Kentish Town

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Ahhh, it is so nice to be tapping away here again! You’ve probably noticed that this blog has purely become a little hidey-hole of the internet that I only update when I know I will really enjoy scratching the itch and have a rare solo afternoon like today. Nick is wearily making his way back across the country from his stag do! And so, charged up on a millions cups (bowls) of tea and having completed all my wedmin / wedding crafty tasks I thought oh! Like a Skeleton Key! Let’s do this old friend. I stick mostly to posting about my travel adventures over on TwentySomething Burnouts and this really is a place for more intimate and ramshackle brain ramblings. However with the total-plot twist life change news that I am moving to LA (as in, this time next month I will be a fully fledged living-working resident of Los Angeles – woooah) I have a feeling that I will be recording my life a little more fully on the internet again. That said; I don’t know if it will be blogging. I LOVE it, don’t get me wrong, and having kept a diary since I learnt to write, and an online journal since I discovered Livejournal at the age of 17, I’ll always do this. That said, writing a blog entry takes quite a bit of brain power. Working in marketing I regularly write long form content (blogs, press releases, campaign round-ups, copy etc) all day long which means that in my downtime I am slightly more reluctant to sit at my laptop continuing to work. After quite a bit of thought I decided I’d like to document my move to LA a little more visually; so will be setting up some sort of home to post videos. I feel like since I’ll be on the other side of the world it might be an easier way to share my new life with friends and family than attempting to do it justice with fancy words. PLUS! I will find it much easier to sit and natter at a camera than typing away; although I have no editing skills so might need to sweet talk my husband (!!) for help there.

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But that’s enough of that, back to life right now. Well having said goodbye to London before; you’d think I’d be doing a better job of it this time but it seems to be a similar gut wrench of excitement to leave the pesky bits (tube traumas, grumpy folk, crazy creeping rent costs) and sadness to face the fact that realistically this may be the last time I live in the big smoke. Those pangs hit me at the funniest of moments. Don’t get me wrong, I know I am ridiculously blessed to be moving to a place that sounds like a dream to live in… but London has been my home for a decade. So I’m totally allowed a long goodbye! I even found myself gazing adoringly at Piccadilly Circus the other day – having spent 10 years desperately trying to avoid that particular patch. I think it boils down to the fact that I know who I am in London. I know I like to treat myself to a mocha from The Fields Beneath if it’s a dreary day. I know I like to wow visitors by taking them to Kings Cross Dishoom & nattering over pink drinks. I know I can pull on some trainers and be at the top of Primrose Hill in 15 minutes looking out over the whole of a toy-town skyline in the distance. I know that the cat who lives next door is called Thomas and where he likes his belly ruffled. I know Craig and I can go dancing at Archer Street at any given moment and they’ll play Taylor Swift and everything will feel ok again. I know I’m only a 3 hour train journey from Yorkshire and the wilderness when I need a brain break. I don’t know how to live my life in LA. Where will I go to make sense of myself?

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It’s ok though. Because I had all these feelings before I quit my life and backpacked around the place and they dissolved within about a day of me stepping foot off the plane. It’s hard to be all wistful and emo when a new culture and adventure is demanding every ounce of concentration! I’m also a bit over-whelmed and run-down from: a) leaving my job/downloading my work brain b) preparing for a new job c) planning a (very DIY) wedding and d) preparing to ship and move my life to another country. I’m sure all of these feature on a “most stressful life things” list somewhere and I’m a bit like a bingo card of THINGS TO THINK AND DO right now. I honestly don’t know how I would function without To Doist. Every second I spend my time right now feels like it’s been colour coded, tagged and categorised in that app right now (even writing this – cringe!) Luckily Nick has been on hand to save me from myself and make sure that I have downtime. This week he surprised me with tickets to see Empire Records at the Camden Market Backyard Cinema Film Festival! Let’s not talk about the fact that Empire Records is TWENTY years old this year (it’s ok though, Pretty Woman is 30 years old). Nick splurged on some sort of lux (so LA!) tickets that included a free whopping Honest Burger and a giant cider. We cosied up under blankets on deck chairs and not even a decent dose of British Summer rain could stop us bopping along to the soundtrack (which I used to have on tape cassette in my first car) and talking along with the unforgettable quotes that are taking up valuable GBs in my bee brain. Attention Rex Manning fans, to your left you will notice a shoplifter being chased by night manager, Lucas. This young man will be caught, deep fried in a vat of hot oil and served to our first hundred customers. Just another tasty treat from the gang at Empire Records! The festival is running for another couple of weeks, including the chance to see Amy in Camden which would be pretty fitting and a screening of Teen Wolf which sadly clashes with my work leaving shindig so please go and watch it on my behalf!

