October 13, 2013

High Tea in the Hills

A couple weekends ago while I was still sick, I roused myself from my death bed to have an afternoon high tea at De Bles Cafe in Kelmscott.  Take it from me, it's not the most enjoyable experience to attempt a high tea sitting while you can barely breathe or talk.  In hindsight I should have stayed home, but I'm loyal to the cause and will rarely say no to food.

I pass De Bles Cafe on a weekly basis even though I live nowhere near it but my fabulous Pilates instructor is nearby in Roleystone and I drive past the cafe on the way to her studio.  In fact, I actually thought it was located in Roleystone because she is literally only a short walk further down the street but a quick check tells me it's Kelmscott.  When you have a good Pilates instructor you will drive far for her.  The same can be said for buttery pastries. 

As well as being a cafe, they are also a patisserie and the rear of their premises sells a variety of baked foods as well as breads and baguettes.  Knowing this I may stop in after a Pilates class to indulge in a pastry.  Again, I'm loyal to the cause.

I was really impressed with the cafe upon walking in.  It really is quite unassuming and for many they would probably drive past and not even know it was there.  The main dining room where the high tea is served was prettily decorated with the tables set with cute crockery and a simple vase of flowers.  At the rear is further cafe seating, however I believe this main dining room is solely for high tea.  

They offer a really good choice of teas, as well as coffee and hot chocolate.  I had the vanilla rooibos which was really good.  I didn't pay close enough attention though to making a note of the tea and coffee they serve so I'm not sure which brand of tea it was.  I did pay enough attention though to know that I enjoyed it.

The tiered stands came with an assortment of savoury and sweet treats, as you would expect.  A couple of different sandwiches, a quiche, strawberry tarts, macarons, chocolates and of course, scones with jam and cream.  I didn't eat everything as my appetite was feeling a bit suppressed, but the scones were really good.  They were great scones.  The sandwiches were good too, not being stale or dry.  

I noticed as we left that you can also buy the teas and coffee that they serve.  The only downside to De Bles was the confusion as to where we pay when we left.  The staff looking after the main room farewelled us, and they were very lovely and provided us with great service, but it seemed that they were not the ones who take care of the bill.  We were left standing there and when no-one came to take our payment we walked out into the rear cafe where the staff working that area helped us out.  We went out that way and saw the lovely grounds that they occupy complete with a flowing stream.  It was very picturesque.  I imagine it would lovely out there on a nice day.

De bles on Urbanspoon

October 04, 2013

A Farewell to Marc Jacobs

The news was confirmed with a dramatic runway show - Marc Jacobs would be leaving Louis Vuitton.  The man who has been an integral part of the Louis Vuitton brand since 1997 and without a doubt a driving force in transforming Louis Vuitton from more than just being known for brown monogrammed bags into the fashion powerhouse that it is today.  It is said that he is leaving to concentrate on his own Marc Jacobs line as the company prepares to go public.

Where would Louis Vuitton be today without Marc Jacobs?  That is something we will never know. It's almost like there was a Before Marc and an After Marc period.  Before Marc it's not at all debatable that Louis Vuitton was well established within the luxury sector.  After Marc is where he took the brand above, beyond and further, to a level some may even say to be over saturation.  One thing is for sure, if you didn't know the iconic monogram logo before, you definitely knew it once he had come on the scene.  It was all about the logo, in every form, in every reincarnation, in every colour, on everything.

Photo taken from

Yes, on everything.  

It was Marc Jacobs who was responsible for Louis Vuitton releasing its first ready-to-wear collection and while this was the a definite sign of the brand's evolution it was with the accessories and small leather goods where the ball was well and truly hit right out of the park.  Collaborations with the late Stephen Sprouse and Takashi Murakami produced some of the most recognizable designs; the Louis Vuitton graffiti (over which Mr Jacobs is sprawled in the above photo) and the Monogram Multicoloure and Cherry Blossom.

Photo taken from

 He enlisted an army of celebrities to to advertise the products.  Not that he really needed to.  The lines that snaked outside boutiques when new and limited edition collections were released and the wait lists for products proved this.  I suppose though that the relationship with the celebrity culture was a reciprocal one.  Seeing JLo or Madonna in the print ads upped the highly desirable factor, and at the same time, their association with the brand made them cool.  How many times has Louis Vuitton been named dropped in countless songs?  Kanye West styled himself as the Louis Vuitton Don and strutted around with a monogrammed backpack.   

Some designs have been questionable.  I can't say I was a fan of the patchwork or perforated bags, or the Miroir collection.  However, I thought the small Groom collection was particularly cute and was a nod to their origins as a luggage maker.  I still think that the little bell hop looks like Tin Tin.  I have the rectangular Pochette Cles coin purse although I don't use it very often.

Photo taken from

I have a special place in my heart for Louis Vuitton.  It was the first 'actual' designer piece I owned when I received a bag for my 18th birthday.  A bag which I still very heavily use to this day, after all, it's a Speedy.  A Speedy will never get old.  Hands up if your first LV piece was a Speedy.  It seems that the Speedy is a popular starting point as well as the Alma and the Pochette. 

Last year when I was in Paris I visited the Louis Vuitton-Marc Jacobs exhibition at Les Arts Decoratifs.  Not only was it masterfully curated with a great use of props, lighting and various media but it was also like walking through a timeline of the brand's existence, almost like going from a silent black and white movie to a surround sound high definition full colour spectacle.

The rumour is that Nicholas Ghesquiere will take over the reins from Marc Jacobs.  It will be interesting to see what he does with LV and at the same time see what MJ does with his own label.

Some of my favourite and/or memorable Louis Vuitton moments below...

Photo taken from

Of course Ms Carey had the flagship store on Les Champs-Elysees shut down so she could drape herself over some vintage trunks.

Photo taken from

The Louis Vuitton Don with his gold and silver Miroir.

Photo taken from
Photo taken from

The dreamy Spring/Summer 2012 runway.

Photo taken from

Photo taken from
Photo taken from

Lemon yellow, checker board retro goodness at Spring/Summer 2013.

Always a favourite moment to be had in the flagship store.  Unfortunately no vintage trunks to drape myself over.  I forgot my bikini.

Thank you Mr Jacobs for all the Louis Vuitton loveliness through these years.  I'd spend the money all over again.

Photo taken from

October 01, 2013

A new-ish Japanese in town

Over the last two weeks I had some days off here and there while I was sick. Even now I still have a niggling cough that's hanging around like a visitor that you just want out of your house.  Being at home during the week allows you to do things like watch daytime television or notice the amount of young kids you have living near you that love riding (noisily) up and down the street while you're trying to sleep.  I know, I sound like a grumpy old curmudgeon and perhaps if I had closed my doors and windows I would have slept in peace, but I like the fresh air.

Another thing that it requires you to do is wonder where your next meal is coming from, considering that you generally don't feel like cooking (or doing much else) while you're sick, and it's not like being at work where I have a multitude of food options available to me once I step outside of the office.  Luckily for me as I browsed through Instagram from my sick bed I came across a picture of a yummy looking Japanese bento box accompanied with the information that during the week this particular establishment had a two-for-one promotion on the bento boxes.  What?!  That was enough to get me out of my pyjamas (and I will honestly admit I spent 3 days straight in pyjamas but rest assured I showered and put on a new pair daily) and heading down the road to get my Japanese fix. 

I made my way to JBento in Victoria Park and promptly placed my order for two bentos, one of them being freeeeee.  What could be better?  I spoke to the nice man working there and asked how long they had been open as I live nearby but hadn't heard of them.  That said they do only operate Monday to Friday so that would probably provide a good explanation as to why I didn't know about JBento earlier.  He told me that they had been operating for a few months and it looks to me like it's a popular lunch choice for those working nearby and also students.  Oh to be a uni student again.  Those lazy days which I never appreciated until it was too late.

From the exterior JBento can be quite unassuming as it is located in what was once a house, but inside they've fit it out with funky looking chalkboard tables and cushioned stools.  If it should strike your fancy, you can draw on the tables while you wait.  It's also very clean inside. 

Help yourself to the green tea!

I ordered teriyaki salmon and chicken bentos.  They come with your usual side of rice (I love the rice topping so much!), a small green salad with sesame dressing, wakame (seaweed) salad, potato salad and a crunchy slice of daikon pickle.  I'm a huge fan of wakame salad but I didn't enjoy the potato salad.  It's a bit different to your standard 'Western' potato salad - duh, it's Japanese. The salmon was cooked really well, crispy on the outside but still quite tender on the inside.  I tried some of the chicken and although I generally don't order teriyaki chicken, the chicken was grilled nicely and not dry.  The teriyaki sauce on both was really yummy and had a perfect sweetness to it.

Super cute packaging!

The following week I couldn't resist getting another JBento fix and that time I ordered the karaage (fried) chicken and bulgogi beef, which is more Korean than Japanese.  Karaage chicken is one of my favourite Japanese dishes to have so I knew I had to try their karaage.  Unfortunately, I didn't really enjoy it and compared to other karaage I have had from other places it didn't really measure up.  It was lacking a lot of the flavour that you would usually find in karaage chicken - the soy, garlic and ginger.  It was more like plain battered chicken than karaage.  While there was a lot of chicken, rather than being mostly batter than chicken, I didn't think it had the crunch and taste of other karaage chicken that I've had.  The beef was better, the sauce being rich in flavour, and the meat thinly sliced and soft to the bite. 

Despite not being happy with their karaage chicken it is still Japanese I would go back for, on the days I may not find myself at work that is! I was still happy with the other dishes and would definitely go back, as well as recommend that you try them out. 

JBento on Urbanspoon