At last it’s time to go, Portugal escape

This past January, just before lockdown restrictions ended in the UK and after almost 3 years of staying put in London, I finally boarded a plane and travelled.

Travel prep, testing and documentation was a mine field, just about enough to put you off from going anywhere. But with all the paperwork done and negative Covid test results confirmed I was Portugal bound taking with me my all new ‘Rena Go’ bag.

Well, I did design it to be a bag on the go, so only right to test drive it properly.

The airport was deserted, only 15 of us boarded the flight (I had to count), hard to describe just how alien it felt.

The flight was a direct flight to Porto, I was warned it rains a lot in Porto and it did exactly that. But I loved it, what a beautiful town, such friendly people and the bakeries… oh my, take me back.

The old port , bridges ,blue and white tile clad buildings and steep cobbled streets make it a fascinating town to visit and discover.

A 3 hour train journey which ended being a 5 hour journey from Porto to Lisbon was not great, if I am honest.  The steep walk from the station up the hill to Alfama was picturesque.  I’m not sure what I expected, but it certainly surprised me , so very quaint for a capital city, living in London you expect capital cities to be big and crowded.

One advantage of travelling during Covid was just how empty and quiet everything was. I understand Alfama is a bustling tourist district, not so when I visited. I appreciated the sunshine, views, colours and silence.

Lisbon is an absolute gem, beautiful, vibrant, interesting, tasty..  and if I’m talking tasty , a meal at Pharmacia is a whole different experience. Especially if you can sit outside on a sunny day. Don’t miss it!

There are plenty of short excursions to be had from Lisbon ( another reason I will be going back).

I managed to visit Cascais, a short train ride from Lisbon along the coast to this old fishing village. Inside the walls of the old city is the Cidadela Art District with it’s galleries and museums. It was too cold to swim in January but the white sandy beaches were beautiful all the same and the old port with it’s outdoor dining hub was buzzing.

Did the Rena Go pass the test drive?? the intention was to create a ‘down sized’ bag for the times… we live out of our phones after all so travelling with a big bag is unnecessary. We do need compartments for our phone, passport, masks, sanitiser, book…  The Rena has just enough space for all these necessities plus a sewn- in key fob and card holder.  With it’s wide, adjustable and detachable webbed cotton strap, I think we did good.

Ooh La La, The Richmond Bag in Paris

Photography: Brian Minkoff

Bag: The Richmond

Is there a more photogenic capital city than Paris? arguably not in my humble opinion.

We sent our iconic Richmond Bag travelling just before Christmas ( and Omicron), so here’s a bag’s eye view of this beautiful city.:

From the newly renovated La Samaritaine Paris Department store

to the Place Vendome

The Louvre

The Eiffel Tower

Le Marais and it’s delicacies

Art Deco meets the new iphone at the Place St Michel

Even the bears over do it sometimes, but how can you not?

 

Despite Covid ,Paris is as beautiful and as tasty. In fact, maybe Covid restrictions and complications have made short, successful getaways even more special.

Happy New Year to all, may 2022 be healthy, happy, tasty and a whole lot easier.

Alice’s Top 5 Restaurant DIY Meal Kits

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.


Town-send Poussin in Saffron Broth




1. Town-send

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)

The Dishpatch Feast

2. Dishpatch

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)

The Frenchie Burger

3. The Frenchie

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.

Kit to make four burgers £25, delivery £8

4. Côte at Home

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 pork belly on top of my home made Bean Cassoulet


5. Smokestak

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)

Why not try one of our jewellery making workshops? Take time out to be creative, learn a new skill and make something beautiful. We have a whole range of classes as well as a bead and ‘Make your own’ Kit shop.

The Abstraction pouch, staycations in Brighton

Video & photography: Brian Minkoff

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.

Our Abstraction Pouch in Silver certainly made the most of its Brighton Staycation. Relaxed at The Grand hotel, braved the stormy weather and enjoyed a cream tea ( or too) and some fish & chips

Here’s to time out, wherever it may be.

Stay safe, stay well, stay positive!

TRAVEL: FILM, FISH AND FRITES, St Malo & Dinard

 

Images and details: Brian Minkoff Photography 

Travel Bag: The Camden tote in Mustard

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Travelled with: There and back overnight on Brittany Ferries   from Portsmouth to St Malo .  There’s an excellent buffet ,so a pretty good start

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Commuted: There’s a small ferry boat that goes from St Malo to Dinard and back every hour

Stayed at: Castelbrac  St Malo, 5 star luxury in a unique setting

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Ate at: Brasserie du Sillon, right on the St Malo beach, where my starter (slightly not kosher) Plateau de fruits de mer  (oysters, langoustines, king prawns, whelks and winkles) and the Mrs’s  mackerel fillets marinated in Muscadet were fantastic as were the whole grilled  snapper (my favourite fish) and C’s Chateaubriand in a creamy mustard sauce with thin, thin chips. Followed by a pistachio pavlova with strawberry sorbet and crème brulée with Madagascan vanilla

 Le Sept Mers in St Malo overlooking the beach where we indulged in foie gras, crab with grilled avocado and fennel, pork belly with sage, smoked cauliflower and mash, cod baked with sea greens, a chocolate ganache with absinthe and a fruit soup with ginger and yogurt sorbet.

 

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Stayed at: Le Nouveau Monde, St Malo and highly recommend,

Ate at:  our favourite restaurant, La Gonelle, overlooking the bay where they bring the fish fresh from the tank. We indulged in fresh sardines and then shared a whole turbot baked in beef juices with rosemary potatoes and a bottle of local cider.

St-malo

 

 

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Visited:  The Dinard Film Festival,  This  film fest offers access to paying punters and is very friendly.

dinard-film-fest

Bag verdict: The Mrs loved the bag-very soft leather and a lovely colour and lots of room. The attached purse was neat too.

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A bientot!

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Escape… Thailand’s Islands, Koh Samui

My travel bags: The Brewer Holdall, The Angel bag 

Angel Koh Samui

Travelled with: Thai Airways from Heathrow /£750.00 return ( Mid Feb) , 12hrs to Bangkok/13 hrs return to Heathrow. Perfect service and customer care from start to finish.

Connecting flight Bangkok to Surat Thani with Thai smile £35 single ( mid Feb ), 55 mins. Great service, you even get served drinks and a snack

Bus from Surat Thani to Don Sak port, then boat to Koh Samui approx 2 hrs, spectacular scenery and air conditioned decked cabin. I chose to sit on the deck and watch the views.

temple

Mandara

Stayed at: Bandara resort and spa from £85 per night including breakfast. The breakfast is on the beach restaurant and quite spectacular, not to mention the views

Bo phut

Bophut fishing village is a 5 minute walking and is totally charming with a large selection of chill out cafes on the beach as well as restaurants and a weekly market selling just about everything from fried grasshoppers to suits.

Chaweng

sunset

Optional day trips:  Chaweng, Big Buddha

fruit

 

Eat: fruit- lots of it, Fresh fish- sold by weight, grilled in front of you, Phad Thai- it’s so, so good

coconut

Drink- Coconut Cappuccino, as many fresh coconuts as you can

Relax- enjoy the sunsets

Angel sunset

 

NEXT: Escape Thailand’s Islands, Krabi and Railay

TRAVEL JAPAN.. KYOTO IN AUTUMN

Photography and travel: Sawako Muraoka

(Featured image: Kiyomisu-Dera Temple in autumn)

Flights: JAL from Heathrow, around £600 return London-Tokyo/Haneda airport  (Arriving at Haneda Airport is very useful as it’s only a 15 min train ride into Tokyo, it takes a lot longer from Narita. There is also a little shopping village inside the airport – useful for last minute gift buying and your final noodle fix)

Bag: The Rena bag in Moss Green

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Stayed at:

  • Self catering apartment which was fully equipped with a little kitchen and washing machine. Would especially recommend if you’re staying for a few nights as it’s a lot cheaper than most hotels and you have your own kitchen. Most hotel rooms are also very small so apartments can be more comfortable.
  • Highland Shimabara Guest House Approx. £65/night –  but this varies a lot depending on season

Dine out: Traditional meal served at a Kyoto’Ryokan’  (including the prettiest plate of pickles you’ve ever seen )food 3

food 2

food 1

Arashiyama Bamboo Groveso beautiful and the trees are so tall!

kyoto bamboo
“Ojizo San”  is what these little statues are called , you see them a lot round shrines, they are there to protect people.

kyoto statues

Fushimi inari – Shinto shrine with thousands of “tor-ii” gates lining pathways up a mountain. We didn’t make it all the way!

Kyoto shrine

 

 Travelling around Japan – with JR Pass: this is a train pass only available to people who are not resident in Japan. You can use it as often as you like and go anywhere as long as it’s on a JR train and you reserve a seat. (It doesn’t include the fastest Shinkansen called Nozomi fyi. The second fastest is fast enough though!) It costs from around £180/week. Definitely recommend getting this if you’re going to multiple places.

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Travel Japan.. part 2 to follow!

TRAVEL… Serenity ( and gelato) at Lago Maggiore, Italy

Photography & travel: Brian Minkoff Photography

Flights: British Airways to Milan approx. £130pp

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Bag: The Islington bucket bag ( for Island hoping) The Newington clutch bag ( for fine dining)

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Stayed at: Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees, Stresa, Lake Maggiore, Italy.

Rooms £200+ a night per couple

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Fine dined at: Hotel Verbano on the island of Isola dei Pescatori

Ristorante Lo Stronello

For a great value meal on a nice terrace in the centre of town:  Ristorante Pizzeria Mamma Mia, Stresa (no website)

A must….Trips to all the islands (none more than 15 minutes away by ferry boat)

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Isola Bella

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Isola Madre

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Isola dei Pescatori

The Botanical gardens on the Isola Madre are world famous and an essential visit.

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Enjoy…taking the circular ferry ride about (1 hour) without getting off at the islands is a relaxing treat.

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Eat..pasta, fresh fish from the lake ( pike, zander, perch, trout and black bass) and of course gelato. L’Angolo del Gelato was an almost daily post dinner ritual

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RE BALANCE…. INNER PEACE IN EL PUERTO

Bag: The brewer holdall as my on-board luggage and The Hoxton bag for my daily use

The-brewerr-puerto

Flight: London to Gibraltar, approx. 3 hours.  I had an unsettling early morning flight having been sat next to an extremely drunk and rather intimidating group, out on their stag do. Adieu Monarch, can’t say I will miss you.

Gibraltar to Cadiz: approx. 1hr 40 mins by car

Stayed at: El Puerto, 10km outside Cadiz

puerto-breakfast

Ate breakfast at: Bar Vicente, owned by 3 generations of the same family, next door to the local market so the perfect spot for people watching. Had a traditional breakfast of Pan con tomate with coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice for only 4 Euros. Could sit there every day.

Ate Tapas at: Bar Apolo, recently renovated, delicious freshly cooked food and great value. Be sure to try the local cuttlefish Choco

hoxton cadiz

Visited:  Cadiz, ferry crossing to Cadiz from El Puerto takes 25 minutes and costs 2.65 Euros one way. The central market sells fish like you have never seen, but go early as they close early. Have to confess I struggled with the sharks

sharks

Street food– plenty of choice surrounding the market, I settled for La Taperia de Lula, don’t miss it! They certainly know how to cook the most delicious regional dishes including Arroz Negro– rice with squid ink.

rice

Swam at: Las Redes, the best and longest stretch of beach, perfect for swimming and walking but very full at the weekends.

square-Lucar

Excursion: Sanlucar de Barrameda. All that you would expect from a traditional, white Spanish Village: sun washed central square, bars, cafe’s and ice cream parlours. Some lovely historic sites here as well.

bodegas-obregon

Drink: sherry out of the cask at Bodegas Obregon and why not have a small tapas whilst your at it

fans

Buy: Tejas ( Tile biscuits) flat , handmade almond biscuits to die for from Cien Palacios- it’s all they do and they come in beautiful tins.  A fan from the market if you really want a piece of Spain to take back home.

Hoxton-promotion

Take advantage of our 50% discount offer 22-10 to 29-10-17 bu ising code:

hoxtoncream17 at the checkout. (Free UK p&p, whilst stock lasts)

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sunset

Travels to New York with my toddler… taking a bite of the Big Apple together

Karla Huang, Designer at Nadia Minkoff  travelled to NY with her 3 year old inquisitive toddler, Jo.

Leaving

Return flight to NY with British Airways approx. £540 return (correct in  July 2017)

Jo's meal

Bag: The Finsbury backpack from Not on The High Street

Brooklyn-Bridge

 

Stayed at: Park Lane Hotel, NY  Room for 3 starts at US$260 per night. Great location on Central Park and a minute away from 5th Avenue subway but can’t recommend: bad service, over crowded, short staffed, dated ( but clean), expensive for the standard and room price did not include breakfast, never a good thing with a toddler!

 We visited:

The statue of Liberty, of course! We took the Ferry from  Battery park,Manhattan

Statue of iberty

Madame Tussauds NYC  , Jo managed to catch a ride with ET

Tussauds

Ripleys New York, conveniently located on Times Square, Jo loved the optical illusions

Ripleys

High Line Park, such a fantastic public park built on the historic freight rail line above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. A different view of the Big Apple

Highline

Chelsea Market– great for mum & toddler, plenty to eat and some great pop-up shops for much needed retail therapy. It was a cold day so we chose to have Jewish Chicken Soup at Friedmans

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9/11 memorial– Very impressive, the size and the concept works so well.

911

Rockefeller Centre-  Such an exciting place to be, inside and out. Beautiful Art Deco interiors, places to eat and great shops,  plenty of street performers outside. We chose to see if Bill’s burgers were really as good as they say… and they were

Bill#s

Ate at:

Lady M Cake Boutique- sometimes you just need to spend money on a piece of beautiful cake

Lady-M-cake

Peter Luger Steak House,  Best steak and fries but be sure to book a month ahead!

Brooklyn Flea Market/Dumbo–  Great market stalls and food ,we had Shanghai pancakes, they were spicy but they were good!

City Kitchen/Times Square- Hello to the American fast food court , just as you imagine it, with plenty of  great choice but it’s not cheap!

Jo’s Highlights were: The Ferry to The Statue of Liberty, Central park,  but best of all The  Sea Glass Carousel

Carousel

I loved my Finsbury backpack , trust me although I work for an accessory company I am a very fussy customer. It was just so comfortable, so great to have my hands free at all time , it’s lightweight and it looks great.

Departure (18)