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cheriecity

Hotels, Paris

Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe

Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe was top of my list for my recent trip to Paris with my mum.  We both fell in love with the Sofitel brand following our stay at the ultra-chic Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg and after all, our mamans deserve nothing but the best!

While Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg is all about fashion and rose-scented decadence, Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe is a sleek and minimalist affair.

Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe

The sophisticated five star hotel is located in an elegant Haussmann-style building on the corner of upscale rue Beaujon just a few steps from the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées.  It’s also within walking distance of the Seine, the Tuileries Garden and the art instutions of the 8th arrondissement – Palais de Tokyo, Paris Museum of Modern Art and the Palais Galliera.

The open-plan lobby is buzzing yet calm with a stylish all-day bar that offers light bites and exquisite pastries during the day and inventive cocktails at night.  On the other side of the lobby is a relaxed guest lounge designed in electric blue with comfy sofas.

Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe Le Bar

Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe

Check-in was warm and friendly and we were personally shown to our Luxury Room on the fifth floor.  Designed by Studio Putman, our room was so zen and tranquil with a simple, cool palette of white, soft grey and beige.  The minimalist style was complemented by high end touches such as a tactile suede headboard, plush carpet and a high tech mood lighting system (which admittedly took me a little while to master).

Sofitel Arc de Triomphe Paris

A perk of staying at Sofitel is the signature MyBed, and it was just as cosy and heavenly and I remembered with crisp linen and fabulous pillows – like floating on a cloud.

Sofitel MyBed

Other room features included a Nespresso coffee machine and separate kettle with Dammann Frères teas and complimentary bottles of Evian.  There was also handily-placed room service menu for the hotel’s restaurant Les Cocottes Arc de Triomphe by Michelin starred chef Christian Constant.  The restaurant has a unique ‘kitchen to table’ concept with rustic, comforting dishes served in little cast iron pots and the design is contemporary yet nostalgic.

It’s hard not to be tempted by its offering of an authentic French onion soup, rotisserie roasted chicken or a trio of gourmet Croque Monsieurs.  I actually wish we’d dined there that evening, as our meal at a terrace cafe was very average and clouded in Friday night smoke.  However, our lunch at Le Frank at the nearby Fondation Louis Vuitton was truly memorable, so it was still a successful foodie day.

Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe

One of Andrée Putman’s design philosophies is that the bathroom is the most important room in a home or hotel room, so of course our bathroom was quite the destination.  It could be accessed by two sliding doors on each side (Carrie Bradshaw would approve) and designed in glossy white with tiny blue and grey mosaic tiles.

Sofitel Arc de Triomphe Paris bathroom

It features a walk-in shower, a pristine Corian sink, silver stool, magnifying mirror, thick towels, a full set of Hermès Eau d’Orange Verte bathroom products and best of all, a snuggly Sofitel bathrobe and branded slippers.

Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe

Just before the evening turndown, we were very kindly welcomed with a sweet gift of macarons, apricot pâte de fruit and fresh apricots.  Another lovely surprise was a stunning 14 rue Beaujon candle each, designed exclusively for the hotel by perfumer Rami Mekdachi – the nose behind scents for Chloé, Roger Vivier, Costes, Colette and some of the best hotels in the world.  These candles can be bought in the lobby, as well as cute Paris-themed handbags by designer Barbara Rihl, as a luxurious souvenir of your stay.

Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe macarons

In the morning, we had the chance to discover Les Cocottes Arc de Triomphe over a sumptuous breakfast.  After we were shown to our table by the lovely morning staff, a shot of healthy fruit juice and a basket of flaky pastries swiftly arrived with our hot drinks.

Copyright Phototèque ACCOR. Photo Gilles TRILLARD.

Sofitel hotels are known for their superior breakfasts and this one was a real delight, so be sure to leave plenty of time to really indulge.  There is a generous selection of hot dishes, fresh baguette, yoghurt, crêpes, cake, mini financiers and brownies and an impressive choice of gluten-free baked items.

Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe breakfast

Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe is a smart yet relaxed place to stay where you will feel really looked after.  It’s a particularly good choice for first-time visitors to Paris who will benefit from its central location close to famous landmarks and an international approach to service.

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

Chérie City was a guest of Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe

Photos by Chérie City and Sofitel (Les Cocottes Arc de Triomphe by Gilles Trillard).

