Partaking in the very best of British tradition with a perfect afternoon tea at Fortnum & Masons…

Afternoon tea is a long-standing love of mine. Like Keanu Reeves, happy dogs and pints of cookie dough crammed ice-cream, it’s something I’ve adored for more years than I’m willing to admit. A sincere, proper, uncomplicated, unadulterated love because when it’s done right, I honestly believe there are few experiences nicer to share with someone you love. Hell, for the sake of a good scone weighed down under a flamboyant cushion of clotted cream, sometimes just someone you like will do.

Fortnum & Mason does so many things well; service like nowhere else in the capital, products tailor made for the wide-eye tourist throngs that flock to it still in reassuringly vast numbers and a minty green décor that’s as timeless and elegant as some of the surrounding buildings on London’s Piccadilly. On Mother’s Day, as you would expect, it was heaving but in the quietest, calmest, most relaxed and controlled way it’s possible to be. Ushered to a table in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon that fit our party of 6 more than comfortably with room, frankly, for another 6 of our closest friends, the tone was set for the loveliest of afternoons.

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Satin leafed and blush pink ranunculus poked beaming petalled heads shyly out of glass vases, antique silverware gleamed and flawless white linens were pressed to perfection. One of the very best things about taking tea here is that even though the room itself has space enough for a dozen extra tables, they avoid filling in those gaps. Everyone has their own space in which they can relax without fear of disturbing neighbours or being disturbed themselves and in a place that could clearly double their takings with a little table tweaking, the fact that they don’t smacks of charm and understated confidence. Read More

A hot spot for coffee and cake in Victoria…

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If you’ve ever stepped out of Victoria station into the utter chaos that engulfs it and despaired of finding a quiet spot in which to rest your weary feet, feed your hungry tummy and escape the maelstrom of construction, ‘Wicked’ fan girls & frazzled commuters outside, then despair no more because I’m here to tell you that such a place does exist in the form of Coffee Geeks & Friends.

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Opened earlier this year to the delight of a substantial & loyal customer base created through their coffee truck business, Coffee Geeks is the baby of Robin San and Matthew Law, escapees from the corporate workplace turned professional coffee lovers, and is situated in the Cardinal Place Shopping Centre, a place thankfully just moments from both the bus & train station which is being massively invested in.

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Visiting on a sunny Saturday afternoon, there was a pleasantly chilled vibe in the air along with the aroma of decent coffee – sometimes sadly harder to find than you might imagine – and these two things, coupled with stands full of cakes, stacks of magazines – Conde Nast Traveller & Vanity Fair were particularly appreciated as we whiled away an hour with our food & drinks – and a light, airy & minimally modern environment made for a welcome respite from the sort of central London humidity that can make grown men weep. Laptop tappers were using the free Wi-Fi & plug sockets on communal tables leaving us to perch on stools in the window, people watching those scurrying past.

A friendly welcome from staff who were more than happy to answer any questions – trust me, the Kermit coloured pandan cake will leave you with one or two! – was a good start as was having our food & drinks brought over to us. There was a small but delicious choice of sandwiches either on sourdough or in a wrap when we visited…FYI, the smoked salmon on sourdough was light & silky and the roast chicken & bacon wrap was generously filled, they were both made to order and, at £4 each, represented excellent value in a world often stocked with scantily dressed & scandalously over-priced sandwiches.

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If you’re as much of a sucker for freshly made baked goods as I am and the homemade upside down nectarine cake is on the menu, elbow your way to the front of the queue for a soft, naturally sweet & beautifully fresh slice.

The dark chocolate, cranberry, macadamia & sea salt cookie bought for the journey home were also a smart buy, being chewy, light & utterly moreish. Hot chocolate was creamy and actually tasted of cocoa rather than the watery, vaguely chocolatey mess that often gets doled out elsewhere and coffee, from local London roaster Allpress Espresso, was deemed excellent by my coffee snob lunch pal.

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As a non-coffee drinker, I may not know where to go for the best piccolo but I do know the significance of finding a good coffee shop in which to enjoy decent food and well-made drinks at a reasonable price & served with a smile. In a caffeinated landscape of globally impersonal chains, menus that require supreme effort to navigate and products that aren’t actually worth the inflated price-tag they’re stamped with, it’s lovely to find & be able to support a little corner of London that’s independent, inviting & delicious.

A very British taste of a very M&S summer…

The most iconic porcine rivaled only by Farmer Hoggett’s Babe, Toy Story’s Hamm or Jim Henson’s leading lady…

A caterpillar birthday cake requested by as many big children as small…

That chocolate pudding…

There can be no denying that M&S has created some of the most iconic foods available on high streets across the globe and everyone has their favourite, be it the sweetest of Jaffa laden spheres, the juiciest of posh puppies or the most virtuous of tropical kale juices.

Willy Wonka sang that there ‘is no world I know that compares to pure imagination’ and where M&S cooks, tastes & creates, others follow which is why the Summer Foods Press Show was one of the hottest, most salivatory tickets in town recently. With over 300 new lines due to hit stores from April 2015, this is the biggest launch outside of Christmas and promises to deliver on every count from flavour to value and quality to style.

A Taste of Britain can be found in every dish from the fantastically creative – Battenberg Biscuits – to the heart-warmingly traditional – Black Pudding Scotch Eggs – to the must-haves for your sunshine soaked summer parties – that’d be the delightful & ready to drink Mint & Cucumber Gin & Tonic. So step this way and let’s get started on the only shopping list you’ll need for the coming months…

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