Cocobelle Posts

 

Excellent, now that I have your attention, I am here to tell you the truth, and you know what, you don’t even need me to say it as you know this already. There is No. Such. Thing… Yet we still click on links that kid us into thinking that ‘purveyors’ of such trash (whoever ‘they’ maybe) hold the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You may have noticed them penning similar sneaky articles entitled ‘How to get a Victoria’s Secret body, while eating a tub of ice cream, and lying in bed all day’… OK not quite, but you get the picture I’m sure.

I went to see Magic Mike XXL on Friday and I am not ashamed to say I loved every minute of it! Dancing, theatrical performances, hot men and a special shout out to the awesome Jada Pinkett Smith – in my book, WHAT is there not to like?! But once all the hype of seeing these perfect bodied men had calmed down, it seemed that there was something missing, and I suppose that elusive thing was depth. “It’s a film about strippers!” I hear you cry, “It’s not supposed to have depth”, and yes I do acknowledge this. The point is, the snapshot that you see of them performing is just that, a teeny tiny brief glimpse of them and from this point it is easy to get carried away musing things from this one angle. They look amazing (full credit to their self discipline and personal trainers), and based on this along with the output of other media channels, women start to build lists of ideals in their head for their perfect match. Lists of requirements that no poor perspective partner is ever going to be able to live up to.

Then the worst bit kicks in…you build your list, then get totally disappointed. Cue long discussions with girlfriends full of self doubt musing about how you are never going to find ‘the one’, let alone keep him. Meanwhile, the poor decent guys you meet, are discarded as they don’t have David Gandy’s body, Lord Sugar’s business empire, Gordon Ramsay’s cooking skills, Professor Brian Cox’s intelligence, the Dalai Lama’s insight, Channing Tatum’s dance technique, and Lewis Hamilton’s driving skills (hmmm that last one needs to come off MY list!)… breathhheeeee.

Finding the perfect man is like asking you to be the perfect woman. I was going to state it is a nice sentiment, but you know what, I don’t think it is even that. If you let the pursuit of perfection whether this be in yourself or a lover take over your life, you don’t need me to tell you that the results will be anything but perfect.

So maybe, we strip it back to basics, and a man becomes just a man… just as you are, at the end of the day, just a woman (albeit an awesome one). Just as we are never going to be perfect for them, we should also make allowances for their character quirks (I HATE the word flaws).

Supposing they were made up of noble characteristics such as striving to do good in the world, and showing courage in the face of adversity, would we be prepared to negotiate on the super flat abs? Perhaps you could even just whittle your list down to one thing –  That they love you in the best way for you, and this love is returned. Sure they will mess up, but then again so will you, and if it’s nothing that is monumentally important to you, shouldn’t we just let it slide? They maybe in your life for a good time or a long time, but as the saying goes, make hay while the sun shines and enjoy your journey together… wherever that may lead.

The secret is not perfect, the real secret is knowing you nor anyone else you know will ever achieve perfection… and owning all that you are anyway.

 

Love always,

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Adventures In Style Inspiration

 

Grand Bazaar and Spice Market

If you are at all into shopping, then the Grand Bazaar will be right up your street…literally. It has been said that one can lose days in this maze that is perhaps another one of Istanbul’s most recognisable sights. It seems that almost anything you require can be found here and the shopkeepers will do almost anything to appease you into purchasing from them and not their nearest competitor. From glass tea sets, to brightly coloured lanterns (a must have to add colour and sparkle to your home!) and from Turkish delight, to fake designer handbags, your wish is their command to these genies of Istanbul’s very own Aladdin’s cave. I finally tracked down the perfect rose gold crescent moon necklace here, which had the shop owner running back and forth all over the Bazaar (I kid you not!). It would appear if they don’t have it, they will simply go out and get it for you – I like their entrepreneurial spirit!

Try your hand at bartering, or simply browse the streets – this is an experience that is essential to experience quintessential Istanbul.

Discover more about the Grand Bazaar & Spice Market

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Go underground to the Basilica Cistern

They say that whenever you visit a new city you should look up. For it is when we look up, that we truly see. We see the beauty of the buildings surrounding us, and we see the love that goes into creating every city that many, many tourists (and even residents) miss. Whilst the same is true of Istanbul, one of it’s more surprising beauties, is actually underground. In fact, it wasn’t really meant to be seen at all. Commissioned by Justinianus I, the Byzantium Emperor, (the part of my mind that loves old school history is now in overdrive!) this surprising discovery was constructed as an underground water reservoir. Yes, you read that right – this vast underground space, which will frankly take your breath away, was never actually meant to be seen… now if that isn’t dedication to beauty and ascetics I don’t know what is! One of the few benefits of the snow was that many people had not ventured out that day, so the Cistern was very quiet and warm – go figure! A visit while the crowds are away comes highly recommended, not only for the obvious reasons of not being able to see anything and the potential hazard of being pushed into the water, but so you can really get a sense of how vast this underground chamber is. There is a certain stillness that can be found there which is almost therapeutic, and after 2 days of freezing my little butt off, I was in need of some therapy! (I say again – Claire, I am NEVER listening to your weather predictions again!)

