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Cafes, London

Brunch at Morty & Bob’s, London Fields

Last weekend, we were in the mood for a trek around east London and began our jaunt with an indulgent brunch at Morty & Bob’s in London Fields.

Famous for its grilled cheese sandwiches, Morty and Bob’s quickly became a star of the street food scene and until recently had a little shack at Netil Market.  Two years ago it laid down roots on the second floor of Netil House and has been serving up ‘wholesome and honest comfort food’ ever since.

Netil House is a vibrant institution in Hackney, housing over 100 studio spaces for creative businesses, including Glasshouse Salon, NT’s Bar, Netil360 and the Michelin-starred bistro Ellory.

Morty & Bob’s occupies NT’s Bar during the day and has a chilled out atmosphere and cool industrial design with simple wooden tables, cosy sofas and an abundance of plants.

The all-day menu is filled tempting breakfast bites, all-day dishes like Smashed avocado on toast, salads and soups, plus a selection of home-made cakes and Allpress coffee.  The weekend brunch menu is similar but with the addition of more elaborate grilled cheese sandwiches and Bloody Marys.

We ordered the Brisket Benedict and a Grilled cheese sandwich straight up with mixed onions and shared.

The Brisket Benedict was absolutely delicious – perfect poached eggs with a bright orange yolk, velvety Hollandaise, fluffy English muffins and tender, slow-cooked brisket that wasn’t overly heavy on the spices (although it may be on the timid side for some palates).

If the Brisket Benedict was subtle and moreish, the Grilled cheese sandwich was an intense flavour explosion.  Thick slices of golden, buttery toasted sourdough were packed together with a gooey mix of three cheeses, finely-cut red onion and slivers of spring onion.  It was super-rich and satisfying – everything you want a grilled cheese to be!

We accompanied our food with mugs of Earl Grey tea and later strolled down to Soft Serve Society in Shoreditch for ice cream, however our plans were almost derailed by the most gorgeous-looking brownies at the counter.  Next time, for sure!

For menus and booking, visit: www.mortyandbobs.com

All photos by Chérie City

Aix-en-Provence

Things To Do in Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence is the most heavenly place to spend a lazy summer break.  With bountiful rustic markets, charming cobbled streets and the scent of lavender in the air, there’s a lot to love about the slow-paced Provençal life.

Whether you’re visiting the Bouches-du-Rhône region for one of the many summer arts and music festivals, or simply nourishing your soul with delicious food, wine and views, here are a few things you must see in Aix-en-Provence…

SEE:

Outdoor Markets

One of the best things about a trip to Aix-en-Provence is its almost daily outdoor markets.  The leafy squares of the old town overflow with the most colourful and ripe fruit and vegetables, local cheeses and saucissons, pungent spices, fresh seafood and even juicy, golden poulet roti with fat-roasted potatoes.

Other markets offer rare antiques, bric-a-brac, floaty embroidered cotton holiday clothes, hand-made lavender beauty products and of course flowers plucked from nearby fields.  To get the best produce, arrive early and fill your panier before enjoying lunch on the terrace.

Atelier de Cézanne

A pilgrimage up the steep Lauve hill to Cézanne’s studio is a must when visiting Aix-en-Provence.  Still intact with all of his furniture and work tools, the studio provides a rare glimpse into the private life of the ‘father of modern art’.

Cézanne spent the last four years of his life painting in this peaceful studio, climbing the hill each day from his house on rue Boulegon.  It was here that he created masterpieces such as Grandes Baigneuses, overlooking views of fig and olive trees and the Verdon canal.

Hôtel de Caumont

Dedicate some time to exploring the aristocratic Mazarin district, beginning at the stunning Hotel de Caumont.  This exquisite 18th century mansion was restored to its former glory in 2010 by Culturespaces and now runs as an art centre, hosting two exhibitions each year dedicated to great names in art (its film on Cézanne is shown daily).  Currently on view is a major review of the French impressionist Sisley (until 15th October).

A perk of visiting the art centre is the exquisite Cafe Caumont, where you can enjoy a light lunch or tea and cake in one of the many pastel-hued salons.  The elegant terrace also hosts regular jazz concerts throughout the summer, best enjoyed with a glass of rosé in hand.

Musée Granet

Housed in a refined 17th century building in the Mazarin district, Musée Granet features a diverse collection of over 600 paintings and sculptures.  It also hosts major art exhibitions focusing on the 20th century, from Henri Cueco to American Icons.

Visit before the end of September to see new exhibition An Art Lovers Collection: Galerie Jeanne Bucher Jaeger Since 1925, featuring artists such as Picasso, Braque, Kandinsky and Giacometti.

