South Tyrol: Day 1

Over the past year+, I’ve been on a collection of life changing, memory making trips around the world. But, I’ve been too busy to properly tell you about them. I know I’ve shared tidbits and some of them are published, but I’d love to sit down with a cup of tea and share some of these adventures with you.

We left at the crack of dawn. I awoke at the sort of ungodly hour which makes you question where you are, and possibly even who you are. I crawled into the awaiting cab with a driver far too spritely for this time of morning. However, I sort of love being awake and out at this time. The city is sleeping, calm, with uninterrupted streets and the faintest hope of sunrise teasing the sky. We drove down the abandoned motorway towards an infamously distant Gatwick, discussing food, of course, in between intermittent gazes out the window. It’s at this time I find I contemplate deep, boundless ideas and notions, my mind too tired to process realistic limitations.

The following blur of dragging suitcase, queuing at check-in, creeping through security and hunting for nourishment is far too familiar for me to recount. We made our way to the gate, boarded the plane, and then it hit me: I was on my way to Italy.

Italy is special for most people. The culture, the scenery, the people, the wine, the history and most of all, the food, is all intoxicating. But for me, I feel attached, enamoured, indebted and in love. I spent my childhood visiting Tuscany, spending mornings on the beach, afternoons in the pizzeria, late afternoons by the pool, evenings in the Trattoria and night-time walking down the promenade with an overflowing handful of gelato. My late grandfather, my Nonno in Italian, imparted the culture, my heritage and the intense passion for food that runs deep in the country’s veins.

South Tyrol

I was now on my way to South Tyrol, also known as Alto Adige, soaring above the clouds with no knowledge of the region, limited information of my itinerary and fading worries of deadlines drifting away in the jet stream. I had been invited to South Tyrol for the weekend to visit their mountains, eat their food and experience their culture. We entered the airport to a typical Italian affair: curious customs practices and confused baggage claim standards. We successfully managed to gather our cases and meet our driver, ready to begin our trip in Italy’s most northern region.

South TyrolThere’s something about South Tyrol that must preface your preconceptions. Rid your mind of terracotta rooftops, swaying Cyprus trees and the glittering Mediterranean. South Tyrol is an Italian Germanic mix of architecture, culture and language. All signs, ads, menus, instructions and packaging are listed in both German and Italian, and architecture is a curious mix of both, resulting in a feeling reminiscent of medieval times.

We drove for an hour and a half, through valleys, past vineyards, over rivers, through villages, past cities and eventually, up a winding mountainous cliff towards the Dolomites. We raced past descending cars around sharp corners on a terrifyingly narrow road, secretly gripping the seat with white knuckles when an impossibly large truck would careen past. Reaching the top was reminiscent to films portraying a character arriving in heaven, *ahhhhhhhhhhh*.

South Tyrol Doesn’t this look like a Land Rover ad? South Tyrol

The road evened and and we had arrived at an endless plateau of green grass and rolling hills, surrounded by immense, impressive Dolomites. This area is protected as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, providing the perfect haven for fervent walkers, hikers and mountain bikers. We pulled into what can only be described as a luxury log cabin.

The Adler Lodge
sits impressively guarding the hillside. We entered the hotel to young, friendly faces, adorably dressed in traditional outfits. Picture innocent beer maids, only instead, wielding room keys rather than bountiful brews. The interior is remarkable, seamlessly syncing traditional with modern. Attractive wood creates a majority of the structure, with modern additions of glass and touch screen technology introduced for convenience and an additional feeling of luxury.

South Tyrol

The rooms were darling, with a separate bathroom, rainfall showerhead and even a heat lamp. Reusable wooden bottles were filled with the most divine smelling shower products, scented with lavender and white musk. This and the three sections of recyclable trash bins furthered the eco-friendly ethos seen throughout the hotel. The room was cosy, but spacious with a Bavarian lodge theme, including a mini bar inside a trunk and plaid chaise lounge.

I stepped out onto the balcony, greeted by the picturesque view of massive, imposing Dolomites. The air was crisp, freezing and noticeably clear – filling my polluted London lungs with fresh oxygen. I could hear the charming sound of tinkling cowbells, and quite literally, nothing else. The stillness of the mountain and breath-taking view is something I’m sure I’ll never forget.South TyrolHaving to peel myself away from my view, I traipsed upstairs to the spa and wellness area. The relaxation room makes for the cosiest of pre-treatment places, with rocking beds by the fireplace, and a glass ceiling trapping sunlight. I enjoyed a thorough sports massage using mountain-inspired elements, before being released into the Alpine Spa for a swim in the heated panorama pool, and steam in the sauna filled with mountain hay, both with spectacular views of rolling hills and rugged mountains.
South Tyrol South Tyrol You’re supposed to rub this ice on your body to cool your core temperature… Where’s the sauna?  South Tyrol South Tyrol Imagine inhaling the smell of heated, sweet hay whilst staring out at The Dolomites. South Tyrol South TyrolSouth TyrolCompletely refreshed and feeling at one with nature, we sat down to dinner at the panoramic restaurant. Tribal designs peeked from the wooden ceiling, and a roaring fireplace enhanced the cosy atmosphere. More than ready for some nourishment, we tucked into an evening of indulgence at Mountain Lodge. Paired with local wines, the specialities of Alto Adige were expertly embodied across a superb six courses. Local meats and herbs provided a fine taste of the area, with polenta dumplings and braised veal cheek serving a heartier representation. Coffee parfait with cooked plums was a sweet pick-me-up before greedily sampling local cheeses.

South Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol
South Tyrol South TyrolSouth TyrolSouth Tyrol You’re supposed to ask to sample one of each, right? I didn’t want to be rude.South TyrolThis gourmet experience was an exceptional ending to a day spent relaxing in this mountainous paradise, leaving me more than ready to see what else this region had to offer.

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London Daze

As the harsh a’s, slipped like’s and occasional misuse of the term fanny are detected laced throughout my conversation, I’m often asked, “Where are you from?”
America is assumed. They probe deeper, faces lighting as California rolls off my tongue. The story of that time they visited LA during their gap year quivers at the ready, before furrowed eyebrows and sinking corners of the mouth interject. “Then, what are you doing here?!” is almost bellowed at me as their eyes bulge a little in their bewildered sockets.
I tend to insert a nervous giggle here, to diffuse the tension and prepare my defence. But, I shouldn’t bloody have to! Yes, California is full of beautiful beaches, gleaming rays of sunshine and people with sparkling, white smiles – and London, is full of crowded streets, grey, cloud littered skies and questionable grimaces on the pale faces of commuters… but there’s so much more to it!
It’s a European metropolis of diverse culture, epicurean delights and endless activity. It’s truly one of my favourite cities in the world and I’m reminded all the time of how lucky I am to live in such a cool place. For those of you that do not live in London and even for those that do, I love getting to share my adventures around this sweet city with you. So snuggle up, grab a cup of tea and maybe even a snack. It’s time I catch you up on my latest escapades.

