Duck and Waffle reflections at night

I had a bit of an epiphany at 5:30am. This was unusual for two reasons, firstly because I don’t normally have epiphanies, I normally sidle up to an idea and casually buy it a drink, and secondly I was voluntarily awake at 5:30am which is unheard of. The epiphany was this: London makes you work hard to be happy.

The reason I was conscious at 5:30am before work on a Wednesday was for brunch. Some may quibble that brunch before the sun has risen is not brunch, but fuck you I am a hobbit and if I call it brunch…its brunch. A friend was leaving London and wanted to go to Duck and Waffle before she left, and at a weeks notice the only booking we could get was at sparrows fart o’clock. We decided to go for it, I mean we were drunk so of course we were up for it at the time.

The day came and I think we were cursing the very name of Duck and Waffle. Tired, groggy and awake before the tube was running this seemed like literally worst idea that anyone had ever had ever. Who in their right mind would wake up three hours early to go to a restaurant – particularly when its still dark out? After the traumatic commute (Londoners are extra weird that early in the morning) we arrived at Duck and Waffle and took the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory lift up to the 40th floor. In that short lift journey everything became amazing.

Sunrise from Duck and Waffle

All of a sudden London was the city you see in the movies. We drank coffee as we watched over London at night. The lights below making it seem like the city was full of possibilities. We ate the namesake dish as the sky started to blush with light. By the time we moved to the bar for champagne London had given us a magical sunrise.

Then the epiphany happened.

This brunch has made me almost speechless with love for London, it just felt so special, but I never would have experienced it if I hadn’t got up at an ungodly hour.

This is exactly what London is like. There are almost limitless incredible experiences to be had, but you have to go out and grab them. Generally these amazing things either require you to be super organised, will mean you have to scrimp and save, find new reserves of courage or just be absolutely exhausting. But they are there and can make you feel like all the shitty and hard bits of London life are worth it.

The danger is that if you don’t make the effort with London it will suck. The far easier option for me would have been to say no to the insane early booking and just not go, or go to a local cafe – but then I would have missed out on seeing London at its best.

Morning at Duck and Waffle

This next level London is particularly hard to unlock when you are a baby expat and don’t have any friends here yet. Since you don’t know anyone the easiest option is to sit at home and watch tv – easy but it means you are missing out on your life. So you have two options, grow some balls and see London by yourself or grow some balls and go outside your comfort zone by asking strangers along with you. Either way balls are required.

London makes you work dam hard to find happiness. If you take the easy option you will miss out on the incredible, the magical and the taste of champagne before sunrise. Fuck the easy, it’s time to find the London you see in the movies.

Runawaykiwi in a box

Hello ducks

Its been a long couple of weeks at Runawaykiwi Towers. For those not in the know, I am an event manager by day and we are now 22 days away from my next biggie: One Live London. It an amazing beast to be working on, but also stressful enough for my colleagues to pack me in a box for a bit to calm me down. The video from my last event is below, and trust me when I say that it doesn’t event begin to show the passion of the day. I think I am going to schedule a few posts to go out in the next few weeks, because my life is all about One Live right now.

I am so excited for this bank holiday weekend, honestly could not have come at a better time (thanks bank holiday scheduling gods!). I’m going to be as anti-technology as possible this weekend, because I know what I’m like, I’ll turn my laptop on to blog and wind up five hours later buried in a risk assessment or loading bay plan. So three days of a closed laptop, phone on airplane mode and flat whites on tap it is! Its crazy how much time I spend in front of a screen, I mean it is work, hobby and how I connect with my friends (and how I avoid getting lost in London!). I might go to extremes and try to replace my online life with IRL, real time fruit ninja anyone?

Some seriously good times have been had amongst this stress ball fun. I went for an evening of perfume and cocktails with Jess and Emma last week, which started well when we were sat at the same table as a couple on a first date – yes we of course were totally unobtrusive and did not mock the guy at all*. None of us were quite sure what the event was, but I had just the most amazing time sitting in a train station talking absolute bullocks with two of the coolest chicks I know. Sometimes you just don’t realise how much you needed your friends until you are sitting next to them, pairing shots with perfumes and whispering nonsense.

Blixen London

What else to update you on?  Oh there is a wicked cool new brunch spot near Liverpool Street. Its called Blixen and the design/fit out is beautiful. The important bit of course is that I would marry the barista the coffee was so good, and they were more than happy with my request to change out spinach for avocado. Winning so hard I went back three times in three days #fangirl

Anyway things on my non-technology horizon this weekend is to discover a couple of new coffee places, try on dresses for my sisters wedding (if you see any white dresses tweet me!) and I might even make a cake.

Love you kids, life may be stressful but by god it is fun.



*lies all lies, we were horrific.

Orphans Kitchen Brunch

Because what is a trip to Auckland without a serious amount of brunch? Two highlights for me were Orphans Kitchen in Ponsonby and Dear Jervois on Jervois Road, both suggested by my big sister. As mentioned before in New Zealand it’s not about just getting the poached eggs right, its all about brunch innovation. I genuinely can’t think of a café in London that even comes close to matching these two in the innovation stakes. I think you could say that Duck and Waffle et al are comparable food wise, but they are high concept restaurants, these Auckland beauties are just humble cafes. Humble cafes that kick the London offering to the curb.

Orphans Kitchen

My visit to Orphans Kitchen got off to a sunny and entertaining start. The table next to us was obviously a group of old friends, but when the waiter went over to take their order there was a shriek and hugs all around. Turns out one of the group had just come back from overseas, but instead of a normal off the plane welcome had decided to pose as a waiter in Orphans Kitchen to surprise them, super cute.

