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:
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…
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.
…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?
Yet 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.
Oh, 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Not 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.
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?
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. The 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 :)
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.
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.
Puddings 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.
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.
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…
The 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.
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.
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!
Since I split from my husband I have relied on my friends more than I ever had before. When I was married my husband was my best friend and I definitely neglected my female relationships in favour of this relationship. One of the best things about splitting up has been re-discovering the connection I have with my lady friends and I couldn’t be happier with the brilliant examples of womankind I am surrounded by. Unfortunately one of the best friends I have is all the way in New York. Kirsty is the one I went to when things with my marriage went tits up and Skyping her is the first thing I want to do when I have a terrible date or rubbish day. When we’re together we always have an absolutely wonderful time and I can hand on heart say that I know I want her to be in my life forever. I never laugh more than when I’m with Kirsty. We met in one of the first weeks I lived in London, having dinner with a mutual friend. Because I was the country mouse transplanted to the big city Kirsty took me under her wing, introduced me to people and showed me the ways of the London world. I remember meeting her for dinner for the first time at Mildred’s in Soho and she’d just finished scouring Primark; she had a brilliant on-the-side eBay business selling on 99p glasses for a tenner and was frantic because everywhere had sold out and she had orders stacking up. I remember feeling wide-eyed and in awe at this exuberant, confident chatty woman who took me to dinner and talked my ear off. She has remained my friend ever since, even helped me get a job at the place she worked, and though slightly less frantic and chatty these days (I like to tell her like a good stilton, she’s matured with age and is very cheesy) she is still one of those people whose spirit lifts you up just by spending time with them. Enough Kirsty loving, she’s going to have an unbearable ego when she gets round to reading this. LOVE YOU DARLING. Anyway, because of the nature of Kirsty living on the other side of the planet it can be difficult for us to get together. She has fleeting visits to the country every few months and this time I had her for a whole 24 hours. To say I was excited is an understatement, and even more so because we’d planned to jampack that whole time with FUN! We started at Chuan, the spa at The Langham, at 10 am. The order of the day: body scrubs, back massages and mini facials. I had a foot massage that sent me to sleep (woke myself up snoring like the classy bird I am) and then onto the spa for a dip in the pool, jacuzzi and sauna. I do mean a literal dip: that thing was freezing so we promptly retreated to the bubbles of the jacuzzi and the serenity of the heated beds. Lovely. Now, I like the changing room at my gym. It’s always clean, the shower is super-powered and the hairdryers are excellent. But the one at Chuan spa was simply out of this world. The shower had about 12 heads and a million knobs, there were not only hairdryers but hair straighteners and every sort of beauty product was there available for you to use. Oh, and slippers. You know times are good when there are hundreds of pairs of slippers at your disposal. Relaxed, we went from the spa to Soho house for a lunch of calimari, caesar salad, chips and some other things that I don’t remember. That’ll be the Prosecco. Of which there were lots… yay! I told you, there’s nothing I like more than sitting down to drink a bottle of something chilled and fizzy with a really interesting person and Kirsty, you’re no exception. Kirsty had a conference call to make so we headed back to our hotel three sheets to the wind. I don’t know about you but I find I get my best work done this way, and she seemed to be more hilarious than normal during her call. I of course spent the time flashing my bra at her, retrieving champagne and offering my own terribly important insights into her terribly important business. The dream team, that’s us. We were put up by the marvellous people at Novotel at their Novotel Waterloo hotel. We had a room that was really generously sized by London standards; big enough for a huge bed and a desk that came in very handy for all the proper bizness that Kirsty was carrying out. We stayed on their shopping package, which meant we were greeted with glasses of Champagne (Taittenger too, very lovely) and a goodie bag for a trip to the shops. We had Westfield VIP vouchers (discounts, yo!), treats for our feet for when all that walking got too much, water and a brilliant breakfast in the hotel restaurant. The hotel bar was absolutely beautiful and we enjoyed a second glass of champagne while we waited for our cab. My favourite thing might have been this London skyline rug, though. Absolutely brilliant. The hotel was really well placed for where we wanted to go; we hopped in an Uber (best taxi service ever: if you want to try it this weekend use the promo code ‘sh99c‘ and you’ll get a £20 credit to your account, as will I, whee!) and on a whim headed to Heron Tower. We did the touristy thing and gawped at all the sights on our way passed: The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Tower Bridge. Ace. There’s nothing I love more than being a tourist in lovely old London. I’ve never been up Heron tower before, heights aren’t my thing, but on such a girly night out a fancy bar seemed to be the way to go. Let me tell you, that lift up to SushiSamba is a total headfark. I ended up clutching on to Kirsty’s arm, whimpering on the floor, not really sure what to do. My ears popped twice. In short, it was pretty awful but the view was just about worth it. Check this out: That doesn’t go any way to demonstrate just how stunning it was. Truly beautiful, a trip up the Heron Tower is definitely one for the ‘to do’ list. Fear of heights or not, I’ll definitely be back. The food at SushiSamba was incredible; we hadn’t booked and were seated at the bar, feasting on tuna sashimi, rock shrimp tempura and cucumber cocktails. It was pricey but worth it and the restaurant itself was beautifully decadent. Feeling full we decided to head over to Shoreditch House, where most of our early friendship was cultivated over espresso martinis and stories about BOYS. Not much has changed really (though this time more tequila was involved and it was me rather than her telling stories of BOYS) and the evening was spent being borderline annoying to our fellow revellers (crashing the British Fashion Council’s Christmas parties was one of the better ideas we’ve had, I feel). We ended the night in reindeer antlers, crawling into bed back at the Novotel at about 4am. It was an awesome awesome night and I haven’t smiled, danced and laughed that much in a long time. It’s probably a good thing that Kirsty only comes over once every six months because it took me a solid 5 days to recover from our day of excess. Ugh, the curse of a hangover when you’re no longer 23. But I really really really can’t wait to do it all again in six months time.
Next week I’m doing the unthinkable. I’m packing an overnight bag, dropping off my children, and getting on a train to London for 24 lovely, untinterrupted hours. Ok, I’m there every other week at the moment, but this time is different. My best friend Kirsty (yep, she of the flight upgrade!) is home for Christmas from New York City and she’s promised me the one thing that every mother wants: a relaxing, hedonistic, grown-up day, evening and night.
Relaxing and hedonistic aren’t two words you often see in the same sentence. But me and Kirsty, we only see each other a couple of times a year so we have to squeeze it all into one visit. In the old days (2008) there was hedonism aplenty (see above: work xmas party. Good old Christmas spirits) but now we’re a bit older we need some relaxation to counter all the Espresso Martinis.
2013: Older but not wiser.
And so I’m starting to plan our 24 hours in London with meticulous attention to detail. We want to pamper ourselves silly at a spa, drink cocktails and Prosecco for old time’s sake and do a spot of Christmas shopping. Your average Thursday, really. We have from 10am on Thursday til 12pm on Friday (so 26 hours, actually): the world is our Oyster (card).
The spa has been decided by Kirsty: we’re off to The Langham for salt scrubs, back massages and facials (DIVINE!) and so it’s my job to decide where to stay. I’ve been browsing Hotel Direct to try and find somewhere suitable for my bestie to lay her head for the night but wherever it is I’ll make sure it has an excellent bar. Cos that’s the most important thing.
Then we’re heading into town for the evening’s entertainment. Soho House will definitely be visited at some point, followed by who knows? Maybe steakL I love a bit of Hawksmoor though I’m desperate to try Flat Iron. I still haven’t been up the Heron Tower and I’d love to try Duck & Waffles signature plate… who knows? We have 26 hours, after all!
Now, Kirsty and I used to work together so we’ve experienced some pretty outstanding hangovers in tandem. So I’m wondering how this one is going to be? Not too bad I hope because I intend on using our leftover time together for some serious shopping.
When it comes down to it we’ll probably have our spa treatments, sit down for a glass of prosecco and some gossip somewhere and not leave our seats for the rest of our time together. But whatever happens I know we are going to have an absolutely brilliant time.
Thanks Hotel Direct for partnering with More Than Toast. You can read more in my disclosure here.
It’s been four years since I started this blog. Four long years. In October 2009 I wrote something extremely well thought out and literary like OH MY GOD I’M PREGNANT WHAT THE HELL DO I DO NOW?! and that decision may have changed my life a little bit.
In those four years I’ve given birth twice, started the process of divorce (just the once… for now), gone a bit mental with the pressure of kids, work and marriage, found happiness, put on and lost six stone and moved cities three times. I’ve written here about the hardest times and the happiest, births, marriages and deaths. It’s basically been the blog version of Four Weddings And A Funeral, naturally starring me as Andie MacDowell in that massive black hat (so when do I get to snog Hugh Grant? I kid… kind of).
When I started my blog I had no expectations. I did it purely for the reason that I didn’t know what else to do when I realised I was pregnant at the age of 24. Not having any friends who were pregnant or had children I desperately needed somewhere to share my experiences, ask questions and connect with people who’d know what I was going through.
But this place has become so much more than that. It’s been my lifeline at times, therapy for when I’ve wanted to share the bad and sad bits of motherhood. It’s become my job, given me some of the best friends I could have ever wished for (you know who you are and you rock). It’s offered me opportunities I never would have experienced otherwise.
One of those opportunities just happened.
If you look closely you’ll see I’m trying to push open an automatic door. Smooth.
Last week I had an email asking whether or not I might be interested in appearing in a feature on Woman’s Hour about Parent Blogging. WOULD I EVER!! Woman’s Hour has always been such a ‘thing’ in my family; my mum has listened to it for as long as I can remember and she still to this day emails me links to each segment she thinks I’ll enjoy. She often starts her sentences with, “I was listening to Woman’s Hour and…” before delivering a little nugget of wisdom (love your nuggets, mum).
I had a quick chat on the phone with a producer and all was confirmed for Monday. I called my mum and she actually screamed at the news. At our family friend’s engagement party last Friday I don’t think there was anyone in the room who didn’t know that I was to be on Radio 4. She’s never been prouder and has been swearing she always knew I’d turn up on Woman’s Hour.
So this morning Mum and I were up bright and early and on a (massively delayed) train en route to BBC Broadcasting Centre on Regent Street; tired, stressed and not knowing what was ahead. We signed in and were taken up to the green room which wasn’t actually green. Or that fancy, really, the whole place kind of felt like a big office.
Jane Garvey came to greet us (my mum fangirled all over her) and was as much of a legend as she is on the radio: friendly, professional, welcoming. She showed us round the studio before mum was banished back to the green room and I was seated next to her with some ‘cans’ on. I couldn’t get over how breezy she was; she literally chatted happily with me as the news was on and stopped one second before she started speaking to three million people. She was so calm, so cool… when I grow up I want to be Jane Garvey.
By the way: I was seated in the same chair Jamie Oliver sat in last week. BOOM.
I was joined remotely by Tim Atkinson of Bringing Up Charlie and it was showtime: we were on. Jane asked us questions, we gave her answers, the whole ten minute segment flashed by in the blink of an eye. I didn’t swear, forget what I wanted to say or mention any brand names (a big no-no, apparently). I was nervous but really enjoyed the whole experience; mum was shaking when I went back to meet her in the Green Room so I think the whole thing was more taxing for her. I did it without vomiting… what a bloody achievement.
We followed my media debut with brunch at The Langham (I NEEDED that Bucks Fizz) and then headed home when I was back to the daily routine of lunch, naptime, food shopping and jigsaws. I imagine this is how Gwyneth Paltrow lives her life… apart from it doesn’t rain in LA and she never has to deal with The 8.04 London Midland service from Milton Keynes being 30 minutes delayed. Not that I know of, anyway.
You can listen to my radio voice right here – I’m first on so you don’t need to skip through the segment. Keep in mind I usually don’t sound this articulate or well spoken in real life, but that’ll be the wine.
Thanks to Radio 4 for having us: we had a blast. Do listen tomorrow and Wednesday at 10am as the special on Parent Blogging continues and best of luck to my lovely blogging friends Jennie and Hayley for their turn with Jane ‘The Legend’ Garvey.