Tag Archives: dinner

Babington House

Babington House Drive

Miles from London, in a faraway land called Somerset, there’s a long tree-lined lane. It leads to a pocket-sized chapel, St Margarets, and just beyond it, the dour Georgian manor that is Babington House.

Part of the Soho House portfolio, I was expecting a snazzy English countryclub scene, but the other guests were mainly just local mums bringing the kids swimming, and a few other couples in for the weekend from London. But mostly, we had the place to ourselves.

Babington House St Margarets Sign

Babington House Lawn

Babington House Lawn Chapel

Babington House Cobblestone Path

We stayed in the Coach House, in a delightful room over two stories. Sweet touches were everywhere you looked – fresh flowers, vintage books with winsome titles, a silver tin of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies.

Babington House Coach House

Babington House Do Not Disturb Door Soho House

Babington House Coach House Room Velvet Sofa

Babington House Room Coach House Dressing Table

Babington House Room Coach house Spiral Staircase

Babington House Room Coach House Loft Bed

Babington House Room Coach House Bed

Babington House Room Coach House Loft view

Babington House Room Cabbages and Roses Blue Velvet Dress Knit Bobble Hat

Babington House Room Bathroom Tub White Tile

Babington House Room Bathroom Clawfoot Tub

Babington House Room Robes Big Feet Little Feet

Babington House Room Coach House

Babington House Coach house room Flowers

Babington House Room Fresh Flowers

Babington House Eat Sleep Nap

Babington House Room Tea

Babington House Room Tea Treats

We couldn’t resist a spot of tea before heading outside for an afternoon of countryside pursuits – strolling the sprawling grounds, going for a bike ride, and then a swim.

Babington House Wellies

Babington House Walled Garden Green Grass

Babington House Walled Garden Cabbages and Roses Velvet Dress

Babington House Walled Garden Spa Cabbages and Roses Blue Velvet Dress

Babington House Pond Rear

Babington House Backyard Tree Pond

Babington House Bicycle Cabbages and Roses Velvet Dress

Babington House Bicycle Path

Babington House Bicycle Cabbages and Roses Blue Dress

Babington House

Babington House Chapel

Babington House Chapel View

The outdoor heated pool is a perfect warm-up for these chilly February days.

We raced to see which one of us could shimmy back into their hooded robe the fastest, thick clouds of vapor wafting off our poached bodies like a pair of Chinese steamed buns!

Babington House Pool

Babington House Pool Steam Sun

Babington House Pool Swim Bun

Back in the room, we opened a bottle of champers, but before you could say “Pop, fizz, clink!” I was already in a clawfoot tub full of bubbles, where I had a good long soak before dinner.

The bathroom was stocked with shelves of Cowshed products, so no shortage of goops and creams to daub on.

Babington House Bathtub Clawfoot White Tiles

Babington House Bathtub Bubbles

Dinner was A-OK. Candlelight, dainty flowers on the table, the universal Soho House playlist audible above the din of the orangery. It felt a bit like going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day, surrounded by other couples.  But we are far too diffident to canoodle publicly at the dining table. (As my husband likes to chide, “We’re English, not savages, Sarah!”)

Instead, we sipped our Babington martinis (amazing, with Noilly Prat, Tokaji and grapefruit oils, by the way) and nearly choked with laughter piling up a tower of mussel shells, a perilous house of cards of molluscs, which eventually gave way and sent a few shells toppling to the floor!

Most-meal pastimes, such as pool, were on hand, but we found we were happiest in the Study sipping Moscow Mules by the fire.

Babington House Lobby Mirror Flowers

Babington House Games Room

Babington House Study Fireplace Light

Babington House Study Fireplace Drinks

Yes, it’s a chain and not really a country club in the true sense, but Babington House is a great choice for a relaxing and romantic weekend.

I can say I was actually sad to leave. But London missed me, I had to get back! Lots more city adventures coming soon…

A Spitalfields Institution: Upstairs at the Ten Bells

Old Spitalfields Market is one of London’s oldest covered commercial markets; it’s been around since the 1600s. Each day it brings together traders selling fashion, food, antiques, and crafts. A surge of boutiques, shops and restaurants have bubbled up in the vicinity, regenerating this part of East London.

The Ten Bells sits right opposite the arched entrance to Spitalfields Market on Commercial Street. But it has a sinister history all its own. It dates back to 1666 and was the local watering hole of Jack the Ripper in the 1800s. Two of his victims used to frequent this old Victorian boozer, one of which was spotted drinking here just hours before her mutilated body was found around the corner. Not exactly the most romantic date night in London back in the day…

Ten Bells Chalk Board Menu

Ten Bells Outside

But fast forward 127 years, and people are still dying to get in. The upstairs restaurant is all the rage – classic East London gritty. You climb up the creaky battered staircase, beneath a very apt sign reading Live East, Die Young, and into a dining room lit with Tracy Emin neon and homoerotic photography.

