Villandry St James’s – Weekend Bubbly Brunch

For a second year in a row we had a (boring) dry January – which did us good though! London has so many great places to eat and drink around every corner, not to mention that you can get almost everything delivered to your doorstep, that you kind of get used to that possibility of instant gratification. That’s why we’ve found it good to every now and then spend a little time denying ourselves of all those temptations – makes you appreciate them more.

Well, the first weekend of February was then quite an opposite to our quiet and healthy January weekends – but it was actually part of my Christmas present, “H&J’s day of fun”, so I guess the over the top pampering over two days was allowed…doesn’t happen every weekend. We started the weekend on Friday with a dinner in a Michelin starred pub in Fulham called the Harwood Arms (more about that later). Saturday we started with an excellent free flow champagne brunch at the Villandry, went to see The Big Short movie at the Odeon Lounge (I love that place), enjoyed some martinis at the Connaught Bar (more about that later) and finished the night at the also Michelin starred Social Eating House restaurant (more about that later as well). That was quite a special weekend, I must say – my future hubby does know the key to my heart is through my stomach ❤

Villandry had a very lovely bottomless brunch – and they were definitely not skimping on the booze! Towards the end I actually had to ask the waiter not to fill my glass anymore (but then another waiter came and filled it before I had a chance to decline…). But the food was truly delicious as well! The brunch started with a choice of almond or butter croissant or a pain au chocolat and a selection of jams, coffee and orange juice – I never usually have croissants (as they’re essentially just air but have ridiculously many calories) so it was a rare treat and tasted lovely. Then you got to choose from a selection of breakfast main courses – I actually opted for a vegetarian full English instead of my normal full English as I didn’t want to be totally stuffed (there were other options too though) and everything was delicious – eggs were very buttery and the bean mix was super tasty (not your normal beans from a can). I would have been perfectly happy already at that point, but the breakfast main course was followed by a cake platter filled with lovely little treats – no wonder there were quite many groups of women in the restaurant, some of them celebrating their birthdays.

When we left the restaurant – feeling very cheerful – and started walking towards the Piccadilly Circus, the sky was turning darker and darker, but the bad weather was not going to ruin our “day of fun”. Villandry’s free flow champagne brunch was truly a marvelous way to start a perfect day!

Villandry - Piccadilly circus

http://www.villandry.com/ | 12 Waterloo Place, London SW1Y 4AU |

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Wedding dress shopping – London vs. Helsinki

Oh boy it has been a busy fall! We’ve done a couple of trips – a week in South Korea (visiting the North Korean border as well, which was really interesting), a short trip to Frankfurt (a marathon weekend with friends – the guys ran and the girls cheered) and a couple of weeks in Hawaii (Maui and Kauai) – I will write about these later (although maybe not about Frankfurt, which I think is more just a business (and a marathon trip) destination). On top of that it has been really busy at work and I’ve started wedding planning for next fall. That’s why the blog has stayed pretty quiet, but the meaning is to start writing a bit more often again – I certainly have a pretty good backlog of things to write about!

Wedding plans are well on their way – we have booked the church, the venue, the wedding photographer, we have the rings (I can’t wait to combine my wedding band with my engagement ring), I have bought my dress, booked a hairstylist and a make-up artist and I know from where I’m going to get the flowers as well. Next step I suppose is to do the invites, book a band and me to find wedding shoes (which is easier said than done as my shoe size is 34.5-35…)…and yes, I suppose my boyfriend needs to find something to wear as well. I have compiled a folder of pictures on Pinterest as suggestions for him to get some ideas 🙂

Some people have been teasing me about how early I am with these things, but my goal is not to get stressed about organizing the wedding so I figured that it is best to be early! It is a good way of avoiding disappointments as well…at least so far all the things I’ve wanted have been still available.

