Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Burgers, lately: The Electric Diner and GBK

Did you miss me? Apologies for the break in transmission, I was only swanning around Morocco for a week. Whatevs. Ain't no thing.

Before I tell you about my whirlwind trip to Fez, I thought I'd update my burger-loving readers on my latest burger outings:

The Electric Diner

The Electric Diner on Portobello Road is not really a burger joint - there's only one burger on the menu, although you can customise it in the sense that you can opt for a single or double patty, and/or bacon and/or fried egg on top. I ordered the basic single patty cheeseburger (£8), which arrived as a double patty burger (apparently they're not used to producing singles!).

Well, this burger was delicious. I'm no big fan of cheeseburgers, but it was really, really good. Nice, shiny, brioche bun, juicy patty (if a little skinny), and even with the addition of a second patty, it was not too big for me to finish off then and there. The fries (ordered separately, £5) came with a free garlic mayo dip which I really enjoyed, even if the fries were nothing to write home about. They do come in enormous portions though, so you can safely share one between two.

If you have room for dessert, the chocolate cream pie is highly recommended! A little steep at £7, the portion is huge and definitely intended for sharing. I didn't even order a slice - I polished off what was left of the one that TWO of my friends could not finish.

The verdict: A little pricey and lacking in variety, but if you're after a decent but unimaginative burger, this is a great fix if you find yourself hungry in Notting Hill. I'd go back just for the chocolate cream pie at tea time.

Electric Diner, 191 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, W11 2ED, http://www.electricdiner.com/


GBK (Gourmet Burger Kitchen) seems almost too obvious to review here, but after visiting for the first time for pre-theatre dinner last week, I felt it was worth a mention. Just because it's a huge, ubiquitous chain, doesn't mean it doesn't do good burgers. They're also pretty good at offering lunchtime specials or coupons for meal deals, so Google around before you go.

I was feeling a bit beefed out on the night I went, so I chose the current speciality Persian Lamb Burger (above): 6oz lamb, harissa mayo, minted feta, rocket, tomato, pickled onion, and relish, for £8.75. Well, as much as I enjoyed it, I could not finish it - it was too darn hot for me. Must have been that harissa mayo! I loved the minty feta though, and would recommend this burger if you can handle your chilli a little better than me. 

My sister ordered The Wellington (£8.30), which I would definitely order if I go back: grilled mushroom, horseradish sauce, rocket and mayo. Yum! 

The skinny fries (£2.75) were exceptionally skinny and crispy and more than enough to share.

The verdict: Burgers good, fries good, not too expensive, free monkey nuts while you wait and free minty-lemony water - I'm sold! Would definitely go back. The variety of burger options means there's something for everyone (even the veggies).

GBK, EVERYWHERE, http://www.gbk.co.uk/

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

5 Reasons to look forward to winter

All hopes for an Indian summer dashed, the past week has been spent indoors or sprinting between tube station and bus stop, avoiding puddles and resolving to buy a more effective umbrella. It's not only wet, it's freezing. My breath was misting this morning.


In order to make myself feel better about the impending dark, damp, chilly months ahead, I've compiled a little list of my favourite things about winter up north:

1. Comfort food

You knew the first item would be food related, didn't you? Winter is an excellent excuse to drink lots of hot chocolate, make stews and soups, and mop up those stews and soups with delightfully starchy things like mash, bread and dumplings. No one will see our pudge until at least July!

2. Lots of new TV

All the best TV starts in autumn. Check out this selection from Stylist this week:

I'm particularly excited about a new season of Downton Abbey, and Dracula, premiering in October. Also, Season 6 of Made in Chelsea is on the way! Squee!

3. Winter clothes

I will regret saying this, come March 2014, but I'm pretty excited to whip out my coat and boots. I suppose it's fair to say I'm more excited about wearing my coat than needing to wear my coat. Since it's not quite cold enough for serious winter gear yet, all the stuff I'm lusting after in the shops will be on sale by the time I want to wear it. Score!

4. All the festive events

As part of the country-wide knuckling down for winter process, London seems to do its part by offering a staggering selection of fun events and activities in the run-up to Christmas. There's Oktoberfest in Kennington Park or Millwall Park, where entrance is free and there is a lederhosen shop (I kid you not, check out the website). 

I'm also excited about fireworks for Guy Fawkes at Alexandra Palace, in my own 'hood, including another German Bier Festival.

I didn't make it to Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland last year, so I'll definitely be heading there come Christmastime. Entry is free, although you'll need to fork out if you want to go on rides.

As part of my festive activity schedule this winter I will also be checking out Christmas at Kew, "an illuminated trail through [the] enchanting winter landscape" of Kew Gardens by night. There is also something called Santa's Woodland Grotto. I don't know what that is, but I want in.

And all this talk of festivities leads me to my final reason to look forward to winter:


Mulled wine, sandwiches with stuffing, Christmas lights everywhere, hauling out the Christmas tunes playlist on Spotify, baking and decorating Christmas cookies, retrieving my unapologetically festive snowflake jumper - I'm looking forward to ALL of it. 

If this ridiculous photo of me clinking bouncy Santa does not make you laugh, you're dead inside.
Happy winter, everybody! What are your favourite wintry things?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Burger Tour: Bukowski Grill

Many of you already know that I've been making it my mission to try the best burgers in London, and I'm pleased to report that I'm making good progress. My group of fellow burger enthusiasts and I have sampled the offerings of Shake Shack, Burgers & Cocktails, MEATLiquor, and most recently, Bukowski Grill (Shoreditch).

As much as I cringe when I see people whipping out their iPhones to capture their meal before eating, I love looking at pictures of food, and a number of friends and followers have expressed interest in reading reviews of my burger experiences on this blog. So here is the first, with more (so many more - this tour is going to take years) to follow.

Bukowski Grill burger review

We ended up at Bukowski on a perfect late summer evening by pure luck - our original plan to try out Dirty Burger in Kentish Town was revised due to a number of Bi-weekly Burgers members needing to be in Shoreditch that evening. 

The setup

We arrived at Boxpark in dribs and drabs around 7pm and slowly managed to claim a large section of one of the communal tables on the fairy-lit terrace. Ordering must be done at the counter, but your food will be brought to you when it's ready. It is not recommended to order before finding yourself a spot!

The food

About to tuck in! Blurry picture courtesy of Jacky :)

I'm more a fan of gourmet burgers than dirty burgers (more juice, less grease), and Bukowski is a pretty good compromise between the two. I opted for The Purist, which is a strong contender for my favourite burger in London so far. Consisting of a Hereford beef patty, tomato, lettuce and homemade mayo on a shiny brioche bun, this burger was well juicy and definitely one I will order again. Nice, chunky beef and a soft roll that stood up well to the ooze - no soggy bottom. The patty was a little underdone for my taste, but that's a personal preference and I'd just request a more medium grill next time. Underdoneness aside, this is still the best thing I've put in my face in ages. 

The fat triple-cooked chips (fried in beef dripping, no less) were a total revelation and the perfect accompaniment to mop up the juice. I also love that any burger and chips includes free tubs of Bukowski's condiments - more of that delicious mayo and homemade ketchup. 

If you want a more gourmet experience, the Purist topped with melted brie was very well received by another BB member, and we all had a little sample of the Scotch Bonnet chilli relish, which had enough kick without veering into taste bud-numbing territory. 

The damage

For the quality of food, I was really impressed with the pricing - my burger, small chips and a half-pint of Meantime London Lager came to just £10.80. I couldn't finish any of it! 

The verdict

Bukowski is great. I would definitely go back (best to get in before winter sets in, although they do have bar heaters above the tables when it's chilly!), but I'm also keen to try out the Brixton venue, which serves hard shakes too - yes please!

Bukowski Grill, BOXPARK Unit 61, 4-6 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6GYhttp://www.bukowski-grill.co.uk/

Friday, August 30, 2013

Happy Friday: Wit and wisdom from the Gilmore Girls

A few months ago I discovered that Gilmore Girls, one of my favourite TV shows as a teen, is screened every weekday on 5*. Awwwright. Hence began the rewatching and rekindling of a love for this series and its fast-paced, frenetic dialogue (apparently the scripts were twice as long as the average show) and flurry of pop culture references.

I've picked some of my favourite lines and quotes for your enjoyment:

1. Gilmore Girls on shopping:



2. On talking to someone you like:


3. On picking shoes for a date:



4. On succeeding in life:



5. On food and staying healthy:



6. On coffee:


7. On Lorelai's mother:



8. On getting out of something you don't want to do:




9. On Saturdays:



10. On cake:



11. On how to be remembered:


You're welcome.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Happy Friday: Babies laughing at things

It's Friday! Bank holiday weekend! All the fist pumps!

To celebrate, I give you this compilation of YouTube babies laughing at things. I dare you not to laugh. Or cry. I did both.

And lastly, I give you the baby who really, really, really loves Florence and the Machine:

Happy Friday everyone! (Except you, Virgin Media, who made me go without broadband or Tivo for nearly 24 hours. No cookie for you!)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Somewhere to eat: Season

With 1x sister back from holiday, last week we went out for my family birthday dinner.

