street markets

street markets have always existed, in roman civilisation the forum originated as an open market where tradesmen sold and swapped their wares;  markets are the heart and soul of any community- they were meeting places, the hub of trading – sadly towards the end of the last century, developers decided that we preferred closed shopping centres – huge malls filled with universal stores – but thankfully, our natural demand has harkened back to our roots and everybody loves a street market again.    even great cities like london and paris still hold street markets – selling the necessary basics from fruit and meat to luxuries such as chocolate and even cashmere.   i remember stumbling upon the open air market on president wilson, in paris,  with its beautiful displays of flowers, cheeses, chocolates – it was rows and rows of vendors bang in the middle of the main road.

venice fish and fruit market, open daily in the mornings is a thriving market, not just for the locals, but for the local restaurants that serve the many tourists that frequent venice.

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i cant believe that each time i go to  bermondsey it rains- again i went with my food gourmand neighbour Mick and it rained.  the produce is very high quality and definitely makes for a special meal.  dont think that anyone can afford to do all their daily shopping there.   i still think that borough market is a great mornings visit and its open more days now, but bermondsey is definitely the new place to visit and be excited by the different flavours .

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you have to make space for the delicious home made ice cream from la grotta ices – the choice of flavours are delicious, but the dark chocolate choc ices are the ones that you should savour.  remember to bring an ice box to take some home.

bermondsey is  only open on a saturday morning. and as well as seeing inspiring and well produced food,  its also a great source for gifts – from beeswax candles and jars of honey,  bottles of olive oil,  and beautifully packaged tea in silk muslin. – perfect for that person who doesnt want any more clutter, but likes to savour quality foods.  i picked up some beautiful beets from natoora foods – it made my salad look impressive – grate finely to add colour and crunch and goodness ! the pomegranates and  clementines with leaves are exceptionally juicy too.

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its good to start off at spa terminus, with a coffee at monmouth coffee and eat your way through delicious croissants from little bread pedlar, – my favourite is the fruit danish and the wonderful mini bread and butter puddings and then seek out the london honeys,  the beautiful vegetables at natoora and cheeses and italian ham.

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the railway arches make for  innovative displays for the massive array of interesting products to be bought.  in the week, all of the producers use the spaces to wholesale from and on a saturday they open to the public – you will recognise a lot of the brands, st john bread and wine, peyton and byrne, neale’s yard – but some of the newer smaller brands are a great discovery.   ropewalk is a good final stop for a sit down, a glass of wine and a visit to lassco – for great architectural salvage (though very expensive), but a good source of ideas.

there is everything from spanish tapas, salt beef, smoked salmon and cocktails.   its really fun and next time i go, i hope its not raining.

be warned, the prices are quite high, and although a few take credit cards they all seem to only take cash;  so come with your budget for the day and treat it as a culinary experience!

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love this video of petticoat lane from 1926.  notice that its mainly men in hats.

buttons

are you always losing buttons? do you find them in the rim of the washing machine door?  or do you find that buttons are just not secured so well these days and fall of so quickly.    i now put all my lost and found buttons in a simple glass jam jar and hang it in the bathroom.  you can buy a little pack of beautiful white assorted buttons from one of the stalls in Portobello Green Market under the westway.  On a Friday morning, there are 2 haberdasher type stalls selling vintage cotton reels and ribbons, one is in the covered part of the market and the other is on the street just in front of the Cloth Shop.

a haberdashers/ fabric/ art shop has just opened on camden high street – selling everything from wool, needles, fabric dye and simple art products – its just opposite Boots in what was the kitchen shop, which is sorely missed.   you can also  find a nice selection  at  whitstable fabric and haberdashery,  who has everything you need to repair and update any dress, trimmings, fabrics, buttons, its what every high street should have!

for a  big choice of buttons  the button queen  has an amazing choice of antique and modern buttons – sadly no longer on Marylebone lane, but they do online.  they will even cover buttons to match your garment, taking the fabric from a hem or seam.  taylors also cover buttons and sells a range of vintage buttons and is a very quirky atmospheric shop.   old button shop on kings road also sells a good range of buttons, and they will post to anywhere in the world.  Moya Smith sells lots of brass buttons and old cutlery at Portobello Antiques market. 

and VV Rouleaux have a good selection alongside their fabulous ribbons and trimmings.  DM buttons and buttonholes are right in the heart of soho and has a vast array of buttons and button services – you can even get buttons with your initials on them.

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two temple place

worth going to have a look at just for the extravagant interior – two temple place was originally built by William Waldorf Astor in the late 1800’s as his office – as Astor was incredibly rich there was no expense in building the architectural gem.   its only open when they have exhibitions, but it is a lovely place to visit, right on the river, with stunning stain glass and wooden panels

there is a new exhibition on at present Unbound – textiles and costume give us a beautiful and intensely human insight into our history. Unbound: Visionary Women Collecting Textiles celebrates seven pioneering women who saw beyond the purely functional, to reveal the extraordinary artistic, social and cultural importance of textiles.

its free entry and there is a little cafe there selling cakes and sandwiches.

