How things used to be

This lunchtime, I took Bella for a walk around Hoxton and Shoreditch before heading off to Heathrow to pick up my mum.

Let’s grab a quick bite at Friends of Ours on Pitfield Street…

On their menu, there was lemon Ricotta hotcake which would come with caramelised banana, raw cacao brittle, passion fruit purée and creme fraiche. Ohhhh, lemon! It sounds a bit like Harry & Meghan’s wedding cake, I wavered momentarily.

No, eat properly!

I opted for mushrooms on toast instead. The dish was very wholesome – consisted of oyster & portobello mushrooms, baby kale, chickpea hummus, Jerusalem artichoke on top of a slice of organic sourdough bread.

Is there anything for me?

Sorry, Bay-Bay. I have nothing to offer other than a bowl of water.

Next to the eatery was a pub, the George & Vulture, and it was very busy with lunchtime crowds who seemed to be impatient for the weekend. Who can blame them? It’s Friday!

After lunch, Bella and I strolled towards Shoreditch High Street. As we walked down Rivington Street, I reminisced about the time when there were decent fashion boutiques around Hoxton Square. There were two prominent shops such as Hoxton Boutique and Start and I used to look forward to checking what they had on their rails. Where have they all gone? I felt sad as we walked past the spots where they used to be.

On our way back, we found another new development on Bevenden Street…

I hope this is nothing to do with the Kardashians!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

YCN @ Rivington Street EC2

I have just sorted out a heap of freshly laundered black socks which were brought back from the Down Under by Hubbie yesterday morning. Mixing & matching almost identical black socks isn’t as easy as one may think. But I have managed to find each rightful pair. Bliss! Also, Mr.B is very happy to have a complete “pack” back.

A few Saturdays ago before Hubbie embarked on his very first Australian visit, he, I & Mr.B were enjoying a leisurely stroll around Hoxton / Shoreditch.

Mr.B was demonstrating his wish. ‘Don’t you dare even thinking about leaving me behind!’

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Hubbie wanted to browse Artwords Bookshop on Rivington Street. After buying a couple of coffee table books, we carried on towards Shoreditch High Street.

Being situated on the opposite side of Rivington Place, a well-known gallery designed by David Adjaye, was YCN

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YCN is a creative organisation which provides its members opportunities to network and share their experiences and ideas, as well as mentors fledgling designers valuable career advice.

This was how it looked when we visited them…

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The works on display were mainly graphic design and photography.
The price was between £10 – 70. They were not only very affordable but also achingly original. They would make a very cool gift, I thought.

Slingshots by Christopher Jaratt…

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The sight of the slingshots made me smile. A simple toy I ran around with when I was a kid. Even though I was rubbish with it, carrying it in my back pocket made me feel very resourceful and adventurous.

In the back of the shop, there was a library with bookshelves laden with rare and interesting old books….

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Hubbie and I agreed that the place would definitely be worth a visit if we were in the neighbourhood in future.

Then, we settled ourselves comfortably in the seat at Leila’s Shop on Calvert Avenue for a well-deserved coffee break…

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My flat white & a slice of Victoria sponge.

Mr.B wanted to know if he could have any crumb…

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Mmmm… I shall save a crumb or two if you promise to let me scrub your teeth more diligently than usual once we get home…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Random Images & Random Thoughts…

It’s the sixth day of me not feeling good.
It turned out that I might have picked up some flu virus when I deposited Hubbie’s shirts at our local dry-cleaner last Tuesday. What a thing to pick up, huh?

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Anyway, this nasty germ wrecks havoc on my daily beauty routine – and given that it is imperative to stick to the routine in order to fend off an onslaught of aging, I still can’t face splashing my face with water and feel like a car wreck, rusting away on the mean street of a dingy backwater. It may sound too melodramatic but when one feels like it’s head full of gunk and has the look to match, and on top of it, it’s grey and raining outside, how can anyone feel anything other than dismal?
Oh, please someone slap me with a hot water bottle so I can snap out of this unhealthy navel-gazing…

Now then, shall I have another rummage through my iPhoto library for stray images?