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Something else that’s been making me happy is flowers! When Blossoming Gifts emailed me to ask if I’d like to sample their delivery flower service I obviously said yes please and then swooned over the fact they had a bouquet of Apricot Rose & Hydrangea. I am having hydrangeas for my bridal flowers so the thought of having some in the house whilst I did the final bits and bobs of wedding planning felt really special. And no I haven’t walked up and down the side of my bed holding the vase as if it was my bouquet and smiling sweetly at the walls pretending they were guests. Nope, no siree. I was super impressed with the delivery bouquet options; it felt like they had some really unusual colour and flower combinations and are clearly experts in what works well together. The flowers arrived in a very sturdy box and lasted a whole week without wilting, even in the tropical London smog we had lately. In fact the apricot dalidas are still going strong so I’ve transferred them into a little glass vase that Nick bought me which is actually a wine carafe that is given to Italian army officers as standard kit (snazzy!) which he picked up at the local Army Surplus Store.

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Blossoming Gifts have kindly passed on a discount of 33% off if you’d like to treat yourself! I’d definitely rate them and the ease of being able to pick a bunch online and know they will be delivered safely and swiftly is so easy. No more scuttling around a service station hunting out a crummy old carnation creation when in need of thanking someone! You just need to enter the code BGIFTS33. You can check out their flowers by post here and their cheap flower selection (which don’t look cheap – score!) here. I’m already desperate to order myself the orangery selection – those giant daisies are cute as a button.

One thing that is also concerning me greatly about the upcoming move is WOE I will not be in the UK for the Great British Bake Off final. And apparently there isn’t a Great American Bake Off to fill the (cake) hole so I am going to need to work out how to use Tunnel Bear properly and work out the time zone different for watching it as soon as possible and hope it doesn’t involve being awake at 4am or something. Everybody without exception in my team at work is GBBO mad; so for the last couple of years I have helped to organise a team bake off where a different person bakes every Wednesday. Last year I burnt my arm so badly whilst making a Chocolate & Yorkshire Ale cake that I had to go to A&E when it made my veins turn red and angry! This year I managed to avoid any hospitalisation and also managed to make a random thought that had popped into my head a baked good reality. I had wondered if I could make a cake that looked like a watermelon using some kind of mystical food colouring / dark chocolate drop combo. And well… it kind of worked!

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Before I sign off I just want to share a few final things that are currently floating my boat, since I have been absent for a while. Mainly – PODCASTS. Serial was my gateway drug, which led onto podcasts about that podcast (still totally hooked on Undisclosed, Serial Dynasty, Serially Obsessed and Crime Writers on Serial) and about the same time I discovered Welcome to Night Vale and This American Life which tend to also be the big gateway podcast pathways for the less crime oriented types. Oh and I loved listening to Grantland’s Watch the Thrones almost more than watching this season of Game of Thrones. Podcasts have completely revolutionised my life in terms of how much more fun any sort of travel or chores now are. Whereas previously I might have put a few tunes on to motivate myself to do the washing up or my commute; now I honestly track my walk to work against how many episodes of podcasts I have to get through and get extremely excited about that time alone in a totally immersive world of audio. I feel embarrassed, as an audio book lover, why it took me so long to figure out that podcasts were swiftly going to become my favourite form of entertainment.

