A Travel & Lifestyle Blog

Salumaio d'Atene, Kifisia

Left: Sardines on toast with sundried tomato, simple but so intense!. Right: the whimsical garden outside Salumaio, it's not unheard of to have dinner al fresco in the middle of the winter here!
When I posted pictures from Salumaio on Instagram, I immediately got comments from locals saying how much they love this place - that's a good start, I thought! 
Salumaio is nested amongst the shops and whimsically lit palm trees of Kifisia, Athens' northern refined suburb. It's a foodie destination, with a lovely menu full of mix-and-match dishes ... innovative pasta, refined French cuisine - see my smooth chestnut velouté - and Greek nouveaux cuisine. The tiny, garden-like restaurant is attached to a well-stocked Italian deli.
Cocktails are lovely, the old-fashioned was strong but well-balanced and they can make Espresso Martinis the traditional way, if you ask nicely, no baileys or cream.
Expect to pay around 45euros per person, that includes a starter, a main and a cocktail each, which is steep for Greece as we were told, but reasonable considering the quality and presentation of the dishes.    
Starter: Chestnut velouté
Italian influences: Pappardelle with prawns and a dash of caviar
An oldie but goodie: Steak topped with baked Foie Gras! Oh my!

After a weekend full of fondue in Geneva, I thought I'd go light... thankfully, my wish came true in the form of a smoked salmon salad with avocado and grapefruit!

Left: A hint of Miami, with all of the palm trees dotted around Kifissia. Right: Chef's entrée - celery velouté


Autumn Weekend in Berlin

The Setup: 12 Girls. 48 Hours. Berlin!

Stay: it's a no brainer, for larger groups go with AirBnB! We stayed in Mitte, just across from Hackescher Markt station. Great location, walking distance to the Museum Island, Alexanderplatz and even Brandeburgischer Tor, if you are up for a bit of a longer stroll. We got two flats with an interconnecting door that turned them to one massive space with six bedrooms and two chillout areas!
Bistro dinner: at Wiener Beisl.
It is now getting colder, but back in October when we visited, temperatures were still mild and we ended up having dinner outside, amongst the hustle and bustle of the city! 
This is an elegant Viennese-style bistro, with checked black and white floor inside and white-dressed tables, outside. A grown-up place in other words, where we shamelessly decided to play "never have I ever", got the waiter to join in and embarrassed ourselves, as well as everyone else around, appropriately. Good fun! The food here is interesting too, I got the Ravioli stuffed with Black Pudding, it was rich and heavy and delicious!

 This sums up our dinner at the Wiener Beisl, make what you want of it! 

Hachescher Markt Station from our AirBnB balcony. 

During the Day: Trabi Tour!
It's So. Much. Fun! You must have a go!
I was a bit worried driving a manual car, after more than a decade of driving an automatic and what's worst...a car that's 50 years old!
We had 4 Trabis amongst the 12 of us, with a guide in the front car that kept our little convoy in check, at all times, through a one-way walkie-talkie system.
The Trabi is like a time-capsule: from having to push the manual choke like a lunatic to start the car, to simpler things like no electric windows, windscreen wipers or seat belts.
I am certain that we even got a bit high on fumes, as the more these little mean machines smoked away, the more we giggled for no apparent reason whatsoever!
Heute bin ich auch ein Berliner! What an experience, driving an old Trabi!
Lunch at Mutter Hoppe, you might want to bring your stretchy pants along...

For "a sausage and a beer" lunch: Mutter Hoppe in the Nikolaiviertel.
A traditional basement restaurant with a huge menu to choose from: Sausage and Sauerkraut galore to massive Lamb Shanks with smooth mash and Gulash with Cinnamon-spiced Red Cabbage!

Trabant: Colourful little mean smoke machines!
Dancing: at the Felix Club.
You'll find it adjacent to the American embassy, right across from the Brandenburger Tor. Very central in other words. We didn't have to pay to get in as we had put our names down on the guest list. 
Upmarket place, good mix of music, massive dancefloor with a wrap-around balcony on a higher level and my favourite feature: a moving platform spraying water-mist over the dancefloor - handy for a refreshing spritz when the techno vibes kick in! I was not impressed with the staff attitude though! They wouldn't give us a table all night, even though we were happy to pay the 50 Euro per head charge, why? To our astonishment, we realised that it's because we were girls! Now, let me tell you that we are all seasoned travellers who know how to look after themselves - so we had a blast regardless and dismissed the whole attitude, but such a disappointment at this day and age! 

