Speed Date an Engagement Ring Designer with F&L Designer Guides

Speed Date an Engagement Ring Designer with F&L Designer Guide

Here’s a first: a “Speed Date a Designer” event “to help you meet and get inspired by a collection of independent, friendly and imaginative engagement ring designers in one fun evening.” Got questions about “popping the question” and want to make sure you get everything right when you do? This unique opportunity hosted by F&L Designer Guides might be a perfect for you, potentially saving you loads of time and money.

With the promise of being the “ultimate event that offers couples and individuals an amazingly different way of looking for engagement rings,” this so called speed dating session put on by F&L Designer Guides, a “community of some of the most creative designers of engagement rings in the UK” should prove a positive step in toward wedded bliss. In addition to one-to-one consultations with jewelry designers, attendees will receive one complimentary cocktail. Tickets cost £6 per person. You must register to attend, and there are only 30 places available.

The Speed Date a Designer event takes place 10 November from 6pm at The Fable Bar, located at 58 Holborn Viaduct, EC1A 2FD. Find out more at thefablebar.co.uk. For details about F&L Designer Guides and its designer speed dating event go to fldesignerguides.co.uk.

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London Daily Photo: Freshly Cut

LDP 2014.1005 - Freshly Cut

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Annual AllDogsMatter Halloween Dog Walk: Sunday 26 October at The Spaniards Inn


© Ian Morrison/Dogstar Photo – dogstarphoto.co.uk

“Pups line up for this annual fur-raising AllDogsMatter Howloween Parade” weaving its way from the historic Spaniards Inn through Hampstead Heath and back to this historic and picturesquely placed pub for a “fang-tastic doggie costume contest for Best Dressed Warlock (Male), Best Dressed Witch (Female) and Spookiest in Show (Male or Female). Whether you’re a proud dog owner or just craving some cute canie action, this event promises to be a lot of fun while supporting a great cause.


© Ian Morrison/Dogstar Photo – dogstarphoto.co.uk

The 2014 Halloween Dog Walk starts at The Spaniards Inn in Hampstead at 10:30am on the 26th of October. There’s a £5 entry fee to cover dogs participating in the walk and costume contest. To enter your pet, email info@alldogsmatter.co.uk with your name, dog’s name, age and breed to register. To enter on the day, all dogs and owners need to arrive at the Spaniards Inn, Hampstead by 10:30am.

The Halloween Dog Walk is part of a series of events hosted by the charity AllDogsMatter to raise funds and awareness for dog rescue and rehoming. In addition to two shelters, which house and re-home approximately 300 dogs each year, the charity is also heavily involved in education outreach to help stop animal abuse and neglect. AlldogsMatter is a registered charity founded in by Ira Moss. Find out more at alldogsmatter.co.uk.

The Spaniards Inn is located on Spaniards Road, in Hampstead Heath, NW3 7JJ. Find out more at thespaniardshampstead.co.uk.

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London Daily Photo: The Camden Market

LDP 2014.10.04 - The Camden Market

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Theatre Review: Proud Haddock’s Julius Caesar

Picture 6

Earlier this week, I got to catch newbie production company Proud Haddock’s first ever show, a sold out performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at Saatchi Gallery (the only time a play has ever been staged there). That was a one off. However, from early November the play will have a couple of weeks’ run at Chelsea Theatre about a mile or so farther down King’s Road. If the Chelsea Theatre run goes anything like the Saatchi Gallery premiere, audiences are in for a treat.

I really enjoyed the scaled back and modernised staging of this classic tale of duplicity and betrayal. With inspiration drawn from TV shows such as House of Cards, Homeland, and The Thick of It, Proud Haddock’s rendition invites the audience to draw parallels between today’s political situations and The Bard’s original work.

Some of the acting came across as a teensy bit hackneyed, but performances by Ed Sheridan (Mark Antony), William Findley (Cassius), and Tracey Pickup (Portia) were delightful. Vyvyan Almond’s versatility playing a number of roles and was fun to watch as well.

Julius Caesar runs from 3 to 15 November at Chelsea Theatre, 7 World’s End Place, King’s Road, SW10 0DR. Find out more at proudhaddock.com and chelseatheatre.org.uk.

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London Daily Photo: nal Theatr

LDP 2014.10.03 - nal Theatr

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DC Dining? It’s a Capital Idea!


A commission for City AM had me visiting Washington DC and rural Virginia at the end of September to write a piece about the exquisite Hay-Adams hotel and its relationship with regional food and drink suppliers. I’ll be sure to do a heads up post here on the blog when that article is published, but in the meanwhile I thought I’d share some of the best bits of my trip in a quickie roundup.


Barboursville Vineyards

First stop once my flight had landed at Dulles was Barboursville in Orange County, Virginia to tour its vineyards and have a quiet stay in its historic 1804 Inn. The visit presented me with a chance to sample Virginia wines for the first time, and I was not disappointed. I very much enjoyed sipping Barboursville’s Nebbiolo Reserve and found its signature Octagon blend delightful as well (especially if you can hold on to it for a few years before popping open). Staying at the inn was an absolute pleasure. I loved the jacuzzi in my massive suite, the views of the farmland from my private porch and the hearty home cooked southern style breakfast I had in the morning. Here in the UK, look for Barboursville wines at select restaurants such as Zuma and those in the Heston Blumenthal group.

James Madison’s Montpelier

A short drive from Barboursville is Montpelier, former home to President James Madison, father of the Constitution and architect of the Bill of Rights, and Dolley Madison, America’s “first First Lady.” Well worth a visit, the estate has been impeccably restored (a real feat when you see photos of what had been done to it over the years) and offers unique insight into the founding of the United States. Being in Madison’s library where he worked on the Constitution was a highlight of my trip.


The Hay-Adams

Definitely one of the nicest hotels I’ve visited this year (and that’s really saying something too!), 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 the hotel’s major selling point – whether there for an overnight stay, a business lunch, dream wedding or quick drink.

I got a kick out of taking an early morning jog around the White House. And views or no views, the hotel more than met my basic requirements for approval: exceptionally comfy bed (that duvet was so soft!) and a hot shower with adequate water pressure. Every member of staff I encountered made me feel welcome, and concierge Eric Gammill really helped me make the most out of my limited time in the city.

Food and drink at The Hay were a dream. The upscale Lafayette restaurant yielded an exceptional lunch. Executive Sous Chef Jaime Montes de Oca certainly knows his way round a kitchen – and the farm too as proved when he and I paid a visit to the University of the District of Columbia’s Muirkirk Research Farm from which The Hay sources a number of seasonal ingredients. Breakfast at Lafayette was a treat as well – I crave another go at the Chesapeake Bay crab cake Benedict! And judging from the pastries and desserts I sampled, Pastry Chef Josh Short is adept at all things yummy too!


The Hay’s 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.

Rose’s Luxury

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. I had dinner there the day after Bon Appetit magazine named it the best new restaurant in the country. The buzz was electric (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!


Ben’s Chili Bowl

Okay, so I felt like a total tourist going to Ben’s, but pretty much everyone around me seemed to be a local at this favourite fast food dive of late night imbibers, day out families and even President Obama. Salt and fat served hot in a veritable DC institution and civic rights landmark? It had to be done. Yep, I got the indulgent “Bill Cosby’s Original Chili Half-Smoke” (which didn’t present too much tummy regret afterwards either).

United Airlines

I flew United, the only airline to service Washington Dulles International Airport from the new Terminal 2 at Heathrow. This was my first time to fly in and out of Terminal 2 (although I had been to the terminal since its refurb to check out its colossal Richard Wilson sculpture). It was all in all a pleasant enough experience. The modernised terminal is not too dissimilar in experience and feel to that of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 – just way larger. Before my outbound journey, I got to hang in United ‘s plush, spacious and attractive lounge. The direct flight was shorter than I thought it was going to be – under eight hours.

From London Heathrow, United Airlines offers daily nonstop services to its hub at Dulles, with onward connections to more than 300 destinations across the Americas.  Return fares in economy from London Heathrow to Washington DC/Dulles start from £568.56 including taxes. For latest prices, visit www.united.com or call 08458444777.

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London Daily Photo: Guilford Street

LDP 2014.10.02 - Guilford Street

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4 of London’s Best Hookah Bars (OneTravel)


Photo/Dávid Kótai

Hookah … shisha … whatever you want to call it, a relaxed and al fresco sit round the hubbly bubbly pipe can add a bit of chilled out exotic charm to any night on the town.

