Wednesday, 10 August 2022

An Afternoon at Cakes & Bubbles, Regent Street

Detail of Champagne available at Cakes & Bubbles

The best days are the ones spent with good friends. I joined a local book club when I moved to Dartford and the book club might be no more but the friendships remain. On Sunday morning, I met three of my fellow book-clubbers on the train and we travelled to London to meet up with Liz who no longer lives in Kent.

Cover of menu reading Cakes & Bubbles by Albert Adrià

The occasion? To visit Cakes & Bubbles, the Masterchef-famous establishment by the ‘World’s Best Pastry Chef’, Albert Adrià. Cakes & Bubbles promises a selection of 'exceptional desserts and pastries alongside a wide selection of Champagne and sparkling wines, as well as a menu comprising a savoury offering by Adrià'.

The Savoury

I'm a planner when it comes to eating at new places - I want to know that I've poured over the menus and chosen the best possible options. With that in mind, I'd planned to try the Lobster Ravioli for £22, only to arrive on the day to learn that the menus had recently changed (the ravioli is still on their website). I had a taste for lobster though and decided to go for the Lobster in a Brioche Bun for £32.

The lobster and bun were definitely tasty but the lettuce had wilted - impossible not to given the heatwave in London - and it certainly impacted the overall taste and texture of the dish. I was quite disappointed and could not see that the dish justified its place as the most expensive food item on the menu.

Of other people's meals, the Grilled Cheese Toasty for £16 and Club Sandwich for £20 did not look appealing but the salads (£18 - £19) looked delicious and were gigantic.

The Sweet

I am very pleased to say that the Matcha Basque Cheesecake for £9 exceeded my expectations in every way. I chose this item because I love matcha-flavoured desserts but it also happened to be gluten-free and it was delicious, rich and creamy.

There were swoons and sighs as my friends enjoyed their Chocolate Yuzu Castellas (£12, also gluten-free, pictured in the background above) and Liz loved the famous Cheese Cake for £12 which she'd been dreaming of since MasterChef.

Cakes & Bubbles also serves a 'Cakes & Bubbles experience' between 12pm and 10pm each day and it looks exquisite. It's three courses of sweet heaven served alongside a curated selection of champagnes and sparkling wines. The Sweet Afternoon Bubbles Menu is £45 or £55 with a glass of N.V. Veuve Clicquot Brut.

My Verdict

I will definitely return to Cakes & Bubbles, especially because Stephen has been asking me to take him for a fancy cake experience ever since we went to the Mirror Room at the Rosewood in London. I'd like to try the Sweet Afternoon Bubbles Menu (with added bubbly, of course) and I'd also pop in for a slice of cake but I'll skip the savoury options.

Cakes & Bubbles
70 Regent St


Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Experiencing Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, London

It was the event that almost didn’t happen, one of those post-lockdown days that seemed doomed to be rescheduled and postponed indefinitely. Finally, after a bout of Covid and a memorial service, Sarah and I went to London for the day for a breakfast at Duck & Waffle and an afternoon at Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience.

“I dream of painting and then I paint my dream”

The exhibition is a vibrant splash of colour and light from the minute you walk through the doors. I loved the massive sunflowers!

We learned that Van Gogh had painted the same item over and over again, from different angles and different perspectives until he moved on to his next obsession.

In this section, we sat in a dark area while painting after painting appeared, all of flowers in a vase. Given my adoration of poppies, it was obvious that this was going to be my favourite one.

This was a very cool 3-D rendition of a painting. You had to stand on a box and position yourself just so to get the full 3-D effect.

A recreation of Van Gogh’s room which, again, he painted over and over again. You learn so much about Van Gogh at the exhibition including his relationship with Theo and his weakening mental state.

In the middle of the exhibition, there is an option to pay £5 extra to don a virtual reality headset. I would absolutely recommend taking this virtual tour! I loved the journey through the town Van Gogh lived in and the fields and woodlands that inspired him so.

All too soon we arrived in a large, dark room where we laid in deck chairs and watched Van Gogh’s beautiful paintings projected on the walls to soothing, tranquil music.

We were fresh from an ordeal of walking down 40 flights of stairs from the Duck & Waffle due to a power cut so we reclined in those chairs for longer than is strictly socially acceptable. Nevertheless, it was a moving, beautiful experience.

I was most amused to see two of my most recent Kindle covers during the exhibition – I recently replaced Van Gogh’s Almond Blossom with his Starry Night.


Wednesday, 13 July 2022

A Sunny Monday in Rye, East Sussex

Mermaid Street | Rye, East Sussex

The best Mondays are the ones where you wake up without an alarm and make your way, at a leisurely pace, to somewhere new and exciting. My in-laws had arrived from a bitterly cold Johannesburg on Friday morning and on Monday I took them to one of my favourite towns in East Sussex: Rye.

Mermaid Street | Rye, East Sussex

Mermaid Street is the most famous street in Rye and easily the most recognisable.

Mermaid Street | Rye, East Sussex

It is lined on both sides by medieval, half-timbered houses and is a photographer's dream.

The Mint | Rye, East Sussex

We decided not to walk up Mermaid Street on this warm, sunny occasion and chose instead to wind our way up The Mint in search of The Cobbles Tea Room.. The Mint also has its share of pretty houses.

The Cobbles Tea Room | Rye, East Sussex

I'd been wanting to visit The Cobbles Tea Room since my very first visit to Rye when I spotted the quaint entrance down a little side street.

Ploughman's Lunch | The Cobbles Tea Room | Rye, East Sussex

I'm happy to say that we were not disappointed. The portions were generous, the food delicious and the range of teas and coffees delighted everyone in our party.

Inside The Cobbles Tea Room | Rye, East Sussex

Even the decor was delightful! I will definitely return again one day.

Lion Street | Rye, East Sussex

After lunch, we continued up The Mint as it becomes High Street and then turned into Lion Street towards the Church of Saint Mary, Rye.

Church Square | Rye, East Sussex

We wandered around Church Square and admired all the pretty houses with gloriously blooming gardens. Days like these renew my desire to live in a tiny village one day.

West Street | Rye, East Sussex

We turned into West Street and soon found our way to the top of Mermaid Street. It's much easier walking down the hill than up but my in-laws assured me that those cobbles can be quite unkind on your feet!

Mermaid Street | Rye, East Sussex

There are so many interesting and quirky houses and doorways down Mermaid Street. I wonder what it must be like to live on such a famous street?

My favourite house is the one with two front doors. That would suit Stephen and I!

Mermaid Street | Rye, East Sussex

Rye is just an hour's drive from Dartford and a little over an hour by train from London St Pancras. It is such a fun day out, no matter the season.


Wednesday, 29 June 2022

A Visit to Rochester Cathedral to see Luke Jerram's Gaia

I adore summer in Kent. The sun comes out, blooms are everywhere and we know its time to explore. On a gorgeous Friday in May, I took my mum to nearby Rochester to see Luke Jerram’s Gaia at Rochester Cathedral.

Rochester is a beautiful town about twenty minutes away from where I live, notable for being Charles Dickens’s favourite town. You can see why – Rochester has a quaint, picturesque quality and I love visiting there.

No mother-daughter day is complete without a bit of lunch and we chose Fish 55 on Rochester High Street. My mum had a salmon pate to start while I chose the mackerel pate. It was divine.

I then chose the lobster gnocchi, bisque and chicory main and my mum had a scallop with garlic sauce main, both off the specials board. You’ll notice my mum strategically chooses items I’m allergic to (salmon and garlic), I guess she doesn’t like to share!

The manager and staff at Fish 55 were wonderful and very helpful in sitting my mum in an accessible spot where we could keep an eye on her mobility scooter outside.

After our meal, we wandered over to Rochester Cathedral where the staff were again wonderful and directed us to the accessible entrance at the side, allowing my mum to take her mobility scooter into the main exhibition area. It's not easy travelling around with mobility issues but some places make it so much easier.

