John Hawkins



Dr John Hawkins

Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff, home to a huge load of pictures, and my daily blog.

My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.

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Recent Entries:
End of the Quarter
Llyn to London
Portmeirion
Ffestiniog Railway
Up to North Wales
To Abergavenny
Bonus Day
Tuesday
Monday
Sunday Stroll
Zurich, Paris and London
The Alps and Zurich
London to Switzerland
Turkish Food and Preparations for the Trip
PressÚ and SauteÚ
Not Drinking
Birthday at Simpson's
East London pub Tour with Andy
Fellowship of the Ring
London from the South Bank
An evening out with Chie
Ful medames
Nabe and Laphroaig Cairdeas
Westminster
Notting Hill and Ginger Beer
Priceless
Extravagance
Late Meeting
Curry
Domo Arigato Mr Roboto
Chinatown and a New Port Ellen
Very Lazy Day

End of the Quarter
[Tuesday 31st March]
It's the end of March, which in corporate terms also means the end of Q1 2009. Like a lot of companies we tend to plan things at work based on quarters, and I'm hoping to take advantage of the end of this quarter to change projects. I've been working on the same project since I started at the company two-and-a-bit years ago, and I'm ready for a bit of a change. No real decisions have been made yet about what I'm moving to, but I think this is a definite junction in career terms.

Chie had the day off today - using up a day's holiday as it is also the end of her holiday year. So she very kindly spent some of the afternoon shopping and cooking, and it was very nice indeed to come home to a meal on the table. She made Japanese food - to start off with nama harumaki (fresh spring rolls) and fried mushrooms in a special coating whose name escapes me. Then for dessert she made a vegetarian version of niku jaga - a type of Japanese stew.
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Llyn to London
[Monday 30th March]
Today was the end of our long weekend in North Wales. Said our goodbyes in the morning, and then got in the car to head back down to South Wales, where we'd be dropping Vera off (and our hire car) before getting the train back to London.

Mostly a fairly uneventful journey really. We went a slightly different route to normal, and stopped off en route at Llandrindod Wells for a spot of lunch at the Hotel Metropole, which was quite nice.

We got to Abergavenny around 3:30 which gave us time to have a quick cup of tea with Vera before heading on to Newport to drop off our car and pick up the train back to London. Finally arrived back in the capital just after 8, got back to the flat some time before 9, and very lazily ordered in Chinese food for dinner.
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Portmeirion
[Sunday 29th March]
A day out to visit Portmeirion, the Italianate coastal resort near Portmadog.

See pictures for more details!
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Ffestiniog Railway
[Saturday 28th March 2009]
Went for a trip on the famous miniature stream railway with Chie.
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Up to North Wales
[Friday 27th March 2009]
Traveling up to North Wales.
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To Abergavenny
[Thursday 26th March]
Chie and I met up at Paddington after work today, as we were heading to Abergavenny to stay with Vera and Robin for a night, before heading up to North Wales for the weekend.

Instead of the usual pasty on the train, as we had a bit of time to spare we decided to have a sit down meal at the station. So we swallowed our Japanese pride and gave the Yo Sushi at Paddington a go. I thought it actually wasn't that bad - best of all they had big cans of Sapporo. Mmmmm!

Arrived in Abergavenny around 9:30, and had supper there - the usual bread and cheese - as always it was lovely to be in Vera and Robin's house.
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Bonus Day
[Wednesday 25th March 2009]
Was supposed to go out with some people from work tonight to celebrate bonus day. For one reason or another that never happened, so instead went out drinking with Chie.

I fancied a bit of shameless extravagance, so we'd initially headed for a wine bar that I remember seeing near St. Paul's cathedral called La Grande Marque, but when we got there it seemed to have been bought out by a chain of wine bars called Balls Brothers, which was a bit of a shame. So I went off the idea somewhat, and instead we went to El Vino on Fleet Street.

After a glass or two of Pol Roger and some tapas at El Vino, we moved on for a quick drink at the ever wonderdul Ye Old Mitre, and then eventually rounded the evening off at the Whisky Society.
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Tuesday
[Tuesday 24th March]
Will fill this in later... if I remember!
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Monday
[Monday 23rd March]
Hmmm struggling to remember - maybe baked potatoes for dinner?
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Sunday Stroll
[Sunday 22nd March]
I'd enjoyed my little trip to Switzerland, but it was definitely nice to be back in the familiar surroundings of London today.

