Monthly Archives: March 2015

London Weekend (Part 2)

We really should know better at our age but were wide awake at 5.30 due to excitement. Nothing more. We know how to rock a weekend away and knew this one wasn’t going to disappoint. 


We’d booked an 8am train to get us into London just before 9.30am. Even better we’d got 1st Class tickets so it was lovely to relax in the lounge and then enjoy breakfast on the way.


The partial eclipse was due to begin whilst we were travelling and managed to get a glimpse somewhere near Bedford. 


Arriving at St Pancras we went our seperate ways for the day. @jbboardman went to the office due to an annual leave shortage and I headed off on the Thameslink to Blackfriars to drop the bags off at the hotel. 

By 9.45am, the travel admin was done and I was free to enjoy the day. 

I headed over to Sloane Square on the tube and had a lovely walk up to Knightsbridge passing by Julian Assange’s hideaway in Hans Crescent. (Not a great photo but didn’t want to get shouted at by the Police!)


Next on the agenda was a bit of shopping in Marylebone High Street. A lovely bustling area with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. After a quick glass of wine and some olives I headed over to Monument on the bus ready for my trip to the Sky Garden. 

The Sky Garden is a new 3 storey public garden located 40 storeys above Fenchurch Street. The building, famously called ‘The Walkie Talkie’ is the fifth highest in London and access to the Sky Garden is completely free of charge. 


You need to book a ticket online, 3 days in advance of your visit. I understand that weekends are incredibly popular.

It was nice and quiet when I arrived (3.30pm) and was through security and at the top within 5 minutes. 

The views are amazing and it’s a lovely relaxing environment with a bar and restaurant so you can enjoy a drink whilst taking in the views. 



I wouldn’t fancy his job!!


I met up with @jbboardman at Covent Garden tube and had cocktails before heading to Mishkins for dinner. 

The gin based cocktails here are amazing and as ever, the food brilliant.


A firm favourite of mine and I can confidently say it’s now a firm favourite of the OH!!

Deciding that the night shouldn’t be over just yet, we had a bright idea to take a Thames Clipper down to Greenwich and back. Perhaps not the best idea at 10pm but we do like a risk and what fun we had!!


It’s a brilliant way to sightsee. The boats were empty and with a bar onbard, what’s not to like. 

We eventually made it back to Blackfriars Pier and with just a 2 minute walk to to hotel, we were grateful to collpase into bed. 


Guess what……. Wide awake at 5.30am!

A little hungover and very excited we were ready to leave the hotel at 8.30am

We headed over to Borough Market for breakfast and a look around before it got too busy. 

Borough Market is a beautiful food market located just near London Bridge Station. It’s hard to describe what they sell. It’s probably better to start with what they don’t sell. 

We agreed that if we were heading home that day, we’d have bags full of stuff but had to manage with just breakfast and coffee. 

A couple of buses later and we were at Selfridges for a bit of shopping. 

I managed to talk @jbboardman out of buying a drone and an underwater scuba scooter and we made do with an I-Spy Road Trip book for our holiday.

A lovely walk through Mayfair took us across to Carnaby Street and my favourite Kingly Court for lunch. 

Senor Ceviche was the choice for lunch and for my first time trying ceviche. 


This dish was sea bream ‘cooked’ in lime juice. It was beautiful. Really tender. 

I felt quite virtuous afterwards – raw fish for lunch!

Another stroll over to Covent Garden and a visit to London Transport Museum

If you travel to London by train, you can download ‘2 for 1’ vouchers for most major attractions. Just present the voucher with your train tickets.

To celebrate the anniversary of the James Bond franchise, Covent Garden was full of Aston Martins.


By the end of the museum tour we were exhausted and headed over to London Bridge ready for the highlight of the trip – a visit to the Shard!

I’d been given the tickets as a Christmas present and we’d had to take a risk with the weather but all looked good for the day. We’d timed our visit to see the sunset and it couldnt have worked out better, 

It’s incredibly well organised and we were in the lift within about 10 minutes. You change lifts half way up. The whole journey only taking 2 minutes. 

It was higher than i’d ever imagined and you could see for 40 miles in every direction. 



The sun started to set after 20 minutes and it was lovely to see the city light up beneath our feet.


The descent was just as quick and true to form it was ‘exit through the gift shop’. Fancy a pair of Shard earrings? Here’s your place to buy them. 

We had reservations at Wahaca for dinner, the restaurant owned by Masterchef Winner Thomasina Miers, but by this stage, exhaustion was setting in. 

A bar adjacent to the restaurant provided us with a ‘livener’ which seemed to do the job. 


Wahaca was a beautiful restaurant serving Mexican street food and we feasted on all manner of small plates. 



The restaurant was a short walk from the hotel, next to St Paul’s Cathedral, but we had to take the bus down the hill due to fatigue. 



Thankfully we managed to sleep until the late hour of 7.30am but we were both shattered. 

Again, up and out early for a visit to the Churchill War Rooms, the underground bunker from where Churchill and his cabinet ran the war. 

All of the rooms are untouched and the vast majority of the content is how it was left on the on the day the war ended.

It was a truly fascinating experience and I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the Second World War. The recently opened Chuchill Museum was excellent. We agreed that there was almost too much to see and spent at least 2 hours in there. 


German Bomb




A highlight of the tour was overhearing a war veteran who was scolding a curator for being too dramatic when describing the Doodle Bugs. “They weren’t anywhere near as bad as you’re making out”.

After re-surfacing and a short stroll along Whitehall, we had a quick lunch and made the decision to get an earlier train home. Only an hour earlier but neither of us had the energy to do anything else. 

