Posts filed under drink

My London | Syrup of Soot

I’m sharing one of my favourite spots with you today. It’s tiny and pretty… and luckily for you, it’s just across from the British Museum and really easy to visit when you come to London. Not only is it pretty and well-located, but hey- it’s actually fantastic food and coffee, too.


SYRUP OF SOOT

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This smart little coffee shop opened up a couple of years ago on Museum Street, just out the front gates of the British Museum. While it’s small, it’s got surprising sunlight in the back room- making it a nice place to go on a dreary day. It also has a downstairs area that makes it an easy spot to go with if you’re with more than just a friend or two. (My last group pf students loved to rendezvous there after class.)

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While the coffee is good throughout the day, my favourite time of day to go is at lunch. With an always-changing menu, you can fill up a plate of the chef’s daily creations for a fresh, healthy lunch for £10. (Okay, not exactly cheap- but the quality is high and the portions are generous.)

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So when you’re near the British Museum, stop by and have a chai latte or lunch from Syrup of Soot. If you’re anything like me (or any of my friends that have been drug here at my insisting), you’re really gonna fall hard for it.

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SYRUP OF SOOT | 38 Museum St, Bloomsbury, London WC1A 1LP, UK | @syrupofsoot


Looking for other great coffee shops in London? I don’t blame you, I always am, too…. 

Find my favourites here on my London Guide

or join me for a quick cup at a local favourite, Swallow Coffee in Shepherds Bush



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on February 2, 2018 and filed under eat, drink, london, my london favourites, my london.

My London | Espresso Base

It’s funny how certain routines can keep us from actually interacting with the people and places that we pass everyday. I’ve been walking passed a particular church courtyard, St. Georges, for years on my way in to work. I’ve always noticed that there is a tiny cart selling coffee tucked in the back shaded by the grandeous columns of the church. But who has time to stop in when you’re that close to work? Never me.

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The other day, my lecture finished a bit early and Tyler had Edie. I was truly alone and ahead of schedule for the first time in ever… I could do whatever I wanted to do and kill time before picking Viola up from school.

It was pretty awkward.

I piddled around doing mundane errands and peeking touristy shops that I had zero interest in actually buying anything from… then stumbled past that same church courtyard and decided to take a closer look.

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I’m so glad that I did. As it became my turn to order, a friendly Italian man asked for my order and then, shortly after, where I was from. In a city like London, this is a question that many people stop asking after a year or two. You realise you’ve met so many people from most places… and you kinda stop caring. Being from a different place is the norm. It feels a bit ordinary.

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But not to Gennaro. Even though he’s lived in London for a few decades, and has the gift of connecting with people in a way that a city like London often dulls. He’s interested and kind, even when you say something really ridiculous. (Example: “Oooh, what does that sign mean, "Monday- Friday?” Do you do something special on those days?” Him: “Umm… no, those are the days that I’m open.” Hahah!) We both laughed at that… and it felt like he was laughing with me and not at. Though, to be honest, he totally should have been. 

The thing about Espresso Base is that you’re not just getting to drink coffee made by one of London’s most endearing people. You’re getting to drink really exceptional coffee made by one of London’s most endearing people. He’s strict about not adding sugar to the coffee, so much so that it costs £0.10 per sugar. He is unapologetic about the time it takes to make coffee, and he explains that his coffee is not served scalding because overheating the milk ruins the flavour. (In my opinion, this makes it perfect to drink upon receiving.)

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When you go to Espresso Base, you’ll find that you’ve unlocked one of London’s treasures. These are the types of places and people that make living in a crazy city like London palatable. They make the constant flux of people feel steady, and make you feel rooted in an abyss of concrete and chain shops. 

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So go on, stop by Espresso Base and meet Gennaro. Drink his coffee, and know that, in the shadows of the British Museum, you’ve found something really noteworthy.

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ESPRESSO BASE | St. Georges Court, Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2SE


Looking for more great spots to try in London? 
Check out my London Guide or browse my past posts on London.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 1, 2017 and filed under london, eat, drink, my london favourites, my london.

Bath with Coffee | Mokoko Coffee

Last week, I took a group to Bath for the day. This little town is definitely one of my very favourite day-trips from London. It’s three hours away, so it’s definitely a bit further than I’d like- but if you aren’t up for driving, a train can be an easy way to get there mindlessly.

But I wasn’t going mindlessly, I was planning a class, chatting with students and taking care of a baby on our coach trip there. When we got there, the combination of a long bus trip and early AM start had me sliding into that blur of fatigue. Luckily, our first stop (the Roman baths) was within reach of some coffee. Some might fine coffee, at that. 

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MOKOKO, BATH

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This coffee shop sits just in the Abbey courtyard in Bath- giving it prime real-estate by the city’s two largest attractions: The Roman Baths & the Bath Abbey. Mokoko is, originally, a Bristol-bron shop, but has grown into Bath. 

Expect expertly-made coffee… with all the hipster trimmings. An oat-milk flat white, you say? No worries. They’ve got you covered. (I jest, but that was actually my order. Ha! Takes one to know one, I guess.)

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But what good is cool, delicious coffee if it goes unmatched with something delicious to eat? Good question. Luckily, Mokoko has window(s) full of homemade cakes arranged very alluringly. Try their Hummingbird Cake. It’s just so dang good. Or just go ahead and try them all. You probably won’t regret it.

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But you may regret not snagging one of the picnic tables outside on a sunny day. What a place to sip some coffee, eat some cake, and smooch your baby. Lucky me!

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MOKOKO | 7 Dorchester St, Bath BA1 1SS, UK

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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

To A Tea | Number Sixteen

If you’ve read this blog for anytime, you’ll have heard about my friend, Amber. We’ve been friends for a long time during our London adventure- through good times and bad. She held my baby shower for me. My sisters came and crashed at her flat when the girls were born. We flew to Hawaii to be in her wedding with her Tyler. (Makes it easier when your friends have the same husband name as yours, doesn’t it?) We have been through a lot over the past years… and one of the ways we have stay close is, well, constantly rotating being pregnant between us! 