Hotels, Paris

Hotel Square Louvois, Paris

It’s a rare joy to discover a hotel that makes you feel truly at home with the comforts that you miss when travelling.  Hotel Square Louvois in the centre of Paris has only been open since August, but it’s already a slick operation with super-friendly staff, thoughtful amenities and seriously covetable interiors by designer Leslie Gauthier.

Hotel Square Louvois Paris

Hotel Square Louvois Paris

This four-star contemporary design hotel overlooks the peaceful, leafy Square Louvois and is conveniently close to the Palais Royal, Louvre and Opera.  I thought I knew central Paris pretty well, but Square Louvois was a new discovery – apparently its elegant residences hosted the cream of Parisian high society in the 19th century.

Square Louvois Paris

Arriving at Hotel Square Louvois, my mum and I were warmly welcomed and offered a seat to check in via an iPad (I liked that we were the first guests to try the new digital system).  The open-plan lobby is a cool lifestyle space with bookshelves laden with paperpack folio editions of classic French novels, two Apple iMacs and a cosy nook with headphones and magazine.

The lobby has a Parisian-meets-Scandinavian style that feels very hip and ‘now’ but the atmosphere is relaxed, fuss-free and unpretentious.  It’s also pet-friendly, so you may spot the occasional pampered pooch trotting around.

Hotel Square Louvois Paris lobby

Guests can also kick back with complimentary refreshments – there’s a Nespresso machine, chilled bottles of Evian and a glass jar filled with Madeleines.  There’s also a daily ‘gouter’ afternoon snack served between 4pm and 6pm in the dining room, but we unfortunately we didn’t hear about it in time to indulge.

Hotel Square Louvois Paris lobby

Our Deluxe Room on the second floor was so calming and chic, designed in a palette of petrol blue, inky grey and soft gold with highlights of dark wood, copper and tan leather.  There are so many gorgeous details such as the black and white photographs of French writers, a cool houndstooth chair and a luxurious geometric-patterned rug covering the parquet floor.  I couldn’t help imagining that if I had a dream Paris apartment, it would look exactly like this.

Hotel Square Louvois Paris

The complimentary amenities continue to the guest rooms with Nespresso coffee and tea facilities, speculoos biscuits and bottles of Evian, as well as free movies on the large LCD TV.  We had an unexpectedly late night following dinner at nearby Cafe Ruc, staying up to watch The Intern in bed.

Our twin beds were incredibly comfortable and covered with superior quality linen (possibly Frette) and indigo denim-style cushions.  Also worth a mention is the powerful and completely noiseless air-conditioning, which made all the difference for a blissful night’s sleep.

Hotel Square Louvois Paris Deluxe Room

The pristine bathroom is an adequate size with a powerful shower and bath and proper hairdryer, but it’s the small touches that make it more fun – luxurious bathrobes and slippers, stunning patterned mosaic tiles and a full set of L’Occitane bathroom products in a cute denim blue felted pouch.

Hotel Square Louvois Paris bathroom

Hotel Square Louvois Paris bathroom products

In the morning, a delightful buffet breakfast is served from a rustic-luxe French kitchen and pantry.  There are hot options like scrambled eggs and bacon as well as delicious mini pastries, ready-to-slice baguette, French cheeses, charcuterie, cereal, fruit juices, apple compote and lots of different kinds of yoghurt.

Hotel Square Louvois Paris breakfast

Perhaps the addition of a few surprising items like crêpes, waffles or a healthy chia pudding might give the Parisian breakfast an edge, but everything was very high quality and served perfectly.  I also liked the accompaniments of posh French butter, miniature Bonne Maman jams and Dammann Frères tea.

The spacious breakfast room was so pleasant and relaxed that we enjoyed a second cup while planning our day ahead.

Hotel Square Louvois Paris breakfast

The real jewel in the crown of Hotel Square Louvois is its fabulous lower ground Wellness area with a sleek yoga studio, relaxation room and swimming pool.  In fact, calling it a swimming pool is an understatement, as its powerful hydromassage jets along one side make it an enormous jacuzzi at the push of a button.

Hotel Square Louvois Paris pool

It was such a treat to unwind after a day of walking around the city and it really added to the vibe of a chilled out urban resort.

Hotel Square Louvois Paris relaxation room

Hotel Square Louvois is the kind of hotel that you can’t help falling in love with and a stay there is sure to be memorable.  If you appreciate cool design, a central location and plenty of thoughtful extras, this is the place that you should make your home in Paris.