London Daze

This particular Sunday started as most should: with brunch. There are few things as perfect and decadent as baked eggs to start your day. These from Eelbrook are served with yoghurt, harissa and grilled flatbread for a deliciously Middle Eastern touch.
London DazeWhen the weather is nice, or at least when the skies aren’t threatening imminent rain, the best way to get around is to walk. This way you always encounter things you may never have expected to find.
London DazeChristopher was rather taken with this model in the window. Quite a striking resemblance, don’t you think?  London Daze Speaking of models in the window, no stroll through Knightsbridge is complete without a little window shopping at Ferrari Atelier.London Daze And the predictable Rolls spotting, complimented by a casually purple Bentley.
London Daze If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have hopefully already laughed along with me at this. Scroll up again and tell me you don’t at least let out a giggle. Someone took the time to ensure that ended up on a card. Brilliant. London Daze Somerset House is always stunningly decorated this time of year, complete with an ice skating rink and Fortnum & Mason Christmas tree. London Daze Do you think there are treats inside the hampers? I definitely should’ve checked.
I didn’t get a chance to ice skate this year, but you should try and go. Whether or not you’re a seasoned pro, it’s so much fun in such a Christmassy atmosphere. Hopefully there will be no one like me around, overcome with uncontrollable giggles at anyone that hits the ice.

London Daze

King’s Road had a visiting reindeer to help get everyone in the Christmas spirit. Although he was fuzzy and adorable, I wanted nothing more but to send him back where he came from so he could frolic freely with his friends, rather than being flashed at by a bunch of posh cameras and grabby kids’ hands.

London DazeOn Saturdays, Duke of York Square turns into a mélange of marquees. The piazza is transformed into an international melting pot of stands selling delicious smelling dishes from all over the world. With an insatiable craving for Mexican food, I scurried over to the grill where Tamales UK were cooking up pork pibil tacos and ordered tres con todos, por favor! London Daze A browse of Saatchi & Saatchi gallery is always amusing. You never quite know what you’re going to find. From golden prints of nature.. London Daze To walls of flower shaped profanity… London Daze To caviar covered rooms.. London DazeTo pornographic pop art. It truly is an eclectic, but entertaining mix. London DazeI popped into Bentley for a sneak peak of Vertu’s latest creation. They’ve teamed up with Bentley to create a customisable phone, with diamond knurled titanium side rails and a quilted calf leather back to match your Bentley’s interior. All I know is for $17,000 it better come with someone that dials the phone for me. London DazeTo my fellow American expats, do you still make the attempt the celebrate Thanksgiving abroad? I decided to go for it again this year, making the sweet potato casserole, chilli garlic brussels sprouts, pomegranate salad and stuffing. Although I usually manage all the sides, I even attempted my first turkey! A 5kg whopper which soon became equivalent to what I can only imagine it must be like having a toddler. I spent my day having to lift, adjust and baste the monster every 20 minutes. It was all worth it in the end as the bird came out beautifully and was completely devoured.  London DazeI absolutely love when people come to visit. Showing a tourist around London is one of my favourite things to do. I just love seeing the city through someone else’s eyes and getting to share some of my favourite bits with them. So, when Tyler came to visit from San Diego, we hit the town walking. London DazeWe visited the Queen. London DazeMet some residents with fowl manners. London DazeStrolled through the park. London DazeLondon DazeAnd visited the ever handsome, Benjamin. Tyler is an amazing photographer, by the way, and you can see more of his shots here.  London DazeHe’s even mastered the selfie. London DazeWe changed course and wandered up past Trafalgar where I showed him our big, blue cock.
London DazeAnd into Soho for an obligatory purchase of my favourite macarons in London. If you are ever in Soho or even dining at Yauatcha, promise me you’ll try one (or all) of their incredible macarons. London DazeWe popped into Polpetto for a snack. I told you about this place before, when I met up with lovely blogger Rachel. It’s the perfect place to share simple dishes with stunning ingredients.  London DazeWe started with an attack on a mound of luscious burrata topped with tender pumpkin and marjoram. London DazeFollowed by grilled octopus with chickpeas and tomato. London DazeAnd a show stopping finale of pink duck breast paired with blueberries and pickled walnuts. London DazeWe ended up dancing the night away at Home House, who had an awesome DJ mixing 90s with current charts. This ended in an equally cool manner, curled up in the early hours of the morning in hotel sheets watching Ratatouille. (It was the first time I’d seen it! I know, I know.)

London Daze I recently enjoyed a rather delicious breakfast meeting at the Dorchester’s CUT at 45 Park Lane. The setting is beautiful and beyond perfect for a meeting, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Damien Hirst’s butterfly pieces on the wall. London Daze M Restaurant hosted an appropriately massive launch party for their massive new space located in Bank, complete with concert provided by Tinie Tempah. London DazeBeing so close to one of my 24-hour favourites resulted in a midnight snack in the sky. London Daze Complete, of course, with some duck & waffle! London Daze No London post would be complete without a nod to Britain’s resident badass. How hot is this Aston? I’m not normally a fan of matte paint jobs, but there’s something fitting for Bond’s perfect getaway ride spotted in Notting Hill. London DazeSee? There is literally something for everyone in London, don’t you think? Where’s your favourite place to go, thing to see, or food to eat? Is there somewhere particularly amazing I ought to try? I always love a suggestion. Tweet me or leave a comment below.

Taste of London Winter 2014

Did you go to Taste of Lon…
Taste of Christmas….
No, Taste of London Christmas……..
No! Taste of Winter!

Oh, right. I’ve been informed this year’s food festivities are going by the name: Taste of London Winter.
Whatever its name, you know by now I love it. I love the mosh pit of foodies, friends, chefs, lovers, families and fiends, all scrambling to taste unlimited samples of food, snacks and an absurd amount of booze.

The day began being spoiled by Duck & Waffle protégé, Chris Thompson. A bowl of fried beef tendon with bovril emulsion and togarashi soon appeared.

Taste of London Winter Taste of London Winter Followed by smoked haddock takoyaki with curry, malt vinegar and raisin.Taste of London Winter Taste of London Winter Pandan with white chocolate and coconut ganache was a mouthful of sweetness.  Taste of London Winter Finished off with fried roti with banana and peanut butter.

We were then to vote which dish was our favourite – which would you choose?
After voting for the smoked haddock takoyaki, we skipped off in search of more plates to taste. Taste of London Winter Barbecoa had a predictably long line. We joined the queue catching up on recent adventures before eventually getting our hands on sticky short rib with mashed potato. The meat was incredibly tender, but lacked that smoky sweetness needed for such a sticky bite. Taste of London WinterWe then submerged ourselves in the rows of food stalls, with people pedalling their samples like merchants in a souk. We came across Balsajo, offering up a board of smoked black garlic, which is visually rather shocking. But, this black beauty is something delicious. We happily popped this in our mouths like candy and surrendered to the unexpected sweetness that followed. Taste of London Winter The lovely ladies of Azizi Drinks warmly welcomed us, insisting we try their concoctions. The fizzy drinks are created with hops to give the consumer that ahhh feeling of release after each sip. Yet, the delicious elderflower and rose flavoured drinks are actually nonalcoholic. The drinks were tasty and creators so sweet, I wish them the best of luck with their nonalcoholic endeavour. Taste of London Winter The rain continued to pour down from the heavens, but this didn’t stop things from heating up at Tobacco Dock. Taste of London WinterTaste of London WinterWe found Kurobuta nestled in the corner, a badass Japanese joint which I told you about back when it was a King’s Road Pop Up. We plumped for the BBQ pork belly in a steamed bun, topped with pickled cucumber and spicy peanut sauce. I begrudgingly shared. Taste of London Winter We passed this darling champagne van, sparkling in all its shining, bubbly glory. I sort of wanted to steal it and drive it round the dock, watching all the drunk people chase me with their half empty flutes. Taste of London WinterWe then found New York’s answer to the burger game. Shake Shack were offering their Lil’ ShackBurger, an Aberdeen angus beef cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce. To my delight, given the closeness to Thanksgiving, they served up a deliciously spicy pumpkin pie flavoured custard.

