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

Posted on September 5, 2017 and filed under eat, drink, hot tea, london, tea time, afternoon tea.

To A Tea | The Wind in the Willows at Haymarket Hotel

My mother-in-law has come to visit us in London each time we’ve had a baby… and this time was no exception. And each time she has come to visit after a baby has been born, we have celebrated with afternoon tea. In fact, we went to Fortnum & Mason when Viola was just a few days old. It was one of her very first times out of the house and I remember feeling like the whole experience was a bit of an out of body experience. When Harrison was born, we ventured to Sanderson’s Hotel in Marylebone for the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea. It was adorable, but I think I spent the majority of our time there swatting VIola’s hand away from the music box stacked with sugar cubes. Ha!

And for Edie’s birth? Well, I had my site’s set on trying the special Wind in the Willow’s afternoon tea at the Haymarket Hotel just off Trafalgar Square. Now, if I’m honest, I knew slightly what to expect. After all, the Haymarket Hotel is another Firmdale Hotel- like Ham Yard and Number Sixteen. I was expecting a similar experience and taste to the other two previous teas… and I was right. But luckily, I really enjoy those places because this was just as good.

And if you remember my posts about those two, you may remember- I really love the price. At £24 per person, this was a special day out in Central London without spending a small fortune. At the moment, Haymarket is offering a special twist to their regular afternoon tea that I couldn’t wait to try- The Wind in the Willows afternoon tea.  This special offering runs through the 9th of September in honour of the new musical adaptation of the book by Julian Fellows to arrive in the West End. After that, the darling decorated biscuits and darjeeling cupcakes that are inspired by Ratty’s picnic will go away and the afternoon tea will return to it’s standard items.

The afternoon tea is held in the hotel's restaurant, Brumus. While we were seated by the window (per my request), the awning outside was pulled and made our table have some seriously blue tinged lighting… it didn’t bother us at the moment, but my pictures are pretty dismal from the off lighting. Luckily, I was grabbing a few moments on video here and there, so I’ve got a short little video of our day below to share.

It was a sweet day, and I’m so thankful for these moments and memories we have made to mark the birth of our London babies with such a simple- yet sweet- little tradition.

P.S. If you’re wildly observant, you may notice that the kids are dressed a bit like the book? Well, you’d be right. Boden has just launched a Wind in the Willows series, which was serendipitous timing, as they sent some pieces over for the kids that same week. Can you believe it? Lucky them! (No adult clothes from the series, sadly!) But I think they look pretty cute. Find the collection here if you’re in the UK. Or if you’re in the US, find the best selection of Boden I know of here.



HAYMARKET HOTEL | 1 Suffolk Pl, London SW1Y 4HX | +44 20 7470 4000




 

*images and video original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on August 21, 2017 and filed under hot tea, kids, babies kennedy.

Hampstead | A Local's Neighborhood Guide

I’ll be honest- I don’t know Hampstead very well. I have had a few friends live there over the past few years in London, but it’s always *just* far enough out of my way that I don’t go there just for fun. And I got lost there at 35 weeks pregnant with twins.. which doesn’t sound terrible, unless you know how HILLY the neighbourhood is. It was an hour of my life that I’ll never get back… but the effort/calories burned that day may have helped me get back into my regular jeans a few weeks earlier than expected.

Fortunately, it’s not up to me to give you this area guide. Melissa has lived there for several years and has made her home there with her English husband and their two sons. Melissa is a cool, smart lady with an impressive corporate career. She’s got great taste and a friendly smile that make her easy to talk to and a fast friend. Enjoy taking a spin around one of London’s prettiest and most loved hoods with Melissa. Welcome to Hampstead!


Hampstead, NW3

1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

Imagine a delightful little English village complete with cobbled alleys, stone churches and heaps of willowy trees. Now plonk it down 10 minutes outside the centre of London and you’ve found yourself in Hampstead! Most famous for its rich history and ancient woodlands (called the Heath), Hampstead is a modern neighbourhood with great pubs, cafes and shopping. I really believe you have to experience its charm for yourself in order to wholly translate the unique feel of this area. Hampstead is also a hotbed for a lot of great private and state schools.

2. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW CONNECTED WOULD YOU SAY WHERE YOU LIVE IS? WHAT ARE THE MAJOR LINES THAT RUN TO/FROM YOU?

Even though it has an English countryside vibe Hampstead is really connected so I’d give it an 8. We are in Zone 2 and I can get to places like Kings Cross, Reagents Park and Leicester Square in 10 minutes. We’ve got two tube lines, the overground and buses. The Hampstead stop on the Northern line puts you right smack centre in the village. The jubilee line to Swiss Cottage is just a short walk away and the Hampstead Heath overground stop puts you right at the bottom of the Heath near the duck ponds.

