Pumpkin Picking in London

 Pumpkin pickin’ season is upon us ya’ll! Growing up in the US, there wasn’t a year that went by that we didn’t go pumpkin picking in October. It signifies the start of Autumn and is such a fun activity to do on the weekend. When I was little, we used to go to this farm in Kansas with a huge field all full of pumpkins and pick out our own to bring home and carve for Halloween to put out on the door step. As we got older, I’d go to the pumpkin patch with friends when that snap of cold air hit, drink apple cider, enjoy apple cider donuts and pick out pumpkins to decorate our house with.

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VINtwined Presents Champanois

This past weekend, my older sister Chrissie was in town visiting. In fact, this has become a routine occurrence, for which I feel incredibly thankful for! We have our little traditions every time she comes to London – we always go to see a play and indulge in quite a bit of champagne. When I was invited to come along to Vintwined’s Champanois event, I couldn’t think of anybody else I’d rather experience it with than my sister!

Now, for those of you who aren’t yet familiar with VINtwined, it is a fantastic new venture founded by ex-pharmaceutical strategy consultant Neil Deacon.

Neil’s philosophy is one I can definitely get on bored with – “Life’s too short, so why wait?”

Despite an established career, Neil took his passion for phenomenal wine and started VINtwined – a company that takes unique wines and uses them for culinary inspiration. Instead of the typical food with wine pairing, Neil uses the wine as inspiration for the dishes.

Neil, along with Head Chef James Welch, have been showcasing their passion for great wine and food with a series of supper clubs and we got to experience the very special four-course wine-led dining experience featuring exquisite grower champagnes this past weekend. To say it was superb is an understatement.

Taking place in Clerkenwell Kitchen, we were greeted with smiles and a glass of Gounel Lasalle Prestige Brut paired with Comte and Brioche rarebit fingers. A delicious combination as the flavours of the brioche in the canapé distinctively mirrored the creamy buttery notes of our champagne. We met Neil, who told us some hilarious stories about travelling throughout France, knocking on wine-makers door to discover the next big thing.

I have a real appreciation for smaller, lesser known wineries and prefer to drink wine from small production companies when possible as opposed to mass produced wines. I find the stories behind them to be quite fascinating and like to support smaller companies as much as I can. I also find that a lot of the times, the wine is much better quality!

Neil told us all about how he wasn’t having much luck going door to door when he was in France. He was about to give up on the expedition and head home when a surfer-looking dude walked up to him and asked him if he was looking to try some different wine. Neil said yes, and the surfer took him to a shed, where he kept several barrels of wine on reserve. The surfer happened to be the owner of a small production winery that had been in his family for years and Neil ended up bringing some of the wine back to serve at his Vintwined dinners.

We sipped on our lovely first glass of champagne and chatted with the rest of the group before sitting down for the main event…

The first-course was a Ployez-Jacquemart Extra Brut Vintage 2005 paired with a Salmon tart fine, chestnut mushrooms, watercress and creme fraiche. The champagne itself is fresh and palatable, with hints of honey and spices that paired incredibly well with the salmon tart. The champagne itself wasn’t heavy and didn’t leave an acidic taste in your mouth like many champagnes can. It was lovely and light – one that is perfect to drink at the beginning of the evening. The Salmon Tart was delicious, with the pastry underneath adding a rich buttery texture to the overall flavourful fish. Lovely indeed.

The next course was my absolute favourite of the evening, and very well may have inspired my wedding menu!

Duck breast served with potato terrine, turnips, red cabbage and a rich blackberry jus. The inspiration for this dish comes from the Louis Casters Cuvee Superiore Brut, one of the most special champagnes I’ve had the pleasure of sampling. The champagne itself is crisp and decadent, with notes of blackberry, apricot, brioche and lemon zest. It paired exquisitely with the duck and the blackberry jus that accompanied it. It is a very distinctive champagne and one I would love to try again soon.

The duck itself was cooked to perfection and melted in our mouths. I really liked the freshness that the blackberries brought to the dish – it was fantastic! Hat’s off to the chef.

Unlike a lot of wine tastings I have been to in the past, the dinner is formatted perfectly in that Neil talked briefly about the champagne and how it inspired the dish that we were about to eat. It wasn’t overwhelming or too complicated. His outlook on wine is that is is supposed to be fun, not daunting and while I can’t speak for everyone, I know that I walked away feeling a lot more knowledgeable than when I came!