Luke Jerram’s Gaia is spectacular. This was a bitter-sweet visit because visiting Luke Jerram’s Moon in Rochester Cathedral was the last thing we did before lockdown was imposed in March 2020. I was grateful and pensive all at once while I stared at the beautiful Earth and thought about how lucky I am.

Like Moon, Gaia rotates slowly, giving you a chance to see Africa, Australasia and South America. I wish we could have seen Europe and North America but my mum enjoyed seeing her beloved Africa.

After a very long visit with Gaia, we wandered outside into the gardens and then into the crypt to enjoy a cup of coffee. Kent traffic on a Friday afternoon is not to be laughed at so we needed all the energy we could muster before the drive home.

The crypt and café are completely accessible via a wheelchair lift.

I didn't quite manage to take as many photos of Rochester Castle and Cathedral as I normally do but I hope to visit again in July when my in-laws are over.

Accessibility Guide to Rochester

Navigating around with a mobility scooter can be a daunting task and I’m going to start talking more and more about this on future posts in the hope that it will help other readers. Accessibility bloggers have been invaluable to me in recent years and have helped ensure that I can take my mum on weekends away and day trips.

For our trip to Rochester, we landed up parking in the train station parking – which is on RingGo – because the central car parks were full. I was a bit nervous as it was on the other side of a very busy road from the town but there were clear crossing points that helped us on our way.

The only caution I’d give with Rochester is that there are a lot of cobbles so you’d need to judge whether you can navigate those with your wheelchair or mobility scooter.

We use a portable mobility scooter for our trips which folds away into my boot. Again, you need to be cautious with smaller, portable scooters as they have limited battery life and must be charged before each trip and at the end of the day on overnight trips. We learned this when my mum’s scooter couldn’t make it up the hill at Montmartre on our second day in Paris!


Wednesday, 15 June 2022

An Art Deco Walking Tour of Whitechapel

Way back in 2015, when I was still working in London, the company I was working for moved their offices from the Strand (near Charing Cross) to east London. I was excited to explore a new area but I was pleasantly surprised to see how many Art Deco buildings there were in the area. I immediately mentioned this to Yannick and was delighted when he announced an Art Deco Tour of Whitechapel last year.

Yannick’s tour was incredibly well-researched and we learned all about the characters and changing times of the Whitechapel area, including the rag trade, famous photography studios, Jewish refugees and sweatshops. I definitely don’t want to spoil the tour but I’ll share ten of the Art Deco buildings that we saw on the tour.

One America Square

One America Square was the first 'Art Deco' building that I spotted in the area. I’ve used quote marks there because the building is somewhat of a pretender, as suggested by its ostentatious grandeur and was only completed in 1990. There used to a fabulous bar at the bottom of my photo, which proved very popular for after-work drinks and farewell parties. I suspect it was a victim of the pandemic.

Ibex House

I'm going to try not to proclaim favourites on this post because out of the ten buildings I’ve featured, approximately half of them are favourites of mine. Nevertheless, Ibex House is my third favourite of the buildings featured in this post. It is pictured both here and at the very top of the post. Located at 42-47 Minories, I used to walk past this beautiful building every day on the way to work.

Number One Prescot Street

This imposing building was once known as The Tea House and is now divided into several posh apartments.

Sugar House, 99 Lehman Street

Sugar House fell into disrepair for over 20 years but was restored and divided into more expensive apartments.

Pentex Head Office, 94-100 Christian Street

The Pentex building remains Pentex’s head office.

Myrdle Court, Myrdle Street

Myrdle Court is part of the Myrdle Street conservation area which hopefully means the building will get an injection of cash to update the facades and windows.

Cheviot House

Cheviot House is my second favourite of the buildings featured in this post and is located on Philpot Street.

Cheviot House was built in 1937 for textile merchants Kornberg & Segal and was the subject of a massive fight against demolition. The building was saved from the ill intentions of Tower Hamlets borough and is now (you guessed it) divided into posh apartments.

Comfort House

Comfort House, Gwynne House and New Road Hotel (below) were designed by Hume Victor Kerr.

