Eat | Brick & Liquor Tooting

brick & liquor tooting

brick & liquor tooting

brick & liquor tooting

Hooray for Saturday! This week seems to have flown by, which probably has something to do with it being an extremely busy one, full of work commitments and travel planning.  But yay, it’s Saturday again, the sun is shining, and I’m planning on heading into Covent Garden soon to pick up a few bits and pieces for my trip to India.  After that?  Who knows.  I’ll see where the evening takes me, which may well just be down the road to Tooting for a drink at Brick & Liquor.

I’ve been living in Tooting for nearly 8 months.  A big change from Fulham, my previous neighbourhood of 14 years.  But you know what?  As beautiful as Fulham is, I really enjoy living in Tooting.  It was just voted one of the 10th coolest neighbourhoods in the world!  There are so many new businesses popping up around here, every time I walk down the street there’s a new bar, restaurant or cafe.  Good thing food and drinks are a major priority in my life!

Last weekend we enjoyed a few early evening cocktails at Brick & Liquor, a gorgeous, dimly lit, cosy cocktail bar in Tooting.  We sat by the window, sipping the most amazing cocktails and watching the world go by.  I started with a salted caramel espresso martini, which along with the presentation being exquisite, the taste also matched, sweet, salty and dangerously delicious, consisting of Absolut vodka, espresso, cafe liquor, vanilla, salted caramel and a hint of orange.  Greg chose the Ninety9, an alcoholic take on UK’s famous 99 ice cream cone, made up of Absolut vodka, apple, vanilla liqueur, & vanilla foam and yes it literally tasted like childhood – with the alcohol as an exception obvs!

Drinks sunk, we moved on to round two, Greg going for an Eton’s Mess, the alcoholic version of a very British dessert, made with Absolut vodka, Crème De Cassis, lemon, raspberry & topped with toasted meringue.  I took the advice of our fabulous bar host, and settled on a Deconstruct Reconstruct consisting of Beefeater gin, lemon, sugar, egg white and Crème de Mure.  They were so pretty, I took like a million photos before we even had a sip, but when we finally did, we were seriously impressed.

The food menu was placed in front of us, and we thought why not, ordering perfectly cooked sweet potato fries (gluten free!), teriyaki steak skewers (also gluten free!) and chorizo and mozzarella arancini (not gluten free, but Greg enjoyed them!).  To be honest, my hopes weren’t super high for the food, I mean it’s a cocktail bar after all.  I couldn’t have been more wrong, the food was so soooo good!

As night fell, and Tooting’s Mitcham Road filled up with night revellers and street lights, we made our way home, whilst in deep discussion about future plans to take friends to Brick & Liquor Tooting for a night out.  We highly recommend!

Happy Saturday everyone x

Eat | Dinner at Chicama, Chelsea

Chicama London

One of my favourite restaurants to visit for a delicious weekend brunch is Pachamama in Marylebone.  I’ve written about their gluten free waffles here.  So it was a no-brainer when the opportunity arose to visit Chicama, the Chelsea based restaurant from the founders of Pachamama.

Arriving on a slightly chilly evening, I soon warmed up inside, sitting down by the window, then let my nosiness get the better off me, and walked around the restaurant to admire the pretty interior.  My waiter appeared soon after to introduce himself and chat cocktails with me.  I took his lead, and ordered his recommendation, a good choice, one that definitely warmed the toes!

Chicama specialises in seafood, and I was lucky enough to visit on an evening when there was a guest chef, so I had not one, but two menus to choose from.  Again, I took the advice of the staff, who by the way were fantastic in dealing with my ‘I’m sorry but I’m gluten intolerant’ apologetic face.  They made suggestions, it all sounded delicious, so I said yes to everything and soon enough I had a table full of a-maz-ing looking food to try.

I devoured everything from smoked aubergine with artichoke, bonito and goats cheese, to baked scallops with green chilli butter and crushed purple potatoes.  And of course, there was my second stomach, ready and waiting for dessert.  When it was suggested I try two desserts, I said ‘yes’ without a seconds hesitation.  Placed in front of me was a sweet potato creme brûlée, which was sooo creamy and sooo good I could’ve eaten three in one sitting, and strawberry sorbet with frozen marshmallow, almond sponge and huacatay (Peruvian black mint).  I left a spoonful of that in my bowl, not because I didn’t like it, I was just trying to pretend like I actually possessed some self control ;o)

The evening sky became dark, and rain clouds threatened to make my trip home a very wet one, so I called it a night and left the buzz and chatter of a full house in Chicama, heading out into the cool, crisp air and walking off some of my dinner as I wandered along the Kings Road.

