In the Press, Photos, Reviews, Social Commentary

How I went from Club-Hopping to Flower-Picking: The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014

From Louboutins to Lilies, Blahniks to Begonias, and Jimmys to Jasmine…

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When I first arrived in London 15 years ago as a young, arrogant, twenty-something, ignorant Chelsea twat, I had heard about the Royal Chelsea Flower Show in a magazine and really wondered what all the fuss was about and what was up with the English’s obsession with gardening. I remember ‘attending’ a dinner party in Hampstead with an ‘older’ boyfriend whose friends were all in their late 30s. One couple described their perfect Saturday morning, which involved gardening in something called an ‘allotment’ and I had thought to myself, how dull and depressing, please don’t ever let me become those people. At that time, I was more interested in dancing on tables at Boujis/China White/Cuckoo Club than to contemplate the virtues of sunlight and flowers on one’s wellbeing. Night-time ‘sprinkling’ to me was a Champagne Sprinkling contest between a French (Dom Perignon) and Italian (Cristal) table at Cuckoo rather than the night-timing of a water sprinkler. Little did I know that flowers really are a key to happiness, not clubbing.

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Fast-forward 15 years of living in England, one husband, two children, and three gardens later (and years wiser), I am converted. I can easily go to bed at 9pm, enjoy watching Box Sets on Saturday night, and have become a Flower-Lover and Garden Designer (ie. I tell the Gardener what to do). My vocabulary has gone from Passion Fruit, Watermelon and Lychee Martinis to Agapanthus, Amaryllis, Gladioli, Snapdragons and Foxgloves. My Louboutins have been retired to their cardboard box and Lilies have taken their place in a window box.

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And I’ve finally figured out that flowers actually do make me happier. There have been several studies done to prove that flowers have a positive emotional impact on us (http://www.epjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/ep03104132.pdf), but also makes us healthier (http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/a-healthy-new-years-resolution-how-flowers-help-with-health-happiness-the-gardenist-198835).

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Gucci has followed my lead this year, and has created its own garden in the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, so off I went to the World’s Most Famous Flower Show,  to find out what all the fuss is about. Once there, I finally realised that this so much more than just a flower show, this is an exhibition of art, design and creativity through the medium of flowers which will astound you just as a Zaha Hadid’s architectural sculpture will.

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My favourites this year are :

The Telegraph Garden, Gold Medal, which unfortunately lost out to the Laurent Perrier Garden for Best in Show.

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The Laurent Perrier Garden, Gold Medal and Best in Show Winner.

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Kazuyuki Ishihara’s Artisan Garden, Gold Medal and Best Artisan Garden. He is just brilliant year after year.

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Birmingham City Council’s Garden, Gold Medal and winner of the President’s Award, blends sculptures, flowers, gardening techniques and water features into one of the most stunning and remarkable gardens this year. The most awe-inspiring garden of them all.

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The Thai-inspired Bunny made of Orchids.

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The RHS Chelsea Winner of Plant of the Year: Hydrangea Macrolphylia

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And all the other wonderful grown flowers in the Main Pavillion; hanging amaryllis, hyacinths, hydrangeas, sunflowers, hanging bulbs, bougainvilleas, roses, foxgloves, and more.

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The Chelsea Flower Show is a reminder than in the midst of our urban jungles, we still have an apprecation for art and beauty in nature, and that despite our lifestyles, all we really crave is an allotment on Saturday to attend to our hydrangeas, jasmines, fuschias, and roses to share with our kids. And all that we really want to be happy are some flowers from our boyfriends/husbands/partners once in a while.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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All above photos are my own, taken at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014 and belong to Notting Hill Yummy Mummy. All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2014

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Reviews

Review of The New Angel Restaurant, Notting Hill

Where… ‘The Chef is as interesting as the Food’

The New Angel Restaurant, 39 Chepstow Place Notting Hill London W2 4TS

0207 221 7620

http://www.thenewangel-nh.co.uk

Food: 4 stars

Atmosphere: 4 stars

Service: 4.5 stars

Design: 4 stars

Value for money: 3.5 stars (for the lunch menus)

Overall: 4 stars

Theangelmillefeuillenottinghillyummymummy

(All photos in this post taken by NHYM Copyright 2014)

Notting Hill, The Foodie

Notting Hill is becoming a serious foodie destination with the 2* Michelin restaurant The Ledbury making it to the number 10 spot on the 50 Best Restaurants in the World List (http://www.theworlds50best.com/list/1-50-winners/the-ledbury). Not only that but Marianne’s, the runner up Masterchef Marianne Lumb’s new restaurant made it to the Number 1 spot as London’s Best Restaurant on Tripadvisor at one point in a few months (now in 9th spot: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurants-g186338-London_England.html), which I will be reviewing next month. And finally, Russell Norman, the ‘king of small plates’ is opening a Polpo on Notting Hill Gate any time now. The New Angel, which has quietly come on the scene a few weeks ago without our even knowing, is another serious contender. I am not a huge fan of the name (makes me think of a born-again-evangelical-preacher. The Chepstow Place or The Burton would have done just fine), and it is in a converted Victorian pub below the well-loved Assaggi, which has changed hands every few years, but coming from the infamous and very controversial celebrity chef John Burton Race (JBR), I was ready for some surprises.