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winter in Suffolk

the Suffolk coast in winter is so perfect on a bright day – the fresh air and wind blowing just exhilarates you after all these grey days we have been having. I am not sure whether its the vast expanse of flatness where sea meets sky, with the sweeping roll of waves that kind of hypnotises you, but it definitely refreshes you.   I have just discovered the app Calm, which I listen to in the car, before I go to bed, and even at 5am when I awake too early – it really sends me back to doze and it does enlighten you with ways of learning how to relax and restore, stories to soothe you and facts to teach you.

there are a lot of beaches in suffolk, some are well known and frequented, others less so. but less than 10 mins drive from our cottage is Kessingland beach – a relatively unspoilt beach which reminds me very much of Dungeoness, with its pebble dunes and grasses, its definitely worth a morning walk.  you will spy fisherman, dog walkers and bird watchers from the adjoining Benacre nature reserve and is much less touristy in the summer months.  incidentally, they are trying to raise funds to purchase the Derek Jarman cottage and garden and all its contents to preserve it for the future, rather than it going to a private buyer.  it would be a shame to lose this amazing collection.

not far away in Thorpeness you can rent the house in the clouds –  originally intended to be a water supply in 1923 Glencairne Stuart Ogilvie with F. Forbes Glennie (architect) & H. G Keep (works manager) brilliantly disguised it as house, and so it looks like a mystical cottage high in the sky. Thorpeness is one of those strange towns – a bit like a disneyfied part of Switzerland,  mock Tudor houses are built around a Peter Pan boating lake, and 1930’s houses are built directly facing the long pebble beach. but my all time favourite beach is Covehithe, which happens to be the local beach to our cottage – beautifully windswept and unspoilt, its sadly receding coastline tumbles the trees into the shoreline, leaving eerie bleached out trunks and branches that give the beach an eerie quality.    I am discovering that Suffolk is a diverse and interesting coastline with much to explore.

 

bikes

the craze for bikes continues- gentle cycling, city cycling, cycling like a madman round and round regents park or up and down hills, just to get fit (as my husband does), even riding all the way to brighton and back again, not even stopping for lunch.  i have to admit, i have never ridden a bike in my life, its still one of my aims this year to learn to ride! (i have said this for the last few years and still not got round to it – i did get on one of the kids bikes in regents park many years ago, but after a wobbly ride, i then worried about pulling something in my back and gave up and now my husband says he is worried about me cycling on London roads).  lots of tasteful bike shops popping up –  tokyo bikes, condor is the one for pros, brick lane bikes for the hip!  if you want to look stylish, then you have to wear rapha – beautifully designed clothes for both males and females.  if you have a cycling fanatic partner, then this is the prada of cyclewear!!

look mum no hands offers bike maintenance courses too.

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happy Chinese new year

its chinese new year today  the year of the rat;  check out what events are running because a lot of cities celebrate the new year in their china towns.

Optimistic and energetic, people born in the Rat year are likable by all. They are sensitive to other’s emotions but are stubborn with your opinion. Their personality is kind, but due to weak communication skills, their words may seem impolite and rude.On the financial side, they like saving and can be stingy. However, their love for hoarding will sometimes cause them to waste money on unnecessary things.  women born in the Rat year are usually traditional women. They love keeping things organized and place great value on the family. Everything is taken care of by them and there is no need for their husband to worry. Outside of home, they’re also someone with a sense of responsibility and ability.

I happen to be the year of the rat, and strangely it reads quite true!

I know that some of you have followed my blog for quite a while, its now 10 years old, but as life is constantly changing, then so does the information that I have given you;  sometimes I re blog an older 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, Hakasan, Yuatcha, ping pong and A Wong, all very good quality food, slightly designer and very expensive, but tasty!  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 visit the traditional phoenix palace near baker street, its consistently good ,similar in price and a good alternative if you hate queuing at Royal China.  And opposite royal china on baker street, there is bright courtyard –  quite up market –  high quality dim sum,.  pearl liang in paddington basin is also good quality, though Paddington Basin is a bit odd.

we visited the newly revamped chinese food centre in Colindale, Bang Bang – this used to be called the oriental plaza and we frequented this place with Robert’s mother many years ago, but sadly it closed to redevelop;  now its re opened and its busy, bigger and still self serve, basically one gigantic food court with over 20 different choices of asian food.

we tried a new very different restaurant recently A Wong – we had lunch, which is dim sum, but very designer, but not too expensive.  I was divided in opinion, some were good, some were over thought out, but Robert absolutely loved it!  dinner is a different experience apparently.

