London in the sunshine on a Saturday is pretty darn hard to beat. Cycling along the Thames, with the water glinting beside you and the whole weekend stretching out ahead, is one of the best feelings. A few Saturdays ago, I had the most glorious day pottering around London with my dear friend Lylie – on a side note, check out her jewellery immediately. You won’t regret it. Our day started with a seriously sweaty Bikram yoga session – strong shout for a Saturday morning if you’re feeling a bit fragile -followed by a mad Boris bike dash for a wander around the Chelsea market and ended with lunch and a visit to the V & A’s new exhibition, ‘Undressed.’
Of all the boroughs, South Ken is one of the most beautiful with every corner providing a view of one of London’s finest landscapes. But whenever I get off at South Ken tube station, and am surrounded by selfie sticks, I often wonder why it is that I came here…but once you’ve pushed your way out of the tube, turned right and found yourself on Exhibition Road, you’re reminded why it is you braved the tourist crowds. In recent years, the pedestrianised square at the bottom end of Exhibition Road, has erupted into a jolly, buzzing sun trap- you almost definitely will have to queue to be seated at any of the various restaurants framing the square, but a table spot outside here is one of the best places you can bag on a summer’s day and provides hours of fantastic people watching.
Until late last year, I’ve always walked past the branch of Le Pain Quotedien on Exhibition Road, without being tempted to join the queue outside as I’m not normally a fan of chain restaurants. But, LPQ, along with Bills, is defintiely a chain that gets the thumbs up.
LPQ’s philosophy is ‘sitting together around the idea of pleasure’ ; a really rather lovely philosophy and hence why LPQ’s atmosphere is jolly and inclusive, the menu rustic and simple. Moreover, the menu at LPQ is fantastic if you have any intolerances, with clear signposting of what is vegan/gluten-free etc and most dishes can easily be tweaked to be suitable to a particular dietary requirement.
The first time I came to LPQ, I ordered the smoked salmon salad and was pretty unimpressed with the dish, it being composed of just smoked salmon and lettuce. With no interesting dressing/ingredients, for £12 I left feeling rather disgruntled and uninspired by the chain. However, with hindsight I’ve realised that if a chain has named themselves after the idea of ‘the daily bread’, dough recipes must be their forte; and once you’ve tried some of the soft, squidgy, utterly moreish bread here, you’ll understand why the chain is so popular. So I’d recommend ordering a dish that is centred around bread and leave the salads for the Good Life Eatery!
The Belgians pride themselves on their tartines – open sandwiches- and luckily, LPQ has some of the best gluten-free bread I’ve had. None of that tasteless cardboard that mose places seem to serve here!I always order the gluten free bread with smashed avocado/smoked salmon – £7-10.The portions here are generous, with a good dollop of avo smeared on on each, lightly warmed, tartine slice.
Incidentally, the tartines are an ideal hangover cure if you’re craving carbs.
It seems that most people have a particular tartine topping that is their favourite, with some of my friends raving about the avocado, chicken and rocket tartine whilst others always opt for the mozzarella, tomato and chicken tartine. Whichever tartine you choose, you won’t be disappointed and will leave completely satisfied and ready for the next leg of your South Ken escapde.
From the South Kensington branch of LPQ, the V & A is only a hop and a skip away. It’s a tough call, but I think that the V & A is probably my favourite of all the London museums and every time I go to the V & A, I am always blown away by just how incredible it is. Utterly beautiful from the outside, when you step inside the atrium you’re momentarily left standing stock still, just gazing at the interior. Their permanent collection is one of the best, the temporary exhibitions usually centered around fashion/textiles/photography.
‘Undressed’ unsurprisingly, is about lingerie. But forget granny pants, the lingerie on show is some of the most beautiful, delicate, feminine and sensual garments ever made. With a brief, (see what I did there?), history on lingerie through the ages, the exhibition was a whirlwind of designs, textures and patterns. What really came through was that right from the start, lingerie has been a painstaking craftsmanship, the trade still evolving today. The lace details on some of the sets was exquisite and most visitors had their faces pressed to the glass cabinets to get a good look.
Spot the two cooing doves.
I think every woman’s reaction upon spotting this corset goes along the lines of ‘HOW did woman use to breathe?!”; interesting to see that as lingerie has evolved, so has society’s perception on what is a ‘fashionable’ body image.
The dress Mila Cunis wore to the 2011 Oscars.
This was my favourite set, it had the most stunning lace adorning the chamosile and a simple but beautiful ribbon pattern flowing down the corset. The lace and the pattern draw one’s eyes to a woman’s chest and midriff but in such a subtle way it doesn’t appear overtly provocative.
A beautiful summer corset made of ribbon.
Madonna’s inspiration for the Met Gala 2016?
For £12 a ticket, if lingerie isn’t ya thing I would say there are plenty of other exhibitions out there and ‘Undressed’ is hardly a ‘must see’ exhibition. But if you’re planning a Saturday with a girlfriend, lunch at LPQ followed by a wander around the exhibition, is a pretty dreamy way to spend the day.
‘Undressed’ at the V & A runs until March 2017.
Check out LPQ’s Exhibition Road branch here