We hopped over the pond for a short trip to London. Normally after we travel to Europe I am exhausted mentally and physically but on this trip I came home refreshed and just felt so invigorated and inspired. Which is crazy because I was nearing 8 months pregnant and I took care of my son for two days by myself. Perhaps it’s because London is starting to feel very familiar to me.
We stay at the same hotel each time we go which really helps. It’s the Hotel Ampersand and it is in South Kensington which is the loveliest neighborhood! We can walk to grocery stores if need be, there is a shop that sells not only the best chocolate chip cookies in the world (Ben’s Cookies) but a shop that sells Pastel De Natas, my favorite Portuguese treat! There is also a juice bar with other healthy treats across the street called Squirrel (the inside is designed to look like a treehouse). When it was just Gianluca and I, we went there both nights for dinner to eat their sweet potato with vegan chili for dinner (we both loved it). The hotel is also a few blocks from Harrods, the greatest shopping mall I have ever been to. On past trips to London we made sure to do all of the sight seeing like Big Ben, The Eye, the bridges, Buckingham Palace, the Big Bus Tour etc… but on this trip because we had been there done that (and Gianluca wouldn’t care to see it/remember any of it) we really just relaxed and walked around and just enjoyed. I called it our Botanic/Gastronomic tour of London.
On the first day we were on our way to Harrods with our family (Nick, my children, my mother and father in law and Nick’s Aunt and Uncle) when we passed by a few beautiful shops with beautiful floral decorations on their doors and interiors. I don’t mean just a wreathe. These places were truly over the top covered in flowers. I was so inspired! I wanted to decorate my own front door like this. Why stop with a floral wreathe why not cover the whole door?? I am obsessed with flowers. I want them everywhere. When Nick and I got married being in charge of the flowers was my only request.
Okay so let’s first start with my husband’s picks. Each time we go to London we go to Nobu. It is an amazing Japanese restaurant. Everything is delicious… everything. I ate sushi, tempura, rice, cod… yes sushi; the fish was cooked all the way- don’t judge. I also had a couple of Kyoto’s garden. It’s a non alcoholic drink made of fresh juices. I think strawberry and lychee and something else, but I can’t remember… It’s so delicious and refreshing. I wish I had one right now. The past three times we have been in London I have ordered them (because I am constantly either pregnant or breast feeding someone). Then for dessert… I think we had everything on the menu (but the mochi ice-cream is my favorite).
The next night we went to Hakkasan. Let me start with the negative really quick for fellow moms. This place is not kid friendly. They don’t even have high chairs. If you look around it is a chic dark place with lots of good-looking people going on dates or going out with their girlfriends. The kind of place with the hip music and everything, like you are about to go out to some fancy nightclub afterwards. At least that was my impression. I do like that scene, just not with my kids. Anyway on to the positive now that I’ve warned the mamas, the food was amazing!!! We had dim sum, assorted fried rices, some sort of amazing vegan dish that was supposed to taste like chicken, dishes that were not vegan and everything was just so mouth watering good. At first I was honestly a little upset my husband had chosen a Cantonese dim sum place because I had told him several times that I had gotten food poisoning from dim sum on a trip to DC and will never eat it again. Hakkasan completely changed my mind about dimsum. It was amazing and it was aesthetically pleasing. The dim sums looked like adorable plump little marzipans.
The next night we went to an Italian restaurant, Locanda Locatelli. I don’t have much to say about it. Italians usually kill it with the food. I’d probably have more to say if it was bad Italian food, but it was just typical good Italian food with a lot of fun seasonal dishes made with pumpkin and chestnuts.
Okay now onto my food choices. I went for aesthetics and I went for flowers (obsessions die hard). I also went for little cafes and treats, so not so much meals but tea time. We went to Cafe Elan in London. I went everyday with my giant stroller and loud very vocal baby into this little beautiful cafe covered in pink and flowers and they were nice enough not to roll their eyes at me each time and hold the door open. Cafe Elan has two locations. One in Covent Garden I think (could have just made that up) and one near our hotel (I’m telling you this is the best hotel).
On one of the days we took a train to Windsor. Nick’s Uncle and Aunt explored the castle while the rest of us just walked around and sat at this little cafe for a while. At this cafe we all ordered fish and chips. It was the first time I had actually tried fish and chips. Really it tasted like the fish sticks I used to eat all of the time when I was a kid. Not going to lie… I loved it… because I embarrassingly still love those fish sticks!
I had a list of places that I wanted to go to and my Nicky was nice enough to take me to all of them. He ended up really enjoying them as well! Because who doesn’t want to be in a beautiful place eating sugar?!
So one of the cafes I have been stalking on Instagram for the past two years. It’s called Peggy Porschen. It was packed and there were lots of girls trying to get photos in front of the place.
After Peggy’s we went to Dominique Ansel. Oh my gosh. The best desserts. Everything and I mean everything was amazing. It felt like a terrible sin to leave a piece of anything uneaten. I also have to say I personally hate cake. It is the rare occasion that I find a cake I like and at Dominique Ansel’s I found it and for free! They were having the company’s birthday party that day so they gave each customer a free slice of cake. It was so delicious. It had like seven little delicate layers and it was banana flavored and so moist. Oh my gosh. After we scarfed the cake down we then ordered ten other things. Nick ordered some sort of smore and who knows what else (looked like something out of the willy wonka movie) I ordered a blooming hot cocoa. The marshmallow literally bloomed and revealed a little sugar pearl. I also ordered a jasmine mousse. It was called After The Rain and it looked like there were dew drops on it with a small lady bug crawling around. No idea what the lady bug tasted like, my kids ate that. As beautiful as all of the other cafes were that we went to this place took the number one spot for taste in my opinion.
Nick on the other hand enjoyed Saint Aymes the most because he loved their salted caramel cupcake.
When the work week began our family went home, along with Ari who had school. Nick stayed behind because the whole point of the trip was for him to meet with clients (we just all one by one decided to tag along in the weeks preceding the trip). Gianluca and I also stayed behind because… I just love to be out of my element and explore new places. The first day by ourselves we went to Nottinghill. We went to a cafe called Biscuiteers and bought a few souvenirs and then walked over to a little restaurant called Farm Girl Cafe which was hidden behind a church. Afterwards we walked over to The Princess Diana Memorial playground. The waiter at Farm Girl told me not to walk because of how far it was… but we had nothing but time that day so of course we walked and got lost and had to rely on police officers to help us with directions. The play ground was beautiful and felt very safe. There’s only one way in and one way out. It is guarded by a security gate and you can not get in unless you have a child with you. Which is why a small crowd of elderly people asked if they could pretend to be my family so they could see the playground.
After that Gianluca and I went to tea time at our hotel. It was fantastic. Everything at the hotel is botany themed and so was this tea time! There was a small planet dessert, dry ice smoke coming out of another dessert, a chocolate fossil that we had to dig out of edible dirt in a wooden box and the best scones I have ever had in my life. Gianluca loved the chocolate fossil. He devoured the entire thing while I was putting jam on my scone (can’t take my eyes off of that kid for a second).
The next day it was supposed to thunderstorm (actually the day before it was supposed to thunderstorm too) but again we had beautiful sunny sweater weather. Gianluca and I took a cab over to The Clifton Nurseries in Little Venice. It is a gardening center with a cafe. We had a classic english breakfast together (a classic english breakfast is eggs, toast, tomato, baked beans, mushroom and some sort of meat like bacon or sausage) chia seed pudding, a smoothie and their freshly squeezed orange juice. The cafe was so kid friendly. Lots of high chairs and a play area for Gianluca to enjoy while our food came. I wanted to buy so many things in the gardening center but also didn’t feel like getting arrested in customs.
After that Gianluca and I strolled around Little Venice together. It was a beautiful day with my son. I soaked in our alone time together because pretty soon Gianluca’s sister will be born and he will no longer be the baby of the family. I will never forget our special time together just mother and son in London.
London is a six hour flight from the United States. I get stir crazy after the sixth hour on any flight so for me, London is the perfect flight. You can watch a couple of movies (have a couple of drinks if you are not constantly pregnant) and voila you are there. London is easy. It is a big, beautiful and clean city that speaks English (just a little prettier). I really enjoyed my time with our family!