A Chocolatey Time at Choccywoccydoodah

Whenever I tell people about Choccywoccydoodah, some of them accuse me of making the name up. I’m not of course, it’s an amazing chocolate-and-cake shop off Carnarby Street, in Central London, and definitely somewhere to go if you love eye candy and mouth-watering treats.

My best friend and I decided to reward ourselves by taking a visit there, we’d never been and decided to live up to our chocoholic natures and indulge for the day. It took us a while to get in (there was a 40 minutes queue on a busy Saturday afternoon) but this just gave us an opportunity to browse cakes, chocolate slabs and basically have a good look at the store below, while we waited to get into the eaterie on the first floor.

I’ll let you feast your eyes on the pictures, they’ll do a  better job of showing the amazing talent at Choccywoccydoodah and the beautiful (and edible!) things we saw than I can decribe. The theme at the moment is spring and florals, we were going to go a few months ago during the winter months, and look at the Halloween themed cakes, but I’m glad we didn’t now becaues the floral theme was so beautifully done.

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On the first floor is a cafe, where an afternoon tea is available, there’s a huge selection of cakes, treats, drinks and beautiful decorations, and there’s a very bohemian, arty feel for the whole place which is a delight to sit in.

We ordered a slice of cake with drinks (I had a pink lemonade, naturally), with me choosing chocolate praline cake and my friend going for a chocolate gateux. Each cake slice was huge, with about five layers of icing, buttercream, sponge and cream, encased in solid chocolate and drizzled in three different sauces. Sadly to say, it was an amazing slice but neither of ours barely managed to finish, which put a stop to us asking for a second slice.

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Harlequin Pics www.harlequinteaset.wordpress.com

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There’s plenty of beautiful decorations all over the store and the cafe, paper hearts cut out and hung on walls, embellished mirrors and crown motifs, and greenery everywhere. The seating area is just as electic and mixed, but goes with the decor and huge cake decor brilliantly.

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I loved the style and luxury of Choccywoccydoodah, there’s beautiful creations everywhere you look, complete with plush armchairs, belljars with cake, handpainted signs and some seriously beautiful edible stuff – when gonig up the stairs I even saw a chocolate snail hidden in a crack in a wall! I loved the attention to detail, and the cafe itself was surprisingly reasonable priced. The cakes on display (which are the main focus of the tv show Choccywoccydoodah) are probably a different matter, and I can imagine seeing one of these beauties at a wedding (I remember saying to my friend that it would have been amazing to have a towering six-layered floral cake like this for mine!).

For anyone in the area, I’d definitely recommend a visit, even if it’s just to browse and look at the beautiful cakes and chocolate creations on display.

Haider – To Watch or Not to Watch

Haider – a Bollywood remake of the timeless Shakespeare classic Hamlet, set in modern day Kashmir.

I recently watched Bollywood art-film Haider, which interprets Shakespeare’s troubled hero Hamlet into a conflicted younger adult Haider, whose conscience and confusion leads the way through a canvas of Kashmir conflict, troubled relationships and the idea of love in more than one form.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that there is a Bollywood version of Hamlet – after all, Haider is the third in a series of Shakespeare dramatisations in Bollywood by director Vishal Bhardwaj, after making Omkara which is based on Othello and Maqbool, based on Macbeth. I also recently saw Ram Leela, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s version of Romeo and Juliet, set in the Rajhastan, India, which was a colourful albeit not as serious as the above films. What makes Haider works that it is not just a mere translation of Hamlet – the film takes the story and re-invents it into something much more.

I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of remakes – although there have been a few which have been terrible, and Bollywood on the whole is always churning out films which aren’t always a hundred percent brilliant. Haider-movie-posterIt sounds like a typical re-hashing of a clichéd storyline – boy meets girl, conflict from one or both families, and a macho battle at the end where everything ends well.

Haider take on the storyline is a more contemporary one, touching on the conflict in Kashmir, not only being caught in between India and Pakistan’s tug-of-war, but also the idea of conflict in family, between brothers, spouses, mother and child and even between lovers.

Shahid Kapoor plays the troubled youth, whose father goes missing after a military search of their village for terrorists being hidden. Thus sparks a search for the truth, questioning not only where his father is, but also who was responsible for his capture, who to trust, and the concept of revenge.

The primary thing which I note in this film is the spectacular cinematography, the beautiful scenes and landscapes, and the artistic presentation of Kashmir – this is Kashmir as it has never been shown before. For all that Kashmir is a stark, depressing place it also has a haunting beauty, and Bhardwarj depicts all of that – from snowy mountains, grassy hilltops, weaving trains which illuminate modern homes as well as ruins and castles.