Alpine vibes at Fame Restaurant

Dinner in an Alpine wooden cabin?
Yes please! Head to the Fame Katerschmaus, on the East side.  
A crack on the wall under a railway bridge, next to a highway, serves as the entrance to this place. "Why did I get dressed up for?" comes to mind. Wait! This is a an uber-cool, hipster joint with a massive river-side terrace for sunny days and a wooden Alpine-style lodge, for colder days, which we had all to ourselves, complete with private service; dinner, drinks and fees came to 70 euros per person - impromptu singing, advisable - why else would you need a private cabin for?

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Sundays are for coffee at the Sankt Oberholz, in Rosenthaler Platz.  
This was my favourite spot. Apparently it's one of the cool, independent places for a good coffee and a lounge-y Sunday session with you laptop. Yeap, after failing to visit the Pergamon museum, having queued for 45 minutes only to be told that my hand-luggage couldn't be stored, this is where I chose to camp and watch the Berliners go by, with  slice of cheesecake and a smooth cup of Kaffee!
Sunday staples at St Oberholz.
Danke Berlin, will be back soon!

Renovated: Santorini, Bayswater

Last Saturday evening, my husband threw around the idea of having dinner in a Greek restaurant.
I frowned. You see, when you cook something at home, pretty well I dare say, you don't really feel like having it in a restaurant. Don't get me wrong, I feel the same way about Indian restaurants.
We cook Indian dishes at home and my mother-in-law spoils us with complex flavours, no greasy, over-spiced dishes. 
So, I usually think, "why go out for Greek food, when we can cook it at home?" and on top of that, the ones in London tend to feel dated and somehow dark. Anyway, I left it up to him to pick one.
He picked Santorini restaurant in Bayswater. Bayswater? I frowned again. It's so touristy!
What he didn't tell me, is that Santorini has recently been renovated.
As of the 2nd September, there is this modern, whitewashed Greek dinner spot, down the road from St Sophia, the Greek-orthodox Cathedral. If you have ever been in Greece, you will recognise the modern Aegean influences. Minimal decorations, airy space and rounded corners, just like you would expect to find amongst the narrow lanes of Mykonos and Paros.
Truffle Manti with Mizithra cheese stuffing

"We only have Greek beers" said the waiter. My husband grinned with joy, he loves the light taste of Fix, an Athenian brew served out of a very voluptuous, rounded bottle. If you've never tried Greek beer, I highly recommend it.
We had Tirokafteri and Spanakopitta for starters. I must admit that the Tirokafteri was on the salty side for me, but the velvety Spanakopitta was superb! I can never get mine to be so rich. I might need to use more butter and the greens combination does decide the flavour. A hint of dill finished it off nicely.
Pitta bread served out of an old wooden sieve or "krisara" as grandma used to call it.
The mains where such a treat,too. My main was a history lesson: Truffle Manti with mizithra stuffing. Manti are stuffed pieces of pasta, which can apparently be found in cuisines across Asia, from Mongolia to Thailand, all the way to the Aegean coast of what used to be imperial Byzantium and modern day Turkey. I have never had them before. They are served with yogurt and are very light and flavoursome.
My husband had Soutzoukakia, meatballs spiced with cumin and cinnamon, amongst other sweet and warm spices and cooked in a light red sauce. They were falling apart, so soft! I must find out how they did that, because once you fry them, they get this crispy outer layer, but these ones were so succulent.
Whatever you do, you must leave space for at least one dessert. I rarely go for it, but I just couldn't resist: Baklava...with chocolate filling! It was over the top off course, but who can resist warm filo parcels oozing with melting chocolate and crunchy nuts, alongside vanilla ice cream?
And there was Ekmek Kataifi too! A very old-fashioned dessert, bringing very fond memories of home. It's a layer of sweet kataifi (angel's hair) topped with nuts, crème anglaise and whipped cream, for good measure! It's the bomb, if you ask me. Not to be consumed on one of your dieting days that's for sure!
I am glad we came, we had such a nice evening, good food, good atmosphere and we even met the owner, who was so down to earth and chatted with us about the dishes. All I can say is: best of luck! 
Chocolate Baklava
Ekmek Kataifi

Autumn Office Chic

The Trench: It's doesn't get more "London" that that. Keep the rain and the sharp autumn breeze away with a lightweight trench. This one is a classic Burberry Wool and Cashmere blend in Camel. But if it's the gorgeous caramel colour you are after, try Massimo Dutti's Classic camel Trench, just below £150! 
The Tote: oh my! This Aspinal of London Midi Marelybone is my season's crush. Not quite an "impulse buy" at £850, I admit, but if you must convince yourself, it's an investment piece. If you think that the Burgundy colour is difficult to wear, think again. You can pair it with blacks, greys and neutrals. And after all this is a statement piece, it makes everything look polished and professional.
The Tailored Cropped Trousers: ...with pockets may I add! For some reason I prefer tailored trousers with pockets, for the office. It makes it easier to stand around and look cool, when you are having a little chat. Better than folding your arms or...well, not knowing what to do with them, really. And this trio combination of tailored-cropped-with-pockets I found in Banana Republic's Avery Satin Crop, both in petite and normal sizes. Pair them with a soft L.K. Bennett Phoebe Cream Shirt and you'll be comfy all day!
The Gold: I've stayed away from shiny gold for decades. But lately these mat gold pieces, are slowly working their way into my daily wardrobe. Take this Circle Ring and  Circular Earrings for example, both from Jaeger, easy to wear, they add a little simmer and go particularly well with an all-black or even all-neutral looks.
The Flats: Everybody wants to look polished at work, but if you are catching the tube, the last thing you need is running around in heels all day; or even worse, get your heel caught in the escalators during rush hour. So, I'm thinking that pointy flats can do the job. These Heti Stud Flats from Dune, for example are cute and come in a couple of colour combinations. Not to mention that they are way cheaper than their Valentino cousins. Another choice in nude are the L.K. Bennett Clio Leather Flats in Marshmallow.

An accidentally Victorian Anniversary in Somerset

Clevedon: The most romantic Pier in the land...
It was not planned. To have a Victorian-inspired anniversary. 
And yet, on the way back from sun-drenched Somerset, my mind was hovering over all of the details of our fun day out, singing along to my favourite country tune "Play it again", catching the last glimpses of warm, red skies, on the side-view mirror;  it occurred to me: this post, just like our day, must have a Victorian theme!

"Try to keep up Alice"...little doorway leading to the Ethicurian's Victorian Kitchen Garden. 
...The Ethicurian
What a place! Think "Victorian kitchen garden" meets "Alice in Wonderland" and you will get an idea of what awaits for you, down the country lanes on the outskirts of Bristol. Behind red brick walls, the Ethicurian sits amidst rolling hills and apple orchards.
The whole site is built around a revived Victorian kitchen garden, in perfect symmetry and with meticulously maintained vegetable patches that are in full use... during your meal. Not just a pretty face, my friend! In fact, kitchen staff were spotted collecting various edible flowers, lettuce and other lovely vegetables that made an appearance shortly afterwards on people's plates, including our own.  
Pork chops with a view!

The front lawn, just outside the conservatory, was the perfect spot to set up our lunch camp on this bright day. The views over the rolling Somerset hills were spectacular. The sun even felt warmer here, or is it just me feeling all gooey because it's our anniversary?

Babies were left to crawl and roll around on the lawn and even adults joined in, cyclists were turning up for a coffee break and local groups of friends were forever chatting away, lazily in the glasshouse. A very relaxed vibe, truly!

There is no rush, be prepared for a long, slow meal; no this is not my way of saying the service is slow. but then again, what if it is? Isn't  that why we drove two hours to get in the middle of the Somerset countryside, in the first place? Just so that we could have a relaxing day out?
We had a platter of Cheddar from the neighbouring Cheddar valley, with home-made piccalilli to start with. I normally hate the jarred piccalilli, but this one was flavoursome, fresh and crunchy. A nice little surprise. The cocktails are very tasty too, remember that they make their own potions here at the Ethicurian, with herbs and flowers from this very garden! But, we should have stopped there and gone straight to the gorgeous home-made desserts. Off course we didn't!
The Conservatory must be wonderful during rainy months, when you can still have this uninterrupted view over the neighbouring hills but you can hear the rain on the glass and get cosy with the Ethicurian's own "Collector" Vermouth. Good effort guys, we bought a bottle and it's delicious!
We wondered around to explore what looked like very neat vines...they were berries! All kinds of lovely berries, showing off their colours in the sunshine! Yes you guessed it right, I turned to my husband and declared that "we have to have this in our garden". He smiled.  

...Clevedon Pier
After our lovely, long meal at the Ethicurian, we headed to the coast. We've been trying to find some time to drive to the seaside ever since summer started, with no joy, till now. So, we couldn't have possibly gone all the way to Somerset and not pop over to one of its' coastal towns to breath in some sea-air.
Technically, Clevedon is not located on the sea, but on the shores of the Severn Estuary; however,  the river Severn opens up and flirts with the sea in this area, so there is always plenty of wind and waves to convince you that you are close to the Atlantic.
Clevedon is also home to the cutest, most romantic surviving Victorian Pier. 
The truth is that beyond the famous Brighton Pier, I've never actually wondered if there are any more surviving piers around the UK. This cutsey little one at Clevedon, looks so fragile and lonely, battling the waves of the Bristol Channel that you wonder how it's made it through the years.

