The first Pop Up Colombia comes to Kings Road, 4th-8th December

The very first Pop Up Colombia will be brightening up Kings Road at the beginning of next month, giving locals and visitors a taste of the country, its food, music, fashion and much more!

Pop Up Colombia

During the five-day pop-up shop, a wide variety of Colombian designers, artists and entrepreneurs will be showcasing and selling their products – including fashion, accessories, jewellery, lighting and furniture.

In particular, Amaranta Creative, the first UK hub for female Colombian artistic talent, has collaborated with four handpicked entrepreneurs – womenswear designer Juliana Correa, artist Veronica Arcila, online eco-boutique owner Claudia Suarez and lighting designer Alejandra Ospina.

Mini workshops will also take place, giving you a taste of Colombian literature, music, film-making, photography and food, with Spanish language classes for children also taking place.

On Thursday 5th December, Colombian author Oscar Guardiola River will be hosting an exclusive reading of his acclaimed new book Story of a Death Foretold – described by the Independent as “an ambitious book with an ambitious agenda, both of which should be applauded” – followed by a book signing.

On Saturday 7th December, there will be a free 100% Colombian coffee tasting with Juan Valdez, in collaboration with Shelton’s Coffee.

Colombia’s traditional Christmas tradition, Dia de las Velitas (Day of the Little Candles), will also be celebrated on 7th December. Come and light a candle to celebrate the start of the festive month, and to promote positive energy for the new year ahead. Carajillo cocktails – made of coffee, aguardiente, rum and cinnamon – will be served on that evening in celebration of the Dia de las Velitas.

Pop Up Colombia is being supported by Proexport Colombia, the Colombian government agency for the promotion of tourism, trade and investment.

Shop doors open at 10am daily; for more details on Pop Up Colombia, please see popupcolombia.com.

Come down to this Kings Road this December to discover the hidden gems of Colombia!

Pop Up Colombia
4th – 8th December 2013
632 Kings Road
SW6 2DU

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park returns for 2013!

One of the most popular Christmas events that’s right on our doorstep – Hyde Park Winter Wonderland – is back this year! Taking place from Friday 22nd November 2013 through to Sunday 5th January 2014, the event’s usual attractions and activities from previous years will be back again, ready to get you into the Christmas spirit.

One of Winter Wonderland’s most popular attractions – ice skating on what is the UK’s largest outdoor ice rink – makes its usual appearance at this year’s event. With a rink that’s over 1,600 square metres in size, you’ll be able to skate away to your heart’s content, entertained by live music playing throughout the day and night at the Victorian Bandstand that sits by the rink.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2013

Following its success last year, the Magical Ice Kingdom returns this Christmas – but will now be twice the size, with even more snow and ice sculptures! Created especially for Winter Wonderland, this will be a fantastical world of ice and snow with visitors being able to explore a medieval village and a giants’ forest (with ice trolls and a ogre to fight), as well as an ice castle with a scary dungeon. Have a go on the extremely-popular ice slide, but this year enjoy some refreshment at the Ice Bar too. Then sit in the Ice Swan, watch the frozen jumping fish and have a go at kissing the frog!

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2013

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2013

The youngsters will be very pleased to hear that Santa Land returns as well – with its LEGO DUPLO Santa Express, Santa’s Workshop and…Father Christmas himself, of course! He’ll be in Santa Land daily, complete with a sack of free gifts.

Additionally, after sell-out shows at last year’s event, Zippos Circus will be appearing this year as well with two special shows – Zippos Christmas Circus during the daytime, a show suitable for the whole family, and Zippos Cirque Berserk, an evening show for older thrill seekers. The daytime show is jam-packed full of jugglers, clowns and aerialists and the perfect length – at 50 minutes – for the little ones to sit through. Meanwhile, Cirque Berserk is a contemporary circus thrill show with death-defying knife-throwing, fire, the ultimate High Wire and the Wheel of Death – where two extraordinary acrobats spin together in an unbelievably small steel wheel. Additionally, VIP boxes are available for Cirque Berserk, which give you fast-track entry to your own private box, which is stocked with a bottle of champagne and chocolates.

Winter Wonderland 2013 will also feature some of my personal favourites, such as the Angels Christmas & Yuletide Markets which has over 200 stalls offering unusual and handmade cards and gifts such as ceramics, jewellery, wooden toys and Christmas decorations. And no Christmas event is complete without a Bavarian village…bratwurst and mulled wine at the ready! There will also be many other restaurants and bars on site to warm yourself up at, and plenty of theme-park style rides to have fun on.

Tickets for Ice Skating, The Magical Ice Kingdom, the Giant Observation Wheel and Zippos Circus are already on sale – book early online to avoid disappointment! But don’t forget that general entrance to Winter Wonderland is entirely free!

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2013

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2013

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2013
10am to 10pm daily, Friday 22nd November – 5th January 2014
(opens at 5pm only on 22nd November and closed on Christmas Day)
www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com
Follow Winter Wonderland on Facebook and Twitter

Spotlight on: The Windsor Castle Kensington

Anyone associated with Kensington or Notting Hill surely knows about The Windsor Castle. Tucked away on one of the smaller through-roads between the two areas, this little gem something of a local secret – and many would like it kept that way. But judging by the crowds enjoying both the pub’s huge beer garden and its little indoor nooks and crannies yesterday evening, it seems that many are in on the secret!

I’ve been to The Windsor Castle many a time, mostly in winter. Now, we’re obviously in anything but winter, but I’d also highly recommend the pub for when that season inevitably rolls around – the cosy, wood-panelled interior is a really great place to settle in for a few hours on a weekend afternoon.

Yesterday evening, however, was the first time that I’d dined in the pub (specifically, in their special little dining room at the back), and also the first time that I’d visited since their refurbishment. The exterior is certainly looking very smart, almost like an inviting country cottage amongst this largely residential street. The dining room is also looking very respectable, and I personally lovely the leather armchairs that we had at our table for two!

We were seated right by the large open window overlooking the pub garden. Now, if you’re really suffering in the heat, you must immediately make a reservation for this particular spot – surely one of the coolest natural (non air-con induced) ones in W8! (I don’t know the physics of airflow – all I know is IT WORKS REALLY WELL HERE.) Overlooking the pub garden, we had a really fab spot to people watch, with the garden filled to the brim with locals and those who work in nearby offices, enjoying some cool drinks on a hot Thursday evening.

One of the quirks of The Windor Castle’s dinner menu is their “beer matching”. For each dish in each course – and yes, even dessert! – their menu recommends a beer that complements the food. Another thing you’ll notice from their menu is that it’s not just ordinary pub food; there’s plenty of unusual yet carefully thought out dishes, and even standard pub dishes – burgers, or sausage and mash – are so much more that what you might find elsewhere.

Being on a bit of a seafood kick of late, I selected the devon crab for my starter with my dining companion picking the prawn and avocado salad. I matched my starter with an ale as recommended by our exceedingly friendly waitress (not quite what was offered on the menu as they were out, but a more than adequate replacement), whilst my companion had the Veltins lager. The crab was exquisite, with small tower of delicate meat piled onto an avocado base, and accompanied with apple coleslaw. So light and refreshing, and so more-ish! (Thank goodness it was only a small portion!) The other starter – the prawns and avocado on baby gem lettuce – was a simpler affair, but certainly no less tasty, what a generous serving of large, juicy prawns.

