A little bit of insight to London; art, bars, cafes, clubs, restaurants, and other things to do in this wonderful multicultural city.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Dark Sugars Chocolate

When I'm in London I tend to walk down Brick Lane at least once a week, a few weeks ago a new and intriguing chocolate shop opened. The first thing I noticed was of course the chocolate truffles in the window. After that I looked up at the name of the place, Dark Sugars Chocolate. The store has a very earthy look, all the chocolate is propped up on these amazing pieces of wood. 
Sadly for the relaxed shopper going there on a Sunday means its really really crowded but I was able to distract the guy behind the counter long enough to get a hot chocolate. And let me tell you, not only are they incredibly kind and friendly but their hot chocolate is amazing. I wasn't very adventurous so I went for the plain hot chocolate, but next time I'll pick something a little more "out there". They have all the normal coffees but their selection of hot chocolates are amazing, you can get it with chilli, cinnamon, and a bunch of more exotic flavours. Their cups are tiny, but I really didn't mind, it's worth the money for the amazing after taste you'll have in your mouth all day. 
I'm really excited about going back, but all I can do for now is fantasise about how amazing it was, and plan when I can get some more.
Here's their twitter (their website is still in the making): https://twitter.com/DarkSugars

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Columbia Road Flower Market

There are few things East London is famous for, but one of them surely is Columbia Flower Market. I've been a few times and I'm warning you now you will get elbowed and shoved a little bit but that's because everyone's having a flower frenzy. If you go later in the day the sellers start discounting their flowers. I got a huge orchid for 7 pounds. I later bought a gift wrapped tiny orchid for 10 pounds at Waitrose and was a little disappointed. 
Since I went right around Christmas there were plenty of Christmassy flowers and of course Christmas trees. Yes, you caught me, I just went there to smell a real tree since I've never had a real Xmas tree. Other than that there were Poinsettias and even some glittery tree branches. Everyone was in a very festive mood and I saw quite a few funny Xmas sweaters. 
Not only are the flower stands amazing at Columbia Road but all of the shops lining the street are amazing and unique. You can find the cutest details for your houses as well as books, cards, and anything else you need to add a little character to your home. In fact last year I made myself a floral head wreath from fake flowers from Columbia Road. I love it there, it's the perfect combination of girly and decorative. And if you get bored you can always stroll towards Brick Lane or Shoreditch for a snack. 
Here's their website: http://www.columbiaroad.info/

Friday, 27 December 2013

Portobello Juice Cafe

The weekend before Christmas I realised that this term I had not yet been to Portobello market this term. So I dragged a friend with me. Sadly, I was pretty hungover so I needed to make a pit stop. One of the places we stopped was "Portobello Juice Cafe". I was attracted to this place because of the awesome graffiti exterior, and the fact that I didn't feel like another cup of coffee, especially on a Saturday afternoon. 
I tend to have a pretty big problem with Portobello Market, every time I go there and spend the afternoon outside I get a really bad cold. So I spent a few hellish days blowing my nose hoping that I didn't look like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. Anyway, back to this juice cafe. The indoor wall art was just as good as the outdoor, and they played some soft jazzy music as we strolled up to the bar. 
We ordered our fruity drinks, and weirdly enough I opted for one of the few ones including coffee. I know I just said I didn't want another cup of coffee, but this one was different, it was cold, and it had bananas! The Portobello Juice Cafe was a perfect place to hide from the cold and the tourists. I'm looking forward to enjoying a drink once the weather gets warmer, I have to start avoiding these colds. 
Here's their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/portobellojuice

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Los Campesinos! at Heaven

While stressing out during deadline week, I realised I was going to a Los Campesinos! gig at Heaven with a diehard Los Campesinos! fan, my flatmate Charlotte. Her obsession with them started a long time ago, whereas my fondness of them only started a few months ago. Prior to the gig Charlotte was getting more and more excited, and I was happy I was along for the ride. As a band, I like Los Campesinos! I just find it really hard to understand their lyrics and therefore I feel really silly when I attempt to sing along. 
Thankfully later that evening we were in a crowd of people half singing the lyrics, so I didn't feel too out of place. Heaven is a club underground (like most London clubs) near Embankment station. After walking down the stairs you can see how big the venue really is, it's huge. And luckily they have a really long bar too. After grabbing a pint of San Miguel we went to the middle of the dance floor, and waited for the support band, Joanna Gruesome. 
Joanna Gruesome were a really cute band, and they looked like they were having a lot of fun on stage too. It was so cute to see the band's parents at the gig too. They got a little carried away with their guitar riffs but overall it was fun to see them perform. After their set, everyone was getting a little more antsy waiting to see Los Campesinos! And when they came on everyone went nuts. The crowd started jumping, and screaming, it was fun until people started getting really sweaty. The band was really nice to the public and kept saying thank you which is probably what I loved most about the gig. 
Being in London means I am lucky enough to have bands I like around a lot, I need to start going to more gigs. Have you heard of anything good coming up?
Here's Los Campesinos!'s website (designed by Charlotte): http://loscampesinos.com/
Here's Heaven's webpage: http://www.heaven-live.co.uk/

Monday, 23 December 2013

Hawker House

Similar to the Street Food Festival I went to in Dalston they set up an indoor food festival called Hawker House near Broadway Market. I'd been wanting to go for weeks, and finally I was able to drag someone along. We got there at about 7:30pm, and paid the 3 pound entry fee after queuing for less than 5 minutes. Once inside, it was warm and lively, the music was blasting and it was hard to choose where we wanted to get food first. We went for the jerk chicken wings, and they were really good. We got 8 chicken wings for 10 quid, and found a corner to stand and eat them. After the first bite, we realised how spicy they were, so of course we got some beer. 
While enjoying the last of my chicken wings, the power died. This wasn't really a problem at first, but then we noticed, there was no music, no heating, and most of the food couldn't be served. We queued for buns, but sadly after 20 minutes of queuing they told us they couldn't heat up the bun bread so they couldn't serve them. We drowned our sorrows in some ice-cream though. I chose salted caramel, but they had some other crazy flavours like chestnut or whiskey. 
Overall, it was a bit of a disappointment because of the power outage. It would have been nice if they had refunded us or given us a voucher for half off on their next event. I'll probably go to one of their events again because I know I'll always eat well. Its just sad that it got a bit ruined this time. 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Shake Shack

On a very cold evening my friends and I decided to treat ourselves to a little Shake Shack. I'd been wanting to go since they announced their opening in the UK (back in June). So we all went to Covent Garden to have a taste of the most talked about American food. Being handed the menus in the queue the anticipation was killing me, and I couldn't focus on what I wanted to order. I must have changed my mind between a hamburger and a hotdog about 15 times. One thing I was sure of, I wanted to taste one of their "concretes". 
Concretes are what Shake Shack calls ice-cream, and trust me, you want to get one. I think I went a little overboard on what I ordered, I got a hotdog, a double (large) concrete, cheesy fries and a true old school lemonade. Actually all of us got cheesy fries but thankfully the others got to try the burgers for me. The food was really yummy and I honestly didn't expect to be able to eat a hotdog so gracefully without getting half the sauce on me. 
Sadly, the biggest section of their seating area is outdoors and at this time of year its very hard to sit and enjoy a full meal outside. By the time I got to my concrete I was frozen. Trembling I ate spoonfuls of the stuff until I couldn't bare with the cold any longer. I hope that in the future they invest in some outdoor heaters because the coldest months are still to come. 
Overall I was happy with the service and the food, everyone was really nice, and I love tiny things like having your name put on your order so they don't just yell a number at you. I'm looking forward to enjoy some of that ice-cream in the warmer months, I'll have to go back for a milkshake sooner than that though. 
Here's the website for the Covent Garden "store" (the first in the UK):  http://www.shakeshack.com/location/london-covent-garden/

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Book Club

The Book Club is a place I’ve been wanting to go to since this summer, and finally I went! I met one of my friends for coffee which ended up being for drinks and we chose to go to The Book Club as our first stop. The Book Club is a place I associate with being relaxed and productive. They have free wifi, and they serve breakfast, lunch and brunch. 
But what attracted me most to this place was the fact that they have different activities they put on as well as having a gallery and a ping pong room all in one place. You could literally spend the day there. Strewn around on the tables are drinks menus so of course we were attracted to their cocktails. It being 3pm on Saturday we decided it was socially acceptable to have just one drinks, after all it was the weekend. 
The ground floor was all decorated with hat related photographs and decor. The ceiling in fact was covered in hats varying from white to black. There were just so many little details placed around that I loved and made me wish I went there more so I could have time to notice them all. Maybe I'll start working on my assignments from there. It's one of those places that is somehow perfect for when you're alone and when you're with friends. 

