With the arrival of spring, sunnier skies and rising temperatures, the first weekend in April was the perfect excuse to make the most of the welcome weather change and explore more of London. Having moved to the city earlier this year, I was excited for the opportunity to relax with loved ones and make it to a couple more spots on my London bucket list: here’s what I got up to!
The weekend started on a fun note: after a long day of writing a job application (fingers crossed!) I was more than ready to relax and enjoy the weekend with my girlfriend, Beth. After dinner at home, we decided to take a stroll and treat ourselves to some dessert. Luckily, our North London flat is within walking distance of a number of great foodie spots, and we decided to try Oddono’s, a tempting gelateria nestled in one of the beautiful side streets of Hampstead Village. I was excited to visit Oddono’s as since temperatures had started to climb, I’d noticed the residents of Hampstead wandering around with incredibly tempting ice creams and made it my mission to find the source. B chose a scoop of hazelnut chocolate gelato and I went for the pistachio flavour: both were divine and I can safely say that with summer approaching, it definitely won’t be long before we’re back at Oddono’s to try more of their offerings. If you’re based elsewhere in London, Oddono’s has a number of locations across the city – have a look at their list of shops here and see if there’s an outpost near you.
Since moving to London earlier this year, I’ve made it my routine to start each weekend by running the Hampstead Heath parkrun on a Saturday morning. For the uninitiated, parkrun organise free, weekly 5k timed runs at a number of locations in the UK and worldwide, having started up in 2004 in Bushy Park, London, and now offering parkruns to runners at over 1000 locations around the world. It’s a great way to start the weekend off on a positive and healthy note, and I’ve found that knowing that the run will start at 9am and go ahead with or without me is a great motivator to get me up, dressed and along to the park with minimal procrastating involved. I normally run with my sister, Sarah, except for the fact that this weekend she’d managed to turn off her alarm in the night: instead of her normal text complaining about some form of delay on the tube, I got an apologetic explanation that she’d overslept and would meet me for our usual post-run coffee instead. I ran the 5k in just over 32 minutes (not bad for me!) before meeting Sarah and heading for Primrose Hill, one of my favourite areas of North London. As the sun was shining, we grabbed a table outside Cowshed, which is actually a spa that happens to have a cafe and kitchen attached. It’s right on Regent’s Park Road, the main street connecting Chalk Farm to Primrose Hill, and the tables outside are a perfect spot for people (& dog!) watching, as well as for catching some sun. My cappuccino was delicious, especially for a non-specialty coffee spot, and Sarah’s salmon & avocado on sourdough went down a treat, too. Yum!
On Saturday afternoon, Beth and I decided to head into London to do a bit of exploring, as we’re still fairly new to living in the city and there is so much to see and do! Our perfect excursion consists of an activity paired with some snacking, and London has no shortage of places to do either of these things – it can be overwhelming trying to decide where to go! In the end, we decided on heading down to Chelsea to visit the Saatchi Gallery, as we’d heard that a new exhibition entitled ‘Selfie to Self-Expression’ had opened. Visiting galleries and exhibitions isn’t always our thing, but this one sounded pretty different (and it was free!), so we figured it was worth heading down to take a look! I actually really liked the exhibition – it was an interesting take on the selfie as a form of creative outlet and definitely made you stop and think. The exhibition is on until May 30th, so if you’re in the area and have some time to spare, pop in and have a look!
Next came our favourite part: snack time! We’d found the perfect spot in South Kensington, around a 20 minute walk from the Saatchi Gallery along a number of gorgeous streets and past beautiful shops selling flowers, clothes, food and more.
Maitre Choux had been on our radars for a while – owned by 3 michelin-starred pastry chef Joaqim Prat, these eclairs might just be the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen, and the real-life versions lived up to my Instagram-fueled expectations, too. I recently wrote a blog about the best sweet treats you can find in London, but after visiting Maitre Choux, it’s clear that I’ll need to do a second edition very very soon.
Not only were they aesthetically pleasing, they tasted fantastic: I tried the Tahitian Vanilla & Pecan eclair, while B chose an eclair flavoured with raspberry and vanilla. Though these eclairs don’t come cheap at just over £5 a pop, they really are a treat for the senses, not to mention your Instagram feed, and while they may not be very budget friendly if you are visiting all the time, for the odd treat once in a while it’s the perfect indulgence. One downside of Maitre Choux is that there is very little seating available: we took our eclairs to go, and wandered over to the gardens of the Natural History Museum to eat them as they were much too special to eat at the side of the road!
Post-eclairs, we hopped on the tube back home and settled in for the evening. Dinner + Netflix = the perfect Saturday night in!
I’m the primary breakfast chef at home, and nothing says Sunday morning better than soft-boiled eggs and soldiers. Afterwards, we headed to Ginger & White, one of our favourite local coffee shops on England’s Lane, picking up the Sunday Times on the way. This Belsize Park cafe also has a great outpost in Hampstead Village, and serves up high quality coffee as well as some of the best banana bread I’ve ever had in portion sizes that never disappoint. I’m a sucker for a cafe with a mezzanine, and we snagged a prime table overlooking the cafe below, sat and read for a while before wandering back home.
For lunch, B made us a gorgeous vegetarian roast – somehow after three years together we’d never got round to doing this, and it was so good! Afterwards, the chef took a much needed nap while I finished off my latest read, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and did a fair bit of scrolling through my Instagram feed, too! At around 5pm, the sun was still shining so we decided to stroll across Primrose Hill and through Primrose Village to Chalk Farm to try our second gelateria of the weekend. Extravagant? Maybe. Delicious? Definitely!
Marine Ices has been serving up their traditional Italian gelato to the area since the 1930s, and is in a great location between Primrose Village and Camden Town. I chose a scoop of white chocolate ice cream that was creamy but not too rich, and B’s mint choc chip scoop received two thumbs up. We ate our ice creams as we headed back home, stopping and sitting in Chalcot Square for a few minutes as we gobbled up the last of our cones.
Back home and thoroughly worn out from a genuinely lovely weekend, Beth whipped us up some shakshuka for us to share for dinner, as we’d been inspired by the amazing Israeli fare we’d tried on our recent trip to NYC (and breakfast-for-dinner recipes are some of my favourites!). Despite a minor case of the Sunday night blues, we headed to bed happy, relaxed and full – just the way I like to end my weekends!
I hope you enjoyed reading a little bit about my weekend in this blog post! It’s a little different from my normal posts, so I would really appreciate any feedback – you can get in touch via Instagram, Twitter or by commenting below!
As usual, I’ve popped the Instagram links to the foodie spots mentioned down below. Happy scrolling!
Oddono’s (they don’t have an account, so I’ve linked their geotag!)