Beyond the Pale


Disaya: Nutcracker Sweet – Jewellery To Capture Your Imagination

Some people favour jewellery with clean, simple, lines; minimalists who worship all that is streamlined, elegant and pure. I am not one of these people. This surely comes as no surprise.

Who in their right mind could get excited about such dullness when jewellery and accessories can allow you to express your individuality, little hints of your personality glinting merrily on your fingers or twinkling intriguingly around your throat.

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One of the most exciting jewellery brands I’ve seen for years twinkled at me from afar, an acquaintance posted a picture of a collection on Instagram, and I HAD to know where they were from… Disaya, came the answer.

Disaya is the brainchild of award-winning Central St. Martins graduate Disaya Sorakraikitikul, including jewellery, accessories, Ready To Wear . She is obviously very influenced by her surroundings, that particular creativity that London seems to breed so well, along with that playfulness mixed with sophistication that perhaps best describes her style.

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Launched in 2007, Disaya’s range caused quite a stir, being immediately picked up by over 70 stockists on launching. It’s really quite easy to see why, as everything she designs is so full of eccentricity and has a unique charm. The pieces are designed in-house and combined with local craftsmanship to ensure Disaya’s exacting standards are met – some supposedly whimsical ranges suffer from poor quality and finishing which renders them rather tacky, in my eyes, but Disaya is head and shoulders above all other pretenders to the throne.

Disaya was The next two years saw Disaya’s stockists increase by 50%, and it is now sold in over 20 countries at various prestigious retailers including: Henri Bendels, Le Bon Marche, Seibu, Harrods and Harvey Nichols, as well as at the flagship store in Gaysorn shopping mall located in Bangkok.

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Quirky and fun without being too childish is a difficult act to pull off, but Disaya have charm and wearability in bucketloads. I covet the entire Nutcracker collection, just launching this month, but so much else besides!

My standout favourite pieces have to be the Nutcracker gentlemen rings and the adorable Teddy Bear Nutcracker costume necklace – reminiscent of traditional folk-ish German Christmas decorations, they make me want to snuggle up in a huge cosy jumper while drinking mulled wine and raiding the festive chocolate box. Not that I need much persuading.

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Oh and the stags head pieces, too, topped with matching pearls. And the carnivalesque horses, straight from a fairground carousel!

So beautifully enamelled, too, and gorgeous colours. Leafing through the new SS13 Lookbook I see so many pieces I would give a home to in the blink of an eye. look at that frowning face necklace! Love, love, LOVE.

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Disaya also show the same imagination in their other accessories and have the most magical prints in their clothing, too. They look like something a grown up Alice in Wonderland or a modern day Marie Antoinette wold like to wear.

For me the jewellery is the most easily wearable, simply because you can mix it in with whatever you happen to be wearing. Some days I just want a touch of whimsicality, other days I may wish for head-to-toe fantastical. With Disaya, you may plump for that one special piece, or an entire outfit, and I love having that choice within a range.

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The whole collection is launching on Disaya.com later this month, but some pieces from previous collections are available from My Flash Trash – my favourites there are the stackable strawberry shortcake rings and the darling little Gentlemen’s Accessories earring set. Great attention to detail for such itty bitty things.

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I have seen so many takes on tea cup and cake-inspired cutesy accessories, but for me, Disaya does it best, and with her unique stamp on each piece they make. They are just beautiful ornaments in and of themselves – one could certainly display them in a cabinet – for me they carry a certain air of mystery and intrigue; like little objet d’art freshly plucked from a shadow box.

Disaya are even collaborating their unique style with a tea manufacturer, and of course the packaging is to die for and stamped with their inimitable charm:

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“Introducing Disaya’s ‘Tea muskerteers’ ,our special collaboration with No. 57, Comes in 3 stylish flovours, including Macaroon Black Tea, Rice Pudding white tea and Apple crumble Green Tea. They are perfect Christmas present material ! Coming to stores soon…”

Your best bet is to keep an eye on their website, and think about liking their Facebook page to keep up to date with the latest news and pictures from their collections.

I can’t wait to see what they do next, it’s safe to say I am totally obsessed with Disaya. Teacups, moustaches and cats, oh my!



