Posts filed under my london

To A Tea | The Dorchester Hotel

I remember when I was three, my mom came into the living room one afternoon and asked if any of us wanted to go boating with her. While my other siblings mumbled out “nah,” I looked around with horror and jumped at the opportunity. About ten minutes later, I was soon confused as to why we were standing under the yellow lamps of the nearby high school in a long line to reach a table of old women with highlighters and paperwork. When I asked her when we would actually be getting to get to the boats, she laughed and said, “No, we are going VOTING. Not boating.” I was, as you can imagine, let down at the miscommunication. However, I remember feeling really special that I got to go on this special trip out with my mom in the early evening hours. Just me and her- which, as the middle child, rarely happened. I saw her transcend her normal role as “mom” into a normal, everyday human doing something that was totally outside my normal realm of her duties. It’s funny that I remember that, but it was just the first time I remember her in a different role other than “mom."

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This week, Viola & I were invited for a special date at The Dorchester Hotel to have afternoon tea. Now, I love afternoon tea and I love the Dorchester, so I was really excited, but what made me even more excited was the chance to do it during their special half-term afternoon tea for little girls. The tea features all the wonderful goodness of their classic afternoon teas, but with the added bonus of REAL ballerinas from the English National Ballet coming to dance and perform a modified version of Sleeping Beauty for them. As if getting to socialise and swan around with real dancers wasn’t enough, they also had a pianist playing all the best songs (A Million Dreams, Disney classics and the like) and face painting. It was both a five-year-old’s dream…. and her mother’s.

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But the best part for moms? The amazing staff didn’t bat an eye at the overcharged excitement of the junior guests. Instead, they were being totally kind and welcoming to them. (Which is not always the case in fine hotels, if you know what I mean.) It felt so indulgent and, yet, so unstuffy. 

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I’ve always loved the themed teas that the Dorchester offers- their Wimbledon tea in the summer is especially cute- but this was definitely a special treat. I mean, let’s be honest, it doesn’t have to be a fancy day out in London to make your children feel special. It could honestly just be a coffee date or a walk through the park with a sandwich on a bench... but this definitely is a great memory to be saved for a later day. One I know I’ll cherish, and I hope she will, too.

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Find more about the Dorchester’s Afternoon Teas here or browse my favourite spots for Afternoon Tea here.



*image original to Aspiring Kennedy

*this afternoon tea was gifted to us by the Dorchester

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

Little London | 5 Places to Splash & Cool Off Around London

I grew up in Texas with a pool. I could swim from one end to the other by the time I was three. 

However, my children live in London. The closest thing they have to a pool is a bathtub, and they still love their floaties very, very much. (And so do I.)

Another thing that is different than my Texas upbringing is the lack of air conditioning. When it gets hot, it gets HOT like its so gloriously been the last stretch of weeks here in Britain. While we don't have access to a pool, there are some great spots around London... most come with a view and even better- most don't cost a dime.

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And if you're going to get familiar with this scene, you'll need to adopt the term "lido" into your vocabulary. Swap out "swimmin' hole" or whatever you called it back home and opt for this posh and very English term ("LIE-DOH"). It means an open-air swimming pool or bathing beach.

(Go on and drop that term to a local and feel very cool.)


DIANA MEMORIAL FOUNTAIN | This fabulous memorial is a giant water feature near the Serpentine. Kids can wander the circular water feature and play in the rapids. It can be a bit treacherous for tiny ones in spots, so plan to wear shots to escort them through those spots. 

*I just checked the website and it says that it asks people not to walk on the memorial... but I assure you that hundreds do this daily anyway and they have staff to supervise?

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THE V&A MUSEUM | In between the museum and the cafe of the V&A, there's a little pond/pool area. It's a bit deeper than your ankles and has a few fountains dotted around the side. In the hot days, you'll find kids splashing and playing in their diapers and underwear here. It's a great spot, as the cafe is just to your side to make it an easy spot to spend a few hours in... and with water so shallow you don't have to continuously fret about drowning. I would say that, as this is primarily a museum, make sure your children are changed and dry before re-entering the museum to avoid making a mess! It would be very uncool of you. 

 

RAVENSCOURT PARK LIDO | This is a neighbourhood gem in Shepherds Bush. Set in the back of a grand Victorian park, this lido is perfect for little kids (not too deep!) and is sandwiched between a playground and a sand pit. Just outside the lido gates, you'll find the massive park to enjoy and explore. 

