Jardin des Plantes

Jardin des Plantes - Montpellier.

France’s oldest botanical garden. established 1593

It may be cold out there, insipid & uninspiring, the days filled with much put off admin & tax returns, but my own outlook has suddenly brightened. Whilst archiving my photographs from 2015 I happened across some pictures taken during a trip down south, Montpellier, in the south of France, to be more specific.  Ahhh, clear blue skies, warm days, gentle breezes. September at its very best.

Hark at me, archiving, that makes me sound like I know what I’m doing. No photographer am I, but have iphone, will wave it around & push buttons!

Like a scene from Lewis Carroll’s imagination.

Montpellier is a city we’ve been lucky enough to visit several times, mainly in the course of catching up with some old muckers & their 3 mad musketeers. To while away days & blather long into balmy nights. Not so much so on this trip, we touched down on a mission, that being to re locate the eldest, who as part of her degree course was about to embark on a year of teaching little ones the strange ways of the English language.

Lots of sky pics, Mediterranean blue, nothing quite like it.

In a break from apartment hunting, unravelling reams of paperwork & general bureaucracy we sloped off for a meander around the Jardin des Plantes. Tranquil respite in botanical form. There may well have been pastry treats involved, there so often are. Hey ho, whilst in France!

This busy bee seems happy with his lot

Now, as well as not being a photographer, I’m no horticulturist either, although people very often expect me to be. I’m good at dealing with things that others have grown NOT growing my own. I don’t have a garden luscious with well nurtured specimens, anything that I have ever grown successfully was purely accidental, even the box plants on the doorstep have seen better days & as I have said on many occasions I have no desire to ever own a flymo.

Lovely double Hibiscus and some dates.

However, I do fully appreciate & am cheered by other people’s well tended patches. Be it a jolly hollyhock filled back yard, with a well used shed or a lavishly planted formal extravaganza complete with orangery & arboretum, of course I do, it’s where much of my inspiration comes from, but as one with not a single green digit, I long ago concluded that gardening is probably best left to those with a floriculture state of mind.

Having said that, I’m not bad at variety identification, I’ll even give you some in Latin, but as to the collection here, no clue. I’ve conjured up some of my own names to annotate my collection of snaps but feel free to enlighten me if you are greener & wiser than myself.

I know this one……..Angels trumpet, Brugmansia, incredible perfume, no wonder their diaphanous petals are always full of nectar collectors.

Magnolia - Or Dragon heads, ready to spit their ruby seeds of fire, depending on which way you look at it.

No grand garden would be complete without a prickly collection of these fine fellows.

This trip would not have been fruitful, this blog (such as it is) written, the continuing sanity of it’s scribbler would not have been maintained, without the unbelievably generous help & support not to mention delicious hospitality of our friends Pat & Charlie, to them I, we, all of us are so grateful x

Whilst you're here, pop over to Charlies web site http://www.charliebonallack.com he sure is a clever stick & his artworks are sublime


It’s curious, lots of us, myself included, would never ordinarily include much pink in our daily lives, it’s not found in abundance in our wardrobes (I went to my own to check, as I suspected, a pink free zone!) as match pot patches on a soon to be decorated wall or as a 1st thought when buying a new car, but when it comes to all things floral it just keeps pulling us back in. 

Tis an unsentimental wretch who fails to be drawn in by swathes of dog roses through hedgerows or tumbling down embankments in June. Who doesn’t feel the overwhelming desire to bury their faces in the tissue like petals of an open peony? Why would you fail to notice dried rose petals scattered on an exotic Persian pastry? Not to mention vivid geraniums in weather worn vessels or cascading vermillion bougainvillea reminding us of holidays past? She sighs, heavily.

And so to weddings.........

I don’t mind what you use as long as it’s pink”

Now there’s a brief that I can work with!

From faded antique rose to shades of summer berries, pinks are featuring on many a pretty brides mood board and I’m guessing will continue to do so for the happily ever after.

Such a vast selection of varieties in a hugely diverse palette allows for infinite possibilities. Partner pillowy peonies with cloud like hydrangeas. Pepper pretty rose buds, or hyacinth pips through a flower crown to win the sigh factor. Pop blowsy oversized blooms or by contrast, willowy single aquilegia stems into car boot finds (victorian ink bottles & lone china cups, NOT strange single shoes or headless dolls that is!) Group them together or dot them the length of a table & hey presto it’s dressed to very much impress.

Go bold by adding pops of coral to delicate pastel hues.

Sophie recently had a more peaches & cream kinda day. By including the vibrant coral tones of the lovely but unfortunately titled Miss Piggy & adding a smattering of two toned Vuvuzala to pastel pink Sweet Avalanche, plus a whole bushel of other delicate shades, she definitely ended up with a bouquet with character.

Pep things up by including limey alchemilla mollis for zing. Then top the lot off with an additional flourish, adding wide satin ribbons intricately tied or trails in contrasting shades to add personality.