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Recently I have got deep in to three podcasts that I wanted to share; given that basically all my podcast discoveries have come via recommendations. They all have something in common and have unearthed a part of my tastes, likes and interests that had somehow become dampened as I have grown into an adult. That thing is… MYSTERY! As a child I was absolutely obsessive about mysteries. My sister and I would count down the excruciating seconds for Strange but True with Michael Aspel to come on each week. We had various books of unsolved mysteries including the classics like the Bermuda Triangle, Jack the Ripper and Mary Celeste and I would paw over them every night after lights out using the old torch-under-the-duvet trick. I can remember the giddy-terrified sensation of hearing about a new spooky story or unsolved mystery and laying awake for hours trying to unpick the details and try to solve it; not for the good of humanity but in order to not be totally freaked out and need to do the shameful climb into bed with my sister! As I’ve got older I have developed a more control-freak-ish personality and therefore all things mysterious have slightly gone out of the window. That said I have still always had a curiosity for true crime (mainly in the form of an addiction to Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City and always reading the headlines of Chat magazine when lurking at the supermarket checkout) and maintained a love for zombies and b-movies. All of these long lost loves have been re-ignited through my three top podcasts; hooray! Childhood me is so happy to feel that spooky goosebump skin once more!

  1. Lore : Sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction. This bi-weekly podcast explores topics such as real life zombies, folklore, mysterious beasts, asylums, cabins in the woods and haunted hotels. I almost squealed when I saw episode 9 pop-up in my feed as it covers the story of the Devil on the Roof; the story I remember terrifying me into a near catatonic state when I first read about it with sweaty palms at a stupidly young age (blame having elder siblings!) It’s hosted by Aaron Mahnke who has the worlds most soothing voice and is also a supernatural thriller author and resident of Boston (known for the Salem trials and being Lovecraft heartland; so a pretty good place to start) and I can’t recommend it enough. Just make sure you have an Ovaltine lined up for bedtime after listening.
  2. Generation Why : Murders, myths, monsters and miscarriages of justice. I have come to this cult podcast at a shamefully late date considering how much it’s my cup of tea. That said; it now means I could binge on about 50 incredible episodes in the space of 3 weeks – covering everything from the disappearance of Madeline McCann, the case of D B Cooper, the Zodiac Killer and Robert Durst. Amongst these more contemporary cases though are sprinkled a ton of old classics from my reading-by-torchlight days which I have gleefully revisited with an adult brain – Loch Ness Monster, Bermuda Triangle, Big Foot and the Bermuda Triangle! The podcast is so well produced and presented by Aaron and Justin that you soon feel like you are sitting down with a couple of old chums for a natter about the weird and wonderful. I like the fact that the more grizzly / grim cases (multiple homicides or violence against kids/women) often focus far more on education around the legal implications or the culture surrounding the circumstances than just fear-mongering or focussing on the gory details. For example I listened to the podcast about Lucie Blackman; a story I felt really affected by at the time when it was all over the news, and was relieved that the podcast was super respectful and featured a real expert in Japanese culture and lifestyle to explain the context of the case.
  3. The Mystery ShowA podcast where Starlee Kine solves mysteries. This podcast is a ridiculously simple concept – Starlee Kine investigates mysteries that cannot be solved by the power of Google. On the journey to solve the mysteries however; it’s the people and the places that Starlee is taken that create a rollercoaster of emotions, unexpected forks in the road and twists & turns that become so unexpected you almost forget what the original mystery way (for example the SPECTACULAR Phil Spector story that is revealed whilst looking for the source of Welcome Back, Kotter lunch pail artwork) it’s adorable, it’s engaging and it’s a must-listen.

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Ah that was nice. See you again sooner; I promise.

 

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Birthday parties are a tricky business. As an auto-pilot anxious type, I love them in theory but then suffer from crippling nerve rattles as the event arrives. I worry that no one will come, that they will come and it will be awkward, that no one will mingle, that the drinks will be too expensive, that the music won’t work, basically every scenario from a bit crummy to nightmare un-recoverable-from embarrassment. I got around this issue by having a joint party with some fellow May-babies for a few years and that helped take the pressure off. That birthday ship has now sailed, so last year I had a solo affair. Wow, could you tell I was a party rookie! I planned it on a Friday night; so everyone was tired from a tough work week and drop outs were rife. Then I didn’t have any dinner. Then I met everyone in a Mexican bar, didn’t eat ANY dinner, and accepted every shot of tequila my generous guests (and strangers) offered me. After probably an hour I was too drunk to stand up and ended the night at about midnight being forced, in a manner similar to how police put robbers in their cop car, into a taxi by Nick. It was such a waste! I had fun, but I could barely remember being there and then felt so horrific and sorry for myself the next day that even looking at cake or wrapping paper made me feel queasy.

