Discover Kew Gardens: London’s Very Own Tropical Paradise

Kew Gardens is a place that seduces your senses with tropical palms and ancient pines. It’s a place that nourishes your mind and soul with lungfuls of richly oxygenated air as you stride through rose gardens and climb through swaying treetops. It’s a modern-day paradise and, quite unbelievably, it’s only ten miles away from central London.

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Ceviche Peruvian Restaurant, Soho – London the Latin Way

Small but comfortably intimate; there isn’t room for everyone at Ceviche. And as the lights are turned down and the food fiesta finds its momentum, you forget yourself and where you are. It’s the grinding grooves of pitchy piano and rattlesnake maracas, the brassy crescendos and dazzling percussion of snappy cajons. It’s the pitter patter of waiters as they offer samples of their favourite pisco blends, expertly describing what makes them all so different whilst you are seduced into a trance-like state of intoxicating pleasure.

 Pisco sours and yucas at Ceviche Peruvian Restaurant, Soho, London

We knew from previous experience that it would be naive to think we could get a table at such short notice – we had to book three weeks in advance last time just to get a table for two. But seeing as we’d already had dinner, we were more than happy to pull up a stool at the bustling, metal-clad bar. At Ceviche, you’re lucky to even get in through the door.

The “Wow! This place is something special” moment

 Pisco sours at Ceviche Peruvian Restaurant, Soho, London

Lunch and/or dinner at Ceviche simply must start with either one of two things: a bottle of Cusqueña Peruvian beer or a cocktail of pisco sour, which is zesty lemons and limes blended with egg whites, Angostura bitters, ice, and of course, pisco.  This fruity, grape brandy makes for the kind of electrifying cocktail that gets your blood pumping and your feet thumping. As my friend Graeme says, “there’s pissed, and then there’s pisco pissed!”

The “Perhaps we should order something small, just to taste” moment

Yucas at Ceviche Peruvian Restaurant, Soho, London

As we finished our second round of £7-a-pop pisco sours, our gazes turned to our neighbors’ tiny plates of culinary curiosities. “We should probably get something to pick at,” we convinced ourselves. “I’m not hungry but I just want to try whatever that is!”

We ordered a little bowl of yucas, the Peruvian equivalent of a bowl of chips. They come from the cassava root vegetable, something between a sweet potato and a parsnip. You dip them in huancaina (wan-kay-eena) sauce, which is a rich and creamy spiced cheese sauce. They go perfectly with an ice-cold bottle of Cusqueña – the only beer they stock.  

Cusqueña Premium Peruvian Beer at Ceviche Peruvian Restaurant, Soho, London

The energy levels went up a notch, now with customers piscoed up and unleashing their Spanish on the barmen. We surrendered to the moment, accepting that this was clearly one of the finest places you could ever wish to be on a sunny Saturday evening in London.

Crab, avocado and palm heart piled on top of a bed of mashed potato at Ceviche Peruvian Restaurant, Soho, London

Sylvie ordered us the causa los saicos, a mix of crab, avocado and palm heart piled on top of a bed of mashed potato. Light and fresh, there’s something very familiar about this fishy little dish, although I was left wanting for something with more of a kick of flavour. 

The “How have I never tried this before!” moment

Ceviche at Ceviche Peruvian Restaurant, Soho, London

Ceviche, the dish that this Latin lair takes its name from, is an obvious but essential appetizer, whether you’ve snagged yourself a table or not. It’s made with fresh cured seabass, amarillo chilli tiger’s milk (a sort of zesty, spicy juice), raw red onions and slices of crispy sweet potato.

It’s light and zingy in the mouth, unlike anything you’ve ever tried before and frightfully moreish. But it’s the colours: the apricot orange of the sweet potatoes, the glowing pinks and purples of the onion and pops of green from the coriander. Oh, the coriander, with its peppery kick that rounds this dish off so perfectly… 

The Verdict

You’re right, this isn’t so much a review as it is a piece of written worship. But I don’t care; I love this place and I genuinely want you to experience it for yourself.

The food is fresh and exciting, different from almost everything else in London. The service is efficient, casual and supremely welcoming. The dishes are priced fairly and offer outstanding value, especially when you consider how difficult it is to get a table here. They could double their prices and it would still be worth every last penny.

