Press

In the Press: Interview with NHYM in The Financial Times

This week, I was interviewed by the Financial Times about parents getting their children into the ‘right’ nursery. Here’s the article! The moral of the story is that we should all chill out…

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4e504c28-f8a4-11e4-be00-00144feab7de.html?siteedition=uk#axzz3a7brQ39h

The Financial Times: 

Paid to advise on the ‘right’ nursery

Emma Jacobs

Cambridge university, then Deutsche Bank. This was the future one father working in the City of London told Sabine Hook he had mapped out for his son. The child was six months old: it was Ms Hook’s job to get the infant on the right track through her work as a nursery consultant.

This father’s ambitions for his infant are far from unusual. Many of Ms Hook’s clients are, she says, high achievers who want the same for their offspring. A good nursery is viewed as the first step in an educational chain, ending in a top university. Some nurseries “know the value of a firm handshake and eye contact”, she says, which may help a child get into a sought-after pre-preparatory school (fee-paying ones for children under seven or eight). Anke Gosch, meanwhile, is used to dealing with parents fixated on a top nursery as the “stepping stone” to Harvard and Oxbridge.

Both women offer advice to London parents wanting the best education for their infants, typically in Notting Hill, Chelsea and Hampstead, which have some of the capital’s most expensive properties. Rates for nursery consultancy are from about £290 an hour (plus VAT, the UK sales tax). Though Ms Hook, who used to teach and is now a full-time nursery and early-years education consultant, might be hired to interview nannies over Skype or suggest holiday destinations that provide learning opportunities. One family have retained her services more than a year.

For both Ms Gosch, a former City trader, and Ms Hook, the paid work developed out of a sideline: they found they were offering friends advice on nurseries and schooling for free. A high proportion of their work is advising wealthy expats who do not know how to navigate the British education system. Russian clients occasionally ask Ms Hook if giving a nursery some extra money might help get their child in. It would not, she insists.

For such parents, nursery is not a matter of childcare: who will look after the toddler while the parents go to work. The UK government’s new initiatives to reduce the cost of childcare are of little concern. Some clients have a nanny at home while both work, others will have a nanny as well as a mother at home. Nursery, for these parents, is for the over-twos’ social skills.

Ms Gosch, whose primary focus is schools, says it is American parents, used to such consultancies, who are helping to drive demand for nursery advice. Wednesday Martin, former an­thropologist and author of Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir , says that on the Upper East Side such services are a response to the pressure on nursery places, in part because the wealthy have larger families. There is also a culture of “intensive motherhood”, she says, which places emphasis on educational enrichment. “Wealthy parents often told me they felt it was negligent not to hire someone to help them with this process from the very beginning,” she says. Britain still lags behind New York when it comes to the proliferation of such services, which include a “play date coach”.

The anonymous author of the Notting Hill Yummy Mummy blog, which chronicles life among the “famous, super-rich, super-smart, super-beautiful, super-obnoxious, super-competitive” in banker-and-celebrity-filled west London, knows many parents who have used nursery consultants. There is an obsession with “the best nurseries”, the blogger says, particularly due to local parents being “ultra competitive”.

Her husband dropped the registration off to their preferred nursery the day she gave birth to their first daughter. But she has been told by friends that this sometimes is not enough. “You have to show how much you want to get in,” for example, by name-dropping parents who send their kids to the nursery. Other strategies include sending chocolates and flowers to the registrar. She insists, however, that she would “never cough up £500 just to be told which nurseries are in my neighbourhood”.

Ms Hook, who is eight months pregnant with her first child, says that what clients are paying for is her educational expertise. However, she concedes that part of her job is calming parental anxiety. “Certain nurseries are bizarrely very fashionable and parents are fixated on getting into [them].” Some of her time is spent trying to unravel why parents think that their child “must” get into a particular nursery.

She blames peer pressure and herd mentality. “Nursery competition brings out paranoia in even the most balanced parents. The rumour mill makes them go a bit mad. We go into it and find that a lot of it is built on hearsay.” She tries to persuade clients to listen to their gut instinct and not be guided by others. If you can give them the peace of mind that is a good thing.” Ms Gosch agrees. “There are lots of good places that aren’t hyped. A lot of the time I tell them not to worry.”

Part of the pressure is due to parents’ desire to look good, says the Notting Hill blogger. But it is also because they are “part of the 1 per cent who have enough to provide their kids with the best education”.

Ms Hook was once asked to assess a little girl because her parents were considering switching nurseries, with the expectation that it might advance her chances of getting into their chosen school. The two-and-a-half-year-old was attending nursery five days a week and had a tutor for two afternoons a week (to keep on top of maths and literacy) as well as weekly phonics and reading classes, drama, piano, beginner French and swimming. They were considering adding Mandarin and Spanish. “The little girl was so exhausted and on edge she was terrified of opening her mouth.”

She feels the pressure on some children is too much, too early. “It’s ludicrous to think your capabilities are revealed by two or three, especially boys.” She would never advise tutors for the under-fives. “It’s completely crazy. It’s a waste of money. The skills [a two-year-old needs] are speaking, putting on their shoes and coat.” All of which, a parent should be able to help with, she notes. Both Ms Hook and Ms Gosch, who will also assist parents in finding a good state school, insist their clients are not all “Tiger mothers”.