Once you stand right in the gut of this iron structure, in the Porthole Room, with a clear view of the whole underbelly of this beast, you can't help but feel like Lemony Snicket in aunt Josephine's lakeside house with the big window. This is no wimpy structure!

A Lemony Snickets moment: Unusual view of the Pier, from the Porthole Room.
Left: The top floor of the Pier structure is actually a café with amazing views over the Bristol Channel.  

When we arrived, there was hardly anyone on the Pier. We walked slowly all the way down stopping to read some of the countless inscriptions on the decking. Lover's messages, sweet messages to loved ones who are gone, group messages to remember fun days out...they all make you realise how full of life this Pier is.
We made our own little memories, I had a little surprise for my husband.
Waiting for the Balmoral to come in from it's daily cruise to Bristol, we sat right at the end of the Pier, peaking through the iron lacework that the Victorians created all around this place. The wind was fearsome but the sun was decisively strong. I took out my diary and read to my husband what I wrote in it, when I first met him. We kept giggling, at the thought that all this happened twelve years ago. But here we are. Happy Anniversary sweetie! x 

Leeds Castle and Coastal Kent

The "most beautiful" castle in England!
Usually, I'm not one for free use of superlatives, but this castle is quite a stunner.

Leeds Castle is in the heart of Kent and I have to admit that once you leave the M25 with direction "Dover" your mind does hover over the coast across the Channel..."shall we just go to France, instead?" did cross our minds. I'm glad we didn't. Leeds Castle is worth your time.

Pick a good day to visit because part of its' charm evolves around walking in the glorious green gardens. There are lakes and waterfalls and boat rides and black swans involved! Not to mention their Knight's Glamping camp, that popped up a couple of years ago on the grounds of the castle and we still haven't managed to get availability for, it's that popular!

The castle is surrounded by a wide moat, which adds on to the romanticism of the whole scenery but bearing in mind that this castle has been a home from its' beginning up until 1974, can you imagine bringing groceries in every day?  
The interior is a maze that connects different eras.
From the Norman cellars with direct access to the moat for easy deliveries, to Catherine's of Aragon sombre bathroom and then on to the Art Deco rooms that lady Baillie used for entertaining in the 20's and 30's, as well as the meeting rooms that hosted great political talks for Camp David Accords and Northern Ireland Peace talks. If these walls could speak!

Since we were venturing down to Kent, I was set on having oysters!
I have been researching the best places to have oysters in UK and Whitstable came up in the top list. It's a lovely coastal town, with great variety of restaurants considering its' size. Like most English coastal towns, it does look a bit tired.
The coastline is gorgeous though and very dramatic, whatever the weather! If you stand at the tip of the port you can even spot the wind farms in the middle of the Channel, standing there like Don Quixote's windmills, defending themselves from all elements. 

We opted for Birdie's partially because that's where we could get a table, although it comes quite highly recommended in the TripAdvisor reviews as well. Birdie's has this French bistro feel to it, with checked tablecloths covering the small tables and walls covered in photos and retro ads from past decades. Everything is simple and delicious.

My dad, who was with us, has never had oysters before, although he loves his muscles and clams - especially in an ouzo and feta infused red sauce, called saganaki (recipe here). 
The truth is that you don't quite get oysters in Greece, for some reason. When I ordered mine, he had this dubious look, but I could see the little curious child in him bubbling up. After he had tried one of my oysters with lemon and shallots he mumbled...."why don't we get one more portion"...seemingly uninterested under his white beard. I love seeing my dad getting excited like a little kid and food always does it! 
Then more comments came when I ordered my skate..."we throw this to the cats" he said! Well, "we pay good money for it here", said I! 

Inspiration: Breakfast at Tiffany's, Theatre Royal

Last Friday night while I was sitting in the gorgeous Theatre Royal, watching Pixie Lot impersonate Holly Golightly in the brand new production of Breakfast at Tiffany's, it occurred to me: Holly was the original "Sex and the City" girl!
She was seemingly frivolous, liked having a good time, wasn't afraid to play with men... or clothes and loved a good New York party!
Left: Zipcode Design Tiffany "Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's" Framed Photographic Print // Dress: Caren Crepe Dress by Coast // Heels: Brian Atwood Leather Pumps // Necklace: Kenneth Jay Lane //Gloves: Gausse Gantier Castiglione Gloves // Sunglasses: Linda Farrow 3.1 Philim Lim

