Something from the weekend…. partying 20s and 80s style

Boy was I glad for a lie in this morning! I think I’d have slept until lunch time if Adam hadn’t come and woken me up when he did! I’m clearly no longer energetic enough to party two nights in a row, but I had a jolly good weekend all the same….

On Friday Adam and I finally went to see Wilton’s Music Hall’s fabulous immersive production of The Great Gatsby! It was first adapted for our favourite venue last year, whilst we were actually living just around the corner, but we weren’t fast enough to snap up tickets! So, when we heard it was coming back, we jumped on the second chance, despite being rather further away now! I spent a good couple of hours fashioning my hair into a 20s style up-do, and slapping on layers upon layers of eye make-up as per the period fashion, then threw on the stunning flapper dress I was lucky enough to pick up in an Oasis sale a few years ago…..I’d also made a very Art Deco head dress to wear, so I think I rather looked the part! Adam dressed up in one of his vintage suits, and our friends Hannah G and Hannah P joined us in vintage attire too!

Hannah G, Adam, Hannah P and me!

We started the evening with an early supper and gins at our old favourite haunt, the Oliver Conquest. It was great to see their new gin list (they had about 50 when we were last there, but now have closer to 90 just a few months on!), and to catch up with the staff. Then it was off to Wilton’s, where we had a cabaret-style table right in front of the stage! It was wonderful to see the newly refurbished venue again, and the show was great fun….I love the era’s fashions and the performers got us all involved by dragging us up onto the stage to learn how to Charleston, and Adam even had to deliver a message to Mr Gatsby! The show runs until 23rd March and there are currently still tickets available!

Scrummy ish Gin at the Oliver Conquest

Afterwards we headed back to the Oliver Conquest, where we’d been promised a cuddle with their new puppy Rex….. he is an absolute little angel and super snuggly! We sat and fussed over him whilst drinking yet more gin (well, we had lots of new ones to try, including Cold River, Malaca, Ish, Jensens and Monkey 47 Sloe!), which made it a pretty perfect end to the evening!

We both felt a little gin-rough on Saturday morning, so we were very naughty and skipped off to our nearest greasy spoon for cheese omelettes! After that we had a snoop around town, doing a bit of thrifty treasure hunting around the charity shops and a jumble sale at the church, then slobbed out back at home with lots of tea and cake until it was time to get ready to go back into London for the evening.

We managed to sneak in a cheeky Bubble Tea visit on the way to the party

Last week was our very special friend Siobhan’s 30th birthday, so on Saturday we donned 80s attire (a spangly parrot dress with big dangly parrot earrings and an overdose of blue eye make up in my case) and celebrated at a bar in Piccadilly Circus. It was such a lovely evening of catching up with friends we’ve not seen as much since moving, and we got lots of fresh congratulations on our engagement too! Several cocktails later, we made our very cold way home.

A blur of the Birthday Girl as she jumps up and down in excitement with her cake!

Sunday morning was another lazy one, with a long lie in, then a snoop around the car boot for more treasure hunting before coming back home to snarf up a brunch of waffles, strawberries and maple syrup. We resisted the urge to slob out for the rest of the day on the sofa and went off to Waitrose fore supplies, but we didn’t get much more done after that, save making cottage pie for dinner and a little knitting on my part! We’re still making our way through the X Files, so we snuggled up on the sofa to watch a few episodes before taking advantage of a much needed early night!

I was so impressed with the neatness of the shopping list we found on our trolley!

How was your weekend?!

Ems x

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Wednesday Wants: Advent Calendars

With only five more sleeps until advent, I am feeling ever more Christmassy! Heaven help anyone who doesn’t enjoy Christmas as much as me after I’ve been around all these Christmas Markets in Vienna too….I’ll be unbearable!

Anyway, it seemed rather apt that this week’s ‘Wants’ have a Christmassy theme, and what better than to shop around for my dream Advent Calendars?!….

Anything with a DIY element is a winner for me, and I just love the idea that you can decorate this lovely wooden advent house from Star Dust Kay on Etsy. It’s £82 and is made up of 24 drawers that can be pulled open to reveal a different treat each day during advent. You could even use it for storing little bits and bobs through the rest of the year too! It’s easy to decorate with paint, decoupage, fabric, or probably just lots of glitter for me….what a lovely way to personalise your advent!

I find this one just stunning. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of building something for advent rather than just scoffing chocolates from behind a cardboard window, and I adore the design of the Villeroy and Boch Advent Calendar Set from John Lewis. Made from china, the beautiful traditional tree comes with 24 ornaments to add each day leading up to Christmas. It’s a rather hefty £295, but it would make a fabulous treasure to keep forever.

It’ll be hard to beat this one though. The chaps at Drinks by the Dram have teamed up with The Gin Blog to create the Ginvent Calendar, as I discovered via Domestic Sluttery.  Behind each of the 24 doors is a different 3cl sample of some of the very best gin around at the moment….although they are a surprise (quite rightly!). We are promised some superb spirits inside, from the market-leaders, to the rarer, artisanal brands, and although £79.95 is rather a lot for an advent calendar, I think it’ll be well worth it and the top of my list easily!

Merry adventing!
Ems x

How to on Tuesday….. Home Made Sloe Gin

My experience of sloe gin has been relatively recent. I used to hear people talking about it but never really knew what it was! Until a few years ago that is….. On a walk with the boyf, his mum and the dogs (not long after we’d started seeing each other), I was made to eat an under-ripe sloe berry off the tree, which I was told was the family initiation! I can’t say the horribly sour taste didn’t put me off sloes for a while, but not *too* long afterwards I tried my first sloe gin….and the love affair began.

We made our first batch of sloe gin last year, keeping a bottle for ourselves and to share at dinner parties, as well as making up some mini bottles to go in the Christmas Hampers we made as gifts for friends. It was so rewarding that I vowed to do it again this year, and so a couple of weeks ago we set about foraging for some berries for this year’s batch.

We were a little worried that there weren’t going to be enough about at first, as we’d not seen very many whilst out and about, and it’s not been a good year for such fruits in general. But, as luck would have it, we stumbled on the mother load of berries ripe for the picking, not too far away on Norton Common….and we came home with a couple of kilos! It’s said that you should wait for the first frost before you pick them, and they were certainly looking invitingly blue and bulgy on the cold day we picked them on!

Having found it rather dull work pricking each berry last year, I took some advice from a friend who said that if you freeze the berries instead, you don’t need to prick them at all! But wanting to check before messing it all up, I did a little research and found that we would still need to slash the frozen berries after all! It seems that if you’re very lucky, the berries will split when they freeze, but otherwise you will at least find it easier to prick or slash them once they are frozen.

Other than that bit of tedium though, it really is jolly easy to make your own sloe gin…..you just have to be patient for it to develop!

What you will need:

  • 1 litre of gin (or vodka….we are going to try this soon!)
  • 500g sloes
  • Cocktail sticks
  • 220g caster sugar
  • Two 2 litre sterilized jars or bottles, with an air-tight lid
  • Funnel
  • Coffee filter (as fine as you can get)

How to make it:

  1. Forage your sloes (or buy them from a farmers market or the supermarket), rinse them and take away any leafy bits or stalks
  2. Freeze them in bags, at least over night
  3. Remove from the freezer and prick EACH berry with a cocktail stick
  4. Pop them all into a sterilized jar
  5. Pour in the sugar, then the gin
  6. Secure the lid and then give it all a gentle shakey swirl
  7. Shake once every other day for a week
  8. Then shake once a week for at least two months (or as long as you can bear to wait!)
  9. Once you’ve had enough of waiting, strain the gin through a coffee filter placed inside a funnel, and into the other bottle or jar….if you have very fine filters, all the better, although it will take a while to get through!
  10. Serve neat, with a good tonic water, or with lemonade as you prefer

You can also use your sloe gin to cook with (it’s great with gamey dishes and for rich gravy) or to bake with (add a little to a fruit pie for added lushness, or try making my baked sloe gin cheesecake!). I personally just like to sip it neat from a pretty little glass, although I am rather keen to try a sloe gin cocktail made from our own too!

Ems x

Living for the weekend….. my London favourites

So this is the actual last weekend I’ll be living in London. I don’t expect to get a lot done, other than running my stall on Saturday and finishing the packing on Sunday. But I thought that with my impending farewell to London, I’d recall some of the best bits from living here, and share them with you….

Poppies Fish and Chips

On Tuesday we had our lovely friend Hannah to visit for the evening after she’d had a worky thing in town. Hannah wanted to go to Poppies before it was no longer our local fish and chip restaurant, and we were only to happy to oblige! The wonderfully kitsch 50s style diner uses sustainably caught fish, as well as other ingredients from Borough Market and even pies from my home time of Stoke on Trent! They have recently been shortlisted for a prestigious award, and will soon fight it out against the likes of Rick Stein in a bid to become the UK’s best independent fish and chip restaurant! And I really hope they win….the food has always been brilliant and the service is great to boot….I’ll miss it so much!

Wilton’s Music Hall

After our fish supper, we took Hannah just down the road to Wilton’s Music Hall for some cocktails. The historic venue hosts fabulous events, theatre, and music, but as it’s currently having a much needed refurbishment to its main auditorium, they are concentrating on the lovely bars they have. The Mahogany Bar downstairs serves a good range of beers, wines and spirits, as well as a few simple cocktails and free nibbles early on in the evening. Upstairs there’s an actual cocktail bar, as well as seating in some of the little rooms off their labyrinthine corridors. There’s also a ping pong table and regular quizzes, dancing and jazz music….we saw the resident band there (who perform every Tuesday) and certainly got toe tapping. You really have to visit this magical place though to get an understanding of its history and personality…there’ll be tours again once the refurbishment is over and I’d highly recommend you take a look in at least then, if not just for a tipple and toe tap before that.