The Windsor Castle Kensington - Devon crab with avocado, celeriac and apple coleslaw
Devon crab with avocado, celeriac and apple coleslaw
The Windsor Castle Kensington - Prawn and avocado
Prawn and avocado with baby gem lettuce

On to the mains. This is where we were a little confused on the beer matching front. Having wolfed down our starters, we still had plenty of beer left – but would have liked to matched our main courses with the beer options as well. I’d suggest either picking your main course beer instead of the starter one…or just drinking quickly! When I’m not presenting myself as a seafood fan, I’m also very much into gnocchi – so couldn’t pass up the opportunity for the exotic-sounding gnocchi with spinach, quinoa, mushrooms and truffled cream. Out came a dish with wonderfully large, most definitely handmade gnocchi, with tender spinach leaves and chopped mushrooms dotted around, and the cream as a neat circle on top of the middle. The light amount of quinoa was also mixed in throughout – all in all, a very tasty but unusual dish (certainly so with the combination of ingredients), and not like something I’ve ever come across before in any pub.

The Windsor Castle Kensington - Gnocchi with spinach, quinoa, mushrooms and truffle cream
Gnocchi with spinach, quinoa, mushrooms and truffle cream

My companion opted for the pan fried chicken breast, chorizo stuffing, green beans and pan gravy, which also came with (but not mentioned on the menu) carrots and mash. His comments were that the chicken was delicious, and the vegetables were divine – the only criticism being that he wasn’t sure the chorizo element added much to the dish.

The Windsor Castle Kensington - Panfried chicken
Panfried chicken with chorizo stuffing

After two rather filling courses, I definitely required something lighter for dessert for the two of us to share. Although there was some last minute pressure from my companion to order the hazlenut chocolate brownie with peanut butter ice cream (I understand – sounds hard to resist!), I chose the English berries with yoghurt sorbet. And what absolutely amazing presentation for this dish! Displayed on a large slate plate, the berries – strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries – were intricately placed around a scoop of the yoghurt sorbet. This was also far more than I had anticipated it might be, and certainly highly delectable – the light sprinkling of orange peel also gave the dish an extra little kick.

The Windsor Castle Kensington - English berries with yoghurt sorbet
English berries with yoghurt sorbet

During our meal, I noticed a sign in the garden proclaiming the existence of a “Cider House” so asked our friendly waitress about it. She explained that the cute little bar in one corner of the garden (its housed in something not too dissimilar from a shed – but a very well stocked one at that!) is now serving up a large selection of different ciders, surely the most perfect tipple for the hot evenings. (Well, and days too if that’s how you spend your time!) She also explained that The Windsor Castle had also run similar drinks events in the recent past, including the hosting of an ale festival.

I’d highly recommend The Windsor Castle for an evening meal especially if, like me, it’s not a place you’ve previously considered dining out in. (That’s if we can tear all you locals away from the beer garden!)

More on The Windsor Castle Kensington can be found on their website at www.thewindsorcastlekensington.co.uk, but do also check them out on Twitter and Facebook!

Seasonal Summer dishes at The Palm London, Belgravia

The Palm London have just launched their Seasonal Summer dishes, featuring an exceedingly tasty selection of options that will be offered alongside their existing menu. Available from this month through until the end of August, the Seasonal Summer options include a number of vegetable sides as well as several fish specials that wonderfully complement The Palm’s famed dishes that include USDA Prime 35 day aged beef, Jumbo Nova Scotia lobster and Italian heritage dishes such as Chicken Piccata.

The Palm London

For this month, the Seasonal Summer sides include a broad bean, asparagus and tomato salad with harissa mayonnaise and a roquette and an asparagus and strawberry salad, whilst the fish special is pan fried mackerel fillets, raspberry and cucumber piccalilli.

Next month sees tasty sides including panko breaded aubergines with honey; a beetroot, globe artichoke and sour cherry salad; and a courgette, watercress and pickled cucumber salad, red currant vinaigrette, whilst the fish specials are grilled sardines with shaved fennel and strawberries and tea smoked mackerel, greengage chutney.

Finally, in August you can choose from artichoke hearts, garlic and parsley butter; broad beans with fresh tomatoes and sorrel; or pak choi with roasted chillies and garlic butter for vegetable sides, and the grilled sea bass with peas, cucumber and sorrel cream sauce as a fish special.