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take any pictures in the theatre, even during intermission (I sneaked one of the chandelier, before I was sternly told to stop), so you'll have to rely on my storytelling for this review.
All four of us girls, who attended the performance, agreed that the show was better than we thought it would be.
No. not because we are mean and expected the worst, but we all silently had that feeling, when you watch someone famous live for the first time and hope they  are as good as they are on telly.
Pixie Lot didn't try to recreate Audrey's "Holly", but rather create a new interpretation of the character, that was perfectly cute and flirty and very elegant! Clever way of going about it, as it is very hard to compete with such an iconic image. And then off course, she brought her voice to the part, which was clear, soft and strong at the same time. No crackling and no nerves, I hope she was having a good time herself!  
The sets were a winner for me. Constant changes: from Holly's flat, up the fire escape and into Fred's flat; from the bar to the park and then onto Brooklyn Bridge; there was this constant sense of moving in and out of places, which is so challenging to re-create in a theatrical setting. I particularly loved the scene on Brooklyn Bridge, so simple and yet given the lighting, quite realistic.

As for the rest of the cast, the cat kinda stole the show. Oh yes, the cast included a real kitty-cat, very well-behaved and quite funny too! And Fred, the confused and frustrated poor boyish-man in love with Holly was no other than Matt Barber - or the handsome Atticus from Downton Abbey for simplicity. He had an American accent on, though...they all did, quite a good one as a matter of fact!

Dress: Kerry Anne Hi Low Dress by Coast // Heels: Aquazzura Wild Thing Fringed Suede Sandals

Now let's talk about 50's & 60's silhouettes for a minute. Holly's wardrobe was lovely, I lost count of how many times she changed from lovely, shiny, evening dresses to elegant raincoats with matching hats and gloves! I adore 60's dresses, women looked so elegant at all times.
It all reminded my great aunt's wardrobe; she had spent a decade in New York in the 60's and when I was little, I used to try on her little box-hats and white gloves and A-line coats, pretending to be attending Radio City shows. No wonder I love heels and pearls so much!  

No5, Beaconsfield

Welcome to the neighbourhood boys!
I'm talking about the two young chefs that brought No 5 London End to Beaconsfield.
They only opened last Friday and on Saturday we made a reservation...for Monday. Why? Because they are booked for the rest of the week! Monday outings are not what we do, but let me tell you, we should do it more! All day I was excited about our evening meal, which is much better than being miserable all day in the office about the prospects of another grey week ahead. 
Walking around Beaconsfield Old Town on a warm summer evening is relaxing and quiet. No5 stands right across the roundabout with a "grown up" look of blue-greyish exterior and copper lights hanging next to the big windows; the atmosphere inside, on the other hand, is easy-going, comfy and interesting.

Little twists pop up on the menu to keep you excited, too.
For starters, "pig's cheek croquettes" make an appearance. Don't knock them till you try them: they are crispy and light, with a smooth, almost pulled-pork-like filling and pork-belly, rich consistency. They come with charred apple reduction, very well balanced.
The mains evolve around steaks and burgers. If you are a vegetarian, your mains options are limited for the time being, to a halloumi or a soft-shell crab burger. But more fish will be appearing on the menu in the form of daily specials shortly, we were told.
I expected the place to be a bit more formal, to be honest, but I was happily getting comfortable in this very relaxed setting of bare brick walls and white-washed panelling. The waitresses were very accommodating and happy to chat away about the food.
I had the soft-shell crab brioche burger, complete with crunchy Asian coleslaw. I could do with a bit more sauce or maybe juicier coleslaw, because fried soft shell crab tends to be on he dry side, but that's just me.  Quite frankly, last time I had soft shell crab was in Bali two years ago, so I was super-content either way.

The sides are quirky too!  My burger came with truffle & parmesan frites, but here's the interesting part, the frites were fried with a coating of the parmesan, nor sprinkled afterwards as usual. Yummy, fluffy, crunchiness!
And how about Mac & Cheese with a topping of crackling? Just come in and order this with a glass of white wine and then have the doughnuts. Honestly, that's all you need!

One of the features I loved, was that No 5 windows look out to the quaint heart of Old Beaconsfield; the Old Town buildings intertwined with greenery and St Mary's bell tower popping up in the background. 

Time for dessert! Oh, too late to skip that, especially if you've seen and heard the tables around you having fresh, piping hot doughnuts with salted caramel sauce.
It feels like someone is giving you a hug, once you bite into this sweet cosiness!
My husband declared that if I can't find him at any point, I might as well look for him here, next to a dozen of these doughnuts!
© Life Love London

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