Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea

Image

It is the time of year when we all celebrate our mothers. Last year the pub we chose for lunch had a hidden surprise, the beer garden was tidal. We thought that having to climb up a fire escape clutching our roast dinners to avoid rising Thames water would make the most memorable Mother’s day yet. We might have been wrong.

This year we pre-planned. We booked an afternoon tea at the Knightsbridge Green Hotel. We had a voucher from TimeOut. It should have gone perfectly. We turned up at the hotel at the appointed time. There was a small room of full tables and no members of staff. The hotel receptionist said she was unable to help us, we needed to wait for dining room staff. They didn’t come. Eventually the only table for 6 became available so we sat down. A waitress turned up and looked confused. She told us we hadn’t booked. She insisted that our e-mail confirmation was for yesterday, even though it clearly said Sunday. She said they didn’t have enough cake to feed us. This was unacceptable – not enough cake! She went to get the manager, and after she left two women seated nearby called over to us. ‘Escape while you still can’ they said, ‘we have been here half an hour and we only have water so far.’ We needed no extra encouragement, we up and left.

Oh dear. Mother’s day not going well again. Rude waitress and no afternoon tea, mothers displaced in London with no cake in sight.We headed down the road and went to a safe haven, Harvey Nicks.  We were offered chocolate alcohol to taste as soon as we entered. Much happier mothers! Thanks Harvey Nicks.

Soon we were all sat down waiting for an afternoon tea! The Easter themed chocolate tea was a good treat. Strangely presented not in the normal tiers but on a large piece of plastic, but it looked impressive and sprawling. With so many of us, there were many opinions to be dealt with. Mothers always do have high expectations, and rightly so. Main areas we all agreed on; the savoury options were good but we needed more of it, the scones were too big because we couldn’t finish it, and the cake was a little heavy, also because none of us managed to get through it all! So in summary, a generous amount of cake that would have been easier to eat if it was a little lighter! For me the headline act was the homemade candy floss bedding for the chocolate eggs and macarons. The best presented part of the tea. The sandwiches were fine but nothing too special, the poached salmon on dark rye was the best. The scones were tasty, too large for us to eat two each! They did come with sultanas however which would not have been my preference if I were asked and I had to pick them all out. The various cakes were all nice and moist and tasty although still rather too raisiny for my liking. The one with orange curd was unusual in a good way and a dark chocolate tart was the perfect amount of not too sweet and not too bitter.The cake was let down by some very inviting looking chocolate Easter biscuits sprayed with gold which turned out to be inedibly burnt.

The service was very polite compared to our first experience. Our order didn’t turn up as quickly as our stomachs wanted and there was an incident with a mistaken tea, but we were given doggy bags with not a hint of judgement. The waiter even went back and fetched us Harvey Nichols carrier bags to display our doggy bags in high style. The atmosphere was lively as we were in the cafe but beautifully decorated with flowers and very spring like. Not a cosy tea shop, but far better than your average cafe in a department store experience. Truly another memorable adventure of a mother’s day – can’t wait for next year!

 

Ratings: I hope i have remembered these correctly! Tell me if not.

Cake:  Me: 5.5/7 Clare: 4.5/7 Nicki: 5/7 Jane (my mother) 5.5/7 Alison (mother of Clare) 5/7 Margaret (mater to Nicola): 6/7

Atmosphere: 5.5/7 – an average.

Image

Very Tasty Candyfloss!

Treacle, Flowers, Kahaila

20140324-213444.jpg

This week I was at work on Saturday. Boo. I had to think carefully about where to go on Sunday to make the most of a one day weekend. I went to a place that many people have heard about, but perhaps many have not ventured to.

