MTT Travel: The Town Hall Hotel, Bethnal Green

The Town Hall Hotel review

On occasion I’m one of those people who gets smug about no longer living in London. I noticed it when I went for lunch with my Sister-in-Law recently; I started waxing lyrical about the low crime rates, big houses, affordable living costs and good schools out here. And it’s only 30 minutes into Euston!!! Amazing!!!!

I do adore living out here, it’s true. I have a house with a big garden for less than my old Shoreditch studio flat, I can afford a car and a gym membership and live within a 10 minute drive of one of the best schools in the county (that I didn’t have to fight to get my children into). The train service into the city is quick, regular and as long as you’re not travelling in peak times, relatively inexpensive.

But I still have to live with the fact I reside in Milton Keynes ;) It’s not the sexiest town in the country, that’s for sure. I can’t pop to Columbia Road flower market for my peonies at the weekend, our most exotic restaurant is probably Yo! Sushi and I don’t think we’ll see cold press coffee until 2020. Swings and roundabouts, swings and roundabouts.

Because I save all that money by living outside of the big smoke I like to think I’m able to splurge on a hotel for the times I do need to travel in and stay. And we know how much I like a nice hotel, am I right? So when my blog pal Alice offered me a spontaneous ticket to see Blur at Hyde Park a couple of weeks ago I thought  it’s hotel time! and jumped on HotelTonight (a fab app for last minute hotel booking fans like me) to see what I could find.

The Town Hall Hotel review

The Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green was available, a place I’ve wanted to try for a while. I swiftly booked it for £128 (rates on their website start at around £217) and checked in at the allotted time of 3pm. That is, after a really quick diversion to Spitalfields Anthropologie and Office to buy jeans and trainers, having packed only dresses and heels for Britmums the day before that were most definitely not suitable for Blur-watching.

The Town Hall Hotel review

I was offered an upgrade to one of their apartments upon arrival and if you know me at all you’ll know that ‘upgrade’ is one of my most favoured words. THANK YOU!

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My room was lovely – on the ground floor it consisted of an entrance hall with wardrobe, a kitchen, living space, bedroom and wet room/loo. It was packed to the rafters with beautiful features; huge windows, fireplaces (x 2), antique furniture and a beautiful muted colour scheme.

IMG_0658 copyI sat down, made myself an espresso and got comfortable reading about the history of the beautiful Town Hall. Which I won’t ruin, you’ll just have to go and discover it for yourself ;) Basically it originally opened in 1910 and has been through many iterations (including a famous film locations) before being saved from ruin and becoming the gorgeous hotel it is today.

The kitchen had absolutely everything you might need (and lots of things you probably won’t) so for those who stay for an extended period of time on business it is perfect to rustle up a bit of dinner or breakfast if you get tired of restaurant or room service dining.

The Town Hall Hotel reviewThe lounge area was lovely with a huge L-shaped sofa and big television. I obvs made good use of this and blasted out Kisstory while I was getting ready for Blur that evening.

On to the bathroom – it featured L’Occitane products (+1 point) and one of those dinner plate shower heads that releases so much water it makes you feel like you’re drowning. The glass loo and shower room were separated from the bathroom only by a white curtain so you’d have to make sure you knew whoever you were sharing with pretty darn well. Luckily me myself and I are pretty well-acquainted so we were happy.

The in-room facilities were good; I’m always disappointed by hotel hairdryers but this one did the job well. There were your standard bits and bobs – safe, umbrella, phone etc etc. Everything you might need.

The location is a bit out of the way but it’s a four minute walk to Bethnal Green tube station and from there you can get the Central Line straight into town. Bethnal Green has so much to do and see, too – it’s a real up-and-coming area for restaurants and bars, two of which are in the hotel itself.

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And Blur, how were they? I hear you ask.

AMAZING. Damon Albarn does not get older, only better, and Song 2 will go down in history as a gig-going highlight for me. It rained the whole time and my £10 hotel umbrella was confiscated but it was SO worth it. My night ended in a gay club in Stoke Newington with my hairdresser (who isn’t gay). As you do.

The Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, London E2 9NF

www.townhallhotel.com

 

 

Modern Mexico In London: SelfridgesXMexico

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A little while ago I was invited to visit Mexico. Well, kind of.

I love Mexican food. The one terrible thing about living out here in Milton Keynes is that there’s literally no decent Mexican food to be had anywhere. We have a Las Iguanas, true, but if a ‘Latin’ restaurant doesn’t even make fresh guacamole as part of their offering then I don’t want to know.

A Wahaca would be the dream, but I’ll just keep dreaming. God, I love Wahaca.

So when Selfridges asked me along to sample their Taste of Mexico evening I almost bit their guacamole-flavoured hand off. 2015 is The Year of Mexico at Selfridges and along with the Mexican Tourist Board they have provided a veritable feast for the senses throughout the foodie parts of the store.

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I went the whole hog; had a lunchtime cut and blow dry with my absolute favourite Sam at Ena (I have never left that salon feeling less than a million dollars), invited my dad along for the evening and enjoyed pre-Mexican champs at the Dean Street Townhouse. V decadent for a Thursday (I’m worth it… yeah?).

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Our meal was held in the beautifully appointed Corner Champagne Bar at Selfridges which is now my new favourite place – the house Champagne is lovely and there’s nothing like raiding DVF and Roland Mouret when you’re half cut, am I right? Me and daddy-o were the first arrivals and used the opportunity to sit back and watch the sun set over Oxford Street.

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Our evening began with a sample of a Mexican IPA which was paired with the amuse bouche: a taste of avocado, salsa, crab and paprika on toast. This was lovely – the IPA was light and hoppy (just as I like it!) and the crab zingy with layers of flavour through the salsa and avocado. No sign of pre-made guacamole here, I’m pleased to report.

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Does anything make you happier than a table full of tasting glasses? No, it does not.

IMG_0261Our starter was a beautifully light dish of lobster with mole verde paired with a Mexican Sauvignon Blanc, which I would have said in a blind taste test could have come from Chile. It was beautifully fresh and complimented the flavours of the seafood to perfection. I always think mole verde is a weird one and not to everyone’s palate but this was gorgeous – not too heavy and bursting with the taste of the herbs, or Oaxaca’s ‘seven moles’.

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Next up was my favourite wine of the evening – a chilled red (I might have asked for seconds). I believe I’m right in saying that each wine this evening came from the Baja California region of Mexico which is apparently ‘the next Napa’ – watch out for this red one in particular, it’s a corker. It accompanied our main course of pork served Manzanilla style.

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This came on a bed of pureed beans (think refried beans but a million times tastier) and a garnish of pickeld veg. I’m not ashamed to admit that I tried to send my pork back for being undercooked before I was told this is ‘the mexican way’ – it was delicious. Different to what we’re used to but delicious.

IMG_0266 IMG_0269Pudding was the absolute pièce de résistance. A deconstructed rice pud pannacotta which was made by the traditional method of making rice pudding but with the liquid drained off and used to form the pannacotta. This was garnished with dried mango and ‘nitro churro’ – tiny little raisin flavoured balls of delight that popped in your mouth. In.Cred.I.Ble.

IMG_0241The talented chefs who’d joined us from Mexico for the evening happily circulated and answered our many slightly drunken questions about how they’d come to the menu and the cooking methods they’d used. For two foodies (and wine-os) my dad and I were in heaven, it really was a treat of an evening.

Having eaten a fair bit of Mexican food in London I was delighted to sample something a bit different. This truly is ‘modern Mexican’ cooking: a beautifully fresh and interesting approach. It’s sparked an interest in Mexico in me that I didn’t have before and I can’t wait to visit the Baja California region to discover more (and hunt down that gorgeous wine).

Thanks to Selfridges for sponsoring MTT and for inviting me along to such a wonderful event. 

 

 

 

 

Half Term Happenings: South Bank

Half Term at SouthbankIt’s half term: are you climbing the walls yet?

