Sunday, December 9, 2012

Brunch at Christie's (As You Do)

I know, I've brunched two days in a row - how rude.

Today's was rather special, as it happened to be at the private view of Important Jewels (their title, not mine) at Christie's auction house in Piccadilly.

Ever since John made a rather Important Purchase for me at Christie's, I have a sneaking suspicion that they seem to think he's a regular there. Oh yes, I'll have that tiara, please.

Anyway, when an invitation to the Important Jewels private view arrived last week printed on thick, creamy cardstock, John suggested we attend and I fretted about what to wear.

When the catalogue came in the mail a couple days after he accepted the invitation, we curled up on the couch and picked out which diamond-encrusted Cartier rings we wanted (though the tiaras were also very tempting).

But in all seriousness, Christie's is amazing. John had been trying to convince me to visit for ages (since it's open to the public most weekends for viewings), but I expected stuffiness, noses-in-the-air, and general awkwardness on my part. Why didn't I listen to him sooner? It's like a museum, but with less people and in a beautiful setting, to boot.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted with virgin Bloody Marys and orange juices, plus brunchy canapes, before being ushered into the Modern British and Irish art showrooms, plus the Important Jewels showroom as well.

This was my favorite room:

That family portrait is badass. You can't tell from my photo, but there's some serious bitchface going on there  with the daughters. Amazing.

I might have been joking when I said "I'll have the tiara" above, but the serious buyers of the showroom most certainly were not. Today was the opportunity for them to try on the actual jewels before bidding and some of the conversations I overheard were rather ... interesting. Like the lady who was on the outlook for, "pearls for everyday wear - you know what I mean?" as she waved her hand airily at the sales assistant. Oh what, John Lewis isn't good enough for you? Or the other lady on the arm of her partner, who dismissed the beautiful diamonds in the private sales collection with, "Come on, let's go. You know which one you're buying. We've already decided. My ring's VS1 [referring to the clarity of her diamond] and better than this, so let's just go." Incredible.

In the Important Jewels showroom, I was particularly taken by a men's vintage Cartier watch with a simple, tan leather strap and an 4.97 carat emerald-cut diamond ring that started at £30,000. No big deal. Just more than a year's worth of my college tuition, that's all. A member of staff caught me admiring some sapphires and assured me I could try any of the pieces on, should I so desire. Um, yes. I desired, very much so.

Anyway, I left without crowning myself with any tiaras (which were, btw, listed in the catalogue as "property of a lady of title"), though feeling entirely convinced that I'll be making many return visits to Christie's. Probably not to bid on any £30,000 jewels, but, you know. Just to look.

Christmas at Fortnum & Mason

I stopped by my spiritual home today, AKA Fortnum & Mason, to check out the Christmas windows and decorations in store. I was not disappointed: the second floor was devoted to their Christmas shop and featured trees, wreaths, and decorations arranged by color scheme (I told you it was my spiritual home!). If I had more time, I would have stayed to count the exact number of Christmas trees, as I'm sure each floor had at least five, if not more.

I also chose my favorite ornament, this felt hand-embroidered house, complete with clock and French windows:

Isn't it gorgeous? But at £28, it was more expensive than our tree, so I decided to leave it for the moment.

John and I also admired the Christmas crackers, which are a British tradition:

The Nutcracker-themed crackers above were especially fun, but the ones next to them cost £500. Yes, you read that correctly, £500! For that, I'd expect diamonds, mini champagne bottles and Stephen Fry to personally read my cracker joke to me - and more.

Needless to say, seeing these decorations has made me really, really excited for Christmas.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Reilly Rocket: Possibly The Best Place to Brunch in London

I love going out for brunch, particularly on Saturdays: it's the ultimate treat. Like a reward that awaits you at the end of a hellish week, something about indulging in huevos rancheros or French toast made with brioche topped with spiced orange compote makes brunch absolutely decadent. In fact, I think that going out for brunch is more of a treat than eating out for dinner. Dinner out feels normal (even though it shouldn't be regarded as such), but brunch feels special.

But let's be honest: brunch in London (and elsewhere) is a total ripoff. Serve scrambled eggs and smoked salmon at 8:00 a.m. and it's £6.95. Serve it between the hours of 10:30-12:00 and it suddenly seems to justify a price tag of £10.95 and upwards. A juice that comes out of a carton and is literally emptied into a glass in front of you can easily command a fee of £4.95 (yes, that happened to me). To add insult to injury, London mostly consists of overpriced, trendy establishments passing themselves off as "American diners" resulting in mediocre food that I, frankly, could have made better at home (see trendsters' favorite, The Breakfast Club - to this day, I have no idea why people wait in line for hours to eat the stodgy, over-floured pancakes at that place).