 

KENSINGTON MEMORIAL | If you're looking for a splash pad, this is a great place to go. It's tucked back in Notting Hill in the neighbourhood that was devastated by the Grenfell Tower tragedy. It's very local and feels like a little trip back through time when you enter by it's tiny snack shack. When the kids are tired, they can play on the playgrounds just outside the gate with areas perfecter big kids (zipline and giant climbing frame) and a for littles  (smaller climbing frame and sand).

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DESIGN MUSEUM | Just off Kensington High Street, the new Design Museum is a very cool (free!) museum. Just outside that very cool museum, there are some fun fountains that they allow kids to play in. It's not very crowded and makes for an easy stopping point near Holland Park or running errands on Kensington High Street.

 


 

Though I've never tried them myself,

my very normal & cool friends like these places, too:

SERPENTINE LIDO (HYDE PARK )

LONDON FIELDS LIDO (EAST LONDON)

 PARLIAMENT HILL LIDO (HAMPSTEAD HEATH)

 


 

FIND MORE FUN THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS IN LONDON HERE.

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Little London | Thames Path in Richmond

 

I often get parents of small kids over for a visit, and they gush about how they wish they could have their kids grow up here. YES. It has some amazing advantages: culture, history, cool accents. I love the childhood my children have most every day of the week, but I also feel like I always need to be honest. (Because trust me, I glazed over city living with kids for a long time... before I actually lived with kids in a city.) The fact of the matter is that living in a major city with a young family comes with some huge downfalls: no space (seriously, like ever), long journeys of schlepping in bad weather or on crowded transport, somewhat difficult social boundaries to break through. 

We have been really lucky and are so grateful for our little life here. We have all our needs met... and beyond! 

But last summer, we were feeling a bit claustrophobic. Tyler finally broke down, jumped through the hoops to get his UK license and we added a (very used! very cheap!) car to our family after 7 years of living without it. We hardly use it still walk and scoot most places during the week. But on the weekend, we get a little crazy and get the itch to get out of town with the kids and give them room to explore.


THAMES PATH RICHMOND

For Edie's birthday, we wanted to do something simple. Since those first few birthdays are really for the parents, these parents decided that the best thing for us was to go easy on ourselves. So, when an extravagant party isn't an option, hanging out in a pretty place is the next best thing because it still feel really special.

We headed to Richmond, parked the car, unloaded the kids and went down towards the river. Along the Thames there is the cutest little river walk- which is just a small part of the the Thames Path National trail that stretches 180 miles from Greenwich to north of Oxford.

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The place we went to stretches between Richmond and Hampton Court and comes complete with boat & bike rentals, cafes with people dotted around the tables, grassy areas with people napping or lounging together, and cute little bunting to guide you along the way. We LOVED it!

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We found a little spot, tossed down our picnic blanket, lit a candle on a cupcake and sang happy birthday to sweet Edie.

After they gobbled down the icing and abandoned the cake part of the cupcakes, we watched Harrison scoot up and down a long ramp until we could no longer stand the heat.

 

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It was a perfect little escape from the crammed city routine we often do, and I can't wait to go back and do more picnics... and, when Tyler's feeling up for some arm work, going in one of the row boats. 

 

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You can easily reach Richmond by car or public transport (trains from Waterloo into Richmond or the district line to Richmond). There was some nice detailed instructions on this site. But basically, just get to the High Street in Richmond, and you're just a street or two away.

 

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This is a great day out and makes those tough stretches of being in London with kids feel less stressful and so, so lovely!

 

LOOKING FOR MORE ABOUT LONDON WITH LITTLE KIDS? CHECK HERE.

 



 

*images original to aspiring kennedy

 

My London | Highlights of the Natural History Museum

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In conjunction with my other post on The British Museum, I've decided to walk you through the best of London's museums and create an easy to follow series to help your trip planning. The next up is another of London's greatest museums: The Natural History Museum!

Not only is the Natural History Museum pretty to look at on the outside- decked out in its Victorian splendour- but it is also a treasure chest inside. The Natural History Museum is home to over 80 million specimens and has 36 free galleries. As almost all museums in England are, admission is free. No pressure to see it all or get your money’s worth- you really can browse and visit as you enjoy… or just go in to have a reasonably priced cup of coffee in a fabulous setting. (I do that often!)

