We went on a road trip around the South of Wales – Cardiff, the Brecon Beacons, Swansea, the Valleys.
We went on a road trip around the South of Wales – Cardiff, the Brecon Beacons, Swansea, the Valleys.
Ah. The Great Cornish Pasty Adventure.
‘What?’ I hear you ask. ‘Is this an actual thing?’
You betcha it is! In Arizona they have an awesome, mildly hipster Cornish pasty restaurant. Mildly hilarious given that pasties are kind of considered equal to hot dogs – cheap, filling, and generally a takeaway food eaten from a paper bag. But they are good. And they can be amazing.
So, I decided way back in March when I got to the UK I would hire a car and drive to Cornwall.
I’ve never been to a camping music festival before. They are a huge thing here in the UK (think Glastonbury, Reading/Leeds), and while they certainly can be found at home, they seem less prominent. I know many other people at home who have never been to one, while here, when I mentioned to my friends that this was my first, they all expressed incredulity: “What?! You haven’t been to a camping festival before?”
So at the beginning of summer, I started researching. I’m not hugely interested in the Glasto experience with its 1 1/2 hour walk through tent city to return to your tent. I’m not interested in the ones packed with dubstep and bad food vendors. So I chose Wilderness.
The Wilderness festival is held in the woodlands near the Cotswolds in Oxfordshire. It is set in a stunning location, and is designed so that the woodlands are a huge feature. And the best thing about Wilderness? Food is on an equal footing with the music. A number of top London chefs come out and set up tents or long table banquets under the trees. St John, Russell Norman of Polpo, Moro, Hix – the menu for the festival reads like a London gastronome’s bucket list.
As I am not in the USA for the 4th of July, I thought it would be fittingly hilarious to celebrate the 4th here in London – and celebrate the day that America gained independence from the chains of Great Britain – from within Great Britain.
I am staying with some very good friends and their daughter while I wait to move into my new house in Victoria Park Village – the house is just such a lovely buzzing hive of activity. It’s beautiful in summer, as the house just opens up to the back garden. Somehow, it was decided after we had all been pottering around all day, that we would make welsh cakes for afternoon tea.
It’s been a big weekend. I’ve been running myself ragged trying to finish this book, so just needed a few days of fun to reset my jumbled brain. We started on friday with some beers in the park with Banjo. Well, I started 30 minutes earlier when the village kids had come to hang out and decided that I was a human canvas for their masterpieces.
You might remember how ecstatic I get when Taste of Melbourne, the best food festival EVER comes around. Here is my raving hysteria and video from last years event. The Taste Festivals are held all around the world, and are the same the world over: except each is full of each places local chefs and local producers.
Every time I go into Central London, I have the option to leave the village by bus & tube, or bike.
The past few months in London have been lovely, because it has been like a revolving door of friends from Melbourne popping in and out. It’s been ridiculous actually – a lot of my spare time has been spent with friends from back home, whether they have moved here or are just passing through. My friend Namita has been on an epic Europe adventure on her own, and has been in and out of London over the past few months. She is heading back to Australia next week so we decided to go on a scone adventure as our last hurrah.
It was her first English scone, so I of course took her to my go-to when downtown, Gails Artisan Bakery. They toaster-press their scones, and they are moist and buttery, just like home. I have an issue with many British scones, in that they are too dry! But not these.
So it has been the week leading up to my first deliverable for my book. I don’t know if I have written it specifically on the blog, but I’ve been commissioned to write a book on coffee. It’s been killer fun – I’ve visited coffee labs in Amsterdam, Roasters in London – I love culinary research and learning and I am getting paid to become an expert on coffee.
But it is hard work. I’m never switched off, always thinking about the book and whatever I am doing I am thinking I should be writing. I’m writing from when I wake in the morning until when I go to bed. Every so often I try and have a switch off day, but I still feel a little guilty.
Anyway, as such, I haven’t really had any full days of fun activities to blog about for a while. I’ve done little things here and there, breaking up my work. Sarah + Theo, the owners of the Deli I work at had me over for dinner, and we somehow started talking about iPhoto’s new ‘Moments’ feature. Theo went a small rampage about how it was the most ridiculous thing ever. ‘I’ve had a moment, let me just take a photograph.’ It is ridiculous. But it stuck in my head – that’s how I am organising my life right now. Work, work, work and then a moment of fun. So to perpetuate the ridiculousness, here is a collection of my ‘moments’.
So, I was meant to be heading back to America tomorrow. But the past three months in London have heralded so many amazing opportunities for my career. A few days before I was scheduled to leave, another opportunity popped up which just seemed to serendipitous to pass up….. more on this in a month or two, as it becomes more concrete.
Husni and I went out to celebrate everything. Before coming to the UK, I’d been planning on visiting the Fat Duck, Heston Blumenthal’s famous restaurant out in Bray. But recently, the World’s 50 Best restaurant list was released for 2014. Fat Duck came in at No. 47, and just revealed that they are packing up and moving to Melbourne, only a few months after I made that exact journey in reverse.
But Dinner By Heston, the Mandarin Oriental-housed restaurant in Knightsbridge, ranked in at No. 5. Surprisingly, I’ve never been to a Top Ten restaurant. Even Blue Hill at Stone Barns (which I personally would have placed in the top ten) was much further down the list. Dinner By Heston is perhaps his most interesting restaurant, as the recipes are all adapted from historic British cookbooks or manuscripts, making your dining experience a trip through 16th-19th Century British cooking. The menu lists the decade each recipe comes from, and the back of the menu provides a list of cookbook sources for the recipes. So move aside Fat Duck, Dinner by Heston is calling.
Today was just magical.
It was one of our first warm, sunny days of my first London Summer.
We head into Dylan’s friends new teahouse in Shoreditch, Hawkhurst Vault, and started the day with oolong, puerh, chocolate + beet and courgette + pistachio cakes over a game of chess.
Husni’s dinner parties are always amazing. We always used to head over to Prahran Market, pick up some amazing ingredients and then go back to his and cook up a feast – our last big dinner party was on Election night, which we soothed tensions with a Beef Wellington and Blood Orange Curd tarts.
So when Husni moved into his new place in Bloomsbury here in London, and all his things arrived from Australia, we knew it was time for another housewarming. His old house in South Yarra in Melbourne had a fabulous housewarming, with waiters and champagne and multiple courses that we slaved away on for a few days. A few musicians from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra set up in his lounge.
This time it was a lunch, and he cooked us mackerel, steak and a pile of amazing starters and sides. The wine flowed, and as we all met each other we realised Husni has been gathering Aussie friends – while few of us knew each other, we were majority Australians (or at least married to one!).
Husni and I took a trip to the Cotswolds – a beautiful little area of England with gorgeous little villages and meadows – we had afternoon tea and drove down little farm lanes. I don’t have the words for how pretty it all is – so here are the pictures.
Today was bright. Today was perfect.
So, I’ve been busy. I’ve only a short while to enjoy being an East Londoner, so I’ve been cramming my days with cycling, cafes, working on the book, picnics, dancing, drinks, cakes and working at The Deli Downstairs. I absolutely adore working there, with the most wonderful group of people ever.
I’ve been gazing out the back into our little courtyard at the Deli, pausing to look at the sun filter through the leaves onto our little tomato seedlings.
I’ve been cycling the long way home around Victoria Park – amongst the picnics and families and hipsters on rollerblades.
I’ve been riding to Hackney City Farm just to walk through Woodland Way, lush and green and a little slice of British countryside in the urban sprawl.
I’ve been eating cod and chips with curry sauce in the park, swing dancing at the old English pub on the corner, dancing for hours at a Michael Franti gig in Islington, and walking through the little independent galleries in the artist warehouses in Hackney Wick.
Watching Japanese films at Hackney Picturehouse, talking to yogis in community cafes in Hackney Downs, and writing my book in the whitewashed-stone-and-wood interior of Violet Bakery, the famed East London American bakery owned by Chez Panisse Alumni Claire Ptak.
Or riding to Shoreditch and sitting in cafes in Brick Lane, eating Rose, Raspberry and Pistachio cake while writing. Every so often I look up, and see the other tables and sofas filled with the most quintessential Londoners – girls in Lennon glasses and denim skirt overalls. Blondes with Japanese-style bob-cropped hair and oversized suede vintage store jackets. Flop-haired ringleted young men in denim jackets with iron on patches, reading dog-eared paperbacks.
I had a saturday off work – so I decided to get some friends together, head down to the famous Broadway Market (started for and by the Hackney community in the 1890s) to pick up some bits and pieces and head over for a picnic in Victoria Park.
It was amazingly sunny, even though it had been raining all week. Everyone was out and about, and the streets and waterways and parks were packed with people soaking up the sun.
Last week, my friend Sarah who is studying Linguistics at the University of Oxford asked Namita (who is holidaying in London at the moment) and I to come to Oxford for a day and attend one of the special formal dinners held by each of the Oxford colleges. It was such a rare, special treat – I was so lucky to get to attend. Just a forewarning: this post is very, very long.
So, you will just have to scroll through and see all the beauty of the town. I just took so, so many photos in Oxford because it was all just so stunningly beautiful. I got up really early today as there was a tube strike in London, and only just made my train in time from Paddington station. It was super foggy, and the train sped through the trees and fields, grey and shrouded in the thick fog. But as soon as I arrived in Oxford and stepped off the train – the sun came out. And it stayed out all day. I couldn’t have asked for better weather.