a thistle and a rose


eating chinese in london

i know that some of you have followed my blog for quite a while, its now 5 years old, but as life is constantly changing, then so does the information that i have given you. sometimes i re blog a blog either to update the info or just to remind myself –   so forgive me if i sometimes sound repetitive.  i am constantly asked about dim sum restaurants  and where i like to go with the family – so here is my list.

there are so many mediocre and over priced restaurants that it can put you off eating traditional chinese food.  there are of course the designer ones, hakasanyuatcha, ping pong and gilgamesh, all very good quality food, slightly designer chinese food, but all very expensive!  gilgamesh is the teenagers choice, trendy interior and more like a nightclub style restaurant in new york!  dinner at Hutong in the shard is an experience – its a fabulous view and the food delicious, though very spicy – you can ask for some of the dishes to be made not so hot. there is definitely a wow factor when you see all the views of london lit up. i know that the viewing platform is higher, but if you are going to pay to just see the view, it may be worth just going for one course or a drink in the bar to experience it. i think that all the restaurants and drinks are pricey in these tall buildings, but you may as well eat and drink than just pay the £25 into the viewing platform.

my kids just love the traditional chinese barbecue roast pork, or char siu and roast duck, which is only sold in the more everyday style restaurants, so we frequent the following restaurants - royal china in baker street (always busy, so be prepared to queue), wing yip in cricklewood, a very big busy and noisy traditional restaurant, great value, and you can then do your food shopping in the vast supermarket adjoined to it, again very busy. imperial china restaurant on lisle street, actually its through a door and courtyard on lisle street, but very good and moderately priced and then there is the good earth in mill hill, which is a smart smaller restaurant, but perfect for taking grandmas to – robert’s mum loved this place and it was close to her house!   we recently discovered the phoenix palace near baker street, its fine, but not as good as royal china, but equivalent in price.  opposite royal china on baker street, there is bright courtyard -  quite up market – they have ipads to order from which totally put my son off the restaurant – but its high quality dim sum, similar in price to royal china;  sometimes, we really cant wait in the queue at royal china so have tried this one a couple of times.

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for authentic trolley style dim sum restaurant – stop the trolleys that look apetising to choose your food, then try new world near gerrard street.   joy king lau  and china city are also other alternatives. a good tip on normal weekends is to go either very early, ie mid day or even just before, or after 2.30pm, you wont have to queue so much.

Detail Shots_2830

blue hyacinth

In the Victorian language of flowers the Hyacinth flower symbolizes sport or play, and the blue Hyacinth signifies sincerity.

shops in japan

tokyo is all about shopping and food – here is a list of shops and areas of where I was taken – bear in mind that tokyo is enormous and it will take you a whole day to explore one are – so much bigger than london.   whats great is there is shopping for everyone in all areas, lots of mens clothes, house stuff, cute teenage stuff, so something for everyone!  thanks to yuki, we were taken to selected areas that she knew that we would love, so here is my list – some are hard to find links, but if you walk around the areas, you should be able to find.

omotesando area is one of the places with all the designer shops including come des garçons, prada, take a walk around and see the amazing architecture of the brand stores – as there is little restriction in building laws, architects have a field day.

found muji, is a smaller version but  showing antiques and a more curated selection of home goods – more artisan than the usual muji stuff.

higashiaoyama, beautiful ceramics

higashiya - beautiful handmade biscuits, flavoured beans beautifully wrapped.

quico in shibuya-ku – is a great concept shop for home, textiles, clothes, ceramics, beautifully curated.

vacant is a gallery space/bookshop and sells interesting stationary and gift items.

kiddyland for every child in us all – Miffy, kitty, you won’t resist buying something! my girls spent over an hour and half in there!

tokyu foodshow in shibuya, food department – all the quality brands on one floor, from everyday quick eating to high end gift foods – similar to selfridges food store.

asakusa area with its temple, a massive arts and crafts market that looks quite touristy, but you will find everything souvenir there including artisan handicrafts;  this then leads to an area of catering shops – so brilliant for kitchen goods at very good prices.

