Reviews

Review: Wormwood Restaurant

‘…there’s a new Wormwood/In our hood/Gotta try its so good/Chef Rabah Ourrad/He’s a chef-rapper/Who loves his Lobster. 

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Wormwood Restaurant

16 All Saints Road

London W11 1HH

0207 854 1808

http://www.wormwoodrestaurant.com

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(All Photos courtesy of the internet for this post)

Food: 4 stars

Atmosphere: 4 stars

Service: 4.25 stars

Value/money: 3.75 stars

Design: 4 stars

Overall: 4 stars

The Restaurant

The latest foodie addition to Notting Hill is Wormwood, a Mediterranean restaurant in what some people call the dodgier part of NH/W11. I have been meaning to try this restaurant for quite some time now, having read very good reviews, the most recent from Giles Coren last Saturday, who highly rated the food, less so the concept of ‘sharing plates.’ All Saints Road is having somewhat of a revival, from the Rum Kitchen to the Wormwood Restaurant, and is becoming the Hollywood Road of the North; a quiet road with an international restaurant across from a rowdy, rustic Italian. ‘Wormwood’ really is a tragic name for a restaurant though, didn’t the owners know that Wormwood Scrubs is a prison just a few miles away? Or is it purposefully a commentary about the dream of two Algerians who now co-own their restaurant, proving that the underdogs can come out on top? (Chef Rabah Ourrad has an interesting background of a young Algerian-in-Paris-rapper-turned-chef with stints at Momo’s, Sketch and the Ledbury. I would like to sit in his kitchen while he raps ‘Le Micro Brise Le Silence’ over his truffle emulsion).

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In any case, it is a light and airy restaurant with colours of green, blues and white patterns with some olive trees in its terrace to keep it, well, very Mediterranean. The crowd is quite grown up looking for an exciting change from ‘Michelin star’ type restaurants, which do get repetitive after a while (I must admit that my experience of Marianne’s of Masterchef fame down the road was disappointingly underwhelming, hence why I have not reviewed it). The concept here  is keeping high standards of cooking techniques in a more relaxed ‘sharing plates’ style, ‘elegant yet relaxed,’ as it likes to be described. There is a lovely back area, which can be privatised, and also acts as an art gallery.

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(Smoked Aubergine)

The Food

Sharing plates is the hot trend of the moment for restaurants, and Notting Hill is no exception; Polpo, the Shed and Mazi are just a few of the recent openings in the past few years. Mazi, a nouveau-Greek, showed how simple Greek food can be elevated to sophisticated food, using ingredients like Rice Paper for the Souvlaki instead of your regular old Gyro bread. It is international cuisine with a twist. Wormwood to me is the Morrocan version of Mazi, trying to create nouveau Moroccan inspired dishes. If you like Mazi, you should try Wormwood. The lobster couscous with lobster bisque is delicious, the beetroot salad cleanses the palate and allows space for the foie gras which is another distinctive dish. There is pork belly tagine, sea bass dishes, and lots of aubergine. The cauliflower truffle combo is becoming my new craving, which I also found here at Wormwood, almost as good as the cauliflower and truffle mousse from Nuno Mendes’ Chiltern Firehouse. At some point though, it felt as if my palate wanted just two or three ingredients per course, rather than 6 ingredients per plate, with 10 plates for four (Example: Scallops ceviche with redcurrant dressing, coriander cress, and homemade limoncello gel. That means 60 different ingredients in one sitting).

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(Lobster Couscous)

The menu offers inventive and unique dishes blending Morrocan, French, Spanish and Lebanese influences, and bringing unusual ingredients together. But it all rather works. The dishes are quite sophisticated in their presentations and have more ingredients than necessary (he just couldn’t resist showing off his jellies and mousses) that they turn out quite foodie but difficult to share. The service was excellent and we were impressed by our waitress’ poetic memory of all the dishes and ingredients per plate. It felt as if the rapper Chef wanted to prove his fine dining skills and creativeness while ‘keeping it real,’ which suits All Saints Road perfectly.

The Verdict: The older, more sophisticated brother of Mazi restaurant for those who are tired of Michelin-star restaurants formality. Great for a grown-up dinner with ‘couple-friends’ who don’t know each other very well. If there’s a break in the conversation, the food is always a conversation starter.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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(Homemade Cocktails)
Wormwood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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In the Press, Social Commentary, Spotlight On...

Spotlight On: Mental Health & Top 10 Tips to Beat the Blues

mental-health

(All photos courtesy of the internet. Photo above on art therapy).

Last weekend, I had what you could aptly call a ‘Mummy Meltdown,’ brought on by 4 cups of toddler meltdowns & tantrums, 6 tablespoons of teething sleep deprivation, 3 ounces of nanny issues, a double dose of snotty noses, a dash of hormonal cyclical fluctuations, a bowlful of responsibilities, and a large dollop of health problems. Even a David Beckham sighting couldn’t make me feel better and I burst into tears in front of my daughter O, for the first time ever, which I explained as ‘mummies have bad days too.’ Well, this was one way of stopping her meltdown, and at least it worked. I felt infinitely better after my little outburst, which finally showed her that I too can cry and reminded me that crying sometimes just makes everything better. These are not what you would describe as ‘tragic’ problems, yet at the particular moment in time, the culmination of all of these ingredients reminded me that even in the some of the best circumstances possible, motherhood is not easy.

