Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Monday, 9 December 2019

KILN - IS IT REALLY THE BEST RESTAURANT IN LONDON?





This week I am reviewing Thai small plates hot spot Kiln which Time Out deemed to be London’s number 1 restaurant right now. It’s a review shorter than my usual essay length posts as I simply was not convinced by Kiln’s offering, not only because my expectations were pretty high to start with but because here I think the hype fully outweighs the actually merits of the restaurant, particularly when you consider that waiting times for a table can be up to three hours.

Luckily we didn’t make quite such a time investment, attempting to score a dinner spot for two around 10pm on a Friday night after we had just watched the brand new musical & Juliet (cheesy as hell but very fun and with affordable ticket so recommended to any fellow musical fans). However even arriving this late in the evening we still ended up having to wait half an hour, standing in the way of just about every single waiter in this very narrow restaurant, where most dining is done around the bar counter. Now I don’t mind a cosy restaurant but here everything felt very squeezed and I stopped counting how many times a waiter nearly fell into me with a tray full of food.

We persevered however and waited, ordering a decent ginger margarita(£6.50 a pop but pretty watery and mainly consistent of ice) in the meantime and did get pretty hungry and excited by the fragrant Thai smells we were picking up from the open kitchen behind the bar.

Full disclaimer I LOVE Thai food and cook it regularly from scratch at home, using authentic ingredients I can get from the Asian supermarket on my road (you can re-create my pad thai recipe here). I also adore Rosa’s Thai mini chain of restaurants, across the board offering consistently good Thai food that is well prepared and very reasonably priced. And that is where I had my issues with Kiln. The small plates…are well just really small and very expensive at that, especially if, after all, you are only eating a kind of variation on a Thai curry.

Indeed our sour turmeric curry of cod was ok flavour wise but consisted of a tiny piece of fish in some sauce and was a hefty £8.50 for that, a price for which you can get a regular sized curry at some still very decent Thai takeaways in London. On top of that, rice was charged for additionally which I found a little ridiculous considering the carb-less and small plate portions we faced and added another little annoyance to an already mediocre meal which I had expected was going to wow me.

I mean from what I saw on Instagram while researching Kiln beforehand, the meat dishes are meant to stun here so maybe only eating fish (veggie options are basically none existent and I would not recommend dining her as vegetarian) meant I didn’t get the full dining experience on offer but I can only go by what I tried and that just a bit meh.

That is not to say there weren’t some highlights. We did adore the clay pot baked glass noodles with crab meat, a dish that usually come with pork belly but we were able to ask for without. It was a moorish, silky, fishy and fragrant concoction that we could have easily eaten double of but which appeared before any of the other dishes even though it would have worked a treat with the more curry based menu options. A once again small (very small) plate of cuttle fish was fine in a thick red curry marinade and very much edible like everything we ate, but nothing quite blew me away in the way I had expected or offered the comfort I usually associate with this cuisine.

Maybe I was never going to enjoy Kiln the way a meat eater would have, but then again I had never struggled finding amazing meat-free Thai food before. Perhaps then this hipster small plate take on a cuisine I value so much for its down to earth flavours was never going to win me over especially when it was hyped up to such an extent. Would I go back to Kiln? Honestly I’d rather stick to Rosa’s or cook Thai food at home, getting a red Thai curry fix that won’t require a three hour wait in a cramped room. So don’t believe everything you read on Time Out, a title can be deceiving as it turns out…indeed what is your favourite restaurant in London?

Thursday, 5 December 2019

LILAC WOOL



Jumper / H&M
Trousers / Resume
Boots / Mango

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

PRIMARY COLOURS




Hat / Itchy Scratchy Patchy
Dress / ASOS White
Boots / Mango

Sunday, 1 December 2019

WOOLEN FRILLS


Jumper / Zara
Trousers / The Chords
Boots / Mango

Thursday, 28 November 2019

A PERFECT CHRISTMAS WEEKEND IN DÜSSELDORF


As many of you will know by now I was born in Düsseldorf and, alongside London, it the closest thing I have to a “hometown”. I love going there all year round to visit my mum but Dusseldorf at Christmas is even better and I have to go at least once a year when the Christmas markets have opened to properly get in the mood for the festive season.

Why? Well for me Germans just do Christmas better than anyone else. Yes, I may be a little biased but at the same time everyone who I have taken to Dusseldorf to experience the markets and atmosphere for themselves couldn’t help but agree. Nothing is trashy and all the huts of the different markets, dotted around the city, are beautifully made from wood, they also don’t sell crap just lovely food, mulled wine and handmade festive goodies. Decorations are beautiful and although of course it is still at its core all about excessive consumerism for this one day of the year I just love the cosy atmosphere that Germany and in this case Dusseldorf exudes during this time.

