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Scoops of Happiness in Sunny London

What better way to celebrate it being a Wednesday than with yet another gratuitous food post from Here To Geneva

With the weather still rather on the warm side here in London, people’s minds have turned to seeking out ways to cool themselves down. Air conditioning isn’t especially prevalent in the UK, so more often than not, people have to make do with cold drinks and ice cream.

My special trick to stay cool in the weeks of Summer is to hide in the back room of my house until Autumn arrives. For some reason, it stays cool regardless of the temperature outside. Occasionally though, I do head outside and when that happens, I seek out my favourite ice cream places.

Top of my list at the moment is Scoop (40 Shorts Gardens, London). Just a short walk from Covent Garden tube station, Scoop specialises in making thick and richly flavourful gelato made with natural ingredients from around the world without preservatives. The flavour list is large with several unique varieties including Amarena (Sicilian black cherries and crunchy meringues) and Malaga (Chilean sultanas aged in Sicilian Marsala wine and sugar). Alongside those are varieties of stalwart flavours such as Cioccolato Fondente (with Gran Cru pure single origin cocoa) and Vaniglia (with single origin Planifolia and Tahitensis organic vanilla pods from Madagascar) which are both to die for. Each variety I’ve tried so far is incredibly thick and scrumptious - a real treat and well worth the asking price considering how large the scoops are and the ingredients used. My favourites are Tiramisu, which tastes ridiculously similar to an actual Tiramisu and Caramello, which contains pasteurised Channel Island milk and caramel sauce. Expect my loyalties to change though as I continue to work my way through the menu. I’m pretty fickle when it comes to ice cream!

Explore Scoop’s full flavour list and read their philosophy towards their gelato on their website and if you can, drop in!

Do you have a favourite ice cream/gelato place? Where in the world is it?

Vietnamese Food at Stratford City, London

It’s been two weeks since I’ve posted photos of delicious food for you to feast your eyes upon. This is an unacceptable truth that I intend on fixing this very moment.

The Westfield shopping centre in Stratford boasts a large world food hall among its more traditional restaurants. Stands selling Chinese street food rub shoulders with outlets selling massive chilli beef burritos. It’s quite easy to work up a hunger simply walking from stand to stand perusing the menus.

On a recent visit, we dropped in on Pho, an outlet specialising in Vietnamese street food with branches all over London. We ordered two dishes to share between us; the first was Cari, a Vietnamese curry of chicken, vegetables and mushrooms, topped with nuts and a sweet & very addictive curry sauce, served with fragrant broken rice. The second dish was Goi Bap Chuoi, a fragrant banana blossom salad. The dish mainly consisted of room temperatures noodles, some crunchy, some soft accompanied by tender beef, peanuts and star-fruit. The dish was zingy & fresh and the different textures made consuming it a very enjoyable experience. To wash both dishes down, we had a home-made ice tea which was an unusual but refreshing mix of orange and mint.

We really relished our chance to sample Vietnamese cuisine and we’re sure we’ll be heading back to one of Pho’s multiple locations soon. You can check out the rest of Pho’s menu and plenty more on their website.

Introducing Granary Square, Kings Cross

It’s getting rather warm here in Britain, particularly in the southern half of our fair isle. Indeed tomorrow, it’s set to become even warmer with temperatures expected to reach the dizzying heights of 32°C. Alas, it can’t get warm here without the atmosphere exploding shortly after in the form of thunderstorms, so the population is enjoying it while it lasts in the only way they know how; by complaining about how warm it is.

Earlier in the week, I set out to enjoy the warmth and to take some photos in the bright sunlight. The new, funky King’s Cross area behind the station of the same name was where I headed. I’d not been to this area of London before, but the forest of cranes and the shiny new buildings that have sprouted from the ground called to me. There’s not masses to see at the moment, but what is there is an attractive mix of new and old architecture. Eventually, this will be another thriving business, residential and leisure district of London, serving different groups of people at different times of day. For now, you can head up to the viewing platform or grab a deck chair and see a sneak preview of what is to come.

I’d write some more about what I saw, but these photos tell the story pretty well. Besides, I have to go outside now and frown at the sky. We Brits don’t know how to behave in weather like this.

Head to the King’s Cross website for find out more.

Tasty Traditional Tacos at London Zoo Lates

If we were to be completely honest, the Tacos served to us by El Panzon at the London ‘Zoo Lates’ street food festival weren’t quite what we were expecting. We had in mind the hard clamshell corn tacos that you see in American TV shows, so when we were given four soft flour tacos, we were a little surprised. Had we taken the time to read the sign though, our surprise would have been replaced by actual knowledge that El Panzon serve proper, traditional tacos.

None of this matters of course. Our surprise was short-lived as we happily and messily feasted upon our plate of Mexican street food. The grilled chicken was tender and tasty and combined with the fresh vegetables, sour cream and cheese created a dish that was bursting with different textures and flavours. There’s really something quite special about Mexican food that keeps us coming back for more. I think it’s almost certainly the way that several different ingredients are combined which always leads to that wonderful feeling of contentment that only a full stomach and a satisfied palate can bring.

You can track El Panzon down to street food festival near you by following them on Twitter. As well as Tacos, they also serve Nachos and ‘massive’ Burritos. Can’t wait to try one of those!

Scoffing Scrumptious Paella at London Zoo Lates

One of the many pluses of visiting ‘Zoo Lates’ at ZSL London Zoo is the food festival. The organisers could have invited far fewer food vendors to attend and it would still have been impressive, but in reality, the number of stalls was surprisingly high with almost every type of cuisine catered for. Over the course of the next few posts, I’ll be highlighting a few of the stalls we patronised.

To start with, we gorged on a large and comforting bowl of Paella. The stall selling it had a large queue in front of it, always a good sign when it comes to street food. Jamon Jamon Paella offered two varieties on the night; the ‘Valenciana’ consisted of chicken, saffron, runner beans, butter beans and rosemary to name a few of the ingredients. We decided to try the other option, the more traditional ‘Seafood’ containing tiger prawns, squid, mussels, garlic, red pepper and peas.

The paella was full of layered flavour and texture. An initial peppery taste was then replaced by hints of garlic and an overall fishiness. The seafood was cooked to perfection - the prawns had bite while the mussels melted in the mouth. The rice had differing qualities depending on where it was in the pan. Some of it was soft while other parts were crunchy. We really enjoyed it, as proved by how quickly we hoovered it up.

Jamon Jamon Paella have a flagship stall at Portobello market, but they also appear at other events and markets. To track them down, head to their website or follow them on Twitter (@jamonjamon).

Which variety would you have gone for? The ‘Valenciana’ or the ‘Seafood’?

Zoo Lates at ZSL London Zoo

As I alluded to on the new, super-shiny Here To Geneva Facebook & Twitter feeds, last week we visited ZSL London Zoo to check out their 'Zoo Lates' event. Running every Friday night until the end of July (plus a bonus night in August), ‘Zoo Lates’ is a chance for adults to enjoy all the zoo has to offer without having to worry about or be distracted by children.

After having our bags checked by the most cheerful security team we’ve ever encountered, we headed in and immediately sought out one of the many bars that are dotted around the park. We were keen to enjoy the freedom of wandering around a zoo with a cool cider in hand while we could. Thirst suitably quenched, we wandered around from exhibit to exhibit, occasionally having to remove our animal-themed head wear so as not to upset the inhabitants.

The new multi-million pound 'Tiger Territory' was impressive and drew a great deal of attention. The crowd pressed their noses to the glass, held their smartphones in anticipation and craned their necks for a chance to glimpse and photograph one of the big cats. London Zoo has been around since 1828 so space is very much at a premium, but every effort is made and every penny raised is spent wisely to ensure the animals are as happy and comfortable as possible.

While viewing and learning about the animals is the most important part of ‘Zoo Lates’, there was plenty more to keep us entertained. There was a stand-up comedy den, a silent disco, an acoustic music stage and an amphitheatre housing a ‘cavalcade of musical comedy, dance and cabaret’. There was also a food festival where London finest street food hawkers had set up shop selling a very large variety of scrumptious food. There was so much going on in fact that it was a struggle to see everything. We took into consideration the early closing times of some exhibits (some as early as 8.30pm) and tried to plan our route through the zoo accordingly, but we were still surprised and disappointed to be denied entry a couple of times to some exhibits. While we fully appreciated that some animals went to bed earlier than the event’s finish time of 10pm, we still couldn’t help feeling a little bit rushed.

That said, we really enjoyed ourselves at ‘Zoo Lates’. The atmosphere was fun and laid back, the food was varied and delicious, the cider was refreshing and crisp and the animals were absolutely brilliant. We couldn’t recommend this unique event enough.

If you’re lucky, you might be able to find a special deal on tickets somewhere on the net. Otherwise tickets are available to buy on the ZSL website, where you can also find much more information.

Sensation Butterflies at Natural History Museum, London

Another day, another outing in the UK’s happy and glorious capital.

This time, we headed enthusiastically to the smart and sophisticated central London district of Kensington and to the world famous Natural History Museum. We didn’t head inside the museum itself though. Instead, we skipped over puddles down a path towards a marquee pitched alongside the grand Victorian main building. Inside, a special temporary exhibit called ‘Sensational Butterflies’.

While the main museum exhibits animals that are long past their living years, ‘Sensational Butterflies’ very much concentrates on living creatures, in particular over 50 species of butterflies and moths who are free to explore the warm, tropical, foliage-filled environment that has been created for them. Like in any museum, education is at the forefront of the experience. So while visitors gawp in wonder as colourful butterflies swoop and flutter around them, they can also learn about the fascinating life cycle that these beautiful creatures go through. Information boards explain the basics, while keen staff members are on hand to answer further questions from the extra curious.

If you do decide to see the exhibition for yourself, make sure you check out the hatchery, where lines of pupae are on show. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a butterfly or moth emerge from one. A magical experience!

The exhibit is open until 14 September 2014. You can find out more and buy tickets on the Natural History Museum website.

Malaysia Kitchen Spring Market, London

Better late than never I suppose, though it’s still pretty embarrassing that it’s taken me over six weeks to post about this superb event in London.

Malaysia Kitchen has a history of laying on events that bring hungry foodies out in their droves and the Spring Fair they held last month was no exception. The concept was actually pretty simple - have London’s best Malaysian restaurants set up stalls along the south bank of the River Thames and fill the bellies of Malaysian food fans with delicious bowls of happiness. I can’t say for certain that this was the exact wording used in the planning meeting, but it’s certainly what happened.

I was having an off day hunger-wise. Normally, I scoff my fill at events such as these, but on the day of the Spring Fair, I simply didn’t have an appetite. All I managed was a portion of sumptuously unctuous Satay chicken skewers. I almost gave myself a hernia trying to yank the chicken off the skewers with my teeth, but once I had, it was a real treat. The glaze on the chicken had caught slightly on the grill giving it a sweet, charcoal taste. The sauce that was lavished upon the skewers was full of flavour, full of peanuts and full of spice. Absolutely delicious! You can’t really go wrong with Satay Chicken!

Keep a close eye on the Malaysia Kitchen website for more upcoming events. If you’ve not tried Malaysian food before, these events are a great way to introduce yourself to one of the world’s best cuisines.

More London Free Festival

There’s always something to do and see in London. The sign of a Summer well spent is when the credit card company starts writing to you personally. This is especially true now that London has recently been declared one of the world’s most expensive cities (hardly surprising). So when something free comes along, the attention of culture-hungry, cash-strapped Londoners is especially piqued.

More London is a modern-looking business complex sitting on the South Bank of the River Thames, opposite the Tower of London. Each summer, for four straight months, they hold the More London Free Festival, a programme of live music, dance, theatre, films and sport.

Upon our visit, the theme was ‘Street Party’, a celebration of Latin and Caribbean food and music. We really enjoyed the food (as posted about recently) and the music was fun and catchy. Fellow visitors were compelled to take to their feet and dance in the sun while others watched and sipped Pimms. It was a lovely atmosphere.

During the upcoming Wimbledon fortnight, visitors will be able to sit outside and watch the action streamed live onto a big screen. There’s also plenty of live music and theatre planned too, including a performance from the London Bulgarian Choir and a play called ‘A Tale of Gods and Monsters. There’s surely something that you will enjoy if you happen to find yourself in London this Summer.

For a full programme of events, check out the More London website for details.

Staying Refreshed in the Summer Sun

What better way to spend some time in the sun than with some ice cold drinks, particularly if those drinks are a bit boozy!?

Whilst enjoying some free live music at the More London Free Festival at the weekend, we went for a great British staple, and also something a little bit different.

In the top right of the picture, a glass of ‘Pimms’, a wonderfully refreshing cocktail of Pimms liqueur, fizzy lemonade and a variety of fresh, chopped fruit and veg. Thanks to a clever and much favoured advertising campaign, many people in Britain now think it’s ‘Pimms O’Clock’ as soon as the temperature rises above 20 Celsius.

In the foreground, something I’ve never heard of before, let alone tasted. It’s Harry Brompton’s alcoholic Ice Tea. I’m already a huge fan of ice tea, it being massively refreshing and it being mostly tea (what can I say, I’m a Brit) so when Mr Brompton added silly juice to the mix, I was instantly sold. It tasted like any other ice tea, so it drank really easily like one too. The sprigs of mint and the fresh cucumber only added to the enjoyment. I’ll definitely be having another glass of this before the summer is out (which by UK standards will probably be next Wednesday). High-res

Staying Refreshed in the Summer Sun

What better way to spend some time in the sun than with some ice cold drinks, particularly if those drinks are a bit boozy!?

Whilst enjoying some free live music at the More London Free Festival at the weekend, we went for a great British staple, and also something a little bit different.

In the top right of the picture, a glass of ‘Pimms’, a wonderfully refreshing cocktail of Pimms liqueur, fizzy lemonade and a variety of fresh, chopped fruit and veg. Thanks to a clever and much favoured advertising campaign, many people in Britain now think it’s ‘Pimms O’Clock’ as soon as the temperature rises above 20 Celsius.

In the foreground, something I’ve never heard of before, let alone tasted. It’s Harry Brompton’s alcoholic Ice Tea. I’m already a huge fan of ice tea, it being massively refreshing and it being mostly tea (what can I say, I’m a Brit) so when Mr Brompton added silly juice to the mix, I was instantly sold. It tasted like any other ice tea, so it drank really easily like one too. The sprigs of mint and the fresh cucumber only added to the enjoyment. I’ll definitely be having another glass of this before the summer is out (which by UK standards will probably be next Wednesday).