Oliver Conquest

And whilst we’re on the tipples….. Our local, the Oliver Conquest has been one of our favourite finds since living in Central London. Having lured us in with a sign outside boasting their 40+ gin collection, they have now increased their library to over 50 gins! The staff are friendly, knowledgeable and will kindly keep a copy of their gin list behind the bar with your name on so you can tick off each one you’ve tried as you go. And whilst most of the gins need nothing more than a hunk of ice or a dash of their Fever Tree tonic, they will mix you a very fine cocktail and take pride in garnishes to match the qualities of each type of gin. Oh, and there’s a quiz too, as well as regular gin and other booze tastings…..AND they serve extremely good bar food (pork pies, nachos with a very good fresh salsa etc….).

Old Spitalfields Market

Another regular haunt of ours (as you’ll know if you read my Something From the Weekend posts) is the wonderful Victorian covered market Old Spitalfields. A true destination shopping experience, you’ll find great places to eat, independent shops and a few boutiquey versions of some well known brands. And that’s just around the edge of the real market! Seven days a week, you’ll find hand crafted treasures, bargain vintage finds and some brilliant flea market booty. They have special markets on certain days of the week, and on various Saturdays, including record markets, Judy’s Affordable Market, vintage pop-ups and this Saturday, the Designer Makers Market….which I’ll be hosting a stall at. With Christmas coming up, I can’t think of anywhere better to find something for everyone, and if you can’t make it to say hi this weekend, I’d highly recommend you make a visit in the coming months to fill your stockings!

St Dunstan in the East

On a hot, sunny day, there are few things I’d rather do than while away a few hours in my little City oasis. Largely destroyed in the Second World War, as well as being damaged in the Great Fire of London, the little roofless church now contains the most beautiful secret garden. This is truly one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to, and the stunning light and tranquil atmosphere there make for the perfect urban retreat. Whilst we’ve spent many hours there just reading, sun bathing and taking photos with the place all to ourselves, it has become more popular of late as a photography location so you shouldn’t be surprised to find models having their hair and make up done on the benches there before being snapped against the pretty foliage. Still, it’s the perfect place for a quiet picnic (I had my 30th Birthday party there in fact!), and you’ll not find many places more photogenic.
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The Monument

Very nearby is the Monument to the Fire of London, just 61m from where it started on Pudding Mill Lane. The huge Doric column was designed by Christopher Wren, and is worth visiting just to take photos from outside….although inside is where it really gets exciting. Within the column is a spiral staircase which takes the intrepid explorer right to the top, underneath the symbolic golden urn of flames. The views from there are just stunning, and it’s great for taking photos….there is a grill to stop you from falling / dropping things (much to my comfort) but the wires are far enough apart that you can poke your lens out for a clear shot. It’s only £3 for adults to get in, and you get a certificate to say you’ve done it too!

Mudlarking

Whilst atop the Monument, you’ll have had an amazing view of the Thames, and may even have spied a few mudlarkers along the banks! I have long been fascinated by the treasure hunters who trawl the urban beaches looking for exciting finds that come from the river. You can go on a guided tour in fact to show you the best places to look, and to learn about the history of the Thames and some of the things you can expect to find. It’s at least worth knowing where you’re allowed to go exploring and about the tides too….although I recently explored a little beach further East along the river, near Wapping where I got a wonderful haul! I was delighted to find lots of bits of slate that I’ll be using for presentation on my stall and around the house, as well as a pretty little glass and even a complete clay pipe! The more I looked, the more I found, and the more I filled my pockets with booty! It’s really a very rewarding activity!

Thames River Cruises

Still on the subject of the River, I have to recommend a river taxi along the Thames. There are occasionally free river taxis (like the one we went on last weekend for the Thames Festival), but if you’re not lucky enough to time your trip to coincide with those, the £8 or so to take a trip is very much worth it. There are lots of different companies offering different types of trips along the river from the various public piers. My first trip was from Greenwich on one of the City Cruises boats, which took us all the way to Westminster. Although you can take a more commuter friendly boat using your oyster card, I’d thoroughly recommend taking one of the sight seeing boats so that you have plenty of time for snapping photos. Most of the cruises will offer a free commentary from an unofficial guide, all of whom are super enthusiastic about telling you all about the places you’ll see from the river and the stories that go with them. It’s a lovely way to get about and to see more of London, and a great photo opportunity too.