Upstairs at 10 Bells Neon

Upstairs at Ten Bells Staircase

No thanks. I'd much prefer to Live West, Die Old.

No thanks. I’d much prefer to Live West, Die Old.

Ten Bells Upstairs

The menu is eclectic modern British. Predictable ingredients, but done in a cool, clever way.

Wood Pigeon tortellini

Wood Pigeon ravioli, crushed swede, consommé

Laugh Drink

Potato Gnocchi, Brown Shrimp, Crab, Girolles

Potato Gnocchi, Cornish Crab, Brown Shrimp

Ginger Glazed Cashew Ribs

Ginger Glazed Ribs, cashew nuts, pickled ginger

Yorkshire Rhubarb, Buttermilk Mousse with White Chocolate and Matcha Green Tea Crumb

Yorkshire Rhubarb, Buttermilk Mousse with White Chocolate and Matcha Green Tea Crumb

Ten Bells Dessert

Tummies full, we dashed fearlessly out onto the mean grungy streets of East London, the eerie glow of a Dickensian moon lighting the foggy night sky.

Ten Bells Silly Face

Spitalfields Moon

Christ Church, Spitalfields

Christ Church, Spitalfields

Outside

Spitalfields Fairy Goth Mother

Ten Bells Ed London Spitalfields

Ten Bells Telephone Booth

It was a thrill to visit the dismal, macabre heart of London’s yesteryear. It proves there are still places where the grimness of history yet clings, even if only in spirit, in the drear-cloaked night.

Sea Containers

Mondrian has arrived in London!  A familiar name we all know and love. For me, the brand conjures memories of an epic stay in Miami celebrating Art Basel many, many moons ago. This one is decidedly more Southbank than South Beach, but sits proudly on the water, the mighty River Thames. Housed in part of the old Sea Containers building, the new hotel has an understated nautical theme, and vibrant river views from its new ground floor restaurant.

We went to check it out on a blazingly bright afternoon for lunch.

Sea Containers From Blackfriars Bridge

Blackfriars Bridge Treacy Black Felt Hat

Sea Containers Dining Room

Sea Containers Dining Room Crest We Serve

Never take pils on an empty stomach.

Never take pils on an empty stomach.

There’s quite a bit of seafood on the menu, which is no problem for me! We ordered a selection of starters, then shared a chicken and a sea bass.

Raw scallops with cilantro, espelette pepper and drizzled with Arbequina olive oil

Raw scallops with cilantro, espelette pepper and drizzled with Arbequina olive oil

Crab salad on toast, with pickled peppers & citrus aioli

Crab salad on toast, with pickled peppers & citrus aioli

Oven-roasted Lamb Meatballs with soft sheep's milk cheese, cucumber and a Moroccan spiced vinaigrette

Oven-roasted Lamb Meatballs with soft sheep’s milk cheese, cucumber and a Moroccan spiced vinaigrette

Smoked and Roasted Corn-fed Chicken with  charred lemon vinaigrette

Smoked and Roasted Corn-fed Chicken with
charred lemon vinaigrette

Shredded Kale Salad with apple, pecans, avocado, yoghurt, chilies and a dill vinaigrette

Shredded Kale Salad with apple, pecans, avocado, yoghurt, chilies and a dill vinaigrette

Roasted Mediterranean Sea Bass  with citrus, salsa verde

Roasted Mediterranean Sea Bass with
citrus, salsa verde

Sea Containers Lunch Apple Pie

The desserts were great, and they even let us order a crème brulee off menu.

Sea Containers Lunch Creme Brulee

Sea Containers Faces

Sea Containers Faces Smiles

The sun was setting as we finished lunch (damn you, winter days!), so we headed upstairs to the rooftop bar, Rumpus Room, for the view – and ended up staying a little bit longer than planned.

Rumpus Room Signage

Rumpus Room Area

Rumpus Room Bar

With unobstructed views across the pulsing heart of London’s business and financial district, the rooftop terrace is no doubt going to be a popular al fresco destination this spring and summer. Have fun, people!

Rumpus Room Outside Rooftop Bar

Rumpus Room View

Rumpus Room View Rooftop Thames

Rumpus Room Drinks Table

The drinks were impressive (aka exceptionally strong) and before we knew it, we were all a bit sozzled.

Rumpus Room Drinks

Rumpus Room Rooftop Silly face

The only thing I would say if you visit Rumpus Room (and you aren’t expensing it to the bank you work for) – check your itemized bill before paying. The service is attentive and pleasant, but they definitely added extra items to our check that we didn’t order. Other than that, go forth and enjoy!

Grill of My Dreams

This weekend I finally got to rev up one of our wedding presents, which is, quite simply, the greatest thing ever – a raclette grill.

For the most part, the Swiss are quite happy being Swiss, enjoying their lives in Switzerland. They don’t really get involved, except to offer the world some first-rate luxury exports from time to time – namely, chocolate, watches, and Roger Federer. I like that their national motto is the same as The Three Musketeers’, “One for all, all for one” and their foreign policy is sensibly isolationist.

One thing the Swiss aren’t neutral about, though, is cheese. They rock at it. They take cheese to another level. And they invented the cheese-melting machine of my dreams, the raclette grill.

Raclette Opening Box

This addition to our household was such an occasion, I had to blog about it!

You can get raclette cheese in pre-sliced packages. The little squares fit perfectly into the trays, called coupelles.

Raclette Cheese Package

Raclette Cheese Slices

Another major component is the meat, which gets seared on the top griddle. We got the butcher to cut some thin slices of filet mignon. You can marinade it in advance, but we chose to simply salt and pepper it as we go.

Raclette Parson's Nose Steak Raw Slices Filet

Raclette Filet Steak

The accompaniments are also important: a charcuterie of cured meats, boiled potatoes, and cornichon are the main ones.

Raclette Table

Raclette Cured Meats

raclette Sauces

The Hubster even whipped up a pair of condiments – a creamy curry sauce, and an herby yogurt sauce with dill, basil and cilantro.

Nothing left to do but switch on the raclette grill!

Raclette Machine Turning it on

It’s so perfectly compact, and ideal for the tabletop. Bop a piece of steak on the hot grill to sear, while the tray of cheese melts on the grill below.

Raclette Steak on the Grill

Raclette Cheese and Steak

Raclette Steak Sizzling

Raclette Tray Melted

When you hear the cheese start bubbling, just remove the tray from the heat, and pour onto your plate! Preferably over potatoes, or whatever else happens to be in the way.

Raclette Cheese Cheesy

Raclette Melty Cheese

Raclette Melty Stringy

Raclette Stringy Cheese

Raclette Cheesy Plate

Well, there you have it: the most amazing invention a true cheese lover could ever hope for.

And a gift that will keep the sizzle in our marriage for many years to come!

Thames River Cruise

The London Thames is definitely not the place you expect to find a Mississippi paddle steamer, but that was exactly what I found myself climbing aboard the other night for dinner.

The glossy wood-panelled Elizabethan is a lovingly recreated replica of the iconic American stern-wheeled riverboats that Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher would have felt right at home on.

It picked us up at Cadogan Pier in Chelsea beneath the twinkling lights of Albert Bridge.

London Thames Albert Bridge at Night Lights

Albert Bridge

Boat Elizabethan

Boat Champagne

Glasses of bubbles in hand, everyone swept up the carpeted stairs to the spacious upper deck to mingle with old friends.

Boat Smiles Glasses

And watch the brightly lit sights of London pass by along the riverbank.

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

London Eye

London Eye

Thames Eye

The Shard

The Shard

Boat Bruvs

Boat Smiles

Boat Smile Lights

After catching up with the latest news of marriages, babies, jobs, and – most importantly – football scores, we migrated below deck into the dining room for the dinner service.

Boat Talking

Boat Dinner

Boat Dinner Smiles

Boat Dinner Smile

After coffee, it was time to buckle up my dancing Choos and head upstairs where the band was kicking things off.

Boat Shoes

Boat Band 4

Boat Band

Everyone was alternating between having a boogie on the dancefloor and popping outside on the balcony to take in the views and the cool air.

A little bit of silliness may also have taken place.

Boat Smiles Buoy

Boat Smiles Us

London Thames Walk Chelsea Streetlamp

Just an incredibly relaxed evening aboard a beautiful boat surrounded by good people – let the holiday party season begin! 

 

 

Manuka Kitchen

Last night was one of those nights – there was nothing in the fridge but random condiments and a few limp vegetables, and I couldn’t be bothered to go grocery shopping and then cook. A perfectly justifiable excuse to dine out! So I threw on a snuggly knit cape and moseyed down to a cherished local hotspot, Manuka Kitchen.

I’m crazy for their brunch, but had not yet been for dinner. Let me just say it was so good, I had to go up to the kitchen counter afterwards and thank the chef for the best gnocchi I’ve had in recent memory. On top of everything – the convenient Fulham Road location, the pared down rustic atmosphere, the excellent yet affordable wine list – the service is the real kicker. You’ve gotta love a place where the owner waits on you.  Joseph is the nicest guy – warm smile, affable, and of course knowledgable about everything on the menu. The whole experience was sweet as Manuka honey!

Does this look like a face that wants to cook tonight?

Does this look like a face that wants to cook tonight?

man3

man4

Potato gnocchi | zucchini, sweet peppers & blue cheese crumble

Potato gnocchi | zucchini, sweet peppers & blue cheese crumble

Bavette | Jersey Royals, confit carrot, caper & horseradish butter, watercress

Bavette | Jersey Royals, confit carrot, caper & horseradish butter, watercress

man1I might put off the grocery shopping a little more often!