Medieval Banquet London Review aka A Night in King Henry’s (Spooky) Court

There comes a time in a girl’s life when it’s just a normal Friday night to head down toward all the chain restaurants and pubs in St. Katherine’s Dock and skip by them all to enter a medieval zombie dinner banquet. So that my friends, is precisely what Niki and I did a couple weeks ago. We got the tickets on Groupon for £25 – half off the usual £50 – and that detail is critical. Because while it was a good time and we had a good couple of laughs and surprising pretty decent food, it was all a pleasant surprise for £25 but for £50 would certainly have been lacking.


This girl was a favourite. Named by Niki as the “Sad Clown” her lack of expression was hilarious. Note King Henry VIII creeping in the background.

The Medieval Banquet is not always zombie-themed I might add. This was a Halloween special and coincided with an unintentional zombie-themed Halloween trend my friends and I had started amongst ourselves beginning with the 2.8 Hours Later zombie chase through London which you can read about here.


They did a pretty good job with him I thought. And he sings too ladies.

So we entered the brick-lined dungeon alongside 200 tourists for a night of laughter, entertainment and Henry VIII (though no Jonathan Rhys Meyers, sorry ladies). Everyone sits at long tables that descend back from the main corridor which also serves as the stage. Seats are unassigned on your ticket so try and get there early (read first) to be up front (nearest the main corridor where all the performers are). Niki used her usual wit, charm, good looks and plea of claustrophobia to get us some good seats. Unless you come with a group of 10 you will be seated at a banquet-style table with others so smile and make nice with your neighbours – you’ll be literally breaking-bread together.


I don’t really know what all the fuss was about – can’t everyone do that?


What medieval banquet would be complete without a pop n’ lock zombie?

Entertainment ensues, medieval-style, with jugglers, contortionists, dancers, and musicians and every now and then all the performers break into random song signalling a new course on the menu. We had a cauldron (literally) of tomato soup – surprisingly tasting quite convincingly of fresh basil and parmesan, a salad made up of tomatoes and lettuce topped with sliced meats and cheeses, a pot of roasted chicken pieces served with a platter of roasted vegetables, and a really good slice of pumpkin pie that I was simply too full to finish despite my very best efforts. Now, I don’t mean anyone to confuse me as saying the food was spectacular but for what I see as your typical tourist trap, I thought it was pretty good. My least favorite was certainly the meat salad but the soup and pie were somethings I would eat again. And you get unlimited wine and ale – can’t go wrong there!


Bubble, bubble, toil and basil?


If this were really the Tudor court I feel like this girl might have been fiddling the King as well.

So if you have friends or family in town and you want to have a laugh and find a good deal, this is actually a decent night out. You have the opportunity to join in the festivities at points in the performances and you applaud all performers by banging on the tables. You must time your bathroom breaks fairly precisely however or you will be cordoned off from the tables while a performance finishes (5 min max).


Eventually she just came and sat at our table, totally oblivious and hilarious.




Bonfire Heart aka My First Bonfire Night

Ok, so I’m kind of a fraud. I’ve never actually been to a Bonfire Night celebration. I realize I still have time but since it’s tomorrow and I will have a houseguest that is not so fond of fireworks, I don’t think this is my year. But that was not about to stop me last night. I did have a nosebleed seat to some fireworks happening way, way (way, way, way, way) down yonder and I decided to get cookin’.


Baptising my apples with cabernet sauvignon.

One thing I realized yesterday on my way to the shops is that fall is certainly in full swing. So what better to warm me up than some delicious mulled wine? Mulled wine is something I first discovered at Borough Market a few years ago. For those who don’t know it’s a delicious blend of winter spices, red wine and citrus and it is definitely a recipe to be adapted to taste. I adapted this recipe by Bon Appetit to make mine last night:

20 whole cloves
2 oranges
2 750-ml bottles red wine (Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon recommended)
3 cups fresh apple cider
2 sweet apples
2 cinnamon sticks (more for garnish)
¼ c brown sugar
Pinch of ground ginger (optional)

Press stems of cloves into oranges. Pierce oranges and squeeze juice into large pot. Place oranges into pot with juice and add cider, apples, 2 cinnamon sticks and ginger (optional). Bring to simmer over low/medium heat and cook for 10 minutes. Add wine, brown sugar and cover. Simmer for further 10 minutes.


Bubble bubble, this mulled wine’s no trouble…

Bonfire Night is the English very own version of thanksgiving. No, it has nothing to do with willingly placing yourself in a turkey-induced food coma. Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes night is the celebration of Guy Fawkes’ spoiled plot to blow up the House of Lords. Now, every November 5th the English celebrate the survival of King James I by setting off fireworks, lighting sparklers and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes in huge bonfires. And what goes better with bonfires than… S’MORES!


Because you’ll always want s’more!

