Archive for August, 2012
If you’ve met me you probably know that I’m one of the top 10 most uncoordinated humans in the world and that I walk faster than I run, but this doesn’t stop me from taking part in the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival.
Luckily for people like me there is the Sunday Telegraph Fun Run/Walk option which is a pleasant 4km stroll/jog (or run if you wish) from Millers Point, across the Harbour Bridge and down to the Botanic Gardens. Easy, huh?
If you’re feeling a little more sprightly the Body & Soul 9km Bridge Run might be for you. A very scenic course, once again starting at Millers Point and heading up Macquarie Street before making its way back through the Botanic Gardens to the finish line. I secretly wish I could do this and last year I was like, “yep, I’m going to start training and run the whole 9km next year”. Then Paris happened and my arteries are still clogged with french butter and foie gras and I’m thinking even 4km is going to challenge me.
If you’re a bit fitter, like one of the Running Festival’s ambassadors, Glenn McGrath, you might fancy the Blackmores Half Marathon, a 21km course which takes you through the City and Ultimo.
Glenn recently tweeted about his training and it’s hard to believe he is retired with a time like this:
It would literally take me 45 minutes to do jog distance. That is, if I didn’t collapse 15 minutes into it.
Glenn will be joined by ultra-marathon runner and 2012 Australian Geographic Adventurer of the Year Pat Farmer who recently ran from the North Pole to the South Pole (yes, seriously) and should have no trouble completing any course he enters!
For those of you who are
completely insane super fit there is, of course, the Blackmores Marathon. This basically goes from Millers Point to my house in Randwick, around Centennial Park then back to the City again so if anyone feels like running with an extra 65kg on their back I would absolutely love a piggy back home!
Despite the fact that it is about a month away, spaces for the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival fill up quickly. Register yourself, your family or a team now and begin fundraising if there is a cause close to your heart. Last year I raised money for the McGrath Foundation and it made me feel much better about jogging such a short distance! In the 11 years the event has been running (ha!) over $9.6 million has been raised for charity which is absolutely mind-blowing. This year, the target is set at $2.5 million to beat last year’s total of $2.4 million.
Each course has a different entrance fee and each entrant receives an event kit which contains a race bib, timing chip, clothing bag, and a whole heap of stuff from the sponsors of the event. Most of all it gets you a day outside with your friends, family or colleagues and a bit of exercise in the most beautiful city in the world.
To be one of the 35,000 people anticipated to take part in a day that is all about health, fitness and wellbeing please go to the official Blackmores Sydney Running Festival site: http://www.blackmores.com.au/sydney-running-festival or http://www.sydneyrunningfestival.com.au
I hope to see you all there and if you see a blonde girl dawdling across the Bridge – come up and say hi!!
After a long day of shopping I was booked in to Bar Boulud back at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. It gets a lot of press but it’s not one of the top restaurants in London like Alain Ducasse or The Ledbury. It was on my list, however, because the menu was really long and comforting – full of burgers, terrines, meats and hearty mains.
When I arrived I noticed how much bigger it looked than in the pictures on their website. Huge, in fact. I was seated in the lower part of the bar which seemed far more interesting as it was really busy (in a good way) and the kitchen was close by which gave me something to look at. It’s worth noting at this stage that the staff did kindly offer me a newspaper to read since I was dining alone.
After I had ordered (a charcuterie degustation and pea soup) I got my camera out as I had done 4 million times on this trip. It was after I took a photo of the charcuterie board that I was informed I could not take photos. I was shocked by this because it had not been an issue in the other places (read, three Michelin star restaurants) I’d been eating at which are some of the top restaurants in the world, and I enquired as to why. I was told it was because celebrities frequent Bar Boulud and it was for their privacy. Right. Ok. So to make this excuse plausible you’d have to request that each guest leaves their mobile phone at the counter on the way in because there’s a camera on basically every phone these days. Trust me, it’s far more discreet to take a photo with a phone than it is with a big Canon camera.
It was obvious that I was pissed off and next thing I knew another staff member was coming over to tell me I could take photos as they didn’t realise I was writing a review. I declined this offer as I believe in integrity and if the policy is not to take photos then it should be the policy and shouldn’t be reversed especially for some clients and not for others. It was then added that photos weren’t allowed because of the bad lighting. Oh? I thought it was to protect the celebrities? And FYI – the lighting in my photos is good so they actually missed out.