British Museum

As some of you may recall, my (sort of) New Year’s resolution this year was to see every room at the British Museum. The boyf and I are both members and love our visits there for the special exhibitions, but we did realise that we’d seen only a fraction of the permanent display and wanted to remedy that. We started quite well, ticking off rooms from a copy of the museum plan, but having had the busy year we’ve had, we’ve still not managed nearly half of the rooms! Which I suppose shows just how much there is to see and do there…and all for free too. Of all the museums in London and all over the world I’ve enjoyed discovering, this is the one I know I’ll always come back to. I’m so very proud to have a museum like it, and I’ll never tire of visiting or raving about it. There’s an amazing exhibition on at the moment too (Shakespeare: Staging The World), so if you’ve not been for a while, or at all, then do pay it a visit. I know I’m going to miss going so often!

So with all the Olympics and Paralympics fun gone….the special festivals and events of the summer winding down….and the sun being a little less accommodating to those wishing to just sit and bask in it….there will always be plenty of other things to do in London. And I suppose that’s what I’ll miss the most. Knowing that there’s always something to see or do, no matter what the weather or time of year. I’ll miss being able to walk to some of the best places in the country….but of course that won’t stop me from hopping on the train now and again.

Ems x

Something from the weekend….. My first stall at Old Spitalfields, gin and baking

So it was a pretty exhausting weekend all in all, not least because of the heat. It was lovely to see the sun come out for some proper summery weather finally, but it was a little too hot to do anything much (I need to be next to a pool with a Pina Colada in hand when it gets higher than 28 degrees). Still, it was an enjoyable weekend all the same…..

After an early night on Friday to prepare, we were up bright and early on Saturday morning and made our way down the road to Old Spitalfields. It was to be my first stall at my favourite market, as part of the Designers Makers market that takes place there every month.

I was super excited, and set up my little stall with a few new additions. We were ready in good time for a change (despite getting there as early as possible, I’ve always struggled to get everything out in time) so I must be getting better at it! I was quite pleased with how everything looked, although I couldn’t take any shots as I’d foolishly left my phone at home!

I was delighted to have some visitors a little into the day….Matthew and Siobhan came along for a chat and brought us fresh lemonade, and Richard and Tara delivered yummy ice cream whilst having a browse. Adam brought us some amazing cheese burgers from the take away window at The Luxe (which my stall was very close to), and I got chance for a wander around the other stalls myself even.

Unfortunately it wasn’t nearly as busy as usual at the market, because of the heat and school holidays perhaps. So I didn’t do nearly as well as I’d hoped, and only just broke even really. It was still a fun day though, and hopefully I’ll make more money when I do the next one on 15th September!

We packed up in record time too….closing up at 5pm and then home by 5:40! Then after a nice refreshing shower we walked back to Poppies Fish and Chips for some supper with the lovely Tara. I enjoyed my roast chicken and chips as usual, especially with lashings of gravy on the chips and mushy peas too (proper Northern lass that I am). Then after that we made our way homeward but stopped off at our favourite local, The Oliver Conquest. They serve over fifty different gins, and we are making our way through them all! We tried some very lovely new ones…. Monkey 47, Bathtub, Larios and Adnam’s Sloe Gin. We love it there so much that we arranged to have our leaving London drinks there next month, just before we move.
Sunday was a super lazy day….we were shattered after the long day before and with it being so hot we had a nice long lie in before spending most of the day slobbing around the flat. We had a rather naughty breakfast AND lunch of cupcakes we’d bought from the market on Saturday. We picked up four delicious cupcakes from Flavour Town Bakery‘s stall….. The Salted Caramel, the Snickers, the Lemon and the Red Velvet. All were amazing, especially the Salted Caramel which was just perfect to my mind.

We didn’t get much more virtuous through the day, as I baked us a banana and red currant loaf with some over-ripe bananas I needed to use up, and the red currants that came in our Abel and Cole box. I was really rather pleased with my recipe, and we both enjoyed a slice with some ice tea I made too. And for supper, we had a rather naughty cauliflower and macaroni cheese I knocked up. Yum!

 

We did a little online shopping for new furniture for the new house, watched a couple of DVDs, and generally pottered about and flollopped on the sofa….. a perfect Sunday really!

Hope you enjoyed the heat and the sun, and had a wonderful weekend whatever you did!

Ems x

Something from the weekend….. markets, photos and cocktails

WHAT an amazing weekend! I’m shattered after doing so much, but it was all so worth it. Adam and I had our dear friend Hannah to stay, and so we made sure we crammed as much in as possible. There are lots of things I’d like to share individually, so for now I’ll just give you the lowdown….as soon as I get chance I’ll be back to tell you more about the things in bold in detail!