For more information and booking, visit: www.hotel-louvois-paris.com

Chérie City was a guest of Hotel Square Louvois

All photos by Chérie City

 

Beauty

Roger&Gallet Aura Mirabilis Skincare

French heritage beauty brand Roger&Gallet has had quite a revamp since I saw it last.  I thought I knew all about this classic 150 year-old brand (best known for its fragranced soaps), but at the recent launch of its first skincare range, Aura Mirabilis, I was surprised at how desirable it has become.

Roger et Gallet Aura Mirabilis

Roger&Gallet was founded on Paris’ prestigious rue Saint-Honoré in 1862 and became a supplier to France’s royal court, creating an eau de cologne for Napoleon 1st.  Today, it tempts with its contemporary packaging and elegant scents such as Gingembre Rouge, Bois d’Orange and Rose Imaginaire, created by master perfumers including Francis Kurkdjian, Alberto Morillas and Dominique Ropion.

Its first skincare range Aura Mirabilis is big news for the fragrance house and it takes inspiration from a natural elixir (aqua mirabilis) first made over 300 years ago by monks using powerful plants found in a ‘Garden of Simples’.  It later became the recipe for Napoleon’s eau de Cologne.

Roger & Gallet Aura Mirabilis

The collection of four products contains 18 distilled botanicals known for their healing and rejuvenating properties, including damask rose, bergamot, sweet orange, thyme, neroli and sandalwood.  The packaging is also pretty and luxurious with touches of gold and an ethereal, watery green tint.

The Cleansing Mask has a glossy gel consistency and quickly transforms into a light oil, which glides easily across the skin.  It works very well to cleanse the pores and remove debris, all with a pleasant botanical scent. When emulsified with water it turns into a purifying milk and leaves the skin feeling fresh and clean without leaving any oily residue once washed off.  I tend to use it as a luxurious cleanser, but it can also be used as gel mask to effectively draw out impurities – just leave on for five minutes and massage before removing.

Roger & Gallet Aura Mirabilis

Another great product in the range is the Beauty Vinegar, which tones, clarifies and gently exfoliates the skin.  Inspired by vinegar-based formulas of the 18th century, the biphasic formula contains a concentrate of 18 plants in the green-hued essence phase and fruit vinegar in the watery phase.  I find the Beauty Vinegar really refreshes my skin and preps it for the next moisturising step, plus it actually feels suitable for all skin types.

Also in the collection is the potent Double Extract serum and the Legendary Cream – a gel-creme moisturiser with white lily extract to even and illuminate.

Roger&Gallet Aura Mirabilis is such a lovely, natural range that brings back a historic, tried-and-tested approach to beauty with a modern twist.  Some of the products have already become part of my daily routine and I love that floral, zesty aroma of cologne to really wake up my skin.

Roger&Gallet Aura Mirabilis is priced from £15 to £40 and is available now at Marks & Spencer.

All photos by Chérie City

Samples

Art, Paris, Restaurants

Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris

Top of the list for my recent Paris trip was visiting the Fondation Louis Vuitton.  Not only is it one of the city’s most striking new buildings, but it boasts some fabulous views of Paris and a great restaurant.

Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris

The LVMH-supported art museum and cultural centre was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry and opened just two years ago.  It occupies a prime spot in the perfectly-manicured Jardin d’Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne (where Gehry sat and designed the building from a sketch) and is on the edge of Paris’ posh Neuilly suburb.

Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris

Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris

We visited in a quiet period between exhibitions, however there was still plenty to see.  Most prominent was French conceptual artist Daniel Buren’s ‘Observatory of Light’ work in situ.  He is best known for the monochrome striped columns in the Palais Royal and the Red Arc at the Guggenheim Bilbao.

Buren has transformed the Fondation’s twelve glass ‘sails’ with coloured filters and white stripes to create a new vision.  The usual appearance, though remarkable, is more sober with clear glass, so the flashes of colour really enhance the form of the building.

Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris

Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris

The lower-ground pond with its crystal clear reflection and multiple mirrors is also a really cool architectural feature, as is the dramatic exterior waterfall that cascades towards the building.

Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris

While there weren’t any major exhibitions on, we still got our art fix from The Collection dedicated to Chinese art.  Xu Zhen’s large-scale sculpture Giant no. 3 brings together two Chinese heritage emblems – Buddha and the Victory of Samothrace and is made entirely from animal hides.