Being disturbed a second time made me even madder and this time the Maitre D’ came over to try to explain. The story had changed yet again and this time it was that no photos were allowed because “bloggers don’t know anything about food and they come in here and give bad reviews.” Firstly, I know some bloggers are like that. I’ve never purported to know about food. I’m not a chef, I’m not even really a foodie but I know a good joint when I see one, I know good service, classy decor and what constitutes as a decent meal. To me, not allowing photos or being disgruntled with bloggers is a serious mistrust in your own product. If I had a brand or a restaurant I would be so behind it that I would welcome reviews from everyone because I wouldn’t be afraid of being criticised. If I was, I’d take it on board.
Now, of course some people have stupid opinions. Apparently one blogger said that Bar Boulud wasn’t worth visiting because there “weren’t any Indian clients” – this is just ridiculous and it ruins it for the rest of us who want to give a well-rounded and honest review. Unfortunately the way I was treated overshadowed my ability to have an impartial view. When I say that I was mistreated, I’m not saying it because I wasn’t allowed to take photos, it’s the fact that the staff chose to disturb me three times and not even have the decency to get their story straight. It was just pure unprofessionalism.
In the end Executive Chef, Dean Yasharian came and sat with me for a while to explain more about Bar Boulud, the menu and their philosophy. Funny that the chef, not the Front of House staff, was a better “people person” than they were
As for the food, my charcuterie board – which Bar Boulud is supposed to be famous for – was bland and unrefined. The pea soup was actually very good with the accompanying crouton being the standout (yes, seriously!).
My dessert was the highlight. I don’t have a photo of it (!!!) so I can’t remember exactly what it was but it was something lemon and basil. It was very pretty (not that I can show you) and perfect for the warm Summer’s eve. There was definitely a basil theme in a lot of the desserts I tried over the three weeks in Paris and London. The olive bread was also a winner. The whole fresh olives in the dough really picked up the theme of the provincial, rustic food being served at the bar and it was a tasty enough course in itself.
I think I made a bit of a poor choice in my ordering as the table next to me, seating two men, both ordered the Coq au Vin and I’m pretty sure I saw one of them lick the bowl. The Coq au Vin is supposed to be another famous dish for Daniel Boulud so perhaps that, or one of the burgers would have been a better choice of meal.
Overall, though, I was really unhappy with the experience. It made me want to cancel the rest of my dining plans (thank god I didn’t as the last ones were the best ones!) and leave my camera at my hotel for the rest of the trip. My advice to the team at Bar Boulud would be:
- get your policy on photos straight and have a comprehensive and plausible list of reasons why photos are not allowed in case anybody should ask again
- have ONE staff member inform the guest of this policy or any other “wrong doings” they may be engaging in
- do not try to back pedal and patronise the eerrr patrons when you’ve obviously pissed them off
Would I go to Bar Boulud again as a traveller? Definitely not. Would I go if I lived in London? Sure. The crowd was interesting with everything from couples to businessmen, young groups of friends and obvious tourists. It was loud and bustling (think Duke Bistro or Ms G’s), the wine list was varied, the prices were affordable and the food, in general, was pleasant as well as the menu having something for all tastes. I just hope you have a better time than I did.
Have you had any negative experiences in restaurants/bars of late?Bar Boulud Mandarin Oriental Hotel Hyde Park 66 Knightsbridge London https://danielnyc.com/barbouludLondon.html
After my Wah Nails manicure I made the massive trek to the Design Gallery which is “near” the Tower Bridge. It’s actually not and if I had my time again I’d be jumping in a cab to get there instead of the huge walk I did from the Tower Hill tube station.
The gallery is quite small and the surrounds feel something like Darling Harbour. It was a weekday and, surprisingly, not very busy considering the status symbol that is Louboutin.
Photos were not permitted and sketch books were recommended. Considering I’m a crap drawer (I can’t even get a stick figure looking good) I snuck a few piccies for my readers.
The displays were really gorgeous. A lot of thought had gone into the curation of this exhibition and some of the designs were mesmerising. It was so hard to not reach out and grab the shoes, put them on and twirl around in them – they were simply amazing.
There was a small theatre playing a mini film about Louboutin’s early days in college and then a fetish room which would have made Christian Grey blow in his ripped, faded, low-slung jeans.
The fetish shoes were actually some of the coolest ones. Despite looking painful they were still really beautiful (isn’t that like most heels?) and the dynamics of the heels and the aesthetic features were so clever.