We were shattered and our feet were killing. 

No trip home from St Pancras is complete without a pre-departure drink in The Betjeman

A  smooth first class journey home and we were back in Derby for 6.30pm and fast asleep by 9pm. 

A truly wonderful weekend. 


London Weekend (Part 1)

Last year I was lucky enough (or unlucky enough) to get 2 complimentary first class return tickets from our local train operator between Derby and London. They were part of a compensation package for a terrible work journey taken earlier in the year. 

Despite spending many years living in London and both mine and my partner’s job taking us there on a very regular basis, we rarely spend time together in London for leisure. 

After a lot of date juggling, we’ve settled on a 2 night break in a few weeks time. 

We’ll be travelling down early on Friday morning and sadly due to a shortage of annual leave, my OH will be going to the office and we’ll meet up for drinks early evening on Friday. 

The planning has been quite thorough to ensure we make the most of the weekend. 

The key things we want to cover are:

  • The Shard – I received a gift voucher for The Shard viewing platform for Christmas.
  • A good restaurant for Saturday night. 
  • A bit of culture. 
  • A bit of shopping. 
  • Sunday brunch

We’ve eschewed offers of accommodation from friends and booked 2 nights at the Premier Inn Blackfriars. We won’t be spending much time in the hotel so this is perfect for us. I spent a couple of nights there last year and it’s amazing value, perfectly located and far exceeded my expectations for a budget hotel. At a little over £200 for the 2 nights we can’t really complain at the price. 

Booking The Shard was tricky because this far out because we’re not sure what the weather is going to be like. We’ve taken the risk and booked a 6pm slot ready for sunset. The website showed that there was limited availability on the day we want so finger crossed…… 

Friday night dinner is going to be at the tried and tested Mishkin’s. A Jewish-ish restaurant offering the staples including homemade pickles, salt beef and chopped liver. 

Saturday morning we’re planning an early trip to Borough Market. You have to get in there early to beat the tourists and get breakfast on the move. 

A little shopping will take us up to lunchtime and then a visit to the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. We’re both suckers for a bit of infrastructure and we also have eyes on this in the museum shop. 

The actual London Underground routes

After The Shard, we’re hoping we can have cocktails in the hotel bar but it’s a no booking policy and i’m sure we won’t be in the mood to queue (we never are!).

Dinner is booked at Wahaca near St Paul’s Cathedral. Thomasina Miers won Masterchef a few years ago and has opened a successful chain of Mexican street food restaurants. A little mainstream but I imagine we’ll be shattered by dinnertime and it’ll be nice to eat out without having to go and get changed. 

Sunday morning will hopefully be a visit to Churchill’s War Rooms in Westminster. Again, queues permitting but it’s something we both want to see. 

Lunch will be an old favourite like  Balans and then a final drink at The Betjamen at St Pancras. 

Watch this space……..

Dude food Sunday

Today is our annual pulled pork Sunday. 

For those who don’t know, pulled pork is a very long, slow roasted shoulder of pork which pulls apart when cooked. 

This can generally take anything up to 4 hours depending on the size of the joint so requires a day at home to give it the care and attention is deserves. 

The pork sits in a marinade of deep and spicy flavours for up to 12 hours prior to cooking and is served with a selection of side dishes. 

Today we’re having pulled pork with homade corn bread and BBQ sauce, homemade pink pickled onions and coleslaw (sadly shop bought!). 

Pulled Pork

Getting the marinade right for the pork is the trickiest part of the dish. The flavours should be smoky, sweet, tangy and spicy. 

A 1.5 – 2kg shoulder of pork is plenty for 4 (or 2 with leftovers). 

It’s as simple and putting all the ingredients in the food processor to form a paste, rubbing over the meat and leaving in the fridge for anywhere between 3 and 12 hours. 

Make sure you get the marinade in all the nooks as the salt will help draw out all of the moisture.

It’s always important to marinade the pork in a plastic bowl. Metal will taint the flavour. 

Take the pork out of the fridge 30 minutes prior to cooking. 

Preheat the oven to 170C and roast the meat, uncovered, on a rack over a roasting tray for 3 – 4 hours depending on the size of the joint. 

The meat should be a mahogony colour and be rested for 10 minutes before ‘pulling’.

Corn Bread

We first tried cornbread with pulled pork at the fabulous Smoke BBQ in Sheffield. 

It’s tricky to find it ready made in the supermarket so i’ve had a go at making my own.

It’s a pretty unusual set of ingredients. 

Basically soften the shallots in butter. Add to the eggs and buttermilk and combine. 

Combine the dry ingredients together then add the wet mixture and mix until you have a batter consistency. 

I added some jalapeños to the wet mixture  for a bit of spice. 

Bake in a 220F oven for 25 minutes until golden on top. 

Once cooled, slice into wedges. 

Homemade BBQ Sauce and pink pickled onions

The homemade BBQ sauce is super easy and the best receipe i’ve ever made. 

Fry a finely chopped small onion, 2 table spoons of white wine vinegar, 150g of dark brown sugar, 3 garlic cloves, a red chilli and a teaspoon of fennel seeds in olive oil until soft. 

Add 300ml of tomato ketchup and 50ml of soy sauce. 

Bring to the boil and simmer few a minutes to combine the flavours then pass through a sieve so you’ve got a smooth sauce. 

I first make pink pickled onions a few years ago and they’re so simple and go with everything. Traditionally, they’re from the Yucatan in Chile and are usually served with steaks and fish. 

Boil sugar, peppercorns and pickling vinegar in a large pan. Finely slice red onions and put in a sterilised jar. Pour over the vinegar mixture and store in the fridge.