Taste of London WinterThis guy basically served up a platter of dreams to my American heart. Swoon.
Taste of London Winter Action Against Hunger is an awesome organisation working to fight world hunger. Each year, they team up with award winning Chefs to create Taste dishes. This year’s muse was hot dogs, of which we selected Jason Atherton’s creation. His choice of apple puree with onions, topped with crispy pancetta and grilled Gruyere, I’m sad to say, did not please. The combination was unnecessary and altogether, wrong. He’s still a personal food hero, but this is not something to be added to the menu. Taste of London WinterMaida Vale sweetheart, The Truscott Arms had a truly wintery dish on offer. Their roasted cauliflower soup with textures of cauliflower, truffle oil and cauliflower crisp was really good. It was an airy, thick and rich creation with a creamy, truffley punch. Taste of London Winter Taste of London WinterTempted by anything pumpkin, I popped over to Andina for a bite of Peruvian picarones. Rings of pumpkin doughnuts served with purple maize honey.
Taste of London Winter

Running out of time with quite a few Taste Crowns left, we followed the smoke back to Kurobuta for some tea smoked lamb with smoky nasu and spicy Korean miso. A delicious final bite of this year’s Taste.

With a bundle of brownies tucked under my arm for the car ride home, we dashed out into the rain full of food and Christmas spirit.

Did you attend Taste of London Winter this year? What was your favourite dish? Tweet me @Alessandra_LDN or leave me a comment. Don’t be shy.

Oh, and did you see my big debut? I’m trying not to let the fame get to my head. I always knew my shining moment would involve pumpkin doughnuts… What do you think of the video?

Fortnum & Mason: Tea For Two

As an Ameri-Brit, being both American and British, I love a cultural collaboration. Proper, silver service afternoon tea combines the prim execution of English elegance paired perfectly with American indulgence. You can spend hours slowly sipping a fine selection of steeped tea, whilst stuffing yourself to the gills with delicate sandwiches, scones and cakes. There isn’t a more divine way to have a much needed catch up, and certainly couldn’t have been hosted in a more luxurious setting.

I was invited by restaurant reviewing site, Zomato, to one of England’s most typical and historically fabulous spots for afternoon tea. In desperate need of a catch up, I invited the lovely Jaia to come along as my date.

Fortnum & Mason Fortnum & Mason We pored over the seemingly endless tea menu, with countless pages of beautiful blends to choose from. Having never tried an elderflower green tea, but loving the flavours individually, I made my choice. She went for the English breakfast blend served at the Royal Wedding of Kate & Wills. Although, we soon found the dizzying excitement of such a sugary afternoon greatly impaired her ability to put the strainer in the cup before pouring her tea. This resulted in a fit of giggles as I watched pieces of tea leaf flow into her cup time and time again. Not exactly the polished behaviour of the Royals, but we probably had way more fun.

Fortnum & Mason The Diamond Jubilee Tea Room is classically beautiful, with all the refined elegance you would expect from a building visited by Royalty. With sophisticated design featuring Fortnum’s duck egg blue in pieces around the room and bright pops of gold, my date fit right in with her pretty little striped number. Fortnum & MasonWe asked for a quick snap from our server, which came out a little blurred. But, we’ll forgive her as she’s the one that brought us the towers of treats!Fortnum & MasonNeedless to say, the service was impeccable. After our server arrived with our Afternoon Tea, she talked us through each layer of delicious decadence.

Fortnum & MasonWe started with sandwiches. What? You weren’t going to scroll straight to the dessert, were you?!
We nibbled away on sandwiches of cucumber & cream cheese, chicken & sweetcorn, rare roast beef with Café de Paris butter, Fortnum’s smoked salmon & horseradish cream and rare breed hen egg with mustard cress.
Fortnum & Mason

Then, slathered scones with clotted cream and topped with Fortnum’s deliciously fruity raspberry & apricot jams.
Clotted cream before jam, right? Fortnum & MasonAlready feeling quite full, several pots of tea into conversation, we began to tackle dessert, without too much arm twisting. 
Fortnum & Mason
Clockwise, the little pink eclair was flavoured with rose, the chocolate cake had milk chocolate mousse, lemon curd and a yummy, crunchy base, the snowball looking thing was a yoghurt flavoured gel consistency hiding a cherry centre on top of pistachio cake, the profiterole sandwiched a lime coconut cream and the macaron was a rich raspberry, dark chocolate. I’d have to say the chocolate lemon was surprisingly my favourite of the bunch. Although, I loved the look of the yoghurt and pistachio cake.
Fortnum & MasonWith cakes, sandwiches, scones and tea swishing around our overstuffed tummies, we were then offered a slice of cake from the Tea Room’s stunning selection. A white marble table sits seductively on the side, proudly showcasing the tempting cakes. I seriously considered wheeling the whole thing out the door with me, but assumed someone may take notice.

How absolutely beautiful is this mint coloured cake stand? And don’t you just want to pick that raspberry and bit of cake up with your fingers and pop it in your mouth? No judgement for screen licking.
Fortnum & MasonI’d like to tell you that with all the restraint and poise of dignified ladies we politely declined, but how could we resist? Jaia went for the Battenberg.
Fortnum & Mason And I caved for the insanely decadent chocolate cake. Fortnum & MasonWe quite literally struggled our way through as much of the cakes as we could, like greedy sugar fuelled monsters. However, we eventually surrendered to our stomachs, replete with overindulgence. Fortnum & MasonWe finished off our tea and story swapping, and Jaia even remember her silver strainer! Fortnum & Mason

In a bit of a delirious state, we headed down to peruse Fortnum’s finest. We started in the gift shop, where I found a series of great cards. 
Fortnum & Mason
Including one with my favourite building. Fortnum & Mason And one with an impulsive penguin.

We then found these darling teacups, which aren’t exactly what they appear to be. Fortnum & Mason

The cups themselves are mirrored, taking on whatever pattern they’re sat on. Fortnum & MasonDidn’t expect that! Did you? Fortnum & Mason I also found awesome, London-inspired Halcyon Days boxes to add to my collection. Fortnum & Mason Fortnum & MasonI’d love these beautiful candle stick holders.
Fortnum & Mason Not sure if I prefer the black or the white, what about you? Fortnum & Mason And just look at these mini copper pots! I definitely need these. Fortnum & MasonMay leave the hat, though.
Fortnum & MasonBut, this candle would definitely suit the bathroom. Fortnum & Mason And who doesn’t need a turquoise Japanese teapot?!Fortnum & MasonHaving had our fill of unnecessary future home decorating, we headed to the basement, which happens to be my favourite level. Down here is the wine cellar, flower shop and most importantly, food hall. You must promise me you’ll make a visit, as I didn’t take many snaps. I was too busy scurrying around gushing over all the products.