BUT (and this is a pretty big but….like mine) the English do not have one of this food’s main ingredients – graham crackers. Yes, yes I know, we live in a global society, this is a preposterous oversight. Nevertheless, it is true. Therefore without staging my own version of the Great British Bakeoff and making them homemade, I needed to improvise. Pretty much the closest you’re going to get is digestive biscuits (horrible name, good taste) and even those are not all that close. They’re like a teddy graham turned into a crumbly cookie – good but not a graham cracker. Anyways, that’s what I used to sandwich my charred marshmallows and the result was delicious. Also, the ones I used were pre-dipped in dark chocolate on one side (I’ve been meaning to make a patent like this for graham crackers for years) so they’re convenient and cheap!


A digestive sandwich might not sound appetizing but just take a look at this.


It sort of crumbles then meeeeelts into your mouth.

So this year, amidst the whistling and booming of Guy Fawkes night, keep the edge of the cold away with a bubbling cauldron of homemade mulled wine and the melty chocolatey creaminess of my UK spin on a classic American s’more. Beneath the colourful crackling of fireworks, let these treats light the spark in your Bonfire Heart.




A Cure for the Common Cold aka Brittany’s Double Roasted Chicken Soup

My college roommate, Chelsea, used to make fun of me because when I was sick I would plead fatigue. I was too fatigued to go out, cook, move, speak, etc. She pointed out that fatigue pretty much means tired but therein lay the problem. Last week I was sick. Like throat feeling like I swallowed a cactus, it hurt to breathe type of sick and all I wanted was some homemade soup but I was too ‘fatigued’ to make any.


I already had all the vegetables in the fridge, I just had to find the strength to actually make this soup.

There are lots of things that people will say are significantly better homemade that simply can’t be mass-produced. Some of this feeling is simply foodie snobbery but for other things, nothing can replace grandma’s own recipe. The latter is definitely the case where soup is concerned and particularly so when I’m sick. My grandmother (Nanny) is the magician of soup. She takes scraps of nothing and makes them into the most fragrant and flavorful brews. But, because I’m an ocean away, I had to come up with my own solution for my soup fix so I started scouring the Internet for recipes. As I was looking I realized that chicken soup is like any traditional dish – everyone has their own recipe. So, naturally I decided to make my own. I had never written a recipe before this one. I read lots of different recipes and one thing that people seemed to agree on is that roasting ingredients before adding them to the soup concentrates the foods’ natural flavors. Some recipes roasted the chicken, others roasted the vegetables but none that I found pre-roasted both. So, by roasting both the vegetables and the chicken before adding them to the soup I had the basis of my very first recipe.


The vibrant colors in this soup alone can make you feel better!

In my research, I also came across an article in the Daily Mail about studies done on chicken soup and its effects on common cold sufferers. While there is no cure for the common cold, the article found HERE detailed how some ingredients in chicken soup can help alleviate some cold symptoms. These ingredients became some of the staple ingredients for my recipe.


These veggies juuuuuuust fit in a single layer on the baking sheet.

By roasting the chicken and vegetables ahead of time you are adding quite a bit of time to the prep process for this soup but the actual effort is minimal and the flavor is SO worth it! This is a delicious way to use the extra chicken on the bones of a leftover roast chicken and any extra vegetables at the end of the week. Make a big batch to freeze before you succumb to cold/flu season and your throat and tummy will thank you. For a little extra good karma, freeze a couple tubs full and deliver to sick friends this winter! It will not soon be forgotten! I definitely inherited Nanny’s soup making gene…


Pre-roasting the vegetables even helps them retain their color so you don’t get the transparent dull vegetable look of some soups.


Frozen and waiting for a sick friend…

Brittany’s Double Roasted Chicken Soup Cold Cure


2 cloves of jumbo garlic, unpeeled
2 carrots
1 medium onion, peeled
3 sweet potatoes, peeled
2 stalks celery
1 large red bell pepper
Several sprigs of fresh rosemary
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cups shredded roast chicken
6 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 cup white wine or water
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme or poultry seasoning
¼ tsp dried oregano
Small handful fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley


  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Cut all vegetables to similar size (the size of the jumbo garlic cloves).
  2. Toss vegetables and sprigs of rosemary in olive oil, arrange in single layer on baking sheet and top with kosher salt and pepper. Bake 20 minutes, turn once then bake remaining 20 minutes or until vegetables are golden brown.
  3. Meanwhile bring chicken stock and wine to simmer in large pot. Add chicken carcass, shredded chicken pieces, thyme (or poultry seasoning), oregano, bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes.
  4. Remove chicken carcass.
  5. Chop roasted vegetables to bite size (peel and mince garlic) and add to pot and simmer 20-30 minutes. Skim most of fat that has risen to surface.
  6. Serve topped with sprinkle of fresh parsley.

Having fun with my new macro lenses – love them!

I made up this recipe based on other people’s reviews and improvements on previously shared recipes so if you decide to make this one, please share comments and pictures on how it turned out!