Château La Coste

Drive just 25 minutes from Aix into the countryside and you will find Château La Coste, a magnificent winery and art centre.  It features over 500 acres of sprawling vineyards punctuated with sculptures by some of the world’s leading contemporary artists, who were invited to react to the landscape and create.

A two-hour art and architecture walking tour offers the chance to view works by the likes of Jean Nouvel, Alexander Calder, Frank Gehry, Richard Serra and Tracey Emin.

At the centre is a striking minimalist glass building designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando.  Guarded by Louise Bourgeois’ imposing Crouching Spider sculpture, the centre is home to a bookshop, the fine dining Restaurant Francis Mallmann and the more casual Tadao Ando Restaurant.

The terrace cafe is the most joyful spot, where we enjoyed a simple and beautiful lunch of rocket, parmesan and pine nut salad, home-made quiche and fresh baguette followed by delicious sorbets and ice cream.  Of course, a trip wouldn’t be complete without sampling the exquisite Château La Coste rosé, which was so refreshing, crisp and bursting with fruit.

EAT:

Angelina 

For delicious, homely Italian food al fresco, head to local favourite Angelina.  Go for light bruschetta, pesto pasta, Provençal specialities such as tripe and stuffed peppers or my choice of a piping hot lasagne straight from the oven.

It’s the perfect old town spot to sit and watch the world go by and is conveniently-located for Aix’s many music venues.

Marie-Georgette

If you can find this gem of a restaurant, hidden away off the Cours Mirabeau (it took me around half an hour and lots of asking for directions), you will be rewarded with a fantastic lobster roll and skin-on fries.

It takes food inspiration from New York and London and tends to attract a clued-up crowd looking for something a little different.  You might even be tempted to dine here more than once!

La Tarte Tropézienne

The Tarte tropézienne was created by Alexandre Micka in 1955, celebrating Brigitte Bardot while she was filming And God Created Woman in Saint-Tropez.  It’s a light and fluffy brioche filled with vanilla creme and topped with sugar crumble –  a real holiday treat.

Have you been to Aix-en-Provence?  Where are your favourite Provençal hotspots?

Eurostar fares start at £99 for Marseille (from £199 in Standard Premier).  For more information and booking, visit: www.eurostar.com

Chérie City was a guest of Eurostar and Bouches-du-Rhône Tourist Board

All photos by Chérie City

Hotels, Spain

A Tale of Two Innside Hotels, Mallorca

For our summer holiday in Palma de Mallorca, we were excited to discover the Innside by Melia hotel brand for the first time.  As a ‘next generation’ hotel concept, it has a cool approach to affordable luxury and lots of millennial-friendly touches.

The majority of our time was spent at the sleek, urban Innside Palma Center and then we had a change of scenery over at the brand new Innside Palma Bosque close to the port.  Even on a relaxing city-beach break, we couldn’t help hotel hopping and it turned out to be a wise move, as the two hotels complemented each other perfectly.

Innside Palma Center is a stylish boutique hotel in the north of the city, close to the main train station and the old quarter.  It has a creative, relaxed feel with contemporary rooms and artworks from a local gallery throughout the hotel – serious design inspo.

Our Innside corner room was spacious and pristine with a juliette balcony, plush bed with high quality linen, large LCDTV and best of all, a free minibar with soft drinks replenished each day.

Of course, the jewel in the hotel’s crown is the fabulous rooftop Garabato Sky Bar complete with a mezzanine sun deck and the most heavenly pool.  We spent some time there soaking up the sun with strawberry smoothies and grazing on tasty Mallorcan burgers and Katsu pork sandwiches.  It’s also a chilled place to enjoy evening drinks at a very reasonable price – a large glass of Pedro Ximenez was just 3 Euros.

We hadn’t planned to have breakfast at the hotel every day, but we were offered a very tempting deal at check-in as MeliaRewards members (tip: book directly) and appreciated the luxury of rolling on down to the lovely Garabato Restaurant in the morning.  The breakfast buffet was really very good and we were able to start each day with eggs on toast with jamon Iberico or smoked salmon, mini pastries, muffins and proper coffee.

One of our favourite spaces in the hotel was the cosy ground-floor library filled with a well-curated selection of art and fashion books and magazines – it’s easy to while away the hours there.

Most notable about Innside Palma Center was the friendly and efficient service.  All of the staff were so friendly and helpful, from the charismatic front desk manager who welcomed us to the hard-working breakfast and pool bar team.  Everything was so perfect that we were sad to leave.

Our second home on the trip was the newly-renovated Innside Palma Bosque, which has just been relaunched as an Innside hotel.  It’s one street behind the port and is convenient for taking a bus to the many sandy beaches along the coast.

While Innside Palma Center has an intimate feel, Innside Palma Bosque is sprawling and minimalist with an open-plan lobby, lounge with a DJ and restaurant all on the ground floor.  There are still a few telltale signs of the old hotel as the new property completes its transition, however we were very impressed with our Innside Premium Swim Up Room on the edge of the magnificent outdoor swimming pool.

