Arts & travel

The Rookery, Clerkenwell, London

An elegant hotel where kids are welcome

7th April 2011 I recently met a friend for tea at The Rookery; she was staying and I rather wanted to see how it feels inside. The hotel is out of the centre of London in Clerkenwell, a popular area slightly to the North of central London with plenty of interesting bars and restaurants. Housed in a converted row of Georgian buildings, the interior is filled with fine furniture and accessories creating a warm, homely yet stylish setting.

'Mary Lane' room at the historic Rookery

This is a hotel that gets recommended by word-of-mouth and the sort of place that you can look forward to staying in.  And I love the way they are very accommodating to children. Cots and rollaway beds are available, and this is not always the case in hotels. Babysitters can also be pre-arranged.

Should you be looking to stop over in a more central location, I would choose Hazlitt’s, the sister hotel, which is perfectly located for the theatres near Piccadilly and Oxford Street, and equally as exceptional in terms of comfort, individuality, and elegance. CN




Lunch in central London

The Gallery, Fortnum & Mason

4th April, 2011 I recently had lunch with Joan at The Gallery in Fortnums, which is one of a number of places to eat inside London’s famous luxury food emporium. I arrived practically out of breath after a much delayed train journey, so I was really looking forward to a quiet lunch in the airy restaurant which overlooks the ground floor food hall. The menu includes some excellent main courses such as wild sea bream  as well as classics such as risotto and homemade tagliatelle. I chose the burger with tomato and basil relish and chips, given that I was hungry after the journey, which left me stranded on a train for an extra hour and a half without any snacks! And it was perfectly yummy, with everything you would hope for in a classic dish such as this, delicious crispy potatoes, and fresh garnishes with the meat which I really enjoyed. There are lighter choices, and Joan had one of these….her preference for seafood is well catered to here, and the smoked salmon and scrambled egg on sourdough bread is a favourite, she says! We booked in advance on the internet which is a very practical idea, I’d meet friends or have lunch meetings here for work, it’s an ideal place to stop in the busy streets of Piccadilly. In fact I’m planning to take the kids soon, I think it would be a great treat for them; but they will have their eye on the choice of puddings and the Banoffee Pie I expect. CN


The big city with kids

As this is our kid’s edition, I have been looking into a few places that aren’t as well known as some kids destinations in London but definitely offer lots of fun and interest.

One of these is the V&A’s Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green (pictured above) which houses an impressive collection of children’s toys, games, clothing, furniture and other exciting artefacts relating to little ones through history. I went to the museum with my four year old to while a way a Sunday morning. First we came across “Doll Face”, an eye-catching exhibition of photographs by portrait and still-life photographer Craig Deane depicting dolls from the extensive collection owned by the museum. (The exhibition ended 27th March but you can see the whole series of images at, they are really incredible images and slightly creepy but my boy was fascinated by them). (more…)

Children’s stores, London

Shopping recommendations

London has some great shops for kids, here are my favourite boutiques and shops for clothes, toys and furniture. (Pictured above: Their Nibs).

Caramel Baby & Child This exquisite shop is growing, there are branches in Brompton Road, Pavilion Road (Sloane Square) and Ledbury Road (Notting Hill). The store prides itself on very individual items, and paired down everyday clothing with a touch of luxury.

Green Baby, Notting Hill My babies may have grown up a bit but they spent their early years in cotton baby grows and pyjamas from this cute environmentally sound store.

Igloo, King’s Road The ‘it’ boutique for kids in the King’s Road. A branch can also be found in Islington. Expect to find brands such as Ikks, Petit Bateau, Mookie, even Hunter Wellies.

Jigsaw Junior, 190 Westbourne Grove I have a very fond memory of this store in Notting Hill as this is where I took my bridesmaid Lucia to choose her outfit for my wedding….back in 2002. The shop is as wonderful today, with particular emphasis on fashions for girls, and the all important party dress or frock as my grandmother would have called them.

Habitat Home ideas and accessories for kids such as baskets for practical, fun storage to encourage tidying up. Also love the kid’s bedding and wooden toys here.

Marie Chantal Beautiful upmarket classics for children. Luxurious therefore pricey, but there are lots of lovely accessories and it’s a great place to look for outfits for special occasions.


Where to eat

There are lots of places in London that are used to kids, and lots that prefer you not to venture in with noisy under 7s! I have been testing the waters a little more now my kids are getting a bit older and more used to eating out in different types of restaurants. I regularly choose to eat in Spanish places in London. One of my favourites is Tapas Brindisa in Borough Market. The Brindisa shop is just a few steps away, and this is where I stock up on Arbequina Extra Virgin olive oil and chorizo and may be some delicious Ortiz tuna. Tapas Brindisa is a reliable choice for fresh, authentic Spanish tapas, using ingredients sourced from the Brindisa storecupboard and UK producers including some of the Borough Market food specialists. When I visited last week with my 4 year old, we chose a large selection of hams, which included Serrano, Recebo and Carved Iberico de Bellota, my favourite. We also tried the traditional tortilla. A fine looking vanilla ice cream was served up for pudding and my little companion was delighted. Had we wanted to be a bit more adventurous there were lots more enticing hot dishes I would have liked to have tried including pork belly and quince and prawns al ajillo. I will be making a trip back soon, probably with the whole family. Brindisa currently has 4 restaurants in London including Casa Brindisa, South Kensington, pictured above, and the very centrally located Tierra Brindisa in Broadwick Street.