The Biscuiteers of London

I don’t know about you, but there are few things that make me smile in this digital age quite like receiving a really good package in the mail.

Recently, instead of the usual acknowledgement email or notecard, a lovely person sent me a gingerbread biscuit dressed like Her Majesty as a thank you card. It was so cute (and such a lovely surprise) that I nearly squealed with glee when I opened the package (and then smiled the whole way through eating her, with a cup of tea of course – it’s the only fitting way for a Queen to go). I may be a bit of a food snob, but there’s something so wonderfully silly about food that doesn’t take itself too seriously. 

I thought the idea (surprise edible thank you gifts) was so cute, I tweeted Biscuiteers to tell them. They so kindly sent me one of their Paris tins (regular readers will know how most things French make me swoon), and I couldn’t help but literally “oooh!” out loud when I opened it to find little chocolate iced Eiffel Towers, Moulin Rouge can can girls, and so on.

Because they’re (almost) too cute to eat, they warrant being savoured a little. So one rainy Sunday, the Clever Boyfriend and I decided to make the day a little more fun and made a pot of tea, set the table, put on Midnight in Paris and threw a little mini French tea party (any excuse really) just for ourselves, with these adorable biscuits in place of cake. They are just the right side of fun and silly, sweet but not saccharine, and such a cute idea for next time a friend deserves a ‘thank you’ or a little surprise mail to make them smile.

Thank you Barbara and Biscuiteers for the happy surprises to make me smile!

Do you love getting good packages in the mail as much as me?

Love, Miss B xx

London’s Best Afternoon Tea, pt. 2: Cocomaya

Cocomaya is one of those places that had been on my “London: To Visit” list for a good year (well, it is a long list…). The collaborative project of Serena Rees (Agent Provocateur’s founder), Joel Bernstein (former head of concept at Liberty) and Walid al Damirji (accessories designer), I knew it had to be good.

So late one frosty winter’s day recently – when only a glittering chocolate box of a place would do to lift the spirits – my friend Kiki and I took ourselves off to Connaught St for some sugary soul-restoration. You won’t miss it; against the London’s inky twilight, from the outside it stands out like sparkly treasure box.

What originally began as an artisanal chocolate shop, Cocomaya now has a bakery in the neighbouring shop, where they sell the most divine tarts, cakes, bread and salads (or, as I prefer, to take home for the most perfect brunch the following morning). Though you can take tea or eat in either shop, it’s the chocolate shop I really adore. There, the tables are strewn with tiers of sugary treats and flowers in silly vases, and glass cabinets hold sets of antique china and plates and plates of handmade chocolates (made on-site; the smell of cocoa wafting from the back room whilst you sit is sheer heaven). It’s unashamedly over the top kitsch, but in the most glamorous, gilded way. In other words, it’s exactly as you imagine your posh, eccentric relative’s dining room should look.

As for our own afternoon tea? Kiki had a gorgeous quince and almond tart, and as I had skipped lunch in anticipation, I started with a white mulberry tea and pumpkin, ricotta and seeded tart (the lightest, fluffiest quiche I have ever had). Though obviously any good intentions we may have begun with were then quickly offset by the hot chocolate (which is really just rich, molten dark chocolate with a hint of milk – so the small version will more than satisfy) and handmade chocolates (in garden mint, rose geranium and chilli) which followed.

The best part about this jewel of a place is that it’s tiny, and the service is therefore attentive and friendly (something which is rarely a given when going for tea in one of the large hotels, for example), they don’t mind you lingering for hours on end over good conversation fuelled by those delicious wafts of cocoa, and will happily bring out more tiny golden cups of that special hot chocolate to fortify you against the frosty, grey streets outside.

So tell me lovelies, what do you look for in a place to linger in for hours on a wintery afternoon?

Love, Miss B xx

Cocomaya, 12 Connaught St, London W2 2AF

Recent Treats: French Pleasures

Contrary to popular belief, I rarely go clothes shopping. Though I still spend as much money as when I was younger and used to shop for a quick thrill or for a fix of the lastest trent, my shopping habits have now, thankfully, evolved. These days, I consider each purchase: how it will fit my life, the image I want to project, the cost-per-wear basis, and whether it’s a piece I will want to wear for years to come (and which will last just as long).

L-R: Chanel Earrings (a gift from a dear friend that arrived in the post, completely by surprise); nail polishes in Vendetta and Riva; a vintage pearl, leather and golden medallion to add to my ever-growing Chanel brooch collection

I am a firm believer that buying the best quality one can afford has two benefits: your clothes will last you far longer (and therefore, on a cost-per-wear basis, should be no more expensive than a cheap alternative) and, even if you can only afford to buy a few items, they will always look more luxurious than a wardrobe bursting with high street trends.

My purchases these days are thus divided into two categories: 1) beautiful classics and wardrobe building blocks around which everything else revolves (buttery soft tshirts, a beautiful silk blouse, gorgeous underwear, the perfect skinny jeans, season-less pumps that make you walk that little bit more elegantly, a coat that is both deliciously warm and beautifully cut and that you can wear year after year without feeling frumpy); and 2) the peices which make everything feel like ‘me’ (a preppy blazer, some tailored shorts, a dress that is always ready for a party, a quilted chain bag, handfulls of glittery jewels, and more white silk or lace tops than I care to count).

Perennially classic: sky-high ponyskin leopard print pumps by Kurt Geiger

When I know something is missing, I make very boring lists and set out to find these items during the season. And when I see something I hadn’t been searching for but which I immediately like anyway, I always stop to ponder it for a day or two – if I’m still dreaming about the lovely item later in the week and I know it will work with what I already have, only then does it come home with me.

Topshop blush pink silk playsuit (for luxurious sleep and weekend hibernation indoors) and Collette Dinnigan bow print knickers

This isn’t to say I only ever spend a ludicrous amount of money when I go shopping, no matter how rare an occurance it may be. Just as strong as my belief in good quality and design is my belief that one should always have small luxuries; little items that make everyday living that much more glamorous. If you’ve only got £30 to spare, you’re much better of buying a new candle, silk camisole or lipstick of the highest quality than a cheap top you’ll only ever wear twice. Your daily pleasure quota will increase, but you won’t need to take out a loan to fund it.

Diptyque L’ombre dans L’eau perfume (the smell of blackcurrant leaves and Bulgarian black roses), perfect for wintery days

Like a magpie, I’m continually drawn to beautiful scented candles, artisanal chocolates, silk underwear, a sparkly bauble, good books, and a new lipstick or polish to make me smile on a dreary day.

So here are some of the small luxuries I’ve collected the past few weeks. I’m sensing a theme: while my love of all things feminine and Parisian is eternal, my desire for them only increases as the days grow greyer.

Charbonnel et Walker pink champagne truffles and Mimco black silk and pearl necklace/bow brooch (a gift from another dear friend across the seas)

Are you a believer in quality over quantity? What are the small pleasures you turn to to make your days more lovely?

Love, Miss B xx

I eat English gardens for tea

Without fail, each year the onset of Spring causes me to go into a flurry over all things pastel and floral. This does not merely rest with my wardrobe, but also extends to my skincare (Jurlique’s rose-infused offerings), fragrance (white florals by Marc Jacobs or Stella McCartney’s summer releases), and my home (vases of flowers and jasmine candles from Liberty).

But more than that, I have a strange penchant for edible florals as well. Roses, violets, orange blossoms and lavender – they all make me a little bit excited when I find them in desserts. There’s something so Marie Antoinette decadent and girlie about such flavours.

Some of my favourites (above): Laduree violet tea, Charbonnel et Walker rose and violet cream chocolates, and rose petal and orange blossom macarons. I also adore Rococo jasmine, rose or violet chocolate bars (at Liberty), rosehip and hibiscus tea, lavender ice cream, and orange blossom syrup or rose water sprinkled over pancakes, fruit or pannacotta.

Does anyone else eat flowers, or is it just me?

Love, Miss B xx