Those of you who follow this blog will know I have documented my views of London in Lockdown since March 2020. London has been my source of inspiration since setting up my label way back when, but of course I never expected to see London during a pandemic: eerily quiet, empty, shut down, dystopian.
For us Londoners, local walks have been an opportunity to see London bare, an architectural backdrop without the crowds.
And just when I presumed this London landscape which was now becoming my familiar ‘new normal’ February 2021 arrived with heavy snow swiftly followed by a frost so deep I can’t recall ever seeing London like this.
Regents Park was frozen, with seagulls perched on the icy lake and ducks wondering along the frozen canal.
The reflection of the sun on the ice made for some beautiful metallic hues, so much so that it inspired my ‘After the Frost’ collection.
But…there was also warmth and happiness it came with music and Salsa right in the middle of the park, who would have thought? A nod to colour and life after the frost
Two weeks into 2021 and London has started the New Year with a lockdown. It’s hard to imagine London empty and shut down. I hope these photos from Bank , down to the Thames and onwards to Mayfair, Knightsbridge and Kensington capture the emptiness and beauty of this silent capital city.
For all the trials and difficult times I’m sticking with with ‘Hope’. Stay safe, well and creative, the days are getting longer, we’re on track for better times.
Hi, I’m Alice. I’m here on Nadia’s blog because Nadia gave me my first taste of jewellery-making back in July, through one of her online classes on Obby, and it’s now a minor obsession. But I have to own up to another obsession – food. Eating out never felt quite safe to me, even in those brief glory days between lockdowns, so I’ve sated my hunger through one of the only good things to have come out of the pandemic: restaurant DIY meal kits.
I’ve tasted my way through a few duds, so hopefully I can save you the same fate. Below are my personal top five (so far!) in no particular order.
Townsend, a modern British restaurant in the Whitechapel Art Gallery, had only been open for five weeks when the first lockdown hit. I think it’s really admirable how speedily they realised they needed to change things up to stay afloat.
A three-course meal from Town-send (cute name) for two people, including a bottle of wine, is only £40 – unbelievably reasonable in my experience (I’ve found London restaurant meal kits costing £40 for a main course!). There’s usually three choices per course. I’m on my third kit, and have had some amazing dishes. In Spring, I had a whole poussin in a saffron broth which was the closest thing I’ve had this year to eating in a fancy restaurant, and I got to eat it in my PJs at lunchtime, while watching Antiques Roadtrip. The cheesecake is the stuff of dreams, and the wine is that rare thing: a house wine that everyone likes.
Instructions are simple and easy to follow – most things just get heated in a pan on the hob. Portion sizes have been just right for me for a three-course meal, but the hungrier reader might want to kick off with some bread (or just add on a cheese course for a very reasonable £4.50 each).
They also sell produce and their own sauces and condiments online. The green sauce, elderflower cordial and olive oil are particularly good, and again, amazingly reasonable.
Three-course kit for two people with a bottle of wine, £40 + £5 delivery in London, £10 nationwide (both free on orders over £80)
Dishpatch sells kits from a range of well-known restaurants, representing everything from Thai to West African. Menus change each month.
We went for the November set menu, ‘The Italian Supper’, from Angela Hartnett’s Café Murano. I really like Café Murano in The Real World – great pasta, bread and antipasti, intimate setting, good value. The kit followed the trend, even though the intimate setting was my parents’ living room. The meal included focaccia with coppa ham, pumpkin ravioli, lamb stew, and panna cotta. Everything had that lovely rich, complex taste of slow-cooked Italian food – squishy, caramelised pumpkin, lamb you could cut with a spoon, focaccia oozing with olive oil. It was so good it was hard to talk or think about anything else while we ate.
The operation is slick – there’s a fancy website with amazing photography, the delivery process is polished, and you get a fancy brochure with the kit. Though it was a touch more complicated to cook than Town-send meals, because you need to juggle more pans, the result was worth it. Portion sizes are very generous indeed.
I also just like saying ‘Dishpatch’, because it makes me sound like Sean Connery (one of the sad losses of this year).
Meal kits for 2 people from £40, delivery £5.50 (or free with two or more boxes)
A confit duck burger from the Frenchie stall in the Southbank Centre streetfood market is one of my favourite treats. They’re so luxurious that my ex used to say that a burger took three months off your life – and it was six months if you also had the triple-cooked duck-fat chips with truffle mayonnaise. There is literally no way this meal wouldn’t be worth those six months. It’s like selling your soul in deeply pleasurable increments.
The Frenchie is selling a kit which makes four burgers. You toast a brioche bun and slather it in caramelised red onion chutney and truffle mayo, heat up some shredded confit duck in a pan, pop some raclette cheese on top to melt, drizzle with truffle honey, then scoop the lot onto the bun, scattering duck scratchings and rocket salad over the top. And then, if you are me, you inhale it all.
This is unashamedly dirty food, and it makes me very happy.
If you like truffle, add a bottle of truffle mayonnaise. I want to carry it with me everywhere, like some people do with hot sauce.
As far as I’ve found, Côte is the only chain restaurant that’s started doing meal kits – although they’re so simple to prepare, I’d actually call them very fancy ready meals. Very, very fancy. Kick off with pork rillettes and warm sourdough baguette, whip up Beef Bourguignon and potato puree in 20 minutes, and finish with crème caramel. How’s that for a Tuesday night?
There are great value set menus (currently £25.90 for two people, or £35.90 with a bottle of wine), and the food tastes very similar to a meal at a Côte restaurant. I particularly like the potato dauphinoise, and those rillettes, which do very nicely for a big lunch on their own. Portion sizes are pretty impressive. And I wonder why my waistline is growing.
Almost everything that needs heating seems to be oven-cooked, all at the same temperature, so it’s seriously easy to do, and the (recyclable) plastic sleeves mean there’s very little washing up.
You can also order individual dishes, charcuterie and cheese, meat, bread and pastries, drinks, and some pantry items. The bread’s particularly good.
Three-course kit for 2 from £25.90, delivery £4.95 (free on orders over £80)
Smokestak is a fancy barbeque restaurant, and the online shop sells the restaurant’s meats, pre-cooked and smoked and ready for you to heat. They also offer burger kits, sticky toffee pudding and pre-made cocktails
I opted for one of the feasting boxes. The contents have changed since I last ordered, but currently they each contain beef brisket and pulled pork shoulder, as well as very yummy condiments, like barbecue sauce and pickled cucumbers and chillies.
The meat was gorgeous – meltingly soft, gently smoky, very rich. The pickled chillies were a particular favourite, and since they came in their pickling liquor, they lasted ages. I used some of the pork to top a Spanish bean stew I made, some of the beef in burgers using my own buns – all very flexible.
You simply heat the meat in the oven, wrapped in butchers’ paper which is provided in the kit. It’s as simple as it gets, and someone else has done all that delicious slow cooking and smoking for you.
Burger kits to make four burgers from £27.50, feasting box for three to four £35, delivery £5.95 (free on orders over £75)
From the Norfolk Broads to the Norfolk Coast and up to Sheringham Forest, escaping London the weekend prior to the 2nd lockdown was the perfect getaway.
On what turned out to be a wild , blustery, winter weekend, complete with Covid restrictions, the solitude of Hickling Broad and Marshes felt like stepping into an Edward Seago landscape. The unique thatched boathouses on the canals, reminiscent of a children’s fantasy novel.
The picturesque village of Horning on the River Bure was empty, but the busy canal was still the place to watch the boats float by.
The ancient coastal fishing town of Cromer, famous for it’s fresh crab and fish & chips, picture postcard beautiful and full of charm. strolling along the beach and long wooden pier made me feel like i’d stepped straight into a Constable painting.
The winds were so strong that gate keeper at Sheringham Park advised the forest observation point was closed, not that it would deter me from a long walk, especially as this park was landscaped by Humphry Repton . Repton was known for creating new, free flowing landscapes with no barriers between the gardens and natural surroundings. he also said Sheringham was the favourite of the gardens he created and I have to say it is breathtaking.
Not to be missed, rain, wind or shine! The coastal views are amazing as is the clearing and views leading to Sheringham Hall .
I’m sure that for many other small business owners like myself , life since the first Covid lockdown in March has been a daily challenge with the unknown. I realise I’ve been so ‘consumed’ with my effort to keep going and to find a strategy to see the business through Lockdown and beyond,that I’ve taken no ‘time out’ to do some of the most fundamental things that have been my core inspiration. Little did I know when I took off the last 2 weekends in October that my luck was in, lockdown is back as of November. I was fortunate to re-charge my batteries on time.
For my first inspirational weekend off , I ventured out of London to the Chiltern Hills for some autumnal inspiration. ‘Catching’ colours as I call it.
I always choose my new season colour palette from nature, match the images to my desired Pantones and start forming my range
Living in the suburbs of London, I have always been aware of where my closest green spaces are. I invariably expect them to be a park, framed with metal railings and hopefully some big trees. Some kind of water feature like a small lake would be a huge bonus. Hampstead Heath was the only wild-ish green space to which I felt I had relatively easy access… until now.
Having had the time to walk around where I live in the recent months, I have discovered Dollis Brook and its walking route known as the Dollis Valley Greenwalk. Unbelievably, the walk is 16km long and stretches all the way from Hampstead Heath to Moat Mount in Mill Hill. Sections of it are like a regular park with trimmed grass and playgrounds, and sections of it are wide, wild and like escaping to the countryside.
I love to be nosey and see how the allotments change in colour and density across the year.
The days may be getting shorter, and the weather a little greyer, but I’m looking forward to seeing how this little bit of the countryside on my doorstep will change with the seasons. My wellies are ready!
Out exploring?? meet The Essential Borough bag!
If you’re out exploring with camera and/or phone then you need to meet our Essential Borough Bag ,a bag that is so perfect for outdoor exploring, you won’t need anything else!
There are two compartments to keep your belongings separate, whether you’re carrying a compact camera or your everyday essentials, you’ll be surprised how much you can fit in this stylish little cross-body. One side also features our card holder pockets so you don’t even need a full wallet if you want to travel light.
UK Staycations are not ones for guaranteed good weather… anything but. With that in mind they are still time away, they have their own charm and during Covid times at least you are guaranteed to get out of the house and explore.
The view from my desk has changed considerably, as it has for most people over the last few months. Whether you’ve finally got into the swing of working from home, are noticing and appreciating birdsong with new ears, or slowly going back to work at the office, we thought we’d let you know what the NM Team got up to up to whilst in lockdown.
As a close-knit team, it has been strange not to see each other every day. We have however, been enjoying keeping up to date on how we are filling our time at home. Here are just a few of the gems which I thought were worth sharing
Nadia, as most of you may know, is a keen gardener. Finally, she has a bit of extra time to tend to the previously “overgrown jungle” (her words, not mine). There is now space for some new plants plus there are big plans for the ever growing vegetable patch, just in case the lockdown returns. That’s forward planning for you!
Karla, our jewellery designer, has been keeping busy with a crochet project… which was first started a mere six years ago. Between starting and finishing this project, she did have a baby who is now six and modelling the blanket for us, so understandable why it’s taken so long.
Andrea’s multi tasking
Andrea has definitely been a busy bee, making scrubs bags for her local GP as well as trying out new recipes.. such as raspberry cake . Among all this activity Andrea’s daily walks are of course accompanied by little Lulu, looking as cute as ever.
Sawako’s colouring in
As for myself, a lot of cleaning has been going on but I don’t think anyone wants to see the inside of my sock drawer, as pristine as it is. One thing I have found relaxing and completely absorbing is colouring in. Yes, the kind you used to do as a child, but some creative people thought to make some intricate colouring books for adults. This book had been given to me as a present and was sitting on my shelf for a few years. Now I am at last beginning to fill the pages with colour without feeling guilty for spending time on something that seems a bit frivolous. It is just as fun as when I was a child, and I am just as keen to buy the most expensive colouring pencils now, except this time it is not my mum who has to pay for them.
Karla is Head jewellery designer at Nadia Minkoff London, currently in lockdown with her 6 year old son Joel. A Nadia Minkoff London team lockdown diary will follow next week.
Another fun project my son Joel and I did was Easy DIY ‘Paper Marbling’, also know as Suminagashi paper marbling in Japanese.
First, we prepared a working tray using the lid from a storage box. We filled the tray with water and some sort of thickening agent to make into a solution. Dropping different colour inks into the solution and gently moving or stirring the ink with a thin stick (we used tooth picks) we then immersed a good quality water colour paper into the inky solution to absorb and transfer the pattern onto the paper.
The end results of how the inks and patterns will show up are unpredictable. Here are some of the Patterns we created using Paper Marbling technique.
Spin Art –
Another great way to experiment would be to mix Prime Colours using something that can rotate or spin wheel.
We were given a Spin Art set two Christmases ago and I would say this Spin Art set is my child’s favorite art technique to do so far.
All I have to do is cut up different types of paper to fit into the spinning machine. Refill the paint bottles and he would be happy to play along all by himself for hours.
Here are some of the works we created!
Hope you can also try out some new art techniques at home and have as much fun as we did!!
The Nadia Minkoff London sale is now on with 50% discount on all handbags. we ship worldwide and offer free UK shopping and returns.
Karla is Head jewellery designer at Nadia Minkoff London, currently in lockdown with her 6 year old son Joel. Part 2 of Karla and Joel’s adventures will follow next week
Some parents might find it daunting to find things for their kids to do during lockdown. Fortunately, I have only one child to deal with or one could say, unfortunately he is the only child at home so he has learnt to entertain himself while the school is closed and no playdates are allowed.
Being a jewellery designer, I love to work with colours and what I do best is hands-on craft. Hence I’ve allocated ‘creative/ art’ and ‘drawing’ sessions into our weekly home learning schedule.
Drawing and painting are one of the key elements where children can express their feelings. In times like these- lockdown has given us so much negative news that can easily scare a child- it is therefore important for them to be able to express those feelings.
One of the very first resources we looked at together was done by an American illustrator – Mo Willems. He is the current Education Artist in Residence at the Kennedy Center and he releases “Lunch Doodle” videos each weekday to encourage children of all ages to doodle with him. Just two videos later, we were both inspired by Mo Willems’s introduction of doodling and spent the whole afternoon doodling on a large roll of paper.
After we tried doodling, my child was very into all kinds of ‘Birds’ and their habitat. He was encouraged to write an adventure story of three different birds that migrate to London during winter time.
At the weekend, we tried to draw out those three birds. Whilst he was using his imagination to make his story into drawing, I also picked an image of a bird from the ‘National Geographic Kid’s’ book to polish up my very rusty drawing skills.
Here is what I drew of a Hoopoe from an image.
The following weekend we were a bit stuck for new ideas and lack of motivation on what to draw. I then remembered a beautiful colouring book I bought a few years ago by Johanna Basford.
I let my child pick a page so we could both do some colouring together. With so many intricate details and narrow spaces to fill in the colours, I was amazed at how much patience and persistence a nearly 6 years old boy has to accomplish this page.
Here is what we coloured together on one Sunday afternoon and I can say it’s hard to tell which one was done by a child!!
Can you tell??
If you are looking for creative activities to do at home, once your kids have gone to sleep, we now have complete jewellery making kits available to order online.