Top right image by julietlemon.com

To add a touch of nostalgia, push out the boat & treat yourselves to luxurious, old fashioned garden style rose’s such as the glorious, Alexander Farms Bridal Piano or Voyage varieties. Or if you’re feeling extra specially whimsical and flush! David Austin’s Keira never fails to bring on a swoon.

Bridal Piano, as featured in Sam’s Cooling Castle Barn Wedding. As much as I nurtured them, they didn’t open quite as much as I would have liked, but it was March & bloomin freezing. Still very beautiful, partnered with some lovely Italian ranunculus & touches of heather.

Image by www.gavinphotography.co.uk

Here are a few more that I did earlier & very proud of them I am too, turning a slight shade of blush!!!

Top right image by www.devlinphotos.co.uk

Bottom right image by www.rebeccadouglas.co.uk

More from Sam & Bens spring wedding, just love those big beautiful ranunculus.

And remember, it’s not just for weddings folks………

Is there anything more beautiful than simple sweet peas in a, well anything really? In my case, handfuls of garden gate purchases stuffed into a collection of half drunk bottles of water in the cars cup holder, made a road trip fly by not to mention heavenly scented.

Even the old pink climber in the garden is having a good year. No pruning, no feeding, battered by the elements, it's the rose that just keeps giving.

If you’re like me, fresh picked roses often find their way to the kitchen. Steep handfuls of petals with sugar and water for a cordial to add, along with crushed strawberries to rum for a sort of daiquiri. Top a cake with a rose pilfered from a neighbours garden and call it tea.

More sweet treats......

Delicious pink concoctions flowed recently, when we set up bar using some of the botanical cordials we've taken to fashioning from hedgerow or farm finds, the afore mentioned rose & strawberry daiquiri (cooled by rose petal ice cubes) sold out quickly, as did the blushing rhubarb & ginger fizz. There was another pink drink on the board that day in the form of a raspberry & thyme clover club, come to think of it now, they were all pretty much from the summer fruits side of the spectrum. No bad thing.

More news on the botanical bar soon............

I now have such a collection of images that I’ve even started a Pinterest board dedicated to pink petals.


Talking of which, found this colour thesaurus on that most excellent of planning tools & I just can’t stop with the superlatives, couldn’t bring myself to use ballet slipper though, my little ballerinas were always indiscernible, far from pretty pink more in the filthy grey area!

Love rouge, definitely going to be slipping that in somewhere!

On the subject of cheek enhancing products. Others would dip into their make up bags, referencing clever names for fancy nail polish & lipstick shades to describe the individual colour pans in the vast paint box of pinkness (myself being a florist with no nails & for ease, when it’s dark in the mornings, the wearer of the same lippy colour for the past decade)  have scant reference material, but I do love a dolly mixture in the van, so............

‘From delicate sugar mouse pastels to bold bubble gum pops, with dusty marshmallow & sweet shrimp between, lets continue to take inspiation, feast, our eyes (& fuel car journeys!) on these delicious sweetie shop shades and keep it pink.’

Blimey, almost forgot pear drops & rhubarb & custards!

Winter Weddings

Ahhh the crispness of frost covered mornings, the brilliant winter sun, the hope of a sparkling snow dusted lawn, the warmth from a gathering of family & friends to celebrate your nuptials.

Wedding parties that carry on into warm summer evenings, with the chink of ice in a zesty cocktail filled glass, or mason jar, as is the fashion, are undeniably marvellous. But consider, Churches and wedding venues all aglow with candlelight, festooned with swags of  foliage, toasty with roaring open fires, guests sipping on a mulled concoction of something warming, little bridesmaids in cute cardis. Glorious.

I love a winter wedding, had one myself, although, as it turned out, a grey wintery sky and temperatures an Inuit would find a challenge made their presence keenly felt on that particular date way back when!

Very excited to have been asked to fashion one of these for a candlelit wedding at Cooling Castle Barn in Kent, it's going to look wonderful. By coincidence, Cooling was the setting for our own wedding party, can't wait for a re-vist, lovely memories. This wedding is to be in March, technically Spring some would say. There could still be snow!

Lighting and general ambience sorted, on to flowers. The bold souls willing to embrace the unpredictable season (not that all seasons are not unpredictable in this country) have an incredibly versatile colour palette and a diverse collection of varieties to choose from in the cold stores & galvanised buckets of numb fingered florists.

Deep dark decadent velvety red roses, David Austin's, The Prince. Black Baccara, Black Beauty, partnered with dark green shiny magnolia leaves make me swoon. I had lots and lots in my own bouquet.

Winter pastels, semifreddo shades of cafe au lait, sage, top of the milk creams, sugar mouse dusty pinks, united with silver textual foliages do indeed a beautiful bouquet make as chosen by lovely clients of ours this christmas past.

Simple winter whites, frosty greys & silvers.

Asked recently what I would choose now as my own dream wedding bouquet to celebrate the seasons offerings, well that was easy, a simple as simple could be posy of  celestial Helibores. Fresh winter white, with delicate green centres & snow queen golden crown like stamens. Christmas roses simply tied with a wide ribbon.