The Chef: John Burton Race

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(JBR, his ex-mistress-now-wife, and Donna Air at The New Angel’s Opening Party)

I could write a whole article on JBR’s scandals, divorces, double-life-love-child-progeny, bankruptcy, resisting arrests and huge rows with fellow contestants on ‘Celebrity Get Me Out of Here,’ but this a restaurant review not a gossip column. It’s surprising his Memoirs haven’t been written or an HBO Biopic hasn’t been made of him yet. JBR has quite a professional and personal history behind him; a two time Michelin 2* Chef (L’Ortolan and The Landmark Hotel, via training at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons), he became a TV personality in the reality shows ‘French Leave,’ ‘Return of The Chef’,’ and even ‘Celebrity Get Me Out Here’ amongst others (there has to be some attention-seeking and egotism for him to agree to do the latter show). He has also been slandered in the press as a scandalous ‘love-rat’ when he was found cheating on his wife with his mistress of 4 years and having a 2 year old child with her. His then wife, Kim, famously closed down the original ‘The New Angel’ restaurant while JBR was out cooking up tarantulas in the jungle. He only learned about this as he came out of his Kangaroo-escapade when he was evicted and the paps accosted him for a comment. It is difficult not to mention all of the above, but we are here for the food, I repeat. (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2008/apr/27/recipes.foodanddrink).

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(Delicious Steak Tartare and divine Horseradish Sorbet – a must try)

The Restaurant

We arrived on Saturday evening at 8pm to find the restaurant pleasantly busy but nowhere near full. The staff, the Italian Maitre d’, the French waiter and Csaba, the assistant restaurant manager, were all attentive and smiling, enthusiastic to work for one of the Greats. The restaurant’s decor is warm with brown colours, gold leaf wallpaper and the owl sculptures in the back room are a hit with the girls. The music was an elevator jazz music until it stopped abruptly, a very minor negative of the evening. In the back wall there is a very small garden which is lit up at night and softens the atmosphere. The menu has familiar haute cuisine ingredients; fillets of John Dory, Scottish salmon, roasted rack of Devonshire lamb, quail’s eggs, and wasn’t trying too hard to be unique (unlike Heston and Nuno’s menus). Two courses for £44 and three  courses for £54 at dinner , and with a £20-something lunch menu (I think I must have been dreaming), it is actually rather good value-for-money.

The Food

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Now for the food. It is very easy to get distracted by JBR’s celebrity and notoriety that I wondered whether his culinary skills would be as sharp as his tongue. I chose the hand dived scallops with curried cauliflower and onion Bhaji as a starter and the poached line caught seabass with an oyster beignet in a Champagne and caviar sauce as a main (this dish was conceived with bedding a woman in mind; Champagne, oysters, and caviar? The ultimate aphrodisiac dish) , which were both very good although I didn’t love the baby fennels. My sister, whose birthday we were celebrating, and her husband had the foie gras starter (tasted right out of South West France), which was a perfectly chosen and terrined foie gras. Mr. C had the Steak Tartare started with Horseradish sorbet- Yum! My favourite starter of the night, I want to go back for another bite. He then had the Dutch Veal with Cepes and Truffle Tortellini as a main, which was my favourite main of the night. The strawberry millefeuille gariguette and the raspberry soufflé and white chocolate side were indulgent and the after-dessert petits fours of salted caramel truffles and white chocolate macaroons were just divine. All I can say is that all the dishes were perfectly executed, a pleasure to look at, and the tastes were very well balanced, not too overbearing, not too limp, showing a mastery that only comes from over 30 years of experience.