Each time we have a baby to celebrate, we do it in style. Whether its a traditional baby shower, a girls day trip to Paris, a posh picnic in the park…. We do what we can stop and celebrate the moment together. 

For this sweet baby, Amber booked us a girls day out in London. First up: massages in Mayfair at Illuminata. We had lush massages there and then cruised on to our afternoon tea at a place I had been dying to try- Number Sixteen Hotel in South Kensington. I had mentioned it ages ago, and as good friends do, she made a mental note and made it happen for a special day out. 


NUMBER SIXTEEN HOTEL

To start, I should say that this hotel is owned by the same group (Firmdale Hotels) that owns Ham Yard Hotel, which I blogged about previously, I feel like the branding of the group definitely overlaps between properties, but are both independently worth trying for their own merit. The price point and setting at both feels relaxed and cool… with a great sense of design. 

As you may quickly note, the two wow factors of afternoon tea at Number Sixteen Hotel are the garden and the price. The gorgeous garden is intimate and a plush oasis in Central London. There are very few tables, so be prepared to wait if the person seated at the table in the booking decides to perch. (We waited for 45 minutes to be seated from our booking time, as the person at our table decided to put in her headphones and pull out her laptop. Yuck.)

The garden has a small water feature that runs through the back half of it, a coveted gazebo at the far end, sparsely dotted with small tables throughout it, and a seemingly endless green background of pretty plants and flowers.

If the weather turns soggy, there is a small airy dining room (The Orangery) just off the garden where the tea service continues. While it doesn’t have the draw that the garden has, it’s definitely still a lovely backup.

When your tea arrives, expect the classic three-tiered offerings: sandwiches on bottom, scones (plain & fruited) with cream and jam in the middle, and a variety of homemade cakes and sweets crowing the top. There is a small, basic selection of teas to choose from- afternoon blend, earl grey, etc- to choose from included in the price, or you can upgrade to a more extensive list for a few pounds more. Find the full afternoon menu for the Number Sixteen Hotel here.

While the food and setting is ideal, the price really makes it the perfect moment- £29 for the summer Grayson Perry themed afternoon tea, and £22 for the standard afternoon tea tea resumes after September 10. It’s a price that is hard to beat in Central London.

To book your own table, book through the booking form on their website or contact the hotel directly at +44 (0) 20 7589 5232


NUMBER SIXTEEN | 16 Sumner Place, London SW7 3EG | sixteen@firmdale.com 




*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My Notting Hill | Farm Girl Cafe

For a while, I've been waiting to try the infamous (or shall I say, "in(stagram)famous") rose latte from Farm Girl on Notting Hill's Portobello Road. But let's be honest: this place is made for women and it was going to be a hard sell to drag Tyler and company out to a place that serves health food and girly drinks when places like Granger & Co. are so nearby.

When my sweet friend, Georgie, recommended it for the place for a meeting- I jumped at the chance.

We had such a nice morning- clear skies, early enough to avoid waiting for a coveted table in the garden and great chat. (Though to be fair, she's so funny you don't need a great setting to enjoy an hour with her. She is a guaranteed treat for a great conversation!) The experience was overall really lovely, but I thought I'd give a quick review in case you want to go, too.


Farm Girl Cafe

Tucked in discreetly off Portobello's most popular row of coloured houses, you'll find Farm Girl Cafe. It's pretty vine-covered entrance make the walk-up appeal really enchanting. Seating is airy and pretty- regardless of if you sit inside or out. (Though it was gorgeous when we were there, so I opted for a pretty seat outside.)

The menu is healthy- think açai bowls, buckwheat pancakes, vegan donuts and avocado toast. It's more or less like you've been transplanted to L.A. for brunch. The prices are a bit steep (I think my açai Bowl was £12 by the time I added on granola?), but with people constantly moving in and out of the cafe- they don't need to worry about if people will pay.

The showstoppers are the quirky drinks the make at the bar... rose lattes dusted in dried rose petals, the bright blue butterfly matcha or the red hibiscus matcha. We opted to try the rose lattes, and, well, it tastes like rose water in your coffee. Not sure if I'd reorder it, to be honest, but it was fun to try and pretty to look at.

The food was good- my bowl was refreshing and massive. The buckwheat pancakes with coconut yoghurt and strawberries a hit... but the £3 vegan donut was a bit sad and a reminder as to my fervour for "real" American donuts. 

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The service was a mix of really sweet and really, gulp, salty. Trying to ask the barista where the bathroom was felt like asking Regina George for a ride home from school, but our server was really sweet and the overall vibe felt friendly.

All in all- I'd recommend Farm Girl. It's pretty, the food is nice and the pretty setting is hard to beat. Feel free to add it to your day in Notting Hill... just go early to get a good table without a wait, as tables are first come, first served.


Farm Girl Cafe | 59A Portobello Rd, London W11 3DB, UK 


Find more of the best places to eat in Notting Hill here on my guide, or search my dedicated series My Notting Hill for full posts on what's great in this special area of London.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

St. Andrews | Afternoon Tea at The Old Course Hotel

On my last work trip before this baby arrives, I headed up the East Coast of Scotland for a long weekend trip to St. Andrews and beyond. While we were headed to some lovely sites outside of St. Andrews, I have to be honest; I was the most excited about this portion of the trip. I absolutely love St. Andrews, and have gone through silly trains of thought that have nearly made me relocate there just for the sheer pleasure of residing in that sweet coastal town in Scotland. (Okay, Tyler wouldn’t really ever let this happen… but if I weren’t married to him, who knows where I’d be.)

Since the group that I’m with is all females, we opted to have afternoon tea at the Old Course Hotel with them. At £20 per person, this is one of the most reasonably priced teas that I know of… and it’s setting in the airy conservatory along the golf course with the sea alongside it is just, well, perfect.

