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cheriecity

Afternoon tea, London

Festive Afternoon Tea at The Langham London

Afternoon tea is always a treat, but it feels even more magical during the festive season, amid twinkling lights and dazzling Christmas trees.  It’s also a time when you can really savour it over a few leisurely hours with friends or family.

I’ve always wanted to visit the elegant and timeless Palm Court at The Langham London and a new Festive Afternoon Tea was the perfect occasion.  This exquisite restaurant has been serving afternoon tea since 1865 and is said to be the birthplace of the quintessentially British tradition.

Walking through the whimsical iron gate covered with glass gems, Palm Court instantly feels like a dream world with dusky rose jewelled walls, plush furnishings and an elaborate hand-blown sculpture surrounded with copious bottles of Perrier-Jouët Champagne.

We were seated at the circular leather banquette, which afforded us a prime position to watch the live pianist, who performed jazz favourites and show tunes throughout the afternoon.

After selecting our preferred teas and champagne, we were presented with little cups of orange pekoe tea infused with fresh ginger – a lovely, warming welcome drink.

We tried a few different teas and a real highlight was the 1865 Langham Anniversary blend – a delicately spiced infusion of black, green and white tea with no less than 150 ingredients, created specially to celebrate the hotel’s landmark anniversary this year.  Another hit was the rich and fragrant Langham blend, which was the perfect match for afternoon tea.

First to arrive, on the most beautiful Wedgwood china, were the festive sandwiches along with an elegant canapé of Smoked salmon with horseradish cream and Lilliput capers.  Smoked turkey with marjoram stuffing and watercress on cranberry bread was a delightful taste of Christmas and I loved the creamy, nutty and indulgent Farmhouse Stilton with red onion and port relish on walnut bread.

Cucumber with cream cheese and chives was a classic for tea traditionalists and Duck egg brioche with black truffle mayonnaise and artichoke had an intense hit of truffle.

Warm scones are of course an afternoon tea essential and they don’t come much better than Palm Court’s fluffy, buttery classic and raisin scones served with sumptuous strawberry jam and cool clotted cream.  They were perfectly complemented by a chilled, crisp glass of Perrier-Jouët Champagne.

We were generously offered additional plates of sandwiches and scones, but tried to resist and pace ourselves for the sweets yet to come (ok, I’ll admit that I couldn’t say no to one more of those wonderful scones).

The Langham’s pastry chefs are renowned for their creative patisserie and this year’s festive collection is not only visually pleasing but also very well balanced.  All of the sweets were delightfully bite-size and had a good range of chocolate, fruit and caramel flavours.

St Nicholas was a dainty Santa hat with fruity Passion fruit rolled in a light red sponge with a fun coconut marshmallow trim.  Another light pastry was the green-hued Eternally Pistachio – a mini wreath-inspired ‘Paris Brest’ with velvety pistachio cream, cranberry jelly and crunchy choux.

It’s Christmas was the most festive in flavour – a silky Jivara and mandarin sphere with cinnamon cream (chocolate orange heaven).  As you’d expect from the name, Gold, frankincense and myrrh was the most decadent with exemplary caramelised puff pastry, smooth salted caramel and vanilla and a Langham-branded shard of milk chocolate.

It’s hard to pick a favourite, but we were both wowed by the Light of the world – a traditional white and dark chocolate candle filled with smooth chestnut cream, blackcurrant and spice.

The Festive Afternoon Tea at Palm Court was imaginative, beautifully-presented and ever so delicious.  Service was as refined as you’d expect yet friendly and listening to the sounds of an accomplished pianist while grazing on delectable bites in a stunning setting made for a truly memorable experience.  For a special Christmas treat, afternoon tea at The Langham London is unbeatable.

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

Chérie City was a guest of The Langham London

All photos by Chérie City 

Brunch, London

Brunch at Lantana Cafe London Bridge

Lantana Cafe has become quite an institution in London, known for its indulgent brunch, colourful and spicy sharing plates and delectable home-baked cakes.

Inspired by the Australian coffee scene, the first Lantana Cafe was established in 2008 and its locations include Fitzrovia, Shoreditch and most recently London Bridge.  Just around the corner from Borough Market, the shiny new all-day cafe/restaurant is set across two floors in a beautifully-restored 19th century building with a high ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows.

We visited for brunch on a busy Saturday soon after it opened and sat at a comfy booth next to a pretty mural of Australia’s iconic lantana plant.  Despite being packed full, it already felt like a slick operation and the friendly staff struck the perfect balance of laid-back and efficient.

As a matcha addict, I was tempted by the French toast with matcha sugar, fresh mixed berries, raspberry and crème fraîche (you can also add bacon as an extra).  It was absolutely delicious and generously sized – the perfect choice if you’re in the mood for something sweet to start the day.

