When I started this little extra-curricular project, I never wanted it to be exclusively about foreign travel to luxurious faraway destinations or big spending. Although I have been blessed to have had a chance to visit some fabulous places, the concept of this blog was more a metaphor for celebrating our well-deserved, free time by doing the things we love most; this may be anything from a cup of tea and a book to travelling the world to a day of home-baking (I haven’t mastered my baking photography skills enough to show you).When Pumpkin and I celebrated a year of wedded bliss earlier this year, we decided to spend a day in the city we love, the city where we fell in love and the city we live in – London. Some of our most cherished memories when we first met involved the simplest of things, the timeless dates that never go out of fashion – walks in parks, long lunches and evenings at the cinema. So our 1st anniversary (a day of annual leave for me) echoed exactly that. A long lunch (at Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus – not so simple, I know), a walk in Holland Park and a film at the Electric Cinema in Notting Hill.
I’ve only eaten at one Gordon Ramsay establishment before – this was a set menu lunch at Maze a few years ago and I remember feeling decidedly underwhelmed. Petrus, however, had been highly recommended so we decided to treat ourselves. The service was faultless – all the attention and precision that one anticipates with a Michelin starred establishment but without any of the pretence or intrusiveness that really gets my goat. There’s nothing I hate more than being watched the whole time while I try to kick back and relax! The food was impeccable with a seemingly endless number of courses– no matter how many you mentally account for, bonus treats always seem to turn up. I’ve only photographed desserts (you’ll have to remember this was in my pre-blogging days) but a baked Alaska is something I have always wanted to try and where better to start than here – the perfectly chewy but crispy meringue combined with the cold creamy ice cream was a delicious explosion of textures, temperatures and tastes in the mouth but I had serious dessert envy, (in fact it would have been almost dessert hostility had it not been for the fact that it was our anniversary) when I tried Pumpkin’s beautifully presented, perfectly layered and absolutely divine banana millefeuille.
Continuing my gluttonous sin, I then proceeded to cheese – would you believe, my first ever restaurant cheeseboard? I made the mistake of asking “which cheeses do you have?” What ensued was the longest cheese-related spiel I have ever heard! The waiter may have been able to retain it all in his head but I certainly couldn’t and embarrassingly ended up choosing the cheeses I already knew and “the sesame one”. I’m certain any credibility I had was stripped right then.
As we paid the bill, the waitress wished us an enjoyable day in the sun. She asked us if it was sunny our wedding day – it wasn’t. She told us it is good luck to have rain on your wedding day – and so far, it has been. We then strolled in the sunshine headed in the direction of my former flame, West London.
I’m not sure how I made it 11 years in London without coming here but on this particular day, we entered to the sound of opera music from a loudspeaker. The park has its own opera venue and I can only assume they were having a soundcheck but in that dreamy moment, it felt like it was for us, a strange feeling to have since I don’t even like opera! This park, all 54 acres of it, somehow seems more bite sized than its neighbour, the more frequented Hyde Park.
We ambled around the beautiful Kyoto Japanese Zen Garden, hopping between stepping stones and watching goldfish happily gliding through the clear, rippling water. We spotted the Holland Park peacock, hiding coyly behind a sign, taking some coaxing from camera-laden tourists (and ourselves) before displaying her vanity, her blue hues. There was an independent, pop up art gallery, exhibiting and selling artworks, capturing different elements of the park. We liked the giant chess board with its accompanying lifelike chessmen. There is something for everyone here. After a walk around the flower beds, we lay on the grass, eyes shut, sun glazing our shoulders and thinking back to the whirlwind of a year it had been.
Electric Cinema, Notting Hill
Dating back to 1910, many describe this as the original luxury film experience in London. A small, independent cinema in the heart of Portobello, it features leather chairs, two-seater sofas, side tables and even double beds!! Warm cashmere blankets are provided with each seat and between us, we ordered a beer and a brownie from the bar at the back of the room. Heaven. Many contemporary businesses have tried to emulate the recipe – the Everyman chain, the Lounge at the Odeon. These are all wonderful but nothing quite matches the antiquity of the Electric. We felt cosy, at home – I just wanted to get into my pyjamas and yet it was majestic, grand, old and special. Electric Cinema bridges these unique feelings together seamlessly and we loved every minute. In case you are intrigued, we were watching The Hangover Part 3 – can’t say it was the stuff of Oscars but it was light-hearted, easy watching and ultimately, anniversary or not, Pumpkin was never going to sit through any sap!