Tag Archives: Edinburgh

A London girl’s guide to getting hitched

So, The Chef and I got hitched just over a month ago – hurrah – and, while I slowly sink back to earth, catch up on sleep, and enjoy being able to EAT and DRINK again, I thought I’d write down some stuff I learned along the way *:

1. The dress – there’s nothing like wedding dress shopping to drop a giant big turd on your “special day”. They tell you you need 6 months to order your dress, then say they haven’t got any free appointments for 2 months, and sometimes even say you have to pay £20 for the privilege. Some make you take off your shoes at the door, wear gloves and rush you to be in and out in an hour. Importantly, there is far too little champers handed out (big up to Mirror Mirror and Teokath for bucking this trend). Fact is, unless you get it made, buy it second hand or go vintage, you’ll pay an average of £2,000 for your dress and the alteration process is a nightmare that goes on for hours. The upside is that if you pick the right one, you’ll feel incredible on the day, and its a great lesson in what suits you so I found my wardrobe also improved. These are the dress shops that I think are worth going to:

  • Teokath in Wimbledon – where I got my lovely Lusan Mandongus dress. They have a great selection of dresses, are friendly, have a lovely dress fitter who will patentiently address all your concerns (pull it in! more! shit I can’t breathe!), and you can also buy jewellery there.
  • Jenny Packham in Pimlico – hard to get an appointment, but gorgeous beaded 1920s Great Gatsby style dresses. Best suited to tall skinny people though.
  • Mirror Mirror and Morgan Davies in Islington for great selection of dresses, although at Morgan Davies you have to pay £20 for appointments.
  • Alice Temperley in Notting Hill – amazingly different, electic dresses, perfect for the actresses and extroverts amongst you. Lovely room to try on stuff and great to try something different.
  • Suzanne Neville in Knightsbridge – lovely dresses and lovely staff although I was slightly put off by their posters of Danielle Lineker that adorn the walls.
  • While I’m at it, Bridal Rogue Gallery on Chiltern Street has an amazing selection of shoes and jewellery, and borrow the veil from a friend (sooo expensive).

2. Self-preservation, head fuckwittage and general wellbeing -while getting married was the happiest day of my life, and I am absolutely loving being a newlywed, I put my hands up and say not only it is bloody stressful, for me the pre-wedding preparations was a time when I needed to work at staying happy. I remember when I was single I got annoyed at my engaged friends moaning, thinking you should be happy – I’m having to go to Tiger Tiger this Saturday and you’re sticking me on the single table! And I too found that when I moaned about the pressure, I had people saying I should be happy and why was I sweating the small stuff, which I found pretty unhelpful.

But I now know (and sorry to my married freinds who I was unsympathetic to before!) that weddings bring to the fore issues of self-esteem, highlight family problems, make you miss people who can’t be there, shine the spotlight on friendships, showing who you can count on and who are always too busy.

And, more than that, the fact that you have now got what you’ve always wanted, have all this attention on you, is a little overwhelming and sometimes, there is a tiny little voice that says

why me? how could I be this lucky? I don’t deserve this happiness!

…and you have to organise lots, and think about things you don’t normally give a crap about like flowers and hairstyles and ribbons and napkins and garters.

And you suddenly feel bad about all your married friends who you were a bitch to when you were single and unhappy, acting with indifference to husbands and children, getting horrifically drunk at weddings and snogging the best man. It made me feel guilty that they were all so lovely to me and didn’t hold my previous bad behaviour and impatience against me (apart from one – who pointed out when I emailed accomodation details 4 months before that I RIPPED brides apart for doing this at previous weddings).

And you don’t sleep brilliantly and you are dieting, and you might get cold sores or excema, and start being a fucking bitch to your husband-to-be, and then you worry he might not marry you after all and then…. Argh!

After a recommendation from a friend,  who commented very kindly on how ragged I was looking, I became a walking pharmacy of things-that-help. This stuff calmed me down and zenned me out, so much so that I was surprisingly cool and calm on the big day:

  • A sleepy time dream pillow spray of lavender
  • Valerian herbal anti-anxiety tablets (I had one called Quiet Life that was amazing)
  • Herbal sleeping pills (I used Nytol)
  • Buy bottles of Bach Rescue remedy for work, in your handbag, in your car, at home. Use frequently, especially when he says “but there isn’t anything to do!“.
  • Vitamin B complex helps with stress and energy and cold sores.
  • I’m not ashamed to say that due to my erratic behaviour and feeling a bit overwhelmed I had a “maintenance” session with my amazing counsellor (email me for deets) – she made me realise what was upsetting me and why I was finding things difficult because I just didn’t t hink I deserved all this wonderful stuff happening to me. She made me realise I did deserve it – I’ve worked so hard on my faults, on my happiness, on this blog, on relationships and life and family. I’ve worked bloody hard and I do deserve it. I deserve The Chef – he’s my reward somehow. And I am lucky, I won’t forget that.

3. Grooming. I found it stressful thinking I had to be the thinnest I’d ever been, the most beautiful. And what if you wake up with spots? Or excema? Or a cold sore? My friend pointed out that a bride’s beauty comes from within, from the fact that she is so happy she’s glowing, and on the day itself I was in this smiley bubble all day, but we all need a little help so here’s where I went:

  • Linda Meredith in Knightsbridge does amazing facials and oxygen facials where they push oxygen into your skin. Made me glow for about a week. Not cheap (£100 for a facial and £100 for the oxygen thing) but I got a voucher from Keynoir at half the price.
  • Lorraine at Expressions gave me a set of amazingly natural-looking eyelash extensions (to avoid the Sam from TOWIE look, just ask for a lash on every 2nd or 3rd lash and volume rather than length) which looked amazing on the big day and meant I didn’t have to wear any make-up for the week before and for almost 3 weeks afterwards so perfect for honeymoon. She works from her rather hard-to-find flat in Hammersmith but its well worth going.
  • Michael Becman who works at Space NK in Edinburgh did my hair and make-up – we kept it very light and natural, and as I was getting married outside in a garden, we put flowers and pearls in my hair. Mikee’s not only a great make-up artist, he is hilarious and kept us all laughing on the big day.

4. The cake. Oh my look at that beauty above. We utterly lucked out with the cake. I found cake shopping quite disappointing, the fact that a simple, boring-looking, traditional three-tiered cake costs minimum £300 and often didn’t taste or look that great. And then through twitter we met Lisa Brunton-Stocks (@harbourhussy), who is mad about cakes, and actually, pretty mad full stop. She drove all the way from Aberdeen to Edinburgh to let us taste her cakes which were incredible, and for the first time I got excited about what a wedding cake could be. She was amazingly inspired and creative and spent ages getting it perfect – sending me pictures of edible pearls and meringue to match my dress, matching the decoration to the lace on my dress and my bouquet. It was a jaw dropping cake and amazingly delicious. And on the way to honeymoon, I read this blog her friend wrote about the work that went into it: http://willtravelforcake.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/an-epic-wedding-cake/. If you can’t find your own Lisa, then I reckon M&S has some brilliant, unique cakes at good prices (check out this upside down white choc version).

5. The photographer. We used Paul Raeburn who took these amazing photos. We hated posed photos and interminable group shots that last for hours and he was perfect. Really artistic photos in a journalist style capturing amazing moments – The Chef kissing my forehead during the service, my sister crying and waving as she said goodbye before I walked down the aisle, my bridesmaid pouring her drink into my glass as I was “thirsty”. We wanted to spend the day enjoying ourselves and being with our friends so he was the perfect photographer.

6. The wedding. As neither of us is particularly religious, and we wanted to marry somewhere unusual and unique, and not particularly traditional, we had a Humanist ceremony undergiant redwood trees in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. Being in Scotland, it rained a bit, but I loved the freedom of us all huddled together under these trees and we loved the Humanist ceremony where our celebrant talked about how we met, what we loved about each other, and about how much we loved our friends and family. We sang Happy Together by the Turtles, had a piper playing me down the aisle, and my friends read a poem they’d written. It was moving, emotional, funny and we loved it. We then ate haggis, neeps and tatties, ended with deep fried Mars Bar with an Irn-Bru chaser and ceilidhed the night away. Humanist ceremonies aren’t legal in England sadly but we’re hoping this will change as its a fantastic alternative to a registry office ceremony.

9. The extras that no-one really cares about but you bend over backwards to do anyway:

  • The Chef was right – favours are indeed largely ignored so don’t spend much money (we got married at Easter so we gave everyone little bags filled with Easter eggs).
  • One thing we did that everyone loved though was table names of our favourite restaurants and we told the story of the time we went there.
  • We didn’t have an order of service as the ceremony was so special we wanted people to be engaged and surprised all the way through, and stop people flicking through to see what was next and when they could get a drink. We did get amazing creative invitations through Nirvana CPH – we did the invite in the guise of a menu and they looked amazing.

* for another point of view, you might also want to read my thoughts on being single in London.

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Food porn from The Kitchin (and the Sheep’s Heid), Edinburgh

Its about this time of the year when the warmth of Spring makes me go a little hyper, and two lovely words pop into my head: MINI BREAK. I’m currently planning weekends away to Brussels, Vienna and back to Edinburgh for the festival, which, if you haven’t been before, is absolutely brilliant. The atmosphere is electric, the whole city’s on holiday, and you can see some amazing street performances, theatre, comedians and music. You can also drink until 5am pretty regularly. I’ve already done a post on things to do in Edinburgh here, and if you’re thinking of going up for the festival, I’d definitely recommend lunch or dinner at The Kitchin while you’re there (although if you click the link beware the AWFUL musac on their website, my only criticism -reminds me of a cheap spa in Tooting).

Anyway The Kitchin won the Observer Food Monthly best restaurant award in October 2010 and it deserves it – the food was pretty much perfect. Lunch was a little rushed – they asked for our dessert orders at the start which is always a shame because you never know how you’re going to feel after your main – but only because there is a 1.5 hour turnaround on tables (boo but understandable – its only small). But the whole experience – from the crudites and blue cheese dressing to snack on with your cocktail to the gorgeous petits fours at the end – was professional and inventive. They almost overdid it on the fussing – at one point we had about 7 different waiters round our table doing something or other – but it was expertly done. For example, the wine waiter made our bottle of wine last throughout the meal in a way I couldn’t have.

Here’s some piccies of the food. I got a very nice email from a pro photographer recently who informed me that all my photos are a little yellowish and was my camera perhaps on the wrong setting. Ahem. Yes I think it was although these ones seem to be OK:

Amuse bouche of mussel soup – bloody lovely. Also like the Braveheart chain mail style table mats

My starter of seafood ravioli in lobster bisque – very rich and full

The Chef had lamb sweetbreads in a garlic puree – he liked mucho (didn’t talk much through this course)

My main of Skate – now just LOOK at that, seriously – work of art of what?!  The fish was lovely and tender and light but I’m afraid I was a little bleurghed out by the reddish rawness of some of the meat

The Chef had pork belly (bien sur) and it was wonderful apparently

Pistachio souffle with pistachio ice cream (PERFECT) and cheese to finish

And then some petits fours to end.

As you can see, it really was a gastro marathon, with quite incredible flavours and textures and ingredients. The cost? Well, nae cheap obviously – I seem to have lost the receipt but I seem to recall it was around £75 each, but well worth it and I meal I won’t forget for a long time. And like any Michelin-starred restaurant, you are treated like royalty – in fact we got a friendly hello from both Tom and Michaela when we arrived. Definitely a destination for any festival-going food lover.

Also do check out the Sheep’s Heid in Duddingston (above), right by Arthur’s Seat if you fancy a lovely walk. It’s the oldest pub in Scotland (circa 1300s), with a gorgeous cosy pub serving real ales, a 1950s skittle alley, and a decent restaurant serving haggis and sausage mash and similar. 

The Kitchin on Urbanspoon

Pierre Victoire, 5 Dean Street, W1D 3RQ

Ah Pierre Victoire.  Like most Edinburghers, I have very fond memories of this place.  Pierre Levicky opened his first restaurant in Edinburgh in 1988, and expanded quickly.  Soon there were two on Victoria Street, specialising in good French food on a budget.  It was very popular.  I went there at 15 to eat moules marinieres, and had my first (and last) waitressing experience there  at 18 – I wasn’t asked back after the chef passed me a boiling hot plate without warning me first and I managed to drop it in a customer’s lap, and the head waitress was infuriated at my lack of knowledge of wine (I was 18 – my experience of fine wine was Maddog 20/20 and whatever my mother served).

Pierre’s rapid expansion backfired and the chain folded in the late nineties.  So, I was surprised to find Pierre Victoire safe and well on Dean Street.  Turns out this was a franchise bought by Batuhan Isiksalan in 1998, which survived the bankrupcy of the chain, and kept Pierre’s name and traditions going strong.

As part of  The Happiness Project London rules, I have to try new places every time I eat out, so having researched restos in Soho (and unable to get through to Andrew Edmunds which I also want to try) I went along last night with my good friend Jo, and was very impressed with what I saw.  The relaxed, homely French restaurant I knew was still evident, with rustic wooden tables and chairs, candles in wine bottles, and a pianist in the corner.  Coupled with the hearty, tasty food and modern French menu, it reminded me of one of the better restaurants which fill the streets of Paris or Brussels.

The atmosphere is warm, relaxed and cosy –  Jo and I were seated in a table in the corner and were able to happily natter all evening.  The wine list was great and we got a nice Chilean cab sauv for around £15.  Before 7pm, they offer a 2 course set menu for £9.90 which has to be the best value in Soho, but even without the offer it was pretty reasonable.

As a nod to the past, I had moules marinieres to start and Jo ordered scallops (around £5 each) and we had honey roast duck with gratin dauphinois and pak choi, and ribeye with mash, blue cheese and peppercorn sauce, as a main.  It was all good French cooking – simple, tasty, flavoursome, although in Paris or Brussels I’m sure the meat would be a little pinker.  Service was good and friendly but we were also left alone to chat.  The total cost was £35 each which is really good for London dining.

It felt like a relaxed local resto, with a nice friendly atmosphere, and filled with a low-key crowd, not the usual Soho trendies – the kind of place we used to eat in every weekend in Brussels.  I’ll definitely be going back, and this time I’ll order my steak rare.

Pierre Victoire on Urbanspoon