The thick-cut brioche French toast was fluffy and soft with flavours of caramelised vanilla and matcha, plus the berries and creme fraiche gave it a hint of sharpness.  There could have been a little more matcha to give it a bolder flavour, but I didn’t find it lacking at all.

Steven went for the epic Corn fritters stacked with streaky bacon, fresh spinach, roast tomatoes, smashed avocado and lemon crème fraîche with a poached egg.  The golden, crispy corn fritters had a slight red chilli kick and went perfectly with the smokiness of the bacon, the velvety avocado and aromatic lemon crème fraîche.  It’s quite a monster of a brunch dish, so you’ll need to bring your appetite.

The flat white made with Alchemy coffee was rich and smooth and I liked the loose-leaf Earl Grey served in a cute red teapot.

Lantana Cafe is a great spot for a delicious brunch in a relaxed setting slightly away from Borough’s busiest area.  I can’t wait to go back and try more of the menu, leaving room for a few of those cakes.

Chérie City was a guest of Lantana Cafe

Photos by Chérie City

Christmas, Shopping

Christmas Gift Guide For Foodies

Christmas is a time of indulgence, so who better to be buying for than a fine food fanatic!  Gift the gourmand in your life with exquisite chocolates, an authentic Milanese Panettone or carefully-chosen Christmas tipple to get the festive season off to a sparkling start…

Orange Blossom and Honey by John Gregory-Smith, £13.59, Amazon

Make good use of the Christmas holidays and add a touch of Moroccan magic to your kitchen with this heavenly cookbook.  Let spice king John Gregory-Smith take you on a culinary journey through the souks of Marrakesh to the Sahara desert, stopping for stuffed Berber breads, fragrant tagines and rosewater desserts.

The Eclipse, £80, Pierre Marcolini

Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini’s Christmas collection is truly interstellar, taking inspiration from the moon, stars and solar system.  The Eclipse is pure chocolate indulgence with a white and dark chocolate orb filled with praline ‘planet’ balls.  Well, if you can’t go ‘all out’ at Christmas, then when can you?

The Wolseley Candle, £49, The Wolseley

Had a memorable meal at The Wolseley? You can now recreate the atmosphere at home with The Wolseley’s first scented soy wax candle, made by artisan perfumers with seductive notes of cedarwood, patchouli and vetiver.

The Christmas Discovery Case, £105, Borough Wines

Leave yourself in the capable hands of Borough Wines for the festive season with The Christmas Discovery Case.  Whether you’re treating a connoisseur or simply require some impressive reds, whites and fizz to get through to the New Year, this should do the trick quite nicely.

Williams Sonoma Peppermint Hot Chocolate, £18 Harrods

For a festive taste of America, warm up with this rich and velvety Williams Sonoma peppermint hot chocolate made with custom-blended Guitard chocolate shavings.

Traditional Panettone (1kg), £22.95, Lina Stores

My Christmas morning always begins with Panettone and fresh-baked croissants, so buying a Panettone has become quite a ritual.  This traditional Milanese Panettone from Soho’s Lina Stores looks the part with its new Italian Futurism-inspired print and is packed full of Madagascan vanilla, candied citrus and juicy raisins.

What are your favourite foodie Christmas gifts?

Food, italy

Top Five Things to Eat in Tuscany

Tuscany is one of Italy’s most picturesque regions with lush countryside, charming coastal towns and of course its cultural heart, Florence.  What makes it even more of a dream destination is the typical regional cuisine with its focus on fresh produce and simplicity.

I recently visited Florence for the first time and ate unbelievably well there for every single meal.  It was quite an enlightenment in the art of Italian cooking for me (something I haven’t always found in other Italian cities), so the only explanation is the magic of Tuscany.

Whether you’re exploring romantic Florence, upscale beach town Forte dei Marmi, Renaissance Lucca or the Medieval hilltop town of Siena, here are the top five things you should be eating for a true taste of Tuscany…

Ribollita

This traditional Tuscan soup may have peasant origins but it’s much more than just ‘reboiled leftovers’.  Packed full of root vegetables, cannellini beans, kale, black cabbage and bread, ribollita is a hearty and substantial meal that can be enjoyed at lunch or dinner.

A life-changing ribollita can be found at Le Fonticine in Florence, where the waiters drizzle the soup with local olive for extra flavour.

Pappa al Pomodoro

Soup is big in Tuscany, so here’s another one to whet you appetite – Pappa al pomodoro.  This sweet and tangy soup is a celebration of tomato, enhanced only by garlic, basil, olive oil, herbs and bread.  Order a bowl at Ristorante Da Pasquale in Lucca or Antica Fonte in Arezzo for a real treat.

Gelato

Artisan Italian ice cream is a must when visiting Tuscany and you’ll find that every person you might ask has their own favourite gelateria.  Most often, a ‘star gelateria’ has the same low-key appearance as all of the others, but it’s worth seeking out the best for their natural ingredients and attention to detail.

I loved Gelateria Perchè No in Florence, but you can also find superior ices at Gelateria Kopakabana in Siena, Gelateria Toscana in Pienza and the award-winning Gelateria Dondoli in San Gimignano.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

Tuscany boasts its very own steak – a classic t-bone cut that is typically 3-4 fingers high and between 800g and 1.2kg.  It’s quite a beast and is served with ‘al forno’ potation for two or three people to share.  The best Bistecca alla Fiorentina is said to be at locals’ favourite Trattoria Mario in Florence.

Truffles

The Tuscany countryside offers an abundance of truffles and October and November are the best months for eating these regional delicacies.  You can feast on them at dedicated truffle festivals in San Giovanni d’Asso and San Miniato, or why not go to the source and take a truffle hunting tour with an experienced guide.

I picked up some jars of Crema di Tartufo with artichoke and Parmigiano Reggiano from EATALY in Florence and look forward to spreading them on crostini or stirring through fresh pasta at home this Christmas.

If you’re tempted by a trip to Italy’s best-loved foodie region, take a look at the range of Tuscany villas by James Villas.  With stunning properties in inspiring, rustic destinations like Arezzo, Cecina, Volterra and Lucca, you’ll be able to live and eat well, just like local Tuscans do.  What could be better than that!

Have you been to Tuscany?  What is your favourite kind of Tuscan food?

This post is in collaboration with James Villas

Photos by Chérie City (truffle pasta by EATALY)

Paris

Five Paris Hotspots To Visit This Season

On my recent trip to Paris, I discovered some great new places and got reacquainted with some old favourites.  It’s impossible to tick everything off the wish list – I still need to try Holiday Cafe and see the new Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris – but here are a few places to visit when you’re next in the city of lights…

Go Italian at Pink Mamma

Big Mamma Group has become quite an institution in Paris with seven trattorias and bars across the city.  Pink Mamma in Pigalle is probably the most popular of all its outposts, with Parisians and clued-up visitors flocking there for the authentic Italian food, lively atmosphere and stunning interiors.

Designed by Martin Brudnizki this fabulous pink-tiled townhouse features unique dining spaces across four floors with open kitchens, marble counter seating and cosy corners.  The most coveted spot, however, is the rooftop garden and we were lucky enough to find a seat there at lunchtime.

Pink Mamma’s signature dish is its rich and creamy truffle pasta served in a copper pan, but for a lighter lunch we went for a selection of antipasti to share.  Highlights were the Burrata with green olives and tarragon, fresh and cool Mozzarella, a very generous portion of flavourful Jambon di Parma and moreish Arancini filled with sweet, tangy tomato-infused rice and sausage.

With such delicious food (at very reasonable prices), it’s tempting to work your way around the Mamma restaurants and try as much of the menu as possible – the Fiorentina steak looked seriously impressive!

Brunch out at Season

I first spotted Season on Instagram (ain’t that the way these days) and was curious to see if the food was as mouth-watering as it looked.  Season is quite a rarity in Paris, as you can tuck into comforting dishes like pancakes, Shakshuka and gourmet sandwiches, from early morning to as late as 1am – what could be better than that!

I enjoyed a delightful Avocado tartine with perfectly poached eggs and sesame-dressed leaves.  However, Steven ordered the winner – Egg sandwich with Noglu gluten-free bread, fried egg, crispy onions, bacon, tomato and red chilli jam, baby spinach and avocado.  It was substantial and full of flavour, plus the tomato chilli jam was a real game-changer.

Season is walk-in only, so try and avoid peak times to score a table – it’s definitely worth it!

Be Bowled Over at Nous

Dinner at Nous was a happy accident, as we arrived to meet a friend at new opening Le Yacht Club (from the folk behind Les Niçois) and found it was packed full for hours even on a Monday night.  We’d spotted Nous earlier in the day, as it was just around the corner from Hotel Bienvenue, so maybe it was meant to be.

Nous has three restaurants in the 9th and 10th arrondissements and offers healthy and tasty organic dishes inspired by street food.  Steven and I both had the Roast chicken bowl with rice, houmous and salad with a choice of yoghurt and mint or satay sauce and Coralie enjoyed the Curry bowl of the day.

They were all so tasty, nourishing and plentiful and the restaurant had a bright and calm vibe so we could chat easily.  In all, a good find that I’d return to for some healthy comfort food.

Say Goodbye to Colette

Colette, the iconic concept store on the rue St-Honoré is closing on 20th December and to say it feels like the end of an era is an understatement.  Opened by Colette Rousseaux and her daughter Sarah Andelman in 1997, Colette revolutionised retail, championing young fashion and lifestyle brands and bringing rare labels to Paris.