After a lazy start and a bit of a lie-in, Adam and I trundled down the road on Saturday morning towards Judy’s Affordable Vintage fair at Old Spitalfields. On our way though, we decided to pop into the Adnams shop, which is actually one of the shops on the outer edge of the market…..I’d read about their new eau de vie de biere ‘Spirit of Broadside’ on Domestic Sluttery, and wanted to try for myself! I’d never been in before, because I’d foolishly presumed that it’s just a shop full of beers (although I do really rate their beers, that said) but inside it’s actually an incredibly well-stocked wine shop. As well as a great range of wines, home wares and other bits and bobs, there are actually several Adnams spirits for sale…I had no idea that they have their own distillery and make vodka, gin, limoncello and other treats! Anyway, suffice to say for now, we very much enjoyed trying out lots of things, and came out with a bottle of Spirit of Broadside!

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After getting a bit tipsy on samples, we headed inside to the indoor market, and set about snooping the many vintage stalls. There were a few that we recognised, and I was very, very tempted to buy several little Hornsea pottery deer, but it wasn’t quite as good as when we’ve been before. I did however pic up a very lovely floral dish for just a pound! But we couldn’t potter about all day…..we popped across to Brick Lane for some provisions, and on the way finally got around to trying Nude Esperesso next to the Truman Brewery, buying a couple of very good macchiatos and a bag of beans to take home.

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Back at home by mid afternoon, I set about making the flat ready for our visitor, and we prepared our breakfast for the next morning…. I’d been inspired by a post on The Cake Hunter earlier in the week, and decided to make us all cinnamon whirls for Sunday morning breakfast. I actually ended up adapting a couple of recipes to make banana and cinnamon whirls in the end….I made the dough and filling, and put them together in the tray ready to bake first thing in the morning. It all smelled wonderful as I prepared it, so I was most excited to bake them on Sunday!

Before long though it was time to pick Hannah up from the tube station, and for our first adventure we took her to our local, the Oliver Conquest. We only recently discovered that they serve over fifty different gins, so it has fast become a favourite of ours! We all dutifully sampled a gin each…. the Geranium gin (for Hannah), the Hayman’s (for me) and the Old Raj (for Adam). It was a great way to start our evening, sat on the big comfy sofa with drinks, chatting and catching up.

Next, we made our way to Brick Lane where we met up with friends Richard and Tara for a curry. Hannah had never been before, so we’d prepared her for the usual….lots of salesy people out on the street trying to lure you into their respective restaurants with various deals. We decided we wanted to make our way at least half way down the road before choosing somewhere, as we often get over excited and choose the first or second place we come across! And we made it a good way along before heading inside a restaurant where we’d been promised Lychee Lassis!

After the meal, we headed just around the corner to what is probably one of my top three places to drink….. I was told about Lounge Bohemia just after it opened a few years ago. A colleague had worked with the owner, so I was told a little about this fantastic bunker of a bar which served totally out of this world cocktails. Just as well really, as I’m not sure I’d ever have found out about it otherwise! There’s no flashy website to draw you in, and you HAVE to book (there’s a no suits policy too!), but this gives the place a feeling of accessible exclusivity….it’s really not just a bar, but (forgive me) a drinking experience. As usual, we were treated to exemplary service, and THE most incredible cocktails available to man. I won’t give away too much before writing the visit up properly though!

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After our fairly late night (and the copious amounts of booze we’d gotten through), we have another fairly lazy morning on Sunday. I was pretty smug that I’d prepared the cinnamon whirls already though, so they just got brushed with honey and baked for about 20 minutes before we scoffed them alongside the Nude Espresso coffee we’d bought the day before. Then, well fed, we began the walk to Columbia Road flower market. Unfortunately, only half way there, the skies opened and we had to take refuge in Old Spitalfields. Still, it’s not a bad place to while away an hour whilst waiting for the rain to desist, and it was good to show Hannah around. We had started to flag already though, before the rain had even stopped, so we took up a nice spot in the covered terrace of The Luxe. I felt rather better for one of their ‘Veggie’ juice blends, and so with the rain stopped and our energy levels boosted, we finally set off again towards the flower market.

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It was a leisurely, meandering walk there, just because there were so many eye-catching things to photograph, including lots of very cool street art. Nevertheless, we made it there in good time really, and immediately immersed ourselves in the street market. Columbia Road is taken up every Sunday for the famous flower market, and sellers line each side of the road with stalls bearing stacks of fresh cut flowers, herbs, gardening stuff and pot plants. In fact, it’s a mecca for the bargain botanical, and I found myself wishing I had a garden to plant lots of the treasures in. Even if you don’t though, you can pick up amazing steals such as a huge bunch of sunflowers for just a fiver.

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Behind the stalls, there are lots of lovely shops to root about in (handy when it started to rain again!), including Ryan Town, the Rob Ryan shop, which I’ve been wanting to go to for ages. There are also some gorgeous nick-nack shops (my favourite the pretty boutique shared by Buddug and Jessie Chorley) as well as some amazing antique and vintage shops (I was in my element at Vintage Heaven with piles and piles of lovely vintage china!). There is also a little vintage market one road over on Ezra Street, as well as several (very packed) places to eat.

