Beautiful Destination: Churchill Arms Pub in Kensington, London

This is probably the most photographed pub in all of London, if not the most beautiful -- and it's easy to see why. 

Located near the midpoint on Kensington Church Street connecting Kensington and Notting Hill, the Churchill Arms pub is a beloved historic landmark built in 1750. It's most famous for its flower-covered facade, and it also serves very nice Thai curry dishes.

Before your next visit, take a look at these wonderful facts about Churchill Arms and deepen your appreciation for this true London gem!

🍺It was the first London pub to serve Thai food. Yum!

🍺The pub has a flower bill of around £25,000. Every. Year.

🍺 The pub has some 100 flower tubs, 42 baskets and 48 window boxes.

🍺 The pub also goes all out for Christmas. Last year it was adorned with 21,000 lights and 90 Christmas trees. 🎄

🍺Winston Churchill's grandparents were regulars at the pub in the 1800's. The pub was given its current name after World War Two.

🍺 The pub's true legend is its landlord, Gerry O'Brien, who came to London from Ireland as at age 17. He joined the pub in 1985 and retired in July 2017 after 32 years of service, during which he had pulled about 2 million pints of London Pride!

關西玉山麵 : 客家炒麵食譜|Taiwan's Best: Mom's Hakka Noodles Recipe



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Eileen's Top 5 Light Meals near Big Ben | 雅琳推薦:大笨鐘附近五家優質小吃店

Generally speaking, there are two types of people who get off at Westminster Underground Station: civil servants, and tourists. 

With a high concentration of ministries (Parliament, No. 10 Downing Street, the Foreign Office and HMRC) and famous landmarks (Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Churchill War Rooms and Horseguards Parade), it's no wonder that this part of Westminster is one of the most congested spots in all of London.


長久以來它也是倫敦的藝文重地,英國最有名的地標 - 如大笨鐘和西敏寺 - 還有熱門的邱吉爾博物館,皇家騎士軍隊閱兵場,聖詹姆士皇家公園和白金漢宮等等,也都位於此地,難怪這兒是城市最擁擠的區域之一。

Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and St James's Park are just some of the popular attractions within a short walk from Westminster tube station. (Images: Eileen Hsieh) 

One would naturally assume that an area with such heavy foot traffic would be blessed with an enviable selection of gastronomical delights. But in reality, what you will find is an uninspiring range of chain coffee shops, pubs and a few high-end restaurants more suitable for business lunch than a quick bite on the go. 


Some of the cute pub signs in Westminster, St James's Park and Victoria. (Images: Eileen Hsieh)

I live in this neighborhood, so I know the hidden gems that are only minutes away from popular sights which the tourists never seem to notice. Whenever I go out to pick up a takeaway meal, I often get asked by hungry, frustrated and exhausted visitors where I get my food from, all anxiously searching for somewhere with decent food that won't deplete their budget. 

So, in hopes of making Westminster a more inviting destination for visitors, I'm listing my personal Top 5 Picks for Light Meals in its vicinity -- all within 10-15 minutes of walk from Westminster tube station towards Victoria and St James's Park, where good food, good service and a chilled out atmosphere are guaranteed, so you can refuel and recover from a long day of sightseeing.

Here's to a pleasant dining experience in the shadow of Big Ben!



網上關於 Westminster 附近可靠的餐飲消息真的不多,所以在此向大家推薦我個人最喜歡的五家輕食餐廳,全都離西敏地鐵站步行10-15分鐘內,往 Victoria St. James's Park 方向走。這幾家餐廳的食物美味,服務親切,氣氛悠閒,所以也是小歇的好地點。



The Perfect Place for a Long Conversation, or a Nap

Comfortable leather Chesterfield sofa and tartan cushions at the Blue Boar Bar. (Images: Eileen Hsieh / Blue Boar Restaurant)

Around the corner from Westminster Abbey is this inviting restaurant/pub inside the five-star Conrad hotel. This is also where you'll find me 2 ~ 3 times a month. My first visit here was for a business lunch, then I keep returning for delicious food, nice drinks and impeccable service.

Housed in a grand 19th-century building opposite St James's Park tube station, the Blue Boar may look fancy and stuffy from the outside. But the moment you walk through the door, you'll be charmed by the friendliest staff and quaint decor inspired by the British political landscape.

The vibe here is both intimate and understatedly luxurious, with a mixed menu of healthy and comfort dishes, and oversized leather chesterfield sofas and wing back armchairs positioned next to the floor-to-ceiling windows, the perfect place to watch the world go by.

Do not miss the apple and blackberry crumble with pouring cream. It is pure indulgence and very addictive! 

自西敏寺轉個彎,就可以看到我每個月光臨好幾次的溫馨酒吧 - Blue Boar(藍野豬)。

第一次來到 Conrad 五星級飯店附設的酒吧用餐,是和朋友見面吃商業午餐,之後就愛上了這裡的食物,雞尾酒,還有無可挑剔的完美服務。



菜單提供多樣化的英國傳統美食,也有健康的沙拉和三明治。千萬不要錯過了蘋果和黑莓派,配上香濃的 pouring cream,很容易上癮的!

Succulent steak. (Image: Blue Boar Restaurant)

A burger from the Blue Boar Bar, just one block away from Westminster Abbey. (Image: Blue Boar Restaurant)

Humorous political caricatures are part of the Blue Boar's charming decor. (Image: Blue Boar Restaurant)


Cheap & Cheerful Full English Breakfast and Stuffed Jacket Potatoes

Cafe Nuvo offers simple and tasty breakfast and lunch items and a comfortable upstairs seating area. (Images: Eileen Hsieh)

Where can you get a good full English breakfast for under a fiver near Big Ben? Cafe Nuvo on Artillery Row is the answer. 

At this local gem, you can get a plate of bacon, sausage, egg, baked beans, two thick slices of toast plus tea or coffee for just £3.95. That's at least £1-2 cheaper than any other cafe within a one-mile radius.  

And the portion is large, like American-style large. The sausage is my favorite item in the breakfast, always perfectly cooked and never greasy.

The cafe is open from morning to late afternoon and offers a variety of reasonably priced pastries, panini, jacket potatoes, salads and desserts. It also has a lovely upstairs eat-in area to enjoy a leisurely meal.

This Cafe Nuvo is an easy 10-minute walk from Westminster Abbey and popular with both office and construction workers. Be sure not to confuse it with another sandwich shop with the same name in Covent Garden. 

一早跑來看大笨鐘,想吃正統英式早餐卻又不想花大錢,該怎麼辦呢?答案就是:去 Cafe Nuvo 吧!

