Hoi An

After gallivanting around Hanoi by myself, I flew to Da Nang to meet up with the rest of my family to spend a few days in Hoi An just before Christmas.

Hoi AnHoi An

Hoi An is an incredibly beautiful place – as an old trading port you can really see an amazing mix of cultures in the architecture.

loved my time in Hoi An, but a few things really stood out from my trip:

Hoi AnHoi An

Coffee at the Hoi An Roastery. I stayed at the Riverside Hotel, which was absolutely incredible, but their coffee wasn’t as good as it was at the roastery. The rooms at the hotel were lovely, and the staff were so helpful – I even fell in love with the bottles they kept their shampoo and conditioner in, and they tracked some extra ones down for me so they will be jazzing up my bathroom at home.

Hoi AnHoi An

Getting leather bags and shoes custom-made.

I ended up getting three pairs of shoes and two bags, and it was an incredible experience. My family have been to Hoi An around five times, and swear by the quality and price for Friendly Shoe Shop, and their sister store for bags. My shoes were made to measure, in the material and heels I wanted, and were a perfect fit – and were reasonably priced as well. I ended up getting a big leather weekend bag, but the real highlight for me was getting an old Whistles handbag recreated in a mixture of black leather and suede. I use the original handbag almost weekly, and they don’t make it anymore, and all I had to do was hand it over – and two days later I had the exact same bag, brand-spanking new.

Hoi An

The Food

The Taste of Hoi An food tour was a real highlight – the guide, Neville, was a real character, and the food was delicious. It was really well organised, and despite the terrible weather I had such a brilliant time – I couldn’t recommend it enough. My favourite part was getting to try the types of street food I would never even know was in front of me the whole time – I came away with quite a few bottles of chilli sauce, too!

Hoi AnHoi AnHoi An

Another incredible meal was had at Ms. Ly – delicious and authentic local food, although it’s worth going early if possible as there’s always a queue outside!

The only disappointment for me on the food front was Banh Mi Phuong. I’d heard so many good things about it, but the service was terrible, and I’m not sure it was really worth the wait (or perhaps it was, but only because I got my food an hour after I ordered it)!

Lanterns on the River

Hoi An

The other highlight was a trip down the river for sunset – setting lanterns alight was incredibly touristy, but really stunning.

Hoi An

Have you ever been to Hoi An? What did you get up to? Comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram!

A Day in Hanoi

Happy new year! 2017 was so incredible, and I can’t wait for what 2018 brings.

One of the things I’ve realised is that I really enjoy exploring places on my own, something I didn’t realise until I went on my trip to Mexico City last February. Being able to set your own pace is really nice, and I find you end up getting to know a place in a different way when you go alone. So when I was given the option to spend a day in Hanoi before meeting up with everyone else in Hoi An, I jumped at the opportunity.

24 Hours in Hanoi

I booked my flight through Vietnam Airlines, arriving at 7.00 am or so on a Friday. My flight to Da Nang was scheduled for 11 am the following day, giving me around 24 hours in total to explore. While I wanted to make the most of my layover in Hanoi, I didn’t want to add too much pressure, and I had such a great day.

I ended up booking a cheap room near Hoam Kiem, the Old Quarter near the lake. I’m glad I did, as there was so much to see and do – and after checking in and having a shower, I started off my day walking round the lake after picking up an egg coffee.

24 Hours in Hanoi24 Hours in Hanoi

The combination that makes up egg coffee was unlike anything I’ve tried before. It’s basically like someone dumped an egg custard (egg yolks, condensed milk, sugar, cocoa powder) in a coffee, drank it anyway, and started a trend. While it was far too sweet for my taste, I’m really glad I tried it, and definitely see the appeal – it’s incredibly rich, sweet and creamy. If you’re into eggnog lattes, I’d definitely give it a go!

I was in too much of a jetlagged stupor to remember where exactly I picked up my Hanoi egg coffee fix, but I’ve heard great things about Cafe Pho Co.

24 Hours in Hanoi24 Hours in Hanoi

While I was aimlessly wandering around I came across a shop that had the most beautiful ceramics – I found it incredibly hard to leave (I ended up buying several pieces). I came away with several beautiful pieces, and all so reasonably priced (around £3-£7 mark for most items I bought). The Authentic Battrang Ceramic Shop (62 Hang Hom) is definitely worth a look if you’re in the area – just make sure you clear out enough space in your bag.

24 Hours in Hanoi24 Hours in Hanoi24 Hours in Hanoi

At this point I’d killed a few hours just aimlessly wandering and exploring, and so I made my way to make it in time for my only appointment for the day – a cooking class at Madam Yen’s.

It was just around the corner from my hotel, and when popped in to see if I could book onto their 2pm class a couple of hours before. I’m so glad I did! I love exploring markets in other countries, but am always so curious about ingredients, so being able to get the answers to my questions was something I really appreciated.

After the market tour, the other students and I headed back to the restaurant for our class – it was a small one, just the three of us, but a lovely way to pass a few hours.

24 Hours in Hanoi24 Hours in Hanoi24 Hours in Hanoi24 Hours in Hanoi

At the end of it, I came out with a delicious meal – spring rolls, banana blossom salad, and pork bun cha. According to the chef, they are also able to cater for vegetarians, too! The experience set me back $45, which I thought was great value given the quality of the lesson (we were given recipes to take away), and the length of the food tour.

24 Hours in Hanoi

After my delicious meal I ended up heading back to my hotel to get a proper nights sleep. If I had longer in Hanoi, I would have also checked out the Green Tangerine (which came highly recommended by several people with excellent taste), Sentosa, and a Taste of Hanoi food tour.

Have you ever been to Hanoi? What did you get up to? Comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram!