I also want to note that the thought and effort that went into choosing the specific champagnes we tried on the evening as well as the pairing of the dishes was so evident and Neil’s passion for what he does shined throughout the entire evening.

For our final course, we were surprised with a sweet dessert wine called Pierre Morlet, Rattafia paired with a Cherry Bakewell Tart, almond crumble and vanilla cream. I am not always a huge fan of dessert wines as I find the consistency can be a bit too syrupy, but this sweet wine was delightful and the soft cherry notes mirrored those in the Bakewell Tart. There was a bit of acidity to the wine, which balanced out the sweetness of the overall dessert. It was a wonderful way to end our superb evening.

For a digestif, my sister and I ordered one more glass of the incredible Louis Casters champagne and chatted along with Neil about his future plans. This was one of the last of the Champanois dinners, but he is hosting a new series called “This is English,” celebrating English wines just in time for English Wine Week coming up in London.

The four-course event will take place at Stepney City Farm on 18th March, 15th April and 27th May. Tickets are £65 and can be purchased here. The Champanois event was truly spectacular and I would expect nothing less at his next series! If you are a big wine fan or just want to meet some new people and learn more about it, I can’t recommend Neil’s relaxed Vintwined series enough. The wines are outstanding and the food is divine – a truly winning combination.

*I was a guest of Neil’s, but all thoughts and opinions are my own and I am really excited to see what VINtwined has in store for the future and really looking forward to the next event. Thank you Vintwined for a most memorable of evenings!

The Fawlty Towers Dining Experience

For those of you Americans reading this, you may be wondering what exactly Fawlty Towers is? Well, it’s one of the most hilarious British sitcoms from the 70s. If you’re a fan of British humour – go watch it, and even if you’re not – still go watch it. The show takes place in a hotel and features Basil, the inept hotel manager, his bossy wife Sybil and Manuel, the funniest Spanish water that has a knack for ruining everything Basil tries to do right.

Well, I was so intrigued by the show and after spending 2.5 years here in the UK, I decided it was time to experience the Fawlty Towers Dining experience for myself! Currently playing at the Amba Hotel in Charring Cross and the Kingsway Hotel in Covent Garden, the show is literally everything you will remember from the hit BBC sitcom rolled into a two hour sit down meal, where the audience are used as props and the food is too…

The performance features the three main characters, Basil, Sybil and the hilarious Manuel – all of whom were spectacular and looked so similar to the original cast.

For those of you that know Fawlty Towers well, expect to see the funniest scenes played out from the original show, including Manuel and Basil the Rat, Basil trying to get Manuel to bet on a horse, the scene where the Americans come to town with the Waldorf Salad, and the inevitable build up to that German scene where Basil goes insane….

Having not watched the show loads before we went to the experience, I still found it to be incredibly humorous and a great laugh all throughout dinner, even when Manuel accidentally chucked me on the floor in front of everyone!

You can’t help but laugh throughout the entire show…

On to the food… Well, truth be told, the food wasn’t as great as the performance was but you don’t come for the mind-blowing food, you come for a really fun evening out. Bread rolls used as props were flung across the room by Manuel, pumpkin soup that arrived later than expected…

Roast Chicken with veggies and a potato..

And Black Forest Gateaux Cake …. I think we were all a little disappointed to see no Waldorf salad but that’s neither here no there!

I personally loved all the jokes and how they got the crowd really involved and immersed in the entire experience. It was a really fun evening full of surprises and the script (they say) is different each time. The characters were all so spot on and overall, it was a very unique night out and something a little bit different! The Fawlty Towers Dining Experience would make for an excellent gift for a relative and would also be great fun to do as a group.

Have you been to the Fawlty Towers Dining Experience yet? What did you think?

Book now! 

I was a guest of the Fawlty Towers Dining Experience, but all opinions are my own, and I wouldn’t trade this exceptionally funny night for anything.

 

Where to Watch the NFL in London

nfl-in-londonIt’s that time of year again and American football season is back in full swing! Sometimes, there’s nothing better than having a lazy Sunday with some beers, burgers and football streaming on the TV, all day long. For those of us Americans living in London, we don’t always have that luxury and we’ve got to head out of our flats and houses to catch the action elsewhere. It can be really hard to pinpoint which bars and pubs will be streaming the games, so I’ve come up with a list of where to watch the NFL games in London.

Greenwood in Victoria – Located in the heart of Victoria, Greenwood is an upscale pub and restaurant that has a Sports Lounge of dreams – including six screens (two mega screens), showing all the NFL action! They’ve also got an American 8-ball pool table and two shuffle board tables. They’ve also got an awesome bar menu with delicious croquettes, pizza strips, burgers, and more served all day. This is my ideal spot to spend a Sunday afternoon watching football!

Greenwood | 170 Victoria St |  Westminster | London | SW1E 5LB

The Hippodrome Casino – Located in Leicester Square, The Hippodrome Casino is the ultimate spot to cheer on your favourite team. Every game has it’s own screen, they’ve got an awesome all-American food and drink menu and everyone comes in their team’s jerseys so you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back to the USA.

The Hippodrome Casino | Cranbourn St | Leicester Square | London | WC2H 7JH

Bodean’s – Known for it’s awesome Kansas City-style BBQ, Bodean’s has multiple locations throughout London AND shows several of the games every Sunday. Locations include: Balham, Clapham, Fulham, Old Street, Soho, Tower Hill, Covent Garden and Muswell Hill. Beers, BBQ and football – sounds pretty good to me. Call your local branch ahead of time and ask what games they’re showing for that day.

Frankie’s Sports Diner – An American-inspired sports bar in Fulham, Frankie’s has 12 HD screens to catch the action of the games every Sunday. When you buy a bucket of Bud, you’ll get a basket of buffalo wings for free – game on.

Frankie’s Sports Diner | Stamford Bridge | Fulham Rd | London | SW6 1HS

Belushi’s – Another awesome American-style sports bar with multiple locations across London. Belushi’s has backstage access to regular season and playoffs and replays with a Season Plus Game Pass. Any game you want to watch – they are able to screen it for you. Even better, if there’s a big group, you can reserve a spot for a front row spot, pay £10 each and get a bucket of 5 Bud Lights and a Tex Mex platter. Sounds ideal.

Showing games in: Camden, Greenwich, Hammersmith, London Bridge and Shepherd’s Bush.

Riley’s Sports Bar – Haymarket – This place is one of the ultimate sports bars in London. There’s 34 screens showing 70 sports channels, so you’re guaranteed to catch the game you want. They also have pool and ping pong tables, 4 different bars, and a great beer list. In addition to NFL, they also show college games and basketball! Check out their schedule online to see what games they’ll be showing every Sunday and get there early to snag a seat.

Riley’s Sports Bar | 80 Haymarket | London | SW1Y 4TE

Wembley Stadium – And of course, the best place to watch a game is at Wembley Stadium! The International Series kicks off tomorrow with the Colts vs the Jaguars. We went last year to watch the Kansas City Chiefs and had a blast. It was definitely a highlight of my year and if you get the chance to go you definitely should!

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If you prefer to watch the games at home, you can buy Sky Sports, which shows some of the games, Game Pass, which will give you access to 256 regular season games, and you can watch highlights on BBC iPlayer.

If there’s any other sports bars to watch the NFL in London, please let me know!

Go Chiefs!

 

 

Pergola on the Roof

There is no shortage roof top bars in London, but none as beautiful as the newly launched Pergola on the Roof, a stunning oasis on top of Television Centre in White City. I was super excited to check out the space, but wasn’t expecting it to be as dazzling as it actually was. We headed there for the press evening to support one our clients at work and I’m so glad that we got to have a sneak peek before the official launch.

When we headed 170 feet up in the air and stepped out onto the rooftop, my expression was ‘WOW.’ The incredible, alfresco space is covered with a whimsical canopy of wisteria, bougainvillea, ivy, flowers and twinkling fairy lights intertwined, creating a magical atmosphere with stunning views of London. It’s interesting to note that Pergola comes from the Latin word pegula, which means projecting roof (a very pretty one at that).

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There is plenty of comfy seating, featuring white washed tables and chairs and colourful cushions, taking inspiration from the Mediterranean. There are also daybeds that you can book out to bask in the sunshine on the weekends with friends.

