Thursday, 31 August 2017

THE CULPEPER IN EAST LONDON


From the moment I saw glimpses of The Culpeper, situated in Spitalfields in East London on Instagram I wanted to stay there. The pictures of the cool almost 'unstyled' and 'unfinished' bedrooms, a roof terrace with greenhouse bar and a pub full of plants and pretty people ~ what's not to love?

When we arrived in the big city it was a Friday night, and the cool city kids were spilling out of the pub onto the pavement outside, all cool with blunt trendy hairdo's and beards. It was obviously the place to be.

The staff were really lovely showing us to our room, one of only five on the second floor, where the noisy pub could hardly be heard. The room had naked plastered walls, a huge comfortable bed with wooden headboard and cool decor with a very gorgeous lampshade that I'm still lusting after!


As it was a gorgeous evening the roof terrace was open and being guests at The Culpeper, we were put to the top of the waiting list for a terrace table. The views of the London skyline were amazing, the gherkin and so many cranes were a fabulous backdrop to the 'allotment style' rooftop terrace where tables were interspersed with planters full of vegetables and edible flowers.


The menu is packed with home-grown produce and is simple, seasonal and tasty, in fact everything that we wanted to do in our pub! We chose lamb and steak that was cooked on the griddle in the greenhouse bar and a couple of side dishes; mixed leaves from the rooftop, homegrown carrots that were served with their ferny carrot tops and anchovy butter and chips, which we didn't need at all but ordered out of habit! It was delicious and was washed down with a couple of cocktails and a few ciders whilst we watched the sun go down. 

When we retired to bed we could hear a murmur from the restaurant diners below on the first floor and the scraping of chairs on the terrace above but nothing so loud that it kept us awake in such a comfortable bed. In the morning we didn't wake early and lazily appeared at breakfast in the restaurant at the same time as everyone else, who had similar leisurely ideas. The breakfast included in the price of an overnight stay was again simple with fruit, pastries and granola alongside a modest amount of cooked options, the husband chose smashed avocado and eggs on sourdough whilst I greedily enjoyed a full English. 

I don't mean to gush so, but rarely is something as good in real life as it looks with Instagram filters but The Culpeper does. Dare I say it's possibly the most Instagram friendly pub in the East End and with such friendly staff too. We loved it, the decor was very 'us' with its rustic simplicity, although not sure I could pursuede the husband to have the same plastered walls! 

Rooms cost £120/night and more information, menus and pictures can be found here www.theculpeper.com

Thursday, 24 August 2017

A CAMP INSPIRED BIRTHDAY PARTY


Short on time this year I feared I had run out of inspiration for the little man's birthday, but some last minute searching online rewarded me with some simple short cuts that saved the day!

I made a chocolate cake using a recipe from Monty Don's Home cookbook, which always makes a rich, luxurious chocolate cake that rises really well. Then I covered it with a rich chocolate buttercream icing. With the 'camp' theme I made a very simple tent from card and broke off a few twigs from my twisted hazel bush in the garden and pushed them in to look like trees. Then I melted some pear drops in the oven, using baking parchment. Once the red and yellow pear drops had melted I swirled them together to create a fiery orange colour and left to cool. I snapped the cooled and now very hard sweet mixture into small shards and made a campfire by adding them to some matchmakers.


The retro Americana party bags were made with these happy camper pennants, I bought the artwork from Etsy for £4.80 and then printed them out and pegged them on some plain brown sandwich bags, £6.99 for 20 on Amazon, ready to fill with cake and small gifts, so they worked out at 59p/bag.

I found these gorgeous bear invitations on Etsy and for £9.61 (conversion rate from dollars) the artist personalised them for me within hours and sent a jpeg to print, which I thought was good value as I had plenty of kraft paper to print them out on.



I also found these cool scavenger hunt cards for a cool party game, again buying just the jpeg for £4.80 to print out at home, I'd have loved to have had the time to make my own but these were brilliant for five year olds. We also had a tiger, as an older brother wanted to dress up and surprise everyone at the party... grrrrrrreat fun!



Wednesday, 23 August 2017

REVIEW: GIFFORDS CIRCUS 2017


It's difficult to describe Giffords Circus to those that haven't had the joy of visiting. It is like stepping into another world, one created by Nell Gifford in 2000, stitched together from her childhood dreams, with dancing ponies and costumes handmade from her mothers old velvet curtains. It has grown since the early years with a bigger big top, but retains that earnest 'handmade and simple' quality of its humble beginnings.



You are drawn to its beauty, the vintage showman's wagons with their burgundy livery, adorned with festoon lights and the storytelling and slapstick humour of Tweedy, the 'vaudeville style' clown, who this year is funnier than ever with trusty sidekick Keef - an iron!



This year Giffords newcomers include Nelson and Bruno, the moustache brothers, whose acrobatic capers and slapstick style compliment Tweedy and between them have the audience roaring with laughter from the moment they enter the ring.



There is a high-energy Cuban troupe with a swing act, almost touching the canvas roof of the tent with their jaw-dropping somersaults and an eerie hushed silence as the Russian gymnast Sergei performs the most amazing balancing act and all I can do is wonder whether he was an Olympic gymnast in a former life, he is so amazing.

I look around the big top and the rest of the audience like me are mesmerised, clapping and cheering until our ribs ache!



But wait, there's more to Gifford's, the food at the circus has got even better and this year there's a new wagon serving Field Food, a bit like 'street food' but from the fields and in places foraged along the way. The boys love the pizza's from the pizza wagon that uses Chadwick Ovens, but the new field food was absolutely delicious, with pulled pork and rhubarb brioche buns that I'm still salivating over weeks later.



You can find out more by visiting www.giffordscircus.com but be quick if you want to see it this year as it ends on September 24th with a big charity performance.


Tuesday, 22 August 2017

IT'S BEEN FAR TOO LONG...


What can I say? It's been far too long. I've ignored this blog for over six months and I don't really have much of an excuse apart from life really. We left the pub at the beginning of April, not because it wasn't working, but because we'd put up with enough and couldn't see it changing over the next few years so cut our loses and moved on as quickly as we'd moved in. I couldn't talk about it for a while, well wishers sending me messages and people I didn't know asking if we'd split up, it was all a bit too much attention really. 

The boys were sad and a little confused at first, but I have never been more certain about anything in my life, it wasn't right for us. The whole pub journey was good for us, it held up a mirror and made us decide on what was more important. The business was a success and still is, a young local couple have taken it on and I hear it's doing really well but we haven't been back yet. 

The whole transition was really hard and there was a time when we didn't know if we'd be able to keep our house or find jobs and I just prayed that we'd find something. I started a new job two days after we left the pub and I hadn't realised how exhausted I was, I'd lost nearly three stone but work was therapy and a way of not having to deal with money worries. 

It's now four months later and I feel that normality has resumed, I now appreciate our house, which I hated before with it's 1970's utilitarian lack of personality, I appreciate being in the middle of a village and not in the middle of the countryside and I appreciate the time we have as a family. 

I'm sure some of you by now have shouted at this blog at my naivety, of course it was never going to be easy, of course we'd lose family time and of course breweries are notoriously difficult but hey I had my rose tinted glasses on and we wanted more than anything to create something that was ours, I still do. 

My only regret is that the children might think we've failed when all we wanted to do was make them proud and make more money for their future. It wasn't for us and there's not a day that goes by that I'm not grateful to be out of there. We learned a lot during our 'mid-life' crisis and we'd do it all over again, but maybe choose a different adventure next time!

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