Hmmm… This one I took at the Saturday vintage market off Brick Lane. The stall was specialised in vintage transport signs…

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Don’t you think it will make a wonderfully original gift for someone special if the road sign or bus blind given has a personal meaning to it? Let’s say they used to live there or they commuted vis a certain bus route or have some romantic connection to the destination, etc. I wouldn’t mind buying a couple of London Transport bus blinds for myself. The route 9, 10 or 159 would do nicely. Anything to evoke sweet memories of our good old original Routemaster, I would love to keep. Before boring & unyielding one-man buses took over London bus route, their iconic red double-decker was manned by a guard with a ticketing machine and the rear of the bus was completely open. The lower deck was semi-exposed to the element, therefore, it was a bit cold & blustery in foul weather. However, the convenience of being able to hop on & off whenever and wherever one wanted was an absolute godsend in some  serioulsly clogged up old place like Central London.

Oh, these are classic! Mr.B, working as a model…

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One day, Hubbie & I jokingly decided to register Mr.B with a model agency. We thought it may subsidise his upkeep. And it did!

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Being amiable and unflappable, Mr.B made a very good model for press ad or TV. And his stoic professionalism in chihuahua way earned him regular clients and a steady flow of assignments until the recession hit UK in 2008.
*ALAS*

This cute Pie & Mash sign, I came across on Lever Street EC1…

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Pie & mash is the one cuisine I have yet to sample. Since this type of eatery is in decline, I must try it before they disappear too.

I don’t know why I took this picture…

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It must have been taken at Eat, Topshop Oxford Circus when I was waiting for my friend before our girl’s night out?
I was probably a bit bored and fooling around with my iPhone camera. A perfect toy for killing time.

This street art by Wreckage International was located at the north end of Whitecross Street…

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I don’t know why but the art reminds me a Coca-Cola bottle.
Maybe to do with her curvy body or its red & white colour scheme?

This limo, hopelessly stuck at Hoxton Square, was quite a sight. He couldn’t manoeuvre left or right, foward or backward…

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The driver was red-faced and panicking while the rest of us, looking at him bemused. I was in a hurry and didn’t hang around. I hope he managed to wriggle out of the mess without scratching anything.

Oh my thoughts are so inconsistent and incoherent. Please blame the gunk invading my brain…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Burger @ Byron, Hoxton Square

I definitely share one thing in common with George Osborne, the Chancellor – a sudden urge for a gourmet burger. Once the urge takes hold of you, it is near impossible to kick this culinary fixation off – the urge swells like a rapid growing vine and its creeper locks you in a vice-like grip. Until you raise your hand (imaginary, of course) and admit defeat, the image of a towering burger keeps on flickering in your mind, switching between torment and plea.
While your good conscience fights by throwing buckets of cold water over the burning desire, reasoning how unhealthy and calorie-laden a gourmet burger is – full of fat & bad carb, plus 1000 kcal per a meal more or less, the badass craving chips away a citadel of your self-control. Eventually, a white flag is raised above the fortress and you head to the nearest gourmet burger joint.

So here we were, finding ourselves being tucked away in the cozy nook of Byron by Hoxton Square last Sunday…

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As a child who grew up in Far East, my encounter with the food called “burger” came rather late.
I was about 11 years old when I first sank my teeth into a bun with a patty in the middle.
A man in a paper hat behind the counter handed me a burger which was wrapped in a translucent paper. The small parcel was still warm in my palm and the orangey yellow of melted cheddar cheese was just visible on the side.
I unwrapped the burger, prising it off extra carefully around the melted cheese and ferried it to my mouth with both hands, staring at the top of the bun approaching…
My very first mouthful of the burger struck me with its blandness. Meat, ketchup and cheese… that was it. This utter simplicity was somehow very new, refreshing and exotic. It tasted very “foreign”. I was impressed. It was my first taste of the world beyond…
Then, the booming economy opened the floodgates to imported  foods & culinary cultures.
Pizza, fried chicken, donuts, crepe, French fries…any fast-food, you name it. The outlets materialised almost overnight, like bamboo shoots after spring rain. As the consequence, the burger became just one amongst many and eventually lost its lustre for me…