The conservatory is slightly ethereal and the crisp design of the space makes it feel extra special. The actual afternoon tea is really yummy, too. Warm scones, fresh jam, homemade cakes and pastries crowning the plates of little sandwiches just feels perfect. The hotel also boasts some great teas to choose from, too. 

After the tea, my colleague and I tucked into the hotel’s incredible Kohler Spa. Ever since staying at the hotel when I was first pregnant with the twins, I’ve been dreaming of trying out the spa. (It was fully booked when we stayed at the hotel!) So a week in advance, I called in and got us treatments booked for after our afternoon tea. 

The spa experience there was all I hoped it would be- with Kohler owning the hotel, the water fixtures are impeccable. Every aspect is perfectly done- because they have such great water fixtures. Expect fantastic showers, expansive pools and steam rooms, a rooftop hot tub overlooking the golf course and relaxation rooms to sit in all along the way

I had the NEOM pregnancy treatment.  It was a massage + body scrub for 80 minutes. It was only £90, which felt like a steal compared to the prices for luxury hotels in London. The treatment was lovely, and is something I’d definitely recommend to all my pregnant friends. (Find their complete listing of services and treatments here).

After my session, they brought me into the Deep Relaxation Room and tucked me in (literally) on a little reclining chair with a cosy blanket, got me a drink and some nibbles and left me to it. I spent another two hours in the spa- relaxing there, taking a long shower and lingering doing extraneous grooming that I never have time to do at home (like shape my eyebrows and shave above my knee). It was glorious and I felt entirely unrushed. It was how all spa treatments should be, in my opinion.

So while the spa at the Old Course Hotel in St. Andrews is one that is a bit too far away for me to enjoy on a regular basis, I can definitely say that it is completely worth visiting when you make it to St. Andrews. Not only was it one of the best pregnancy massages I’ve had, the entire spa experience made it feel even more enjoyable.


A FEW TIPS 

Book in advance of your stay to avoid disappointment. You can email to book at reservations@oldcoursehotel.co.uk

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Bring a swimsuit. The spa has so many great rooms, pools, sauna/steamroom- you really miss out if you don’t have a swimsuit to enjoy them.

 

Give yourself a good buffer of time before and after your treatment. You’re going to want to enjoy the spa for all it has to offer.


Pregnant and feeling like you need a spa break? (You probably do!) Find my reviews of other great UK spas here:

FOUR SEASONS  |  BAGLIONI HOTEL  |  COWSHED SPA  |  ROSEWOOD LONDON


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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Pack Your Bags | Luss on Loch Lomond

Well, here we are- up in Scotland for the week! On our way up to the west coast, we stopped at the famous Loch Lomond for a few hours in the tiny town of Luss.

When we arrived, Viola informed me that she was going to let our coach driver know that "in English, we call a 'loch' a 'pond.'" Luckily, as most Scots seem to be, he is a good sport and thought it was pretty funny. (And to be honest, I kinda did, too.)


LUSS, SCOTLAND

This small lakeside (or "lochside?") town offers travelers heading to the West Coast and Isle of Skye a scenic stop on their journey. While the parish church may have an original baptismal font dating back to the 5th century, the truth is- there's not a huge historical drive to see the town. What makes it worth the time then?

Well, to put it plainly: she's a looker. With tiny cottages lining the street covered in bright flower boxes and huge bushes of fluffy flowers lining the path- Luss merges a stunning lakeside view with a perfect little town.

If you go, expect to spend 1-2 hours walking to the pier, grabbing a coffee (I like St. Mocha on the pier, personally), visiting the picturesque village church and chatting the kind man who welcomes visitors there daily, and getting a baked treat from the Luss Village Shop before you leave. Try one of their various homemade cakes or treats with a cup of tea before you go, like their homemade Gypsy Cream. (It's cookie sandwich comprised of oat & ginger cookies smoothing together a massive hunk of vanilla icing in the middle.) 

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Should the day allow for time for a meal in Luss, head to the town's Loch Lomond Pub. It's a cosy in spot to settle in and enjoy an afternoon.

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(Also... when did I get SO pregnant. I saw the picture Tyler took below and couldn't believe I actually look that big. Third times a.... whale of a time?)

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CONTINUING ON...

From there, you can continue on your trek West. Soon after, you'll pass by the unexpectedly grand Inveraray Castle settled beside the quaint seaside town of Inveraray. (This town could be a good lunch option, too.) 

And further on, make sure you make time to stop by St. Conan's Kirk- a tiny jewelry box of a church perched along a gigantic Loch. The church is one of Scotland's smallest, but boasts big character. It has gorgeous (but small) gardens that surround the property that make the visit even better.

Then from there? Keep going. Stops liken Oban and Fort William await. If it were me, I'd go all the way to Fort William to get to the Jacobite Train for a Harry Potter-esque journey up towards Skye.

 


Looking for more posts on Scotland? Check out my travel guides to Scotland & Edinburgh here, or find my last posts on Scotland here.

You can also search some of the best spots to stop in Skye with my Instagram hashtag, #KnightsSkye.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on June 6, 2017 and filed under scotland, eat, drink, pack your bags.

10 Good Places To Eat in Covent Garden

Since Covent Garden is such a great central spot in many London trips, I thought it might be helpful to put together a list of my favourite places to eat there. After all, there is no more helpful recommendation than one from someone who has actually been there approximately a gazillion times. Luckily for us all, I spend endless hours of my life right there- eating and shopping. As anyone who has been can tell you- you won't be short on options there. But it can be a bit overwhelming... so I've tried to make it easy on you. 

