chinese new year coming up

its chinese new year next week,  the year of the pig;  check out what events are running because a lot of cities celebrate the new year in their china towns. did you know that pigs are diligent, compassionate, and generous. they have great concentration: once they set a goal, they will devote all their energy to achieving it.  my son alfie falls into this year, just by one day!  so this year should be his year…..

i know that some of you have followed my blog for quite a while, its now 9 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, hakasan, yuatcha, ping pong and A Wong, all very good quality food, slightly designer chinese food, but all very expensive!  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 fine, but not as good quality as royal china, but equivalent in price and a good alternative if you hate queuing.  opposite royal china on baker street, there is bright courtyard –  quite up market –  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. princess garden of mayfair is very good quality and you can book at lunchtime which is a rarity.  pearl liang in paddington basin is also good quality.

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 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.

I just went to china town and like all cities, things come and go.  You need to check all the links and make sure that they are up to date.   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.

new years celebration start in china town in the next week, but remember that they will all be unusually busy the next 2 weekends.  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.

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.


my favourite dress that i own is a John Rocha one – i bought this in the sale several years ago, but i never tire of wearing it….. sadly the shop has now closed, but i hear that john rocha is still designing interiors and other projects.

the lace reminds me of cobwebs and snowflakes all jumbled up.

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love the delicate white flowers of cow parsley – romantic fragments of lace dotting the landscape – really looking forward to spring…..

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lace27May2013_0052 Eliza Dress, Sea Green, 480


Patti Smith and Pinter

in the last week I was lucky to see both a Pinter play and a Patti Smith concert – both literary legends – poetical, funny, meaningful and full of messages……  if you get a chance to see any of the Pinter plays, then I totally recommend them.  the Pinter theatre has a season of most of the plays and there are matinee shows too, with tickets from £15.  its a lovely small theatre, so you will be able to see wherever you are seated.  I saw Pinter 6, with Celia Imrie and Gary Kemp – the first play was quite dark, but the second one Celebration had both me and my husband in tears with laughter.  I realise that laughing makes you feel so much better in so many ways…….  most of the theatres offer a £10 standing ticket – its a great opportunity to savour a play and if you really like it, you can then buy another ticket.  I always wonder why it costs so much for theatre tickets, but realise that theatre capacity is not that big and the upkeep of these beautiful buildings is high.

I love the Roundhouse – its such an atmospheric venue, small enough to still feel intimate….  ‘in the round’ is a season of music this month.

london is such an exciting and cultural city to live in, even in January there are plentiful things to see and do…..


my love is like a red red rose

i love this version by eddo reader – my love is like a red red rose

My love is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June :
My love is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I :
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun :
And I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only love,
And fare thee weel a while !
And I will come again, my love,
Thou’ it were ten thousand mile.

Robert Burns


the clock

I finally made it to Tate Modern to see the clocks film – it really was interesting and compelling watching and a very clever idea – I only stayed an hour and a half, but I could have sat in that comfy sofa for the whole 24 hours!!  I urge you to visit, its free and ends this weekend.  there is a big queue, so go there early, unless you want to see films at a particular time, say 3.15pm…..

i love old station clocks, we have a double sided one at home, which we have inserted into the partition wall, so that you can see the clock both sides.  smiths made quite a lot of the industrial clocks in the early part of this century.  you can find some clocks at trainspotters – an interesting site that sells architectural fittings, some lovely old lights and lamps and a few other original pieces – i love the old train luggage racks  – perfect for an industrial type kitchen.  elemental in spitalfields also have a few that they restore and sell.

the favourite

I strangely enjoyed this film – it was entertaining, visually exciting, the historical facts were totally new to me and that three strong women were the focus of the film was a big hit.  as soon as I came home I searched the internet for more information about Queen Anne – all I knew of her was that there was a range of furniture named after her!   the cinematography and costumes are sumptuous and shows life in court with its richness, madness, deceit and intrigue.

Colette is another story based on fact,  a French writer who wrote under her husband’s name to begin with;  it is centred around the high society life of Paris in the late 1890’s, with its circles of sex and fame; exploited by her philandering husband, she manages to break out and attain recognition for her  literary talent.  the costumes are so beautiful and made me want to dress like an Edwardian lady.

I love that women are the focus of these latest films, women who rise above the bullying of men, who are seen to be superior in those times.

I have really enjoyed recently photographing my new muses Ellie and Martha….  both are wearing Edwardian style clothes….

coffee and more coffee….

I love the camden coffee shop on delancey street;  the coffee shop has been there since the 50’s, but George, who came from Cyprus has run the shop since 1978.  It hasnt dated at all, George roasts the beans, grinds them and bags them all to order.  Its a wonderful treat to see such an atmospheric little local shop.  The best thing about living round the corner from this shop is the waft of fresh coffee in the streets.  Its also such a change to see a small independent shop succeed when there are so many chain coffee shops around.  Unfortunately, you cannot drink coffee there, just buy the beans ground or whole.

I also love the algerian coffee store in soho, with its numerous cafetieres for sale, its a splendid bazaar for everything coffee!  you can also get coffee to drink there (standing up only) or to take away.

another favourite is the monmouth coffee shops – they now have 3 branches, and you can sit and enjoy coffee and a pastry!

always on the look out for new independent coffee shops and meeting places, so here are a few that i have noticed on my travels.    tiny but handy and near to me is the coffee jar on parkway – in an area over populated with coffee chains I am so glad that they have managed to survive;   the little one in primrose hill is hidden away at the end of the high street but has great coffee – not much space inside, so choose a sunny day to sit outside and they also own the corner one, which is on the corner of Gloucester Ave and Jamestown Road.

tap coffee soho , also has a branch in tottenham court road and is a lovely place to stop by;  E5 bakehouse is great for not only breakfast but also for stocking up your supplies of sourdough bread.  in Marylebone  paul rothe and son with its rows of jams is  great for traditional tea and coffee and tea cakes – more old school.

Heals also has a good coffee area on the first floor, comfy sofas and very spacious;  Foyles is popular, so can be difficult to get a spot and is on the top floor, but is very handy when you are near Tottenham court Road.

the riding house cafe is definitely a busy and popular meeting place – its open all day from breakfast til late; scandinavian kitchen and kaffeine – apparently kaffeine has the best coffee.  i also noticed that they do a coffee making course – apparently there is an art to making coffee!

galleries are also good places to have coffee – I always visit the photographer’s gallery as the exhibitions are interesting, the book shop good to browse and the cafe spacious.  there is an interesting exhibition of black and white photographs by Roman Vishniac, a Russian photographer who documented Jewish living between the two world wars.