‘What do you fancy?’, Hubbie enquires…

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Hmmm… Byron, perhaps? How about you? Mmmm… I fancy Byron too. How about a drink? Oh, I fancy something warm! The weather has turned, hasn’t it? I’m gonna have Americano. Well then, I’m gonna have iced tea. Are you sure? Aren’t you cold? No, I’m fine. I’m a man. Oh well, good for you…

Gourmet burger as a concept is a fairly recent phenomenon.
I am jogging my memory recalling since when I’ve noticed the term. Perhaps during the past 5 years, it has become more prevalent? Apart from the chain like Byron, Gourmet Burger Kitchen is another chain which is a well-known face on Britain’s well-off streets.
The ascendancy of posh burgers seems to be unstoppable. At Burger & Lobster, a cool score (£20 note) is commanded for the pleasure of champing on their concoction. After all, where a grown man can order a glass of strawberry milkshake with twin straws and a dash of whipped cream on top without raising the eyebrows in the vicinity? A posh burger joint is the answer.

After a while, our order was brought to the table…

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Two Byron burgers, onion rings, French fries, iced tea for Hubbie and coffee for me.
The burger was sandwiched with a brioche. I personally prefer a traditional burger bun though. The bacon was perfectly streaky and crunchy. The cheese was a little on the mean side and a little too demure in flavour. I suppose we are encouraged to part with another £1.25 for extra sauce (BBQ, blue cheese, American cheddar, etc) so we can jazz up the burger. Oh well, maybe next time.
The onion rings were crispy, well-seasoned and moreish. And their French fries, it was a tad too salty for my liking. Frying brings out the sweetness of potato. It was a shame that the flavour was spoilt by overzealous seasoning.

We left the restaurant, utterly stuffed.
Now, shall we make a long detour before heading home? So we can burn off some calorie and feel less guilty…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Pop Up @ Hoxton Boutique

Temperature plunges and the sky is overcast – the autumn is knocking at our door.
Even though sweet memories of the summer still flicker with Instagram hues in my head, I am looking forward  to the change of season.

 

Last Friday, I was browsing my FB as usual and noticed the post announcing a pop up boutique this weekend…

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The post was put up by my friend, Alison, who was a founder of the legendary fashion treasure haunt, Hoxton Boutique.
The boutique closed its door at the end of May 2011 which saddened many of the shop’s avid followers who adored quirky & fun yet very wearable styles the shop offered as an alternative to mainstream fashion.

When my West End stockist, Koh Samui, went into liquidation in the summer of 2008, Alison kindly took my knitwear into the boutique which helped me to pick myself up and move forward. And I am forever grateful for it.
The reason Alison decided to close the boutique was her desire to concentrate on her fashion brand HOBO fully instead of having to divide her attention to running the boutique and designing. As a creator myself, I understood her frustration totally. I wouldn’t be able to work if my concentration was broken all the time.
However, I missed a purple neon, HOXTON BOUTIQUE, glowing on the white fascia every time I walked passed Hoxton Street. Hoxton had lost one very important character which made the area so worthy of a visit.

Hubbie & I hadn’t seen Alison since she permanently relocated the operation to Ramsgate. Therefore, we were very excited about the reunion. So, Mr.B in tow, we walked to the boutique eagerly…

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Alison, her dog, Charlie and a pop up shop participant,  Amelia were there…

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We caught up with each other about how things had been in the last 2 years.

The items on sale in a front half of the boutique were old stocks from the late Hoxton Boutique…

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And a rear half was occupied with a vintage clothing collection by Amelia…

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Amelia also has her own shop in ASOS Marketplace, MORE AMELIA.
The selection is modern and bang on trend. Please have a look and you won’t be disappointed.

Charlie knew Mr.B since he was a puppy…

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He had been making every effort to be on a friendly term with Mr.B ever since they acquainted each other 8 years ago. However, Mr.B hadn’t responded with the same enthusiasm…

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Mr.B just kept on slipping away from Charlie. Oh Mr.B, open your heart a tiny bit more…

At the boutique, Hubbie bought me necklaces by Tatty Devine…

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Aren’t they sweet?

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I’ve heard from Alison that a new Hoxton Boutique web store will open from the middle of this month. And she is suggesting a come back to the Hoxton scene in some way near future. I am so excited!
Viva la Hoxton Boutique!!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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