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The Verdict

This is modern European cuisine with French influence at its best, achieving what JBR sets out to do; ‘conjuring creative yet simple dishes from seasonal ingredients.’ It is meant to be a neighbourhood restaurant but has world class cooking and food, so this neighbourhood feel will unfortunately surely disappear in time. The restaurant feels like the Ledbury before it became famous when a young 28 year old Brett Graham set out to take over the culinary world, fresh, enthusiastic, and powerful, except that this a veteran chef with a colourful past of adultery, reality TV and a foul mouth who continues to prove himself in a class of his own. This is a Michelin starred restaurant in the making, so I suggest that you make a reservation now before it becomes another exclusive two-month-wait-list restaurant like The Ledbury and Marianne’s.
The New Angel on Urbanspoon

Top 10 New Restaurants in 2014 The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/shopping-and-consumer-news/11270666/The-10-best-new-restaurants-in-London.html?frame=3127908

Top 100 Best Restaurants in the UK Opentable: www.opentable.co.uk/m/best-restaurants-in-united-kingdom/

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com @NHyummymummy

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Photos, Top 10, Travel

Top 10: Best Mediterranean-Sea-View Boutique Hotels

Looking for something to do this summer? For a little Pre-Summer Travel-Lust, check out these lesser known Top 10 Best Mediterranean-Sea-View Boutique Hotels.

(All Photos of the Hotels Courtesy of the Internet)

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1. Cap Estel, Cote d’Azur, France. http://www.capestel.com/uk/index.php. In an absolutely gorgeous setting, this feels more like visiting someone’s private villa, except with Theo Walcott and his WAG lounging next to you. Kids Allowed.

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2. U Capu Biancu, Bonifacio, Corsica. http://www.ucapubiancu.com/uk/hotel-4-etoiles-bonifacio-corse-site-officiel.php This lovely Boutique Hotel is in a wonderful location at the tip of Corsica with amazing views and has loads of charm. It is surprisingly kid friendly, with well behaved children swimming in the pool, playing with the house donkeys, and dining next to you without feeling the need to iPad them (lending the kids an iPad to shut them up during an ‘adults dinner.)’

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3. Santa Caterina, Amalfi Coast, Italy. http://www.hotelsantacaterina.it/en/index. With the freshest, most deliciously prepared pasta made at the downstairs restaurant and the cliff-top sea views, Santa Caterina won our hearts ten times over. Close call choosing this one vs. the Sirenuse at Positano, another firm favourite.

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4. Il Pellicano, Porto Ercole, Italy.http://www.pellicanohotel.com/en/ Just an hour away from Rome exists a legendary Italian hotel, with its swimming pool famously captured by Slim Aarons, Juergen Teller and John Swope. (Il Pellicano was just mentioned in this weekend’s FT How To Spend It). Amazingly delicious 2* star Michelin restaurant makes the stay all the better.

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5. Hotel des Pecheurs, Cavallo, Corsica. http://www.hoteldespecheurs.com There is only one hotel on this island so the hotel can afford not to have the grandest for what you pay, but the location, location, location is spectacular. Italy meets France on this island, where the Italians have become French and the French have become Italian, and for once it is a happy marriage.

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6. Gecko Club, Formentera. http://www.geckobeachclub.com/#/home-es Another top spot for location. Formentera makes you feel like you are in the Carribean waters and the Gecko is the only Boutique hotel on it. Let’s not forget the easy access to Juan y Andrea restaurant where you will see half of London during the August Bank Holiday and won’t need to fight for a yacht parking space.

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7. Bill & Coo, Mykonos, Greece. http://www.bill-coo-hotel.com This one is for the foodies. The restaurant at Bill & Coo has already received endless accolades, so much so, that their Head Chef successfully brought Modern Greek food to Notting Hill’s MAZI, one of NYHM local hangouts. Kids Allowed.

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8. Mystique Oia Santorini, Greece. http://mystique.gr. This one is for your 5th anniversary of ‘Life with Kids.’ Find anyone to look after your children while you pretend to be on your first trip away together and re-enact the scene in Girls when Hannah pretends to meet Adam for the first time in Series 3 (except that everything goes smoothly during your re-enactment).

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9. La Casitta, Santa Maria, Sardegna. http://www.lacasitta.com. This private island doesn’t have any hotels, so this isn’t so much a hotel rather than a luxury guest house, but it is in a stunning location for those wanting complete privacy and who can’t stand the glitzy bling of the Costa Smeralda. Let the sun do the shining here.

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10. Tahiti Beach, St. Tropez, France. http://www.tahiti-beach.com/en.php. For those who have never had the St. Tropez Beach Experience and want to get a taste of what it’s really like. This one has it’s own beach club right on Pampelonne beach where you can lunch among the St. Tropez set.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

(The below photos of Cap Estel were taken by NHYM, therefore belong to NHYM. Copyright 2014).

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Photos, Quote of the day, Social Commentary, Travel

Quote of the Day: ‘I promise you will never have to turn Right on an airplane’

(Seinfeld Airport Episode, Courtesy of the Internet)

I admit it. I am a Business-Class-Kind-of-Girl. No, not the ‘Swingers’ movie Business-Class-Kind-of-Girl, where my ass is too big to fit in an economy seat, but the Seinfeld Business-Class-Kind-of-Girl, who has tried Business Class and has trouble going back to economy. The worst is when they make you walk past Business Class to get to economy, making you look at all these people being treated like royalty, condescendingly sipping their Champagne in your face smugly and gleefully. It makes me feel like Eileen in that Seinfeld episode: ‘Oh, no, please, don’t send me back there. Please, I’ll do anything. It’s so nice up here. It’s so comfortable up here. I don’t want to go back there. Please don’t send me back there…’ I don’t know anyone who has tried Business/First/PJ and is just dying to get back to Economy.

These days, I could just take a Business Class Flight for 12 hours and come back to London for all I care. I just want 12 hours to do whatever I want, without hearing ‘mummy!’ being screamed at me every two seconds, a husband requiring ‘attention’ and having to keep up the appearance of a ‘perfect’ life (which it never is, trust me). Everyone here in Business Class is smiling. The air must be better. This is a Happyland; nice people constantly making me feel so good, asking me ‘how are you’, ‘what can I get for you,’ ‘is everything Ok’ for once and bringing me food, magazines, and champagne at the tip of a button. I get to watch movies all day long without feeling guilty and actually read a whole sentence out of a book uninterrupted. What else could a girl ask for?

The High Miles Club

The best kind of Business Class flying, which I specialise in, is on Miles/Points, guilt-free Business Class flying, where everything feels better when it’s (almost) free. (There have to be some perks for your husband’s constant work travels and making you feel like a single mother). I have analysed all the possible and impossible routes using BA Miles and have gotten it down to an art. Flying to main business hubs and cities in the US/North America is relatively easy: New York, Chicago, LA, Toronto as well as other far away Business centers like Tokyo. Forget the Maldives, it is a very popular holiday destination, which is virtually impossible to book on miles, unless you book months and months in advance in the rainy season. From London, your safest warm destination is the Carribean, which is why I have been to Barbados more times than I care to discuss, St. Lucia, Mustique and Antigua. Other possible warm and sunny destinations include Bangkok, Cape Town and Brazil.

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Men and Business Class

Men are equally as guilty of loving Business Class. Those in the know ask each other ‘Do you turn Right or Left on an airplane?’ which fuelled the famous line a Hedge Funder used to try to win his fiancé back: ‘I promise you will never have to turn Right on an airplane.’ I used to date a guy with a British Airways Gold Card, which was one of the few perks of him travelling all the time, until he ‘Seinfelded’ me (see Youtube video at top). One of our Business seats was given away (we got them on miles) and he made me sit in the ‘back of the bus’ while he was ‘in front’ in Business (using the excuse that he traveled so much that he needed his Business seat). Needless to say, this relationship did not last. A man’s attitude towards flying Business is really an entry into his mind. It’s very simple, those men who will take the Business seat instead of giving them to you will always put themselves/their jobs/their hobbies/their priorities in front of yours and you will just need to accept this for the rest of your life. Take it or leave it. Really, the first question a woman should ask on a first date should be: ‘If we had one seat in Business and one seat in Economy, which would you choose and which would you offer me?’ The same goes for men, if your date demands Business Class on your first trip together to the One & Only in the Maldives after 6 weeks of dating, good luck.

Children and Business Class

Now there is the dilemma of what to do with children and flying. Hugh Jackman recently told the Sunday Times Magazine that he flies economy with his children and First without them ‘when he’s working.’ Within the Notting Hill Mums set, it is typical for a three year old NHYM daughter to go on a domestic flight and push all the buttons before asking her mother: ‘Mummy, how do I turn this into a bed?’ Then there is the 5 year old who flies commercial for the first time (after his father loses his job during the recession) and asks his father ‘Daddy, who are all these people on our plane?’ Luckily, the father was clever enough to convince him that this kind of flying was much better; bigger airplane, more movies and games, more friends to make, and of course, flatbeds.

(Seinfeld Airport Episode, Courtesy of the Internet)

Economy and World Traveller Plus vs. Business

Who needs an overweight, slobbering, snoring guy who overtakes his half of the armrest and locks you in for the whole flight while some little shit kid is kicking the back of your seat while his mother smiles apologetically when you give her evil stares (but does absolutely nothing about it)? Then there are the wafts of the ‘Odeurs du Corps’ perfume (translated as ‘body odours,’ sounds so much better in French), a mix of BO and gastrointestinal gasses, the latter which have been proven to occur more frequently at altitude since gasses expand as pressure decreases (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/scientists-support-breaking-wind-airplane-article-1.1265744). The air in Business Club is truly better. Then there are the poor air hostesses who have to endure the humiliation that they are ten years older and ten kilos heavier than their Business Class counterparts. I have cringed when I asked an Economy air hostess what kind of Red wine she was pouring me, and she replied’We only have two kinds of wine, Red and White.’

World Traveller Plus is really where I feel the most comfortable, since I can’t justify the price of actually paying for Business seats (which makes me sick thinking of how many houses with running water I could build in Africa for the price of one ticket), but can’t help feeling torn because I hate that I love Business so much.

First Class vs. Business

My analysis of First vs. Business is quite simple. There is not enough difference between First and Business to justify the price or the Miles. Although, there are still a lot of positives to First Class, I like the pyjamas but they only have two sizes, Medium and Large, and I quite simply look like I am wearing my husband’s workout clothes after a massive weight loss and gastric banding. They are also rather potato-sack unflattering. The Virgin Upper Class bottoms are better styled and more comfortable, I could wear them every day, so when you see someone walking down Westbourne Grove in Virgin Upper Class sweatpants, you’ll know it’s me.

What I also like about First Class is that the passengers are actually more civilized than Business Class passengers. When M took her first First Class flight at 7 months, everyone was smiling, cooing and wanting to hold her. She was treated like a First Class Baby. In Business, I have witnessed ‘airplane rage’ caused by her and other small children. Once when a woman was seated next to us complained for half an hour about having a two year old next to her (M), another time I watched in amusement a French couple who had been bumped to World Traveller Plus, ranting for half an hour while a happy family of five including three girls each in their own Business seat (the youngest was still sucking on her soother), watched them almost get thrown off the flight because they wouldn’t go to their World Traveller seat.

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Private Jets vs. Business Class

Private jets are a whole other ball game. I personally don’t do very well on PJs, since I am claustrophobic and anything less than a G5 (Cessnas/Learjets) reminds me of getting in an MRI scan, with the loud buzzing noise and the feeling of a round white tunnel enclosing in on me. Makes me want to reach for a Xanax. I will never have enough money/friends with enough money to fly G5/G6/Boeing, so I will stick to commercial. The closest commercial flight that resembles flying private is the London City to NYC all-Business flight, (where I happened to be the only woman on the flight, and the only pregnant one, which took them by surprise. They handled me like a rare Chinese Ming porcelain statue). It has only around 18 seats and has its own lounge-straight-to-airplane with drinks and snacks to nibble on before the flight, which is good enough for me. But if you are like some wannabes I’ve met who dream of flying Private, there is a certain Private Jet Etiquette to be familiar with depending on the owner’s country of origin.

The Russians: The Russians specialise in ‘professional ladies’ without shame, who come on board to give them all kinds of ‘helping hands and mouths’ during the flight, offering the air hostesses 10,000 Euros for any extra help needed (this one politely declined). Then there is the 60 year old Russian who knows his limits with two 18 year olds, when he keeps it to a little massaging and caressing while Jessie J’s song ‘It’s all about the money’ blares in the background.

The Saudis: As soon as the flight becomes airborne, this International Private Jet Air Zone becomes Islam-free territory, the Hijabs have been forgotten at home, the wet bar is well stocked with Gin and Whiskey, cigarettes and cigars are smoked and alcohol fountains appear. You might as well bring on the pork crackling. Let the good times roll.

The Icelandics: Remember the days of smoking on flights? Still possible on PJs and the group of Icelandics who brought the Icelandic economy to its knees decided to stop over in Hawaii just to buy a $10 pack of cigarettes. Seems like they didn’t know how to make very good financial choices, professionally or personally.

The Americans: Promising his fiancé a mink fur coat, an American stops in Kiev in search of the fur coat, but his mission is ‘diverted’ by some ‘professionals’. He is a very generous man when he hears about the pilot’s cheating wife (the pilot found out after installing spy software in his house which took photos every 2  minutes of his cheating wife and colleague lover), he tells his friend, ‘Find a girl for the pilot and make sure she f**ks his brains out. I’ll pay.’ His fiancé never saw a fur coat

So there you have it. I am a Business Class kind-of-Girl. See you in Business, if I’m lucky.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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In the Press, Reviews, Social Commentary

The Help: Nanny Nightmare or Nanny McPhee?

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(Photo courtesy of the Internet)

The Break – up: Can’t Live with them, can’t live without them…

“Is it me?’ My eyes start welling up as I pour out my woes. ‘Was I too nice? Was I too mean? What have I done to deserve this?’ I really want to start crying, but I know that this too shall pass and I am possibly being ridiculous. ‘It’s only been one and a half years and she’s already leaving me!’ ‘Don’t worry, its not you, it’s her,’ my friend consoles me. ‘You deserve someone better and that will treat you with more respect. You’re too good for her. If it wasn’t meant to be, it wasn’t meant to be. You’ll find someone better.’ ‘But my previous relationship only lasted two years! This one only lasted one and a half years. I’m really starting to think it’s me. I just don’t know what I’m going to do without her.’ And when I start thinking about how to find ‘the one’, meeting them, making small talk about where they’re from, seeing how we ‘click,’ and getting depressed when it doesn’t work out, then, I just can’t help myself, I burst into tears.

I am sad, scared and angry. Sad that our happy family is breaking up, scared that M is going to have a million tantrums and separation anxiety until I find another wonderful replacement, and just angry that Nanny Y has decided to leave us with two weeks notice, leaving me in a panic-induced-paralysis. M loved her like an auntie ( See Quote of the Day: Can Nanny Y have Bathtime with us?’ https://nottinghillmummy.com/2014/03/26/quote-of-the-day-can-nanny-y-have-bath-time-with-us-too/) and we made her a part of our family by sending her granddaughter all of our daughters’ almost-new Bonpoint, Caramel and Marie Chantal baby clothes that had been worn once, gave her one of our old laptops so she could Skype the Philippines, we sponsored part of her family to move to the UK, she ate our Lobster and Truffle Spaghetti for Christmas dinner, and it felt like we were financially supporting her entire family and her village. Now every morning, I keep repeating my mantra in front of my mirror: ‘Only another 3 years, we will find someone else. Only another 3 years, we will find someone else. Only another 3 years, we will find someone else’ to survive. (Once the children are in full-time education, this critical role of nanny/housekeeper can be replaced by a number of equations, but for now, I am in desperate need of one).

RPP: Rich People Problems

To most people, this is a RRP, finding the right ‘Help” (or is ‘Staff’ a better word?). But it is a strange co-dependent relationship that makes you feel like your world is falling apart when they leave you. On a day-to-day basis, give me a nanny-housekeeper over a husband any day (sorry Mr. C, you are really wonderful, but your strengths lie outside the domestic realm). I was brought up as an expat in Asia, the Middle East and Africa where it was completely normal to have one cook, one cleaner, one gardener, one driver and at least one or two nannies, all for the price of one meal at Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner. So when the opportunity came for me to get help with my two children, I didn’t hesitate. Live-in nanny/housekeeper, please! To most people growing up in the Western World, this concept is very unusual, having someone living under the same roof as you and watching your every move, knowing all your intimate details. They become someone who knows when you are having an affair before you husband does, when you are pregnant before any of your friends do, they’ve seen you naked (M just pulled my bathrobe open at breakfast-AGAIN), walks in on you doing your ‘nature calls’ (every kind you can imagine), and are the first to cuddle your newborn apart from your parents, the in-laws, and possibly the father.

The problem is that we start depending on them for our wellbeing, sanity and our marriage’s health. A nanny/housekeeper allows your husband to go on boys’ trips, football games, golfing, work dinners/trips without making them feel so guilty and you so resentful. It allows you to go away on a ‘mummy and daddy’ holiday to ensure that your couple makes it through the early years of parenthood. Most importantly, it can allow you to sometimes be a better parent when you can hand the baby/toddler/teenager off when you are so exhausted from another sleepless night of teething or when you feel like shaking them and shouting at them to stop crying/whining/tantrumming (Of course if you are happy to do all those things without any help while staying cool as a cucumber, you can come over and give me a few tips over coffee any day). It is more important than couples counselling, cheaper by the hour, and allows you to feel ‘normal’ for a few hours a day. It enables me to focus on my child/children so that I can spend ‘quality time’ with them rather than spending an inordinate amount of time on the things I am not so good at; cleaning up their vomit/piss/poo/food on the floor, laundry, ironing, cleaning up after them every second of the day and the list goes on.

A nanny also allows me to spend time with each child individually, giving them attention they need to ‘foster their intelligence, leadership, and achievement’ (which apparently only one child parents are able to give rather than multiple child parents as written by Lauren Sandler’s book One and Only http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/opinion/sunday/only-children-lonely-and-selfish.html). And I haven’t even started discussing the essential role of a nanny in a family where both parents work (Another blog post coming up soon on Working Mums & Mumpreneurs). To this end, I am sharing my woes and tribulations on finding the right nanny with anyone willing to read, and for all of the future, virgin mums who have yet to discover the world of finding and hiring a nanny:

My Guide on How to Hire a Nanny

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(Photo courtesy of the internet)

The English vs. Filipino Nanny

Firstly, when deciding to hire a nanny, one must choose early on their ethnic background, because it will tell you already in itself half of what you want to know about the nanny.  There are only two main Ethnic Backgrounds that really we need to discuss: Filipinos vs English.

1. English Nannies

English nannies have always been famous, but even more so when Mary Poppins and Nanny McPhee won over our hearts. British nannies take their nannying jobs very seriously. They have qualifications and often became tutors as well in the olden days. They speak perfect English and will teach your child the Queen’s English (The children of Filipino nannies stand out immediately with their Tagalog accents, but at Pembridge/Wetherby, that’s OK since most of them will have this same accent and will communicate with each other perfectly). They can be very creative with painting, arts and craft lessons, or building pirate ships out of your living room sofa. They are not afraid of a little (a lot) of discipline and your child will quickly learn to say ‘thank you, please and sorry’ out of fear. The downside of English nannies is that they have a superiority complex over other nannies, especially Filipinos, and therefore won’t do any housekeeping (nothing peeves me off more than when I am sweating and cleaning the kid-tornado’d house while my English nanny is happy, frockling, and splashing around in the pool with the kids in the Mediterranean sun when we rent a house in the Med).

2. Filipino Nannies

The Filipinos have become famous around the world because they are hard working, usually honest, reliable and trustworthy, and are very gentle and loving towards children in general. ‘They work like dogs’, one reference said to me about Filipino nannies when I was deciding what and who to choose to look after my children. They are known to work harder than anyone else, will happily cook, clean, feed, wipe, and take care of domestic pets (fishbowls, take out scary large tarantula-like spiders found in the basement, get rid of the dead mice in your mousetrap, and help free the fox stuck in your garden). Most of them have a similar background: they have a husband at home in the Philippines who looks after their children (who doesn’t work and uses the hard earned money sent home to drink beer with their mates), many of them have passed through Honk Kong (the lucky ones) or the Middle East (the unlucky ones), they go to church on Sunday, don’t drink or smoke,  and will do pretty much anything you ask of them. They do not have easy lives being away from their kids, but do get to live in beautiful houses, travel to exotic places and sit around the playground gossiping with their friends. Could be worse.

Unfortunately, these rare Filipinos are dying out and a new breed is emerging, largely due to the Filipino mafia that you can see having a picnic in Hyde Park on Sunday, gossiping about their favourite topic of discussion; how much you are being paid and for how many hours, trying to figure out how they can get more money. When a Filipino asks about salary and starts negotiating during the first interview, it is not a good sign. And when a Filipino is no longer happy because of their salary, they passive/aggressively become grumpy, borrow lots of money from you saying their family needs the money, don’t work as well as before and appear completely distracted and uninterested in the work. For Filipinos, best to hire a single/never married/no kids/church-going nanny between the ages of 25-50, who isn’t as focussed on money.

The Nanny Search: Nanny Agency, Word-of-Mouth or Gumtree?

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(Photo courtesy of the internet)

There is a famous Italian coffee advertisement, which shows two families. One family is smiling, happy, drinking the advertised coffee in peace on a Saturday morning, with their smiling, perfectly behaved children sitting around the breakfast table, with sun shining on all of their blissful, happy faces. In the other family, the parents look like they are going to kill each other with dark circles under their eyes, the kids are running around screaming, and the place is a mess. There is food everywhere and the house looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in decade, and they are drinking a rival coffee. This should really have been an advertisement for Little Ones Nannies or Greycoat Lumleys Domestic Help.

Originally, I promised myself I would never pay the exorbitant nanny agency fees when I saw how much they charged and was convinced that I would find someone word of mouth, which I did for my first maternity nurse and nanny, but unfortunately both ended bitterly, so I bit the bullet and signed up to every agency for any future nanny search. Here is a quick hierarchy of ways to find a nanny based on cost:

1. Word of Mouth: This is when you mass-email all of your friends with children/nannies to see whether they know anyone available (or usually their nannies will know someone). So far, I have not had much luck with this type of nanny-searching, although many swear by it, especially if it’s your friend’s nanny that is handed to you. If you are lucky enough to get a direct reference from a friend, take it. Price: FREE

2. Kalayaan: ‘Justice for Migrant Domestic Workers,’ this is for the abused domestic workers from Saudi trying to find work in the UK. Cheap labour (anything above the minimum wage of £6.31/hour) but don’t expect very good English, a British Passport for traveling, or any references. You can post your job ad for free on this website. Price: FREE. http://www.kalayaan.org.uk

3. Gumtree: A receptacle for anything and everything, it is like a diamond minefield, trying to find a diamond in the rough. You could spend days, hours and months looking for the right one, some lucky ones will find great nannies here, others will just be unlucky. You will be sent CVs from a range of prospects like a deaf teacher in Zambia, a Butler in India, and the Polish girl who writes about how life has been hard, her parents divorced and she was left alone in the mountains. Another con is that until there is a binding contract, many cancel at the last minute. Price: £35 to put up an advertisement. http://www.gumtree.com/london

5. Eden nannies: A good, experienced agency that has good candidates, but not as many candidates as Little Ones. Price: 6 x weekly salary +VAT or minimum £2000+. http://www.eden-nannies.co.uk

6. Imperial Nannies: Best for pure nanny work or maternity work. Not so good for nanny/housekeeping roles. Good for temporary positions/holiday positions. Price: 8 weeks of net annual salary +VAT. http://www.imperialnannies.co.uk

7. Greycoat Lumley’s: Very good and thorough candidate reports and verbal references given with candidates being offered, so you can start calling references right away. A good mixture of nannies, nanny-housekeepers, temporary staff and maternity nurses. Price: 17% annual net salary +VAT. http://www.greycoatlumleys.co.uk

8. Little Ones: Known as the bilingual nannies’ agency, it is fast becoming known as the ‘money grubbing’ agency which takes money from everyone, from the candidates who need certain qualifications that the agency offers for a fee of £90/£100 and for the clients a one-off fee £100 just to start the search, and will charge 18% of the annual salary as a commission + 20% VAT, which equates to over £4000. It has now become very popular with all nannies as they will advertise higher salaries so it has over 200 candidates signing up each week. It looks like they have more candidates on their books than any other agency but is becoming a victim of its own success, having too many candidates that fall short of the quality needed, but I can’t generalise. They provide very good bilingual nannies and have some lovely Senior Consultants like Sonia Mateos. Price: Realistically, fee starts at £4000+.http://www.littleoneslondon.co.uk

9. Maternally Yours: Pure maternity nurse agency. Generally provides very experienced and qualified maternity nurses. Price: £95 per week +20% VAT. http://www.maternallyyours.co.uk

10. Night Nannies: We all need an uninterrupted night’s sleep once in a while, which is when Night Nannies come in handy. Recommended agency by the Portland Hospital and every friend who has used them recommends them. Price: £22 per night agency fee. http://www.nightnannies.com

Final Tips on hiring & keeping nannies

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Almost anyone who has had a nanny has had their own nanny-nightmare story (and if not, don’t bother reading this, go away, we are too jealous to speak to you and hear about your ‘Amazing, Perfect, Mary Poppins Nanny’). One of the most famous urban legend nanny-nightmare story is about the nanny/au-pair leaving in the middle of the night because she is a prostitute, this story has repeated itself from DC to Hong Kong: one ended up running away with her pimp in the middle of the night, the other one was picked up by the police in Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

So here are my final tips: 

– Do a Google search on the Eastern European ones to ensure they are on respectable social media sites. You don’t want to find out later that they’ve been surfing http://www.golddigger.com on your computer. http://www.christianmingle.com is preferable.

– Ask to see her  plane ticket when she goes on holiday and keep an important personal item of hers so that she doesn’t go home to Australia and never comes back.

– Choose someone who preferably is a non-smoker and non-drinker, especially if they are English or Australian, otherwise you risk the chance of getting your child intoxicated by the smell of their alcoholic breath one night after coming home at 2am. Keep a curfew of midnight and put a big ‘NO BOYS ALLOWED’ sign on her bedroom door.

– Be wary of the Filipino one who asks about labour laws in your first interview and mentions that her solicitor will need to review your contract. She may threaten to call her solicitor when you ask her to help out your friend when you go away on holiday and she is at home being paid to do nothing because she doesn’t have a visa to travel.

– Unfortunately, do not sponsor their family to move over to the UK from the Philippines if they are live-in and actually want to keep her, as they will move out as soon as possible after their family arrives to find a live-out job.

– Do not hire the nanny, who on the trial day, tells you they are looking for a French husband, and your husband happens to be French.

– And finally, DO NOT hire a young, Swedish nanny that looks like Natalia Vodionova, who is 10 years younger than you with bouncier boobs, of course unless you are having an affair and are trying to find out a way to get your husband to sign the divorce papers.

For those undergoing the nanny nightmare, I understand your pain, frustration and depression. I can feel your panic attack coming on, and sympathise. It is normal. I am here for NA support (Nannies Anonymous).

Good Luck!

xx

NHYM

**Please add any of your nanny tips, your worst Nanny-Nightmare story below, or employer nightmare story in the Comments box! **

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In the Press, Photos, Reviews

Sunny May Bank Holiday, Chiltern Firehouse’s courtyard finally opens!

Nothing beats a Sunday Brunch ‘En Famille’ in the sun

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Steak Tartare is a pleasure to look at… but unfortunately it’s like an Eastern European model, too skinny and not enough spice, looks win over substance this time….

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They even provided toys for M! And a highchair for Baby X

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The Kissing Doggies were as much a hit as the Strawberry Sundae…!

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All in all, 5 stars for the sunshine, 5 stars for the kissing dogs and strawberry sundae, food and service still to be rated as they are battling teething problems, admitted by the waiter, ‘We opened this Saturday, so that’s why we are running around like head-less chickens. It is like opening a second, separate restaurant’. Which is why they ran out of cutlery and when I asked for a Dashamour I was brought a jalapeño bitter instead of my green juice. (They changed the name without telling me, and the green juice is now called a Green Goddess).

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