Friday, April 30, 2010

Rabot Estate in London



I popped over to Borough Market this afternoon to buy some Jerusalem artichokes for a soup I’m planning to make this weekend (I thought it unwise to rely on our local Sainsbury's or Tescos). I was very excited to spot a new chocolate cafe and shop just at the beginning of Stoney Street: Rabot Estate. Apparently, it is the Borough Market ‘farm shop’ of one of the oldest cocoa estates in St Lucia, dating to 1745. The founders of the Hotel Chocolat chain of shops (and website) bought the Estate a few years ago and have invested heavily in new cocao plants and upgrading equipment and systems. Rabot Estate is taking the lead in reviving the cocoa industry in St Lucia.

The shop is pretty eye-catching and completely open to the street. It’s decorated in lots of chocolate browns, with reclaimed woods, corrugated iron panels and simple stencil-style typography and manilla labels. However the pricing is anything but basic - £8 for a bag of chocolate anyone?

I decided to play to safe and bought myself a small bar of their ‘Dash of Milk’ range (mid-way between classic dark chocolate and milk chocolate) to try. The 35g bars come in at £2.75 (however if you buy three they come at £2.50 each).

At the till I succumbed to temptation and had a hot chocolate (a more reasonable £2.50 per cup). You can choose between a 70% cocoa or a 100% cocoa, which you can sweeten to personal taste. I went for the 70% option.

This turned out to be very frothy and light - not particularly thick in texture but with a wonderfully thick chocolate flavour which coated my mouth and lasted a while. I think this might just become a Borough Market tradition for me.

They also sell something called ‘chocolate tea’ which apparently was big in 18th-century London before hot chocolate caught on. I need to try that sometime. Also available are chocolate-themed savoury snacks. This place is a great addition to Borough market.

Rabot Estate
2 Stoney Street
Borough Market

Opening hours: Mon - Sat 07:00 - 18:00

Check out my review of Rabot Estate - I am hedgiecc - on Qype

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Present shopping

I raced around London last Saturday morning - had to get to Whole Foods in High Street Kensington to buy John Master's Organics Blood Orange and Vanilla body wash as an early birthday present for my friend Sue, who was visiting from Cape Town. I picked up wrapping paper and ribbon from Scribbler at High St Ken too - having very amusing interactions with their staff there - and then tubed to St Paul's where I gulped down a quick sandwich and wrapped the present next to the fountain, being very careful of pigeons, wind, and splashes from the fountain. The result isn't one of my best but nevermind. Then I toddled off to Tate Modern to meet Sue.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring hits SW!

This weekend has been spectacularly gorgeous here in Clapham, with the Common alive with thousands of Claphamites enjoying the great outdoors.

Eyjafjallajoekull's ash certainly hasn't caused any cooling around here! (yet, touch wood!)

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Quite surprisingly, the Quilts exhibition at the V&A is the first in the museum’s history. Nevertheless, the museum is clearly preparing for a blockbuster, with yards and yards (literally) of merchandising opportunities in the gift shop as you exit – the V&A has produced swatches of limited-edition fabric samples for inspired exhibition goers to get quilting with; books on how-to-quilt, as well as the exhibition catalogue. Of course, the bookshop also has loads of other quilting books to choose from.

My company got complimentary tickets from the V&A and my colleague Stu and I were gagging to go – strange really, two guys (one straight) instead of all the girls . . .

The V&A has clearly put a lot of work and thought into the show, and the results are stunning and amazingly inspirational.  The show gives an overview of the historical context and development of quilting, plus very specific insights into the stories of individual pieces – quilting seems intrinsically to sew stories into the piece, as the quilts were made for specific people, to commemorate specific events, were made from material recycled from other projects which had their own stories – and were ultimately handed down through generations and thus embodied family history.

As we zoom headlong recklessly into a future with a fraction of the resources than we currently enjoy, it was great to see how people’s relationship with the material world was actually richer then than now – every scrap of fabric was prized; saved for reuse in a quilt; every scrap of paper too as the bedrock of the quilted patch (even if most of the stories of women using their husband’s love letters appear to be fabrications – most of the papers used were old tradesmen’s bills). This was recycling on the level of the individual household – ingenuity was used to rework one obsolete item into another, more useful one.

This aspect inspired me as much as the beautiful workmanship on display.

As a counterpoint to this, the V&A has commissioned new pieces from artists – there are quite wonderful pieces by Grayson Perry and Tracey Emin. Emin’s done a new bed; far more sumptuous than the infamous Tate one of the last decade. Perry’s piece was quite small but packed an emotional punch. It’s a pity the show didn’t have his new tapestries, but I assume they were simply too large to exhibit in the relatively intimate spaces of the V&A temporary exhibition rooms.

Quilts: 1700-2010
Victorian and Albert Museum
20 March - 4 July 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

crafty me

This Spring has seen a veritable renaissance in creativity at Hedgie towers, especially in the textile arts.

Many years ago on the bus to college my dear friend Ingrid taught me to knit. Ingrid was a free-form jumper knitter – she never followed a pattern and just seemingly randomly used different colours. The results were always amazing; true works of art.

So recklessly I threw myself into knitting jumpers – not a traditional start for the novice knitter. Of course unlike Ingrid I always followed a pattern religiously. The repetitive knitting experience soothed the stress of studying for exams. My first jumper ended up miles too big – tension issues – and I didn’t like the cut of the neck of the second.

Then I moved to the UK to complete my education and was seduced by a Kaffe Fassett exhibition at the V&A. I launched into his Persian Poppy pattern vest.

The colour work I took in my stride but Kaffe’s basic sweater patterns follow the divide-for-neck at armhole level formula that I hated in my second sweater. Altering a pattern to raise the neck was a bit daunting, Ingrid was a continent away, and work on the sweater was abandoned at this point. Some twenty years ago.

However, a rare attempt at spring cleaning recently revealed the wool stash and on a whim I just starting knitting a scarf – quite the easiest thing to do.

This led to me looking at the poppy vest again. I plotted every stitch on a graph sheet, and hopefully now have an altered neckline that will work. So the poppy vest is going to be finally completed! Woop!

Meanwhile, my freeform stripey scarf led to me trying a stripey hat to match – less successful, but still quite fun. I want to do stripey gloves now to finish the ensemble.

All this knitting activity was egged on marvellously by web 2.0: YouTube helped with knitting primer lessons and a twitter friend referred me to the
Ravelry site – networking for knitters! It’s speeded my progress up amazingly.

But, that’s not all! My textile activities are expanding . . . but that’s another post . . . .

Sunday, April 04, 2010


Wow! Thanks BBC for a perfect Easter Saturday afternoon. The long-awaited introduction of Matt Smith as the eleventh incarnation of Doctor Who was a triumph.

Steven Moffat had written some of the most memorable episodes of the previous series, so we were quite happy about him taking over the reins from the successful Russell T Davies. But some of us worried that Matt was ‘too young’ - and as an actor he was virtually completely unknown. So his challenge in taking over from David Tennant - voted recently “the best Doctor of all time” and the equally superb Christopher Ecclestone was steep. But it seems the BBC has scored a hat-trick with this casting. It’s no disrespect to Tennant to say that after this first episode I’m struggling to recall his performance.

Matt is a good actor but I think what sets him apart is his physicality - physically he’s just perfect for this role, perhaps the best of all time. Despite being so young he has an old-soul vibe going on - his elongated face, razor-sharp cheek bones and long, long fingers give him an authentically ancient alien look. His mannerisms work well too - a curious mixture of energy-driven new-born lamb and old school professor. His retro Doctor stylings by the beeb are just perfect for now too.

The introduction of the new companion (Amy Pond, feistily played by Karen Gillan) was wonderfully done too, very skillfully and economically incorporating her backstory into the fabric of the plot. This character always represents the viewer - and again, very cleverly in this episode managed to cater brilliantly to the entire Dr Who fan demographic as Amy is played young and adult.

With two major characters to introduce, the story was always going to be the secondary element but nevertheless the alien prisoner escapee yarn did its bit efficiently. Special effects were a bit ropey but the production dialled up the suspense nicely when needed - a relatively simple thing like an open door on a landing made the heart jump; as always the alien was at it’s most scary when in human form. The ending was a clever assisted deus-ex-machina; the Doctor and the alien’s jailers the Atraxi defeating Prisoner Zero through its own internal logic flaws.

Moffat has recently emerged from the Tintin project with Steven Spielberg, and I loved the Tintin reference with the coma patients in the hospital. A lovely homage.