Food

I grew up in London and spent the nineties, my teenage years, mulling around different parts of the city soaking up each district’s unique vibe. On a Saturday you’d normally find me in Camden or Covent Garden rocking my favourite Stussy t-shirt checking out the cool boutiques and hitting up the skate shops for free stickers.

Fast forward 24 years and I live in a small town in rural England, which is a great place for family life and raising children, but sometimes lacking in design inspiration. As an Interior Designer it’s important to keep inspired and while there is a wealth of inspiration online, sometimes when I need to be immersed in amazing design, a trip to London is the only fix. The buzz of the city streets never tires for me and I love the energy and creative boost a trip to London gives me. Last week I took such a trip with my younger sister, a fellow design lover, to visit the best design shops, restaurants and hotels in Soho on behalf of Hotels.com

Found right in the heart of the West End in London, Soho is an eclectic mix of streets offering some great shops, vibrant restaurants, quirky food joints, nightlife and live entertainment. It’s home to the famous Carnaby Street, Liberty’s and Curzon cinema.

The area covers roughly one square mile (2.6 square kilometres), making it nice and easy to explore by foot. Whether it’s a brief day trip to London, or not, ‘I ain’t here for a long time, I’m here for a good time’ seems to suit the Soho vibe. It doesn’t matter if you’ve only got a day or a few hours to enjoy it and take it all in – there is plenty of things to do and see.

On a sunny day it would be rude not to do as the Londener’s do and head to Soho Square to soak up some rays. Or if you fancy something a little more up market – there is always the rooftop bars where you can grab yourself a cocktail with a view. Don’t be down hearted if your Soho trip ends up in a London shower, the rain won’t dampen your day. Head to one of my favourite rainy day spots in Soho, the Curzon on Shaftesbury Avenue where you can catch everything on the screen from the latest blockbusters, vintage classics and cult favourites.

The area is easily accessible by the London Underground, closest stations (of course depending on where it is you’re coming from) include Oxford Circus, Picadilly Circus an Tottenham Court Road, or alternatively the London Buses. Public transport is made super convenient now with the option to pay via Contactless Card on both the Tube and the Buses which I love as it means no faffing around queuing to buy tickets, hooray!

My favourite place to shop Interiors in Soho? Liberty’s, Anthropologie, H&M Home

Arriving late morning, we had time for a spot of shopping before lunch so headed to one of my all time favourite shops and an absolute must visit destination for design lovers and shopaholics in London – Liberty’s. Six floors of the finest designer clothes, jewellery, accessories, stationery and of course my favourite homewares. Always great for trend spotting, we loved the minimalist art, dried flowers, blue and white ceramics, mix and match patterns and colours and the eclectic seventies vibe.

The second stop had to be Anthropologie on Regent’s street. If my soul was a shop it would be Anthropologie. I adore their design aesthetic and use them as often as I can in my room designs with Lish Interior Design. I’m absolutely loving their range of accessories for styling.

A few doors up you’ll find a brand new H&M Home Concept store which has just opened this April. With over 7000 square foot of Interior goodies it’s an Interior Stylist heaven! I defy you to visit without leaving with something you didn’t know you needed. If you are a visitor from abroad, no worries, H&M are offering International delivery on all items bought in store. How cool is that?

My favourite places to eat in Soho? Sketch (okay just outside Soho but is a must for design lovers), ChottoMatte and Maitre Chou.

After a spot of shopping we needed to refuel. Luckily Soho is not short of fabulous places to eat whatever your mood. We were in the mood for a sophisticated lunch in a design atmosphere so we opted for Chotto Matte – a Nikkei (Japanese / Peruvian) restaurant with a cool Tokyo street style.  Day time diners included a mix of business people, tourists and ladies who lunch – us! Featuring a very cool graffiti wall and some super high tech black box toilets (it took me a while to figure out how to get in!). On a warm summers day the restaurant opens it’s window front so you can find the perfect spot for people watching. The lunchtime menu listed some amazing looking Bento boxes which seemed really popular. We decided to sample a few items from the menu; California rolls, Tempura prawns and vegetarian tacos with spicy miso and honey, ginger yoghurt. Yum!

The food was delicious and we were very tempted to order more sushi or to move on to sample the dessert menu but we’d heard there was an amazing patisserie close by so headed off in search of Maitre Choux to try their famous choux pastry. We were certainly not disappointed. Oh wow, stuff . of . dreams. I could eat their Vanilla and pecan eclairs every day for as long as I live. Truly, truly scrumptious and not to be missed. Launched by award winning pastry chef, Joakim Prat, it’s contemporary, fun and totally delicious with really interesting flavour combinations. You can also sit in and have a spot of tea – if you can find a table!

Although it’s situated on the border between Soho and Mayfair, we knew we couldn’t visit Soho without paying a visit to Sketch, one of London’s most famous art and design restaurants. It’s one of the most instagrammed restaurants in London and it’s not hard to see why.  While the outside of the building blends in with the London architecture, the interior is a creative masterpiece / art gallery! Sketch feels bold, fun and imaginative, a wonderful experience in both dining and design and I highly recommend a visit if you are in London.

