The ‘Aquabiking’ fitness trend: we visit HydroFit on Northcote Road

Aquabiking, underwater spinning, cycling in a bath tub: whatever you want to call it, HydroFit is the latest fitness trend for 2015 and with a promise of burning at least 300 calories in half an hour, we wanted in on it. IMG_8283
Put simply, HydroFit is like spinning, but instead of being in a studio with other sweaty cyclists, the bike is in what can only be described as a giant bath. And why have the fitness gods decided that cycling in water is now a thing? The people behind it explain that there are multiple benefits to exercising this way. The water means that there is much less impact to joints than traditional cycling, and the jet streams (think similar to a jaccuzi) targeting your legs are said to help break down cellulite (whether the latter is true or not, we reckon you’d need to visit a LOT and cut back on booze/sugar/all sorts else to see any results too).

Our HydroDuo pod

Our HydroDuo pod

That aside, it seems gimmicky but we were keen to see what happens in a session. Through the booking process you can reserve yourself an individual ‘tank’. If you want to take a mate you can – there’s a room with two tanks which can be separated with a white curtain if necessary. You can book a 30 minute or 45 minute session. You’re left alone to change into your swimwear before a member of staff helps you into the bath, which is already partially filled with water (which, FYI is clean every time) before they start to fill it to its optimum height. For those daunted by the prospect of running an unknown machine, the staff are there to do it all for you. We didn’t need to push any buttons throughout the whole session, leaving us to concentrate on enjoying it. As seen in the picture, every tank comes with a TV screen (and headphones) so you can watch whatever you like. While Saturday Kitchen is always a good idea, we opted for music to get our legs going instead. The 30 minutes sped by. Prior to the session officially starting, staff told us that the average distance customers cycled was about 10 or 11 kilometres. Nothing like a target to motivate you, not to mention a competitive mate pedalling furiously next to you. While it felt like a complete gimmick, we couldn’t ignore the after effects. Think wobbly legs and thirsty mouths (luckily they provide water as you work out). While we ached the next day, it wasn’t to the same degree with usual exercise, so perhaps the water had its benefit after all. Price wise it’s not cheap, with peak time sessions starting from £30. However their trial offer allows you to book for half price if you want to give it a go. The staff are incredibly friendly and there’s definitely a buzz from finishing (we got 11k on the spot – phew), but we’ll be counting our pennies before we next make it along. HydroFit Battersea (also available in Fulham), 137 Northcote Road, SW11 6PX

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PaoCha London: a pop-up Chinese Dim Sum Brunch

pop-up chinese dim sum streatham

The table setting for PaoCha London

The title is a bit of a mouthful but bear with us. A Twitter follower recommended this new eating concept to us and after a quick browse on their website, we knew we wanted to get involved.

The traditional tools behind serving Chinese tea

The traditional tools behind serving Chinese tea

So what is PaoCha London? Two people, Sam and Alex, who have both spent a considerable time in China, decided to create a pop-up restaurant in their own Streatham-based home offering Chinese tea and dim sum. The event seats around 10 people and the menu is based on several courses, each interspersed with – you guessed it – tea.

The menu for the day

The menu for the day

Sam is the main host, while Alex is the artist in the kitchen. We say artist because dim sum he creates from scratch – yes from scratch – is almost too beautiful to eat. We’ll get to that in a second though.

Sam makes a great host, making everyone feel thoroughly comfortable. Her chilled demeanour made for a relaxing experience, putting to bed any thoughts or concerns that sharing a table with strangers could be daunting.

Steamed pork and butternut squash dumplings

Steamed pork and butternut squash buns

Each tea and plate of food was introduced with a bit of background, and Sam detailed the ritual of making Chinese tea, making our Yorkshire tea bag dunking look a little unsophisticated to say the least.

So, the food. Steamed buns packed full (Alex made pork ones and also offered a veggie option in the form of a butternut squash filling), dumplings, pickled veg that had a fresh crunch to it, and spicy greens. Even the snacks at the beginning weren’t just thrown together.

Spinach dumplings

Spinach dumplings

There’s plenty to go around, too – at least two servings of everything so you won’t leave hungry.

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So much detail was paid to the whole event, from the framed, handwritten menu and traditional cutlery to the tea making method which we found rather hypnotic. Sam found that tap water impaired the taste of Chinese tea so ensured the kettle was filled with bottle spring water every time.