British Head Chef Spencer Westcott is proud to complement the Palm menu with dishes using local produce, saying:

“We serve tender lobsters sourced from Nova Scotia, we serve flavourful USDA Prime beef from Nebraska and this summer we are serving the very best of British seasonal produce. We hope our guests enjoy our changing seasonal summer dishes that demonstrate that we are not just an American Steakhouse but an American Steakhouse in London and our menu reflects this”.

As well as enjoying the special summer options mentioned above, diners may be interested to hear about The Palm Bar’s PrimeTime Menu which sees guests pay for cocktails and Prime Bites by the clock – that means you pay from £5 from 5pm up to only £9 at 9pm until closing. (For more details, see PrimeTime at The Palm Bar in Belgravia – eat & drink from only £5!)

The 837 Club is another offer that may be of interest – for a one-off membership fee of £25, you can enjoy the excellent value monthly wine and main Club Special, as well as earning Club Points for every visit which can be redeemed against goodies such as a complimentary dessert, a weekend getaway for two, ora complimentary lobster on your birthday. You also get a £25 gift card towards a visit to the Palm restaurant or bar.

If you visit The Palm London and check in on FourSquare, you’ll receive a complimentary cocktail – checking in on Facebook will see you receive a complimentary PrimeBite!

The Palm’s London location is the first in Europe for this family owned and operated group of restaurants that are now in their fourth generation. In a fab Belgravia location, visit today to enjoy their Seasonal Summer dishes!

The Palm London
1-3 Pont Street
Belgravia
SW1X 9EJ
www.thepalm.com/London

Review: Spaghetti House Kensington

I was very happy to be able to pay a visit to the Kensington branch of Spaghetti House last week to sample some of their delicious dishes. Although this was my first visit to Spaghetti House Kensington, I had been a visitor to some of their other venues in London over the years although – clearly erroneously, given my enjoyment of my evening in the Kensington branch – have not dined with them for a number of few years.

Entering the restaurant at just after 7pm on a Wednesday, I was happy to see that the venue was almost entirely full, with a real mix of dinner guests – from several large tables of families (young kids and adults), young couples and older groups of friends. In many ways, it was pleasantly surprising to see a restaurant already so full early on in the evening, but no doubt the hearty food at this excellent central Kensington location (opposite Kensington Gardens) had enticed many a diner.

Now, it wouldn’t be too overboard to say that I absolutely adore Italian food. Not just pasta, as delightful as that is, but almost anything that an Italian restaurant can produce. I’ve yet to discover an Italian dish that I didn’t enjoy and as wonderful as the country is, I unfortunately can’t visit that often for fear of coming back about two stone heavier. (I exaggerate a little bit there, of course. But only a little bit.)

Settling in to our cosy table towards the back of the restaurant, we started with a refreshing glass of prosecco and a a couple of assagini (little appetiser plates) to start – the nocellara del belice olives (the large, bright green, meaty olives – I’m not an olive connoisseur, but I am always delighted to be offered these) and the pane rustico, a selection of bread choices including crisp Sardinian music bread, which has to be one of the most more-ish bread options ever created.

Perusing the menu for the main part of our meal was a difficult task, insofar as deciding what to pick! Spaghetti House’s menu offers a very vast selection of items to choose from under starters, pastas, mains and sides, and although saying “there’s something for everyone” might sound a bit naff, it is true in this case – picky eaters to light nibblers to those who want a full Italian feast will all find something (actually, much more than just one thing) that will delight them.

I settled on the zucchini fritters – crispy-fried courgette batons – to start, whilst my companion had the traditional prosciutto e melone, parma ham and melon salad. My starter came wrapped in paper and set in a little metal container – very nicely presented, and which also worked well to contain the tender courgette pieces which fell apart easily as I attacked them with my fork. The batons had a very light batter coating which proved enough for a starter dish – anything more would have seen it be too heavy for a first course. The classic parma ham and melon combo didn’t disappoint, and the light dressing was a suitable addition to the ham and the fruit.