 

3. IN A DREAM WORLD, WHAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT STREET OR AREA TO LIVE IN WITHIN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD? WHY?

Even after living in this area for 7 years, I still love to get lost with the kids in Hampstead’s little nooks. We find beautiful new alleys that would be a dream to live on all the time! My favourite is Downshire Hill for its beautiful single-family homes with huge yards. I also love the 5 story Georgian townhouses on Church Row and the terraced houses with brightly coloured doors on Flask Walk.

4. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE VALUE FOR SQUARE FOOTAGE IS? DO YOU PAY A PREMIUM FOR WHERE YOU LIVE OR WOULD YOU SAY IT IS A BETTER VALUE THAN OTHER AREAS IN LONDON?

All the greenery and brick mansions in Hampstead definitely come with a premium price tag; I’d say a 5. Hampstead is one of the most expensive areas to live in London just behind Kensington and Westminster. However, the house prices are consistently rising so it’s a good investment if you are buying. We bought our 4-story maisonette (fixer upper!) four years ago and it’s still rising even after Brexit! I’m sure the great schools in the area have something to do with this. I also think the slower pace, sense of community and lush greenery in Hampstead really give back to your well-being and overall sanity living with a young family in a big city.

5. WHAT IS THE GENERAL VIBE OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD? GIVE US THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE WE MEET SEE ON YOUR HIGH STREET?

Hampstead is very quiet with a bohemian and creative flair. The three type of people you will meet on Hampstead are celebrities, Hampstonians and young families. I think celebs like it here because they aren’t bothered by anyone. I’m always running into Josh Hartnett, Ricky Gervais and Isla Fisher. Hampstonians are the locals, born and raised in Hampstead. I think it says a lot that they send their children to the same schools they attended, which is hard to find in a transient place like London. Mostly, you will find families in Hampstead. We’ve got a solid expat community from all over the world but definitely a lot of Frenchies and Americans.

6. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET COFFEE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

You definitely have plenty of options for a nice cuppa. My favourite is Melrose & Morgan because I’ve gotten to know the staff well and they have picnic tables big enough for lots of moms and buggies to crowd around. On weekends the whole family heads to a casual little café called Mani’s for a well-priced full English breakfast and Monmouth Coffee. There are two more traditional spots for coffee in Hampstead called The Coffee Cup and Louis. The Coffee Cup is a Hampstead institution and Louis is a cool Hungarian bakery and tea room with the most delicious cakes.

7. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET DINNER IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

My husband and I had our first date in Hampstead so we like to relive the night! If you drink or eat at one place in Hampstead, it must be The Holly Bush. Full of charm, fireplaces and dark panelled walls, it is supposedly one of the oldest pubs in Hampstead and it certainly is my favourite in all of London. 28 Church Row is also a favourite. It’s a small romantic spot nestled in a cellar complete with brilliant tapas and wine. La Cage Imaginaire is cute too.

8. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A SATURDAY IN HAMPSTEAD AS A LOCAL?

Our Saturday routine is as follows: First up we head to a farmers' market that is just next to our house for coffee, produce and weekend treats. We usually meet up with friends for a nice pub lunch at either the Wells Tavern or the Freemasons Arms (also really great spots for dinner!). We walk off our lunch on the Heath, usually starting behind the Wells Tavern and then walking up to Kenwood House. In the evenings we catch a film on the comfy red couches at the Everyman Cinema

9. HOW MUCH WOULD AN UBER TO OXFORD CIRCUS COST YOU? (APPROXIMATELY)

£10-13 -- but I usually just take the tube as it’s only 20 minutes. 


Looking for the right London neighbourhood for you? Check out my other neighbourhood guides: 

SHEPHERD'S BUSH | CHELSEA | DULWICH



*images courtesy of Melissa Reeve

Posted on August 18, 2017 and filed under neighbourhood guide, expat, london, life, kids.

Dulwich | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

I met Bethie a few years ago through a Babyccino event that she was hosting. We had a few mutual friends, but now those have all moved away/drifted apart… and Bethie is one of the friends I’ve stayed in touch with. Bethie is fun, always laughing (even at my bad jokes!), empathetic, and a mover/shaker. She’s got ideas and ambitions constantly coming to her brain… and you’ll never think of her as a boring friend, I promise. She lives in Dulwich with her fantastically smart family and her love for their life there oozes out in every little post/conversation. Just read on, you’ll see what I mean. Thanks, Bethie, for contributing to this neighbourhood series and sharing a look into your sweet little life in Dulwich.


Dulwich Village, SE21

1. Tell us about your neighbourhood.

When were first moving to London from Washington, DC, we had our hearts set on living in Hampstead Heath, but we weren’t thrilled with what we could afford there. We ended up in South London where we eventually discovered Dulwich. The moment we stepped foot here, we knew we had found our future home. It is no coincidence that Dulwich is sometimes referred to as, “the Hampstead of the south”! With the quaint, villagey feel, amazing houses, yummy restaurants, and the gorgeous Dulwich Park, it certainly lives up to its reputation. 

2. On a 1-10, how connected would you say where you live is? What are the major lines that run to/from you?

There are advantages and disadvantages of being well connected in London. When we lived in Clapham (which I would give a 10 in terms of connectivity), we would cram ourselves onto hot, busy tube trains, only to emerge onto busy streets, teeming with people. It was fun at first, but it has really helped us to appreciate being a bit less connected here in Dulwich. It is much quieter here, with very few tourists which really helps add to the great community feel we love about living here. 

There are loads of bus lines to take you to better connected areas, and train lines to get you to London Bridge and Victoria (via North Dulwich, East Dulwich, and West Dulwich stations), and nearby Denmark Hill station to gets you to East London. Many people here have cars, but we love to bike everywhere and I can’t imagine a lovelier way to commute. My six-year-old rides her bike to and from school through past the gardens and lake in beautiful Dulwich Park and our au pair and I ride with my three-year-old on the back of our bikes. My husband works near Tower Bridge and it takes him 25 minutes to ride his bike to work each day. It takes 5-10 minutes to bike to a train station to take me into town, and a variety of beautiful local parks are also only a short ride away. However, when it comes down to it, there are definitely better neighbourhoods to consider if you plan to spend a lot of time in central London. I would rate Dulwich a 5 in terms of connectivity. 

3. In a dream world, what would be the perfect street or area to live in within your neighbourhood? Why?

Dulwich Village isn’t very big. Most everything there is to see here (shops, restaurants, The Dulwich Picture Gallery, and Dulwich Park) are all located on the main street. Also lining this main street are some absolutely incredible houses. They have grand entrances with unbelievable gardens out back. I can tell you about these gardens because every summer a few of them open them up for villagers to come explore! They have live music, sell tea and cakes, and usually raise some decent money for a local charity. The gardens are absolutely bonkers and are filled with beautifully manicured lawns, incredible flowers, ponds, fountains, trellises, paths, and staircases. Villagers bring picnics and camp out for hours on end. Given the amazing gardens, I can imagine the inside of these houses would be equally impressive. I would have to say that living in one of these houses right in the middle of the village would be pretty dreamy!

4. On a 1-10, how would you say the value for square footage is? Do a pay a premium for where you live or would you say it’s a better value than other areas in London?

People don’t move to Dulwich because it is affordable; people move here for the incredible schools, the park, and the lovely village. That being said, South London is, in general, much cheaper than Central or North London. Purchasing a four-bedroom house next to Hampstead Heath would run you many millions of pounds, but here in “the Hampstead of the south” you can find houses closer to 1 million pounds. It is still a lot of money, but it is a bit more accessible. 

I would rate affordability in Dulwich about a 4. There are definitely cheaper areas, and you do pay a bit of a premium here, but in comparison to other highly desirable neighbourhoods, it is definitely more affordable. 

5. What’s the general vibe of the neighbourhood? Give us three people we might see on your high street?

As a Seattle girl, I really appreciate the more laid back vibe of South London. While many people here are very stylish, it is rare to see anyone with a Gucci bag or Jimmy Choo shoes. You are more likely to notice people wearing a lovely jumper from a local shop, or a fun dress from Zara. If you show up on the school run in trainers and a dirty t-shirt or heels and a suit, you won’t get much of a look either way. 

There is a very friendly vibe here as everyone presumes that everyone else lives in the village. You are bound to have children at the same school, or will run into each other again at The Dog (our local pub that has just undergone a gorgeous renovation!) so you might as well be friendly! You also see a lot of familiar faces around here. It is rare to run errands and not run into someone you know. Even shopkeepers and local wait staff will stop and stay hello if they see us. We even know some of them by name (a special shoutout to Lucy at our favourite Italian restaurant who always gives snuggles to the kids!). 

Three people you might see on our high street would be a mum and baby on their way to meet a friend for coffee, a dog walker on their way to the park with a handful of leashes, and a kid on a scooter. (There are loads of (amazing) schools in Dulwich and so you see kids everywhere!!)

6. What’s your favourite place to get coffee in your neighbourhood?

Often after the school run, there is a group of parents that will go and get a coffee together before starting their days. The group usually includes a stay-at-home dad, a graphic designer, a very famous artist (!), and me! We often have a few others join in as well. While there are quite a few places to stop and get a good coffee around here, we often find ourselves at Christopher’s Bakery (where I often grab some fresh bread for dinner). Gail’s Bakery is also a favourite, but it is usually so crowded in the mornings that I usually only go there in the afternoons. A short bike ride from the village over to East Dulwich and you have even more options such as the hipster mecca of Brickhouse Bread, and the newly opened Greek cafe, Kanella, who make the best matcha latte!

7. What’s your favourite place to eat dinner in your neighbourhood?

While there are loads of restaurants to choose from in East Dulwich (like Japanese food and cocktails from Yama Momo, or the best ever burger from Meat Liquor) our favourite local restaurant is definitely Rocca in Dulwich Village. Not only is the food delicious (try the carbonara!!) and the staff super kid friendly, it is also surprisingly affordable! 

8. Best pub?

There is only one pub in the village and it has only just reopened after a nearly three year renovation. You will always see people sitting out front having a pint, and the garden is perfect for families to let their kids run in. However, as it has been closed for ages, we have spent a lot of time in East Dulwich pubs. I recently discovered The Cherry Tree which is located right across from the East Dulwich station and it is my new favourite local pub. It is a bit off the main high street so tends to be less crowded, yet it still has great food, a beautiful interior, and a lovely garden out back. (Added bonus is that my band, Wilford Social, plays there once a month! Come say hi!)

9. Best way to spend a Saturday in Dulwich Village as a local?

Hands down, the best way to spend a Saturday in Dulwich is in the park. Everyone is there with their families and there is plenty of space to spread out with a picnic, or enjoy food from the cafe. The kids love the play area, and you are bound to run into people you know there which is always fun. I also like to participate in the Park Run on Saturday mornings in Dulwich Park where you join a hundred or so other runners for a free timed 5K.

10. How much would an Uber to Oxford Circus cost you (approximately)?

£20

11. What are three great schools in your neighbourhood? Are they State or Fee Paying?

Dulwich is known for its schools. There is Dulwich College (founded in 1619) which is a boarding and day school for boys, James Allen’s Girls’ School which is ranked in the top ten of UK secondary schools, and Alleyn’s which is one of the country’s leading co-ed day schools. All of the aforementioned schools are fee paying, but we also have very highly ranked state schools as well. We are really lucky here and definitely spoiled for choice in terms of schools!


Looking for the perfect London neighbourhood for you? Check out my previous guides to Shepherds Bush and Chelsea


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Posted on August 11, 2017 and filed under neighbourhood guide.

Outlander + My 5 Favourite Castles in Scotland

I had planned to get my nails done before having Edie, but, alas, she came early and so me and my overgrown hooves had to deal with not looking their best during her first few weeks of life. Fast-forward one month and I managed to sneak away for a trip to the cheapest nail salon in our neighbourhood to finally get my nails done. Since I was wedging this between a trip to the fabric shop and Tyler taking the kids to the park, I didn’t have an appointment. When I walked in, they told me it would be 20 minutes before they could help me, and I gladly parked it until it was my turn.

With my phone dead and nothing else to do, I glanced around to find something to read. All of the magazines were at least a year old- literally, the newest featuring Princess Charlotte’s first birthday, but I found a copy of a DEPARTURES magazine that wasn’t entirely from another century. I grabbed it and spent the next hour absorbing every single letter within that tattered and faded issue. I skimmed ads for luxury cruises, read about trends in Shanghai’s food scene… and, eventually, landed on an article where an editor journeys around Scotland to trace the steps of the scenes from the show, Outlander. A show that I had previously assumed to be included motorcycles and ponytailed men in chunky metal-toed boots. (Why you ask? I honestly have no clue. Was there some old TNT series that had a similar name and premise? I digress.)

To my surprise, the editor’s description of Outlander totally captivated me (historical fiction + art-like costumes) and I can’t wait to submerse myself in it as soon as possible. On top of the fact that the plot sounds incredible, I have to say: I was mostly excited to read about all the Scottish settings that the show features…. Many of which I have been this summer.

One of the places the editor talks about is the town of Falkland- where I just so happened to spend the morning a few weeks ago. It’s one of the cutest little towns that I’ve been to in Scotland, complete with a palace, an antique shop full of affordable treasures and a small handful of cafes and pubs to keep you fed during your day there. It’s charming, and after being quite taken with Falkland after my day there, I included it on my list of “5 Scottish Castles to See.” 

Take a quick look at my latest video where I walk through (literally) the 5 castles that I recommend to see when you’re in Scotland. You’ll also get a glimpse of some pretty scenery and an abandoned castle below. The great news for you is that, if you do find yourself in another castle in Scotland, chances are it’s going to be pretty great, too.

Now, can any of you that have seen Outlander weigh in below on whether or not I should watch this show? Win me over, please. I’m really hoping this can be a new favourite. And do guys like it, too?. Hopefully, I can get Tyler interested, too!



Find more of my favourite places in Scotland here in my travel guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on August 10, 2017 and filed under scotland, uk getaway.