It is normal for all of us to find ourselves vulnerable or fragile every once in a while, when the perfect balance of our lives are shattered by unpredictable events. Each of us will face problems at some point in our lives that tip our balance such as the death of a mother, a father, a husband, a friend or a baby. We are encountering more fertility problems than ever with our increasing age and facing new health problems that we never had before. Even more so, our parents are becoming elderly and fighting one ailment after another. And sometimes, we are just plain overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed as a parent is not something to look down on. It is a common and often under-respected affliction that we carry about on our shoulders.

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Mothers are burdened with portraying happy, perpetually enthusiastic people often while hiding our real feelings, but motherhood is not a Pampers commercial; it is bloody hard, and mothers are reluctant to discuss it openly as it is easy to feel that we have no ‘right’ to complain when others are childless or family-less, or less fortunate than us. In Notting Hill Land, where there is an inordinate amount of pressure on being the ‘perfect’ mother, we most often face our problems in silence, but we all have the capacity to feel overwhelmed in our own ways.

Luckily, there are more and more techniques to combat the blues, so I wanted to spread some shared wisdom to all.

Here are my 10 Tips on Beating the Blues: 

1. An excuse for a Massage: Touch therapy is one easy way to feel instantly better. But you didn’t really need me to tell you that. You can just use this article as an excuse for your massage bills. Space NK around the corner has some of the best massage therapists around: http://www.spacenk.com/SPA_NK.html

2. Put those feet up with Reflexology: It’s amazing how a few pressure points can change the way you feel. Zen at Notting Hill Gate has a wonderful Japanese Reflexologist who is booked weeks in advance, so be sure to book early. http://www.zenspalondon.com/

3. Downward Dog with Yoga: Another standard, proven mood enhancer that you are already probably practicing and loving, blending the spiritual and the physical. The Life Centre is an all encompassing place for inner healing and wellness. http://www.thelifecentre.com/centres/nottinghill//

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4. Qi Gong: A blend of Tai Chi, Yoga, and martial arts, Qi Gong is practiced for wellbeing and health. According to Wikipedia, Qi Gong ‘aligns body, breath, and mind for health and meditation, [which] allows access to higher realms of awareness and helps awaken one’s true nature… to fulfill our full potential.’ The Mei Quan academy offers classes all over London, including private classes. http://www.taichinews.com/

5. Be positive: Just by being positive and convincing yourself that you are positive, your brain will begin to feel and think positive.

6. Reach for some pills: Prozac and Zoloft works wonders, but I am talking about Magnesium supplements. Planet Organic, the one-stop-shop for all supplements in the area, carry a variety of great quality magnesium, a natural relaxer. Another way to absorb Magnesium is transdermally, through a spray or bath salts. Both will relax your muscles after a hard work-out or a hard day. http://www.planetorganic.com/

7. Find Yourself a Guru: Everyone needs a good guru, wellness coach or shaman to guide us through life’s ups and downs. Your guru could just be someone you know who inspires you to be happy. My personal guru, a good friend who is never in a bad mood, explained that once you have reached the bottom, you keep everything else in perspective. Wise words.

8. Listen to some Music: Music is a very powerful mood altering stimulus. If you are feeling stressed, listen to ‘RELAX’ by Mika, if you’re feeling down, listen to ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams. Binaural beats were studied and proven to have a strong mood altering effect on the brain. My personal favourite relaxing music is by a very talented musician, Michael, from Cologne, Germany who creates ‘Relax Daily’ music, which can have a powerful effect on your mood and mind.

9. Mindful Meditation: Mindfulness is all the craze right now, with articles written on it from the FT to Grazia. Mindfulness has been around since the 70s when Jon Kabat Zinn used Mindfulness on patients with chronic illnesses and was proven to be very successful. Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor and researcher of Mindfulness, is THE expert and wrote numerous books on Mindfulness and its benefits which you can find on Amazon. http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=jon+kabat+zinn. Even simpler, there are now Mindfulness apps like Headspace which has garnered a huge following. (Mindfulness deserves a separate post, more to come later).

10. Your own Notting Hill therapist, Dr. Kerry Thomas: If all fails and you really feel like you can’t talk to your partner or your friends about your feelings, Dr. Kerry Thomas, a certified psychologist and psychotherapist will hypnotise, visualise and guide you for hours until you are somewhere better. She can even take you on a ‘mindful’ island vacation without even leaving Notting Hill. Everyone in New York has one, so join the bandwagon and get yourself one, it’s the latest accessory. http://www.kthomaspsychologist.com/

Have a lovely day.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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Quote of the day, Social Commentary

‘A Day In the Life of A Notting Hill Yummy Mummy’

Quote of the Day: ‘I’m panting like a bulldog during a heatwave and sweating like a 60 year old man trying to have an orgasm on Viagra.’

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(All photos courtesy of the internet)

5:30am. ‘Waahhh!’ I hear screaming somewhere in the background through the BT monitor trying to wake me from my happy-beach-dream slumber. Please Stop. I ignore it. I am sure the noise will die down if I just pretend I don’t hear it. 10 minutes later, I am back to my beach-dream. I am exhausted from being up 4 times last night. 2x with the teething Baby A, and 2x with M, once because she had a bad dream, and the other to tell me she wants pasta for lunch.

6pm: ‘Mummmmmyyyy!!! Peeeeppeeee!’ Really? Hasn’t she been potty trained for years? I try to remember. But the potential thought that I may have to clean up her wet carpet mess if I don’t go, makes me get up to take her to the bathroom.

6:15am: More noise. This time louder. ”Wwwaaaah’ in one monitor. ‘Mummy!’ in the other. Both kids are up and screaming for attention. I guess I sympathise, since it’s been a whole 12 hours since they saw anyone but a teddy bear.

6:15am-7:30am: I’ve used all my tricks to entertain and convince them it’s still night-time and M replies ‘It’s light out, it’s not sleep time, it’s play time!’ How is it possible to be this exhausted by these two little angels (monsters)? I look at my watch every  minute. 30 more minutes until New Nanny shows up. 29 more minutes. 28 more minutes….

7:30am: Hurrah! New nanny is on time. I hand off my oompah loompah midgets and go back to my Haastens bed and Egyptian cotton thread. Ah. This is more like it. Until I realise that I promised myself to try that Zumba class, since I am surrounded by Claudia Schiffer and Elle McPherson types and I still look like K-Middy’s post-baby-St.Mary’s-Lindo-Wing-Photo.

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8am: Breakfast with the girls. I’ve had 30 minutes to turn myself into someone slightly suitable for drop offs and pick ups, so I won’t be mistaken for the nanny again.

8:30am: New Nanny is in charge of Drop Offs and Baby Naps today, so I have a Full NHYM day ahead.

8:45am Off to Zumba! I am trying to get rid of the 5kg tire that has been stuck like super glue to my pre-baby-size-8-body since the birth of Baby A. It has been impossible to get rid of it: Dukan diet, 5:2 diet, only-eating-apples/pineapples/kale/pomegrenade diet, Bootcamp Pilates or Yoga. ‘This isn’t me, I’m a skinny girl stuck in a fat-girl’s body!’ I want to tell the mums I meet when they ‘up-and-down’ me. What’s worst, is that I have a full wardrobe of beautiful, gorgeous clothes that I may never wear again. I am stuck wearing elasticated waists for the rest of my life like an 80 year old, I think to myself.

8:50am On my way there, I pass by the trendy-twiglet-blonde-who-never-smiles NHN (Notting-Hill-Neighbour). I guess I wouldn’t smile either if my ex husband was cheating on me. But still, I see her almost every day and she barely acknowledges my existence. Must be something with fashionistas. They must be either hungry (which makes them grumpy), or angry.

9am: Zumba! I don’t know anyone here and I feel quite intimidated. There are about 35 women, size 8 and under, chatting to each other, and I am quite literally the elephant in the room.

9:05am: Oh, there’s someone I recognise, one-hit-wonder Trinny in the front row (I hear she had a successful fashion show on TV a lifetime ago, which was replaced by her fat-turned-skinny-gay-friend Gwok Kwan, and whose career is now non-existent. The difficulties of fame). More importantly, can someone tell me what she is doing with Charles Saatchi?! She is certainly not with him for his dashing good looks or charming, endearing character. Was she hibernating in Antartica when he throttled Nigella, divorced 3 times, and confessed to being a narcissistic, reclusive, egotist?? I want to go up to her and hug her and tell her she’s better than this.

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9:05am: There’s Pamela Anderson! Oh wait, that’s a skinnier, younger, and prettier version of her without the inflated boobs or lips.

9:15am: These women clearly come every day. They all have the ‘special Zumba shoes’ and all seem to know the moves even before Doni, the Zumba teacher, shows us. This Zumba class is like a game of Twister and I am definitely losing.

9:30am: I’m panting like a bulldog during a heatwave and sweating like a 60 year old man trying to have an orgasm on Viagra. Not a pretty sight.

10:00am: How much longer is this class?! I wonder if I can sneak out without anyone noticing, but I think about my tire, and I can’t go anywhere, I’m too tired and it’s too heavy for me to move. Again, I look at the clock to see when this torture will end.

10:15am: It’s wind down time. Finally. This class really isn’t for me.

10:30am: As I am leaving the Zumba class, looking my best, I see David Beckham leaving Bonpoint, arms full of Bonpoint, Caramel and Marie-Chantal bags. There’s certainly one lady in his life. He goes shopping for her, drops her off every day, looks at her adoringly and he is apparently just the loveliest guy, says my local butcher… (I’ve also figured out why his parents called him ‘David:’ after Michaelangelo’s David’s body!). Can someone tell me why Victoria never smiles; she’s super-rich, super-famous, she is now a bona-fide, super-designer, she has four super-adorable kids and a husband like THAT. What’s not to smile about?!

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11am: I stop by Austique on my way home, and while trying on girly goodies, I run into B.B., an impossibly leggy, beautiful, ex-model, LSE graduate, married to some Art Superstar who tells me about her new company she has started, producing ethical coffee. You see, to be a NHYM it isn’t enough being beautiful, smart, size 8 and under, rich and married to a super successful husband, you now must own your own company and be successful at it (and save the world while you’re at it!). This is the new trend for NHYMs; to be your own boss and become a ‘mumpreneur (Post about mumpreneurs coming up soon).’ Me and my tire are feeling even more deflated.

11:30am: I’m rushing home to take a shower to get rid of all of that Zumba sweat, check in with New Nanny that all is well at home and school. Finally I spend time with Baby A who has been neglected since her birth, give her lunch and sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ for her nap before heading off to lunch at the Electric with my two Scandi friends K & C.

1pm: I am the first to arrive. Just as I am about to think that The Electric is full of bespectacled, middle-aged, writers in plaid shirts, Paloma Faith walks in and sits in the booth across from me. She is the last Mohican of Notting Hill Cool. NH is not full of NHYMs and yuppies after all.

1:10pm: K arrives 7 month pregnant, but doesn’t even look pregnant. I look more pregnant than she does. She is radiant and glowing. Which is giving me morning sickness, even though there is no way I could even be pregnant.

1:30pm We are finally happily eating our salads and soups while talking Europen real estate, schools, and healthcare and all I can do is stare at them trying to find a flaw. White perfect teeth? Check (Must get my teeth whitened one of these days). Always smiling? Check (They are actually genuinely happy people). Long, blonde, beautiful hair? Check (Must get hair dyed and done). Pool-blue eyes and flawless skin? Check (Must make an appointment with Dr. Lowe). Cool factor? Well they are Swedish after all. Ugh. This day is depressing me more by the minute. And they are just the nicest people ever. I spend the whole lunch trying to find what’s wrong with them and all I can come up with is that they are fans of 50 Shades of Grey.

2pm: We are going through our Celebrity Crushes (CC). Mine is of course, David, only for the fact that he is the ‘World’s Best Dad’ (and he happens to be even hotter in real life than in photos). I just can’t help it, seeing a (hot) dad with his adorable daughter in his arms just wins me over every time. C’s CC is Christian Bale in American Psycho, with a bit of Christian Grey thrown in, while K’s is Brangelina. Together. In Bed. At the same time. And here I was thinking that Scandis were boring.

David Beckham Takes Harper Out For A Morning Stroll

2:45pm I leave the Electric after a lovely time with K & C, and having had a decent but un-extraordinary soup and salad, but anything tastes better than waiting in line at Bill Granger. On our way out, Marina Fogle, Ben Fogle’s wife, is busy having a work meeting for her new company ‘The Bump’. More mumpreneurs in action.

3pmish: Pick up time. I rush to the school gates and dread the uncomfortable small talk and idle chatter (Where are you off to for half term? How was your half term? Are you going to the Parent’s Event/Sports Day/Christmas Play?) while they ‘up-and-down’ me to see what labels I am not wearing. I feel like an awkward teenager who has no one to sit with at lunch time.

3pmish + 5 minutes: I spot ‘Gossip Mum’ and go straight to her. She loves talking so much and only listens to herself anyway, so I will look like I have a friend, but won’t need to talk. Perfect. And she keeps me in the school gossip loop, which makes me feel less of an outsider. Today, she chats away about the latest weird thing ‘Weird Mum’ has said and done and tells me about SuperRich Mum’s inbuilt trampoline and slide in her huge back garden (Yes, in London). Alpha Mum joins us and tells us about how many laps her perfect, supersonic daughter can do at the ‘Country Club’ after having lessons from Gold Medal Swimmer Coach. I wonder whether I should admit that M still doesn’t swim without floaties.

4pm: We are home after a play in the playground/private garden/park/activity. M has been best friends, enemies, then best friends again with her BFF in the past 10 minutes. Her BFF happens to be SuperRich’s Mum’s daughter and has a private jet, two drivers, three chefs, and 6 staff and M keeps asking if she can have a slide that goes down into a trampoline in our non-existent garden, and why we don’t have our own a ‘taxi’ driver. Hmm… Perhaps they should stay enemies.

4:30pm I open the door for the alarm/kitchen/builder/dishwasher guy to fix the broken alarm/fridge/house/dishwasher. Groundhog Day.

5pm: Finally, it’s TV time and everyone is happy! Anything from Frozen, Doc Mc Stuffins, Peppa, Mickey, Epic, or anything with Pirates will do.

6pm-7:30pm: Dinner, bath-time and wind-down-time, sleepy -time: Baby A doesn’t want to eat, M doesn’t want to poop and neither wants to go to sleep. Lots of negotiations and bribes later, everyone is in bed sleeping.

8pm: Dinner-time. Finally a moment to sit down. Mr. C is at a work dinner/traveling, as usual. I really need to go back to work, I think to myself, at least just so I can blame work for being an inadequate mother. Until then, the pressure of being a NHYM lurks heavily. I blame myself for my daughter not swimming yet, I self-loathe some more about my non-size-8-body, go back to feeling like the outsider who has no one to sit with at lunch-time, feel like the Ugly Duckling next to all these gorgeous Scandis (who seem to have an unfair physical advantage over the rest of the world) and feel personally inadequate for not having my own internet company/ethical food/clothes line/yoga studio.

So, perhaps this is why Trinny is with Charles Saatchi, because the NHYM pressure we put on ourselves creates unrealistic expectations to become these superwomen and supermom NHYM, who don’t actually exist (Except if you are Scandinavian, and then perhaps you stand a chance). Perhaps we should realise that all that really matters is that our families are happy and healthy and all the other stuff just doesn’t really matter. Period.

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xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

Twitter: @NHyummymummy

 

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Reviews

Review of Polpo Restaurant, Notting Hill

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(That’s him in the window/ that’s him in the spotlight/ Working the tables/ It’s Russell Norman/The Restaurant Man. Photos taken by NHYM Copyright 2014)

Polpo Notting Hill

126-128 Notting Hill Gate London W11 3QG

02072293283

http://www.polpo.co.uk

Overall: 3.75 stars

Food: 3.5 stars

Service: 3.5 stars / raised to 4 stars for having Russell Norman on the floor

Design: 4 stars

Value: 4 stars because their Pizettes were only at £5 and their plates are very filling

Having read some of the gushing praise of Russell Norman’s, aka the ‘King of Small Plates,’ many restaurants (Spuntino, Polpo Soho, Polpetto, Mishkin’s, and Polpo Covent Garden), and how people actually wait in line for an hour and half for a seat, I was thrilled to hear that one was opening up in Notting Hill. Not one for waiting in line for a restaurant (I’ve left ‘waiting in line’ behind a red velvet rope in my 20s, let alone any restaurant line in Soho), there was no way I was ever going to shlep all the way to Soho, unsure of whether I would have to wait 30 or 80 minutes for a table. Polpo Notting Hill would be the perfect way to try one of this famous restaurateur’s restaurants, without ever having to leave my 10-minute radius. Not quite ready to face the possibility of waiting in line, I took the safe road and booked a lunch reservation (They actually don’t ever close after lunch, which must be great for business).

PolpoMenuNHYM

The Polpo Restaurant concept is about being a Venetian Bacaro serving small Italian plates (the Italian version of a tapas bar). Having been to a true Bacaro in Venice during my ‘Gap/Backpacking year’, which made me think of a dark, smokey restaurant full of students and young trendy things, smoking cigarettes, drinking vino and nibbling on bits (not only the food), while discussing the superiority of Italian men (I was a twenty-something woman after all), I had high hopes and expectations for this establishment.

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The original Polpo was created during the recession, and Russell Norman was able to make it a success by making it a relatively cheap, relaxed and cool dining scene. Russell’s background is as a restaurant manager and operations director at Caprice Holdings. He knows a thing or two about running a restaurant and what attracts people to a restaurant. It is not always clearly about the food alone. In the recession, he saw that all the buzzy, cool places were the ones that were packed. So he interior designed all of his restaurants (and is known for carefully choosing all the details from the toilet sinks and lighting himself), to attract the trendy and cool crowd. His staff are hired for their attitude and for being the creative types, rather than necessarily their restaurant credentials, which adds to the cool factor of the restaurant. When I saw Russell Norman working the tables as I came in, being a true ‘Restaurant Man,’ listening to what his clients and staff have to say, seeing with his eyes how the restaurant was being run, I wanted to love it.

PolpoBarNHYM

When I entered Polpo, what struck me immediately was a slightly damp smell. Perhaps to recreate the summer’s humidity in Venice or perhaps why it shut down for one day (a flood maybe?), 4 days after opening.  But then I saw the bar, which immediately made me forget my initial impression. The Bar is Beautiful. I do love a nice bar, and this one easily took me back to my Italian Backpacking days. I was then seated with a perfect view of the restaurant, (which is one of the reasons I always come early to choose my spot before my lunch date arrives). The clientele here is rather eclectic as the restaurant is; beautiful posh British Blondes two tables on my left, two American NHYMs two tables on my right, a family of 4 across from me, older men having lunch, young trendsetters  at the bar and two lovely Notting Hill Grannies, one Japanese and one American, next to me. This is what I love about London; all ages, all nationalities and all social classes mixing easily together in an Italian Wine Bar. I can imagine it being great at night with a buzzy atmosphere with cocktails flowing, a few good friends, and lots of laughs.

PolposeatNHYM

We ordered small plates on the recommendation of the waitress; a plate of ciceti, the garlic and clam pizzette, classic beef and pork meatballs, lamb caponata, the polpo of course, and the asparagus and broad bean salad. The food was good, but unfortunately not quite as good as I was hoping. There was a slight lack of flavour to the dishes, perhaps a slight banality to them. The arancini and the pizettes were rather good, I liked the creativity of eating a spicy clams, capers and garlic pizzette. The Polpo fell a bit short of my expectations, instead a crispy, browned Italian octopus the way I like them, it felt as if this poor polpo had drifted for days in the Med and somehow landed on British territory, and had become a bit soggy from all the British rain. The lamb and meatballs were just average, and knowing that this restaurant is coming from one of the biggest restaurant names in London at the moment, I was, I admit a tad disappointed.

Perhaps I am expecting too much from a Bacaro, perhaps my expecations were too high and I am a demanding NHYM that should be kept away from Notting Hill Gate. Perhaps these are teething issues which he will iron out over the next few weeks, so I will come back for another go in two weeks, this time at night to capture the buzz. But then again, perhaps this is what Russell is trying to do; cheap and cheerful dishes in a great atmosphere. And maybe, this restaurant was not conceived with me in mind. When I read reviews later on Tripadvisor, I realised that this place is not for earth-shattering, tantalising food, this place is for friends to meet, drink and have a good time in a greatly designed restaurant with a good atmosphere. After all, this is all the Italian students could afford on a budget, so in this respect, Russell is succeeding after all.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

twitter: @NHyummymummy

Polpo on Urbanspoon

p.s. For those also adverse to waiting in line for a dinner table, there are subtle ways of getting a dinner reservation but what’s the fun in telling you how? I will leave it to you to figure it out on your own…

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In the Press, Social Commentary

Kids’ Birthday Party Crashers: ‘Nobu or the Dorchester, darling?’

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(All Photos in this post courtesy of Les Enfants on Pinterest)

These days I seem to spend every Saturday and Sunday carting my two kids to various Birthday Parties at various venues across London. Recently, I had triple birthdays in one weekend: one Sat am, one Sat pm and two Sunday pm. (I had to devise a hierarchy of needs for the Sunday pm parties: whose party do I really need to go to?) Is this what my life has been reduced to? My toddler’s social life being more booked than mine?. I am torn between my egoistical self and my maternal self that needs to provide to my children’s happiness first. Then, for my children’s birthdays, I have to reciprocate and throw a party for all the people who have invited us, whether I want to or not, to avoid personal social suicide and my children becoming social pariahs. This becomes 42 parties a year, and 42 children + 42 parents to invite for a grand total of 84 mouths to feed and entertain (not to mention the siblings that are undoubtedly brought along and the occasional daddy), which equals to exhaustion and unimaginable stress for me for months ahead.

I have always been sensitive about Birthday Parties. This likely stems from my early Freudian (all our issues really are due to our childhoods), traumatic experience when I had only one person (my neighbour) show up to my 6th birthday party out of my class of 30. Granted, I had just moved to a Muslim country 10 days before and didn’t know anyone or the usual customs, where no one seemed to throw birthday parties or go to people’s homes they didn’t know. So, I think I have a good enough reason to be obsessed and fear-stricken about throwing a birthday party and having no one show up. All I ever wanted growing up was someone (anyone) to attend my birthday party to throw a hot potato or play musical chairs with me. Times have certainly changed and children’s parties these days are a whole extravagant, creative and OTT affair competing with Bat Mitvahs and Weddings, but which are a yearly, recurring affair (and sometimes a few times a year, depending on how many children you have).

So where do the famous, the rich and the Notting Hillers celebrate their kids’ birthday parties?

The Notting Hillers

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The Notting Hill Mums (as do the Chelsea Mums, Belgravia Mums, South Ken Mums and all West London Mums) all compete with each other to throw a worthy birthday party for their gorgeous, perfect, little angels (or brats). Venues are booked months in advance. Party bags are made artfully from internet websites or party organisers. The catering is organised, kosher, halal, sugar and fat free. For the NHYM chef-wannabes, cupcakes and cakes are made-with-love, gluten free, low sugar, low fat. Favourite venues include church halls for the under 3s, The Commander for standard NHYM great parties, RS Currie for smaller but lovely, well organised parties, and the Harbour Club for active kids. Cinemas are popular with older kids, when the entire Electric Cinema will be booked or one of the screens at The Lounge will feel like a like a private view.

Outdoors, Private Gardens are used to blow up Bouncy Castles and the Princess Diana Playground is taken over by 30 kids running wild. Battersea Zoo is one of the more original and cute venues. If it rains, Private Member’s clubs like Purple Dragon and Maggie & Rose are available, perfectly organised without you having so much as lifting a finger. One NHYM rented out the whole of the Arts Club 1st floor, which is still being talked about at the Arts Club. Then there are the Entertainers and the theme: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Princesses, Superheroes, Pirates, Star Wars in a warehouse, Fireman Sam and the list goes on. Eventually, it is a blurry vision of what the child originally wanted and what a NHYM’s ‘creativity’ and ‘imagination’ runs away wildly with.

The most original party bag gift I have heard of was a goldfish. But, what does one do with a goldfish?! Flush it down the toilet, let daddy eat it or keep it alive by researching ‘how to keep a goldfish alive’ for hours on the internet and then buying 100’s of pounds worth of kit for it to survive? And what to do with the goldfish whilst on holiday? And what do you tell your sweet little boy Max when his goldfish dies? That he went back to his home in the sea? That Daddy flushed him down the drain? All the stress and these questions would drive me absolutely nutty.

The Super-Rich

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Now, the excessively rich all seem to love throwing birthday parties in Hotel Ballrooms. The Berkeley Hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, The Dorchester and the Kensington Hotel all come to mind. We were once invited to an amazing party at one of the above Ballrooms, which happened to be the best birthday party I had ever been to. Ever. Adult or Child. (Forget Adults Birthday Parties, I just want an invite to kids’ birthday parties these days. Actually, I want one of these parties for myself). This was a 3rd birthday party and the theme of the party was ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.’ Every child received an invitation with a chocolate bar and a Golden Ticket inside, which served as the invite, written in golden leaf.

As you arrived into the Ballroom, Giant-sized Oompa Loompahs welcomed us with giant lollipops. The Ballroom was decorated as a Chocolate Factory, with chocolate fountains flowing with marshmallows on sticks to dip them in. There were cotton candy machines, ice cream vans, and popcorn machines everywhere you looked. There was a giant bouncy castle almost touching the ceiling of the ballroom with a slide coming down into a ball pit. There were small rides of cars, train carriages, spaceships, and a merry-go-round. All for free! M kept asking if I had a pound coin to put in the rides, and when I told her we didn’t need any and she could go as often as she wanted, she didn’t know what to do with herself or where to go. Her eyes kept getting bigger and bigger as she looked at all the rides and sweeties for her to devour. This was Disneyland in a London Hotel! There were entertainers and balloon sculptors, face-painting and a magician. There was a an entire table full of cupcakes, candy, and chocolate bars. (Hello caries and dentist visits, goodbye our bank accounts when M was going to request a party like this). Then as we left, after having had the time of our lives, guilt and shame hit, when we looked into the party bag and realised it was more expensive than the gift we had bought the child.

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Another, rather ridiculous, super-rich birthday party across the pond in the US was thrown for a 5 year old on his parent’s private jet. But the private jet was parked in a hangar! What’s the fun in that? At least give us a ride! Let’s take this baby for a spin! Although this was a drop off party, somehow, most of the parents decide to stay and oggle at the jet, while the owners happily showed off their dripping, nouveau riche, wealth.

It’s not about Wedding Crashers anymore, welcome the Kids’ Birthday Crashers. One upcoming Summer Birthday Party I would like to go to, is a 1 year old Pool Party in the South of France this July. The children will go cherry, lemon, and fig picking, all out in the back garden, before jumping into a lovely salt-water, heated pool. I hear they may even have pony rides organised in the garden after the freshly baked Tarte aux Pommes. (My address is included below should you want to send me the invite). In the meantime, I hear there is ‘lightning’ party happening this weekend at some ballroom in London…

The Super – Famous

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The famous also have their own way of throwing parties. It may not always be what you would expect:

1) The A-List Actors: You receive a phone call 2 hours before the party and are asked: ‘Are you X’s mother?’ Two hours later, after ditching the hierarchy of needs and the other party your child was invited to,  you find yourself in a massive Dorchester Suite surrounded by other Hollywood Actors and their progeny singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to their exceptionally beautiful and charming children, friends and entourage.

2) Rock ‘N’ Roll Royalty: To go against the grain, the Rock ‘N’ Rollers throw their party at Bramley’s, which is clearly a rebellion against the excess of the other rich and famous crowds. Their famous friends are too cool to even say ‘hello’ to you, even after an introduction by the R’N’R hostess.

3) The English ‘Golden Couple’: For their child’s 15th Birthday, the whole family and friends (20 of them) have dinner at Nobu Park Lane. I am not sure whether this is a good thing or not. I just hope the child managed to have a teenagers party of booze and hookups instead of choosing lobster tempura or which roll to order in a restaurant full of ‘old’ people.

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Party organisers

I have to admit that I admire the creativity, energy and effort the party planners will go through to create a perfect event which will last all of 2 hours. What a great way to make a living, spending other people’s money to create every child’s dream. To have a fantabulous NHYM Birthday Party, Popular Party organisers are as follows:

RS Currie: Bespoke, local, home-grown party planner, by Tom the owner of RS Currie. http://www.rscurrie.com

Twizzle Parties: A go-to for good, standard, reliable party planners and organisers. http://www.twizzle.co.uk

Les Enfants: For ‘Beautiful, stylish, and fun inspiration for children’s parties’ aka those parties at the Mandarin Oriental and the Dorchester, look no further to make your child’s dreams turn into reality: http://www.lesenfants.co.uk

But what happens the following year, when you are competing against your own amazing party in a Hotel Ballroom? And what will these children expect for their 16th Birthdays (One boy has been promised a Ferrari for his 16th but still doesn’t have his driver’s license. Really?!)?

What has been your most extravagant birthday you’ve thrown or been invited to? What do you think about the craziness of the Birthday Party phenomenon? Good or Bad? Share your thoughts!

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xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

twitter: @NHyummymummy

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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

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(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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Social Commentary

Social Commentary: ‘I want to be an -ein’

Prequel to the review of Blue Jasmine, directed by Woody Allen, one of the most famous Jews known for being a Jew.

Weinstein, Blankfein, Einstein, Lichtenstein, Stein. This could be the premise of a new child’s game to name all the great jews with names ending with ‘-ein.’ I think I should have been born Jewish. I am an anxious, neurotic, person who loves to talk and gossip. I would also love to be intellectually superior to all my peers. Oh and I have a penchant for larger than average noses, which I find very sexy. I am actually and sincerely nose-o-philic. Three friends I know, a superwoman Vietnamese banker, a super tall blond glamazonian Dutch Cameron Diaz lookalike and an African American Ivy League graduate have all converted to Judaism. These minorities all wanted to be born Jewish too. Who wouldn’t want to be the minority who rules America?

In America, they are the Kings of the Economy (Goldman, Sachs, & Blankfein), Kings of Hollywood (Weinstein et al.), Kings of Comedy (Seinfeld, Stiller, Sandler), Kings of New York therefore the world (Bloomberg), Kings of Literature (Philip Roth, Allen Ginsberg, Mordechai Richler, Gertrude Stein), Kings of Physics and Relativity (Albert Einstein), Kings really of almost everything. I could go on but there isn’t enough space in my blog to list them all. Jews are 100% more clever than you or me. ‘How did you come up with this number?’ I can hear my sneering, sarcastic brother grilling and mocking me as I mention this statistic, so I prepare my answer. ‘Easy. 20% of all Nobel Laureates are Jews, but Jews only consist of 0.2% of the world population, therefore making them 100% more intelligent than the average Patel, Jones, Mohammed, or Li Ming. You can check on Wikipedia, Einstein.’ I will smugly retort.

Jews have migrated to almost every corner of the world, overcoming all kinds of adversity, which is what makes their community stronger and more resilient than most. I envy their sense of solidarity and community, which is almost a form of secret society like the Skull and Bones at Yale. I believe there is also a ‘Jewdar’ that allows them to spot a Jew from 20 meters away. They all seem to know each other and Friday night’s Shabat is a ritual of bread-eating, hat-wearing, juice-drinking that unites them in a way that they can find themselves anywhere in the world with a place to go to for dinner on Friday night. Except maybe Kings Road and Majorca. Read on:

A North London Jew meets an American Jew and they start dating. They fall in love and are deciding where to live. The American Jew lives in Kings Road, whilst the North London Jew, well, lives in North London. The American tries to convince the North Londoner to move to Kings Road, she responds ‘Kings Road? There are no Jews on Kings Road! I don’t need a lot of Jews, but I need SOME Jews!’

Another couple is made up of a non-Jew and Jew. They are lucky enough to have enough money to choose to live anywhere in the world. The non-Jew is looking at Majorca. It’s sunny, not too expensive, they have good international schools and they can adopt a Mediterranean lifestyle of good food, sunshine and have a beautiful house overlooking the azure Mediterranean sea. When she mentions this to her husband, he asks her how many Jews live on the island. She quickly turns to google and finds that 200 Jews live on the island. She breathes a sigh of relief and runs to tell her husband. He replies ‘200?! That’s not even the size of a small Jewish wedding!’ That quickly shatters her dreams of late lunches, siestas, tapas and Rioja by their pool in Deia.

So, why this sudden interest in Jews, you may ask me. Well, I am a fan of Woody Allen. Not for screwing his wife’s adoptive daughter while she was lovingly cooking his Matzo balls in their Kosher kitchen, but for his great films. His latest, Blue Jasmine, has just won Cate Blanchett an Oscar in the Best Actress category and is considered instrumental in making his comeback as a master filmmaker. Jews are great entertainers, being some of the best actors, screenwriters, and comedians around. Judd Apatow made us pee in our pants (or poo in our wedding dress for some) with the likes of Bridesmaids, Knocked up and Superbad, Ben Stiller’s Zoolander is a classic, and Seinfeld is too brilliant for words. And they also have Nathalie Portman who is every man’s wet dream.

I find that Jews are great at making others laugh by using their own shortcomings and flaws as a topic of conversation. They are witty observers of humanity, which Woody Allen achieves so well in his movies by making us cry and laugh, often at his own and others’ downfalls. Add that to the list of why I want to be an ‘-ein’

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Reviews

‘To cut or not to cut, that is the question’

This weekend was the press launch of Kevin Pieterson’s new kids hair salon, Bella & Beau, on Ledbury Road. I booked an appointment when I saw the beautiful aquarium full of baby nemos and Ariel’s sebastians, angelfish and sea anemones and since M had never had a haircut, I thought it would be OK to splurge. There, one can choose from a red fire engine with bell, a retro plane or car to sit in during the haircut. You are given an Ipad with Peppa Pig or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to keep your kid’s head still during the haircut. There is an Alice in Wonderland sized pink piano with a large mirror out of snow white. Why don’t they have these kinds of hair salons for grown ups? I would certainly go for £100 a haircut. I told my high priestess of a hairdresser about M’s appointment and she tsk tsk’d me saying that a hair salon is not a playground and haircuts should be an experience for children to feel grown up. I cowered in shame under my gown and muttered under my breath that this was really just a one off.

The haircut itself was lovely, the lady was very sweet with M and all went accordingly to plan for the whole 5 minutes the haircut lasted, since it didn’t even include shampooing. That would equate to £5 a minute and I started to feel very guilty about this excess until I saw my daughter’s delighted face as she rang the fire engine’s bell.

I still am not sure how I stand on expensive kids’ haircuts, even though it was a lovely mummy baby bonding time. Please share your thoughts!

Bella & Beau

56 Ledbury Road

W11 2AJ

02077276636

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