If you're planning a trip to London, find more of my favourite London places in my guides to London & Notting Hill


10 GREAT EATS IN COVENT GARDEN

FLAT IRON | Flat Iron has three locations, and this one just between the Covered Market and Trafalgar Square is the largest. The food is insanely good. (Which is steak, in case the name didn't give it away.) And while the atmosphere is cool and the food is too notch- you'll walk out feeling a bit stunned at how inexpensive the whole experience is. The one caveat: none of the locations take reservations. Your best bet is to go early to get as far ahead in the queue as possible... or plan to put your name on the list and keep yourself entertained elsewhere for a good hour or more while you wait for a table.

DISHOOM | Most Londoners will point you to Dishoom, if you're looking for great Indian food. Not only is the decor very cool, the central setting in Covent Garden ideal for easy access, their famous "Naughty Chai," and outstanding food keep pushing Dishoom into the limelight. On the weekend, opt for something a bit different and head their for one of London's favourite brunches. Think Naan stuffed with bacon, eggs, coriander (read: "cilantro" if you're in the US) and cream cheese.

 Photo courtesy of  @jeradmichael

Photo courtesy of @jeradmichael

BATTERSEA PIE STATION | I absolutely love pie & mash. While it feels perfectly British, anyone that has a bite totally connects to the concept and taste. I mean, come on: pie crust, tasty fillings, mashed potatoes and gravy? What's hard to like about that? This tiny shop on the basement floor of the covered market puts new meaning to the phrase "Pie Hole." And since I like to give unsolicited advice: my favourite is the goats cheese & sweet potato pie. 

BALTHAZAR CAFE | While many people will know that this is the result of NYC's success in he Balthazar concept, London has still rejoiced with its arrival. To be honest, the actual restaurant always leaves me a bit... meh. (The New York one, too.) But I have serious respect for their neighbouring, tiny cafe that sells incredibly authentic French items. Sandwiches, decadent desserts and casually perfect Viennosserie items. They also have a full coffee/espresso range, so please opt for this quiet stop before wandering into the Starbucks next door.

HOMESLICE IN NEALS YARD | Situated in one of the most photographed corners of London, Neals Yard, Homeslice serves up some killer pizza. Huge slices covered in a variety of toppings (from common to cool. Kale, anyone?) It's a tiny shop, but the real score is getting to sit outside on a tiny perch to enjoy the setting and people watching.

MEATMARKET | While I'm a fan of the obvious "American" approved burger joints crowning Covent Garden, I actually really like MEATMarket. While centrally located by the Covered Market, this in-the-know "dive" has a discreet sitting a level above the hustle and bustle below. This isn't a place you can be healthy, but if you're looking for something good, greasy and guy-approved- head here.

FABRIQUE BAKERY | If you're looking for coffee and a Swedish roll, which I assume most of us are, there's no finer place to get one than Fabrique. (I've blogged about the Notting Hill location before here.)

ROSEWOOD HOTEL | This may technically be across the road from "Covent Garden," but since it's so close and so wonderful- it's making the list. I love meeting friends for tea or a drink here. Whether it's their classy lunch served in the mirror room or an afterword meet up in the very cool Scarves Bar- I'm never disappointed when I venture to this palatial hotel.

MILK TRAIN | Soft serve ice cream that is covered in an endless offering of toppings and nestled in a cloud of brightly-hued candy floss (US read: "cotton candy"). The line can be long, so maybe not best the easiest place to stand around if little ones are in tow.

 Photo courtesy of  @media_candy

Photo courtesy of @media_candy

CICCHETTI | This restaurant is not only decorated like a gorgeous Mediterranean jewel,  but the food and experience reinforce the feeling. With small, shareable plates of authentic Italian cuisine- this is a great date spot that will both introduce you to amazing new flavours... and still offer a huge range of familiar favourites.  Service is slick and attentive. Make sure you get the full experience and get an espresso or milliner macchiato before you get the bill. Reservations recommended for dinner.

DELAUNAY COUNTER | As the little brother to the glamorous Viennese cafe, The Delaunay, situated next door, this more casual concept might almost fool you into thinking it's somehow less special. But with affordable daily specials like weiner schnitzel, fresh bakery goods like pretzels and Sacher tortes, and cosy warm drinks- you'll soon realise that the Delaunay Counter is one of the gems of Covent Garden. 


Any other Covent Garden classics that you want to add to this list? You can also find a few more area favourites on my Instagram with the hashtag #AspiringLondon.



Posted on May 11, 2017 and filed under eat, drink, london, my london favourites.

My Notting Hill | Granger & Co.

While this place may be listed in *both* my London and Notting Hill guides, I figured I should respect the old adage that "A picture is worth a thousand words" and give a full, photographed post on Notting Hill's hippest and most delicious breakfast spot, Granger & Co.


Granger & Co. 

When we were viewing flats for our first move to Notting Hill, the estate agent was bragging that the flat we were interested was just around the corner from... well, I didn't know the name he was talking about, but it seemed like a brunch place that was really popular.

Fast-forward a few years and I've got a new baby and family in town visiting us. We want to eat breakfast and head out to... well, who cares. Maybe that place out the front door that is supposed to be so popular? We went, we got a table and we totally flipped out when we ate our food because it was so good. I felt a bit foolish that I had waited so long to try this place (that we realised was called "Granger & Co.") that had a constant queue out the front door.

Now days, it's one of those places Tyler & I go for sweet memories and great food. We meet friends traveling to London there, we took Harrison there during his first week of life, and now we have weekly morning dates there. 

So while it serves up on sentiment for us, it also makes for a killer meal. (And let's be honest, that's what you really want to care about.)

Without further ado, I present everything you need to know before eating at Granger & Co. 


A Local's Guide to Granger & Co. 

1. The ricotta hot cakes with bananas are the most popular dish. (And rightly so, they are insane.) They're as puffy as clouds, covered in a generous pat of honeycomb butter and served with banana & warm syrup.

2. You're also gonna want to get the sweetcorn fritters. With a side of avocado salsa- think chunky guacamole. Don't skip on this. It's important.

3. Get half orders of each of the above! It's not listed on the menu, but it's a local secret. This way, you can also share a raspberry muffin, an acai bowl or a side of their world-famous scrambled eggs. You'll never taste anything fluffier. 