laforet, store full of younger style clothes, a bit camden, lolita goth style or steam punk as my girls call it – but we all found great trainers in there.

harajuki street is the street full of doll like girls – with their long socks;  girls loved the 100 yen shop, japan’s equivalent of the pound shop, which is full of cute stuff that you can give as presents.  things with japanese characters and cute figures on them, always seem more appealing!

nihonbashi is the traditional old fashioned area – yuki calls it ‘downtown’, but full of characterful shops selling lots of food goodies, including beautiful handcrafted sweets shaped like sushi in a miniature style, to spices and rice crackers – you really just have to walk around the streets to take it all in.

tokyu hands in shibuya is like john lewis, but has great stationary floor, very good choice for absolutely everything.

muji in ginza right by Yurakucho, is a warehouse selling everything, you can even buy a ready made wooden home!  also has a big cafe inside, muji is popular in japan.

daikanyama T site – amazing bookshop, dvd, cd, cafe – lifestyle shop – in a young and vibrant area flu of independent shops

kamimeguro is another fun area to shop with independent shops – olgou is a vintage clothes shop, and cow books has great vintage japanese books and english photography books – you can also get coffee there.

jantiques in nakameguro is an antique shop selling great vintage clothes and homewares.

konguri is another antique shop that sells vintage japanese tableware, of course i couldn’t resist and bought some little plates.

happy shopping!!

tokyo21Feb2015_0650 17Feb2015_0287 17Feb2015_0201 16Feb2015_0316 tokyo16Feb2015_0312 15Feb2015_0061 asakusa15Feb2015_0009



for eilleen

i can’t believe that 4 years have passed by – and i know that eilleen woke up every day with a smile on her face, she so enjoyed each day.


You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You’re gonna find, yes, you will
That you’re beautiful as you feel

Waiting at the station with a workday wind a-blowing
I’ve got nothing to do but watch the passers-by
Mirrored in their faces I see frustration growing
And they don’t see it showing, why do I?

You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You’re gonna find, yes, you will
That you’re beautiful as you feel

I have often asked myself the reason for sadness
In a world where tears are just a lullaby
If there’s any answer, maybe love can end the madness
Maybe not, oh, but we can only try

You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You’re gonna find, yes, you will
That you’re beautiful as you feel

Carole King



we took a couple of days out of our week to visit kyoto – so worth it – only 2 hours on the bullet train, and although touristy, it shows how life in Japan was like before high tec buildings.  kyoto is small compared to tokyo,  just walk through the old streets, taking in all the handicrafts and shrines – ignore the souvenir tat and girls dressed up as geishas for the day and think that you are living in the past.  there are still lots of women dressed in japanese traditional kimono as part of their daily routine, which is beautiful to see.

we stayed in a typical inn, sleeping on futons on tatami mats- sharing a japanese bathroom – it was a calming and enjoyable experience.  ishihara inn has been run by Hiroko Ishihara for the past 50 years and has been sensitively retained to preserve the 1960’s traditional japanese design.  its the favourite hotel of the japanese film director Akira Kurosawa.

there are so many shrines and temples to choose to see, some of them are incredibly busy, but there are so many local ones that are beautifully  preserved.    kiyomizu temple is very busy, but offers great views over kyoto and was founded in 780.   we went to the ryoanji temple, especially for the tofu lunch – all specialities of tofu, absolutely delicious.  we ate dinner in the geisha bar district in a family style restaurant, home cooked food served to us in our own room – as though it was your own private dining room.

i didn’t realise how much food and its products are regarded so highly in japan – methods and traditions passed down – you will notice that there are a lot of older japanese, 70 years plus, still cooking, preparing and serving you food.  not to be missed is the covered food market,  teramachi – an endless arcade of specialities – from fish products, crackers, sweets, to culinary pots and pans.  it took us more than an hour and half just walking through, sampling an amazing array of typical japanese foods.  this lead you to another arcade filled with more artisan shops – in particular calligraphy and stationary, sweets and biscuits.  its difficult to come away without purchasing something .

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