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The dessert was a total treat too, featuring moon cakes and mousse poured into hollowed-out tangerines.

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The whole event stretches over three hours, from 12pm-3pm, which sounds like a long time to commit to but it flew by. Sam said there is such a thing as becoming ‘tea drunk’ when the drink isn’t served with food (tradition has it that the Chinese always have some sort of nibble with their chai) but we felt pretty zoned out by the time we left their flat.

So how much is this? Just £15 a head – that’s food, drink and a mini cultural tour in a comfy seat for a ridiculously good price. We couldn’t get over what a bargain it was.

PaoCha currently runs once a month on a Sunday. The next one is 7th June and bookings can be made via Grub Club. Sam tells us they offer private bookings and deals too, so it’s worth getting in touch with them to see what they can offer.

The irony now is that this post was written fuelled by Yorkshire tea. Not quite the same. Oh well…

Artwork on Balham High Road – Tod Hanson

It’s not just West Norwood who have gone to lengths to inject some creativity onto the high street.

Over the past few months Balham High Road has had a little arty makeover of its own, and it looks like it’s down to one person.

Artwork on Balham High Road

Photo: Tod Hanson

Tod Hanson is an artist specialising in large-scale work. Previous projects have included graphic works with Greenpeace UK and painting the interiors of nightclubs. Most recently he was set the task of giving Balham a paint job, the results of which can be seen on the street next to Waitrose, covering up what was previously known at the ‘ugly wall’.

Tod was commissioned by Wandsworth Council and the Balham Partnership, with the help of arts company Modus Operandi art to create this piece. Look closely and you’ll see that the paintwork gives a nod to the history of Balham. A digital piece, it’ll remain in place for three years.

Photo: Tod Hanson

Photo: Tod Hanson

Tod was also the man behind the new green ceramic tiling by the station, just underneath the railway bridge. Not a bad way to liven up a poorly lit, damp part of town.

Photo: Tod Hanson

Photo: Tod Hanson

Now where else in south London could do with a lick of paint?

A wedding at Brixton East

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We’d never heard of Brixton East before being invited to a wedding there recently, but it’s mere moments from Brixton Village and several minutes walk from the main road.

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An old furniture warehouse, the two floor space is now used for pop-up events (their website gives a snapshot of what’s been there before, including yoga and brunch days).

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Wooden flooring, exposed brickwork and original features (check out the old giant clock on the second floor) make this a cosy setting for an urban wedding.

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There’s also a small roof terrace which quickly became a smokers corner. We forgot to take a picture but some clever soul had thought to use old mattress springs as a frame for wall plants – now that’s upcycling taken to a new level.

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Our friends hired the lighting adorning the walls, along with the candles dotted around, while the absolutely stunning flowers were from McQueens.

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The best bit? It’s the most local wedding we’ve ever been to, requiring a 10 minute bus ride home Win.

Brixton East 1871, 71 Gresham Road, SW9 7NS

Food at the Tulse Hill Hotel

Tulse Hill Hotel We’ve been frequenting this pub ever since it reopened following new management last year (it wasn’t our kinda place pre-refurb) but haven’t got ourselves together to stay for lunch or dinner.

Tulse Hill Hotel pub garden

A recent sunny Bank Holiday saw us in their garden which, apart from the occasional screaming siren, was a beautiful sun trap.

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We’ve spent enough time in the pub eyeing up other people’s food to know they mean business when it comes to grub. We went for one of their sharing plates – they do pork, lamb, beef and the trimmings on a platter but we went for monkfish, which we later found out was put on the menu on a whim and was the envy of all the staff serving us at the time.

The monkfish sharing platter. Want. Again.

The monkfish sharing platter. Want. Again.

For the record, it was delicious. We didn’t need the side dish of buttered cabbage but we ate it up anyway (hey, it’s good for you, sort of).

Honey cake with orange ice cream and lavender. Too pretty to eat, but we did.

Honey cake with orange ice cream and lavender. Too pretty to eat, but we did.

The staff are so friendly here and the food pretty faultless – it’s the type of place you’d feel more than comfortable taking your parents (even the fussiest ones) knowing they’d enjoy themselves.

Tulse Hill Hotel, 150 Norwood Road, SE24 9AY