Good eats in London n°2



February is proving particularly difficult in the discipline department… Too many chances to eat out – too many lovely things to try – too few trips to the gym.

But two recent culinary finds were so delicious I had to share them.

The Thomas Cubitt

Exhibit A: I’ve been raving about The Thomas Cubitt in Belgravia over on Instagram ever since my Dad and I walked in on a whim a few weeks ago. Greeted by a friendly host staff, we were told they were pretty full but that we could take a table in their upstairs dining room for two hours if that was ok. The room was beautiful, the orders swiftly taken and the service super friendly. And then came the food… which was so good, I dragged my friend Lindsay back the week after just to see if it was still as good. And it was.

We tried a trio of starters: the turnip soup with horseradish cream and watercress (which we practically fought over), the crispy fried squid, prawns, lemon & artichokes with smoked chilli dressing and the fig & goat’s cheese tart, port reduction, black olive oil & mustard cress. The food was light but perfectly filling. And the ambiance is friendly but refined. As we were leaving, Lindsay and I may have been muttering “that was so good…” repeatedly to each other. Just to remind ourselves how happy we were. It is firmly on my list of London favorites and I can’t wait to try the other restaurants & rooms of the family run Cubitt House group. They are doing something very right.

Gail's Kitchen

Exhibit B: Gail’s Kitchen. Not to be confused with Gail’s Bakery, which we all tried to walk into as it closed not far from the British Museum. Though it is the bakery’s big sister.

Gail’s wasn’t very large but it felt light and airy as we entered. Their menu is composed of (the latest in London fashion but I am not complaining) small plates. We liked everything we tried – especially the Burrata with Castelfranco, orange and hazelnuts; the Squid with chickpeas, Persian lemon stew, labneh and herbs; and the Porchetta with sweet potato, red onion, mustard creme sauce and coriander. Everything tasted fresh. Everything tasted familiar, but at the same time in combinations I hadn’t tried before. You might feel you are being a bit adventurous in ordering but you’re happily reassured once you taste it.

Then the dessert menu appeared in front of us and I saw milk & cookies. Now, for context, this American was feeling a little bit raw with the announcement that Jon Stewart would be leaving the Daily Show this morning. He has honestly been one of the things holding together any sense of sanity I felt remained in the US after so many years overseas. So I had to go with something comforting from home. I was smiling at the presentation before it ever hit the table. The cookies were blazingly hot and melty, paired with ice cold milk. Man, were they good.

Get thyself to these restaurants pronto.

For Good Eats n°1, click here.

Photos of questionable iPhone quality taken by JessOnThames.

Why you should travel to Seville on a whim



Seville / JessOnThames

The benefits of solo travel and travel on a whim are quite possibly the discoveries I value most from 2014.

For I got slapped upside the head by both in the best possible way upon arriving in Seville last autumn.

Hands down, Seville is the city that has surprised me most in Europe and I really think that was because I went on my own. I was having one of those achy, need to travel moments, followed by a “plug in the credit card details before you can regret it” airfare booking deals, concluded by a more lengthy and way-over-analyzed perusal of AirBnB flats.

And I didn’t regret it.

Seville / JessOnThames

Seville / JessOnThames

Seville / JessOnThames

Seville 19

Seville / jessOnThames

Seville / JessOnThames

I selected the three things I wanted to see most upon my arrival before leaving (The Alcazar, the Plaza de España and the Casa de Pilatos). And then decided to wing it the rest of the way through.

I picked up a good local street map at the airport and had my favorite, familiar guide series with me (I like to stay consistent with Rough Guides: they have a great balance of handy maps, good recommendations and a healthy dose of geeky history I love).

I chose this lovely little flat about a ten minute walk from the centre. It had huge windows and a cozy mezzanine. It was wonderfully clean and had a opera singer practicing next door every afternoon when I came back for a pre-dinner rest.

Seville apartment

The entire city was walkable and in early November, there was still a warmth to the air that made you want to linger as the sun went down on a large plazas. Its one of those places where you stopped on a regular basis to take it all in and people watch. One minute it looked incredibly European, one minute traditionally Spanish, sometimes confusingly Roman and then, refreshingly North African. I adored the mix. And I loved being continually surprised.

Seville / JessOnThames

Seville / JessOnThames

Seville / JessOnThames

Seville / JessOnThames

Seville Limonada / JessOnThames

That’s the best part about solo travel: you don’t have anywhere to be. You can take all the time or as little time as you like. Its just you, your head and your heart: ready to explore.

Seville is a wonderfully gentle city. Its architecture pulls you in, its history keeps you thinking and its food… well, let’s just say you will not go hungry as Andalusia is the home of tapas. Do not skip the local gazpacho.

My advice to you? Just book. Wander. And plan to go back someday.

Unexpected benefits



Coffee at Brickwood

Moving to London as an expat, I guess you expect certain things.

I thought I might get overwhelmed by the number of people. I was almost certain I wouldn’t find an apartment I liked right away. I was pretty sure I might overdose on museum visits. I worried it would be too expensive.  I finished brunch one day to watch friends venture off on those nifty double-decker buses thinking “will it ever really be that easy? Click two buttons on an app and know exactly how to find your way home across town?”

I worried it would be hard to get to know new people.

Without a doubt, the most surprising thing about moving to London has been the friends I’ve made through blogging. I’m talking absolutely lovely, wing-man worthy, dear friends – in under a year.

I don’t know why I’m surprised about it. Looking back on when I first moved to in Brussels, there are friends I still hold dear that I met in my first year there. But most of them were work colleagues and let’s face it, the EU world in Brussels is small. (Believe me, its much smaller than it should be for a city hosting the EU & NATO. You will always find someone you know who knows other people you know.)

I was lucky to already have some friends in London. But the thought of meeting new people here was daunting. London is so much bigger. There wasn’t that entertaining “what are we all doing here/this is kind of an experiment and most likely temporary” thing that unites fellow expats in their first years in Brussels.

My blogger friends filled that gap.

Bloggers are a special kind of people in that I like to think we’re built with an inherent curiosity. You can always find someone up for visiting something new with you, or something old for that matter (ahem, English country houses…) Someone to strike up a conversation with. To make a poignant observation. To teach you something new. To give you a neat new tip. To fill you in on a secret. To forgive your obsession with Instagram. You have people to help you push your comfort boundaries, to encourage you to take a step further, to not give up when things seem hard. People who understand the power of a freshly brewed cup of coffee and a good gab. Of the courage it takes to press “publish”. Of the insecurities that come with putting yourself out there. And of the opportunities to be found when you do.

I’ve become a better blogger since moving to London but I can’t take the credit for it. I’ve grown to love my new town faster than I thought I would, but London can’t completely take credit for that either. I owe a good deal of both to the lovely people I’ve met along the way.

This post is part of this month’s Travel LinkUp hosted by Kelly, Emma, Rebecca and Sara with the theme “Unexpected Benefits of Blogging”.

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