Fairly lazy morning, followed in the afternoon by onne of our aimless weekend strolls, from Pimlico to Kensington.

Had a bit of a gourmet dinner with assorted things I had picked up in Paris yesterday - a starter of Tartare d'Algues (a sort of recreation of what I had in the restaurant for lunch the day before) and then a main course of Spatzli in a blue cheese sauce (again a sort of recreation, of the dinner I had in Zurich on Friday night).
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Zurich, Paris and London
[Saturday 21st March]
Another early start this morning - set my alarm for 6AM which meant I only had about four hours sleep. I got up, had a shower, and (with some difficulty - the staff were still asleep) checked out of my hotel and got to the station in time for the 7AM TGV from Zurich to Paris.

It was a lovely run, despite nursing a bit of a hangover, I had managed to get a seat in first class for pretty much no extra money, which meant lots of room and a very comfortable seat in a thankfully very quiet and tranquil carriage. I sped through the delightful pastoral scenery of Switzerland and France beneath a gorgeous blue sky, which gave it an almost surreal quality. It was really tremendous

I arrived in Paris just before lunchtime, and had left myself a few hours between trains to get a spot of lunch, and do a bit of shopping. So I wandered from Gare de L'Est back to Gare du Nord, dropped off my bag at the coin locker (which was a bit of an annoyance, as it meant today I had to go through metal detectors a total of three times), and then headed for the Metro.

Recent trips to Paris had been somewhat of a disappointment on the culinary front, so I was determined for once that if I was only going to achieve one thing in Paris this afternoon, it would be to get a decent meal. Thanks to my Android phone (and the French pay as you go SIM, which magically seemed to have a data connection that just worked) this time I came armed with the formidable power of The Internet (TM). I found this page which listed a few places. So I decided to give Le Potager du Marais ago, and was effortlessly guided there by the ever wonderful Google Maps.

I was very pleased indeed - rather than some sort of ethnic mish-mash, or bizarre health food, they actually appeared to serve vegetarian versions of French classics, which is exactly the sort of thing I want to eat. I started with a Tartare d'Algues (a seaweed salad) and for main had the Seitan Bourguignon. Both extremely satisfying and tasty. Having had so many crap meal experiences in Paris, the contrast between that and this wonderful vegetarian fare, served by some extremely pleasant staff, left my almost teary.

After lunch I wandered in a happy haze through the streets of Paris, bathed in glorious spring sunshine. It was as if a curse had been lifted - I had always previously had my visits to Paris overshadowed by the inability to find anything to eat, but now that I'd actually had a decent meal I saw the city in a whole new light, and began to understand why people like it so much.

My long meandering stroll took me by way of Galleries Lafayette, where I did some food shopping - omiyage for Chie and a few other bits and pieces. It was such a pleasant day that I decided to just walk back to Gare du Nord.

The last leg of my journey - the Eurostar back to London - was (to start off with at least) not quite as pleasant as other parts of the trip had been. I think I had started to get a bit tired and irritable by this point. The hassle of retrieving my luggage (which required several attempts to get through the metal detector, as I emptied various types of foreign currency out of various pockets), and the longer-than-usual queues for the security checks to get to the Eurostar departure lounge (with yet more emptying of pockets) did fray my temper a little.

Once I finally boarded the train, my carriage was extremely full and I was on a table crammed in with three strangers, which, after the delightfully spacious experience of the Paris-Zurich train this morning, and given that I was now quite tired and a bit flustered, made me even more irritable. So I decided to abandon my seat, and instead seek the calming solitude of the little vestibule at the end of the carriage. It was right next to the engine, so it was a bit noisy, but the absence of any other people (with the exception of the guard at various points) was a huge plus, and in the company of Adam and Joe (via one of their podcasts) I did eventually manage to relax.

I arrived at St. Pancras at 7, where Chie very nicely came to meet me, and together we went to get some dinner on Drummond Street at an Indian vegetarian place called Chutney's. We then got the bus back home, and I pretty much went straight to bed.