This year I was lucky enough to take my amazing best friend Maddie along for my annual Dusseldorf Christmas weekend, she is after all my serial city break partner in crime (this year we visited Vienna and Stockholm with lots more in the pipeline for 2020), and loved showing her the delights of my city. It’s such a short flight away at 45 minutes yet transports you into the most magical Christmas world plus Dsseldorf is pretty amazing in itself, a city that feels like a global hub but a village at the same time - clean, with all the shops your heart could desire and offering amazing and very affordable food in an ever developing culinary scene.

I may be the one-woman Dusseldorf tourism board but I urge you to make the trip there for a long weekend while the markets are on (which is right up until NYE) and be charmed, I for one will hold on to this annual tradition for a good while to come!



HOW TO GET THERE:
BA FROM HEATHROW + CITY


As mentioned in my intro getting to Dusseldorf is literally like a hop, skip and a jump, with the flight time to get there from London totalling 45 to 55 minutes depending on winds, which even for someone like me who distinctly hates flying is semi bearable. Flights are super affordable as well. Even with a decent airline like BA or Eurowings, which I tend to go for, prices range from £80 to £130 for the return ticket.

Once you have landed at the super modern and well planned out Dusseldorf airport (the second largest airport in Germany and a major connecting hub for flights), the journey to the central station and with that centre of town is also super easy and cheap which makes a real difference if you are there for a short weekend when compared to the strenuous 80-minute coach journey we had to face on our last trip to Stockholm. All you have to do is simply jump on the S1 train, which departs from the airport station built underneath the terminals, pay 2.4 euros for a single journey ticket before you embark on a 15-minute journey to the main station that will fly by in no time. This train runs super regularly even on Sundays and overall makes this a very smooth and fast travel experience with no hidden transport costs or lengthy transfers so really no excuse not to go!


WHERE TO STAY: 


This time we stayed at Me And All Hotels, a conveniently located, affordable boutique hotel geared towards a young yet sophisticated travel crowd that knows what they want, which impressed us across the board.

The location in fact is hard to beat, a 5 minute walk from the main train station and a 10 minute walk into the centre of town which meant we didn’t take any public transport during the entire trip and we were able to freshen up after a day of exploring the markets before dinner. Our room, like the whole hotel, was a little Japan inspired in its interior style due to being located bang in the middle of Dusseldorf’s “Japantown” - think bamboo print wallpaper and a little waving lucky cat statue on the room’s desk greeting us). It was also super spacious, perfectly designed and with all the modern mod-cons a millennial would want including USB plug station and easy screen mirroring system.

Staff were incredibly friendly and we LOVED the breakfast buffet. It’s not included in the basic room rate but here I think it is definitely worth adding to the room price as the selection was outstanding with fresh bread, eggs, pancakes, cereal, juices and decent coffee served en masse,plus it is served up on their top floor dining space which has top views of Düsseldorf and at night also turns into a rather lovely cocktail bar with a panoramic Düsseldorf vista! We for one were stunned by the sunrise we got to witness while chomping down on our excellent breakfast early on the Saturday morning, making this one of the best hotel breakfasts I have ever had without a big price tag to match.

That indeed summarises Me And All Hotels in a nutshell, excellent value for money for a boutique hotel standard (double rooms start at £65 a night) where all little touches have been considered and thought through. I found it the perfect base for a city break in Düsseldorf and a hotel that instantly made me and Maddie feel at home, if only I could have taken the amazing rain forest style shower home with me! A full thumbs up for their modern take on hotels, perfect for the twenty something generation over the stress of using airbnb’s.



NOW TO EXPLORE THE CHRISTMAS MARKETS!


Once checked in it was of course time to explore the Christmas markets that we came for! There are several dotted around the old town and to the side of the main shopping streets, each market coming with a different theme and look. You will have time to explore all of them, ideally with mulled wine pit stops along the way, but my favourites are the red themed one by the town hall square and the icy blue huts you can find on a cobbled side street from Düsseldorf’s version of Bond Street, the Königsallee. You really don’t need a plan though, just wonder around and take it all in!


THE BASICS: 


The Christmas markets always open on the Thursday before the last weekend of November and run until New Year’s Eve. They are open daily from 11:00am until 8pm Monday to Thursday and until 9pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Like most restaurants and bars in Germany, the stalls only take cash (contactless is NOT a thing in Germany which I find highly irritating) so make sure you locate an ATM and take out enough cash to pay for those mulled wines! Same goes in general for dinners out so, as annoying as it is, be prepared to carry enough cash with you, I know how very 1999 of Germany!

