Monday, 30 November 2015

Kraków, Poland - Main Square & Jewish Quarter.

Claire and I have been wanting to go for a weekend break together for ages. We decided to finally just do it, and after comparing both of our 'to-go-to' lists, Kraków in Poland was on both of them, so we booked that it that very same week and then last Saturday hopped on the plane to Eastern Europe.

Exploring Krakow's main square and jewish quarter in Poland

The flight was only about 2 hours long, and as it was only 6am I promptly fell asleep as soon as we took off, and didn't wake up again until we landed. We walked off the plane to be hit in the face with icy cold air. After getting through immigration quickly we jumped in a taxi and headed to The Sheraton Kraków Hotel. It was a typical American five-star hotel, it felt quite business-y, but the staff were amazing and allowed us to check into our Club Level room at 10am. We had a lovely view over the river!

We dropped off our stuff, piled on our thick clothing, coats, and boots, and headed out into the city to explore. The main square of Kraków was just a 5-10 minute walk from the hotel, and although it was raining and cloudy, there was no denying how beautiful the city was. It felt more like an over-sized medieval town than a city, but everywhere you look the buildings just take your breath away.

We started by wandering around the square and exploring the famous Kraków Cloth Hall. It was busy and bustling and we didn't know where to look first. We took our time, walking from one end to the other, looking up, down, and all around us.

Suddenly we heard singing and a band, so walked around to see some sort of protest happening in the street. We still have no idea what it was all about!

On both of our lists was the 12th century St. Mary's Basilica, which features the famous 13th century Altarpiece of Veit Stoss, which is the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world! 

The church itself is absolutely stunning, it was only when I was half-way round that I realized I'd been walking around with my mouth hanging open. Everywhere you look there are beautiful works of art adorning the walls, frescoes, and chandeliers. One of the things I love about being Catholic is that the majority of our churches are basically huge works of art, you enter them and you're surrounded by hundreds of years of history.  

The Altarpiece has a really interesting history; when the Nazis invaded Kraków they removed the altarpiece and had it shipped to Nazi Germany. It was eventually discovered after the war in the basement of Nuremberg Castle. Every day at 12 it opens to reveal the scenes within, we timed it really well so were there just in time!

After seeing St Mary's we walked down some of the little Medieval backstreets.

We then headed over to a restaurant that had been recommended to me by someone actually from Kraków; Restauracja Miod Malina, or in English, Honey and Raspberry. It was a very cute little restaurant with images of raspberries everywhere! We perused the extensive Polish menu and chose; Goose liver terrine with parma ham topped with red onion preserve, Stewed sauerkraut with mushrooms and sausages served in a bowl of bread, and the sauerkraut and mushroom oven-cooked dumplings. 

Everything was absolutely delicious. I particularly loved the dumplings, which were (unusually) deep fried (so naughty, but SO good), and the sauerkraut and sausage bowl was insanely good and really moreish. Claire avoided a dessert, but I saw my favourite on the menu and couldn't resist; Forest fruits with creamy mascarpone cheese under almond crumble. Oh my days this was amazing, and the best way to finish my meal.

After lunch we walked to the Jewish Quarter, Kazimierz. It was strange, seeing the Jewish Quarter underneath the dark clouds and rain. In blue skies I'm sure it's a beautiful part of Krakow, but in the rain and clouds it was eerie. We silently walked through it, stopping just to see the Jewish square and snap a couple of photos, and on to Schindler's Factory in the old Jewish Ghetto. 

This was a strange part of town, you cross the river and the feeling just changes, it feels deserted and full of sadness, as if you're surrounded by thousands of ghosts suffocating you with every step you take. Maybe it's just me, I get weird feelings like this in certain places, I just got an awful feeling from it that I just couldn't put my finger on, and couldn't wait to get into the Schindler museum and off the cold, foggy, darkening street with the railway line and deserted wasteland at the side.

It gave me goosebumps thinking about what happened in that Ghetto all those years ago. The persecution, the grief, the horrific animosity. 

We spent a couple of hours in the Schindler Factory Museum, and were surprised to discover that it's an entire museum, and you can't actually see any of the old factory. Apparently it was used as a factory and commercial building a few times after Schindler's Factory closed down, so the insides of it were never the same as they were during WW2. The museum was good but we were disappointed that there wasn't much information about Oskar Schindler and his factory workers, it was mainly about the Polish Jews and WW2 in general.

After the museum we headed out into the cold and got a taxi back to our hotel. After freshening up and watching a bit of National Geographic, we wandered down to Hotel Copernicus where we were having dinner that evening. But, more on that tomorrow!