This superior room came with a large king-size bed, smart TV, free minibar, Nespresso machine and the most enormous free-standing bathtub in front of the patio window.  If you love swimming and lounging on your own private terrace, it’s worth booking one of these rooms for that extra touch of luxury.

The hotel’s Syndeo Restaurant with its open kitchen is also a real highlight, as the food, ambiance and staff are top notch.  We enjoyed our lunch of sushi and stir-fry noodles so much that we had burgers there later in the evening before heading out to explore the port.

Unfortunately we found the local area uninspiring and this particular stretch of the port is, frankly, quite tacky and dated with endless strip bars, cheap boozers and unappealing restaurants.  However, walking 20 minutes or so to the hip Santa Catalina neighbourhood will restore your faith in this part of Palma.

Our first experience with Innside Hotels was just wonderful and we would definitely seek them out when visiting other cities.  In fact, we’re already considering a return to one of the Palma hotels…can you guess which one?

For more information and booking, visit: www.melia.com

All photos by Chérie City

Spain

Where to Shop & Eat in Palma de Mallorca

Palma de Mallorca is one of the hottest holiday destinations this summer and it’s easy to see why travellers are falling in love with the postcard perfect city.

For travellers who like to multi-task, it’s like having the best of both worlds – a style-conscious capital city with designer boutiques, cool restaurants and chic rooftop bars, as well as endless stretches of gorgeous beaches.  We visited Palma for a short four-night break, but you could easily stay for a week and use the city as your comfortable base to explore the rest of the beautiful island.

Unlike the typical Chérie City whirlwind trip, our stay in Palma factored in plenty of chill time – mostly by the pool with the latest Margaret Atwood book and an icy strawberry smoothie in hand.  I did feel a little guilty about not rushing around to see everything, but that didn’t last long when the rooftop sun terrace was calling.  So, here are some top Palma addresses for the lazy sunseeker:

SHOPPING:

Rialto Living

Located on a side street just off the Passeig del Born, this stylish concept store is filled with covetable fashion, interiors and lifestyle products.  Just as important is its architectural backdrop – the grand Baroque-style building was once an 18th century palacio and then the Rialto Cinema before a major refurb.  The centre courtyard cafe is quite the hub for Palma ‘ladies who lunch’, enjoying light bites such as Gyoza, Caesar Salad or Tuna Tataki.

Bazaar

This little gem of a shop is dedicated to tasteful Mallorcan living with a mixture of artisanal textiles and high end designer wares.  Find woven cotton table mats in a rainbow of colours, a quirky pineapple plate or a luxurious Astier de Villatte candle.

Mallorca Delicatessen Mateu Pons

The best of the island’s produce can be found at the bijou Mallorca Delicatessen Mateu Pons.  You can graze on a platter of Sobrassada and Mahon cheese with a few glasses of Cava, or grab some fresh olives to go.  The food products such as flavoured Mallorcan salt and artisanal oils are beautifully-packaged and make gorgeous gifts.

EATING:

Ziva To Go

Holidays don’t need to be a complete departure from healthiness, so if you don’t want to miss your vitamins, head to Ziva To Go.  This chilled out cafe offers colourful super food salads, nut mylks and tempting healthy desserts.  The smoothies and cold-pressed juices are pricey at 7-8.50 Euros, but all ingredients are organic and locally sourced.

Buscando El Norte

This buzzing neighbourhood restaurant is the kind of place that you’d want to have as your local at home. It’s fashionable but unpretentious and the menu is full of tantalising Mallorcan, Mediterranean and Asian dishes.

From the selection of pintxos and small plates, we both ordered the most incredibly moreish Mini black angus burger with cheese and quail egg served with haystack fries.  Other hits were the fresh and Lobster toast with seaweed bread and the artfully presented Cod gratin on squid ink rice.  We also couldn’t resist the all-round pleaser of tender Crunchy chicken with a fruity satay sauce.

Pizzeria 500 Grados

If you’re in the mood for pizza, look no further than Pizzeria 500 Grados, a tiny urban joint serving up proper Neapolitan pizzas.  However, you need to plan ahead and book a table, as walk-in availability is rare (but not impossible if you arrive early and plead a little).  It is worth it, though, as the pizzas are some of the best I’ve ever tasted – even verging on the greatness that is Da Michele!

The Margherita is a solid choice with nicely blistered dough, juicy crushed tomato sauce, creamy mozzarella, fresh basil and a drizzle of virgin olive oil.  If you’re after more intense flavours, try the Martina Franca topped with high quality cured pork loin, fresh rocket and Parmigiano.

The Kitchen 

This is the place to see and be seen in the centre of Palma’s labyrinthine shopping streets.  The cuisine is a sun-friendly mix of Mediterranean and Asian and the three-course lunch menu is a good bet at 19.50 Euros.  You could easily start with sushi and bao buns and follow with indulgent Parmesan truffle ravioli and roast leg of lamb – there are no food rules when you’re on holiday!

Udon

Sushi is big in Palma (maybe something to do with that big open sea?) and the city has an abundance of Japanese restaurants for all budgets.  For a quick and tasty meal in a slick Japanese canteen, head to Udon, part of a small Spanish chain, in the cool Arxiduc neighbourhood.  Bypass the noodles (just ok) and go straight for the yummy sushi rolls and pan-fried gyoza.  They even have chocolate mochi for dessert and Japanese iced teas to cool down.

Have you been to Palma de Mallorca?  Where are your favourite places to shop and eat on the island?

Beauty, Websites

New Beauty Website: Shop Skincare

Last week saw the launch of Shop Skincare, an exciting new retail site for like-minded beauty lovers – particularly those who can’t resist a good beauty box!

However, Shop Skincare is a little different from the rest.  Each order over £40 includes a free beauty box containing full-size products from niche brands across the site, so you can try something new.

There are over 200 products across multiple beauty categories: skincare, make-up, haircare, suncare & tanning and wellbeing.  Some of the carefully-chosen brands available include Lord & Berry, Margaret Dabbs, Pure Elixir, Intelligent Nutrients and Ardell.

There are also some big names behind Shop Skincare, as the site’s blog features a panel of Wellness Experts such as Dermatology Specialist Natalie Fisher, Nike Trainer and Owner of Fat Buddha Yoga Jessica Syke and Nutritional Psychologist Rick Hay, among many others.

Here are some of the fab products that you can find online and may make it into your beauty box:

Ultrasun Face 50+ is a real hero product, whether you’re on the beach or sweltering in the city.  I found this face cream really helpful in preventing sun-caused pigmentation, which can flare up in the warmer months.  Its light, non-comedogenic formula also means that it won’t clog your pore, cause break-outs or make your foundation slip.

A’kin is one of my favourite natural beauty brands and its Pure Radiance Rosehip Oil is absolutely gorgeous.  Its certified organic formula leaves the skin feeling nourished and calm without any greasiness.  I’ve been using it to repair my skin after a summer beach break in Mallorca and it’s been quite a saviour.

Natura Siberica was a new discover for me and I’ve really enjoyed using its active organics Oblepikha Hand Cream.  Made with sea-buckthorn, oil, amaranth oil and cranberry seed oil, it’s a surprisingly light and naturally fruity remedy for maintaining hydrated hands and nails.

Saaf Organic is another under-the-radar natural beauty brand that is sure to impress.  Its Pure Face Cleanser comes with muslin cloths and has a luxurious balm texture and botanical aroma – perfect for the first step of a double cleanse.

Will you be trying Shop Skincare?  Which are your favourite natural beauty brands?

Shop Skincare beauty box provided as a sample

 

Beauty, Cherie Soleil

Ultrasun Summer Sun Care

With the summer holidays approaching, it’s time to plan your beachside sun care routine.  On our honeymoon in Montauk last year, I tested out a selection of products by Ultrasun against the blazing Hamptons sun.

Created by Swiss sun care experts, Ultrasun’s revolutionary technology allows a safe once-a-day application.  While other brands require regular top-ups, Ultrasun bonds to the skin and is completely water-resistant, providing all-day protection against UVA and UVB rays (up to eight hours).

It’s super-simple to use, however, in order to be fully effective, it needs to be applied properly.  Just stick to the three rules:

  • Apply sun cream to cool, dry skin 30 minutes before going outside.
  • Use one teaspoon for the face and at least one teaspoon for each part of the body.
  • Pick your protection to suit your skin tone and environment – 50+ in extreme conditions or Face 30 for a bright February morning walk.

A common sun care myth is that you have to go red before you can go brown.  Ultrasun UK Sun Expert Abi Cleeve advises that “a ‘trauma tan’ from inadequate protection that occurs too fast only ensures that the skin burns and sheds, leaving the skin tanless in days.

One of Ultrasun’s best-selling new products is the Glimmer Shimmering Sun Protection SPF50+ and it’s easy to see why.  The cooling, frangrance-free cream has a slightly irridescent sheen and leaves the skin glowing (no sparkly disco legs, don’t worry).  It’s suitable for sensitive skin and is packed full of anti-oxidants to keep your skin nourished.

Face 50+ is a real hero product, whether you’re on the beach or sweltering in the city.  I found this face cream really helpful in preventing sun-caused pigmentation, which can flare up in the warmer months.  Its light, non-comedogenic formula also means that it won’t clog your pore, cause break-outs or make your foundation slip.

