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    The Weirdest Things About Being Home After 16 Months of Travel

    I have now been back in my motherland – the UK – for almost 2 weeks and am quickly adjusting to life without my trusty yet haggard, old backpack.

    Throughout my 16 months of travel I settled and worked in Auckland, New Zealand for 7 months, ventured through South East Asia for 6 months and treated myself to a few pit stops in Fiji, Oz and America along the way. I lived on a very tight budget, wore the comfiest of clothes, ate at street stalls, stayed mostly in dorm rooms and sat on buses for hours on end every few days.

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    The Mad Hatter Bar, Oxford

    I love anything and everything with a bit of quirkiness to it.

    Therefore, whilst searching for somewhere a little bit different to celebrate my birthday, I remembered hearing about a place, which takes you ‘down the rabbit hole’ and into an eccentric bar, where not drinking out of a teacup, tankard or jar sets you apart from the rest.

    The Mad Hatter, Oxford - Cocktail - My Culture Craving

    The Mad Hatter on Iffley Road, Oxford is the epitome of quirk.

    On arrival, we were greeted by a mysterious front door coated in ‘grass’, a golden mirror and a black and white ‘path’ leading towards a miniature door. Unfortunately, there was no potion to shrink us down small enough to squeeze through the door, so instead, we pushed on the grass-covered intercom and awaited instruction on how to enter.

    The intercom came alive and we were asked a riddle to gain access – ‘what is white, black and Asian?’ (write your answers in the comment box below if you know it). Luckily for me (I’m awful at riddles), I had a clever bunch of friends with me and before we knew it, we were lounging on a regal chaise lounge with a teacup of bubbles in hand.

    The Mad Hatter, Oxford - Cocktail Bar - My Culture Craving

    Boasting a crimson red and gold dabbled colour scheme, huge, rustic chests, which were used as tables and a bar stocked to the brim with unique tipples and cocktail concoctions, The Mad Hatter cleverly captures the weird and wonderful illusion, which is so prominent in Alice and Wonderland yet, in bar form.

    As there were more than ten of us, we had to choose a chapter from their ‘tea party packages’ prior to our arrival. The Mad Hatter himself, kindly emailed me over the menu, which included themed names such as, ‘Down the Rabbit Hole, ‘Advice from a Caterpillar’ and ‘Who Stole the Tarts’.

    The Mad Hatter, Oxford - Cocktail Menu - My Culture Craving

    Most of these packages included a mixture of prosecco and/or champagne, giant cocktail teacups as well as, shots and ranged from £150 for ten guests to a whopping £500 for thirty guests (although split between everyone, this isn’t toooo extortionate and is perfect for a special occasion).

    We ended our evening at The Mad Hatter in true style – shooting tequila at the bar whilst donning some fabulous sombreros.

    The Mad Hatter is wacky, extravagant and like no other and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves a dose of eccentricity before or on a night out.

    Have you ever been to The Mad Hatter in Oxford? Let me know what you thought by commenting, Facebooking or Tweeting me :)!

    French Toast and Bottomless Bellinis at B&H, London

    After a fabulously flamboyant morning of watching the Gay Pride Parade march through Oxford Street, London in all its extravagant glory, we headed for, what I have come to coin, ‘linner’ (lunch/dinner).

    Brunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth, London - My Culture Craving
    I had been enticed by Bourne and Hollingsworth’s brunch, after reading about it’s cute decor and bottomless belinnis on The Londoner. After gawping at photos of its airy greenhouse-esque dining area, wacky mish mash of ornate chairs, an abundance of hanging baskets overflowing with exotic foliage and shabby chic garden furnishings, I was on their website booking my Mum, Sister and I a table…

    Brunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth, London - Outside - My Culture Craving

    Brunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth, London - Inside - My Culture Craving

    Once we’d weaved our way through the maze, which is Farringdon (in reality, our navigational skills were just horrendous),  we arrived at B & H Buildings, ravenous and raring to eat.

    We were lead through to a light fresh room, dotted with lashings of tropical colour. The clinical white walls were broken up with vibrant green ivy, copious amounts of rustic hanging baskets, which were sprouting colourful vegetation and eccentric floral patterned, squishy armchairs.

    Brunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth, London - Fan - My Culture Craving

    Brunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth, London - Palm Tree Chair - My Culture Craving

    Unfortunately, we weren’t sat in the greenhouse however, we did have a great, leafy view of it…

    Brunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth, London - Chair - My Culture Craving

    After ordering an obligatory round of their bottomless bellinis, we were ready to get down to business.

    From French toast and drop scones to crispy potato hash and good ol’ full English breakfast, B&H offer up a fab selection of tempting brunch delights.

    Fancying something rather sweet and stodgy, I went for a sinfully indulgent combo of french toast, streaky bacon and maple syrup (there is a very thick piece of French toast under there… I promise!!)

    Brunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth, London - Brunch - My Culture Craving

    Brunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth, London - French Toast - My Culture Craving

    My Mum went for the more traditional eggs Florentine…

    Brunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth, London - Eggs Florentine - My Culture Craving

    Whilst my sister opted for the not so traditional, crispy potato hash topped with braised beef, HP Hollandaise and crispy shallots…
    Brunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth, London - Food - My Culture Craving
    Due to the restaurant being so popular, we were only able to get a table right at the end of service (at 3.45pm) so ensure you book well in advance to secure a table at a time, which best suits you.

    Picnics, Punting and Plays in Oxford

    Oxford is renowned for its ancient beauty. However, when the sun begins to shine, the flowers start to blossom and the tourists frolic to the riverside by the bucket-load, the city acquires an even more majestic glow than usual.

    With a treasure trove of exciting sites and activities out there to be uncovered, what are you waiting for? Grab your sandals, a picnic and, of course, a bottle of Pimms and check out my must see sights in Oxford this summer:

    Picnics, Punting and Plays in Oxford this Summer - Botanic Gardens - My Culture Craving

    Explore the Botanic Gardens

    The Botanic Gardens in Oxford display the most diverse range of plants in the world. Thus, this idyllic patch of vibrant flower beds, lily ponds, woodlands, orchards and glasshouses are a must-mooch whilst in Oxford.

    Picnics, Punting and Plays in Oxford this Summer - My Culture Craving

    Go punting

    Punting is iconic to Oxford. Therefore, jumping in one of these rustic, wooden boats this summer, is a no-brainer. Pack yourself a picnic, a bottle of prosecco and (if you can) a muscly man who is willing to do the punting, and you’re on to a winner of an afternoon…

    Picnics, Punting and Plays in Oxford this Summer - University - My Culture Craving

    Wander around the University’s grounds

    As expected, the Oxford University grounds are simply stunning. Whether you are wandering around its impressive colleges and libraries or its picturesque gardens and parks, the University will transport you to, what feels like, a scene in Harry Potter.

    Picnics, Punting and Plays in Oxford this Summer - Covered Market - My Culture Craving

    Uncover the Covered Market

    Selling everything from flowers, leather and souvenirs to cookies, milkshakes and pies, Oxford’s Covered Market has plenty of shops and eateries to keep you occupied.

    Make sure you check out Moo-Moo’s milkshake bar. Imagine your favourite chocolate bars, all blended into a milkshake… heaven.

    Picnics, Punting and Plays in Oxford this Summer - Varsity Bar - My Culture Craving

    Quench your thirst with a cocktail at Varsity’s rooftop bar

    Lychee and chilli sling. That is all…

    Picnics, Punting and Plays in Oxford this Summer - Outdoor Play - My Culture Craving

    Watch an open-air play

    Join companies such as, the Oxford Shakespeare Company and Creation Theatre this summer, as they perform classic plays in relaxing, scenic surroundings.

    Picnics, Punting and Plays in Oxford this Summer - Bikes - My Culture Craving

    Rent a bike

    Feel like a local for the day. Rent a bike and see how many of these must-see sites you can tick off.

    Picnics, Punting and Plays in Oxford this Summer - Outdoor Cinema - My Culture Craving

    Watch a film under the stars

    You don’t have to go as far as London to watch a film under the stars… thanks to Cult Screens, you can now watch your favourite films at different, quirky outdoor locations across the city. From the Castle to the Pitt Rivers museum, pull up a beanbag, slump back with a cool, crisp beer and enjoy…

    Have you ever been to Oxford during the summer? What would you add to this list of great things to see and do in the city?? Please comment, Facebook or Tweet me to let me know :)!

    Exploring London’s ‘Nomadic Street Food Circus’

    The thing I love most about London, is its inevitable element of surprise.

    Whether it’s a quirky jazz bar, an unusually themed restaurant or a wacky, pop-up food stall/market, there is always something novel around every corner, which is bound to ignite an excitement in any passerby.

    My visit to London this weekend, was no exception.

    On Saturday evening, after a relaxing afternoon of slurping on wine and mojitos in Covent Garden, my friends and I took to the streets of Lewisham to hunt down a night food/drinks market, which we had heard some great things about.
    Situated in an abandoned 1950s indoor/outdoor market, Street Feast, a company, which pride themselves on being London’s nomadic street food circus, have transformed this unused area into a quirky den of rustic food stalls, bars, fire pits and dance floors.

    London's Nomadic Food Circus - Model Market - My Culture Craving
    Cubbyholes of seating areas, which housed flaking wallpaper and DIY chairs and tables made out of wooden boxes, lined the market.

    Food and drink stalls selling everything from minute, mouth-watering burgers and jerk chicken to potent rum served up in your very own coconut and the essential wines, beers and cocktails, were peppered amongst the seating/dancing areas.

    Illuminated by crimson fairy lights and candles melted into old wine bottles, I couldn’t decide whether I felt as though we were in an old-fashioned, 1920s jazz bar or, in the Red Light District… either way, the atmosphere was fab!!

    London's Nomadic Food Circus - Food Market - My Culture Craving
    The open air dance floor was positioned at the peak of the market.

    Filled with flaming fire pits, kaleidoscopic disco balls and pumping music, it was the perfect place to dance the night away under the stars before disappearing back into the city in search of the next ‘circus’ to join…

    Model Market is free entry before 7pm and £3 thereafter and takes place every Friday and Saturday until 20th September.

    This market should be at the top of your ‘to-see in London’ list this summer!

    Enjoy :D!!

    An Afternoon of Indulgence at The Woodspeen, Newbury

    For me, Sunday is an oxymoron of emotions. I get overly excited by the prospect of eating my body weight in food, whilst slumping on the sofa in front of my latest craze on Netflix. However, I also always feel that dark cloud of Monday morning lurking over my shoulder.

    Therefore, last Sunday, I decided to shrug off my Monday morning blues by pushing the boat out, going against the Sunday vow of ‘thou shalt not wash’ and heading over to sample a new restaurant/cookery school in Newbury, Berkshire for lunch with a couple of family friends.

    Opening in October 2014, The Woodspeen is an infant in the culinary world.

    However, boasting a Michelin star chef, fresh, locally sourced produce (including, from the likes of our lunch guests from the Two Cocks Brewery #diningwithroyalty) and a cosy, friendly atmosphere, The Woodspeen is a restaurant in its prime, which I have no doubt will continue to excel even further over time.

    On arrival, we were greeted by an array of smiley staff and a cosy bar area.

    After swiftly inhaling a crisp glass of prosecco and a couple of bowls of homemade chicken flavoured popcorn and sage and onion crisps (YUM), we were led through to our table.

    The Woodspeen, Newbury - My Culture Craving
    The restaurant’s decor reminded me of a chalet come, greenhouse.

    With a vaulted wooden paneled ceiling, fur-lined chair covers, woven shaggy mats, rustic exposed brick walls and a pot of tall green foliage, which sprouted as a centre piece from the sleek, grey flooring, The Woodspeen’s unique and retro decoration was on point and created the perfect ambiance for our afternoon of indulgence.

    After studying the mouth-watering menu, which was handed to us on, what my Dad (an ex-teacher), compared to a school clipboard (it was, in fact, a lovely touch), we were ready to order… and EAT!

    The Woodspeen, Newbury - Bread - My Culture Craving
    My sister and I decided to share the confit duck cake, which came with a smooth pate and the cauliflower cheese risotto to start.

    Apologies for the lack of photo, apparently I was too excited to get ‘started’…

    This was then followed by a delicious amuse-bouche of pea and mint soup with sun-dried tomato and a cube of deep-fried lamb…

    The Woodspeen, Newbury - Soup - My Culture Craving

    How cute are the bowls!? ^^^

    I then went for the venison, accompanied by pave and faggot and bacon, cabbage and creamed potato for main…

    The Woodspeen, Newbury - Main Course - My Culture Craving
    And the oh so naughty, tiramisu with coffee ice cream for dessert…

    The Woodspeen, Newbury - Pudding - My Culture Craving
    Every single one of my courses were divine however, the real showstopper of the meal was… dum dum dummmm – the gravy, which accompanied the roasts.

    It was, lick your plate and the gravy boat, scrumptious (if anyone from The Woodspeen is reading this and would like to divulge the secret ingredient, that would be muchos appreciated!)

    This restaurant offers up fantastic service and fresh, beautifully presented food, both, in unbeatable surroundings.

    If you are in the Newbury area, make sure you pop into The Woodspeen for a pint of The Two Cocks Brewery finest, whilst taking in the remarkable view, which encircles the restaurant.

    Oh, and of course, for a gravy boat or two…

    Brunch at The Riding House Cafe, London

    Brunch is my new-found favourite meal of the day.

    Waking up with the wonderful thought that prosecco and pancakes await my arrival, makes getting out of bed on a Saturday/Sunday morning that bit more tolerable.

    So, when one of my friends organised a brunch date at The Riding House Cafe in London, I was chuffed.

    After reading great things about it online as well as, drooling over The Londoner’s images of breakfast smoothies in cute milk bottles and scrummy fry ups, I couldn’t wait to check it out for myself…

    Once we’d weaved our way through Oxford Street’s maze of shops, we headed towards The Riding House Cafe, ravenous and raring to eat.

    The restaurant boasted a rustic blue, brown and white colour scheme. With its bare brick walls, rollicking white tiled bar, rugged wooden, banqueting tables and vibrant, squishy blue bar chairs, Riding House Cafe balanced quirky character and trendy, modern decor, perfectly.

    Brunch at Riding House Cafe - Restaurant - My Culture Craving

    Along with its crisp colour scheme, the restaurant also offered splashes of unusual embellishments. From ornate, dusty blue lamps that lined the bar to a mishmash of retro fittings, which were sprinkled throughout the restaurant, The Riding House Cafe was a feast for the eyes… and of course, for the taste buds!

    Brunch at Riding House Cafe - Table - My Culture Craving

    As we snooped over the other customers’ shoulders, getting more and more food envious by the second, we were handed the humongous menu.

    Offering up everything from eggs benedict and rock oysters to spiced poussin and giant hash browns, here, there is a dish to satisfy any possible craving under the sun.

    Brunch at Riding House Cafe - My Culture Craving

    After much consideration we went for a bottle of prosecco and a couple of mounds of grilled halloumi to start (gotta settle those weird cravings) and then shared the buttermilk pancakes, lobster lasagna and giant chorizo hash brown, for main.

    Words  cannot describe how delicious the creamy, fruity, sticky, fluffy stack of pancakes were, so I’ll just show you instead…

    Brunch at Riding House Cafe - Pancakes - My Culture Craving

    It gets better…

    Brunch at Riding House Cafe - Pancake - My Culture Craving

    The lobster lasagna was a new discovery for me, and one, which I hope to devour again soon…

    Brunch at Riding House Cafe - Food - My Culture Craving

    And the giant hash brown with chorizo, mushroom and poached egg was a yumtastic triumph…

    Brunch at Riding House Cafe - Hash Brown - My Culture Craving

    This cafe really does offer up a bit of everything.

    Whether you are looking to have a casual bev after a long days work (or in the morning… no one’s here to judge),  an extravagant three course meal, an indulgent, boozy brunch or a few tapas to nitpick at, whilst enjoying some of their wacky cocktails, you can find it at all at The Riding House Cafe…

    Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

    Have you ever been to The Riding House Cafe? What were your favourite dishes? Please comment, Facebook or Tweet me to let me know :)!