There’s also a surreal, dream-like video piece by Yang Fudong that expresses the anxiety of age in modern China and contemplative works by Ai Weiwei, Huang Yong Ping and Zhang Huan.

Fondation Louis Vuitton Xu Zhen

Of course, one cannot survive on art alone and Le Frank restaurant is hard to resist.  Headed up by Michelin-starred chef Jean-Louis Nomicos (La Grand Cascade, Lasserre and Les Tablettes Jean-Louis Nomicos), Le Frank is everything that a museum restaurant should be – stylish, exciting and innovative yet relaxing.

Le Frank Fondation Louis Vuitton

The restaurant is bright and airy with floor to ceiling windows, a floating art installation and vintage Louis Vuitton trunks mounted on the wall.  There’s a chic terrace overlooking the Jardin d’Acclimatation, but we chose a window seat inside to keep cool on that hot day.

Le Frank Fondation Louis Vuitton

We were tempted by the Garden Composition (€28) – a set lunch menu that includes a selection of signature dishes, dessert, a large bottle of mineral water and tea or coffee.

These tasters came beautifully presented on a wooden board and they worked harmoniously together. Poached egg, potato and saffron and Parmesan cream was actually quite light and not overly rich, while the chilled Tomato veloute with ginger lemon jelly was smooth, fragrant and very refreshing.

main

Tomatoes and mozzarella with basil was simple yet high quality with a clean and fresh taste and Tabbouleh was summery and aromatic with a fluffy texture and a subtle touch of mint.

The dessert of Vanilla-coconut Japanese pearls, madeleines and sweet gazpacho was an absolute delight.  The Japanese pearls melted in the mouth and I loved the velvety salted caramel topping with baked Madeleines fresh from the oven, finished with a zingy iced strawberry and tomato soup that acted as a palate cleanser.

The sweet course was accompanied by a Nespresso Macchiato for my mum while I enjoyed a Palais des Thés Blue of London Earl Grey tea served in a heavy iron teapot.

dessert

Our lunch was exquisite and excellent value and we were really well looked after by the charming staff.  I’d happily stay for a bite to eat on every visit, whether it’s for lunch, dinner or afternoon tea and cake.

The Fondation Louis Vuitton is a truly inspiring space and I’m dying to go back and see the new autumn exhibitions.  Even in between shows, it’s worth paying the reasonable nine Euros entry fee just to experience the building and view the art collections.

For more information, visit: www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr and www.restaurantlefrank.fr

All photos by Chérie City

Events, London

Japanese Rice with Chef Hideki Hiwatashi

Today, I spent an afternoon learning how to cook Japanese rice at the Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2016 in Olympia, London.  It’s the first time I’ve been to this gourmet trade fair and I was wowed by the range of delectable food products from around the world.  It’s definitely the place for foodies to come and try some international bites and discover new cooking techniques from top chefs.

Japan Pavilion

Throughout the fair, the Japan Rice and Rice Industry Export Promotion Association (JRE) is hosting a daily programme of interesting talks and presentations to highlight the benefits of Japanese rice.  During my visit, I was particularly excited to watch a live demonstration from Hideki Hiwatashi, Executive Chef at Hakkasan Group’s Sake no Hana – I’ve had some great meals there and was keen to learn from the very best.

Executive Chef Hideki Hiwatashi

The first lesson was how to make perfect Japanese rice at home.  Rice is a staple of Persian food too, so I’ve had plenty of practice making pilau rice, but Japanese rice is quite different in texture and taste.  I’ve experimented with making Japanese rice at home before (usually accompanied by a yummy chicken katsu curry) and it’s not too difficult, but you need to follow the rules carefully and be patient – treat it like a ritual.

Executive Chef Hideki Hiwatashi Sake no Hana

Japanese rice has a high level of starch and should be sweet and sticky yet also light and fluffy.  Executive Chef Hideki Hiwatashi achieves this by rinsing, washing, soaking, cooking and steaming the rice.  I was surprised to learn that he first rinses the rice in soft water – mineral water, in fact – as London’s hard water doesn’t suit the rice so well.

Japanese cooking demonstration

To prepare the rice, pour water in the rice, mix it and drain it two times.  Then wash it for 10 seconds three times and leave to soak for 30 minutes (the rice should absorb most of the water).  Drain and add to a heavy pot with a lid and add equal parts of water.  Boil the rice on a high heat, then turn down the heat to low for 10 minutes and finally turn the heat off and steam it.  The rice will then be light, springy and ready to serve.

Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2016

Of course, you need something tasty to go with that exemplary rice and what better than Teriyaki seafood?  I’ve always assumed that Teriyaki sauce would be hard to make, but it only takes three store-cupboard ingredients.  Simply blend one part soya sauce, one part cooking Sake and two parts mirin.

Japanese sake

You can use most kinds of meat or fish for Teriyaki, but Chef Hideki Hiwatashi demonstrated with eel tail and fresh scallop.  Lightly coat each scallop, including the coral, and small pieces of eel in flour and pan-fry in a very hot pan until throughly cooked.  Then pour in the Teriyaki sauce and sautée until the fish and seafood are covered in the sticky, rich glaze and lightly caramelised.  Serve with freshly-made Japanese rice and drizzle over some remaining Teriyaki sauce.

Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2016

We had a chance to try the dish and it was absolutely delicious – the fish and seafood were ever so tender, the rice was sweet and satisfying and the sauce was full of flavour.  Chef Hideki Hiwatashi told us that this is his favourite dish to cook at home, accompanied by some miso soup and Japanese pickles, as it’s comforting and healthy.

Teriyaki seafood

Following the demonstration, I browsed the stalls in the Japanese Pavilion and tasted authentic products made in Japan such as premium Sake, ceremonial grade matcha green tea, sencha, yuzu sauce, miso and umami seasoning.

Japanese tea

Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2016

One of my favourite discoveries was the adorable, exotic Japanese baby peach.  ‘Thinned out’ green peaches were previously thrown away in favour of white peaches, but due to the Japanese tradition of not being wasteful, they now they are now served as speciality fruit.  They’re so luscious and sweet and can be enjoyed on their own or in a dessert or even an Asian-inspired cocktail.  I can’t help seeing a trend coming and predict they’ll soon become the new kumquats!

Japanese baby peach

Executive Chef Hideki Hiwatashi’s helpful tips have definitely inspired me to create some delicious Japanese rice dishes at home.  The Sake no Hana gold standard may take time and skill to achieve, but now we have the Chef’s secrets…

Speciality Food Fair is open to trade guests until 6th September at Kensington Olympia.  Be sure to visit the Japanese Pavilion and learn how to make perfect Japanese rice, courtesy of the Japan Rice and Rice Industry Export Promotion Association (JRE).

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Beauty

Bobbi Brown Instant Pretty Palette

When travelling, every bit of space is vital and streamlining the makeup bag is a must.  Palettes are perfect for this, with a little bit of everything you need in one place, and one of my new favourites has to be the Bobbi Brown Instant Pretty Palette.

Bobbi Brown palette

Bobbi Brown always aces natural beauty and brings out the most covetable makeup collections.  This palette has everything you need for an everyday nude eye (or a glam evening look with bold eyeliner), lightly-flushed pink cheeks, volumised lashes and polished, hydrated lips.  It also comes with a high quality dual-ended eye shadow/eye liner brush, although it doesn’t actually retract to fit inside the palette.

Every shade is a winner (no crazy colours here) and I tend to use all of them to create a complete look.  Naked is a lovely matte beige base shadow while metallic Dusty Plum lifts with a subtle shimmer, Cream brightens and highlights around the eye area and Rich Smoke is intense and highly-pigmented for precision lining.

Bobbi Brown Instant Pretty Collection

French Pink blush is flirty, vibrant and totally matte, so be sure to apply it carefully.  I found the Black smokey eye mascara good for lengthening and curling, but it can be a little bit drying.  Finally, a slick of creamy Pink Mauve lip colour really uplifts the lips.  The easy-to-wear deep pink shade has a touch of purple coolness and is sure to complement most complexions.

I’ve always found Bobbi Brown makeup really long-lasting and the colours in this palette definitely stand up well to a full day out and about.  Best of all, the palette is petite and light-weight, so it should save you room in your suitcase for important things like an extra pair of shoes!

Bobbi Brown Instant Pretty Collection

Do you love Bobbi Brown makeup?  What are your space-saving travel beauty tips?

All photos by Chérie City

Sample

Beauty, Shopping

Jo Malone London Just Because Gifting

What is it about Jo Malone London that makes my heart beat faster?  Maybe it’s a combination of divine fragrances, the iconic cream and black packaging and welcoming stores that just make you want to move in.

I was so excited to receive a surprise gift from Jo Malone London as a post-wedding treat!  The British beauty brand’s exquisite gifting service, Just Because, made it look and feel even more dreamy.

Jo Malone just because gift

These specially-wrapped parcels comes with the just because card with a personalised message (mine made me just melt), hot pink sticker and grosgrain striped and polka dot ribbon.  It was so pretty, I almost didn’t dare open the box…almost!

Jo Malone London just because gift

Inside was a beautiful presentation box containing a Fragrance Layering Collection.  Seriously, this gift has everything you need to smell heavenly.  First, bathe with the earthy and seductive Wood Sage & Sea Salt Body & Hand Wash, inspired by wind-swept shores and rugged cliffs.  The aroma is powerful and leaves a light scent on your skin.

Then, massage in the deeply hydrating Blackberry & Bay Body Creme.  The fragrance is ever so subtle with notes of sticky blackberry juice with verdant bay and brambly woods.  The finishing touch is the signature English Pear & Freesia Cologne, which is just so Jo Malone.  It’s clean and fresh, bursting with luscious pear, elegant white freesias and warm amber and patchouli.  It works perfectly in harmony with the other scents and makes you feel enveloped in pure luxury.

Jo Malone London gift box

Each product in the Fragrance Layering Collection is handily 100ml or under, so you can easily make it part of your travel ritual, to feel more at home when away.  I’m tempted to take mine to Paris next month for the ultimate hotel room pampering night.

Do you love Jo Malone London?  Which fragrance is your favourite?  For more information and gifting ideas, visit: www.jomalone.co.uk

Photos by Chérie City

Gift courtesy of Jo Malone London

Events, London

Chinese Food Festival 2016, London

Yesterday, I headed to Potters Fields Park by Tower Bridge for the Chinese Food Festival.  The sun was shining, the Southbank was buzzing and it was great chance to relive memories of China for the day.

Chinese Food Festival London

Chinese Food Festival London

We were treated to traditional Chinese dancing, live music, cooking theatre demonstrations and twerking pandas, who kinda stole the show!  Of course, there was also an abundance of delicious Asian street food, ranging from classic Chinese dishes to more inventive dim sum and desserts.

Chinese Food Festival

Chinese Food Festival

Using the handy food card, we enjoyed some luxurious Roast duck rice with crispy, lacquered skin and a Steamed roast pork bun from Dim Sum Kitchen.

Dim Sum Kitchen roast duck rice

Another favourite was freshly-made Dumplings, which were served piping hot with sweet vinegar from contemporary Chinese restaurant Boxu.  It was a great discovery and I’ll definitely pay them a visit in Islington to try some more bites.

Boxu dumplings

Most popular was Bubblewrap Waffle and it was well worth queuing for.  Our made-to-order waffle was warm and crispy on the outside with a soft, fluffy centre and was doused in sticky salted caramel and pecans. For a weekly waffle fix, you can catch Bubblewrap Waffle on Saturdays at Berwick Street Market.

Bubblewrap Waffle

Were you at the Chinese Food Festival?  Where is your favourite place to eat Chinese food in London?

Photos by Chérie City

Afternoon tea, London

Moon Cakes at Yauatcha, London

August may be the time when you just want to cool down with refreshing iced desserts, but there’s one cake that you should definitely indulge in at this time of year.

The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival (dating back to 1000BC) takes place in the eighth month of the Chinese calendar and is traditionally celebrated with moon cakes.  They are usually offered as gifts when the moon is considered to be at its roundest and they are made to represent the full moon and unity.

Yauatcha moon cakes

I first tried moon cakes a few years ago in Hong Kong and it wasn’t exactly love at first bite.  The fragrant lotus seed paste was fine, but I was less keen on the whole salted egg yolk at the centre.  However, the moon cakes at London’s contemporary dim sum tea house Yauatcha are much more palatable and very moreish.

The talented pastry chefs at Yauatcha have created a modern spin on the moon cake, making them bite-size with a pretty floral pattern, made using traditional wooden moon cake moulds.  The cakes have a sweet pastry exterior with a thick custard filling and are substantial but not overly sweet.  They’re a perfect teatime treat!