And the atmosphere is funky and intoxicating beyond superlatives, one of those places that truly makes you feel glad to be alive. Not only is it my favourite culinary experience in London but it’s also my favourite London experience bar none. Even if they offer you a table, I recommend sitting at the bar, where the buzz and soul of this special place is dialed all the way up to ten.

Make it Happen

Nearest Tube Stop: Totenham Court Road or Leicester Square
Address: Ceviche Peruvian Restaurant, 17 Frith Street, London, W1D 4RG (Google Maps)
More info:

Where to Stay

Treat Yourself
For a refined and extremely romantic stay in the very heart of Soho (London’s liveliest area), it doesn’t get much better than the famous Hazlitt’s Hotel. It’s a firm favourite with artists and writers – my hero Bill Bryson sings its praises in Notes From A Small Island. Ideally situated on the same street as Ceviche, it’s only a quick stroll to the dazzling Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Covent Garden and the theatres of the West End. From £199 a night (Includes oil paintings, antiques and concierge).

Keep it Simple and Affordable
For a comfortable but affordable stay in central London, check out Gresham Hotel. Within walking distance of Kensington, Hyde Park and the majority of the city’s best bits, it makes for the perfect base for your London adventure. From £69 a night.

Book an Entire Apartment and Make Yourself at Home in London
If, like me, you like to feel as if you’re actually living in your new surroundings, I recommend renting out a whole apartment. It often works out much cheaper than staying at a hotel, especially if you’re travelling with friends and/or family. It also means you can keep a well-stocked fridge. Visit and book your very own apartment from £72.

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Walk in the Steps of the Saints: Oxwich Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wales

I went home to Swansea this week and spent some time with nature… and my mum. I’m still struck by how breathtakingly beautiful it is on the Gower Peninsula: the lucid greens and wafts of garlic as you zoom through canopied country roads, your heart pounding in anticipation as you search the horizon for your first glimpse of the coast.

We took a scenic drive to Oxwich Bay, one of our favourite beaches on the Gower Peninsula, to walk in the steps of the saints.

Oxwich Bay, Gower, Swansea, South Wales

“We’ll park in the hotel carpark, shall we? No need to pay £3.50 to park in the beach carpark,” she said. “We never had to pay when I used to come here all those years ago!”

To be fair, it had been twenty years since my mum had been to Oxwich Bay; it wasn’t the only thing to have changed.

“What’s that over there? That’s new! The Coal Shed Cafe. That was just an empty old building before.”

“Yeah, I think it was a coal shed,” I said. I’m sharp like that.

“And look at that over there, it’s another cafe, a take away.”

There were tourists sitting out in those little canvas chairs you buy at service stations, eating ice-creams and flying kites in the damp sea breeze. Children dug deep into the sand in that desperate, almost angry manner that takes over even the quietest of children when you let them loose on an open beach. Seagulls squawked and the clouds hung low, silver and moody as they are in Wales.

A memory flashed though my mum’s mind and she took off like a woman half her age. “Let’s walk up to that old church!”

St Illtyd church, Oxwich, Gower, Swansea, South Wales

The path leads you gently at first, into a lush forest of drooping branches and moist, rotting wood. A thick carpet of moss squelches beneath your feet as you slip and slide your way around gorgeous pools of muddy goo – it’s such a contrast to the rocky beach below, like a Jurassic collision of land and sea.

St Illtyd church appears through a wall of ferns and naked branches, sulking in the salted shadows. It’s small and unassuming as if it was never built to be seen or used by anyone but the locals who lived in the thatched roof cottages of Oxwich Village. It says everything, though, about the Welsh and the people who originally inhabited what would have been an immensely secluded location. It says, no fuss. It says, it’s not the best, but it’s ours.

Heather was off patrolling the graves, “Look at this one! This family lost their daughter when she was only eighteen months old. And then they lost their second daughter when she was only seventeen. 1876, see. It was a hard life back then. Makes you realise how lucky we are to live in this day and age.”

We tried to go into the church but it was firmly locked up. “It’s sad really, isn’t it, that they can’t trust people enough to leave it open. You used to always be able to go into churches in my day.”

St Illtyd church, Oxwich, Gower, Swansea, South WalesWe continued up the path and struggled for breath as it transformed into a staggeringly steep flight of slippery steps. It hugs the curve of the bay and takes you out to a point from which you can look back on the beach as if you were on a boat out in the open water. The altitude increases dramatically and very quickly, taking you up into the heavens where the light suddenly saturates everything. It’s the shades of green that always gets me, from deep amazon tones to glowing emeralds and electric limes.

When the second group of hikers passed us on their way down, fully-equipped with proper hiking boots and walking sticks, we convinced ourselves that we weren’t dressed appropriately to finish the walk and that our safest bet would be to head to the hotel for a quick drink.

It took about a tenth of the time to get back down to sea level and within minutes we were sauntering through the beer garden of the Oxwich Bay Hotel, desperately looking for an empty table. Inside, even I was astounded by the transformation the hotel has gone through. Its previously shabby and somewhat unloved dining area was now a plush and highly attractive restaurant with sea views. A young man in a suit served me at the bar and addressed me as “Sir”. Either I’ve got much older or this place has come a long way, I thought. It’s gorgeous.

We sat on an old picnic bench in the garden and looked out over the sea, remembering all the times we spent here as a family. My mum told me stories about the times I’d been to this beach when I was a tiny babe in arms.

“You know what,” she said, “we talk about Spain and Italy and the beaches of Hawaii and all that, but it doesn’t really come close to this. And this is our home. Can you believe it?”Oxwich Bay Hotel, Gower Peninsula, Swansea, South Wales

 Do it for yourself

Getting there
You can jump on a bus from Swansea city centre and be at Oxwich in less than an hour. But I would recommend driving as it will allow you to explore the rest of the Gower Peninsula – plus you can take your surfboard with you!

Where to stay
You can of course stay right on the beach at the Oxwich Bay Hotel, but there are plenty of other excellent options nearby if they’re fully-booked (which I imagine they frequently are).

  • For a lavish romantic getaway, stay at The Gower Hotel, an intimate little boutique hotel that’s less cut off than the Oxwich Bay Hotel. It has the wonderful Pwll Du Bay on its doorstep and is only 20 – 30 minutes to Oxwich and the other beautiful spots such as Llangennith beach, Caswell beach, Langland beach, Three Cliffs and Mumbles village. Doubles from £80 per night. Check availability now at
  • For a family adventure, stay at one of the wonderful campsites dotted around the Gower coastline. See my Gower campsite guide for more info and insider tips.

Check out for more tips on what to see and do in Swansea, Mumbles and the Gower. 

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My Favourite Things to Do in East London | It’s Time to Get Weird

I won’t mince my words here, there’s nothing handsome about East London. In fact, forget everything you think you know about London, East London ain’t that. It’s not even close. But it is grimy and overtly hedonistic in the most seductive of ways.

Unapologetically pretentious, it’s a place where graffitied brick walls separate the weird people who live here from the mundane mafia that owns the rest of the city. Think of it as a multi-cultural melting pot that’s been set to boil over a volcano, ejaculating liquid cool all over the place and melting your preconceptions into oblivion.

If that hasn’t scared you half to death, here are a few of my personal recommendations on the best things to do in East London…

1. Keep it Kosher with Bagels and Builders’ Tea

Beigel Bake Begel Shop Brick Lane East London

Brick Lane’s modest and unassuming Beigel Bake has become somewhat of an East London institution. It’s filled with the soulful smells of 24/7 baking and the quiet rumble of happy hipsters and jovial Jews. Splash out on one of these little baked beauties with salted beef and mustard or cream cheese and salmon – hell, have one of each: they’re cheap enough! And be sure to wash it all down with a cup of their proper builders’ tea, which they serve in old-school polystyrene cups, just the way it should be.

Brick Lane Beigel Bake, 159 Brick Lane, E1 6SB
Nearest Tube Stop: Shoreditch High Street

2. Indulge in Global Cuisine and Urban Art

The Old Truman Brewery is a large industrial building, repurposed as a minimalist commercial space where independent retailers and food stalls rule. Not much has been done to soften the building’s haggard appearance and it still has an air of abandonment about it, which only adds to its enigmatic urban chic. Buy a record – yes, a vinyl record – wade your way through piles of vintage clothing and spend some time trying to decide what to eat for lunch at the famous Sunday UpMarket. With dozens of artisan food stalls offering authentic global gastronomy, it’ll probably take you longer than you might think.

The Old Truman Brewery, Ely’s Yard, 15 Hanbury St, London E1 6QR
Nearest Tube Stop: Shoreditch High Street

3. Get Crafty at a Local Watering Hole

Well and Bucket Oyster Bar East London

It’s no surprise that the bearded youth of East London have claimed the city’s booming craft beer movement as their own. The area is now home to some of the best craft beer houses in London, serving international classics as well as local specialty brews. Visit the elegant Well & Bucket pub, tucked away just off Brick Lane, where you can gulp down oysters whilst slurping away on a wide selection of IPAs, stouts and porters. With a monstrous selection of beers from Belgium to Japan, you might be here for some time.

Well and Bucket, 143 Bethnal Green Rd, London E2 7DG
Nearest Tube Stop: Shoreditch High Street

 4. Take a Break and Compose Yourself

Victoria Park, East London

After a day of bagels, burgers and beers, Victoria Park’s plush green lawns offer the perfect excuse to relax and take a quick break from all the sauntering, eating and drinking. Kick back, take a nap, hire a pedalo, it’s time to rest up and prepare for a big night out – East London style.

Nearest Tube Stop: Mile End or Bethnal Green

5. Get Grimy with Live Music in Dalston

Shacklewell Arms East London Live Music

Dalston is, perhaps, the epitome of East London cool. It’s an eclectic mix of dive bars, Turkish restaurants and happenin’ music venues, providing the perfect backdrop for a grimy night out on the tiles. Start your night off with a few jars of your favourite poison in one of the many pubs and bars along the infamous Kingsland Road High Street. Once your morals and inhibitions have been sufficiently smothered, it’s time to move onto a venue where you can listen to live indie bands, weird experimental music or jazz at the likes of The Shacklewell Arms, Café Oto and the Vortext Jazz Club.

Nearest Tube Stop: Dalston Kingsland railway station

Watch it

I’ve recently  been lucky enough to be involved in the production of a quirky, skateboarding-travel-guide video. We’re really pleased with the end product; it really gives a sense of the East End’s more rustic charms.

Check it out for yourself – if you like it, please share!

HotelClub – Skateseeing East London

Got more questions about East London? Like my Facebook page and ask away, my friend…

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15 Beautiful Reasons You Need to Visit Barcelona

When I moved to Barcelona, it was because I wanted to live on the Mediterranean Sea, but it didn’t take long to realise that Barcelona has so much more to offer than just sun, sand and sangria.

As a writer for Expedia UK, I wanted to do something a little bit different for one of my posts, something visual. I may not be the best photographer around, but over the years I’ve managed to fill my iPhone with colourful photos of Barcelona’s landscapes, food and people. I put a few of them together and came up with this beautiful visual guide…

Click your way through this visual travel blog and find out what makes Barcelona one of the most dynamic cities in the world. 

Get my insider tips on the best things to do in Barcelona

Forget what the mainstream travel guides tell you about Barcelona: there’s more to this ancient city than Las Ramblas and over-priced tourist traps.

Read my insider tips on the best things to do in Barcelona and get a better feel for Barcelona.

Get my recommendations on where to eat in Barcelona

When you don’t know your way around Barcelona, it’s all too easy to end up paying extortionate prices for tasteless microwaved paella and stale tapas.

Take a quick look at my recommendations on a few of my favourite “non touristy” restaurants and you’ll be on your way to an authentic Spanish/Catalan feast in no time.

Get my tips on where to drink and party in Barcelona

I have a little bit too much experience this – there are just so many options.

From classy cocktail bars to underground hipster hangouts, live rock music venues to star-studded beach clubs, you’ll find them all in my Barcelona nightlife guide.

And if you have any other questions, like my Facebook page where I can answer your questions and share more of my insider tips on Barcelona. Vamos!

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