Here’s a list of four of the best spots in London for having a Middle Eastern puff.

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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London Daily Photo: In the Pipes

LDP 2014.10.01 - In the Pipes

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Nachos of the Month: Honey Roasted Ham and Emmental Sincronizadas


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. A crunch Mexican style take on the classic ham and Swiss sandwich, my latest recipe – honey roasted ham and Emmental sincronizadas – is an especially quick and hassle free treat. Enjoy.


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

  • 100g of honey roasted ham (I prefer it sliced fairly thick);
  • 100g of sliced Emmental;
  • About half a bag of Manomasa Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper tortilla chips.


  • Preheat your oven to 175ºC;
  • Place as many single chips in a baking tray;
  • Place a slice of cheese, a piece of ham and another slice of cheese on top of each chip and then cover it with another chip;
  • You’ll know the chips are ready if the cheese has melted enough that each “sandwich” stays intact when you pick it up.


Sincronizadas are best served hot when the cheese is still melty, but they’re perfectly acceptable to eat after they’ve cooled down. They make an excellent snack anytime of day and really come in handy at casual get togethers.

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.

Read more tikichris recipes.

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London Daily Photo: “Kiss”

LDP 2014.09.30 - "Kiss"

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Athens, Greece: Street Art City (OneTravel)


Athens, Greece is probably best known for its ancient sites like the Acropolis and for being a starting point for any number of island hopping excursions. But there’s another more current and vibrant reason to pay this age old city a visit – it’s home to one of Europe’s most active street art scenes.

Here’s a quick look at just a few of the main reasons that the city is such a hub for amazing urban art.

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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London Daily Photo: Air Street

LDP 2014.09.29 - Air Street

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Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin: Priority Innfield at Zabludowicz Collection

Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin at Zabludowicz Collection

The evening after I checked out the preview of Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin’s Priority Innfield – a series of sculptural theatres where four interconnected films “that touch upon our changing relationship to the camera and its influence on conceptions of history, evolution and selfhood” are continually screened – I tried to explain the experience of watching the films and negotiating the fabricated space between them to my girlfriend. Despite my enthusiastic attempt, I’m pretty sure I failed.

However, I laughed a good bit during my spiel (as did she, with raised eyebrows). I reached for concepts I don’t normally talk about too and certainly conveyed a sense of ‘wow, that was really messed up – I loved it!’ to her. The show, free to view at Zabludowicz Collection near Chalk Farm Tube station for the next couple of months, left me babbling, challenged, and reaching for underused language. If you’re looking for a freebie mindfuck woven with scathing social commentary (and who isn’t?), see this show.

Priority Innfield is the first UK solo exhibition by Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin. A reconfiguration of an installation initially seen at the 2013 Venice Biennale, the exhibition features a quartet of films that (and maybe this is just my own humble opinion) question the substance, meaning and relevance of the overload of media dumped upon society at an ever increasingly scale while implicating viewer complicity.

One film in particular, Item Falls, especially grabbed my attention. Filmed at Fitch and Trecartin’s shared home in Los Angeles, Item Falls shows “multiple performers [including artist Trecartin himself] seemingly trapped in a perpetual audition while being assailed by animation effects.” With its actors shot in awkward camera angles as they spout self congratulatory monologues with gibberish lines like “once upon an industry standard,” an onscreen world of meaningless communication in the name of vapid expression is suggested with all of us on either side of that screen participating in gloating complicity. Garish colours and arbitrary animation heightened the snarling absurdity in this satirical poke at the gawking gaze of reality television and the desire of fame for the sake of fame.

Fitch and Ryan’s work is jarring to say the least. I reckon that’s a good thing though as my takeaway from this show was that maybe we need to a jostle now and again to remind us there’s life beyond the screens we’re constantly staring at and jabbering into. I highly recommend setting aside the time to give Priority Innfield a thorough visit.

Priority Innfield runs from 2 October to 21 December at Zabludowicz Collection, 176 Prince of Wales Road, NW5 3PT. Find out more at zabludowiczcollection.com.