Since this is such a great spot to take children in London, I wanted to make sure it made my new series of museum guides in London. It’s definitely the museum that my children know the best, and it is a place that I’m sure many people have special childhood memories. (Any of you have any you’d like to share?) 

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THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM


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THE BLUE WHALE | When you walk into the Natural History Museum, there is a huge Blue Whale exhibit in Hintze Hall to greet visitors. It is a massive skeleton that hangs from the ceiling, and it is incredible.

Some fast facts about the Blue Whale: The blue whale is the largest animal to have ever lived. With each gulp, it can take in up to 457,000 calories. They can weigh up to 180 tonnes, making them heavier than even the largest dinosaurs. The Museum’s Blue Whale is 25 metres long- thats 75 feet, American friends. You won’t want to miss this exhibit and as big as it is, I don't think you will!

WHERE TO FIND IT | Blue Zone, nearest entrance is the main entrance off Cromwell Road.


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DINOSAURS | The Natural History Museum’s dinosaurs are world-famous. This exhibit includes the first-ever fossils found from a Tyrannosaurus Rex, the skull of a Triceratops, and the Baryonx. With all the dinosaurs around, this is hugely kid-friendly. Stop at this exhibit to learn more about these prehistoric giants and why they died out.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Blue Zone on the Ground Floor, next to the Hintze Hall.


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MAMMALS | This exhibit has cases and cases of mammals and it is truly fascinating to see the diversity of it all! Some of the highlights of this exhibit include pandas, bears, horses, big cats and dogs, and the extinct Diprotodon from Australia. The exhibit compares them to humans and shows you how truly diverse life is!

WHERE TO FIND IT | Blue Zone, nearest entrance is Cromwell Road.


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BIRDS | This section is both incredible and a bit creepy. All of these birds are pinned down so that you can see the anatomy of their wings and bodies, as well as the way that their feathers have grown. My favorite is the hummingbird cabinet. It is literally an array of hundreds of hummingbirds. The Birds exhibit also includes cases of the extinct Dodo Bird, blackbirds, storm petrels, passenger pigeons, and a selection of eggs from the giant elephant bird.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Green Zone, the nearest entrance is the Cromwell Road.


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CREEPY CRAWLIES | This exhibit lives up to its name; it is full of creepy things that crawl! The exhibit includes a live ant colony, a life-size model of a termite mound, an interactive game to build a spider, a cabinet of crustaceans, and more locusts, scorpions, termites, and thousands more Your kids will love it! Try not to hurry past, as it really is a fascinating exhibit!

WHERE TO FIND IT | Green Zone, nearest entrance is Cromwell Road.


HUMAN BIOLOGY | If you’ve had enough of all the animals and other mammals, this gallery is a huge resource to find out more about your own body. From learning about how hormones affect our body to how our brain and organs work together, this gallery is incredible. Be sure to see the giant cell model and the specimen of DNA.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Blue Zone, nearest entrance is Cromwell Road.


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DARWIN CENTRE'S COCOON | This centre is super unique because you can see the museum’s scientists in action behind glass walls. It also takes you through how scientists collect and care for all of their specimens. Exhibits include specimens of beetles, butterflies, plants, tarantulas, and herbs. It opened in 2009, so it’s pretty new. Definitely worth checking out!

WHERE TO FIND IT | Darwin Centre in the Orange Zone, nearest entrance is Cromwell Road.


FUN EVENTS | The museum holds fun events, including a nighttime event called “DinoSnore”, where kids aged 7-11 can participate in a night of making dinosaur T-shirts, explore a torch-lit trail, and attend a science show put on by a Museum scientist. They do activities until midnight and then set up a sleeping area. Breakfast is served in the morning before they leave. Bookings are required. See their website for more details.

The museum also holds an “Airbnb Base Camp”, which is another nighttime event for kids with a special area for sleepovers in the Museum. The sleeping area is next to a 1,300 year old Sequoia tree, overlooking the Blue Whale exhibit.

In addition to all of this, there are movie nights, “DinoSnore” for adults, crime scene live events, and other activities for the night, where you can see the museum’s exhibits come alive from a new perspective.


