Oxford is abuzz with a brand new bar opening

I was invited to the latest opening of Keeper’s Kitchen and Bar in Oxford last week. I love Oxford and was thrilled to be able to return and attend the event. Keeper’s is conveniently located on the busy high street and sits within Mercure Hotel. The building was once frequented by JRR Tolkien, no less, and fittingly overlooks parts of the University of Oxford. This of course, is the chain’s third venue. There are two others in London and Bristol. Keepers Kitchen and Bar is so named as it champions urban honey. Their menu is a hive (I had to) of honey-inspired food and drink. The launch party was the perfect setting for tasting most of it.

What’s on their menu? We had Keepr’s infused spirits: Cotswolds honey spiced rum, honey infused London dry gin, English raspberry and honey gin and English apple and honey vodka. For those in favour of a craft beer Hiver was on offer. We also sipped vodka and gin cocktails made of Oxford-based artisan distillery TOAD. They served Oxford dry gin, Oxford rye vodka, Oxford botanic gardens physic gin and the unmistakeable Ashmolean dry gin with great effect.

On a regular day you’d be able to enjoy classic cocktails such as Caïpirinha and Mojito starting from £7.50. Mocktail classics Virgin Mary or Virgin Mojito start at an entirely reasonable £3.50. The drinks menu is extensive with an exquisite list of gin, whisky, vodka and cognac ranging from £3.60 to £9.45 for 25ml. Similarly, the impressive list of red, white and sparkling wines can be enjoyed from £5.75 – £13.50 per glass.

Keepers Kitchen & Bar

What did we eat? An array of finger food was served at the opening. However, I was lucky enough to be able to order dinner after the event. As I was attending the event with fellow writers Onin London, The Curious Pixie and the wonderful Emma from Adventures of a London Kiwi we enjoyed a cosy dinner after the restaurant closed. Not only did we have the entire restaurant to ourselves but were also able to taste each other’s food. It was a good way to try as many dishes as possible. We ate Linguine Carbonara (£12.50), Penne al’Arabbiata (£11.50), Baked Camembert with Keepers honey (£12.95) and a Loaded Mediterranean Vegetable Panini (£10). We were all in agreement that the dishes were fresh and delicious.

I must add that I had the most sound night of sleep overnight at Mercure Hotel, Oxford. I was comforted by the view of the breathtakingly beautiful Magdalen Tower from my window and the cosy low ceiling and wooden panels of my room. Perhaps because the hotel itself was once a coaching-inn, which has always served as a resting place for weary travellers, I drifted off to sleep with ease. As I gently woke up I was surprised at how restful my night of sleep had been.

After such a refreshing sleep and an English breakfast we all headed off to explore a little more of Oxford. I love Oxford because it’s a romantic place where the streets are not paved with gold but with something far better; the footsteps of literary scholars who gave the world Alice in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. At every corner there are reminders of the great minds that walked its streets and called it home. And for ever-moving transients, such as myself who come to marvel at the city, there will always be room at the inn. They will find a home at Keepers Kitchen and Bar.

For more information on Keepers Kitchen and Bar visit: https://www.keeperskitchenandbar.co.uk/keepers-oxford

For Mercure Hotel visit: www. accorhotels.com/mercure-oxford

Addison Lee joins Girl Travels World and Coconut Tree, Oxford for a truly Sri Lankan supper club

 

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It’s only Wednesday and already this has been an exciting week; England is through to the quarter finals of the Football World Cup, the count down to London Pride has begun and my first ever supper club takes place in Oxford tomorrow evening. I have collaborated with the independent Sri Lankan restaurant chain The Coconut Tree to present a delightful evening of Sri Lankan food. To top off this grand news I can now announce that the world’s largest managed premium car service Addison Lee will provide all the transport for my event. So this will indeed be a truly relaxing Sri Lankan evening. It’s such exciting news that I wonder if weeks to follow might ever live up to this.

Girl Travels World

I was born in Sri Lanka and spent a part of my childhood there. It’s a deeply ingrained part of my being. Growing up on an island means you adopt basic survival skills early on. For example, you learn quickly that fruit only grows in-season and you must enjoy it now or wait a whole year. So when it came to food I developed my five senses naturally. Now, later in life, it serves me well in my path as a food and travel writer. I know that naturally good produce takes time and patience to grow. I honour that fish is caught by men in boats who go out to sea before dawn and also that anything cooked with love tastes infinitely better.

The Coconut Tree

The evolution of The Coconut Tree restaurant is a similar one. It starts with five Sri Lankan boys (Rashinthe, Mithra, Praveen, Dan and Shamil) living in London relocating to Cheltenham. They needed somewhere to live and found a place above a vacant English pub. Very quickly they recognised the potential of their new home. As such, each evening after their day jobs, they began shaping what would later become an award-winning chain of relaxed-dining Sri Lankan restaurants. Tried and tested family recipes from Sri Lanka were adopted, hand-made furniture was shipped over and a range of botanical cocktails were developed to create the warm hospitality typical of a Sri Lankan home. Just like that, the very first Coconut Tree restaurant was born. A second site in Oxford soon followed with a third due to open in Bristol later this year.

Addison Lee

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The best news of all however, is that Addison Lee , the world’s largest managed premium car service, will provide all the transport for the event. I needed to find a way to transport a group of London-based journalists to Oxford and was delighted when Addison Lee stepped in to help. If you want to book your journey with them just as easily you can download their free easy to use app and enter promo code HELLO10 and enjoy £10 off your first trip when you pay by card. How amazing is that?!

 

To use your promo code HELLO10 and enjoy £10 off your first journey via the Addison Lee app visit: www.AddisonLee.com.  Please note: £10 off first app bookings only when paying by card. £10 minimum fare. Valid only on passenger cars and all vehicle types in London within M25. This code may only be redeemed once and cannot to be used in conjunction with any other offer. Visit addisonlee.com for more info.

For more information on The Coconut Tree restaurants visit: www.thecoconut-tree.com

 

200 Years on – Which Jane Austen?

“But I could no more write a romance than an epic poem. I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or at other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter.” Jane Austen

(Extract from letter written to Rev. James Stanier  Clarke, 1st April 1816, in response to his advice on a plot for the next novel).

2017 marks the bicentennial of one of  the  greatest literary heroes of the English language – Jane Austen. Bodleian Library (University of Oxford) is commemorating this momentous occasion with an exhibition, Which Jane Austen?, challenging the narrative we believe to be true of her life.

A Life Unlaced

Upon Austen’s death, on 18 July 1817, concerned that an outsider may publish a biography, her family set about creating the image of a quiet spinster who wrote in her spare time. Anxious that they might fall in to the wrong hands, her sister and confidante Cassandra destroyed thousands of private letters. All but 161 survived. This largely shaped her nephew James Edward Austen Leigh’s publication A Memoir of Jane Austen (1869). At a time when public interest in Austen was stirring, the book was used to construct an image of a middle class country woman not motivated by “…the hope of fame nor profit…”. Thus manufacturing a contrived heroine.

“War, Empire and Business”

200 years on and the University of Oxford presents an exhibition challenging this notion of Austen. Curator of the exhibition, Kathryn Sutherland, presents a wartime writer whose world stretched from India to China, an ambitious woman who possessed an uncompromising vision and an unparalleled understanding of her craft.

Through a collection of books, letters and personal effects the exhibition unlocks an identity influenced by war, gossip, scandal and the political climate of her time. It provokes an author who spent most of her life in the shadow of war from the American Revolution to the Napoleonic Wars. Moreover, we discover a woman who savoured her professional career. She made regular visits to the capital when her books were in the process of publication. She nurtured and built a successful relationship with her publisher John Murray II. When her business day was over she enjoyed an active social life at the theatre, arts and culture in London. All of which are supported by Bodleian Library’s rich Austen material.

This is a remarkable exhibition which examines everything that influenced the author from childhood into her last days.

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Which Jane Austen?

So we come to the ultimate question – Which Jane Austen? I was introduced to Pride and Prejudice at the age of 15. When I turned the first page into her life I could have never known that decades later I would be browsing through personal letters, admiring her silk plisse dress and be mere inches a away from the desk where she penned what is arguably her most famous novel.

As a young reader I found her subjects uninspiring. I imagined (without evidence) her life to have been simple, her circles small and her relationships uninteresting. As I grew and my own world became bigger, wider and more exciting I abandoned Ms. Austen in favour of Marquez, Allende, du Maurier, Atwood.

The invitation to Which Jane Austen? therefore, was a chance meeting. Akin to bumping in to a jilted lover on a platform waiting to board the same train. Flight or fight? As I could no longer plead youth, I decided I would fight. So I set off to Oxford to see her once more. I was met with first editions of her major works, greeted by her hand copied music books and awed by a selection of hilarious short stories written in her childhood. As I moved around the room in silence she wooed me. I was enmeshed in her world – the one she really occupied. A world full of wonder, fun, excitement, wit, social consciousness, charm and elegance. It was difficult to imagine such an effervescent personality being contained in a small English country village resigned to her fate of dying a spinster.

Which Jane Austen? corroborates that she lived fully, authentically, uncompromisingly. Without a doubt she left an imprint on all those she encountered. Rev. James Stanier Clarke (Librarian to George, Prince of Wales) was so struck by her at their meeting that he painted an image of her from memory in his “Liber Amicorum” (Book of Friends).

Austen was a story teller of the best kind; one that could tell a story about a story. Her genius lay in weaving an under current of emotion and intrigue in to familiar routines, people and situations. What might otherwise be a mundane event transformed itself in to a gigantic wave under her penmanship. So, which Jane Austen you ask me? I choose the woman who’s life is displayed in the Bodleian. She will forever be etched in my memory.

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Which Jane Austen? runs until October 2017 at the Weston Library. Admission is free. For more information visit: www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/whatson.

Which Jane Austen?

But I could no more write a romance than an epic poem. I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or at other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter. Jane Austen

(Extract from letter written to Rev. James Stanier  Clarke, 1st April 1816, in response to his advice on a plot for the next novel).

2017 marks the bicentennial of one of  the  greatest literary heroes of the English language – Jane Austen. Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford is commemorating it with an exhibition titled Which Jane Austen? It’s aimed to challenge the narrative we have been led to believe of her life.

A Life Unlaced

Upon Austen’s death, on 18 July 1817, concerned that an outsider may publish a biography, her family set about creating the image of a quiet spinster who wrote in her spare time. Anxious that they might fall in to the wrong hands, her sister and confidante Cassandra destroyed thousands of private letters. All but 161 survived. This largely shaped her nephew James Edward Austen Leigh’s publication A Memoir of Jane Austen (1869). At a time when public interest in Austen was stirring, the book was used to construct an image of a middle class country woman not motivated by “…the hope of fame nor profit…”. Thus manufacturing a contrived heroine.

“War, Empire and Business”

200 years on and the University of Oxford presents an exhibition challenging this notion of Austen. Curator of the exhibition, Kathryn Sutherland, presents a wartime writer whose world stretched from India to China, an ambitious woman who possessed an uncompromising vision and an unparalleled understanding of her craft.

Through a collection of books, letters and personal effects the exhibition unlocks an identity influenced by war, gossip, scandal and the political climate of her time. It provokes an author who spent most of her life in the shadow of war from the American Revolution to the Napoleonic Wars. Moreover, we discover a woman who savoured her professional career. She made regular visits to the capital when her books were in the process of publication. She nurtured and built a successful relationship with her publisher John Murray II. When her business day was over she enjoyed an active social life at the theatre, arts and culture in London. All of which are supported by Bodleian Library’s rich Austen material.

This is a remarkable exhibition which examines everything that influenced the author from childhood into her last days.

IMG_1076

Which Jane Austen?

So we come to the ultimate question – Which Jane Austen? I was introduced to Pride and Prejudice at the age of 15. When I turned the first page into her life I could have never known that decades later I would be browsing through personal letters, admiring her silk plisse dress and be mere inches a away from the desk where she penned what is arguably her most famous novel.

As a young reader I found her subjects uninspiring. I imagined (without evidence) her life to have been simple, her circles small and her relationships uninteresting. As I grew and my own world became bigger, wider and more exciting I abandoned Ms. Austen in favour of Marquez, Allende, du Maurier, Atwood.

The invitation to Which Jane Austen? therefore, was a chance meeting. Akin to bumping in to a jilted lover on a platform waiting to board the same train. Flight or fight? As I could no longer plead youth, I decided I would fight. So I set off to to the University of Oxford to see her once more. I was met with first editions of her major works, greeted by her hand copied music books and awed by a selection of hilarious short stories written in her childhood. As I moved around the room in silence she wooed me. I was enmeshed in her world – the one she really occupied. A world full of wonder, fun, excitement, wit, social consciousness, charm and elegance. It was difficult to imagine such an effervescent personality being contained in a small English country village resigned to her fate of dying a spinster.

Which Jane Austen? corroborates that she lived fully, authentically, uncompromisingly. Without a doubt she left an imprint on all those she encountered. Rev. James Stanier Clarke (Librarian to George, Prince of Wales) was so struck by her at their meeting that he painted an image of her from memory in his “Liber Amicorum” (Book of Friends).

Austen was a story teller of the best kind; one that could tell a story about a story. Her genius lay in weaving an under current of emotion and intrigue in to familiar routines, people and situations. What might otherwise be a mundane event transformed itself in to a gigantic wave under her penmanship. So, which Jane Austen you ask me? I choose the woman who’s life is displayed in the Bodleian. She will forever be etched in my memory.

FullSizeRender 165

Which Jane Austen? runs until October 2017 at the Weston Library. Admission is free. For more information visit: www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/whatson.