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London Daily Photo: Untitled

LDP 2014.09.28 - Untitled

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Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Jeff Arnett at The Macbeth in London #spiritofjack


A few weeks back I had the esteemed pleasure of sitting in on a tasting with Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Jeff Arnett. It’s funny to think that I grew up only a couple of hours’ drive from where Jeff does his magic but wound up meeting him on the other side of the Atlantic in an East London pub. Of course, as the ‘nose’ behind one of the world’s most famous brands (and what I reckon is Tennessee’s biggest export), I suppose it’s not all that surprising that the chance to shake hands and sip whiskey with Jeff might take place anywhere across the globe.

Here’s a couple of videos from the tasting. I’m sure you’ll enjoy listening to Jeff talk about his role at Jack Daniel’s in the first and going through the distillery’s complete range of whiskies in the second. And yep, that’s me in the film sipping JD as he speaks. I had a blast learning about how this whiskey is made from only its seventh ever distiller. And of course, I loved getting to taste the range of his whiskies (not to mention taking home a bottle of Old No. 7 signed by Jeff). My favourite of the Jack Daniel’s tipples? I love the Single Barrel but must admit the Tennessee Honey is a most agreeable drink as well.

Master Distiller Jeff Arnett talks about the history of Jack Daniel’s.

Tasting the range of Jack Daniel’s whiskies

The tasting was held at The Macbeth pub in Hoxton, which in association with Jack Daniel’s, NME, and Spotify is hosting a series of intimate concerts in the celebration of “the spirit of Jack” including gigs by Chin Stroker, Juce, and Kele (from Bloc Party).

The Macbeth is located at 70 Hoxton Street, N1 6LP. Find out more at themacbeth.co.uk and nme.com/jackrocks.

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London Daily Photo: Crown and Shutter

LDP 2014.09.27 - Crown and Shutter

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Yoshitomo Nara at Dairy Art Centre


Yoshitomo Nara: Greeting from a Place in My Heart at Dairy Art Centre in Bloomsbury presents a great opportunity to get a good long look at art that’s as adorable as it is dastardly: like cooing over a cute cuddly kitten tearing apart a toy mouse or jotting down a nightmare on a pastel notepad.



Featuring a range of paintings, large and small sculptures, and a retrospective of drawings which spans 30 years, Greeting from a Place in My Heart is the largest and most comprehensive UK exhibition of work by the popular Japanese contemporary artist to date and includes seminal pieces by the artist, many of which have never been shown before in the UK.


It’s all fun stuff: a little cheeky, immediately likeable and wonderfully accessible … yet so finely executed and beguiling. Cute but meaningful – a match which I reckon difficult to pull off. At the very least, the show is a hoot. Delve deeper though and themes of anxiety, alienation, and hope provoke contemplation.

Greetings from a Place in My Heart runs from October 3 to 7 December at the Dairy Art Centre, 7A Wakefield Street, WC1N 1PG. Find out more at dairyartcentre.org.uk.

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London Daily Photo: Untitled

LDP 2014.09.26 - Untitled

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Win Dinner for Two at Pont Street Restaurant – Courtesy of Zomato

Win Dinner for Two at Pont Street Restaurant – Courtesy of Zomato


So, a couple of weeks back I had a very agreeable Friday night dinner for two at Belgraves hotel’s Pont Street restaurant. And now – thanks to a team up with online restaurant discovery guide, Zomato – I’m offering the chance to enjoy the same delicious experience to one lucky reader. Check it out!

At the helm of the Pont Street kitchen is Sophie Michell. Currently Britain’s youngest female executive chef, Sophie finds culinary inspiration from her time living in the Mediterranean and adventures cooking her way across California and Australia. With a passion for market fresh and seasonal ingredients, her signature dishes include miso glazed lamb chops with sesame grilled aubergine and cucumber pickle, yuzu and jalapeño seabass ceviche, house-made clam and bottarga spaghetti, lobster and sorrel brioche rolls, and roasted Label Anglais chicken with confit garlic mash.

To be in with a chance win dinner for two at Pont Street , simply tweet the following:

RT to win dinner for 2 at @PontSt01 compliments of @Zomato and @tikichris! #YouSayZomato http://bit.ly/YKVVTl

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


I’ll pick one winner at random on Friday 10 October at 11.30am BST. The winner will receive one voucher worth £100 redeemable at Pont Street. The voucher will be valid until 30 November 2014. To be eligible to win, you need to have an address in the UK where the voucher can be posted.

