Afternoon tea @ St Pancras Renaissance

The last afternoon tea I had was at the Lanesborough during last July. My friends were visiting London and they wanted to have a traditional afternoon tea (who wouldn’t?), therefore, I recommended there. This time, I wanted to take my girl Bella with me, therefore, I picked St Pancras Renaissance. In London, there were more than a few dog-friendly afternoon tea venues to choose from. However, most of the places were in West London and St Pancras Renaissance was the only hotel which was close from our place and also welcomed four-legged guests open-armed.

Hurry up, you all!

Even though her legs were short, she climbed the stairs much quicker than me. Why is that? Would I run up the stairs much faster if I got down on all four?!

Behind the present building, there are platforms for Eurostar…

The Victorian style building has Grade 1 listed status and the original structure was constructed in the late 19th century.

I distinctively remember how the place used to be before all the regeneration works transformed the entire area. It was in the early 90’s and the station just looked dirty and unloved. I think I was on my way to visit Cambridge and the train route was starting from St Pancras. The journey was made on one very cold February day and in my memory, the platform was utterly devoid of human beings and as cold as a tomb.

During the 1960’s, there were serious discussions regarding the future of the station. Some wanted the station to be closed and demolished altogether for inner-city redevelopment. However, the station was spared, thanks to fierce opposition by the Victorian Society.

The fortune of the station improved further in 1996 when LCR – London and Continental Railways won a contract from the government to reconstruct St Pancras. The company was to build a 109-kilometre (68 mi) high-speed railway between London and the United Kingdom end of the Channel Tunnel as well as to refit the existing St Pancras for accommodating 300-metre+ Eurostar trains.

After eleven years, during which there were a few ups and downs and the cost of £800 million, the station was reopened on 6 November 2007 by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Before the present St Pancras Renaissance opened its doors in 2011, the site was occupied by the remain of Midland Grand Hotel. The original hotel which was in the elaborate English Gothic revival style was designed by the architect, George Gilbert Scott in 1865. In its heyday, the hotel was known for expensive fixtures and luxurious decor. The place was decked with a grand staircase and every room had a fireplace. The hotel also sported the latest innovations of the time, such as hydraulic lifts, concrete floors, revolving doors and fireproof floor constructions. However by the 1920’s, all the utilities became out of date and it was decided that the hotel was to cease trading in 1935.

After the hotel was closed down, the place was renamed as St Pancras Chambers and it was used as railway offices by British Rail until the 1980’s before the building failed fire safety regulations.

In 2004, planning permission was granted to redevelop the existing boarded-up building into a new five-star hotel complex. The specification for the new hotel, which was to contain 244 guest rooms, two restaurants, two bars, a spa and a gym with a swimming pool, required a much bigger footprint than the former structure, therefore, a new bedroom wing was created on the western side of the Barlow train shed.

Steps leading us to a beautifully decorated hotel lobby…

The afternoon tea was served in their Hansom Lounge…

It was used to be the spot where the wealthiest passengers were dropped off during the time the place was used as a train station.

Bella wanted to explore the place. ‘Let me gooooo!’

No Bay-Bay! You behave yourself!

Then she went into the sulking mode. Oh no…

I don’t care. I’m gonna make you all feel guilty. Her turned back shouted her silent protest. Oh well. Never mind.

The lounge was very Christmassy…

We ordered their classic afternoon tea. For the actual tea, I ordered Earl Grey, Hubbie opted for Rooibos tea and David went for Darjeeling.

The first plates they brought to our table were sandwiches…

There weren’t any customary cucumber sandwiches but we were given a plenty of savoury fillings filled slices and rolls, such as salt beef with mustard & pickles, salmon with dill crème fraiche, roast chicken with fennel & orange, beetroot with goat cheese and so on. They were all very delectable.

For scones, I asked them to include a few scones without raisins or sultanas…

So Bella could join in our feast.

Then for the cake selections, we were served trays of coffee & amaretto panna cotta, lemon mousse, mini chocolate eclair, pistachio Madeleine and raspberry Victoria sandwich…

They were all great. However, I much preferred to have them, the sandwiches, the scones and the cakes, served altogether rather than to be brought separately. Also the time between each plate was served was a little too long for us. Therefore, for those negative points, I had to say the experience was 7 out of 10.