Conceived by French master chef Pierre Gagnaire and restaurateur Mourad Mazouz, it has attracted huge media attention for its food, drink and entertainment styles since it opened in December 2002. Sketch were kind enough to give us a tour of the restaurant and private dining rooms – wow! Each room of the restaurant has been designed by it’s own designer and has a unique menu and vibe. You can choose where you would like to sit based on the kind of atmosphere and dining you are likely to be doing. The Gallery is for afternoon tea and dinner, The Glade for breakfast, lunch and cocktails, The Parlour for all day dining and music & bar into the evening, The East bar – an intimate bar with DJ and The Lecture rooms and Library is available for private dining.

We couldn’t leave without soaking up the atmosphere a little bit longer so opted for tea and a cocktail in The Glade. What an experience! The room is described as an enchanted forest and honestly you do feel just like you are sitting in a magical glade. The lush decoupage forest walls soothe you with shades of teal and turquoise. Pops of purple and jewel tones in the furniture create a rich and inviting setting and the lighting brings the magic and sets the scene for the wonder to begin!

My favourite place to stay? Ham Yard Hotel

After our tour of Sketch it was time to catch our train and head back home, buzzing with the infectious energy a day in London gives. But if unlike us you’re lucky enough to be staying in Soho overnight, you’re in for a treat as Soho is home to some really amazing places to stay.

The height of luxury and exquisite design can be found at Ham Yard Hotel and the equally as fab Soho House, both part of the Firmdale Hotels group. The Ham Yard Hotel Interiors are designed by the award winning Interior Designer Kit Kemp. It’s an absolute feast for the eyes, the public spaces are beautiful, interesting and thronging with people enjoying the atmosphere and the food. It’s also home to a very cool rooftop terrace it’s a great place to experience Soho from another viewpoint.

Image credit: Firmdale Hotels

For more offer on hotels in Soho, check out Hotels.com

Disclaimer: The spending money for my trip to Soho was gifted by Hotels.com, but all opinions and observations are, as always, my own.

babylish-baby-led-weaningSince the addition of Babylish to the family, I feel like my life is busier than ever. I’m a stay at home mum but also a work at home mum which means my days are packed full.

I really enjoy cooking but it’s not something I really have a lot of time for at the moment. With 2 hungry little mouths to feed I need meals that are quick and nutritious.

Weaning the Italian way

Baby at the table is a new book by The Chiappas sisters Emanuela and Michela, both busy mums to young children. Having been brought up in a large Italian community in South Wales, they know a thing or two about family and food!

Baby at the table shares the Italian approach to weaning which aims to get your little one joining in family meals at the table by age 1. Split into 3 stages, baby, toddler and family, it’s crammed full of lovely recipes and tips on essential basics like how to organise your freezer, store cupboard essentials, when to wean, what babies can and can’t eat and portion sizes.

Baby at the table is a philosophy we definitely believe in. Simple, fresh ingredients used to prepare healthy meals for all the family and prepped in less than 15 mins, perfect!

baby-at-the-table

Weaning Babylish

At 9 months old Babylish has passed the weaning stage and is already eating with our family. We went down the baby led weaning route, mostly because she’s a fiesty one and wouldn’t be spoon fed. Plus she enjoys feeding making a giant mess and throwing food everywhere, herself. I jest, she’s actually a really good eater, enjoying everything that resembles food – even dog food biscuits (really trying to wean her off these!!). With 4 teeth she’s got a good bite on her too which helps!

Despite the fact that Babylish is already eating at the table with us (I always thought I was Italian at heart!) we can still use a helping hand with recipe ideas. I love the clever ideas for speedy lunches like cheats pizza, healthy snacks like apple sandwiches and tasty Italian classics for the whole family like rainbow ricotta gnocci.

Testing the recipes

We have been using the book to make some fab meals this week including the Salmon and Broccoli pasta which we all ate as dinner one night, the girls at the first sitting and Daddy and I later on in the evening. We were all fans of the dish but Babylish was a particular fan and wolfed the lot down as soon as it was in front of her.

salmon-and-broccoli-pasta

salmon-broccoli-pastsa

We also opted for the ricotta pudding which we were sold on by the photo of Fiamma (Michela’s daughter) enjoying a large bowl of chocolatey goodness! It was the first time Babylish had tried chocolate pudding and she LOVED it. Perhaps a little too much! Although obviously the ricotta pudding is a treat only to be given occasionally it does feel good to be able to create a pudding that is homemade with a clear knowledge of the ingredients. And while ricotta cheese and chocolate may not be the most healthy things in the world there is no pure sugar in the recipe at all, it is only sweetened with maple syrup or honey.

chocolate-ricotta-pudding

ricotta-puddingchocolate-ricotta-dessert

We’ve also got the ingredients in to make the Blueberry bread and mini fish pies this week both of which I cannot wait to try!

