial atmosphere of the place – it was full and buzzing on a Saturday night.

Silken tofu with ginger dressing, duck and watermelon salad, and chicken satay were up first: an array of fragrant, flavoursome food that tasted just as good as it looked. The satay was spicy and aromatic, and the salad was sensational but needed more duck meat and less coriander leaves! The tofu was less appealing to me but understandably successful thanks to the creamy consistency.

I don’t know how to describe the main course – which was all truly delicious – silence fell as we both dropped conversation in favour of food gobbling. Flash fried beef fillet with scallions is a must – juicy, high quality meat coated in a peppery sauce. My guest adored the indulgent slow-cooked pork belly with crackling and Asian mash – fatty but wonderful pork with a sweet sauce and aromatic mash bedding. Our mains were accompanied with light and delicious egg fried rice, and amazingly addictive garlic French beans which are apparently made from a very secret recipe.

Coconut ice-cream and chocolate fondant soothed the tastebuds after all the piquancy of the meal. We tried to work off some of the calories by strolling home through Holland Park, overhearing the end of the Bizet opera on the way.

More information here.

Opera Holland Park 2013 season

There are a few things in London that signify the start of summer for me: Opera Holland Park‘s season is one of my favourites. I have fond childhood memories of appearing on the stage of this magical musical company. The open-air theatre still captures the imagination of audiences every night.

I returned to see Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci (or Cav & Pag as they are affectionately known). The singing was sublime and the setting idyllic. With the calling peacocks and warm breeze it is the perfect place to enjoy a British summer evening.

Having just moved to the Holland Park area, I can’t wait to enjoy the rest of the season at this wonderful theatre.

Book here for upcoming shows: the timeless L’elisir d’amore and the incredible I gioielli della Madonna.

Sophie Gass, Holland Park

Every girl needs a local manicurist for a last minute beauty fix. In Acton I found Nara, in Holland Park I have Sophie Gass, a fabulous little nail bar on Ladbroke Grove.

Sophie Gass is a brilliant Holland Park ambassador, working in the centre of this West London area and enjoying all it has to offer. Whilst my toes were being pampered by her best therapist I picked her brains on the best things to do in the neighbourhood. At only 26, this girl has impressive ambition, discovering a gap in the market, she opened an affordable and stylish nail salon just a few months after quitting her high-powered job in the city. With an assortment of unique clothes, lovely jewellery and tempting accessories, it is also the ideal place to pick up a party frock or last minute gift.

I went along for a luxury pedicure and was amazed by the precision and care of the treatment. My feet were soaked, exfoliated and moisturised, my toenails were filed and cuticles were trimmed ready for my Essie colour of choice.

The salon is bright and airy, designed simply but with indulgent touches. Each reclining chair has a nearby iPad for your use and new monthly magazines are scattered about to occupy you while your feet are being pampered. When my bright blue nails were done, I tip-toed around the venue trying on the beautiful brightly coloured dresses and smiling at the sweet cards.

This is the highlight of Ladbroke Grove, and my favourite new hang-out in the neighbourhood. I can tell I will be spending a lot of Saturdays in Sophie Gass.

More information here.