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COFFEE | And of course, no trip out in London is complete without a stop for a coffee and a pastry. They have some good cafes and bookshops- my favorite is the T. Rex Grill (they have cheap kids meals and very decent adult food), The Coffee House, and the Central Cafe! 


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ADDRESS & HELPFUL TIPS | Cromwell Rd, Kensington, London SW7 5BD

Open Everyday, 10:00 - 17:50

Tube Station: South Kensington (Circle & District Line + Piccadilly Line)

There are three entrances: Cromwell Road, Queen’s Gate, and Exhibition Road. However, be warned: the main entrance on Cromwell Road has crazy long lines (especially on weekends) so skip the long queue and go around the corner on Exhibition Road for a shorter line and a faster entrance. Queen’s Gate is also good, but can be periodically closed.

I hope you enjoy your visit to the Natural History Museum! Find more of my favorite London highlights here. 

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My London | Maggie Jones

What do girls really want? A question asked my many, but I think the solution is simple: pretty lunches with people they like. Ha! Okay, maybe that is simplifying a question that has puzzled many through the ages, but what woman doesn’t enjoy a gorgeous meal in the company of a person they enjoy? 

I can think fondly of so many special meals shared in lovely settings with people that are dear to me. Ahhh…. What is it about being around the table with someone you love that feels so comforting? It’s where physical needs are met with emotional needs and all feels right with the world.

I recently revisited a place I hadn’t been to in a long time- Maggie Jones. It’s a sweet spot that was just down from our old place in Notting Hill, on Kensington Church Street. 

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The lunch was with some sweet travel clients that I was lucky enough to travel with for two weeks this month. The conversation was easy, the service was helpful and friendly, the food was fabulous (oh, that veggie pot pie!) and the ambiance was out of a movie.

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I totally recommend Maggie Jones for a lunch if/when you’re near Kensington Palace. It makes for a sweet cosy spot to share a meal in the middle of a busy city. And seriously- the food! Delicious comfort food in the sweetest setting!

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MAGGIE JONES | 6 Old Court Place, Kensington Church Street, London W8 4PL | 020 7937 6462 | Reservations recommended. 


Find more of my favourite places to go in London under My London series or in my London travel guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on June 20, 2018 and filed under london, my london favourites, my london.

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 | The Highlights of the British Museum

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Do you remember the excitement of being in school and going on a field trip? You would trek out on adventures with your teacher, classmates and obliging volunteer parents to see some treasure of your local area. (Mine included the Fort Worth Stockyards and Kodak Film Processing Center. Whee!) Well, today I’m whisking you away on a field trip. We are leaving our normal everyday setting here on Aspiring Kennedy of children, English clothes and cakes and delving straight into the wondrous place that is the British Museum.

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I realized the other day that I’ve never actually posted about the British Museum on my blog, which is weird as I have spent so much time there over the past years. It’s located within a minute from my office, I was there all the time for my masters degree, and both Tyler & I teach in it now for various courses. And yet, the only things I ever really post are glimpses of it as I walk to and from work. I suppose the truth is: even though I may sound like a British Museum know-it- all, the more I’m there the more I realise how little I actually do know. There’s so much to learn!

But for most people coming to visit the world’s second public museum (the first was the Ashmolean in Oxford, just in case you ever need it for a pub quiz), I can guide you around the highlights of the British Museum.. and to make it easy to swallow, you’ll only have to read 2-3 sentences about each of the items.

If you’re looking to find the best things to see at the British Museum, well, wait no longer. During a snowy day last week, I ran in between lecturing and picking up Viola from school for a special whirlwind tour to show you the things that I think you’ll like best. Admission is free for all and you can view all ten departments and collections upon walking through those glorious and massive doors.


THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM

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PARTHENON FRIEZES | Also known as the controversial “Elgin Marbles.” Only half of the sculptures of the Parthenon still survive and London actually holds the majority of them in the British Museum, some lay on the bottom of the Mediterranean sea being lost in transport, and the rest remain in Athens. Who is the rightful owner has been a topic of debate for a long time, but regardless of where you think they belong- they currently have UK citizenship.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Greece: Parthenon, Room 18, Ground Floor


ASSYRIAN SCULPTURE AND BALAWAT GATES | These large winged human-headed lion sculptures guarded the entrance to the royal palace of King Ashurbanipal II. Not only do they look cool and feel like walking onto a movie set, they also hold Biblical significance when you realize that Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego would have sat on them as they waited for their turn to see the king; in fact, if you look closely on the right hand side, you’ll see where people carved a small game to play as they waited.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Assyria, Room 6, Ground Floor

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ROSETTA STONE | This stone allowed us to decipher Egyptian writings for the very first time- though I still prefer to enjoy Billy Crystal’s theory about hieroglyphics actually just being a cartoon of a cat named “Sphynxy” in When Harry Met Sally. This famous rock wasn’t always placed behind a glass case-- it used to be uncovered in the museum, where visitors could touch and trace the writings on the stone. (If you’re finding yourself longing to touch and feel the stone, wander to the hall of replicas where they have a life- sized one you can touch.)

WHERE TO FIND IT | Egypt, Egyptian sculptures, Room 4, Ground Floor


SUTTON HOO | A woman named Mrs. Edith Pretty asked an archaeologist to come explore a large burial mound on her property. What he found was incredible: an imprint of a 27-metre long ship and a burial chamber with treasures inside. This elaborate discovery probably once belonged to a king, though to be accurate the mystery still remains today about who exactly he was.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Europe: The Sir Paul and Lady Ruddock Gallery, Room 41, First Floor

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BASALT STATUE | This colossal statue, perhaps better known as one of the statues from Easter Island, is known as Hakananai’a, or “Stolen and hidden friend”. It represents an ancestral figure, probably to express ideas about leadership and authority. It also reminds me of Night At The Museum: “Me want gum-gum dumb-dumb.”

WHERE TO FIND IT | Africa, Room 24, Ground Floor

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PHARMACOPOEIA | This item may not be one of the most famous you’ll read about in most guides- but I can’t help but include it here. In this installation in the British Museum, titled “Cradle to Grave,” shows the medicine and pills that the average person takes over the course of their lifetime. The research is staggering...over 14,000 drugs are prescribed to a human in their lifetime (in the UK). It said that we spend more money on treating indigestion than cancer. This fascinating installation compares how different cultures treat illness and is well worth the read.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Themes: The Wellcome Trust Gallery, Room 24, Ground Floor


MUMMIES | The British Museum holds the largest collection of Egyptian objects besides Egypt-- including mummies! The Museum holds over 120 human mummies in their collection, and over 80 of them are from Egypt. A favorite of mine is the Gebelein Man B, who was preserved in the sand and is shrunken with skin and hair still persevered after thousands of years… and no doubt a chilling reminder of our own mortality.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Ancient Egypt: Egyptian Death and Afterlife in Roxie Walker Galleries, Room 62-63, First Floor


Of course... no visit would be complete without a sweet treat from the café in the Great Court. (Highly recommend those raspberry + white chocolate muffin.)

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If you’re traveling to London and would like to book a private tour with Tyler, he offers a fantastic “The History of the Bible though the British Museum” tour. He’s going to maybe kill me for posting that since he mainly only does them for my private clients, but I think they’re too good to miss!

Find more of my favourite spaces and places in London in my travel guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

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.

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 | Petersham Nurseries

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One of the things I have been most looking forward to since we have bought a car is using it to pop out to Petersham Nurseries in Richmond. I’ve got big dreams of letting the kids wander through the greenhouses and rows of plants while Tyler & I sip coffee from the deli and splurge on a candle or a couple of coffee mugs from the shop.

It’s not too far away from us- about 20 minutes by car- but would take way more time to get there and require some walking down random country roads. Basically, a major hassle.

The only problem is, Tyler would rather be pretty much anywhere other than a fancy garden center on the weekend... regardless of how much I sell him in it’s charm.

Luckily for me, Petersham Nurseries have opened a second location in Covent Garden. While the names “Nurseries” and “Garden” may indicate lush areas full of greenery, the truth is- it’s not really. It’s not a place to go if you’re looking to redo your garden. You won’t find bags of fertiliser or plastics containers of perennials for £1.49. 

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But, it does have pretty things for gardens (like copper spades and posh linen aprons) and it also sells nice things that come from gardens in its deli. The back of the store is full of florals and all the bits you need for them, including pretty staff members in aprons climbing up and down pretty ladder so nearby to arrange them for you.

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And it’s total eye candy, so I have to definitely recommend stopping by when you’re in the area.

Imagine if Anthropologie had an older, snobbier sister who had moved away to Europe, married into some aristocratic family and now makes gorgeous homemade jams in the country home with their 5 kids and two black labs. That’s kinda the vibe here... and just like you’d feel around that girl, so you’ll feel here. A bit intimidated and totally sucked in.

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The deli is small and well-curated. While the shop is narrow, it winds back and offers the chance to see (and buy!) fresh flowers that are being arranged. Expect an edited menu of sandwiches and fresh eats... and to pay £6.50 for some artisan mortadella on fresh salty ciabatta with some rocket sprinkled on. Choose from one of the photo shoot worthy sweet treats and a hot drink to finish off the experience and you’ll be on your way!

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There’s a restaurant coming on the premise soon, I’m told, and I have no doubt I’ll find myself back to try it when it opens, too. While it will most likely be pricey and hard to get into, the allure of Petersham is pretty hard to resist. Stop by their new show and I have a feeling you’ll see what I mean!


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Petersham Nurseries | 27-31 King Street, Floral Court, London, WC2E 8JD



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

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.

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

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.

My London | Cowshed Spa at Clarendon Cross

In both of my pregnancies, my hips hurt really badly in the last months. I was constantly on the lookout for a great pregnancy massage in London to relieve some of the stress. I would google "Best Pregnancy Massages in London" endlessly as if I would find newly released information... but sadly, I could really ever only ever find spas own sites. 

I thought it might be helpful if I shared my spa experiences here, so that when you find yourself in that desperate moment- you'll have some real comparisons available to help you find the best London spa for pregnancy treatments.


COWSHED SPA, CLARENDON CROSS

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Tyler got me a gift voucher ages ago for Cowshed Spa. I got too busy in the fall with work to use it and then, to my dismay, had to wait past the first trimester to book any pregnancy treatments. Sigh. Oh well... life in the First World did continue, don't be alarmed.

When I finally got booked in, I was 18 weeks and still hardly showing. As in, I looked more like I had that post-pizza-buffet-glow than expectant-mother-glow. None the less, I was ready for my formal introduction to this classic London spa and couldn't wait for my appointment. 


SETTING & VIBE | Nestled in the quiet heart of Holland Park, Cowshed is definitely aware of its clientele. With an airy entrance that is casually posh, Cowshed makes coming to the spa feel as social and casual as meeting a friend for coffee.

STAFF & SERVICE | Every employee- from the booking line, reception staff, Cafe waitstaff and therapist- was exceptionally kind and made me feel so welcome. Can't say anything but praise for how I was treated from start to finish.

TREATMENT RECEIVED |  Udderly Gorgeous Pregnancy Massage (60 min, £80) & Cowshed Facial (60 min, £80),

TYPE OF PREGNANCY MASSAGE TABLE | If your heart is set on a massage table with a giant hole for your belly, this isn't for you. However, despite my initial disappointment- how they worked around this actually felt great and I'd recommend it to a friend. It involves a comfortable leaning setup for the back massage portion that can only sound odd,  but in the moment felt really relaxing. The rest of the massage was performed on a cozy and huge massage table.

SPA FACILITIES | When I first walked in, I felt like I had arrived at yummy mummy Mecca. I checked in, was directed to the communal table by the cafe and eagerly waited to be shown to the locker room where I could take a quick shower before the massage started. I browsed the newspapers sitting out and peeked at the food options from the cafe.

By sadly, I realised that there were no locker rooms. When my therapist arrived and took me downstairs to the room, my hopes of unwinding in a plush relaxation room with tea and a long shower with Cowshed products wasn't going to happen.

The treatment room was in the basement and fairly non-descript, but the massage bed was big and extremely comfortable. 

THINGS I LOVED | The massage table was fantastic. The products used left my skin feeling amazing. The facial was exceptionally helpful and something I wish I could do every few weeks to keep my face in good condition. (Alas, I'm not that lucky!) I'd love to go back and have breakfast or lunch with a friend before getting our nails done. The staff was also incredibly kind and warm.

THINGS I WISHED WERE DIFFERENT | I did feel a bit cheated that the experience started and ended in the treatment room. I would have loved to spend a bit more time relaxing in a robe somewhere, but that's probably splitting hairs. Still, for the sake of comparing spas in London, it's worth noting so that expectations are met.

COWSHED SPA, Clarendon Cross | 119 Portland Road, London, W11 4LN 




*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

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

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