The last room had a big carousel which was so pretty. It featured a lot of his more recent shoes that you would have seen in David Jones and the like. It’s hard to believe someone could come up with so many designs and that even the truly wacky ones were lovely.
There was also a room dedicated to the men’s shoes and his design process. This was good as there was no security in here and people were kind of going nuts taking pictures.
Unfortunately the exhibition ended in July. I’m really glad I got to see it and if it ends up travelling to Sydney (or Melbourne) I would highly recommend you go and see it. It’s not a huge exhibition but it was beautifully done and since the shoes are works of art, not just lust objects for women, I think men would enjoy it to. If they don’t like shoes then tell them they might see a photo of boobs in the fetish room.
I had a manicure the day before I left Australia but it chipped before I’d even got to the airport so by the time I was in London two weeks later I was DESPERATELY in need of a fix.
I was complaining to a friend about the state of my nails one night when we were out and she said I had to go to Wah Nails at the Topshop store at Oxford Circus so I decided to go a couple of days later when I had some free time.
You’ll find Wah Nails on the bottom level of the mega, mega Topshop which also has a tattoo parlour, hair bleaching specialists, blow dry experts (they also do up-dos and cool braiding and mohawks and stuff. Only 24 pounds and they take walk-ins. I’m so sad I didn’t go back!) and ear/nose/lip/whatever piercing as well as a cupcake shop and other food outlets. I went early in the day – thank god – and they were able to fit me in for a quickie booking a few hours later. Normally a full set of nail art would take approximately an hour.
While I waited I thought I’d take some pictures. They had some pretty big issues with this. The maitre d’/hostess type character was quite a bitch (even aside from the photo-taking problem) so be prepared for her. What I don’t understand is, why work with people if you obviously don’t like dealing with them? I’ll never know. Anyways, I’m not sure why they didn’t want pictures being taken because all their “designs” are online so if someone wanted to steal them they could just go to their website, right?
It’s also a bit laughable that they’d even be concerned about someone ripping off their designs since I saw this *raises eyebrow*
Just FYI, the colour “Tiffany Blue” is protected by copyright.
The salon itself is nothing special, just some gyproc walls plastered with old and not-necessarily-inspiring pictures torn from fashion magazines. The furniture is like any other you’d find in cheap nail salons around the world but the concept of fast nails to match your fast fashion is really cool and I definitely wanted to share it with you.
The girl who actually did my nails, Kat, was really chilled and nice. She had lavender and mint green hair and pointy, cat-like nails to match her name. She was super fast and accurate and I LOVED my manicure.
Since I only had half an hour of their time, my choice of pattern was limited. I could basically only have polka dots, stripes, zigzags etc. but Kat stretched it and gave me 2 bows and 8 polka dots. I think it turned out very cute and very ‘me’. The girl next to me who had booked well ahead, however, had this awesome set of different patterns. She was from Connecticut, hence the American flag.
After the mani, the dopey maitre d’ came over again. She added up my total (each design has a set price but if you have mixed they divide it by ten and add up how many of that style you had. i.e.: both bows and polka dots were 25 pounds so 8 x 2.50 + 2 x 2.50 would be 25 (sorry that was a really simple one). Next thing I’m being charged 30 pounds with the explanation that it’s 5 pounds extra for a “custom design”. Hmm ok. I would have happily paid up to 60 pounds for a manicure of this calibre but I really hate it when fees and charges aren’t displayed properly. The board with very large and precise pricing did not stipulate a 5 pound “custom design” charge. So my suggestion to Wah Nails would be to add it on the board.
Overall I was really happy with the outcome, the price and Kat. I’d definitely go back and would recommend it to anyone but just be prepared to pay more than you think you’ll be paying and watch out for the vain maitre d’ who cares more about her false eyelashes than she does about customer service.
Wah NailsLower ground floor, Topshop 214 Oxford Street London
Knowing I’d still be fairly full from my Pret-a-Portea, I made a late booking at Dinner by Heston at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Dinner by Heston is, as you can probably tell, one of Heston Blumenthal’s ventures right in the heart of London. Having booked my trip so far ahead I probably would have been able to get a booking at The Fat Duck but from what my friends have said, it’s not exactly the kind of place you’d go and dine alone at, hence my decision to go to Dinner instead.