Despite saying all this, I think I've finally found my favorite place to brunch in London (after five years of living here), and it's Reilly Rocket in De Beauvoir Town, Dalston.

I love this place. Regardless of the fact that it's practically on my doorstep, Reilly Rocket serves up a killer breakfast and good, strong coffee created by their self-described "hyper-precise" baristas. Does that scare you? It shouldn't. Staff is super friendly and the cozy environment means you can easily dine alone with a newspaper or chat the morning away with a brunch buddy.

This morning, I had toasted sourdough (the menu cites "cherry sourdough", but they ran out of that, so we just had plain sourdough) with "debauched cinnamon butter" (don't you just love that description?) and fresh berries accompanied by a peach blossom tea, since I'm trying to kick the caffeine habit:

It was really as good as it looks: the sweet, cinnamon butter oozing into crunchy sourdough with the tart raspberries and blueberries was better than any spread I've ever had, rivalling Ottolenghi's banana jam which I previously blogged about here. Truly a pleasure to have.

Next, John and I shared the sweet potato fritters with spicy chorizo, cucumber yogurt, poached eggs and rocket & cucumber salad. Whew!

That squeeze of lime adds a real kick and zings through the spiciness of the chorizo, while the cooling yogurt tastes divine when mashed into the potato fritters. A total foodgasm.

Our bill? £7 a head, including coffee and my tea.

I wasn't just surprised by all of this; I was actually kind of shocked. How could this much deliciousness be hiding in this humble, unassuming motorcycle cafe? I don't think it'll be long until the rest of London wakes up to the idiocy of waiting in line for overpriced "American" food and discovers the joys of little cafes like this one. Soon, I'll have to start making reservations at Reilly Rocket, instead of being able to roll out of bed and drop in.

Until then, I'll use everyone else's ignorance to my advantage and continue to enjoy lovely brunches at this stellar establishment.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ants-on-a-Log: For Brighter, Healthier-Looking Skin

I went to see an aesthetician the other day to get my face "mapped" (don't ask). Since winter's hit, my skin has been dry, flaky, AND breaking out more than usual - which I wouldn't usually mind (besides the fact that it makes me look hideous), but the fact of the matter is that I'm back in the US in two weeks and will face the harshest skin critic of all: my mother. "Look at your skin," she'll say, hands folded, over breakfast. "So harsh. So dry. So bumpy. You take after your father," she'll say, before adding, "Not smooth at all. Look at mine! So smooth! No pimples! And all I use is Pond's and hot water!" Then she'll smile serenely at me. As if it were all that simple.

Not wanting to encounter this situation again, I plopped myself down in the beautician's treatment room and complained about my dull, pimply skin while rattling off my £250 (at least) worth-of-products skin regime. She assessed me with a steely eye. "How much water are you drinking?" she asked. "Um ... not enough," I mumbled. She tsked. "What's your diet like? Are you eating crunchy, green vegetables?" she asked, frowning down at my questionaire. "Um ..." I thought back to the last things I had consumed and it went something like this: red velvet cupcake (someone's birthday in the office), two chocolates (I said, it was someone's birthday), pizza for lunch (birthday lunch), two cookies for a mid-morning snack and Nutella over crumpets for breakfast. So ... the answer was, no. "You're not taking care of the inside! Just the outside!" she accused. "Eat more cucumber and spinach," she advised. "Drink more water!"

Her words still ringing in my ears, I vowed to drink more water at work. Instead of taking sips, I started gulping it down. And you know what? My skin drastically improved, over the period of a week or so. Inspired to keep it up, I decided to incorporate more veggies into my diet. Crunchy ones. Like ... celery! Except, with an American twist. I'm talking "Ants On a Log" here: celery sticks, peanut butter, with raisins on top. Peanut butter for that energy and protein boost, plus raisins for a little sweetness - the after school snack every American kid had.

Unsurprisingly, my choice of healthy snack was met by repulsion at work. It started like this: "Ooh, someone's being very healthy! Celery!" (pause) "Wait ... what are you doing with the peanut butter? And ... no ... you're not going to ... with the RAISINS?!"