4. Granger & Co. is Bill Granger's restaurant. Bill is from Australia and Australia makes good flat whites. What does all of this mean? Get a flat white and get a great cup of coffee.

 

 

5. If you have little ones, order one of their adorable babyccinos (foamed milk with cocoa powder on top) and a few chocolate chips on the side.

6. Go before 9am... or be prepared to wait. Again, this is not a "just in case," this is an absolute fact. The lines on the weekend are weep-worthy. Plan ahead if you have plans to go the Saturday market on Portobello Road.

7. If you're not up for the wait, you can go up to the bar and order a coffee and grab a pastry for the road. Service is fast & friendly... and you'll have one of the best cups of coffee in the neighbourhood. (Their flat white is only £2.80!) 

8. There are now three locations- Notting Hill (on the famous Westbourne Grove), Kings Cross and Clerkenwell. All three are exceptionally tasty, and the latter two are often less of a scene than the overly popular Notting Hill location.  (Though you'll only catch me taking baby bump pics outside our old flat if you come to the Notting Hill location.) 

Granger & Co. | 175 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, London W11 2SB. Open 7AM-12AM.


Find all of my favourite places to eat and shop in Notting Hill in my Travel Guide to the neighbourhood.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My Florence: Ditta Artigianale

Most people dream of foamy cappuccinos and strong cups of espresso served by brisk waiters in sharp suits when they imagine lingering in a cafe in Italy. Most of the stereotypical daydreams also come accompanied by a Puccini soundtrack... or, at least, they do for me.

While I spend a lot of my time in coffee shops, I had always enjoyed that Italy seemed immune to the hipster coffee scene. (In the same way that I really enjoy not being able to use my phone on a flight.) In Italy, coffee should be served standing at the bar or seated with great people watching in a cafe... and not in a modern setting with cool light fixture and bearded patrons with Apple products.

So when my friend, Grant, recommended that we go try Ditta Artigianale in Florence.... well, I wasn't so sure. Somehow the thought of a hip coffee shop in Italy seemed wrong. But Tyler loves "good coffee," and I wanted to see the Pitti Palace so we compromised and crossed the Ponte Vecchio.


DITTA ARTIGIANALE OLTRARNO

This coffee shop on Via Dello Sprone is of the three Ditta Artigianale locations in the city. This local chain has various locations around the city, but if you're looking for a place to stay for a while- this is the one you want to go to.

The coffee is great. The classic latte is perfectly made- thanks to incredible high quality milk. (Good dairy makes everything better, doesn't it?) They shop also has fresh cold-press juices that are served in kitschy mason jar glasses, but taste fantastic. 

If you're feeling hungry- you have a range of food to choose from. Whether it's something small like a pastry or cookie or something a bit more substantial like a homemade croque monsieur or salad- they've got good options that not only sound cool, but they taste great, too.

With cosy nooks for work or chatting, an upstairs for hiding out, and a patio out back for some sunshine while your kids march around like tiny clowns- this is a perfect place to waste an afternoon.... or just for grabbing a great coffee to go on your way to the Boboli Gardens. 

DITTA ARTIGIANALE | Via dei Neri, 32/R, 50122 Firenze, Italy | Open 8AM-10PM


Looking for more great places in Florence? Check out my guide here and my Italy posts here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 6, 2017 and filed under eat, drink, italy, life, travel.

To A Tea | Afternoon Tea at Ham Yard Hotel

 

 had the chance to spoil a new mom to a pretty afternoon tea this week, and every bit of the experience was so lovely that I couldn't wait to share it. If anyone is looking for a fantastic afternoon tea in Central London (and why shouldn't you be?), look no further. I've found a place that will be just your cup of tea.

It may be bold to say,  but I think this ranks the best afternoon tea in London. Everything about it is fantastic: the food, the setting, the service & the amazingly modest price. I'm planning to make this a new favourite meeting place, and it's only right to share it here with you.

So come on and join us for our gorgeously bright afternoon sitting in the conservatory at Ham Yard. (Make sure you grab a bite of the Battenburg before it's all gone!)


HAM YARD HOTEL AFTERNOON TEA

When I was flipping through my mental Rolodex of great places for tea, I was trying to find something in between the grand tea rooms and small kitschy bakeries. Somewhere in the back of my mind, an old conversation about Ham Yard popped up and I decided to look into it.

The menu looked fantastic and the pictures online of the space looked gorgeous. But the price? It didn't seem right... £22?! All the reviews looked great though, so I called in and snagged a table.

When I arrived, the setting was evening cooler than I thought. If you go, expect a well-groomed clientele of young yuppies with great style to be surrounding you. 

The food was fantastic, featuring classic items with slight twists to make them interesting, yet not offensively changing what works. The scones were the perfect size, and served warm in a little cave of a crisp napkin.

 

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And the cakes? Ooooh goodness. Gorgeously presented and even tastier. 

So yes, I have a new favourite place for afternoon tea in London... and I have no doubt you will, too.


Ham Yard Hotel | 1 Ham Yard, Soho, London W1D 7DT | +44 20 3642 2000

Looking for more options on the best places for afternoon tea in London? Check out my To A Tea series for more of my favourites.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Pack Your Bags | Denver, Colorado

If you ever want to quickly educate your urban-raised, public transport-riding children on what life in America with a car is really like, strap them in car seats and keep them in the car for 15 hours as you drive from Dallas to Denver.

You'll most likely experience some screaming, chants of "Get me outta here!" and slow- rising mountains of trash from snack wrappers that you would have never dreamed possible... 

But there are perks to such extreme trips- like stopping along the way in cute towns, having Chick-fil-A more often than appropriate to admit and saving the $$$$ that it would have cost you to fly.

We spent a bit over a week in Denver with Tyler's sister and family for New Years. While, as you know, much of the time you have with family is predestined and arranged long before your arrival- we did manage to sneak a few extras into the week and get a really good feel for the city. 