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We opted to make our way back towards Brick Lane though, and stopped in at Benets Ice Cream Parlour for a much needed sugar fix. After being served a rather disappointing Tiramisu, I was given a rather better Rocky Road by the nice man who agreed that the former didn’t taste of anything much. We wandered along Brick Lane with our ice creams and had a snoop about some of the markets. I was very pleased that I Shoot Film were there again, as I’ve been seeing their incredible horse photo for ages and knew Hannah would love it….and in fact, she bought it! We were seriously weary by that time though, and so it was home for a cuppa, and shortly afterwards Hannah made her way home to Hitchin.

Supper was going to have to be pretty filling and very quick and easy, so I roasted up some pumpkin and made a very simple risotto. It was so yummy, despite its simplicity, so I’ll be sure to share the recipe here soon. After that, we were only fit to slob on the sofa watching a film, before we fell into bed for an early night.

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Amazing times!

Hope you had a great weekend too!

Ems x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Maltby Street Food Market

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Having promised ourselves a nice relaxing weekend of not doing all that much, when it came to finding entertainment, we decided to keep it local and go for a wander in Bermondsey. We’d been told about the Maltby Street market just a couple of weeks ago, by the lovely Pru from Sparrow Gin at the StockMKT night market nearby….. and we owe her a big thank you for the introduction!

Just a few minutes away from Tower Bridge, but far enough that you feel off the beaten track, a small community of foodies has been growing over the last few years. Under the railway arches in Bermondsey, a bunch of independent food and drink makers and sellers, have moved East from the over-crowded Borough Market, to create a hub of gastronomic treasures each Saturday morning. Buyers and sellers alike enjoy the space, lack of tourists and cameras, and the fact that repeat local business is not only just possible, but inevitable.

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We found the market really easily, having taken the walk across Tower Bridge, down Tower Bridge Road, and hung a left just before the Premier Inn. The stalls collect each Saturday from 9am to 2pm, under the arches and along Maltby Street, against the wonderful backdrop of Lassco’s reclamation yard. It’s brilliantly theatrical, with coffee sellers in between racks of old radiators, and bakers nestled into arches filled with bamboo floor boards, not to mention the darling camels guarding the gate! We took a walk through the showroom first of all, and found stacks of treasures in the shape of roll-top baths, butlers sinks, piles and piles of ancient doors, and period costumes. Given space and a good budget, we could very happily buy up half the place!

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From there we began to explore the stalls….. St John has recently set up a stall in front of its arch, selling incredible loaves and cakes straight from the oven…. their custard filled doughnuts are legendary, and immense! Neals Yard Dairy and Monmouth Coffee, two of my Borough Market favourites, have also set up in the arches, and open up to sell their incredible cheeses and the best roasted coffee beans in London on Saturdays. We fell in love with the Green Chilli Jam and Smoked Tomato Tapenade from Pink’s, and so bought up a stock to cook with at home. But it’s not all fancy luxury stuff though, as we found Booth’s arch filled up like a good old school green grocers, bursting with colour and smelling incredible.

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Confused by too many coffee choices (there is also a Turkish coffee stall and several local roasters), we opted for gin instead….. We very much wanted to thank Pru of Sparrow Gin for tipping us off about the market, and once we’d found her we didn’t want to leave their glorious little space right in the middle of the action. Having set up a darling little cocktail bar within one of the arches, their retro melamine tables and mis-matched chairs now spill out into the market, creating the perfect place to kick back and people (and dog) watch.

With a larger cocktail list than we saw at the StockMKT, and their trade mark collection of vintage glass and service ware, I adored their set-up, right down to the vintage decanters filled with wild flowers, the piles of old books and the paper doilies each drink is served on. Oh, and the little bowl of water and sign for customers dogs is just darling…. we saw lots of super cute hounds in fact!

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Each cocktail is based around something from one of the amazing sellers on the market….I opted for their version of the Bloody Mary, the Maltby Mary which is served with a divine black pudding, whilst Adam went for the Golden Nest which is mixed with a yummy cider. Mine was served in a handled jam jar, with a generous hunk of black pudding pinned to the celery stick with a beautiful silver Cockerel cocktail stick…… the black pudding was an amazing accompaniment to the perfectly mixed cocktail, and probably made it the best Bloody Mary I’ve had. Adam’s vintage cut-glass tumbler looked like summer itself, rammed with Pimm’s fruit, and gloriously golden…. it was plenty boozey but terribly easy to drink! And because we’ve developed a taste for the grapefruity gin, we couldn’t avoid buying a bottle to take home!