Looking back even the journey home from the ski trip was quite fun - although I had actually skipped breakfast in the morning, I could theoretically have had breakfast, lunch and dinner in three different capital cities!
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The Alps and Zurich
[Friday 20th March]
Spent the daytime enjoying some fabulous Alpine scenery in the Flumserberg ski resort. Having never skied before I hadn't signed up for any of those activities, and decided I'd just have a wander round in the daytime and take in the scenery. A couple of other people had done the same thing. I was keen not to just hang around the hotel though, so wandered out in the morning to see if there was any way of getting up the mountain for people not equipped to ski back down again. Fortunately there was - a gondola (what I would call a cable car, or Chie would call a ropeway) up the side of the mountain to an obervation point called Maschgenkamm at 2020M, which had a restaurant and some rather fabulous views. There we parked ourselves for the bulk of the daytime, and had a very nice time taking in the scenery, accompanied by a Swiss beer or two, and assorted snacks from the restaurant.

Various people from the company stopped by at the restaurant for a break from skiing at various points in the day, so it turned out to be a very sociable activity - I met lots of people from the company who I'd never spoken to before, which I assume is exactly what this sort of team building exercise is supposed to be all about.

Took lots of pictures whilst at the observation point which hopefully give an idea of what a fabulous spot this is.

In the evening we headed back to Zurich, most of the group got the flight back to London, but a few of us had decided to stay on another night (for the two of us who'd come by train it hadn't really been possible to make it all the way back in the evening) and sample Zurich's nightlfe.

We had to go by way of the airport first, as that was where the coach was taking everyone else, so there was a lot of faffing about to get into the city centre and check in at all our various hotels before we were ready to commence the evening's proceedings in earnest.

Fortunately one of my colleagues who was hanging around for the evening had arranged us a local guide - a friend of a friend who was Swiss and lived in Zurich.

He took us by a taxi to a district of Zurich somewhere out of the centre, to a place which looked like an abandoned industrial estate. It turned out there was actually quite a nice restaurant there, where I enjoyed some very good gnocchi/spatzli. After dinner, we went to one of the other buildings on the former industrial estate, wherein some friends of our guide were holding a sort of party.

The theme of the party was a mixture of circuit bending and pecha kucha. I have to admit I was sceptical about the idea at first, imagining it was going to be something like a LAN party, but when we got there it was a very mixed crowd of young, fashionably dressed Swiss people, the drinks were free flowing, and there didn't seem to be any conflict in anyone's mind about a party which involved a projector and a soldering iron. It was like glimpsing the future, and I really enjoyed it.

We didn't stay too late though, again it had been a long day, and after an hour or two got a taxi back into the centre, had one last drink at a bar before we all headed back to our respective hotels.
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London to Switzerland
[Thursday 19th March]
Today and tomorrow was my company's ski trip (actually just for a subset of people at the London office), and whilst most people were flying there, a colleague and I had decided to make a point by going by train instead. Besides anything else I've really enjoyed travelling around Europe by train in the past, and thought it would be rather fun.

So I got up early this morning (6AM) and left the flat by 6:30, headed for St. Pancras International, to get the Eurostar to Paris. Theoretically I could have made the connection with a train an hour later, but I didn't want to risk it. It was a pleasant run to Paris, I was in "Leisure Select" for this leg as there was no real difference in the price, which meant a bit more room and also food laid on (although it wasn't really anything to write home about).

I arrived in Paris just before 11 CET, and took a leisurely stroll from Gare du Nord to Gare de L'Est where I would be catching the train to Zurich.

Somewhat disappointingly, it appeared my mobile wouldn't connect to any of the French networks. I suspect that somehow in upgrading from Pay as you go to a proper contract at the end of last year (when I got my lovely G1/Android phone) T-Mobile managed to reset the flag on my account which enabled roaming - or something like that. Given that I had a few logistical transport arrangements over the next couple of days that would be a lot more difficult without a phone, I thought I should try and get a French pay as you go SIM. Conveniently there was a little shopping arcade in Gare de L'Est, and I was rather proud that I managed to conduct the whole transaction in French, including going to the nearby Tabac to buy credit, and then using the automated system (entirely in French of course) to type in the little number they gave me. The guy in the mobile phone shop had apparently never seen "un Google phone" before - they haven't been released in France yet - and was pleasingly quite excited at being able to handle one for a bit.

A short while later my fellow train travelling colleague arrived at Gare de L'Est, and after a quick coffee we boarded the train.

It was a four-and-a-bit hour journey from Paris to Zurich, but it seemed to pass in no time. This colleague works on an entirely different project, so we'd never actually come into contact before this trip, but he seemed to be a very like minded individual, and we had no problem finding things to talk about for the duration of the journey. We spent a good hour or so propping up the onboard bar, which was quite jolly too - so much more of a civilised way to travel than flying!

We arrived in Zurich station around 5, and had made arrangements to catch a coach heading for the ski resort from my company's Zurich office. So after a short taxi ride we were there, and fortunately had about 15 minutes or so before the coach left to have a quick whizz around the office, which is quite famous for it's unusual workplace furniture, including a fireman's pole and a slide. I of course had a quick go on both.

From there we got the coach to Flumserberg, the ski resort, where we arrived around 7. There was then a bit of messing around as we were shuttled to our various hotels, and we all met back at the main hotel just after 8 for dinner. They had laid on a hot and cold buffet which worked surprisingly well from a vegetarian point of view - lots of salad and bread followed by some spatzli, a leek gratin, some spaghetti and a few other things.

After dinner a few of us moved on to a traditional Alpine Mexican bar (!) across the road from the hotel. Had a couple of drinks there, to a backdrop of some awful British pop from the 80s and 90s (people from my office pretty much filled the bar, and it was almost as though they laid that on specially for us as if to say "look what you bloody did you gits!"). I didn't stay out particularly late though - it had been a long day and I was sharing a room with a colleague who had already gone back earlier, and it seemed a bit rude to stagger in and wake him up at 3AM. Plus on top of that some other people had already arranged to get a lift around midnight, and I wasn't overly confident about making it back by myself.

It was a slightly surreal experience in a sense, to have woken up in mild weathered London and be going to bed in a lodge on the side of a snow covered mountain in the Alps.

Hardly took any pictures today though, which is a shame - just a couple in Zurich station and one of the outside of the office... anyway, hopefully this very long and wordy account is an acceptable record of the day's proceedings.
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Turkish Food and Preparations for the Trip
[Wednesday 18th March]
Couldn't be bothered to cook this evening, so Chie and I went out for dinner to the Turkish place near where we live. We'd only been once before, and I had thought it was pretty average, but in hindsight it occurred to me we'd gone in a big group (which always seems to make food less impressive, I'm not sure why) and had also been drinking for some time beforehand (we were celebrating our friends Simon and Vanessa getting engaged). So it probably seemed fair to give it a second go.

I suppose it was a bit better second time round - I had a vegetable mousaka and Chie had some kind of seafood dish whose name escapes me. Mine was quite good, Chie seemed to really enjoy her, so I suppose overall it is a positive score. The bread was nice too.

Again, despite the sense of pressure to order a bottle of wine when in a restaurant, we deflty avoided and just had sparkling water instead... which also had the benefit of making the whole meal cheaper, as in my opinion this place is a tad overpriced for what it is (two main courses and desserts with only a bottle of sparking water to drink was almost 50 quid).

Went back to the flat after that, where, for probably the first time in a decade, I decided to actually pack my bag the night before leaving on a trip, rather than the usual job of just doing it 30 minutes before I need to leave.
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PressÚ and SauteÚ
[Tuesday 17th March]
Another day of pointedly avoiding any kind of alcohol. This time I tried a "raspberry and lavender pressÚ" from Sainsbury's. Sounds quite nice but it was actually just crammed full of sugar. Sigh.

For dinner we had a Quorn fillet, with some little cubed sauteÚd potatoes, broccoli and broad beans and a parsley sauce. The disappointment on the drinks front aside, this was actually quite nice
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Not Drinking
[Monday 16th March]
Given that it had been a bit of a boozy weekend (what with my birthday and everything) and I had the company ski trip from this Thursday (which would no doubt also be quite boozy), I decided I should make an effort to have a complete break from drinking for the first half of this week.

However, water can be a bit boring and it's nice to have something to accompany a meal, and yet I find there are actually very limited options for soft drinks. Particularly as I'm also trying to take a bit better care of my teeth and not have so many sugary things. Tonight we thought we'd give bitter lemon a go. I do actually quite like it, but despite the name it transpires it actually contains a lot of sugar (my recent experiments with making my own ginger beer had been something of an eye opener with regards to the crazy quantities of sugar that not particularly sweet tasting soft drinks can contain).

Anyway, without wanting to go on about it too much, this feels like an unfilled market niche - a drink that would fill the same interesting role a glass of wine fills in a meal, or perhaps that first cold beer on returning home from work, but isn't alcoholic, and isn't full of sugar (or artificial sweeteners, which I consider to be even more unhealthy).