A big thanks to everyone who kindly suggested places to go/see/try while we were in town. And thanks for the kind welcome to Denver- it's a great place and we love it more every time we are there.


DENVER BISCUIT COMPANY  | This spot was recommended by SO many people that we couldn't ignore it. Thank goodness we went, because it lived up to everything we had heard. Try the Franklin for our favourite: fried chicken, bacon and gravy on an enormous biscuit. If you order one of their cinnamon rolls to start (because you really should), you can easily share the sandwich between two of you. But I won't judge you if you each want your own.

VOODOO DOUGHNUTS | This "eclectic" donut shop hails from Portland, but their location in Denver seems to share the same magic. Open 24/7- Voodoo succeeds at making really great classic donuts (the chocolate glazed is outstanding) and some quirky new options. This shop should be rated PG-13, so just know that with young kids you'll either get some questions or you can leave them in the car with dad when you run in.... which may work best as parking is non-existent around the shop.

CART DRIVER | Head to this cool spot for really good pizza. Thin crust, a healthy mix of normal toppings with hip toppings like kale and it's friends. Booths are tiny, so best for date night or lunch with one (maybe two) smaller kid(s). Dress hip here. Even though it's relaxed, the crowd is cool.
 

TABLES | We went to an adults-only dinner here one evening and it was really great. This place marries all the qualities you want in a night out: cosy interiors, a menu that uses approachable ingredients to do yummy new things and a kind wait staff. The food was delicious (goat cheese, apple & fennel salad) and don't miss the skillet cinnamon roll with ice cream for dessert. Oof!
 

ACE | Ping pong tables. Great Asian food. Cool decor. Family friendly, but best for suited for tinier tots at lunch or early dinner. The name sums it up- all around Ace.
 

STEUBENS | This is the sister restaurant to Ace and while the menu and decor are different- you'll find a familiar coolness that runs between both places. The menu at Steubens is all around solid: fresh sandwiches, smart salads, soups,  fish and daily specials that will pique your interest. The bar is pretty, too. We went for lunch and the Philly cheesesteak was enormous and everything I wanted. Also, you'll find no finer a kids meal in all the land than at both Ace or Steubens.

LINGER | The first thing you should know (and that people will tell you) is that Linger is on the site of an old mortuary. The next thing you need to know is that it's really good. We went here as a group and each ordered a couple of items to share with the table, as the menu lends itself to smaller tapas-sized plates from a variety of categories and flavours. The food is delicious, the experience is unique and the view of Denver from the rooftop is perfect. A fun date spot or place to go with a small group. Reservations recommended.
 

SNOOZE | While the lines can be seriously awful for a table, the menu is really fanstastic for breakfast. With great eggs and creative pancakes (pineapple upside down, please) and mugs of coffee- you'll be happy you stuck out with the wait once you have a seat!

BROWN PALACE AFTERNOON TEA | When we are back in the States, somehow afternoon tea often ends up being on the itinerary. Fine by me! But to be candid, most of them are... well, rubbish. I wasn't expecting much from this afternoon out- besides good company- but was really pleased with the tea. The hotel is a historic gem in Downtown Denver and the afternoon tea is actually like one you might have in England. The tea blends are strong, the scones are the right crumble and, if you ask, you can even get a second plate of sandwiches when you finish the first.

LITTLE MAN ICE CREAM | While the line can be daunting, trust that it exists for a good reason. The portions are small, so a single will be surprisingly huge. Solid standby flavours like salted Oreo aren't too be missed,   But don't shy away from the seasonal gems like the summery Peach Cobbler.


Reader Recommendations 

While we didn't get to try all the great places you'd told us about, here are a few that sounded especially tasty. 

@lhwellsy: "...eat at Cho 77! My fav!"

@dirtymartinidiaries: "As a born and raised Boulder girl, one of my favourite foods on the planet is the breakfast burrito from any of the Santiago's mexi restaurants. Their chain started in my town and they are heaven on earth."

@rs_wing: "Breckinridge Brewery is a really neat atmosphere and friendly with children. The one in Littleton is farm style with a huge fire pit, bocce ball, horseshoes...  I always get the fried chicken salad and the apple pie skillet for dessert."

@katiekloberdanz: "I have tons! ... Snooze for pancakes, Voodoo Donuts, Benny's for green chile rellanos, Lola for tableside guac..."



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on January 11, 2017 and filed under denver, travel, drink, eat, pack your bags.

Peggy Porschen | A Piece of Cake

I toyed with the idea of hosting a Christmas party for our friends, but it started getting complicated and ended up feeling like showing up would be more a gift my friends gave me rather than a night to take care of them. So I scratched it, and instead ended up with a few solo dates with friends to celebrate Christmas with them before the big day.

Instead of gifts, they've ended up being dates with friends (or couples we love), and I have to say- I think this may become a new tradition. Because who wouldn't rather have a sweet afternoon with a friend instead of another candle? 

For my date with Amber, we wanted to do something pretty that we normally can't do with little ones in tow. So we headed for Chelsea in an uber- which normally takes way too long to reach via public transport with strollers- and went straight to the pink mecca of sweets, Peggy Porschen.

We ordered a round of cupcakes (salted caramel which has a caramel filling that's rich like Christmas toffee), an unrealistically perfect wedge of Victoria Sponge, jasmine tea & the cutest cappuccino this side of Buckingham Palace.

The place is sweet and tiny- definitely not one you can always count on getting a table at. (It's constantly flowing with well-heeled Instagrammers and their obliging boyfriends.) If the weather is nice, you can also grab a cosy table outside offering a view of one of the prettiest corners in London.

After we went to Peggy Porschen, we walked to Sloane Square- about ten minutes away- and then down the Kings Road. We listened to the Salvation Army band playing outside Peter Jones, tried on shoes on sale at half-price in LK Bennett, peeked at the glam crowd in The Ivy, and eventually ended up in a nail salon getting pedicures.

