Thursday, April 29, 2010

It's on the Way! Olé!

It was probably last year that I first started hearing rumors that a Mexican restaurant was coming to London--not just any Mexican restaurant, but one born out of the state of Texas, advertising its commitment to authentic Mexican gourmet cooking. Frankly, I'd never heard of  Cantina Laredo, since Dallas seems to be the heart of their US efforts, but it came highly recommended.  I jumped on it immediately, emailed the corporation and found out it was truly coming. To my surprise, the general manager sent me a note last week to let me know that indeed, the restaurant was opening this summer!

The new location is near Covent Garden, and thrill of all thrills to my husband, it is just a stone's throw from his office at St. Marten's Courtyard. I drooled when I found these photos on their website and now I'm counting the days until I can have the "whole enchilada!" One of their signature dishes is their Top Shelf Guacamole, which is prepared at your table.

Fajitas anyone? Did I mention they hope to eventually open 35 restaurants in the UK?

Here's the Botanos Platter which is a tasting platter to share. Complimentary chips and salsa as well. That's a big deal in London--complimentary. Now, is it really too much to ask for fountain soft drinks with free refills?? 

Pescado de Dia--salmon on Chimichurri sauce for those eating light.

Or this looks delicious: Steak Camaron Poblanoasada--a grilled carne asada steak wrapped around poblano pepper filled with tiger prawns, mushrooms and monterrey jack cheese.
Drool, drool. If you want to see more, find them at Cantina Laredo UK. And if you want to find me on opening day, look for me at Cantina Laredo. Olé!
Have you ever eaten at a Cantina Laredo in the US?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Daily Candy

Daily Candy London is one of those fun items I find in my mailbox each day. They have a knack for finding the latest and greatest in town, whether it be new stores opening, new products, good restaurants, or interesting entertainment. If you'd like to subscribe to receive your daily update you can find them here. Yesterday, they alerted me to a new club opening in our neighborhood--seems like there are strict entrance requirements though: you must have been born in the 80's or before the 80's. Well, no problem here meeting that requirement--I'm very eligible. Although I'm not one who typically graces the doors of nightclubs, I am intrigued by those loaner leg warmers and disco balls! See what you think....

Chelsea Nightclub Maggie's Hearts the Eighties

Barts Owners' New Culture Club

maggie's club london!
You’ve filed resurrecting the ’80s under ‘things that never, ever need to happen’. But if anything can change your mind, at least for one night, it’s Maggie’s, a kitschy valentine to The Thatcher Years.
The new nightspot opened last night in Chelsea, with nostalgic touches like disco balls and loaner leg warmers. Decor is over-the-top retro (zebra print, Beano comic wallpaper), but since it’s the brainchild of Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling of nearby speakeasy Barts, expect a similarly laid-back vibe.
The bar staff, who are trained to execute Tom Cruise-style tricks, serve until 3:30 a.m. — a closing time usually reserved for West End haunts. The only requirement: patrons must have been born in or before the ’80s, which keeps out the kids.
On the glittery dance floor, music starts with groove-your-heart-out ’80s favourites, then switches to contemporary beats after 1 a.m. Because no matter how devoted to the decade, nobody needs an entire night of cheese.

Maggie’s, 329 Fulham Road, SW10 9QL (020 7352 8512
Photo: Getty Images 

Monday, April 19, 2010

I Give Up

Well, I give up! I'm unpacking the suitcases and staying at home here in Houston. I had another flight scheduled out for London today, but it was not to be. Mid-afternoon, Continental rebooked me automatically to the next available flight. It's going to be an interesting connection, since they have me booked going to London on April 28, landing the morning of April 29, and my return flight is leaving London to go to Houston on the morning of April 28. Thank you very much Continental, but I don't think I can quite manage that.

I keep thinking about what I'm missing by giving up my April trip. I have friends from the US who arrived at my house in London before my flight last week was aborted. They've been having a ball without me, and now their stay is extended 5 more days, waiting for the skies to clear. Have fun girls!

I'm missing walking through the flowering lawn of the St. Luke's Church on my way to the tube.

Missing the tulips in season...

And everyone headed to the parks to celebrate the long awaited sunshine after a grey, cold winter. 

So it's time to recall what the trade-off is before this pity party gets our of hand.

More time with sweet Jordan--can't beat that one.

Now could someone please find a way to get my husband home from London???

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Photo courtesy of Reuters

This is one of those "What are the odds?" stories. Last night I was headed back to London on a 6 PM flight. It did not start out well, a four hour delay for mechanical problems, which later the pilot explained as a door handle issue. So, I chilled a bit, took my $30 meal voucher to Pappadeaux, where I treated myself to both a shrimp cocktail and a fried shrimp dinner. Hey, I wan't going to let any money go to waste.

We took off at 10:30. Wasn't long before I crashed, wait maybe that's not the best term, how about fell asleep, since I was not interested in the meal service. About mid-way into the flight, we were awakened by the pilot announcing that we were turning around and going back to Houston. Seems that the volcanic ash from the volcano in Iceland was blowing eastward into UK airspace and all UK airports were closed. Currently joining Scotland, Ireland and England in the closures are airports in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the Nordic countries. Some flights into Switzerland and Germany have been cancelled too since the major air corridor between North America and Europe is compromised. Between 4,000-5,000 flights will be affected by the day's end. Oddly enough, should you care to, you can still fly into Reykjavik, Iceland, since the ash is blowing eastward away from them.

It seems that the volcanic ash and microscopic particles are very dangerous to fly through, because it can wreak havoc on engines. It is not known at this point when airports will reopen. Some scientists say that this "eruption" could cause "disruptions" for days and maybe weeks to come. Too soon to tell. 
All I can say is that I'm thankful that my schedule was flexible and that I have a home here in Houston where I can be comfortable. It was very emotional seeing families in tears today as their plans to get home, or their travel plans were put on hold for days. Weekend flights were already full, so no place to reschedule them. Some were missing tours that were leaving without them, after they had saved and saved for months. Rescheduling everyone will take many days to come, as we play out this waiting game. At least, I'm not alone--tens of thousands of others are in the same boat.
Boat! Now there's an idea--maybe now's the time for a trans-Atlantic cruise.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Taxi Shelters

Following along with the London cabbie posting that I did a few days ago, I wanted to share one more interesting idea about the life of a London cabbie. Scattered through town are little green sheds like this one that are called taxi shelters or huts. Originally built between 1875 and 1914, they were set up after an army captain named Captain George Armstrong sent one of his servants out one rainy day to find a cab, which was a horse drawn carriage at the time,  and found that all the drivers had abandoned their cabs to go to the local pubs to warm up and get a drink.

In an attempt to provide a warm place and a spot for drivers to get out of the rain for a non alcoholic drink, he and a few others created the Cabman's Shelter Fund, which set out to build the shelters we see  today. Originally 61 shelters were built to specifications that they be no longer than the length of a horse and cab, since they were situated on a highway.

Small as they were, they all had a working kitchen and table seating for up to 13 drivers.

Creative Commons License

There are thirteen remaining shelters today and here is where they are located:
Chelsea Embankment - near the Albert Bridge
Embankment Place
Grosvenor Gardens - west side of north garden
Hanover Square - north of central garden
Kensington Park Road - outside numbers 8-10
Kensington Road - north side
Pont Street
Russell Square - west corner (previously in Leicester Square)
St George's Square, Pimlico
Temple Place
Thurloe Place, Kensington - opp the Victoria & Albert Museum
Warwick Avenue - Clifton Gardens
Wellington Place, St John's Wood

The menu prices are subsidized making them more affordable for drivers. A tuna fish sandwich is 1.50£, soup and bread 2.50£ and a cup of coffee is only 50 pence. Only drivers are allowed inside to eat, but many of the shelters have take away available for anyone. Hmmmm.... I'm thinking dinner couldn't get much cheaper or easier!!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cabbies in London

Riding in a black cab while visiting London is one of the highlights you should not miss. Cruising the streets of London, they are bountiful, thankfully, since we rely on them for getting around town, along with the tube and buses. Some 21,000 licensed drivers are circling the city in their traditionally black cabs which are also called hackney carriages.

One of their unique features is being able to turn around in a 25 foot turning circle, in other words able to " turn on a sixpence" (or a dime.) Makes it easy to hail a taxi from either side of the street!

With four doors and roomy enough for luggage, strollers, or even an occasional piece of furniture or plant purchase, they serve us well for short or long hauls.

It's no easy task becoming a taxi driver. To earn that title, would-be drivers must take an extensive training course called The Knowledge. For an average of 3 years, they drive around town on a motor scooter studying the 25,000 roads and points of interest they must memorize. Taxi cab drivers are expected to know immediately how to take you to your destination using some 400 standard runs or routes they have memorized. Then they will experience at least a dozen Appearances with a tester who quizzes them before being granted their license. Interestingly enough, medical tests have shown that the drivers have developed an exceptionally large hippocampus, which is the part of the brain where information about locations is stored. I want one of those! Shoot, I'd be happy if I could just have some help finding objects around the house that I've hid away.

For those of you who are fans of the Cash Cab television show that is so popular in the US, I recently discovered that the first cash cab was actually developed in the UK. It's no longer in production there unfortunately, so now I'm on the hunt for this London cabbie who seems to be throwing a party in the back of his cab. Take a look and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Boot shopping

Not long ago, I was window shopping and spied these chocolate brown boots with turquoise trim. Living in Texas, we actually have an occasion now and then to dress like a cowgirl. The rodeo is a huge event every year here in February, drawing big name stars and the best cowboys in the country.

I went in for a look and found a large selection of boots, hats and satchels, perfect for our annual rodeo event here in Houston. But, here's the kicker--this shop is not Texas grown, but Chelsea grown right around the corner from my home in London.

I've passed by this shop, R. Soles,  a hundred times and often wondered just who in the world is buying cowboy boots in London. Inquiring minds want to know, so I went inside and asked with my Texas accent, "You sell many of these here?"

A little cheekily, he answered, "I guess so, madam, since we've been selling boots here for 35 years."  Wow, I was impressed. It seems that Judy Rothchild designs all their boots, and that her boots have been seen on the catwalks of Paris, London and New York.

A multitude of styles and skins, from the simple to the most exotic for both men and women. If you can't make it to the shop, you can always order on their website here.  Perhaps you'd like some alligator or maybe some armadillo boots. Whatever your style, just hitch your horse on up to the post and mosey on in for some real style. Just keep your eyes open for those British wannabe cowboys and cowgirls. 

Friday, April 2, 2010

I spy Easter

Just a quick walk through Selfridge's department store in central London was proof enough that spring has arrived, and with it lots of sweets.

Would you prefer Godiva eggs,

or chocolates from Rococo?

Strawberry lemonade perhaps?

Or Flamigni panettone from Italy?

Hope and Greenwood, a "purveyor of splendid confectionary" had bunnies full of eggs.

Even Evian had put on its spring colors!

These marshmallow pigs looked much tastier than Peeps.

But this is what I picked out for you--a giant Lindt chocolate bunny.
Happy Easter everyone.