The restaurant is large and spacious with an open kitchen at the front. I had a table at the back, looking out on to Hyde Park and for late on a Sunday night the place was bustling and continued to fill up further as the night went on. There weren’t as many staff members on the floor as I was getting used to from the other Michelin-starred restaurants but this did not impede on their ability to get things to the table quickly or notice when I was out of a drink. My waiter was very chatty and friendly.
The menu is quite different to what you’d expect from Heston. I anticipated things to be a little more “out there” but it’s pretty standard, classic food with just a couple of twists.
Now, I’m sure you already know that I don’t eat seafood but I do often feel like I’m missing out by not eating it and then I got this tweet from my favourite chef, so I decided to be a bit daring.
To this end, I decided to order roast scallops, cucumber ketchup, cucumber hearts, bergamot and borage for my entrée. I was enticed by the cucumber ketchup which ended up tasting like pickle-flavoured mayonnaise. Sooo good.
In retrospect I wish I had ordered a couple or more of the entrees rather than an entrée and main because for main I just went for the Fillet of Aberdeen Angus with mushroom ketchup and triple cooked chips which, frankly, was nothing special. The sauce was really beautiful and I basically sat there with my nose in the little jug, inhaling it because it was more satisfying than the steak. As with a few of my other dining experiences, I blame myself for poor ordering rather than the quality of the food being low. Also, triple cooked chips are unnecessary. Give me golden crunchy coating with fluffy potato over brittle and dusty any day.
I was pretty torn by dessert. I wanted everything on the menu but went with the chocolate bar on recommendation. You can’t really say no to chocolate filled with passionfruit jam and ginger ice cream can you? My only problem with the restaurant arose in this situation because I wanted a dessert wine but then decided to just have another champagne (which goes with everything in my opinion) and then the sommelier suggested I have a port. “It’s very fruity and rich – like figs” he said. I relinquished my own personal taste and went with his suggestion but with my ultra rich dessert which was some of the darkest and densest chocolate I’ve eaten, it was all too much. A gorgeous port – lovely on its own – but way too sickly with the dessert.
All was soon forgiven, however, when the liquid nitrogen ice cream machine came out. I had read a couple of days earlier that the machine was on loan at a festival (it could have been Taste, actually) and I thought I wouldn’t get a chance to try it but it was there and I was so glad I did. Such fun! Such taste. It made me feel like a small child.
For something like 6 pounds (per ice cream) the machine is brought over to your table and made in front of you. You then choose from a variety of toppings. I think mine was apple and fennel. Having the liquid nitrogen ice cream is a must if you dine at Dinner and I couldn’t believe how many people weren’t ordering it!? I think some people were put off by the theatrics of it all and the fact it drew attention to your table. Sucks to be those guys because they missed out big time.
See, exciting stuff!
With my other restaurant posts I’ve been able to give you prices of what my bills were. In this case it’s a bit skewed as I had a couple of massive cocktails in the bar beforehand, two glasses of champagne, a bottle of wine, a glass of dessert wine (yep, binge drinking on my birthday) entrée, main, dessert and the ice cream and it came to a few hundred pounds. If you don’t drink as much as me it would be a relatively inexpensive meal as the entrees are only around 16 pounds, the mains at around 30 pounds and desserts no more than 12 pounds – not bad for a two star establishment.
Is this a must-do while you’re in London? Not really. Would I go back? For sure. As I said: inexpensive, good staff, solid food and easy location. It didn’t blow my mind but it certainly didn’t have any negative qualities. I think I’ll try to find a dining partner and head to The Fat Duck next time, though.
Dinner by HestonMandarin Oriental Hyde Park (directly opposite Knightsbridge Station) 66 Knightsbridge London SW1X7LA
Monday – Sunday
Lunch 12:30 – 2:30 pm
Dinner 6:30 – 10:30 pm
I haven’t done a review for a while but I’ve been trying out Royal Moroccan lately and I’m quite enjoying it. There are some really obvious similarities with the very popular Moroccan Oil from the name down to the packaging, but I honestly am not a fan of Moroccan Oil. It’s expensive, I don’t like the smell and I didn’t feel like it did much for me. By comparison, Royal Moroccan smells delicious, is very cheap and seems to be working really well.
Royal Moroccan is one of the latest brands to take on Argan oil as their key ingredient which is produced from the kernels of the Argan tree grown in the Southern region of Morocco. As well as Argan oil, Royal Moroccan features linen oil and Keratin.
I took some pictures of the last time I washed my hair without the Royal Moroccan products. I use a lot of heating (blow dry, straighten and then curl usually) so it’s pretty damaged – particularly at the moment because I haven’t had a cut for ages.