As I’ve learned from past experiences of red eyes, sunglasses simply aren’t enough to keep your delicate peepers protected.  Eye SPF 30 offers great protection against sun exposure in the area where we show photo ageing the most.  The opaque fluid can feel a little intense at first and just a small amount should be applied carefully around the eye area, but it does make the difference.

Lips can often be forgotten in a suncare routine, but Ultrasun Lip SPF 30 is one of my favourites and I tend to just use it all year-round, especially on the plane to avoid dehydration.  It’s a rich, velvety lip protector enriched with blackcurrant seed oil to moisturise and reduce inflammation and chapping.  Perfect for both hot and cold climates, so you could take it to the slopes too.

Even if your skin is protected against harmful rays, your skin needs some after care to combat the drying effects of the heat, sweat and chemicals from the swimming pool.  I was super impressed with the Overnight Summer Skin Recover Mask.  The luxurious gel mask contains hyaluronic acid and brown algae to soothe and hydrate the skin.  It has a light-weight texture and is easily absorbed, plus like all Ultrasun products, you can use it for up to two years after opening, making it more than just a holiday indulgence.

Have you tried Ultrasun products?  What are your top tips for staying protected from the sun?

All Ultrasun products tested were samples  

Copenhagen, Hotels

A Stay at Ibsens Hotel, Copenhagen

We all know that Copenhagen is the official hygge city and this feeling of cosy contentment can be found in abundance at Ibsens Hotel.

Part of the boutique group Arthur Hotels, Ibsens is a contemporary urban design hotel occupying a prime spot in the hip Nansensgade area.  Right in the centre of the city, it’s just five minutes walk from the dazzling Torvehallerne food market, the Botanical Garden and Nørreport station.

On arrival, my first impression of this well-located, mid-priced hotel was that it felt homely and unpretentious with a friendly and relaxed vibe.  Check-in was swift and easy and we took the opportunity to have a wander around the open-plan lobby that includes a counter cafe and plenty of space to work or chill out in arm chairs in front of the glowing fireplace.  This is where the hotel hosts its daily Cosy Hour, where guests are treated to a complimentary beer or wine before heading out to dinner.

The lobby also has a large collection of artworks and handicrafts that give it a creative ambiance.  In fact, Ibsens is the first hotel in the world to accept the alternative currency of ‘art money’ as payment, where emerging artists can use it to pay up to 50% of the room rate and share their inspiration.

Our X-Large room on the top floor was spacious and ever so charming with painted wooden rafters and a sloped ceiling.  It was designed in a cool, neutral palette with a checked carpet floor and highlights of pastel blue and Chartreuse.

The room was furnished in a typically Danish style with a writing desk, LCD TV, plenty of lamps and a wool-felt statement chair.  The double bed was extremely comfortable and covered in lovely textured linen with some plump cushions.

The white tiled bathroom was simply functional and petite, however the shower had excellent water pressure and I liked the selection of Nordic Amber bathroom products.

That evening, we dined just three minutes away from the hotel at Höst, an atmospheric and stylish restaurant with a choice of tasting menu and lots of treats in between courses.  I highly recommend booking a table there for a truly memorable and creative meal.

However, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of the hotel for some good food, as it houses no less than three eateries.  There’s the casual Pintxos Tapas, sleek Japanese-Danish chain Sticks’n’Sushi and the smart Italian restaurant La Rocca that boasts an intimate courtyard for summer al fresco dining.

A real highlight of our stay at Ibsens Hotel was its fresh and seasonal Nordic breakfast with an array of high quality items sourced from local farms and bakeries.  We particularly enjoyed the delicious dark chocolate and custard pastries, cured meats and cheese with rustic bread, individual glasses of Skyr yoghurt and fruits or honey and little sticks of chocolate (for the inner child).

Tea lovers will be particularly impressed with the handy tea station offering a selection of artisanal loose leaf teas for a proper morning brew.  This tea is also available throughout the day at the cafe, should you wish to curl up in a cosy corner by the fireplace.

The hotel also has some thoughtful touches for guests such as bike rentals at reception, discounted day passes for the next door Ni’mat Spa and guest list admission to nearby Jazzhouse and Global for a night of live music.  Also, guests can really feel at home by enjoying a sociable lunch with the hotel staff, served daily in the restaurant at Hotel Kong Arthur.  It’s the first time I’ve heard about such an initiative and what better way to get acquainted with a city and hotel than talking with the friendly people behind it.

Ibsens is a wonderful, affordable hotel for those who appreciate a chilled-out stay in the heart of Copenhagen.  Rooms range from Tiny for solo travellers to large Suites, so there’s something for all group sizes and budgets.  I also highly recommend indulging in the Nordic breakfast, as hot drinks in Copenhagen cafes are surprisingly pricey and you’ll want to start the day with a proper caffeine hit and delicious baked goods.

