Did Madrid: Too Hot? Not!

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So, Kemey and I ‘did’ Madrid in mid August. And in our rev up for the trip we got a lot of “it’ll be too hot!” and “nobody’ll be there!” Was it hot? Oh sure, but it was a dry heat. And the nights (when this vibrant city really comes to life) were absolutely lovely. Obviously, I wouldn’t have wanted to be digging ditches in the noonday sun, but sightseeing, bar hopping, shuffling through museums … all that stuff … these were all wonderful. The flamenco got a bit sweaty to be honest – but it was a good sweat. As for all the Madrileños leaving town, it didn’t seem like that to us. We were in town for the Fiestas de la Paloma (part of Kemey’s planning – I can take no credit). As one of Europe’s biggest street parties, lots of people reckon it’s the most important festival in Madrid, if not the whole of Spain. We had a blast wriggling our wee hours way through the neighbourhood of La Latin – nexus of the celebrations – and being part of the festivities.

I thought it was important to address the ‘visiting cities in august’ issue with respect to our recent experience in Madrid. I’ve certainly found myself in the past arriving in summer dead zones where everything but tourist attractions were closed as well as the converse of being somewhere at the height of a season to realise everybody else in the world had the same bright idea of going there and jamming up an otherwise chilled out place to create a less than ideal destination whatever one’s pursuits. But the Madrid we visited a few week’s back was as awesome as we had hoped it would be.

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Maybe this was because of the Paloma festival? Maybe so many locals have been feeling the effects of economic doom and gloom that they had a staycation this year? Maybe Madrid’s such a big and happening city that an out of towner simply wouldn’t notice any difference? Maybe lots of visitors for abroad filled whatever void might have been left by a locals’ exodus to the beach? I don’t know. I had only been to Madrid once before, about a decade ago around Christmastime. During this last trip, the city seemed much more alive than my first time, but not necessarily overrun by too many tourists or anything like that.

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The mood at The Roof at the Hotel ME Madrid was one of pleasure as usual in any case. Kemey claimed to have had her best meal of the year there. And I must confess I adored every last bite of my over the top Kobe beef and foie gras hamburger! Just as over the top was the view from The Roof with pretty Plaza de Santa Ana just below and the vast spread of Madrid spanning outward from this popular little square.

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Anyway, while I’m fessing up to the weekend’s indulgences …

More amazing activities on our own admittedly touristic trail of this scenic city included mandatory stops at the Prado (I couldnt’ get enough of this museum’s amazing collection) and the Reina Sofia Museum, if only for the chance to see Picasso’s stirring Guernica up close for ourselves. Our afternoon zoom through town with Madrid Segway was an embarrassingly good time. I had no idea how much ridiculous fun riding a Segway could be.

One indulgence to brag about was our fabulous hotel. We could not have been more pleased with the comfort, service, and location of five star Hotel Hospes Madrid. I’d love to stay there again and have no qualms recommending it to anybody looking for a quality place to stay.

One more post in my my Did Madrid miniseries to follow soon!

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London Daily Photo: BADC

LDP 2014.09.11 - BADC

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Did Madrid: Lunch at Botin, the Oldest Restaurant in the World

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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 semblence 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.

Spending our morning dancing flamenco, Kemey and I had worked up a most appreciative appetite for the hardy and historic lunch that followed. Like our flamenco class, our time at Botin had been arranged through Insider’s Madrid, which offers an exclusive Botin Experience: a “a guided tour of the restaurant, its history, its art and its anecdotes” along with a “Classics of Botin” menu and a few extra treats as well.

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To be sure I went with the suckling pig as my main course. It was gorgeous … as was everything else (Manchego, croquetas, roasted peppers with cod, scrambled eggs with morcilla blood sausage and potato, etc) that I ate. Pescatarian Kemey went with a vegetarian assortment of dishes with roasted hake as her main. She love it. The Rioja flowed, a yummy range of desserts and coffee followed. Service was old school and prompt. The setting was ancient but far from decrepit.

As filled with selfie taking tourists as it was (Chinese, Japanese, French, American and Canadian during our lunch) Botin somehow retained an authentic air. I supporse nearly 300 years ago when Botin began, the scene there would have been just as ‘out-of-towner’ as it is today. Probably even more so considering that going out to eat is a relatively modern luxury.

Through Insider’s Madrid, we secured a reservation at the “Hemingway table” where the great author himself preferred to sit when he dined here. The table is upstairs and round the corner from the dining room’s main entrance. A reporter at the time covering the Civi War, Hemingway liked to sit with his back to the wall.

More posts in my Did Madrid miniseries to follow soon!

Botin is located at Calle Cuchilleros, 17, 28005. Find out more at botin.es/?q=en.