Spoiled Rotten at Liberty

Everyone should get spoiled on their birthday, and while perhaps a bacon sandwich and a mug of tea in bed would have done at a pinch; this year I was absolutely spoiled rotten by the lovely people at Liberty London

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Imagine if you will the very moment I received the email telling me that I was the lucky winner of Liberty’s Facebook competition. I read it on my phone during a typically lacklustre lunch break at work. “You recently entered a competition on Liberty’s Facebook page..” it began. “Oh here we go, I bet it’s spam!” I thought cynically, until I read a bit further on and it finally dawned on me this was real. I had WON! I may have squealed quite a lot at this point.

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It was arranged that I could do the spa treatments, voucher, Champagne tea & hotel bit of the prize on the tenth of November – my birthday! – and the behind the scenes tour the following week, as the Liberty archivist wasn’t available on that day. Oh no, I’ll have to go back again. How AWFUL. ;p

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On a chilly, slightly drizzly grey Saturday, your humble author made her way to London, attempting to travel light and failing as usual, with her beloved fiancé carrying several items she couldn’t fit in her bag. As usual. On arriving at the wonderous W Hotel Leicester Square, the very kind chap at the check-in desk, on learning it was my birthday, gave us an upgrade to a seventh-floor luxury room with spectacular views.

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As birthday beginnings go, they don’t get much better than that.

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Obligatory explorations of hotel room over, we moved on to obligatory taking of pictures of hotel room, to show expectant friends and family members, before high-tailing it to Liberty and collecting my gift card.

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I remember my mother taking me to Liberty when I was a little girl, gazing wide-eyed at the gorgeous things all around me, strangely quiet for a precocious brat, subdued by magnificence. I really think Liberty retains this power to make you feel that excitement of a child in a veritable Wonderland. It’s quite amusing to stand back and watch the facial expressions of grown adults walking in, gasping and giggling as they pick up something, turn to their companions and say “LOOK!” as they exclaim their pleasure, practically bouncing up and down with glee.

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Or, of course, actually bouncing up and down with glee, as with this (mostly) grown adult. 😉 I honestly kept thinking someone would wake me up any minute , but they didn’t and the lovely dream continued as I made my way to the Decleor spa rooms with Vicky, their expert therapist.

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How to describe the next two hours? I can only say it was pure bliss and leave you to imagine, as words will not do. Suffice to say, In have never felt so entirely relaxed in my life, as every ache and pain was massaged away. Although Liberty was absolutely rammed with people that day, you’d never know it in the peace and seclusion of those rooms.

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Thanks to Vicky’s Decleor Facial expertise, I walked out in PUBLIC with no other makeup than a hasty reapplication of lipstick, for the first time since I was about 14 (I jest you not), so healthy, plumped and glowing did I look. I simply cannot recommend her – or Decleor – highly enough. Go and see Vicky at Liberty!

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My fiancé had thoughtfully bagged us a table at Cafe Liberty, so I was able to swan past the queue and go straight in to join him for the next treat of a Perrier-Jouët Champagne Tea for Two. Teeny tiny little perfect sandwiches and mini pastries and fruit scones still warm from the oven and slathered with clotted cream and jam. Divine!

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This would be a perfect afternoon treat at any time, but it was definitely the sweet centre of this birthday gal’s day. I savoured every single crumb that passed my lips (and there were quite a few of those, it’s a generous tea!)

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Slightly bulgy, and very glad that I’d not opted to have the tea prior to my full-body massage (for the therapist’s sake, if not mine) it then fell to me to Make a Choice and use my gift card to buy myself a birthday present. The delicious agony of this was quite overwhelming, and imagine my fiancé’s pleasure as I wandered around and around and around again, clutching my gift card and sort of muttering like a mad woman: “What about this? OOOH but what about that?! Or that one? But maybe I should get this one instead?” I don’t think I would have bourne it with such beneficence, had I been in his shoes, dear readers. Bless him, he didn’t complain once. Outwardly.

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I decided that I should get something to do with Liberty’s heritage – a classic Liberty Type Thing – which I could treasure forever, rather than a bang-up- to-the-minute high fashion item. You are rather spoiled for both extremes at Liberty, though, as they really do have something for everyone, from the classic-lovers to the Ultra Trendy Fashionistas I tremble in the shadow of. I especially love the fact that Liberty really believe in supporting and encouraging new and emerging designers, as among these Bright Young Things will be the ‘classics’ of the future.

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Amidst the manifold temptations of the infamous Scarf Hall, my beady eye kept getting drawn back to the sumptuously rich Ianthe print wool and silk scarf, specifically in the purple colour way, as I felt this really highlighted the pattern and the lustre of the fabric.

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Spoilt for choice doesn’t even begin to cover it, but I’m thrilled with my pick, and delighted at the prospect of owning a Liberty print satchel when the Strawberry Thief print is back in store again.

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Oh, it’s just stunning, and something I know I’ll treasure forever. This is the sort of thing you can fling on with jeans and a jumper for a walk in the woods (or more likely, in my case, to the Gin Emporium); or worn draped around your shoulders at the most elegant of weddings or special occasions. What’s not to love?

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This is me in my Hera print Liberty shawl, which I wear a lot and had swaddled myself in against the biting chill of the day. I know I’ll love my Ianthe print one all the more for the special memories it holds. 🙂

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More scarves. WANT.

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Very tempted by the chandelier print scarf, too. Just everywhere you look, it’s gorgeousness abounding.

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I loved these quirky Victorian style illustrated letter tiles, and would like the entire alphabet but would settle for my initials. 😉

I did rather have my heart set on getting the Dr Marten’s limited edition Liberty Print large satchel in the Strawberry Thief pattern (indeed, I blogged about lusting after this very satchel not long after it came out, earlier this year), but sadly they are out of stock of it, as it’s so popular! Sad face.

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However, the lovely gentleman who served me at the till took my details and said he’d let me know if they got some in again, hopefully before Christmas.

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OH NO, another reason to HAVE to go back to Liberty. Again. What a personal disaster.

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Fab Christmas windows at Liberty. I was especially drawn to the crazy lobster window.

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Higgledy-piggledy decadence is their theme – opulent chaos. Adorable!

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Skipping out of Liberty, iconic purple bag in hand, I noticed that it had somehow suddenly got dark. Of course this hasn’t happened ‘suddenly’, but do you know, when you’re being pampered to within an inch of your life, the time veritably whizzes along.

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Thence it was back to the hotel to get ready for the W’s award winning Spice Market restaurant’s tasting menu, that my darling chap was so generously treating us to that evening. But first, there was one more surprise in store for me…

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On returning to our room, we discovered that the lovely check-in desk guy had arranged for a bottle of Champagne, selection of juicy raspberries and blackberries, massive slice of Red Velvet cake topped with strawberries with a candle and “Happy Birthday” written in glittery chocolate, and a card wishing me a very happy birthday and saying if I needed anything at all, to let him know.

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HOW darling is that? I actually cried I was so moved. It had been quite a horrible year thus far, in many ways and for various reasons, but this (forgive me) literally was the icing on the cake!

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We decided to save the cake for later on that evening, as we were still quite full from the afternoon tea (talk about First World problems, eh?) and lounged about drinking more Champagne and lazily getting ready for the meal.

When booking our table online, the chap and myself had ooh-ed and ah-ed over the menu for ages, practically drooling at the mere descriptions of the dishes on offer. As their website puts it:

“A timeless paean to Southeast Asian sensuality, Spice Market will delight London with Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s unique interpretations of the region’s cuisine served in an informal and sultry atmosphere.”

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And they ain’t wrong. Delightful it was, every single mouthful. We had plumped (quite literally) for the tasting menu, as we just couldn’t settle on what to try. Little bits of everything seemed the best way forward, and so it proved, with waves of delicacies placed before us, and everything absolutely perfectly cooked and immaculately presented.

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The Spice Market is laid back but upmarket, exactly the kind of atmosphere to suit the cuisine, we were in a cosy booth on the corner, all the better for people watching (one of my favourite activities) and soaking in the ambience. We couldn’t fault a single thing about the meal, only asking for a break the better to digest and ready ourselves for the next lot of courses (there are nine in total) to begin. Hardly a complaint – “this is all TOO delicious, please cease a while!” You can stow the violins away quite safely, I think.

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After the meal we waddled to our room and laid on the bed in the hotel’s dressing gowns, in a sort of gourmet stupor and sipping wine tentatively while watching nonsense films and marvelling at the sheer bliss of the weekend. Somehow, we found room for the birthday cake slice, eaten while tucked up in our little nest of covers, shared out in mouthfuls, buttercream smearing our probably quite horrifically smug faces.

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Us: slightly squiffy, woozily blissful.

The next day we sauntered home in golden Autumnal sunshine, smiles wider than the Thames, walking alongside a Salvation Army band as they marched their way down Regent Street on Remembrance Sunday; so grateful for what we’d experienced and most of all, for having each other to share it with.

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I have never felt so truly pampered – it’s been a difficult year what with one thing and another, but this was like a break in the clouds. Perfectly timed, so needed, and VERY much appreciated. Thank you to Liberty, Decleor, W London, Spice Market and my darling fiancé for making me feel so thoroughly, wonderfully spoiled!

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Pantiles Food & Drink Festival 2012

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Any day that begins with eating a rare breed for breakfast (and especially when that breakfast is strictly edging toward lunch, having enjoyed a leisurely lie-in), is a day that bodes well, my friends.

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Even better, the burgers were cooked for us by the lovely staff of the Eridge Park Farm Shop, whose burger & hotdog stall was doing a roaring trade by the time we ambled to the 2012 Pantiles Food Festival, fortuitously located mere minutes from our doorstep.

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The Pantiles Food & Drink Festival was launched last year to great acclaim, and the Association of Pantiles Traders have worked tirelessly to make this an annual event. It’s really my idea of a perfect day out – shuffling from stall to stall, all temptingly laden with the very best of local produce, nodding at acquaintances passing by, stopping to chat with friends and, all the while, wondering “What can I cram into my mouth next?”

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With celebrity chefs giving live demonstrations of their tenebrous arts to crowds openly slavering at their skills, ice cream sellers jostling with cake hawkers and the smell of sizzling juicy venison mingling with saffron-infused curls of paella steam rising into the air; the need to sit down for a coffee and a rest takes over. I think I was born a pensioner, really.

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Sitting outside a cafe and people watching is one of my favourite activities in the world, and The Pantiles area of Tunbridge Wells is just the perfect location for that. It always has a holiday feel to it, I think, with crowds thronging the market stalls and weaving through the Regency columns.

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As children by turn cavort among the tables and scream indignantly as they are deftly ushered past sweet stalls by parents well-versed in the methods of diversion “Look at that lovely doggie!” – and deception – “No you wouldn’t like those sweets, darling, they all taste of Brussels sprouts…” it’s good just to kick back and drink it all in, this passing melee of All Human (well, Kentish) Life.

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Of the many mouth-watering wares on offer, we were drawn to the tables of Mccarthy’s Country Stores, groaning with delicious looking homemade cakes and breads. When someone has gone to all the trouble to produce such wonderful items, it always seems terribly rude not to try something, doesn’t it?

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With this in mind, we plumped for (quite literally) a couple of slices of the pecan pie, which we shall have with tea later this evening. I feel it’s my duty to try such things on your behalf, dear readers. I know, I know, I am practically a saint for dedicating my life to helping you, I need no thanks, merely your continuing quiet adoration.

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Having recently started a Well Known Healthy Eating Plan that uses the allocation of Points to all food and drink that isn’t fruit or vegetables, I advise you not to get out your Points Calculator and start totting up how many are in a scotch egg as large as a baby’s head, because you will drop dead where you stand; but having been Good all week, I have oodles of Points left to ‘spend’ (scoff) so couldn’t care less about being Naughty during the weekend: that’s surely what weekends are all about!

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The focus on this year’s festival was on Drink, with an excellent display of local vineyards and drink manufacturers on display. I DO wish I could drink cider – a misspent youth drinking gutrot cider laced with piss and sugar (actually, lager and blackcurrant, but the previous description holds true) called Snakebite and Black (look, it was the early nineties, I was a Goth and at University: it was obligatory to drink it, okay?) has led to a continuing distaste for even the smell of cider. I am sure one day I’ll hopefully get over it, and if I do, I want to to try The Lisping Cowboy by Big Tree Cider. It’s an absolutely wonderful name and made me smile, I do like companies with a sense of humour in naming their beverages.

With TV chef and owner of Thackeray’s restaurant, Richard Phillips, as patron, the Pantiles Food & Drink Festival has once again been a great success, with over 50 stalls and drawing crowds (last year) of around 15,000 people sampling the array of the best Kent and Sussex fare. Ya-boo-sucks, I say, to malls full of faceless, anodyne chain stores – I would far rather spend a weekend like this, celebrating the bountiful wares of local producers and showing our support by scoffing them, wouldn’t you?

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Much Middle-Class Munching: The Pantiles Food Festival 2011
May 22, 2011, 6:26 pm
Filed under: cakes, Cookery, Cupcakes, Food, Pantiles, Royal Tunbridge Wells | Tags: , ,

The day that begins with freshly cooked Chicken Pakora for breakfast is a day that bodes well, my friends. It’s not the usual breakfast fare, I’ll grant you, but the enticing curry tendrils of temptation were wafted our way as we strolled to the local food festival being held at the bottom of our road, and so we just had to submit. I’m sure you understand.

The Pantiles is a really pretty area of Tunbridge Wells that is practically the definition of “Quaint” – all white-washed Georgian elegance and hanging baskets; though it retains a certain boutiquey-buzz and slightly more lefty-leaning arts & crafty atmosphere, which manages to lift it above mere saccharine levels of Ye Olde Touristy Bit.

It’s still not utilised as much as it could be, but it’s getting there, and this festival should definitely help raise the profile of both the Pantiles area and the plethora of wonderful food producers we’re lucky enough to have in Tunbridge Wells, generally.

Yum. Our Pear & Almond tarts & Baked Orange Cheesecake were from here!

There are often farmers markets and French markets held in the Pantiles, but the Food Festival takes it to another level, with many more stalls of fresh produce, local restaurants serving take-away versions of their best sellers and all manner of splendid concoctions with which to lure you in.

Spot the lady...

Locally brewed beers & cider, bread, cheese, freshly picked asparagus and punnets of plump strawberries, cupcakes and bunting “made to order”, pop-up vintage shops, Turkish delicacies, towers of chutney & jam, tray-bakes and huge steaming pans of Paella with huge queues to match – there was something for everyone and it would have been rude not to try several things, wouldn’t it?

We left with a haul of pear & almond tart, orange baked cheesecake, red onion marmalade, Scottish Tablet (a fudge-like sweet), Jamaican-spiced cashews, handmade chocolates (including Smoked Earl Grey Tea flavour, which I cannot wait to try!), banana bread, tea bread, a bottle of Blackcurrant Stout and two Scotch eggs. Phew!

This sign on the back of the Indian food van made me grin. 🙂

That was just the goodies we took away with us, of course, and doesn’t include the aforementioned Chicken Pakora we shared for breakfast, the cheese & ham crepe we shared for elevensies (well, twelvesies, really), a mix & match Thali (selection box containing small portions of curry) we shared for lunch, the beef & jalapeno sausage-in-a-bun & the Taywell’s ice cream cone (the Honeycomb flavour was delicious!) for afters. I don’t think we’ll need to eat for several days, actually.

It was lovely to see so many crowds filling the Pantiles, laughing and joking (and eating and eating and eating, of course) and generally gadding about enjoying the – albeit patchy – sunshine we had today. It had been glorious blue skies and wall-to-wall blazing sunshine yesterday (whilst I was working, alas), of course, but we were jolly lucky considering torrential rain had been forecast, and all we got was a quick burst of droplets as were leaving, so I didn’t mind a bit.

I have to say I was somewhat enraptured by the live cookery demonstrations being held by talented chefs on the old bandstand, as I am quite addicted to cookery shows in general, so to see it all happening right in front of you was quite mesmerising.I could have stood there watching them for most of the day, had I not been dragged away by the thought of yet more stalls to investigate.

Organised by the fantastic Association of Pantiles Traders, and with renowned (it feels somewhat derogatory just to call him “celebrity”) chef Richard Phillips as the esteemed Patron in order to to coincide with the 10th anniversary of his restaurant, Thackeray’s, in Tunbridge Wells; the festival was all about showcasing local ‘food heroes’ (to shamelessly borrow a Rick Stein phrase), and they all must be absolutely thrilled with its success.

I so hope this becomes, at the very least, an annual event! Although I wish it were weekly, I think my bank balance would decrease in direct proportion to my waistline’s increase, so it’s probably best that it isn’t. 😉



Let Them Eat Cake Marie Antoinette Giveaway!
January 14, 2010, 4:44 pm
Filed under: cakes, Competions, Decadence, Etsy, Marie Antoinette | Tags: , , , , ,

In case you missed it (it was a last-minute update) I’m running a great giveaway, thanks to Blu Lima offering one of her gorgeous Let Them Eat Cake prints as a competition prize for my readers!

Just go to yesterday’s Marie Antoinette post and leave a comment, saying which is your favourite colour of the print. You can see the other colour options here.

Entries close on Monday 18th January 2010 so go and leave your comment asap!

Let Them Eat Cake print by Blu Lima

Good luck 🙂