Gwynne House

I loved this building so much and took an insane amount of photos of it. Gwynne House is located on Turner Street and there is a lift in that central tower. This building brought back so many memories of living in apartments in Johannesburg, which also has a high number of Art Deco properties.

New Road Hotel

As suggested by its name, New Road Hotel is now a hotel after a multi-million pound investment but it was formerly a garment factory until its closure in 2000. It was originally designed by Hume Victor Kerr.

That brings us to the end of the Art Deco walking tour of Whitechapel. Yannick doesn't have any tours planned at the moment but visit London Art Deco Tours and sign up to be notified when the next tours are scheduled. You can also visit my previous posts on Yannick's Art Deco Tours of Bloomsbury and The Strand or check out the interactive map below to plan your own walk.


Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Walking the Red Trail at the Giant's Causeway

We recently spent the most incredible weekend in Northern Ireland. We were based near Ballycastle and had spent the Saturday in Mussenden Temple and Lissanoure Castle for the wedding of my lovely friend Liz and Stewart. The wedding was a fabulous all-day affair where we ate, drank and ate some more. Suffice to say, we needed to air out the cobwebs on Sunday morning and headed to the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim.

We chose the Red Trail which promised a 3 mile walk with spectacular views away from the crowds of people heading straight to the Causeway steps. The Red Trail itself is 2 miles but joins up with the Blue Trail which is 0.8 miles.

While we could see people on the Blue Trail below, we were quite alone on the Red Trail and were able to see right around us from the sea to our left, the hills and greenery on the trail, and fields and farms to our right.

The Red Trail is well-signposted which means that I didn’t manage to get us lost and take us on a detour, something which I am becoming quite known for.

We couldn’t have picked a better day for our walk. There was a slight wind which meant we weren’t too warm but we could definitely feel the effects of the vitamin D seeping into our bodies. Spring came late to my corner of England this year so this was a much-appreciated change.

We soon came to the Shepherd’s Steps which is 162 steps leading down the cliff. We met some very tired people near the top of the steps who were walking the route in reverse. They were clearly fit and healthy but also clearly struggling to climb the steps with massive backpacks on their backs!

Note! If you carry on straight at Shepherd’s Steps instead of climbing down them, you can follow the Yellow Trail to get an aerial view of the Amphitheatre. We did not realise this and now I have to go back one day to see it!

We continued our walk along the Red Trail, past the Organ and to the end of the path. It's difficult to describe how massive the Organ is - it is very tall with a narrow path before it and I had to crouch down to get its full height in this photo.

Turning back, we joined the Blue Trail and found ourselves at sea level.

I loved how calm and idyllic the area is. It was quiet too. Stephen and I wondered how many creatures make their home here in an area that clearly takes a battering when the weather turns.

As we approached the Giant's Causeway, we met this imposing wall of rock. It feels so majestic and grand – I can see why people believed the area to have been touched by giants. (This is probably not the time to mention that Stephen had believed the area to be man-made before we visited it).

We finally made it to the famous steps. I found it difficult to take inspiring photos in the glaring midday sunshine and momentarily wished for stormy, imposing weather. Now that I think about it, I’d wish a hundred times over for clear skies, incredible views and a long walk in the sunshine over a moody five minutes on the steps. Indeed, my Northern Irish friend Jude assures me that Giant’s Causeway is far more fun in the sunshine.

We continued along the Blue Trail back to the entrance and then stopped off for a shandy and delicious open face prawn sandwich at the Nook pub. Highly recommended!

Tips for visiting the Giant’s Causeway: it is free to walk along the trails and on the Giant’s Causeway. You do not need to purchase a ticket to the visitors centre but you can make a donation if you’d like to contribute to the upkeep of the area and maintenance of the trails.

Parking at the Giant’s Causeway: you can park at the visitors centre for £5 but it can fill up. We chose to park a short walk down the road at Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills Railway, 6 Runkerry Rd, Bushmills BT57 8SZ. We will definitely be taking a trip on that railway next time we visit!

© 2008 - Mandy Southgate | Emm in London

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