Here’s their website: http://www.wearetbc.com/

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Pop Art Design Exhibit at the Barbican Centre

London has so many galleries that always have temporary exhibitions, one of the few I was able to make time for was the Barbican Centre's Pop Art Design Exhibition. I've always been a fan of pop art, especially when I notice it in my day to day life. I just recently regret not buying an Andy Warhol Campbell Soup t-shirt. 
Getting to the Barbican centre is really easy, you just follow the signs around the tube station and you'll be there in minute. I really like it there because I feel like there's an atmosphere of appreciation, everyone is here to expose themselves to a little culture and no one is in a hurry. When getting to the gallery floor I left my belongings in the cloakroom and that was my biggest regret. The top floor of the exhibition was really cold, so I didn't spend my time reading all the information about each room. 
I went in thinking of how the Art was interpreted in Design and there were some pieces that really impressed me. In one section there were television advertisements from the late 60's and early 70's which were really fun to watch. The show had a good flow; every room had a time period or movement within Pop Art. 
I recommend you go with a few friends, wear a sweater and stare in awe at the bright colours and absurd forms which became the most memorable shapes of this time in art. 
Here's the Barbican Centre's website: http://www.barbican.org.uk/artgallery

Sunday, 15 December 2013


When going for coffee with a friend I saw the Benugo store in Covent Garden so of course I suggested we go inside. I’ve gone to Benugo many times at their St. Pancras branch. I always remember how amazing their sandwiches are and I hoped their drinks were just as good. 
The shop is set up as a deli, you queue for your order, and then you take your order on a tray to the seating area, or you can simply leave with your order. I chose to get tea and a Banoffee Muffin. We headed down the stairs and found a big seating area with loads of cute tables. 
The fact that Benugo is open until 8pm on week days is great, cause you can go for a quick snack or drink before heading home, or out to something else. The Covent Garden store is greatly located because its far enough from the shopping that you don't end up spending all your money on shopping.  
I love their food, their muffins are amazing, lightly crunchy on the outside and super moist on the inside. And their sandwich bar is set up like a gourmet version of Subway allowing you to pick from the best and most tasty ingredients for your sandwich. Just writing about it makes me want to go and get one. 

Here’s their website: http://www.benugo.com/

Friday, 13 December 2013

Gem Bar

Gem Bar is a nice wine bar near Regent’s Street. I have only gone there a few times, but every time I’ve chosen a good tasting wine. The drinks are not cheap but if you just want to relax after a day of shopping or you have an hour to kill before going to a show near by its a very good place to go.
The staff is very friendly and they are keen on recommending different wines. The music isn’t too loud so you can still have a conversation. The interior is very modern with sleek booths on one side and nice tall bar tables in the centre of the room. 
I’ve had some great moments here because the place gives you the impression you’re the only people there and no one is listening to your conversations. I can’t wait to go back again… I just need a wine drinking buddy! (They do not only serve wine I’m just a very big fan of their wine collection especially when you compare it to other bars around London)
Here’s their website: http://www.gem-bar.co.uk/

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Paul Smith at the Design Museum

I didn’t even know London had a design museum until I saw that there was a Paul Smith show going on there. Close to Tower Bridge the design museum is easy to get to, and there’s a cute little walk from the bridge to the museum through a boutique filled alley. The building is huge and white, and it has its own cafĂ©. 
The staff is conveniently placed, showing you where to walk to get to the show. The first section of the Paul Smith Exhibit explained the start of his career in Nottingham and showed the size of his first shop. There were some beautiful sketches showing how he came up with the key ideas for his brand that are still seen in his work today. 
The biggest room of the exhibit showed a wall of inspirational things that he collected and used as his muse for different collections. Part of his studio was replicated for the show as well. My favourite room was the one showing some of Paul Smith’s collaborative work. He has done many designs for bicycle companies as well as many small projects with different companies such as designing a car for Mini. 
I really enjoyed the show because it allowed me to see his creative vision much more. Paul Smith isn't a designer I know well but the exhibit allowed me to get a good snapshot of the process behind his clothes and all of his other work. 

Here’s the museum’s website: http://designmuseum.org/

Monday, 9 December 2013

Ping Pong Dim Sum

I recently went to Ping Pong to eat DimSum with my parents for the first time. The decorations are a bit dark and dreary and the lights are very dim but overall it has a very restaurant-y ambiance. You look through the menus and then write down what you want to order on a long order sheet which you then give to a waiter. Overall, there are some random ways to order food in chain restaurants in London, maybe that’s why I should avoid them. 
I ordered a pink lemonade which was amazing, very sour, how lemonade should really be. And I think we ordered about 12 dishes for the 4 of us. And we got dessert at the end as well, of course. They bring out the food whenever its ready which is perfect for me because I was really hungry. The spring rolls are really yummy, especially with their sweet and sour sauce. 
They brought out all the steamed food at the same time, and within second our table and plates were covered in food. The staff was really friendly and sweet helping us with any thing we didn’t understand and bringing us extra tap water when ever we needed it. My dinner experience was really good, we ate really quickly and it wasn’t over priced either. Next time I  want DimSum and don’t feel like going to Chinatown I’m going to Ping Pong. I also heard they do “all you can eat” sundays. Yum. 
Here’s their website: http://www.pingpongdimsum.com/