5 days in London

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This post documents a trail I followed with my cousin Iliana who visited me from Greece for the first time a week ago. She had 4 nights and 5 days. I hadn’t spent considerable time with her prior to her visit to know exactly what she’s like but I soon figured that she wasn’t too bothered visiting tourist sites and museums and was wide open to everything.

She came on a Thursday morning and left Monday evening. This is by far one of the best slots to be in London especially if you want to experience some of the many and colourful London markets. I live in London Bridge so a number of cool things were on my doorstep.

Locations and activities split by day:

Day 1: THURSDAY

Monmouth Coffeeshop at London Bridge, Borough Market (specific appeal to my cousin had the spice shop ‘Spice Mountain’ & the gluten-free cakes from ‘Free from Bakehouse’), Tate Modern. Walk along the Thames towards Tower Bridge and Shad Thames. Up the Shard on the 32st floor and steps down to the floor below where the bar is situated with panoramic views across London (don’t forget to visit the toilets). Dinner at Wagamama on Clink street.

Day 2: FRIDAY

Usual Monmouth Coffee ritual followed by Borough Market. Introduced Iliana to my Green Detox Smoothie  which became a staple throughout her stay and a must-have tonic before heading out for the day. In addition to the standard ingredients each day I used 1tbs of Maca powder, an Inca Superfood good for energy, hormonal balance, sexual health and ideal for relieving stress (physical, emotional or environmental). Walk from London Bridge (Clink street) along the Thames path to the South Bank Center and across the Embankment footbridge to the Strand and Covent Garden. Browsed shops on Long Acre and Neal street, Neal’s Yard and the beautiful Neal’s Yard Remedies shop. Pointed the vegetarian/vegan ‘Wild Food Cafe’ above ‘Neal’s Yard Remedies’ which specialises in raw food. Had sushi at ‘Itsu’ on Neal Street. Walked through Soho. Visited beautiful ‘Liberty’s’ and had a terrible coffee at their cafe – the important lesson of recognising the rarity of places like Monmouth coffeeshop and why the queues are so long! The architecture of the place, the display of all its merchandising, the Christmas shop are an explosion to the senses especially for someone stepping out of Greece. Walk to Oxford Street and into ‘Selfridges’. Walking through the beauty and make-up department I couldn’t fail to notice how her face suddenly lit up and how she longed to live and work in London for a while. Tube back home and dinner at my kitchen: made a simple spelt pasta dish (spagetti works best) with raw baby spinach, Greek goat’s feta, avocado, pomegranate seeds, and cherry tomatoes. I drizzled toasted sesame oil and Greek olive oil, squeezed a lemon and added generous amounts of cracked black pepper. We also had a beautiful selection of marinated olives with coriander, lemon and garlic we had earlier purchased from ‘Borough Olives’.

Day 3: SATURDAY

Usual Monmouth Coffee followed by Borough Market. More cakes for later:) We loved the gluten-free cardamon, pistachio and rose water cake and the white chocolate brownie with rasberries from ‘Free from Bakehouse’. Green detox smoothie and train from London Bridge to Sloane Square to walk down the King’s Road. Another lunch at ‘Itsu’ (we happilly acknowledged how addicted we both were to sushi and green tea). Train from Sloane Square to High Street Kensighton and the must visit to ‘Wholefoods’. This was a key visit to buy certain ingredients as well as experience a shop of this magnitude. Train back home. Cake, pop-corn and chat in the kitchen and then off to Covent Garden to see the musical ‘Matilda’. Over the years I have seen a number of West End musicals: ‘Cats’, ‘Les Miserables’ (with my mum), Miss Saigon (won’t ever forget the embarassing moment of walking in half-way with my sister Nina as the helicopter was landing on stage), ‘Chicago’ (walked out half-way with my parents), ‘Phantom of the Opera’ (saw twice), ‘Billy Elliot’ (loved, also seen with my sister Nina this time right from the beginning which was sensible) and many others. ‘Matilda’ which was highly recommended by my dear (Melbourne-based) friends Peter, Maree and India a couple of years ago, was the most unbelievable of all. The acting was impeccable (perhaps the red logo of the Royal Shakespear Company appearing next to the musical’s title may have something to do with it), the simplicity of the scenes yet developed with such wonderful attention to detail, the talent and energy of the performers were truly outstanding. We joined the others and gave them a standing ovation. After the show we walked up to Garrett street for a ‘Snog’:) Love the taste and texture of this frozen yoghurt machine-based ice-cream. They use agave instead of sugar and offer a number of toppings. I had classic chocolate with fresh rasberries. My cousin had half chocolate and half caramel. Can’t remember what toppings. We could have walked home along the Thames but took the tube instead as it was getting late and we had already walked a fair distance during the day.

Day 4: SUNDAY

Monmouth coffeeshop is sadly shut on a Sunday. I always have my cup of black filter Monmouth Finca Catalina each morning so was not an issue. After our green detox smoothy we walked from London Bridge to Spitalfields Market. We were too early and everything was shut so we headed to Redchurch street in Shorditch and had coffee and breakfast at ‘All Press’ (by that time we were becoming experts at getting a table in heavily crowded places). I felt homesick sipping my soya cappuccino and having avocado on toast; ‘All Press’ is a NZ brand and curiously I’m not a NZlander but nevertheless, felt homesick. We wondered Bricklane’s flee markets and some of the vintage shops (many of which were underground). Central Line from Liverpool street to Bond Street. Walk to Park Lane and bus to Knidgebridge. For someone who has never been to London a quick visit to Harrods especially after Bricklane does give you the full picture. We only stayed 15 minutes. Quick walk through the Food Hall and a rapid browse on the first floor glancing at the price tags of some amazing clothes. Flying visit to Harvey Nichols to buy a perfume they stock that I like called ‘Lights’ by a brand called ‘Roads’. Bus from Sloane street to King’s road (we could have easily walked but were too lazy and there was a light London drizzle) where we had yet again sushi at ‘Itsu’! Another wonder down the road and train back home. We made a raw chocolate cake in my kitchen with ingredients bought from ‘Wholefoods’ (this is the recipe I was taught during my “Wild Food Cafe ‘Wellness Immersion’ training). Dinner at ‘Brindesa’ Tapas Bar in London Bridge. For dessert we had our very own raw chocolate cake while watching a very average film about online dating.

Day 5: MONDAY

Usual Monmouth coffee where we had a sweet encounter with a little girl and her mum. She was very beautiful and chatty, drawing and writing her name on wooden spoons (she offered one to my cousin as a gift); it was one of a handful of occasions when I can sense and appreciate the wonders of motherhood. No green detox smoothy on Iliana’s last day so we headed straight to Bond street. Walk through the ever so elusive entry to St. Christopher’s Place to beautiful Marylebone High street. We were hoping to have breakfast at ‘La Fromagerie’ but was full so went to the ‘The Natural kitchen’ instead which was also lovely (my first freshly squeezed orange juice in ages which felt amazing). Bought a couple of books from ‘Daunts Books’ (‘Villa Triste’ by Nobel prize winner Patrick Modiano and ‘No picnic on Mount Kenya’ by Felice Benuzzi), browsed the beautiful ‘Conran Shop’ and a few others and then headed back towards the West End via South Molton street and New Bond Street all the way to Piccadilly Circus. For the grande finale we had high tea at the ‘Ham Yard Hotel’ before heading home to pack bags.

List of links

Wellness immersion weekend

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Buzzying from my raw food weekend workshop with the Wild Food Cafe team of Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden. The two inspirational days took place at a great cooking school inside a community hall on a street I had never walked up before in the 25 years I’ve been living in London. Is situated just off Old street at 90 Central street. There’s a great looking cafe right next to it which is connected to the hall.

We learnt how to make raw pizza with a number of toppings including macademia cheese, seaweed tartar and pesto, stuffed mayan avocado, sauerkraut, home made kale chips, raw chocolate cake and more. Joel fed us wild food and thoughts – a fountain of knowledge and a fantastic approach to wellness emphasising the importance of play and experimentation using our own bodies as the best barometer.

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Almond butter & mulberry fudge balls (dipped in raw chocolate) and coated with coconut flakes and goji berries

Aiste, his graceful and equally knowledgeable wife and the heart and soul of the Wild Food Cafe helped us out with each recipe and kept a good handle of time sweetly grounding Joel from his frequent flights to all things wild.

We received a booklet with numerous recipes I can’t wait to experiment with including useful information on super foods and wild foods in general some of which I had never heard or seen before. After the course they provided us with a wealth of resources from specialist shops to inspirational books & documentaries. Every single penny was worth spending on this training as the knowledge I have been receiving over the years from multiple and often conflicting sources is finally making sense.

These workshops are extremely well structured and fun. You are split into groups of 3 or 4 and prepare each recipe together. You label your food and consume it on the same or the following day depending on whether it requires dehydration or not.

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Raw chocolate cake

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Raw pizza – base made with almonds and butternut puree, flax seed & spices

Upcoming Wild Food courses & events – London UK

Raw Food and Wellbeing Immersion (Christmas Edition) – 18th & 19th December 2016

Wild Food Birthday Celebration (Mind, Body & Spirit) – 9th of November  2016

 Free Wild Food Cafe e-book

Wild wellbeing free e-book (.pdf)

As Joel and Aiste would say: “Stay inspired, expansive, playful and curious”.

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Coffee & city guides

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At Coco di mama this morning on Leather Lane with my Allpress soya cap and newly acquired Copenhagen guide; I walked straight to my usual corner seat by the coffee cup light installation. Guides do get outdated quickly but they are so useful at the time of travel especially when recently published which is the case with this one by Cereal.

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I collected my copy from a stylish shop called  Luna & Curious on Calvert Avenue close to Arnold Circus in Shordtitch. I was heading to the Colombia flower market for my usual supply of eucalyptus branches. On the way back, I briefly stopped at All Press on Red Church Sreet. The tui, allpress coffee are some of the things that immediately transport me to New Zealand not that I have ever heard a tui in London or anywhere but New Zealand. Since J. Crew opened next door the coffee shop has shrank making it incredibly hard to find a seat. I managed to get a stool outside and repositioned it to face the sun. Squeezed the hydrangeas and eucalyptus leaves between my knees, placed the guide on my lap, cup on one hand and mobile on the other. ‘Avocadomad’ defined as ‘rye bread topped with avocado); I’m reminded of how much these small pleasures fill me with joy.

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Useful links

Cereal 

All Press

Coco di mama

Luna & Curious

Wild Food Cafe – Neal’s Yard/Covent Garden

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Wild Cafe

Friends visited from Chichester for the day so had to show 6-year old Freya vibrant and colourful Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden. For the first time ever, I went up the staircase above Neal’s Yard Remedies shop and discovered this wonderful cafe. Was packed but the staff were very friendly and suggested txting me as soon as a table became free. 15 minutes later, we were sitting by the window.

Loved the freshness of the ingredients and the purity of taste. The green smoothie I ordered tasted a little powedery compared to the smooth textures I’m used to at home. I’d still order it as it’s full of nutrients; keeping an open mind: not everything has to taste the way I expect it to:)

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Fairy Feast Salad

  • Mixed baby leaves
  • Watermelon
  • Soft hemp-almond-macademia soft cheese
  • Pink olives
  • Fresh seasonal berries
  • Irish moss seaweed
  • Red pepper
  • Cucumber
  • Avocado chunks
  • Grain mustard dressing

Emerald Wild Smoothie

  • Chlorophyl-packed kale
  • Activated almonds
  • Apple
  • Lemon rind
  • Wild Cafe’s own superfood powder (chlorela, barley grass, nettle leaf, spirulina)

Visit: http://wildfoodcafe.com/

P.S. I revisited Wild Cafe for lunch today on my own and had the chocolate smoothie and the vegetarian burger. A little too vegetarian/raw tasting for my liking so found it a little heavy and dry in texture. The smoothie way too sweet and dissapointing to hear that they’re pre-made so no maple syrup was not an option:( Still, everything feels genuinely vegetarian/vegan and keen to join one of their mini retreats. The staff is exceptionally friendly and smiley:)

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Monmouth coffeeshop Borough market

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An institution for years now, queues are forming before the doors open at 7:30am each morning. One of the many beauties of this coffeeshop is that you can choose your own beans and it costs the same. Many years ago I used to buy a beautiful Indian blend so spoke to one of the assistants and she pointed me to Guatemala Finca Capetillo. Very smooth. This is what I have each morning – its label is a beautiful turquoise colour which can be seen in the last shot (alongside the imprint of my favourite lipstick ‘Rebel’ by Mac).

Light gluten free lunch

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Homemade hummus/avocado dip:

  1. 1 avocado
  2. 1 teaspoon tahini
  3. 1 clove garlic
  4. juice of 1 lemon
  5. 1 pack of fresh/sprouted chickpeas*
  6. salt & pepper
  7. drizzle of organic extra virgin olive oil (preferably Greek)
  8. a bit of water (ideally from an alcaline jug such as BioCERA)

Put everything in a blender. I finally decided to go for the real deal: Vitamix.

*Use 1 tin of chickpeas for a more familiar hummus taste. The rawness of the chickpeas is only recommended for true raw energy lovers.

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The wrap:

I have tried many gluten free wraps and they’re all tasteless except this one. If you live in the UK and you can find this brand I highly recommend it. It was Waitrose and not Wholefoods where I purchased it. Double-checked this morning when I went to buy some more and had to visit both shops:)

Spread dip generously, fill with fresh organic rocket. Drizzle of olive oil, wrap and cut to pieces.

Today I ran out of rocket so added some thinly sliced cucumber and cut it like a sandwich:)

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A few tips on eating especially if you suffer from indigestion:

  • Do a food intolerance test. Most common allergies are wheat and dairy.
  • Chew well – I eat way too fast and end up feeling bloated.
  • Keep your mouth closed:)
  • Don’t drink while you’re eating; ideally an hour before or after.