The next picture is with Royal Moroccan applied to wet hair, freshly washed with Royal Moroccan Shampoo Sulfate Free and Hair Repair Conditioner – you can already see a smoother appearance.
Lastly, hair dried smooth with Royal Moroccan Serum Treatment.
You can’t deny results like that and with the serum priced at $29.95/100mL and the shampoo and conditioner starting from $17.95/300mL it’s one of the cheaper products that actually works on the market.
My biggest qualm with Royal Moroccan is that it makes my hair too soft. I know you’re probably scratching your head at this statement but having thin hair means I need to tease it and use a lot of product to keep it looking full and bouncy. Royal Moroccan really cleans my hair and makes it floppy and soft. I know I’m in the minority here but that doesn’t work for me.
I also have a very sensitive scalp and often get very bad eczema and psoriasis on it. Royal Moroccan has proved to be really soothing and I find when I wash my hair with the shampoo and conditioner the symptoms are minimal, so that’s a plus.
Royal Moroccan is available at Priceline, Kmart and from www.royalmoroccan.com.au. There is more stockist information on their site of you can call (02) 9725 5354 for your nearest store.
If you’re looking for a hair renovation I do urge you to give it a try as you can see how it helped the damage in my own locks.
I’d be keen to hear what other people think and how they rated this product compared to others containing Argan oil?
Part two of my birthday was afternoon tea at The Berkeley. England is synonymous with tea and high tea, or afternoon tea, is a must-do no matter where you try it. You’ll find that most hotels in London serve afternoon tea in their lobbies but I wanted to try something a little bit special.
It’s pretty obvious that I’m into fashion and designer labels. It’s also fairly clear that I love food and pretty things so the natural fit for me and my tea was Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley.
Based on the current season’s catwalk looks, Prêt-à-Portea brings the most stylish clothes, shoes and accessories to life in the form of cakes and sweet treats.
Served on Paul Smith-designed china, in his signature bold stripes, you will also be treated to a selection of gourmet sandwiches and tasty canapés with your fashionable desserts.
I was very pleased to see that not only was my non-fish-eating request accommodated for happily but done in great style with completely new canapés on my stand and extra sandwiches on the plate. I’ve been at high teas before where they simply give you an extra egg sandwich or another onion tart – which I have no problem with – but when an establishment goes out of their way to create something different it does not go unnoticed. It states on their website that nut and gluten-free alternatives are also available with 24-hours notice. It’s much easier and safer to list any dietary requirements when you book, though.
I booked my table almost a year out. I love that they took bookings so early as I like to be super-organised and get my itinerary in order. The room is not all that big, there were probably less than twenty tables in all, so if you have a certain day in mind I can’t stress enough how important it is to book well in advance. This is such a popular event and the room was filled with birthday celebrations, baby showers and hen’s parties and then lil ol’ me on one table alone.
Luckily I could eat my feelings with all the wonderful goods laid out in front of me; I bet you’re all wondering what I ate, right?!
Well the important part of the setting is the fashion-inspired part, so here’s that:
- Gucci art deco Grand Marnier and dark Valrhona chocolate mousse embellished with golden beads
- Mulberry white chocolate crème de menthe and raspberry mousse topped with a lemon meringue
- Fendi nautical red and white striped vanilla cake filled with fraise des bois cremeux accessorized with oversized yellow button
- Christian Louboutin must have neon yellow high heeled chocolate biscuit with signature red sole
- Jason Wu romantic cherry bavarois and coconut cream topped with playful pink skirt and biscuit heel
- Miu Miu 1950′s inspired vanilla bikini biscuit with red hot icing and playful white bow
- Valentino romantic peach cake dress with light pink champagne jelly and edible flower
- Dolce & Gabbana light blue Sicilian blueberry sponge cake wicker basket wrapped in chocolate
- Michael Kors safari opera cake with dark chocolate and mocha filling topped with signature leopard print
and for savouries there were classic high tea sandwiches with a bit of a twist. It was nice to see a bit of a bun and a wrap in there as opposed to ribbon sandwiches. It’s the little things that make all the difference.
The canapés were really quite special and I felt bad just eating them in one mouthful. They certainly deserved more attention. I have somehow misplaced my notes on this meal so I can’t recall exactly what I had but there’s an obvious vine leaf in there and the brown circular thing was beef.