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London Daily Photo: Upside Down Under

LDP 2014.09.10 - Upside Down Under

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Did Madrid: Flamenco Soul

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Our visit to Madrid was for sure a foodie escapade. But there’s much more to Madrid than tapas bars (and that’s a lot for a gourmand like me to get my head around). Without doubt the most memorable experience Kemey and I shared during our weekend away was our own private flamenco lesson. Olé? Oh yeah!

Our Friday morning Flamenco session was booked through personal guide service, Insider’s Madrid. We could not have been more pleased with the class. Our instructor, Alicia Laborda Buhigas, was a kind and patient teacher … and an absolutely phenomenal dancer. Wow! It was a treat alone just to see her in dramatic, poised action! Helped fellow dancer Anna Krust (assisting with rhythm and taking our photos) and guitarist Sergio Muñoz, Alicia encouraged us to show her our “flamenco soul” while imparting her dance wisdom to us.

The hour long private session was held in a small studio at Amor de Dios, a highly regarded school for flamenco and danza española. Indeed, the more I’ve learned about Amor de Dios since making our booking the more I’ve come to realise that this “espacio emblemático” is the place in all of Spain to study flamenco. Just being there was something of a thrill – and it’s not like I’m any sort of dance aficionado or anything.

Approaching the school (situated atop the bustling and homey Mercado de Anton Martin), we couldn’t just hear but actually felt the thunderous and rhythmic clap of the studious stomping above; it was as if an elevated train was passing overhead, rattling in synch with all the goings on throughout the city. Before heading off, we got to poke our heads in one of the school’s larger studios for a quick peek at a class. What a sight … and such a glorious racket! I loved it – especially spying a glimpse of the intense concentration in all the couple of dozen or so dancers’ faces.

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The class was a hoot – and super fun way to experience the allure of Spanish culture. The steps we learned were pretty basic, which was perfectly appropriate for me and my two left feet (Kemey enjoyed it immensely as well and reckoned it was ideal for us as a couple). However, I got the impression that Alicia could have more than kept up with the best of dancers and would make a fabulous mentor for any bailaor or bailaora, whatever the level (or lack) of expertise.

We certainly worked up a hearty appetite during the class – and just in time for lunch too which turned out to be a feast of excellent and rather historic significance … but more on that tomorrow.

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Later that weekend, Kemey and I caught an early evening dinner show at Las Carboneras Flamenco Tablao (arranged through Insider’s Madrid as well). Dinner was, honestly, a bit on the meh side but nothing to be put off by. For what it’s worth, the sangria quenched and the service was lovely. Besides, the only real reason to go was the extraordinary live music and dancing – all well worth the time and money! From what I can gather, you can really go astray with a lot of the flamenco shows in Madrid, but Las Carboneras is among the best and most authentic. As I’ve alluded, I’m hardly any sort of authority on dance, but my spirit was roused by the performances. Kemey and I both left beaming and impressed and gleefully charged up for night out on the town.

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For details about Insider’s Madrid go to insidersmadrid.com.

More posts in my Did Madrid miniseries to follow soon!

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7 Sensational Wine Bars in London (OneTravel)

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Want to be the toast of the town during your next visit to London?

Keep this septet of wine bars in mind! Cheers.

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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Did Madrid: Top Tapas Tour

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Hitting the ground eating, the first ‘big thing’ Kemey and I did during our Madrileño weekend was join up with Madrid Food Tour’s Tapas, Taverns, and History Evening Walking and Tapas Tour. Quite a mouthful? Indeed! But not just in name given all the excellent food and drink we had during this evening saunter through the foodie heart of Madrid.

With the tour, we hit five of Madrid’s most historic tapas bar. I am so very tempted to divulge our itinerary and wax poetical about each of these marvellously evocative and cosy nooks. However, that might spoil the fun.

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Discovering each bar ‘for ourselves’ as the night unfolded made the night such a delight. The vermouth on tap, the homemade meatballs, some of the best blue cheese I’ve ever come across, the Hemingway trivia … we gobbled, guzzled, slurped and soaked up so much amazing atmosphere during this hop! I believe we ate and drank a little more wisely than we would have if we’d just rocked up to any of these places on our own (even if we had done loads of research beforehand). More so (and I kinda hate to admit this but), I reckon at least one of the bars (which I absolutely loved) simply would have been off our radar all together had we not been part of this tour.

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Our guide, Luke Darracott, was clued in and passionate about Madrid – and as affable and quick thinking as we could have hoped for, doing a great job accommodating the interests of his small group (just six of us in total, all nice folks too). The tour provided a fun opportunity to get a feel for the city on a limited schedule, cop a slight buzz, and – most importantly – eat some excellent tapas!