You need to check all the links and make sure that they are up to date as restaurants come and go.   Thats the problem with london, so fast changing,  You can put in Joy King Lau as a good option in chinatown, but  I don’t think it has the trolley dim sum – not sure any of the restaurants offer this, though I have seen some chinese restaurants walk around with a few of the chinese popular dim sum dishes offering them out.   Another one that we go to for dumplings is Dumplings Legend, which has nice freshly made dumplings, with the famous Shanghai soup dumplings, where the soup is in the dumpling!!!    Duck and Rice is more westernised and is leaning towards higher end pub style food, but does give you quite tasty food, but its pricey.

in manchester we take my mother to dim sum – tai pan, which is just outside of the city centre, but is easy to park and is consistently good standard;  i have found that parking in manchester has become very expensive, and even on a weekend you have to pay up to 8pm.   there are a lot of reasonable chinese restaurants in manchester – chinatown is a place that i frequented all through my childhood.  my mother was a waitress at the yang sing restaurant all through my childhood years, so dim sum was (and still is) a regular occurence and my kids still love it.

Venice in January

we have been to venice at least 5 times in the last 20 years and yet each time feels like we make a new discovery – by staying in different areas, it means that you explore new alleys and squares – of which there are so many in venice.   this time as we were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary,  we stayed at Monaco and Grand Canal, just one block away from St Mark’s Square and close to the famous Harry’s Bar and  Danieli Hotel   we have never stayed at the Danielli, despite its wonderfully atmospheric entrance and reception –  as apparently the rooms are not so comfy and its very overpriced and you can always drop into have a drink at any time of day – its a great place to stop for a pre dinner drink.    we always book our Venice trip with Kirker Travel as they make the whole visit very easy, organising the hotel, the transportation to and from the hotel and at this time of year, you definitely get a better deal with rooms; I always used to think that rooms were just a place to stay in a city as long as they are comfortable, but in Venice its such a pleasure to wake up to an amazing view.   this hotel also has a lovely restaurant with views directly onto the Grand Canal where you have breakfast. All in all it was very romantic waking up to the sun rising over the gondolas.

I always recommend waking up early if you can and  take a walk to st marks square before breakfast,  nobody there, just the restaurateurs setting up their chairs and you feel that Venice is just yours.

one thing to note in venice is that a lot of the well known restaurants close on a sunday and monday, and also January is when they redecorate, especially if there has been high tides,  so it meant finding new places to eat.  we relied on our concierge, who last recommended  our favourite place for lunch  al paradiso – other good restaurants are corte sconta, vecia cavana and Anticho Carampane, difficult to find, but wonderful food and atmosphere.  generally i do think that the food in a lot of the smaller trattorias is decent and pretty much similar, but there are a few higher end restaurants where the food is a little more special, but you do seem to pay for that difference.  remember that the speciality in venice is seafood and of course home made fresh pasta.  we were really lucky with the weather for the first 2 days, so we were able to sit out in one of the many squares and enjoy coffee and I would definitely recommend the terrace of the Monaco and Grand Canal restaurant – siting on the water’s edge watching guests arrive in the water taxis at lunchtime, its a bit of glamour and very good food.  Da Forno is a very traditional restaurant, popular with Venetian locals, not cheap though.   Alle Testieri was recommended to us and in fact Robert booked this restaurant for our anniversary celebration meal – but then realised that he got the date wrong!  luckily we were there for our actual date,  but this really simple restaurant is very small, only about 8 tables,  only serves seafood and fish, but is very  clean and good food.   our last evening was at the Taverna la Fenice, which is right by the famous opera theatre La Fenice, and had a lovely atmosphere and very good food.  we noticed that you could also just have a drink there too.    its definitely hit and miss with restaurants in Venice – some are very expensive and over priced, but I guess you realise that Venice is like that –  a lot of the restaurants offer a lunch menu which is good value, or you can do what we did a lot, which was to share meals and then have pasta – nobody seems to care about this and in fact sometimes there is far too much food on your plate and restaurants like la Fenice offer half portions of most main dishes.

we never plan much in Venice, we decide on an area to make our destination and then twist and turn on the many canals and bridges to take in Venetian life;  naturally the further you escape from St Marks Square, the more you witness real locals living in the many squares – tourists do tend to stick to the main sites and 2 main bridges.  we popped into the Teatro Opera Fenice for a tour whilst there was no performance – definitely worth a visit – tickets for the  opera are very expensive;  there are so many wondrous churches to visit, most of them displaying famous paintings by Titian and other artists of the time.  our last day sadly was rain all day, which we knew was going to be, so we designated this as our gallery day;  we visited the Palazzo Cavelli Franchetti museum with my favourite Morandi still lives and the newly built Willmotte foundation, which as exhibiting black and white photographs from the 1950’s all of Venice.    a lot of things were closed but then this just makes you visit new things.  of course you must see Peggy Guggenheim, the Olivetti showroom  and the Fortuny collection;  my favourite part of galleries is seeing the amazing palazzos themselves, the scale of the interiors are just spectacular.

The Realto market is a must, only open until lunchtime, but its great to see the fish and the vegetable sellers.   I don’t know why, but Venice seems to be one of those places that you can visit over and over again and never get bored;  it never changes physically, and yet it intrigues you each time.   the light is so special, maybe its all the water and the fact that there are no straight roads or canals, so each walk takes on a different way – you can’t help but get lost, even with your google maps.  I definitely suggest not putting that on, unless you are absolutely frustrated or else you miss the wonderful colour and splendour of whats around you, rather than looking at your phone all the time…….