I did happen to take a picture of these gooseberries. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a minute to properly look at them, they’re translucent! I’ve accepted the fact that I may be the only one that finds this remotely cool. But anyways, have a look.
Fortnum & Mason

I know if you follow me on Twitter & Instagram (@Alessandra_LDN – wink, wink, nudge, nudge) you’ll have already seen these. These strange looking flowers have an even stranger name. Do you know it?
Fortnum & MasonThat’s right. They’re called Banksy Hookers. So strange.

Also, be sure to stop by the first floor’s incredible chocolate collection. A very special someone received a custom made box, all hand-selected from their hundreds of options. Harder to do than you think and may have taken me far too long to choose! But, I managed to deliver them with only one stolen in the end.

Fortnum & MasonIt was a truly lovely afternoon spent with amazing company in beautiful surroundings. Special thanks to Zomato and the lovely people in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Room for such an enjoyable experience.

Where’s your favourite Afternoon Tea? Leave a comment or send me a tweet. I’m always on the lookout for a new one to try!

Barcelona: Day 5

The next morning we headed down to the terrace for breakfast. We nibbled away in the shade, enjoying the ocean breeze with a sadness hanging in the air. This was our last day in Barcelona before heading back to reality. We laid by the beach for a bit, soaking up our final rays of Spanish sunshine before packing our bags and making our way back to the apartment. However sad we were, I couldn’t help but giggle at this ice cream shop and their trolly. IMG_1171Eyescream and Friends puts googly eyes on your pile of ice cream and serves with a candy topping and sauce. So weird and so cute.

After making it back to the apartment, we gathered everything and ‘neatly’ shoved everything into our cases. In efforts to lighten the dark cloud following us around, I came up with a brilliant plan to cheer us up: food.
I found the perfect place around the corner, just past Camp Nou, the FC Barcelona football stadium. Taller de Tapas has several locations, but the Travessera restaurant is light and airy, with bottles of Spanish wine surrounding the room. We savoured the air conditioning and as our food arrived, the cloud began to drift away.

P1010618 We started with a fresh, light salad of rocket with slices of creamy goat’s cheese and toasted Marcona almonds. P1010621 Followed by comforting Ibérico croquettes. P1010622 Stunning shrimp with the most beautiful sauce of garlic, white wine, olive oil, chilis and parsley. P1010627 And a big batch of mussels steamed with lemon and Mediterranean herbs. Full of our final tapas, I had one last mission to complete. At the beginning of the trip, I had sworn I would not be getting on a plane home without first trying churros con chocolate.

To my sheer delight there was a Churreria around the corner. The place was almost completely empty, as this is typically consumed for breakfast. But the friendly staff were happy to make me a fresh batch.

P1010629Churros are fried choux pastry, which are churned out of a churrera with a star shaped nozzle. The ridged strips of dough drop fall into a vat of bubbling oil to be fried until crispy. The hot pastry is then removed from the vat and covered in a sprinkling of sugar. P1010631 P1010635As if they aren’t decadent enough, the churros are then dunked into what they refer to as hot chocolate. This is really like a thick, creamy chocolate pudding.
P1010637 P1010644 That is the face of a successful food mission. They were absolutely delicious, so decadent and well worth the tongue burning. A sweet end to such a satisfying trip! P1010646Barcelona was absolutely beautiful with stunning sites and seemingly endless amounts of delicious food. It should definitely be on your travel list and I couldn’t be more happy to cross it off mine.

Hasta luego & muchas gracias Barcelona!

Barcelona: Day 4

There’s nothing more exciting than room service.
Whoever invented room service should promptly receive a medal and deservedly, a massive hug.

Imagine them pitching the idea. You mean I can lounge in bed as you roll a cart of food into my room for me to consume in the comfort of my fluffy bath robe?
This is sort of what I imagine being Queen to be like.

As temporary King & Queen of The W Barcelona, we greedily gorged on eggs, tomatoes, toast, jams, fresh fruit and yogurts whilst taking in stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea. P1010495 P1010501 P1010503 IMG_1143 IMG_1146After an indulgent morning, we slipped on swimsuits and scurried down to the beach to get in a little last minute relaxation before spending the day tracking down Barcelona’s stunning architecture by the revered Antoni Gaudí. IMG_1147Over the past few days, we had seen people flying by on electric scooters, racing each other up and down the beach. As the day was incredibly hot, and we had quite a lot of ground to cover, we decided this would be the perfect way to get around. As we were traveling father afield than the beach, we were given electric bicycles. You still pedal, but the bike gives an automatic boost, taking away most of the effort.
IMG_1331We set off on our new set of wheels, racing each other through herds of tourists and around leisurely couples on a stroll, getting used to our rides. We soon found that they were occasionally unpredictable, giving sudden bursts of energy, zooming us forward unsuspectingly. Mine happened to have to no bell, which resulted in me frantically calling out DING DING every once and awhile.
P1010509We rode up through busy streets, pedalling furiously up hills as cars and buses whooshed past. I was constantly distracted by beautiful buildings and interesting sites, making him increasingly nervous as I rode in and out of traffic. But, I was on a mission, leading us towards the towering spikes piercing the skyline in the distance. 
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We finally arrived at Sagrada Família, Gaudí’s magnum opus. Antoni Guadí was a Spanish Catalan architect whose works, littered mostly around Barcelona, attract admiration from all over the world. His creations were largely influenced by architecture, nature and religion. After being commissioned in 1882, Gaudí soon took over the construction of this church with engineering style and design unlike any church in the world. His plans were so vast and extensive, that by the time of his death, only a quarter of the project was completed. P1010517 We sadly didn’t enter the building, but I obviously recommend a visit as it is truly unlike anything you’ll ever see.
We mounted our trusty bikes and continued uphill towards Park Güell. Huffing and puffing as we reached the top, having ridden for an hour in the blazing sun, we were more than ready for a rest. P1010519 Park Güell is a garden complex filled with architectural structures created and designed by Gaudí. There are unrestricted gardens with beautiful stone structures and stunning views, which anyone can access. But, the monumental zone with his mosaic and architectural creations is ticketed, only allowing a certain number of people per time slot. I was devastated to find that the time slot was full, so we were unable to reach the other buildings. But, the gardens and views themselves are absolutely stunning and we wandered round the peaceful pathways. P1010525 P1010526 P1010542 P1010547 P1010556 P1010562 This pink coloured building was where Gaudí and his family lived for 20 years. It has now been turned into the Gaudí-House Museum which you can visit to see some of his original works. P1010571 P1010572 P1010582 P1010586 P1010587 P1010588 IMG_1159 IMG_1161 Having explored as much of the park as we could, we returned to our bikes for an enjoyable downhill journey. We raced through traffic until arriving at Casa Batlló. P1010591 P1010594 The building was bought in 1900 by Josep Batlló, a wealthy textile industrialist. The building itself was undesirable to buyers because of its design, but the family decided to purchase it for its centralised location. In 1904, the family wanted to find someone to redesign the house, making it unlike any other in its creativity and appearance. Seeing the innovation used in Parc Güell, they decided Antoni Gaudí would be the one for the job. P1010596 The building is absolutely stunning, with a skeletal appearance, but be sure to book tickets ahead as there was a two hour wait to enter. P1010599Before leaving, we noticed the building next door, which is also beautifully designed. A door was open, so I snuck inside for a peak. P1010608 There were beautiful tiles, stain glass panels and the most amazing light fixtures. P1010613 We continued down La Rambla through swarms of tourists before make a quick stop at La Boqueria, my foodie heaven that I told you you about the other day. We sat in the shade and snacked on mushrooms and mussels escabeche. This traditional Spanish tapas is a thing of beauty. Perfectly cooked, canned mussels float around in a mixture of olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pimentón.  P1010616 We then returned our electric rides and crawled back to the W, absolutely exhausted. After a little lounging by the window, watching illuminated boats sail by on the black water, we went for a stroll in the warm, night air. We went into a restaurant packed with locals for a late night meal. As you can see, there are no pictures of its interior, no descriptions of what we ate and certainly no food porn. The food was not good, to say the least. I picked at my plate and settled with the idea of having churros con chocolate for dinner, a Spanish treat that I had been desperate to find the entire trip. We left in search of my much lusted after treat, with no such luck. IMG_1167Tired, but fulfilled from our day’s adventures, we returned to the big glass wave for some much deserved sleep.