Whether you are a history, science or art geek, there is something here for everyone to admire and be astonished by. If your approach to life is a little more hedonistic, simply watch the fish swim by and imagine what an awesome party you could host down there… those ACOUSTICS!

Discover the Basilica Cistern here.

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Dinner with a View – The PerDerPey Restaurant at the Richmond hotel

I have yet to meet a person who does not love an incredible view over a landscape, be it the countryside, a seascape, or a cosmopolitan city. Now, if you can combine said view with amazing food, then I am quite possibly the happiest girl in the world. On the terrace of the Hotel Richmond lies the PerDerPay restaurant which overlooks the peninsula of Istanbul. For me, it has the perfect view. You can look out onto the water to see ships of all shapes gliding silently through the water, while across the water the modern buildings of ‘new’ Istanbul form the perfect opposite to the beautiful ancient mosques which are so synonymous with the city. The food is excellent, specialises in Ottoman cuisine and presents menus which are updated and changed regularly. The staff are super helpful and will accommodate your requests… even if this means taking endless photos of you standing with the whole of Istanbul at your feet.

Book your table here.

 

Hotel Richmond viewJourney to Paris

The special place that is Paris has in my heart is always with me. From the wild times of Las Vegas, to the still waters of the Maldives, no one in my book does it quite like Paris. Imagine my amazement (read total delight!) to find a tiny Parisian style tearoom tucked in the corner of one of the most glamorous hotels in Istanbul. In case you hadn’t already realised, the Pera Palace became our go to comfort blanket when we were in need of a little warmth with an added dash of luxury. Please note, when I go on holiday I like to fully get involved in the local culture, but sometimes, the familiar is just want is required.

After a particularly long, and cold day (yes, there were many of these!) Claire and I decided to venture in for cake on our way ‘home’. The dusky pink interior (my new favourite colour) welcomed us in,  and despite our very bedraggled appearance, we were shown to a table by a very sweet girl. The choice of cake was vast ranging from Parisian macarons to cupcakes with a twist.

If you are in search of an luxurious heaven, then this is quite possibly it. Attention to detail is displayed in everything that they do. Even the uniforms of the staff  (Pink in case you couldn’t guess!) were pressed pristinely. This was topped off with a black fascinator for a touch of style and eccentricity – too cool!  The vast chandeliers, the marble floors, the beautiful cakes all lead you to the conclusion, that if you like elegant things, you have well and truly come home.

This little slice of heaven is Patisseries de Pera

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Many people reflect on that fact that the world is such a vast place, and it is! 510,072,000 km² to be precise! It in fact seems so huge, that people state that there also seems so little time in which to see it. I would in turn,  say this to them. If you have a hunger to seek out the world, do just that… little by little. Look to what has been left by the past for inspiration and to see what great things can be achieved. Istanbul is a fabulous place to be reminded of this. We can learn lessons from Empires now consigned to the history books, yet they still live on through the buildings and culture that remain today. Our predecessors that have gone before us have left us a message, and if you listen closely you may just hear it. Start today, and build your tomorrow. The Topkapı Palace in Istanbul took 14 years to build, but this did not dissuade it’s creators from starting… this time is now.

Love Always,

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International Adventures

 

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Tucked away in the postcard village of Cranbrook there lies a secret. A secret that in my book, is too good to keep. For years I have been seeking the perfect place to go with my girlfriends to have a delicious home cooked meal or, indulge in some cake. Oh yes, the surroundings also have to be breathtakingly beautiful, and the service exceptional. A tall order some may say, but it is my great pleasure to tell you that the wait is officially over.

Cocolicious is the baby of Lucinda (LouLou) Hamilton, a lady who is every bit as fabulous as the patisserie she has lovingly created. I could listen to LouLou talk for hours about the adventures she has had in her life. To give you a flavour (no pun intended!) of these, LouLou has been known to do acrobatics on horseback, and even made her own wedding cake for what turned out to be a rather stormy occasion – thankfully of the meteorological type as opposed to family disagreements!

Starting her career under the watchful eye of Anton Mosimann at his renowned dining club in Belgavia, LouLou developed her natural flair for amazing attention to detail and customer service. These traits were developed further at The Ritz (does a learning ground for hospitality get any better than this?!) and The Athenaeum Hotel. Later on in her career she ran the catering department of a large London law firm, a time described by LouLou as “running my own empire, within a company… with a large budget” – What a great place to practise running your own business!

Via a move to Kent, 3 children, and running a successful catering business from home, Cocolicious was born to a fanfare of pastel pink floors. Now a hallowed ground for amazing cake, the brand continues to build on it’s previous success. As a fabulous champion of women in business, LouLou was kind enough to share her ‘ingredients’ for running a successful empire with me, and so, without further ado, I will share her wise words below…

~ Perfect your offering to amaze your target market

If you have a great product that you know your target market will love, people will come. Therefore getting your product right is essential. Cocolicious is a place for not only girls to feel at home, or mummies with children, but everyone. We just really aim to offer an amazing environment where people can feel at home and refuel.  Whether it is a good thing or a bad thing, a girl cannot live on cake alone, (despite what they want!) so while it is a priority for me to be able to offer the perfect baked delight for women, it is essential to offer great home cooked meals too.

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~ Keep inspiring yourself

This is so, so important. No matter how much you love your business and how much you plan to ensure it reaches the lofty heights of whatever you have imagined for it, you will lose enthusiasm if you don’t take the time to inspire yourself.  We are lucky to live in the days of social media, and an abundance of inspiration can be found daily on platforms such as Instagram. I take my main inspiration from the Middle East & Australasia. I also particularly love the work of Yotam Ottolenghi, whom I was lucky enough to work with recently. I like Peggy Porschen for her fabulous cakes, although it is important to me that I continue to put my own twist on the inspiration I draw. For me, it’s also about drawing from what is happening on the London food scene, so, for example, we have been experimenting with a twist on the traditional afternoon tea. Afternoon Tea is big at the moment, and venues are now searching for the ‘edge’ as to how to make their food just a little bit  unusual. We are currently experimenting with adding sweet sushi and goat’s cheese profiteroles to our Afternoon Tea menus.

Afternoon Tea

~ Add a sprinkling of quirks

Putting your own stamp onto things is crucial, and customers love it. One of our company’s key traits is the naming of our baked creations. We have ‘Jackson’, our gluten free chocolate brownies named after my son, all the way through to ‘Carrie’ our carrot cake. It doesn’t end there, and we now have names for most of our ingredients and kitchen apparatus! My personal favourite though has to be ‘Hold on Dave’, our nickname for our home made Hollandaise sauce! It always makes me laugh! We will also periodically have balloons in the shop and we serve our food mostly on vintage china.

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~ Keep it fresh

While people love our signature dishes, we ensure we keep their attention by trying new things. We change our menu daily so customers always have a different choice, and the opportunity to try something new. After all, the customer comes first.

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~ Build an ‘A – Team’

I have extremely high standards, which for me, goes hand in hand with being hideous at delegating! But, in order to grow my business I had to build a team, not just any team, but a team that would be creative, work hard and meet my standards. Not an easy order! I was fortunate enough when I held interviews, to find Ginny and Sarah who now produce our cooked delights. Not only did they fit my ‘must love pink’ criteria in the job description, but they also share my enthusiasm for producing the best cooking they possibly can consistently. I let them create and implement their own ideas, which makes me slightly nervous (again, letting go can be hard!), but they always do a fantastic job.  I am so lucky as they are very special girls – they have guts and enthusiasm, what more can I ask for?! I am aware of huge impact that having the opportunity to learn had on my career, and I hope that I am able to give this gift to my girls and support them as they develop.

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~ Keep your standards HIGH

I was very privileged to have Anton Mosimann as a mentor. I was thrown into the deep end, and given a very hard time, but I learnt so many valuable lessons under his guidance. He would explain to me the reasons behind why attention to detail was so important, and how to make a difference through the detail. This continues to paramount in my business today. For example, even the marshmallows on our hot chocolate drinks are handmade by us. They are toasted with a blow torch just before serving so the customer receives it crisp but soft – just the way they should be.

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~ Have a dream and believe

Cocolicious originated as business that I ran from home as it was so important for me to be at home for my children. It then developed into something more serious, and now I hope it is something my children will what to be involved in one day. I would love to build the Cocolicious empire to include a book and more patisseries.  My advice to any woman looking to start a business would be to go for it. Yes it is scary, especially if you are a mother. You will worry daily about the impact your business is having on your children, but now, few women have the choice to be lucky enough to stay at home full time. Better therefore, to do something on your terms. Believe in what you are doing, if you do something really well, people will come.

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I don’t just love Cocolicious for the fact that we share the same (first part at least!) name, nor for the abundance of pink that greets you when you walk through the doors. For me, the key ingredient to the success of Cocolicious is something less tangible… that ingredient, is love. From the love that the girls pour into their cooking, to the welcoming front of house ladies, (one of whom exclaimed ‘ oh my goodness your fringe is great!’ while serving me) all the way through to the awesome LouLou’s genuine interest when she speaks to all her customers. Love radiates from everything that they do, and that’s what makes this little haven so very special.

Cocolicious – Stone Street, Cranbrook, Kent, TN13 3NF. 01580 714954

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Dining & Food Adventures