Brunch at Orphans Kitchen Auckland

The food here was tricky, I honestly couldn’t find anything I wanted on the menu. Talk about innovation, there was no easy ‘poached eggs with bacon’ offering here, and I just couldn’t picture the end product from what was on the menu. But getting hangry I let my sister choose for me, and by gods it was good. Mum went for the breakfast panna cotta with kiwifruit and buffalo milk (why had no one thought of a breakfast panna cotta before?!?!), my sister for the black rice pudding with tamarillo, blood orange, and banana (above) and chosen for me was the  roasted avocado with bacon, feijoa and vine tomatoes…heaven.

Dear Jervois

Dear Jervois brunch

Dear Jervois was an interesting one, I LOVED it and my parents had the opposite view. It was all down to how busy it was. In London I am 100% used to battling the crowds to get to food, and while I refuse to wait for brunch I find sitting cheek by jowl totally normal. My parents however are used to the kiwi luxury of a more peaceful spaced out brunch, which is not what you get at the very popular Dear Jervois.

Dear Jervois sage fried eggs

But as always the food is most important. Well maybe not the coffee is important to and we had to send back the first round because they were cold. Eh. Anyway the food was yum, the highlight for me was the sage fried eggs that just did something stratospheric to my taste buds. I would have married those eggs if I could. And the interior was beautiful, for those who did have to wait they wrote their names in a chalk pen on the tiled wall. Love.

Oh and the second round of coffee was AMAZING.

Dear Jervois coffee

The Return of Rad an amazing Auckland cafe

I was feeling quite cocky about the London cafe scene. After all our coffee roasters have some of the most impressive beards in the industry and we all know the relationship between beards and coffee:

Beard Length v Coffee
Because of this I wasn’t actually planning to blog much while I was in New Zealand, after all what was the point writing about the poor backward brunch cousin. Queue awkward jaw dropping when my Mum took my jet lagged self to The Return of Rad on my first day in Auckland. First up was that it looked like a cool cafe, so different to the normal Kiwi white plastic table numbers I was expecting.

After sitting down and trying to figure out what time zone my stomach was in, I went for the eggs Benedict and a flat white (of course). Holy crap. Turns out in New Zealand having a ‘good’ brunch is no longer the aim. While in London I am rating eggs Benedict by a home made holindase and perfectly toasted muffins, in New Zealand it’s all about invention.

The Return of Rad Eggs Benedict

It was like going into a Michelin starred restaurant and asking for chicken: you know you will get a beautifully presented plate with unusual but perfectly complimentary flavours. And that’s what I got at Rad. Instead of the standard eggs benne, I got a ham hock and apple delight.

It was sweet and savoury and something I would expect as a main in a Heston restaurant not a cafe in Mt Eden. Forget your boring muffin, the eggs were on a crispy potato gratin, and along with the creamy holindase there was grated apple and melt in your mouth ham that was more akin to a slow cooked pulled pork. Mum had a pretty looking muesli presented in the Kiwi version of a mason jar. It almost goes without saying that the coffee was perfect.

So, turns out I might be blogging a bit on this trip…stay tuned it’s going to be a caffeine fueled ride.

QGrill Coffee

Rather embarrassingly even though I have been in London for almost three years now anything above Kings Cross is a total blank. I can rationally sit back and understand that there are people who live in North London, that there are successful businesses and fun things a plenty…but on my map of London the north is still just a grey blob.

I once went above the Kings Cross dividing line, a friend had just moved to Tufnell Park and we were going to meet up for brunch. Given my 100% lack of knowledge about brunch places near there I went to Google to try and find the answer. Unfortunately Google failed me and we ended up a wholly dissatisfying brunch spot with soggy hash-browns, weak coffee and an owner that ran round making mountains out of molehills. If only I had found Q-Grill, if only.

The lovely Emma from Adventures of a London Kiwi was invited by Q-Grill to try their new weekend brunch offering. She informed them that much like a guide dog, she had to bring me with her as her brunch companion. I was house trained, could jump through flaming hoops and leaving me at home could bring a brunching disaster. Faced with that sort of pressure the PR at Q-Grill couldn’t help but acquiesce to her request. Slight pause here to just say how amazing Emma is, she always thinking about other bloggers and sharing the opportunities that her hard work has brought. Emma you are a star.

Back onto Q-Grill though, oh how I wish that I had discovered it before my Google fail. The Q-Grill is a BBQ restaurant just past the hustle of Camden Markets. On my original search I had discounted it because it didn’t look like a brunch spot, and even now you have to click a fair few times on their website before finding a mention of brunch. Now that I know where it is however, I finally have a pin  in the blankness of the north.

QGrill Cocktail

What I liked about Q-Grill is that (mostly because it is a restaurant not a cafe) it feels so different. Its all leather and rust and make your own Bloody Marys. Yes you read that right, they have a bar set up so you can make your own Bloody Mary to your exacting tastes. Now I am not a fan of savory cocktails so I didn’t give it a go, but I loved the concept. Fair warning to any brunch spot doing the same with gin I will visit and then never never leave.

My only gripe with Q-Grill is that they promised a ‘Q twist’ on the brunch classics…but what I saw it was just normal brunch. Not that it wasn’t delicious, but I was looking for a BBQ twist on each of the dishes rather than just the Full English (which comes with ribs). I went with a half size Eggs Benedict, I was going straight to Afternoon Tea at the Conrad so seriously appreciated the option of a smaller size. tasty bacon, soft English muffin and perfectly cooked eggs – add a strong Flat White and you have a really good brunch.

Q-Grill is well worth a stop if you are heading for the madness of Camden, next time I visit I want to try the full BBQ.

QGrill Eggs