Its collaborations have always been epic and during our visit, the downstairs Water Bar had been transformed into a Sant Ambroeus pop-up with sentimental decorative plates from the store’s key partners over the years.  We even caught a glimpse of Madame Colette herself tending to a customer ever so graciously in the beauty department.

Whether you’re a fan of Colette or not, its influence can’t be denied and the Saint Laurent store arriving in its places seems unlikely to fill the void.

J’Adior le Musée des Arts Décoratifs

If you can’t make it over to Paris in time to pay your respects to Colette, try and visit before 7th January to catch Christian Dior, Couturier des Rêves at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

This truly memorable exhibition celebrates the 70th anniversary of the creation of the House of Dior and the couturiers who succeeded the great master.  It features over 300 haute couture gowns as well as accessories, shoe, perfume bottles, illustrations, sketches and vintage fashion advertisements.

The curation is meticulous and chronological, with a room of colour-coded Dior artefacts leading to a parade of Dior’s most recognised dresses from the red carpet and current designer Maria Grazia Chiuri’s radical, monochrome looks for today’s cool and socially-conscious Dior woman.

Most impressive, however, is the exquisite ballroom scene in the nave of the building, where the most spectacular gowns are complemented by dazzling lights and the gilded opulence of this never-seen-before room.

The exhibition is  real treat for fashion lovers and perhaps the strongest that the museum has ever hosted.  Leave a few hours to fully explore and then go for tea at Angelina nearby.

Where are your favourite Paris hotspots?  What’s on your Paris wish list?

All photos by Chérie City

Cafes, London

Choux Masterclass at Sans Pere Shoreditch

Choux are my favourite French treats but I never imagined I’d be able to actually make them.  That was until I attended a special choux masterclass at Sans Pere, a stylish ‘lifestyle house’ that opened in Shoreditch just a few months ago.

Sans Pere incorporates an in-house patisserie, coffee and tea bar, homewares shop and architectural studio.  Beautifully-designed by London firm Atelier Baulier, the bright and airy is ever so Instagrammable with olive green walls, a marble terrazzo counter and mimosa-hued outdoor seating.

Founder Barney Goff named his debut venture Sans Pere in tribute to his late father James Goff and took inspiration from his time living in France for the patisserie.

After warming up over a pot of tea, our group moved into the private room where everything was set up for our choux masterclass.  Pastry chef Roberto Mele (previously at Princi, Park Chinois and The Fat Duck) introduced us to the art of choux, sharing useful tips as he demonstrated how to mix the dough.

Thankfully our dough was already prepared in neat piping bags, ready for us to try our hand at little puff shapes with a flick of the nozzle at the top.  Of course, choux pastry is typically smooth, so to get that textured effect, the choux need to be topped with a thin disc of butter and brown sugar which melts and crackles over the dough as it bakes.

To avoid wasting time (and potential error), we were provided with a tray of perfectly uniform choux buns for us to fill with cool, velvety and vanilla-scented crème pâtissière.  Simply pierce the bottom of the choux with a wooden stick and pipe away until it feels heavy and full.

One thing I found most surprising was that it’s actually quite easy to give your home-made choux a professional flourish.  For decoration, we used a selection of milk, dark and white chocolate discs and toppings including roasted hazelnuts, freeze-dried raspberries pieces and crunchy chocolate balls.  To get the drizzle effect (and actually stick the disc to the choux), melt some white chocolate to add to a mini piping bag and just scribble swiftly over the disc.

Once they were dry, we boxed them up and took them home to enjoy that evening.  They were incredibly delicious and I was pleased that they looked the part, since I previously had no experience with fine patisserie.  With Roberto’s expert instruction, I’m confident that I’ll be able to try and bake them from scratch at home – maybe it could be a project over Christmas.

The choux are available every day at the patisserie and while the masterclass was a one-off, it may be open to the public at some point (watch this space).  Sans Pere is also currently hosting other cool events such as brush lettering with a calligrapher, coffee brewing and Christmas shopping evenings.

Sans Pere is a real treat for lovers of relaxed cafe culture and this week sees the opening of its second outpost – a petite cocktail and dessert bar – on Hackney’s Broadway Market.

Chérie City was a guest of Sans Pere

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by Atelier Baulier)

Fashion, Shopping

Top Winter Wardrobe Essentials

As the winter approaches, the colder weather feels like a good excuse to add to your wardrobe.  A few key pieces can really update a look and keep you warm, whether it’s for stylish travelling, feeling good at the office or dazzling at the Christmas party.

