Posts filed under eat

My Paris | Aux Merveilleux de Fred

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I can’t go to Paris and not stop by for a loaf of warm brioche at Fred’s, or, as it’s officially called “Aux Merveilleux de Fred.” Now, what made me initially fall in love with this place was it’s incredible delicate- and remarkably inexpensive- “merveilleux.” Imagine if you will, meringue cookies, topped with the lightest flavoured fillings, and rolled in chocolate shavings and toasted nuts. Oh baby, they are so good.

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BUT… their brioche is actually better.

There, I said it. But it’s true. One day, I turned my gaze in the shop from the jewellery-box like display of tiny cakes and watched the bakers pulling warm loaves of brioche out of the oven. Then I noticed smart French women waiting, not for the pastries, but requesting “les cramiques,” or the loaves of brioche. I quickly swapped lines- because you ALWAYS follow the lead of smartly dressed French women- and bought a loaf.

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I brought it out to the street and sat down by Tyler. I looked at him and said something along the lines of, “I think this is about to blow us away. I just have a feeling about it.”

And the next thing you know, we took a bite of the warm bread and crunched down on the tiny sugar pearls that were candied over… and we blacked out with happiness. We ate the entire loaf in under thirty seconds- it was like a warm Krispy Kreme donut. Then we went in and bought a second loaf. I can’t remember if we ate the entire loaf then and there, too, but I’m not saying we didn’t.

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This little chain is from Lille, but now there are a few locations in and around France, with a handful in Paris. Which makes it the absolute must-bring-back souvenir for us whenever one of us goes. Its always the last stop we make before the Eurostar- because the fresher the loaf, the happier the spouse.

Definitely don’t miss the chance to go. We like the location in the Marais- near the river, just a few minutes from the Saint Paul Metro station. Not only can you get a great treat, but you can also walk down to Peloton Coffee (about 50 yards away) and get a great coffee to drink with it. This is one of my very favourite place to go when I’m in Paris- whether I’m stopping to grab one for a snack on a quick day trip or lucky enough to pick up a loaf in the morning for breakfast during one of our longer stays.

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Oh! And a very important note: I know the chocolate loaf looks like it would be better. But it’s really not. Time and time again, we have strayed- but those crunchy, perfect sugar pearls always win. Don’t be fooled to step up, when your true love is waiting right in front of you.

AUX MERVEILLEUX DE FRED | 24 Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, Paris 75004 


Find more of my favourite places in Paris here or look at my travel guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on October 3, 2018 and filed under my paris, paris, eat.

My Barcelona | Hole

While we were in Barcelona, Tyler & I passed a cute little breakfast spot with people spilling out the front door and chatting over tiny tables sitting on cushions along the windowsill and wooden crates. Sunlight was pouring inside the cafe and the sound of espresso being made wafted out the open door. The scene seemed so pleasant and happy... and we wished we had time to stop and be a part of what was going on.

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But we had our kids with us and were marching along with our family to La Sagrada Familia, so on we went.

The next day, we waited (and waited) for our driver to arrive to take us to the port for our cruise. The driver called and was not going to be there for another forty minutes, so Tyler grabbed me and asked me on a lightening speed coffee date/run back to the place from yesterday.

My mom kept Harrison, we put the two girls in a stroller each. (Viola loves not having to walk when she has the luxury of a stroller at her disposal- ha!) And off we popped! As it always is the case, it ended up being about twice as far away as we remembered but we got there, ordered, got to hang out for a bit- enjoying the fact that we had actually pulled off making it back and trying the place that had looked so good to us both when we had past. I love that Tyler and I still have those moments after all the years and places we have been together. 

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And I think, maybe all those places and moments have fine tuned us a bit because Hole (the name of the cafe, as it turned out) was one of those really good spots that you’re glad to discover. The owner was nice, the coffee was good, they made incredible fresh squeezed juices that glowed bright happy colours, pancakes sat fluffily on top of each other with Nutella plopped on top and people chatted happily amongst themselves- just as we had thought the day before. 

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And then hoofed it back to the hotel in time to load up our bags.

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It was a nice little spot to discover and next time, I’m hoping to stay for a bit longer!

HOLE | Carrer de València, 352, 08009 Barcelona


Find more of my favourite places in Barcelona in my Spain guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on August 15, 2018 and filed under eat, spain, travel.

