Thursday, 31 March 2016

Muse of the Day: Rock Queen, Janis Joplin

First week back after the holidays and today I felt the urge for a little escapism, some nostalgia, an icon to rediscover. With that unmistakable raw bluesy voice and trademark

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

5 Instagram-Ready Restaurants in Brighton

Love it or hate, Instagram can actually be really useful for travel tips and gives everyone an extra hobby in life. It's also a great way
to keep up with all those local and off-beat gem restaurants in Brighton – I've actually had some of my best meals in the city at places I've spyed through Instagram. So here, I've selected a few of my favourite Instagram-ready restaurants and enlisted the help of a few other Instagram users to show you the way to some of the most city's best and most Instagrammable...

1. Café Marmalade #LunchSpot

I actually found out about Café Marmalade thanks to Instagram. I saw a snap of the unplastered peeling walls, missed paint job, time-worn tiles that look like they’ve been discovered hidden beneath layers of paint, the torn out magazine pages on the walls - and that busy counter crammed with stacks of deliciousness and within minutes I just HAD to find this place. So I hopped on the scooter and zipped it over to Kemp Town to make sure I didn’t miss out on a table!

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Next to the hospital close to the sea in Kemp Town, Café Marmalade has been open about a year and is set in an impressive 1890 big old Regency building and is open for your morning coffee, brunch, and lunch and sweet treats.

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You can’t help be drawn to the stacks of cakes, pies, quiches and sandwiches on the counter as much as you try to resist – some of them brought in homemade from the owners’ kitchen. Then there are those giant bowls of salads… and the dishes they serve on the menu like scrambled egg and crispy bacon on Real Patiesserie chewy brown bread. OMG.

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Yep, guaranteed you’ll pretty much spend the entire time in Café Marmalade with your iPhone out, wondering what to snap next.

Find Cafe Marmalade at 237 Eastern Rd Brighton, BN2 5JJ.

2. Carlito Burrito #EclecticLocal

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If I’m in need of some mid-week fun and comfort food, or want somewhere to go for a celebration, I’ll haul my rumbling tummy and friends over to this cosy local Mexican street food dive restaurant, Carlito Burrito. Born on the festival circuit, they serve the best Mexican food this side of the Atlantic – in my humble opinion – all made from scratch with love in their tiny kitchen.

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Inside, you sit perusing the menu amid a rainbow-coloured treasure trove of Mexican curiosities and folk art and bright tablecloths – all highly Instagrammable – while cool Mexican music drifts from the stereo...

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Start with what they call an 'oyster shot' if you dare. It's self-explanatory: you shuck a super fresh Brighton oyster and wash it down with a pico de gallo and tequila shot to get you in the mood, followed quickly by a hibiscus margarita.

The burritos are bursting with filling and the fish tacos life-changing – I'll put bets on you’ll be dreaming of the food forever after. At least you can always live vicariously through other people's Instagram photos to get your next fix. 

Find Carlito Burrito at 12 York Place, Brighton BN1 4GU.

3) Riddle and Finns #NewYorkDateNight

If there’s a whiff of ‘New York’ about a restaurant, I’m there – before you are. This favourite Brighton champagne and oyster bar has all the New Yorkie jazz – red-tiled floors, white-tiled walls, high marble bar tables and the entire place is bathed in candlelight each night making it perfect for a special date night. I like to call a trip here 'date night in New York'. 

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A photo posted by Riddle&Finns In The Lanes (@riddlesinthelanes) on

I always crave the crab salad and can never resist the chips – crispy and thin, but haven't braved an oyster. Although this is why Instagram is amazing – it even has an oyster cynic like me actually wondering whether she’s missing out…

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Find Riddle and Finns at 12 Meeting House Lane, Brighton BN1 1HB.

4. Grow40 #WinePalace

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Anywhere with a ‘wine snug’ gets an Ellie & Co high five especially if it’s Instagrammable, which this one is. You’ll find it tucked upstairs at the back of a little restaurant called Grow40 in the bohemian North Laine and like it says, you have to be a member of the restaurant's wine club to step through the velvet curtain...

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Downstairs, the café-restaurant is full of cosy tables you don't have to be a member to enjoy. But where to sit? Outside on the patio for aperitivo and people watching, inside for a cocktail at sundown, counter seats for coffee and thinking time…? Too much choice. But this is where Instagram comes in handy – if like me, your restaurant experience hinges on finding that perfect table – not too much draft, not out on a limb in the middle, NOT facing the till… here’s a tip: use Instagram to choose!

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If you’re lucky, you might just get the one table on the rooftop amid the cafe's vegetable garden…

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All this talk of cosy tables I almost forgot about the food. The menu is quite small but made up for the fact it's highly Instagrammable. 

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Should you like to plan what to eat before turning up, here's a picture of the restaurant's signature dessert I found on Instagram – sweetcorn cake! As you might have thought, it's not a cake covered in yellow sweetcorn, but popcorn. Thank goodness for Instagram!

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And then there are all those wines to choose from...

Find Grow40 at 40 Kensington Gardens, Brighton BN1 4AL

5. The Paris House #SexyParisienneBar

You can just imagine Brigitte Bardot or some other Parisian bombshell in pedal pushers sauntering in to this cosy corner bar in Hove, smoking a cigarette, ordering a carafe of red wine. To be fair, if you hunt around the walls of the little snug room out the back, she's never far away – in fact, she's probably hanging out with all those other 60s Paris beats, Serge, Francoise et al. Yep, it's safe to say you're in good company on a night out at The Paris House. 

There's usually a gypsy jazz band skiffling away most nights, so while they do their thing, grab a cosy nook by the fire, one of those carafes I mentioned, perhaps a cheese platter if you're in for the long-haul (this bar is famous for them around town) and settle in for the perfect evening, Paris style. 

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Find The Paris House at 21 Western Road, Brighton BN3 1AF.

Follow @EllieAndCo.Inc on Instagram for more Brighton tips!

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Our South African Desert Road Trip

Dazed and dazzled, we leave the Garden Route behind us, ready for the last lap of our South African adventure, a drive on Route 62 which takes us through miles of Mars-like

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

A Romantic Waterside Hangout & Other Treasures of South Africa's Garden Route

We finally dragged ourselves out of Cape Town after a week, swapping our tranquil bohemian city hideaway for a trusty hire wagon – for we were off on a road trip along the

Monday, 21 March 2016

Cape Town's Secret Cinema in a Rooftop Trailer Park

We showed our tickets to the concierge who pointed us toward the vintage elevator – one of those old-timey ones with a concertina-screen door the token bad guy in 70s crime movies

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Cape Town's Hidden Rainbow Village

Settled in to our leafy Cape Town neighbourhood, we were ready to explore more of the city. First up on the agenda: a charming hidden suburb at the foot of Signal Hill called Bo Ka'ap (meaning 'upper cape'), known for its jumble of restored and crumbling heritage houses painted vivid colours. 

The streets are a vibrant mix of heritage architecture, artisan studios, spice shops, cafes, restaurants and guesthouses – and 10 mosques! – it feels like a historic district on the cusp of gentrification.

Bo Ka'ap is home to a diverse 300-year-old Muslim community, established by freed slaves – when the houses were painted... white! Hard to imagine, isn't it? Apparently, the paint job is a recent addition, thought to celebrate the Muslim festivals of Ramadan and Eid. 

Fun fact: Residents have the legal right to change the colour of their house as often as they’d like but apparently there is one sticking point — it’s illegal to paint your house the same colour as your neighbours!

Hot sun beating down hard, we slow right down to take in all the details – the colours, the peeling paint, cute window boxes – as the mesmerising call echos from the minarets overhead making it a magical experience. It's hard to believe we're only a few yards from the city's busy business district!

After popping into the Bo Kaap Museum, we need a pitstop. There are plenty of cafes dotted around like the Rose Corner Cafe with its cool dusty orange painted shopfront decorated with artwork, where we stock up on ice-cold bottles of water and spices to take home. 

As our exploring comes to an end, we walk past the cute La Rose B&B, which I make a note of for our next trip! After a bit of snooping, I find out this charming guesthouse offers eight vibrantly-decorated cosy en-suite rooms and that its owner loves making authentic crepes for guests, which you can enjoy on their breezy roof garden with views across all the colourful houses.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

My Heavenly Cape Town Hangout

I’m fairly fond of flamingoes, so when I heard there was a little restaurant round the corner from our hotel, a practical shrine to the creature, I made sure to be the first one to arrive at

Monday, 14 March 2016

Settling in to Picture-Perfect Cape Town

For our birthdays this year, Dan and I went on an adventure to discover South Africa's hidden treasures, starting with a week in Cape Town. Rather than head for the beach at Camp's Bay like most people, we decided to 'live like locals', turning our attention to the leafy inner-city suburb of City Bowl under the watchful eye of Table Mountain.

Our home? La Grenadine, a rustic bohemian paradise in the most beautifully renovated 19th-century farm building. We push open the gate and emerge in a breezy garden full of fruit trees and cosy corners perfect for morning coffee and cocktail hour sundowners. All for just £70 a night for a double room!

Inside, the decor is light and bright and filled with vintage finds. There's a big kitchen with the coolest Art Deco bar in the corner, and a lounge-library room with slouchy chairs and shelves full of well-worn dusty books guests are free to read.

Here's a little look at our room, which has an epic shower, and lovely colourful additions like the flamingo and a cool yellow radio.

Nested, we decide to go on a snooping mission in our new hood, starting with a walk around the pretty residential streets. It’s not long before I start the 'could we live here?' conversation, especially when I spot these glorious wonders! Look at the balcony!

We find our way to the main street filled with shops, bars, cafes, restaurants - home to this treasure trove of African textiles called Ashanti Design. This must be where all those cool, artistic Capetonians furnish their leafy whitewashed houses… I wonder, could I sneak a beanbag into hand luggage? 

The mid-morning sun beating down, we take a pitstop and grab a late breakfast at this gem of a neighbourhood cafe, The Power And The Glory, serving up strong coffee and hearty platefuls. It also has a little bar out back open late.

Tummies full, we carry on strolling before a chance encounter with a secret garden. It looks like something out of a Sofia Coppola movie and I’m in heaven. Turns out, it's actually a place called Kloof Street House, an eclectic dining room set in a magical Victorian house with leafy gardens where you can listen to jazz, cocktail in hand on a summer's evening, or cosy up for a romantic dinner. For now, I'm going to carry on pretending it's a movie set.

You can easily eat up an entire day wandering your way through the Garden suburb’s leafy streets, picking out your dream houses, searching for quirky local shops and hidden alleyways, but let's face it, we are in the city where you can be urban exploring for secrets one minute, hiking and surfing the next. So we decide to end the day with an afternoon hike up Table Mountain to take in the view across this magical city and get a sense of where we are.

We have the path up to Lion's Head all to ourselves, for the most amazing view across the western beaches.

I hope you've enjoyed our little introduction to Cape Town and feel at home. Now, where's that sundowner?