Not this year! Surely being the grand old age of 29 is all about learning from your mistakes and this year I was determined to make it my best party ever. My birthday was also on a Saturday which is a precious, rare gift in itself! I was lucky enough to have my brother come to stay from Yorkshire (he hasn’t visited in 5 years!), my friend Manda visisted from Cheltenham (via Paris & Yorkshire) and my best friend & her husband train-ed over from Stoke. Before I even talk about the glorious theme, you’ll be relieved to hear that I stuck to 3 key rules to avoid birthday disaster:

  • Eat dinner: Prior to partying we stuffed our faces at the glorious Chicken Shop where they even put candles in a brownie and sang happy birthday to me!
  • Stick to one genre of drink: I only accepted Vodka, Lime & Soda’s all night. I didn’t veer from this one choice. It was both refreshing and merry making.
  • NO SHOTS FOR GOODNESS SAKE! (I might have had one tequila at Aces & Eights Saloon Bar at 1am to congratulate myself on not being too drunk)

Suzy & Sam

Wes Anderson is my second favourite director (David Lynch clinches #1, sure Wes would totes understand) and I’ve wanted to have a Wes Anderson theme party for a VERY long time but worried it would be slightly obscure. Then the exquisite Moonrise Kingdom came out in 2012 and I felt more confident that people might have heard of him and be up for the challenge. I knew instantly that I’d go as Suzy Bishop because she is a) my new fashion icon and b) I already had most of the clothes. The only thing I had to do was sew cuff/collars to a 60s vintage dress that was sitting unloved in my wardrobe, and I bought a special pair of green (real!) stag beetle earrings from this lovely lady on Etsy. Nick was a trooper and rather than go for someone cool and manly out of The Darjeeling Limited (his favourite) he agreed to wear a questionable fur hat and be the Sam to my Suzy. I bought a £4 khaki shirt from Primark and sewed some vintage scout badges all over it. I also sewed on a felt badger that is actually from a brooch Nick bought for me in the first week we met, when he was off galavanting at End of the Road festival and I was pining away. I think we did a pretty accurate job?

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I was so touched by the effort all my friends went to in order to make my birthday perfect. The costumes they cracked out must have taken days and weeks of preparation and so much thought and care. I got so choked up being stood in a room surrounded by my favourite people all dressed as characters I love so dearly. For the party I hired the upstairs of our absolute favourite local boozer; The Pineapple. If you live in London (or ever visit London) you have to visit this quaint little slice of Kentish Town brilliance. The pub is so kitsch, with pineapples adorning the inside, a conservatory room, tropical bird wallpaper and excellent ales / Thai food. I felt it was important I had a location that Wes himself would approve of; and the old fashioned lantern lamps, open fire, dusty couches and gaping windows were perfect. We also had a sweet little sound system set up, which my brother & Nick’s brother Phil happily took over with some impressive playlists. From the Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack to The Walkmen to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky over and over, there were a lot of drunken Eli-Cash swaying dance moves going on by last orders.