Making it easy for mums

Written by mums after my own heart, Baby at the table is like the bible your super organised chef best friend would make for you. Always trying to make life easier, never complicating it with long ingredient lists or complicated cooking steps. Everything has been made with time saving and you in mind.

baby-eating-chocolate

It feels like a tremendous amount of love has gone into making this book and a real sense of family and joy runs through each page. The photos of the families together with their adorable children tell a heartwarming story, feeding your family should be joyful and so, in fact, should cooking for them. Let’s face it when you are busy mum, cooking is joyful when it is quick, simple and healthy and more importantly it actually gets eaten by your children!

Baby at the table is available from all good book stores, including Amazon. I’m definitely hanging on to my own copy but I do have a copy available for giveaway too. You can enter via the rafflecopter. Sorry but it’s only available to UK residents.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Save

Save

review-of-thaikhuns-kids-menu As a couple, our favourite type of food is Thai. If we get a chance to go out for dinner, it’s always going to be a toss up between Thai or Italian for us. If we are going out as a family it’s normally Italian that wins because we know Littlelish loves pasta and pizza.

So we were super excited to hear about the new kids menu at Thaikhun. We had already discovered Thaikhun as a couple at the beginning of the year when we took a trip to Oxford, so we knew Littlelish would love the fun, vibrant setting. The concept is street Thai food and the setting is so colourful and full of wonderful details very much like you would see on the streets of Thailand. It’s a sunny, happy place, perfect if you want to escape for an hour or two and pretend you are on holiday. Plus the food is delicious!!

interiorofthaikhunrestaurantthaikhun-kitchen

Littlelish eats quite a wide variety of food but she isn’t great at trying new ‘unknown’ food. Her only experience of eating Thai food is when we took her to a small Thai restaurant about a year ago and she only managed to eat some chips! Much to our frustration she wouldn’t even dare to take a mouthful of the cashew chicken we ordered for her. So she was excited but a little apprehensive about trying Thai food again…

When we arrived we were shown to our booth table situated just next to the open kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work. At this point all nerves about the food had evaporated and Littlelish was giddy with excitement. The waitress handed her an activity booklet created in conjunction with National Geographic Kids to explore and she enjoyed reading a little about Thailand. It’s a country we all would really like to visit one day so she shared some handy information and taught us some Thai words that were written on the menu.

thaicocktails

Drinks were ordered first. This is one thing we love about Thaikhun as you can order really exotic drinks like guava and tamarind juice and they are delicious! Littlelish opted for a lychee juice which I thought was pretty adventurous and she absolutely loved it (watch her describing it in her youtube video, it’s ever so funny!) We went for a round of grown up drinks which included a delicious ‘my thai’ – yum!

kidsmenuthaikhun

The kids menu provides 3 courses for £5.95 and starts with crudites with the idea of getting something healthy and green into the children before they get to their mains. I think this is a great idea and very much how I do things at home too, luckily Littlelish is a big salad eater so was very happy with this. The crudites were freshly cut and not withered having been cut hours in advance (we have had this before at our local Italian chain. I never knew cucumber could look so unappealing!). My starter was vegetable and prawn rolls while the others shared some chicken satay. Both were fresh, juicy and full of flavour.

chicken-satay

On to the main course, for Littlelish there was a choice between Phad Thai a Mix and Match tray of either Chicken, Pork or vegetables with either noodles and rice or Fried Chicken and Jasmine rice. She selected the last choice and was presented with a fab colourful plate with sections for her food. In one section there was chicken cooked in panko crumbs which looked absolutely delicious (and tasted it, I did pinch some for a taste test obviously!) and a lovely mound of jasmine rice. This was a perfect meal for her, not too adventurous so as not to be eaten, delicious, fresh and presented in a fun way. She ate the lot with no complaints while we tucked into our thai curries and fish and mango salad which we all loved.

thaikhun-kids-mealthai-curry

As a family we love travel so we particularly liked the learning opportunity for Littlelish as we chatted about Thailand, what we knew of their culture and customs. At this point the super friendly waitress asked Littlelish if she would like some worms! We giggled and said yes, thinking it would probably be something that looked like worms, a little fun for the kids? On her return she had two small metal buckets with actual worms in them! Big fat buffalo worms (dried) and smaller silk worms, she explained, are eaten in Thailand as a snack. It was fascinating, but all the girls wimped out of trying this delicacy, even mummy couldn’t stomach it! Simon did try both options and said they tasted rather like… dirty walnuts! Having a good giggle at this, we agreed we were definitely curious and eager to explore this part of the world one day.

worms-to-eat-in-thai-restaurant

We were all totally stuffed at the end of our meal but Littlelish did manage to squeeze in the icelolly from her childrens menu. I thought it was clever that if children wanted a pudding but you really wanted to leave (and let’s face it that does happen sometimes)  they can just take the lollies with them and eat them on the way. Another super well thought out detail from Thaikhun.

What I’d say is you can tell a lot of attention to detail has gone into delivering a children’s menu that really works for children, but also for parents. It’s healthy so you are happy and it’s delicious, simple and fun so the kids are happy. All in a super fun, relaxed environment. Winner, winner… Chicken and jasmine rice dinner!

Thank you for inviting us to try out new kids menu at Thaikhun, it’s fab and we will be back for more very soon!

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save