Best Restaurants (Everywhere Else) – 2014

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Have I ever eaten so well in so many different destinations? Nope. If 2014 was one thing for me, it was a fantastic time of great foodie adventures. When coming up with this list of noteworthy restaurants visited the past year (see my list of London’s best here), I realise I did the bulk of the job of making a list of the best restaurants I’ve ever visited in my life.

Listed below in alphabetical order are five of restaurants (heavy on the Portuguese) that made 2014 one of the most memorably delicious years ever for me, along with a septet of honourable mentions that could all vie for sixth place.

Keep an eye out for Best of 2014 posts over the coming days. And please note, these ‘best of’ lists merely reflect how I chose to spend my time during the year and are comprised of well established and brand new venues as well as businesses that are local to me or somehow related to where work and play took me.

Best Restaurants (Not London)

Domilise’s Po-Boy & Bar
5240 Annunciation Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70115
Something of a foodie institution without any high falutin’ airs about it, Domilise’s Po-Boy & Bar serves gargantuan po-boy sandwiches made with fresh baked “French bread” and heaps of whatever you want jammed inside it. Fantastic food aside, the vibe there is as languidly relaxed as gets down in Dixie. Escape the tourist fray and head uptown to Domilise’s for what might turn out to be the best sandwich you’ll ever eat.

Koks
Hotel Foroyar, Oyggjarvegur 45, 100 Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
Located at Hotel Foroyar with sweeping views over the town of Torshavn and across the bay to the island of Nolsoy, Koks features haute cuisine dishes “designed to delight guests with the essence of Faroese culinary heritage” using ingredients almost exclusively sourced locally. Blew me away!

Restaurante Botin
Calle Cuchilleros, 17, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Restaurante Botin was founded in 1725, which according to the Guinness Book of Records makes it the oldest restaurant in the world. Such a claim to fame ensures a steady flow of customers coming in and out its rustic wooden doors – the vast majority of whom are holidaymakers from abroad. As is the case, the Gonzalez family who keep this culinary marvel in operation could probably rest on their laurels, serve some schlocky semblance of traditional Spanish food, and still have vacationers queued up to pay just to say they’d been there. Nonetheless, the family reckons the restaurant is not just some monument to how things once were but a vital benchmark of Madrileño cuisine. Specialities include suckling pig and Castillian lamb – both roasted in the restaurant’s original wood fired oven.

Restaurant Rubino
Luftgässlein 1, 4051 Basel
At Restaurant Rubino diners are invited to leave any irksome decision making with Chef Manuela Buser and go with her Menü Surprise. When in Basel, I suppose … So I did and was indeed glad to have done so as my meal paired wonderfully with a smart selection of wines remains one of the most delightful, attractive and most thoughtfully presented I’ve had to date.

Rose’s Luxury
717 8th Street Southeast, Washington DC 20003
Casual eatery, Rose’s Luxury, in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Barrack’s Row might have served up the most delicious meal of 2014 for me. The buzz was electric the night I dined there (still not sure how I managed to get a table) and everything I tasted was phenomenal. My cocktail – rye, rose water and lemon – wowed my palate. So did challah with butter, honey and black sesame seeds; pork sausage with habanero and lychee salad; and pickle brined fried chicken. Prices were more than reasonable and service was on the ball!

Vinum at Graham’s
Graham’s Port Lodge, Rua do Agro 141, 4400-281 Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto, Portugal
Across the river from Porto in Vila Novo de Gaia are the cellars for Port producer Graham’s (along with all the cellars of the other big Port producers). It’s a phenomenal facility open for the public to visit and home to the wonderful award winning restaurant, Vinum. With lofty and romantic views, quality service and a modern menu adhering to traditional gastronomic values – the meal I had at Vinum was exquisite and set a high bar for the rest of my dining during the trip. Catch of the day, John Dory, was a delicate delight and a “vaca velha” rib steak was one of the most gorgeous cuts o’ cow I’d tasted in a very long time. Obviously, the wines were excellent. Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny and 1969 Single Harvest Tawny were my two faves.

Honourable Mentions

That’s a wrap for my Best of 2014 miniseries. I’ll publish one more piece listing all the posts in this series together soon after Christmas! Until then, thanks for reading my blog. Have a very merry Christmas.

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London Daily Photo: Mentmore Terrace

LDP 2015.12.21 - Mentmore Terrace

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Video: How Far will You to Avoid the Doorknob?

Oh man, yesterday sucked. I don’t want to go into details, but we pumped out some major effort here at Chateau tikchris to avert what could have resulted in a costly catastrophe. Along with the epic amounts of elbow grease going into our endeavour was a rich cocktail of cleaning products, a few of them from Dettol, helping save the day.

One thing that added a little bit of pleasure to my otherwise hellish day was watching the above video during a quick break from cleaning. With Christmas on its way – and the indoor season set upon us – the video from Dettol asks far will you go to AVOID THE DOORKNOB!

To the best of my knowledge, everything in/on/around/under/above the walls of my house appears to be copacetic for the time being. Now it’s time to hit the streets and shops of London to participate in the crammed pre-Christmas parade of shopping, socializing and tying up the final loose ends of 2014 … and hopefully coming back (to an intact) home without having caught a bug out there in the wilds of London.

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Best Restaurants in London – 2014

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Most of these ‘best of lists’ I’m doing have been compiled with some degree of difficulty often leaving me feeling guilty for excluding somewhere excellent that for whatever reason was nudged out by another place. However, making a concise and definite list of my favourite few London restaurants visited over this past year was an absolute breeze as five fantastic eateries clearly did stand out from the rest with respect to quality of food and overall dining experience.

Listed below in alphabetical order are five London restaurants where I reckon the best meals of 2014 were served.

Keep an eye out for more Best of 2014 posts over the coming days. And please note, these ‘best of’ lists merely reflect how I chose to spend my time during the year and are comprised of well established and brand new venues as well as businesses that are local to me or somehow related to where work and play took me.

Best Restaurants in London

Brasserie Chavot
Next to The Westbury Hotel at 41 Conduit Street, W1S 2YF
Contemporary French cuisine made with quality ingredients sourced from the British Isles and France? It’s a gorgeous idea – especially when executed by a capable chef such as Eric Chavot. A visit to his eponymous brasserie presents the chance to explore his menu of epic flavour and subtle finesse.

INK
44 Palmers Road, Suttons Wharf South, E2 0TA
Set beside the Regent’s Canal with plenty of outdoor seating, INK is as ideal a place as any in East London for grabbing a bite – and a helluva lot more pleasant than most. And even if the setting were less splendid, I still would have loved my dinner there for the wonderful dishes served. Just about everything presented from young Lithuanian chef Martyn Meid’s kitchen was done so exquisitely and – most importantly – utterly delicious.

Kouzu
“Behind” Eaton Square and across from the Goring Hotel at 21 Grosvenor Gardens, SW1W 0JW
Elegant Japanese fine dining (with an amazing whisky menu!) set within a Grade-II listed period mansion with a palatial entrance and stunning contemporary interiors – recently opened Kouzu is one of the best things to happen to haute cuisine scene in London for quite while. Dinner there was hands down the most satisfying of 2014 for me.

Nobu London
First floor of the Metropolitan Hotel, 19 Old Park Lane, W1K 1LB
Big flavour with a big name behind it, in a ‘just right’ space with lofty views across Park Lane to Hyde Park – if you like Japanese cuisine (and extraordinary wines), dinner at Nobu offers a perfect opportunity to make the moreish most of a night out in Mayfair.

Theo Randall at the Intercontinental
Inside the InterContinental London Park Lane, One Hamilton Place, W1J 7QY
Theo Randall at the Intercontinental is THE place to head to for an upscale dinner focused on basic quality ingredients with a no-fuss approach to bringing out the best in Italian cuisine.

More of the Best of 2014 to follow!

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Stress-Free Travel? Yes, the Dream Can Be a Reality! (OneTravel)

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So, I was asked to give a few tips for stress-free travel and my first thought was “yeah right” and my second thought was “good luck!” But there are ways to reduce stress while in transition between points. In fact with the right attitude (and so often it is all about having the right attitude), travel won’t just be stress-free but a lot of fun!

Here are five strategies I use that usually help me to achieve stress-free travel …

Read my complete post at OneTravel.

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London Daily Photo: Winter Fruits

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Best Hotels – 2014

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From the inner core of downtown DC to a sparsely settled archipelago at the junction of the North Atlantic and the Norwegian Sea – with loads of scenery and bon vivant adventures along the way – I stayed in some fantastic hotels this year.

Listed below in alphabetical order are five hotels (and four honourable mentions) where I still can’t believe I had the pleasure to lay my head in 2014. Wow.

Keep an eye out for more Best of 2014 posts over the coming days. And please note, these ‘best of’ lists merely reflect how I chose to spend my time during the year and are comprised of well established and brand new venues as well as businesses that are local to me or somehow related to where work and play took me.

Best Hotels

Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel and Spa
26 North Royal Street, Mobile, Alabama  36602
Established on the site of military headquarters set up by Andrew Jackson during the war of 1812, today the Battle House is a landmark luxury hotel in the heart of downtown Mobile, Alabama and a member of the Historic Hotels of America association. Closed since the 70s, the hotel reopened in 2007 after a $200 million renovation. With its centrepiece domed skylight, its trompe-l’œil plasterwork, and its extra spacious rooms, the Battle House is a gem of a hotel and without doubt one of the finest I’ve ever come across in the Deep South. There’s a great gym with a rooftop pool and heated Jacuzzi, and lavishly decorated upscale restaurant, Trellis House.

The Hay-Adams
800 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20006
This downtown Washington DC hotel’s biggest claim to fame is being the closest hotel to the White House. Boasting panoramic views of the White House, Lafayette Square, Lafayette Park and more, its location is without doubt its major selling point – whether there for an overnight stay, a business lunch, dream wedding or quick drink. Still – view or no view – I’d be inclined to return for the gracious service, amazingly knowledgeable head concierge (Eric Gammill), low key watering hole Off the Record, and some of DC’s finest and most innovative dining.

Herdade da Malhadinha Nova
7800-601 Albernoa, Portugal
Located at the end of a winding dirt road and set amid 450 hectares of rolling farmland and vineyards, visiting this estate in the Alentejo of southern Portugal was like diving into the pages of a Condé Nast spread about discovering some idyllic getaway. The sights around the farm – nesting storks and all sorts of waterfowl, an infinity pool with views over the vineyards, the low to the ground and traditionally built farmhouses (with no sight or sound of the near-ish highway or anything that might be deemed less than perfectly bucolic) – lulled me nicely. And my room was – a 90 square metre suite featuring mega-bed, mega-bath, cantilevered stairs and all mod cons – was probably the nicest accommodation I experienced during my couple of weeks roaming round Portugal (if not out of all my travels of 2014). Horseback riding, canoeing, hot air balloon rides, a luxury spa … if there’s something scenic to do in the Alentenjo countryside, Malhadinha appears to offer it. And if there’s something exquisite to taste, they probably have that to share with guests too in the estate’s restaurant with its kitchen run by Michelin starred Executive Chef Joaquin Koerper.

Hotel Foroyar
Oyggjarvegur 45, 100 Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
Four star Hotel Foroyar is situated on a hill above the far flung Faroe Islands’ capital city of Torshavn and about an hour’s drive from the airport. In addition to its many Nordic comforts, utter tranquility and serene ocean views, the hotel is home to Koks, one of the finest restaurants I’ve ever come across in my life.

Quinta do Vallado
Vilarinho dos Freires, 5050-364 Peso da Régua, Portugal
To put it plainly, I loved everything about Quinta do Vallado. It hurt a little to leave this “wine hotel” set in the heart of Portugal’s undulant Douro Valley, and months later I still ache to return for another chance to admire in situ Vallado’s architectural blend of tradition with modern design; to savour more of its homey food; and, of course, to enjoy its fabulous wines.

Honourable Mentions

More of the Best of 2014 to follow!

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London Daily Photo: Rack

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Upscale Japanese Served with Knightsbridge Panache at Nozomi

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From my wisely suggested and promptly served Japanese Old Fashioned to my palate cleansing spread of homemade sorbets (ooh the pineapple!) – and all the tasty moments in between – there were so many highlights worth reporting from my luxuriant Saturday night out at Nozomi in Knightsbridge.

Among the most delectable features from the vast sushi and sashimi menu was the black cod tempura maki (miso marinated cod rolled and deep fried with green chilli and spring onion, £12.500. Onto the star of the show, my char-grilled wagyu fillet (150g, £75) was a gorgeous reward for choosing Nozomi as my dining destination. The texture of this flavourfully fatty (but not unctuously so) plate of marvellously marbled beef was a cut above that of the typical steak … something similar to not-quite-starting-to-warm-up butter … or gelatinous fish … or just something ya need to try for yourself. Keeping pace with all the dishes had during my dine (and going exceptionally well with sushi) was a bottle of warm Takacho Junmai Sake which I’d be more than please to enjoy again with a fine meal.

Service for the duration of my visit was flawless, gracious and especially helpful when it came making the most of my menu selections. Almost as wow as the food and as impressive as the service was the setting: an upscale, opulent and sleek Art Deco scene designed (successfully) to let you know (and never forget) you’re somewhere special.

A Beauchamp Street stalwart that’s as swish as it gets and most conducive to a high end (and high profile) evening of pampering and people watching, Nozomi is located at 14-15 Beauchamp Place, SW3 1NQ. Find out more at nozomi.co.uk.

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Win a De Beauvoir Deli Basket from The De Beauvoir Deli Co

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Okay folks, I’ve got one more competition left for 2014 … and it’s a tasty one compliments of one of my favourite independently owned shops in London: De Beauvoir Deli. As for 2015, well, all sorts of excellent goodies are lining up nicely for more fun comps and giveaways to begin again soon in the new year. Thanks so much for all the support over the these past 12 months, best of luck with this delicious comp and merry Christmas!

Southgate Road’s lovely De Beauvoir Deli on Southgate Road is an independent and locally owned shop filled with seasonal and artisanal food and drink products from local or small independent suppliers. If you live in or around De Beauvoir Town, count your blessings to have such an excellent gourmet resource (without any uppity airs) as De Beauvoir Deli in your ‘hood. Even just passing through the area, you would do well to keep the place in mind for especially pleasant shopping for hard to find treats and delectable gift ideas.

Teaming up with this dynamic deli, I’ve come up with a great excuse to pop round this ace little shop by offering my readers the chance to win a De Beauvoir Deli Basket valued at £30. The lucky winner will need to be able to pick up the prize in shop and will walk home with the following treats in a handy dandy 12” basket:

– Brixton beer;
– England Preserves jam;
– Patum Pepperium Poacher’s relish;
– Newton & Pott Chutney;
– Stockans Oatcakes; and
– Charbonnel & Walker truffles

To be in with a chance to win the free De Beauvoir Deli Basket worth £30, simply tweet the following:

RT to win a free #DeBeauvoirDeliBasket from @DeBeauvoirDeli just in time for #Christmas, compliments of @tikichris: http://bit.ly/1zyGJId

Good luck! Please take a moment to read the terms and conditions before tweeting!

T&C
• I’ll pick one winner at random on Monday 22 December at 10am (British time);
• The winner will receive one De Beauvoir Deli Basket from De Beauvoir Deli valued at £30;
• Obviously to win you will need to be of legal drinking age to receive this alcoholic product and must be able to show ID that proves your age.
• The prize must be collected from De Beauvoir Deli (98 Southgate Road, N1 3JD) by 31 December 2014;
• The De Beauvoir Deli Co is open until 4pm on Christmas Eve and reopens 8am to 6pm on 29th-31st (closed New Year’s Day).

The De Beauvoir Deli Co is located at 98 Southgate Road, N1 3JD. Find out more at thedebeauvoirdeli.co.uk.

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Best Beer – 2014

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Beer. I can’t say I really drank a whole lot of it in 2014 (especially compared to how much I’ve consumed in earlier years), but I can say I drank some very fine beer indeed over the last 12 months.

Here’s a list (in alphabetical order) of my favourite five beers of the year. Ah.

Keep an eye out for more Best of 2014 posts over the coming days. And please note, these ‘best of’ lists merely reflect how I chose to spend my time during the year and are somehow related to where work and play took me.

Best Beer – 2014

1936 Biere
Very crisp, very refreshing, and very much something I’d consider as a first choice beer – this pale lager from the Swiss alps is made with quality Swiss hops, barley, and water. (ABV 4.7%)

American Pale Ale, Shipyard Brewing Company
Dry hopped with American hop varieties for an especially tasty citrusy profile (grapefruit!), Shipyard’s APA is an easy answer to what I’ll have to drink when I know it’s behind the bar. (ABV 4.5%)

Birra Menabrea Original
Another crisp one (American Pale Ale style), which in this case is produced at a 150 year old Piemonte brewery (the oldest brewery in Italy). This Piemontese beer is a treat well worth keeping an eye out for – I had it at Covent Garden bar, Augustus Harris, but was told at the time it wasn’t something regularly stocked. (ABV 4.5%)

Eskilstuna Stolt Lager
A Czech style Pilsner brewed in Sweden pairs perfectly with seafood. I had mine while visiting West Sweden’s Koster Islands. If anybody knows where to score this beer in London, please tell me. (ABV 5%)

Sovena Stout
This Portuguese “cerveja artisanal” dry stout from Porto hits the spot with toasty notes and subtle bitterness. If you like a good stout …
(ABV 4.9%)

More of the Best of 2014 to follow!

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London Daily Photo: Xmas Jumper

LDP 2014.12.18 - Xmas Jumper

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Review: The Curiosity Cabaret at The Old Operating Theatre, London Bridge

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Science inspires art in The Curiosity Cabaret, a new limited run production of first ever cabarets in the style of a history of medicine lecture. Founded by medical doctor and circus owner Dr Clive Selwyn, the shows “fuse science and the arts together to create an entertaining cabaret experience” and held at The Old Operating Theatre in London Bridge, an actual operating theatre dating from 1822.

I caught a performance of the cabaret’s premiere ‘episode’. Titled The Science and History of Voice in the 19th Century, it was as fascinating and offbeat excuse for a night out as I had hoped interspersed with moments of real science insight and loads of comedy throughout the show for maximum enjoyment. And even if it had just been so-so, it was such a cool way to experience The Old Operating Theatre, Britain’s oldest surviving operating theatre – such a unique, historic, rather eerily, and kind of gruesome place for cabaret!

Future episodes of The Curiosity Cabaret are planned for early 2015. I can’t recommend enough keeping an eye out for when dates are confirmed and tickets go on sale!

The Old Operating Theatre is located at 9a St Thomas Street, SE1 9RY. Find out more at thecuriositycabaret.com.

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Best Bars (Everywhere Else) – 2014

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A blogger walks into a bar … and has an amazing time! No joke. Here’s a quick write up of some excellent places to have a drink in a handful of awesome destinations I had the pleasure of visiting this year.

Listed below in alphabetical order are five bars outside of London (you can see my top 5 London bars here) I enjoyed visiting the most over the past 12 months along with one honourable mention. That four of these are in the American south (DC’s in the south, right?) and two of those in New Orleans isn’t a coincidence. Drinkin’ below America’s Mason-Dixon Line is a downhome delight … and to do so in NOLA is almost guaranteed to be a splendidly atmospheric experience. The fifth? An awesome little bar in Athens (Greece, not Georgia) where I had one of my favourite nights on a town this whole year.

Keep an eye out for more posts over the coming days for more best of 2014 lists. And please note, these ‘best of’ lists merely reflect how I chose to spend my time during the year and are comprised of well established and brand new venues as well as businesses that are local to me or somehow related to where work and play took me.

Best Bars (Not London)

Carousel Bar & Lounge
Hotel Monteleone, 214 Royal Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
Was the room spinning? Nope, but the bar was! A 25-seat “circus-clad merry-go-round” transformed into a spinning cocktail bar may sound like tourist hell, but there’s actually something classy about it. Besides, all the true out of towner louts in NOLA are kept busy over on Bourbon Street. A fixture for sophisticated French Quarter elbow benders from near and far, the Carousel Bar inside the elegant lobby of the Hotel Monteleone is a must for any boozy bucket list. What to drink? I had the Sazerac (Sazerac Rye Whiskey, Herbsaint, Peychaud Bitters, simple syrup) and would have had another if I hadn’t have had to dash off to dinner elsewhere.

The Dude Bar
14 Kalamiotou, 10560 Athens, Greece
Looking for a laid back joint where you can enjoy a White Russian? Dude, this is the place. I loved this bar. An excellent DJ was there on my visit sharing an enviable collection of vinyl featuring everything from mid 80s Cure to early 60s soul…and a whole lot of punk rock in between.

Off the Record
Basement of The Hay-Adams, 800 16th Street NW, Washington DC 20006
Luxury boutique hotel The Hay-Adams’ hush-hush basement bar, Off the Record (a purported favourite of both First Lady Michelle Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner), was such a cool venue to have a drink (great food menu too – awesome sliders!). I was massively impressed with my Lafayette Old Fashioned and the Classic Manhattan cocktails. Known for being the place in Washington to be seen but not heard, it’s a fascinating setting for an elbow bending session.

The Spotted Cat
623 Frenchmen Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70116
A Frenchmen Street favorite and one of the most fun bars in New Orleans, the Spotted Cat is a friendly place where locals of all sorts and out-of-towners from all over join together to have a good time listening to great music. Drinks are cheap – just be sure to save some money for when the hat’s passed round for the band!

Swampers Bar and Grill
Lobby of the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa, 10 Hightower Place, Florence, Alabama 35630
My couple of days checking out the Shoals area of northern Alabama was definitely the pleasant surprise of my year in travel. One of the many highlights of that trip was hanging out at Swampers Bar & Grill, the lobby bar at the Marriott (where I had an especially relaxing couple nights’ stay). Like my room, the bar was incredibly comfy and spacious. Live music by way of local musician Barry Billings was appreciated as was the tasty Naked Pig Pale Ale from Gadsden, Alabama’s Back Forty Beer Company I had (and would be happy to have again and again). The hotel’s breakfast buffet was in the same space the next morning – good fixings!

Honourable Mention: MADRID!
Yeah, it’s kind of a cop out simply to list an entire city. But have you ever been to Madrid? I was blown away by the city’s bar scene during my visit this past summer, and I so appreciate still the Madrid Food Tour’s Tapas, Taverns, and History Evening Walking and Tapas Tour for turning me on to some of the best and most historic tapas bars there – each one of them a marvelously evocative and cosy nook for convivial (and delicious) food and drink.

More of the Best of 2014 to follow!

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London Daily Photo: Whitechapel

LDP 2014.12.16 - Whitechapel

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Best Bars in London – 2014

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The options for getting one’s drink on in London continued to broaden and improve in 2014. I truly was impressed with the libations on offer at so many bars around town this year.

Listed below in alphabetical order are five London bars – from long venerated waterholes to newbie nooks – where I enjoyed having a drink more than anywhere else in town over the past 12 months.

Keep an eye out for more posts over the coming days for more best of 2014 lists. And please note, these ‘best of’ lists merely reflect how I chose to spend my time during the year and are comprised of well established and brand new venues as well as businesses that are local to me or somehow related to where work and play took me.

Best Bars in London

Artesian
The Langham, Portland Place, W1B 1JA
I’m hardly the first person to sing the praises of Artesian, and my blog is far from the most notable to rank this gorgeous bar situated within the lavish Langham London hotel. For an expertly crafted cocktail in a sophisticated but still very fun setting, allow yourself the pleasure of enjoying at least one drink here very soon.

Augustus Harris
33 Catherine Street, WC2B 5JT
An uncomplicated menu of pronounced northern Italy flavour; an equally concise and decidedly Italian list of wine and drinks; a stylish wood and copper bar that’s as cosy as it is elegant – there’s a lot to love about Augustus Harris, a Venetian inspired bàcaro conveniently set within the heart of Theatreland.

The Bonneville
43 Lower Clapton Road, E5 ONS
I loved the French inspired food at this moody Clapton restaurant and bar – but it was the drink that really did it for me. Best mixed Mai-Tai in London (well, aside from my own)? Maybe. Mayyyyyybe.

Cro-Bar
17 Manette Street, W1D 4AS
For all the things the other bars in this list ain’t … for its utter lack of pretense (and hipsters, and food snobs) … for its poor-folk friendly “beer ‘n whisky” happy hour, for its especially convenient Soho location … and most importantly for its melt your face off jukebox of mostly metal and plenty of hard rock classics, Cro-Bar is more often than anywhere else my first choice for a drink when drifting about Central London.

The Polo Bar


The Westbury Hotel at the entrance at 37 Conduit Street, W1S 2YF
Upscale and low key, The Polo Bar at The Westbury Hotel is conveniently centred between Bond Street, Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus stations yet removed just enough from the fray to allow for decompression. With Art Deco inspired designer interiors with Swarovski and Fendi details, it’s a swish spot to keep in mind whether you’re mingling to impress or simply hoping to unwind in high style.

More of the Best of 2014 to follow!

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London Daily Photo: Classy Fashion

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Washington DC: Where to Eat in the Political Capital of the Western World (City AM)

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Over the past few years, ravenous London scenesters have been snarfing down a vast array of steaks, burgers, hot dogs, shakes, pizzas, burritos and all sorts of other full-flavoured Americana from a diverse range of restaurants, pop-ups and food trucks. US food, as our Stateside cousins would say, is hot right now. Meanwhile, denizens of US capital Washington DC have been reinvigorating the very concept of what it means to eat American, as I discovered during my recent city break there.

Yep, I said city break. Flights from Heathrow to Dulles International clock in at less than eight hours, with United Airlines flying direct from the recently reopened Terminal 2. With minimal planning and a bank holiday weekend on the horizon, DC could prove an excellent destination – especially if you reckon yourself a foodie.

For decades, Washington has been perceived as a city to be fled as soon as the working day is through. These days, professionals are choosing to hang round for their social lives, not to mention actually making the choice to live in town rather than the ‘burbs. Of course, what’s going on in Washington isn’t all that different to what’s happening in any number of urban centres across the globe. Indeed much of the talk about a revitalised DC could be said about some of the more rapidly gentrifying parts of London: millennials have moved in with hearty appetites and hipster principles to boost flagging local economies and add a dose of youthful vigour to once lacklustre neighbourhoods.

Here’s my guide to the dining hotspots in DC …

Read my complete article at City AM.

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Best Cheap Eats in London – 2014

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Yes, it is still possible to enjoy a halfway decent meal in London for under a fiver. Here’s a list of a few of what I reckon are the best of the cheap eats in town.

Listed below in alphabetical order are five London eateries where I have found it actually is possible to enjoy a satisfying meal for £5 or less … a feat which since I moved to Walthamstow a few months back doesn’t seem all that incredible anymore.

Keep an eye out for more posts over the coming days for more best of 2014 lists. And please note, these ‘best of’ lists merely reflect how I chose to spend my time during the year and are comprised of well established and brand new venues as well as businesses that are local to me or somehow related to where work and play took me.

Best Cheap Eats in London

Fresh Nan Bakery
143A High Street, E17 7DB
As the name implies, this makeshift shop on the High Street in Walthamstow bakes a variety of South Asian style flatbreads fresh on the spot in a tandoor. Get four for a quid. The place does a decent lahmacun for a mere £1.50 and pretty good falafel too.

Niyazi Usta
254 Hoe Street, E17 3AX
More cheap treats in Walthamstow! The £1.50 slightly spiced and cumin-y lamb pie from this Turkish pastry shop is exceptionally tasty value for money. Watching the women in the front of house making the fresh gozleme by hand is a pleasure.

Old Station Yard Café
Behind Lancaster’s Garden Centre at 186 Wood Street, E17 3NA
One more “Awesomestow” eatery, this proper caff situated in a corrugated metal building in the car park of the garden centre across from Wood Street Station does excellent breakfast baps (love their “secret recipe” sausages) with drink for two quid and some change as well as full English brekkies for under a fiver.