One thing that you might notice that’s missing is scones. I didn’t even realise until I was looking back at my photos later that evening so obviously I wasn’t disappointed by the exclusion, but keep in mind that this is not your traditional afternoon tea, so if you’re looking for scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam it would be better to book in somewhere a bit more traditional.
Something else that wasn’t traditional, at least not in Australia, was that the food kept coming. I feel like we get jipped here as you generally get one serve of everything but being the glutton I am I want more! Not only did the sandwiches and canapés get replenished as soon as I finished my supply, the beautiful little cakes did too. Any that I couldn’t finish were packed up in this very on-trend fluro doggy bag and sent off home with me.
Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley was a most delightful experience and I will definitely book in again next time I’m in London. I love the fact that each time you go will be significantly different depending on the fashion at the time and that so much thought goes into this venture.
Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley starts from £39 per person for afternoon tea, £49 per person for afternoon tea and a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne or £55 per person for afternoon tea and a glass of Laurent Perrier Ultra Brut, Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle. Do what I did and go for the latter option for a bit more indulgence
Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley is held in The Caramel Room daily from 1:00 – 6:00 pm. To book or find out more please see The Berkeley’s website.
I had a super fun day on my birthday! Here’s the first part of it…
Traditionally in Summer, London’s mega department store (and my favourite place to shop during my trip), Selfridges, takes on new life with some sort of Summery gimmick on the roof top. In the past a man-made lake has been installed with couples taking boat rides around the surreal, mid-city setting but this year a specially designed mini golf course was the attraction. Mini golf on the roof of Selfridges first took place in 1930 and this year’s throwback was designed by the extremely talented Bompas & Parr.
Bompas & Parr specialise in custom jellies and jelly moulds and created the golf course to look like edible cakes in the form of some of London’s most famous monuments. There are strict instructions to NOT LICK THE “CAKES” – pretty difficult as they’re very lifelike.
I felt like a bit of a goose playing on my own but one of my secret talents is mini golf. I’ve always been good at it for some reason and I managed to get a hole-in-one on all but one of the holes. I’m allowed to brag about this because my co-ordination, or lack thereof, is an endless joke amongst my friends, former class mates and some of my colleagues…plus anyone who saw me bat against Brett Lee at the recent Ponting Foundation Cricket Rocks! dinner in June. ANY WAY, that aside, I was way above par on this course so pat on the back for me!
After playing a spot of golf I headed back into the store for some more shopping. Selfridges is absolute heaven. There is nothing like it in Australia. I mean, sure, we have David Jones and Myer but it’s just the norm in Selfridges for every rack to be filled with the highest end designer goods where as we only have special sections for them. You wouldn’t see anything cheaper than Vivienne Westwood Anglomani or Sonia by Sonia Rykiel on the racks and stores like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Gucci and Christian Louboutin exist within the building.
I found the staff really polite and helpful and, unlike Australia, you could actually find help when you needed it or, you know, pay for an item at a counter that was manned. AMAZING STUFF!
I didn’t buy too much as I wanted to buy a few quality items as opposed to heaps of stuff. I really don’t understand people who go to London and spend all their money in H&M, Zara and Topshop. I mean, I get it, but it’s just not my thing.
I got two pairs of pants (Dries Van Noten and Diane Von Furstenberg) and a top (Stella McCartney) on this particular day. I’m so excited for Summer or at least Spring so I can bust them out and start wearing them. I wore the DVF pants last week to work and it was just slightly too cold.
On street level there was a British Big Bang store which was full of twee British themed or designed pieces. Union Jack Hunter wellies, Mulberry and Lulu Guiness bags, Olympic Barbies and plenty of souvenirs. There was also a store on another level selling everything yellow. This was to represent Selfridges’ signature yellow colour.
Apparently somewhere in store there was a tiara display, too. I asked a few people but it’s quite a large area so I think I kept missing it. Oh well, probably for the best knowing my penchant for a head-piece. I probably would have come home with a suitcase full of tiaras!
If you’re in London now or heading there in the next couple of weeks you should definitely try to get yourself a game of mini golf. I think tickets sell out pretty quickly (they were sold out for June when I was researching back in April/May) but I was lucky enough to just walk up on the day and get in straight away, so see how you go.
If you’re feeling peckish or need a cup of tea, a 100% organic cafe, Daylesford, provides fresh, seasonal meals from noon until 10:00 pm each day on the rooftop and is served on a first come, first served basis.
Even the bathrooms and the entry to the golf are decorated so quaintly! Loved the rabbits and strawberries everywhere.
Mini golf on the roof of Selfridges costs 6 pounds p/p is running until September 2 and can be accessed through the lift on the cosmetics floor behind Estee Lauder. It is a MUST-DO!
Did anyone else try mini gold on the roof this summer? Have you ever been to the other Summer celebrations held by Selfridges?
Just in case I wasn’t full from lunch at Hibiscus I went to Taste of London, too. Obviously it’s not still on as it only ran from 20 – 23 June, but the ‘Taste’ brand is the same the world over; i.e. Taste of Sydney is run by the same people so I’m sure it will give you a bit of an idea of what the event is about. Anyhow, it’s only 7 months until the next Taste of Sydney
I was actually really pleased that Taste was on during my time in London because it showcases some of the best that the city has to offer and meant that I could get a feel for a couple of restaurants I either didn’t have time to book in to or had decided not to go to because they just weren’t quite right.
I went for the evening session on the Saturday and the weather had turned quite miserable. Being held in a park meant that the majority of punters were wearing gumboots to navigate the muddy grass but I was ill-prepared and had ballet flats and jeans on and I was absolutely freezing!
I was so thankful to have bought a pass to The Secret Garden which included fast-track entry, 30 Crowns (the currency of Taste), a special ‘Taste 2012‘ cookbook with recipes from the chefs and restaurants present at Taste, a glass of Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose Champagne, a Tatler Restaurant Guide 2012, private bar and toilet facilities and a substantial seating area for The Secret Garden pass holders only, with indoor and outdoor sections. All of that cost me 90 pounds which I think was extraordinary value.
The indoor section was really cosy with couches everywhere and a section where Q&As were held by restaurateurs, chefs and sommeliers. I happened upon one by the sommelier from Bocca Di Lupo specifically on Malbec which was timely as I have just really gotten into them. Bocca Di Lupo was also a restaurant which had been on my short list but didn’t make the final cut so it was good to hear some more about them – maybe next time I’m in London.
The outdoor section of The Secret Garden had live bands and a great cocktail bar. I spent a fair bit of time here.
When I had warmed up a bit I ventured back out into the main part of the festival where all the stalls are. For those who aren’t all that familiar with Taste, what happens is that each restaurant has their own little booth which will display a small selection of their regular menu (or a specially prepared menu for the festival) either in miniature size or just a smaller portion in take away style for a certain amount of ‘Crowns’. These Crowns are pre-bought tickets which can only be used at the event and are the only form of currency accepted by the majority of vendors. One Pound is the equivalent to 2 Crowns so as an Aussie I could imagine that what I was paying in Crowns was roughly the same as Aussie dollars.
A lot of the dishes involved seafood which is understandable as I realise most people like it. I ‘get’ that I’m the exception and that’s ok. I was so happy, however, to get a few really comforting foods which lifted my mood and took me out of miserable London weather mode.
Standouts were venison puffs from Yauatcha (which one of my friends described to me before I left as Adriano Zumbo meets Dan Hong) and braised ox cheek with smoked mash and oxtail sauce from Heston Blumenthal’s pub, The Hind’s End. I also had a nice cocktail style dessert (rum, rhubarb, pineapple granita and yoghurt) from Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant, Maze so between that, my champagne and all the cocktails I was consuming in The Secret Garden I was feeling pretty good!
Unfortunately, there were heaps of stalls that I missed. Either because they were too busy or simply because they were not serving anything that I could eat. I was also sad that I didn’t know prior to the day about the Wedgewood marquee which was offering high tea. Although late in the day for afternoon tea the room was decorated so beautifully and what says tea in London more than sipping out of a pretty little Wedgewood tea-cup? This is a definite on the list for next time.
Some of the other things I didn’t look at in too much detail were the different cultural areas. The event’s sponsors was Taste Thailand so they had a big set up as well as a Trinidad & Tobago section and vendors selling all things British.
I think my only negative point about Taste of London is that, being there on my own, I got bored quite quickly. The day itself wasn’t boring but having nobody to share it with was disheartening and because I was drinking it made me want to socialise and I really had nobody to talk to. I talk a lot at the best of times, let alone when I’ve had a few!
I think going as a group or in a couple would be ideal unless you really love your own company because you could try a lot more dishes and treat it as a day or night out. I ended up being quite tipsy and was headed out to meet two of my really good friends who’d been at Ascot so it worked out well in that regard, but I don’t think I’d attempt to go it alone again.