My Notting Hill | Chucs Westbourne Grove

If you're looking for a great lunch spot in London, I have a little secret spot that is too good to miss tucked away in plain site in Notting Hill's Westbourne Grove.

I met my friend Amber at Chucs in the tiny pristine garden one day for lunch, and it was the perfect little spot to spend a couple of hours catching up over yummy food with zero pressure to move fast. (To be honest, the same can be said for the wait staff at times. We'll just chalk it up to Italian charm.)

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The restaurant inside is sweet, but for a pretty day- it's hard to beat cacio e pepe, paper-thin chicken paillard and fried zucchini with a pal.

I think this spot could be a total winner for a brunch to celebrate a soon-to-arrive baby, sneak away to on a weeknight date, or just do what we did... meet up with an old friend and enjoy the day/food/pretty setting.

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CHUCS  |   226 WESTBOURNE GROVE  +44 020 7243 9136

 

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FIND MORE OF THE BEST PLACES TO EAT IN NOTTING HILL                                                         IN MY TRAVEL GUIDE TO NOTTING HILL.



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My London | Dishoom Kensington

I’d say one of the things people ask about when I work with them on a custom itinerary for their trip to London is where to try Indian food.

And to be honest, I always offer the same recommendation: Dishoom! While their original location in Covent Garden has been a long-standing favourite of mine, I have been so happy to watch this little place grow into a bit of a London-based empire of restaurants. 

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And I was even happier to see them open their newest location a bit closer to me just off High Street Kensington.

I had a cheeky lunch out with Amber there and we had *the best* time. 

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In case you’re new to Indian food and not sure what to order, I’ve got a pretty solid recommendation of what to order for your meal there. It’s got a bit of everything you need for your foray into Indian food. Consider it “Indian Food for Dummies,” if you will.


The Perfect Dishoom Order 

Dishoom Chicken Tikka- Grilled chicken thighs marinated in the perfect blend of vinegar, chili, garlic and turmeric. 

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House Black Daal-A curry made from lentils that is cooked for over 24 hours. A bit on the spicy side but so delicious!

Chana Chaat Salad- chickpeas, couscous, pomegranates, avocado & mint.... mmm this is a giant bowl of healthy goodness

Rice- Nothing special about this rice, but Indian food without rice feels incomplete. 

Garlic Naan- A smallish order, but really good Naan. You can get the plain, but why would you when you can have it with garlic? My thoughts exactly.

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Colaba Colada- Imagine India’s virgin take of the Pina Colada. Now add toasted coconut and cute straws. Now order one. It’s so good.

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Dishoom Kensington | 4 Derry St, Kensington, London W8 5SE, UK | +44 20 7420 9325


Find more of my favorite places to eat in my London Travel Guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on March 28, 2018 and filed under my london favourites, my london, eat.

My London | Angie’s Little Food Shop, Chiswick

Now that we have a car, I’m finding more and more opportunities to pop down to Chiswick with Tyler.

Most of them may also coincide with collecting an online order in-store from Jigsaw. Cough. 

But whatever the reason, we have started trying to make a stop by Angie’s Little Food Shop part of the excursion.

I stumbled into “ALFS” one afternoon as I was running to a hair appointment across the street.

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The coffee was GOOD, the caramel slice was equally killer and the mood in the shop was just so chil and pleasant. The Aussie staff was super sweet and I was just, I don’t know, hooked.

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I drug Tyler there one day (because he may be just a bit over me taking him to little cafes like this), but he was just as won over as I was. The coffee and food really is that nice, as is the staff- because I have no time for places where people aren’t nice. (Too tired for those games these days.)

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So if you’re in West London and need a great spot to meet a friend for a killer lunch or afternoon chat, I’ve gone ahead and found it for you.

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Angie's Little Food Shop | 114 Chiswick High Road, London W4 1PU


Looking for other great spots in London? Find more of My London favourites here or check out my guide to London.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

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.

On Fancy Breakfasts and Unzipped Dresses

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This morning I went to a gorgeous brunch for the debut of a sweet new children’s clothing range from the British high street fixture, White Stuff

It was being held in one of London’s prettiest venues (Spring at Somerset House), and I rallied for the early morning alarm time to get kids ready for the day before running out, too.

Well the event did not disappoint. The place was perfect, the new line was well-designed and at an approachable price point (my fav combo), and the company was so lovely. 

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As the morning kicked off and people arrived, a few of us grazed the racks to get a peek of the new collection, snapped pics of the restaurant in its morning stillness, and sipped on juice so fresh & virtuous it would have made Gwyneth Paltrow proud.

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Before we were seated to eat, I passed a server and she glanced at me and then squinted at me with a bit of a strangeness to it. Then she leaned in and said, “Um, I’m sorry, but your dress is unhooked at the collar.”

Haha- whoops. Since it has an open back, it basically means my navy bra was flowing and showing as I walked around. Im not really sure when it happened- maybe when I took off my coat? But I was so grateful that she pushed through feeling weird, telling me and, even more impressive, actually doing the clasp for me to make sure it was fixed.

Oh man. That would have horrified me a few years ago... but these days, nah. Maybe that’s just what maturity does for you. And if that’s the case, I’m gonna have the best time at parties in my older years because I have a feeling a few more decades of perspective will only make me care less and less about little things like that.

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What’s your normal response to seeing something awkward like that? Food in a colleague’s teeth after lunch? A chunk of fuzz placed prominently on the bum of your uncle’s trousers? A random clump of hair that’s flopping out of place in a way you know a friend didn’t intend?

Honestly, I’m probably fifty/fifty.... Always trying to determine the greater good of wanting to be helpful but not embarrass someone while doing it. 

What about you? What’s your standard response in those moments? Have you had anyone save you in a helpful way that you’d like to share?


In case you're more interested in dressing your little ones than dressing half-dressed mums at work events (ha!),

check out the sweet new Stuff & Wonder range from White Stuff.


 

Find other great London spots to eat here in my London travel guide.

 



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Get Out of Town | A Sunday Roast in the Cotswolds

There are some days when the routine of things just makes you feel a bit itchy. Or maybe it’s the appearance of a guest that gives you the motivation to do something a bit beyond ordinary.

Whatever the reason, we felt that urge on Sunday after church. We hopped in the car to head home and decided to hop on the motorway and head out an hour to a tiny pub we love in the Cotswolds.

If you arrive to Beckley (snuggled nearly to Oxford), you’ll find a few streets of dream-like cottages and homes lining its few streets.

Along the main road sits the Abingdon Arms, a pretty pub that was nearly forced to close in 2016. Luckily, the community residents saved it and have turned it into a treasure within the local area.

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With a sprawling garden with grassy areas for kids to explore and enjoy in the winter (complete with fairy doors hidden on the bottom of tree trunks), it’s a total win for a day of great weather lounging in the sun.

But on dark weekends in January, I’ll gladly say it’s still worth the trek for its cosy tables piled up with Sunday roasts because their beef roasts really are the best I’ve ever had.

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My cousin, Austin, is in London for the week so we did our best to set him up for the experience. He imagined it to be like an American pot roast kinda situation walking into the place. Though a roast dinner will vary from what mama made back home (most notably for me, with Yorkshire puddings in lieu of yeast rolls), he likened the afternoon and meal to a warm home-like feel. Though not like my home because I can’t make gravy that good. 

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I forgot to take a picture of the massive plate of “veg” that came alongside this one. Buttered peas, roasted parsnips and carrots.... mmm.

Also, look at Edie! She’s grown so much and is the best little girl. I think I must kiss and call her “the sweetest little lamb” approximately a hundred times each day. I’m smitten with her. 

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So is her dad.... which is nice because they basically share the same face.

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So here you go. One of my favourite little hideaways. I promise if you take a trip out there from London, you won’t be disappointed. Just make sure you call ahead to book a table so you aren’t broken-hearted when you arrive.

The Abingdon Arms | High Street, Beckley OX3 9UU

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Find the rest of my favourite places outside of London on my guide to England here.

Or come along on our getaway to the charming New Forest.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on January 19, 2018 and filed under eat, england, get out of town, day trips.

A Nutcracker and a Ballbuster

I’ve been trying *hard* to be chill lately around the kids. In the midst of seemingly endless “not right now”s and discipline, I feel like my interactions are less warm with my kids than I’d have ever imagined.

If you would have asked me what kind of mom I’d like to be, before having kids, I would have definitely used “fun” as one of the descriptors.

And I AM fun. I’m a fun friend, a fun colleague, a fun director, a fun teacher.... but I realised that I’m just not really fun at home anymore. I’m doing dishes. I’m getting people dressed. I’m looking for my keys. I am... well, I’m whatever. What I realised was: despite all the other stuff, I was mainly just missing the good parts.

