January 24, 2013

Sponsored post: A Very Aussie Arvo Tea

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via

You should all know by now that I don’t need much of an excuse for a good old-fashioned tea party, so when Twinings sent me a box of their limited edition Australian Afternoon Tea it didn’t take long before I had (a) cracked open a packet of Iced Vo-Vos; (b) whipped up a batch of wattleseed cupcakes; and (c) dug out some of my choicest vintage Australiana china and linen. Add half a dozen lamingtons, a knitted cockie teapot handle cosy and a pot of Twinings full-bodied Australian Afternoon Tea and I was set: a very Aussie arvo tea. Heaven!

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via

I used this recipe for the Wattleseed cupcakes, and I decorated them with handmade sprigs of marzipan wattle.

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via

They’re dead-easy to make: just grab a packet of marzipan, dye three-quarters of it yellow with food colouring, and roll tiny balls with your hands (about 7mm wide). Then add some yellow food colouring to a bowl of caster sugar, and roll the balls in the sugar for a fluffy wattle-like coating.

For the leaves, add a drop or two of green food colouring to the rest of your marzipan, and roll it out to 2mm thickness. Use a sharp knife to cut out leaves and use a bread and butter knife to imprint veins. Arrange your little wattles on top of your cupcakes and you have a rather sweet tribute to Australia’s indigenous national flower.

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via

As for the tea itself – well, let’s just say it was the little Aussie hero of the party. I like it. I like it a lot – it’s a brisk pick-me-up blend created by Kevin Rudd, of all people, and funnily enough it’s a feisty little character. Kevin won Twinings’ challenge last year to come up with an original brew that best reflected the taste of Australia. The top five blends were put to a public vote and Kevin come up trumps with a blend that stands up against the most languid of Aussie arvos.

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via

Twinings has raised over $120,000 to date for the former Prime Minister’s chosen charity, the RSPCA, through on-pack donations. It’s a timely cause as the RSPCA needs extra support at this time of the year with poor wee injured animals from bushfires.

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via

Limited edition Twinings Australian Afternoon Tea is available in Coles stores now, while stocks last. So best be quick! You can purchase it in a splendid keepsake tin (as pictured above), or in a twin pack with either English Breakfast or Early Grey. The lovely Twinings people are also increasing donations to the RSPCA, with 50c from every tin and $1 from every twin-pack going to the charity. Tea-riffic! (sorry, couldn’t resist.)

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via

WIN! Twinings Australian Tea
I have five tins of this lovely limited-edition Twinings Australian Afternoon Tea tins to give away. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below telling me in 25 words or less what you would serve with a pot of Australian Afternoon Tea. The giveaway is open to all Australian residents 14 years and older, and it ends at 5pm AEDST on Feburary 1, 2013.

Entries will be judged by Nuffnang and the winners will be the ones deemed most creative. There will be five winners, all of whom will receive a limited-edition tin of Twinings Australian Afternoon Tea. Click here for the full competition terms and conditions. Please don’t forget to leave your email address in the space provided in the comments section – it will only be visible to me.

This post is sponsored by Nuffnang.

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October 22, 2012

My Secret London with Dan Jones

Freelance writer Dan Jones has lived in London for years – and he’s got around: Shoreditch, Herne Hill, Hackney, Victoria Park, Stoke Newington and now Clapton. He’s written for i-D Magazine as shopping editor, as senior men’s ed, is media consultant to fashion brand Antipodium, and was Time Out London’s Shopping & Style editor for four years (where he was also my mentor and boss), covering everything from LFW to funeral parlours – so he’s acquired a big list of London’s best/weirdest bits.

You can follow Dan on his shiny new blog dedicated to London stores and style, JONESTOWN,  and on Twitter @jonessecret. In the meantime, here is Dan’s Secret London. Enjoy!

Best shop in London for atmosphere?
My mum is a bit of a witch. When I was a kid she’d take me to her favourite New Age shop, Mysteries, on our day trips into London. Being a young cynic, I’d roll my eyes at the dreamcatchers and chakra candles, but when I rediscovered the shop a few years ago, I finally saw how special it is – especially if you suspend all irony. Fancy an amethyst geode as big as your head? Done. Books on faeries and spells? Smudge sticks? Angel cards? Got it. In the market for a polished crystal that looks a bit like Gandalf’s dildo? You’ve come to the right place. Hidden at the back of the shop is a slightly slimy-looking grotto with a babbling water feature, encrusted with crystals and icons, and upstairs you can get your fortune told by Mysteries’ psychic staff and Tarot readers. Magic.

Best in London for vintage?
Princess May Car Boot Sale
Just north of Dalston, opposite Beyond Retro’s huge Stoke Newington High Street store, is one of London’s best car boot sales. The mix of sellers is intriguing – from local trendies selling off their Topshop Unique cast-offs, to seasoned car booters (who tend to drive a hard bargain) selling knick knacks. It all makes for a great breadth of tat to pick through. On a hot summer’s weekend the sale is packed with browsers and sellers who cram themselves creatively into every corner of the grounds, selling from trestle tables and blankets.

Scoring a great car boot bargain is one of my greatest turn ons and Princess May rarely disappoints. On my last visit I picked up a Death Row Records cap, a Florida Gators sweatshirt, an old leather Camel cigarettes wallet – and possibly my best ever car boot find – a large ceramic bust of Arnold Schwartzenegger as The Terminator for £8. I didn’t even haggle. As I walked away from the stall the seller said, in a creepy Austrian accent, “you’ll be back.” No shit.

Best shop in London for gifts?
Donlon Books
Navigating Broadway Market on a Saturday is sometimes a bit overwhelming – you might not always be in the mood for the crowds and gluten-free cakes, squeezing through the shoppers and poseurs, squinting so your eye isn’t poked out by a chocolate eclair. Donlon Books makes it all worth it.

At the north end of the market and usually manned by Conor Donlon, you can browse an excellent selection of art, fashion and culture books (new and old), and magazines, fanzines and cards. It’s great for gifts. I always find something that’s relevant to a friend’s dubious obsession, whether it’s a book on 1970s Australian drag artists or film ephemera from the collection of John Waters himself – Cry Baby tissues or a Serial Mom baseball cap.

Best shop in London for food?
Lina Stores
It’s not much of a secret – Lina Stores has held its own in Soho’s red light district since the ‘30s – but the Italian deli just keeps getting better. The small shop had a bit of a makeover a couple of years back – and achieved the impossible: updating the place to feel thoroughly contemporary but preserving its traditional quirks.

You can have a quick snack or a coffee at the standing tables or buy up big from the impressive stock at the fresh counter (cheeses, charcuterie, etc) or the shelves (biscotti, Venchi treats). The homemade bits are best: pumpkin and sage or veal tortellini, pesto. The fresh pork and fennel sausages usually make the shelves in the early afternoon (amazing rolled up into meatballs at home).

Your number one London shopping secret?
Casa Mexico
I discovered Casa Mexico last year – although I’d walked past it lots of times on my way to the Antipodium studio in Bethnal Green. A few earthenware pots at the entrance had always made me think the place was a ceramic store, something to do with tiles or garden furniture – a bit boring. Still, I decided to try it out one day and it’s good I did.

Inside it’s all Day of the Dead dolls, handwoven rugs, pinata and paper fiesta decorations, bottled sodas and beers, fresh tortilla – and those ceramic garden pots. The Casa team have opened a Mexican pastry counter next door that’ll be selling tacos come September. In the main store, check out the genuine Caballeros cowboy boots, shirts and hats and Lucha Libre wrestling masks, or pick up some religious candles (£4.50 for Jesus) and proper Mexican sweets. Steer clear of the hot salted tamarind candies though – the packaging’s great but they taste like death.

The London trend you’re loving right now?
The Grill
Okay, it may not be the best news for the nervous eater, or those prone to bouts of heartburn or animal welfare, but this past summer in London was all about the grill. Dirty burgers, chunks of bone marrow, pulled pork, barbecued ribs… Alongside the stars of the BBQ scene – Meat Liquor, Meat Market and Pit Cue Co. – there are a few relative newcomers that are worth checking out: Burnt Enz at the Climpson Roastery (currently closed for winter) is less about classic BBQ sauces and more about using the grill to cook posh things like scallops, quail and more traditional stuff like lamb ribs with mint or beef brisket. Elliot’s Cafe at Borough Market collaborated with Raw – Borough’s wine fair – in the form of a pop-up burger stand selling aged beef patties with beer-braised onions, Comte and a brioche bun… it’s totally dirty – in a good way.

Thanks Dan!

Click here for a Wee Birdy map of Dan’s Secret London, complete with all the addresses and contact details.
Click here for more Secret London posts

Image sources: Mysteries; Donlon Books; Lina Stores; Lina Stores.

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October 13, 2012

A week of tea: The top 20 tea pots

Here’s something I’ve been working on for a little while: the Wee Birdy buyer’s guide to the 20 best tea pots. The value of a good tea pot should never be underrated, especially if they pack in as much charm and good looks as these little beauties. From chintzy rose buds and polka dots to a modern interpretation of the classic Willow pattern, these little pots do more than brew a good cuppa – they add a splash of personality, colour and good design to the diurnal grind. Essential qualities, really.

1. Oranges and Lemons hand-painted tea pot, £75 from Tobyboo’s Etsy shop.
2. Camellia tea pot, £35 from Pierrot et Coco.
3. White lace hand-painted tea pot, US$58 from Clayful Impressions’ Etsy shop.
4. Mr Jones tea pot by Polly George, AU$84 from Everything Begins.
5. Lace tea pot by We Love Kaoru, AU$105 from Everything Begins.

6. Vintage enamel mid-century tea pot, US$85 from Hindsvik’s Etsy shop.
7. Salt and Pepper green tea pot with infuser by Salt and Pepper. Click here for your nearest stockist.
8. My Teapot’ in yellow with an anthracite lid by Anouk Jansen, £45 from Howkapow.
9. The New English x TNE Studios Benday cobalt tea pot, £122 from Culture Label.
10. London Willow tea pot by We Love Kaoru (features Big Ben, London Eye and the BT Tower), AU$96 from Everything Begins and £60 from Culture Label.

11. Gordon Ramsay Maze by Royal Doulton blue tea pot, AU$39.95 from Royal Doulton.
12. Provence rose tea pot, £18 from Cath Kidston.
13. Blossom tea pot by Swedish designer Camilla Engdahl, £30 from Howkapow.
14. Cupcakes tea pot by Poppy Treffry, made from fine bone china in Stoke on Trent, £24 from The Green Apple.
15. Blodwen white enamel Caernarfon tea pot, £35 from Liberty.

16. Wedgwood Polka Dots teaware tea pot, AU$89.95 from Wedgwood.
17. Royal Albert Polka Rose Vintage tea pot, AU$199 from Royal Albert.
18. Miss Etoile Gold polka dot ceramic tea pot, US$63.04 from Oliver Bonas.
19. Limogues pink tea pot, price on enquiry from The Bay Tree.
20. Wedgwood Butterfly Bloom Teaware tea pot, AU$125 from Wedgwood.

It’s A Week of Tea on Wee Birdy. WIN a stunning Twinings wooden tea chest packed with Twinings tea – click here to enter now!

You might like to also read about:

I’m curious. Which tea pot is your favourite? Tell me in the comments below.

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September 14, 2012

Wee Birdy in New Zealand: Primo Cafe in Methven

I would never expect to find much in the way of (a) quirky cafes, (b) vintage clothes and (c) the kind of shopping that gets my heart racing in a small ski resort town. So I was surprised to discover that Primo Cafe in Methven delightfully ticks all three boxes.

Methven is a small town in the Canterbury region of New Zealand and is the base for nearby Mt Hutt during the ski season.

Part-cafe and part-junk-shop, Primo is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of retro Kiwiana, bric-a-brac, vintage clothes, jewellery, accessories, tablewear, books, prints, paintings, toys, magazines and furniture. Every available surface is crammed with the kind of trinkets you’d be thrilled to uncover in a country carboot sale.

The back wall is stacked with an impressive collection of vintage blankets, sheets and fabric, while the front window houses an assortment of glassware and crystal.

The kitchen counter is stacked with just-baked slices, muffins, biscuits and cakes, and the menu offers an assortment of delicious old-fashioned breakfast and lunch time options. Primo’s legendary bacon and egg toasted sandwich is not to be missed, but we also liked the avocado and tomato on toast. There was an adorable vintage enamel highchair for Harry, the kind which has a seat that slides out to reveal an in-built potty. He was happy with his avocado toast and a “little Fluffy” – Kiwi for babycinno.

There is no rush to leave – in fact, lingering is encouraged with the wood-burning stove in the corner, cosy crocheted cushions on the chairs and various vintage chess sets scattered around the tables. I was tempted to curl up in an old armchair by the fire for the day, but we had to get going to Mt Hutt. Still, it was a rather charming and unexpected way to start our day at the snow.

Primo Cafe
38 McMillan Street
Methven, New Zealand
Tel. 03 302 9309

And if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Methven, the Brinkley Resort was superb in every way possible. We had an apartment on the ground-floor so we didn’t have to worry about lugging suitcases, child and pram up stairs, and we also had two bedrooms, a laundry and a kitchen, so we could easily adapt to Harry’s familiar home routines. The accommodation itself was modern, clean and stylish, and it provided the perfect base for our adventures on Mt Hutt.

Wee Birdy travelled to Christchurch courtesy of the good folks at Tourism New Zealand and Air New Zealand. Head to for more information about visiting New Zealand.

Click here to read my post about Re:Start in Christchurch, including my top six shops.
Click here to read about The General Store at Re:Start in Christchurch.

Click here to read about HAPA at Re:Start in Christchurch.
Click here to read about Johnson’s Grocers at Re:Start in Christchurch.

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August 11, 2012

A wee birdy week – in pictures

This is what my week looked like, according to Instagram. I found the first daffodils of the season; I spotted a London Olympics-themed window at Sydney toy shop, Monkey Puzzle; I found some cool vintage Olympics stamps and a beautiful vintage Melbourne Olympics souvenir scarf; and I had an incredible lunch at Momofuku Seiobo with fellow bloggers and ex-Londoners Gourmet Chick and Vintage Macaroon (the spanner crab and the donut filled with chocolate and pork fat were amazing).

What did you get up to?

Are you on Instagram? Find me @WeeBirdy.

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August 6, 2012

My Secret London with Sarah Drinkwater

It’s back! By popular demand! My Secret London! This is where I pin down prominent London style/design/food insiders and ask them to share their favourite London addresses and secret destinations with Wee Birdy readers. This is London by locals – and knowledgeable, super-stylish locals at that. Here we go…

Sarah Drinkwater (pictured top right) grew up in the countryside with a postcard of London above her desk and moved there to study. After careers as a vintage clothes buyer and a journalist, she turned her favourite hobby – exploring London – into a career and now works as a community manager for Google Plus Local, helping users find great new places to go to through their friends. Sarah also blogs (sometimes, honest) at

Best shops for vintage homewares?
I love coloured glassware, and Vintage Heaven on Columbia Road is, as the name suggests, rammed full of pastel glass ice cream glasses, deep green vases and piles of mismatching saucers. The Old Cinema in Chiswick is one of those treasure troves where they have everything from red velvet rows of cinema seats to industrial steel lockers and kitsch Seventies porcelain. And I’ve picked up some great midcentury bargains at The Peanut Vendor, a tiny shop on Newington Green.

Best shops in London for clothes?
I feel like high street fashion’s never been better for us early thirty-somethings who are simply not into Topshop’s mesh crop tops anymore. I own lots of Whistles, who balance great quality basics with quirky prints and luxe leather jackets. Cos lets me pretend I’m an extremely trendy architect with their sculptural shapes and great jewellery (I love oversize jewellery) and Hobbs’ NW3 range can be cool, too – I just bought a grey merino wool tight-fit jumper in the sale with an orange paperclip print.

Aubin & Wills also turned up some sale goodies, like a balloon print silk shirt dress, and Liberty has the very best selection of pricey brands including Carven, which I wish I could afford. I’m also pretty excited about Folk‘s new womenswear range…

Best shops in London for accessories?
The only jewellery I wear are necklaces, but I wear one every day, and I’m always looking out for them! Tatty Devine is the classic quirky London jeweller, and I own plenty of their cheerful pop art pieces. Luna and Curious on Calvert Avenue stock some really unusual items by independent designers, and they’re right opposite the queen of enormo jewels, Mawi. My burger locket necklace by Lazy Oaf is my current favourite, and I’d love one of Jessica de Lotz’s wax seal initial pendants.

Best shops in London for buying gifts?
I really like giving books as presents, and both Broadway Bookshop and Daunts in Marylebone have the best recent novels and those gorgeous coffee table books you don’t buy for yourself. I just bought a friend a design-your-own-banner kit from Nook on my local high street, too. They do craft workshops which I think make a great gift.

Best shops in London for perfume, make-up and skincare?
At the risk of sounding poncy, I wear Diptyque’s Vetyverio, which smells like the velvet-lined inside of a wooden box, and their Marylebone shop is a bit of a treat. For most of my beauty and skincare products, I head to Space NK, a micro-chain that stock both unusual brands and big hitters like Laura Mercier and Nars.

Best places in London for food?
Between my job and my insatiable curiousity, I’m a bit of a tart and always keen to try new places. I’d definitely take any visitor to two places; Bob Bob Ricard, a luxe restaurant dishing up Brit classics that’s decked out like an Edwardian gentleman’s club, and Spuntino, a cool-as diner with bourbon cocktails, bone marrow sliders and peanut butter and jelly icecream for pudding. I’d also nudge them in the direction of Pitt Cue Co’s trailer on the Southbank which is dishing up macaroni cheese and pulled pork patties, and Mark’s Bar below Hix in Soho for some mighty fine cocktails.

You’ve got 24 hours in London. Where do you go? What do you see? What do you buy?

That’s so hard! I’d start with breakfast at Towpath Cafe overlooking the canal and then pick up a Boris bike so I could avoid the crowds. First stop would be the Barbican, a Brutalist arts centre that’s endlessly interesting, whether you want to see their current Bauhaus exhibition or just wander around the grounds. From there, cycle to the Southbank and stroll past The Globe, The Royal Festival Hall and the London Eye.

Grab lunch at Pitt Cue’s Trailer and haul your bike over the bridge to Liberty in Soho, for the best collection of British design in one place. A nice cup of tea at Kaffeine will prepare you for cycling up to Hampstead Heath for a ramble with the best view of the whole city. I’d pick up a beer and a burger at Dach and Sons, then head to the Everyman Cinema there to watch films how they should be watched; on a sofa, with waiters bringing you mojitos!

Where do you go for a good coffee in London?
I’m a coffee fanatic so this changes all the time; my current favourites include Ozone Coffee Roasters right by Silicon Roundabout and arty cafe The Russet. But for the best coffee and breakfast, try the avocado on sourdough (so hard to get in the UK!) at Wilton Way Cafe, where they run London Fields radio in the corner, or the bircher muesli in a jam jar with passionfruit at my beloved local, Mouse and de Lotz.

Your number one London shopping secret?
Never judge a book by its cover; the shop next to Wilton Way cafe looks a little challenging from the outside, but sells an amazing collection of vintage glasses (for not junky prices).

Thanks Sarah!

Click here for a Wee Birdy map of Sarah’s Secret London, complete with all the addresses and contact details.

Click here for more Secret London posts.

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