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:
Visiting the Kids
Tired
Bonus Day Champagne
Wednesday
Dad in London
Pesto
Sunday Stroll in Battersea and Chelsea
St. John's Wood and Quercus in The Guardian
Filming, Noodles, Awful Curry
Thursday
Wednesday
Tuesday
Birthday: Champagne and Vegetarian Kara Age
Dereham, Downham and Ely
St. George's Distillery and Norwich
Rob and Mark
Stew and Dumplings
Bloody Mary
The Unusual Suspects
Private Lives
Sunday
Saturday
Friday
Thursday
Mick's Leaving Drinks and Westminster with Al
Drinks at the Houses of Parliament
Family Dinner
A Foray into Herefordshire
Patricio Church and Abergavenny
Off to South Wales
Thai Curry
Lunch at the Regency Cafe
South of the River
Monday
Pictures in the Hallway
Vineyards of the United Kingdom
Ponyo
Lebanese Lunch and Tour of Belgravia
Argyll Arms and Busaba Eathai
Pancake Day
Virtual Golf and Fitzrovia

Visiting the Kids
[Saturday 27th March 2010]
Spent most of the morning and early afternoon working to try and make up for having not been particularly productive the previous day.

Chie decided it would be a good idea to go and visit my brother and his family this weekend, as it would be my nephew's birthday in a couple of day's time, plus also Easter was approaching. So we headed out in the afternoon, bought Easter eggs at Fortnum and Mason (well technically Easter bunnies) and Lego at Hamley's, and then got on the train to Guildford.

Kids were lovely as ever, had dinner with them (Mexican food), a particular highlight being the ice cream with proper ice cream cones afterwards.
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Tired
[Friday 26th March]
Was feeling a bit tired and down in the dumps in the morning, so decided in an attempt to lift my spirits to take the unusual step of going to the Regency Cafe for breakfast, on a weekday. I was surprised how busy it was - full of builders etc. My breakfast was superb as ever - the bubble & squeak and the mushrooms tasted particularly good this morning.

Work seemed a bit of a struggle today, but soldiered on until 6ish, which is late for a Friday (when normally work stops abruptly at 5 at my place). Went along to the tail end of the usual Friday beer and pizza thing but didn't have any beer, and didn't stay very long - wasn't really in the mood for it.

Despite feeling quite tired, I summoned the energy to make dinner in the evening (not wanting to repeat last Friday's bitterly disappointing curry) and this actually turned out rather well - pasta in a cheese and garlic sauce with spinach and portabella mushrooms.
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Bonus Day Champagne
[Thursday 25th March 2010]
Following the last couple of years fairly anti-climactic bonus days I was really keen to do something with my colleagues this year to mark the event a bit. So, the wine bar at Fortnum and Mason, which had become quite literally flavour of the month, seemed very much like the obvious choice.

It actually ended up being a fairly modest evening - not quite the kind of caution-thrown-to-the-wind-reckless-extravagance I had originally envisaged, but I suppose that's probably for the best. We worked our way through a total of four bottles of champagne in the end (three Billecart-Salmons - the same set as here and also an F&M's own Theophile Roederer), but given F&M's champagnes of the month are really quite reasonably priced, and the fact that we were a group of 6, the actual cost per head wasn't that much.

F&M proved to be a hard act to follow, and when it was decided we should head out somewhere to find some dinner, the evening fell apart a bit - somehow the decision was made to go to a French place called "Le Garrick" and I decided to bow out at this point. Still, the champagne had been jolly nice.

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Wednesday
[Wednesday 24th March]
Worked quite late this evening, came back home and made veggie burgers for dinner. That's it.
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Dad in London
[Tuesday 23rd March]
Met up with Dad in London today. He was supposed to be on his way back from Guildford to North Wales and would therefore just be passing through for a few hours, but actually his train was cancelled so he ended up staying the night with us.

Tried to fit in a fairly busy schedule into what I'd originally thought was going to be a very short visit. So we started off with a stroll from my office past Buckingham Palace, up through St. James's, including the obligatory nose around in Berry Brothers and Rudd. We then headed over to Fortnum and Mason, for a further bit of a nose around the shop, before popping into my new favourite place for a quick tipple - the 1707 wine bar in the basement. We had the Billecart-Salmon 2004 Extra Vintage again, which I'd had last week when I cam here with Chie for my birthday, and had rather enjoyed.

After that we went for an early dinner at Yoshino, sushi being one of those things that is somewhat hard to come by in North Wales.

We then headed over to Euston where we met up with Chie, to find out that Dad's train had been cancelled. So we decided to go for dinner number 2 at Diwana on Drummmond Street, wherein we enjoyed the usual feast of excellent South Indian vegetarian cuisine.

Headed back to the flat after that for a wee dram or two - the Bruichladdich "Peat" I'd bought in St. George's Distillery, followed by a Kilkerran (the new Campbeltown distillery) which Dad seemed to rather like.
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Pesto
[Monday 22nd March]
Spaghetti with pesto for dinner. I like pesto.
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Sunday Stroll in Battersea and Chelsea
[Sunday 21st March 2010]
Went for a Sunday afternoon stroll along the Thames, through Battersea Park, and back over the bridge and into Chelsea.

Visited the Carlyle house in Chelsea, and was embarassed to admit I had never heard of Thomas Carlyle. In truth, we only went there because the National Trust were having an open weekend, and it was free entry. Still, it was quite interesting to see the interior of a Chelsea house preserved as it was in the 1880s.

After that we headed over to the King's Road, and popped into Waitrose to buy fresh pasta for dinner. We then headed back, by way of he Duke of Wellington wherein (or should I say whereout) we had our first outdoor beer of the year!
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St. John's Wood and Quercus in The Guardian
[Saturday 20th March 2010]
Chie went off to a seminar in the afternoon, so I decided to go out for a stroll by myself, thinking I'd go and explore an area of London I wasn't very familiar with. So I headed to St. John's Wood - actually started off at Finchley Road and walked down from there. It was OK I guess, but nothing much to write home about.

The real highlight of the day came in the evening whilst I was idly leafing through a copy of the Guardian - there was an article on whisky bars in Tokyo. Already right-up-my-street enough, but I was utterly delighted when I noticed they actually featured my favourite bar of all - Quercus.

This is down to the journalist having consulted Chirs Bunting of Nonjatta about the list of bars, who in turn had heard about Quercus from me. It was incredibly satisfying to have been part of that chain of recommendation which resulted in Watanabe-san's bar ending up being featured in a British newspaper.

Here's the web version of the Guardian article if you're interested.
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Filming, Noodles, Awful Curry
[Friday 19th March 2010]
A bit of a mixed bag today:

There was filiming taking place in my office this morning. I think I might have been tenuously visible in some of it. Watch this space for details

Went out for noodles for lunch. See pictures.

Had an incredibly disappointing take away curry in the evening. Somehow I felt like I was being punished for my laziness in not cooking.
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Thursday
[Thursday 18th March]
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Wednesday
[Wednesday 17th March]
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Tuesday
[Tuesday 16th March]
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Birthday: Champagne and Vegetarian Kara Age
[Monday 15th March 2010]
It was my birthday today. Didn't really plan very much, just thought I'd have a quiet evening with Chie.

We started off with a visit to the 1707 wine bar in Fortnum and Mason - I'd been eyeing it up for some time as it is fittingly next door to the wine and spirits department in the basement of F&M, but hadn't actually got around to trying it until now. I liked the notion that you could buy almost any bottle of wine from the actual shop next door, and drink it in here for a fixed corkage price. Given how some restaurants and bars charge add a ridiculous markup on wine compared to shop prices I really liked this very honest and straightforward approach.

They have a "champagne of the month" which this month was Billecart-Salmon: a favourite of mine, and one you don't see so often in the UK (although I have a feeling it is getting more popular recently). Better still they offered this as a flight, so I could try three different bottlings in one sitting at a relatively modest price. Started off with the regular NV which was zesty and citrusy, then moved on to the rosť which had blackberry notes, and ended on the 2004 extra brut, which to me had a nose of cream cheese (or perhaps brie?) and black pepper.

After our very enjoyable champagne tasting, rather than eating out this evening, Chie was keen to cook one of my favourite meals: a vegetarian version of "kara age" which I find scarily addictive.
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Dereham, Downham and Ely
[Sunday 14th March 2010]
Stopped off at a few places on the way back from Norwich to London, including the ever marvelous Ely.
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St. George's Distillery and Norwich
[Saturday 13th March 2010]
Since hearing about the St. George's whisky distillery a couple of years ago I had been keen to visit, this weekend we finally got around to doing it. Whilst it's not actually a million miles from London (being in the nearer side of Norfolk) it's a bit of a difficult place to get to - Harling has a station, but it looked as though there were only two trains a day, and trying to get there from London looked like something of an undertaking.

So we hired a car this weekend, the main reason being to visit the distillery, but neither of us had really been to Norfolk and I'd heard Norwich actually had some rather nice old buildings etc.

We got to St. George's Distillery at 2pm, just in time for one of the hourly tours. It was delightfully similar to just about every other distillery tour we've been on: they included the obligatory mentions of "happy cows" and "the angel's share".

After leaving the distillery we headed to Norwich, where we spent the evening on a miniature pub crawl. Probably my favourite was the Adam and Eve, the oldest pub in Norwich.
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Rob and Mark
[Friday 12th March]
Took the afternoon off work today to go and visit Rob and Mark at Reading University. Was jolly nice to have a bit of a chinwag whilst revisiting some of our old haunts (mainly the student's union of course).
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Stew and Dumplings
[Thursday 11th March]
Made stew and dumplings for dinner this evening.
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Bloody Mary
[Wednesday 10th March 2010]
Really fancied a bloody mary this evening.
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The Unusual Suspects
[Tuesday 9th March]
Went to the pub this evening with Iain, George and Matt from the office.
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Private Lives
[Monday 8th March]
Went to see Noel Coward's Private Lives at the Vaudeville Theatre on the Strand this evening. Despite having the cheapest possible seats (right at the back of the theatre) I enjoyed it immensely and was delighted to see how well the humour had aged.
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Sunday
[Sunday 7th March 2010]
Lunch at the Black Friar, followed by a bit of a Sunday afternoon wander around, including a coffee at the Tate Modern.
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Saturday
[Saturday 6th March 2010]
Afternoon Saturday stroll around London, including a late afternoon snack at Food for Thought.
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Friday
[Friday 5th March]
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Thursday
[Thursday 4th March]
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Mick's Leaving Drinks and Westminster with Al
[Wednesday 3rd March 2010]
Started off the evening with a leaving drinks for Mick, a friend from work. For a bit of a break from the norm he held the do at Tom Tom, primarily a coffee shop by day.

Spent the remainder of the evening with Al, we'd planned to do a bit of a tour of Westminster pubs, but given that time was already getting on a bit we only made it to two - the Red Lion and the Westminster Arms. We then decided we were both hungry, so I introduced Al to Shepherd's, the Westminster restaurant much loved by politicians which I'm starting to grow rather fond of myself.
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Drinks at the Houses of Parliament
[Tuesday 2nd March 2010]
Lunch at the Laughing Halibut with a couple of people from the office.

Alex was still in London this evening. His friend, who had joined us for dinner the previous evening, works at the Houses of Parliament, and invited us both to go for a drink at one of the bars there. This is my third time in the Houses of Parliament in the last 6 or 7 months! Odd really given that I'd never been inside before that.

Rounded the evening off with a late pizza at Oliveto.
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Family Dinner
[Monday 1st March 2010]
Dad, Louise, Ian, Alex and Adele were all in London for the first half of this week to work at an exhibition being held in Earl's Court. Tonight we all had the chance to meet up and go for dinner. After umming and arring about it for a bit I decided we should go for Lebanese food at Noura in Belgravia, which was very nice as always.

After dinner we went on a mini tour of pubs in Belgravia - just the Horse and Groom and the Grenadier.
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A Foray into Herefordshire
[Sunday 28th February 2010]
Visited Baileys Home and Garden emporium and then lunch at the Lough Pool near Ross on Wye. Also popped into the Cherry Tree in Tintern on the way to the station.
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Patricio Church and Abergavenny
[Saturday 27th February 2010]
Robin took us out for a bit of a run in the car around the Black Mountains, taking in the wonderful Patricio Church. Later on in the afternoon Chie and I went for a wander around Abergavenny.
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Off to South Wales
[Friday 26th February 2010]
Got on the train to South Wales after work this evening.

Was rather incensed by the hike in fares - it used to be a little over £50 for a return, now it seemed to have gone up to almost £70! Plus the train was terribly overcrowded, so all in all a thoroughly unpleasant journey. I'm not really a fan of First Great Western at the moment.

Luckily though Robin had been in Newport that evening, so we were able to skip the second leg of our journey, and within a short time of arriving at Robin and Vera's house all thoughts of the horrendous train journey had been erased from my mind. We stayed up until almost midnight chatting with Vera, who was in rather fine form this evening, bubbly and full of laughter. A delight.
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Thai Curry
[Thursday 25th February]
Made Thai cury for dinner today, it was very nice.
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Lunch at the Regency Cafe
[Wednesday 24th February 2010]
Lunch with a couple of people from work at the ever excellent Regency Cafe.
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South of the River
[Tuesday 23rd February]
Attempted to explore South of the river this evening, with a view to trying to expand my horizons and dispel some of my prejudices about this part of London. I'm still plagued by the nagging sense that we ought to buy a house some time soon, and given that South of the river seems to have much cheaper properties, I thought I ought to try and find something I actually like about the area.

I'd heard there was a pub near Stockwell called the Priory Arms which seemed to be quite well regarded, so headed there with Kyle from the office.

It was... OK I suppose, nice exterior, but had been refurbished somewhat inside and whilst it would probably be a pleasant enough pub if you happened to live in the area, I'm not sure it really merited the Herculean effort required to venture South of the Thames.

From there we went on a bit of a wander to see if we could find any other decent pubs, and there were none, and soon I found myself instincitively heading Northwards.

Got as far as Vauxhall station, and we were a tad peckish, so tried out a place called Casa Madeira - a sort of Portugese tapas restaurant. This wasn't too bad, and certainly a bit cheaper than tapas North of the river.
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Monday
[Monday 22nd February]
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Pictures in the Hallway
[Sunday 21st February 2010]
...another picture hung up today - this time the Vanity Fair caricature of Sir Frederick Seager Hunt.
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Vineyards of the United Kingdom
[Saturday 20th February 2010]
Hung this picture up today, which my Dad had given me the previous weekend.
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Ponyo
[Friday 19th February 2010]
The evening we went to see Ponyo, after some Japanese food at Ryo on Brewer Street.
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Lebanese Lunch and Tour of Belgravia
[Thursday 18th February 2010]
Went out for lunch at Noura today, which was very nice. In the evening took the a bunch of colleagues visiting from other office on a tour of Belgravia's pubs.
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Argyll Arms and Busaba Eathai
[Wednesday 17th February 2010]
A night out entertaining some visitors from another office. Starting with a pint at the Argyll Arms, followed by some Thai food at Busaba Eathai near Goodge Street.
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Pancake Day
[Tuesday 16th February]
Stayed in this evening amidst a busy week of social events, and made pancakes for Chie.
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Virtual Golf and Fitzrovia
[Monday 15th February 2010]
Went on a company "offsite" this afternoon to go and play virtual golf. I can't pretend I enjoyed it, and came away with the distinct conclusion that this really wasn't the sport for me, virtual or otherwise.

In the evening met up with Al in Fitzrovia to sample a few of the local ale houses - the King and Queen, The Yorkshire Grey and the Cock Tavern.


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