For more information and booking, visit: www.arthurhotels.dk

Chérie City was a guest of Ibsens Hotel 

All photos by Chérie City

Films

Film Review: Dying Laughing

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a comedian?  Are they jokers 24/7 and how do they handle the pressure of spontaneity at a stand-up show?

New British documentary Dying Laughing, directed by Lloyd Stanton and Paul Toogood, has the answers.  It delves into the psyche of the funniest minds in the US and UK and the roll call of talent is seriously impressive!  There can’t be many prominent comedians that weren’t summoned to the interview chair, from Jerry Lewis to Jamie Foxx.

Filmed in atmospheric black and white, Dying Laughing begins by examining the role of the comedian and what it means to them to make people laugh.  Chris Rock shares that his comedic process is all about those suspended moments of laughter while Jerry Seinfeld declares that comedy is “beyond art, it’s a magic trick”.

We then discover just how tough life on the road can be for emerging personalities, with original footage of America’s small towns.  Amy Schumer highlights the loneliness of yet another night at a cheap motel where “its 100% certain people were murdered” and Jason Manford adds that your audience could be the first people you actually speak to that day.

Falling flat really touches a nerve with all of the comedians, as Sarah Silverman reveals her mortification of being quietly heckled with a ‘bombing’ noise from the back of the room and Kevin Hart shares his early disappointment at being labelled unfunny by a promoter.  Most touching, however, is when Royale Watkins breaks down in tears remembering a disastrous gig compered by Bernie Mac and missing out on the chance to meet his idol Michael Jordan.

The documentary also take a look at the politics of race in comedy and there are some unnerving moments as Stephen K. Amos and Cedric the Entertainer recall how they reacted to being targets of racism at a gig.  It also touches on the idea of using jokes channeled towards specific races in different communities for comedic effect.

There are, however, some more positive moments as Tiffany Haddish tells how immersing herself in comedy saved her life following a troubled childhood.  You can also count on Omid Djalili to lighten the mood as he recalls his wife chanting “off, off, off” at him from the back table at a gig.

Dying Laughing is a dedicated and well-curated homage to the art of comedy with plenty of poignant moments.  The monochrome interview format can become a little repetitive and it tends to veer into self-indulgence at times, but I’m sure the comedians are more than aware of those typical traits and it’s still a very worthwhile watch.

Dying Laughing is in UK cinemas and on demand now.

Cafes, London

Breakfast at Panetteria by Fucina, London

Is there a better way to start a day out in London than a delightful Italian breakfast?  I’m not usually an earlier riser on the weekend, however the sun was shining and there were pastries with my name on over on the other side of town.

Our morning refuel was at Panetteria, a bijou Italian bakery, cafe and deli in Marylebone’s most fashionable part of town, among the likes of Monocle Cafe, Cire Trudon and Chiltern Firehouse.  Opened earlier this year, Panetteria is the casual little sister of the stylish Fucina by Kurt Zdesar the restaurateur behind Chotto Matte and Black Roe.

Run by ex-Princi head baker Massimilliano Porta, Panetteria feels like a real neighbourhood spot with its own downstair bakery, communal seating and super-friendly staff.  There is also a range of artisanal Italian produce to buy, for a bit of Italian good living at home.

For my morning caffeine fix, I ordered a pot of really good, aromatic English breakfast loose leaf tea while Steven went for a flat white.  As hoped, the coffee was rich roasted, creamy and potent – just as it would be made in Italy.

I started with the most amazing Granola and yoghurt – seriously the best I’ve ever tasted!  Made in-house, Panetteria’s nutty granola was studded with uplifting orange zest and cranberries and accompanied by thick, luxurious yoghurt and segments of blood orange.

Our choice of freshly-baked pastries – an Almond croissant and a Pain au chocolat – were flaky, buttery and ever so delicious.  Another hit was the delicious lemon loaf cake, drizzled with lots of tangy citrus syrup.  Eating cake for breakfast is very Italian, so we felt no guilt.

If you’re in the mood for something more substantial, there are authentic Italian foccaccia, mini buns filled with prosciutto, healthy porridge and decadent bomboloni.  You can also pick up a crusty baguette or rustic boule to take away.

Panetteria is a real gem in Marylebone with beautifully-crafted food and a friendly local vibe.  I’m now pretty curious to see what’s going on next door at Fucina too – the pizzas look rather tempting!

Photos by Chérie City

Chérie City was a guest of Panetteria

Flowers, London

London Flower School Opens at Kings Cross

Last week, I had the chance to take a look around the newly-opened London Flower School at Kings Cross. Housed in a beautifully-renovated former factory, London Flower School is an inspiring place to learn all aspects of floristry, from artistic techniques to the business side.

Founded by Wagner Kreusch, former Head Tutor at McQueens Flower School, and Helen Dyson, an experienced teacher and florist, the school brings something different to the industry with a unique approach.

Helen told me that the school’s signature style is ‘modern and fresh with arrangements that are quite open and free, rather than a typically rounded shape”.  Not only are their floral designs wild and vibrant, but the flowers are simply exquisite.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced florist seeking inspiration, London Flower School offers a range of expert-led courses.  Start with an intensive one-week foundation course, learn how to create eye-catching displays for weddings and events or take floristry to a professional level with a four-week career course.

London Flower School has only just opened, so keep an eye out for more courses and events.  They’re also super-friendly and happy to chat all things flowers to see what takes your interest.

For more information and booking, visit: www.londonflowerschool.com

All photos by Chérie City 

Berlin, Theatre

Scotch & Soda, Chamaeleon Theater Berlin

Berlin is one of my favourite destinations for a weekend city break and I was thrilled to be invited back to the wonderful Chamaeleon Theater to discover the latest show, Scotch & Soda.

I was blown away by the theatre’s previous show UNDERART by Swedish company Cirkus Cirkör and really fell in love with contemporary circus, so I knew I was in for a treat.

Chamaeleon Theater is a rare gem, tucked away in Berlin’s historic Hackesche Höfe – a large complex with eight curious interconnecting courtyards.  Berlin may be famed for its cabaret shows, however Chamaeleon Theater is all about contemporary circus, presenting the very best shows by leading companies around the world.

Currently in residence is Australia’s super-talented Company 2 with their magnificent show, Scotch & Soda.  It’s also part of Australia Now Germany 2017 – a year-long programme to showcase Australian culture in Germany.

Scotch & Soda is a raucous, booze-soaked soirée that makes you feel like you’re at the best party of your life. As the name suggests, the show is an intoxicating blend of circus and jazz created by two groups of artists and friends – Company 2 led by David Carberry and Chelsea McGuffin and The Uncanny Carnival Band.

Set inside a bohemian spiegeltent, the show opens with plenty of energy and chutzpah as the group get merry, balancing on Champagne bottles and having drunken fights.  James Kingsford Smith steals the moment as an incoherent, rowdy Scotsman and yes, you do see what’s under his kilt!

However, it’s not all just larking around as the mesmerising acrobatics make your jaw quickly hit the floor, where it’s likely to stay for the rest of the evening.  Skip Walker-Milne balances atop a number of precariously-stacked suitcases while sisters Alice and Kate Muntz perform a captivating balancing routine and gang up on David Carberry, sending him hurtling down a flight of steps.

Other highlights include the ‘morning after the night before’ aerial straps act performed by a hungover James Kingsford Smith, Matthew Ottignon being given a comical bathtub wash and the spectacular finale that surely breaks records for how many people can ride just one bicycle.

Live jazz is also at the heart of Scotch & Soda and composer Lucian McGuiness’ original score is just so uplifting, infectious and at times poignant.  The musicians also have their own sketches in the show, from Lucian’s eyebrow-raising ukele-playing to Eden Ottignon ‘marrying’ his double bass.

Scotch & Soda is so joyful and awe-inspiring that I really didn’t want it to end and was literally on the edge of my front-row seat the whole time.

Following the show, we had a chance to meet some of the performers before they headed out to play an impromptu gig at a nearby bar.  They’re such a friendly, tight-knit group and Chamaeleon Theater really invests in their wellbeing and happiness while living in Berlin.

Afterwards, we were treated to a lovely, relaxed dinner at Hackescher Höfe just next door to the theatre.  It’s a classic Berlin restaurant in style with a large dining room and the cuisine is a good mix of German favourites and international dishes.

I started with a delicious Caesar salad and followed with the most enormous steak with lashings of tangy Béarnaise sauce and a super-indulgent, buttery potato gratin.

For dessert, it just had to be a traditional warm apple strudel with vanilla sauce – what better way to finish a meal when you’re in Berlin?

The food at Hackescher Höfe was perfectly-cooked and so hearty and generous.  It’s a great spot for a post-theatre treat, especially in the warmer months where you can dine on the terrace under the parasols.

Our base for the trip was the stylish and contemporary Hotel NH Collection Berlin Mitte Friedrichstrasse.  It was the first time I’d experienced the NH Hotels brand and there were so many things that I liked about this stylish and comfortable hotel.

Firstly, it’s in a great position for visiting Chamaeleon Theater, as it’s just 7 minutes away by tram (the stop is literally on the hotel’s doorstep), or a pleasant 15-minute walk over the river and through Monbijoupark. Then there’s the sleek, minimalist design and the feeling of zen throughout the hotel.