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Having had my main course (a Bloody Mary can be classified as such, honest), we headed to the Eden Ice Cream stall for some of their very special chocolate loveliness. Using cream from the famous Roskilly herd in Cornwall, alongside Colombian cacao, fruits and panela, the ice cream is dreamily creamy, and divinely flavoured. All four flavours are reassuringly natural in colour too, and a percentage of the purchase price goes towards helping the Eden Project, so everyone’s a winner. Oh and I can’t not mention their darling little dog, Saucisse, a rescue dog from France, and certainly a highlight of our visit!

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Not really a market so much as a fabulously convenient collection of delicious delights, each stall boasts a personality that I think has been largely lost at Borough Market. The emphasis is on all things local, the experimental, and a buzzing atmosphere that you just want to spend hours in. Dubbed the food market for Londoners, I know I’ll want to return again and again, comfortably free from hoards of tourists, cameras, the over-priced and samey-samey.
Before heading home, we took the opportunity to have a snoop about the two larger antiques warehouses very near by….. again, I know we could spend a fortune in these given the space to keep our treasures in! And if you fancy a whole day out in the vicinity, there’s also the Bermondsey Square Farmers market just a few minutes away to boot!
Viva South East London!

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Something from the weekend……. a night market, a wedding, and London’s oldest Music Hall

Another amazing few days this weekend! We didn’t ram as much in as we sometimes do, but it was certainly fun filled!……

On Friday after work, Adam and I met up with our good friends Kate and Jason at the Bermondsey Square Night Market, “The StockMKT.” It’s silly that I’ve not made it to one of the markets there before as it’s so close, and we enjoyed a lovely walk over to the other side of the river from home. The whole square was filled with food stalls, bars, crafty things and vintage treasures, as well as a band tent. The latter was hosted for the evening by the fabulous Albert Ball’s Flying Aces, whose wonderfully retro sounds had us all toe tapping.

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First off though it was a visit to the first bar we spotted….. and luckily it was a bar hosted by the very wonderful Sparrow Gin from Peckham! Serving a small but perfect list of cocktails, as well as good old fashioned G&Ts, the stall was super cool with jam jars, striped straws and vintage glasses and serving things. We got chatting to the lovely Pru who told us proudly about the gin’s super grapefruityness (although rather more eloquently than me) and gave us a taster of the tipple straight up. It is a beautifully fresh and citrusy gin, and almost a little herbal with the generous number of botanicals used in its production. It’s currently on very limited availability, so we did our best to drink up the current batch and encourage the guys to brew up some more….. the Negroni and the Martini were especially good (we tried the whole list), but I think, like Pru, I would prefer to drink it straight up, nice and cold.

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With drinks in hand, we took a wander about the stalls of pretties and treasures, finding the super Ink Heart Kicks which I’ve been oggling on Etsy, BG Design from where we bought some gorgeous cards, and Kamm and Sons  from whom we bought a bottle of delicious Ginseng spirit. I also picked up some great vintage post cards from a stall of vintage treasures, and we yummed up a very large slice of Yummy Boutique’s super delicious Red Velvet Cheesecake.

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Afterwards we made our way homeward, stopping off for a curry in the award winning Empress Curry House for supper. Although I’d not had a proper meal, I was really too stuffed with gins and cheesecake to need the several dishes I yummed up, so I did rather roll home.

Saturday saw the FINAL arrival of our friends, Matthew and Siobhan’s, wedding. I’d been excited about it for aaaages, but for the last week ridiculously so! After spending the entire morning primping and packing the various bags I ended up taking (shoes, hat, cameras, confetti……) we jumped on the tube to make our way to Putney. The venue for the whole day was the beautiful Star and Garter which is right on the river. The Ballroom has a gloriously high ceiling, chandeliers and stacks of natural light.

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Matthew was looking super hot in a beautiful kilt and tweed jacket, and seemed pretty cool as we chatted before the ceremony. I’d been lucky enough to see Siobhan’s dress at her fitting at Liberty, but I still felt my jaw drop as she walked into the room looking so incredibly stunning. Both of them were glowing throughout the ceremony, and I honestly can’t think I’ve ever seen two people look more happy. It was so touching to hear them exchange their vows, as well as bridesmaid Jo’s lovely reading….. I shed plenty of tears of joy too!

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After the ceremony we drank saucers of Cham in the bar downstairs whilst the happy couple had photos taken out by the river and the Ballroom was turned around ready for the reception. It was brilliant to have time to catch up with people and have some good chat time….. as well as a chance to sample some of the bar’s wonderful cocktails!

Back upstairs, we readied ourselves for the couple’s first announcement into the room…. I had made confetti in little vintage sheet music cones, which several of us sprinkled on them from our balcony seats as they walked in. Then it was a yummy buffet dinner at large round tables dressed with gerbera in vintage IRN BRU bottles, and hand made paper stars (good work Justine!). There were lots of personal touches that reminded us of Matthew and Siobhan too…. the tables were names after Radiohead albums, and they had prepared special CDs as favours, stamped with a cut-out style image of the two of them.

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We had so much fun, chatting and throwing balloons around and dancing the night away….. Matthew and Siobhan had created their own playlist for the night packed with floor fillers, and even Adam got up to dance (first time ever!). There was cheese, fruit cake and bacon rolls as a wonderful late night snack which kept us going, and I danced my last song, rather aptly to Tiffany, I think We’re Alone Now. It was such a joy to be part of their special day, and to see them enjoy it so much. Love you guys!

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It was a traditional lie in on Sunday, as we were feeling rather worn out. So we decided to keep it local and just popped over the road to Wilton’s Music Hall for a few hours in the afternoon. It was the last day the historical venue was open, before the refurbishment of the auditorium takes place. After we’d had a wander about and taken a few snaps, Artistic Director Frances Mayhew took to the stage alongside Capital Project Patron David Suchet who talked of the importance of the refurbishment and the continued fundraising necessary to protect the music hall.

We were lucky enough to get tickets for the final tour, and so ‘Deputy Tour Guide Chris’ gave us the lowdown on the history of the local area and the beginnings of Wilton’s, before Carole told us all about the history of the building itself and some of the most notable events in its history. It was wonderful to hear some of the stories about the place and I would highly recommend taking the tour there…… the auditorium is due to open in 2013 but until then the beautiful Mahogany Bar is still open for drinks, as will be the new cocktail bar which will open soon, and even some performances taking place in the smaller rooms (I very much want to go to the Horror! Horror! Halloween show!). I’m really looking forward to seeing the auditorium again once it’s finished, although we were promised that the appearance won’t change.

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After that it was home for a pot of tea, and to finish up a pot of clotted cream we had left over from my birthday…… I made up a large helping of what I’ve named ‘French Tea’ (strawberries, clotted cream and jam on thick slices of brioche in lieu of any scones!). And after that we were only fit to slob about and watch Planet Terror….. a nicely quiet end to a super weekend!

Hope you enjoyed yours….do share!

Ems x

A super supper

Last Saturday night we had a little dinner party at the flat with dear friends Claire and Matthew. Claire and I are *relatively* good these days at finding time to catch up over a Guiseppe’s, but the boys often miss out in favour of a ‘girls only’ night of gossip and giggling. So this weekend, Adam and I decided to cook for us all at home.

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Adam, who is currently sporting a moustache for Movember, had been lucky enough to receive a lovely gift of a set of ‘moustache clips’ from Claire the week prior, as a good luck wish for his facial hair growing and fundraising. And so Adam, keen to get using them, had the idea to make them into place cards. So as the beginnings of our meal were bubbling away on the stove by mid-morning, I began to fashion little name cards from the clips and folds of card. Oh, and a matching menu card too.

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Supper was to be relatively casual, we’d decided, so the menu looked like this….

Warm Green Salad, Chorizo, Pecorino

“All Day” Cottage Pie

Sherry Trifle Wally Ladd

The starter was super simple…..a toasted ciabatta (half each), rubbed with a clove of garlic, drizzled with olive oil…then on top, blanched and buttered asparagus and long stem broccoli, with some shavings of pecorino, chorizo and a drizzle of balsamic.

For the cottage pie we used a recipe from BBC Good Food which has served us rather well. We love the Duchy Originals range at Waitrose, and so the beef came from there. Claire was surprised to see the pie topped with cheese, but as I said, that’s the only thing that makes a cottage pie better than a shepherds pie. We spent the whole day cooking the filling very slowly on the hob, so the flat was filled with the most fabulous wine/thyme/gravy smell!

The pudding preparation was an all day event too, and the smell of the black cherry jam simmering with sherry did for a while take over the kitchen. We followed (mainly) a Marco Pierre White recipe from his Great British Feast book for the Sherry Trifle Wally Ladd. We adapted a little to make the mixture fit into our new (although vintage), gorgeous pudding glasses, just pouring the cream over rather than whipping it and piping it in. The end result was absolutely delicious, and took us right to the other side of full.

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The real triumph of the evening though was our newly readied Hertfordshire Foraged Sloe Gin. We’d been out picking the berries back in September, painfully pricked every last one, and then added them to two litres of gin and sugar…..oh and much like disturbing a Champagne to encourage the bubbles, Adam had to shake the bottles every day for several weeks. But boy, was it all worth it! The sticky, purple nectar is deliciously sweet and boozey, and rather too easy to drink down fast. Neat too.20111124-075156.jpg

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Fresh coffee and petits fours (fruit jellies on this occasion) finished us up for the night though, after plenty of wine of course. And so with the marvelous company and great fun of having guests, I think perhaps the only downside is having to share ones Sloe Gin.20111124-075547.jpg

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