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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Yumchaa


Yumchaa tea shop is a great place to get a half hour timeout from work. It’s all very calming, open, spacious and relaxed. Yumchaa has a couple of branches in London and they also run tea stalls in six different markets. Their whole ethos is about great quality tea (something a hardened PG tips drinker like me probably needs a lesson in). Their shops are geared towards opening your mind up to the variety of teas on offer, and most importantly enjoying them loose leafed instead of in a bag (woops).


Their website is pretty cool. The design is loose, informal and full of character. You can get a history lesson in tea, discover the route of their brand name and purchase different leaf blends according to what particular mood you are in. Now, I consider myself a massive tea drinker (easily consuming at least five cups per day) and yet when I erm, leafed through their menu I found myself stumped and hurriedly ordered a safe breakfast tea. Perhaps they need to work on tea-ing (sorry) people up to make a more adventurous decision.




They also sell cake. There were a couple of out-of-place-looking wraps and baguettes, but I felt it would have been wrong to go savoury. A shop devoted entirely to tea (hot and iced) and cake is clearly the novelty here, so I went along with it.

 









I selected myself the largest slice of chocolate velvet cake to go with my brew and found an extremely comfy seat to sink into with my Kindle. My cake was delicious, moist and just the right side of bitter from the dark cocoa. The ritual of using the tea strainer and pot is one I love and the tea was clean, crisp and refreshing. 







It felt a bit wrong being there at lunch time though, because it’s just not a lunch menu. With so many cafés, restaurants and other coffee shops nearby offering more, having a couple of paninis as the lunch option just isn’t enough to bring me back again. I suspect this place will remain a favourite for quick and informal afternoon meetings, a spot of high tea for tourists, or confused locals like me looking for a spot to grab lunch.
 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Mojitos & Merriment

I love a party. I love cooking, making fun cocktails and most of all I love seeing old friends. I've known Katie and Fran for over 18 years, and apart from the addition of their two lovely gents, they haven't changed a bit since we said our first hello on the playground. 




I couldn't wait to show them our new home for the first time, and some strong summery cocktails were in order. The garden is being taken over by mint, so I got snipping and muddled it with white rum, sugar, fresh limes and lemonade to make boozy mojitos. 









New dress from here

I filled the house with flowers in honour of their visit. I love white lillies and the gorgeous purple shade of these papery limonium. I even bought a new dress for the occasion, printed with big ferns and flowers.  




The garden is full of mosquitoes because of all this evening rain, so I lit a couple of huge citronella candles to keep them away. They smell amazing and the bugs hate them. Everyone was also armed with spray to keep the little bastards at bay! 








We sat and sipped our minty drinks and caught up. They went down so easily we made lots more batches until we ran out of limes. After switching to bottled lemon juice, we finally had to concede and drink wine. 
Our lovely friends from Paris also joined the fun, and brought us some special little gifts for the house. 





We cooked garlic and lemon chicken thighs, caramelised onion and pork sausages, ribs in sticky marinade and steak burgers with blue cheese. I made some cheats fresh parmesan and sundried tomato bread which was delicious, and for dessert we had ice cream smothered in my mum's dark chocolate sauce (I'll post the recipe later). 







After the third pitcher of mojitos the evening's events get a little fuzzy, but it looks like we did enjoy the chocolate sauce! A lovely night with lifelong friends that I just don't see enough of. 




Friday, 25 July 2014

Icco

If you’re on Charlotte Street looking for a relaxed lunch or need to soak up late night drinks, swing by Icco for a little taste of Fitzrovian Italy.


The pizzeria has got an American diner feel to it with perching stools, big stainless steel benches and the atmosphere is noisy and buzzing. Young professionals pouring out of work and bars often take a pit stop here for its cheap and cheerful atmosphere (ideal for those of us crawling towards payday). At £6 on average per person you can’t go wrong.



There’s outdoor seating if it’s warm, and bottles of oil and hot chilli flakes when it’s cold. I’ve walked past this place every day for the past four years and don’t think they’ve given it so much as a lick of paint, but it’s always clean and the chefs are always immaculate.




Their pizzas aren’t overloaded with toppings either, which I like. Their bases remain crisp and you can eat a slice without a spoon. 
I went for goats cheese, spinach, mushrooms and pepper, and didn't have the usual cheese coma which would normally make me pass out on my keyboard. The only criticism is that the pizzas can sometimes come out a tad blackened from the oven, but with such a fast moving place it’s bound to happen. Just ask them to redo it if it’s too crispy, they were happy to do for me once and they were still smiling! 


Their website is here. No booking needed, just pop in for a slice. I'm always looking out for good pizza restaurants, so if anyone has any recommendations please do drop me a comment. 


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