Tuesday 26 January 2010

Review: Bake-a-Boo, West Hampstead

Bake-a-Boo West Hampstead interior buntingMy quest to sample afternoon teas beyond zone 1 yesterday took me out to West Hampstead and back to the 1950s. I had arranged to meet up with Miss O and remembered hearing about a place not far from her called Bake-a-Boo. To make sure I wouldn't be disappointed after my journey up the Jubilee Line I phoned the day before to see if I could book a table. I was told I could but if I wanted the Afternoon Tea, I would have to book in advance and pay a deposit. I was somewhat taken aback but we were keen to skip lunch and make an afternoon of it so I went ahead, reserved and paid the 50% deposit.

Thursday 21 January 2010

A Greener Start to the Day

Genmaicha leaves teaThis morning as I walked, still bleary-eyed, into the kitchen, I was hit by a horrible realisation: we had run out of milk. Although this didn't pose a major problem for breakfast - fruit, yoghurt and granola is my preferred option at the moment - it did mean I couldn't start the day with my usual cup of tea. In the old days I used to like a latte first thing in the morning, but over the past few months I find I just can't wait for that first cup of lovely, refreshing tea. A fairly strong black tea with milk is now, definitely, my preferred way to start the day.

Sunday 17 January 2010

Review: High Tea of Highgate

High Tea of Highgate afternoon teaLiving in the centre of London, it sometimes feels like a little bit of an effort to travel anywhere for afternoon tea. There are so many nice cafes right on my doorstep, even heading out to zone 2 can seem unnecessary. But there are tea shops with quite a different feel when you move away from the hustle and bustle in the middle of town: less swish and corporate and more family-run in atmosphere, which means it's always worth seeking them out. This week I had the perfect excuse to make, admittedly only a small, journey to meet fellow blogger Caroline of Caroline, No. Once I discovered that she lived in north London I remembered a tea room I had heard about not far away and suggested we meet there to give it a go.

Monday 11 January 2010

The Perfect Mince Pie

Perfect mince pieI've always enjoyed cooking and especially baking. But in recent years the relentless treadmill of work means there's been little time to do much more than throw together dinner at the end of the day. My decision to become a freelancer, and specifically my decision to take more time off to try and achieve some kind of work/life balance, has changed all of that. Now I'm constantly looking for excuses to cook. Visiting a friend for tea? Quick make some cupcakes. Sister coming over for the day? Get that breadmaker fired up. Upcoming dinner party? Trial some recipes. Well, you can imagine that hosting Christmas gave me the perfect excuse to spend some time in the kitchen.

Thursday 7 January 2010

Review: Si An Tra, Prenzlauer Berg

Si An Tra Prenzlauer Berg cakeDespite what some people may assume, there is a lot of good food to be had in Berlin. Sadly, if you're a vegetarian, traditional German cuisine doesn't have a lot to offer. True there is Flammkuchen – a kind of pizza without the tomato sauce – and Käsespätzle can be nice on a cold day, but if you're looking for variety you need to seek out the increasing number of good restaurants serving ethnic food. Although Berlin can't really compete with London on that score, I always make an effort to visit the type of restaurants that are a bit of a schlep for me to reach in the Big Smoke.

Monday 4 January 2010

Review: Café Einstein, Mitte

Cafe einstein hot chocolate
Cafe Einstein is a Berlin institution. The original branch in the heart of Christopher Isherwood's Schoeneberg near Nollendorf Platz is a lovely place to while away a few hours. It's in an historic villa with all the grandeur of a country house. The Unter den Linden branch in Berlin's Mitte area can't really compete in terms of atmosphere but the menu is basically the same.

Saturday 2 January 2010

Tea is the Best Medicine

Bad Heilbrunner Erkaeltungs tee
I am a great believer in the healing properties of tea, but here in Germany they take that belief a whole stage further. Walk into any chemist, drug store or supermarket and you'll find a whole stand devoted to medicinal teas. I came down with a fairly terrible bought of flu over New Year a few years ago and a German friend sent me home with a selection of teas she assured me would help me feel much better. I was somewhat skeptical - this was in my pre-tea obsession days - and can't really remember if I drank them, or if I did what impact they had.

Well, New Year, new illness. This time it's Coffee Boy who has been nursing a stinking cold. Whilst purchasing herbal nasal sprays, echinacea bonbons and a variety of more heavy-duty drugs I happened upon a tea especially for colds. It contained such interesting things as Linden blossom, Elderberry leaves, Dandelion and Peony flowers. He wasn't convinced but was prepared to try anything so I prepared him a cup. And I must say, he felt much better after sipping the brew. So much so, in fact, that he has nearly finished the box. So it just goes to show, tea really is the best medicine.