這家獨立咖啡廳離西敏寺約十分鐘腳程,只要 £ 3.95 就可以享用份量十足的英式早餐,有臘肉,香腸,煎蛋,焗豆,厚厚的吐司,還有一杯咖啡或茶,價錢比附近的早餐店便宜最少 £1~2。我最喜歡這裡的英國香腸,煎得恰到好處,絕不油膩。

除了多樣早餐選擇以外,Cafe Nuvo 也提供焗烤三明治,烤馬鈴薯,沙拉和糕餅甜點。這家咖啡廳二樓還有舒適的用餐區,深受當地上班族與建築工人喜愛。

編輯註腳:柯芬園 (Covent Garden) 也有一家同名為 Cafe Nuvo 的咖啡店,請別混淆。


12 Artillery Row, London SW1P 1RZ

MAP 地圖 | MENU 菜單






The Ultimate Southern Comfort... and Diet Buster

Southern comfort can be found in this cozy basement restaurant near Westminster Abbey. (Image: Low, Slow & Juke)

Low Slow & Juke is the newest arrival in this part of town. Opened in February, it promises to bring southern smoke BBQ and cocktails to the UK capital. 

Just a two-minute walk from Westminster Abbey, this bar/restaurant is tucked away in the basement of a corner building off Victoria Street and very easy to miss. Inside you'll find a full bar, comfortable seatings and a private dining area spread over two floors.

I was thoroughly impressed with my first meal here. The slow smoked St. Louis Slab Ribs was perfectly charred, tender but not fatty, while the Black + Blue burger with blue cheese sauce was juicy and flavourful. The beer and wine recommended by the friendly staff were excellent too. 

With cute decor, southern hospitality and amazing BBQ (that's way better than Bodean's for about the same price), I think we've got an all-around, finger-licking-good winner here.

Low, Slow & Juke 標榜為美式燻烤慢烤,今年二月才開業,是倫敦最新的肉食者天堂。



若要與倫敦最有名的連鎖美式BBQ餐廳 Bodean's 相比,無論是肉質,燻烤秘方,服務品質,還是價格,我都一定會給 Low, Slow & Juke 打比較高分的。


Low, Slow & Juke wants to win over London with slow smoked BBQ and cocktails. (Images: Low, Slow & Juke)


A Little Slice of Japan in Westminster

Ichi-Riki is a tiny Japanese restaurant that packs a punch. (Image: Eileen Hsieh)

The house specialties are posted on the wall for easy viewing. (Image: Eileen Hsieh)

There's a little slice of Japan in the heart of Westminster, and it's called Ichi-Riki

This traditional Japanese sushi house was established 15 years ago, offering an authentic taste of Japan at an affordable price.

Located 2 minutes from New Scotland Yard on a cobblestone street, this basement gem is sandwiched between a hair salon and a cafe and can be easy to miss.

The somewhat dingy stairs lead into an intimate, old-fashion space with spartan seating and a sushi bar. The menu is simple and covers the basics: sushi, tempura, gyoza, seaweed salad, green tea desserts, and of course Japanese beers and sake.

The restaurant is popular with the locals especially during lunchtime. They don't take reservation for lunch, but you can book a table for dinner or order take-away or delivery

西敏區的中心有一家傳統的日本壽司屋,名叫 Ichi-Riki

坐落在倫敦警察廳(New Scotland Yard)附近的一條石板街道上,緊夾在美髮沙龍和咖啡館之間,一不注意就很容易錯過這家地下室小店。

壽司屋已有十五年的歷史,室內裝潢簡單,菜單也很有日本地道風味 -- 壽司,天婦羅,餃子,涼拌海帶,綠茶甜品,當然還有日本啤酒和清酒。

Ichi-Riki 走平價路線,很受當地人喜愛,午餐時間總是空無一席。他們只接受晚餐預約,也有提供外帶與外送服務。

Ichi-Riki is sandwiched between a hair salon and a health food cafe on a cobblestone street in Victoria. (Image: Eileen Hsieh)


Ozone Coffee Roaster Serving Undoubtedly the Best Coffee in Victoria

Some say Iris & June serves the best coffee in Westminster, if not all of London. (Image: Iris & June)

Coffee lovers - this one is for you. 

Since Iris & June opened its door in 2014, caffeine enthusiasts have been flocking to this Antipodean cafe for the perfect Ozone coffee. Each cup is made with precision and care and the proof is in the taste. 

Hailed by many as the best coffee shop in Victoria that serves good food, the lunchtime queue here can get very long. 

The cafe is located on a quiet street just behind House of Fraser department store. The space is airy, comfy with a touch of industrial chic, and the free wi-fi makes it the perfect place for work, meeting, or just relaxing.


現在要介紹的是倫敦人公認的特優咖啡館:Iris & June


甜點和新鮮健康的午餐也是 Iris & June 的賣點,常常可以看到個體餐飲店的腳踏車來送貨。

咖啡館坐落在 House of Fraser 百貨公司後門的一條安靜街道上,裝潢簡潔,有濃濃的極簡工業風氣氛。顧客可以免費上網,所以許多人抱著筆電來這兒工作,一坐就是一整天。

The cafe is opposite the back entrance of House of Fraser department store. (Image: Eileen Hsieh)

Breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea, anytime is a good time for an Iris & June coffee. (Images: Iris & June Instagram)


1 Howick Pl, London SW1P 1WG

MAP 地圖

020 7828 3130

Japanese Haute Cuisine: Kaiseki Ryori | 精緻的日本傳統美食:懷石料理

For many visitors to Japan, food is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating aspects of this friendly and beautiful country. Japanese cuisine is much more than just sushi, tempura and miso soup, and no matter the region or season, you can always find something fresh and delicious to satisfy your tastebuds. 

Best of all, the current weak yen is also making eating out - and eating well - a much more affordable experience than in the past. 

Last spring, I visited Kyoto and stayed at a quaint little ryokan on Nene no Michi in the temple-filled Higashiyama district, where I had my first experience of kaiseki ryori -- the Japanese version of haute cuisine. Being waited on by our graceful, kimono-clad hostess while enjoying the most visually pleasing (and seemingly endless) dishes of the chef's creation was an endearing highlight of that trip. 

This winter, I chose Motonago again for our family trip to Kyoto and reserved dinner and breakfast during our stay. It was exciting to share the experience with my parents who have had much more exposure to Japanese cuisine living in Taiwan, and get their verdict on the meal that drew me back.

Kaiseki ryori originated centuries ago in Kyoto (then Japan's capital) as a simple meal served at the tea ceremony and later evolved into an elaborate dining ritual favored by aristocrats. Today's it's widely considered Japan's finest style of cooking. 