& Here’s a run down of the costumes in all their glory…

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Suzy Bishop (Moonrise Kingdom) & Dignan (Bottle Rocket)

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Richie & Margot Tenenbaum – Number 1 (The Royal Tenenbaums)

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Richie & Margot Tenenbaum – Number 2 (The Royal Tenenbaums)

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Team Tenenbaum

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Dudley (The Royal Tenenbaums)

Team Zissou

Team Zissou (The Life Aquatic)

Bird

Suzy Bishop in bird form “What kind of bird are you?” (Moonrise Kingdom)

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Sam Shakusky (Moonrise Kingdom) & Francis (The Darjeeling Limited)

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Richie Tenenbaum & Eli Cash (The Royal Tenenbaums)

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Max Fischer x 2 (Rushmore)

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Richie Tenenbaum (The Royal Tenenbaums) & Suzy Bishop (Moonrise Kingdom)

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Mr & Mrs Fox x 2 (Fantastic Mr. Fox)

It was only right that we gather together for an en masse Westastic group photo, and in-line with his cinematography movie-poster style, dead pan faces all round! Which on reflection makes it look like we were at the worst party ever.

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The best thing was the variety of films & characters my clever friends managed to cover. EVERY single Wes Anderson film was represented. After partying until we got booted out of The Pineapple, the hardcore Wes-dressed hit Aces & Eights Saloon Bar for some power ballads and amaretto sours. An unexpected amount of people came over throughout the course of the night yelling WES ANDERSON at us and it stirred up alot of excitement. It was surprising how many people recognised what the theme was, especially as by the post-midnight point various bits of costume had been lost/stolen/abandoned. I would love to relive the night over and over, and might just force everyone to dress like this every year. I like to think I’m the only person to ever have this theme for a party? Next time I’ll dress a Wes himself…

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After my recent days as a nil by mouth, struggling sickly type hiding away in Yorkshire, coming back to London was quite the shock to my sore system. Despite living here for 5 (or is it 6?) years, I found the noise and bustle and crowding and big smoke chaos almost impossible to handle and had a really wobbly first week back at work as a the new frankengirl version of me.

One thing I fixated on eating most when I was too poorly to eat was ICE CREAM. My boyfriend must have picked up these brain vibes and in my second week back as a fully functioning member of society, he surprised me with tickets to Ruby Violet for a night of festive menu taste-testing… also known as getting locked in an ice cream parlour and eating ice cream for my tea. It was as dreamy as it sounds!

There was a group of about 10 of us at the tasting, sat at the large wooden bench and quickly plyed with wine whilst learning some fascinating facts about Ruby Violet (named after owner Julie Fisher’s grandmother, a stern but sassy looking lady from the photos of her that adorn the walls). Then it was time for the good stuff! First we sampled scoops of every new flavour on offer over winter which ranged from mulled wine and elderflower & prosecco sorbets to gingerbread, baileys, Christmas pudding and marzipan ice cream. Then came their very special arctic roll, officially known as antarctic roll as arctic roll is a trademark. Who knew! Then it was revealed this was only the starter… and next arrived a bursting ‘Christmas bombe’ which looked beautiful, but less so once we’d devoured it and created a sloppy mess. Perhaps wine & ice cream was always bound to cause a sticky situation? Then came my very favourite course – Ruby Violets special baked alaska. A steal at a fiver a go, these perfect clouds of raspberry ripple ice cream cased in perfectly browned meringue are something I now get regular tummy rumble cravings for.

Last up was a bit of a shocker. We had been warned, but even still my hands quivered as I was handed STILTON ICE CREAM. I am a huge cheese fiend, in fact the first thing I did after getting my post-surgery appetite back was discover Alex James (of Blur fame)’s Blue Monday cheese. I’d always been a bit sniffy about him getting all welly wearing and rural and making lame cheese rather than epic music… but I take it all back. It was the nicest cheese I have ever tasted ever, and I managed to devour 85% of a block in about 15 minutes saying just one more slice lots whilst gobbling. So I was thinking I like cheese and I like ice cream, so surely I will like stilton ice cream. And I did. A few people made yuck noises, but I liked the fact it was served on a cracker too. It was sort of like eating a cold marscapone. Not sure I’d buy it by the tub but it might be a  nice sloppy addition to a cheeseboard if I ever am fanceh enough to host a dinner party.