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The brick walls feature pastel-coloured murals with the likes of flamingos, colourful houses, pelicans and a myriad of beautiful designs that provide an air of escapism from the hustle and bustle of London down below. One of the best parts about Pergola on the Roof, however, is the food offering.

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Featuring four of London’s highly reputable restaurants including Rabbit, Patty & Bun, Salt Yard and Le Coq, Pergola on the Roof is not only haven to relax and catch up with friends, but an ideal destination for London’s most discerning foodies. The menus at each pop-up feature some of the most popular dishes that are served in the restaurant…

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Such as these incredible Beef Cigars from Rabbit Restaurant in Chelsea with tarragon mustard dip. They were truly outstanding.

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As were these Rye Bay Scallops in Garlic Butter. They were, hands down, some of the best scallops I’ve ever had.

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We took a little wander around and checked out some of the other pop-ups and I marvelled at how well done and gorgeous the decor was. I already can’t wait to go back.

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Patty & Bun, a crowd favourite, had its iconic Ari Gold Burger on the menu, which is definitely a must try. The P&B Mayo is a real winner, you won’t regret ordering it!

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Over on the side of the roof, there is a gorgeous seating area with 2 boules pitches to play on a sunny day. We’ll definitely be dusting off our set to play here in the summer.

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In need of a few libations to go with our food, we headed over to the gorgeous bar area in the upper area of Pergola. There are two bars, one downstairs when you first walk in and another one in the middle of the four pop-up restaurants. We each decided on glasses of Rosé and toasted to the fact that it was finally summer (despite the chillier weather on this particular evening).

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Our last stop was Salt Yard, which had created a bespoke menu filled with classic tapas including charcoal grilled dry aged beef bocadillo with aged manchego, charred gem, aioli and onion marmalade, grilled spicy chorizo, and grilled aubergine, smoked burrata, phoenix farm leaves and an orange vinaigrette. I decided on the latter as burrata is a favourite of mine and wanted to try something a bit on the lighter side.

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It was a delicious and refreshing salad, but with that said, I don’t think you could go wrong with any of the options on the menu.

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As the sun set, the music cranked up and the fairy lights switched on, which made Pergola on the Roof even prettier than in daylight. Lively, upbeat music bounced throughout the rooftop and everybody was in great spirits as we chatted and sipped crisp glasses of wine late into the evening. As cheesy as it sounds, Pergola on the Roof had me at hello. It was definitely love at first sight and I can’t wait to come back with Ciaran and friends this summer. What can I say, I’m a sucker for pretty patios and rooftops.

Perfect For: Pergola on the Roof is the ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of Central London. It’s the perfect destination and something different to do with a big group of friends. There is an excellent array of food from some of London’s top notch restaurants and has an awesome cocktail, beer and wine list to try out. There’s also a retractable roof in case of bad weather, so nothing will rain o your parade. Entry is free and you can book a table or a daybed area for big groups. They’re even offering a cocktail on the house when you sign up to their Visitor Book. You can’t beat it. Take my word for it and head to Pergola on the Roof this weekend, you’ll fall in love, I guarantee it. Pergola on the Roof is open until 29th August.

Pergola on the Roof | Television Centre | Wood Lane | White City | London | W12 7JR 

Wed – Fri: 6pm – 11pm
Saturday: 12pm – 11pm
Sunday: 12pm – 9.30pm

 

Sunday at Southbank

Ciaran and I have a new Sunday ritual where we go for a run from our flat in Clapham all the way down to the London Eye and grab a coffee by the river or some street food from the Southbank Centre Food Market and relax in the sun. It’s a really beautiful run past the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and a gorgeous view makes all the difference while jogging (panting) away.

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There’s some cute little riverside cafés once you run past Vauxhall and just before the London Eye that are great spots for relaxing and taking in the views of this beautiful city, or keep running past the London Eye and you will end up at Southbank, one of my favourite places in all of London.

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Southbank is an eclectic Thames-side area that is home to a great street food market, the National Theatre, the OXO Tower, Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Tate Modern, an array of fabulous restaurants, rooftop gardens that are ideal for picnics in the summer and all around, it’s a lovely area of London to grab an ice cream for a stroll along the river.

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The river walk is lined with independent food vendors, ideal for grabbing a quick bite to eat on the go.

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Bleecker St. Burger is one of my favourite burgers in London and they’ve taken up a permanent residency at Southbank.

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Or if you fancy a taco, Wahaca also has a Mexican street food truck parked right outside the Royal Elizabeth Hall with colourful picnic tables to enjoy some street food in the sun.

The real gem of a food market though lies behind Royal Festival Hall…

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The Southbank Centre Market is bursting with cultural cuisine from all four corners of the earth. It’s really a smorgasbord of some of the best street food in London. From pastries and pizza to juices and curries, there’s something for everyone!

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One of my favourite street food stalls is The Frenchie. They specialise in the most out of this world duck confit sandwiches on fresh brioche with goats cheese and truffle honey. There’s just nothing quite like them. Next time you’re at Southbank, check them out – you won’t regret it.

 

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These Dosas looked incredible.

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Gelato, anyone?

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If you’re looking for some Southern USA grub, head to Hank’s Po’Boys – it’s the closest you’ll get to authentic New Orlean’s Po’Boys in London.

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Dough Bros Pizza is always a good idea.

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After perusing all the stalls, Ciaran decided on a delicious chicken shawarma wrap.

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Made fresh right in front of your eyes.

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Being indecisive as usual, we took another lap around and the Donostia Social Club really caught my eye.

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Specialising in Spanish Tapas, I couldn’t ignore the delectable looking samples and awesome hot tapas menu on display.

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I was sold on the beautiful cold tapas alone and even more so after seeing the menu around the side.

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I opted for the seared scallops with a colourful pisto sauce, green chili and almonds.

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We took a seat in the sunshine and watched as the chef masterfully whipped up this gorgeous dish in front of our eyes. There is definitely something to be said for food made from scratch. It’s definitely appreciated and the dish tasted great. I’m a huge fan of scallops and these were cooked beautifully.

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After finishing off the scallops, we were craving something a little on the sweet side.

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In comes the Marshmallowist. They were the guest stall of the weekend and we had to give it a go. These guys specialise in quirky marshmallow flavours and will toast them for you.

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Raspberry and champagne for me!

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Perfectly toasted and gooey, we demolished our ‘mallows and stopped each other from getting another. Until next time, we both agreed as we made our walk back home to Clapham.

The Southank Centre Market is one of my favourites in London and is truly a treasure trove full of fantastic food from all over the world. I highly recommend sampling a few different stalls followed by a stroll along the river. I am excited for it to warm up so we can spend a day basking on the roof top gardens with some Pimms overlooking the gorgeous view of the Eye and St. Paul’s.

What is your favourite part of London?

Thanks for reading x

Pin for Later Spring

The Best of Borough Market

Borough Market is one of the most famous attractions in London. When I first visited nearly 4 years ago, I was in awe of the all of the traders and magnificent food. Back then, the market was only open on Fridays and Saturdays. A lot has changed over the past few years and Borough Market has nearly doubled in size and is open every day of the week with the exception of Sundays.

Steeped in history, Borough Market dates back to the 11th Century and was a market even back then. Being right near London Bridge, the market was a haven for traders selling all sorts of goods. In the 13th Century, the traders relocated to Borough High Street as there was so much foot traffic from people travelling across the bridge and Borough Market has existed ever since! Pretty cool, huh?

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Today, Borough Market is the ideal spot for tourists and locals alike who share a passion for culinary delights and great for anybody who simply loves eating and drinking! With the sheer amount of traders, where does one begin their culinary adventure and what are the best vendors to visit? Read on to find out..

In the summer, I took a foodie tour through Borough Market with Celia Brooks, an incredibly talented chef and food writer. Celia hosts a number of London Food Tours, all of which are a great opportunity get an inside look into London’s burgeoning culinary scene. If you’re a real foodie, I can’t recommend her tours enough! The tour we took through Borough Market opened my eyes to some amazing spots I had missed over the years, but will now be sure to visit regularly. She showed us the best that Borough Market had to offer and we got to taste several different types of unique foods and drinks along the way.

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Before Christmas, Ciaran and I decided to have a festive day exploring Borough Market and it was a great opportunity to revisit a lot of the awesome places Celia had introduced to me and try out some new places too. We started off the day at The Wine Pantry, where you can buy British champagnes, sparkling wines and English produce. They host regular tastings and you can buy some fantastic gifts here.

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Next up, I took Ciaran over to Richard Haward’s Oysters, which have the BIGGEST and most delicious oysters I’ve ever had. Richard is a 7th generation oysterman, so it’s no surprise that the oysters are of the utmost quality. Ciaran’s not the biggest fan of oysters, so more for me! Creamy, plump and fresh from the sea, I could eat these oysters everyday. I’d also like to note for the large size of these oysters, the prices are outstanding. Also, what’s better than oysters and bubbles? Nada.

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oysters

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We were both a bit parched, so we headed over to the New Forest Cider for sparkling English cider. This is a great spot to try traditional English cider if you’re visiting London for the first time. I can’t recommend it enough. When I studied abroad four years ago, a lot of us visited this stall to try out all different types. We couldn’t get enough! You can buy a few bottles to bring back home with you.

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I don’t know about you, but I am a sucker for truffles. I could have truffle on anything and everything if I could. Tartufaia is the best place in Borough Market for truffles. We lifted the lids up and inhaled the dreamy aroma of these little delicacies. Even if you don’t buy any, head over just to smell the truffles. It’s worth it, trust me.

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I took Ciaran over to Khanom Krok in the older part of Borough Market for these gorgeous coconut puddings I had tried on the tour with Celia. I can still remember the taste of these sweet little pancake-type desserts. Bottom line, they were so good and really unique. If you see them the next time you’re at the market, wait in the queue and order some to try – you’ll love them.

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The best stall to grab dumplings from is L’ailOlive in the green market. Plump and juicy chicken and vegetable gyoza drizzled with their renowned garlic and chilis oils is outstanding. L’ailOlive will be trading at  Alexandra Palace Market beginning on 3rd January.

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Cheese please! For your parmesan craving, grab a slice from the The Ham & Cheese Company in the Green market. Sourced directly from farmers across France and Italy, the Ham and Cheese Co brings some top notch charcuterie and cheese to us lucky ones in London.

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Who could resist all this charcuterie goodness? Awesome to bring to parties and for hosting your own. Borough Market is filled with some great charcuterie traders. One of the best is Brindisa for jamon Iberico.

We took a little stroll around the rest of the market to walk off some of the goodness we just inhaled. It was gorgeously decorated for Christmas and really got us feeling festive.

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This is MY FAVOURITE Olive Oil ever. It’s pumpkin flavoured olive oil and is incredible for dipping bread, using as a marinade or even as a light salad dressing. I bought it four years ago when I first visited Borough Market and I have looked for it every time I’ve been back but failed to find it again. Keep an eye out for it the next time you’re there and sample some. Let me know what you think!

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There’s other little trinkets and treasures to be found here as well – from tea towels and tea pots to unique cutting boards and serving plates. You never know what you may find.

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Pate Moi is a delicious mushroom pate. I personally love this spread and think it tastes great on crackers!

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Shellseekers is fantastic for scallops and seafood. The fish is delivered fresh daily and the prices are great as well.

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Northfields is fantastic for naturally reared meats. Northfields has incredible burgers and the filet is so tender. A note to Americans, you’ll love the taste of this meat. It tastes very similar to meat you would eat in the US.

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Chocolate

We wrapped up the day with something sweet at Rabot 1745 with iced chocolates and salted caramel hot chocolates. For chocolate fiends, definitely visit Rabot 1745 the next time you’re in Southwark.

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It was quite the gluttonous day but calories don’t count at Christmas, right?  I’m glad I got to show Ciaran some awesome traders Celia introduced to me a few months ago. If you’re a first time Borough Market visitor, I would recommend going sometime during the week to avoid massive crowds and to have a better experience. During the weekends, it can be quite manic. For those of you who have visited Borough Market already, what are some of your favourite spots? I’d love to visit them!

Thanks for reading! x

Borough Market

8 Southwark Street

Southwark, London SE1 1TL

  • Open for lunch on Monday – Tuesday from 11 am – 5 pm
  • Full market is open on Wednesday – Thursday from 11 am – 5 pm, Friday from 10 am – 6 pm, and Saturday from 8 am – 5 pm (closed on Sunday)

To sign up for Celia’s foodie tours or to get more information about them, click here.