By the way, their dog-friendliness was 10/10…

One of the staffs brought a bowl of water as soon as we were seated and everyone was very attentive to us and Bella.

It was around 5:30pm when we left the hotel…

That meant we spent nearly two and a half hours chatting and drinking tea?! Wow, time flies when we’re having fun, we all laughed…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Sunglasses & Cake @ Maison Bertaux

Yesterday. was one of those days which I was so out of tune, every single thing I did ended up making me utter ‘Augh!’
The day started with chaos of my own making. While my face was covered with facial soap, I opened my eyes for no apparent reason – I still don’t know why I did that. The soap ( especially, Dr.Alkaitis‘s one really hurts!) stung my eyes so bad, I was weeping while I rinsed my face furiously. Then, I was off to post office. Only after coming back, I realised that I did not follow a web return request procedure (for my defence, nothing was mentioned on a paperwork accompanying the original order!) and panicked. After a few frantic emails and international phone calls, I managed to explain my blunder to the customer service and the matter seemed to be resolved (please refund me!). For late lunch, I decided to have two brioche rolls with raspberry jam and a cup of Darjeeling tea. When I was squashing an empty brioche bag for binning it, the bag broke and fine breadcrumb went everywhere!
What on earth is wrong with me? I was so let down by myself. Did I take it too easy on sunday? Is my brain still in weekend mode? I sincerely hoped that the next day would be another day…

Anyway, the story goes back to where I left it in the last entry.
Fei, SC and I headed to our favourite haunt, Maison Bertuax, for a post-ramen chat and tea & cake.

Charmingly disorganised Maison Bertaux…

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So  chi chi & girly.

Fei handed out her beautifully crafted collection one after another for SC to try on…

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Rather conveniently, the walls of the ground floor cafe were clad with mirrors…

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So we were busy with putting on different pairs and checking ourselves in the mirror. We also had a large pot of tea and cakes too…

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In the end, SC found the pair she loved and we decided to call it a day.
It was a long Saturday filled with lots of walk and fun!

By the way, I rarely see Mr.B puts his foot wrong but even for him, there is a ‘augh!’ moment…

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While he was poncing around with his harness after a quick dash to outside last night, the lead was caught with the stool and he found himself stuck.
You see, it’s because you are dilly-dallying too long. He must be muttering ‘Augh!’ in his head…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Day Out With SC…

After enjoying our brunch at Salvation Jane, SC and I headed towards Spitalfields Market while Hubbie walked back home – he was not a market-going kind of guy, you know.
Instead of walking through a busy concourse of Liverpool Street Station, we approach it via Exchange Square, Broadgate. On Primrose Street, we saw a huge lone reindeer towering over the pavement…

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The Christmas display was well made and pretty. However, it was ruined by some over-zealous fencing around its footings…

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Is this another example of modern-day disease, health & safety?
Without those heavy-handed precautions, the reindeer could have been much more beautiful and elegant. Who cares if some idiot, who is too busy tweeting or updating FB, walks into the ornament and knock his forehead? All of us should look where we are heading, not our eyes glued to phones. It’s common sense, isn’t it? By the way, SC and I also witness from the upper deck of a No.8 bus, a Christmas tree dedicated from Tiffany & Co at the Royal Exchange was pretty much spoiled by the fences around it. It’s just a Christmas tree, for Chrissake! What harm or threat will it present? It’s nothing like uneven pavement or loose potholes which can be discreet and potentially dangerous, is it? Utterly ludicrous…

At Old Spitalfields Market, we tried to locate my friend, Howie’s stall but couldn’t find it. The market was much busier than normal Saturdays, more stalls and more punters. So we gave up our search and headed towards Brick Lane.

On Dray Walk, we encountered a huge crowd queuing up to get inside of a sample sale at Ely’s Yard…

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Behind a Christmas tree sale hut, a long queue was formed and the people were standing in the cold patiently. It could have been an amazing sale since the interest it attracted among the crowd spoke volumes. However, waiting all day for possibilities of bargain didn’t appeal to us that much so we carried on walking towards Brick Lane.