I was also asked recently wether I would wear the same dress on my wedding day, hmmm I pondered, yes I would, however, after having been to the wardrobe where it has hung these long years I’m doubting the fit! Maybe a few changes here & there, a shorter version perhaps? A change in colour? Mine was dark red, I’m leaning toward  navy velvet now, a little short veiled hat set at a jaunty angle, all 50’s glamour, suitably set off of course by my simple bouquet of understated loveliness.

As we are talking winter weddings, I felt it only fair that I share!

Did I say lots & lots of deep red roses, I meant tons & tons!

Loved that Jag.


I should be mourning the departure of summer,  flip flops & freckles, high days & holidays. However, I know as sure as Morecombe & Wise will be on the telly at Christmas, that those days will come around again, so I’m happy to stop clinging & let them go. Currently, I am revelling in days where morning dew makes cobwebs sparkle, our breath is as visible as if we were smoking fat cigars, the sky is a brilliant blue interrupted only by occasional puffs of cloud, there’s a lone rose in the garden on a skeletal briar & when the sun is at it’s highest we bathe in cockle warming amber & gold.

We’re pulling on tights & remembering when our mums pulled our wooly versions up so high when we were little we were left dangling. Checking that something furry hasn’t made a nest in our wellies, digging out our ratty mismatched assortment of scarves & gloves, yelling at our loved ones to “take a layer” putting the whole lot in place for a trip outside, only to find it’s actually 18 degrees, we’ve been a bit previous, we have too many knitted items about our persons, our heads itch, our scarves become damp from our hot breath and the whole lot gets peeled off. Better to be prepared though.

The day finishes abruptly. In mid afternoon, it’s gloomy, there’s a lull, tea is needed. The kitchen starts to fill with delicious steam. Roasted roots, fruit slumps, nutmeg laced rice puddings are back on the menu. A sneaky bottle of something raisiny & viscous will be warming the pipes of and of course warding off any seasonal lurgies that the chef may be incubating. 

Should I go on about, wood smoke, collecting the last windfalls, carpets of jewel coloured leaves the returning of the Robin & the little family of Blue tits to the garden?  All highlights, but without wanting to saturate with Maple syrup sweetness, it seems a shame, but you get the picture and so I'll desist.

Not everyday feels like a scene from a John Irving, New England, placed novel, Autumn days are unpredictable, it’s just as likely to be pelting down, damp, grey, uninspiring. A bit like any given day in July or August in the UK as it turns out, when we’ve pinned our hopes on a picnic & a paddle. But the days when we can be out & about soaking up the last rays, these feel like a bonus and ever so grateful we are for a last unmuddied outside hurrah.

Looking at it from a work perspective and I have been - see pics - the Autumn throws up all sorts of creative opportunities. Textures become even more textural, layers more layered, colours so unbelievable glorious that personally I think that more folk should carry out their nuptials at this time and embrace the season & all that it brings. Plus, I am desperate to have an excuse, other than that that Halloween brings, to hollow out some squash & fill them with blooms!

Vermouth Masterclass

Ahh, well now this is a nice thing to do………… Monday night in London town, Soho no less, Brewer Street more precisely, a vermouth masterclass with the lovely, informative Ed at the slickly kitted out restaurant & vermouth bar that is Mele e Pere.

Mr W, a devotee of Spanish Vermut, ever growing in popularity in Catalunya, particularly in Tarragona, Barcelona and the like, had a birthday recently & was gifted a knowledge expanding evening, in the intricacies of this wonderfully aromatic,  fortified wine which for so long, unfairly as it turns out, summoned up images of TV ads featuring Joan Collins. 

The delicious, cleverly crafted blends of aromatics & botanicals that the Mele e Pere folk put together couldn’t be further from the bitter 70’s concoction of Cinzano & lemonade that in my youth was the sophisticates beverage of choice.

During the perfectly timed hour & a half session we tasted, white & red, small batch, bespoke, vermouths, compared them to examples produced on a larger scale, sipped cocktails using both as a base and devoured some delicious small plates, Mr W’s favoured the deep fried olives, I was greedy with the Calamari with smoked Aioli.

Then came the practical. We were given a base wine plus what looked liked the contents of an apothecary store cupboard  to use in an attempt to blend our own concoction. Our first, after some over zealous action with an oregano filled pipette, went a peculiar shade, reminiscent of the mixtures you made as a kid from the remnants of your parents & their flare wearing friends drinks parties, let’s just say it didn’t have a whole lot of clarity. But the second, using a blend of wormwood, rhubarb root, lemon & gentian was marvellous, although I had sampled a fair few at this point, so my judgement may well have been as cloudy as our 1st attempt. Ed didn’t look overly impressed!

I won’t go deep into the details,  I really urge you to go for yourselves. Great as a gift, to yourself or to others, you’ll have to be quick, securing a stool at this interestingly stocked bar is becoming tricky with bookings now being taken well into the New Year.