Winterville

I’m incredibly lucky to have family living in some amazing places. In fact, I’m writing this up at an airport in Vietnam en route to another Cambodian Christmas, and it’s always so much fun.

As much as I love a hot Christmas, though, I have been suffering from FOMO (the ‘fear of missing out’) for the usual chilly winter treats – mulled wine, snow, ice skating – all of that jazz.

Winterville, Clapham CommonWinterville, Clapham Common

So when the folks behind Winterville, Clapham Common’s first winter festival, asked me to pop by for their press day I was really excited! Ice skating, mulled wine, but with other fun activities like roller disco, rides and excellent food stands courtesy of Street Feast. What more could you ask for?

A particular highlight of my evening was the ferris wheel, which has great views of London but also of the common.

Winterville, Clapham CommonWinterville, Clapham CommonWinterville, Clapham Common

I also really liked the churros and the bao on offer – definitely one to have after the spinning rides, which kept us a little dizzy for a while afterwards. We took the opportunity though to play a game that involved getting balls into a hole to make some horses race – and I ended up winning this little guy (who I named Victor, because I am not a chilled or graceful winner at all).

Winterville, Clapham CommonWinterville, Clapham Common

It was a pretty chilly day when we went, so we didn’t get to sample all the festival had to offer, like Backyard Cinema, or the Plonk Golf course – but there’s always next time! It’s all on until January 1st.

Winterville, Clapham CommonWinterville, Clapham Common01205

Have you been to Winterville yet? What were your thoughts?

La Belle Assiette

I’m back! I’ve got an exciting announcement to make later in January about why I’ve been pretty MIA on here for the past couple of months, but part of the reason was because I’ve just finished up a part-time course at Leiths, which is super exciting as I can now work as a private chef!

 

2017-11-19_LaBelleAssiette_01

 

I was doing that alongside my 9-to-5, and another big project I’ve been working on for the blog – but now those are finished up, I’m really looking forward to spending some time here again.

 

Part of my motivation for starting up at Leiths was to get a firm grounding in food. I’ve been writing about it for a while now, and wanted to get a professional qualification, as well as get a firmer grounding in the practical stuff so I can explore projects further that people have approached me for in the past, like supper clubs. The only thing that was holding me back was my lack of practical experience, and I definitely feel the last few months have given me that.

 

La Belle Assiette - Katrina Kollegaeva2017-11-19_LaBelleAssiette_15La Belle Assiette - Katrina Kollegaeva

 

It was so serendipitous when La Belle Assiette got in touch to see if I wanted to do a review of their service, cause it ties those two parts of my life together so perfectly.

 

La Belle Assiette connects people with private chefs, who come to their home and cater for them for dinner parties, at various price ranges. There are so many different cuisines too, meaning you can experiment with different flavours and textures in the comfort of your own home! I hosted a dinner party at mine, inviting five friends over for a home-cooked meal (which required minimal effort on my part)!

 

I was paired up with Katrina Kollegaeva, who used to run the Russian Revels supper club that I’d heard so much about, so I was really excited. A couple of weeks before, she gave me a ring to chat through the menu and find out about my likes and dislikes, and those of my guests. I’m pretty easy, but one of my guests really dislikes seafood, and she was so fantastic about accomodating.

 

She comes from an Estonian and Ukrainian background, and I was really keen to try some of her dishes that also played with her love of Middle Eastern cooking as well.

 

2017-11-19_LaBelleAssiette_432017-11-19_LaBelleAssiette_18

 

She served up a delicious feast of:

 

To Start

 

Fermented lardo on biscuit

 

Which we had accompanied by a shot of chilled vodka, on her suggestion.

 

La Belle Assiette - Katrina Kollegaeva

 

Coming from a Japanese family, I always prefer to eat family-style, rather than having individual plates, so for our main we had a selection of dishes to share, which were all incredibly delicious (so good I even chased her for the recipes afterwards, which isn’t something I usually do)!

 

Lithuanian carrot baba dip with pumpkin and dukkah

 

Russian pirozhki mushroom pies

 

Courgette caviar of a swooning bride, which was a gently cooked aubergine dish that was incredible

 

A Georgian beetroot and lamb bake with a rye and walnut crumble

 

Buckouleh, which she described as being like tabbouleh, but made with buckwheat.

 

La Belle Assiette - Katrina KollegaevaLa Belle Assiette - Katrina KollegaevaLa Belle Assiette - Katrina Kollegaeva7La Belle Assiette - Katrina Kollegaeva

 

Towards the end of the meal, Katrina mentioned that she had made quite a bit of the dessert, and that we would most definitely have some leftover. What I didn’t think she accounted for was just how good it was, and how greedy we all are, and ended up eating it all up that night – the condensed milk and caramelised rye ice cream was divine.

 

La Belle Assiette - Katrina KollegaevaLa Belle Assiette - Katrina Kollegaeva

 

I really, really enjoyed my experience with La Belle Assiette from start to finish, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to host a dinner party – it was absolutely seamless. I definitely recommend Katrina, who was so knowledgable and professional, and was also a lovely addition to the evening.

 

What were some of your dinner party highlights? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram

Gone Fishing

I’m taking a little break for the next couple of weeks, and I can’t really talk about it here yet – but suffice to say, it’s really exciting. I can’t wait to tell you all about it. I just didn’t want anyone to think I was neglecting my little patch of the internet…

Gone Fishing

It’s been a really busy couple of weeks, as I’ve moved house, work has picked up a lot. I’m incredibly happy and grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way through this little blog!

Come and distract me on Twitter (@ErinNiimi), watch my Instagram stories (also @ErinNiimi) or drop me an email if you need me.