Spaghetti House Kensington
Zucchini fritters
Spaghetti House Kensington
Prosciutto e melone

For mains, my companion and I both settled on somewhat similar dishes; with neither one of us willing to budge to something a little different from the other, we went ahead and ordered the Linguini gamberoni (king prawns, white wine, garlic, chilli & wild rocket) and the Linguini vongole in bianco (fresh clams, white wine, chilli & garlic). Unsurprisingly, given their similarity, both of these were presented in steal pans set on a small wooden triangle which certainly gave our dishes a more authentic feel. Although both dishes come with what is essentially a very light sauce, the portions of both pasta and seafood were very generous with both of us – and  there’s no denying that we have rather healthy appetites – proclaiming to be rather full whilst taking our final few mouthfuls. My dish’s delicate little clams provided just the right amount of meaty (or fishy, I suppose) texture to complement the pasta and there definitely wasn’t any skimping on the chilli and garlic side of things – which was lucky for me, as I adore both. (So, not that suitable for someone who prefers things a little more on the bland side – but who does?)

Spaghetti House Kensington
Linguini vongole in bianco

Despite our proclamations mentioned above, it’s hard to turn down an Italian dessert…isn’t it? I certainly couldn’t, but decided to turn my eyes away from my “usuals” – the tiramisus, the creme caramels – to try something different. The torta di ricotta e pera (roast pear, almond & ricotta cake with honeycomb ice cream) was it, and the only reason a slightly dismayed look came over my face as the waiter brought it over was because of the large portion! The cake itself was a delicious, springy sponge cake with slices of pear and a smooth ricotta-based filling, the light taste of which worked well with the sweet honeycomb ice cream.

Spaghetti House
Torta di ricotta e pera

My dining partner did actually turn down dessert (“too stuffed” was the official reason), but it seems that Spaghetti House have just the thing for people like that. Not keen on another course, my companion did perk up at the idea of coffee – at which point he was introduced to the idea of the Caffé goloso. This superb idea is the diner’s choice of coffee, plus a small portion of tiramisu or a profiterole and chocolate sauce – almost ideal for those that say they don’t want dessert, but do end up wanting a sweet spoonful or two!

All in all, my dining companion and I had a wonderful evening at Spaghetti House and greatly enjoyed all of our dishes. A special mention does have to go to the very friendly trio of Alexandra, Raffaele and Fabrizio who were the staff there that evening, and who all served us with big smiles throughout our meal.

If this has perked your interest, then I would highly recommend visiting Spaghetti House Kensington to enjoy their wonderfully vast Italian menu in a very cosy setting. You can find more about their dishes and the company itself on the website www.spaghettihouse.co.uk.

Don’t forget that we’re currently running a competition which will see one lucky winner enjoy a free three course meal for two at Spaghetti House Kensington! In honour of their first anniversary this month and their Celebration Menu, Spaghetti House have kindly donated this excellent prize – see WIN a three-course meal for two at Spaghetti House Kensington – and celebrate their first anniversary! for more details and how to enter.

Disclaimer: I was invited to review Spaghetti House and did not pay for this meal.

WIN a three-course meal for two at Spaghetti House Kensington – and celebrate their first anniversary!

Please note: The competition is now closed! We’ve had a great response, and thank you to everyone for entering. We will be in touch with the winner soon.

It seems the Kensington branch of Spaghetti House opened only yesterday, but in May the restaurant will already be celebrating its first anniversary!

Nestled in that small parade of shops overlooking Kensington Gardens, and close to the Royal Albert Hall, Spaghetti House will be celebrating its first anniversary this May with a special Celebration Menu offering the best and the most popular dishes, from 7 to 24 May, at just £15.95 for two courses and a glass of Prosecco.

Spaghetti House Kensington
Lobster Spaghetti

The Celebration Menu will be available seven days a week for lunch and dinner, and will include the top-choice Lobster Spaghetti with tomato, white wine, chilli and garlic. This alone, when it’s on the menu as a special, sells at £15.95, making the Celebration Menu superb value. There will also be the all-time favourite Pollo Milanese, breast of chicken coated in seasoned breadcrumbs with rosemary potatoes, Pizza Parma & Rucola, Tomato Bruschetta, or Deep Fried Mozzarella with Arrabbiata Sauce. It’s only £3.50 to add a third course, and you may well want to leave some room for Spaghetti House’s very own Tiramisu, or the iconic Coppa Nostra, chocolate & vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce & crunchy praline.

Spaghetti House Kensington
Goats cheese and wine

With such tasty food, a great choice of quality wines and some of the best Italian coffee, celebrating this local restaurant’s first anniversary is what Spaghetti House invites guests to do in May – and to ‘vivere per mangiare, non mangiare per vivere’ (live to eat, not eat to live).

Win a three course meal for two at Spaghetti House!

Please note: The competition is now closed! We’ve had a great response, and thank you to everyone for entering. We will be in touch with the winner soon.

What’s more, we have teamed up with Spaghetti House Kensington to offer one lucky reader the possibility to win a superb three course meal for two, to include a glass of Prosecco on arrival, a bottle of quality wine and a delicious cup of coffee. All you have to do is send your name, email and address to webmaster@kensington-chelsea.com and the first name picked at random after the closing date (24th May 2013) will win the prize. You then have until the end of September to redeem your prize, so don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy a fantastic evening out at the Spaghetti House – although you will probably want to visit soon to enjoy this Kensington hot spot whilst the special menu is available!

Small and cosy, this boutique Spaghetti House has established itself as one of the most popular restuarants in the high street, with locals swiftly becoming regulars – although it also welcomes shoppers, tourists and visitors alike. Its subtle and stylish interior, livened up by splashes of colours, coupled with a great seasonal menu of freshly prepared regional Italian dishes,provide the winning combination for this broad-appealing restaurant.

Spaghetti House Kensington

Spaghetti House is at 9 Kensington High Street, London W8 5NP, tel: 020 7937 8961, email: khs@spaghettihouse.co.uk. It sits 74 people including two alfresco tables, and is open Monday to Saturday 12 noon to 11 pm and Sunday 12 noon to 10 pm. Still family owned since 1955, Spaghetti House is London’s longest established restaurant group, with 12 venues in the capital. For more details on Spaghetti House, please visit www.spaghettihouse.co.uk.

Spaghetti House Kensington

ThePrizeFinder – UK Competitions

PrimeTime at The Palm Bar in Belgravia – eat & drink from only £5!

Belgravia’s Palm Bar is currently offering a very special deal on food and drink items from their extensive menu that will delight anyone that’s looking to save a few pennies in these credit crunch times.

During their PrimeTime offer – which runs daily from 5pm until close – the price you pay for their PrimeBites and cocktails is determined by the clock. So you if you turn up for some nibbles between 5pm and 6pm, you pay £5 per item. If you’re heading for an early and quick bite to eat for dinner between 6pm and 7pm, it’s £6. Even from 9pm to closing time, the most you’ll pay is only a very reasonable £9!

Prime Time At The Palm

With many delicious PrimeBites to choose from including Prime SteakBurger Sliders (normally priced £11.90), the Charcuterie Plate (£10.90) or the absolutely amazing sounding Nova Scotia Lobster and Bacon Fondue (also £10.90), there’s absolutely no way that this isn’t a bargain! There’s also a very extensive cocktail menu, including signature cocktails such as the Scarlet Temptress (Bulleit Bourbon, Triple Sec and pomegranate juice) or the 837 Twisted Mojito (Raspberry & vanilla vodka, fresh raspberries, fresh mint, fresh lime and soda water), plus many classic cocktails as well. (All cocktails normally priced at £10).

There’s also an added extra for local residents – for those based in and around Belgravia, the clock stops on Monday nights at 5pm! That means their PrimeBites and cocktails are priced at only £5 from 5pm until close.