Pont Street is located at the Belgraves hotel, 20 Chesham Place, SW1X 8HQ.

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About Zomato

Zomato was created to help people find and connect with great places to eat around them. Find out more at zomato.com.


Check out more tikichris competitions.

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London Daily Photo: Shimmer

LDP 2014.09.25 - Shimmer

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Lobster Safari in the Koster Islands, West Sweden


The Koster Islands are situated off Sweden’s western mainland just south of Norway. It’s a beautiful part of the world – a rugged and ‘out there’ archipelago where wilderness and cultivation blend in such a way as to suggest that humans and nature actually can get along. Summer’s the main time folks visit this tranquil area, but I was there at the onset of autumn for the start of the lobster season. Lured by the prospect of catching (and eating!) the regionally renowned “black gold of the sea” lobsters for myself from one of the cleanest of nutritionally rich fjords in Scandinavia, I tagged along on a Lobster Safari “activity and dining experience” offered by the lovely little Hotel Koster on the island of Sydkoster.


Hotel Koster’s Lobster Safari gives its guests the chance to have a go at the centuries old tradition of lobster trapping. Check it out:

… Be part of the unique experience at sea when the traps are emptied and the lobster catch is brought in … Together with our licensed skipper Johan in our boat Pavona (for larger parties we use many of the other local fishermen as our partners) the Lobster Safari takes about three hours to complete and is an option that everyone that visits Koster can really feel the local spirit when taking part. Feel the saltiness from the sea, as the waves of autumn light reflex and shape the Bohuslän rocks and cliffs stepping up from the sea.


Yep, I did this early morning seafaring safari and savoured every second of it. I baited and cast some traps into the sea and pulled up a few traps too (some even containing the “black gold” I’d hoped to catch). It was splendid being in a boat at dawn in such a pretty place: breathing the fresh air, feeling a crisp breeze kiss my cheeks, taking photos of the sunrise and the stunning scenery.


Once back on land, the lobsters caught were soon in the pot and a short boil later presented to the table for a sumptuous and well earned feast. My Koster catch was definitely the freshest lobster I’d ever eaten – and as delicious as any I can recollect tasting.


Of course, if you just want to enjoy lobster but leave all the dirty work to the professionals, the hotel has a special five course lobster menu available throughout the season (which stretches through winter into early spring). Meals are served in a candlelit dining room with huge wood fireplace. During my visit, the candles were lit and the fire roaring at every meal – even for my super early breakfast before heading out to the boat. All the food coming out of the hotel’s kitchen was yummy. Same could be said of the drinks as well. Hotel Koster impressed my palate with a more than decent wine list, a smartly stocked bar and an excellent assortment of craft beers. I especially loved my bottle of Czech style Pilsner, Eskilstuna Stolt Lager.

Lobster or not, I found the hotel to be a fine place to spend a few days. My seaside suite was a bit on the utilitarian side but was impeccably clean and very spacious with a full kitchen, comfy bed, and great shower. If the look of my room was so-so, the picturesque view of the sea from its windows was not. No complaints – I’d be pleased to rest my head there again. For even more awesome sea views to take in, the hotel’s outdoor hot tub perched on a small cliff and just a few short steps from my room was the perfect setting for a soothing post safari dip.


Hotel Koster is located about a two minute walk from Ekenäs harbour where the ferry lands (to get to Sydkoster island you’ll need to come by ferry or arrange some other boat to take you). The scenic ferry ride takes about 50 minutes from the mainland town of Strömstad … which is about a two hours drive from Göteborg Landvetter Airport … which is a mere hour and a half flight from London. All in all, this made for a very beautiful journey. I was fine spending the travel time getting but would have relished the chance to stay longer, check out Gothenburg and some other spots along the route. Next time!

Find out more about Hotel Koster at hotelkoster.se.

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Special thanks to the West Sweden Tourist Board for all the info and help with my fun itinerary!

Cheers to Stefan von Bothmer of Sydkoster’s gorgeous Kosters Trädgårdar for the island cycling tour and crash course in Koster history!

Posted in Beer, Drink, Food, Hotels, Luxury, restaurants, Sweden, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

London Daily Photo: Bond Street

LDP 2014.09.24 - Bond Street

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Win a Year’s Supply of Massages from Urban Massage

Refer A Friend Competition Image - Urban Massage

In May, I wrote about how much I enjoyed my experience booking a session with Urban Massage, an on-demand mobile massage service delivering five star treatments to customers at their home, hotel or office within 60 minutes of booking, currently operating in Zones 1 to 4 of London. I’ve just come across a bit of info that’s worth bringing the service up again as Urban Massage is running a Refer a Friend competition with the prize of a year’s supply of massages (aka 12 x 60 minute treatments across 12 months). Sounds good, yeah? Just be fast getting the word out to your buddies because the comp ends this Friday the 3rd of October.

That’s right. Just share your unique Urban Massage referral code with your friends and if they subsequently create an account with Urban Massage, you’ll be entered into the competition. And the great news is that for every new friend that opens an account, you’ll be entered into the prize draw.

But wait! There’s more. When someone books a massage treatment using your unique Urban Massage referral code, you will be awarded £10 in free credit that can be redeemed against your next massage booking. Urban Massage will also give your friend £10 off their first booking.

Here’s what you need to do to be in with a chance to win the year’s worth of massages:

  • Visit My Account on the Urban Massage website by clicking here;
  • Complete the sign up form;
  • Click on the ‘Refer’ tab on the ‘My Account’ page;
  • Share your unique referral code via the URL or social media buttons.

If you’re an existing customer, log into your Urban Massage account here and proceed with points 3 and 4 above.

The winner will be contacted directly by Urban Massage and announced on its blog.

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London Daily Photo: Driftway

LDP 2014.09.23 - Driftway

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7 Things I’ve Learned about Air Travel (OneTravel

Airport Traveller

Photo/Nick Harris

Four flights and three countries in under a week – that’s how my calendar’s shaping up for the last bit of this month.

So, in addition to all the stuff I’m packing in my suitcase, I’m going to bring the following time tested observations along with me.

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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London Daily Photo: DD

LDP 2014.09.22 - DD

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Sponsored Post: Tapping into Passion and Determination with The North Face

We feel that this stands as a symbol of the insatiable curiosity of all mankind to explore the unknown. – Dr Buzz Aldrin

So, I’m just back from a week abroad during which time I hit two very different destinations: the remote and rural Koster Islands of West Sweden and America’s epicentre of political power, Washington DC. More about my visits to both places are soon to come. In the meanwhile though, the chance to share the new The Explorer campaign from The North Face seemed like a fun way to talk about one particular aspect of these past several days as a whole.

Something that both legs of my trip had in common was that bringing along my backpack really came in handy. That’s usually the case no matter where I’m going – whether it’s just a quick visit to the shop for some groceries or across the globe for a story. As ever, my Surge II bag from The North Face proved the ultimate carry on for my flights: not too big, not too small and with easy access to specific stuff I had stowed away but wanted to get at now and again.


Bobbling along in the wee hours of the morning in a small fishing boat on a “lobster safari” expedition, my Surge was there to keep my camera safe from the elements.


Checking into DC’s premiere luxury boutique hotel, The Hay-Adams, for a few days of scoping the city’s dining scene, that same low key black backpack didn’t look too out of place and helped me blend well enough with all the suits in the lobby with their business-y accoutrements.

The Explorer campaign with its inspirational narration by astronaut Buzz Aldrin seems to suggest that with the right gear goals can be reached and moments of profound wonder can be experienced. No, I can’t claim even a small fraction of the accomplishments Buzz Aldrin has achieved in his life, but I believe that I (and everybody else in the world) have the same drive “to see, to explore” that got Aldrin to the moon and back. Tapping into such passion and determination invariably leads to a richer, more fulfilling life. I reckon having a good backpack slung across my shoulder to carry the essentials helps me get to where I’m going to.

Published in association with The North Face. Opinions are my own.

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London Daily Photo: Ladbroke Grove

LDP 2014.09.21 - Ladbroke Grove

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Review: Pont Street Restaurant at Belgraves Hotel

Pont Street Restaurant, Belgraves Hotel - DSC_5455

Before making my rez for Friday night din-din at the Belgraves hotel’s Pont Street restaurant, I skimmed the web for a few reviews. Ouch! I’m not sure whether what I came across was egregiously snarky or if Pont St subsequently got its act together, but my experience was way better than those I read about online.