Undeterred, I crunched my way through two mornings, until Alice came up for a visit and saw what I was eating. "You want some?" I said, wiping the corner of my mouth and offering her a "log". "Um, I'll have one. But without the peanut butter. Or the raisins," she replied, weakly. "Well, that's no good," I said. "You Americans are craaaazy," she laughed, still disgusted. "Well," I replied hotly. "You Brits are boooorrringg." Which I thought was a pretty good retort.

Photo source

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Worship Street Whistling Shop* (*say that ten times fast!)

A tongue-twister for sure, but Worship Street Whistling Shop serves up some of the best cocktails I've ever had in London. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy mojitos and peach bellinis like every other person, but sometimes, I'm just in the mood for something a little bit different, and WSWS delivers that on all counts.

Located in Shoreditch, smack dab between Old Street and Moorgate tube stations, the bar's dimly lit Victoriana/steampunk feel makes it one of my favorite places to cozy up in during the winter months. I recently celebrated my birthday there and it didn't disappoint: in one corner, a DJ (with the most fantastical pouf and black eyeliner imaginable) was spinning rockabilly classics, and we ordered delicious cheese and meat platters to share.

The drinks menu (which is devised in their in-house lab, which resembles a mad scientist's) changes frequently, though my particular favorite, Panacea (a blend of whisky, honey, sage dust, lavender and topped with whipped egg white), seems to (thankfully) be a standby. Two of those last Friday and I was barely left standing.

Now, I must warn that WSWS isn't for everyone. I've read some pretty hilarious negative reviews of this place on TimeOut and think that those patrons should have headed next door to Blueberry, where they could have had all the saccharine, sickly-sweet cocktails their heart so desired. Just sayin'.

As someone who's deeply attuned (as you all know) to high levels of customer service, I think one of WSWS's best selling points is its bar staff. Friendly, laid-back, and knowledgeable, they're always happy to advise on drinks and will often whip something up for you on a whim if you can't decide. Once, I ordered something I decided just wasn't for me after all, and it was quickly whisked away and replaced by a Panacea (I told you I loved it!).

WSWS is definitely one of the first places I take friends from out of town and I highly recommend it - just don't go if you're a jerk and expecting to be served a pink strawberry daiquiri.

Photo source 

Three Signs That Christmas Has Officially Landed

First there were the mince pies, then there was Bing Crosby blaring from our speakers ... in November. Sure, it's only December 4th, but at our place? It's Christmas.

How can I tell? Well, there's the:

1. Unearthing of the ornaments (some were inevitably broken). Seeing all the baubles gave me great memories of where we bought them - for example, I distinctly remember standing in the longest line EVER at John Lewis Oxford Street (note to self: never, ever, under any circumstance, visit John Lewis on Oxford Street in December again. Just don't.) for the fabric wrapped ones, with low blood sugar and an increasingly agitated state of mind. The mirrorball ornaments (not pictured) were purchased by John at a garden center in Maida Vale, where we put up our first tree together. And at the bottom of the box? An angel. (Not a metaphor, btw, just an actual angel ornament/tree topper)

2. Hummingbird Bakery's Christmas-themed cupcakes. Sure, I woke up to these by my bedside on my birthday, but as Ruth said on my birthday (or the e-card she sent me said), "If you were Jesus, today would be Christmas." So, really, my birthday was as good as Christmas. That's red velvet at the bottom with cream cheese frosting (my favorite) and vanilla at the top, with a marzipan Santa and buttercream frosting (also my favorite. Hmm.). Seasonal treats are definitely a sign that Christmas is nigh.

3. Wrapped presents sitting under the tree, which in our case, resembles a potted plant - but hey, you can hang ornaments off of it, so it's a tree (it also cost £12 from Budgens). John and I had a huge wrapping session/party with toffee popcorn on Saturday, which was fun, but also involved me biting my tongue while watching him wrap presents incorrectly (like, wrapping and taping along the long edge of the gift, massacring the edges while slicing through the paper with a butter knife and/or not cutting straight lines), though I must admit, his turned out stunningly well as it turns out his methods are especially useful for wrapping soft items. No hints given away there!

So yes. Put an egg-nog latte in my hand and I'm good to go. Christmas, I welcome you with open arms.
© angloyankophile

This site uses cookies from Google to deliver its services - Click here for information.

Blogger Template Created by pipdig