The Palm Bar is part of The Palm London, the first location in Europe for the family-owned and operated restaurants, now on its fourth generation! The restaurant specialises in USDA Prime 35 day aged beef, Jumbo Nova Scotia lobster and Italian heritage dishes such as Chicken Piccata, all of which have been on the menu since the first Palm restaurant opened in New York in 1926. The Palm Bar runs the length of the entrance of the restaurant, with a large sweeping polished wooden bar as its centrepiece, and is the ideal venue for evening drinks – even more so, with their wonderful PrimeTime offer!

With only a short walk from both Knightsbridge and Sloane Square Underground stations, it’s easy to get to for both locals and those travelling from a little further afield – so why not pop in this evening to enjoy some tasty treats and expertly-made cocktails at a great price?

The Palm London
1-3 Pont Street
Belgravia
SW1X 9EJ
www.thepalm.com/London

Do also look them up on Twitter and Facebook!

I think Aubaine ♥s me!

If there’s anything more exciting than a Valentine’s Day gift, it’s an early Valentine’s Day gift…and better still, a fully edible early Valentine’s Day gift!

I was overjoyed this morning when I took delivery of an incredibly beautiful present, sent to me by Aubaine – one of their raspberry and pistachio macaron boxes. Presented in a smart little cake carrier and with a Valentine’s Day card (the contents of which…is between me and Aubaine – hey, some things need to be kept private!), the box contains four very pretty handmade raspberry and pistachio macarons. Rather fantastically, the macarons are housed in a box made entirely from Valhrona chocolate, which of course means that it’s fully edible. With a light dusting of gold glitter (of course, that’s edible too), it’s a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift – so thank you very much, Aubaine! My only problem is that I’ve so far found the box too beautiful to eat – although it has sat on my desk all day, so I can give it a loving glance every now and again! (And don’t worry, dear readers, I am sure I will overcome my problem very soon…)

Aubaine Macarons Box

These boxes are also available to purchase at all Aubaine restaurants in London, on sale at the moment until Thursday 14th February, costing £14.50. With a real ‘wow factor’, the macaron boxes offer something different from the norm – and I have no doubt that your loved one would be as delighted to receive one of these as I was.

Aubaine will also be serving up a special three-course Valentine’s Day menu at all their locations for just £52 per person. With a delectable choice of dishes per course, and a glass of champagne included as part of the menu, diners will also be in with a chance of winning a Tiffany necklace. During the evening, with the serving of desserts, each table will be given a sealed envelope – one of which contains the necklace. Will you be the lucky ones? (One necklace per restaurant to be won.) Book your Valentine’s Day dinner online at www.aubaine.co.uk/restaurant/valentines.

Aubaine in Kensington & Chelsea
37-45 Kensington High Street W8 5ED
and
260-262 Brompton Road, SW3 2AS
(Five other locations in London)

www.aubaine.co.uk

Have you been to The Troubadour recently?

We’re sure that many of you – locals and visitors alike – have been to the wonderful Troubadour on Old Brompton Road, SW5. Having opened almost sixty years ago and going strong ever since then, it’s definitely one of the area’s most iconic and famous spots to visit and is often also mentioned as one of the best coffee houses to visit in London.

I revisited the venue recently as, although it’s been listed on this site since the beginning (of the site, not of venue, of course!) it has undergone some expansion in recent years. This has served to both provide extra capacity as well as add some additional elements (some of which you may be pleasantly surprised to learn about – I certainly was!) that although relatively new, have really kept true to the spirit of The Troubadour.

For those of you that perhaps don’t know it, what is The Troubadour? Well, it’s something of a historic venue in Kensington and Chelsea; having opened in as far back as 1954. In that and the subsequent decade, it wasn’t just known as a cafe – its basement club attracted a number of very famous names from the rock ‘n’ roll world, including Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Watts (pre-Rolling Stones), and Robert Plant and Jimmy Page from Led Zepplin.

