If you are one to love the 1920s era then have I got the place for you. Tucked away underground in Marylebone is Purl; a sassy cocktail bar that will transport you back to the days of the traditional 'speakeasy'. This place is truly the whole package with vintage decor and furnishing, a soundtrack straight out of a WWI bar, waiters dressed in century-old fashions and a cocktail list that promises a selection of drinks you've definitely never tried before.
One of the things I loved about this place is the fact that they serve their champagne in those old-fashioned champagne saucers, I felt like I was on the Titanic. The cocktail list is for the adventurous and most drinks come with a weird and wacky accompanient like an icy pole, a toffee cup or a bursting balloon that releases an essence. It's all designed to compliment flavours and the showmanship element is quite the sight to behold.
Definitely a place to visit if you're in London, I guarantee you won't come across anywhere else that has this amount of charm.
Now I'm not the kind of person to make any decision lightly; it doesn't matter if it's travel plans, cooking, eating out or buying clothes - you can always trust that I'm the person who has done the most research. [My friends know that if we go out for dinner, chances are I've already looked at the menu online and chosen what I'm having.] Not embarassingly dorky at all, I like to call it being prepared because no one likes a nasty surprise.
When I decided to move to London, which was rather a spur of the moment decision mind you [very unlike me!], the first thing I did was hit up Google. Search words: living in London, moving to London, Australians in the UK, dressing for freezing weather, white Christmas, city rentals, weekend breaks from London... you get the idea. But no matter how much research I did there were a few things that caught me out when I got here, aside from the language barriers. Here are all the things I wish I'd known...
If the weather heats up, don't panic and go out and buy an entire summer wardrobe, chances are it will be cold again within a week and the clothes will sit unworn in your drawer. Note to self: there is no summer in London.
Where you live in London says everything about you so choose your area wisely. For example, if you live in Shoreditch you are an alternate, red-trouser-wearing artist; Chelsea/Belgravia/Kensington you come from an established line of wealth; Clapham you are 99% certainly Australian; Fulham you are a Chelsea-wannabe whose wallet doesn't extend that far; and if you're in Camden there's a high chance you work in media.
Expect to be broke, all the time. No matter how much you earn, your rent, bills, food, clothes and daily-required-cocktail-intake will always outweigh your paycheck. Sad face.
Never, never, never leave home without an umbrella. I don't care if the forecast tells you it's fine and there is not a cloud in sight. Chances are you'll go into a store/work/cafe/tube and you'll come out to the world ending with torrential rain. Don't. Risk. It.
If you do temp work (yay for finding a job) you'll need what's called an umbrella company. Don't panic it's not as complicated as it seems just Google a few and make your choice; they are all much of a muchness.
If someone is talking about a 'Chav' they are referring to what I call a bogan - so keep your distance.
Recruitment agencies are the way to go. Honestly, 95% of jobs here are through an agent. Send your resume and go for an interview and if impressed they'll put you forward for positions. Just call them your guardian job fairies.
Doing a weekly food shop is pretty much an impossibility; unless of course you are hercules with endless strength. I'm lucky that my walk from the supermarket is about 600m but even that is too far. I've made the mistake twice. I won't make it again. Small shopping trips from now on.
Being the foodie that I am, one of the things that most excited me about London was all the restaurants it had to offer. And I can tell you I'm off to a good start. I had the pleasure of dining at E&O in Notting Hill last week for dinner. This restaurant is one of the four that make up Ricks Restaurants. Rick's Eight over Eight in Chelsea is particularly famous so that one is next on my list.
Perched on a corner in Notting Hill, E&O has a sultry front bar area and a restaurant in the back. Expect high-end service, dim lighting and a buzzing atmosphere. The wine list is extensive and I was pleased to see there was a selection of Aussie and NZ wines; they are fail-safe for me as I'm yet to understand how European wines work. There's also a great cocktail list if you're feeling adventurous.
E&O is essentially Asian-fusion with a great assortment of classics and inventive dishes on the menu. I tried some Dim Sum and Sushi and both were fantastic. For a perfect selection I suggest going for some edamame beans (it's not an Asian dish if you don't start with these!), some chilli salt squid, the crispy pork belly (the crackle on this is amazing) and the spare ribs are stickily delicious. Then top it off with some spicy salmon sushi for a flavour sensation.
A great place to try for a date night or if you feel like indulging in some pricey but delicious food with friends. I would definitely return. 4/5
Money, money money. If I were to sum up Monaco in three words that would have to be it. This little place sure does pack a punch despite only being 2km squared. Yes that's right, as far as countries go, it's tiny. In this principality lives approximately 38,000 people, 99% of which I'm guessing are multi-millionaires. Monaco is renown for being home to the rich and famous; several F1 drivers live there, along with Novak Djokovic and former James Bond actor Roger Moore.
My experience in Monaco was simply in and out on a day trip because unless you have a pocket full of cash and a hefty credit card limit, a weekend there is really going to hurt your budget. But not to worry because I think you can easily see it all in a day. Start down by the coast and check out the infamous Monaco Casino and across the road is Hotel de Paris, this iconic accommodation has been featured in several movies including two James Bond films. Take a walk along F1's most famous [and spectacular] track before heading up to the Prince's Palace that was home to Grace Kelly.
Honestly, all you really need to get around Monte Carlo are you legs, the city is so small you can easily walk everywhere, although be warned as it's set on a hill you probably will suffer from burning thighs. If walking isn't your style there are a few buses that get around town and this might be handy if you want to visit the Prince's Palace of Monaco which is furthest from the city. In terms of reaching Monaco itself, you can easily get a train from Marseille, Cannes or Nice.
I didn't actually experience much of the food in Monaco although I can tell you I saw several cafes where a cappucino will set you back 15euros ($22); no joke. From what I've heard, restaurants in Monaco are top notch and the pick of them is probably Le Louis XV Alain Ducasse at Hotel de Paris, although I believe their meals come with a hefty price tag. Despite that, some locals from Nice did assure me that there are a couple of reasonably priced Italian places worth a visit - unfortunately I don't know their names.
This truly is a playground for the rich and famous and somewhere to splash your cash, perhaps save it for your golden years because you won't need the money when you're in heaven.
Who would have thought that moving to another English speaking country would require a translator – but it really is true, the Brits speak a different language to us Aussies. It’s probably partly the accent and partly the different words we use for things but I have definitely encountered a bit of a communication barrier. Here are a few words and phrases that I’ve come across so far:
•If someone asks “you alright?” it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, to Brits it simply means “how are you”. It has particularly been causing a bit of a translation problems when anyone says sorry to me and being Aussie my reaction is to say “you’re right” like “no worries”. I bumped into my housemate in the hall yesterday and she said “sorry” and I said “you’re right” and she goes “I’m fine”. Honestly, so confusing.
•It’s not a doona, it’s a duvet; people here have never heard of a doona so don’t use that word – you’ll get funny looks in store.
•Likewise with pants, here they think you’re talking about underpants, if you mean pants the word is trousers.
•Lollies are referred to as “sweets” – makes sense.
•Thongs are always “flip flops”, no exceptions.
•If you’re sick you are “poorly” – I giggle because it makes you sound so pathetic.
I’ll update the list as I encounter more, I’m sure there will be. This list is merely two weeks in.
I wanted to share this recipe with you a few weeks back, I made these muffins at home in Australia, but time just got away from me and let's be honest I've been too busy with my travel stories to talk about muffins... But now that life has settled down, feast your eyes and hopefully taste buds on these... Apple and cinnamon go together like tea and scones, red wine and chocolate, lamb and mint or seafood and lemon; it's a match made in heaven. These muffins have such a lovely flavour and are so light and fluffy; plus they're guaranteed to make your house smell divine all afternoon. Give these ones a go they're perfect for a breakfast treat, or morning or afternoon tea. I'd make myself another batch except my new London flat doesn't have a very well-stocked kitchen. First thing on the shopping list when I get a job? Cooking implements.
What you'll need
2 cups plain wholemeal flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon plus 1/2 teaspoon for coating the apples
2 cups diced apples (you can use fresh apples or tinned pie apples)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
What to do
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius and grease a 12-hole muffin tray. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside. Coat your apples in cinnamon and also set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until lightened in colour; about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well. Add the vanilla and mix again.
Gently fold the flour mixture into the creamed sugar alternating with the milk. Now add the apples and mix gently. Spoon into your muffin tray and bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tray slightly then dish them out.
French food may not be everyone's cup of tea with its heavy sauces, unpronounceable names and general foreignness but I will concede that even I [who is not usually a lover of French cuisine] gave these five dishes a go and enjoyed them.
1. Duck l'Orange - let's start you off with something basic and not too scary. This dish is quintessentially French. If you've never tried duck (canard) the waiter will probably describe it to you as a little gamey which just means it has quite a meaty flavour. But never fear because combined with this famous orange sauce it makes a great combination.
2. Pigeon - ok now that we've graduated from duck it's time to try pigeon. This one is a step up again from duck in it's gamey-ness stakes and you may find the meat flavour over-powering but I will say that it's super tender and when cooked right, it's delicious.
3. Fois Gras - this is pretty much glorified pâté; it is made from the liver of a duck or goose and mixed together with a whole lot of fat to create a creamy texture. When served with some fried bread it's quite a tantalising treat but I can only have it in small portions because the flavour is very strong.
4. Bouillabaisse - this hearty fish stew combines several delicious things from the sea and cooks them up in a rich sauce; served with fresh crusty bread from the oven and you've got a delicious meal.
5. Tarte Tatin - nothing scary about this one, combine apples and a tart, flip it upside down and you've got this delicious French dessert. Legend has it that this dish came about after the Tatin sisters, who ran a restaurant in the 1880s, accidentally knocked over their tart in the oven in their rush to serve lunch. Bet they're glad they did.
Day three London and here I am. It's a funny feeling knowing you've packed up your life and landed in somewhere completely new where virtually no one knows you, you don't know your way around, everything seems foreign and the smallest task like food shopping becomes a huge thing because nothing looks the same. Despite all that I must say I'm surprised at how much I love it here already, I thought it would take some time to adjust but I seem to be right in the pommy swing of things. I will say though that there have been a few things I've noticed that have really stuck out to me as new or unusual. Here's a few London quirks that I've come across:
If you are wearing shorts or sunglasses people will stare at you. I'm not quite sure why, because when it's over 25 degrees and sunny it seems obvious to me to wear shorts and put sunglasses on, but it seems the poms don't agree. Literally no one [ok, very few people] seem to wear sunglasses here and I get the strangest looks when I have mine on. Likewise if I'm out for a walk in shorts, the people who are sweating it out in jeans and pants just stare. Am I breaking some sort of fundamental U.K. fashion law here that I'm unaware of?
When you're walking the streets in a crowd, people are always right behind you; ghosting style. I don't know if they're in a hurry or just have no sense of personal space but it's quite creepy and I wish they wouldn't.
The acceptable working attire for men in London is an expensive tailored suit. No exceptions.
I can't seem to figure out what side of the road/path to walk on here. In Australia we drive on the left so we walk on the left, in Europe it's the opposite. With England driving on the left I would have thought they would be the same as Aus but it seems they've all gotten confused. Some on the left, some on the right, some down the middle and some switching from side to side. It makes it very difficult when you're out for a walk - it has turned into a bit of a dodge ball person situation. Can anyone shed some light on this?
The widely accepted fact that London is cold all the time is not true. So far it's been really really warm, I'm talking 28 degrees during the day. Dear sunshine, please last several months, sincerely Krissie.
And most importantly, the widely accepted fact that Made in Chelsea people live in Chelsea is in fact a lie. Evidently they live in my neck of the woods; Fulham. You'll be the first to know when I spot one.