Barcelona: Day 3

The next morning was a painful one. The kind where I understand you coffee addicts and your caffeine chasing lifestyles. I instead sought solace in the form of pastry.
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A croissant filled with Serrano ham and melted manchego cheese was a nice hug to my insides, whilst my body ached from all our days of nonstop action. In Barcelona, a popular grilled sandwich of ham and cheese is referred to as a bikini sandwich. Now what I’d like to know, is who on earth has buttery, melty sandwiches come to mind when preparing to squeeze into a bikini? Oh excuse me, more pastry has arrived.

P1010317 Long, flaky strips stuffed with chocolate and cream were the final kick needed to sugar rush us into gear. We packed a bag and headed for the beach. P1010318 P1010320 P1010323 P1010325 You know how in life there are usually a series of unfortunate events? Well, let’s put this down to a series of fortunate ones. We walked along the beach towards our destination, The W Hotel BarcelonaP1010337 A gleaming, glass wave at the end of the beach, sticking out of the marina. P1010346Our room wasn’t quite ready, so we made our way to Bravo 24 for our lunch reservation. Here, Chef Carles Abellan, who studied under the great Ferran Adrià of El Bulli for 12 years, brings typical dishes of Barcelona to life.
P1010350 We excitedly chattered over the menu as individual bags of chips (crisps) were placed before us. These had an earthy herb flavouring and we happily crunched away as more nibbles arrived.P1010352 Freshly baked bread, sea salt, two types of olive oil and the most incredible olives were next to sample as we placed our orders. P1010354

We all know how I feel about nibbles. P1010366

The restaurant is large and beautifully decorated inside. But, we much preferred dining on the terrace with ocean views and a nice breeze. P1010360P1010403P1010367 A plate of saffron coloured calamari arrived. Knowing we hadn’t ordered this, I quickly snapped a picture before the embarrassed waiter shyly shuffled back over, muttering apologies and whisking away the pretty dish. P1010369 What we had ordered soon arrived. Delicate fritters of salt cod with a subtle hint of lemon and honey. P1010370 These were absolutely delicious. Perfect salty, sweet bites of comfort food. P1010373 Followed by chicken croquettes, with an incredibly rich flavouring. P1010375 Razor clams arrived on a stone grill with charcoal burning underneath. These were tender and smokey in a deliciously light sauce, which we sucked from the shells. P1010376 P1010377 P1010380 The ‘ugly’ tomato salad arrived on a beautifully warped plate. P1010381 Ripe chunks of fresh tomato and cooked, tender tuna belly lay on a bed of onion, olives and caper berries. P1010384 P1010389 Servers appeared table side with enviable copper pots to serve our final dish. P1010390 Suckling lamb shoulder roasted with 12 bulbs of garlic rested on a bed of tender apples and sweet onions. This was absolutely stunning and so rich with flavour. P1010392My date went for the English approach in ordering a cheese dessert. Mató is a type of Catalan cheese with no added salt. It’s often served with honey as dessert and here was paired honey foam and lychee sorbet. P1010397 I stuck true to form and went for little molten nuggets of delicious chocolate fritters. You stick the whole thing in your mouth and then crush them until they pop, oozing warm chocolate sauce. The waiter warned me when I placed my order that I would need to share. This was met with a grin and an eye roll. P1010398However, as delicious as they were, I soon surrendered and shoved the bowl across the table as I was ready to burst like the devilish chocolate fritters themselves. P1010400 A terracotta cup of green tea helped my overstuffed state and I heroically managed to gobble up the crunchy chocolate treats brought to soften the blow of the bill. P1010402Utterly food drunk and overexcited to see our room, we raced to the elevator. Here, I was momentarily distracted by a giant, shiny wall of sequins, before being ushered into the elevator.
P1010409 We exited the elevator to this. P1010413 P1010414With all the composure and elegance of a true lady, I ran down the hall giggling and threw open the door. Remember what I was saying about stuffing yourself with food and then slipping into a bikini? Forget about it. 
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After thoroughly exhausting our room exploration by jumping on the bed, opening all the cupboards, pressing every button, snooping through the drawers and dancing around the room, we decided a lounge by the pool was long overdue. IMG_1121 The pool area overlooks the beach, giving you all the joys of a beach day, minus the hassle of sand. We sprawled out on beds and soaked up the sun, wiggling toes to lounge music playing from speakers.

IMG_1122The sun slowly began to sink behind the mountains and the shade crept its way across the beds. Rested and ready for adventure, we went back to the room to shower and get ready to explore the city by night. P1010428 We walked for miles, up through different neighbourhoods, noticing the different areas and way the buildings, people and shops changed.
Ravished from all our walking, we couldn’t have been more delighted to find Els Sortidors del Parlament. They don’t have a website, but here is where you can find them.  P1010445 The interior was very cool and warehouse-like with products, wines and oils on display for sale. Tables in the front of the restaurant were barrels and stools, perfect for sipping cervezas and catching up with friends. We sat ourselves at a barrel and looked over the menu.

More than ready for some tapas, we started with another salad of tuna belly, but this time with fresh tomatoes, olives, peppers, pickles and a delicious sauce. P1010449A dish of raw cod with more vegetables was very fresh, but a bit chewy. P1010456However, we absolutely loved what arrived next. A slate of crunchy toasts to slather with foie gras, top with fig compote and sprinkle with sea salt.
P1010458To cut the richness, we enjoyed tangy bites of boquerones en vinagre. Fresh anchovies served in vinegar with garlic and parsley is a typical tapas of southern Spain.
P1010463 Last, but certainly not least, we tried tender ribs coated in a spicy, olive tapenade. The sauce was so flavourful and delicious, I could’ve happily slathered this on the toasts and consumed it on its own. P1010467 Having filled ourselves with more delicious food, we headed out into the thick night air. We walked until we came to Font Màgica of Montjuïc, just in time for the show. The Magic Fountain is one of Barcelona’s biggest tourist attractions, giving performances of light, water and music every night from Thursday to Sunday. P1010479 P1010480 P1010481 We watched the water dance to the music, with everything from Red Hot Chili Peppers to Oasis to Shakira, ending with an emotional version of Ave Maria. P1010482The perfect performance to end another stunning Spanish day.