At Vintage Emporium on Bacon Street, we managed to find a table and had a well-earned tea break…

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The place was busy with the customers who were like us, only too happy to find a warmer place to sit and chat over a cup of hot drink and some snack. And SC kindly bought me a huge mug of tea…

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Over the tea, we chatted about each other’s plan for the coming festive season. She was spending her Christmas and New Year Day in Hawaii with her family. How nice! Comparing with her plan, my New Year will be in wintery Nagano, Japan. Brrrrrr….!
Then, SC mentioned how much she coveted the sunglasses produced by my dear friend, Fei. We both thought it would be great if she could go away with a new pair of shades. So I phoned up Fei and invited her out for dinner and to show SC her amazing collection.
From Bethnal Green Road, we caught a No.8 bus and traveled to West End. At Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road, SC bought a sleek bedside lamp and we walked towards Oxford Circus through Fitzrovia. By the way, the way Oxford Street was clogged up with shoppers was a sight to behold!

We arrived at Tonkotsu, our favourite the ramen bar, on Dean Street around 7pm and had to wait for a table over 30 minutes. While I was in the queue, a gorgeous smell of the freshly cooked ramen tickled my nostrils all the time. It was undoubtedly one of the longest half an hour in my life…

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In the nick of time, Fei managed to join us and we were eventually ushered to our table.
Once seated, we promptly ordered our favourites, Chicken Karaage…

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Pork Gyoza…

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And a bowl of Soho Ramen each…

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It had been quite a while since I had eaten at Tonkotsu, therefore, I found the ramen extra tasty.
We chatted over so many subjects and had so much laughter.
After dinner, we moved on to our usual place for more chat & tea (& cake)…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

London Review Cake Shop @ Bury Place

Ewwww!
My throat hurts like hell right now. I think some pesky bacteria latched on me sometime this week and I have succumbed to its evil spell…

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Even though I am far from being a happy bunny health-wise, I have an urgent order to fulfil, therefore, pull on my hoodie like a tough chick and slog away. Can anyone help me with this damn sore throat? It’s killing me.

Before I was struck by a cold, I visited a cafe run by London Review Bookshop on Bury Place near British Museum. I was long intrigued by this cafe within a bookshop…

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However the place’s close proximity to British Museum concerned me.
Wouldn’t it be saturated with tourists?

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Maybe something to do with the weather – it looked certainly grumpy with thick grey cloud hanging low threatening to turn worse at any minute, the cafe was only half full.

The cafe was smaller than I imagined and nearly one third of the space was taken up by their open kitchen…

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The counter was laden with tempting looking offerings.
And the staff handed me to study their extensive tea menu…

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And I decided to try their aubergine quiche with salad, accompanied by a pot of Assam breakfast tea…

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Their food, especially the salad, was delicious.
I could taste pear and walnuts as well as Parmesan amongst finely chopped up parsley and peppery rocket.
The quiche was also creamy and moreish. The portion might be a little on the modest side. However, they have lots of baked goodies on offer to quell anyone’s hunger totally.

The cafe proved to be a worthwhile place to replenish during the day.
I certainly dog-ear it’s page in my little address book for future reference…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Night tea @ Maison Bertaux

It’s tradition.
Fei and I both agreed that we would never wrap up our ramen dinner night without paying an homage to our another favourite Soho haunt, Maison Bertaux.
Therefore, we duly set out for a delft-blue patisserie on Greek Street…

Our table nestled snugly against an old piano in the back of the patisserie…

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A wonderful thing about this bijou is they serve tea & cake in the middle of boozy Soho. While patrons at the bars & pubs nearby grow steadily raucous as evening turns into night, one can sit with friends at the table with a pot of tea & delicious cakes made on site and hold a proper conversation without staining vocal cords. How civilised is that?

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Smiley Fei. Hanging around with her was  great pleasure as always…

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Johan, a permanent fixture of this beloved time capsule whom I’d known from the very first day I set my foot in here, appeared to be the worse for wear. He was rubbing his back and blankly staring into mid air…

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I imagined he must have been dog-tired since this place was constantly awash with waves of eager customers from 8am to 8pm.

We left the patisserie just before 8pm…

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I wanted to buy bits and pieces at Japanese shops on Brewer Street but alas, they were closed already!
Being too accustomed to the idea of late night shopping, aren’t I? How London had changed.

I caught tube at Oxford Circus and met this cutie on the train…

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While Mr.B would look away if I pointed my iPhone at him, this black lab struck a pose for me (^-^) Yay!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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