Maltby Street Market, London

If you’re at a busy central London food market and you see someone alone precariously photographing their food with a phone, and then stuffing their face, it’s probably me. I had nothing planned last Saturday and with my husband playing hockey I had a hankering to eat lots of delicious food so I hopped on a train and made my way to Maltby Street Market.

10 years ago I absolutely hated my own company and I didn’t do anything on my own. But something clicked in my late-twenties brain. Oh my god, I can do this thing that I really want to do, I don’t have to organise someone else’s time so they can come. And then we end up doing what they want to do, rather than what I actually wanted to do in the first place. Thankfully I now feel comfortable being alone, dining alone, being a history nerd alone and not giving a rat’s patootie what anyone thinks of me. It’s rather liberating and I highly recommend it.

I walked to Maltby Street Market from London Bridge station – it’s basically a straight line down Tooley Street and even if you don’t know where you’re going just follow the crowd. And the smells. The railway arches en route are full of bustling small businesses from a bakery and a brewery, which I had to drag myself away from, and a garage specialising in Porches with lots of impressive cars parked outside that I won’t pretend to know anything about.

The first thing I loved about Maltby Street Market were the lines of flags flapping in the wind above my head. The second thing I loved was the smell. Stalls were sizzling away and as I walked through the market for the first time the array of smells was just fabulous: melted cheese, sweet sugar, meaty steak, fresh coriander, and spicy paprika to name a few.

I walked up and down the row of stalls 4 times before finally deciding on the very first stall outside the market: La Pepiá. I’d never heard of arepas (I know, which rock have I been living under?) before or had Venezuelan street food before. The clincher for me was the sizzling hot plate at the front of the stall where they were melting piles of cheddar to create big cheesy crisps to adorn the filled arepas.

I chose a carrot bun filled with black beans and avocado, the vegan choice, until I opted for a cheddar crisp on top. Cheese will forever be my weakness.

Suffice to say it was absolutely incredible, if a little tricky, to eat. It went all over my fingers and my face, but it was 100% worth it. I did not give a rat’s patootie that anyone was looking.

After finishing my arepa I walked back through the market two more times and set my sights on a brownie from Bad Brownie Co. They had an immense selection of flavours from vegan salted caramel, triple chocolate, and oreo, to raspberry and prosecco. I decided on peanut butter because I’m a firm believer that anything with peanut butter added to it is instantly improved.

I tapped my Monzo on the card reader and pocketed the brownie; I was not ready for sweet yet.

My head had been turned at the start of the market by gnocchi. I’d never been a huge fan of gnocchi until I met my husband who took me to Padella one time and it turned out I had just been eating rubbish gnocchi all my life. I walked through the market for the 6th time and stopped at Gnocchi at 84 for the beef short rib ragu. Oh. My. God. It was absolutely unreal.

The whole caboodle was divine and I ate half the box before I was completely stuffed. I found a sunny spot outside the market and had a break for 20 minutes to let my food go down – there was no way I was leaving any gnocchi to waste. I finished it up, walked through the market twice more and then decided that I really was full now.

I spent the rest of my afternoon walking along the north bank from Tower Bridge to The Strand, which took about an hour. I ate my brownie overlooking the Thames along the way.

The last time I was on Tower Bridge I was running over it during the 2016 London Marathon. It was lovely just being a tourist this time and I walked just under 10km along the river.

For me Maltby Street Market encapsulates the best of London: people from all over the world getting together and lapping up food from all over the world. It’s a treasure and I can’t wait to go back (perhaps with some pals next time so I can try more food). From Vietnamese Banh Mi to Moroccan falafel and British scotch eggs, the array of food on offer is fabulous and I implore any foodie to go.

Vivat Bacchus, London Bridge

‘Would you like to visit the cheese room?’

I was first told about Vivat Bacchus a few years ago by a friend of mine as a suggestion for somewhere to go on a date. I never took my date there. Instead I’ve been three times, all with my best girls and let’s face it, cheese and wine is the very best fuel for a life catch-up and gossip sesh.

Anyone who knows me well will know that my vice is cheese. Birthday parties in my twenties were defined by cheese puns, melted camembert and yellow party dresses. Who doesn’t dress like their favourite food on their birthday?

Just me it would seem.

It wasn’t my birthday when I went last month and I wasn’t wearing a yellow dress. It was an overdue catch up with an old friend and I was wearing a giant coat because it was pouring down with rain and -100 degrees. I arrived early and was seated in a corner downstairs, where another woman was waiting alone too. I ordered a glass of the restaurant’s own red wine, VB Red Blend, which was smooth as silk and warming like a log fire in a country cottage at Christmas.

The first time I ate at Vivat Bacchus we were so excited by the cheese that we gorged on a massive board first and then were too stuffed to eat our main courses. This time we ordered our mains and had a cheese board for ‘dessert’. I ordered the confit leg of Barbary duck, braised red cabbage, sautéed new potatoes and a cinnamon orange jus. My friend had the ‘potato-less’ salmon fishcake special.

I didn’t take a pic of the fish cake as it felt a bit mean shoving my phone over my friend’s food. My duck leg was rich and delicious, potatoes crispy, cabbage succulent, and complemented perfectly by the sticky sweet orange jus. The whole thing, with the red wine, was exactly what I needed on a chilly, damp February evening. I always eat too fast but this meal slowed me right down. You know when you’re eating something really good and you slow right down to savour the flavours? For once I actually took my time over my food because every mouthful and sip of wine was a treat.

We nodded enthusiastically as the waiter asked us if we wanted to visit the cheese room and 10 minutes later we followed the green-fleeced cheese expert into the cheese room. It stinks, and it’s amazing. I mean, if you don’t like cheese or if you only like cheese a bit then you’ll probably find it a bit offensive on the nostrils. The cheeses were arranged by country and we worked our way around the world trying a couple from each place. We settled on an English brie and goats’ cheese, Spanish Manchego and the ultimate, my absolute favourite, French comté.

I would swim the channel tomorrow for Comté. I came to Comté quite late in my cheese journey; I was working an event about seven years ago and I was making small-talk with a visitor who turned out to be a cheesemonger. I grilled her about her favourite cheeses and she said hers was Comté. I’d never really eaten it before and was obsessed by Brie and Camembert (basically anything I could melt and dip things in). I tried Comté and fell in love with its deep nutty taste.

Our cheese board arrived 5 minutes later, laden with crusty bread, apple slices, quince jam and crackers.

This photo doesn’t quite show how big the board actually was and we joked about a recently published article that said the recommended portion of cheese per serving is ‘the size of your thumb’. Suffice to say the amount of cheese on the board was about 20 thumbs worth. If you’re going to do something, do it properly, and a cheese board is not worth skimping on in my humble opinion.

We were two very happy people after I took this photo, although kind of sad that it was over.

We’d had 4 glasses of wine, 2 mains, a portion of chips and a large cheese board, and the bill came to just under £100 including a tip. It was expensive but absolutely worth it. And I can’t put a price on the way cheese makes me feel.

 

2 days eating in Naples

Back in January I told my husband we were going to a fancy restaurant for his birthday and asked him to Google it. ‘Looks good. Hang on, it’s in Italy’… ‘Yes, I’m taking you to Italy for dinner!’ I said smugly, glad that my surprise had been successful. The next day he text me saying he’d been doing some research and found another not-so-fancy restaurant that looked even better than the fancy restaurant I’d chosen. Who says romance is dead?

I’d asked some of my friends about where to go in Italy for a lightening visit in mid-January. Blue Monday to be specific – the most depressing day of the year. I’d toyed with Milan, Pisa and Florence but settled on Naples for two reasons: pizza and Pompei. I will admit that I may have had a tiny ulterior motive to nerd out but I’ve always wanted to go, and Murtie loves Italy so, really, everyone won.

Day 1

We flew out of Gatwick at 8am on a Sunday morning, arriving in Naples around 10.45am. A sketchy 25 minute taxi ride later we were dropped off in a high-rise residential area, wandering the maze looking for our Airbnb, Lorenzo’s Art Studio. We were greeted by our host, Jeanette, who popped her head out of a first floor window waving and shouting ‘Katty! Welcome!’. She kindly let us leave our bags in the apartment so we could head out and explore, leaving us a key and instructions for how to get in later.

Our first port of call was something to eat, and for two people who hadn’t had breakfast that only meant one thing: Neapolitan pizza. Back home in London I’ve been to a few places ‘inspired’ by Neapolitan pizza, but I’ve always been left disappointed by too much dough.

As we waited for our earmarked restaurant, Insolito La Pizzeria Gourmet, to open at midday we wandered up and down the streets near the Cattedrale di San Gennaro, eyeing up the pastries and sweet treats on display and trying to decipher the graffiti on the buildings. No doubt the owners thought we were a bit weird arriving as soon as they opened, but we were hungry, and English, and on time. We ordered a pizza each – mine a margarita with mozzarella, mushrooms and tomato, Murtie’s with mozzarella, anchovies and capers (they’re the wrong way round in the photo!). We could see the dough being spun and stretched through a window into the kitchen and within 10 minutes two enormous pizzas landed in front of us.

We cut them down the middle, took half each (we’re food sharers, most of the time), and demolished them. As we were nibbling on the last bits of crust a group of 20 Italians came into the restaurant and filled every chair. It was like something out of a sit-com as three generations (we assumed) helped small children and little old ladies cram into any spare seat, including the two at our table. A delightful grey-haired Italian man doffed his cap at me when he sat down, and a stylish lady in a sensibly big coat sat next to Murtie. With zero Italian between us we smiled and made ‘the food is yummy’ faces before leaving the family party we had found ourselves in.

Day 1, 1.30pm

With full stomachs we walked to Piazza Garibaldi to catch the train to Pompei. It took us a little while to decipher the ticket machine but finally bought our tickets for about 5 euro and waited on the platform for our train to arrive. It was a almost a double-decker with a ton of empty seats, and spotless. There’s nothing I love more than staring out the window of a train at the changing landscape and watching the comings and goings of ordinary people getting on and off the train.

The entrance to Pompei is a 20 minute walk from Pompei station and we arrived around 3pm. We bought our tickets and walked around the site for 2.5 hours. I won’t go into detail about Pompei because you just need to go. I can’t believe it’s taken me 29 years to finally go there – a person who grew up religiously watching Time Team, the HBO series Rome, and spending most weekends of my childhood watching oranges flung from ballistas at Rockbourne Roman Villa in Hampshire (100% go there too, it’s awesome).

We had a 40 minute wait for a train after leaving Pompei so we settled in to a bar next to the station called Open Bar. Our drinks came with a tray of nibbles – a custom I think English bars should really get on board with. You can’t beat a bowl of olives and a bag of crisps with your G&T whilst it’s pouring outside.

Our journey back took almost two hours because our train stopped mid-journey… and was promptly cancelled. It was a shame as we had been enjoying the (assumed drunken, perhaps they were high on life) escapades of four Spanish girls who were singing and challenging all the men on board to a salsa dance off. An older gentleman and his partner, who’d clearly been enjoying the entertainment too, kindly explained in broken English that the train had been cancelled and we could get another train from the opposite platform. We all got off the train and the group of Spanish girls, now with two Italian boys in tow, sprinted across the tracks. We were sensible tourists and took the subway, picking up the alternative train.

We were starving by the time we got to the restaurant Murtie had chosen for his birthday dinner, Antichi Sapori Partenopei. We were welcomed as if we’d walked into someone’s home – our host, a friendly Italian lady, asked where we were from, handed us glasses of Prosecco with our menus and read the specials, recommending every single one. An Italian couple next to us joined in giving their recommendations too. A group of tourists from Serbia and Germany took a table in a corner and joined the melee. I slurped my Prosecco and grumbled to Murtie about how much I hate Brexit.

We ordered a starter of salmon carpaccio, which I didn’t take a photo of because we were so hungry (sorry!) and two pasta dishes which were recommended to us: ricotta ravioli with shrimps and chive butter sauce, and courgette spaghetti (served Neapolitan style, which I was told is proper al-dente).

The food was unsurprisingly incredible. Pasta just tastes different in Italy – however I make it or cook it, it’s never the same texture or taste as in Italy. Same for the pizza to be honest, there’s just nothing like it. We finished off our meal with a dessert each – I had a chocolate torte and Murtie had a vanilla berry cheesecake, and both were off the chart.

By this point we’d finished a bottle of red wine made in the vineyards on Mount Vesuvius and 2 glasses of prosecco. We were stuffed, merry and eventually wobbled back to our Airbnb at midnight.

 

Day 2

At 8.30am Murtie handed me one of the chocolate pastries gifted to us by our Airbnb host, Jeanette. By 11am we’d eaten the whole box, which was a perfect start to the day. I text Jeanette telling her we were ready to leave and she replied saying ‘We have no guests today, take your time!’. We were so grateful she let us leave our bags so we could wander round Naples before leaving for our flight at 4pm.

We set off in search of more pastries and bought some local delicacies in a bakery called Pintauro. Murtie had a Sfogliatella – a Neapolitan flaky pastry filled with a sweet ricotta filling, and I had a Taralli Napoletani, a savoury round pastry which tasted of rich black pepper and almonds. I finished off Murtie’s Sfogliatella as he said it was too sweet, but it was perfect for my sweet tooth. The bakeries in Naples are amazing and I snapped a few photos of the treats on offer.

Unfortunately the heavens opened around noon and did not stop. We walked to the restaurant Murtie had chosen for lunch and joined the soggy ‘queue’ of people waiting outside. Sorbillo is one of the most popular restaurants in Naples, purportedly serving ‘the best pizza in Naples’ and founded by Gino Sorbillo, the man who introduced Neapolitan pizza to the world. When I say we queued, we stood in a mass of people trying to work out what the queue etiquette was, finally deciding pushing to the front and giving a man with a clipboard our names was the accepted approach.

The wait was only 15 minutes as we’d come after the lunchtime rush. The menu was in Italian, so with a little help from Google Translate we ordered our pizzas with anchovies and mushrooms. Hats off to Sorbillo as the pizza did not disappoint – it was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten. As for ‘the best in Naples’ accolade, well, I will have to come back and eat all the other pizzas to be able to decide.

We left Sorbillo around 3pm, our feet still soggy from the rain and in need of something sweet. I found a café nearby that did good hot chocolate according to TripAdvisor, and we arrived at Caffè Ciorfito a few minutes later. We sat down at plastic tables and were served the most amazing coffee and hot chocolate, with complimentary mini pastries and lemon sparkling water.

My hot chocolate was thick and luxurious and I enjoyed every spoonful. I literally had to eat it with a spoon, it was the best.

At 4pm we went back to our Airbnb to pick up our bags. We chatted with Jeanette for 45 minutes about her flat, her son, and coming to Naples from the Philippines. She was absolutely wonderful and I implore you to stay in her Airbnb. It’s one of the best I’ve experienced. Even in the pouring rain she kindly walked us to a cash point and the taxi rank to get to the airport.

We got on the plane feeling absolutely stuffed and content. Despite the weather, Naples was full of character, history and really, really good food. I have no doubt we’ll be back.

Deliciously Ella, London

‘The milk isn’t milk!’

Bless my friend’s mum as she was asked whether she wanted soya or oat milk in her cup of tea. The concept of a plant-based café would probably be lost on my parents too, forgetting that milk is in fact an animal product. I’m told that oat milk is the better choice – I actually don’t like tea and I’m fully aware that probably makes me not entirely British. I’ve made my peace with that.

Deliciously Ella was chosen by one of my best friends to fuel our bridesmaid dress shopping trip on Oxford Street two weekends before Christmas. Bonkers idea but it was actually great fun. We had a personal shopping appointment booked at Debenhams where we tried on a multitude of dresses in different shapes and fabrics, giggling at the awful ones, pretending to be catwalk models in the fancy ones, and eventually all agreeing on a dress that was the other end of the colour spectrum to what the bride wanted, and over budget. Woops.

At least we’d started the day in a calm environment because it inevitably finished not in one. I’ve followed Deliciously Ella on Instagram for a long time and I’m fully aware I’m about 5 years late to actually visiting her cafe. I’ve always admired how she’s managed her health issues by changing her diet and sharing her experience for people going through similar things. I don’t have the same health issues as Ella but I do care about the planet so I try and be flexitarian and responsible. I’m open to eating plant-based and have to say I’m always amazed at how good the food tastes (apart from in my work canteen where the vegan options are regularly a sludgy mess of lentils and under-cooked rice).

The counter at Deliciously Ella was incredibly tempting although I risked emptying my bank account trying everything on offer.

I was almost opted for pancakes by settled on sweetcorn fritters with spiced baked beans and avocado smash for a reasonable £6.95, which in central London is pretty good value for breakfast. It didn’t take too long to come and was a good sized portion. Everything on the plate tasted fresh and flavoursome. The only thing missing was a poached egg – I know, I know, vegan fail, sorry.

The rest of the bridal party had a selection of baked treats including banana bread and brownies, which the mums thought tasted odd but the rest of us thought were tasty and prompted a game of ‘guess the vegan alternative ingredient’. For 20 minutes we debated what kind of ground nut, date or syrup had been used instead of sugar or an animal product. Suffice to say we were the only ones having this discussion as the cafe was dotted with super cool young women in oversized pastel jumpers and Doc Martins who were cooler than any of us could ever be and clearly dedicated to the plant-based cause.

I enjoyed eating at Deliciously Ella and I’d definitely go again to try the tempting array of granola on offer. I imagine that won’t appeal to everyone but I’m a cereal fiend. The décor was delightful, there was water on tap and I liked their ‘philosophy’ board displayed by the stairs –

I agree with the last point most of all – ‘listen to your body’. I do my very best to eat lots of veg and if I am eating meat or fish I will buy organic and responsibly sourced, supporting local businesses as often as possible. But sometimes we fall off the wagon and after a heavy prosecco brunch at the weekend my body wanted a Big Mac and it solved all my problems. Sorry, Ella. I’ll do better next time.

 

3 days eating in Chiang Mai

Day 1, 8am

The sun was rising over the dark green, hazy mountains as our plane approached Chiang Mai International Airport. Our moment of zen came to an abrupt end as Murtie and I entered arrivals and were ambushed by a noisy rabble of taxi reps. Our hotel was only 15 minutes away and as the heat rash began to flare on my ankles we picked the least obtrusive taxi driver who led us to his car, which had turf on the floor. Obviously.

We arrived early at the Thai Akara Lanna Boutique Hotel so we left our bags at reception and explored the winding streets of the old town. A couple of people were queuing outside the spot we had chosen for lunch, Tikky Cafeand we were given a paper number 3 marking our place.  The area at the front of the restaurant was brimming with tropical fruit and we stood watching a young Thai woman effortlessly lopping the tops off fresh coconuts with a cleaver.

Five minutes later we were seated at a low table with big comfy chairs and a colourful patterned table cloth. I ordered a coconut-pineapple shake, and Murtie ordered a mango-passionfruit-coconut shake, which the lady set to work making immediately. They tasted as good as they looked.

I could have eaten the whole menu, but I’m a sucker for anything deep fried so I chose prawn tempura and vegetable fried rice. Murtie had stir fried chicken with chilli and Thai basil. We could hear the sizzles from the kitchen behind us as we took in our surroundings; a family with two young children giggling and sharing plates of food, a young woman on the table next to us, dining alone, impressively scoffing down two giant plates of noodles and a fruit shake. Our food arrived in generous portions too and my tempura prawns dunked in sweet chilli sauce were heaven. Murtie’s teddy bear-shaped rice was cute if random.

Arriving at Tikky Cafe at 11.45am had unwittingly been a good move as the queue had tripled in size by the time we left. We saw some of the sights of Chiang Mai on the way back to our hotel, my favourite was Wat Phra Singh, where the meditating monks were so still they looked like statues.

We hopped in a tuk tuk having lost our sense of direction and finally checked-in to our hotel where we were kindly presented with a slice of banana bread as a honeymoon gift.

After scoffing the banana bread we took a taxi to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, which we’d been told not to miss. 6pm was much too early to arrive and the stall holders were just starting to fire up their grills and hot plates. We killed some time perusing the market stalls nearby for half an hour and I impulsively bought a 7/11 t-shirt to wear as a pyjama top. The food market was beginning to get busy when we returned and it was hard to decide what to eat with so much on offer – grilled fish, stir fries, spring rolls, kebabs, pasta, burgers, crepes and more. We shared the following:

Fresh noodle spring rolls

Chicken gyoza

Nutella Roti

The tables around us filled with people as we ate and a guitarist started playing Bryan Adams songs on stage as flashing lights came on. We did one more loop of the food market but our stomach’s were too full.

Day 2

The next morning we dropped into a coffee shop by our hotel called Coffee Telling and Murtie sampled the local coffee beans. I don’t like coffee but he said it was delicious, so I’ll take his word for it. I pored over a display of marathon medals hanging opposite the main counter that turned out to be the owner’s. I was reminded of the joke ‘how can you tell if there’s a marathon runner in the room? They’ll tell you‘ as he and I (London, 2016, never again!) bonded over our marathon experiences – his a lot more interesting than mine with marathon medals from Thailand and Japan.

We were picked up an hour later for our excursion to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, one of the ethical companies in Chiang Mai who focus on animal welfare and conservation, and don’t allow tourists to ride the elephants. Our day was spent rolling around a mud bath with these beautiful creatures and I will remember it forever (despite the ‘authentic’ tunics they made us wear, see below).

It took two showers to finally wash all the mud out my hair and even then I’d missed in-between my toes. We rounded off our day walking to Kat’s Kitchen for dinner and despite almost all the tables being full, people were chatting quietly and the atmosphere was easy-going and relaxed. I wanted to try the local dish in Chiang Mai – Khao Soi egg noodle, but couldn’t resist having another Pad Thai so I ordered both. The Khao Soi had crispy, crunchy noodles on top of a thick fragrant curry sauce with chicken and even more noodles underneath. It was carb heaven.

Khao soi egg noodle with chicken

Pad Thai with chicken – also absolutely delicious.

We washed our food down with a mango and pineapple shake each, and the whole thing came to less than £7.50.

Day 3

Our final day in Chiang Mai was spent getting lost outside the old town and eventually ditching our map in favour of a red taxi to see the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, Wat Chiang Man and then Wat Chet Yot

We left the sights in search of food and took another red taxi to the Nimmanahaeminda Road, which was recommended to us for good food and shops. We found a street food market at One Nimman, an established, well-kept shopping area. It was a pleasant surprise that the food market wasn’t too expensive, as the building it was housed in seemed rather swanky.

I tried a steamed fish parcel wrapped in a banana leaf for 30 baht (75p) and it was hotter than the sun. Whatever else was in the fish parcel besides chilli was delicious, but it was so hot it genuinely made me feel light headed.

I’d lost Murtie in the melee of food stalls, so I got myself a plate of fried rice noodle with black soy sauce for 50 baht, just over £1. He reappeared a minute later with a fragrant duck noodle bowl. The photo doesn’t do either of our meals justice as they were both delicious. Mine thankfully reversed the effects of my chilli overdose 10 minutes earlier.

After lunch we continued our sightseeing at Wat Suan Dok and Wat Chedi Luang, where we took part in the ‘Monk Chat’ and learned about their daily life and beliefs.

As the sun was setting we took a Tuk Tuk to Cooking Love, a restaurant Murtie had seen on Tripadvisor, for dinner. I was so grumpy when we got there because we’d walked 16,000 steps that day, my heat rash had spread up to my thighs and we had to wait 10 minutes for a table. I’ve waited for tables in London for an hour so in hindsight 10 minutes really was no big deal at all, and as soon as we sat down where it was cool, I forgot about my heat rash.

Cooking Love was packed, and for good reason. We were greeted with green tea and watermelon as we sat down –

My panang curry with chicken was big on flavour and portion size. I was desperately sad to be defeated by it!

We ended the night with a drink in a bar near our hotel owned by a Brit named Mike, who told us he had been in Chiang Mai for 17 years. I can absolutely see the appeal of Chiang Mai and I’m so glad we included a visit in our 2 week trip to Thailand.

The heat during the day was dry, it cooled down in the evenings, there were minimal bitey bugs, slightly less traffic than Bangkok (but driving still as bonkers), fewer tourists at the sites, and most people going about their business at a slower, more sensible pace. Food-wise, we ate some of the best and cheapest food in Chiang Mai. I would fly back tomorrow for the prawn tempura from Tikky Cafe.

4 days eating in Bangkok

People have told me that you either love Bangkok or you hate it. I’m the first camp, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for being in the second. It’s bonkers. During our first hour in Bangkok, Murtie and I unwittingly strolled hand-in-hand down the neon lit street of Soi Cowboy, which I’d seen in a ‘things to do in Bangkok’ guide, and somehow missed the minor detail that it is in fact the red light district. On the plus side, it triggered a topical and excellent discussion on the regulation of sex work as we passed a bar called ‘Spice Girls’, which definitely did not have the vibe of a 90s girl power band.

Day 1, 9pm

With rumbling stomachs, we left the bright lights and scantily clad people behind and found a small Japanese restaurant for dinner: Tori Soba Nanase. We both had the special soba, a chicken broth with chicken balls, sliced chicken and egg. Yes, after 12 hours flying to Thailand, our first dinner was … Japanese. Sacrilegious perhaps, but completely delicious and for about £3 it was worth it just to eat food that didn’t jiggle off the tray from turbulence.

Day 2

The next morning we spent 15 minutes at Sukhumvit MRT station trying to get our heads round the ticket system, finally opting for prepaid travel cards, which we later realised didn’t actually save us any money than if we’d just got single tickets. We took the blue line to Chatuchak Park for the Chatuchak Weekend Market and followed the meandering crowd to an entrance packed tightly with stall holders selling fruits, cold drinks, and things with elephants on. Once inside it dawned on us how massive the market was – we were in zone 27, of 27. We walked 9.5km in 3 hours through the bustling melee of sellers and selfie-taking tourists, stopping regularly to try the tempting street food on offer:

Spring rolls

Coconut ice cream

Chilli squid

Mango sticky rice

Toasted brioche with sweetened milk

At dusk we slumped at a table with our bags of wares (tshirts, baskets and Thai spice mixes) and had a fresh coconut shake and a Singha beer for about £1.50.

We freshened up at our hotel and navigated our way through the backstreets to find our dinner venue: Cabbages and Condoms. When we had asked our friends for their food recommendations in Bangkok, Cabbages and Condoms came up numerous times. It’s the most bizarre restaurant I’ve ever eaten in –

Questionable, but inclusive, tips on safe sex

Condom lights

Food guaranteed not to cause pregnancy…

Murtie and I shared a Massaman curry, vegetable fried rice and Thai fish cakes.

The food was delicious although it was one of the more expensive places we ate at whilst in Thailand (£23.66).  The bill came with a plate of condoms as our after dinner ‘mints’. As we left I read a bit more about the restaurant: it exists to promote family planning and raise funds for the area’s Population and Community Development Association. It’s definitely an innovative way of getting people’s attention and money.

Day 3

After a morning sightseeing at Wat Saket (The Golden Mount), Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)  we came back across the river to the Tha Tien Ferry entrance where the street was jam-packed with food stalls. Murtie had a stick of shrimp for 40 baht (£1) and I had spring rolls and sweet potato balls for 60 baht (£1.50). Both were served to us in plastic bags, which was handy but guilt-inducing and we’re now trying hard at home to minimise our plastic waste to make up for it.

Grilled shrimp

Sweet potato balls

We walked to the Grand Palace and Murtie had to buy some fetching elephant trousers because his shorts weren’t long enough. It was heaving with tourists and my neck was sunburnt, so we took our photos and hopped in a tuk tuk to Maha Chai Road. We slumped in a bar that I can’t remember the name of and had coconut shakes and beer waiting for our next eatery, Thipsamaito open.

‘Is this Thailand’s best pad Thai?’ asked the BBC earlier this year – we had to check it out. We arrived at 5pm on the dot and joined the queue of people already winding down the street. As we approached the front of the queue we could see their famous pad Thai wrapped in egg being made freshly outside –  it took 10 seconds in the best non-stick wok I have ever seen. The kitchen was run like a military operation with food cooked and immaculately presented on plates in seconds, whilst servicing an unrelenting queue for takeaways.

Our server had pre-empted our order and our prawn pad Thais wrapped in egg appeared within seconds of handing over our marked menu. We drank the restaurant’s renowned freshly squeezed orange juice, which had so much pulp it was a challenge to suck it up the straw. On the wall behind us were framed newspaper cuttings stating that this was indeed the best pad Thai in Bangkok. I ate quite a few pad Thais during my two weeks in Thailand and it was definitely up there. I appreciated the pot of ground peanut on our table and liberally sprinkled it all over my pad Thai at least three times.

‘The best pad Thai in Bangkok’

Fresh orange juice

All the ground peanut

Day 4

We ventured to the Khao San Road on our fourth day in Bangkok, but we quickly decided it wasn’t our cup of tea. We ventured onto the backstreets instead and chose Krua Apsorn for lunch. We ordered the crab omelette to share, a dish the restaurant is renowned for, which was tasty and incredibly filling. I had a Thai green fishball curry and it was so spicy I had to hide my teary eyes from the locals.

Crab omelette

Thai green curry with fishballs and steamed rice

We walked off our food for an hour in no particular direction and eventually I spied a cake shop. Choux Time had tables of treats inside and outside the shop, and Murtie picked something to try whilst I went round taking photos. We had the sweets with yellow and pink in the middle. Still no idea what they were but the sugar fuelled the rest of our afternoon.

Cakes at Choux Time

Selection of sweet goodies at Choux Time

These are the sweets we tried

After struggling to flag down a taxi, we took a tuk tuk to Petchaburi Road and spent the late afternoon exploring Pratanum Market. The women’s fashion was awesome and I haggled away a couple of hundred baht at a stall with some really quirky tops. The market was packed with locals and there didn’t seem to be any other tourists in sight. I loved this area as it felt like authentic, bonkers Bangkok – the overhead wiring being a visual representation of this.

I had my first Thai massage at the Watergate Spa on Petchaburi Road. Despite opting for a head and shoulder massage (heat rash on my ankles was too bad for a full Thai massage) the masseuse put me in positions I didn’t know were possible. My spine cracked with every movement,  but it did the job. I felt like I’d been needing that massage for about 5 years.

Bangkok was face-paced, full-on, and I absolutely loved it. I’m used to London, which is organised ‘don’t you know there’s a queue?’ chaos. Bangkok is disorganised chaos. Crossing the road is a heart-thumping but life-affirming experience.

From a food perspective, Bangkok is brilliant. Whether in a restaurant or served from a cart, my defining memories will be fresh ingredients, big portions, punchy flavours, chilli to make me cry – all served with a warm and welcoming Thai smile.

Cafe Strange Brew, Shawlands, Glasgow

‘I’m eating chocolate soil for breakfast’.

Those were the 6 words I text my husband, along with the picture below, moments before I ate probably the best breakfast of my life to date in Cafe Strange Brew. That’s quite a claim and I stand by it. Just look:

America style pancakes with Scottish strawberries, chocolate soil, whipped mascarpone, roasted almonds and dark chocolate sauce. It was all very very very very good. The pancakes were soft and light, the sauce was dark and sweet, the strawberries were fresh and juicy, the toasted almonds and chocolate soil provided crunch. All round, the happiest 20 minutes I’ve spent eating in a long time.

Caveat: I had to wait half an hour for a table. Second caveat: it was absolutely worth it. Before visiting Glasgow I’d tweeted asking for recommendations of places to visit/eat. One of my followers had suggested Cafe Strange Brew, so I put it on my itinerary for my last day as it was near where I stayed in Pollokshields.

It was glorious sunshine when I left my AirB&B with a heavily packed bag and messy hair as I didn’t take my straighteners. On Google Maps the cafe was 15 minutes walk away. I always underestimate distance and that day was no different. It took me 20 and I was sweaty and tired from carrying my giant bag. There are so many delicious looking cafes in this area of Glasgow, I filled up a Notes tab with places to visit next time.

As I approached Cafe Strange Brew I could see steamed up windows and shadows of people standing by the door. This was half the queue. The other half was sat on a wooden pew in the window. A friendly waiter welcomed me and put my name on a list – after hoofing 20 minutes there was no way I was going somewhere else. For once I had absolutely nothing to do that day so I sat and watched everyone’s food come out, which made choosing what to order all the more difficult.

I was torn between sweet and savoury – the wide and creative selection of egg dishes had me salivating but I had gone for savoury my past 3 breakfasts and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had pancakes. Dark chocolate was the clincher for me. I am addicted.

It was a bit like being a dentist waiting room but the end result was so much better. I ordered as soon as I finally sat down and my pile of pancakes came about 5 minutes later. I could see the people on the table next to me sneaking a peek at my plate and frowning, but I didn’t care one bit and made my way through mouthfuls of fluffy pancake and sweet strawberry.

I’d have licked the plate clean if I had been in a more discreet corner, so I settled for trying to scoop up my sauce with my knife and fork. I was absolutely stuffed and felt absolutely amazing.

As I paid I asked the waiter if it was always this busy and he said ‘pretty much’. For a cafe that doesn’t seem to have a website, the power of social media seems to be working for them as they have thousands of followers. I will definitely be telling anyone I know going to Glasgow to visit.

After my breakfast I walked to the nearest train station, which had such a great name I took a photo of it.

The sky was bright blue with not a cloud in sight. I took the train into Glasgow and out again to Bridgeton. I spent the rest of my day reading my way through Glasgow Women’s Library, the organisation which inspired my trip to Glasgow in the first place. It’s a wonderful, welcoming place and I implore everyone to go there. Pancakes + feminism = Katy’s perfect day.