Soon after, the clock struck midnight (or 6:00pm) and we had to dash home back to life as we knew it.

We hugged each other goodbye, wished each other Merry Christmas and thanked each other for being a great friend to the other in the past year- which really is the most precious gift someone can give.

It really must mean I'm getting older and more boring when I can't think of anything I "want" for Christmas... but on nights like that, I realise I have more than I need.

Peggy Porschen | 116 Ebury St, Belgravia, London SWIW 9QQ


It's hard not to be in a place like Peggy Porschen and not get sweeped up in the Candyland cuteness! Here are a few items inspired by our day out.
 

One | TWO | THREE | FOUR | FIVE | SIX | SEVEN | EIGHT | NINE | TEN



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

A Field Guide to British Christmas Dining

If you're new to England this Christmas, have found yourself visiting family in the U.K. or are simply looking to decode some terms from your favourite British Christmas movies, use this handy guide to help you navigate your way around the Christmas dinner table like a local.

1. CHRISTMAS PUDDING | The Christmas Pudding is the queen of all Christmas desserts- though, confusing to Americans- it's not a "pudding" like you may think of in all it's Bill Cosby-piano-playing glory. Pudding refers to dessert here, so this is a cake that has dried fruits and is soaked for months in booze. It is covered in some sort of cream and then, for dramatic effect, lit on fire when served. 

2. MINCE PIE | A Mince Pie. Not a "Mince Meat Pie," because meat in this pie is disgusting. Even if my Southern grandfather may have loved it- something about the idea of meat in a pie always made me gag. Now that I eat (too regularly) the real mince pies, the idea of meat in it really makes me shudder. A classic mince pie is nearly bite-size and full of dried fruits and spices. They're best served warm, in quantity of 2-3, and alongside a big mug of tea. These appear in every store in late October, are eaten by the millions in the lead up to and on Christmas, and then magically disappear from existence by the start of the New Year. 

3. BRANDY BUTTER
 | This is the aforementioned cream that is poured on top of Christmas puddings- but, as the name may imply, has brandy worked into it. Typically, the final product is served alongside a glass of brandy. 

4. TRIFLE | There isn't one specific recipe for a trifle, but assume it will come from a general pool of ingredients including: fruit, whipped cream, jell-o (or "jelly" as it's called here) sponge fingers and sherry. Imagine it layered up in bright layers and served in a big glass bowl to show off each layer.

5. GOOSE-FAT POTATOES | While much of the British Christmas dinner seems similar to a US Thanksgiving- they skip mashed potatoes and roast theirs in chunks in a pool of goose-fat. The result is a crunchy, golden potato that resembles a hoof more than a vegetable. It's the perfect consistency for absorbing gravy.

6. PIGS IN A BLANKET | These aren't the same crescent roll stuffed hot dogs you might be thinking of... but they are slightly similar. Small sausages ("chipolatas") are wrapped in bacon ("streaky"- just like us Americans like it) and roasted. These are served alongside the turkey to add saltiness to, what some consider, a bland meat. These are often also served as nibbles in the holiday season.

7. WASSAIL | This warm holiday beverage can either be alcoholic or non-alcoholic. The non-alcoholic will typically be a version similar to our cider. (Though ordering a "cider" will get you a cold, alcoholic beverage- so beware!) It can also be mulled wine which is wine that is cooked over the stove and, often, has fruits, cinnamon sticks and other spices added to it. It's for sale in most pubs and passed at most holiday events.

8. CHRISTMAS CRACKER | This isn't a pretty tin of saltines that is passed around- a Christmas cracker will sit on the the place setting of each guest. At some point in the meal (often debated as when the official time is- though I prefer sometime around the arrival of the main course!), these will be cracked with a loud bang, and everyone will then rifle through the insides of their cracker and share their findings with the table. The standard lineup of contents include: a paper crown (mandatory to wear), a silly joke that everyone loves to groan at, and a cheap toy or gift.

9. BREAD SAUCE | This is a sauce not for bread- but made of bread. It's really thick and clumpy, but it actually goes really well with roast chicken or turkey. Combined with cranberry sauce- it's definitely worth trying.


After you've made it through the meal, pat yourself on the back and get ready to cozy in for the Queen's Christmas address which broadcast every year on Christmas Day. The Queen will discuss the year gone by and it, somehow, makes the day feel perfect. (Even if you do quietly chat through the whole thing with your sister.)


Spending the holidays in England? Find my travel guide to London here and my guide to London with kids at Christmas here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on December 1, 2016 and filed under eat, drink, holiday, london, life as an expat.

My Notting Hill | Continental Pantry

I used to look for quiet, independent places to work when we lived off Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill. I searched for that magic Bermuda Triangle of productivity where good food, quietness and wifi magically aligned.

I'm sad to say that I could never quite find the right space just out the steps of our flat... until now, when, of course, we no longer live there.

At Continental Pantry, you'll find a small (but mighty!) menu offering light breakfast and lunch items. Don't expect heavy cooked options- no eggs or pancakes- but lighter choices like yogurt, homemade granola and berries or avocado toast buried under tomatoes.

The coffee is good and the quiet room in the back is surprisingly sunlit and very well designed.

The front of the store has dry goods from all over, you guessed it, "the continent." French mustards, Italian meats, and all the other essentials you may need.

And luckily, it's next door to my favourite chocolate shop in London/the galaxy, MELT... so not only can you get a great space for working or meeting a friend, but you've also got the perfect route for picking up one of their popcorn bars (incredible!) on your way home. That may not contribute to the end-goal of productivity... but surely, it can't hurt?

Continental Pantry | 57 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, W11 2AA


Find all of my favourite places in Notting Hill in my travel guide to the neighbourhood here



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My Notting Hill | Fabrique on Portobello Road

I got a chance to spend the morning in Notting Hill this week. It had been a while since I'd been there and even longer since I saw my friend, Amber. We met up for a quick breakfast in those precious hours when children's school hours align and it was perfect.

