Sunday, 28 June 2015

Broadway Market, East London | The Small Desk

I've always wanted to go to Broadway Market. I've heard so many people talking about it, saying how cool it is, what a variety of food there is and how great the atmosphere is, yet I've always been put off going as it is so far away from where I live. The thing about London is that it is so big and so busy that even though you live in London that 'amazing place' might still take you over an hour to get to!

Yesterday I decided to make the effort and travel with the boyf to Broadway Market. We took a variety of tubes and trains to London Fields. From here Broadway Market is only a five or ten minute stroll through London Fields park. Wandering through the park you realise what a trendy area this has become. It is full of those East London hipsters and even hipster children! As you approach the Market you immediately feel the buzz and excitement around it. Everyone is randomly bumping into people they know, there is a real community feel to the whole area. It is a community feel I've not felt in London for a long time.

The Market is on a long street called... Broadway Market! There are little shops and cafes all the way down the street with the market stalls running back-to-back down the middle of the street. It is packed with vintage clothing, vintage homeware, cactus stalls, but mainly food. There is Jamaican food, Lebanese, vegan, vegetarian, bakeries, chocolate stalls and fresh fish. It is a complete mix of cultures and cuisines. It is a market for those who are not fussed about what type of food they eat, as long as it tastes amazing. The quality of the food stalls here is very high and you can expect to pick up this street food for only marginally cheaper than you would in a restaurant. If you forget to take cash with you, there is a Post Office where you can withdraw cash over the counter.

Here are the places I most enjoyed whilst on my visit:
This is the stall of the fishmonger by the same name on Broadway Market. The boyf is a fan of tuna steak and once he saw the tuna steak roll on the menu there was no turning back. It was a fairly pricey £6, but I was assured that it was worth every penny. 

2. The Veggie Table
Since making recipes from the Deliciously Ella cookbook I have become slightly obsessed with sweet potatoes and chickpeas, so when I saw The Veggie Table stall selling chickpea and sweet potato burger I immediately knew I had to try it. You have the option of having the burger in a box with salad or in a bun with salsa. It was a taste sensation, and I would highly recommend it! They also do halloumi burgers.

3. Schoolyard market
Just around the corner from Broadway Market is the Schoolyard market. It is held in the school playground of London Fields primary school. It feels like an extension of Broadway Market. It has very similar stalls, such as doughnuts, fresh juices, more cactuses and even a jewellery stand.

4. Jaz and Jul's
After my chickpea and sweet potato burger I headed for Jaz and Jul's ice lolly stall. I had seen in passing that they sold a raspberry and orange lolly and on this hot summer day I could think of nothing more appealing. When I got there I realised there was an option to dip the ice lolly in chocolate and sprinkles. Needless to say I could not say no, and before I knew it I was holding an ice lolly rolled in chocolate and raspberry sprinkles! It ended up being the most expensive ice lolly I've ever bought at £3.20! It was worth it though, again, I would highly recommend!

5. London Fields
As we made our way back to the station we wandered through London Fields. I had not realised how beautiful the wild flowers were before. I looked it up and it turns out Hackney council planted this wild flower meadow for only the second year running. It is definitely worth visiting this area if only to see these flowers.


Sunday, 21 June 2015

Explore: Stockholm | The Small Desk

Rosendals Trädgård

Rosendals Trädgård

Stockholm Archipelago 

I've been to Stockholm twice: once over New Year in 2011, and once in May of this year. I have seen it hidden in snow and the lake suffocated with ice, and I have seen it in the blazing sun with people fishing from the bridges and kayaking on the lake. Before I ever went to Stockholm I had an image in my head of the city as one of the most beautiful, rich and stylish cities in the world. It is all those things, but you have to know where to look. I have written this guide in order to help you find those places. 

Stockholm is often lumped in the same category as Copenhagen, and I think many people believe these cities to be very similar, yet they are very different. Stockholm is made up of 14 islands. The main areas you are likely to visit are: Södermalm (shopping), Gamla Stan (old town), Djurgarden (park island), Vasastan (smart restaurants) and Norrmalm (city centre). Stockholm also has a museum island called Skeppsholmen that you might like to visit.

1. EAT
We often find the best restaurants whilst getting lost looking for a specific one we found on Tripadvisor! We gave up looking for the veggie restaurant and thought this place looked nice. Turns out in this case you could judge a book by its front cover, if you get my gist!

Word to the wise – this place expects you to have a reservation, and most people tend to reserve for 7pm. We went in at ten to seven and there were many many empty tables, but we had to wait until seven to see if there were any free tables. I scoffed at this, but to my surprise at 7pm on the dot everyone came in to claim their tables. Luckily there was one 'table for two' free. I had a goats cheese and beetroot pizza/crisp bread and the boyf had moose! It is essentially posh pub food with a Swedish twist.

For more suggestions on where to eat in Stockholm check out my Eats post.

Södermalm is where you can find Drop Coffee (third best coffee in the world apparently), Sandqvist (famous Swedish bag company), along with vintage stores and boutiques.

You can get to the area from the centre of town by walking across a couple of bridges, which means you get great views of Stockholm and in particular the old town. If you visit this area, take your purse and your camera, you will definitely need both!

HTL hotel is the place to stay: not only is it affordable and only a stone's throw from the central train station, but it is absolutely beautifully designed and maintained. The check-in and check-out are self-service through an iPad embedded into a desk. The rooms are a very good size for the price, and the hotel is very clean.

The best thing about this hotel is the breakfast. There are a plethora of options to choose from including berry smoothies and orange juice served in cute little milk bottles. My favourite option was the granola that came in a little jar you could pair with raspberry or natural yoghurt.

Word of warning though – don't use the shower gel if you have sensitive skin. 

If you've had enough of the museums and shops and fancy a walk then head to Djurgarden. This is essentially Stockholm's Central park, but by the sea. The blue gates with gold stags welcome you in and look stunning in the sunlight or draped in snow.

If you're feeling peckish make sure to head to Rosendals Trädgård, where there is a cafe selling sandwiches, cakes, soup and lots of lovely lunch delights. It also has a health food shop and a garden centre. I had to refrain from buying lots of plants to take back.

Unlike the Gothenburg archipelago, Stockholm's archipelago consists of mainly private islands. If you're feeling brave, the best way to see these islands is by kayaking. For those of you like me however, who do too much risk management at work, there is always the cruise option. It takes about two and a half hours and departs twice a day. This is one place you have to go in summer as I don't think the cruise even goes in the winter or can due to ice!

There are 30,000 islands in Stockholm's archipelago, so you're probably not going to have time to visit them all! But there are hostels, hotels and holiday lets on these islands, so if you have lots of time you could see more of the region.

Finally, the main 'weird' attraction in Stockholm is Skansen. It was founded in 1891 by Artur Hazelius who noticed the decline of Swedish folk culture during industrialisation. In order to save this folk culture for future generations he decided to build Skansen and the Nordic museum. Skansen is an open-air museum with a zoo. Hazelius bought 150 houses from around Sweden and had them shipped (piece by piece) to Skansen.

I am obsessed with open-air museums that recreate traditional culture, so much so that we made a specific stop off to Linkoping open-air museum on our trip around Sweden! Let me know if you want to read about that in another post! However if you're not used to open-air museums then you might find the experience a little odd. Everyone who works there is dressed in traditional attire and performs traditional crafts or skills. The weirdest thing they have there is the historical Yule Goat mask. Trust me, look it up, it's freaky!

The only place I would say to avoid in Stockholm is the area around Sergels Torg 3 where the visitor centre is. It's a bit too commercial for me and there seem to be a few unsavoury characters hanging around. You can't really avoid walking past it, but I wouldn't advise it as a place to hang out.

I hope you liked this 'Explore' post! Have you been to Stockholm or ever considered going?

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Stockholm Eats Vegetarian

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Ray's Jazz at Foyles Bookshop: Fumi Okiji's Old Time Band | The Small Desk

Footage from a previous gig. At 3.30 there is an amazing jazz clarinet solo.

My strongest memory of Foyles on Charing Cross Road is going with my Dad to get some obscure piece of music he needed. We walked up what felt like hundreds of stairs to get to a rather dark and dingy part of the store filled with music lovers perusing the never-ending stacks of drawers filled with sheet music. I don't know if that part of the store still exists, I rather suspect that it doesn't. They've recently renovated the entire store and it now has a high-end glossy sheen to it. One thing I hadn't realised was that there is an auditorium on the sixth floor, along with a trendy cafe on the fifth floor. In this auditorium is where they hold Ray's Jazz. The gig I went to was of Fumi Okiji's Old Time Band. 

As the support band finished up the Old Time Band could be seen in the audience cheering them and encouraging them to play another tune. Before they even played you could tell this band was doing it for all the right reasons. It's not often you see the main performer at a gig rooting for the support band like this. Red wine in hand, the Old Time Band casually slid into their positions, checked everyone was ready to go and persuaded the audience to move closer to the front. The audience settled into their seats not sure what to expect, and then this incredible voice started singing everyone's worries away. 

Fumi's voice has such depth to it, such power, clarity, freedom and soul. When she sings she looks straight out into the audience as though she is telling you a story, taking you on a journey with her and inviting you to be involved in the music. It is one of those voices that takes you by surprise, one of those rare voices that makes you go: 'wow'. It gives you shivers down your spine and transports you back in time to the roaring twenties, where jazz was the music of the masses.

Then there is the band. With one of the most successful and well-known jazz cellists Ben Davis holding down the bass line, joined by Idris Rahman on clarinet, Stuart Hall on guitar and Roy Dodds on drums, they improvise together some pretty crazy solos, bounce off each other and joke around with each other through their playing. There were many occasions where the audience was enjoying the clarinet and the guitar taking the solos out-of-control-crazy so much that they started crying with laughter. Have you ever seen people laughing at a gig not because its bad but because its so good?!

The auditorium is a fairly large space, probably the size of an assembly room in a school, but there were only probably about 20 or so people in the crowd. An unassuming looking band, but with years of experience between them, a real passion for jazz and blues, and a enormous dollop of talent, this band deserves to be bringing in audiences of tens of thousands, not just tens. 

Make sure you support them by downloading some of their tracks from their album, Old Fashion.

Don't forget to follow Fumi on Twitter to never miss a gig. Let me know if you enjoy jazz or blues and have any recommendations!


Thursday, 11 June 2015

Why does everyone hate comic sans? | The Small Desk

Comic Sans

Long, long ago, in a distant past, where the Nokia 3310 was the most desirable phone on the market, and snake was the game that stopped you from doing your homework, I studied Graphic Design at school. Back then, I had no idea about the hate the wider world had for the now infamous Comic Sans. 

Unleashed to the world in 1995 by Microsoft, Comic Sans was designed by a man named Vincent Connare, who never meant to cause offence, upset so many graphic designers, and least of all did he expect a campaign to ban the font to materialise! 

It all started because the little dog in the corner of Word (remember him!?), who is meant to help you out, was talking in Times New Roman, and Connare thought this was just plain wrong. It was time for a more user-friendly font to be introduced and paired with this talking dog. That font was drawn together in a mere three days, and that font was, you guessed it, was Comic Sans. It was a font intended for one specific purpose, but it then got dragged into the default font packages Microsoft provided.

Those who want to 'ban' Comic Sans argue that the typeface has been used far too widely, and in the wrong context. They argue that the font is childish and casual: it cannot be taken seriously. It has become a font that is a joke in itself to the design community, and if you use it your work instantly looks unprofessional. There is even a song called 'The Comic Sans song' that has almost 400,000 views! My favourite line is: 'if you want your designs to look like they're done by little girls'!

Back in November last year Connare told Dezeen that people who don't like Comic Sans don't understand that in design you have a brief. He stuck to that brief and designed a friendly font for the dog. Little did he know it was to become one of the most widely used, and hated, fonts on the planet. 

What the Comic Sans haters want is for the font not to be used in the wrong context. It is a playful font, and should not be used for anything serious, or slightly serious, or even a little bit funny... ok, ok, what I really mean is... not at all. Nothing brings back the nineties to me like Comic Sans.


Saturday, 6 June 2015

Explore: Copenhagen | The Small Desk


Walking to Vesterbro

Walking to Vesterbro


I first visited Copenhagen in 2013. I loved it so much that I went back in May of this year. The easiest way to travel from the airport to the city is to go by train. It only takes about 15 minutes. When you leave the train and enter the central station the first thing that hits you is the smell of cinnamon; the Danes are obsessed with their cinnamon buns. The next thing that hits you is that this city is a little grittier than the holiday brochures depict. The most common photo you see of Copenhagen is of Nyhavn: those yellow, orange and red town houses standing proudly against the canal. Nyhavn is one of the busiest streets for standard pubs and average restaurants. Don't get me wrong, it is really pretty, but it is only one street, and you can only walk down it for about five minutes until you get to the end. There is a lot more of Copenhagen to see.

Copenhagen is known for being one of the most stylish cities on Earth, and trust me, it really is. When you walk down the street in your tourist get-up, you realise that perhaps you should have remembered that this is one of the most stylish, if not the most stylish city in the world. The majority of people walking down the street, going about their everyday business, look as though they have just left a photo shoot by Cereal magazine! No-one wears much colour, black and white is everything, and God help you if you think wearing a cycle helmet is socially acceptable. I might add there that their roads are much safer for cycling on than in London, they actually have raised and distinctly separate cycle lanes!

This post details what I think are the best areas to eat in Copenhagen, where to shop away from the tourists, where to stay that isn't a Radisson, where to get some air and what to avoid! Hopefully this post should give you a slightly different flavour of Copenhagen compared to the standard guide book version.

1. EAT
Whenever I travel to a Scandinavian country I worry about the food. I worry because I am a pescatarian, and a fussy pescatarian at that. I'll pass on the pickled herring thanks! These countries like their meat, and it's not just your standard meat either, it's reindeer and moose! I have to say though, they do understand the difference between vegan and vegetarian, which is something that can't be said for a lot of restaurants, even in the UK.

My favourite place to eat, which we actually went to twice in the space of two weeks, was PS Bar and Grill. It had this soy and ginger-glazed salmon that was heavenly! We also wandered around the Vesterbro area where there are A LOT of really nice places to eat, including Simple Raw, which is dairy and gluten-free. I have written a whole post on Copenhagen Eats, so please check that out for a longer list of places to eat.

My favourite thing to shop for is homeware. I love going to shops that sell cushions, beautiful prints, and ceramics. Therefore the street that I am going to advise is best for shopping, is actually best for homeware shopping, and that is Læderstræde. Here they have a shop called Grønlykkethat sells beautifully made retro print cushion covers, if you look at my Instagram you will see the ones I bought... think Liberty and Sanderson prints.

The 'hotel' we stayed in in May of this year, was Wakeup Copenhagen. This is not the hotel I am going to recommend, as it was noisey, the beds were uncomfortable and the toilet was only separated from the rest of the room by a thin frosted piece of glass! It is cheap and it is central, but not that near the train station. Andersen hotel, however, is the hotel we stayed in in 2013 and it was 100x better. It is only moments away from the train station, round the corner from Vesterbro and it has a wall separating the toilet from the rest of the room! It is beautifully decorated, very clean and the hotel staff are amazing. 

My favourite area to walk around in Copenhagen is the green space around Kastellet. According to Wikipedia, it is 'one of the best preserved star fortresses in Northern Europe'. Once you've walked around the green area you can explore the buildings there and subsequently walk towards the sea. You can then walk along the sea, see The Little Mermaid statue (good place for public loos), and carry on wandering all the way to Nyhavn. Rosenborg Castle Gardens is also a beautiful spot to visit and spend time outdoors with a picnic or glass of wine in the evening.

If you're looking to spend more than a couple of nights in Copenhagen I strongly recommend getting the train from Copenhagen to Malmö. The train goes underneath the longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe. On a sunny day you get the most spectacular views of the sea on both sides and on a stormy day it is incredibly atmospheric. The train is pretty fast so it's hard to get a good photo!

If you're looking to do something a bit wacky, then I would advise Tivoli Gardens. It is essentially a theme park, but it's not anything like your traditional theme park, it's got a historical, 'oldy-woldy' vibe to it. When I went there in 2013 it was Halloween. They had some amazing displays as well as a little hut dedicated to One Direction! It's a bit of hodge-podge of little shops, rides and cafes, and in the centre of it is the most expensive hotel in Copenhagen. You have to pay an entry fee, but it is almost worth going in just for the experience. I wouldn't say it is amazing, but it is memorable...

We went over to Christianshavn to see the famous 'Church of Our Saviour' spire, which is beautiful and something I would definitely recommend going to see, but once you've seen it, turn around and go back to the centre. We didn't and ended up wandering further into Christianshavns Vold. We saw a sign for a park and thought it would be nice to have a mooch around, but as soon as we walked in everyone turned around and looked at us as though we were intruders. I have never had that experience in a park before! It was full of pretty rough looking people and there was a strong smell of weed. We exited pretty quickly!

I later looked up this area and it is part of Christiania. Christiania is one of those places, where at first when you read about it you think: this sounds amazing! It is a tax-free settlement run by its own laws and is known for its crazy architecture (they have no architects). It was established in 1971 when a group of squatters took over an abandoned military area. There are about 1,000 people who live there permanently. If you go there you are advised not to take a mobile phone or camera with you as there have been attacks on tourists, and police say they do not have easy and free access to this area. I'd love to know if anyone has been here!

Please leave me any questions you have about Copenhagen in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer them. Also, please leave additional recommendations!

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Copenhagen Eats
Stockholm Eats
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