Also layered in the film is music, which is infused with Kashmiri tones – there’s only a two or three songs in the whole movie (which is a relief after generations of films which pound out trance-style music or sexy tunes which have nothing to do with the plot) – but they are real Kashmir folk-style songs. Reknowned actress Tabu, who plays Haider’s mother Ghazala mesmerises on-screen, from her expressive eyes and heart-wrenching emotions, to the haunting folk songs she sings, which unravel through the film as we question her motives, her relationship with her brother-in-law, and her love for her son. She sums it up wonderfully when she describes herself as a a ‘half widow’ – half bride and wife, half a widow, forever searching and not knowing, caught up in her own obssessions and guilt which are never fully revealed.

Adding to this is Haider’s father himself, the missing and presumed dead doctor, weaving in his love of music and ballads which adds poetry to the movie, contrasting Kay Kay Menon as the smooth-talking, slippery Uncle of Haider, whose smooth lies and logical explanations add chaos and confusion to the mystery, making not just Haider but the audience question what the truth is.

Also a big part of this is love – Shradda Kapoor plays a feisty Orphelia who tries to support the hero, although his wall of confusion, search for identity and his growing depression pushes back at this. At the heart of this film is also the suggestion of an Oedipal complex – Haider’s relationship with his mother is wraught with jealousy, confusion, and anger, and at times it is almost uncomfortable to watch their awkward, intense scenes. Similarly, Haider’s memories of his father and his love for his father only serve to confuse more, as we question the reason for revenge and whether it is beign manipulated by militants for their own ends – scenes of Haider searching for his father with missing posters in his backpack, bloody, smuggled bodies in trucks and morgues and cemetries only makes this film more haunting and moving.

The best part of the movie, for me, though, was that even though the film has it’s own style, and captures its own struggles well, it still remains faithful to the essence of Hamlet – the self-doubt, the conflict, the questioning which pervades it. And of course, the director could not resist slipping in the eternal famous line “To be or not to be” (in Hindi, of course!) as well as the famous scene with Hamlet and the skull (which is not a horror scene but an amusing one, as Shakespeare intended!) While Haider is a unique story in itself, it remains faithful to the ideas that Hamlet promotes – a haunting scene, for example his Haider’s reasoning that he would not kill his father’s murderer while he is in prayer, because he does not want a sinner to be absolved and go straight to heaven – this is a scene I vividly remember studying in university and which resonated with me.

For all that this is a sombre film, there are also a lot of  quirky moments as well, surprisingly amusing moments which add to the depth of the film and add another facet to the character of Haider. Haider’s play-madness makes us chuckle, and the song in the cemetery with three old men digging graves reminds me of a quirky Cohen brother’s movie, something cheeky and slightly inappropriate because of the way it makes fun of death. There are plenty of jokes too, one of my favourite being a woman who is unable to understand why her husband stands outside their house for hours and refuses to speak or come in – which is solved by a quick request for ID card and then permission to enter – it’s a reflection of how their daily lives have become, yet handled deftly and lightly.

 

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For me, Haider works because of the many pieces which fit together and blend well – the music, the scenery, the dialogues and the ability of all of the actors to make characters come alive and make us question. The director cleverly re-shapes this storyline in a new context, while still remaining faithful to the essence of Hamlet, which is not an easy thing to do. I don’t often praise Bollywood films but this is a rare gem, it captivates from the first few scenes and carries through to a compelling, bloody and emotional ending. Haider is a film which is more than just a boy’s search for his father and his murderer, it is about identity of himself and his country, his love for his family, and the idea of truth, revenge and what the right thing to do is.

I would strongly recommend this film to most people – it is poetry, war and misplaced patriotism on screen which answers whether to watch or not to watch, although I say, watch it.

Weekly Challenge: Cover Art

A few days ago I saw a really colourful piece of street art in Brick Lane, near Aldgate East which caught my eye, not least of all because of the funky design which shows a quirky character (with, I think, his hands on his head?)

I think this would make a really interesting album cover, or even a sketch, or even a comic series! What do you think?

20141023_174035Part of this weeks Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art

Harlequin Oddities Found About Town: Music Cassettes and VHS Video Tapes

Isn’t it amazing how much of a relic these things are these days? Twenty years ago, VHS and music cassettes were a normal craze; where winding up cassette tapes with pencils and the magic of recording TV shows on black video tapes were our versions of the iPads and mobiles of today. Oh, except we had funkier, bigger hair and questionable bumbags.

I saw these in a local shop a few days ago, and had to take a sneaky shot (the shop-owner didn’t realise I’m just trying to be “ironic” and also probably doesn’t read my blog, so I had to be sneaky about it). It made me smile because we used to stalk this shop every weekend when I was a child to rent out the latest video to watch, and which was a big event in our house because it meant we got to pick something WE wanted to watch. Even though there wasn’t much to pick from, the films weren’t very new and we usually had to pick from Rambo, E.T. or Hellraiser (or something of the same calibre), it was still a thrilling evening for us to pay £1 (or £2 for the weekend!) to borrow a video tape.

These days the shop seems to just display them for fun (plus the layers of dust kind of shows that it’s been a while since anyone knew what to do with them), and they’re all Bollywood and Tollywood tapes, which are kind of redundant now that the big world of The Internet has shown us how to watch these.

Still, they’re a nice reminder of the simpler things in our childhood, and the terrible films we used to watch.

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My Week In Pictures: Birthdays, Luxurious Cake and Purple Lipstick

I’ve been having a purple lipstick week this week, which kind of puts me in an 80’s glam-pop star mood (kind of like Jem and the Holograms, which I used to read the comics of as a child). It also kind of feels appropriate with all the birthday cake and tea parties I’ve been having this week (which means I’ve consumed a lot of sugar this week, but hey, what  my dentist doesn’t know…)

I also went to see a good few films this week (X-Men and Godzilla, yaaay) which had plenty of action and blowing stuff up, so it’s been a pretty good week.

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Rock ‘n’ Roll Tea at The W Hotel

I had the wonderful luck if being spoiled by a few good friends this weekend, who made plans to have ‘Rock Tea’ at the beautiful W Hotel in Soho, London – made even more lovely because of the fact that I hadn’t seen these friends for some time. The hotel was beautiful and the experience even more, particularly as it provided a venue for an enjoyable experience with friends.

Being the typical snap-happy amateur photographer that I am, I took hundreds of pictures, so here are the ones I liked the most. It was a very ‘English’ tea, with about fifty billion (okay, I exaggerate, about 10) different types of tea to start off with, and several yummy goodies which were brought out bit by bit so we could savour them properly : )

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Surprisingly, the sandwiches were a mix of vegetarian, fish and halal chicken, and were honestly the best sandwiches I’ve had at a tea place yet – I could even say I almost enjoyed them more than the cake and nibbles (and I’m a real cake freak!). I also loved the fact that the service was impeccable – the waiters and staff were discreet, friendly and very non-invasive, which made our tea-experience that much more giggly and silly.

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The tea area itself is beautiful, with hundreds of decorative plates lining a huge shelf which partitioned it off from the bar and club area – the plates being printed with various celebrity portraits, icons and art. Perhaps it was the time of day, but the tea area was also pretty quiet, which created a really peaceful atmosphere and also gave us a chance to relax.

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All in all, a lovely day was had (we also didn’t have any pressure to leave after a certain period the way some places only allot you around 90 minutes or two hours before they hustle you to get off their premises!) I’ve been ooh-ing and aahh-ing at the lovely pictures because of how beautiful the set up was, and it’s made me want to go to tea again soon. I’m hoping to try a new place soon – *fingers crossed that someone (heck, anyone) takes the hint and takes me to the Ritz*

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Quirky Musical Art – Music Artists made of Random Stuff

We saw this at Ripleys! which we loved – various portraits of musical artists made of things like sweets, cassette tape, license plates and phonebooks (generally the kind of stuff we find lying around at home, but these guys made good use of it).

I love how creative some of these are, they’re funky and well made – I love how the musician’s faces are captured so well!

My Week In Pictures: New Year Sales, Scrumptious Food and Multi-Colours

I know New Year celebrations are well and truly over now, but the sales aren’t, and it hasn’t stopped us buying scrumptious food and looking at pretty things. Here’s a quick snapshop of my week this week, it’s not entirely reflective of the whole week (doesn’t have the boring office and commuting pictures, but hey, who needs to see that?) but here’s a few of the things I’ve been looking at (and eating), makes a nice colourful grid, doesn’t it?

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Amazing Sketches from Simple Household Objects

These are some really simple but genius sketches, thought up by Javier Pérez (or Cintascotch as he seems to be known on Instagram). I love these cute but thoughtful pictures, each with its own sweet character and style which I find really inspiring.

The artist is always updating his Instagram account with new images too, so keep an eye out for more (plus he now has an online shop open with various products with his images on them.)

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All images belong to Cintascotch/Javier Perez

The Right and The Left

I love this series of pictures, of the right-and-left sides of the brains. What stuns me most is that these were designed by, of all companies, Mercedes-Benz. I love the whole concept of these, and I find myself saying ‘yes, that’s me!’ to both sides (although I find that I’m more Right and Left).

I love how much work has gone into this, I can imagine that these would appeal to everyone for one reason or the other – there’s so much emotion coming out from them, really illustrating the difference between logical, accurate and scientific and the artistic, passionate and carefree.

So which side are you?

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passion-72dpiImages from here