Yauatcha moon cakes

The adorable moon cakes can be enjoyed at Yauatcha as a dessert with vanilla ice cream and crème anglaise at the end of a meal or simply with a pot of Chinese tea.  You can also get them to take-out – either individually or as a box of six with Yauatcha’s beautiful packaging.

Yauatcha moon cakes

Moon Cakes are available at both Yauatcha Soho and Yauatcha City until 15th September.  For more information and booking, visit: www.yauatcha.com

Photos by Chérie City

Breakfast, London

Breakfast at Farmer J, London

A good breakfast is the key to a productive day, so last Friday I started the morning with an energy-boosting feast at Farmer J.  Based in Leadenhall, just opposite the market, the newly-opened Farmer J is all about healthy fast food done well.

Almost everything is made from scratch by chefs from morning to evening in the open kitchen using fresh, seasonal ingredients and free-range, prime meats sourced from quality high welfare-farms.

Farmer J London

Farmer J’s signature dish is the customisable Fieldtray, offering a choice of tempting grilled meat/fish/tofu with grains or leaves, two gourmet vegetable sides and sauce.  It also does a selection of sandwiches, salads, healthy sweet treats and cold-pressed juices.

Farmer J London

Farmer J London banana bread

While lunch-time sees a whirlwind of hungry City workers, Farmer J’s upstairs dining room is calm and pleasant for a breakfast refuel or even a relaxed meeting.

Farmer J London

Farmer J London

I was planning a light breakfast, but couldn’t resist following recommendations and trying some Shakshuka (£4.49).  I’ve tried making my own version of this Israeli breakfast staple at home, but this was the first time I’d ever ordered it outside.

Two soft poached eggs poached were smothered in a spicy slow-roasted tomato sauce with red peppers and plenty of cumin, topped with salty and fluffy feta and fresh parsley.  If you like a filling breakfast with quite a kick, this one is for you.  The portion size was huge with plenty of sauce to mop up with a slice of rustic toast.

Farmer J Shakshuka

I was also in the mood for an avo fix, so I added a cheeky Smashed avocado on toast (£3.49).   It was so, so good – the creamy avocado had a superior flavour and was enhanced with zesty lime, coriander, diced red onion and torn basil, topped with feta and plenty of chilli flakes.  But it was the toast that really made it exciting, as it was charred on the open grill, giving it a gorgeous smoky taste.

I did find the avocado blend a little too piquant for early morning, but that’s just personal taste and it’s not overwhelmingly hot.

Farmer J smashed avocado on toast

To finish off my three-course breakfast, I cooled down my tastebuds with a Raw paleo granola pot (£2.49).  The home-made, slow-roasted mixed nuts and seeds and dried fruits were subtly coated with honey and maple and served with silky yoghurt and the most delicious caramelised bananas.

I usually start the day with a strong cup of tea, but I went for a more interesting Berry protein fuel smoothie (£3.99), made with almond milk, mixed berries, hemp protein, banana, honey and coconut oil.  This super-smoothie was nourishing, healthy and dairy-free – perfect for a refreshing morning boost.

Farmer J is the kind of place that London needs more of and it’s sure to get you excited about breakfast on the go.

For more information, visit: www.farmerj.com

Chérie City was a guest of Farmer J

All photos by Chérie City

Farmer J Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Flowers

Bloomon – The Hip Flower Delivery Service

One of my favourite weekend rituals is to pick up some fresh flowers to brighten up our home.  I tend to go for simple bunches of peonies, roses, hydrangeas or carnations (I’m so with Carrie Bradshaw on the charm of the humble carnation), but my routine was in need of a shake up.  So, it was a real treat to receive an original and truly creative flower bouquet from Bloomon.

Bloomon flower delivery

Bloomon is the innovative flower delivery service that’s got people talking and enjoying gorgeous flowers on a regular basis in London.  Originating in Amsterdam, Bloomon cuts out the middlemen, offering the freshest possible flowers from growers in the Netherlands to your door.

More impressive, however, is the exquisite design and curation of each bespoke bouquet.  Every flower tells a story and is a thing of beauty – in fact, some were so unusual, I don’t think I’d ever seen them before.  You can really tell that the bouquets are made with love.

Bloomon flowers

My New Bohemian bouquet was simply breathtaking and I was so excited to unwrap such an amazing gift.  It arrived in a big brown paper gift bag, to accommodate the large modern glass vase, and a colourful paper sleeve with some handy tips written inside to help prolong the life of your flowers.

