Poilane, Cuisine de Bar, 39 Cadogan Gardens, London SW3 2TB

Still daydreaming of the delicious tartine oozing with St Marcellin cheese (being a vegetarian I asked them to take the ham off: though note, if you do this, they charge you full price ham or no ham: arguably a bit severe on the customer)....and the beautifully designed/ styled space: the freshly made biscuits dangling from the branches of the little tree at our table were adorable. Such a nice atmosphere too, with all the gorgeous books, jars, bottles, loaves, pastries, on the shelves all around you. Already planning a return trip over to Chelsea, though selfishly wishing they'll open a second Cuisine de Bar on Marylebone High Street.  

Miriam Monsonego 2003-2012

Sun Container Radiator by Florent Bouhey Fayolle

As explained at designer Florent Bouhey Fayolle's website, this is a very cool 'Sun Container Radiator' powered by sunlight...

Miu Miu S/S 2013 Vs Monica Vitti in Red Desert

Breakfast Smoothie

For the past six months, inspired by Kris Carr's green smoothie, wellness maximising regimen, I've been drinking one of these every day for breakfast: 

It's my own bonkers concoction, that came about via a lot of experimenting and messing around with different ingredients until I happened on a breakfast smoothie that (a) tastes good and (b) makes me feel great. Here's what goes in the blender to get a smoothie like the one pictured above: 

2 Bananas
Almond milk
Chlorella powder
Spirulina powder
Purple corn flour
Cacao powder
Maca root powder
Chia seeds
Chopped ginger

What I do is fix one of these and a cup of coffee and when both have kicked in, I feel ready to open the front door and deal with London.

How Andre Balazs' London Hotel Is Shaping Up

Sofia Coppola The Bling Ring teaser trailer

Harmony Korine Spring Breakers

Le Labo Pin 12 Vintage Candle (thanks Camelia)

My home this morning is scented with Le Labo's Pin 12 candle. It was burning last night in various rooms and this morning, sitting down to breakfast, I was reminded of the scent of the pine forest that sprawled next to my grandparents' holiday home in Mallorca, where I spent most Summers growing up. 

The pine trees used to mix with the sunshine and the close-by ocean breeze and come up and tickle your cheeks while you were eating breakfast on the patio. That was long ago now and the overnight scent of Le Labo's Pin 12 candle, as if by magic, brought all that back to me this morning at breakfast time, even though breakfast was taking place bang in the centre of London and it was raining and the skies were grey like early Wim Wenders' movies. 

My initiation into Le Labo has been slowly coming on over the past year. I had been interested in what Le Labo do for a while, but hadn't found a 'way in' to the brand. It seemed elusive and mysterious (which I now realise was the point: read this interview and you'll see why) and like a rare bird you need to get to know and figure out from a distance, before actually crossing the grass to engage with it.  

That process of tip-toeing closer happened gradually, helped by the opening of a London boutique at 28A Devonshire Street, London W1G 6PS. Given that I pass by that boutique at least once a day, I began to look forward to walking by and having a beautiful hint of a scent reach out of the boutique the way fabulous baking smells reach out and wave to you when you pass by certain patisseries, and boulangeries in Paris. 

Le Labo are so headily and admirably devoted to what they are doing that it's like the boutiques themselves wear the most beautiful perfumes and when you are on the street, outside one of their boutiques, you pick up on this, like you're close to somebody - for example, on a train, on a bus, on a plane, in a queue - wearing the most beautiful scent. 

The next stage of my getting closer to what Le Labo do was their setting out of a fragrance pump (a brilliant idea) at the doorstep to their petite London boutique. The pump invited you to apply a drop or two of whatever extraordinary scent they had in the pump onto a sample strip. I got into the habit of squeezing a few drops onto one of the sample strips and then slipping it into my wallet and then the scent of a gorgeous lavender, for instance, would rise up at checkouts and make paying bills in shops seem entirely less transactional. 

Once that scent became part of my daily life, it felt like it was incrementally becoming time to tip-toe closer to the 'rare bird'. What happened next was my sister gave me a gift of a vintage Le Labo candle titled Petit Grain 21. For a long time, I had been deeply stuck in a groove of only liking A.P.C's Fleur D'Oranger, as it reminded me of three spectacular trips to Morocco in recent years, where the scent of orange blossom seemed to be waiting everywhere we went, whether that was Essaouira, Marrakesh, Rabat, Casablanca or Tangier. 

But then came Le Labo's Petit Grain 21, which seemed to bring the fragrance of orange trees (brief confession: I am obsessed with orange trees) from Morocco, Spain and the South of France, right into my home and thickly and giddily, rather than gently referencing it the way the A.P.C candle did. And just like that, Le Labo, as good as hypnotised me with their spectacular, sensory experience.   

In early February, that Petit Grain 21 candle came to an end and several days later, its fragrance was no longer playing its sun-baked music about my home. Sad face. Being self-employed, I always need motivational tricks to power on and with a project coming towards a very intense deadline, I made a deal with myself that when I finished the project and had decompressed for a few days, I'd treat myself to a new Le Labo vintage candle. 

Yesterday turned out to be the day when I felt like playing that 'treat to self' card (you can only play this card when the moment's just right), so into the Le Labo boutique I went, my daughter in tow. For her - and for me - the boutique was like a playground, with its little labelled bottles and even tinier labelled bottles and heady aroma. 

Knowing only that I wanted to try a different vintage candle - the way the vintage candles are packaged makes me think of Tom Waits albums for some reason - but not sure which one, we were talked through possible options by Camelia, who was so warm, so passionate about Le Labo, that she made us feel like she'd invited us over to her home to hang out. Guided by her recommendation, we went for Pin 12 over Calone 17

When we got home and unwrapped the candle, there's something nice (comforting?) about the label telling you the date you bought it and who prepared and sold it to you - explaining of course, how we came to know that Camelia is called Camelia. That Camelia's name was on the candle label seemed to please my daughter to no end - she thought this was great and kept chanting/ singing, 'Camelia, Camelia'.  

I'm a huge fan of process, whether it's how an actor prepares for a role, what inspired an album or how a product is made and ends up on sale - so a personalising label hand-applied onto a Le Labo purchase, speaks directly to me because I like knowing the name of the person who helped me in a boutique/ shop, just as I always like to know the name of a waiter or waitress in a restaurant: I don't like it when the world feels anonymous

I do what I do (journalism, blogging, writing commercial non-fiction books) because I'm endlessly fascinated by people - their stories, what makes them tick, what prompts change, how they relax, what they read, what kind of exercise they do, how they eat. How we each go about the weirdness of being alive is what makes life interesting/ exciting to me. I'm always looking for human stories, for connections, for intimacy in everyday encounters which shrink down the world. 

And for these reasons, I like the consumer chain poetry of lighting a Le Labo candle that was made by a company that cares absolutely about the quality of that candle and which evokes a scent which is a beautiful scent that we can find in the natural world (childhood memories of that sun-dazed pine forest in Mallorca coming back to me vivid and clear even as I type this post) and which, on top of all that, also celebrates the person, in this case, Camelia, who recommended and sold that candle to us. 

Jiro Dreams Of Sushi = Inspiring Movie

Fire at Royal Court Apartments Hotel, Gloucester Terrace, London W2 February 27th 2013

Beautifully packaged sample from Aesop

Really Bad Movies I Watched Recently

Blackboard Wars On Great Titchfield Street, London W1

A while back, Kaffeine, one of the pioneers of the new wave of Australian/ New Zealander helmed boutique coffee shops to bring bespoke, crafted coffee (not to mention the Flat White trend) to London's coffee scene

started putting funny/ mock-philosophical/ enticing/ chatty messages on a blackboard outside their Great Titchfield Street address. Ever since then, they nearly always have me smiling with their latest, always fun, always bonkers, Woody Allen-ish messages on them. Here's a classic from today

Over time, I've blogged a bunch of their blackboard messages, since I often work around the corner and have had plenty of great coffee over the past few years from the Kaffeine crew. Sometimes they ask you fun stuff when you're queuing, like "Who out of anyone dead or alive would you most like to have dinner with?" (My answer, if you're interested, was: Anne Frank). That quirky rapport is at the heart of their brand and what they do. Hence, the blackboards pursuing that same tone with their customers.

Then, around a year ago (I think), a new coffee shop opened up a few doors along from Kaffeine, whose name I can't remember and they started putting out a blackboard too, also bearing messages. The messages were not whip smart/ amusing like Kaffeine's and came off as just trying to piggy-back what was clearly working for Kaffeine in terms of branding and attracting people off the street (it's always packed). 

So, Kaffeine, faced with a rival coffee shop with a rival blackboard, turned the heat up on their witticisms and the writing got even better. 

Then, things changed again and a few months back, that rival coffee shop disappeared and then appeared newly re-opened as a new coffee shop under the new name of Gitane

They're into their blackboards, too. I haven't tried their coffee. Nor have I been inside. I might at some point, but for now, it seems somehow disloyal to the Kaffeine crew, to set foot in there. Anyway, their blackboards are fairly straight menu boards. Here's a recent pair from Gitane

Despite this, you still get two competing blackboards in a moment's walk along Great Titchfield Street. And always, the feeling that Kaffeine had the idea first and it had been imitated. Then, just when Great Titchfield Street seemed too small for another blackboard, Scandinavian Kitchen, who are located across the street from Kaffeine and Gitane

suddenly started setting out a blackboard with would-be witty messages on it too. And just like that, Great Titchfield Street's Blackboard wars kicked off big time. Here are a couple of Scandinavian Kitchen's recent blackboards

Okay, so they're silly. And you do sort of chuckle in a 'It's so bad, it's almost good' sort of way. But nothing that Scandinavian Kitchen or Gitane can do with their Blackboard messages, comes anywhere near the irreverent, playful brilliance of the Kaffeine boards. Here's another lovely one from Kaffeine

I'd love to know who writes those Kaffeine blackboards. Presumably it's one person, since the writing is always in the same voice and same tone. Other people I know who love the blackboards all reckon it's the work of a female pen (chalk stick?). I think they're right. Whoever this bonkers super-smart, super funny poet is at Kaffeine, I wonder if she knows how many of us are reading her blackboard thoughts all the time, like it's a serialised day in the life? Based on the principal recurring theme - advice handed down by her mother - it sounds like she has a really cool mother: well, I guess it's proof of what they say: like mother, like daughter...

PS: After this post went out, the folks at Kaffeine got in touch to say they wrote their own Blackboards post on the Kaffeine blog. It's really interesting. Check it out here