Here are my top winter wardrobe essentials…

The Red Coat

Since watching Zosia Mamet stroll around Lower Manhattan in a fabulous red coat in new film The Boy Downstairs, I’ve been searching for the perfect one.  Some are too bright or not quite the right shade, but this softly-tailored deep red coat by southern Italian brand Annie P. at Lyst ticks all the boxes for this trend.

The Sweater Dress

Thankfully the high street is filled with knitted dresses this season and they’re particularly handy to pack for a city break.  One of my favourites is this navy merino wool knitted dress from Arket (a minimalist Swedish brand that has just recently moved in to the UK).  It’s an elegant midi length and the ribbed waist gives it a flattering, luxury feel.

The Ankle Boot

Having just returned from Florence, I can report that all of the cool Italian girls are wearing either tough biker boots or rock ‘n’ roll studded ankle boots.  These buckled beauties from Hush are just dreamy and high up on my wish list.

The Christmas Party Dress

I’m obsessed with Kate Spade dresses at the moment and when better to invest than the Christmas party season?  This floral jacquard dress has a detachable collar, so you can reinvent it for each event and make it work that bit harder.  It reminds me of something that Michelle Williams might wear for an indie film premiere.

The Statement Sweater 

Since launching, I’ve admired the cool French-inspired brand Être Cécile from afar, but this is the season to jump in with this Pardon my French sweatshirt at MyTheresa.  Dress it up or down, depending on your mood.

The Pleated Midi Skirt

For a bit of subtle sparkle, get in on the midi skirt trend in a soft metallic shade from Karen Millen.  Pair with a slouchy-luxe sweatshirt or a cashmere crew neck to stay toasty warm and chic.

Which pieces do you have your eye on this winter?  

Food, London

Luxury Street Food at Schmaltz London

London street food is always surprising us with new bites, whether it’s Argentinian arepas, Amalfi burgers, loaded halloumi fries or Taiwanese wheel cakes.

Fine dining-inspired street food, however, is a less-explored niche and that’s where Schmaltz has stepped in with its high end French chicken sandwiches and soups.

With a menu developed by Michelin-trained chef Karl Burdock and an in-house team including Glen Leeson (Patty & Bun, Bao) and George Clark (The Square, Le Bun, Bao), Schmaltz applies Michelin cooking techniques to its superior street food offering.

Housed in a vibrant dandelion-print food truck by Scottish textile designer Timorous Beasties, it certainly looks the part – I can definitely see it parking up at the posher festivals next summer.

The bird of choice is French Label Rouge chicken (heritage-bred and aged for over 81 days) and all of the sauces are natural and home-made.  Each hot, made-to-order sandwich includes a whole chicken breast seared and roasted with a shard of golden skin and served in an elegant teardrop-shaped brioche bun.

Out of the three sandwiches on offer, I tried the Chicken Schmaltz – roast chicken skin, carrot reduction, pea leaf, parsley sauce and pickled fennel.  The chicken was tender and juicy with the most delicious crispy skin, aromatic emulsions and tangy pickled fennel to really enhance the chicken flavours.

I also couldn’t resist a few bites of the Mushroom Schmaltz – roast chicken skin, mushroom sauce with mushroom duxelles, baby kale and wasabi rocket leaves and Parmesan mayonnaise.  This sandwich was even more indulgent with an intense hit of garlic-truffled mushroom duxelles and matured Parmesan, however the wasabi rocket leaves cut through the richness nicely.

Currently stationed at Broadgate Circle, Schmaltz is in the perfect spot for a lunch treat and the sandwiches are reasonably filling and well-priced at £7 a pop.  I can’t wait to go back and warm up with some of their gourmet soup filled with chicken and fresh pasta.

Schmaltz is at Broadgate Circle Monday to Friday from 11am to 5pm.  For more information, visit: www.schmaltzlondon.com

Photos by Chérie City 

Cookery

Brunch Recipe: Carrot Fritter Stacks

Autumn is officially the season of all things orange and this year I’ve really got into the spirit of it, cooking hearty pumpkin soup and butternut squash tarts.

Another favourite autumn pastime is indulging in a delicious weekend brunch, particularly when it can be enjoyed at home.  So, when Microplane asked me to create a seasonal recipe, it just had to be Carrot fritter stacks – a tasty orange brunch dish.  They’re a little different from your usual pancakes or rostis and are handy for using up any leftover carrots at the end of the week.

Microplane is the industry leaders for graters, producing superior kitchen tools for over 50 years.  The brand’s game-changing photo-etching process sets their graters apart from the rest, with ultra-sharp cutting edges that offer precision and enhance the natural aromas of food.

Made in the USA to high specifications, the beautifully-designed graters are long-lasting investment pieces and feel ever so luxurious.  With a premium walnut wood handle, tactile rubber stopper and smooth edges, the graters are a joy to use for both professional and hobby chefs (like me).