It also occurs that, this makes for an impressive, fail safe, first date. It’s the whole, remarkably well priced package. Long enough to discover whether you might be on the cusp of a lasting romance, if not, short enough to be able to make school night excuses & head off to the nearby tube at Piccadilly.

I’ll be back, the restaurant menu is delicious, the cocktails are ridiculously more-ish, notably the Down the Apples, a mix of the white house vermouth, pear liqueur, apple vodka, apple juice, ice & a slice, the slice being that of a juicy Williams Pear.

Catalunya '14

Summer appears to be drawing to an end, my toes are telling me that it’s a bit too cold for flip flops & I have been caught hovering by the heating on occasion, wondering ‘Is it too early?’ Screams from Mr W telling me ‘THAT IT BLOODY WELL IS!’

It was a busy one, lots of big bold beautiful weddings (more news of these soon) which kept us busy, including that of my own sibling. Happy days. 

The last day of term found us once again on the M25 doing automotive battle in order to catch the last flight of the day outta here. It was time for the Whitehouses’ to commence their annual, temporary de-camp to their Casa Blanca in warmer climes.

A visit to the icy cold waters of Panta de Siurana took our breath away as did the almighty schlep up to the ancient hill top village above. Siurana, where legends abound and the views of the crystal waters below made us want to jump straight back in. We did. We also visited the nearby Celler de Cornudella to stock up on some delicious young Mistella, a sweet desert wine which makes a handful of local hazelnuts taste even more nutty & honey tart more honeyed.

The shadows were long, the days heated us nicely, the sea salt did peculiar things to our hair, the cicadas were so loud at 5.30am madness could so easily have set it, waterfalls were discovered, a LOT of figs were gathered from the bottom of the garden as were almonds, the prawns were juicy as ever, the Rose was chilled, as were those who imbibed.

And this, was the soundtrack to our summer.

Lavender & Lemons

Provence naturellement? Non. Kent, 15 mins from the M25!


I had a request from a lovely couple for wedding flowers to incorporate an English country garden style, featuring lots of roses (him) with an Antipodeon flavour (her) in shades of pink & cream with blue hues. Eucalyptus was my 1st thought, an excuse to visit the wonderful Hop Shop in Shoreham, Kent, to gather armfuls of fragrant local grown Lavender was my close run second.

If, like myself, you’re happy to risk the need to run for the anti-histamine lest you disturb a busy bee, and are unable to resist the temptation to plunge your hands into dense, aromatic, lavender patches to release their perfume, every time you happen upon one, this place is surely our Nirvana.

Wind through some country lanes, through the pretty village of Eynsford, cross over a stretch of the babbling river Darent, past some beautiful doe eyed cows and you arrive at last at this perfect purple oasis. The air, heavily scented with a heavenly aroma & the humm from a million buzzing bees is enough to lift the most woeful of souls & transport them to a deliriously happy state.

Wedding bouquets complete, I had a few stems that I had put to one side, what to do what to do? I was still feeling a bit whimsical, caught up with the romance of long hot summers, dream come true nuptials & inspired by the lavender lemon drizzle cake on offer at the Hop Shop, I had a fancy for a proper old fashioned English pud.

Lemon posset with a lemony curd top & a pop of lemon popping candy (probably considered to be a bit ‘done’ in certain culinary circles, but it still makes me giggle) suitably escorted by some lovely buttery lavender studded shortbread.

The Farm

Near our house but not so near that I don’t have to make regular detours to check, there’s a roundabout & on this roundabout there’s a sign & on this sign the local picking farm announces what’s fresh & ripe for the cropping. So excited, I drove round twice the other day whooping quietly (well quite loudly if truth be told!) The Asparagus have finally poked their heavenly spears through sun warmed soil & are ready for a right royal gathering.

Also making an appearance were some lovely spring onions, rosy Rhubarb & seriously aromatic wild garlic, delicate star like flowers & all.


Wild garlic makes a pungent pesto for that other oh so seasonal crop that is the Jersey Royal. It also popped up recently on a trip to POLPO where we devoured a delicious Pizzetta featuring lovely green garlic leaves & clams, inspired.

Scruffy pastry can be forgiven when juicy Asparagus is teamed with a tangy goats cheese & some pine nuts in a tart.

Freshly dug spring onions do an exotic pakora make especially when teamed with some lovely yogurty radish raita, thanks for the heads up Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall.

And as for Ruby Rhubarb, what doesn’t benefit from a tart hit of this peculiarly British fruit, ours was roasted until the juices bled & served with some beautiful silver skinned Mackerel, in an oatmeal coat. 

There was some left over so I pushed it through a sieve to add to a vanilla cake (Rhubarb, NOT Mackerel, you understand. This isn’t a Carry On Film!) The cake, in a moment of utter madness & complete girly-ness, I decided should be crowned with sugared petals. Several beautiful pink roses from a neighbours garden & some Philadelphus pilfered from the local park later Ta Da a pink oozing concoction, Barbara Cartland would have been lucky to have on her tea trolley.