Pizza Union
25 Sandy’s Row, E1 7EZ
Pizza Union’s 12” “superfast” margherita for under £4 is one of the tastiest deals in London – and a real lifesaver if you’re passing through Spitalfields with hunger pangs but only pocket change to fight it back. Pizza Union is a spacious and attractive setting too, suggesting a bigger bill that you’re apt to end up paying in the end.

Tortilla
Locations across London
Disclosure: I have this nifty Tortilla VIP Card which opens a world of freebies possibilities to eat at this London-based chain of burrito shops. Nevertheless, I’ve come to find Tortilla’s offering of two mega stuffed, grilled chicken tacos for £4.50 to be one of the best bargains in London for a quick and satisfying meal.

More of the Best of 2014 to follow!

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London Daily Photo: Train to Chingford

LDP 2014.12.15 - Train to Chingford

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5 Private Hideaways Where You Can Escape the World (OneTravel)

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Ever want to just get away from it all? Yeah, me too. As fun as a city break or a vacation at some all-inclusive resort can be, sometimes the best destinations are those private hideaways off the beaten path.

Here’s a look at five travel options – four islands and one boat – for avoiding the maddening crowd.

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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Best Coffee in London – 2014

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What a fantastic year! I’m going to wrap up 2014 with a series of “best of” posts highlighting some of my favourite sights, bites and more from the past 12 months. As with so many important endeavours, I’d like to start off with one of the most fundamental resources known to humanity: coffee!

Listed below in alphabetical order are five London establishments where I’ve had the most noteworthy cups of coffee this year.

Keep an eye out for more posts over the coming days for more best of 2014 lists. And please note, these ‘best of’ lists merely reflect how I chose to spend my time during the year and are comprised of well established and brand new venues as well as businesses that are local to me or somehow related to where work and play took me.

Best Coffee in London

Commune at GoodHood
Lower ground floor of Goodhood, 151 Curtain Road, EC2A 3QE
A partnership between Chef Brett Redman (Elliot’s Café Borough Market) and Goodhood co-founders Jo Sindle and Kyle Stewart with an aim to serve “clean, healthy and really tasty food, juice and coffee with a focus on good quality and good value” results in one of the best espressos (with beans supplied by Square Mile Coffee Roasters) you’re apt to come across in Shoreditch.

illy Caffe Regent Street
295 Regent Street, W1B 2HJ
A fan of illy coffee for quite awhile, I’m pleased to report this Regent Street cafe is as tasty as it is tastefully designed. From a no nonsense espresso to a somewhat froufrou neve fondente, you can rest assured that your coffee expectations will be met. Food’s good too (I recommend the tiramisu!).

Old Shoreditch Station

1 Kingsland Road, E2 8DA
This is my Shoreditch go-to when I’ve got time to kill or need an East End location to settle in to a stretch of out-of-office work. The music (lots of folk and hard livin’ country music) during the morning and afternoon is smartly curated and the coffee comes from Allpress Espresso Coffee Roasters. The “station” does an assortment of baked goods, beer, booze and more and there’s usually some interesting art on the walls.

Souli
17 George Street, W1U 3QL
This pretty little gourmet takeaway in Marylebone sources its coffee beans from Rome’s age old self-roasting cafe and coffee supplier, Il Caffé Sant’Eustacchio – toasty and full-on with the flavour!

Taylor Street Baristas
Locations throughout London but I’m particularly fond of the Mayfair TSB at 22 Brooks Mews, W1K 4DY.
Simply put, the Taylor Street Baristas have never let me down, and their Mayfair café is a delightful place to nestle in (if you can score a seat!). Coffees regularly featured are from Square Mile, Has Bean, James Gourmet, and Union Hand Roasted. Sandwiches, cakes, ect are a cut above typical café fare.

More in my Best of 2014 series to follow!

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London Daily Photo: Ghosts

LDP 2014.12.14 - Ghosts

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Good Stuff

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Good Stuff and lots of it! Here’s the low down on some fine things to see, sip or savour – all of which I’ve recently come across and thought were worth sharing with you. Enjoy.

Pierre Hermé Macarons & Chocolats, Monmouth Street

The Picasso of pastry, Pierre Hermé, was in London recently for a book signing at his recently launched Macarons & Chocolats shop on Monmouth (his second boutique in London, third if you count his concession at Selfridges). It’s a lovely shop filled with gorgeous and masterfully crafted bite-sized indulgences situated along what’s fast becoming a top contender for London’s yummiest street.

King’s Marzipan

Speaking of bite-sized indulgences, have you tried King’s Marzipan? If you have (and done so in the London), it must have been at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland where the Hungarian maker of these premium handmade “little tastes of heaven” has a concession. The marzipans – covered in Belgian chocolate and consisting largely of almond paste (with way less sugar than typical marzipan sold here in Britain) – come in an assortment of 30 flavours and do not contain gluten, soy, preservatives or artificial colours.

Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate

On a mission “to bring the taste of chocolate back to drinking chocolate,” Hans Sloane produces the only hot chocolate drink made from pure chocolate beads that melt perfectly in hot milk or water to create a rich chocolate drink. Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate comes in five varieties including Smooth Milk, Rich Dark, Madagascar 67%, Ecuador 70% and Natural Honey. I’m partial to the Ecuador 70%. Prices are reasonable and start at just £2 for a Christmas Bauble filled with chocolate beads.

Haggis in a Hurry

Christmas? New Years? Bah! The next most delicious date on the festive calendar is Burns Night and its haggis supper. Seriously, haggis is one of my favourite foods and when I recently came across Macsween’s Haggis in a Hurry at Waitrose (priced at £1), I bought a bunch. Basically it’s a package to two haggis ‘patties’ ideally suited for frying up for breakfast or incorporating into recipes. I’ll buy plenty more.