Today, the Troubadour still very much plays host to live bands in its basement room which has been expanded to more than double the previous capacity and can now fit 120 people. The basement room curves right round on itself, so you can sit (or stand!) yourself right in the thick of the action, or tuck yourself away somewhere a little quieter – including in the two private little alcoves towards the back. When you head down to the basement, do also take a look at the artwork hand-drawn right onto the walls that depicts some artists that have previously played here.

The Troubadour

Image by @studio 1 Park Royal, www.studio1parkroyal.com

What else goes on at The Trouabour these days? There is of course still the coffee house and restaurant on the main ground floor (also with an expanded capacity) that has retained so much of its original vibe with its unique decor – take a look at the assorted wonderful items hanging from the walls and ceiling, and definitely check out the beautiful wood-carved, brightly coloured front door.

There is a separate wine shop, Troubadour Wines, that sells a very fine selection of wines from across the world and which holds frequent wine tasting events. It also has its own wine bar – separate to the main part of the Troubadour cafe, perfect for a relaxed glass or two.

Wine Tasting at The Troubadour

Image by @studio 1 Park Royal, www.studio1parkroyal.com

The Gallery on the first floor is a spacious room that’s available for private hire (exhibitions, parties, dinner events, seminars) and which also hosts a range of classes and events, such as yoga every Monday.

One thing I was surprise to learn about was the serviced apartment for rent – The Garret – that’s on the second floor of the building, and what surely must be a great little accommodation find for London.

Another great surprise is The Troubadour’s hidden garden at the back, which very much feels like the garden of a private residence – there are no garish gas heaters and overly bright spotlights here! Instead, there are cosy little nooks and crannies and assorted seating amongst the luscious flowers and plants. On my visit, it was a dreadfully dreary day (thanks to the crazy April showers we’ve been having recently) but I can imagine the garden would be an absolutely fantastic place to come for a drink and a bite to eat in the height of summer.

The Troubadour Garden

Image by @studio 1 Park Royal, www.studio1parkroyal.com

If you haven’t ever been to The Troubadour or it’s been a while since your last visit, I would highly recommend that you swing by soon to re-acquaint (or acquaint!) yourself with one of the area’s – and London’s – most famous venues and find out what it has to offer these days.

Spaghetti House pays tribute to spaghetti bolognese for National Eating Out Week

As part of the third National Eating Out Week (on from 19th to 25th November 2012), five international dishes that have been adopted, accepted and are now well loved by the British public are to be honoured – including the fabulous Italian favourite, spaghetti bolognese.

London-based Italian restaurant group Spaghetti House will be paying tribute to this dish on Tuesday 20th November – which is “Spag Bol Day” – and during the rest of National Eating Out Week. Spaghetti House in fact introduced the dish 57 years ago and played a great part in helping establish its popularity. Listed as Le Ricette di Famiglia on their menu, this is one of the original recipes from the restaurant’s founding Lavarini family and is still used today – a sumptuous dish, featuring classic slow-cooked beef ragu with plum tomatoes, red wine and herbs. Priced at £9.50, this is sure to be as popular on “Spag Bol Day” and the rest of the week as it normally is – over 6,000 dishes are sold per month!

Spaghetti House

Founded in 1957 with their first restaurant on Goodge Street in Fitzrovia, Spaghetti House taught Londoners how to eat pasta the Italian way; even back then, olive oil, Parma ham and fresh parmesan were all served as standard. Despite the evolving times (gluten free pasta is now also served), the restaurant group is still family owned. Luigi Lavarini, eldest son of the founder Simone Lavarini, comments: ‘My father had a simple motto, ‘spaghetti, but not on toast!’ and the popularity of our excellent Spag Bol proves that it still good today’.

National Eating Out Week is organised by The Federation of Specialist Restaurants to celebrate the variety of international cuisines in Britain. The Week also raises funds for the malnourished and poverty stricken around the world.

Come celebrate National Eating Out Week and Spag Bol Day at Spaghetti House in Kensington!

National Eating Out Week at Spaghetti House
19th – 25th November 2012
9 Kensington High Street
W8 5NP