Next month I’m promised Peas & broad beans & if I’m really lucky courgettes with their flowers, to say I’m excited would be an understatement, I’m gonna wind the windows down & whoop ‘till my heart can swell no further.

Simple Pleasures x

Fresh From The Field

New for May on the wonderful gathering place for music & food lovers alike, that is Cooking Up A Quiet Storm a zesty playlist from White & Winsome full of Springtime promise.

Fresh From The Field

Time to shuck those Peruvian mange tout & Guatemalan green beans from our baskets & get a whole lot more local. Cockles are being warmed, rhubarb juices are a flowing, seriously weird gooseberries are plumping nicely, broad beans and peas are ready to be popped straight into mouths from the safety of their pods, asparagus spears are piercing their way through sun warmed soil. It’s spring time my friends, my favourite culinary time of year, fresh & lively from under Winter's blanket, lets have recipes & a playlist to go with the shift from rich & stewy to light & whole lot of zest, both musical & epicurean you understand.

On the eat list

Introducing, newly podded broad beans & peas accompanied by minted feta & soulful sourdough.

Smoked Haddock Scotch Eggs feat Asparagus dippers.

Ginger & her Rhubarb Fools


Enjoy,  you’re all invited x

The Hampstead Kitchen

We all know what it’s like, we’re reasonably content, the bills are paid we have a holiday or two and then something, a dream, a turn of events, an article in something glossy, turns out to be the catalyst for a life changing light bulb moment. THERE IS something else out there, something we know we would be great at, we can make ourselves truly happy & others along the way if we’re really lucky, then life and the car service gets in the way, the bubble is burst, the inspiration fades. THANK ALL OUR GODS that this wasn’t the way it panned out with the lovely head Honcho at the Hampstead Kitchen, Saima Khan. All round clever stick Saima, ditched the city & business attire for the kitchen and an apron and now spends her long days & nights, sleeves rolled up, creating wonderful banquets packed with middle eastern promise for a growing following of very content, very full clients. 

The Hampstead Kitchen also make time for, and are generous supporters of, the charity Food Chain which in my eyes makes them even more awe-inspiring & benevolent.

I was lucky enough recently to be invited to a private chef’s table at the Hampstead Kitchen’s hub. Joined by a diverse gathering of women from all walks of life and professions, we started as strangers and became more over pomegranate strewn tahini, rose petal embellished desert and a whole host of delights in between, including the show stopping dish of  Mukloubi-bi lahmi. I unfortunately couldn’t partake, but judging by the faces of my fellow diners, the slow cooked lamb with rice & spice was glorious. For myself I was presented with a delicious fish dish, salmon chermoula, smoked salmon marinated in lemon, garlic, dill & fenugreek, so delicious in fact, I omitted to share! The wonderfully named, Na-na wa jorz, a mint and walnut sauce was also a favourite. I hope that the spelling of these aromatic delicacies are correct, if not please forgive me.

Sitting amongst piles of beautiful, jewel coloured crockery and towers of cookery books so precarious, the wonderful aromas permeating throughout the dining room made me want to book the earliest flight & zip off to Persia. With names so unpronounceable I wouldn’t even attempt them, the dishes Saima creates are full of wonderful fresh produce from near and flourishes of magical ingredients from afar. Rich & complex the Syrian dishes that we were lovingly presented with, were accompanied by knowledgable (Saima has lived pretty much everywhere so what she doesn’t know!) detailed descriptions of ingredients and cooking methods used, which, when being newly introduced to an unfamiliar cuisine, I think is always a blessing. 

Now I’m not one to take pictures of everything I eat, however, I couldn’t resist & I took some sneaky shots.  I think the final one sums up what a glorious evening was had by all.

Barcelona '14

I first visited Barcelona in 1986 as the whole country was still coming out from behind the darkened doorways of Francoism.  Many areas were not advisable to wander into & it really was more than a bit dusty in parts, although, the intriguing Modernista facades always shone. Nothing quite like the first time you come across the strange ironwork and ocular windows of the Modernist architects on the Passeig de Gracia.

The beach, such a welcome place to snooze after a long sunday lunch,  was still a far cry from the Miami-esc promenade, busy with young & old on an assortment of wheeled gadgets that it is today. The glittering Fish building (which looks more akin to a male bedpan to me) was only a twinkle in Frank Gehry’s eye.

Eleven short years after the the death of Generalissimo Franco the stage was being set for the 1992 Olympic games high up on Montjuic in the shadow of the castle where so many many political prisoners had wound up in the not too distant past. The city was receiving a thorough rub down, new high tech infrastructure was being put in place, to run along beside ancient funiculars & street cars. In Catalunya’s capitol, a city steeped in history & tradition, there were still superstar matadors in the lobby of the swish hotel where I was staying & you could happily potter around Gaudi’s Parc Guell (Antoni meeting his own demise by one such tram, a mere 80 years earlier) unmolested by the hoards.

Nearly three decades later, that doesn’t make me an ancient traveller, just means I started early, VERY EARLY! Myself & Mr W are just back from what is fast becoming our annual if not, at a push, bi-annual visit to my retirement destination of choice, AGAIN, not for a long time I just like a plan & I plan to retire early, very early!

The renovation continues, with the unveiling in 2013 of the newly restored Mercat del Born. A bit of a contentious reveal bearing in mind the amount spent & the continuing ‘crisis’ that cripples. However the neighbourhood bars, shops & restaurants which are also undergoing a large dose of reinvention & rejuvenation do seem to be benefiting from the pull of the hungry masses & it’s become necessary to be bold  in the ways of jostling to secure an ancient vino barrel on which to prop your Vermut & Aubergines fried with honey, in heaving bars such as the lively Bormuth.

Barca Brunch

There’s an increasing emergence of brunch spots in Barcelona, particularly in the more dare I say ‘trendy’ parts of El Born & El Poble Sec with places such as Caravelle, Elsa y Fred, Taranna, Suculent & the excellent Picnic popping up to offer a more relaxed less drawn out eating experience. Possibly as a result of the bright young things travelling to the States, down under & the UK, there’s a shift, and finding incredible fresh fried green tomatoes or crisp caesar salads, accompanied by inventive juice combinations on menus is fast becoming a piece of cake, of which, the carrot in Taranna was excellent!

Eggs are good, the Spanish are always good with an egg, didn’t fancy the large emu one we saw a man buy in the market mind you, but my Revuelto (scrambled eggs) in Elsa y Fred which came with thin slices of salty Manchego atop was superb.  Bread is better, forget thin slices of baguette that come in a basket & accompany everything, we feasted on in Santa Caterina market a bake so dense with yeasty ferment it was like a pint of micro brewery ale in a doughy form, manna.

Tips - 

Not really really the last word in tourist information just little things we like to do.

The view from the top floor of El Corte Ingles, Placa de Catalunya. A real 360° treat.

For those that like your public swimming pools bleachy clean this may not be for you, but for those that are happy to keep flip flops in place until the dive in, the view from the former Olympic outdoor swimming pool, as featured in the recent TV ad for a certain model of Ford, where a diver plunges through open doors into the water below, is well worth the hike up the hill. A welcome reprieve from the heat of the day, the panorama over the city is a sight to behold, just be warned if you’ve had one too many cafe con leche & you need to go, holding your nose in the changing area is the best advice I can offer. It is faded but it aint ‘arf grand.

Whilst your there you could also have a pop in to the wonderful Fundacio Joan Miro for an arty hit.

For a free taster of modernist attention to detail visit Vincon, next door to La Pedrera on Gracia. Upstairs is the furniture section of the store, housed in a modernist mansion there is an outside terrace where you can easily take pictures of the roof detail of its more famous neighbour.  Back inside there are  still remnants of days gone by as the original door furniture, tiled floors, wooden casements & even kitchen hearth are still in place. 

By all means have a peak in La Boqueria market, it is breathtaking, but if you actually want to shop for fleshy tomatoes, ugly fish & more varieties of cured meat than you can shake a bread stick at, in addition to sitting at a bar counter relishing an eye popping array of market fresh tapas, without the feeling that a mugging or at least a proper fleecing are imminent, head directly over Las Ramblas to the wonderful, colourfully roofed Santa Caterina Market. La Torna is a favourite pit stop, try the Tonyino, loin of tuna with sweet slow cooked onions.

Santa Caterina is also a good place to stock up, if your like me & have a slight obsession with smoked paprika.

Pick up picnic makings, from Santa Caterina, wander through El Born, and head over to Parc de la Ciutadella for some respite from the heat under the parakeet filled trees. Over by the west gate beyond the magnificent fountain and past the mammoth! You may even find yourselves involved in a game of ping pong on one of the public tables.

On Barceloneta, be savvy, leave the  reddening throng and dip down the side streets. The narrow roads are on a grid system and will always lead you to the sea eventually. Whilst you're winding your way through the barrio, look out for La Cova Fumada, our favourite place for bar leaning, homegrown wines & Arengue (very salty salt cured herring reminiscent of pirate food) you’ll see it before you reach it, it’ll be the tiny hole in the wall with the large crowd outside. 

L’Ostia in Catalan can mean “bloody amazing”  and whilst on the old fisherman’s quarter of Barceloneta what you will find at the self named restaurant L’Ostia, are bloody amazing tapas and small plates. The Salt cod with white beans that I had were definitely up there in my top 10.