I took a trip to South Bank in London a couple of weeks ago to seek out the best of the holiday activities this February to help us chase the boredom away. If you’ve never been here with your children before you really should – there’s a wonderful programme of events with activities from children 0+, so there’s really something for everyone!

Here’s my pick of what’s going on at Southbank:

Children take over the Southbank Centre for two weeks in February for the spectacular Imagine Children’s Festival (9-22 February). Catch readings from authors like Russell Brand and Judith Kerr and celebrate Alice in Wonderland’s 150th Anniversary with dancing, dressing up and croquet. Under 5’s can join in with Baby Yoga, Move & Shake and two shows from Half Moon Young People’s Theatre.

See London like never before – from a duck, with London Duck Tours!Start on a road tour of the City of Westminster, taking in sights like the Houses of Parliament, Coca-Cola London Eye and Big Ben before slipping into the Thames to see the city from the water. All this on a historic vehicle used for the D-day landings in 1944.

Get involved at IWM London for a free family printing activity. Have a go at drawing your favourite piece of art from the current exhibition – Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War – and transfer your design into a print you can keep. Print it: Truth and Memory is on from 14-22 February.

Wallace and Gromit/Chicken Run fan? Take part in the Aardman Messy Time for the Very Young (17-19 February), a programme of workshops atBFI Southbank, that truly do offer something for everyone. With activities from age 0 to 14 you can choose from Claymation, film making, messy play or creative crafts.

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Gillray’s, London Marriott County Hall, achieved what I thought was almost impossible: it’s a wonderful lunch (or dinner) destination for both children and their discerning parents. Spotting three families dining on our last trip here, the kids will love the ream of colouring-in sheets they’re presented with, the special kids eat free menu (proper food only: not an orange fish finger in sight) and the wonderfully friendly staff. Adults won’t be able to get enough of the gorgeous steaks, exemplary wine list and riverside location. Gillray’s really is a star on the South Bank.

Have a budding Marine Biologist in your family? Dive in and be wowed by the fascinating creatures of the deep at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium.  Fun for all, get as close as you dare to Sand Tiger Sharks, Black Tips and Grey Reefs – without getting wet!

Thank you ever so much for everyone at Southbank for inviting me down – you can see the original article over on their website

MTT Does Shoreditch

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Even though it’s a good six years since I lived there, Shoreditch is still my favourite area of London. It’s not edgy anymore, it’s not particularly trendy (don’t you have to go to Putney to be trendy these days?), but I love it. I know the streets, the bars, the coffee shops, the people… it’s a vibrant and fun place and I just love to be there. In the last six months I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot more time in that area and now I’m working there too I thought it would be a great opportunity to tell you all about my favourite places. So without further ado, here it is; MTT does Shoreditch:

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In Lieu Of A Big Long Blog Post

Because – who knew? – commuting into the big city five days a week is kicking my arse in twelve different ways. Getting in at 7.30pm means that all my (limited) remaining creative juices are being sent in the way of my evening freelance work and I’m literally so tired that when I sit down to blog the words just don’t come.

I have a million and one thoughts on the world of work from the eyes of a single mother which I’m sure I will regale you with very soon (try to contain your excitement, OK?), but for now here’s what I’ve been up to, told through the medium of Instagram filters, starting with last weekend…

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My current favourite late-night destination: Duck & Waffle. Food, views and a Portugese white to die for. There is seriously nothing better than a midnight dinner date up here taking in the glittering lights of London below. I like to order the Duck and Waffle, obvs. 

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…late nights followed by new favourite hangover cure, a (not too) spicy Bloody Mary. Sipped at Broadway Market before a sunny stroll along Regent’s Canal. Pretty blissful, right? 

10369324_1414091762206189_1633602909_n 10387857_847019188660419_371299732_nYet MORE socialising. First it was my lovely cousin’s birthday party in Camden then on to a fancy dinner and tequila with these two lovely ladies: Hannah from Mum’s Days and our friend Alex. We danced our socks off at The Kensington Roof Gardens and it was awesome. 

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Sunday rooftop times with Jamie, McNulty and the boys. Coppa Bar & BBQ is a fab sunny day destination just on London Fields; we whiled away a good few hours here. 

10401640_323510991137253_1283417362_n 10358208_675898035815850_280049950_n 10369498_250131868509683_1821598017_nOh, did you know? I’m a commuter now #zzzzzz. Had some painful moments leaving Hux at his new nursery last week “MUMMY! NOOOO! GO BACK IN CAR”… weep. He’ll settle in soon enough but it makes me feel sad that he misses his mama so much. 

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 Burger date! Current favourite London burger joints: Byron (Brick Lane… the MK restaurant just isn’t as good) and Meat Mission. MM’s monkey fingers are INCREDIBLE. Still want to try Patty & Bun. 

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It’s beautiful Bryony‘s birthday today and to celebrate Steph came to stay! We had a boozy blast on Saturday night and I woke up the next morning snuggled up to Steph in my bed. Her husband’s a lucky man, I’ll tell you that.  

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Most importantly – getting in some quality time with these two. I have missed them like you wouldn’t believe and seeing their faces when I come home from a busy day is the biggest treat. I’m working hard to make our evenings together count and it’s going to kill me when they’re with their Dad all next weekend. The transition has been tough for them – Hux with his new nursery and Elfie asking where mummy is and why does she have to go to London all day? – but we’re getting there. 

So, tell me: what have I missed?

 

MTT Travel: The Cavendish, London

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Even though I no longer live in London I would definitely say it is my spiritual home. Something about the place is so energising: the atmosphere, the culture, the food, the tourists, the traffic. I love it all and every time I make the thirty minute train journey into the city I feel excited at the prospect of spending a few hours in my favourite place.

But a few hours never seems to be enough; luckily I have a good few friends who let me crash in their beds when I’m in town on a girl’s night, and you can always get a good value hotel room via Hotel Tonight (I love The Threadneedles) or at The Hoxton. And a couple of weeks ago I added a new hotel to my list of favourite places in London to lay my head: The Cavendish London.

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The Cavendish London is a 4 star boutique hotel in on of the most gorgeous areas of London, St James, just off Piccadilly. I visited on one of the first super sunny days of the year and it was just glorious; the sun was bouncing off the stone buildings, the sky was blue and though it was still pretty chilly there were bare arms and smiley faces every way you turned. I’d just indulged in one of my favourite activities, a hair cut with the ever-amazing Sam at Ena Salon (he knows how to make you feel spoiled, ladies), and strolling through such a beautiful London meant I was walking on air by the time I got to my hotel. You’ll find it easily as I did tucked in on a little side street just behind Fortnum’s: such a fantastic spot for anyone wanting to explore the finer parts of London.

I checked in and made my way up to my room. Just check out the view I was greeted with! I don’t mean the view of myself in the mirror, I’m talking that breathtaking London vista up there. Totally stunning.

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I never know what to do when I find myself in a hotel room. A place where you are ALONE, with a TV, a huge bed for SLEEP, magazines that you can READ. The potential for alone-time fun is incredible. So I did what I always seem to do which is order a Caesar salad and bowl of chips on room service, don my bathrobe and eat my lunch snuggled into the big fluffy hotel pillows. Blissful.

Caesar salad and chips is always my go-to room service choice and this one was top-notch. The chicken was perfectly chargrilled and though I don’t normally go for chunky chips these ones were wonderful. And anchovies, mmm, anchovies.

Bed at The Cavendish London

Desk at The Cavendish, London

Room Service at The Cavendish, LondonNot wanting to be totally lazy and explore the local area (and OK, cos I’d left my contact lens solution at home), I took a wander up Piccadilly to Piccadilly Circus. Up here you’ll find some shops and a LOT of tourists (and also a huge store dedicated to Nespresso? Who knew). I picked up a little bottle of wine from Whole Foods (fave supermarket in the whole world, sorry Waitrose) with plans to enjoy it in the bath later and just took an hour to walk aimlessly. This part of London is so different to what I’m used to, it’s a feast for the senses with its bright lights, smells wafting over from Chinatown and busy streets. It was fun but I was happy to retreat to the sanctuary of my room at The Cavendish London.

Sunrise from The Cavendish, London

There are rarely many things I find more satisfying than a nap in a hotel bed, so nap I did followed by a happy half hour gazing out of my window at the view with my Whole Foods glass of wine in hand. Soul food, that was. Then it was time for dinner after a long soak in a bath. This day… it just gets better and better, right?

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I’d invited my gorgeous friend Caoimhe to dine with me and was so excited to catch up with her. We began our evening with cocktails in the bar and gossip about boys before moving on to the restaurant. IMG_1342The food was one of the things I was most looking forward to at The Cavendish; their in-house restaurant Petrichor has 2 AA rosettes and after checking out their menu online I was really excited to dine there. It’s one floor up in the hotel so you get a really unique birds-eye view of the streets below which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a quiet, luxurious restaurant that would be suited to a romantic date or anniversary dinner. Or a catch up with one of your favourite Irish babes :)

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I plumped for the Scottish Scallop started which came with breaded frogs legs and was every bit as delicious as it looked. The scallops were cooked to perfection and though I’ve only had frogs legs once before these really hit the spot. Delicious.

Caoimhe went for the Trio of Quail: breast, egg and confit leg croquette. Just YUM. 

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Next up were the mains and though I chose well with  my Suffolk Chicken Roulade (the pan-fried lettuce was to die for and I loved the earthy taste of the king oyster mushroom and truffle hollandaise) I have to admit, I had total food envy. Caoimhe’s plate was a work of art; her beef fillet came with smoked potato puree, ox cheek croquette, duck liver pate and a potato ring. WOW.

IMG_1351 IMG_1349Puddings were up next and again these were big old plates of loveliness. My star anise creme brulee was a lovely end to a beautiful meal and Caoimhe’s Chocolate brownie could have been eaten three times over.

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With stuffed bellies we headed off round the corner to Quaglino’s for a little sip of Prosecco and an old-fashioned flirt with some bartenders. We must have done something right because they kept appearing at our table with shots of delicious alcohol: this one below was rhubarb pavlova and coming with a teeny tiny meringue it literally tasted like pudding in a glass. We were impressed. And slightly drunk. See: LEGS. My mother will be horrified.

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When we ran out of gossip I wobbled back round the corner to my bed at The Cavendish, excited about the TEN HOURS sleep I was about to have. There’s always time for a mirror selfie in a lift full of reflections, though…

IMG_5675The next morning I woke up feeling refreshed and energised hungover and starving. Luckily on my return to the hotel I’d had the wherewithal to crazily scribble a room service breakfast order and leave it on my door for morning. So I had a slug of water, took a picture of the London sunrise and waited for my feast to arrive at 8.30.

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Yep, apparently when I’m a bit tiddly I want ALL THE BACON. The breakfast was divine and tasted just as good as it looked, especially when enjoyed in bed with a massive cup of tea and Sunday morning breakfast TV. If you decide to brave leaving your room for breakfast though it’s worth noting you can until 12pm: it winds me up no end when you wake up at 10.15am on a Sunday morning in a hotel and realise you’ve missed breakfast and I wish more hotels were flexible with their times like this.

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A little post-breakkie snooze and I was ready to start the day. I had to be back home for the kids fairly early so after I checked out of my St James’s bolthole I took a little browse through Fortnum and Mason and hopped on the tube home.

All in all, a thoroughly wonderful way to spend 24 hours in the capital. I may not have gone sightseeing, taken in any museums or visited any great monuments… but I returned home feeling like I’d spent a whole day pampering and pleasing no-one but myself and that was worth its weight in gold. The memories of that wonderful alone time will last and last :)

The Cavendish London: I’ll be back!

I was a guest of The Cavendish London – thank you so much for having me!