Visit Madrid Food Tour online at madridfoodtour.com.

More posts in my Did Madrid miniseries to follow soon!

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London Daily Photo: Ladbroke Grove

LDP 2014.09.09 - Ladbroke Grove

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Did Madrid

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Kemey and I are both enthusiastic fans of Spain. It’s very much one of our preferred destinations for holidays and city breaks and is a country we both know fairly well. However, Kemey had never been to (but always very much had wanted to visit) its dynamic and dignified capital. So back last month, to celebrate her birthday, we headed to Madrid for a long weekend of food, fun and flamenco. Like me, after my initiation to the charms of this magic place some years ago, Kemey was wowed. To be sure, our magnificently Madrileño weekend won’t be our last!

Over the next few days, I’m going to blog all about the fine time Kemey and I had in Madrid. But before I get started with any rapturous rave about what makes this city tick with such potent and beguiling style, I reckon I should lay down a few basics for ya and send out a few gracias too.

British Airways

We’d booked this trip (flight and hotel) at the beginning of 2014 via British Airways’ annual January sale (the flights were actually with Iberia). Considering the quality and location of our hotel (the fabulous five star Hotel Hospes Madrid near Retiro Metro station), the booking was exceptionally good value and well worth the wait! Come 2015, I’ll certainly be keen to look into what’s on offer for more savings.

Driven A to B

Getting from our east London flat to T5 at Heathrow, we took new point-to-point corporate car service, Driven A to B. Car was plush, driver was friendly and the ride was smooth. We took ‘em on our way back home after our return flight too. Driven A to B provides a cost effective, point to point car service on a pre-booked and ad hoc basis. Drivers are PCO licensed, fully referenced, CRB checked and smartly presented in shirt and tie. Vehicles in fleet include Mercedes E class, BMW five series, Audi A6, the Passat and the Ford Galaxy. The vehicles are never older than three years and are tracked 24/7. I’m more than happy to recommend the service.

From the airport in Madrid, hopping on the Metro into town was a breeze (fairly quick and very affordable too). On our way back though, we took the Exprés Aeropuerto coach from Plaza de Cibeles as it was super close to our hotel and only about €5 per person (it was Sunday too with virtually no traffic on the highway).

Insider’s Madrid

So much of the fun we had in Madrid came compliments of Insider’s Madrid and the amazing access granted by tapping into its expert knowledge base. Founder Joanna Wivell and her small team of Madrileños “who share a passion for the real Spain” helped make our weekend a foot stompin’ blast that was filled with happy memories. More on Insider’s Madrid to come …

Madrid Food Tour

Our time touring the city’s best tapas bars with Madrid Food Tour proved an especially delicious way to grab a more than generous bite and quench our thirst in this most savoury of cities. More about Madrid Food Tour to come …

Madridcard

For instant access to loads of attractions coupled with more than decent discounts, roaming around town with a Madridcard in each of our back pockets turned out to be a super smart and money saving move. The “essential sightseeing pass for visitors to Madrid,” the card includes entry to more than 50 museums (with priority admission in many of them) and amazing discounts in shops and restaurants.

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Muchos gracias to Sarah Canet and Naiara Garro for their excellent recommendations and to the folks behind the incredibly insightful resources of spain.info and esmadrid.com.

More posts in my Did Madrid miniseries to follow soon!

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London Daily Photo: Kensington Church Street

LDP 2014.09.08 - Kensington Church Street

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Miss Behave’s Gameshow at London Wonderground

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Miss Behave and her glamourous assistant Harriet (aka a rather thickly bearded Harry Clayton-Wright) wedge a full-on and eclectic variety show into a wacky gameshow demanding out of (and sometimes even on top of) your seats audience participation. It’s at once arbitrary, absurd, inane, and asinine … not to mention astoundingly fun! Ya got two more opportunities to catch Miss Behave at the London Wonderground. If you’re keen for camped up and mildly dirty entertainment, you’d be wise to book your tickets now.

I had a blast at last night’s show. I laughed a lot. I screamed at the top of my lungs a few times (and was encourage to do so). I (along with everyone else) threw things at random strangers. And I got a huge kick out of Miss Behave and Harriet’s antics as well as the ace performances by cabaret acts Earl Okin, Matt Hennem, Kalki the Hula Girl (wow!), and Paul Morocco. The gameshow schtick brought out an especially cheekily competitive side to just about everybody (several hundred people?) in attendance, but in the end it was made clear that everyone there was a winner for being part of such a raucous good time.

The next (and final) two performances of Miss Behave’s Gameshow are Saturdays the 13th and 20th at 9.30pm.

London Wonderground is part of the Southbank Centre site in London, SE1 8XX. The venue entrance is situated on the Thames Walk, just next to Hungerford Bridge and directly below one of the two pedestrian bridges from Embankment. Please note that you cannot access the venue from Belvedere Road.

Find out more at londonwonderground.co.uk and stillmisbehaving.com.


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Far North Foodie Adventure in the Faroe Islands (Great British Chefs)

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Chris takes us on a journey through the very scenic and serene Faroe Islands, a tiny island nation that’s also one of most fascinating places for food he has been to!

I’ve never been anywhere quite like the scenic and serene Faroe Islands. Getting a tasted for this most distinctive destination during an early August visit, I can say this tiny island nation was one of most fascinating places for food I’ve even been to as well. Not entirely sure where I’m talking about? Don’t worry. You’re certainly not alone. When telling people that I was heading to the Faroes, something along the lines of “Now where’s that again?” proved to be a typical response.

Read my complete post at Great British Chefs.

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London Daily Photo: Lea River Boys

LDP 2014.09.07 - Lea River Boys

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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.

Pilsner Urquell Tankovna at Draft House

Draft House’s Seething Lane location has started serving Pilsner Urquell delivered fresh and unpasteurised direct from the Czech Republic from its own Czech made copper tanks. Aaaaah!

Curry Dave

Ocado recently started listed the Curry Dave range of Indian flatbread pizzas. Essentially naan with some spicy stuff on top, flavours include chicken korma, chicken tikka masala, chicken madras, and a vegetarian sweet potato with spinach. Dave himself came down from his base in Glasgow earlier this week for a UK launch party here in London. I was there and very much enjoyed sampling his range of currizzas. I liked the price too, which (at the moment anyway) is one pizza for £3 or two for a fiver.

Pulled Chicken at KFC

The last time I was asked to eat an “ultimate burger” I was on a boat sailing round the Faroe Islands. For a much different – and considerably more accessible – experience, KFC (UK) has this week launched its own Ultimate Burger as part of its new slow cooked Pulled Chicken range, “the biggest overhaul to its menu yet” since opening in the UK a half century ago. The burger features “two mini chicken fillets, layered with cheese, southern style coleslaw, slow cooked Pulled Chicken and Apollo lettuce, inside a sweet brioche bun.” I gave it a try at the outlet on Whitechapel Road a couple of days ago. Was it tasty? Yeah, but I reckon any future visits to an outlet of this chicken frying mega chain would see me sticking with an order of the Colonel’s Original Recipe. And as said in my KFC Me miniseries back in May, your local KFC probably shouldn’t be seen as ‘anything other than a place to have an occasional treat.’ Other items in the Pulled Chicken range include a Pulled Chicken Twister and The ‘Lil Wrap.

Billie’s Cafe

Last weekend Kemey and I were in Brighton for a wedding. Before heading back to London, we stopped at Billie’s Cafe for what turned out to be an awesome breakfast. Billie’s Famous Farmhouse Hash (£8.10) was a mighty mound of “sausage, bacon, baked beans and mushrooms pan-fried in butter with homemade hash browns and topped with a fried egg and grilled cheese” which tasted great and kept me going until well into the evening. I substituted the beans for bits of black pudding – an excellent idea if I do say so myself. Kemey was equally satisfied with the All Day Jumbo Vegetarian Breakfast ($7.25). The setting at this three decades old “neighbourhood institution” was quaint and homey; service was too.

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London Daily Photo: Our Bus!

LDP 2014.09.06 - Our Bus!

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Toro Gordo: Stylish Tapas for Hammersmith

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Open now for a little over two months, Spanish bar and restaurant Toro Gordo brings piquant panache to West London. I had a fantastic time tasting my way through its menu of contemporary and stylishly presented tapas and reckon if you’re in the area you could do a lot worse. Indeed, for drinky drinks and scrumptious nibbles with a convivial vibe that’s just a short stroll away from Hammersmith Tube (not to mention Ravenscourt Park) you’d be hard pressed to find a better venue. No bull!

Dishes I especially loved included the croquettes (which were made with prawn and spinach on the day I visited) and the Pulp al Toro (sliced octopus on a bed of house guacamole, £7.5). Signature dish Tataki de Atun (marinated tuna served with tobiko roe, wasabi mayonnaise and sprouts, £8) was a treat as well while the nicely priced house tortilla (£3.50) could have been proudly served by any ama de casa.

The cocktail menu intrigued (and is supposedly a real draw), but I kept with wine during my visit. Two Spanish reds – Venta Morales (£6 by the glass, £20 for a bottle) and Tarima Monastrell (£6.50 by the glass, £22.50 for a bottle) – were punchy and pleasant.