Our elaborate dinner menu. 這是我們懷石料理的菜單。

The multi-course dinner comprises a series of meticulously presented small dishes inspired by the season, with colors, textures, and tableware to match. Fresh flowers are often used as decoration, injecting freshness and vibrancy to each course. 

Our dinner was everything we'd hoped for. Delicious meal, stunning presentation, along with the best company one can ask for in the world, Motonago had certainly delivered another triumph. 


Motonago ryokan occupies a hundred-year-old wooden building in Kyoto's historic Higashiyama district. 元奈古旅館位於京都有許多代表性寺院、神社的東山區。© Eileen Hsieh





Our Kaiseki Ryori Menu



Aperitif 食前酒

First appetizer 先附

Main appetizer 前菜

Fresh slices of raw fish 向附


Boiled and seasoned food 蓋物

One pot dish 台物

Broiled fish 燒皿

Hot food 溫物

Fried food 揚汁物

Vinegary delicacies 酢鉢


Miso soup 止椀

Rice 御飯

Pickled vegetables 香物


Prepping for tea. #matcha #kyoto #ryokan

A photo posted by Follow That Bug (@followthatbug) on


Kyoto Ryokan 京都旅館


〒605-0072 京都府京都市東山区 高台寺道鷲尾町51

511 Washio-cho, Higashiyama-ku

Nene no Michi, Kyoto 605-0072

Kyoto Prefecture, Japan

Printable Map

Fable of the Exotic East: Raffles Hotel Singapore | 東方寓言:新加坡萊佛士酒店

Raffles Singapore Hotel's beautiful neo-Renaissance entrance with its famous Sikh doorman.  © Eileen Hsieh

When it comes to grand historic hotels in Asia, none is as illustrious as the Raffles Hotel in Singapore.


Elegant walkway by the courtyard. © Eileen Hsieh

Courtyard next to the main building. © Eileen Hsieh

The main courtyard. © Brenda Hsieh

For more than 125 year, this striking colonial-style property has been a frontline witness to this tiny island's tumultuous history and dazzling progress, from British colonization, two world wars, immigration boom, declaration of independence, to the multicultural city state and economic powerhouse that we know today. 

In 1987, on its 100th anniversary, the Raffles Hotel was declared a historic monument by the Singaporean government.



The perfect place for writing, thinking and napping. © Eileen Hsieh

White marbel colonnade. © Eileen Hsieh

Rooftop pool. © Eileen Hsieh

Named after Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, the 10-room Raffles Hotel opened its doors to the public in 1887 offering luxury accommodation, impeccable service, and direct ocean view. 


Old map of Singapore showing Beach Road before land reclamation, with Raffles Hotel on the far left. © Wikipedia

Beach Road -- the street on which the property stands -- used to be on the edge of the island until land reclamation robbed it of its coveted beach access and sea vistas.

Today the hotel is in the business and civic district surrounded by modern high-rises and shopping centres, but inside the old world charm remains intact. 

萊佛士酒店位於濱海大道(Beach Road),顧名思義這條路以前是緊靠著海岸線,後來因為海埔新生地的開發,海灘被填為土地,從此自萊佛士酒店就再也看不到海景了。


Inside Raffles Hotel's main lobby. © Eileen Hsieh

Grand stairs covered with plush oriental rugs. © Eileen Hsieh

Another view of the mult-levl main buildling with separate lobbies and lounges. © Brenda Hsieh

The poster image of Raffles Singapore is no doubt the elegant neo-Renaissance main building and its immaculately dressed Sikh doorman, a palpable reminder of the city state's colonial past as well as the hotel's exclusivity to the rich and powerful.

Erected in 1899, this multilevel space is an architectural delight, with high ceilings, white columns, dark wood trimmings and antique furniture, effortlessly combing style with comfort and deep nostalgia.



An old piano at one of the hotel lounges. © Eileen Hsieh

An elegant lounge in the main building. © Eileen Hsieh

Design inspiration. © Eileen Hsieh

Hallway outside one of the grand suites. © Eileen Hsieh

All 103 rooms at the Raffles Hotel are suites with separate sitting room, original period features, teakwood flooring and oriental carpets. At over 600 square feet, even the smallest of the suites feels spacious, but also a bit tired. 

萊佛士酒店共有103間客房,全都是含有起居室的套房,柚木地板,東方地毯,也保留的許多原有的建築特色。最小的套房佔地約 600 平方英尺(約 17 坪),算是寬敞,可惜感覺有點老舊。

Our courtyard suite with teakwood floor and original period features. © Eileen Hsieh

Fresh fruits in the room. © Eileen Hsieh

It is a grand dame who's showing her age. The dark wood and thick fabric furnishings lend an air of heaviness to the room, and depending on luck you might even get a bathroom with cracked tiles and chipped paint.

On a brighter note, you do get daily replenishment of fresh fruits, Ronnefeldt tea and Nespresso coffee, as well as access to a helpful, 24-hour butler.


不過酒店的服務一流,每天提供新鮮水果,德國老牌 Ronnefeldt 茶葉 和 Nespresso 咖啡,還有24小時隨時待命的管家。

One corner of the famous Tiffin Room. © Eileen Hsieh

The Tiffin Room -- or the room for light midday meal -- serves up Raffles' famous curry dishes on Sundays, an experience billed as "an essential aspect of colonial life in the early 20th century". 

蒂芬懷舊餐館 - The Tiffin Room - 每週日提供萊佛士著名的咖哩自助餐,標榜為「20世紀初殖民生活的一個重要體驗」。

French Toast. © Eileen Hsieh

Mangosteen. © Eileen Hsieh

Fried chicken and rice. © Eileen Hsieh

Eggs benedict. © Eileen Hsieh

Besides curry and afternoon tea, a sumptuous breakfast is also served at the Tiffin Room, where guests can enjoy an extensive a la carte menu with dishes from all corners of the world along with a beautiful buffet. The food is simple and delicious; the service is warm and impeccable. 

除了咖哩與下午茶以外,蒂芬餐館也提供豐盛的早餐,每早呈現 breakfast buffet 和許多單點的世界美食,任君挑選。食物美味俐落,服務親切,無可挑剔。

Breakfast buffet. © Eileen Hsieh

A variety of mouthwatering tropical fruits. © Eileen Hsieh

Breakfast buffet. © Eileen Hsieh

Of course, you can't set foot inside Raffles Singapore without paying a visit to the hotel's most famous tourist trap - the Long Bar, birth place of the Singapore Sling

來到萊佛士酒店,你不可不去新加坡最有名的酒吧 -- the Long Bar -- 新加坡司令雞尾酒的誕生地。

The unmissable Singapore Sling. © Eileen Hsieh

100 years ago the most famous cocktail in Singapore was born. © Eileen Hsieh

The famous pink cocktail consists of gin, cherry liqueur, Benedictine, Cointreau, pineapple juice, lime juice, grenadine and Angostura bitters and is topped with a slice of pineapple and a cherry. The taste of Singapore Sling is exotic, sweet, and complex -- just like Singapore itself.

這杯粉紅色飲料的原料包括了琴酒,櫻桃利口酒,法國廊酒,君度橙酒,鳳梨汁,檸檬汁,糖漿和安哥斯圖娜苦酒,配上一片鳳梨和一顆櫻桃,就成為新加坡最有名的雞尾酒。Singpoare Sling 的味道奇特,甜蜜又複雜 -- 就像新加坡一樣。


MY RATING: 8 / 10

The Raffles Singapore is a grand historic hotel with fine colonial architecture and impeccable style. Come for its old world charm, Singapore Sling, afternoon tea and excellent service. 


我的評價:8 / 10



1 Beach Road
Singapore, Singapore

Phone:  +800 1 7233537 (+800 1 RAFFLES)


The Writers Bar and Raffles Grill in the main building. © Eileen Hsieh

Welcome To The Fantastical World Of Sketch.London | 進入倫敦Sketch的夢幻彩世界

Interesting sketches by British artist David Shrigley adorning the walls of The Gallery restaurant. 餐廳的墻上掛滿了英國藝術家 David Shrigley 的素描。© Eileen Hsieh

On a quiet street in London's busy West End stands an interesting establishment called Sketch. Housed in a traditional white-washed 18-century building two doors from to the sumptuous The East India Company tea specialist on Conduit Street, passersby may notice the gravity-defying Great Dane sculpture on its exterior wall but easily miss the discreet, darkened entrance.

Behind the heavy drapery is where the magic begins. Once your eyes adjust to the dimly lit space, you'll notice that everywhere there's light, there's something wondrous to be discovered. I fee like I've gone down the rabbit hole and been transported to a world far, far away. I have come to a place like no other.

Opened more than a decade ago, the concept of Sketch still feels avant-garde in today's cutting edge London. The multiple personality venue is a "triple dream" - a place for art, food, and music. Just to kick things up a notch, it also has a futuristic bathroom once crowned the No. 1 must-visit toilet by TimeOut London. 

The Great Dane sculpture outside of Sketch. 門外挑戰地心引力的丹麥獵犬雕塑。© Eileen Hsieh

Hopscotch your way into the world of Sketch. 跳格子進入Sketch的夢幻世界。© Eileen Hsieh

Bespoke tableware by David Shrigley are used in the restaurants and available for sale. 你也可以把英國藝術家 David Shrigley 為 Sketch 設計的餐具帶回家。© Eileen Hsieh

Colorful pencils take the center stage at the East Bar. 彩色鉛筆也成了酒吧裡的藝術品。© Eileen Hsieh

This delightful wonderland is the brainchild of an international restaurateur and a French culinary master, and their influences are evident in every detail. Algerian-born Mourad Mazouz (the man behind the stylish Moroccan restaurant MOMO) collaborated with three-Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire to create a dream world for lovers of all things beautiful - from the artworks on the wall, the eccentric yet comfortable furniture, to the food you taste and the plates it's served on. 

Sketch offers five options for food and drinks: (1) the Lecture Room -- the Michelin-starred dining room serving lunch and dinner; (2) the Gallery -- a gastro-brasserie open for afternoon tea and dinner; (3) the Glade -- a whimsical woodland bar serving breakfast (weekends only), afternoon tea and comfort food; (4) the Parlour -- a dark and sophisticated lounge with all-day dining; and (5) the East Bar -- an intimate, circular space curiously located below the famous bathroom.

The Glade is an enchanting space to enjoy a lazy afternoon over tea. 夢幻森林是個享受下午茶的完美地點。© Eileen Hsieh

Tempting pastries at the Glade. 夢幻森林裡誘人的點心。© Eileen Hsieh

We had dinner at the Gallery, a room dipped in bright pink paint with 200+ original drawings by British artist David Shrigley adorning its walls, part of an "artist-conceived restaurants" programme that sees this space completely transformed by a new artist every two years. While I found the bubble gum palette playful and uplifting, my friend couldn't get pass its resemblance to Pepto-Bismo.

Luckily for our tummies, the food here was anything but upsetting. Everything on the menu had an element of surprise and the unorthodox combination of ingredients turned out to go amazingly well together. (Pig's trotter and kimchi or scallops with curried popcorn, anyone?)

The adorable tableware (also designed by Shrigley) that told me I'd cleaned all my plates was the finishing touch in this fun and fantastic dining experience.


Futuristic design dominates Sketch London's East Bar and bathroom. 未來風格的廁所就在 East Bar 酒吧的正上方。 © Eileen Hsieh 2015


「Sketch」在倫敦已有十多年的歷史,不過它前衛的理念在這個時髦的城市仍廣受好評。這是個「多重人格」的夢幻場地,向來以獨特,離奇的藝術品,美食與音樂為標榜。不過它的成名之作是間未來風格的洗手間,曾被 TimeOut 休閒指南封為倫敦必參觀的廁所第一名

The No. 1 must-visit toilet in London. 「Sketch」必參觀的洗手間。 © Eileen Hsieh

Meeting master chef and creator of Sketch, Pierre Gagnaire. 碰上了來倫敦查勤的 Sketch 米其林名廚 Pierre Gagnaire。 © Eileen Hsieh

這個夢幻世界是由阿爾及利亞出生的餐飲界大亨 Mourad Mazouz 與法國三米其林星級大廚 Pierre Gagnaire 聯手打造的心血結晶,處處可見他兩人獨特的風格。如果你喜愛欣賞,體味美麗事物,屋簷下的每個細節 -- 從牆上古怪的畫,華麗但舒適的傢俱,擺盤精美的食物和下午茶,到貼心的服務 -- 都會讓你會心一笑。

「Sketch」裡分成五區:(1) the Lecture Room 是米其林級餐廳,提供午餐和晚餐; (2) the Gallery 是個餐廳-畫廊混合體,提供下午茶和晚餐; (3) the Glade - 是個童話般的森林主題空間,供應早餐(僅週末),下午茶和輕食; (4) the Parlour - 昏暗的休息室,提供全天候飲食; (5) the East Bar - 舒適的圓形空間,位於洗手間正下方。

Dipped in pink, Sketch's Gallery restaurant is a doll house for adults. The Gallery 餐廳的粉紅世界。© Eileen Hsieh

The bronze bar at The Gallery. 粉紅色的牆襯托著銅色的酒吧。© Eileen Hsieh

我們在 The Gallery 用晚餐。餐廳裡的每一面牆都漆上了亮眼的粉紅色,掛著200多幅英國藝術家 David Shrigley 的素描原作。原來這獨特的裝潢是「藝術家構思餐廳」計劃的一部份,每兩年「Sketch」就會邀請一位新的藝術家來替 The Gallery 改頭換面。我個人是挺喜歡餐廳的泡泡糖顏色,感覺像在芭比娃娃的家裡用餐,不過我的朋友指出這調色很像 Pepto-Bismo舒胃藥,好像也有點道理。


餐廳裡使用的全部餐具也是 Shrigley 設計的,融合了可愛的手寫字體,是這次用餐體驗的點睛之筆。

Paper forks are on the menu too. 菜單一打開就跳出來可愛的紙刀叉。 © Eileen Hsieh

Scallops and curried popcorn. 干貝加咖喱爆米花,盤子上還有附近街道的名稱。 © Eileen Hsieh

Pig’s trotter, kimchi, turnips and carrots.  豬腳切薄片配泡菜。© Eileen Hsieh

An empty dish. 吃光光囉。 © Eileen Hsieh

Sketch London

9 Conduit Street, London W1S 2XG


Phone: +44 020 7659 4500

Click for Opening Hours



* Click Here for an irresistible new year's offer from Sketch.London *

廁所,是「sketch」的成名作,不過它的食物和下午茶也很值得一試。好消息是現在直到三月底還有 £50 的午晚餐折扣呢!把握時機,找個朋友一起來享受美食,迎接新年吧。

Sketch, home of London's No. 1 must-see bathroom, is offering everyone a £50 gift voucher to dine at their beautiful restaurants until the end of March.

Time For Tea: The East India Company | 喝茶時間:倫敦東印度公司精品茶店

The East India Company's tea selection comes in a variety of elegant tins. 東印度公司美輪美奐的茶葉包裝。© Eileen Hsieh

What is the best souvenir from London to give or receive? If you ask me, the answer is definitely t-e-a.

Everyone has his or her favorite tea shop in London. Iconic brands such as Harrods, Twinings and Fortnum & Mason are popular with tourists for their tantalizing offerings, gorgeous packaging and -- for the latter two stores -- the status-affirming royal warrants. (Harrods severed its royal connection in 2000. Find out why here.)

However, if you are looking for something a bit less mainstream, and a little more exclusive (and expensive), I would highly recommend a visit to The East India Company in Mayfair. 


每個人在倫敦都有自己最喜愛的茶店,而最受旅客青睞的店舖包括了擁有皇家認證的英國老牌 Fortnum & MasonTwinings,還有地標哈洛德百貨公司。迷人的茶包裝帶著濃濃的英倫風,讓人愛不釋手。哈洛德百貨其實也享有皇家認證,但因前老闆與愛丁堡公爵 (也就是英國親王)不和,決定2000年把店裡所有的皇室認證標誌全部移除。

回到正題,以上的品牌在倫敦處處可見,機場裡也都可以買到,算是主流產品。如果你正在尋找曝光率較低但又有獨特風味的高級茶葉,我建議你去一趟 The East india Company - 東印度公司

The sumptuous interiors of the East India Company store in London. 倫敦東印度公司店裡的裝潢有濃濃的東方色彩。© Eileen Hsieh

The East India Company's flagship store is located in the heart of London's shopping district, just moments from Bond Street and next door to the stylish Sketch restaurant and gallery.

Inside the sumptuously decorated shop you will find over 120 varieties of tea, coffee blends from around the world, chocolates, biscuits, jams and condiments, all beautifully presented and ready to gift. 

There is also an exquisite selection of colorful and delicate teapots and teacups, where one mug can set you back anywhere from £30 to £300.

東印度公司的旗艦店位於倫敦的西區中心,緊鄰 Bond Street 購物街與有名的 Sketch 藝術餐廳


喝好茶當然想要用好茶杯,不過若想買東印度公司自產的茶壺與茶杯,最好存些錢再來,因為一只鮮艷精緻的骨瓷杯就要 30 - 300 英鎊不等。

These Benjarong mugs by the East India Company are gorgeous, fragile and expensive. 東印度公司高價位的Benjarong系列茶杯。© Eileen Hsieh

Upon first glance everything in the store seems expensive, but if you're only shopping for tea, the price point of The East India Company (EIC) products is really not that much higher than its competitors.

For example, the hugely popular Earl Grey tea bags are available from all four tea giants -- EIC, Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Twinings -- for under £4.00 per box. I personally prefer the blends from the EIC and F&M, for they carry a stronger note of Bergamot, have a fuller body, and the aroma lingers in the air long after the tea is gone.


舉個例子吧,ㄧ盒20~25入的原味伯爵茶包,無論是東印度公司哈洛德Fortnum & Mason 還是 Twinings 品牌,標價都在四英鎊以下。

我偏愛東印度公司與 Fortnum & Mason 的版本,兩者都有濃郁的柑橘香,ㄧ沖泡就茶香滿庭。

Selling luxury foods and drinks under the banner of one of the most powerful corporate names in history is bound to have some pros and cons. It's certainly advantageous to have a 400-year-old brand that millions have already heard of, but not necessarily so when the brand is often associated with the ugliness of British colonialism.

So, when the historic name was acquired by an Indian entrepreneur and relaunched as a consumer brand focusing on luxury foods, the new enterprise was quick to highlight The East India Company's notable contributions.



The more "affordable" bone china mugs. 對荷包比較友善 (一點點) 的骨瓷杯。© Eileen Hsieh

Earl Grey is one of the best selling teas in London. 伯爵茶一直都是最暢銷的口味之一。© Eileen Hsieh

Individual tea bags. 倫敦東印度公司多樣的茶包。© Eileen Hsieh

Granted a Royal Charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1600, The East India Company was founded to explore the mysteries of the East. As The Company grew, it mapped trade routes through unchartered territory and changed social customs, tastes and ways of thought to influence the very fabric of our lives today.
— The East India Company, London
— 倫敦東印度公司官網

Browsing through the store's eclectic selection of tasty treats from around the world, I'm happy that The East India Company has been given a new lease of life, which in turn gives a whole new generation the chance to experience delicacies inspired by our past. 


Time for #tea. #beautiful #teapot @theeastindiacompany

A photo posted by Follow That Bug (@followthatbug) on

The East India Company | 倫敦東印度公司

7 Conduit Street, Mayfair

London W1S 2XF


Monday to Saturday: 10am – 7pm
Sunday: 12pm – 6pm
Bank Holidays: 11am – 5pm


What's For Breakfast? Burger... And Lobster! | 早餐吃什麼?漢堡... 與龍蝦!