Barcelona: Day 2

We awoke to glorious and much needed sunshine. Ready to stretch our legs, we wandered out to explore more of the stunning Spanish streets. P1010032 P1010040 P1010041 P1010044 P1010045 There must of been some sort of festival going on, because several streets were decorated with papier-mâché structures, streaming ribbons and had loud music playing. P1010050 P1010051Having skipped breakfast, we settled on a Spanish style brunch.
P1010054A buttery, soft croissant with ham and cheese was a delicious start. P1010056Followed by Spanish peppers stuffed with goat’s cheese.
P1010057I was told by our lovely server that I had to try the typical Catalan dish of Fideuà, which is made of fine noodles with tomato and seafood.P1010060We managed to finish off with even more carbs. Pan con tomate is typically served before or with each meal as Spain’s answer to bruschetta. It consists of soft, toasted bread with a bit of olive oil, garlic, salt and smushed up insides of ripe tomatoes. We also tried a Spanish tortilla, stuffed with potatoes and peppers, but this was unfortunately a little overcooked, resulting in quite an aggressively thick brick of starch.P1010064As usual, the tapas left me full and happy, and we spent awhile people watching, soaking up the blazing sunshine before our long day of adventures ahead. We headed to our apartment to change and take note from our darling renters. Eduardo & Imma are the loveliest couple and they rent out their lofts and apartments to visitors from all over the world. The places are cosy and really nicely decorated with anything you could possibly need, including a kitchen and washing machine. They sat down with us drawing countless maps, told us where to go, what to see and gave excellent advice. One of the best being, when dining out, ask for the menu of the day, el menú del día. For around €10 you can have tomato bread, a starter, such as a soup or salad, a main course of whatever the special is, a dessert and a drink. If you’re visiting Barcelona, I couldn’t recommend staying with them enough. They’ll even drop you to and from the airport. If you want to find out more, look them and their lovely flats up here.
P1010067With instructions to purchase a T10 travel card, we took the metro to Las Ramblas. We walked down Rambla de Catalunya, a long street filled with designer shops and local restaurants until we came to Plaça de Catalunya. P1010072 P1010074 P1010075 How adorable is this store? Again, I wasn’t allowed photos, but snuck some for you anyways. P1010080 You take a medicine bottle and fill it with candy, because everyone knows those are happy pills! P1010081 P1010089 After Plaça de Catalunya, we came to La Rambla, one of Barcelona’s most famous tourist attractions. It’s essentially a long, outdoor shopping parade lined with trees. This was absolutely packed with people and only seemed to get more and more crowded. There were tourists ambling along, shopping for trinkets and dining in tourist traps. The street itself is beautiful, but the sheer volume of people with the addition of the heat and vendors selling these plastic mouth pieces that make strange, piercing screech sounds all became a bit much. P1010093 P1010096 P1010099 P1010101 I could not have been more happy to then come across La Boqueria. P1010103 We darted through the crowds and under the beautifully shining stain glass sign guarding the entrance to Barcelona’s best food market. P1010105P1010107 Imagine Borough Market, London’s best food market, flooded with Spanish delights and delicacies. I was in absolute heaven. P1010108P1010106P1010110 P1010111 P1010112Hotter than this pretty piggy, we got fresh fruit smoothies to cool off whilst checking out the offerings. I went for a kiwi banana mixture, which looked a little more radioactive than expected. This helped prevent my salivating over all the amazing ingredients on offer.
P1010113 P1010115 P1010116Within the rows of market stalls are several little pop up tapas bars. Sadly, these were completely crammed with tourists and locals alike, with a wall of hungry diners waiting to squeeze in to be next.
P1010117P1010123 We continued instead to peruse the endless amounts of food. P1010124P1010120How cute are these marzipan creations?
P1010125 P1010126 For some reason I’m particularly fond of the cauliflower. P1010127 Which are your favourites?P1010128 There were massive, ripe tomatoes. P1010131Rows of dried chillies. 
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Dates the size of my thumb.
P1010139And this. Now if you didn’t know it was tripe, you’d have to admit it looks pretty cool.
P1010142Oh, and the seafood selection was unbelievable. 
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Beautiful boiled octopus. P1010151 Glistening piles of salt cod. P1010155 Amazingly fresh fish of all shapes and sizes. P1010156 P1010157P1010167 P1010159 Wriggling lobsters and bunches of oysters. P1010161 P1010162And how cool do these look? I initially thought they were eel, but I think they’re silver scabbards. Those that aren’t a fan of their dinner looking back at them, scroll very quickly over the next few pictures. P1010163 P1010164 Those that don’t mind getting a little friendly with a fish, how cool looking are these?P1010166 P1010170 Then I found them.
Churros de miel. P1010171Little bite sized pieces of fried dough filled with a beautiful center of sweet honey. Texturally amazing and flavourfully orgasmic. I gobbled these up and days later went back for more, consuming an entire bag to myself. P1010174 We eventually gave up the endless viewing of food porn and left the market. P1010147Farther down La Rambla lies Plaça Reial, a hidden little oasis of palm trees, bars and hotels surrounding a fountain.

P1010175 P1010177 P1010180Attracted by the gleaming sign of theatre lights like greedy little mosquitos, we headed for Ocaña. Pronounced: Oh-than-ya.

P1010215P1010181 We lazily lounged in the shade, watching the goings ons of the plaça including an incredible performance of acrobatic street performers. P1010187Deciding his cerveza looked a little lonely, my date decided an Ibérico wrapped veal burger topped with foie gras was in order.
P1010201Can you blame him?

When I returned from a little venture around the restaurant, I took what is decidedly my favourite image from the entire trip. I just love the way the shadows of the lights are lined up on the pillars. There’s something sort of hauntingly beautiful about it, don’t ya think?
P1010213Are you still with me? We’ve got a bit more to explore. Grab a snack and we’ll keep going. We returned to our explorations in the golden sunlight of the afternoon.
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And I soon discovered a lion. Immediately wanting to mount it for a picture, I scurried up to the beast. Much bigger up close and surprisingly slippy, I tried to navigate my mount whilst in a little black dress. With the swarming crowds and lengthy drop to the concrete floor, I retired my efforts and instead posed next to Leonardo. My date, who initially dismissed my photo idea, had a sudden change of heart. He hoisted himself onto one of the fully standing lions, and to my bitter envy, now has an awesome photo of him atop a massive lion.P1010223 We reached La Barceloneta, a section of intertwining neighbourhoods with lovely alleyways, trendy bars and cool shops. This one in particular had origami bugs lining all the glass windows and cool toys, furniture and products inside.  P1010239 P1010240 P1010242 P1010243 P1010245 Another shop was selling 3D printed versions of yourself! You go in, and the unsure looking fella in the background makes a mini me, of you! Very odd, but such a cool idea. P1010253 P1010255 I spotted this elderly man reading a book in the warm shade of his balcony, ignoring the difficulties of life. And later came across this very mellow little square with friends chatting quietly over drinks, men perched on walls and clouds of certain illegal substances hovering in the air. The man in blue was strumming the guitar and loudly singing a beautiful Spanish serenade. We were only there momentarily as we passed through the square, but it was a beautiful bubble of utter peace and calm. P1010262 We explored more weird shops with more weird things. P1010276 P1010277P1010279 P1010280Passed through a cathedral.P1010281 P1010282 P1010283

And spotted this dog, begging in a brightly coloured alleyway. P1010288The evening ended the way all Spanish evenings should. P1010301 With paella. Pronounced: pah-eh-yah.P1010305 We sat by the beach in a buzzing restaurant, with waiters dancing around each other, balancing heavy, steel pans of cooking rice overhead. The cool, salty air mixed perfectly with each bite of fresh seafood and saffron rice. P1010306The perfect end to a thoroughly exhausting, but amazing day filled with delicious food and beautiful sights.

Barcelona: Day 1

Remember when we were discussing surprises?
I was telling you all about how difficult it was to surprise me, how I absolutely love being surprised, yet can’t help but fiercely play detective in efforts to put the clues together. However, had the amazing surprise of dining at the top of my beloved building earlier this month. Well, I was soon stumped again and left seriously doubting my Sherlock skills.

I was told we were going away for the Bank Holiday weekend and persisted relentlessly for clues until I was given five countries: France, Portugal, Turkey, Spain or Denmark. One by one, with deductive reasoning and a cleverly laid trail of breadcrumbs, which I foolishly lapped up, I cracked the case. We were going to Turkey. I was so pleased with how clever I had been, that I considered purchasing a shiny badge and maybe even a hat for the trip. I packed my bags at midnight with an early flight and settled in for another night of insomnia, this time riddled with excitement. But then, it was decided the surprise would be revealed. With the grin of a five year old completing a magic trick to an audience of knowing adults, I opened the tickets. This was immediately followed by a gasp, a look of disbelief and my shouting BARCELONA?! 

We left at the crack of dawn and sparing you the predictable travel details, we arrived in a moody, overcast Barcelona. After arriving at our place, we threw all our things in the room and quickly changed into something a little more comfortable for the incredibly muggy weather before setting out for a casual wander. P1000818Instantly distracted by delicious looking pastry shops, I decided the need for tapas was imminent. Those of you unfamiliar with tapas, wait, you’re unfamiliar with tapas? Let me sit down. That is just wrong. Inhumane, really. Tapas, and I don’t say this lightly, are the best. Their literal translation defines them as different snacks and appetisers ordered to share. This is my absolute ideal way of dining. I know you may think I eat a lot, okay I do eat a lot, but I love nothing more than little bites of lots of different things. And if these things happen to be amazing Spanish dishes, well then I may just consider never leaving.
P1000823 We soon stumbled upon Obarazal. A tapas bar in the front, lined with stone faced men gossiping over their cervezas, leading to a bigger restaurant in the back. P1000825 The bar was filled with a colourful array of traditional Spanish tapas, such as seafood salad, meats, cheeses, artichokes, tomatoes and more. Big legs of Jamón Ibérico hung overhead, dripping fat into their precisely placed cones. We took a seat ready for a feast and in true Spanish form, we were ignored whilst staff lazily danced around each other, making espressos, wiping glasses, chatting away. P1000830I eventually put on my best smile and flagged someone down. Shocking my Spanish skills into action, I began ordering plates to try, asking for recommendations and enquiring as to which dishes were his favourite. P1000840 We settled on delicious, spicy albóndigas with a tomato sauce. P1000843 Unattractive, but tasty Croquetas de bacalao or salt cod croquettes. P1000844A plate of Spanish gold, jamón Ibérico. P1000845And a bunch of baby octopus, grilled on the plancha and simply dressed with garlic, olive oil, salt, lemon and parsley. P1000847 Which made me very, very happy. P1000849 P1000855 Having gotten distracted so soon and now stuffed to the gills with tapas, we continued on our wander down to the marina. On the way, we discovered some of Barcelona’s infamous graffiti. P1000856 P1000857 P1000858 P1000859 P1000860 And some skate boarders trying to film their latest tricks before the sky opened up. P1000861 P1000863 We made it down to the marina and the sky grew ever more ominous, but the rain continued to hold off, making the air thick and salty as we neared the ocean. P1000872 P1000885 P1000891P1000898

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In a little square nearby, a market of cool odds and ends were being sold. Everything from old cameras, to vintage jewels, to obsidian elephants, to rusted horse shoes and more. I kept being told off for taking pictures, so only managed to sneak a few for you.
P1000903P1000904P1000905This box is my absolute dream. If it weren’t for the baggage weight limit, I would’ve scooped up this entire collection of keys. I have a weird fondness for unusual keys as I like imagining what types of doors they open and what lies beyond them. Or maybe they open a chest filled with old photos, or letters or treasure. 
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We continued to explore the city, admiring sights, artwork, architecture and design. P1000909P1000937P1000943P1000945P1000948We arrived at the beach, watching cyclists being blown down the boardwalk and trees swaying in the wind. We decided to head back through the towering buildings in search of shelter and obviously, more food. P1000950We soon discovered Enrique Tomas, a jamóneria with walls of Ibérico ham. I could go on and on telling you about this beautiful cured meat. How the big, black pigs live in oak studded pastures, gobbling up acorns whilst being caressed by mountain air. How you can tell the difference between Ibérian and Serrano ham by the ‘pata negra’, or black hoof, which is left on during the curing process. And how this delicacy is hung to cure for at least 12 months and often more than 2 years. Instead I’ll tell you that we ate some, and it was glorious. London meat lovers will be excited to hear, they will soon be making their way to our city streets. Stay tuned to their website to find out when and where.P1000962P1000963P1000965We left with our bounty, scurrying down streets and ambling down alleyways until coming to this beautiful plaça. P1000985

Tucked in the corner was the darling Bastaix. So darling in fact, we decided we needed to stay awhile. P1000983

Which resulted in, you guessed it, more tapas.P1000998P1010001These Ibérico wrapped prawns were increible. P1010004Followed by a delicate, but beautiful plate of ceviche with mango. P1010006We nibbled until the sun went down and eventually decided to make a move in search of something sweet. Before we left however, I took one of my favourite pictures of the trip. There’s another one that I can’t wait to share with you, which is definitely a firm favourite, but this one seems pretty special, as well. There’s something about the way the little boy is stood there at the bottom looking up at this towering piece of metal holding a flame and I can only begin to imagine what grand, incomprehensible thoughts he’s pondering. P1010012Intoxicated by the thick, Spanish night air and a few too many tapas, I followed a ‘feeling’ I had about a particular passageway and have never been more pleased by my intuition. At the end of the street was a beacon of pastry. Bubó stood gleaming, its doors opening to a world of all things patisserie and sugar.
P1010020P1010021Including an impressive macaron case, of which we ordered one of each and greedily consumed until giggling and sugar high.P1010027I’d like to tell you that the evening ended shortly after, with us tucked up in bed, resting away the pains of travel in preparation for a long day ahead. Instead however, the weather had other ideas. We began our long and much needed walk back to our home away from home. With another half hour of walking to go, drops began to fall from the sky. This was amusing in our sugar infused state and somewhat welcome as the temperature finally began to cool. But as we continued walking, the sky opened up and water began bucketing down from above. The kind of rain that you expect to stop momentarily, because there’s no way that the sheer force of downpour could be sustainable. And yet, it went on and on and on until we took shelter in a glass box which led to an underground parking structure. After half an hour, I made it my mission to hail down a taxi. Standing on the side of the road, I waived my arms wildly at any car with a green light. After another half hour, completely soaked through, our saviour finally pulled over and rescued us from the rain.

Taste of London 2014

I love Taste of London.
Oh, you knew that already? Oh! You read last year’s post? And the year before?!
I’m flattered, really. This also means I don’t have to go on and on about Taste of London being a food-filled hotspot of delectable dishes showcasing restaurants, chef demonstrations, little local products and pop up champagne bars. I can just show you this year’s offerings and get down to the food porn.

But first, get a snack. You’ll thank me later.

Meeting up with my friend, the lovely Parissima, we chattered away as we entered Regent’s Park on a gloriously sunny day.

It seems that the drinks offering grows more and more each year. With tents blasting sweet tunes and serving endless libations, flocks of those more interested in Taste’s liquid offerings wiggled around the bar. As the evening progresses, the dancing becomes more and more spectacular, with particularly amazing entertainment provided by the silent disco and main stage.

Taste of London 2014Nightclub royalty, Mahiki, had a fantastic pop up coconut bar, which proved to be very popular serving their piña colada filled pineapples. The perfect accompaniment to sunshine. Taste of London 2014Ready to eat, we first popped over to Maida Vale sweetheart known for ‘not your average pub food’, The Truscott Arms. Taste of London 2014 Here we tried a delicious dish of slow roasted pork belly with pink grapefruit puree, braised chicory and buttered spinach. Taste of London 2014Enticed by wafting spices, we joined a small queue to sample a little Korean lettuce wrap. This was to showcase a new Korean sauce company, which I can’t remember the name of. If anyone tried this and knows the name, please leave it in the comments so I can update this as it was damn good! Taste of London 2014Amongst the stands serving local products, Noisette Bakehouse caught our eye. How beautiful are these tea cakes? Taste of London 2014As pretty as these were, there was something calling to me.
Alessandraaaaa eatttt meeee 
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Monstrous slabs of salted caramel brownie had me at hello and ended in my stomach. A couple of these were purchased to bring home and it’s safe to say they didn’t all make it back in one piece.

Passing the Chef Stage at the Electrolux theatre, we momentarily watched the lovely and incredibly talented Michel Roux Jr preparing one of his famous dishes. However, we were soon distracted by some samples elsewhere.  Taste of London 2014But, I made sure I snuck back later to say hello to the food icon, who is every bit as lovely as he looks.Taste of London 2014Taste of London 2014Pizza place Rossopomodoro had quite a crowd, all eagerly watching as the hot pizzas came out of the fire. The poor girl serving them was attacked by greedy foodies, leaving the box empty within seconds each time.

Just look at the carnage! Some pretty eager faces there if you ask me. Taste of London 2014 He didn’t seem to mind. Taste of London 2014We then wandered over to the cool corner of the event. Sister restaurants Sushi Samba and Duck & Waffle had pop up bars, surrounded by bean bags for those looking to lounge in the sun with a cocktail. Their restaurant counterparts were serving up delicious dishes nearby.

The lovely Chef Tom Cenci of Duck & Waffle had us try fried chicken necks with lemon, chilli and garlic.
Taste of London 2014This was accompanied by their famous BBQ spiced crispy pigs ears, also lovingly referred to as crack. Taste of London 2014Taste of London 2014Jealous of Tom’s picture, Executive Chef Daniel Doherty insisted he have his photo taken, too. Taste of London 2014Taste of London 2014

From Sushi Samba, we tried the surprisingly stunning Sasa roll with shrimp tempura, quinoa, shisito, coriander, wagyu chorizo, spicy mayo and red onion, which was inspired by Sushi Samba owner himself.

Taste of London 2014

Their other dishes looked equally appetising, with great presentation.Taste of London 2014

Taste of London 2014ROKA, one of my favourite contemporary Japanese places in London, had an incredible display of lamb chops and baby chicken being grilled.  Taste of London 2014

Taste of London 2014 Instantly in love with this perky looking piñata, I used my smoothest Spanish skills to try and sweet talk the Mexican tourism board into letting Paris take him home with her. No tuve éxito. 
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Enamoured with the flowering tea display, we watched as the balls of tea flowers blossomed when submerged in boiling water. This stand happens to be hosted by a guy who’s spiked hair looks as if he’s wearing a flowering tea ball himself.
Taste of London 2014
We were told that these make unique gifts and can continue to be used on display in your home, after drinking the tea. Talk about multi-tasking. Taste of London 2014

We continued to graze our way through the tents, sampling oils, meats, cheese and sweets.

Taste of London 2014Taste of London 2014

Being French, Paris couldn’t resist a big chunk of cheese to take with her, served by this lovely lady who was a bit camera shy.
Taste of London 2014Taste of London 2014 Taste of London 2014Ready for more proper plates, we visited contemporary Italian restaurant L’ANIMATaste of London 2014Here we tried burrata, pappa al pomodoro and anchovies. A stunningly simple combination of classic Italian flavours.

Hanging up our savoury hats, it was time for a sweet mission.

Taste of London 2014Having previously spotted macaron on the menu, we headed for Duck & Waffle’s graffiti styled tent. 
Taste of London 2014
A mound of dark chocolate mouse with a pistachio macaron hat, griottine cherries and crystallised white chocolate made for one helluva mouthful. Or two. Or five. (sorry Paris)  Taste of London 2014Next door, we spotted Valrhona chocolate ganache and knew what was next. Sushi Samba were serving a bamboo boat of Valrhona dark chocolate ganche, coffee mousse, tonka bean ice cream, caramelised macadamia nuts topped with lemon sorrel. Absolutely divine.

At some point during our venture, we spied a delicious looking creation, the details of which we only knew contained peanut butter. Sold on this minor detail, we searched endlessly to finish our feasting with what we believed would be the best. Although we were both stuffed to the brim, we continued our hunt through the maze of stands.

By the time we found it, overexcited as we may be, we discovered we didn’t have enough crowns left. Explaining our tragic story to the lovely gentleman behind the counter of the André Garrett at Cliveden House stand, he ever so kindly took our remaining crowns in exchange for the dessert. This turned out to be some of my best bargaining yet, because this baby turned out to be more than worth it!

Taste of London 2014A creamy peanut butter parfait topped with warm salted caramel and incredibly tart raspberry compote turned out to be one of the best things I had tasted all day and quickly made me forget just how ridiculously full I actually was.

We soon got carried away chatting to the lovely Chef Ed Dutton, who admitted to have been enjoying piña colada pineapples all afternoon. He soon snuck away and returned with a a little taste of fromage frais mousse with coconut, raspberry and lime from L’Autre Pied. I asked him to pose with it, and this is what he came up with.

Taste of London 2014 An impressive lunge, I must admit, but the dessert definitely stole the show.
Taste of London 2014Thanks Taste of London, for another amazing evening of edible entertainment and over indulgence. I can’t wait until next year!

Did you go to Taste of London this year? What was the absolute best thing you tried? Leave the dish and restaurant in the comments or tweet me!