For dinner this evening I was feeling a bit cheffy and decided to make a plated lasagne, you know, one of those ones where you cook all the bits individually and then assemble them in a stack on the plate, rather than the usual bunging it all in a baking dish and sticking it in the oven method. So as usual I made a tomatoey sauce (this time with courgettes and some Quorn in) and a cheese sauce with some leftover Shropshire Blue. I used fresh lasagne which I boiled first, and also steamed a bit of broccoli, I then piled the whole thing up on a plate, with some emmental on top, and then grilled it for a bit. I was rather pleased with the end result, I think Chie wasn't quite as enthusiastic, at least partly because she is easily daunted by having a large platefull thrust in front of her (the Japanese like to pick at things from little bowls).
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Birthday at Simpson's
[Sunday 15th March]
To celebrate my birthday Chie and I went for lunch at Simpson's in the Strand.

London's second oldest restaurant was quite simply perfect - despite being famous for their roast meats they had a very respectable vegetarian offering. I started was goat's cheese on a base of potato, olive tapenade and a balsamic reduction, which I then followed with a root vegetable bake with wild mushrooms as a main. Both very sumptious - and we finished off with their pudding sampler platter which had a bit of everything - bread and butter pudding, panna cotta, sorbet, cheesecake, and probably a couple of things I've forgotten.

The ambience was uniquely splendid as well, on the one hand very traditional - a definite sense of Victorian sophistication - but at the same quite lively and jolly, and a nice mixture of clientele. The decor was right up my street - wood panelling, chandeliers etc, and they had a piano player too.

We both thoroughly enjoyed it, and I wonder why it has taken us so long to get round to visiting!

(Chie took a few more pictures on her camera, will hopefully upload these some time soon...)
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East London pub Tour with Andy
[Saturday 14th March]
Had a jolly nice day out exploring East London's pubs with my friend Andy.


View East London Pub Tour in a larger map

See the pictures for more details.

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Fellowship of the Ring
[Friday 13th March]
Chie was out in the evening, so I stayed home and watched the first of the Lord of the Rings films, which I'd recently acquited from HMV for the bargain price of 15 quid. Very enjoyable.
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London from the South Bank
[Thursday 12th March]
I took the unusual step of crossing the river today as I had a hankering for Kolsch and so there was a German bar called Zeitgeist I wanted to go to, in Lambeth.

The bar was indeed very German, it has German music, German TV, the staff were all German, most of the customers were German, and of course there were lots of German beers.

Rather liked it all in all, was very nice.

Also gave me the opportunity for a nice stroll along the South bank of the Thames, looking back towards the Houses of Parliament etc it really is quite scenic around there.
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An evening out with Chie
[Wednesday 11th March]
Quite a mixed bag of an evening. Chie had got this invitation through her company to an "event" at Pink on Jermyn Street, which turned out to be little more than a late night opening with a slight discount and a complimentary glass of wine thrown in. I wasn't really that taken with any of their shirts so after ten minutes of polite browsing we left empty handed (and as a matter of principle I didn't have any of the free drinks, knowing I had no real intention of buying anything).

After that we decided to go for a quick drink whilst we mulled over what to do for dinner. So we thought we'd give the Albannach on Trafalgar Square a go. It's a Scottish restaurant which I'd heard had a bar with quite a large selection of whiskies. It was... ok I suppose, but I'm always very cynical about this sort of thing in the UK, and it still pales in comparison to the Whisky Society or the unassailably excellent Quercus Bar in Tokyo.

Whilst the Albannach did have a fairly respectable selection of whiskies behind the bar, they generally fell into one of two categories - the standard distillery bottlings which I was already very familiar with (and therefore there seemed no point in paying over the odds for in a bar like this), or the occasional independent bottling which tended to be really very pricey indeed. Moreover I think I was the only person in there drinking whisky, and the fact that a fairly non-extraordinary Ardbeg Uigeadail cost about 10 quid (plus service charge!) may have explained why. (I believe a bottle is only about 40 quid in most shops). I was also a little unimpressed by the barman describing one bottling as a "single cask, limited edition" - clearly the latter half of that descriptive is entirely superfluous. Still, in a way, oddly satisfying - I have often complained about the lack of good places to drink whisky in London, and if I actually found one I would realise my complaints have been entirely unfounded.

Somehow we came upon the idea of trying out an English restaurant called Porters for dinner. Again, it was OK I suppose - I suspect a lot of their customers are foreign tourists, but they did seem to make a bit of an effort. I had these sort of croquettes made of leek and potato, which were ok, albeit perhaps a bit bland - the one saving grace being the little platter of three interesting and different mustards they brought along on request. Apparently they were their own brand, and all really rather tasty.

We rounded off the evening with one last drink at a pub I had wanted to go to for no other reason than it had nice bay windows at the front - the Nell of Old Drury. The interior wasn't quite as architecturally interesting as the frontage, but it was nice enough nonetheless.
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Ful medames
[Tuesday 10th March]
Ful Medames is one of my absolute favourite middle eastern dishes - it's essentially just a fairly simple bean stew, made with fava beans (that's broad beans to the British among you) but I find it incredibly satisfying. Recently we had popped into a Lebanese delicatessen and picked up a tin of the stuff, and so that formed the basis for tonight's dinner. It was quite a feast if I may say so - I also threw together a Mediterranean salad, some fried halloumi, another dish of broad beans with tomato and crushed garlic, some hoummous, as well as the obligatory olives and Lebanese bread.
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Nabe and Laphroaig Cairdeas
[Monday 9th March]
One of the nice things about being London is that you can buy just about anything, and, moreover, a lot of shops are open into the evening. So, if at the end of the working day I decide I want to eat Japanese food for dinner, I can pretty much just stroll out of the office to a Japanese food shop. Which is pretty much exactly what I did this evening.

I arranged to meet Chie at our favourite Japanese food emporium - Rice Wine Shop - however despite me going on foot I somehow got there significantly ahead of Chie, so to fill in the time I decided to take a wander over to Vintage House on Old Compton Street. Last time we'd been there I'd spotted a very reasonably priced bottle of the special edition Laphroaig Cairdeas and the opportunity to snap one up seemed too good to miss.

So after that I headed back to Rice Wine where I met Chie, and we stocked up on the usual provisions. We also fit in a visit to our favourite Chinese supermaket (See Woo on Lisle Street) to buy a couple of additional items. Then we got on the bus back to the flat.

Back at the flat we had a kind of nabe for dinner, along with the usual Japanese side dishes like hiyayako, edamame, kimchi and so on. All very nice.

I felt compelled to sample a wee dram of the Laphroaig Cairdeas as well. I'm not in the mood for writing tasting notes, so instead I'll simply say that it was quite superb.
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Westminster
[Sunday 8th March 2009]
Pictures from a late Sunday afternoon stroll in Westminster.
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Notting Hill and Ginger Beer
[Saturday 7th March]
Maybe I'm getting old - recently I'd have an odd craving to buy antiques. Particularly anything whisky related. So today Chie and I headed to Notting Hill and went for a stroll down Portobello Road, with, it appears, about a half a million other people. I still really don't have a clue about antiques though, and really don't have the patience to spend hours on end browsing, so we eventually came away empty handed, turning out attentions instead to the more pressing matter of lunch.

As on our last visit to the area, we ate at a Palestinian cafe called Maramia. I ordered their special breakfast again which was immensely varied and satistfying (and extremely good value at just under a fiver). Chie had something else (a kind of stuffed pancake) which she didn't enjoy quite as much, but still overall it was very good.

After that we got on a bus (as the tube was a bit broken today) as far as Knigthsbridge, and walked all the way back from there, by way of Belgravia where we stopped off on the very stylish Motcomb St to buy cakes at Ottolenghi and some more general shopping at the very nice Waitrose there (the one with home delivery forms where you can fill in the name of your maid or butler). I think I have identified in Belgravia an area of London I would just about deign to live, if I had to stay in London permanently.

The most significant components of the shopping we did in Waitrose were the necessary ingredients for my first foray into the world of brewing - having found this recipe recently I've been itching to have a go at making my own ginger beer, and I embarked on this enterprise with considerable enthusiasm on arriving back at the flat. We shall have to wait a couple of days to see what the end result is like.

For dinner we had a favourite of mine - a whole artichoke, just boiled and then eaten by hand, dipped in vinaigrette. This we followed with a vegetable moussaka. All very nice.