Despite having lived in the area for a number of years (some more than others), none of us had tried Season Kitchen & Dining Room on Stroud Green Road, so I picked it as my birthday dinner venue for its great value Early Bird deal: £15 for any main and a glass of wine/beer/soft drink.

Season's menu changes monthly due to the use of only seasonal, preferably locally sourced ingredients (they keep chickens and grow some of their own veggies in a garden behind the restaurant!).

Image borrowed from here.

First impressions: the interior is cosy, rustic and quirky without trying too hard, and although our reserved table wasn't quite ready when we arrived, we were quickly mollified with some glasses of bubbly on the house.

More bonuses: Free olives and bread for the table as appetisers. I'm not a huge fan of olives but the homemade bread (a kind of wholewheat soda bread) was outstanding, and I loved that they gave us the recipe to take home.

The mains: I don't eat a lot of steak, but I'll often order it for a special occasion. I opted for Season's rib eye with Bearnaise sauce and watercress, with a side of crinkle cut chips. The steak was juicy and well seasoned (barely even needed the sauce to go with it!) and the chunky chips were so fat, crispy and yet soft on the inside that my sister declared she'd come back just to sit on the waiting bench outside with a bowl of them.

Lewis about to get carnivorous 

My sisters ordered the fish dishes, wild sea trout and mackerel respectively, and both were beautifully and creatively put together and presented.

Lisa, elegant with her mackerel

The desserts: Three out of four of us opted for this baby:

Rosemary chocolate pot with sea salt and a black pepper biscotti. It sounds odd, but it was delicious and really different. Highly recommended! Lisa went for the nougat glacé, which was also really good.

The verdict? A little more expensive than our usual Stroud Green Road hangout (Pizzeria Pappagone) but in a different league food-wise - beautifully presented, delicious dishes with a bit of carbon footprint consciousness (I approve!). This will definitely be my 'go to' local for special occasions.

Season Kitchen & Dining Room, 53 Stroud Green Road, Finsbury Park, London, N4 3EF, http://www.seasonkitchen.co.uk/

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


This Monday I celebrated my first birthday in the northern hemisphere, first away from home, away from my mum and sister in Cape Town, and my first of what one of my Facebook friends dubbed "the shadowlands of your 20s".

Twenty-seven. 27. It's not mid-20s anymore, is it? It sounds a heck of a lot older than it feels. When I was in my early 20s, I thought I'd have my shit together by 27. Now that I'm here (and I definitely don't), I'm not sure I even want to have my shit together just yet. I'm having too much fun.

Anyway, enough reflection! This is how the big day went down:

Up at 6am to go to my current employment (which starts at 7:30am, eep!) - cards from home in bed while I eat breakfast. Tears are shed.

A red velvet Hummingbird cupcake and card from my temp colleagues - bless them. So touched. 

As we were waiting for one of my sisters to return from holiday to do the fancy restaurant birthday dinner, my other sister kindly offered to make supper of my choosing at home on the night itself. Of course I went for my favourite British pub dinner - the fish finger sandwich. Homemade tartar sauce and all!

Then the main event! Homemade chocolate Guinness cake.

Awwwright. Right before being in and around my mouth. It was good.

First birthday with this sister since 2009. Too much joy! We finished off the evening with an episode of The X-Files. BEST!

More celebrations are to come, with sister #2 returned from Japan, a dinner at Season on Thursday, non-related burger outing on Friday (yes, I'm still burger touring around London, update to come soon!) and birthday brunch with my London crew on Saturday.

Life - pretty good right now. Happy. 

P.S. If you noticed that most of my birthday excitement revolves around food, this should explain a lot

Friday, July 12, 2013

The great London burger challenge

I love burgers. I love them for lunch, I love them for dinner, I love them spontaneously and I love them on special occasions. I want them in my face, 24/7.

This bad boy was consumed at Beefcakes in Cape Town. Just look at that ooze!

Fortunately for me, London is bursting with burger joints, so I'm making it my mission to work my way through them all. These are the ones I've tried so far:

The Diner

I love The Diner less for its burgers and more for its hard shakes (the Choconaut! It will change your life!), but it's a pretty close second to Byron. These are also dotted all over London, and I can speak for the Angel, Covent Garden and Soho branches. The selection isn't huge, but I'm a big fan of their "build your own" options - last time I tried my original burger with guacamole and sour cream on the side and it was glorious.


Byron is popping up all over the place, and I've sampled their offerings at Wardour Street and Store Street. Excellent burger, even if there are only a few interesting topping options. To be honest, the original is pretty good all by itself. Love the courgette fries and their GIANT onion rings, and they make a mean chocolate milkshake. This one's a favourite.

It's THAT big

Not a bad start, but I've got a long way to go. This challenge will be my Everest.


I've spent a few weeks working in Marylebone and every time I venture up to Oxford Street at lunchtime there is a long queue outside Patty&Bun on James Street. I won't lie, the pictures of their offerings on the website look a little grease-tastic, but if I'm going to eat my way through all the burgers in London, I can't miss this one out. 

Burgers & Cocktails

Literally across the street from Patty & Bun, Burgers & Cocktails has just about everything I want on a menu. A good selection of burgers, hard shakes, and even chicken goujons (be still, my beating heart) as a starter. I really like the sound of their Lamb Slammer: Lamb patty marinated in roast garlic and mint, served with a ramekin of tzatziki. 

Psychic Burger

Psychic Burger was just featured in Emerald Street's daily mailer, and I'm sold already! I love that they're based up north in Stoke Newington. It's got a fairly limited menu, but I like the sound of "psychic sauce" and I'm downright intrigued by the Soft Shell Crab Burger. 


You can't talk about burgers in London without mentioning MEATLiquor. I'm a bit terrified by the sound of their ruthless seating policy (no reservations, no seating of incomplete parties - bit of a problem in London where everyone is always late). I'm also less enamoured of their menu, which is very cheese heavy (am I the only person in existence who is not a fan of cheeseburgers?), so consider this one purely for the purpose of a complete survey of London burgers.


At last, a menu selection to rival that of Royale, my favourite burger purveyor in Cape Town (god, I miss their Sweet Petunia burger). I'm excited to try this one out! Haché also seem a little too fond of cheese for my liking, but there's a long list of beef, chicken, lamb, fish and veggie burger options, so I'm sure I'll find something to my taste.

If you've tried any of these places or others that should be on this list, please don't keep it to yourself, yo. Comment below!

Friday, June 14, 2013

How to have a lovely day in London

via carolinerhymeswithsunshine.tumblr.com

So the weather is still mizzy. It's June and I'm still wearing long sleeves and, on most days, have to take at least a light coat. London is still a superfantastic place to live though, and sometimes a small tweak in attitude, a tiny change in behaviour is all that's needed to have a great day:

  • Don't forget your umbrella.
  • Smile at the bus driver.
  • Give your seat up to someone whose need is greater than yours.
  • Make sure you have something to read on the tube.
  • Put your headphones in while you're walking and pretend your life has a soundtrack.
  • Keep a spare £1 on you to buy a happy hour hot drink from Pod.
  • On your lunch break, go for a stroll in one of the dozens of free parks.
  • Visit Selfridges (it is impossible to maintain a bad mood in Selfridges).
  • Look at everything through an Instagram lens. When you really look, you'll find beauty and humour all over the place in London, so if you pretend you have to Instagram wherever you go, you'll find it.
  • When you find yourself jammed on a train with your nose in someone's armpit, remember that you never have to worry about finding a parking space or being Designated Dave.
  • Go grocery shopping and marvel (just MARVEL!) at the incredible selection and variety. 
  • Now buy yourself a treat. Go on then.

More London Lovin' posts:

Friday, May 24, 2013

Bunnies of Instagram - the best part of my day

One of the things I miss most about home is having pets around - London living is not conducive to animal ownership both in terms of space and lifestyle. So I get my daily dose of fluff lovin' via Instagram by following these #rabbitstagram accounts:


Proud custodian of Rambo (left) and Eddy (right), @bunnymama posts the most desperately cute pictures of the two every day. Eddy and Rambo are best buds and each has his own little personality.

She also posts tips on what to feed rabbits and how to litter box train them, and is an active advocate for bunny adoption.

I can't even...with these two. Too cute.

Follow @bunnymama for more.


Where the majesty is.

Biscuit and Muffin are fairly new to Instagram, but the above picture of Muffin alone is enough to tell you they're worth a follow. 


Meet Mylo. Arguably the most photogenic of the bunch, Mylo is often pictured by owner, Fine Art student Amy, wearing some sort of rabbit-sized headgear. It's too much for me.

She also posts artistic shots of what she and Mylo are having for breakfast.

Follow @whiskeygalamy here.

You can also find these bunnies (and many more) by following these hashtags: #bunnystagram #rabbitstagram #instabunny #petstagram #bunniesofinstagram

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Love in the time of Pinterest

Perhaps my favourite board on Pinterest is my Wonderful Words board - it's the one I return to time and again to remind myself of inspiring words or just to absorb the gorgeous word nerdery of it all.

These are some of my favourite quotations, poems and book extracts about love:

Friday, May 10, 2013

3 Excellent slices of chocolate cake in London

Seeing as I spend most of my life talking about food (case in point), it makes sense that some of that would spill over into this blog. Behold, the best chocolate cake offerings in London!

You can rest assured that I've done some pretty extensive research on the subject, however if you think you know a better option, by all means leave a comment. I will take it upon myself to go try your chocolate cake suggestion out to see how it compares, for science.

Traditional Chocolate Buttercream Sponge, High Tea of Highgate

This looks and tastes like the party cake of your youth. Served in outrageous slices and resplendent with edible glitter and confetti, you can easily share this with a friend (but you probably won't want to). From £2.95 a slice.

High Tea of Highgate, 50 Highgate High Street, Highgate Village, N6 5HX

Flourless Chocolate Cake, GAIL'S

I don't have a photo of this one because it never lasts long enough to pose for a shot, but you don't need an image to be able to imagine the decadent, dense, dark chocolateyness of this cake. Not suitable for nut allergy sufferers (so little is!). From £2.70 a slice.

GAIL's, scattered around London, check out their website for branches.

Muriel's Chocolate Cake, Muriel's Kitchen

The most indulgent of the lot, this cake is very similar to what I imagine a Brooklyn Blackout Cake to be, in that it involves a rich, dark, gooey chocolate sponge, a chocolate custard/ganache filling, and a topping of yet more chocolate sponge crumbs. It doesn't get better than that. This one is definitely for sharing, even by the most seasoned of chocaholics. Around £4.50 a slice, if memory serves (faculties were impaired by chocolate -induced coma).

Muriel's Kitchen, 1-3 Pelham Street, South Kensington, SW7 2ND.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My favourite words

Every now and then when I'm reading a book or article I'm struck by wonderful words that I'd forgotten existed or don't use nearly enough.

I've compiled a list of some of my favourites - it is by no means exhaustive and I look forward to adding to it over the years. Some letters of the alphabet do not feature at all; some feature a lot (S, M, L, O). Most are adjectives, which makes sense, I suppose - they are the jewels, the accessories that adorn the naked framework of language (made up of much less exciting nouns, pronouns, conjunctions and prepositions).

Enjoy! And do let me know what your favourites are in the comments.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Confessions of an X-Phile

The TV show is nearing 20 years old, yet all it takes is a few strains of the creepy whistling theme song, and I am reduced to a 12-year-old fangirl with a bursting heart and an unquenchable desire to seek the truth.

One of the bonuses of following this fandom as an adult is gems like this

We all have our triggers – those reminders of what it felt like to be part of something greater than our own insignificant teenage lives. For some, hearing a song or a band you once adored is enough to transport you back. For others, recalling beloved books and authors is the catalyst. For me, when it comes to The X-Files, I will always be an awkward, obsessed tween.

Unfortunately for me, as I grew up in South Africa, we were always three years behind in seasons and as such, the heyday of UFO euphoria had already passed by the time I was getting my paranormal kicks in high school. I was isolated in the universe of “X-Philes”; my love, my utter devotion, was to my peers as ludicrous and brow-raising as some of Mulder’s more outlandish theories.

At least I had one fellow fan... 

My sister Emma, who spent countless Friday nights in front of the TV with me, gasping whenever a close encounter was had, and squealing if Mulder so much as held Scully’s hand. But we yearned for acceptance, the embrace of other fans. The same sense of belonging that you get when you spot someone wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the logo of a band you love – that is what we craved. Sadly for us, the internet as we know it now was still in its infancy, and our years of dedication passed in isolation.

Fast-forward to the present, though, and happily it’s a different story

This past Christmas my sister and I, reunited in London, which we now both call home, received the complete X-Files box set as a gift. Re-watching all nine seasons with the benefit of Pinterest and hundreds of Tumblrs dedicated to the fandom, I am now blissfully part of an active community that still obsesses and adores, more than 10 years after the final episode.

This, for me, is one of the best outcomes of the internet and the consequent inter-connectedness of the planet. Browsing blogs, Pinterest boards, Facebook groups and Tumblrs dedicated to the things I hold dear gives me the warm fuzzies and a sense of comradeship I never felt before. The best part is discovering that other people don’t just like the same things, but the same combinations of things – there are hundreds of schmoopy YouTube videos celebrating just about every TV romance or partnership that ever was, and you can bet your limited edition box set that at least one of those will be set to a song by some obscure artist you were always afraid to admit loving.

The moral of this story? Don’t be afraid to wear your geeky heart on your sleeve, because somewhere out there, there’s someone exactly like you, and they’re also looking for a kindred spirit.

You can follow my Pinterest board dedicated to the Files and all manner of other dorky obsessions here.

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