Service was delightful and expeditious. I liked the ‘beach shack industrial chic’ (my own words there) look of the place.

Toro Gordo is located at 121 King Street, W6 9JG. Find out more at torogordo.co.uk.


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Win a Month’s Worth of Vouchers from Innocent Drinks

Win a Month's Worth of Yum from Innocent Drinks

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!

Yep, you read the title right. I’ve teamed up with everybody’s favourite juice and smoothie maker to offer one lucky reader a chance to enjoy a month’s worth of vouchers redeemable for Innocent Drink products. Imagine a month’s worth of smoothies, juices, fruit tubes, veg pots and newly launched noodle pots – all for free! Yummmmmmmy.

Such a prize would present a fabulous opportunity to give Innocent’s new noodle pots a try! Available in four delicious and healthy recipes, the pots are inspired by Asian street food. There’s Vietnamese curry, Malaysian rendang, Japanese udon, and Thai tom yum – with each awesome pot coming in at under 300 calories!

To be in with a chance to win a month’s worth of vouchers redeemable for Innocent products, simply tweet the following:

RT to win a month’s worth of juice and more from Innocent Drinks, compliments of @tikichris: http://bit.ly/1u5WdAw #InnocentMonth

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

T&C

I’ll pick one winner at random on Tuesday 30 September at 11.30am BST. The winner will receive 24 vouchers redeemable for any products made by Innocent Drinks. To be eligible to win, you need to have an address in the UK.

Find out more about Innocent Drinks at innocentdrinks.co.uk.

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: £5.50

LDP 2014.09.05 - £5.50

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The Bonneville: Fantastic French Dining in Clapton, E5

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So nice I’m going twice! A recent visit to Clapton’s newly opened French eatery, The Bonneville, resulted in such a lovely experience for Kemey and me that we’re heading back ASAP for a repeat – this time with another couple in tow to whom we’ve raved about the place.

The Bonneville is just a short stroll from my flat (but I reckon I’d hanker for the place even if it was farther afield). My ice cold and non-pineapple-ized or otherwise unjustly augmented Mai Tai was expertly mixed and packed a wallop as an aperitif. And the food was an absolute treat!

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Boudin noir with grilled chicory and radicchio (£6) was a flavoursome and substantial starter while fennel gratin with walnut and pickled tomato salad (£11) satisfied big time as my plat principal. Kemey’s extra chunky bouillabaisse (£14) of sea bream, sea bass, mussels and clams pleased as well (and had me stealing more than a few cheeky bites). An ample side of superbly cooked frites (£3.50) subdued any potential greedy longings for more to nibble.

For afters, an all French cheese plate (£7.50) did it for me to such a degree I recommend popping round if only for it while a glass of wine (from an especially smart wine list I might add), while a mega melty moelleux au chocolat with milk ice cream and cherries (£7) was as decadently oozy as Kemey had hoped.

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All this yum amid a backdrop of distressed walls, a massive installed skylight, the odd pieces of taxidermy here and there (a rhino’s head?) added up to a mega win of a way to sip and sup.

Oh yeah, when you go be sure take a toilet break for a creepy if in a somewhat kitsch – dry ice and freaky audio – and rather gratuitous sort of way. There’s a whole other world to explore when heading down the stairs to the loos.

Gratuitous design shenanigans aside, I found The Bonneville to be a little more grownup and down to earth than some of the other eateries and watering holes to have sprung recently round this neck to fastly gentrifying woods. Hackney folk: do yourselves a favour and spend your time and money here. Everybody else: if you’re wondering why there’s so much racket at the moment about Clapton being such a snazzy part of town, here’s a good place to start understanding. See you there?

The Bonneville is located at 43 Lower Clapton Road, E5 0NS. Find out more at thebonneville.co.uk.


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London Daily Photo: Somewhere Else

LDP 2014.09.04 - Somewhere Else

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2014 Folkestone Triennial: A Gold Rush of Great Art by the Sea

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The 2014 Folkestone Triennial is on for a third edition, this year with a “Lookout” theme to its many ambitious arts set within the quaint town and on its scenic stretch of coastline along the English Channel. I thoroughly enjoyed my artsy meander round Folkestone and reckon it offers an ideal day out for Londoners (or anybody) seeking a day out with intriguing sights and a fresh sea breeze.

Artists participating in the 2014 Triennial include art world darlings Yoko Ono, Andy Goldsworthy and Pablo Bronstein as well as Jyll Bradley, Strange Cargo, Diane Dever and Jonathan Wright, Tim Etchells, Ian Hamilton Finlay, John Harle and Tom Pickard, Emma Hart; Alex Hartley, Will Kwan, Gabriel Lester, Amina Menia, muf Architecture/Art, Marjetica Potrč and Ooze Architects, rootoftwo, Sarah Staton, and Something & Son.