But let’s get to today’s subject, wedding dress shopping in London vs. Helsinki. I started looking for a dress first in London and the first problem was to find out where to go. London has an abundance of wedding dress shops, but they don’t usually post pictures of the their wedding dresses on their website and if they do, they don’t usually disclose the prices. Knowing the price range of the dresses is very important as the range can be huge in London. I found a couple of really nice looking shops that were located here in the South Kensington and Chelsea area, but luckily before I had a chance to make an appointment with any of them, I heard from my colleague that her friend had bought her dress from one of the boutiques that I was thinking about and that cost a whopping £7,000!! I could never spend that much on a dress that I am going to wear max 9 hours in my life! My goal was to spend less than £1,000 and preferably less than €1,000 and I soon realized that that would be a very difficult thing to achieve in London. (more…)

Putt in the Park – Crazy (mini) golf at Wandsworth Park

When our friends invited us to play crazy golf, I didn’t quite know what to expect at first. At some point I figured out that crazy golf meant the same as what I’m used to being called as mini golf. Golfing at Putt in the Park’s Wandsworth Park course is not your ordinary mini golf though – I was amazed of how versatile the course is! The only thing missing was a working windmill obstacle that I’ve seen in some movies (or cartoons…).

Mini golfing at the Wandsworth Park course is really fun – you have your hills, your rocks, your bunkers, your rough grass areas AND your water hazards, which I was particularly impressed by! At one point you need to hit your ball even over a small river to an island surrounded by water! The course is open from 9 am until dusk and no booking is required, you can just turn up and play – but on a very sunny day you may need to prepare yourself for some queuing. Usually the queues go quite quickly though – unless you get stuck behind a pre-school group with all the kids hitting and rummaging their balls around the course at the same time. If this happens, and otherwise as well, you can get some (alcoholic) drinks from the café to ease the wait. (more…)

Milk & Honey – a prohibition-themed speakeasy in Soho

Milk & Honey is a prohibition-themed speakeasy in Soho that has been acclaimed as one of central London’s best places for drinking proper cocktails since opening in April 2002. We were there in July as a part of my boyfriend’s birthday celebrations.

You don’t stumble across this bar by accident, not only do you require a booking, but it is also very well hidden on a quiet side street – the only outward evidence of its existence is a tiny handwritten M&H sign next to a huge grey steel door on a buzzer on Poland Street. We found the buzzer quite quickly but tried buzzing it for some 5 minutes until we realized just to push the steel door open. If the lady at the reception had been observing our buzzing and general clueless behavior behind the door, she did hide it very well when we finally stepped in – I suppose it is all part of the speakeasy experience. We were escorted through thick velvet curtains into a very dark room and it took a good while for our eyes to adjust to the darkness.  (more…)

Finding a flat and moving in London

I haven’t written anything in a looong while, but hopefully that will change now that things have started to settle down again. We moved to a new flat in the beginning of June, I was busy organising a hen-do for my friend and have started planning my own wedding as well. Things with the new flat are still keeping us busy though and that’s why I decided to share some thoughts about getting a flat / moving / living in London and what all you may need to deal with relating to that.

The pictures in this post are from random, really nice houses and gardens in Kensington, Chelsea and Kew Gardens – I was snapping these as I was trying to get an inspiration about what to plant to our own garden, which is my new passion – or obsession, as I’m frantically observing the plants’ growth being afraid I will kill them. The reason to this is that in-between the time that we signed the rent agreement and before we moved in, it was a very hot time in London and many of the plants in our small garden had died as no-one had watered them.

The landlord agreed to pay for some new plants, but getting some compost and new plants when you don’t have a car can be quite tricky – first we tried ordering online from Homebase and found out that our order would be delivered on 3 different days requiring someone to be at the flat for a whole day to receive them as the delivery slots were again extremely unpractical (like “we will come sometime between 12-18 o’clock”). We got our first delivery but the second never came and when I called them they said that none of the plants were actually available and the order should have never gone through – at this point we had waited a week for nothing and I really wanted to get my plants already. Finally we were able to get a delivery from a smaller garden, but at a higher cost. Anyway, I don’t want to go through that hassle of getting new plants again.

Luckily my boyfriend has been on a gardening leave and has been able to be at home when needed. I do not know how we would have otherwise been able to handle all the deliveries, internet installations and handyman visits relating to our move. Holiday days are so precious that they simply cannot be wasted for things like this. (I do not know how other people cope with these ridiculously unflexible UK services – deliveries in the UK seem to be designed only for retired or unemployed people or for stay-at-home mums.)

Anyway, here are some thoughts about living and moving in London.

FLATS IN LONDON

When we moved from Finland to London more than 2.5 years ago, we were hoping to move most of our furniture and other stuff with us. As a result, it was essential that we found a flat well in advance of our actual moving date so that we would know what all we could fit to our new flat, because – as we quickly found out – English flats are often not the most practical ones:  (more…)

Refurbished Duke of Clarence pub and the Liebster Award

Brightoneagle / Our Osaka Blog nominated me for the Liebster Award, an award given to new or small bloggers by other bloggers with the purpose of giving them visibility and helping others to discover them as well. My blog is small but it isn’t very new any more – in fact, I wrote my first post almost a year ago and it was about one of my favorite pubs, a pub called the Duke of Clarence in South Kensington.

I’m not about to start re-posting about the same places I’ve already once written about, but in order to stay true to the original idea of my blog – telling about my favorite spots in London, offering tips about where to eat and drink and what to do in London – I think these pictures of the recently refurbished Duke of Clarence work as a nice background to this, a bit more personal post (which doesn’t really fit to any of my existing blog categories).

I do really love this pub – I think it captures the essence of the modern British pub culture and is one of the best examples of how a pub can be like a cozy second living room. I mentioned in my previous post that we are moving and this morning we had a viewing in our current flat. We had to go someplace for a while so that the letting agency could show our flat to the potential new tenants. We stopped here for a drink and did our grocery shopping online – an easy and productive morning! The best thing in the British pub culture is that even though you go to a pub already around noon, you won’t be labelled as drunk and you won’t be surrounded by drunks, because spending time in pubs in Britain is like spending time in cafes in most other countries.

Anyway, back to the Liebster Award – I was very flattered to get the nomination from Brightoneagle, because I’m still very surprised that someone actually reads let alone follows my blog. (more…)

Mouthwatering Mexican tacos at Partridges Food Market

If you are looking for good street food, you would usually head to East London. However, if you want to try something different in perhaps a new area, there is a very nice gourmet food market in South West London as well. Partridges Food Market at Duke of York Square (near Sloane Square tube station) was established in 2005 and started operations with just 15 stalls. Since then it has, however, grown significantly and nowadays the market community comprises of on average 70 different stalls. The market opens at 10am and closes at 4pm every Saturday.

The aim of the market is to support especially small producers, farmers and start-up businesses and the variety of the stalls is truly astounding – you can find everything from French crêpes & pâtisserie to English tarts – I know that’s not a huge leap in terms of variety of cuisine, but I just love the word ‘tart‘ and how simply the English put it compared to fancy French words describing bakery products…and the list of options continues from Jamaican coffee to Moroccon condiments and from Scottish haggis toasties to Argentinian empanadas or you may choose to try some Brazilian, Peruvian, Vietnamese, Japanese or Caribbean dishes or have an oyster from the fresh oyster bar – just to name a few of the options on offer. I’ve also previously written about the delicious Philly Cheesesteaks made by The Liberty Cheesesteak Company, but unfortunately they are not regulars at the Duke of York Square Food Market as they take turns in visiting various food markets around London (you need to check their schedule on their Facebook page). However, a couple of weeks ago we tried another great stall that is a regular at the Partridges Food Market and tasting their food has kept me yearning back every Saturday since.  (more…)