London Zombie Chase aka 2.8 Hours Later

I. Can’t. Move. Why is this? Did my blogging lethargy finally result in total body atrophy? No. Last night I made up for any and all previous sluggishness by sprinting through the “(Not So) Safe City of London” in a nighttime zombie chase called 2.8 Hours Later. It was both as fun and as terrifying as it sounds.


Glowing and naive before even the first glimpse of a zombie

Niki, Sarah and I headed to our start location by Maryland station. If you’re meeting friends, meeting at Westfield Stratford and walking from there is probably about the same distance (we however, took the unnecessary train journey from there to Maryland station). We arrived about 5 minutes after our start time, waited in line for about 10 min, signed liability waivers and were given 80’s style snap bracelet arm bands (yay!) before going through a sort of E.T.-style screening tent. We were briefed on the backstory, given maps, and sent off to our first location by a particularly creepy and extra smiley American (Canadian?). Everyone involved is 100% in character a la Secret Cinema if you’re familiar.


80’s-style sparkly snap on armbands were the best way to start off the night

We made our way to a car park, battling zombies for medical supplies, raced past the police under a bridge and finally found the street light we were looking for. Unfortunately, the long dark corridor it opened up to was decidedly not what we were hoping to see. We stood at the mouth of this corridor, seeing absolutely nothing in the pitch blackness of the night, and hearing nothing but the screams of zombies and victims alike. I now believe hearing is so much worse than seeing your nightmares. I could only imagine what it was like for regular residents in this area, hearing blood-curdling screams through most of the night. We passed quite a few ‘civilians’ doing their weekly shop; at the beginning we were unsure of how to identify the zombies so we kept a wide berth of them as well. We walked until shadowy silhouettes began to emerge from the blackness… then we ran. Ran like I probably haven’t run since gym class competitions, trying to beat the boys.


I tried but to no avail…ultimately INFECTED


Entire team after infection was in full swing. Nadine and Chloe were placed with our team in the beginning and were the only reason we got to pass on from the carpark – thank you ladies!

By some miracle and a little strategic planning by my teammates, I made it through, one of only two survivors. Finally, we boarded a bus headed for Quarantine. But there, things got really ugly; there were more zombies, they were hiding and popping out of bushes, there were more people running so it was mass chaos. Needless to say, by the third round of zombies on this stretch, I was caught – and out of breath. It was a bit of a relief to be caught by that point because I was so tired. We finally found our way to the Asylum, where we were confirmed infected and got our faces painted as proof. The ‘disco’ at the end left quite a bit to the imagination, I suppose primarily because everyone was wiped out – as I imagine that was probably the most running any of us had done since primary school. But the looks on the tube ride home made it all worth it!


Riding the tube home like this may have been my favorite part.

So if you’re headed out to experience 2.8 Hours Later a few tips not to forget:

  1. Bring a friend who has a strong sense of direction, good map reading skills or good judgment in which groups to follow if you get stuck
  2. Wear comfortable ATHLETIC shoes – this is not a joke, you WILL be running
  3. Don’t wear white – you’re chased by face-painted people trying to grab you and may ultimately be flicked with some face paint of your own
  4. Bring a naughty friend who is a quick liar to avoid uncomfortable moments with the police
  5. Stretch! I know this sounds like a joke (and this is coming from someone who never stretches before exercise) but do it – I am certainly feeling it today
  6. As always, have fun! It’s a blast!



#Amys30 aka Camden Remembers Amy Winehouse

Today would be Amy Winehouse’s 30th birthday. Two Camden venues are celebrating the late singer’s life and art in two separate exhibitions, both worth seeing if you are a fan or in fact, a Londoner.


Photo credit Dean Chalkley. “For You I was a Flame” runs at Proud Galleries Camden until October 6th.

“A Family Portrait” exhibit poster outside the Jewish Museum. The museum is on a beautiful residential street.

Thursday I went to check out both exhibits, braving the cat-call-filled streets of Camden, just me and my trusty camera. First I ventured over to Camden Lock Market where Proud Galleries is hosting “For You I Was a Flame” a free exhibit this month of Amy Winehouse photographs and fan art. The exhibit was carefully curated by the Amy Winehouse Foundation combining a selection of both iconic and unseen images of the troubled singer. While the images don’t overtly ‘say’ anything, they do feature Amy at times when she seemed to be caught off guard, like she didn’t know the camera was still on. She seems somehow more vulnerable and more real in the photos than fans might remember her from magazine and album covers. In a way, she seems more alive through this collection than ever.


Another venue recognizing Amy this month is the Jewish Museum in Camden. This collection is certainly the more personal of the two, co-curated by Amy’s brother Alex and sister-in-law, Riva. This exhibition is what you would imagine flashing through Amy’s mind in her last moments. Beginning with pictures of her and her family as a child, it’s a journey through Amy’s school days and a behind the scenes look at the quirky things the singer enjoyed (like Snoopy-themed anything a hidden box of Sudoku games).


The Jewish Museum is on a lovely street and the whole museum is worth a look.

The photo in this collection I found the most telling was one of Amy’s old school photos. She was sat smack in the middle of the entire class, as if every other student is merely part of the frame for this destined star. All of the girls in the photo wear big smiles while practicing perfect posture except for Amy who is slouched over, elbows on knees, staring straight into the camera as if trying to read the photographer’s mind.

The select fashions from Amy’s closet show what the singer wore onstage and off. The most surprising thing about a peek into the singer’s wardrobe wasn’t the tatty tanks and shorts she wore around the house but the size. I suppose the nature of being a celebrity entails being imagined as larger than life but Amy was truly childlike in size – difficult to remember since her voice and her presence were so commanding onstage and in the tabloids.

In this exhibition you are immersed in Amy’s world. The music playing in the background is directly from a list of her personal favorites and the walls are adorned with direct quotes from a biographical essay the singer wrote before the world knew her name. Hauntingly, she wrote,

I want to go somewhere where I am stretched right to my limits and perhaps even beyond. To sing in lessons without being told to shut up (provided they are singing lessons.) But mostly, I have this dream to be very famous to work on stage. It’s a lifelong ambition. I want people to hear my voice and just forget their troubles for five minutes. I want to be remembered for being an actress, a singer, for sell-out concerts and sell-out West-End and Broadway shows and for being just me.

Well Amy, you got your wish.

Side note: I did look around the Jewish Museum, rather than head straight for the Amy exhibit on the top floor. The museum is very interesting and truly gives you an idea of the Jewish immigrant experience in Britain and worldwide – certainly worth a look if this is something that interests you at all.

These events are two of a month full of events entitled #Amys30 happening in and around Camden this September in support of the Amy Winehouse Foundation.

I wanted to do my own thing in recognition of #Amys30, so I put together a playlist of my favorite Amy tracks. This was a difficult list to compile because Amy is one of the very few artists in my collection to whose albums I can listen straight through without skipping songs I dislike. So, in no particular order, here are my favorites (for today anyway):


You Sent Me Flying

Know You Now

I Heard Love is Blind

Take the Box


Just Friends

Tears Dry On Their Own

He Can Only Hold Her

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

Like Smoke




Crodoughs in London aka Crazy for Cronuts!

As far as I know, there hasn’t been anything revolutionary in the way of pastry in many years. Those with a sweet tooth have their favorites and the only fluctuation may be in which shops or restaurants make it best. However, in May of this year, New York pastry chef, Dominique Ansel created a new type of pastry – the cronut – and it went viral.


I could barely contain my taste buds taking these pictures of crodoughs from London’s Rinkoff Bakery.

After taking more than two months to perfect the process – it now takes 3 days to make the perfect cronut – Ansel had created a pastry that everyone wanted. Not to be confused simply as a donut-shaped croissant these pastries are puffy and flaky, rolled in sugar and filled and iced with gooey goodness.

So what’s the bad news? At the Dominique Ansel Bakery, the wait in line for cronuts can be in excess of 3 hours (starting at 6am) on a weekday – longer on a weekend. The good news? They’re in London and (for now at least) there’s no line!


Preparing to open a box from Rinkoff Bakery evokes the same anticipation as Christmas morning except concentrated to your stomach and your tongue.

Cronuts, known as crodoughs in the UK for copyright reasons, are available at London’s Rinkoff Bakery near Whitechapel station. The first thing you need to know about how to get your hands on one of these not-so-little gems is where to go. Rinkoff Bakery actually has two locations. Technically, both locations sell crodoughs but avoid the mistake I did and go directly to the location at 224 Jubilee Street, E1 3BS (8am-4pm Monday to Friday and 8am-2pm Sunday). This is where these pillows of ecstasy (no exaggeration) are actually made. The other location, 79 Vallance Road, E1 5BS (7am-5pm Monday to Friday) is a smaller location that gets batches of crodoughs driven over every couple of hours from the bakery but unless your visit is perfectly timed, you could be out of luck.

I went on my crodough adventure two weeks ago Thursday. I set off around 10am and walked to the Vallance Road location. To my horror, there was a small sign on the counter that read, “Crodoughs £2.50” next to two plates, empty except for a few crumbs. Heart. Broken. Stomach. Empty. But the nice man behind the counter gave me the address and directions to the other Rinkoff Bakery down the road. Score!


A cronut is layer of light flaky dough interrupted only by deliciously smooth icing.

I would never have found the address if it weren’t for Google Maps. I would have followed the directions I was given but been sure that the man had sent me on a wild goose chase, tired of urban foodies hitting him up for cronuts like he was their dealer. Rinkoff Bakery is in the middle of nowhere as far as commercial bakeries are concerned. It’s located down a spiral series of residential streets but trust your map. If it doesn’t look like anywhere someone would choose to house a bakery, you’re in the right place. Once inside I saw the jewels piled high on the counter like Indiana Jones spotting the lost Ark. The lady behind the counter was pleasant but the real treat was getting to meet Ray Rinkoff himself. Ray came out as I was choosing which cronuts to get (in the end I decided only 2 of each could give me a true sampling) and chatted to me about the history of his family’s bakery, the pride they take in supplying baked goods all over London and how bringing the crodoughs to London was his daughter’s idea. I explained about my blog, upset that I hadn’t brought my camera with me and he invited me back to take pictures.


The custard cronuts look thickly iced but I assure you, the measurements are perfect.

Leaving my new friend Ray with my newly acquired wares however, I felt like I was carrying a bag full of gold rather than pastries. After all, inside was the very thing New Yorkers were forgoing their lie-ins for!

When I finally got them home, I pulled back the lid of the box to reveal the plump, iced, sugary clouds. Each cronut is about 5” in diameter and about 2” high. They come in 3 flavors (in order of my favorite to least favorite – there is not dislike) raspberry, custard, and toffee apple crumble. They are rolled in sugar and filled and topped with icing. The raspberry has some berries on top and the apple flavor is topped with an iced crumble.


This was how I felt eating cronuts – big eyes to match my big smile.

So what’s the big deal about crodoughs? They have the pillowy airiness of a croissant combined with the tasty sweetness of a donut. They’re filling but after my long adventure I was able to polish off one and half before saving the rest. On the website for the original cronuts, it says they “have a short shelf life” and should never be refrigerated. I put my leftovers in a slide and lock sandwich bag on the counter and they were just as good the next morning, the little bit that made it that long…




Being a Tourist in My Own (Adopted) City aka Another Sunny Week in London Town – Part Three

Finally we have reached our conclusion. Olivia is safely back home in the USA and my temporary mom duties are over. I’ve taken a few days to recover from the whirlwind of it all before finally sitting down to write this so I’ve really had time to reflect on the whole experience and I have to say, overall I really enjoyed myself. I got a chance to see things I’m almost positive I wouldn’t have otherwise seen and I got a chance to revisit some of my old favorites that reminded me why I fell in love with this city in the first place.


Maybe the most famous address in London…other than 10 Downing Street?


To kick off our final week of London madness we first hit up the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street. Needless to say, the week began with a whimper rather than a roar. As someone who has read the complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and seen (one? both? of the) Robert Downey Jr. movie adaptations not to mention countless BBC adaptations (including Sherlock – starring the amazing Benedict Cumberbatch) I was actually pretty excited to check this place out.


Welcome, just hang your pipe and make yourself at home.

The set up is quaint – located at the actual London address of the fictional character and set up like his home on the first two floors with life-size wax figures and memorabilia from the stories taking up the upper floor. Therefore, without much in the way of museum-type placards to explain things (downstairs at least), you should have at least a passing familiarity with the books/movies and/or appreciation for Victorian living. It is kind of the anti-museum in that you are encouraged to take as many pictures as you like and open all of the boxes and vials you can get your hands on. The downside? The line is OUTRAGEOUS. Like 2 hours outrageous, while you stand there exposed to all the main street traffic of Baker Street in a queue that may as well have had you brand the word ‘Tourist’ on your forehead.


Possibly my favorite part of the museum. A catalog of letters children have written to Sherlock over the years. This one is priceless.

So if I had to do it all over again? Truthfully I probably wouldn’t. The line was almost unbearable for the 20 minutes I spent clicking pictures inside. If you must see it however, I would say to go with a group and take turns standing in line and browsing the gift shop which, extremely inefficiently, it so happens is where you buy your tickets for the museum.


Niki’s lovely pot of rosebud tea. I think it tasted as good as it looked.


I have a secret that I’m going to share with you. If you go to the Coach & Horses Pub in Soho between 12-6PM and kindly ask to be let up the stairs behind the bar you can step back in time. Somewhere on the staircase you’ll experience the same effects as if you sat inside the DeLorean and programmed the flux capacitor to take you back to 1925. Once you arrive at this Secret Tea Room, you’ll have entered a time where women rolled their hair just to collect the jar of milk left on the stoop by the milkman. A waitress in a swishy dress will show you your table and a menu from which you can choose any number of afternoon tea services.


Delicious scones and cakes at Soho’s Secret Tea Room.


This slice of heaven was described as cheese and berry sponge cake. The description wasn’t that appealing but it looked so delicious I had to see for myself. Needless to say, I was right!

On this particular occasion and for her first ever afternoon tea, Olivia and I ordered Rooibos tea (my favorite) with lemon fairy cakes, plain scones, and cake (she had chocolate, I had cream cheese and berry). The music, décor, and even the china you use will make you believe you have stepped into another time. A great choice for afternoon tea in London although the staff at the bar downstairs can sometimes have a bit of an authority complex – nothing your best desperate 1920’s housewife smile can’t fix.


The stoic Royal Horse Guard was so intimidating Olivia wouldn’t even get a picture with him!


Next, Niki, Olivia and I took a quick jaunt down to the Royal Horse Guard in Westminster. I thought I might have Olivia get a photo with one of the stoic, solemn guards there but no such luck.


This sign entertained me. Although I wonder how many tourists suffered before it went up!

Niki did however inform me of the romance between Coco Chanel and the Duke of Westminster. The story is wildly romantic however merely a rumor I’m sad to say. Read all about it here.


I prefer to believe the Duke of Westminster painted his lover’s insignia all over the city as a grand gesture of love.


Downing Street: Site of many a great historical moment. And a One Direction video?

We swung by Downing Street so I could get away with calling this part of the trip educational. When asked to explain who David Cameron was, I realized I had spent too much time around my 13-year-old cousin when I blurted out, “That old guy dancing in the One Direction video.” I shook my own head at that…tsk, tsk.


Warm and delicious chicken curry from Curry Masters at the Real Food Market at Southbank. Looking forward to going back for more of this as the weather turns cooler.


We finished off the trip where it began at Southbank for the Real Food Street Food Festival. Olivia and I shared a mild chicken curry from Curry Masters over white rice and I also had a cup of delicious red sangria (into which I accidentally dropped a £2 coin – oops!).


Churros from Churros Garcia were warm and crisp and delicious dunked in warm, velvety chocolate.


Brittany, warrior princess!

We topped off that meal with some yummy churros and chocolate from Churros Garcia before Olivia convinced me (obviously after the sangria) to risk my life on London Wonderground’s Starflyer ride.


I didn’t realize I was afraid of heights until we were already high in the air – too high.

It was a good time with good food although I do wish the Real Food Festival would bring back the major festival they did in 2011 at Earl’s Court at least once a year. The market is great but the amount, quality and diversity of that festival has yet to be matched let alone beaten.

I feel like I’m finally a London expert and I’ve shared some of my must-sees for any tourist but what did I forget? What are your favorite places or frequent requests from visitors?


Being a Tourist in My Own (Adopted) City aka A Sunny Week in London Town – Part Two


What happens when a 20-something newbie blogger, trying to entertain her precocious teenage cousin with something age appropriate in one of the world’s biggest cities, gets on Twitter and hears about a new pop-up? You get me – eating bugs.


I ate this cricket – a phrase I never thought I’d actually use. It was crunchy. Please ignore the lack of manicure and focus on the cricket :)


The unique menu from Rentokil’s 1-day pop-up, Pestaurant.

Yup, last Thursday I told Olivia to get up and get dressed because we were going to eat some bugs. Of course, she looked at me sideways waiting for a more sensible explanation but when the further explanation was merely, “we are going to eat bugs” she was less than thrilled.


Barbecue mealworms – O actually went back for seconds!


I sent this pic to a friend in NYC who has a fear of insects which, incidentally is called entomophobia.

To celebrate 85 years of service, pest control company Rentokil, set up a one-day-only pop-up restaurant across from St. Paul’s, the aptly named, Pestaurant. From under their wind-whipped tent the staff served sweet chili pigeon burger quarters, salt and vinegar crickets and crispy barbeque mealworms.


Went off-menu a little bit and ate some scorpion. More flavorful than the other bugs and that’s not a good thing.

Somehow I managed to miss what I assume would have been my favorite part (as it usually is) – the dessert – consisting of chocolate-dipped grasshoppers and ants and blueberry scorpion lollies.


What’s in your burger?


This was actually pretty good. A little game-y but can definitely taste that bacon goodness.

Highlights of the menu were definitely the burger and the mealworms. The crickets had a bit too realistic of a crunch to them and salt and vinegar is not my favorite flavor as it is.



Next night it was on to another pop-up of the more traditional variety – this time in the form of smokey goodness that is barbeque! We made our way up to Hackney Wick by bus, which dropped us off seemingly in the middle of nowhere next to a very brightly colored house that looked like it had been completely covered in sidewalk chalk.


To get to Smokey Tails BBQ in Hackney you need to be in-the-know.


Didn’t have the tomato salad but the couscous and broccoli salads were tasty.

This place, Smokey Tails, was just the right amount of need-to-know meets good directions. The menu was short and to the point offering chicken wings two ways, smoked ribs and pulled pork sandwiches with a choice of tomato, couscous or broccoli. There were also side options of mac ‘n cheese and baked beans (but why when there’s mac ‘n crack?) and dessert options of re-branded “Hackney mess” and chocolate tort.


Not as pink as it looks – haven’t quite figured out how to use my camera at night – but that pickled red cabbage was just as good.


Overall a tasty meal – so much so that I didn’t even have room for dessert!

I ordered the ribs with couscous salad and broccoli salad. Olivia had the pulled pork sandwich with a side of mac ‘n cheese. Needless to say: Olivia won. The ribs were good but not the fall-off-the-bone tender kind of ribs I prefer. They were tightly smoked to hickory perfection though and both salads were well-seasoned. Olivia had a better than decent pulled-pork sandwich, and pretty decent baked mac ‘n cheese (and my standards in that department are exceptionally high).



There are few things I love more than a good food festival and fewer more than free tickets to Battersea Foodies Festival courtesy of Skint London (thank you again!).


On the way to Foodies Festival we go!

Once again winding through Battersea where I was only a few weeks ago for Holi (click to see those colorful photos) this time we were making our way to the heart of Battersea Park. There was food inspired by cuisines from all around the world as well as live cooking demonstrations and entertainment.


I watched this woman kill a crab in front of a group of gawking onlookers.


Vat of paella from Paella Fella. Makes me wish I liked seafood.

I ate as soon as I got inside (not advised although it was delicious) – I had a falafel pita and O had a peri peri chicken wrap. We had had a long walk though, so while I indulged in a pint of Pimm’s and lemonade O sipped away on a cool coffee milkshake.


Beautiful colors in the food from Exotic Tagine.

I wish I had the stomach capacity to try everything. These food festivals really should sell ‘taste flight’ tickets where you can try a sample size of every kind of food. Until next time, try not to salivate on your keyboard…


Racks of meat might turn some people off but they were looking mighty tasty to me!





Being a Tourist in My Own (Adopted) City aka A Sunny Week in London Town – Part One

For the brief few years I was a New Yorker, the only time I marveled at the Empire State Building or took a ferry out by the Statue of Liberty was when I had a guest (read tourist) in town, specifically, my cousin Olivia. Incidentally, that same cousin is here in London with me all this month. She’s 13 so showing her all of my favorite bars wouldn’t make for great ‘What I did for my summer vacation’ topics. Instead, her parents have entrusted me to show her things that everyone associates with London like Buckingham Palace, black cabs and bright phone booths. So last week Olivia and I embarked on this adventure.


2 tickets to West Ham please!

The action of the game never really had us on the edge of our seats but it was a fun time nonetheless.

The action of the game never really had us on the edge of our seats but it was a fun time nonetheless.

Our first stop was a West Ham v. FC Paços de Ferreira. It is important to note here that I am not a true soccer fan. I love soccer in that it allows one to perfectly acceptably wear long bunchy scarves reminiscent of Harry Potter and co. and to that end I am a soccer fan. In my anticipation of my latest move to London I conscientiously researched my neighborhood to find ‘my’ soccer team. It came down to Millwall and West Ham (which yes I know are not in the same league) and I chose West Ham because 1. I am not crazy/suicidal and 2. Alfie Moon supports West Ham.

Soccer was fun for the whole family. The first half these kids were glued to their seats but the second was a different story.

Soccer was fun for the whole family. The first half these kids were glued to their seats but the second was a different story.

So, thanks to Groupon we found ourselves at a West Ham game cheering on the Hammers thanks to Groupon. The game was lots of fun (we won!) and no doubt the super low-priced tickets brought out lots of families with small children.


Bubbles after a goal is scored? This is my kind of sport! Any who could forget everyone’s favorite mascot the West Ham Hammer!

After the festivities and navigating the tube closures home, O and I walked back along the Thames. It might be just me but every time I consider how long the Thames has been used for trade throughout history a little part of me wants to go diving in that filthy water for a hidden Roman treasure.


I love walking along the Thames any time of day :)

The next day it was off to being the kind of tourists at which real Londoners roll their eyes and sigh with audible disgust. First we headed to Leadenhall Market, film location for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. I don’t know for sure if it’s the Harry connection but something about that place feels magical.


Leadenhall Market, where Diagon Alley was filmed = TOTAL TOURIST.

Next it was scouting for a semi-clean phone booth, preferably lacking the copious amounts of sex-line leaflets typically piled inside (little known fact about those cute red phone booths right there). At this point, one man was so overcome he just turned and said “you’re not from here are you” in the most patronizingly rhetorical way possible.


A man actually walked by and asked, “you’re not from here are you?” shaking his head as he walked away!

We made a quick pass by St. Paul’s while simultaneously looking up locations where a One Direction video had been shot (she’s 13). We ended at Southbank so she could watch the teenage boys skate in the skate park amidst the graffitied landscape.


Olivia, woman of steel, posing in front of St. Paul’s.

I suppose that ultimately when viewing your own city – a place so easily taken for granted – through the wide eyes of a tourist it’s easier to see its everyday under-appreciated beauty.


You have no idea how tempted I was to run in here screaming “you did it!” Elf-style.