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I loved Ono’s simple and straightforward Earth Peace works (there are five throughout town – you can’t miss her billboard just outside Folkestone Central station).

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I also got a real kick out of rooftotwo’s Whithervanes: a Neurotic Early Worrying System, five headless chicken sculptures which “track the orchestration of fear in real time by monitoring internet newsfeeds for alarmist keywords” and “revolving away from the geographic origin of each story.”

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Jyll Bradley’s Green/Light (for M.R.) – a “reflection on energy as light and as green memories” installed in a disused gasworks site was a delight to encounter walking through town.

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Just down the street from Bradley’s Green/Light, Marjetica Potrc and Ooze’s The Wind Lift was as uplifting in spirit as it was in practice. The 25m high passenger lift powered entirely by a wind turbine set alongside the city’s spectacular Victorian era viaduct (the biggest brick viaduct in the world) provided a fun and novel way to contemplate renewable energy sources while taking in some marvelous views.

Of course, if you’ve heard anything about the Triennials, odds are it was probably some of the hubbub about the Folkestone gold. Indeed, the big draw for locals and the media alike since the opening of the triennial last Thursday has been Folkestone Digs. Commissioned by art producers Situations, Berlin-based artist Michael Sailstorfer secretly buried £10,000 worth of gold bouillon as 30 individual pieces across a popular beach near the Folkestone city centre. I was there soon after the artist’s stunt was announced. It was fun to see so many people – and such a variety of them too – all digging away at the beach in hopes of striking it (at least moderately) rich.

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As far as I can tell from a quick scroll of the #folkestonegold feed on Twitter as well as this BBC article, some – but only a tiny amount – of Sailstorfer’s gold has been found thusfar. So, as if you needed more reason than an opportunity to see great art in a lovely setting there’s still some glimmering incentive for you to get down to Folkestone.

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Folkestone is located about 70 miles from Central London on the southeastern coast of Kent. High speed trains run regularly to/from London St Pancras International with a journey time that’s just under an hour. Triennial activities run until the 2nd of November. Whenever you go – even outside the dates of the Triennial – is a good time to view great art with the free permanent public art collection, the Folkestone Artworks, featuring 16 “outstanding works originally commissioned by the Creative Foundation for the Folkestone Triennial that are now on permanent display in easily accessible public spaces around the town. Folkestone Artworks includes pieces by Tracey Emin, Richard Wilson and Cornelia Parker.

Find out more about the Folkestone Triennial visit folkestonetriennial.org.uk. For information about Folkestone Artworks go to folkestoneartworks.org.uk.


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London Daily Photo: Got a Secret?

LDP 2014.09.03 - Got a Secret

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4 Tips for Less Turbulence at the Airport (OneTravel)

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Check in online, weigh your bags at home, etc … we all know all those “savvy tips” to save you time, money and hassle at the airport.

Here are four more from my own experiences to add to your carry-on items. Bon Voyage!

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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London Daily Photo: Marshes

LDP 2014.09.02 - Mashes

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Leicester Square Box Office: Your First Stop for the Best of London Theatre and More

LSBO

For more than 20 years, Leicester Square Box Office has been offering tickets to the public for a variety of West End productions at half price, discount and full price to ensure customers find the tickets they’re after.

From larger-than-life musical shows like War Horse and The Book of Mormon to smaller more intimate plays such as Alfred Hitchcock’s acclaimed and long running The 39 Steps, LSBO is a smart first stop to consider the next time you’re hoping to book tickets for just about any musical, comedy, or play hitting London. LSBO has deals for attractions, theatre and meal combos, group bookings, and hotels too. Whether you’re keen to see something in particular or just looking for a great night out that’s a bargain, keep LSBO in mind!

Look for Leicester Square Box Office on Cranbourne Street just off Leicester Square (or their kiosk at Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherd’s Bush) or check ‘em out online at lsbo.co.uk.


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Published in association with LSBO.

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Brasserie Chavot: Epic Flavour and Subtle Finesse in Mayfair

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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 recent opportunity to taste my way through much of the menu at Brasserie Chavot proved a veritable feast of epic flavour and subtle finesse.

Were those the tastiest and tenderest lamb cutlets I’ve ever had? Maybe! They were certainly the yummiest I’ve had in recent memory (not to mention the most tender) and reason enough for me to crave any chance to return to Brasserie. I could pretty much rave to the same degree about the peas and octopus salad, the soft shell crab, the cassoulet (that gorgeous pork and duck cassoulet!) … all that I had the pleasure to taste actually, as each dish wowed my eager palate, insisting I have at least one more bite.