Aside from that I can’t fault the food, the selection of vendors, the staff on the day, the range of activities like the Laurent-Perrier Champagne masterclass and the Q&A’s or the layout. A very good event overall.
Ticket prices for Taste of London 2012 started at £24 for standard entry for adults and went up to £90 for The Secret Garden package listed above. In between these two prices there are a range of other packages including masterclasses or entry and Crown packages. If you attend next year or go to one of the other Taste festivals around the world, I’d opt for a package because it really was great value.
Really looking forward to Taste of Sydney 2013 now!
Hibiscus was recommended to me by an Australian food critic from a big publication who I randomly had lunch with last year. I had never heard of this place but given this critic’s experience I decided to at least have a look at the website. The menu looked pleasing so I booked in and was very happy with my experience.
Being the first restaurant I tried in London I didn’t have any expectations about the food or the service there but it set a really good standard for the others to follow.
I dined at Hibiscus on a Saturday for an early lunch and the restaurant became suitably busy as the afternoon carried on with couples and groups of friends and family around me. The staff were good to not make me feel like a loner and provided appropriate conversation about the food and their knowledge of Australia which was quite cute.
There was a set menu available for Saturday lunch which was only £45 for 3 courses or £53.50 for 3 courses, a glass of wine, coffee/tea and petit fours – amazing value!
After a starter of salt and vinegar pork scratchings and an amuse bouche of hibiscus and pineapple mocktail, I had my entrée of guinea fowl and foie gras ravioli with soya bean, lemon and tarragon. The ravioli was dense, rich and comforting while the soya beans and lemon made it into a Summery dish which was perfectly suited to the warm day outside.
The crispy plantation pork belly cooked in hay, peas a la Francaise, smoked bacon and pink grapefruit main looked like it might defeat me after a surprisingly heavy entrée but it fell apart at the touch of my fork and was not as fatty as most pork bellies I’ve tried in the past. It also wasn’t the tastiest pork belly I’ve ever had (I think that honour goes to Etch) but it was certainly easy to eat.
The dessert was the best course and I know it may not look as impressive as some of the others I’ve posted but in terms of flavour it was the best dessert of my whole trip. Yep. Better than 8 plates worth of sweet stuff at Pierre Gagnaire, better than the flying pig pannacotta at Le Meurice. I really took my time eating this last course because I didn’t want it to end and it was just so perfectly balanced I was enjoying getting lost in all the flavours. Olive oil parfait with olive oil mayonnaise, Charlotte strawberry and basil, I could eat you every day.
Now you may be cringing thinking about an olive oil dessert but it’s not like you’re drinking straight oil. I know a lot of chefs love to complete their dishes with a drizzle of olive oil (especially Matt Moran) and the parfait gave you just that little bit of an aftertaste so that it really was like nothing you’d ever taste before. The strong part of the dish was actually the strawberries and basil, so overall it was just clean flavours hitting your palate and cleansing my mouth of any residual pork belly fat and, in turn, cleansing my guilty conscience for consuming so many calories!
The meal didn’t stop there and with my pot of tea a generous portion of petit fours was served. Madeleines, fresh out of the oven and flavoured with cardamon, were served alongside a jar of beautiful chocolates which were themselves unusually flavoured. White chocolate and lemon, milk chocolate and thyme and a luxe 70% cocoa dark chocolate.
I left Hibiscus feeling very full and content and extremely happy with my meal and the service. While it has slipped significantly on the list of the best restaurants in the world it is very deserving of a recommendation and I would go back without hesitation, particularly for the very well priced Saturday lunch menu.
My only negative comment would be that it was not the easiest place to find. I had a map downloaded to my phone so I managed to find it with only a small amount of difficulty but had I not had that I would have been forced to jump in a cab. This, however, is not their fault at all but I thought it was worth mentioning so you can prepare yourself before you go!
While I think of it, if you’re going to London be sure to download the Michelin London Voyage app. It’s about $7 but will provide you with heaps of maps, directions, reviews and pictures of restaurants, bars, hotels and tourist attractions and will give you the closest tube station so you should have no problem finding anything. It saved me so much money in the long run because I wasn’t taking taxis everywhere all the time. You also don’t need to connect to the internet to utilise its functions which is great because I only had occasional access.
Hibiscus29 Maddox Street London www.hibiscusrestaurant.co.uk
Lunch and Dinner: Monday – Saturday