Scrambled eggs with lobster meat on English muffin, one of the three items on Burger & Lobster's new breakfast menu. 「漢堡 & 龍蝦」的新早餐:龍蝦炒蛋配英式鬆餅。© Eileen Hsieh 2015

Back in 2011, when Britain was slowly recovering from the effects of the Eurozone financial crisis, a little restaurant called Burger & Lobster opened in the swanky Mayfair, giving thrifty Londoners a taste of affordable luxury with a simple menu of three items:  whole lobster, lobster roll or burger -- served with a nicely dressed salad and french fries, all for the delicious price of £20.

A self-styled North American "diner" with a set-price surf & turf menu.

It was arguably the best lobster deal in town, and despite some initial skepticism over the quality of the Nova Scotia shellfish, new and return customers (myself included) continued to endure the long queue outside the trendy, no-reservation restaurant. 

2011年,當英國正緩慢地從歐元區金融危機中恢復元氣,一家名為漢堡 & 龍蝦」小餐館在倫敦時髦的 Mayfair 開業,帶給正在學習如何精打細算的倫敦人物超所值的餐飲經驗。顧名思義,餐廳的菜單上只有三項選擇:整只龍蝦,龍蝦卷和漢堡 -- 附上一盤沙拉和炸薯條,一餐定價只要 20 英鎊。


在倫敦,龍蝦算是高價位的食材,因此最初有人對 Buger & Lobster 的品質與商業模式持著懷疑的態度。不過食客依然天天大排長龍,耐心地在這家不接受預約的餐廳外等待,期待享受加拿大新斯科舍的美味海鮮。

Before long, Londoners were trapped in the tasty (lobster!!) and safety (£20!!) net cast by this tiny heartthrob, and its branches sprang up like mushrooms across the (rainy) city.

It’s interesting to note that over the years, no one has shown more love for Burger & Lobster than London’s tourists, especially those visiting from Asia, where a kilogram of Mexican lobster can set you back $30 or more. For my family visiting from Taiwan, this place is automatically built into their itinerary, sometimes more than once.


有趣的是,倫敦的觀光客也超愛「漢堡 & 龍蝦」,尤其是來自亞洲的旅客,因為那裡龍蝦價位偏高,比較少機會享受。所以每次我的家人朋友來倫敦,都一定會拜訪它一兩次。

This grilled lobster set was the first of my many meals at Burger & Lobster. 這套烤龍蝦定食是我在「漢堡 & 龍蝦」的第一餐。 © Eileen Hsieh

Stunning interior at Burger & Lobster's newest location on Threadneedle Street in the City of London. 最新的「漢堡 & 龍蝦」位於倫敦金融區的Threadneedle Street,裝璜讓人眼睛一亮。© Eileen Hsieh 2015

Now the popular diner has opened its ninth location -- in the City of London just steps away from the Bank of England, still with the inflation-proof price of £20 per set lunch or dinner.

A first for the franchise, the new Threadneedle Street branch is serving breakfast, again with just three items on the menu:

。 6oz breakfast burger with poached egg, hash browns and beans

。 American-style pancakes with maple syrup and crispy bacon

。 Scrambled eggs with lobster meat on English muffin

Each meal comes with a hot drink (tea or coffee) and a juice (orange or pineapple are the only choices during my visit) for £15.

當年的小餐館至今已經開了九家分店,最新的地點位於倫敦金融區,離英格蘭銀行總部只有幾步之遙,提供同樣的 20 英鎊套餐。

與以往不同的是,新開的 Threadneedle Street 分店開始提供早餐,菜單上還是只有三項選擇:



。 龍蝦炒蛋配英式鬆餅

每套餐配有熱飲(茶或咖啡)和果汁(我訪問時只有桔子與鳳梨汁可選),定價 15 英鎊。

American-style   pancakes with maple syrup and crispy bacon.   美  式煎餅,配  楓糖漿和香脆培根。  © Burger & Lobster on Instagram

American-style pancakes with maple syrup and crispy bacon. 式煎餅,配楓糖漿和香脆培根。© Burger & Lobster on Instagram

6oz breakfast burger with poached egg, hash browns and   beans.   6盎司早餐漢堡加  水煮嫩  蛋,馬鈴薯餅與  茄汁豆。  © Burger & Lobster on Instagram

6oz breakfast burger with poached egg, hash browns and beans. 6盎司早餐漢堡加水煮嫩蛋,馬鈴薯餅與茄汁豆。© Burger & Lobster on Instagram

As usual, I go for the set with lobster. As expected, it is delicious. The eggs are soft without being runny, the English muffin is tasty without being soggy, but admittedly I am a little disappointed by the tiny pieces of lobster meat which is overwhelmed by the eggs. I’d envisioned it to be the breakfast equivalent of the lobster roll, where every bite is filled with large pieces of succulent lobster meat. 

Still, it is a very pleasant meal. The service is upbeat and friendly. The restaurant’s premise is airy and beautifully decorated with super high ceiling and large windows, making the most of London’s unpredictable sunshine. Maybe the introduction of breakfast at the newest Burger & Lobster is a sign of things to come. I would not mind, at all, the option of having lobster for breakfast at a branch closer to home. 

我選擇了龍蝦炒蛋配英式鬆餅,炒蛋柔軟順口,英式鬆餅香甜不膩,但我對點綴性的小片龍蝦肉有點失望,因為本以為它會像平常的龍蝦卷 (lobster roll) 一樣,每一口都可以吃到大塊多汁的龍蝦肉。

大體來說,這是一個愉快的用餐經驗,服務好之外,餐廳超高挑的天花板與大窗戶,引進倫敦的陽光,讓人眼睛一亮。若漢堡 & 龍蝦」開始在其他離家較近的分店提供早餐的話,我將很願意再次光臨!

Coffee or tea and juice complete Burger & Lobster's breakfast set-menu. 「漢堡 & 龍蝦」的早餐套餐配有熱飲(茶或咖啡)和果汁。© Eileen Hsieh 2015

Beautiful venue on Threadneedle Street, steps from the Bank of England. 新分店位於倫敦金融區,離英格蘭銀行總部只有幾步之遙。© Eileen Hsieh 2015

Burger & Lobster 漢堡 & 龍蝦

Grilled lobster set at Burger & Lobster. B&L 的烤龍蝦套餐。


FARRINGDON - 40 St Johns Street, London EC1M 4AY

BREAD STREET - 1 Bread Street, London EC4M 9BE

THREADNEEDLE STREET - 52 Threadneedle Street London EC2R 8AY

Real Bread Recipe: The Fabulous Wheaten Bread | 真實麵包食譜:小麥麵包

poilane london bakery bread followthatbug follow that bug.jpg

I will always remember the exact moment when bread became an integral part of my life. It was on a cold, rainy evening in Georgia, shortly after Christmas, when I made my first-ever loaf of bread in my brand new breadmaker.

It was the simplest recipe - a classic white loaf that I found on the back pages of the instructional booklet for the bread machine. Five ingredients (flour, yeast, water, sugar, salt and oil), five minutes of preparation, and after three hours of waiting, a perfectly formed loaf of bread was born, and my apartment was filled with the most intoxicating aroma of happiness.

That was the moment I fell in love with bread.

I'd liken the bread-making process to making coffee in a Nespresso coffee maker -- minimum effort required, satisfaction guaranteed. When you make bread at home, you can enjoy it with the comforting knowledge that only the purest ingredients are used, so there's no risk of consuming any unwanted artificial additives. It is based on this philosophy that the Real Bread Campaign was born, to get more people to appreciate the beauty of bread in its most natural form. 

Every year during the Real Bread Week, we celebrate not only the bread but its makers, and this time I've chosen to highlight my favorite baking duo on British television -- the Fabulous Baker Brothers -- and their fabulously delicious wheaten bread recipe.


我選擇嘗試最簡單的食譜 -- 經典白麵包,只需六種材料(麵粉,酵母,水,糖,鹽和油),花個五分鐘混合攪勻,倒入麵包機即可。三個小時後,一條有模有樣的麵包便誕生了,隨之而來暖暖的天然麵包香,環繞著整個公寓。


麵包製作的過程,就像用Nespresso咖啡機煮咖啡 -- 只需花一指神功之力,成品保證滿意。在自家烤麵包的好處多多,簡單可口多花樣以外,最重要的是吃的安心,不怕吃進人工添加劑。正是基於這一理念,英國的「真實麵包運動」誕生了,來推廣麵包的自然美。

一年一度的「真實麵包週」期間,我們要慶祝的不僅是麵包而已,還有賦予它們生命的師傅們。今天我就來和大家分享由我最喜歡的英國烘焙雙雄 -- The Fabulous Baker Brothers 貝克兄弟 -- 所提供的小麥麵包食譜,向愛麵包的大小師傅們致敬!

The Fabulous Baker Brother's Wheaten Bread

Click here for full recipe from Waitrose TV

Freshly baked wheaten bread is made perfect with a bit of butter or jam. 剛出爐的小麥麵包,無論是配奶油還是果醬都好吃。© Waitrose TV


1茶匙 海鹽
2小匙 砂糖
1茶匙 蘇打
50克 燕麥,外加少許燕麥灑烤盤用
20克 奶油,外加少許奶油塗烤盤表面用
100毫升 黑糖蜜
200毫升 全脂牛奶
200毫升 酸酪乳


1. 預熱烤箱170℃。若有烘焙石頭(baking stone),把它放進烤箱預熱10分鐘。

2. 將麵粉,鹽,糖,蘇打與燕麥在大碗裡混合均勻。

3. 把奶油與糖漿加入平底鍋,用小火加熱直到融化。

4. 將液體混合物加入乾燥成分裡,攪拌均勻成為濕麵團。

5. 烤盤內塗上奶油,灑上薄薄一層燕麥後,將濕麵團放進烤盤。

6. 把剩下的燕麥灑在濕麵團上,蓋上鋁箔,放進烤箱烤35分鐘。

7. 移開鋁箔紙,再烤10分鐘就完成了!

#Recipe: Olive & Sundried Tomato Scones | 食譜推薦:橄欖+日曬番茄乾英式鹹鬆餅


對愛料理的人來說,倫敦的超市與農夫市場提供了無窮的創作機會。只要願意嘗新,保證可以發掘種種令人驚喜的烹飪技巧和食譜。媽在聖誕假期時來了一趟英國,最愛逛附近的 Waitrose 超市,有事沒事就買些在台灣看不到的材料自創新菜,樂在其中。

Waitrose 是個百年老店,食物新鮮,多元化,品質可靠,價錢說真的也不比平價的 Tesco 貴多少。若是以一分錢一分貨來比較,我認為它是物超所值的。

Waitrose 自己的網站也提供了許多線上食譜與烹調視頻,簡潔的說明,簡單的食材與令人垂涎的影像,讓媽迫不及待地想回台灣大顯身手。

以下就是媽回台後照著 Waitrose TV 食譜所做的橄欖+日曬番茄乾英式鹹鬆餅。結果出乎意料地好,美觀又美味,已成為她最新的下午茶秘密武器。所有的材料都可以在台灣買到,所以你也可以試試做哦!


One of the joys of living in London is the constant encounter with international cuisines. In this multicultural city, "food" is a reliable conversation starter. And as the local media would lead you to believe, London has such a vast selection of eateries that you could dine at a different place every single day for a year or two without risking a repeat visit.

The city's culinary allure is extended to its numerous grocery stores and farmers' markets, where you'll find ingredients from around the world and endless inspiration for creating your own unique, new dishes.

Over the Christmas break I introduced my mother to Waitrose's online recipe site, and instantly she was hooked. Here you'll find cooking videos with clear presentation, concise instructions, simple ingredients, and gorgeous, mouthwatering images.

Mom was eager to try out the recipes when she returned to Taiwan, and here is her version of the savoury Olive & Sundried Tomato Scones. They're apparently so spectacular that they've already earned a place in her afternoon tea repertoire! All the ingredients can be found in Taiwan too, so why not give it a try yourself?

橄欖+日曬番茄乾英式鹹鬆餅|Waitrose Olive & Sundried Tomato Scone

{ 需時 25~27分鐘 | 份量:8~10份 }



350克   自發麵粉 (self-raising flour),準備多一點點揉麵時用 

1茶匙     發酵粉 (baking powder)

75克     橄欖抹醬 (olive spread)

6片       日曬蕃茄乾 (sundried tomatoes),切碎

20克     黑橄欖 (black olives),去子,切碎

2茶匙    切碎的新鮮迷迭香 (rosemary),或1茶匙 乾燥迷迭香

150克    0%脂肪優格 (fat-free yogurt)

6湯匙    半脫脂牛奶 (semi-skimmed milk)

2茶匙    磨碎的意大利帕馬森起司 (Parmigiano Reggiano)



1. 烤箱預熱 220℃。將麵粉+發酵粉+橄欖加入攪拌機,混合均勻。

2. 將日曬蕃茄乾+橄欖+迷迭香加入攪拌機,混合均勻。

3. 把攪拌機裡的材料移至大碗,加入優格+4 湯匙牛奶,用餐刀將材料混合成柔軟的麵團。

4. 把麵糰移置灑有麵粉的工作台上,形成球狀,然後輕按出厚度 2~3公分左右。

5. 用約 6公分直徑的圓形曲奇模切出 8~10份鬆餅,把全部麵糰用完。

6. 把鬆餅平均鋪在防粘黏烤盤上。

7. 把剩下的牛奶+起司混合均勻,把混合物刷上鬆餅。

8. 鬆餅入爐,烤約 10~12分鐘,成為金黃色。

9. 取出後放涼約 10分鐘至微暖。

10. 請享用!


