Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Celebrating Easter....London-Style

You want to know one more thing I love about London? Instead of just the usual 3-day weekend for the Easter holiday, we got four days off to celebrate. Four! The best part was, we'd just returned from Ireland two days prior, so that extra long weekend was much needed before our lives had to get back to "normal". {I'm not really sure what normal is for us anymore, though.} 

We ordered take-out for almost every meal and I watched a bunch of shows on TV that shall remain unnamed because I'm embarrassed to admit I watched them. {But they might have been about a few filthy rich, catty women living in Beverly Hills. Don't you judge me!} And then there was Easter itself. A practically perfect in every way day...except for the rain. The unpredictable English weather foiled our plans once again, yet we found a way to work around it, as you do. 

Easter In London

Easter In London

Easter In London Easter In London

Easter morning began as it always does, with the basket full of candy and little surprises. Finding a wind-up chick in your Easter basket isn't nearly as fun as playing with real ones, but it made us all smile fondly, remembering the year we got to spend Easter with our fourteen baby chicks. How I miss my babies.

Funny story about those watercolor paints - I bought them a couple weeks before Easter to put in Lexie's basket, then two days before Easter I hear Lexie rummaging through boxes in the laundry room. She's looking for her old paint set and can't find it anywhere. {What happened to them in the move, we'll probably never know.} But I felt terrible because she literally looked for over half an hour, getting more and more frustrated, and the whole time I wanted to tell her not to worry about it because she'd be getting new paints in a couple days, but that would have spoiled the surprise! At least we got to have a good laugh about it on Easter morning. :)

Easter In London Easter In London

You're welcome for that fascinating picture of my hallway. :) There is a purpose for sharing that. Normally Lex makes us cards for holidays and our birthdays. We don't let her buy us anything because, you know, we're anti-stuff. And we don't want her spending her own money on us because that's backwards - we can spend on her, but not the other way around. Anyways, she wanted to do something special for us, so she made us hide in the other room while she prepared a trail of Easter notes and pictures leading from the living room, down the hallway, and into our bedroom where she was hiding with the last one. It was super sweet and creative. Man, I love that girl. 

Easter Family Photo

Our traditional family photo suffered this year because of the rain. {Our flat is a rather uninspiring place to take photos, not to mention kind of small for setting up a tripod.} Last year we had a creek, wooden bridge, and gazebo as a backdrop. This year we had....a white wall. Yippee. Given the fall-ish look of our clothes, you'd never guess this was an Easter photo either, would you? But hey, it was 48° and raining - who wants to wear a bright, sleeveless dress in that?

By the way, if you click that link above, check out how much Lex has grown in a year. I'm so close to being the short one in the family. I had much better hair last year, too. Life is so unfair.

Indoor Easter Picnic

Indoor Easter Picnic

Indoor Easter Picnic

Given the fact that we haven't lived around family who cooks for us {ahem, I'm talking about you Mawmaw!} for seven years now, we've started having a picnic lunch every Easter just the three of us. {Lex and I even had one on our own last year just to keep the tradition going with Cory already living in London.} I don't do anything crazy like actually cooking for it - we just pick stuff up at the store and eat it outside. This always worked out well at our home in Tennessee since we had a multitude of great places to picnic on our property and a gazebo to sit under if it were raining. Here in London, we don't have quite the same luxury. We do, however, have a small garden that we share with the other tenants in our building and that's where we'd planned to have our picnic, but then rain happened. 

I refused to let it thwart our plans entirely, though. So even though it was a little lame, we spread our picnic blanket out on the floor in the middle of our living room and had our picnic...all while trying not to feel weird that we weren't eating at the table three feet away. Darn you, English weather! But hey, we had cupcakes decorated with flowers and bunnies - how much more Easter-y can you get than that? :)

So there you have it, Easter...London-style. How was yours?

Monday, April 21, 2014

La Mancha: Authentic Spanish Tapas In Chiswick

I always get excited when I am invited to try new things in London, but when the opportunity is in my own neighborhood, that's even better! A few weeks ago I was invited by Emma to join her for a PR event at La Mancha, a family-owned Spanish tapas restaurant and bar on the Chiswick High Road, and I couldn't say no. Friends, Spanish tapas, and I can walk there? Well, that's just perfection.

I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again in the future, but I do believe we have one of the best high roads in London here in Chiswick. Grocery stores, outdoor markets, specialty shops, boutiques, book stores, thrift shops, and more restaurants than we've been able to try out in the better part of a year line both sides of the street for over a mile. With so many options, it's easy to get lost in the mix, but lucky for La Mancha, they've got a prime spot right in the heart of the high road and a lively atmosphere that you can't help but be drawn to.

La Mancha: Authentic Spanish Tapas In Chiswick

La Mancha: Authentic Spanish Tapas In Chiswick

La Mancha: Authentic Spanish Tapas In Chiswick

Located just a quick walk from the Turnham Green underground, La Mancha is fairly new to the area, but not at all new to serving up authentic Spanish tapas. Their previous location of over 20 years was in Putney before they crossed to the other side of the river to join us in Chiswick last August. The new location has an al fresco seating area {always popular when the weather is agreeable} and a cozy indoor bar and restaurant.

The decor inside is classic and simple - exposed brick walls and iron artwork {one, of course, depicting Don Quixote, the man of La Mancha} dress up the space. In the daytime, the restaurant is filled with gorgeous natural light, and at evening, soft lighting from lamps overhead and along the walls sets the mood for an intimate dining experience.

After we were greeted at the door with a glass of Spanish Cava and introductions were made, our evening of tapas tasting officially began. Señor Nilo Geada, La Mancha's head chef from the Galicia region in Spain, took quite good care of us. Let me show you some of the culinary delights we were treated to.

La Mancha: Authentic Spanish Tapas In Chiswick

La Mancha: Authentic Spanish Tapas In Chiswick

La Mancha: Authentic Spanish Tapas In Chiswick

La Mancha: Authentic Spanish Tapas In Chiswick

La Mancha: Authentic Spanish Tapas In Chiswick La Mancha: Authentic Spanish Tapas In Chiswick

La Mancha: Authentic Spanish Tapas In Chiswick

La Mancha: Authentic Spanish Tapas In Chiswick

La Mancha: Authentic Spanish Tapas In Chiswick La Mancha: Authentic Spanish Tapas In Chiswick

La Mancha: Authentic Spanish Tapas In Chiswick

On The Menu:

Aceitunas Mixtas
Marinated large olives with herbs

Rebanada De Pan Con Tomate
Bread with chopped fresh tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil

Pimientos De Padron
Sweet hot peppers from Galicia, sautéed in olive oil

Berejenas Fritas
Crispy aubergines with honey and Romesco sauce

Tabla Castellana
Serrano, chorizo, salsichon, and Manchego cheese

Tortilla Española
Spanish omelette with potatoes, onions, and eggs

Patatas Bravas
Potatoes with hot tomato sauce

Croquetas De Espinacas
Spinach croquettes with hints of pinenuts

Calamares Fritos
Deep fried squid with tartar sauce

Albondigas De Ternera
Beef meatballs with smoked bacon and tomato sauce

Cochinillo Asado
Roasted suckling pig and apple sauce

Paella Valenciana
Signature paella with mixed fish, shellfish, pork, and chicken

Tarta De Santiago
Traditional Santiago de Compostela almond cake
with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce

My taste buds were pampered and spoiled all evening! I tried things I'd never tried before {squid!} and fell in love again with old favorites {Spanish omelette}. For the past few months, I've been following a pescatarian diet, so there were a few tapas I wasn't able to try, but I was pleasantly surprised by how many vegetarian options were offered. Eight of our courses were suitable for vegetarians, nine for pescatarians. {I was awfully sad to have to skip the paella - I'd love to see a seafood-only option for that on their menu.}

The crispy aubergines and the sweet peppers were two particular standout favorites. I loved the mix of sweet and savory sauces drizzled on the aubergine crisps, and the Padron peppers were downright addictive. Were I not needing to save room for half a dozen more courses, I'd have eaten everything on both plates. Oddly enough, one of the other tapas I enjoyed the most was the squid. I had to convince myself to be brave enough just to try it, and then I surprised even myself when I took a second, and then a third bite! Cory couldn't believe it when I told him, seeing as I've refused to try calamari as long as he's known me. Clearly I've been missing out!

By the end of our dinner, I didn't think I could squeeze another bite in, and then somehow I managed to polish off every bit of the lightly-sweetened almond cake for dessert, and might have even tilted my plate up so I could scoop up the dregs of melted ice cream left on my plate afterwards. {I was brought up to clean my plate, after all!} 

Often when you get a large group of bloggers and journalists together for an event, it can get rather...noisy. I'd say we fit right in at La Mancha, though. We weren't the only boisterous group in attendance! The energy inside the restaurant is cheerful and lively. Everyone is enjoying themselves and relaxing with friends. It's the perfect place to go after work for a drink and a bite with friends or to enjoy a lengthy dinner, sharing plates among your companions. That's what Spanish tapas are for, after all - sharing.

To close out a wonderful evening of good food and friendly service, Salvatore Cricchio, owner of La Mancha, came out to meet us and share with us his passion for bringing a taste of Spanish culture and food to his guests. He's certainly done just that for us in Chiswick, bringing the Spanish social dining experience right onto our high road. As locals, this is somewhere we'll be returning to again and again!


142 Chiswick High Road, London W4 1PU
Open: Daily, Noon - 10:30PM


I was a guest of La Mancha, but all opinions and amateur photos are my own. :)

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Market Porter: Good Food And Even Better Company

It's no secret that my favorite place to eat in London is Borough Market. I tell everyone to go, and to make sure they arrive with an empty stomach - it's that good. But what if you happen to find yourself in the area, tummy rumbling, on a day that the market's closed - wherever will you eat? Over a month ago {I'm that behind on blogging} a few friends and I found ourselves in this exact predicament and decided on The Market Porter for lunch, but I assure you, we were not settling in the least bit. This traditional English pub has it all - excellent location, a delicious menu, and a welcoming atmosphere to boot!

The Market Porter: A Traditional English Pub In London

The Market Porter: A Traditional English Pub In London

The Market Porter: A Traditional English Pub In London

Located on Stoney Street directly next to Borough Market, The Market Porter is lovely on both the outside and the inside. Apparently the directors of Harry Potter thought so, too, because this place was turned into the 'Third Hand Book Emporium', for the third movie in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. {This was my second time to see a place from this particular movie. The first was the geometric staircase inside St. Paul's Cathedral. I'm still mad that they wouldn't let me take a picture.}  

The Market Porter encompasses two floors - you'll find a large pub with a few tables, but mostly standing room on the ground floor, and a bar and restaurant on the first floor above. It was in the restaurant overlooking the market below that we were seated for our lunch. We were eating at a bit of an off-time of day {2pm} and so had no trouble finding a table, even though we were a group of 10+, but the longer we sat around and chatted, the more the place filled up so we were awfully glad we arrived when we did.

The Market Porter: A Traditional English Pub In London

The Market Porter: A Traditional English Pub In London

Besides the friendly atmosphere, what I really loved about this place was the quality of the food. You never really know what you're going to get when you order food in a pub - sometimes it'll blow you away, and other times it's just sort of...meh. The Market Porter's food absolutely belongs in the former category. I ordered the Wild Mushroom and Spinach Risotto for lunch and although it arrived in a somewhat awkward bowl, I barely noticed because the flavors...oh, the flavors. Delicious! Up until this year, I would shy away from any dishes that advertised mushrooms as one of its ingredients, but something has come over me recently and I can't get enough of them! {As long as they're cooked correctly, of course. No rubbery textures, please!} 

The portion sizes here were enormous, so I couldn't even finish my meal, much less order a dessert, but my friend Cindy was kind enough to let me photograph her Sticky Toffee Pudding and Custard. It had such a lovely presentation that if I hadn't been so stuffed, I would have ordered my own. {And indeed I did later that day when I joined another set of friends for dinner, but the one I ordered wasn't nearly as scrumptious as I suspect this one was!}

The Market Porter's menu changes weekly, so the dish you fall in love with one day may not be there the next, but there seems to be enough choices that even the pickiest eaters will find something to eat. Prices are mid-range - around £8 to £15 for a meal. My risotto was £9, a bit more than I usually spend on lunch, but given the quality I was more than happy to make an exception.

The Market Porter: A Traditional English Pub In London

A good meal is always best enjoyed in the company of friends, and I had the good fortune of being surrounded by both new and old ones for this meal. {Clockwise from left: Me, Cindy, Tammy, Gina, Selena, Lizzy, and Tina.} We are a group of ladies of all different ages and nationalities, but we have at least a few things in common -  we all love London, traveling, and writing about it! I'd be hardpressed to find a better group of girls to dine with!


9 Stoney Street, London SE1 9AA
Open: Daily, Check Here For Times

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