I love going to the markets for an afternoon mulled wine before dinner but it is also totally worth checking them out after 7pm on a weekend day. It does get pretty busy, so maybe not ideal for those that hate crowds, but the atmosphere is absolutely fantastic with an incredibly diverse crowd, festive tunes and everyone there to have a fabulous time!



MUST HAVES:

My biggest discovery in recent years has been Rosalie - a mulled rose wine that is ALL kinds of fabulous. Of course there is your classic red mulled wine but you can also get a fantastic white mulled wine and add extra oomph to yours with a shot of Amaretto (delicious) or for the very brave pimp up your hot chocolate with a shot of Jagermeister (gross).

In terms of food you can of course get your classic grilled German sausage in a bun but there is so much other food to explore, you could spent your entire city break weekend eating your way across the stalls if you wanted to. My favourites are the pan fried mushrooms you can get in a marvellous herb sauce which a served with a slice of thick white bread to soak up the juices, no idea what they put in those massive frying pans in which they cook the mushrooms in but oh my god are they the best in-between snack known to man kind and a must try for anyone once you have spotted a vendor serving it!


PLUS WHAT ELSE TO DO:

While we spent a good portion of the trip exploring the different markets, we did find time to visit some other Dusseldorf favourites of mine that are great all year round and definitely worth checking out for any visitor. Here are my go-to’s:


THE BEST COFFEE IN TOWN @ CØFFE
Cøffe, hipster coffee spot in a converted old school wood panelled pharmacy, is right by the lively covered Carlsplatz food market and serves the best coffee in town. If the weather allows perch outside on one of their benches and watch the world go by while sipping on a first rate cappuchino plus they take card - what else do you want!


FOOD TO WOW @ MÜNSTERMANN KONTOR

I’ve written about Münstermann Kontor many, many times on the blog and it is for me still hands down the best restaurant in Dusseldorf. The seasonally changing menu is absolutely world class (the Michelin guide thinks the same) yet affordable and its buzzy bistro setting makes it an utter delight to dine here. Make sure you book ahead as this gets rammed every day, no matter the day and rightly so. I am yet to have a dinner here that didn’t utterly wow me.


AN INTIMIDATE DINNER @ EM BRASS
If you after a dinner in an intimate and romantic setting that almost feels like you are dining at your friend’s house (if your friend is a very talented chef) Em Brass is your spot. A 15-minute walk from the centre, Em Brass is everything a neighbourhood bistro should be like and we adored our Saturday dinner here. The dining room is cosy, you sit on high stools, the lighting is low and you will get to know your fellow diners inevitably and that is a good thing. The menu is short, modern European and well-priced and I adored my seared tuna steak with truffle risotto and grilled aubergine while Maddie’s truffle pasta was all sorts of stunning. I wish there was more spots like Em Brass in London where fine cooking is affordable and served up in a vibrant environment where you can easily spent an entire evening chatting and drinking wine. Reservations are once again essential here so call ahead and bring cash as they don’t take card!


TRUFFLE FRIES TO DIE FOR @ WILMA WUNDER

Wilma Wunder is an all-day dining spot by the main shopping mile that does brunch, dinner and everything in-between but if you come for one thing try the truffle fries - perfectly cooked fries, topped with truffle oil and parmesan and served with the best truffle mayo I have ever had. Even better it comes in a huge portion, perfect to share between 2 and is only €5.50 at that, offering us the perfect afternoon pick up alongside a glass of their super affordable and yummy German wines.


EXPLORING THE LOVELY FOOD MARKET @ CARLSPLATZ


Carlsplatz, a permanent covered food market, is open every day apart from Sunday but is especially buzzing on a Saturday when several delis and wine sellers within the market offer fine German wines by the glass and everyone is making the most of the amazing array of food on offer. Perfect for an afternoon stroll and to admire the beautiful German produce I miss so much in the UK!


STOCK UP ON GERMAN DELICACIES @ EDEKA-ZURHEIDE

Checking out a local supermarket when abroad is a TOTAL must for me and if you do it you may as well go to the best one in town! A 5-minute walk from Konigsallee this super fancy supermarket has clearly been modelled on Wholefoods and has literally everything heart could desire! Over two huge floors you’ll find a huge range of chocolates, sweets, wines, a whole organic section, several delis and much, much more. A must visit while in Düsseldorf and make sure you leave yourself enough time to explore each isle (plus enough suitcase space to bring things back with you!)

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

PINK + RED STRIPES


Jumper + Trousers / Resume Copenhagen