STOP PRESS

(written one day later) Have just had the first sip of my ginger beer, it was really quite delightful.
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Priceless
[Friday 6th March]
Made a brief appearance at the usual beer and pizza thing (although avoided the pizza having eaten pizza twice already this week). I'd made a bit of a technical breakthrough on the project today, which as always I can't really talk about here, but it had produced some data which was on the one hand highly insightful and enlightening but on the other hand oddly quite hilarious. So we were all in somewhat high spirits and it was a good note to end the week on.

Didn't stay that late, and went home to cook dinner for me and Chie - just knocked up a very quick spaghetti bolognese.

After dinner we watched a French film called Priceless which I found hugely entertaining. I have to take my hat off to French script writers, they're extremely originally and really rather witty.
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Extravagance
[Thursday 5th March]
A colleague suggested a visit to the pub after work today, as we had jointly said recently that we should embark on a mission of trying to find at least one new pub every week. So it was we tried out The Clarendon, which despite being not too far from the office I had managed to have never even heard of before. It wasn't a particularly pubby sort of pub - more of a wine bar nestled amongst the stucco fronted terraces of Pimlico's grid - but I found it pleasant enough nonetheless.

This initial foray had obviously instilled some enthusiasm in my colleague, and I was pleased when he suggested we go and try somewhere else - so I put forward a slightly unusual proposal, that we should give the bar at the Boisdale a go. I'd been there to eat once before, and had heard there was a bar which didn't require a table reservation or anything, but had always half suspected that in practice they'd give preference to people waiting for a table, and you couldn't really go there just for a drink.

However that turns out not to be the case, and we wandered in quite unimpeded. I started off with their own bottling of Laphroaig which was thankfully every bit as rascally as one would hope for from a Laphroaig. My colleague had a Lagavulin. For the second dram (my colleague's round), my colleague appeared to be overcome with a wave of extravagance, and suggested we try some 20+ year old Taliskers, which were a bit on the dear side. I felt it important to savour this dram somewhat, and made a point of nosing it as thoroughly as I could - although I'm not sure this was the best environment - to begin with I thought it had hints of seafood, but then realised there were a group of people sitting behind us with a pile of particularly pungent scallops. That aside I would have described it as a sort of chestnutty, gamey sort of aroma, with obvious sherry notes. It was as though somebody had taken pheasant with chestnuts in a red wine jus and turned it into a whisky. Or maybe that was just what the person at another table was eating.

Rounded off the evening with a quick bite to eat at Oliveto, round the corner, which was excellent as always. A reassuringly sophisticated (i.e. expensive!) night out.
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Late Meeting
[Wednesday 4th March]
Had a late meeting (a sort of project review with one of the big bosses at the company) from 7 to 9 which meant staying late at the office. A few of us decided to pop out for some dinner before it started, and went for a quick pizza round the corner, where Chie also joined us - so I guess it wasn't too bad.
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Curry
[Tuesday 3rd March]
A chap was visiting from the US office again this week, the guy who particularly likes Indian food. So this evening I, along with a couple of other people from the office, accompanied him to his default eatery when in London; Masala Zone in Soho. Had a rather nice thali as always.

After that went for a quick drink with a colleague at The White Horse round the corner, followed by a second quick drink at the Star and Garter. Both I and this particular colleague have daydream-eque ambitions about one day leaving the rat race to go and work in the drinks industry (in his case wine, in mine obviously whisky), so we spent the remainder of the evening indulging in a much needed escapist (and probably entirely unrealistic) conversation along the lines of "When I have my vineyard...".
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Domo Arigato Mr Roboto
[Monday 2nd March]
Pretty uneventful day really, am writing almost a week hence and struggle to remember anything about it.

So instead, let me present the superbly naff music video for this song, which has recently been lodged in my head:


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Chinatown and a New Port Ellen
[Sunday 1st March]
A pretty unplanned day. Went into the centre in the afternoon, and had some Chinese food at a place we hadn't tried before (called, somewhat unpromisingly, "Mr. Kong"). It was actually rather good.

Did a bit of random meandering shopping, including a visit to The Vintage House on Old Comption Street where I bought a new Port Ellen - I thought I'd try a different independent bottler from the usual Douglas Laing, and this time gave a John Milroy bottling a go.

Not much else to report really.
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Very Lazy Day
[Saturday 28th February]
Had originally planned to go to Whisky Live today, but found out it had sold out, so ended up doing nothing all day. I didn't even leave the flat, although Chie went to see Swan Lake in the evening with friends (I decided to pass on the offer).
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