We each had a fabulous Terrace Room on the eight floor, which has its own dedicated penthouse elevator. My room was bright and spacious with thoughtful touches such as a Nespresso machine and plush bathrobes and a real highlight was the large terrace with views over the city.  I was also kindly welcomed with handmade chocolates and strawberries and a bottle of San Pellegrino.

The hotel is located in a busy shopping area so there are useful things nearby and I was really pleased to find dean&david in the same building.  It’s a cool healthy fast food place that Berliners love for its aromatic Thai curries, cold-pressed juices and gourmet salads with meat or seafood grilled to order.  I ordered my favourite salad combo and enjoyed a peaceful lunch on my terrace in the sunshine.

Another perk of staying at this hotel is the excellent breakfast, which is served in an enormous, futuristic atrium – it’s just so impressive!  Among the usual breakfast items was a chef station for fresh egg dishes, an overwhelming choice of breads, macarons and an exciting selection of loose leaf teas to start the morning nicely.

The hotel also features a sauna and steam room, complimentary sweets and juices in the lobby and if you stay on the weekend, a special Lazy Sunday offering with breakfast served until noon and a late check-out of 5pm.

Before heading back to London, we had some time to explore Berlin.  I took a stroll around the Hackescher Markt, along the River Spree and over to Alexanderplatz, enjoying the bright and sunny day.

There’s always something new to see in the hip Mitte neighbourhood and one of my favourite new discoveries was Zeit für Brot, an artisan bakery with cinnamon buns in lots of flavours.  I also loved shopping at CRUBA, Paper & Tea and Record Store Berlin.

I had such a wonderful weekend in Berlin and cannot stress enough just how memorable Scotch & Soda at Chamaeleon Theater really is.  Berlin is beautiful at this time of year and there’s still plenty of time to see the show – book a flight immediately!

Scotch & Soda runs until 20th August at Chamaeleon Theater.  For more information and booking, visit: www.chamaeleonberlin.com

Thanks to Chamaeleon Theater, NH Hotels, Hackescher Höfe and Berlin Card for a wonderful Berlin trip.

Photos by Chérie City (Scotch & Soda images by Andy Phillipson)

Cafes, London

Brunch at Cafe Miami, East London

Clapton in east London has some strong food game at the moment and Cafe Miami is definitely one of my new favourites.

It’s in good company too, with French bistro Les Nénettes serving up a magnificent Croque Madame, Red Velvet Lattes at nearby Palm Vaults, amazing Danish baked goods at Charles Artisan Bread and from what I’ve heard, top class tacos at DEL74.

More than just a fun name, Cafe Miami takes inspiration from its location inside the Strand Building, a striking Art Deco gem that’s more South Beach than Lower Clapton Road.  It was originally built as the Hackney Electricity Demonstration Hall and Offices in 1925 and has since been converted into flats with an enviable courtyard terrace.

Cafe Miami is a petite all-day spot that draws a good crowd for weekend brunch with tempting American comfort food.  It’s simple yet welcoming, designed in dreamy pastel hues with a counter laden with cakes. The soundtrack is 90s R’n’B, the staff wear Cafe Miami logo tees with stone wash jeans and there’s a cheeky wifi passcode that’s too rude for them to say aloud.  OF COURSE I was going to like this place!

We started by ordering some hot drinks and were given some vanilla-scented popcorn to graze on while waiting for our food.  My Matcha latte with almond milk was absolutely perfectly (with plenty of high quality matcha and no bitter taste) and Steven’s Flat white, made with Workshop Coffee, was potent and milky with a nutty flavour.

Everything is freshly-cooked with care at Cafe Miami and we were really wowed when we saw the size of our dishes.  My Nutella-filled pancakes topped with banana (£8.50) included three giant, fluffy pancakes stuck together with gooey Nutella and finished with sliced banana and a good ole’ drizzle of maple syrup.  They were just heavenly and I managed to get through two thirds before sliding the rest across the table in defeat.

Steven went for a diner classic of American waffles with bacon, maple syrup and blueberries (£9).  The heart-shaped, golden waffles were nice and thin and loaded with the most delicious Canadian maple-cured bacon, fresh blueberries and lashings of maple syrup.  The savoury waffles had quite a neutral flavour and made an ideal base for the bold, in-your-face smokiness and sweetness.

Obviously, we had more than enough for a filling brunch, however if you’re feeling really indulgent, Cafe Miami also offers snacks like Pop Tarts, Grilled grapefruit and Toasted banana bread with Nutella.

Cafe Miami definitely scores points for its mouthwatering food and cool interiors, but it’s also really chilled and the staff are friendly and laid-back.  I can’t wait to go back and try their toasted sandwiches, avo toast and fish finger tacos.

All photos by Chérie City