10 Steps to Survive Holi Festival of Colors aka Holi Moly

This weekend I went to Holi One, the mock Holi celebration at Battersea power station in London.  Holi is traditionally a Hindu religious festival taking place in March that observes the beginning of spring. The festival has been adapted to entertain young urbanites by allowing them to throw colored powder at each other while wearing pristine white outfits. Holi is the anti-Wimbledon in every way.

Holi on the horizon - clouds of powdered paint are thrown in the air every hour on the half hour.

Holi on the horizon – clouds of powdered paint are thrown in the air every hour on the half hour.

Don't let the label fool you, that's not cider anymore - it's paint!

Don’t let the label fool you, that’s not cider anymore – it’s paint!

So fresh, so clean... but not for long!

So fresh, so clean… but not for long!

Before I embarked on my Holi experience, I looked for advice on how to protect my camera from the powdered paint throwing the festival is known for. By far the most thorough advice I found was from Scott Jarvie on YouTube and can be found here. Below however, I have outline my top ten tips for having an enjoyable and comfortable Holi experience – the kind of more thorough advice I wish I would have received.

These lovely ladies were already covered head to toe when I had only just arrived!

These lovely ladies were already covered head to toe when I had only just arrived!

Impromptu limbo broke out in the crowd.

Impromptu limbo broke out in the crowd.

In the thick of it at Holi.

In the thick of it at Holi.

  1. Bring as little as possible – At least at the festival I attended there was no place to store bags, coats, etc. so my advice would be to bring as few extras as possible. Even if there had been somewhere the queues (like those at the bar and powder-collecting stations) are sure to be long.
  2. Don’t forget:
    • Goggles & hospital face masks – I know I sound a bit paranoid and for the two minutes of the actual powder throwing you may look a bit silly/paranoid but your eyes and lungs will thank you later! Imagine someone emptying a bottle of talcum powder on your head – these are items that would make that experience better.
    • Wet wipes – No matter how careful you are, some powder will get in undesirable places and purely rubbing your hands together won’t work. These will also work well to clean your hands after using the toilets.
    • Toilet tissue – Like I have heard of most other festivals, you don’t go for the toilet facilities. Even if they are well-stocked, it can’t hurt. Worst case scenario use the above-mentioned wet wipes.
    • Eye drops – If you have contact lenses these are a must and even if you don’t these would be a big help for those moments when your neighbor unexpectedly unleashes a bag of powder on his friend but it ends up all over you.
    • Zip-locked plastic bag – Use this to hold your valuables that need protecting (Money, ID, keys, Oyster card, phone, etc.) and bring an extra just in case or for a friend.
  3. Carry everything in a zip-closed bag – Carry a bag that can either be thrown away at the end of the festival or one that can be wiped clean.

    How I protected my camera for Holi. To do this I cut out the corner of a ziplock bag, pushed camera lens through it and screwed petal hood over the edges of the hole in the plastic.

    How I protected my camera for Holi. To do this I cut out the corner of a ziplock bag, pushed camera lens through it and screwed petal hood over the edges of the hole in the plastic.

  4. Protect your camera – See the above link to Scott Jarvie’s video. I used a UV filter, petal lens hood, cling film and a plastic ziplock bag over the whole thing. Also, go with a full battery, an empty SD card and a lens wipe. I carried my camera on my neck with the clear bag as protection and people seemed aware of it and sensitive to it while throwing paint. I was able to get my clothes properly splattered without ruining my camera.
  5. Wear white clothes you plan to throw away – You will get covered in paint as it soon becomes clear that the way to get the best color is to mix the powdered paint with water. If you don’t like mess, don’t go.
  6. Wear comfortable shoes – Wear either rubber flip flops that can be rinsed off or canvas shoes that can be thrown away.
  7. Bring a blanket for the down time – At least at Battersea, there was an area away from the crowd and stage where people could plop down in between scheduled powder-throwing times.
  8. Drink and eat before you get there – The refreshments weren’t horribly priced but lines were long and you would do well to have some lubrication before you get inside.

    This girl's poor, unsuspecting friend is in for a messy surprise!

    This girl’s poor, unsuspecting friend is in for a messy surprise!

  9. Don’t take it too seriously – Plan to get dirty by friends and strangers alike and know that on the tube ride home you will get unabashedly weird looks.
  10. Have fun – Drink, dance, and take time out when you need it.
It quickly becomes clear that the colored Holi powder is more effective when wet.

It quickly becomes clear that the colored Holi powder is more effective when wet.

Sam's blue! Da ba dee da ba da! (I had to!)

Sam’s blue! Da ba dee da ba da! (I had to!)

My post-Holi sneakers.

My post-Holi sneakers.

Even without the above advice however, I had loads of fun and definitely hope to get a second chance to experience the festival now all the wiser. Have so much fun and if you have your own Holi photos share them with me on Instagram or Twitter @ItsBwitch

P.s. Why wear clothes you plan to throw away? Follow me on Instagram and see how my clothes fared after a thorough washing…