Tasgall 30 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky

While I’m on the subject of things deliciously Scottish, I recently got hold of – and am very much enjoying sipping my way through – a bottle of Tasgall 30 Year Old blended whisky. A blend of Speyside and Highland malt whisky with Lowlands grain whisky, it’s clean tasting with a vanilla nose and a fiery start subsiding to an especially sweet finish. Tasgall is available as part of Asda’s Extra Special range and is the first ever own-brand premium whisky. And at £60, you can get it an extra special cheap price (there’s a 25 Year for £50 available too).

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The Intellectual Junk Shop at KK Outlet

Running the gamut from the twee to the scathing, design studio Dorothy has taken up residence at the KK Outlet at Hoxton Square until 23 December. When I breezed through the opening party, I preferred the scathing such as the Causalities of War resign figurines. For quirky cards, offbeat gifts or just a provocative eye candy browse, this Christmas shop pop-up is well worth checking out.

Snoozebox

Heard of Snoozebox? It’s a new portable microhotel to be rolled out soon at major events across the UK and abroad, such as Glastonbury and the Grand Prix. I got a sneak peek when Snoozebox set up at Old Spitalfields Market to show off to press and investors a few weeks back. Impressive. Snug to be sure, but in mostly in a cosy sort of way. I found the rooms to be comfortable, quiet and attractively designed – and with fold down service and other such amenities, it’s definitely a step up from camping.

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London Daily Photo: Notting Hill Trove

LDP 2014.12.13 - Notting Hill Trove

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Cheer in Style with Your Own Limited Edition Stella Artois Christmas Chalice

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That’s right, Stella Artois has released a Limited Edition Christmas Chalice, available only while stocks last.

With its gold rim, gilded logo and Christmassy snowflake motif, the chalice would make an excellent Christmas gift for the lager lover in your life and would look lovely displayed behind or placed upon any bar at any time of the year but particularly now when the festive season is in full swing.

And at £5 per chalice (+P&P), purchasing some of this attractive glassware won’t break the bank. Most deliveries are made within five to seven working days, and there’s a Next Working Day Delivery option as well. So getting your chalice before Christmas is still very much a reality.

Here’s to enjoying a crisp (and responsible) drink in festive style in 2014 and for many years to come. Cheers!

Find out more and buy your chalice at shop.stellaartois.com.

Published in association with Stella Artois.

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Riverford at the Duke of Cambridge, Britain’s Only 100% Organic Pub

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The Duke of Cambridge – Britain’s first and only certified organic pub – has teamed up with Riverford (aka the organic veg box folks from Devon) to “champion seasonal produce” and offer Londoners an ethical and healthier option for quality pub grub. I dropped by the Duke earlier this week for a low key Monday lunch – and very much enjoyed the experience.

Roast leg of chicken with chickpea and pumpkin sauce (£12) with a side of bitter leaves (£3.50) proved a more than satisfactory lunch. A pint of (yes, organic) Kernel Imperial Brown Stout (around five quid) proved an early week treat (and a rather alcoholic one as well at just over 10% ABV). The beer really didn’t go with my choice of food all that well. I had figured as much when ordering but had wanted to sample the stout for some while and this was a good opportunity. No complaints, and I reckon that savoury chicken dish could have held its own with just about any accompanying drink. There were certainly <em>plenty</em> more craft beers on offer and the bartender was enthusiastic about sharing his recommendations.

Prices were a somewhat more dear than what some pub goers might wish to pay, but quality of ingredient and preparation was high. If you’re accustomed to shopping organic you won’t experience any shock when the bill comes. And even if you’re not used to “going green” when you go out, I think you’ll find prices comparable to those at other decent pubs in the area (and there are quite a few).

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Service was a tad sluggish but cordial and apologetic about it. There was a large Christmas party going on in the pub’s private dining room and a considerable number of tables filled for a late lunch on Monday at a pub down a residential side street in Islington. Still it was easy enough for me to rock up and snag a table and worth the modest wait for my hearty meal. I’d say reservations are the way forward if you’re planning a visit though – especially for a weekend lunch.

I liked the look and feel of the Duke. Rustic interior with stripped wood furnishings and décor helped remove me from the London hustle for a spell and seemed a suitable scene for the sustainably sourced fare. Worth a visit!

The Duke of Cambridge is located at 30 St Peter’s Street, N1 8JT. Find out more at dukeorganic.co.uk and riverford.co.uk.

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Win a 600g 50 Flavour Christmas Gift Box from Jelly Belly

Win a 600g 50 Flavour Christmas Gift Box from Jelly Belly

COMPETITION IS NOW OVER AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN CONTACTED. THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING TIKICHRIS. PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR LOTS MORE FUN AND FREEBIES TO COME!

Love Jelly Belly gourmet jelly beans? They make a great gift for Christmas! Here’s your chance to win a 600g 50 Flavour Jelly Belly Gift Box featuring a special Christmas Design sleeve that’s a UK web exclusive!

Yep, this Jelly Belly gift box with the stylishly festive packaging is a perfect prezzie and an ideal treat for sharing with family and friends. This big box of everybody’s favourite gelatine free/dairy free/fat free/certified OU Kosher/vegetarian jelly beans comes with a flavour map inside highlighting each of the 50 flavours, with each flavour presented in its own individual compartment.

To be in with a chance to win a 600g 50 Flavour Jelly Belly Gift Box 50 flavour 600g gift box featuring a UK web exclusive Christmas Design sleeve valued at more than £22 simply tweet the following:

RT to win a #50Flavour #Christmas gift box from @JellyBellyUK, compliments of @tikichris. Enjoy! http://bit.ly/1wmeZUQ

Good luck. Please take a moment to read the terms and conditions before tweeting!

T&C

I’ll pick one winner at random on Thursday December 18 at 11.30am BST. The winner will receive one 50 Flavour Jelly Belly Gift Box valued at £22.98. To be eligible to win, you need to have an address in the UK.

Find out more about Jelly Belly Candy Company at jellybelly-uk.com.

COMPETITION IS NOW OVER AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN CONTACTED. THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING TIKICHRIS. PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR LOTS MORE FUN AND FREEBIES TO COME!

Check out more tikichris competitions.

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London Daily Photo: R Garcia & Sons

LDP 2014.12.12 - R Garcia & Sons

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Go Greek Naturally and Independently at Isle of Olive, Broadway Market

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Isle of Olive is a lovely little shop just off Broadway Market. Specialising in sourcing natural products from independent producers in Greece, its shelves represent a smartly curated selection of the best in Greek food, drink, health and beauty.

I visited Isle of Olive for the first time recently to attend a low key evening of olive oil tasting. I really enjoyed the event. I learned a thing or two about olive oil and feel I have the tools to make better-informed purchases now. The tasting ended with a chance to feast on a spread of homemade canapés (loved the “fava” with capers!) served alongside some (yes actually rather nice) Greek wine.

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Beyond my ‘olive juice’ education and the snacking, I was really impressed with the shop and all the goodies on offer (at what I thought were reasonable prices too): lots of olive oil (obviously) and honeys, and herbs and herbal teas and mastica and sweets and … well, loads of ace products. If Isle’s incredibly welcoming owners Greg Vaitsas and Paulina Filippou continue to offer such happenings to the public, foodies in search Mediterranean fellowship and zest would be wise to attend. And even if Greg and Paulina don’t, food lovers of all sorts would do well to shop there. I certainly intend to spend a little time and money there next time I’ve passing through the area. They do breakfast, lunch and coffee too – three of my favourite things!

Isle of Olive is located just off Broadway Market and near the Regent’s Canal at 6c Ada Street, E8 4QU. Find out more at isleofolive.co.uk.

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London Daily Photo: Exhibition Road

LDP 2014.12.11 - Exhibition Road

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Sunday Night Jazz at Beagle, E2

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Much lauded Beagle restaurant and bar in the railway arches next to Hoxton Station has launched a December series of intimate jazz sessions featuring musicians from The Thames Delta who have played with such notables as Amy Winehouse, Sam Smith and Kelis. I had the pleasure of attending the premiere show this past Sunday. For a chilled out (and not so pricey) Sunday evening of live music and quality drink, keep Beagle in mind.

It’s a shame the kitchen is closed on Sunday evenings. However, if you ask nicely you might manage a makeshift sarnie or similar to be slid your way. I had a much appreciated, fairly big, and super tasty chicken sandwich during my visit. Anyway, the music and the cocktails are certainly enough of a draw. I loved the cocktails placed under my chin – particularly Beagle’s Sazerac (rye, sugar anise, lemon), which at an especially jazzy Sunday night price of £5 proved a commendably affordable chance to stretch out the weekend and stave away Monday morning just a little longer.

As for the music, The Thames Delta quartet swung in a melodious jaunt between melancholy and exuberance as only a New Orleans style brass band could elicit. It was fun music performed in a relaxed atmosphere (with superb support from an efficient bar and wait staff). Next go rounds are this Sunday the 14th and then on the 21st. Go! And hope that the venue will carry on with these sessions in 2015.

Beagle is located at 397-400 Geffrye Street, E2 8HZ. Find out more at beaglelondon.co.uk.

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London Daily Photo: Fulham Road

LDP 2014.12.10 - Fulham Road

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Spending Too Much on London Public Transport? Save with CommuterClub!

Spending Too Much on London Public Transport? Save with CommuterClub!

More than two million Londoners pay too much for their commutes. Sure, annual travelcards might offer descent discounts, yet they can cost thousands of pounds upfront, and are thus still beyond the reach of many people. But check it out! I’ve discovered an affordable way to tap into annual travelcard savings with minimal commitment and minus the pain of paying for it all at once. Keep reading to find out about the substantial savings offered by CommuterClub and the special discount promo code exclusively available to my readers.

Basically, CommuterClub offers the savings of having an annual travelcard and the flexibility of monthly plus you can cancel you can cancel anytime with no penalty or notice. All you have to do is send your Oystercard back.

Here’s how it works:

CommuterClub buys your yearly travel card and you pay them back on a monthly basis over eleven months, while saving the cost of a whole month of travel versus buying monthly travelcards.

If you commute between zones 1-4, you stand to save more than £200 with CommuterClub. And if you commute between more zones than that, the savings are even greater. And that’s before taking into account TfL’s random fare hikes!

Beyond the savings, going with CommuterClub gets you access to great benefits like its Gold Card which saves you a third of the price of off-peak travel in London and the southeast for you and up to three friends as well as twofer deals on a range of activities across London and more.

Follow this link to join CommuterClub and be sure to type in promo code TIKICHR for an extra £10 off your first month!

Essentially signing up with CommuterClub is a smart way to make the most of London travel. But don’t just take my word for it! The Financial Times, Time Out and The Evening Standard and more popular publications and sites recently have sung CommuterClub praises.

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE: Zone 1-4 Annual (amount borrowed): £1800. Interest: £101 Total payable: £1901. 11 payments over 10 months: £173. Representative 14.1% APR. Interest rate: 5.6% pa (fixed)

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London Daily Photo: Surrey Street

LDP 2014.12.09 - Surrey Street

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