Notting Hill turned up the charm with bright sunshine and its sidewalk's endless catwalk of well-heeled residents. People chatted over posh breakfasts on cafe tables in the sun, walked tiny dogs while chatting on their cell-phones, tucked small present-like parcels of food into shopping bags and just embraced all the pretty yuppie stereotypes one might have for this London neighbourhood.

Now that we are gone from Notting Hill, I'm relying on Amber to keep me up to speed with what is new there. And luckily, she didn't let me down. She trailed me along Portobello Road to the tiny cafe, Fabrique.

This bakery/cafe offers fresh baked loaves of bread and various sweet offerings... but don't get distracted by the offerings and get their cinnamon roll.

Not the vanilla-sugar dusted one. The standard. I thought I knew better and ordered the vanilla, but Amber ordered the original "just so I could try it, too." After all, that's what friends are for, right?

Initially- I thought the space was cute but that these famed cinnamon buns looked dry. The good news: after a few nibbles in, I realised what a moist little treat it was! (Also- apologies to everyone who hates the word "moist." I do, too, but couldn't find a suitable alternate when describing this. Ha!)

The lattes are good, but having them served in a crystal tumbler makes them taste even better. Don't fight that truth, it's science.

Hit up Fabrique when you head to Notting Hill. Its placement on Portobello Road makes it an easy stop on your visit to the Saturday market.

Fabrique12 Portobello Road, London, W11 1LA


Headed to Notting Hill? Find all my favorites here in my travel guide or search #aspiringlondon on Instagram.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My London | Afternoon Tea at Four Seasons Park Lane

 

Typically, summers in England can be fairly... bleak. It's pretty common that your plans for picnics in the park or a weekend spent in the garden can be spoiled and swapped out for soggy days spent warming up over hearty meals and cups of tea. You find yourself living for those days when the skies clear and you- finally- get to see London in all it's steamy, sunny glory. As you sit sweltering in the air-conditionless English summer, you feel like you've earned each sunny moment with all of those rain-soaked days before it.

When I headed to the Four Seasons today to try their special afternoon tea, "A Journey Through British Summer," I knew it would be lovely... but I wasn't sure how it would be different than most of other afternoon teas. And if you're looking to spend a day out in London, you may be asking yourself why this particular afternoon tea is worth trying over so many others. And that's where me and my snazzy iPhotos can come to help.

 

 

First of all- location is everything, yes? So imagine yourself along the edge of Hyde Park, just a stone's throw from Buckingham Palace tucked inside a plush room inside the Four Seasons. Sunlight is dripping in through the windows in that way it seems to imply even the sunshine is higher quality than elsewhere.

 

Imagine being served a three-tiered tray of the prettiest food you've ever seen. Each item looks like it came out of a photo shoot... yet rather than being enjoyed by thousands of reader, each gorgeous little cake, sandwich and scone was painstakingly handmade for the eyes of you alone.

(I know, I know... this gets me all hot and bothered, too. Stick with me though.)

 

 

Now, imagine that you have your choice of the finest teas in all of the world to sip with these treats. You can choose fromdelicately curled oolongs, flowering jasmine teas, a delicate lemongrass or any of the other gorgeous teas available by JING. (We were lucky enough to be served a flight of teas, because, really... who can even choose?) Normally, I like classic English breakfast with milk- but we had Felicity from JING there to guide us through pairing various items with the teas. I didn't have one splash of milk with the entire tea... and I actually preferred it!

 

 

The tea is themed for British Summer classics. Tiny cakes hit the highlights: chocolate cakes shaped like ladies hats from the Ascot Race, white chocolate domes hand-painted as Wimbledon tennis balls, strawberries & cream cakes, Pimms baba au rhum set the scene, while classic British sandwiches meet simple refreshment. (Smoked salmon with a tiny bit of mashed spring pea, cucumber sandwiches with tiny slices of radishes and mint, and a tiny merger of crab and brioche that might leave even the biggest skeptic a bit emotional.)

 

 

As the food began to disappear from the table and our eager faces melted into satisfied grins, we joked that the only thing missing from this classic British summer treat was rain.... but we didn't seem to mind as we ventured to the patio to round out the perfect experience.

 

Find out all about the Four Seasons Afternoon Tea here. Too far from London? Order JING and celebrate the art of tea at home to avoid those FOMO blues.

 

Looking for a great afternoon tea in London? I always am. See more of my favorite places in my London guide.

 



 

 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Coffee Talk.

I have a coffee thing. Well, let me back up. I have a sweet thing and coffee is the perfect balance to it. If I'm eating something sweet, I love the taste of coffee to equalize the flavor.

So if -and when- I'm eating something like cake or a tart, I really want to have a coffee along side it. (FYI: Milk, no sugar.)

In the US, dessert is served with coffee, but here (and around Europe)- dessert comes first and coffee/tea comes as the final item served to the table. For Americans, it's always a bit confusing when they are dining out here. They'll order dessert and a hot drink, and when only the dessert arrives- they sit looking around in confusion wondering how their drink order was forgotten. In actuality, your drink hasn't been forgotten. It's just in the queue for when desserts are finished. (If you'd like them to come out together, just simply ask your server if you have your drink at the same time the dessert arrives. They'll do it, if you ask!)

I'm actually coming around to having the two split up- but it's taken me nearly five years. Maybe I'm just enjoying dragging out the dining experience more and more, but either way- coffee or some hot green tea really make a meal feel complete. 

Anyone else feel the twitch to flick on a kettle for some tea or brew some coffee before you can walk away from the table? If you don't do it now, just go ahead and try it one night. It makes any regular dinner feel a little bit more civilized and stretch the conversation just a bit further.

 



 

*images by Ashel Parsons for Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on January 18, 2016 and filed under drink, life as an expat, london.