I tried out the Ribbon Blade and the Zester Blade and could immediately see the difference in quality between them and my regular supermarket grater.  The blades are slimmer than I’d expected but also extremely sharp, making them ultimately safer and easier to use.

They glided through the carrot quickly and I was even able to grate an onion without too much effort.  I was so impressed with their performance that I’m now looking at other Microplane products to add to my kitchen collection.

Hungry yet?  Here is everything you need to make your own tasty Carrot fritter stacks at home:

Recipe (serves two people): 

6 medium-sized carrots
Half an onion
2 medium free-range eggs
1 handful fresh corianger
1.5 tablespoons plain flour
1 tablespoon butter
4 rashers of bacon
1 avocado
1 tablespoon crème fraiche
Salt and pepper to season

How to:

  • Grate the carrots and onion in a large bowl.
  • Beat the eggs and add to the bowl with the flour and torn coriander leaves.  Season with a pinch of salt and plenty of freshly-ground black pepper and mix until combined.
  • Melt the butter in a hot frying pan.  Add a heaped tablespoon of the mixture and flatten lightly into patties of approximately 1cm thickness.  Cook for 3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  • Layer with grilled bacon and smashed avocado with fresh lime juice and top with crème fraiche and a fried egg (I used Burford Brown for a vibrant orange yolk and rich flavour).

The carrot fritters are so versatile that you could instead layer them with griddled halloumi, smoked salmon or even last night’s brisket.  If you have a strong aversion to coriander, don’t be put off, just replace it with a touch of cumin and cinnamon.

This brunch dish is so moreish and I love how the sweet flavours of the carrots are elevated by the aromatic coriander and tangy lime in the smashed avocado.  The Microplane ribbon blade grater cuts the carrot effortlessly and the zester blade can be used for a lemon zest garnish or adding a finer texture to the carrot mix.

WIN:

To recreate this brunch recipe at home, Microplane are kindly giving away a pair of Microplane Master Series graters (worth £60) to one lucky reader.  To enter, simply follow Microplane on Twitter and Facebook, retweet/share this post on your own Twitter and Facebook and leave a comment on this post stating your own favourite autumn recipe.  Good luck!

Competition closes at 12 noon on 28th November and is only open to entrants over 18 years-old. 

Microplane graters are available to buy online at www.johnlewis.com and www.steamer.co.uk.

This post is sponsored by Microplane

All photos by Chérie City 

London, Restaurants

The Best Avocado Toast Dishes in London

Do you ever find yourself googling ‘the best avocado toast in London’, or for that matter, any other city you’re in?

With the imminent arrival of London’s first dedicated avocado bar, it’s fair to say that avocado dishes have become an all-day staple, but some places do it much better than the others.  The ones that come smashed with plenty of fresh lime, or mixed with unusual flavours get my vote (but no dried chilli flakes, please).

Here are a few tried and tested favourites for when you’re out and about in London…

Farm Girl, Notting Hill 

Notting Hill’s Farm Girl really masters the Australian cafe concept of healthy dishes with a little bit of indulgence.  The Avocado toast is roughly smashed with a hint of lime, generously sprinkled with fresh pomegranate seeds (they make all the difference) and drizzled with high quality olive oil.  The dish is elevated even higher with the addition of poached eggs, heavenly harissa-spiced sweet potato wedges and a rose latte.

The Avocado toast can also be found at Farm Girl’s recently opened second cafe in the Sweaty Betty flagship store on Carnaby Street, which is just as good with a more sociable atmosphere.

Dominique Ansel Bakery, Belgravia

More than just home to the Cronut, Dominique Ansel Bakery makes Avocado toast that’s pretty enough to rival its pastries.  It’s almost like a mini garden with sliced avocado arranged in the shape of a flower, smashed avocado with lime and velvety ricotta.

The final touch is the garnish of paper-thin radishes, tangy pickled pink onions, torn tarragon leaves and a lightly-dressed frissé salad.  Absolute perfection!

Pavilion Cafe, Victoria Park

An east London institution, Pavilion Cafe is quite the weekend hotspot in Victoria Park.  Affordable and family-friendly, the open-air cafe and bakery occupies a prime spot in front of the boating lake and serves up tempting brunch dishes that include a typical Sri Lankan breakfast and freshly-baked Swedish buns.

Their Smashed avocado toast includes one perfectly-cooked poached egg and is topped with vibrant dukkah (aromatic but not spicy), sesame seeds, sliced almonds and chives.  It’s a favourite that I keep returning to, however the Eggs Royale and Veggie breakfast are also worth a look, if you can tear yourself away from the avo.

The Ivy Market Grill, Covent Garden 

Not technically Avocado ‘toast’, but a recent discovery for me is the glorious Avocado Benedict at The Ivy Market Grill.  Much better than the usual Eggs Florentine, in my opinion, the Avocado Benedict on fluffy toasted English muffins is the perfect mix of creamy and tangy with lime-dressed avocado, punchy hollandaise and sesame to liven up the flavours.

The Ivy 1917 breakfast blend is served in a traditional silver pot and makes for a superior brew.  Note that The Ivy cafes don’t serve breakfast dishes all day, so get there before 11.30am weekdays or anytime for weekend brunch.

Bronte London, The Strand

This Tom Dixon-designed all-day restaurant overlooking Trafalgar Square is a bit of a fashion crowd haunt.  It’s easy to see why with its sleek interiors and tempting menu, from healthy breakfast dishes to Asian-inspired bites for lunch and dinner.

Smashed avocado and poached eggs is exemplary, with grilled plum tomatoes, sesame-infused baby spinach and yuzu hollandaise (pictured without on this occasion) on sourdough.  If you really want to hit the avocado hard, pair it with a Detox smoothie packed with spinach, avocado, apple, lime and agave.

Other commendable avocado dishes in London are the Vegan bowl at Boki Seven Dials, Le Pain Quotidien’s Toasted avocado tartine with citrus cumin salt and Crushed avocado with Shed-made beans and poached eggs on sourdough toast at The Bikeshed in Shoreditch.

Are you an avocado addict?  What is your favourite avocado dish in London?

All photos by Chérie City

Events, New York

Top 5 Things to Do in New York in Autumn

Autumn is one of the best times of year to visit New York, as the leave begin to change colour and fall in Central Park, cultural events are at a peak and the city begins to gear up for the holidays.

If the Big Apple is calling your name, here are a few musts for your New York ‘to do’ list…

The latest art shows 

New exhibition Club 57: Film, Performance and Art in the East Village, 1978-1983 takes a nostalgic look at downtown Manhattan during the heyday of iconic music venue Club 57 on St Marks Place.  Can you imagine living in New York at the time of Basquiat and Keith Haring, cheap rent and scuzzy dive bars filled with the city’s finest creatives?  The exhibition runs at Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) from 31 October 2017 until 1 April 2018

Other notable openings to check out are Volez, Voguez, Voyagez – Louis Vuitton at the American Stock Exchange (27 October-7 January) and Ai Weiwei’s Good Fences Make Good Neighbors with 300 large-scale public artworks scattered across the city (now until 11 February).

Eat your way around the city

New York is officially food heaven, whether you’re in the mood for proper Italian pizza in Brooklyn, a Reuben and a knish at Katz’s Deli, sweet treats at the Little Cupcake Bakeshop or flavourful vegan food at by CHLOE (opening soon in London).  Last time I was in New York, I had a wedding dress to fit into, but if you’re on holiday just go for it and walk off the indulgences.

Hot new restaurants to look out for include Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s veggie-focused AbcV, Mexican eatery Atla by chef Enrique Olvera (previously Cosme), The Loyal from the people behind Narcissa, Old Rose replacing Cafe Gitane at The Jane Hotel and Emily West Village for clued-up pizza lovers.

Shop the season

Where should you be dropping your dollars in New York?  Fashion insider Laure Hériard Dubreuil is opening a six-storey Soho outpost of her Miami concept store, The Webster this autumn. It includes a top floor VIP lounge, a pretty shoe salon and in-store hair salon from Parisian stylist David Mallett.

For something a little less high octane, look out for Williamsburg’s quirky PINTRILL, casual-cool United by Blue in Nolita, TAGS womenswear boutique via West Hollywood, the Upper East Side flagship store of Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen’s The Row and natural beauty store Credo on Soho’s fashionable Prince Street.

Holiday Markets

Is there anything more festive than wrapping up for the cold with a pumpkin spiced latte and hitting the holiday markets?  American seasonal produce is at is finest and it’s the perfect chance to pick up unique gifts, do a bit of ice skating or spot stylish New Yorkers walking their pooches in the park.

The best ones to hit are Union Square Holiday Market,  Columbus Circle Holiday Market and the Holiday Shops at Winter Village at Bryant Park with Public Fare pop-up cafe by Danny Meyer.

Take a Tour

What better way to see New York City than to take a tour with an expert?  On Location Tours offer the most brilliant Sex and the City and Gossip Girl tours (including scheduled stops for Magnolia Bakery cupcakes and Cosmos at Steve and Aiden’s bar) and you can even try a Slice of Brooklyn pizza tour or uncover hip hop spots in The Bronx with a guide.

For more New York inspiration, Netflights.com have compiled a list of things that happen in a real New York minute.  Are you tempted to take a trip?

This post is in collaboration with Netflights.com

Some images courtesy of The Row, Louis Vuitton and Bryant Park

Hotels, Paris

A Cosy Stay at The Hoxton Paris

The Hoxton Paris is one of the hottest hotel openings of the year and it has quickly become what is known as a ‘bonne adresse’ among stylish Parisians.

I’ve long been a fan of The Hoxton and have watched the affordable London hotel brand grow from just one pioneering hotel in Shoreditch to properties in central London, Amsterdam, Paris and soon Williamsburg, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Since opening in August, The Hoxton Paris has followed the same path of attracting a local crowd as well as savvy travellers (surely what every prominent hotel wants).  In fact, a Parisian friend told us that the hotel’s Rivié restaurant is so popular right now that it’s proving near impossible to book a table.  Thankfully The Hoxton Paris managed to squeeze us in for a night so we could see what all the buzz is about.

The Hoxton Paris is located in a magnificent 18th century ‘hotel particulier’, neatly tucked away on rue du Sentier.  This central area in the second arrondissement has in recent years become Paris’ tech start-up hub and is known as ‘Silicon Sentier’.

With cool spots nearby such as Gregory Marchand’s Frenchie To Go, L’Appartement Sézanne and Stoney Clove Bakery from American videographer Philip Andelman and pastry chef Beth Beji, it’s no wonder the lifestyle-focused hotel set roots here.

Arriving through the grand door of The Hoxton Paris, you get an instant feel for the atmosphere, meandering through the lofty lobby bar and a cosy salon with a verdant living wall to get to the petite reception desk.  The staff are super-efficient and speedy, but if you arrive at a busy time, there’s an adjoining library for relaxing (or Instagramming its sweeping staircase).

The hotel boasts 172 rooms across four floors, from the weekender-friendly Shoebox (not actually that small) to the generously-sized Biggy.  Our Cosy Room (the second room category up) on the second floor was an absolute delight – the spirit of London combined with very Parisian interiors.

The high ceilings and large windows overlooking the atrium gave it an airy feel and I loved the ink blue walls, chevron timber floors and mood lighting.  Room features include a glossy red-topped writing desk, half-length wardrobe (a little too small), large LCD TV, retro Roberts radio, comfy armchair, a tall statement mirror (that the internet says looks like an iPhone X) and a selection of French books.

The queen-size bed, complete with leather headboard cushions, was extremely comfortable and covered with checked linen that not only looked the part but felt very luxurious.  It’s also worth mentioning that the room was very quiet and well sound-proofed, so there shouldn’t be any disturbances for a good night’s sleep.

Those who have stayed in other Hoxton hotels will recognise signatures such as the tea and coffee facilities with collectable Hoxton mugs that you can buy at the lobby shop, a free minibar with mineral water and milk and a handy curated guide to the local area.

Another perk was the light and healthy complimentary breakfast bag, which was filled with a luxurious granola yoghurt pot, freshly-squeezed orange juice and a banana and left outside of our door at the requested time – a brilliant idea!

The bathroom was also stunning with white metro tiles, blue graphic print floor, a walk-in shower with rose-tinted copper fixtures, thick cotton towels and a full set of really nice aromatic Bl_nk bathroom products.

It’s not the most private of bathrooms, with frosted glass between the shower and the bedroom, but I think we’re all used to this trend now in most new hotels.

That evening we dined at Rivié, the hotel’s modern French brasserie that reminded me a little of London’s Hoxton Grill.  The restaurant features an open kitchen, leather banquettes and stylish counter seating, as well as the lively courtyard terrace.

We started with a refreshing Hoxton Mule cocktail and some tasty Gougères with mustard beer dip.  My main dish of Baby chicken with onion purée, crispy new potatoes and herb chicken jus was out of this world – so tender, crispy and rich.

Steven’s Entrecote (250g) was deliciously succulent and smokey, served with golden frites and a generous pot of tangy, lightly whipped béarnaise.  Be sure to order a side of Mac and cheese – it was just heavenly, with lots of melted Gruyère and a herby flavour.

For dessert, we shared a Tarte tatin with Chantilly cream and caramel, which was a spin on the French classic dessert, and some very British Earl Grey before rolling back to our room.  If scoring a table in the restaurant is proving difficult, the lobby lounge is also a part of Rivié and includes a lighter bar menu of sliders, truffle fries and a traditional Croque Monsieur.

The Hoxton Paris is an impressive, vibrant place to eat, drink and sleep in an up-and-coming part of the city.  If you appreciate great design, a hip lobby scene and sumptuous comfort food, this is where you should call home in Paris.

Shoebox Rooms at The Hoxton Paris start from just 99 Euros per night (a Cosy Room starts from 149 Euros per night).  For more information and booking, visit: www.thehoxton.com

Chérie City was a guest of The Hoxton Paris

All photos by Chérie City