 

 

I had such an amazing evening. Sugar high, brain freeze, wine rush and the wonderful hosting from the Ruby Violet team of luscious ladies made it a really memorable step back into socialising. Not that I need an excuse to go in and purchase ice cream more often, but the fact they made us feel so special and patiently listened to all our feedback (mostly ‘more baileys in the baileys ice cream’, ‘more rum in the rum & raisin ice cream’, ‘more wine in the mulled wine…‘) makes me want to buy everything for everyone for Christmas. Who wouldn’t want a Christmas bombe to unwrap? I just need to invest in a really cute freezer bag and enough willpower not to ‘sample’ everything en route to delivering it.

 

 

 

Talking of festive foods, it’s nearly December! Which means it’s time to eat a Christmas sandwich for lunch every day. If you are a Christmas sandwich novice, or in a quandary over which to sample first, go read my Christmas sandwich show down. It’s very scientific indeed.

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My time is getting munched up by a few pesky things recently. I say pesky, I actually mean AMAZING! First up is a boy I have a certified addiction to, and despite the fact he has lots of writing and tapping at the laptop to do too, we never quite seem to get around to it. Especially when we have so many important missions to complete such as finding London’s #1 cheeseburger (therefore eating at aLOT of good and bad burger joins) and watching seasons 1-5 of Friday Night Lights! The second thing is the fact I now have a cineworld unlimited card. I’ve spent a large portion of my life working in various cinemas, so moving to London and suddenly have the joy of free or remotely even affordable movie-watching snatched away was pretty rough. But now with my unlimited card I am making up for lost time and spending aLOT of time lurking in the dark and watching anything & everything, sometimes multiple times (I even went to see Wanderlust).

Three things made me smile a watermelon slice sized grin this week, and they are…

1. My Mickey Mouse Skirt

When I saw this skirt winking at me from Lazy Oaf’s shop in Carnaby Street, I knew it was going to be coming home (and going out dancing) with me that very day! The general theme of my style effort tends to be items that straddle the ‘acceptable‘ and ‘basically just a fancy dress costume‘ line. I ditched the ears for my first public debut, which made for a fun night as people checked out my outfit and you could see this glazy-fog of vague recognition but actually VERY few people really twigged on, although when they did I had such nice comments. You’ve got to love a skirt that can evoke hugs off complete strangers!

2. Feeling Gloomy

Do you live in London? Were you alive in the 1990s? Do you like indie pop music? If you answer one or all of these questions YES, then you have to go to Feeling Gloomy! It is probably the only clubbing I have done in the last year (discounting a random week in Ibiza where that’s all I did, but that’s another story) and because I am no longer  a spring chicken I like it because a) the drinks are cheap b) the people are super friendly (no scowling hipsters!) and c) I know every song they play, and it’s the type of things you’d have got on mix tapes from your friends in school (interpol, blur, pulp, supergrass, echo belly) and on Saturday I danced so much that I actually brought on a STITCH and had to take myself off for a sit down and a pint of water.

Feeling Gloomy takes place at the O2 Academy in Islington every Saturday night, but on 11th August it is the LAST ONE at this awesome venue. Then it is being relocated to The Pheonix, every second Friday of the month, which is harder to remember so I’d give it a whirl whilst its still oop north.

Here is my best friend Lol doing her best Feeling Gloomy faces, even though that’s the last thing we felt.

If nothing else, the fact the two boys who run it met at Costcutter should entice you to at least give it a go once.

 3. Ruby Violet

It’s a gourmet ICE CREAM parlour and it’s under a MINUTE walk from my house. Every birthday and Christmas and lost eyelash wish I’ve ever made has come true with the opening of Ruby Violet. Mutterings around Tufnell Park were rife with rumours of the worlds best ice cream coming to Fortress Road, and this weekend the dream because a reality!

With a menu that had my mouth drooling and imagination whirring in the torturous few days pre-opening, Ruby Violet is taking ice cream consumption to a new level. Ben who? Jerry where?! Including amazing and unusual flavours such as salted caramel, cherry chocolate, Damson, Quince, toasted coconut and peanut butter (my obvious choice) you can eat in or take away and go laze on the heath as you munch your cone or cup.

All information here… Well worth a trip to Tufnell Park if you aren’t fortunate enough to live rolling distance away like me! And look out for a post on top 10 flavours – this way I have a very valid excuse to keep going in and sampling again, and again.

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