So I’ve been doing my best to ease up a bit. To slow down and stop the stroller when Harrison babbles at me as I walk. To chill about our room being a hot mess. To give more hugs than directions. 

And this week, this endeavour manifested into to having more parties.

It started rather innocently when I asked Viola if she’d like to have some friends over and the conversation evolved into a tea party. “A Christmas tea party... but with hot chocolate instead of tea.”

I loved the idea and she whipped up some homemade invitations to bring to her friends for the occasion.

I went to the store and bought a bunch of generic biscuits, two boxes of grocery store mince pies, fruit & a £2 Cadbury Yule log.

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The occasion seemed to call for my nice china, and decorated it with various random bits like crackers, napkins & plastic forks from HEMA & TIGER. (My two fave party good stores- now both on Tottenham Court Road just by my work!)

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Biscuiteers had sent over some pretty Nutcracker Biscuits & chocolates from their Christmas range. My newest party trick is to stack up any simple, store-bought biscuits and place some of those beauties among them because it looked so fantastic and was so easy!

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The evening was so sweet. The kids walked in from the cold after school and started squealing. They ripped open the crackers, dumped sprinkles over the marshmallows on their hot chocolate and giggled and sang the songs from their Nativity play.

It was easy to do, cheap to put together- but man, so worth it for that little shy girl’s face to light up like that.

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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on December 18, 2017 and filed under kids in london, eat, holiday, kids.

Pack Your Bags | WILDE in Dublin

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I met my friend, Orlagh, a few years ago at a press breakfast when we were both huge and pregnant with little boys. She was so nice and we just kinda clicked. We’ve kept up with various meet ups, but when she moved back to her home of Ireland last year… well, I was a bit sad. (How many times have I complained about friends moving away from London on this blog? Only 357? Okay!)

Anyway, I’ve changed my mind that her being gone is bad now that I realise I have a friend to hang out with in Dublin. And not only a friend- Orlagh is super hip and just…. the nicest. (Also, how many times have I waxed poetically about my love for nice people on this blog? Only a million? Great. It’s true- I love sweet people.) She held Edie so I could eat and just loved on her as if she were family. 

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Orlagh met me for lunch at WILDE and it was such a dream. The restaurant is bright and airy with pretty pink throws on the backs of chairs. There’s greenery hanging over you and crawling up the walls, and I have to say- the surrounding tables of Dublin’s finest femmes make it a gorgeous place to be!

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We had lunch and before I even tasted a bite, I knew I’d still come back again. The staff were SO sweet and every time our waiter came to the table, he chatted to Edith (calling her by name) and speaking to her as if she would actually place an order, too. Ha! They were all so sweet.

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(For those that have asked about my shirt, yes! It is a nursing shirt, and yes- it is fantastic. It’s so not frumpy and I wish they had a million colours of it. Plus, its only £32.)

But luckily for me, the food was KILLER. I had a chestnut and apple soup (this girl can never resist chestnut soup in the winter) and the most perfect salad of all times: rocket (or “arugula,” if you’re in the US), fresh figs, goats cheese, beetroot, truffle oil… and maybe some kind of nut? Hazelnut? I can’t remember. I’m pretty sure I blacked out. They whipped me up a little pear and almond mocktail that was so refreshing and light. The whole experience felt exactly like you’d hope a girls lunch would feel. I think WILDE is one of the best lunch spots in Dublin, especially if you’re with someone fun.

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Orlagh is just one of those people who has sincerity washing over her words and her actions are intentional. (Example: I asked when she’d be in London next, and basically she just said she doesn't socialise when she’s there because she needs to keep her trips as short as possible to get home to her kids. Respect.) She makes motherhood look so stylish and I have no doubt that you’ll feel the same way if you follow her on Instagram, @theminipost…. She’s the coolest.

There were so many desserts that I really wanted to try, but I had to peace out and leave on a high note of a well-behaved baby. But next time! And thank goodness I’ll have a sweet friend there to meet me when I go. 


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WILDE RESTAURANT | Harry Street, Dublin 2, D02 CH66


Find more of my Dublin favourites in my travel guide or book a travel consult for personalised help for your upcoming travels.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 29, 2017 and filed under ireland, friends, eat, pack your bags.