Despite the cringe accompanying my perusal about Pont St, I was curious to see if sleb chef Sophie Michell could pull off a successful go in the wake of Mark Hix (who used to have a resto here). I reckon she has.

I very much enjoyed my starter dish of salt and pepper squid with kaffir lime, lemongrass and sweet and saffron aioli (£9.50) – not sure it was necessarily benefited by the saffron though. My main of lobster trofie with a bisque sauce and bone marrow (£25.50) was a treat as well. Dessert – a plate of “doughnut balls” filled with salted caramel and served with a (slightly too melted) small vanilla milkshake on the side (£6.50) – satisfied.

I dined with Kemey (we both found the restaurant a smart choice for a quiet date night) and was impressed with the yummy stuff on her side of the table. A side of truffle mash (£4.50) was particularly moreish. We enjoyed a glass of Cote du Rhone (sorry forget the label but it cost about £8 for a glass) each which went down a charm with most of what we ate (I should have gone with something else for my robustly flavoured main, but that’s my bad and I wasn’t up for more than one glass of wine to be honest).

Portion size was right, service was on the ball, the dining space was pleasant and comfortable (the hotel’s upstairs bar where Kemey and I met up was an especially plush setting to do just that), prices were reasonable considering the address.

Pont Street is located at the Belgraves hotel, 20 Chesham Place, SW1X 8HQ. Find out more at pontst.com.

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London Daily Photo: Headless

LDP 2014.09.20 - Headless

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Basel on a Budget (OneTravel)


Coming from London, where the cost of living is high and the local currency is strong, I usually find when I travel that my money gets considerably more mileage than when at home. That wasn’t the case in Switzerland though, where prices (and standards) are generally higher than what you might expect across the rest of Europe.

During a recent (and very fun) city break in Basel, I discovered that with minimal effort and a bit of thrift that an amazing time could be had without breaking the bank. Here are some tips on making the most of a visit to Basel (without paying the most for it).

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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London Daily Photo: King’s Road

LDP 2014.09.19 - King's Road

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Good Stuff


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.

Fresh Pasta Masterclass with Giovanni Rana

I had a blast during the recent Giovanni Rana pasta making class (previously previewed here) at this popular Italian brand’s Regent’s Place restaurant (17-19 Triton Street, NW1 3BF). Yes, the actual man himself, Signore Rana, was on hand for the occasion (and gave an approving “ottimo” to the tortellini and ravioli I made) along with his lovely daughter in law Antonella. The lunch that followed was delish. I loved my plate of cappelletti and was super impressed with the wine list). The restaurant is well worth keeping in mind if you’re in the Warren Street/Euston Road area. I certainly intend to visit again.

Castello Pop-up Cheese Shop

Danish cheese makers, Castello, has launched a pop-up “cheese concept store” in Shoreditch after successful stints in New York, The Hague and Copenhagen. Located at 132 Commercial Street, E1 6NQ and running until Friday 24 October, the shop has more than 30 varieties of cheese (some otherwise not available in the UK) to taste and buy alongside a range of accessories, wine, beer, and cider. There’s a fresh deli counter too and a calendar full of tastings, Q&A sessions and more. I enjoyed nibbling my way through the shop – really liked the Creamy White and Extra Creamy Danish Blue.

Great Sherry Tasting 2014

After having to miss last year’s Great Sherry Tasting, I was glad I was able to wrangle a bit of free time for the 2014 event (held again at The Westbury). I was even more chuffed that I got to sit in on a “Cream Dream” tasting led by Beltran Domecq, president of the DO Jerez Consejo Regulador (wow). “Exploring the quality and diversity of sweeter sherries” further established that fact that I’ve expensive taste! I loved two sherries in particular from the session: Tradicion’s Cream VOS 20 Year Old and Gonzalez Byass’ Matusalem VORS 30 Year Old. Both have a rich nose, balanced taste and strong, lasting finish.

Yutaka Yuzu Citrus Seasoning

Yutaka brand’s yuzu seasoning adds zest to a range of dishes and drinks. I’ve really enjoyed having a bottle at hand in my kitchen for concocting new recipes or just bringing some zing to otherwise humdrum meals. Look for it at Sainsbury’s priced at £2.99 for a 100ml bottle.


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