For Vintage shopping, head to Riera Baixa St near Sant Antoni to pick up some still well priced vintage bargains. There is a burgeoning vintage scene in Barcelona but it’s still enough in it’s infancy to uncover treasure at very reasonable prices. Lailo in particular has an amazing collection including everything from the ruched seersucker swimsuits of the 50’s, sailers caps from  Cartengena to costumes from the Barcelona Opera. In my romantic mind, I picture the incredibly informative señora who runs the shop from behind piles of bags with lovely snaps, as a former wardrobe mistress of the ballet Russes when Picasso designed the costumes for Diaghilev, this however would make her approximately 110 years old so probably not either flattering or feasible. Her daughter perhaps? I hope so.

If you decide to have a climb to the top of Sagrada Familia, which I firmly believe should be on everyone’s bucket list, reward your efforts by sating your thirst with a trip to the nearby Casa Mariol. Mr W is a Vermut man I’m more of a Rosado kinda girl, either way an excellent selection are on offer, accompanied by some wonderful goats cheese in fruity olive oil or gigantic olives stuffed with anchovies & peppers it’s an excellent way to regain equilibrium, whilst watching a constant stream of locals coming in to refill their plasticos from the barrels along one wall. The opposite is full of bottles of the same only smartly labelled in what Mr W would probably describe as playful typography, I just like the colours. I think I might also have a soft spot for Casa Mariol as the wines are produced very close to our house in Catalunya & they remind me of home. Salud.

Just discovered that the fine offerings from Casa Mariol feature on the wine menu at Jose Pizzaro, guess we’ll just have to pop along for a taste just to make sure that they travel well & a reminisce, shame!

For a peak at a Gaudi masterpiece without the enormous crowds found at Casa Batillo or La Pedrera, you might head to the slightly lesser known Palau Guell.  Built for Gaudi’s benefactor Eusebi Guell & his family, this gem has recently been restored and only opened it’s doors to the public in 2012.

More shopping of a vintage kind, well more the flea market kind actually. Els Encants has moved into it’s shiny new home. Expect to jostle, haggle and marvel at some of the odd merchandise on offer, from headless dolls to beautiful etched glass, all beneath the undulating bronzed roof, which, as you approach gives you a fun house view of the markets goings on.

I know I know once again W&W landed in a major city and ate & drank their way around. But isn’t that what life is about? Great food, good wines, long walks through winding streets marvelling at architecture & art both antiquated & contemporary, breathing the air, the sun on your face making your freckles appear, laughing with friends, being tongue tied & giggling at your bad pronounciation, falling in to bed weary with a slight Vino fuzz, until you have to be back on that Easyjet flight back to actuality that is.

I’ve mentioned a few of the people & places we love, but if the wind should be carrying you to Barcelona any time soon, be in touch, I’ve got pocketfuls of favourites and I’m more than happy to share.

Cooking Up A Quiet Storm


In truth, I know that if I consulted with & listened to my heart of hearts, it would tell me that I can’t sing a single note, carry a tune, nor even hum melodically BUT when I’m busying away in the delicious warm fugg of my kitchen my head tells me that, I am for sure, a contemporary of Gladys & Dionne, hell I could give Dusty a run for her money…..

The 1st few lines that accompany my music choices for the  new full-flavoured music blogspot that is Cooking up A Quiet Storm. Can't believe that I actually made the admission, but, it has been strangely liberating. It's good to share & no more so than at CUAQS. A passing around of  succulent culinary playlists, modern day mix tapes if you will, that fuel one of our most primal instincts, the one where we eat, nourish & ultimately nurture.

Take time when you're next cooking up a storm of your own, or even sooner, to go to the spot, read more of my musings on the matter, find out how I justify my outlandish outpouring, feast on the offerings of other soulful contributors & of course have a listen to White & Winsome's 'People Gonna Talk' eclectic collection of tunes, the ones to which we break bread, something wholegrain & virtuos you understand, the New Year detox spins on at 78 RPM.

Enjoy, you're all invited x




Whilst I know that blood oranges are not the only fruit, they are in this cake.

In homage to lovers & dishevelled florists everywhere on this saint's day, a hearty blood orange & vermouth concoction x



Bon dia to those with a Catalan state of mind.

So excited to discover Calçots being sold just off Maltby Street.

A speciality of Catalonia, similar to a large spring onion. The traditional Catalan method of cooking is to wrap the Calçots in newspaper & then roast over flaming coals, to keep them tender, peel off the blackened outer layers, slather with Romesco & devour.

If you're cooking them at home and the idea of firing up the BBQ doesn't appeal or it's just too cold to go outside, you can grill them in the conventional manner.

Or, even better, if you would prefer a professional to cook them for you, head to the wonderful Jose in Bermondsey for Calçots washed down with a cold Manzanilla.

i delícies, gaudir x


Maltby Street Market

There was a brief window when the January rain left off, so we shucked our wellies, Mr W donned his Loakes, trimmed his beard and we went off down the Maltby Street Arches for a grazemooch









If I were a  reviewer, my Gin cocktail filled jar would runneth over. So many lean tos & hot spots, serving lovingly prepared deliciousness, so little leniency in the New Year diet.  

Although to be honest, the eateries around here really don't need my two-penneth worth.  Already, much has been documented in weekend supplements about the quality of nourishment to be had. Rightly so. 

Follow the crowds to Monty's deli for an alarming amount of salt beef. Be bold & jostle for a stool in the place that makes me long for Spain, Tozino. Quoff fine wines at no. 40. Fill your face with big, bold, brioche burgers at Market Gourmet.

For those that have not yet been, treat yourselves, near the south side of Tower Bridge, If you hit Elephant & Castle you've definitely gone too far !


Wintery Walks & Snowdrops


Today in a continued effort to blow cobwebs away, we wrapped up in an ill matched assortment of woolies & wellies & ventured to the countryside. The sort of day when the sun was low but shining just enough so we could feel it's restorative rays, it definitely seemed liked a good idea at the start. However, after only a short while, cloud descended and January mizzle commenced. It was freezing & our expedition could have soon turned grumpy (It was the sort of cold that was so bracing our thighs took on a peculiar purple hue and our noses developed unbecoming dew drops) Not to fear, our spirits were lifted & we were well & truly rewarded when we came across these drops of a distinctly different kind. Snowdrops, So perfect. 

Roll on springtime.

New Year Granola


In a bid to oust the final festive toxins from our systems, long walks have been taken, we've been abstemious from sugar, bread and wine & we've swapped for the more righteous, well ok we've actually swapped the white for the more more brown & red varieties of the same, but hey ho, every little helps !

So today the house was bathed in the most glorious cinnamon-y fugg as I reached for the oats, nuts, seeds & dried fruit and concocted a hundred weight of delicious tawny granola.

Great to stick your paw into to ward off the mid afternoon slump, wonderful in the morning with yogurt. Or even, sprinkled on top of a warm bowl of what my mum still refers to as stewed fruit but is now more commonly known as compote, for an impromptu crumble of sorts, poured over of course, with cream anglais, also previously known as custard. 

Stick some in your pocket to fuel your wintery walks, although I might suggest you put it in a bag 1st, lest you be set upon by pigeons or have a mouse run up your leg !

Things to remember. Only use unsweetened ingredients, the honey will make it sweet enough & only add the fruit once the baking of the dry goods is done, otherwise it will resemble pebbles.

The recipe (such as it is)

Use 500grms of rolled oats as your base then throw in whatever you have, nuts, seeds, kernels, plus loads of spice. Mix together 1/2 cup of juice, cranberry or orange or even pineapple if your going exotic + 1 cup of runny honey. Stir through the dry ingredients, spread over a large baking sheet or two & bake at 160 for up-to 30 mins turning frequently. Once it's all golden & toasty stir through chopped dried fruits and berries, I used cranberries, figs, raisin & apricots for good measure, about 450grms worth in total. If you choose to go down the caribbean route add mango, banana chips & shredded coconut.

Und soviel, your home smells like a german bakery & you've got yourself a jar of goodness that will keep you virtuous for a good few weeks.

Happy Healthy New Year  x



First batch of Christmas cheer ready to be gifted to friends & family.

I have to say with some authority, as chief muddler & taste tester, that our spiced orangey take on the classic Limoncello seriously warms the pipes on the way down.

Simple to do, you just need to allow a little time each day, for 6 weeks give or take, to give the mix of vodka, sugar syrup & a blend of cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom + a few extra christmas related spices a good shake or stir depending on your preference.

Then all you need is a clever designer, happen to have one of those handy, to whip up a batch of elegant labels, and you're ready to go forth & make very merry. 

Cin-Cin xx

The Tree


Time to dust off baubles & painstakingly search for the one bulb that's letting the whole string down. The tree's been carted home in the small hatchback with the front window down to accommodate a few extra feet. The owner is stuffed some how in the back, fending off attacking gnats that the tree seems to come with a family of, it's been dragged indoors and the proud new owners have scratched their heads and remarked that the tree that has 3ft bending over at the top, looked like it would fit the space perfectly! The tree undergoes surgery, it's back in position with the aid of some guy ropes, lest it fall forward, which it has been known to do, spreading shattered glass in an alarming radius, shards still being found in March, let the decorating commence, did I say decorating, a bout of very undemocratic argey bargey  more like. Sound familiar so far?

Everyones got their own ideas but I always pull out the 'But I decorated Boy George's tree once' card (it was in the early 90s' I really should get over it) that seems to do the trick and everyone slopes off resigned to the fact that if I don't get the lions share of artistic input a scene likened to that in an episode of Friends where Monica re-does her chums handiwork to her own liking the second their sleekly coiffured heads are turned.

What seems like a gerzillion balls later I'm pretending not to be a bit bored and am longing for my helpers to return. Return they do, eventually. Everyone has an opinion, it's always on the wonk according to someone, why aren't we allowed tinsel moans another. But come the evening, lights twinkling, premature box of christmas chocs open, something which involves a phone in on the telly, mutterings of 'so pretty' are heard, peace ensues.

I love a Christmas tree, always have, always will x