It started off with a trip up the East London line – always far more pleasant than the tube. Then a short walk took us to Columbia road flower market! Only running on Sunday, this market is buzzing and beautiful. You may have to squeeze your way through the crowds but the sea of pretty flowers is worth it. The market sellers provide great comedy value – think of your typical burly, deep voiced, East London market trader. Now imagine him saying:

best orchids, I’ve got the best orchids here, better than Steve’s peonies

We hadn’t had time for breakfast because we went for a jog. Yes, I know, you were wondering, blog=jog is still going! 3 consecutive weekend jogs in a row. A personal record.
With our post jog empty stomachs rumbling we stumbled into the Cafe Columbia for tea and his&hers breakfast bagels. A lovely little place that I would definitely recommend.

20140324-211336.jpg

Cake! We were there to look at a place called Treacle. It wasn’t difficult to find, but a quick peer through the window didn’t show any cakes. Instead it appeared that Treacle was now the fancy wine bar next door! A pic of the cake-less shop to prove it is provided.

20140324-211856.jpg

Disappointed, we sought pastures new and headed to the Brick Lane market. The Columbia Road Flower market and the Brick Lane is a batman and robin-esque power duo of relaxed Sunday wandering. Brick lane has street food, local craft stalls and stolen bikes, so if yours has been stolen recently go down and take a look. You may be able to buy it back for a reasonable price.

We still wanted cake and luckily we soon came across a tantalising shop display. We were convinced and discovered the cafe Kahaila. It is a charity and church and gives all its profits to the local community, and they sell cake. I chose the rather adventurous rose, raspberry and pistachio. Charlie went for chocolate and banana. The cake was moist and the portions large, but all the flavour was in the icing. I discovered I like the flavour of rose in my cake, but I couldn’t taste any raspberry or pistachio despite there being bits of raspberry in the sponge. Charlie says his cake was everything he wanted from a cake – but nothing more. Plenty of ganache but no panache. (That was me not Charlie.) Atmosphere was pleasant, many East London residents using the free wifi and enjoying the hessian themed decor. Overall a fine place to have a quick sit down away from the bustle.

A good weekend in one day if ever there was one to be had. If you haven’t discovered the Brick Lane market on a Sunday yet I would suggest you go along, it’s a bit like Camden but without the tourists. So far.

Ratings:
Cake: Amy 4/7 Charlie 4.5/7
Atmosphere: 5.5/7 – very friendly, a charity! Not a cosy tea shop.

20140324-213358.jpg

20140324-213408.jpg

No Make Up Selfie

I can’t make my mind up about the #nomakeupselfie trend that has swept the internet. Is it a harmless way to raise money for charity? Or is it a social media phenomenon that is best avoided? Will someone come out and admit that it was a viral advert all along, or is it a grass roots attack on the expectation that women should always wear make-up?

I hoped that it would pass me by and I could avoid the issue, but this morning I had a little red notification on my Facebook account that could only mean one thing. I have been nominated. So I have been looking into the no make up selfie to see if I can find any evidence that it is either a good thing or bad.

Where did it start? The BBC points at many options. Was it a reaction to the selfie posed by many A-list celebs at the Oscars? Perhaps it was a backlash against the vitriol poured onto Kim Novak at the same event. An attempt to show solidarity and accept that we aren’t all perfect all the time. However it started, and part of me is still hoping that it was the originator of the neknominate campaign after they realised what a stupid idea that was, it didn’t start as a way to raise money for charity. Cancer Awareness UK have admitted that they did not start the campaign and simply saw it as an opportunity to raise money. They jumped on the band wagon, and it worked. So far they have raised over £2 million and the selfies are still flooding my news feed.

This is not the only time a charity has tried to raise money by encouraging women to go make-up free. The BearFaced campaign has run during the last two Children in Need fundraising events. Celebrities were pictured with no make-up on and a Pudsey pawprint on their cheek. It didn’t take off though. Were everyday women simply not bothered by celebrities taking off their make up? Did they just look a bit like we expected anyway? That was my thought. “Oh yes, that is a picture of Rachel Stevens with no make up on, she looks like Rachel Stevens, but less orange.” It was rather underwhelming. Escensual.com also set up a DareToBare campaign in September 2013. They wanted women to be sponsored for going without make-up to raise money for breast cancer. I hadn’t heard of it before. It simply hasn’t had the media coverage of the no make up selfie.

My question then is this: Why has it been so successful this time around? I think I have an answer – the power of peer pressure. The dangerous neknomination craze that surfaced recently saw many otherwise sensible young men try to outdo each other by downing horrific looking pints of who knows what. They were nominated publicly on social media sites and expected to post their attempts up for everyone to see. Nobody wanted to be left out. No man wanted to ‘lose face’ among his mates. The no make up selfie is having the same effect among women. With the added pressure of donating money to charity, surely no woman would want to be seen not to do this one little thing to fight cancer. Who is heartless enough that when asked by friends in public they wouldn’t post a photo for charity? It is only going without make up? Don’t you do that every day, when you wake up, or when you go to the gym?

But that is my problem. Why should not wearing make up be a brave act akin to running a marathon or swimming the channel? Many women across the world don’t wear make up every day. I sympathise with the sentiments of Yomi Adegoke who went on the Today programme to argue against the trend by saying that viewing women going without make up as brave was a poor reflection of the way that society sees women today. She is right on that one, it shouldn’t be brave. The media is flooded with images of ‘beautiful’ women. Flooding it with images of women looking beautiful and bare faced is a way of fighting back. A male friend of mine said on Facebook that he was yet to see a no make up selfie where he felt the woman would look better with her make up on. This should be the norm.

In conclusion, writing this blog has changed my mind. At first I thought that I would decide the no make up selfie wasn’t worth signing up to. It is an example of social media pressure forcing people to do something that they wouldn’t otherwise have done. It is charities jumping on the back of something they didn’t start. It is glamourising something that should be taken for granted. For this last reason I will take part. Women aren’t born wearing make up. We don’t wake up with make up on. We can’t hide our make-up-less faces from our partners. Why are we so often scared of being in public without our masks? This is a social media storm that is trying to do something for the greater good for once.

So here is a photo of me looking like I always look on a Sunday. No make-up, no hair straightened, no jewellery.

IMG_0366

Black Vanilla

20140316-181915.jpg

Sometimes I forget how awesome London is. I moan that it is full of tourists in the summer; crowding the centre, holding you up at the barriers, generally getting in your way. Then the sun comes out and London looks beautiful and I think “yes tourists, you are right, London is awesome.”

I took some friends along to Greenwich who hadn’t been along before. Greenwich is a place for sunshine. Parking at the top of the hill, cruising the market, visiting the naval college and imagining the filming of Thor: The Dark World and how come you didn’t know before so you could try to sneak a look. They were suitably impressed I am glad to say, like tourists.

We spent the afternoon doing girly things like catching up and looking at jewellery. We ate market stall food in the park. If you haven’t spent a sunny day in Greenwich I suggest you do soon. Go on, treat yourself, take the boat! Look at the Cutty Sark! Drink a pint next to the Thames!

Enough of sounding like a tourist brochure. As the day drew to a close it was the time for cake. Black Vanilla was what the book offered us for Greenwich. It was an ice cream parlour mainly but we found the cake towards the back. After some confusion over how to order we were sat down in the garden with tea and cake. 3 red velvets and 1 passion cake. The red velvet had a good chocolate flavour and the icing wasn’t too sweet but could have had a stronger cream cheese flavour. The passion cake had better icing but was a little stodgy. The atmosphere was poor and lacked a homely feel, but may have been better in the upstairs cafe. The service was also sub-standard. Our tea was confused on paying and forgotten when we were served. The name ‘Black Vanilla’ does sound rather cold though so perhaps not surprising. As the weather was also turning chilly we quickly headed back to the car before she was locked into Greenwich Park overnight.

Our rather mediocre cake experience did not put a dampener on the day and there was still time for some sunset photos before home.

Ratings:
Cake: Me 4/7 Rosie 5/7 Helen 4.5/7
Atomsphere: 4/7

20140316-182023.jpg

Blog = Jog

20140309-193100.jpg

What a beautiful weekend!! I was at work yesterday supervising children cutting down trees with saws in the sunshine. I wish my school had made me learn to use a saw. It seemed somehow an appropriate thing to teach girls to do on International Women’s Day. I hope you all had a liberating International Women’s Day, or Women’s Independence Day, as one of my form group called it. I fully appreciate how important my job is when I think of how far we (women, ladies, females, the fairer sex) have come, but also how far we have to go and how in my role as an educator of young women I can try to teach my students the importance of being a woman and carrying on a fight for true equality. I am still trying to get ‘woman up’ to catch on but it just doesn’t roll off the tongue. If you have a better alternative let me know.

Without time for a cake trip this week I decided to make time for some exercise instead. Although eating cake every weekend this year so far has been awesome I am worried for my waistline. So I went for a jog this morning. I normally jog once a year for a few minutes before realising that running is evil. I managed a complete circuit today. I might even go next week. This is definitive proof for everyone that eating cake improves your fitness. You can thank me later.

I am deceiving you. I have let you think I went without cake. I did not. When I arrived back from work there was a HUGE slab of chocolate truffle cake waiting for me. Charlie had picked it up from Del’ Aziz. This is one of my favourite cake places and will feature in its own blog at some point soon, but I will leave you with a picture….

20140309-193250.jpg

Konditor and Cook

20140302-151906.jpg

I have had a driving license for over 2 years now. I drive to work every day. I thought I could drive. Saturday morning tried to persuade me otherwise. On a trip to Tesco I stopped to fill up with petrol and, for the life of me, I could not undo the petrol cap. In the end a voice behind me asked if he needed to help. He did. Embarrassed I even said to the nice man “this never normally happens”. Not a lie, but only because the petrol cap has always been a mystery I have avoided. I once just drove home with it open.

Then to Tesco itself. I went to park, as one does, but yesterday my parking abilities had abandoned me. After 6 attempts I finally managed to back into a space while still leaving enough room to get out of the car. Embarrassment again; more so as a man in another car waited for me and gave me sympathetic smiles. I very much wanted to shout “I am not driving this badly because I am a woman! I am driving this badly because my boyfriend always parks the car and he isn’t here right now!” Just to let him know. As if that somehow makes it better.

But this blog is about cake. I was going home to Windsor for the weekend so the plan was to pick up some cake from Konditor and Cook at Waterloo and jump on the train home. Not now. Now I had a new Saturday challenge. Prove to myself I can drive. So we set off to tackle the congestion charge zone. 1.5hrs later and we arrived back in Berkshire without having crashed, driven down any bus lanes or maimed a cyclist. I have proven that a woman can drive through Central London on a Saturday with just as much skill as any man and perhaps a little more road rage; woe betide you if you don’t indicate around me. You will be on the sharp end of my strongly worded chastisement from the driving seat. I won’t go so far as to beep, because that is rude, but I will be miffed at you.

Our reward was tea and cake back at home. We shared everything 4 ways except the nutty pyramids which Dad ate, so the ratings this week will be per cake rather than person. Konditor and Cook did not let us down, the phrase “best brownies ever” was even heard. From me. The bakery I went to in Waterloo doesn’t have seating but is more than worth a trip to to pick up some cake. We had 3 types of brownie, 2 nutty pyramids, carrot cake and chocolate and hazelnut cake. The Boston brownie was the best but all were the perfect mix of soft, dense, squishy, chewy inside and crunchy outer. So many brownies are just chocolate cake pretending; these are the real deal.

Ratings: Brownies: 7 Cake: 6 Nutty Pyramids: 5 – we still aren’t really sure what they were.
Atmosphere: 7, there’s no place like home.

20140302-174328.jpg

20140302-174337.jpg