Two star Michelin chef Eric Chavot has designed the menu to please with gourmand aplomb for his Mayfair brasserie. But there’s plenty of subtle charm involved as well, and a hearty appetite here is to be rewarded with finely prepared dishes suitable for the most finicky of gourmet tastes. To be embarrassingly honest, I’m not quite certain what it was about Eric’s cooking that elevated his food to such a level of haute delectability, but whatever it was it resulted in one of the best meals I’ve had this year. Everything had a detectable but not quite discernible something about it to make just a tad bit more moreish than expected. To be sure, I’m keen to get to the bottom of what this man is doing right!

Of course, Eric and his kitchen can’t take all the credit for the wonderful experience I had. Head sommelier, Andreas Rosendal worked Chavot’s menu like a breeze incorporating a fantastic list of wines to accompany each item. I especially loved kicking the tasting off with a 2012 ”Mica” vinho verde from Quinta Da Palmirinha – and reckoned Andreas’ decision to commence on a perk and Portuguese note was a confident assertion.

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Then again, maybe it was the space? The upscale brasserie setting with its tiled mosaic floors, chandeliers, and plush seating more removed from the street than typical for a lot of Central London eateries, was the sort of place to linger as long as possible with more ‘grounded’ elements like the colourful and haphazardly arranged (as in actually used) shelf of cookbooks in plain sight ‘kept it real’ and suggested however fancy the restaurant was the focus was squarely on presenting amazing food.

On a down note (which I hate to bring it up but it would be a disingenuous oversight if I didn’t), service was at times a teensy bit wonkier than I would have expected at such a lovely venue - uncertainty over when/who to serve what/where … stuff like that. This was unfortunate as virtually everything else about my experience was utterly splendid. I assume it was an anomaly. By no means would it prevent me from returning to the brasserie, and I sincerely hope it doesn’t distract you from taking my recommendation to enjoy what I found to be one of the best bets for a fantastic meal in London.

Brasserie Chavot is located right next to The Westbury Hotel (indeed you can access the hotel and its Polo Bar from the restaurant) at 41 Conduit Street, W1S 2YF. Find out more at brasseriechavot.com.


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London Daily Photo: Walthamstow Woodford/Hackney & City

LDP 2014.09.01 - Walthamstow Woodford Hackney & City

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Nachos of the Month: Manchego with Anchovies, Almonds, and Olives

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Nachos! They’re an easy assemblage and an awesome snack. I’ve teamed up with tortillas with spirit brand Manomasa to create some recipes to help you best enjoy your next crunch time. Here’s my latest creation: tortilla chips with Manchego, anchovies, almonds, and olives.

TORTILLA CHIPS WITH MANCHEGO, ANCHOVIES, ALMONDS, AND OLIVES Yum

Ingredients (served as a canapé, there should be enough for 6-8 people)

  • 100g of thinly sliced Manchego;
  • 4-6 finely chopped anchovy fillets (that have been tinned in olive oil);
  • 50g flaked almonds;
  • 15-20 pitted and chopped green olives;
  • About half a bag of Manomasa Manchego & Green Olive tortilla chips.

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 150ºC;
  • Place your chips in a baking tray;
  • Add a thin strip of Manchego to each chip;
  • Put the tray in the oven and cook until the cheese starts to melt;
  • These chips can burn easily; so pay attention and reduce or turn off the heat once the cheese has melted;
  • While the tray is in the oven, thoroughly mix the anchovies, almonds, and olives in a bowl;
  • Remove the chips and dab a small spoonful of the mix across the top of each chip;

Serve

These treats are great whether eaten when hot and melty straight from the oven or served cool. They’re a perfect accompaniment to an aperitifs such as a dry sherry or Martini and work really well as a crunchy side item paired with a green salad.

Tortillas with Spirit

Manomasa was born on the back streets of Mexico and pays tribute to the original tortilla chip – the totopo - whilst branching out into new tastes, sensations and textures inspired by the diversity and creativity of street food culture. Each variety of Manomasa tortillas has a distinctive shape, allowing you to snack, scoop or dip with them. Along with a variety of exciting textures (owing to the super-seeds used, such as sunflower, linseed and caraway for extra depth and bite), delicious flavour combinations have been used, leaving you with a unique snacking experience. Find out more at manomasa.co.uk.

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London Daily Photo: At the Bend

LDP 2014.08.31 - At the Bend

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Want to Win Free Tickets to the Invictus Games? Get #Ready!

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

This month for the first time, more than 400 servicemen and women – both serving and veteran – from 14 nations will meet at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the inaugural Invictus Games. The spotlight will be on them to champion their indefatigable drive to overcome, along with their tenacious attitude to achieve post-injury.