I have to admit, I struggle with keeping blooms happy – assuming they can fend for themselves and ending in emergency flower CPR and lots of guilt.  So, Bloomon’s advice was really helpful, I just had to put it into practice.

Bloomon flowers

Bloomon flower delivery

The New Bohemian bouquet was romantic and free-spirited, filled with flowers such as a coral-pink peony, dusky pink rose, bluebell, red carnation and the more exotic curcuma, clematis, astrantia, brodiaea and scabiosa.  The attractive colour palette was a mix of blues, pinks and purples with flashes of vibrant green and yellow.

Bloomon flowers

So, how does Bloomon work exactly?  You can order online and receive a bouquet weekly, fortnightly or monthly and change the pace whenever you wish.  There are three sizes of bouquet to choose from, with the option of adding a modern glass vase, and your flowers will then be delivered conveniently within an allocated one-hour time slot.

Bloomon flowers

Bloomon’s wild and soulful flowers are the perfect way to treat yourself, learn about different types of flowers and find inspiration.  I’m already craving another bouquet to fill that big glass vase.

For more information and to order your own Bloomon bouquet, visit: www.bloomon.co.uk

All photos by Chérie City

Cafes, London

Tombo Poké & Matcha Bar, Soho

My love of matcha is well-documented and I can’t help raving about a place when it does matcha really well. Add to that hot new Hawaiian poké food trend and it’s a match made in heaven (please forgive the terrible pun).

Tombo Poké & Matcha Bar in Soho opened in June and it’s already a popular and lively spot.  The two-floor cafe is bright and uplifting with super-friendly staff and decent air-con – perfect for a relaxing refuel in the heart of the city.

Tombo Matcha and Poke Bar Soho

Tombo’s original cafe and matcha bar in South Kensington has a larger offering of sushi, Japanese tapas, donburi and bento boxes, but the Soho branch’s streamlined concept is more unique and works well in the area.

Tombo Poke and Matcha Bar Soho

Tombo Poke and Matcha Bar Soho

The menu is simple with just six signature poké – deconstructed sushi bowls – however you can also build your own to suit your taste.  For all bowls, there’s also a choice for a base of black and white rice, courgette noodles or a mix of both.

We both started with a large glass of Matcha lemonade (£3.50), which was potent, zesty, slightly aromatic and very refreshing.  Matcha is my rocket fuel, as I love the calm and focused buzz that it gives, as well as its excellent health benefits.

Tombo Matcha Lemonade

The regular sized poké looked absolutely enormous, so we opted for the small size with black and white rice, to leave room for dessert.  I chose the Teriyaki chicken Poké (£4.50) – Teriyaki chicken, teriyaki sauce, spring onion, sesame seeds.

The generous amount of succulent grilled chicken thigh was served atop exemplary sushi rice (the ideal balance of sticky yet firm with subtle seasoning) and finished with thinly-sliced spring onion, just the right amount of teriyaki sauce and a sprinkling of white sesame seeds.  It was also served with a little extra teriyaki sauce on the side for a bolder flavour.

Tombo chicken teriyaki poke

Steven tried the Classic salmon poké (£4.95) – Salmon, classic sauce, edamame, white onion, sesame seeds, nori.  The chilled raw salmon had a silky texture and simply melted in the mouth.  It was coated in a very light sesame oil sauce and went perfectly with the accompanying fresh edamame, onion, sesame seeds and nori.

Tombo classic salmon poke

It was difficult to choose between the tempting desserts, but obviously they both just had to be with matcha. The matcha soft serve caught by eye but I ended up going for the more elaborate Monaka (£3.90).

Velvety matcha soft serve was sandwiched in a crisp irridescent wafer shell and finished with a dollop of adzuki bean paste, bite-size matcha brownies, yuzu zest and a dusting of matcha powder.

Tombo matcha monaka

Matcha Gateau had a lovely vanilla matcha flavour and was both light and moist – like a cross between chiffon cake and a fondant, if that’s even possible.  Other delectable desserts include Matcha tart, Matcha sundae, Matcha dorayaki, Matcha brownie, Matcha white chocolate and Sakura mochi.

Tombo matcha gateau

For a healthy, nourishing meal served with a green tea buzz, head to Tombo.  I can’t wait to work my way through the menu and fuel my matcha addiction.

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by Tombo)

Chérie City was a guest of Tombo

Tombo Poke Matcha Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato