With American Mothers’ Day approaching quickly (it’s on Sunday May 11th, if you’re in the dark), I wanted to write a post with my dear mother in mind and perhaps offer the perfect day out for all of you American moms over on this side of the pond. Nothing reminds me of my mother like flowers! I’m only sad that we never made it here when she visited last time. She’d be able to name every variety on sale and would swoon at the scale. A street full of cut flowers for those without a green thumb (me) and tubs of shrubs, herbs, and flowers ready to be transplanted into gardens all over London, Columbia Road Flower Market in East London is a life-affirming Sunday outing. On Mothering Sunday here in the UK, about a month ago, my dear husband and I went to visit – perhaps not the ideal Sunday to visit as the weather was stunning and it seemed everyone in London had the same idea. By the time we arrived at what we thought was the early hour of 9:30, the street was already jammed with hawkers and families. I adore the sound of the flower sellers calling out their offers in their coarse East London accents – like something from a bygone era.
We had arrived early so we could take photos for a blog post I was working on for Travel & Leisure about 1235 Donuts. College sweethearts from Ole Miss, Molly and Brad McDonald’s beignet style donuts have quickly become the talk of London, and after eating at their Southern American style restaurant, The Lockhart, in Marylebone, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about myself. I’m declaring that donuts are the new cupcakes. Please see exhibit A: the crab donuts at the Chiltern Firehouse are legendary after just 2 months. Exhibit B: The reknowned St. John restaurant is also offering them. Anyway, we took some snaps of this adorable family and their gorgeous donuts (Chef Brad makes the donuts at his restaurant each Saturday night, storing them down the road and filling them just before serving, literally out of their front door). Having left behind a successful Brooklyn restaurant that was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, this couple offers a warmth and Southern charm that London could use a lot more of. The donuts (gluttons that we are we tried all three flavors of the day: chocolate, coffee, and vanilla) are delicious and alone are worth the trip East.
What I love about Columbia Road, indeed most of the markets in London, is the mix of vendors, people, food. You never know what you might encounter. There’s a vintage furniture shop that I would have bought everything in it, space and finance permitting. TIny coffee kiosks, lots of gardening gift shops, and more and more artisan food stalls are jamming up the little alleys that lead to the main road. On our way out we spotted a Breton-shirted man selling oysters he’d brought in from the coast that morning. I also must mention, Brawn, one of my favorite restaurants in London. It’s a delightful room serving mostly meaty dishes prepared in a wonderful mishmash of French, Italian, and Spanish styles. We left quite quickly as slow-moving groups with strollers clogged the main thoroughfare and made it impossible to even move on that Mothering Sunday, but left with bellies full of donuts, an armload of white parrot tulips (a bargain at 3 bunches for 10 Pounds), and a miniature orange tree that’s made our bedroom smell like heaven ever since. I’m going to let my photos from the day tell the rest of the story!