If the thought of Peruvian food and a glass of Pisco sounds good to you, then trust me, make a reservation at Chicama, it’s a guaranteed good time!

(Whilst I was a guest of Chicama, all opinions are my own).

Detour | Florence in a Day

 

 

Our final day on our summer trip to Italy was spent in Florence.  We were flying out from there early morning, so it made sense to spend a day in the city exploring.

Now I know I likely won’t be too popular saying this.  It was my second trip to Florence,  the first time it didn’t make my heart beat, and on this second trip I was beginning to feel the same.  I think if you’re an art and history buff, you’d be in your element, but being that I’m neither of those things, I guess the city is lost on me a little.

We arrived early morning and made our way into the city centre, sitting down for iced coffee right next to Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, which really is an amazing sight to see.  Wandering through the tiny streets, we stopped for gelato and strolled towards the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge to peek in shops and people watch.

It was sometime in the afternoon where we both looked at each and felt a bit like ‘Well? What should we do now?’.  I jumped on Google, and a few minutes later we walked in the direction of San Lorenzo, and discovered the coolest vintage clothing store, Desii Vintage, amongst some other lovely boutiques.  It’s amazing how a bit of retail therapy can perk you up right?  A little further down the street we stopped for a drink in the gorgeous Konnubio restaurant, who’s interior is so, so amazing!  We definitely felt more optimistic about the rest of the afternoon from here on in!

Heading once again over Ponte Vecchio Bridge, we decided to explore the neighbourhood of Oltrarno, and it was here that we found ourselves standing in the most beautiful mens bespoke shoe store, chatting to the owner and shoe mastermind Mario Bemer, about his amazing creations and the fact he makes them for Daniel Day Lewis!  The rest of the afternoon, we strolled through streets and alleys, looking at delicious food markets, shops and street art.

As we found a place for dinner a little later, I sat there convinced that Florence has many wonderful places to discover, if you know where you’re going.  And I’d definitely not done enough homework on the city.  We ended our day on a high, a sugar high actually, eating the biggest gelato we’d consumed throughout our vacation.  It was gluttonous and I loved every bite.

Darkness fell, and we wandered back in the direction of our hotel, another Italian vacation ticked off, and a bunch of memories to treasure.

Detour | My Favourite Tuscany Towns and Villages

Tuscany Towns and Villages
Tuscany Towns and VillagesTuscany Towns and Villages

When you think of Tuscany, you likely conjure up images of never-ending vineyards, medieval towns, wine tastings and endless sunshine.  And you’d be right about all of those things.  Tuscany is one of those dreamy destinations where reality matches your imagination.

This was my third trip to Tuscany, and I was looking forward to revisiting some of my favourite Tuscany towns and villages as well as discovering new ones.  From exploring narrow, cobbled streets that wind through hilltop towns to tasting all sorts of gelato flavours at every stop we made.  And then there’s the local wine of course.

Below I’ve shared all the Tuscany Towns and Villages we visited on this particular trip….

Pisa

Everyone has heard of Pisa, the Tuscan city made famous by the Leaning Tower.   Pisa has often been one of those fly in or fly out points when I’ve been travelling around Italy, and therefore I’ve somehow managed to end up there three times.  Is it a destination place?  In my opinion, no.  However, if you find yourself passing through, it’s worth spending a day, or one night (no more) and ticking the Leaning Tower of Pisa off your bucket list.  It’s a very walkable city, with plenty of bars and restaurants dotted around, and if you love gelato, then I recommend trying the Meringue flavour at La Bottega del Gelato.

Certaldo

Certaldo is the cutest medieval walled town, that feels like a movie set when you walk around.  It’s hard to believe something so charming is a real life, working town.  We accessed the town via a gondola and spent a couple of hours walking around, taking in every inch of how sweet this hilltop spot is.   I’d recommending staying for lunch or dinner as there are plenty of gorgeous restaurants and cafes dotted around.