The brainchild of Prince Harry, the Invictus Games is an international sports event for wounded, injured and sick service personnel taking place from 10-14 September 2014. Most of the tickets for these games have been long sold out. But I’ve teamed up with Invictus sponsor Jaguar to offer a few lucky readers free pairs of tickets to some of the key competitions. Are you #ready? Keep reading!

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Compliments of Jaguar – proud supporter of ex-serviceman and women and presenting partner of the 2014 Invictus Games – I’ve got a couple of pairs of tickets to the following events to give away:

  • 2 tickets to Wheelchair Rugby
  • 2 tickets to Swimming (Sold Out)

Interested? To be in with a chance to win, simply leave a comment here on this post explaining why you deserve to win the tix. Alternatively, you can tweet me with the hashtag #ready telling me why I should give the tickets to you.

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I’ll pick winners at random on Wednesday 3 September at 16.00 BST. Yes, that’s this Wednesday! So get #ready and get cracking ASAP! Good luck.

For full schedule and more information, go to invictusgames.org.


Invictus Games competitor Corporal Daniel “Baz” Whittingham is #Ready.

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

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London Daily Photo: You Too Buddy

LDP 2014.08.30 - You Too Buddy

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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.

De Beauvoir Deli Co

I paid a delicious midweek visit to De Beauvoir Town’s lovely De Beauvoir Deli on Southgate Road for a browse (and sample) of its fine food and drink products all locally from small independent suppliers to offer the finest in-season and artisan produce. Folks living in the area should count their blessings to have such an excellent gourmet resource (without any uppity airs) in their ‘hood. Folks just passing through the area would do well to keep the place in mind for especially pleasant shopping for hard to find treats and delectable gift ideas.

Alassala Organic Argan Oil

Alassala imports high quality organic argan oil from Morocco for cosmetic and culinary use. I had a taste of the edible version and was really impressed. The extra virgin cold pressed oil is especially tasty and does wonders with a range of North African and Mediterranean dishes.

Mello

Wow! It was love at first sip when I recently had a bottle of Mello, the “UK’s first and only” raw fresh melon juice. Available in two super tasty varieties, Watermelon (95% fresh watermelon, 5% fresh pomegranate) and Cantaloupe (80% fresh cantaloupe juice, 20% fresh pineapple juice), Mello’s juices are refreshing and replenishing. Look for the brand at Whole Foods Market, Planet Organic, Harvey Nichols, and online at Ocado.

Sea Island Coffee

Sea Island Coffee imports and sells award winning gourmet coffees from some of the best – and most unusal – coffee growing regions in the world. I had a recent taste of its “Geisha” coffee. from the Coffea Diversa plantation, this Great Taste Awards 2011 winning coffee has a “delicate profile with quietly complex aromatics that reward patient attention with notes of lavender, cocoa and hints of molasses” that makes it well worth seeking out. Find it at Caviar House & Prunier, Harrods, and online at the Sea Island website.

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London Daily Photo: Exploring the Unknown

LDP 2014.08.29 - Exploring the Unknown

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Win a £50 Voucher for Circus Cocktail Bar and Cabaret, Covent Garden

Circus

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!

A cocktail bar, restaurant and cabaret, Circus offers a Pan Asian dinner menu alongside an enticing cocktail menu.  Designed by British Tom Dixon, the surrealist interior is the perfect setting for wild cabarets, with actors performing on tables and vanishing in between courses. Following dinner and the performance, the West End venue turns into a dance space. Fun place, right? Thanks to a team up with online restaurant discovery guide, Zomato, I’m offering one lucky reader a free voucher worth £50 to spend at Circus.

One unusually rowdy night not too terribly long ago, I had a blast dancing on the tables at Circus (where such shenanigans are actually encouraged once the venue is opened up as a dancefloor). Here’s your chance to have a great night out at Circus!

To be in with a chance win the £50 voucher for Circus Cocktail Bar and Cabaret , simply tweet the following:

RT to win £50 voucher for @circus_london cocktails and cabaret, compliments of @Zomato and @tikichris! #YouSayZomato http://bit.ly/1qaL3cz

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

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I’ll pick one winner at random on Friday 5 September at 11.30am BST. The winner will receive one voucher worth £50 to spend on drinks and snacks redeemable at Circus. This voucher is valid Tuesdays to Thursdays until November 20th 2014 for the bar only. To use the voucher, the winner will need to book ahead, mentioning the voucher when doing so. To be eligible to win, you need to have an address in the UK where the voucher can be posted. If produced for a total less than the voucher value, the balance amount will not be refunded. No two vouchers can be clubbed together at the same time.

Circus is located at 27-29 Endell Street, WC2H 9BA.


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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: Untitled

LDP 2014.08.28 - Untitled

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