My London | A Toast to the Sunday Roast

The best part about doing travel consults is that I can get people to see so much more during their time overseas than they could get from third-party information. I love being able to tailor an itinerary to really cram in all the stuff that really is going to make that particular person see the city in the best light possible. Those kind of things and experiences come easy after living here for so long. We’ve just been lucky to travel and see the city with so many difference types of personalities, that it has given us a huge rolodex for things to do/see/eat/enjoy while traveling in Europe. (Lucky us, right?)

But I thought I’d share something that most tourists never get to do when they come over, because they simple don’t know that it exist: a Sunday roast. For one reason or another, this classic meal hasn’t made it to the mainstream tourist checklist, but fear not… that’s why you (don’t) pay me the big bucks to blog about these things.

The other day when I met up with my friend, Sara, who was visiting town after a photoshoot in Provence (lucky her, right?), I suggested we hit up a pub for a Sunday Roast. Now, Sara studied in the UK during her college years and has been back countless times since. So imagine my surprise when she told me she didn’t know what a Sunday roast was. The tragedy! It got me thinking that most of the people that come to visit us or that I chat with for consults are new to this idea, too. I realised I needed to start a public awareness campaign to spread the news and I needed to do it fast.

While afternoon teas are the splashier dining experience in England, the Sunday roast is one of the purest and most authentic meal you can really have here- whether out on the weekend in a sleepy country town at a pub or dining with a friend at their home on a Sunday. These meals are packed shared with close friends and enjoyed often. So go to a pub on a Sunday and get a roast. They’ll often have several types of meat to choose from (beef, chicken, lamb, pork belly or a nut roast for vegetarians) and the plate will be stacked with various veggies to go with it, doused in gravy and crowned with a pillowy Yorkshire pudding. 

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And now I can hear you asking: What is a Yorkshire pudding?  It’s not pudding like you know it, but a little savoury bready thing. It goes perfectly with gravy and really no proper roast will go without. The nearest thing that I cam compare it to in the states is a popover, but it’s not an exact likeness, so you'll really just have to come over and try one out.

And if you do head to a pub to do that, you’ll find yourself seated among actual Brits enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon with people they like… and food that they love, too. (In fact, so much so that you’ll want to have booked yourself a table at all of the pubs listed below!)

A few of our favourite places to get a Sunday roast are in London are all clumped unapologetically around Notting Hill Gate:

The Windsor Castle | The Hillgate Pub | The Mall Tavern




*images by Sara Kerens for Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 13, 2017 and filed under eat, 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

St. Andrews | Balgove Larder

Hello from baby land! I'm sharing a few posts that I wrote this summer, but thought I'd save for a rainy day... and by "rainy day," I obviously meant a day where I'm hanging out with little kids and family rather than blogging. So while we do our newly-expanded-family-thing, here's a taste of a great day from earlier this summer.


I was walking through St. Andrews today and came to the realisation that, since we first started coming here seven years ago, either I've become more refined or the town has become a bit more posh.

The places we always used to go are still around but look a bit (cough) dated. And now, there are new spots that have captured my attention... luckily, these spots are bit more polished than my first round of picks and, if I'm honest, make a much higher grade of food.

For example, Balgove Larder. This farmshop + Cafe + Steak Barn make for a great foodie destination throughout the day. 


BALGOVE LARDER

While the evening and lunch are popular for the tasty Steak Barn, the morning has a bright breakfast being served in the farmshop cafe.  

This morning, I headed to Balgove (located a bit down the road from the Old Course Hotel) for breakfast. I got there around 10, and snagged a table along the counter by the window.

What makes Balgove a special stop is that the food is either grown on-site or sourced locally. And while it's perfectly pure in many respects, it's not obscenely priced.

A FEW THINGS TO TRY...

One of their (four types of!) homemade scones. These are served fresh and warm from the oven when ordered. Choose from plain, fruit, cheddar or cherry. These are one of the most popular items coming out of the kitchen, and they're worth trying!

The homemade granola served with local yoghurt and fresh fruit.

A bunch of flowers from their flower stand to take home with you when your tummy can't fit anymore in it.


To be honest, everything is pretty great at Balgove. I'm not sure you'll go wrong with anything off their well-groomed menu, so feel confident that what you're ordering is going to taste great... and treat your body kindly.

BALGOVE LARDER | Balgove Farmhouse, Strathtyrum Farm, St Andrews KY16 9SF, UK | Open 9AM-5PM


Looking for more of my favourite places in Scotland? Check out my posts here and my Scotland travel guide for more.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on July 24, 2017 and filed under eat, scotland, get out of town.

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.