San Gimingano

San Gimignano is a must-see on nearly every Tuscan tourist’s list.  It therefore makes it almost impossible to find a parking space during the day!  Because of this very reason, we paid two evening visits to San Gimignano for their famous gelato.  It is a magical town, full of buzzing piazza’s, medieval towers, and narrow stone streets.  You’ll be spoilt for choice with restaurants there, but as I already mentioned, it’s the gelato everyone talks about.  Gelateria Dondoli is world famous due to its many awards, and therefore is a necessity to try right?  A highlight there was the gorgonzola gelato, who knew blue cheese ice cream could actually taste good!

Monteriggioni

Monteriggioni, is one of my favourite spots.  A completely walled medieval village located on top of a hill, it is tiny, and a lovely place to visit.  With a large piazza in the centre, the village is filled with cute coffee shops, lovely home decor stores, and restaurants.  The city walls and its 14 towers are still intact, you can even take a walk alongside them on a walkway.  The saying ‘good things come in small packages’ rings true for Monteriggioni.

Volterra

Volterra is a larger town, now made famous by the Twilight novels and movies.  I’ve been pre and post Twilight, and it was good to see that nothing had changed.  High up on a hilltop, you’ll find yourself wandering down alleyways and discovering piazzas at the end of them.  There are basilica’s, delicious deli’s, pretty shops, and plenty to see.  You can easily spend a day in Volterra walking inside the medieval walls.

Happy travels,

Annmaree x

Detour | Relaxing in Tuscany, Our Farmhouse Stay

Croce di Bibbiano

On my recent trip to Italy, the majority of the time was spent relaxing at a farmhouse in Tuscany.  We stayed in a gorgeous place, Croce di Bibbiano, in the Chianti region and it was every bit as dreamy as it sounds.

Choosing a place to stay wasn’t so dreamy.  There are so many options, from super cheap to ridiculously expensive, then you’ve got to decide which region of Tuscany you want to stay in, do you want your room to have a kitchen or not, is it close enough to some of the towns and villages you want to visit, etc etc.  The search began a couple of months before departure, and I would spend hours trawling the internet, only to find somewhere, enquire and then receive a reply that they were fully booked.  STRESSFUL FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS.  By a fantastic stroke of luck, Greg aka The Boy Next Door, came across Croce di Bibbiano on one of his searches, we enquired, and thankfully they had space, our farmhouse in Tuscany was finally booked.

As soon as we pulled into the long cyprus tree lined driveway leading down to the farmhouse, we knew this place was going to be great.  And we were absolutely right.  We were greeted with a warm welcome from the coolest of couples, Esther and Federico, who run the farmhouse.  They showed us to our room, and it was gorgeous!  Our room was very large, with a rustic, farmhouse feel, complete with a bed, sofa, desk, and wardrobe, and a good sized bathroom too.  It was everything we had hoped for and more.

Dropping our bags and wandering around Croce di Bibbiano, we knew we were in for a week of relaxation.  It’s located on a hilltop that looks over the vineyards and out towards San Gimignano, one of my favourite Tuscan towns.  The large pool is lined with plenty of sun loungers, and we often sat poolside to watch the sun go down in the evening, whilst sipping on local wine.

The restaurant is gorgeous.  We dined al fresco, and for the gluten intolerant and coeliac’s amongst us, I cannot sing Croce di Bibbiano’s praises enough.  They go to extreme lengths to make sure you are able to enjoy a lovely gluten free dinner.  The same happens at breakfast each morning, where Esther would bring me my very own plate of meats and cheeses, yoghurts and gluten free cakes.  I love Italy for this, there is no country in the world that caters to us gluten intolerant lot more!

We were lucky to be staying in one evening when Esther and Federico hosted a tomato festival, inviting guests and locals to enjoy everything from bloody mary’s, to tomato salad to tomato sorbet (surprisingly good!), outside on the lawn.  All for ten euro’s.  It was amazing, with everyone milling about, enjoying wine and the never-ending tomato themed buffet.

Our time at this amazing Tuscan farmhouse ended all too soon, but we enjoyed every single minute of our stay there and cannot recommend this place enough.  If you’re looking for pure relaxation, and a location that is in close proximity to some of Tuscany’s bests towns and villages, Croce di Bibbiano is the perfect spot.  I cannot wait to return here for another vacation!

Thank you Esther and Federico for making our vacation so wonderful.  We enjoyed everything from breakfast, to the pool, to our conversations with you both!  You are wonderful hosts.

Annmaree x

Detour | Cinque Terre, Italy

I’d been thinking about it for so long, years in fact.  A return trip to Cinque Terre.  Having visited around 13 years ago, I always had that itch to experience this stunning coastal area of Italy again, to walk the trails between the villages and swim in the turquoise water.

So I made it happen.  I researched, booked flights, planned train journeys and chose our Airbnb.  For those that haven’t heard of the Cinque Terre, the Italian to English translation is ‘Five Lands’, and this is made up of five small villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso located on the west coast of Italy. They are also listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.  In a nutshell, it’s definitely one for the travel bucket list.

Having stayed in Monterosso on my first visit to Cinque Terre, I decided to try somewhere new, and settled on an Airbnb in Vernazza.  It was perfect.  Vernazza is such a beautiful little village, full of life and colour.  Our accommodation was located on the ‘main street’ – think busy walking path between the train station and the sea, not a road with cars.  It was a lovely place to stay and I highly recommend it, find the listing here.  We booked for two nights, flying into Pisa, then taking a train to Vernazza via La Spezia.  It’s all very straight forward, and train tickets don’t need to be bought ahead of time.

Arriving late on a Friday evening, due to high winds in Pisa and therefore three hour delays leaving the UK, we still managed to drag ourselves out of bed on Saturday morning, wake up with coffee and start our journey on the walking trail towards Corniglia.  The walking trails vary from flat and easy, to uphill stairs that you’ll curse at and swear you’ll never reach the end of.  It’s about taking things at your own pace, so if you’re about easy and breezy, I suggest never coming on a walking trail with us two psycho’s, who walk at the speed of a slow jog.  I think it’s the Londoner in us!  The views you’ll witness are breathtaking, and worth those stair climbs I promise!

The walking trails from Corniglia to Manarola, and then on to Riomaggiore were closed when we visited, so after exploring Corniglia, we jumped on the train to Manarola for a wander around, followed by another train all the way back to Monterosso, the most northern of the five villages.  Monterosso is also the largest village, and the beach is literally packed with sun umbrellas and people.  It’s a beautiful place though, and there’s plenty of restaurants and shops to explore too.

We had one more walking trail to complete, the biggest of all, from Monterosso back to Vernazza.  Gelato was consumed, all in the name of energy (and morale) boosting, and then we set off.  The walking time said around 2.5 hrs, but we managed it in a little over an hour, like I said, we don’t do leisurely strolling!  This walk starts out with a cruel amount of stairs that you must ascend to get on to the trail up high in the mountains.  It is a little brutal, but you’ll have a laugh with other tourists as you’re bent over trying to catch your breath every couple of minutes.

Once you’re up high in the mountains, the brutal parts are few and far between, and it’s a really enjoyable walk, particularly when you finally catch a glimpse of Vernazza from way up high.  It’s a beautiful, colourful sight to see, and the best part of all that hard work walking?  You’re in Italy, so you can reward yourself with pizza and an Aperol Spritz that evening!

On the Sunday morning, we woke very early, and walked back up the hill to the view point over Vernazza.  We may have climbed over a fence that had been built to keep tourists away from the very thing we were there to do, snap some photos of Vernazza from a birds eye view.  Hence the getting up early, before anyone could tell us off.  I take no responsibility for anyone reading this and doing the same thing, the risk is yours!  (It was totally worth it though hah!).

Packing our bags and dropping them off at the train station storage facility, we took a train to Riomaggiore, to explore some more.  We ate our daily store bought lunch of prosciutto, cheese, crackers and tomatoes, and then returned to Vernazza to collect our bags.   As I sat down in my Pisa bound train seat, and the train chugged along the coastline, I felt so pleased I’d returned to this magical place.  It’s a must-see, so do yourself a favour and go!

Annmaree x

Eat | Brunch at Where The Pancakes Are

Where The Pancakes Are

Love Pancakes?  Living in or visiting London?  Then you must head to where the pancakes are in Flat Iron Square.  It was my second visit, when we went for my birthday brunch on August’s Bank Holiday Saturday, and I was so looking forward to it.  I absolutely love pancakes, and the fact that where the pancakes are cater to us gluten free lot (and vegans too!), means I can indulge just like everyone else.

The restaurant itself is beautifully interior decorated, with indoor and outdoor seating.  On this occasion, we decided to sit inside, where I had a view of the chef’s working flat out, creating stacks of delicious pancakes, both sweet and savoury for the diners.

Between four of us eating, two of us settled on the Hummingbird Pancakes with cinnamon poached pineapple, greek cream , lime syrup & zest, pomegranate and toasted coconut and the other two ordered the American Pancakes with smoked streaky bacon, blueberries and maple syrup.  Two orders of gluten free pancakes, two orders of regular pancakes, four happy customers.

From coffee, to green juice, to Aperol spritz, the drinks menu is extensive too.  We stuck with green juice and coffee on this particular visit, the perfect accompaniments for brunch.

It’s a great spot for breakfast, brunch or lunch, because pancakes are definitely a perfectly acceptable meal any time of the day!  With fabulously friendly staff, and mouthwatering food, it’s definitely one to add to your London foodie list.

where the pancakes are….
Arch 35a
85a Southwark Bridge Road,
London SE1 0NQ
0207 407 8408

Birthday Balloons… Another Year Older

birthday
birthday

And just like that, I’m another year older.  39 in fact!  My 12 year old self wouldn’t have been able to comprehend that I’d ever reach such an age.  But alas, here I am, turning 39 years old on August 26th.

Do I feel older?  Do I feel different?  Am I upset to be 39?  No, no and no.  Shit happens.  And I feel better than I did 10 years ago, so there’s that.  I believe as long as you look after yourself, eat well, exercise and laugh a lot, age is just a number, and you’ll always feel young!

I had a lovely birthday, starting with lots of presents, followed by brunch at Where The Pancakes Are.  My parents are in town, so after brunch we took them around one of my favourite foodie markets at Maltby Street, before heading back home to change and make our way to my favourite bar in London, Frank’s, in Peckham.

We arrived at Franks with fingers crossed behind our backs, as the day was sunny and hot (a miracle!), and that usually means a very long line snaking around the Bussey Building to get up to the rooftop bar.  Luck was on our side, and we swanned straight in, ordered drinks and sat down under the scorching sunshine, sipping rose, and gazing at London’s skyline.  More drinks followed at another of my favourite bars, Bar Story, before we wandered along to Pedler for dinner, another London spot I absolutely love.

Before I knew it, the day was over, I was well and truly 39, and life moved on.  Thank you to everyone who sent online messages, gifts, texts and cards, I treasured every single one of those moments.

I’m another year older.  And I’m totally okay with that!

Annmaree x

(Outfit details: Polka Dot top from H&M, Yellow Skirt from Zara, Blue linen wrap dress from Tobi, White shoes from Zara Kids, Black jumpsuit from New Look)

birthday

birthday

Detour | Relaxing Under the Tuscan Sun(set)

Poolside in Tuscany

Poolside in Tuscany

Poolside in Tuscany

Under the Tuscan Sun

Tuscany sunset

Poolside in Tuscany

Poolside in Tuscany

Aperol Spritz

Poolside in Tuscany

Poolside in Tuscany

Under the Tuscan Sun

Hello everyone! I hope you’re all having a good week wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.  I can’t believe my trip to Italy is over already, and I’m back in London.  

I had a lovely ten days in Italy, and I’ll write a bunch more about it soon.   My parents arrive from New Zealand tomorrow, so I thought I’d kick start the first Italy post today before I get sidetracked being official tour guide to my mum and dad.

We saw so much on this trip, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Tuscan villages and Florence.  There were moments of non-stop moving from A to B and other moments of stillness and relaxation.  I had planned our trip this way to take advantage of seeing as much as we could with the time that we had, hence the multiple destinations.

I’d been feeling pretty exhausted before leaving for Italy, it’s in my nature to have a constant overflowing to-do list, both work and personal related.  I rarely relax and just watch a tv show, or read a book.  I’m always thinking, over-thinking, planning, rushing between jobs and starting little personal projects, which by the end of some days, I’m so wired come bedtime that I don’t even have a restful sleep.

By the time we were a couple of days into our Italy trip, the busiest part of the itinerary, I could feel my all too familiar anxiety rising, which had me stressing about things that didn’t need to be stressed about.  Easier said than done when you’re in the throes of anxiety.

When we arrived at our gorgeous farmhouse accommodation, Croce di Bibbiano, near San Gimignano, I was all out of energy and rational thinking (anyone want to come on vacation with me? Hah!).   I discovered the best thing I could do was to let go of what I thought we ‘should’ do, and what we ‘needed’ to tick off our vacation to-do list.  Instead I accepted that it was okay to just do nothing.  What a concept!  Not one that comes naturally to me, but boy did it feel good when I allowed myself to relax under the Tuscan sun.

Looking back on my vacation, I realise my favourite moments were sitting poolside, in the early evening, when it was still warm enough to lounge around in a bikini.  The sun would be setting behind San Gimignano in the distance, and the other guests would have departed for dinner.  There was silence, a sense of calm, a beautiful Tuscan sunset to gaze out at, and usually a glass of rosé to sip on.

I’d no idea that the quiet, still moments in Tuscany would be my favourite memories.  I thought I’d feel complete seeing as many places as I could possibly squeeze into our day.  How wrong I was.  That’s not to say I didn’t love our little road trips, and the gallons of gelato I ate around Italy, but learning to stop, and not feel guilty for doing so, was a huge lesson learned and one I’ll try to keep in mind for future vacations.

I’m already dreaming of stillness under the Tuscan sun on a future trip, sitting poolside, soaking up the Italian rays, and doing absolutely nothing.  Who knew doing nothing could be so fulfilling.

Annmaree x

(Outfit details: Pineapple Bikini from Shein, White Romper Playsuit from Tobi, Necklace and Bracelet from Eden Zoe, Boater Hat from eBay, White Embroidered Dress from Primark).

Under the Tuscan Sun

Poolside in Tuscany

Under the Tuscan Sun

Tuscany Sunset

Under the Tuscan Sun

Poolside in Tuscany

San Gimignano sunset

Detour | Time Out in France

Countryside France

London life can be utterly exhausting.  And lately, I’d felt exactly that.  Exhausted.  Rushing between my various jobs, and keeping up with my personal commitments and projects had me feeling overwhelmed and anxious.  I’d already said no to a wonderful invitation to spend four days in France at my friends country house, trying to be a financially responsible adult and all that.  Yet here I was, sat on a bus one afternoon feeling completely frazzled, and I suddenly thought ‘maybe I should go to France’.  Two hours later, I booked my flight, and four days after that I was standing in Pret at Heathrow Airport, ordering coffee because our flight was super early in the morning, and subsequently spilling half of it down my top as we saw the final boarding call for our plane, and had to make a dash towards our gate.

Less than two hours later, we were in our hire car and on our way to what has become to me, my own little rehab in the French countryside.  It’s my third visit to my friends gorgeous countryside home, 1.5 hours from Lyon, and it’s quickly becoming a place that I know I’ll arrive at and all the worries of the world will leave me.  My shoulders will feel lighter, and I will be able to do the unthinkable and re-laaaaax.

We spent four perfect days in France, and even though the weather didn’t play ball the whole time, we still managed to sunbathe, swim, drink rosé by the pool, and take walks in the countryside.  When the rain and thunder arrived, which it usually did in the afternoon, we’d take a drive to the supermarket, stocking up on every flavour of Lindt chocolate that doesn’t exist in the UK, and more rosé.  The evening was spent eating around the dining table together, sharing stories, and laughing a whole lot.  Other evenings we’d retreat to the upstairs snug, laying out in a total sloth like fashion on the huuuuuge sofa’s and watch comedy shows together.  There was no need to rush and sightsee, this perfect little piece of France was enough.

I was so glad I took the plunge and booked my ticket last minute, so I could forget about work, forget about everything on my to-do list, and just live happily in the moment with my darling friends.

Thank you to my wonderful friend for always welcoming me to your piece of perfection in France! x