Getting on down in Chinatown

After spending around five hours in a fun bilingual bubble in a London business school, I was back on the tube again, ready for another magical mystery tour (i.e. I randomly got off somewhere that sounded exciting) Throughout the morning and afternoon, I had met some really fun people – including an awesome girl who bonded with me over French camp sites, Dinard airport (read my very first ever blogpost for an insight into the Dinard airport experience!) and… disney princess impressions. Everyone I met had a lot of tips and tricks on what to see and do in London – including where to buy tickets for shows. In fact, the subject of shows and musicals was a great ice breaker and sparked up some lively debate on the best shows to see in London. After saying goodbye and exchanging numbers with my newfound friends,  my first idea was to go and see the ‘half price’ musical ticket booths around Piccadilly Circus to see if I could score any last minute matinee deals – however, at over sixty pounds for an average restricted seat, I wasn’t sold….

Yet. Better deals were to be had later in the week!

Lunch was found at Mcdonalds in Leicester Square – I was originally looking around for ‘Five Guys’, an American burger chain that opened in the UK earlier this year. ‘Five Guys’ is a chain which I’d heard a lot of hype about online (and on “The Londoner” blog), but I eventually caved into my hunger (and the offer of free wifi) and went to McDonalds instead. Casual NB. for the future – Leicester Square actually offers free street wifi to passers by anyway. So if you ever find yourself in London with an unreliable 3g connection and don’t feel like sitting on a coffee shop, head for a stroll into Leicester Square for free wifi! Oh, the excitement…

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As with any city, the London skyline has an interesting fusion of architectural styles! Glass edifices and older buildings from the 1800-1900s nestle together side by side in Leicester Square. After a couple of minutes spent gazing at rooftops, I made my way to Gerrard Street in Soho. Gerrard Street is home to Chinatown, which is only about a minute away from Leicester Square by foot but definitely feels a world away in terms of look and ambience.

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A delicious and odorous combination of spices, meats and sweet treats permeates Gerrard Street. Enthusiastic personnel wait outside their respective businesses in an attempt to entice the passer by to take a seat and indulge in a heady mix of herbal teas, peking duck, sumptuous cakes and… cuttlefish. I was intrigued by the window displays food along the street, displays which often had one or two ‘casual cuttlefish’, tentacles and all hidden amongst a throng of Peking Duck. I wasn’t hungry, thanks to McDonalds – shame on me for not holding out on my hunger and embracing an opportunity to try something different.  My parents visited Chinatown for a meal earlier this year and told me before my visit that the food there is incredible – £20.00 per head will guarantee you an impressive, tasty and unique meal in the heart of London. Next time I go to London, a visit to Chinatown is definitely on the cards… however I might give the cuttlefish a miss. Not a fan of those tentacles! See if you can spot the cuttlefish in my picture below… The character of Dr. Zoidberg from Futurama springs to mind.

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 Taiyaki (top left image) is a little waffle or pancake batter cake which is shaped like a fish – the literal translation of the japanese word  ‘Taiyaki’ means baked sea bream. However, the design is misleading (… is it too cheeky to refer to it as being a red herring?) for the cakes are not fishy in the slightest, being filled with cream and intended to be a sweet pastry accompaniment to coffee! From what I recall, it was around £1.50 for four or five cakes, so definitely a bargain. I was really impressed by the ornate icing which was piped on to the Chinatown cakes and cupcakes – it’s wishful thinking to hope that all the berries cancel out all the calories from the icing, right? Bottom right, you can see ‘Doraemon’ cupcakes.  Doraemon is a blue futuristic robotic cat from a Japanese manga which dates back to 1969. In the bakery windows, Doraemon was a figure that cropped up often as a cupcake topper, only rivalled in number by his popular pal Hello Kitty.

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I did not succumb to iced temptation, but headed back to Covent Garden to gaze some more at the indoor market shops and beautiful christmas lights – I especially enjoyed the 15ft topiary reindeer placed outside the market. Giant baubles adorned the inside of the Piazza, glittering and glinting magically like disco balls in the evening lamplight. I felt a little bit like one of the Borrowers.

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After Covent Garden, I met up with Ollie and his girlfriend Lucy to check out a Blues Bar behind Hamleys toyshop called “Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues” – it’s an intimate venue with cool blues and overpriced nachos – we listened to the live music and had a drink. We decided to refrain from buying nachos*, instead we found some food  round the corner at a takeout noodle bar called (rather questionably) “Wok to Walk”. We had a few jokes over the name – do you really want savoury noodles on your morning commute? There is also a noodle bar in Durham, our old univerisity town called “Woksup” – it seems to be a running theme or trend for noodle bars to have puns in their name. The noodles from “Wok to Walk” were great though, and I had a lot of leftovers thanks to the portion sizes being so generous. After saying our goodbyes, I was even stopped by a woman boarding my train back to Croydon who found the pun on the noodle box amusing… I guess the marketing ploy worked! On the journey back to Croydon, my thoughts were full of daydreams of Chinatown – I’m already looking forward to a return visit sometime in the future!

*(this could have been a massive mistake! Perhaps the hefty price tag of £8.95 was justifiable. Perhaps we missed out on the best nachos that London could ever offer. I guess  it will remain a mystery for now. The mystery of the ‘potentially’ overpriced nachos.)

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Pimp my Pumpkin!

This week I gave myself a Halloween mission to locate some pumpkins and slice them up. Sounds simple enough. However, whilst I like arts and crafts in that I like doodling and throwing glitter around, this task was a dubious one at the beginning. I do not really trust myself not to leave destruction or carnage in my wake at the best of times (ie. when selecting an outfit to wear for the day) Factor in wielding a knife and having to stab into a large orange fleshy object, the potential for a messy situation is increased significantly . Regardless of my passion for Tim Burton, when you put a knife into my hands and direct me to some vegetables, the aftermath is less Edward Scissorhands, more Chainsaw Massacre. I can cut a straight line, and on a good day, a paper snowflake but this was a whole different ballgame. I was already having premonitions of having to have my fingers reattached in Accident and Emergency before I even bought the pumpkins. (Me, melodramatic? What gave you that impression?)

Anyway, off I ambled to the supermarket to purchase some pumpkins. I went to the Alliance, which in spite of its futuristic scifi sounding name, is in actual fact, a horrifically ugly and outdated corrugated iron warehouse style building. However, I always think of it fondly and with affection as it is a sort of Aladdin’s cave and contains every kind of product that you could ever need (often in industrial sizes – think along the lines of vats of mayonnaise, marmalade and strawberry bonbons). At the Alliance, I purchased two medium sized pumpkin beasts and then decided to chance the hedge veg stalls of St Sampsons to see if there was anything smaller lurking on the shelves. I was feeling enthused by this point and decided that I wanted a panoply of pumpkins. In Guernsey, you can often find wooden boxes on the hedges filled with locally grown produce. You drive up, select your wares and then place money in an ‘honesty box’. Small town living. Forget Mcdonalds, in Guernsey, if you want fast food then you’ll have to settle for a punnet of blackberries fresh off the hedge.

A 15 minute walk down my road revealed a little nook (in someone’s driveway, casual, I had to lean precariously over a flowerbed in order to access it) selling small pumpkins for £1.00 each (bargain). I placed two one pound notes in the box and bought two small ‘uns which I then placed on the palm of each of my hands. Walking past the pub, a stone’s throw away from the hedge veg boutique, a Guernsey grower with a van full of Guernsey toms (that’s tomatoes for you sophisticated townies) stopped me by leaning out the window, guffawing and telling me I was mishandling my pumpkins.

Is there a correct way to handle a pumpkin? You tell me.


A little illustration of the scenario. I should also probably point out that I was wearing wedged shoe boots, perhaps not the most appropriate footwear to go a pumpkin foraging. However, not as outlandish as the shoes that Courtney Stodden  would wear to a pumpkin patch photo shoot.


Earlier in the morning, some flowers that i had ordered for my mum online arrived from bunches.co.uk (in less than 24 hours, impressive)  The bouquet had an autumnal theme, and incorporated some mini pumpkins. As I mentioned in my previous Halloween blog post, I just love novelty things. I couldn’t resist ordering a bouquet with miniature pumpkins in it. You can see from the picture above that Chino, the house rabbit, was rather intrigued by this floral arrangement, most probably because he wanted to eat the roses. Alas, it was not to be for Chino, who later disdainfully turned up his nose (…or twitched it) when offered a piece of pumpkin. (Rabbits can eat pumpkin in moderation however Chino does not like it, will not eat it, and tends to only be enthusiastic about bananas). With the arrival of the pumpkin flowers and the pumpkins themselves, the house was suddenly bedecked with orange, and I was feeling inspired. After having a bit of an Instagram/Pinterest lurk, I decided that I would pimp my pumpkin (leaving one for my brother to work his artistic magic on) by turning it into… a princess carriage! A carriage missing its Cinderella, but a princess carriage none the less. It is perhaps not the most conventionally ‘spooky’ of ideas but one that would allow me to keep the knife action to a minimum and also give me an opportunity to glitz it up.

The pumpkin family. I attacked the biggest, deciding to save the pumpkin goop from the middle for cupcakes. Very experimental. I also put the seeds aside to roast later.


With the first part of the pumpkin all carved out, I turned my attention to the experimental baking. I roughly followed a Martha Stewart pumpkin cupcake recipe online, although I cut down the amount of sugar (for fear of an overdose) and stewed the pumpkin goop for about forty minutes until it was purée. I then mixed the purée with the other ingredients, fearing a Bridget Jonesesque cooking disaster, and spooned the mixture into muffin cases and one big foil case. The cakes baked for twenty minutes and I later frosted them with cream cheese frosting and pecans. THEY WOULD TURN OUT TO BE DELICIOUS. Pumpkins, you are a revelation.


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Putting cupcakes in treat bags with ribbons and handmade labels is a sweet halloween activity and make for a good little gift… 😀

Back to the Pumpkin pimping. Using a household paint brush , I coated the outside of the pumpkin with orange glitter glue. Hello fire hazard. I then used some old strass/diamanté/beads that I had lying around in my room to decorate around the ‘windows’ and ‘door’. The little orange curtains are made from organza, which originally came from a flower bouquet. (I buy all the flower bouquets) The purple ribbons and bows cost about £1.50 from a local craft shop. All the material and bows were pinned on. This carriage concept is a great activity to carry out with little girls (or boys who want to turn their halloween pumpkin into a death wagon) however it’s imperative to make sure that children are supervised around flames and pins. Because nobody wants a paint splattered screaming child with a pin through their eye and a flaming hand. It’s also best to let an adult do the carving. You get the picture.

IT’S SO GLITTERY.

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And here is the finished result. I added an old glittery tiara from Claire’s Accessories on top (originally from a cheerleading gypsy wedding social) and used two smaller pumpkins for the wheels – they’re not overly sophisticated, I may alter them. The large pumpkin is actually supported underneath by a bowl which has been covered in the glittery orange organza.

I really enjoyed the carving (surprisingly therapeutic) and decorating… and there is one large pumpkin left. Watch this space! If you have any Halloween decor ideas or recipes, then please feel free to comment below! 😀 Coming up…. my verdict on roasted pumpkin seeds and some costume ideas!