Chuck Burger Bar in Harrow

Chuck

Hubby and I love going to burger bars but there’s none close to where we live. The nearest one is either GBK in Brent Cross (hate that BX) or Hampstead (missions with parking) so was dying to try Chuck Burger Bar in Hatch End. Hatch End is known for being full of restaurants with Casa Mia, Fellini  and Sea Pebbles being favourites so it was in a great location. 

We decided to go for Neil’s first Father’s Day, so bundled up little one and went to the restaurant. It’s a really cool place with some funky wall art designed by street artist: Bejamin McCoy and a lawn outside! We were seated almost immediately and as it was after lunch wasn’t overly busy. Walls were uncovered bricks and there were a range of chairs for each table with the front of the restaurant having more of a bar feel.

I do find that burger bars don’t many veg options – usually a soya burger and that’s all. I remember when I was younger, we used to order burgers without the meat and just the salad/cheese/tomatoes from Burger King – there were no veg options then. Chuck has two tasty sounding options: Zingy Tower Burger (haloumi, portobello mushroom and pickled beetroot)  or Bandito Bean Burger (bean and veg patty).

I went for the Bandito and have to say it was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. The patty was well-cooked and the toppings were coated with just a right amount of sauce which gave a spicy kick to the burger experience. The best thing about the burgers were the buns used – fresh brioche rolls from Millers Bakery. It gave it that added delicious taste! Triple fried fries were obviously home made and tasted different from other burger restaurants – shame they have to be ordered separate to the burger. Neil was torn between the lamb burger, chicken or pulled pork but ended up going for the huli hili chicken burger which was a spicy chicken breast with salad, monterey cheese and jalapenos with a side of coleslaw! All I can say is that loved it!!

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We didn’t have starters as the portions are huge but I was torn between the brunch and burger menu. Of course as it is a burger bar, that was the way forward. I’ll be back to try the French Toast stack. We ended with a celebratory dessert – Lazy Brownie Sunday in a jar which was ice cream, whipped cream, brownie topped with oreos. It was delish but a little too rich – I didn’t think there was a necessity for both ice cream and whipping cream.

The meal was a little pricey and I would go back for special occasions – perhaps to even try the brunch menu. If you’re passing by then do pop in for a meal – no reservations means they will always accommodate you. The website is under construction but menu and photos on their Facebook page.

Bubbles in my dog

So hot dogs and bubbles sound like a strange combination but one that sounds out of this world – epic as my friends would say. Judging by the long queues and wait time at Bubbledogs, I wasn’t the only one to want to go to this popular restaurant. With its understated frontage and red neon sign, Bubbledogs looks like it could be a New York restaurant rather than sitting on the quiet end of Charlotte Street. It was definitely a place for me to try out.

There’s no booking system and people just mill around outside the small restaurant (19 covers) waiting to be called from the list. An hour later and full of excitement to try this odd combination, the four of us girls got our own bench and stools to sit on. There was a waft of sweet potato fries as we we went inside the smallish restaurant with exposed brick walls and and bare wooden floorboards – you could champagne bottles and glasses on every table. 

There’s an extensive drinks menu with a collection of cocktails and beers, but we were here for the bubbles. There’s two pages of champagnes, none of which we had ever heard of. The lovely waitress explained that all their champagne is sourced from small, independent growers. Being a little broke with two of us not working full-time, we opted for the cheapest bottle to share between four – £32 for a delectable rose champagne. The most expensive was around the £200 mark!

Bubbles Time Hot dogs and sidesAnd it was onto hot doggy time: you can select your dog from a choice of pork, beef or veggie. The menu of hot dogs is large with 13 options and they have extremely cool, very cliché names like “Trishna Dog” for an Indian inspired hot dog, “K-Dawg” for a hot dog with a Korean twist and “Jose” for a Mexican inspired style dog, or have them naked. I opeted for the Ploughman which contained piccalilli (Indian pickles), apple, beer pickled onion and cheese.

Ploughmans

Alongside the hot dogs, we went for sides of Tater Tots: a mix between hash brown and a croquette, sweet potato fries and home-made coleslaw. The hot dogs were tasty and moreish- and no complaints from any of my friends. And at the end we’re giving a little book to write in – cute, kitsch touch.

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There were no desserts on the menu so we walked around the corner to a newly opened Italian gelato: Tesoro – these do seem to be popping up everywhere. The pistachio ice cream was amazing!

The concept is definitely cool and nicely executed with a great creative twist. An odd pairing that works well – apparently the co-owner of Bubbledogs’ Sandia Chang loves the 2 things and thought she could combine them in a restaurant. I’ll definitely be back here as the food and bubbles were a great choice …despite the wait which just makes you more hungry.

When in Rome….

Ahh Rome – one of the most romantic cities in the world – my second visit here and I’d definitely recommend a trip for sun, food and sightseeing! We were here for four days which means you don’t have to rush around and really are able to take the time to see things, go back and enjoy the city.

Everything about Italy is completely over the top with delicious food, authentic wine, historical sites to see and overly lively people on every street corner! We stayed at Palm Gallery Hotel which is North East of Rome – about 20 minutes by bus near the embassies. It’s in a really peaceful area and the hotel was homely giving us lots of tips and advice, even booking our Colosseum tickets – a perfect base to relax!

On our first day after taking the train journey back from Amalfi Coast and Pompeii, we ventured out to the main area visiting the infamous Trevi Fountain and The Spanish Steps. It’s so nice to just wander around the city, popping into shops and people gazing whilst having something sweet: ice cream! A must-try is: San Crispino considered to be the best ice cream in the city with lines outside the door – note: they won’t serve it to you in a cone, claiming the taste of the cone interferes with the taste of the gelato. Favourite flavours were pistachio and melon (not together!). We then went to a traditional pizzeria at Da Buffato! The evening was spent wandering around Piazza Navona full of musicians and painters before we headed back to the hotel.

Our next day started with a trip to Vatican City and St Peter’s Basilica which is a must-see on any trips to Rome. Vatican City is home to some of the most famous art in the world, it’s just next door to St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the largest churches in the world, containing the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture. The Sistine Chapel is the famous for its frescos, ceiling and Last Judgement by Michelangelo.

Our third day started with coffee at Sant’ Eustachio, whose walls are pasted with celebrity testimonials. The coffee is so very good and I’d advise trying the frappe which is frothy and sweet. We then headed over to check out the monument of epic proportions that dates from AD 72: The Colleseum. A vast arena of entertainment, with a seating capacity of over 50,000 people, it could fill up in 10 minutes for gory battles between gladiators, slaves, prisoners and wild animals.  Just around the corner, you can check out the ruins in the Roman Forum and Palatine Hills.

Our last day was spent wandering down the main street: Via del Corso towards Piazza di Popolo and Villa Borghese. There’s a fantastic vegetarian Italian around the corner: Il Margutta which mainly uses organic ingredients where we had a range of typical Italian dishes. Of course this was followed by ice cream!

Rome really is a must-see city and one where you can just wander around  – good food, drink, sweet and sights – what more could you want from a city break!!

Madrid – tips from a local

Madrid is huge, with lots of places to see, buildings to discover and museums to visit. The city is easy to enjoy, walk and you’ll find everything. Here’s my friend Ana’s recommendations for a great visit:

Walk around as much as possible and don’t visit over summer or you’ll melt under the burning Spanish sun with temperatures hitting 40°. The best seasons are spring and autumn: March to June and September to November. Winter can be ok too, but the days are shorter and what’s more, you won’t sit outside a bar to have a drink, the best thing to do in Spain.

It’s difficult to discover all what Madrid has to offer in a few days, but here are some of my top tips:

Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, San Miguel Market, Royal Palace, Royal Theatre, España square, Gran Vía street are some places that can be seen in a morning by walking around, they are next to each other. Don’t eat in the Plaza Mayor, as it’s expensive, even more for tourists and the food is not as good. There are better places in streets going out from the square, but if you want to have a great culinary experience, go to San Miguel Market, a former market where you will find more than 20 stands specializing in a different food type including: smoked fish, vines, pickle and meat. In the afternoon near Opera square, you can enjoy a coffee in Cafe Madrid.

Some sights you cannot miss are in Álcala Street and admire the oldest palaces converted into bank offices, don’t miss the statues on the top of the buildings!! Where Gran Vía and Álcala streets converge, you’ll find the Metropolis building, with a spectacular facade and further down, on the right is Circulo de Bellas Artes, with a great area to sit outside. You can go up on the roof for a view of the Madrid skyline.

The next square you will find is Cibeles, with 3 extraordinary buildings in the “corners”: Bank of Spain (Banco de España, next to Circulo de Bellas Artes), Palacio de Telecomunicaciones (ask whether you can go up this building) and Linares Palace. From this square, you can go up or down Paseo dela Castellana, one of the longest avenues in Madrid where you can find museums and the Atocha rail station. So we are still in Alcala Street, walk across Cibeles square and up to Alcala’s door where you go for a walk around Retiro Park.

If you decide to visit Atocha station, you will find the Prado Museum on the way. There are some places to have eat: Museo del Jamón (Ham museum) or El Brillante, in Carlos V square (where Atocha is) for a squid sandwich which is very typical. In the rail station there’s a greenhouse with turtles and enormous palms trees.

Madrid as a big city full of countless of bars, discos for a fun night out. Many of them are near Puerta del Sol, so if you are staying in close proximity, you will have no problem finding them. People will offer discounts drinks and shots in the street, so take advantage. In Plaza Santa Ana, when its warm, make sure you sit outside and enjoy. This zone, called Huertas has lots of places to eat and drink. Another great zone with many clubs and bars is Chueca, it’s the gay area and personally speaking, the best environment I have ever stayed in when going out at night: party, party, party… you will also find many good restaurants here.



Parisien Love

Whether you are immersing yourself with city life from a sidewalk café or taking a leisurely walk along the Seine, you will slowly unravel what the city of chic, romance and lights has to offer. After spending a year in Paris, the top 10 things to visit in Paris such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Versaille were replaced by hidden sights, as I continued to explore and discover the city. My sister – blogger junkie asked me to write a blog about Paris – so I have put together my top must see/do’s!

Sacré Coeur. One of my favourite places in Paris. The Sacré Coeur is a Roman Catholic Church dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus. Situated on top of a hill crest, the large monument is visible throughout Paris. You can walk up the steps or take the funicular to the top and walk around the cobbled streets to discover the artisans. The Square Jehan Rictus at Place des Abbesses has a blue tiled wall with the words “I love you” written in over 250 languages and dialects.

Le Marais – known as the Jewish quarter, is an area filled with chic boutiques, art galleries and cafes.  Down a small cobblestone street full of falafel and bakery shops, there is always one restaurant with the longest queue:  L’As du Falafel – best falafels in city!

Afternoon Tea at La Duree: The iconic patisserie, salon de thé and delicatessen offer a wide selection of tea, cakes, and of course famous macaroons in all colours, flavours and sizes. No visit to Paris is complete without going here.

Another famous salon de thé is Angelina, just steps away from Le Louvre (where you can stop to see the famous Mona Lisa).  Whether you stop for tea or their famous hot chocolate or maybe a mille-feuille or their famous Mont Blanc, you will not be disappointed.

Best Views of Paris: After going up and down the Eiffel tower countless number of times when friends or families came to visit, I realised that I appreciated the view of the Eiffel Tower more than the panoramic view of Paris.  Metro Station: Tocadéro will lead you to a large open area where you have a breath-taking view of the Eiffel tower.

During the spring and summer, Champs de Mars, a large greenery area in Paris, home to the Eiffel Tower is the best place for a picnic. It’s near station Ecole Militaire.

If you want an amazing view of Paris, climb the 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. The monument itself is the centre of several avenues that form a star. Bbest to climb in the evening, as you will be able to view the several avenues that spoke the monument and form a star.

Bon voyage!! And enjoy your trip to Paris…


Isle of Capri

The scent of lemon blossoms and fresh sea air is what hits you when you take the boat from Sorrento to Capri which is the only way to get to this beautiful yet very expensive island. Ice cream was £5 so make sure you have enough money!!
The coastline, where the cliffs fall to the sea in many spots, is dotted with caves and surrounded by reefs. It’s such a pretty place and the best way to see the Island is to hire a boat and walk around. Although we did get lost and ended up walking up and down the stairs of a really steep path for over an hour the views made the adventure worth it!
Don’t miss out on seeing:
  • The town of Anacapri and its surrounding villas and hikes
  • The Blue Grotto is a beautiful cave at the water’s edge with a tiny opening to the sea that opens and closes with the tide. The entrance is small and depending on the tide there is just enough space for only a small rowboat to get through. It often closes due to tides and waves, so check before going
  • Faraglioni Rocks: three spurs of rock which rise up out of the sea
  • Chairlift from Anacapri up to Monte Solaro for views over the bay of Naples from the summit
  • Villa Jovis: the residence of the Emperor Tiberius
  • People watching in the many cafes and spotting any celebs

Capri is really expensive – so take drinks and snacks with you or buy a sandwich to eat in the many piazzas and squares.

Bella Sorrento

The Amalfi Coast is one of the most stunning parts of Italy that I’ve been to and this is where our travels in Italy began. The Amalfi Coast is a stretch of coastline on the southern coast of the Sorrentine Peninsula in the Province of Salerno in Southern Italy.  A stretch of coast wedged between the blue of the sky and sea, a string of spectacular little towns and ancient fishing villages welded like limpets to the rocks. This is the unforgettable Amalfi Coast.

We based ourselves in Sorrento – a small and laid-back southern Italian town which took 10 minutes to walk from one end to the other and was a great base from which to travel from to other coast towns and take the boat to the islands.

We stayed in the hills at Villa Monica – a cute little B&B with only three rooms where the owner Pasquale takes cares of your needs. The views and recommendations were second to none – we got to try an authentic local Italian and were picked and dropped as and when we wanted to and really looked after.

There’s not alot to do in Sorrento but make sure you take in the town, walk around leisurely  and enjoy some relaxation time soaking up the atmosphere. Two things that are must-sees:

  • The pretty small Port (Marina Piccola) – be wary of the steps or long walk there though! This is also the jumping point for boats to Naples, Capri (more on this later!) and Ischia.
  • One of the top souvenirs from the area is limoncello, the signature lemon liqueur. You can find it at l’Alambicco which offers limoncello free tasting, is located just few steps from the main square “Piazza Tasso”. via San Cesareo 15. This is a good place to see it being made, after which you’ll know why it packs such a punch – it’s pure alcohol with flavouring.
To eat:
  • Gnocchi alla Sorrentina – potato gnocchi with tomato sauce and mozzarella baked to perfection
  • Italian gelato that incorporates fresh local flavours at Gelateria Davide, Via Giuliani, 35
  • Pastiera a typical cake that is produced in the area and lots of pastries from Pasticceria Monica

Although there’s not a huge amount to do – it’s great stop off point and you can get the bus to: Positano: the coast’s most expensive and photogenic town, Amalfi: a popular day-trip option, with the town of Ravello: perched high on a hill looking down over it. You can get a boat to Capri (post coming up!) or Ischia or the train to see Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius.