Posts tagged ‘cake’

June 1, 2012

The Secret Tea Room

As part of my 35:35 Challenge, I recently spent a wonderful afternoon in the company of the wonderful Lynn Hill and a table full of strangers.

Lynn Hill is a bone fide celebrity these days. Founder of Clandestine Cake Club, creator of The Secret Tea Room, she is all about the cake. You might even recognise her from TV! The Secret Tea Room is a pop-up afternoon tea, held in a (you guessed it) secret location in Leeds. Lynn sent out the menu a few days before we all arrived and it whetted my appetite immediately: finger sandwiches, homemade savoury tarts, followed by a selection of different cakes, Yorkshire tea loaf with Wensleydale cheese, and plain scones with clotted cream and strawberry conserve…mmm.

I arrived on my own, to be met by a table full of nine people, all of whom knew one other person, but not the whole group. It didn’t matter. There is nothing quite like a table groaning under the weight of home-made afternoon tea treats to get the conversation flowing.

We chatted throughout the whole two hours and managed to work our way through the wonderful food. I loved all of it, but I surprised myself by loving the plain scones with clotted cream and jam the most – I ate two on the day, and was inspired to have a go at making my own afterwards (which you can see below) as part of my own Cookbook Challenge. The Secret Tea Room was such a lovely experience. The pop up or underground food experience seems to be well and truly established now and often involves talented people inviting strangers to dine in their own homes. Having enjoyed this so much,  I’m going to investigate other places to visit and eat. There is something truly interesting about dining with people you don’t know and the addition of food ensures that there is always something to talk about.

I might even join my local Clandestine Cake Club too – which is now a global phenomenon with 126 clubs dotted all over the world, including some amazing places such as Barcelona and the Grand Cayman! Perhaps Lynn should do a CCC World Tour…

If you have any food recommendations, I’d love to hear from you!

October 29, 2011

Facing my fears in London.

There are many cities in this country that I know very little. I’ve visited them all, but it’s been for work, so I know the well-trodden route between train station and office, and not much else. Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle fall into this category, but the city that takes the crown is London.

I have to admit that I’ve been scared of London. I know that this makes me sounds like a provincial small town girl, but the sheer scale of the place, coupled with my deep mistrust of the Tube  has turned me into a nervous wreck every time I go there for work. I’ve been once as a tourist, in the summer of 2006 with one of my closest friends who did her best to help me overcome my fears, but the heat of June, my early pregnancy, and the number of people crammed into a Tube carriage because of political marches above ground did not really reduce my anxieties – although deciding to get on a boat to Greenwich was a wonderful solution.

Still, they say the best way to overcome a fear is to face it head on. I’d decided to spend a day alone in London as a tourist as part of my 35:35 Challenge, when I was given the opportunity this week to tag along on a trip there with a friend, who was going for a medical appointment prior to her emigration to the USA. She’s clearly far braver than I am, and will be heading out there soon to live with her equally lovely husband, who once sent me new socks all the way from the States because I was moaning so much about having only odd ones…

After a pleasant journey down, during which we caught up on the gossip in each others’ lives and ate Danish pastries, we got to Kings Cross Station. Apart from when I travel there for work, the only time I am in Kings Cross is when I am running in a blind panic between the train and St Pancras International to get the  Eurostar. It’s not a lie to say that every time I have had a connection to Paris, the first train has been delayed. There is no wonder the mere mention of London makes me anxious!

We spent a little time in St Pancras international. It is a stunningly beautiful station and full of lovely shops, including a branch of Paul, the wonderful French bakery where I stocked up on lunch (a sandwich and a palmier) before getting our first taxi of the day to the doctors.

After a successful medical appointment, we then set off for the touristy part of the day. Unfortunately, as it was half term week, the rest of the world had also decided to visit the Natural History Museum, and with a two hour wait in the rain looking likely, we sought refuge in the Victoria & Albert museum instead.

In the window of the V & A

Which, if you didn’t know (like me) – is just next door. First up, more food, in the form of tea and scones, then a tour around the Medieval tapestries, silver, stained glass, and the theatre and costume sections of the museum. We also had a look around the temporary exhibit, ‘The House of Annie Lennox‘, which contains, amongst other things, a selection of Annie Lennox’s video costumes, creatively curated in a space that I found reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland.

Silver Lion

Finally we headed back to the station via Peyton and Byrne where I bought my fourth cake of the day (I know, I know, but I’ve eaten cabbage all week) a raspberry cupcake. I actually managed to save this one for the next day, so it doesn’t count anyway…

Raspberry cupcake heaven

What I’ve learnt from the day (apart from just how much cake I can consume and not feel sick) is that I am not scared of London. What has caused the fear is just getting the Tube (which I will really never like) from station to station and not really having any understanding of where anything is in relation to anything else. As well as not knowing that the V&A is next to the NHM, I didn’t know that the Wolseley café restaurant is next to the Ritz hotel, or that both of them are on the same street as Fortnum and Mason. I didn’t know where they were in relation to the theatre district. I didn’t know where Regent’s Park is in relation to Westminster. All of these things, I discovered in one day’s worth of taxi rides. Being above ground instead of under it means that every time you turn a corner, there is another landmark you recognise, another museum or store you want to visit or restaurant you want to eat in. It shrinks the city into something more manageable. And I’m not scared of it any more. I want to go back; to explore a corner of the city on my own. So to my lovely friend, thank you for helping me start my love affair with London. I am already making plans for my next visit!