Ms Hook sums it up: “All parents are the same — they want the best for their child.”

emma.jacobs@ft.com
Twitter: @emmavj

Standard
Reviews

Review: Tamara Ecclestone’s SHOW Blow Dry Bar

Ever wondered what you would do if you were a Billionaire? Well, if your name is Tamara Ecclestone, heiress to the Billion-dollar Formula One dynasty, you open up your very own Blow Dry Bar. I was invited to try out the SHOW Dry Bar this past Monday and for once actually went. I don’t usually do beauty reviews but I was tempted by a) its proximity to my home b) feeling sorry for my hair c) but really because I am very curious about this whole ‘Blowdry Bar’ experience and of course, Tamara Ecclestone’s weird and wonderful life.

270A255500000578-3014230-The_socialite_has_taken_every_last_detail_into_consideration_and-a-7_1427450606574

All photos courtesy of Halpern PR unless otherwise noted. NHYM 2015. 

Apparently, Blowdry bars are already very popular in the US, and there are a few scattered around London already (Soho, Chelsea and pop-ups at Harvey Nics/Harrods/Selfridge’s), but Notting Hill was still a Blowdry-Bar-virgin- until now. Strategically, it is located across the street from Granger’s, a very popular ‘Ladies-Who-Lunch’ spot with regular David Beckham sightings. So, while you are blowdrying your hair, you can spot celebs, and people-watch, or conversely, you can eat while craving a blow dry. Can you really have a BlowDry craving? My NHYM mentor Francesca, (see: https://nottinghillmummy.com/2014/07/24/notting-hill-nurseries-the-rise-of-the-notting-hill-yummy-mummy/) once told me that the most important way to look glamorous is to do your hair. If your hair looks nice, everything else will look nice, even those run in your tights.

270A371700000578-3014230-Each_station_is_kitted_out_with_an_iPad_which_is_filled_with_mag-a-11_1427450859982

So, off I went to SHOW Blow dry Bar on a ‘Bloggers’ day, for my first SHOW blow dry. I am not one to look after my hair particularly well: occasional dying of white hair when I’ve had enough of my friends pointing them out and laughing, or an occasional blow dry for a special event, but that’s about it. My hair looks more like Anne Hathaway’s in the Devil Wears Prada, before the fabulous makeover, rather than after…

images-1

Photo courtesy of the internet. NHYM 2015. 

Entering Show Dry, I see that I am really an amateur in the ‘Hair’ department. When my blow-dry lady asks what hair products I use, I try not to admit that L’Oreal from Boots does the trick. I first go downstairs for a fancy shampoo in a ‘massage’ chair (well, it’s really a vibrating chair more than anything), where the steps are black and the railings rose gold, with photos of red lips and diamonds on the wall. It’s definitely the ‘Totally Tamara’ look.

270A373700000578-3014230-image-a-9_1427450753295

After, I go upstairs to get my BlowDry, where I am offered a list of goodies and magazines on a sleek black iPad Mini: I choose an Apple, & Banana smoothie and salted caramel popcorn (there was Champagne on offer, but didn’t want to wobble to the school run after). This was the ultimate luxury Monday afternoon: getting my hair washed & blow dried while munching on caramel popcorn and reading a magazine. It felt very, very indulgent for a mum of two. Oh and the salted caramel popcorn is so so good, you’ve got to try it.

Unknown-8

At the end, I even got a goodie bag with actually something I would use: Volumising Mist and a hair oil made with Argan Oil, which I am a big fan of. I hope this store does well, I am always a fan of success stories (unfortunately for Kevin Pieterson’s Bella & Beau has already closed down… https://nottinghillmummy.com/2014/03/24/to-cut-or-not-to-cut-that-is-the-question/). My blow dry is very good, I instantly go from ‘mother-doing-the-school-run look’ to ‘glamorous-where-are-you-going-tonight’ look.

prince-george-william-kate_2

Photo courtesy of the internet. NHYM 2015.

Ah. It does feel lovely, me and my bouncy hair, and it reminds me of Kate Middleton’s bouncy, perfect hair that she gets done daily. (see photo of Kate Middleton post-birth) She obviously got the memo from Francesca about perfect hair making you look instantly polished, presentable and dressed up. It’s been a lovely, indulgent afternoon, and I may just be back next week. Even if just for the Salted Caramel.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

Standard
Spotlight On...

Spotlight On: Leslie Saglio, Yoga guru, Reiki practitioner & Wellness coach

Unknown-3

All photos in this post courtesy of Leslie Saglio. NHYM 2015. 

Lately, I have been hearing all about the stress and anxiety of parents getting their kids into the ‘right school,’ passing the 7+ or the 11+. Normally calm and relaxed parents have become screaming messes and super-powered CEO mums and Magazine Editor mums have been put on anti-depressants, diazepam and other anxiolytics due to the stress of their children’s exams.

Isn’t it time for us to realise that this is really not the way to go? Shouldn’t we be kinder to ourselves? Here, I have interviewed Leslie Saglio, a local Yoga teacher who has started teaching at the brand new, beautiful West London Buddhist Centre on how to become more zen. She is also a Wellness Coach, a Reiki practitioner and a mother of 2 living in Notting Hill. She helped launch Serene Social in the UK last year, is a contributor to the US site MindBodyGreen and is a Brand Ambassador for the eco-friendly lifestyle apparel company Wellicious, based in Notting Hill.

Unknown-2

1. What’s your story? 

I am originally from Calabasas, just next to Malibu beach, in LA. I grew up a child of the sun and sea, enjoyingthe outdoor lifestyle.I have always been fascinated by other cultures and spent a lot of my youth travelling throughout the U.S. and Asia. I graduated from Business School at the University of Southern California and worked in the Entertainment industry, and then took a leap of faith and co-founded a real estate mortgage company. I moved to London with my French fiancé in 2006, we got married in 2007 and have two beautiful kids. I have lived in the Notting Hill area since then. So London is well and truly my home!

2. What made you decide to get involved in Wellness/yoga/serene?

While living In LA, I was feeling the strains of city life and this showed in my unhealthy lifestyle. I managed to break from this cycle when I moved to Europe, but my life changed more dramatically in 2010 when my loved ones became seriously ill. I regrouped to become stronger and it was then that I began my holistic and spiritual journey towards a healthier lifestyle.

I became a yoga teacher in 2013 and while students were coming to me for advice on the healing effects of yoga, it felt like a calling as I knew I wanted to help others. While exploring other disciplines such as Reiki and Feng Shui, I decided to become a certified Wellness Coach. During this time in 2013 while on a trip in New York City, I met Millana Snow, co-founder of SERENE Social, a women’s wellness and conscious networking community, originally based in New York. As I loved everything SERENE stood for, I helped them by becoming their London Lead and launched them last year. I feel blessed to be able to light the path for others to start their own journey towards a more purpose filled life.

Unknown-4

3. What is a Wellness Coach? And what exactly is Serene Social?

A wellness coach is someone who empowers others to lead a lifestyle beyond enhanced health. I’m a certified and dedicated Energy 4 Life© Wellness Coach, which means I take a progressive holistic approach founded by my teacher Caroline Shola Arewa. By taking a three-dimensional approach (body, mind and spirit) and focusing on disciplines such as yoga, complementary medicine and spirituality, I help clients reclaim wholeness and personal energy. It requires tremendous strength. But with time, it can repair the damage caused by poor diet, lack of exercise, negative thoughts and overall stress.

SERENE Social is a community that was set up to inspire a life of passion, power and purpose for women around the globe. SERENE provides a source of conscious content, connections and empowerment via yoga, networking sessions, meditation, online courses and more. For more info on how I helped launch SERENE London read here

4. You are now running Yoga lessons at the West London Buddhist Centre. Can you tell us a bit more about the centre and what you do there? 

The West London Buddhist Centre is a charity linked to a wider movement called Triratna Buddhist Community. It’s just one of the many businesses, retreat centres and other initiatives you’ll find worldwide. WLBC is based in a beautiful new Notting Hill building on Porchester Road and hosts a programme of classes and courses in mindfulness disciplines such as meditation, yoga and other bodywork.

I teach weekly Yin and Vinyasa classes, monthly yoga and coaching workshops as well as private coaching sessions. My ethos is to empower my students and clients to have their own unique experience. I do this by providing them with a space to begin healing themselves and find their full potential.

Although I’m not Buddhist, I fully embrace its philosophy to transform our responses to life experiences and it’s an ethos that crosses over many different cultures and religious beliefs. Mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga not only help train the body to a more healthy physical state, but also enable students to shift their emotional and mental states towards a more conscious and balanced life.

5. How do you stay positive when you are faced with difficulties and obstacles? 

To stay positive as an expat mum in the city, I do daily mindful practices such as yoga, meditation and gratitude and try following a healthy diet. I definitely feel the difference if I’m not keeping up and doing the work. I’ve learned that if you consistently do the work, it does get easier. As with my clients, I also practice techniques such as repeating daily positive affirmations to manifest my dreams, and have regular Reiki sessions to replenish my energy. But most of all, I remember to breathe!

Unknown-5

6. What advice would you give to all the stressed out mums (and dads) out there?

As parents, to really fully support the ones we love, we must remember to first take care of ourselves. We need to learn how to set boundaries with our own time and our energy. Sometimes it’s ok to say ‘no’ to going out and just be comfortable staying quiet at home. Equally, it helps to remember to take some time for yourself – whether that be a girls’/guys’ night out, a mani/pedi, going to the gym, or getting a babysitter so you can enjoy a date night.

7. Many mums I know would love to find something they can do that helps others while staying flexible around their family time. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to become a yoga instructor or wellness coach like you? 

  1. Do your research – There are so many part-time and online training/teaching options available out there that will compliment a parent’s lifestyle. Just make sure you choose a teacher/coach whose personality and style resonates with you.
  2. Seek support – Make sure you have a reliable and flexible nanny and friends. Schedule play dates and activities so your kids stay busy and connected while you’re out/away
  3. Get organised – Make regular lists and acknowledge what you have accomplished. It’s all about baby steps.
  4. Stay committed – Anything worthwhile will not come easy. Remember, a profession in wellness has the power to make you a better mum and better wife so don’t ever feel guilty for putting in the hours.

 8. You are a Yoga teacher, a Wellness Coach, a Reiki Healer and you led the London launch of Serene Social. How do you manage it all with being a mother (and a wife!)? 

It’s all about how you manage your personal energy and everything I do with my students and clients is simply that – shifting energy so they can become healthier in their entire wellbeing. The mind and body are truly inter-connected and when we start to live with that consciousness, we live from a more authentic and harmonious state. We begin to experience life more beautifully.

Unknown-1

 9. What are your favourite places in Notting Hill?

The Life Centre for their inspirational yoga teachers, Planet Organic for wholesome goods, Neal’s Yard Remedies for a relaxing massage, Granger & Co. for brunch with my girlfriends, and Taqueria for some yummy Mexican food and a taste of my hometown L.A.

10. What advice would you give to your younger self, now that you’ve had all these life experiences? 

Enjoy every moment, count your blessings, know that every experience you have is meant to make you a better person on the other side and lastly, just be yourself.

http://www.lesliesaglio.com

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

Standard
Social Commentary

‘How to Spot an Alpha Man…’

images

‘Are you a Turtle or a Tiger?’

I was recently talking to someone in the US who had been to ‘group pre-wedding counselling’ (who even knew those existed?), where they were each asked if they were a ‘Turtle’ or a ‘Tiger’ to determine their compatibility score. I told her that this question would never be asked in London, since everyone here is a Tiger. The Alphas are everywhere. To survive in the urban jungle that is London, men don’t really have a choice than to be Alpha; driven, ambitious, focused, dominant and powerful. A recent survey showed that 79% of single women want a dominant man, especially in the shape and form of Christian Grey, which is apparently why ’50 Shades of Grey’ has been such a success.

So what exactly is an Alpha Man? Kate Ludeman described him as ‘powerful, authoritative personality types’ who ‘tend to be aggressive, results driven achievers who insist on top performance from themselves and others’ in her book ‘The Alpha Male Syndrome’. http://www.worthethic.com/the-alpha-male-syndrome.html

‘Are you Alpha-Alpha or Alpha-Beta?’

But I think that there are subtypes of Alpha Men: There are the Alpha Alpha (AA), the prototypical Aggressive & Arrogant types, who want to win as the end goal, and tend to put their needs in front of everyone else’s. Then there are the Alpha Beta (AB): Alphas but with a softer side. Those can also be called the ‘Blenders’ and tend to be driven when needed but can put your needs in front of theirs (Alpha Betas are a rare breed, so if you have one don’t let him out of your sight). Alpha traits all make for very successful men in the work place, and 79% women are attracted to these kinds of men, but what is it really like being with an Alpha Man? And how can you spot an Alpha Man?

Ten Ways to Spot an Alpha Man…

images-2

1. ‘Transition Time’:

When they come home from work, they need a half an hour to an hour of ‘transitioning time’ from their ‘work selves’  to their ‘normal selves’ and only then can they have a normal conversation. For those 30 minutes/hour, keep clear from a) nagging b) asking them anything too important c) whining about how hard your day was. If you don’t listen to this rule, he may mistake you for his assistant or a colleague. Which is not a good thing.

2. Crackberry Addiction

At dinner, you will need to fight with the Blackberry, his other mistress, for attention. Despite house rules of ‘not using technology at dinner’ he will always find a way to get on his BB and get distracted by yet another ‘very important email that needs to be answered right away.’ At fancy restaurants, you can always spot an Alpha Blackberrying emails while you wait for your starters, or you can see him pacing back and forth in front of the restaurant on a ‘work call.’

3. Last Minute Cancellations

You will always need a Plan B. When planning a holiday, you need to prepare a backup plan like a girlfriend or your mother to go on holiday if his work makes him cancel the holiday at the last minute. Or at least always book changeable, refundable tickets.

I once went to a work dinner as an Alpha’s date, and as soon as we sat down, he had to leave to go back to the office to ‘finish up a deal’, while I was left entertaining his two 65 year old clients at George. My revenge? Choosing the most expensive thing on the menu: white truffles. Sold by the gram. Let’s just say that I made sure no one else in the restaurant, apart from me, was going to have any of the divine Italian ‘Trifola d’Alba Madonna.’

5. 45 Minute childcare attention span

Alpha men really do love their children (they are after all as close as a replica of themselves as they can have), but ideally at 45 minute time periods. All week they tell you that they can’t wait to see them and play with them and how jealous they are that you spend so much time with them. But after 45 minutes of play time come Saturday, they are more than happy to pass them right back to you.

5. Time consuming and expensive hobbies

Alpha men love expensive hobbies: Polo (including four polo ponies and a requisite 3 week trip to Argentina with the gauchos), car racing (at least one or two Porsche racing cars and a trip to Le Mans each year), heli-skiing (one or two yearly trips to Canada and Sweden), shooting (trips to Scotland or Spain to shoot thousands of poor partridges), and football watching (the poor man’s version, with a season ticket and trips to ‘big games’ in Spain/Italy/Germany/France).

Alpha men need their ‘me’ time (since women have so much free time managing a household +/- a job). Their perfect weekend looks like this: Saturday morning work out, 45 minutes playing with their children, Saturday afternoon hobby football/tennis/golf/polo, Saturday night social event organised by wife, Sunday morning sleep in time followed by ‘me time’, 45 minutes with children, Sunday afternoon activity with the children, like the cinema or watching TV at home.

6. Domestic Duty Allergy 

Despite handling £100 million deals, managing mergers, and using fancy terms like EBITDA, P&L, Hedging, Leveraging, Alpha men seem to be at loss with some of the most basic domestic duties; for example, cooking anything will require 15 questions for one basic task. ‘How do I cook the green beans? What pot should I use? Do I add olive oil to the water? Or just salt? Where is the salt? For how long?’ which in the end forces you to make the meal yourself.

One Alpha Man apparently had a rule when he got married: he told his wife that he would handle the ‘job,’ but she would be in charge of the baby wiping, changing, cooking, cleaning, and hiring and firing of the staff. He therefore boasts to his colleagues that he has not changed a nappy once in his life.

7. Selective Memory 

No matter how many weekends you have spent as a family in your house, Alpha men don’t seem to have enough memory to remember their children’s schedule or where anything is in the house. Most weekends have a basic, similar structure: the children wake up, they have breakfast, lunch, a snack and then dinner. It’s not that complicated. Yet, Alpha men will ask what their children eat, when they eat, where the spoons are, where the plates are… Every. Single. Weekend. It’s like groundhog day. No matter how many times you tell them, they just seem to have forgotten it by the next weekend.

8. Ego Stroking Necessary

Alpha Men feel extreme pride when they have managed a) 2 whole hours on their own with their children b) dressed and fed their children breakfast all on their own 3) put their children to bed all by themselves, as if they had just discovered the theory of relativity. This is then your cue to ego stroke, praise and tell them what an amazing father they are. Of course, never expect the same praise for yourself despite having spent the entire week non-stop with the kids.

One Alpha man I heard of married someone who everyone considered wasn’t quite in his league: he was charming, handsome, intelligent, successful, and she was just not quite his match in any of these categories. Everyone wondered why he chose her. I asked his best friend who replied. ‘Oh, they have a lot in common. They are both completely, madly in love with him.’

9. Micro-managing

The Alpha-Alphas are the only kind of men, apart from gay men, that need to have input in every house-hold decision taken. From the type of bathroom tiles, the shade of eggshell cream for the walls, to choosing the fridge. These are detail oriented men who like control after all, and they have an opinion on absolutely everything.

10. Competitiveness

Alpha Men are competitive about everything, not only about winning that deal, getting that promotion, or having the biggest house/plane/yacht in the neighbourhood, but also when it comes to their children. You will overhear them at the Christmas Play saying ‘Why didn’t Poppy get the main solo singing part?’ in utter disbelief. But to see Alpha Men in their most primal, competitive glory, go to a Sports Day to see them competing with all the other Alpha Dads, when their inner Tigers are completely unleashed, and men run over each other like lions in a hunt. That’s all they are after all, just animals wanting to win that prize.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

https://nottinghillmummy.com/2014/04/05/the-story-of-alpha-mum-alpha-dad/

images

Standard
Reviews

Review: West 36 Restaurant, Golborne Road

West 36 Restaurant

36 Golborne Road, London W10 5NR

Tel 02037520530

http://www.w36.co.uk

10421598_923683414309204_7496768811949969521_n-640x360

** All Photos in this Post Courtesy of the Internet. NHYM 2015.**

Food: 4 stars

Service: 3 stars

Atmosphere: 4.0 stars

Design: 4.5 stars

Price/value: 4 stars

Overall: 4.15 stars

west-thirty-six1

West Thirty Six, the latest venture by Robert Newmark, the man behind the Beach Blanket Babylon franchise, is West London’s newest hipster hangout, with bearded staff dressed up in overalls, suspenders and bowties. The Telegraph Newspaper has called it ‘West London’s answer to Central London’s Chiltern Firehouse and East London’s Shoreditch House.’  When I went last Saturday, Ellie Goulding was there on a ‘date night.’ You want to know where the hipsters go for date night? Here’s your answer.

WestThirtySix-1.26.1.150030

Third floor bottle service. 2015.

The Service

Although it has only been open for a month, I have already been there twice and I already have a reservation booked in the next few weeks, even though when I was there opening week, the service was laughably atrocious. Despite waiting for our food for 40minutes, the staff not speaking English and our food being sent to the neighbouring table, I still really wanted to go again. So, how could a restaurant still convince me to return when the waiter, as cute as he was, looked completely overwhelmed and admitted to being completely stressed out and unable to manage his tables? This review will mostly be of my second time there, since the first time would have been dragged down by the confused, disorientated, and clearly first-day-on-the-job staff (It was like being served by a better looking Charlie Chaplin waiter with a bow tie and suspenders and a One Direction haircut, but he had enough Latin charm to pull it off and be forgiven by the end of the night.)

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

First floor dining area. 2015. 

The Design

So, why, you ask me, would I ever return to a place where the staff is picked based on attractive looks but not their knowledge of English, the food arrives 40 minutes late and ends up on someone else’s table, I was charged for my dessert twice on the bill, and the waiters look at you cluelessly when you order a Pisco Sour is? Turns out, the design at West Thirty Six, made to look like a ‘member’s club’ without actually being one, is just very cool, the atmosphere is fun, and the food is surprisingly good relative to the service you receive.

WTS-Dining-080-chefII

Ground floor, open plan kitchen and bar. 2015.

The ground floor is a brasserie-style restaurant where a lot of the action is, with cramped, small, metal tables are scattered around the main shiny bar and crowds of people trying to a) enter the restaurant b) have a drink at the bar being squeezed by people trying to get through c) squish past the waiters to get to the stairs to go to the first floor. The tables are so close together on this floor that you are practically sitting on your neighbour’s lap. There is door by the stairs where the staff keep appearing from, but always when you are trying to get up the stairs and therefore causing constant human traffic jams. Whoever designed this place had the aesthetics right, but was not a spatial engineer; the space was not designed for this many people.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

First floor dining room. 2015. 

The first floor has a bar and small lounge area with leather chairs and low, wooden coffee tables on the left, and on the right is another dining area, Soho House style, cozy, lounge-y, and full of candles, which I have wanted to try to but am still not hipster enough to get a reservation there (there are mostly tables for large groups in this dining room). The top floor is reserved for ‘bottle service’ that you can book through the Manager, and where I believe Ellie Goulding was partying until 1am (way past my bedtime, ladies and gents). This floor is meant to be seen as a ‘member’s area,’ where you can keep your bottle until the next you come, or as a place to work during the day.

9006_925909020753310_4742198463212811587_n-640x360

The chunky chips, ribeye steak and mac ‘n’ cheese. 2015. 

The Food 

The menu here is a ‘man’s man’ menu; lots of meats, chips, and more meats. Vegetarians need not apply. Steaks, chicken wings, ribs, lobster were all on the menu to get the men salivating, following the Steak & Lobster trend. For the sides, there were skinny chips, big chunky chips, mac ‘n’ cheese, and bone marrow mash. Everything looked delicious when we looked at our neighbour’s table. For starters, we ordered the beetroot salad and the blue cheese salad, both which were tasty and of hearty proportions, and the maple syrup chipotle chicken wings, which Mr.T said were the best wings he had ever had.

B-zOZfwWoAAojcc.jpg-large

Half a rack of ribs. 2015.

For the mains, Mr. X and I had juicy, tender ribeyes, which were nicely done medium rare. Mr. T had an entire rack of ribs, which was enormous and fed all four of us, while Ms. D had the lobster which was delicious but the dressing was perhaps a bit too flavourful, which she said took away from the lobster taste. All the portions are huge, so no one was about to leave with an empty stomach. This is hearty ‘brasserie’ food with hearty portions, whose portions will probably start to decrease as time goes by (which restaurants always do after the first few opening weeks), but for now, keep on bringing those ribs.

B-twWkNXAAAXLbY.jpg-large

Lobster. 2015. 

As a dessert, we had the famous Apple Pie which is brought in its baking tray to your table and dolloped on your plate, as well as a ‘Make Your Own Sundae,’ of vanilla and chocolate ice cream sprinkled with salted caramel popcorn and bitter caramel sauce (Note: half the toppings were unavailable).

The Verdict

The service was much better the second time around, and even though you feel cramped and squished from the moment you enter the restaurant, I still plan on coming back. The building is a huge space of multiple nooks and crannies, rooms and drinking dens that charm you, reminiscent of Paradise by Kensal Rise. The outdoor areas, from the first floor outdoor terrace to the Toolshed smoking area, look all like they will be a great alternative to the Westbourne in the summer.

Unknown-1

It is already packed full, which shows its popularity. And I am fuelling this, since despite the dazed and confused service at times, I still really like it. It’s buzzy and busy, maybe even a bit too much, which creates a good atmosphere. Both times I was there, I befriended our table-neighbours, mostly because of the size of the our rack of ribs, but also because we were playing footsie with them due to our close proximity. But rubbing shoulders with your neighbours in this restaurant is a rather pleasant experience, which makes it OK. This is exactly what this place is about: meeting friends, making new friends and leaving feeling very full.

An after-dinner drink was impossible, the place was so packed, and we were not quite feeling young and trendy enough for the bottle service upstairs, so opt for a pre-dinner drink when it is less busy, or head back towards Portobello and have a drink at Santo for a night-cap.

See you there next week.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

West Thirty Six on Urbanspoon

Standard
In the Press, Social Commentary

‘The Garden Wars’: Notting Hill’s Private Gardens

Ladbroke Sq Gardens

Ladbroke Square Gardens, Notting Hill Yummy Mummy 2014

The Sex and the City episode entitled: ‘The Private Garden Issue’

Private Gardens in Notting Hill first attained worldwide fame in the 1999 film ‘Notting Hill,’ which firmly put Notting Hill and its communal gardens on the celebrity map. 15 years later, I still see people lined up to photograph the Blue door and the Travel Bookshop and try to find the eponymous private garden used for the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts nightly tryst. But my love of private gardens actually started in New York, also in 1999, when I was famously dumped by my boyfriend because of the ‘Private Garden Issue’, which really could be an episode of ‘Sex and the City.’ Picture this:

Carrie Bradshaw is falling hard for an achingly handsome, brilliantly intelligent and creative Film school graduate and aspiring Film Director. He is thoughtful and romantic, sends Broadway musical tickets by post as a surprise, takes her away to Cape Cod for the weekend to his PhD father’s house, and draws her portrait as they sun themselves in Central Park. He even leaves her John Donne love poems on her pillow when he wakes up and leaves quietly for a film shoot (Ok, totally cheesy, but at the time felt very romantic). It is all going swimmingly well until one day, they pass Gramercy Park downtown, the last remaining private garden in New York, which was having an exceptional open day and party. They enter, Carrie wide eyed and beaming turns to her boyfriend and says: ‘Wouldn’t you love to have a key to this garden? I would just love to have one of the golden keys, it really is the key to New York, you know.’ And as she turns to face him, flashing a Carrie-style smile, he turns to her startled and says; ‘Private gardens are for elitist, materialist, and superficial people.’ Her smile fades and the camera zooms out. Fast forward to the end of their relationship three weeks later, in a West Village Italian, when he tells her over her perfect plate of Spaghetti; ‘This isn’t going to work. I will never be able to give you a golden key, and I will never be able to marry someone with values like that.’ And with that, the perfect relationship ended over a plate of perfect pasta.

LadbrokeSquareGardensPlaygroundNHYM

Ladbroke Square Gardens Playground, Notting Hill Yummy Mummy 2014

Give me that key!!

Fast forward 15 years, meeting Mr. Right, getting married, procreating two precious little ones, I finally have a key to a Notting Hill Private Garden, which next to Gramercy Park’s garden, is the closest thing to my 20 year old dream. Getting a key to a private garden can be quite a difficult feat. One American couple in South Kensington spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in court over their right to access to Ovington Square in Chelsea http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1293386/Hedgefund-boss-squanders-170-000-failed-bid-win-exclusive-access-garden-square.html . To many Notting Hill mums and dads, having a house backing onto a communal garden is their aspirational dream.

IMG_0282

Springtime in a Notting Hill Private Garden Square, Notting Hill Yummy Mummy 2014

There is also a hierarchy of garden desirability depending on various factors: the amount of sun vs. the amount of shade (as the gardens go down from the top of the hill, the less sunshine there is and more shade), does it have a tennis court? Does it have a playground? Are most of the houses on the square full houses or only flats? The more desirable the garden, the harder it is to get a key. My garden is rather flexible with whom it lets in from the neighbourhood, as long as you pay your dues and don’t bring your friends in. Other gardens measure out the exact distance from the garden wrought-iron door to your front door. Ladbroke Square Gardens, considered one of the finest and most beautiful private gardens in London, only allows those residents with houses that back onto the garden and with direct access to the garden. Properties on the two side roads opposite the gardens do not have access (as per the Bye-Laws on their website), so for them, it is like looking onto the garden of Eden, knowing they will never get entry. And even if you have access to the garden, it doesn’t grant you access to the tennis courts. For this, one must be placed on a waiting list and hope that someone moves away or dare I say it, give their last breath away.

GuyFawkes3

Guy Fawkes Fireworks, Ladbroke Square Gardens, Notting Hill Yummy Mummy 2014

One urban myth floating around of how determined people are to get access will be demonstrated by this story that I have adapted to another ‘Sex and The City’ episode ‘The Missing Key’: Charlotte York has just moved to London with her successful Jewish husband, Harry GoldenBlatt, and into one of the biggest mansions on Creek Place, one of the most expensive streets of Notting Hill, which despite its 5,000 sq ft size lacks a proper garden. Creek Place is renowned for some for the most beautiful and grandiose houses around the neighbourhood. Around the corner is Wiltshire Square Gardens, a great and famous garden, home to more than one celebrity and hedge fund ‘genius’.  Charlotte is determined to get a key to the square, (she after all always get what she wants) although residents of Creek Place are not entitled to a key. She befriends some neighbours who are key holders and hears that the President of the Gardens Association of Wiltshire Square Gardens, let’s call her Bunny, has always wanted to visit a house on Creek Place, so beautiful are the houses. She therefore invites Bunny for tea by sending a cream coloured, embossed card with her address on top: 64 Creek Place. Charlotte pulls out all the stops and they have a lovely afternoon of tea and scones, discussing the virtues of living in Notting Hill. As they are saying their goodbyes and air kissing, Bunny, the President of Wiltshire Garden Square Association, turns to Charlotte and says, ‘Thank you for the lovely afternoon, but you’re still not getting a key to Wiltshire Square Garden.’

GuyFawkes2

Guy Fawkes Fireworks, Ladbroke Square Gardens, Notting Hill Yummy Mummy 2014

Which do you choose, the Garden Dream or the Garden Drama?

For many residents in Notting Hill, backing onto a communal garden is the creme de la creme of Notting Hill real estate, paying over 30% premiums for the privilege of being able to open your doors onto the lush greenery of an English garden (Now, would you pay over £1,000,000 for this privilege?). These gardens are idyllic green spaces of paradise in what is the concrete jungle of London, where doors are open and children run from one house to another for playdates, fuelling our dreams of owning part of this green dream. There are wonderful parties thrown such as Guy Fawkes night with bonfires, Guy Competitions and fireworks at Ladbroke Square Gardens, Summer Fetes with Bouncy Castles and Pony rides at Crescent Gardens, Summer Parties with DJs and a disco for the teens and pre-teens and Operas in the Blenheim and Elgin Gardens. All protected from the outside world, your children can run safely, especially with all the stories of attempted abductions in public parks, a private square is the dream of most mothers. (Especially those with a thing for Robbie Williams who used to jog around his communal garden in Little Venice before he moved onto Michael Winner’s Holland Park McMansion). There are swing sets, wooden houses, climbing walls, slides, treehouses, climbing nets and sandboxes almost as nice as Princess Diana’s Playground, but without the 1 hour wait to get in on a sunny day.

GuyFawkesNHYM

Guy Fawkes Fireworks, Ladbroke Square Gardens, Notting Hill Yummy Mummy

But behind this picture of paradise also lies the politics and dramas of Garden Residents and Garden Committees. There are coups to overthrow Garden Presidents, neighbouring wars over construction sites, wars between the dog-owners and non-dog owners, and between the families and the childless. And everyone knows your damn business, from who is having affairs with whom, what you’re doing or wearing at any time, who is on holiday at their Tuscan Villa, it is like a fishbowl into your life. Rachel Johnson, sister to Boris Johnson and columnist writer, famously wrote the book ‘Notting Hell’ based on a communal garden in Notting Hill, which is likely Rosmead Gardens (also the garden from the film Notting Hill), where Rachel Johnson lived. In it, she describes in detail the infighting, the competition, the affairs and the neighbourly tensions. To live on a garden means to be a part of a privileged and cosseted community, but be prepared for the gossip, keep a close eye on your husband and your dog, and beware of the Garden Police. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Notting-Hell-Rachel-Johnson-ebook/dp/B002RI9KJ0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415187169&sr=8-1&keywords=notting+hell

GuyFawkesCompetitionNHYM

Guy Fawkes Competition, Notting Hill Yummy Mummy 2014

Beware of the Garden Rules

The Rules to some private gardens in London can be very strict, Pol Pot strict, with the bye-laws enforced in the upmost rigidity by the Garden Police. In my anti-social garden, only members are allowed, possibly one or two children may be acceptable, but guests, nannies, and friends are strictly forbidden. One must apply to the committee if one should want to invite a guest (what’s the point of a garden if you can’t share it?). I once attempted to circumvent the rules and lent my key to a friend while I was away on holiday, and she subsequently organised a playdate with another friend on a glorious sunny summer’s day. Within 10 minutes, the Garden Patrol was on her: ‘Don’t you know friends are not allowed in the garden’ a rickety old lady reprimanded my friend who pretended to be me. My blissful holiday was then interrupted when I received a threatening email reminding me that friends are not allowed in the garden, ‘only members are allowed’ they repeated to me in various formats (verbal/email/Bye-laws/post scripts). This is how I learnt my lesson and won’t be lending my key anymore, so don’t bother asking me. I was officially terrorised by the Garden Police.

These Bye – laws (collected from various gardens) are to be taken very seriously please:

1. No person shall destroy, by any means whatever any domestic animal or birds in the Gardens.’

2. Games should be primarily for children, but adults are permitted to join

3. No person suffering from any infectious disease shall use the grounds (although this garden does allow ‘servants’ in it as mentioned in the Bye-Laws)

4. No fire arms nor small cannons shall be fired

5. No catapults, bows and arrows, slings, firearms, arrows, saws or sheathed knives will be allowed into the Gardens.

6. No person shall cut, break or otherwise injure the trees and flowers.

7. Any person who wilfully obstructs any member of the Committee or its servants, in the lawful conduct of its duties shall be committing an offence.

8. No person shall shout or sing noisily in the Pleasure Grounds

9. Ball games are prohibited save in the following circumstances: a) between parents and/or supervising adults and children under the age of 11 b) not involving more than four persons in total c) a soft ball of less than 15 cm in diameter or a plastic beach ball d) But not in the Central Garden

And finally:

10. Any person committing a breach of these Bye Laws is liable to prosecution

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

GuyFawkesBonfireNHYM

Guy Fawkes Bonfire, Ladbroke Square Gardens, Notting Hill Yummy Mummy 2014

Standard
In the Press, Social Commentary

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

7010bdf41bb1c6fc637257cb2ee46a6b

(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

2952ba5c3e40a3e5299948c3b3184dd6

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

fc6dfdea041d2f11719721af18103b51

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.

7187fce0f09279fd58aa54c5b9b2445f

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

1bc6f1b4330829666da195b32d3e93f9

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.

e9f5439da743af8e168f6526493ed93d

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!

01a010ba9680bf33987c1d19c678b745

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

twitter: @NHyummymummy

Standard