brunch at the ace hotel | shoreditch

this blogging lark is honestly one of the best decisions i ever made. let's take the shoes and clothes and opportunities that i've had since starting writing it out of the equation for a moment, and focus on the number one thing that keeps me going on those days where i just cannot be bothered opening my laptop, or heading along to the opening of another envelope, or wondering how much integrity is actually worth; the people you meet along the way.

before i started blogging, i was still pretty new in london. outside my work colleagues (who are very much friends still), any my extended family (consisting of one now-ex boyfriend and my fauxcousinslashactualbestmate rebekah) and their friends, i barely knew a soul. i would sometimes pine for friends at home and wonder if i made the right decision (not for long though -  the wondering i mean, not the pining) leaving a happy life behind. but then, as if overnight, this new world of incredibly like-minded girls and boys was introduced to me, and i immediately felt at home.

i had people to confide in, who shared the same social oddities, and who liked me for me, without having even met met. these people would become some of the best friends i'll ever have, and part of that is probably because our friendship isn't over saturated; it's there cruising along in the background, always at the end of a message or call, and definitely always online when you need it. one of those very reliable girls is lynsay. we've offically "met" three times now. on our second meeting she spent the weekend sharing a bed with me. i mean, that's real life, isn't it?

so, whenever lynsay is in london, i make the time to see her; she's a good egg, my sparkle sister, and the only person i know who can fall asleep watching clueless and still be able to keep up with the quotes in her sleep. in other words, she's a keeper. this time around she brought her wonderful fella gary along for the ride, and we three headed to shoreditch's infamous ace hotel for brunch last saturday.

with coffee brewed by lovage and  the maple syrup and bacon pancakes straight from hoi poloi's kitchen, the lobby itself really has something different about it. that's before you discover the vintage photo booth (that strangely decided to change my skin colour that day...) in the corner, and try to not disturb all the creative types trying to hit their deadlines while you crack up laughing at the unreal commemorative photography you're now stuck with.

the food was yum, and pretty reasonably priced. the coffee, not so much. at £3 a cup (not mug, cup), it was bitter and smelt a bit burnt. and, i love a coffee, me. i ordered two as well, so... if i'm spending £6 on coffee i kinda expect it to perform a wee song and dance for me. this coffee did not. also, my "short stack" of buttermilk pancakes appeared at first to be three strong. no no, at closer inspection, there were four. and four bits of bacon. the bacon to pancake ratio was not on point, which was devastating, especially as there's no way i was going to eat four pancakes, but was obviously going to devour four rashers of bacon!

there were so many yummy things on the brunch menu, but because we were there before midday, we were forced to order from the breakfast menu, which was a little less inclusive than the former, and meant i missed out on the dripping chips my arteries had their hopes set on. probably a good thing though.....

have you been to the ace hotel; what were your thoughts?

the eno | the marriage of figaro

towards the end of last month i was incredibly lucky to have been invited by the english national opera to come along to one of their infamous shows. having never been to the opera before, but considering how much i love a good musical, i was excited to head along - especially after our jaunt across to mozart's homeland back in august; when i saw that one of the options was mozart's the marriage of figaro, i knew it was a sign.

i met rebekah out the front after having grabbed the tickets from the box office, wolfed down a bag of wotsits for dinner, and been confused as "emma" by a young chap who was clearly meeting his match of the day, and we headed to the bar. standard. the coliseum just off charing cross road is not just any old theatre; it's london's largest and most luxurious family theatre. that was pretty evident, if the pristine rouge carpet and sparkly stairwell banisters were anything to go by. that, and they served dom perignon at the bar (we settled for the marlborough sav though).

the show started promptly at seven, and was - surprisingly, wholly in english. above the stage was a wee screen with the words being sung by the cast (helpful), which was actually really (helpful) helpful because... so much singing. until recently, le mis was the first musical i'd seen where not a single word was spoken. as in, every single word was sung. but at least sung in a sing-song-talky kind of way. not at the opera, oh no. almost each and every word was operatic. not exactly a bad thing, just... not helpful, especially if you're not familiar with the story (us)...

the show was surprisingly fun! i was kiiinda expecting it to be a bit naff, and fairly dry, but there were definitely parts of it that had us giggling. sadly though, there wasn't enough happening to hold my attention. the thing i love about musicals is the fast pace, the quick costume changes, the props and stage sets. at the opera, there's none of that. it was really hard work to stay entertained. so... we left at interval.

oh, i know, i know! such bad form! but let me just say that it's definitely not a reflection on the opera itself. it's not the show, it's me. i'm not made for opera. rebekah tells me i was getting shade thrown at me when i was rustling in my handbag trying to locate skittles. sir was not best pleased with the racket i was making, and even tutted at me under his breath! the curtain had barely even lifted! these opera types are just not my people.

"but erica, you said it was fun!" yes, yes i did. and i stand by that. but sometimes "fun" just isn't enough. it needed a big sequinned number. it was missing sequins. or maybe i'm just missing a bit of class... sigh.

tell me, my loyal, non-judgemental readers, was i wrong to walk out of the opera?
have you been before; what did you think?

review | ping pong's winter menu

some perks of this here blog are just incredible. sometimes i get to wear pretty clothes, sometimes i get to go to glitzy store openings, sometimes i get to visit fun places. other times, i get invited to eat all the dim sum at my favourite dim sum restaurant, and give my completely unbiased opinion on the new dishes. those times are my favourite times. especially when some of ping pong's new dishes include such yummies as honey soy chicken wings and lobster dumplings and espresso martinis. oh my!

ben is as avid a coffee fan as me, but for all accounts, did not enjoy the cardamom espresso martini. i tasted it, and, it was stronnnnng. and quite possibly, not really a cocktail for drinking while you're eating pan asian dim sum. it was ok, but not for starters. it's more of a dessert martini, unlike the forbidden martini that i started off with, which was sweet and sour, and the perfect accompaniment to the sticky chicken and crispy prawn balls we kicked off our dinner with.

you might remember the lychee and rose martini from the summer masterclass laura and i went to, where i made the bold statement that "if i was a cocktail, i would be this cocktail". well, when i saw it hadn't disappeared from the menu for the winter, i had to indulge in it again. i made ben taste the pink drink. his conclusion: "tastes like what you'd taste like if you were a cocktail"... this guy.

the lobster dumpling was delicious, albeit pretty fiddly to eat. the beetroot pastry is totally gluten free, and we all know that gluten is what holds the world together.,. even though the pink and squishy pastry was tasty, it fell apart as soon as you picked it up which meant loads of lobster and shitake innards all over your plate. bigger mouthfuls maybe? we also had the infamous chicken and cashew nut dumplings which are legendary and renowned for not falling apart. they lived up to their reputation, thankfully. ben was a fan. oh wells, more pretty pink lobstery parcels for me!

finally, i made ben try the new winter berry blazer. it has cognac and absinthe in it, and he's obviously a classy bloke so it seemed appropriate. it as supposed to come out ablaze; it did not, and i was disappointed. it basically smelled like alcohol - not anything in particular, kind of like smelling alcohol - i.e. strong. he preferred it to the espresso martini, but i really don't think that kid was enjoying his choices. me on the other hand, well i was two for two!

my last pick was the hibiscus spritz because you can't go wrong with perfection. him: something with wasabi nuts in it. because he doesn't know how to quit while he's ahead, apparently. i mean, i guess we were supposed to eat more of the seasonal food dishes; when given the choice, i will always choose cocktails over food. all in all, i am a massive advocate of ping pong anyway, but the newest dishes to grace their winter menu pretty much get the tick of approval from me - even though the lobster dumpling was kind of messy and annoying to eat, it made up for it by being bloody yum and also because all of the cocktails.

and i do mean it when i say, all of the cocktails.

the imperial war museum | lambeth north

on sunday i headed down to the imperial war museum in lambeth. i've also known it was there, but it wasn't until a few weeks ago that i discovered it had reopened after a couple of silent years of renovation. it actually reopened on 19 july of this year, to mark the centenary of the first world war; with a ground-breaking host of new wwi galleries and loads of drama in the new atrium, i was really looking forward to seeing what all the fuss was about. if the marketing in the tube was anything to go by, there was going to be some really great pieces in there, with some incredibly curated exhibitions.

well, sunday probably wasn't the most ideal day to go - it was pretty busy, which made it hard to get around to all the things, and there was definitely a lot to see. around the ground floor and main atrium was a shit tonnnne of impressive pieces like uhm planes and cars and missiles and stuff. above that was a couple of exhibitions that you had to get tickets for, so we passed because broke (but will be going back for them), but there were still a bunch of free exhibitions also that we did have a wander through.

the worst thing i ever did was go through the holocaust one. i mean... this is not a lot of new information to me - i've been to a number of wwi and wwii ravaged countries and seen and learned lots about them and their history, etc, but... having not made it to any of the camps myself (i would say "yet", but after this... i don't know if i could... have you?), this was probably the closest i've ever been to the 'reality' of it all. i mean, first hand accounts of what it was like, specific details and statistics of what went on in the camps, possessions retained from when the camps were liberated... it was all just so... sickening. and the worst part was at the very end of the exhibition when it showed just what happened to the fifteen or so heads of the ss army and the nazi party after the war, and the aboslute lack of remorse they each showed afterwards. the majority of them took their (and their family's) own lives in a repulsive act of cowardous, the rest were all killed. rightly so.

er, enough about that. we spent a good couple of hours there, but it was a bit blah after the holocaust bit, and so we headed off for a coffee instead. i really enjoyed what we did see, but would have liked more time just wandering the atrium and really reading what everything was about. it was a tad difficult with the amount of traffic in there, so next time i head back, i'll make sure to get in there early to beat the crowds.

have you been along since it reopened?

thank you, stranger.

random acts of kindness are performed everyday, everywhere. they can be as small as helping an older person cross the road, buying an extra sandwich at lunch for the homeless person on the street, or giving up that precious peak hour seat for the pregnant woman in comfy shoes. at times, they are much bigger, and much more meaningful; some, like being a marrow or blood donor, can mean life changing things to people. so, when the charity anthony nolan asked me to share my personal random acts of kindness in order to promote the life saving work they do, how on earth was i going to say no...

it did get me thinking - hard, too, about the kindness we show strangers in general. i asked my friends for their input and got the standard responses of helping to carry bags down stairs, or giving the tramp dog a cheeseburger or giving the lady in front 50p to use the bathroom at liverpool street, but these things were seen as "not really kind, just... human". which is kind of awesome, right? that we write ourselves off as generous because that behaviour is almost sort of... expected of us now.

in that vein though, what do we actually consider kind? if kindness is a virtue, and seen as "showing a concern for others", yet we dismiss ourselves when we are kind because we consider our actions "human", then what? i had to really think about what i'd done that i would consider kind; a selfless act that i'd be proud to tell people i'd done, and... i'm ashamed to say i pretty much drew a blank. 
that's not to say that i don't have an arsenal of stories about buying lunch for the tramp and his dog that sit by hobbs hog roast at borough market every time i go past there, or single handedly holding a coat drive at work last winter to then pass on to handpicked london and in turn, the thousands of london's homeless, or regularly telling the stupid tourists on the tube that their backpacks are unzipped and they're going to get mugged if they're not careful, but beyond these 'social niceties', i can not think of one exceptional thing i've done for mankind. and this makes me sad.

when i asked my friend nicola, you know what she said? she saved a dying baby in an airport. she just said it like that, so nonchalant, and we were all "wuut gurrrl wuut", and then she told us this story about how she was in the airport at kuala lumpur, coming home from nz at christmas, and this tiny baby started having a seizure and no-one knew what to do. there were no doctors, there were no police, there was no-one else around who knew what to do, and so with her basic first aid training, she gave this tiny human cpr until the paramedics came, and the baby lived... we stared, slack jawed, and she simply said "what, it's not like i'm a hero; anyone would have done it", to which we all replied "incorrect, i have no idea how to do cpr, so no, i wouldn't have done that, you crazy hero person you". 

nicola's story is the kindest thing i can share with you here. that, and this montage of crazy kind things that the good folks over at anthony nolan have put together to pay homage to the kindness of strangers, and to say "thank you, stranger".

tell me, what's the kindest thing you've done/a stranger's done for you?
share it online with the hashtag #thankyoustranger