* For the original recipe in English, please visit Waitrose TV.

The George Inn - London's Galleried Coaching Inn

Up until the 19th century the most common way to travel long distance in Britain was by stagecoach. At a speed of up to 7 miles per hour, travellers often needed to spend one or more nights on the road, hence the creation of the coaching inns.

Coaching inns provided stabling for the horses and replaced tired mounts with fresh ones. They also provided food and drinks and overnight accommodation for coach travelers. Today there's only one surviving galleried coaching inn in London.

Located south of the River Thames near London Bridge, the George Inn was rebuilt in 1676 and was one of many coaching inns in Southwark.

The inn used to extend around three sides of a courtyard, but two-thirds of it was demolished to make way for the construction of railway over a century ago. Luckily the south front was saved, and today it's home to a beautifully restored and very popular pub, owned and protected by the National Trust.


The ground floor of the George Inn is adorned with lattice windows and oak beams and has several connecting bars. The Parliament Bar used to be the waiting room for coachmen and passengers and houses a rare Parliament clock. The Coffee Room, now the Middle Bar, was frequented by Charles Dickens, and a copy of his life insurance policy is framed on the wall.

The guest bed chambers were upstairs in the the galleried section which fronts the George Inn, a common feature on coaching inns back in the days to ensure that bedrooms had windows despite being backed onto other buildings. Now this area is a restaurant serving traditional British pub food.

As railway transport gained popularity, coaching inns saw a decline in business, and many eventually fell into disuse.

The George Inn

Address: 75-77 Borough High Street, London SE1 1NH MAP

Telephone: +44 (0) 2074072056

Opening Hours: 11am - 10pm Daily 

See Food Menu

London Through My Eyes (3) - Afternoon Tea

"If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are too heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you."

- William E. Gladstone

Dukes St James never fails to deliver the perfect afternoon tea. #delightful #autumn

A photo posted by Follow That Bug (@followthatbug) on

Tea, to the British, is a magical ingredient in the everyday life. They drink more than 165 million cups of the aromatic beverage every single day, making Britain the second largest per capita tea drinking nation in the world following Ireland. (Surprise!)

In the average British home, afternoon tea is simply a mug of tea with cookie or cake. But for tourists visiting London, they want much more than just the humble cuppa, prompting hotels and cafes to offer lavish and creative afternoon tea menus for that memorable, quintessential English experience.

A 3-tier afternoon tea spread can be as filling and costly as a proper meal. If you're seeking the highest quality in tea service in Britain, check out the winners of The Tea Guild Top Tea Awards - the "Oscar" of the tea world.

A tasty break doesn't need to break the bank though, and there are plenty of atmospheric afternoon tea venues in London that offer good value for money. The popular Bea's of Bloomsbury, famed for its moist cupcakes with buttercream frosting, serves a quirky menu at the St. Paul branch for under £20.

For a pampered afternoon in a peaceful setting, the five-star DUKES London boutique hotel will not disappoint. Hidden in a courtyard a couple blocks from The Ritz, afternoon tea here is served in the pretty Drawing Room with just five tables, and the attention to detail is exceptional.

If you also happen to be a martini enthusiast, a visit to the hotel's famous bar is a must. Frequented by James Bond author Ian Fleming, the Dukes Bar is said to to have inspired the secret agent's drink preference: shaken not stirred.

Afternoon tea and cocktail. Now that's a combination as irresistible as 007. 

Afternoon tea at Apsley's (image courtesy of The Lanesborough)

London Through My Eyes (2) - It's Christmas Time

You don't need to be religious to love Christmas. It's a public holiday in many parts of the world, a time to reunite with family and friends, an excuse to belt out Christmas carols, and a chance to eat and shop until you drop.

Christmas is celebrated in various ways. Here in the UK, public transport workers are given the day off, hence there will be no tube or bus services in London at all while cabs charge an extra £4 for each journey. There will also be a tube strike on Boxing Day (December 26) this year, making getting around town even more of a hassle on one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Looks like M&S will now be called Magic & Sparkle until #Christmas. 🎄🎁🎅

A video posted by Follow That Bug (@followthatbug) on

The Glad Tidings Cracker from Fortnum and MasonBritain has some funny Christmas customs that were new to me. Crackers are all the rage here and come in a wide range of prices and styles. They're basically cardboard tubes stuffed with small gifts, paper crown and joke that pop when you pull them from both ends. If you have too much money and no time to make your own, Fortnum and Mason's Glad Tidings Cracker could take your fancy. 

This luxury Christmas cracker consists of requisite paper hat, joke, plus a selection of silver-plated gifts including - listen to this - a tea strainer and caddy, sugar dredger, mustard pot, place card holder, napkin rings and an eggcup and spoon set. A set of six costs £1,000.

Or if like me you prefer the homemade crackers, here's an entertaining how-to video that you may enjoy.

Christmas in Europe is not complete without mulled wine. A winter drink originally created as a way to conceal the taste of bad wine, it is now one of the most popular winter beverages found in nearly every pub in London. You can even buy bottled mulled wine in the stores - just heat it in the microwave and finish with a slice of orange, and you've got a blissfully delicious drink. It's also very easy to make, and here's a recipe I've tried and highly recommend. 

For those who simply want to see how mulled wine is made, this beautiful video by Tiger in a Jar should satisfy the curiosity:

Last night we learned that the Queen's husband, 90-year-old Prince Philip, had had a heart operation for blocked coronary artery. He's reportedly doing well, but instead of spending Christmas with family, he may need to stay in a hospital bed. The Queen is expected to touch on this unfortunate event in Sunday's Royal Christmas Message

Health is something that many of us don't fully appreciate until it's gone. Over the years I've found that proper rest is the key to living a good life. While sleep is obviously very important, so is giving yourself the time and space to reflect and savour all that's around you. After dinner sit a while. After supper walk a mile. Now that's a wise advice.

Have a restful Christmas and a safe and happy new year. See you in 2012!

~ Eileen ❤