Reviews, Uncategorized

Review: Annabel’s, Mayfair

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Annabel’s Mayfair. Photo courtesy of NHYM 2018.

A few weeks ago, a new giant opened in town: the newly renovated Annabel’s on Berkeley Square, inhabiting 26,000 square feet in the middle of Mayfair, with a £60 million renovation price tag on it. Of course when the opportunity came up to go, I said ‘yes’ faster than a Londoner says yes to sunshine. And it is spectacular, in so many ways. There are not a lot of places that could pull off a pale pink staircase with a hot air balloon suspending a white unicorn in the air. But Annabel’s manages to pull it off.

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Annabel’s Staircase hot air balloon. NHYM 2018. 

Richard Caring who re-opened this club seems to have one thing in mind: to blow out any of the competition out of the water. What I mean by that, is that he clearly hopes Annabel’s takes over as London’s newest, brashest, boldest and beautiful private member’s club, luring members away from the Arts Club and 5Hertford Street. And so far, it looks like he is doing a good job.

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We ate on the ground floor in their piece de resistance outdoor garden which has a retractable roof and it was a beautiful, balmy evening that you could be anywhere, in Miami, or the South of France or Italy, or right here in London. It is a mix of Richard Caring’s Ivy Chelsea garden with plants, flowers, trees, flora and fauna but with the Arts Club’s polished elegance. The food? Well, the food was secondary, I only had eyes for that garden, but it was still good in an Ivy-kind of way.

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Upstairs bar courtesy of the internet/Sunday Times. NHYM 2018. 

Upstairs, there is a lush, colonial opulence in the Elephant Bar, with images of elephants everywhere and a colourfully painted jungle wallpaper. Next to it is a private dining room with what looks like a giant Italian murano chandelier hanging from a ceiling full of carefully carved cornices and there is another private dining room which looks like a white wedding venue.

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Women’s bathroom Annabel’s NHYM 2018.

Oh and the women’s bathroom on the 1st floor is just the most Instagrammable bathroom I have ever seen: the ceiling is made of thousands of roses, the swan taps trickle with water into pink sinks and the lighted mirrors make you feel just like a star. You could just bring the party in there and spend the whole night here.

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Ceiling of roses Annabel’s NHYM 2018. 

The place is huge – upstairs is the Mexican, which has a cosy, but completely different feel to the rest of the club, and downstairs is the nightclub, which has a small dance floor and lots of place to have dinner. Right now, there is plenty of buzz around Annabel’s that I’ve already been twice in one week, but I wonder how it will stay full once the buzz has died down. We managed to dance to some oldies-but-goodies, from ‘Bamboleo!’ to ‘It’s Your Birthday,’ which brought me back to 2003. I hear that they are trying to lure a younger crowd, but so far, I haven’t seen it happen and feel comfortably not-too-old there. It is still very much an ‘older-crowd’ territory.

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Wallpaper in the nightclub courtesy of the internet. NHYM 2018.

Annabel’s is a design feat. The mixtures of colours, themes, art and decoration manages to come together and make something spectacular, but at times overwhelming. It is the opposite of minimalist: Everything here is maximalist, from the loos to the walls.  Everywhere you turn, there are intricate details and designs that have been carefully thought out and the place could be considered completely garish, but somehow these over-the-top themes, colours and details work together. So for a fun night out in a group, Annabel’s is great. Just don’t expect monochromes and geometry here, it’s all about letting your imagination run wild.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

 

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Reviews, Travel

Review: Four Seasons Kuda Huraa & Four Seasons Explorer, Maldives

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Four Seasons Kuda Huraa Pool Maldives. All photos NHYM 2018. 

Welcome Back! And hope everyone has had a wonderful and relaxing Easter break! We have just returned from one fab trip to the Maldives. Again. I know, it’s really not original, but it’s the one place I go where I don’t have FOMO. People are always telling me, ‘Oh, go there [fill in the blank], it’s just like the Maldives,’ but then I go and I say ‘It’s not the Maldives.’ Yes these are very first world/1%er/I-can’t-believe-I’m-writing-this-there’s-a-war-in-Syria musings, but the Maldives are truly my HappyPlace. So here I am writing about it – mostly in denial of our f*up world – but also because I am hoping to live off my ‘Maldives High’ for a few more days…

FourSeaonsWelcomeNHYM

We decided to go to the Four Seasons Kuda Huraa not because it is the best/most beautiful/most unique island, but because it is so nice & easy. Some people have told us the Four Seasons Landaa is nicer and bigger, but it requires waiting for a seaplane after a 14 hour flight+layover vs. a 20 minute boat ride which starts your holiday. Having gone on a seaplane last time and knowing about our flight’s layover, I just wanted to get to the resort ASAP. It is still beautiful and with small children, Kuda Huraa just ticks tons of boxes and you can rarely go wrong with the Four Seasons, because it is reliable, has great service and great food.

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What makes it so great, and the Maldives in general, is that I can spend one week barefoot and my children have complete freedom on the island. It is quite a small island which makes it really easy for the kids to go to the kids club, the pool and our Bungalow all by themselves. And traveling with my almost 70-year old mum, she was quite happy not to do too much walking. And my kids LOVE the kids club there. To the point where at 8:45am they went to the kids club and were told to come back in 15 mins when it opened at 9am. (One small caveat – the kids club is great for young children, but for older children there are bigger islands with more catered towards older kids).

MaldivesBungalowOutsideNHYM

The bungalows all have traditional, thatched roofs which I really like since I am not really into ultra-modern design hotels – I am more Robinson Crusoe than Ian Schrager –  and all have private pools. The only slight downside is that the bungalows are all a bit close to each other. But my daughters loved that: one afternoon I was closing up our room and couldn’t find one of them. She had wandered over into our neighbour’s pool for a pool party with one of her new friends.

FourSeasonsMaldivesRoomInsideNHYM

The inside is spacious and immaculate with wood features and of course the typical outdoor shower that the kids loved.

MaldivesBeachNHYMThe beaches are beautiful but what makes the Maldives so unique is the sea-life and the lagoons. If you’re not into snorkelling and diving, this may not be the right place for you, but as a lover-of-oceans, this is truly my paradise. On our trip, despite coral bleaching, Tsunamis and general coral degeneration, we saw hundreds of spinner dolphins, a pilot whale, turtles, stingrays, hundreds of fish and lots of black tip and white tip reef sharks. The underwater life is what really brings me back here every time and is so unique to the Maldives.

DivingMaldivesNHYM

At Kuda Huraa there is a whole Marine Saver Centre with Marine Biologists who look after injured and sick turtles. My daughter spent a day with them, which is just so cool, feeding them and giving them medicine, as well as trying to help regenerate the corals, which are sadly all dead. And while she was helping to save the oceans, I was happily diving and surfing.

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Yep, that’s me on my surfboard, chilling out, waiting to catch a wave… The Maldives are really the ideal place to learn to surf, first with a lagoon lesson and then out on the waves. Amazing! The combination of surf & diving is just unbeaten. My kind of heaven.

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Adults only pool and in the distance is the Four Seasons Explorer. 

While we were there, we were lucky enough to go on the Four Seasons Explorer for a visit. For those who don’t know about the Four Seasons Explorer, it is a live-aboard boat that travels around the Maldives, taking you to unspoilt and undiscovered places to dive/surf/swim. What a way to get to know the Maldives. (I loved hearing about a 16 year old who threw her 16th birthday party on the Explorer. That’s one sweet 16th.)

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All Aboard! Back deck of the Four Seasons Explorer.

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The rooms looked very comfortable and cozy.

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Main restaurant on the Explorer.

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Sunset Bar. 

Every night at sunset we had our routine of the shark feeding and the crab race that the whole family loved. We were happy, our children were happy, what else can you ask for? As we said when we got back to London: The Maldives (and the Four Seasons) didn’t disappoint. That’s the thing with the Maldives, you know you will always have a magical time, and it is really a place where worries don’t exist – except whether to go swimming or to go to the kids club for the kids and diving or surfing for the adults – and for a few days, you can convince yourself again that the world truly still is an awe-inspiring and peaceful place.

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Until next time Kuda Huraa…

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

 

 

 

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A DAY OF BARRE & DISHOOM

The other day, a friend invited me to a Barre class at Equinox High Street Ken. As most of you know, I am not exactly what you would call a ‘gym bunny’, let alone a ‘ballet swan’ and I’d always imagined a Barre class as full of jetes, pas de deux, arabesques and demi pointes: full of complicated and difficult ballet moves. But when the class started, I realised that this was actually more Pilates than Royal Opera House. Phew. And here I thought I was going to be the ugly duckling stuck in the middle of a Swan Lake production. Barre is more about strengthening your core while using a barre, which I can just about handle.

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It was a great class, working on everything from your gluteals (bum), triceps (bat wings) and abs (muffin top), so really all I need to go from an ugly duckling to Gisele (the ballet and the supermodel versions). Well not quite, but that’s what I kept telling myself when I reached 45 minutes into the class and all I wanted to do was lie down in Child’s pose for a little nap. But hey, I made it! I survived 1h05 of the barre class, which was actually really quite enjoyable and even though I can barely walk now, I have happily checked off my once-a-month-workout.

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After the class, three of us headed across the street for breakfast at Dishoom, which just opened in High Street Ken. I never thought about Indian food for breakfast, but our barre teacher swore by it and we were convinced. This is Dishoom’s sixth outpost, which are restaurants based on Irani cafes in Bombay that opened their doors to everyone: from businessmen and families, to taxi drivers and writers. This one has an art deco, opulent feel to it, but with cafe tables and chairs, so a mix of elegance and casualness.

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We had chai lattes to start with: I mean the real kind, not the Starbucks kind which is all- milk-and-a-little-bit-of-spice. This was rich black tea, milk, massala, cinnamon, cardamon and other spices, which the waitress kept pouring into our glasses. She also suggested the naan and eggs which combines an English breakfast and naan with a sweet Indian sauce. It was delicious… We sat for a few hours chatting and discussing everything from spies, country weekends, and competitive sports. For a while we forgot that we had children in school and went back to the idleness of lazy, all-day-long-brunches pre-kids. We all had things to do, but for once, decided to forget about our kilometre-long to-do lists. A few hours later and it was pick-up time. Time to get back to reality, to coughing children, to post-school activities, and planning Easter egg bonnets. But just for a while, I remembered what it was like to have time for myself, right in the middle of London.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

http://www.dishoom.com/kensington/http://www.dishoom.com/kensington/

https://www.barrecore.co.uk

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Social Commentary

The British Schooling (Torture) System

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Images courtesy of the internet. NHYM 2018. 

Lately, all we’ve (the mums) been talking about has been exams: it is January when most of the 7+/8+/11+ exams are happening and it’s been dire: chatter about who’s taking what exam, to what school and who’s been getting interviews etc…and those that say they aren’t taking them and you see them at the 7+ hiding in the bushes. I have consciously not yet entered this quite cutthroat world, but eventually, I too will have to face it.

I was having lunch with a friend who is slightly panicking because she has never tutored her kids but now has the 11+ coming up next year and is worried about her child not getting into any school. She is adamantly against tutoring, but I told her that the problem is that everyone else is tutoring, so you need to know what you are up against. She then said ‘This is crazy. What are we doing to our kids? And to what end?’

I have heard of people going on anxiety pills for the infamous 11+ – and that’s just the mums – and children not able to sleep at night because of exam stress as young as 7 years old. Everyone is getting stressed: fathers losing their s*&t and mums taking a year off prestigious jobs to overlook their children’s progress. But it is starting earlier and earlier. Children are already being tutored in Reception and by Year 2, everything accelerates when those looking to do the 7+ are already learning the Year 4 curriculum. I’m being advised by a friend on what activities my child should be doing right now for her future university application. It’s all very fast, too early and too soon.

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So, why are we doing this to our children? The most prestigious girls school in the UK has an extremely high rate of mental health issues: anxiety, depression, eating disorders and personality disorders. Until this changes, I would never send my children there. And the girls consortium who is trying to scrap their exam because of exam stress. Isn’t it all a bit much for 11 year olds?

I understand the statistics though: the better school you get into, the higher chance of going to a good university, and the better the university, the better chance of getting a good job. This is all true, by all means. But it’s not the only way. There are ways of getting to the top without these illustrious diplomas and distinctions.

My alma mater receives 30,000 applications for something like 1,500 spots. There is no way I would get into it these days. But I have hope that there are plenty of great schools/universities – perhaps not the best but very good – that will provide my children with a great education. So, let’s all relax a bit. If you’re not trying to be a billionaire/Fortune 500 CEO/Entrepreneur of the year, then you should relax too (and if you are, good luck to you). Most of us are lucky enough to send our children to good schools, and most likely they will end up in good universities. So, let’s just take a step back and realise that the world will be run by robots anyway, so your kids might as well have fun along the way.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

 

Here’s some advice to parents from Hannah Ogahara, who runs a local tutoring agency Love Learning Tutors:

How to be involved in your child’s school life without being overbearing

It is easy enough to be involved with your child’s studies when they are young but what do you do when your child grows into one of those moody teenagers? We’ve all been on the receiving end of some harsh backchat. It can leave you feeling helpless when all you want to do is to offer your years of experience. Let’s face the facts, it may be a challenge to be your child’s best friend over the next few years, but here are some simple things you can do to ease tension at home and stay involved without becoming overbearing.

Actively listen

One of the greatest frustration that teenagers face is when parents make assumptions about what they should be doing. This is quite a general one and includes friendship groups and interests as well as school life. It may be that you don’t remember the particular teacher they are talking about, or perhaps you weren’t really listening because you were juggling many tasks when they confided in you. We recommend discussing school life with your child and making an effort to really listen and retain what you are being told. This builds trust and the knowledge that they can come to you for guidance.

Be aware of your communication style

If you find yourself getting into frequent arguments with your child about school, change your approach. Try to avoid confrontation and change the focus to constructive solutions. Veer away from the nagging voice and steer towards calm, pragmatic tones. Ask open question rather than questions that can be quickly shut down.

Swap “Have you done your homework?” and “Where is your homework?” for “Do you have a lot of homework?”, “Tell me about your homework, is there anything interesting?”

Ask small questions often

Get into the habit of asking small school related questions often so that it doesn’t come as a surprise when you need to bring something up. Try remember who is teaching what, which teachers they like and which they don’t. This shows that you’re really listening and taking interest. It makes it easier for your child to keep you in the loop.

Celebrate

Let your child know when they are doing well and celebrate successes together. Everyone loves to feel successful and valued. No matter how big your child gets, no one is immune to a bit of praise (provided they feel they have earned it). This should encourage your child to tell you how things are going on a frequent basis.

Share stories

Carefully select stories to share about your school experiences. Regardless of whether they are things that went well or terribly wrong. A good story provided at the right time can allow for bonding between you and your child. It helps your child understand that you’ve been through the same things are sympathetic towards them and their academic journey. Be on the same team rather than opposing sides, “you are wrong” vs “I am right”.

Less “When I was at school it was much harder because…”

More “I had a similar teacher who used to…”

Don’t take it personally

This is one of the hardest tips to put into practice. Having your child snap at you can leave you feeling distraught; and feeling that your constant efforts to provide them with the best you can, aren’t being appreciated. Unfortunately, adolescence is a difficult time for everybody. The above suggestions will help with positive and open communication, but things will not always go to plan. When this happens take a deep breath and step away for a moment, rather than letting things escalate.

www.lovelearningtutors.com

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Review: BOOM Cycle

Boom_Hilary_20170214092641Hilary Rowland, Co-Founder of Boom Cycle. Courtesy of Boom Cycle. 

‘I feel like the tortoise in the Tortoise and the Hare race, and I have Bugs Bunny’s Tasmanian devil spinning right past next to me.’ 

When Hilary Rowland, the co-founder of Boom Cycle invited me to one of her spinning classes, my friends all laughed: ‘maybe you should start with an easier class’ one friend suggested. Granted, the last time I exercised was at Les Caves du Roy during last year’s August Bank Holiday and I have always followed the ‘black-clothes&green-apples-all-day-keep-the-fat-away’ philosophy. But as I put on the years, I have been putting on more and more of a muffin top and as I mentioned in my new year’s resolutions, I am ready for some exercise!

So last week, I went to Battersea, to one of Boom Cycle’s latest studio openings. Boom Cycle is doing well and is expanding; it recently opened this Battersea studio in September and just opened a studio in Hammersmith. When I walked into the Battersea studio, I felt like I entered someone’s Wellness, Lifestyle and Fitness Instagram account, where everyone is super-fit and wearing stylish exercise-wear, and they all have a water bottle or a juice in their hands.

Boom Cycle follows the trend of SoulCycle, the cult cycle class in the US, where you cycle in the dark with dance music. Hilary, from Kentucky, felt there was a demand here in the UK and started the company with her then boyfriend. Previously, she worked in New York as a model and became a SoulCycle fan there. She is blonde, tall, fit and radiates sunshine. When she greeted me she told me ‘You’ll be fine, it’s just like dancing!’

I took my seat on a bike next to a serious looking cyclist who basically didn’t have a water bottle because she is so hard core – to give you an idea. The lights were low and the music pumping. Hilary, who taught the class, has so much energy and enthusiasm that it is impossible to imagine her cross or sad. She motivates us with words like ‘Motivation, Determination, Power!’

I feel like the tortoise in the Tortoise and the Hare as the class starts and I have the Tasmanian Devil spinning next to me. As I start feeling out of breath and my legs start to ache, I glance at my watch and only 5 minutes have elapsed! There is no way I am going to finish this class. OK, I could fake a sprained ankle, or maybe complain of chest pains. But no, I hear Hillary’s voice yelling ‘Resolve! Dig deeper!’ and I am snapped out of my haze and am back spinning as fast as I can, but relative to my spin neighbour, I feel like a senior citizen.

Half way through the class, the lights go even dimmer and I relax, no one can see me faking-it-until-you-make-it. I go at my pace and let the pros get on with it. The adrenaline and endorphins have started flowing and I do feel quite good about myself. After we finish, Hilary tells me she is doing 14 classes this week because of instructors being off. Insane, I say, but she tells me she’s used to it. Teaching that class was a piece of cake to her. As I hobble out, I think to myself that it was a lot fun and feel quite proud for not bailing out. Although it is for the sporty types, if I can do it, anyone can.

https://www.boomcycle.co.uk

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

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Social Commentary

Happy New Year 2018 & My New Year’s Resolutions…

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I hope everyone had wonderful holidays and a good start to 2018!

Of course, January is always a tough month, the weather seems like an endless kaleidoscope of greys with no end in sight, the christmas holidays already feel like ages away and let’s not forget that we are right in the middle of Divorce day (January 8th 2018) and Blue Monday (January 15 2018).

Divorce Day, for those who don’t know, happened on Monday January 8th which is the calculated day of the year with the highest numbers of divorce requests to solicitors. I once wrote an article once about D-Day, as I call it, and I was contacted by Cotswold Life who asked to publish it, so here it is in their January issue:

Divorce in the Digital Age NHYM

Next Monday is Blue Monday which is the ‘lowest’ day of the year, based on weather, debt and low motivation and it would be easy to just completely avoid it by hiding under your duvet and eat Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream all day watching Netflix, but this year, I have decided to fight that negativity and low motivation with some positive New Year’s Resolutions!

So here are my New Year’s Resolutions: 

  1. Add colour into my life: To beat the January weather blues, I’ve decided to add colour in my life anywhere I can: clothes, food, flowers and feelings. When I go shopping, I immediately gravitate towards black – well it’s slimming after all – but this year, I will introduce colours into my life. And for those who meditate, you can focus on blue for happiness and red for warmth. It’s one way to beat the grey-weather-blues.
  2. Exercise: For those who don’t know me, I am more French in my philosophy of staying slim: ‘wear black, don’t exercise, eat green apples and smoke a few fags each day to keep the fat away.’ But this year, I’m forcing myself to get that oxygen into my oxygen-deprived brain. I have been invited to a Boom Cycle class and will give you an update next week!
  3. Positive thinking and Positivity: It is easy to slide into pessimism when things aren’t exactly working out as you want them to in your life (which is inevitable at times) but there are ways to fight these thoughts. This is something I have been working on for a few years now, and although I am not perfect at it, I have significantly improved my positivity and stop myself as soon as I start feeling or thinking negative thoughts. There are tons of books written about positive thinking, but it really does work. Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic about learning positive thinking: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-2004395
  4. Gratefulness: Another skill to practice daily is gratefulness. I know, you read about it all the time, and when your children don’t listen for the 100th time when you tell them to get those shoes on in the morning and get ready for school and all you want to do is to shout at them, gratefulness just seems like far away annoying, new-age, mumbo-jumbo, but you kind of have to force yourself. They say to create a list every day of 10 things you are grateful for, which is something you can easily do with your children, and it can help lift your mood and teach your children a lesson at the same time.
  5. Giving: This year will be my year of Giving. UNICEF is my chosen charity and I have become one of their Global Guardians. I am also looking into volunteering with children, which will be one way of giving back to the community. If you are interested in UNICEF and would like more information or interested in joining as a Global Guardian, please don’t hesitate to contact me! It’s a truly amazing organisation which looks at child health, education and advocacy. You can find out a bit more about UNICEF on their website: https://www.unicef.org.uk
  6. Find something that you love doing and keep doing it, for me, it is to Keep Writing: Because I do enjoy it. It releases endorphins when I do it, I love seeing my work being published, and it gives me clarity of mind. It’s not for everyone, but find something that does make you happy, whether in your work, as a hobby or exercising, and keep doing it.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

Hope this will inspire you to start the year with some positivity, or if not, distract you for a few minutes from the list of things you need to do by pick-up time…!

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy

 

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Round Up: New Notting Hill Restaurants

It’s been a while since there were any restaurant openings in NH, but all of a sudden, a flurry of Notting Hill restaurants have opened their doors, from Michelin-star-ambitious restaurants to hip-Shoreditch competitors:

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Core by Clare Smyth

https://www.corebyclaresmyth.com

Notting Hill still has an appetite for Michelin starred restaurants with the opening of Core by Clare Smyth, the ex-Gordon Ramsay chef who has accumulated 3 Michelin stars in the past and finally opened her own restaurant. Already booked months in advance, it already seems destined to be a star.

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108 Garage 

http://www.108garage.com

With its exposed brick and eccentric decor, this restaurant could easily have been in Shoreditch, but luckily it has arrived in Notting Hill with plenty of fanfare around its food. Opened by some interesting fellas, Luca Longobardi and Chris Denney, the story behind it is quite intriguing. Luca Longobardi’s life is interesting enough that he has written a book about it and found Chris Denney on Gumtree. The result: one excellent restaurant and a another one just opened, Southam Street.

Southam Street

http://www.southamstreet.com

The guys behind 108Garage are behind this barely opened restaurant that has already attracted half of the people I know the night I went there. On the ground floor, it’s a robata grill – the rump steak is excellent and worth going for alone, with exposed brick walls painted white and Danish inspired chairs. Upstairs is the sushi bar, that I heard is also good. The upstairs ‘member’s’ area is still not opened as they are waiting to receive their late night drinking license, but if all goes to plan, this could become a foodie destination.

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The Italian Job

http://www.theitalianjobpub.co.uk

This is the third Italian Job by the guys who opened up the first one by raising £400K through Crowdfunder. Anything is possible these days, and here’s to prove that you just need passion and some tech savvy to open up your dream Italian brewery.

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ULI 

https://ulilondon.com

Uli is not technically new, but it has relocated from All Saint’s Road to the Notting Hill Gate area on Labdroke Road. They recently invited me to check it out and I especially liked the restaurant’s design and found the food quite good. For a local Asian in the neighborhood, Uli is a good choice.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

 

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