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Sunday, 29 November 2015

Ice-Skating at Somerset House 2015.

Every year for the past few years I've gone ice-skating at Somerset House in London. It's basically a tradition now. Each year I say I'll try out one of the other London ice rinks, then I always end up going back to Somerset House. I really do love it, it's always so much fun. Heck, I've even done 'ice-reeling' with a group of friends in the middle of the rink, and last year Edd and I went ice-skating there with Google.

This year I was invited along by Somerset House in partnership with Fortnum & Mason. I took Dan along with me, he loves telling everyone about my blog (cringe) and has been on it a fair amount over the past year or two. He reviewed Sake no Hana's Sakura menu with me back in April, and as I hadn't seen him for a coupla weeks since Halloween, I thought it was time he came to something else.

Sadly he destroyed his ankle while drunk a few weeks ago (which resulted in a rather hilarious night at The Savile the other week), so couldn't actually take part in the ice-skating. So I went on the ice with Laura while Dan stood at the side and laughed at everyone falling over. I left my big DSLR camera at home as I didn't want to smash it when skating, so sadly only have mobile phone pics - sorry!

When the rink got too busy I headed off, changed my boots, and we went to check out the Fortnum & Mason pop-up shop. We did some whisky tasting, which Dan loved and I despised. Blergh, it is not my poison of choice. Then we played Hook-a-Duck to try and win a dram of gin. I failed miserably, and I discovered Dan is really good at it. So he won. 

We then went next door to the Fortnum Lodge for some food. Just as we were finishing our cocktails and Dan was finishing his Salmon Blinis Laura and Helen joined us. We spent the next hour or so drinking cocktails, eating the most delicious potato and cheese bake, and feasting on cheese fondue. And we've all persuaded Dan to start his own fashion blog, he even joined in with the food-photo-taking!

Laura's face at Dan's photo-skills in this photo makes me laugh so much!

We had a really fun evening; the ice-skating was awesome (if a little too busy), and the cocktails were delicious! Thanks for having us Somerset House!

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Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Ninth, Fitzrovia.

Hey y'all. This is a hella lazy post because it's 10pm and I'm drunk on three cocktails and I don't *really* have time to blog at the moment because life is pretty crazy and all. But anyway, this restaurant is too good not to tell you about, and looking at the photos made me all hungry and shit again, so I sorta feel like I need to write about it RIGHT NOW.

The Ninth is awesome. Claire and I went last Friday before our trip to Poland, and we absolutely loved it! It's located right on Charlotte Street (aka, foodie heaven in London), and is the very first restaurant from Jun Tanaka, who's worked for the likes of Le Gavroche, Marco Pierre White, and The Square. After a long career in television, Jun has finally launched his own restaurant after years of hard work. The Ninth got it's name because it's the ninth restaurant Jun has worked at. *all text from hear onwards was written totally sober and at 8am in the morning*

The restaurant itself is very trendy and had quite a New York warehouse vibe about it, with exposed brickwork and copper everywhere, and marble tables (yes, they clearly know what we bloggers like ;)). It was beautiful.

Even though everything is meant for sharing, we chose a coupla dishes each that we really wanted, then just tried a little bit of each others (I'm not very good at sharing food...). So we started with Oxtail Croquettes and Duck Scotch Egg from the 'snacks' menu. Both of these were divine and I'd recommend you order both - you won't regret it.

We then moved on to the Sea bass carpaccio, salsa verde and pickled kohlrabi, and the Ossobuco tortellini and bone marrow. The sea bass was fantastic, but I would have preferred slightly less salsa on it.

After this we opted for spiced cod, mouclade of mussels and roast cauliflower and the succulent smoked duck breast with caramelized chicory and walnuts. On the side we chose some very autumnal thyme and honey roast winter vegetables.

And then we finished with the absolutely incredible Tarte Tatin and rosemary ice cream for two people. The rosemary ice-cream was a bit of a shock at first, but it really grows on you and complements the tarte tatin well. The photo below is of just my half of it - it was huge!

Honestly, the food here is incredible. I'd never eaten Jun's food before, but the food exceeded all expectations and some. We left exclaiming how delicious everything was and how not one course was a disappointment (very rare when you have so many dishes). The only downside for me was that the staff were a little tooooo friendly, I'm one of these people who just likes to be left to eat in peace, but I'm guessing it's just because the place is new and they're interested in hearing feedback from customers, which is fair enough.

If you fancy trying a new restaurant in London, put this one on your list right now!

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The Ninth Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato