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.
- John's Journal / Blog
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Main Index (text only)
- John's Travel
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Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
- Architectural Afternoon
Zurich, Paris, London
Hiltl and the Sechseläuten
London to Paris to Zurich
Belgravia and Dinner at the Regency Cafe
Lunch in St. James's Park and Mick's Cat
Fortnum and Mason Champagne of the Month: Pol Roger
Decode at the Victoria and Albert
Hanami in St. James's Park
Whisky Society and Veggie Kara Age
Dinner at Zilli Green
Petersfield, Buriton and South Harting
Bar Italia and St. James's Park
Turkish Food in Haringey
Temple Pub Crawl
Sunday Stroll by Myself
- Architectural Afternoon
- [Saturday 24th April 2010]
Chie spent the afternoon with a friend, so I decided to venture out by myself to inspect some of London's architecture.
- [Friday 23rd April]
- [Thursday 22nd April]
- Zurich, Paris, London
- [Wednesday 21st April 2010]
Back to London again by way of Paris.
- Widder Bar
- [Tuesday 20th April 2010]
Visited the Widder Bar in the evening and sampled some of their fine range of single malts.
- Hiltl and the Sechseläuten
- [Monday 19th April 2010]
Dinner at Hiltl, followed by a late evening stroll around Zurich to take in the sights and see the marching bands celebrating the Sechseläuten.
- London to Paris to Zurich
- [Sunday 18th April 2010]
Spent the day taking a very pleasant train journey with which I'm now somewhat familiar: the Eurostar to Paris, and then the TGV from there to Zurich.
- Sunny Saturday
- [Saturday 17th April 2010]
Enjoying the spring sunshine in London - a stroll into the centre in the evening and then an early evening gin and tonic in the garden.
- Belgravia and Dinner at the Regency Cafe
- [Friday 16th April 2010]
The office seemed to be more or less deserted today, and by the time it came to the usual end-of-the-week beer and pizza thing, rather disappointingly there was no-one to go with. So instead I just slinked off and went for a wander round Belgravia.
Belgravia was looking particularly magnificent this evening. Whilst walking through Belgrave Square I noticed for the first time an inscription bearing the name George Basevi. I had previously quite wrongly referred to Belgravia as "Thomas Cubitt architecture" whereas in fact Thomas Cubitt was a master builder, not an architect - although his younger brother Lewis Cubitt was an architect, and designed parts of Belgrave Square along with Basevi.
The name "Basevi" really caught my imagination, and prompted me to read a little further into his history. Whilst born and raised in England he was of Italian ancestry as his name suggests. He studied under Sir John Soane - and was apparently his favourite pupil. Basevi went on a grand tour of Italy and Greece starting in 1816, and this influence can clearly be seen is Belgrave Square, built in the 1820s, which has been described as partly Greek revival in style. Perhaps rather fittingly Basevi is buried in another architectural wonder which I'm very fond of - Ely Cathedral.
Anyway, after a while of indulging my new found fascination with architecture, more mundane matters came to the fore, and it was time to think about dinner. I'd suggest to Chie we meet up somewhere on her way back from work, as I rather fancied chips. Rather superbly, Chie noticed that the Regency Cafe was still open. It apparently opens until 7:30 on weekdays, although last orders are more like 7:15 so we only just made it in time. I had a superb mushroom omelette and chips, and a mug of their wonderfully strong tea. It was a real treat to be able to savour the interior of the Regency while it was quiet for once - by the end we had the place entirely to ourselves. Bliss.
- Lunch in St. James's Park and Mick's Cat
- [Thursday 15th April 2010]
Few pictures from lunchtime in the park as the cherry blossom was beginning to turn. Then in the evening dinner with Mick followed by a bit of time spent with his cat.
- Fortnum and Mason Champagne of the Month: Pol Roger
- [Wednesday 14th April]
Having discovered Fortnum and Mason's "Champagne of the Month" last month (so good in fact, I went three times in March!) I was keen to try out this month's offering: Pol Roger.
So Chie and I headed to the 1707 wine bar in the basement of Fortnum and Mason after work, wherein we shared a flight of Pol Rogers. Here are my tasting notes:
Brut Rèserve: oddly a hint of lightly charred wood, but very sharp and zesty. Really very youthful and zingy.
Vintage 2000: Fabulously complex nose, something different every time, from bananas, through demerera sugar to dry roasted nuts.
Pure NV: very "karakuchi" (dry on the palate) - the Asahi of champagnes! Plus some underlying bitter fruit - grapefruit etc.
- [Tuesday 13th April]
- [Monday 12th April]
- [Sunday 11th April]
- [Saturday 10th April 2010]
Curry in Southall.
- Decode at the Victoria and Albert
- [Friday 9th April 2010]
An evening out to go and see the Decode exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum, followed by a drink or two in Kensington.
- Hanami in St. James's Park
- [Thursday 8th April 2010]
As it was such a nice day today, I decided we should leave work "early" (i.e. at 5:30) and head to St. James's Park for a hanami - a Japanese style picnic which literally translates as "cherry blossom viewing".
So Chie and I met up at Piccadilly Circus, bought some food and drink at the Japan Centre, then headed down to St. James's Park and planted ourselves near one of the nicer cherry blossom tree to sit and enjoy the scenery and the unusually warm sun for a spring day. It was rather lovely.
After our hanami we took a slow meander home by way of the Cask and Glass, where we benefited from the fact that everyone else was standing outside, and so actually had a table for once.
- Whisky Society and Veggie Kara Age
- [Wednesday 7th April 2010]
Bit of a frustrating day at work again today, so I decided in the evening to cheer myself up I should head to the whisky society. Stuck very much to Islay malts - a succession of Ardbeg, Bowmore and finally Laphroaig - and no great surprises that the Laphroaig came out on top.
Didn't stay particularly late, and when I got back home Chie had made some rather fantastic veggie kara age. Really delicious!
- [Tuesday 6th April 2010]
Bit of a frustrating day at work today.
Both Chie and I ended up working quite late, and when we were finally done Chie came to meet me at my office, from where we went for a bit of a stroll through Belgravia, which led us to the Antelope.
Headed back home after one quick drink there and had a very disappointing bowl of noodles for dinner. Wasn't really in the mood to cook it seems.
- Dinner at Zilli Green
- [Monday 5th April 2010]
Didn't really make much of the Easter Monday holiday in the daytime, just slobbed arounf the flat mainly.
As it had felt like I had spent the entire daytime washing dishes I decided to officially close the kitchen in the evening, and issued a decree that we should eat out. Chie did a little bit of research on the web and came across Zilli Green - a new Italian vegetarian restaurant in Soho.
Despite the bad reviews this place has received I really enjoyed our dinner - the black truffle and mushroom lasagne was sumptuous, and the staff were all very friendly.
- Petersfield, Buriton and South Harting
- [Sunday 4th April 2010]
On a recent trip to see Dad I'd asked him for recommendations for pubs in the South East that he'd visited back in his CAMRA days. I'd created a map of some of these in Hampshire and had been keen to try and visit some of these since.
Given that we hadn't really planned anything for the long Easter weekend, today seemed like a good day to get out of London, get some fresh country air, and hopefully visit one of these pubs.
Unfortunately the logistics of relying on train travel plus walking meant we could probably only practically visit one on the list, so after poring over the map for a bit I decided we should aim for the Five Bells at Buriton.
We made a special effort to get up "early" - were out the flat by 10AM (very good for us on a Sunday) and were on a train headed for Hampshire by 10:30.
We arrived in Petersfield a little before 12, in good time to visit the Farmers Market there, where I bought what may well be one of the last wedges of Twineham Grange cheese (my favourite vegetarian Parmesan alternative) - which apparently faces an uncertain future.
From there we headed out to Buriton. Unfortunately I hadn't been able to get hold of the local Ordnance Survey map, so we didn't have much choice but to mainly stick to the roads today. Fortunately after a short walk along a larger road, it's then quite a pleasant little country lane that leads to Buriton. The sun came out at this point too, and it was really rather lovely - a Devony sort of feel to it - which was especially nice to think we'd been in central London only a couple of hours earlier.
We arrived at the Five Bells at 12:45, timing it rather well it seems, ahead of the main Sunday lunch rush. It's a simple but rather lovely two-tone brick building on the outside, with some parts apparently dating back to the fifteenth century, but most of the visible bits now are more likely eighteenth century. There was a very welcoming smell of wood smoke as we entered, and on the inside all the usual hallmarks of a great country pub - the open fire and the low hanging beams.
It seemed to be a family run pub - I got the impression the two barmaids were the landlord's daughters - and it seemed to attract a very family oriented clientÃ¨le too - there were lots of young children and dogs, but all very well behaved. It's a Hall and Woodhouse pub now, so the beer was all Badger. I had the Hopping Hare which was very pleasant indeed - perfect for a day like today.
The food was very good too - I ordered the vegetable lasagne, which, although it doesn't sound like a very original choice for pub food, was extremely tasty, and also was served with roast potatoes (which were quite excellent).
Overall a delightful little country pub, very well run, which made for a very nice visit, and all the nicer for knowing Dad had been here 30 or so years before.
When making my makeshift plan for the day this morning it had seemed a bit of a waste to come all this way, go to one pub, and then just go back home again. However, as noted, the other pubs Dad had recommended looked a bit to far to walk in one day. So I had pretty much just picked the next village to Buriton on the map that had a pub - and so determined we should next head for South Harting.
It took about an hour-and-a-half to walk from Buriton to South Harting, again we suffered as a result of not having an OS map - we started down a couple of footpaths that then appeared to turn the wrong way, so we turned back again.
Anyway, eventually we made it to South Harting, where after a quick appraisal of the two pubs on offer, we decided to plump for The White Hart Inn. Whilst it didn't have quite the rustic charm of the Five Bells, this was still a perfectly pleasant little country inn with the obligatory low hanging beams et al, wherein we enjoyed a game of pool in the little room at the back.
After this we headed back to Petersfield, which turned into a bit of a trek, again as we didn't have an OS map, and had do a bit of guesswork whenever we weren't walking on roads. Definitely towards the end the sense of fun of this had worn somewhat thin, especially after a boggy field caused Chie to get decidedly wet feet.
Still, I suppose it was all good exercise!
We got back to Petersfield at 6 - we briefly though about popping into one more pub here - the Good Intent seemed like a promising candidate, but alas it was closed until 7. So instead we just went and jumped on the next train back to London.
- Bar Italia and St. James's Park
- [Saturday 3rd April 2010]
Spent most of the morning indoors, and just ventured out towards the end of the afternoon for a pretty non-specific meander through London, including a very good espresso at Bar Italia, and a bit of cherry blossom viewing in St. James's Park.
- Turkish Food in Haringey
- [Friday 2nd April 2010]
Spent the afternoon with Frank and Naoko in Haringey, a district of London with lots of Turkish people - so of course lunch was an easy choice!
- Temple Pub Crawl
- [Wednesday 31st March 2010]
On my slightly pointless stroll on Sunday I'd walked past the area where The Strand turns into Fleet Street, and had been reminded of the little cluster of pubs all within a very short walk of each other - the Edgar Wallace, the Devereux, the Cheshire Cheese and the George. It occurred to me this would make for a fun pub crawl, so this evening I drummed up some support from some people from work, and five of us headed out to do just that.
Only took one picture, but here's a map of the route to illustrate (we only made it to five of the six in the end):
View Extremely Short Walking Distance Pub Crawl in a larger map
- Franco Manca
- [Tuesday 30th March 2010]
I wanted to get out of the office for lunch, and decided to go and finally try out a pizza place in Brixton called Franco Manca which I keep hearing so much about.
As an aside I don't think I've been to Brixton once since I moved to London over three years ago - my forays South of the river in general are pretty few and far between - but I found Brixton market quite fascinating. Really bustling and lively, even on a weekday.
I was accompanied to Franco Manca by a couple of people from work, and the three of us sat at a table "outside" (in one of the covered walkways of the market). As for the actual pizza, it was very good - the sour dough base was really tasty, and the topping (wild mushrooms) was actually worthy of the term 'wild' which gets abused so much. It was difficult to identify all the individual types, but I think they included chanterelles / giroles and possibly pied de mouton.
It was a white pizza, meaning no tomato - the waitress gave us fair warning of this. I know this was probably a culinary decision made from a position of some authority (possibly better suits the delicate flavour of the mushrooms?) but my uneducated palate found itself missing the presence of tomato. My only other slight criticism was that it seemed to get cold quite quickly - not sure if this was just a symptom of eating sort-of-outside or if it suggests that I just wasn't eating it fast enough.
Overall though very good, and very reasonably priced (pizzas around Â£6). I think I should definitely go back and try a pizza with tomato next time to get the full picture.
However, I think for the time being at least Oliveto still retains its crown as the best pizzeria in London.
- [Monday 29th March]
Initially left the office around 7 to head off to meet Chie in Knightsbridge, but got a call from one of my colleagues a short while later which meant I had to go back to work again. Did at least have enough time to go to the Waitrose in Belgravia and get some things for dinner.
There was another big important demo happening this evening involving the founders of my company, and there had been some problems with the demo earlier on so I ended up sticking around poised for action in case anything went wrong. In the end it all seemed to go fine, but it's one of those things a bit like carrying an umbrella to prevent it from raining.
Finally left the office about 11:30. Was rather tired as you can probably imagine.
- Sunday Stroll by Myself
- [Sunday 28th March 2010]
Chie went out to see a friend this afternoon, I originally planned to try and get some work done, but having already spent a few hours yesterday working I thought I should probably get out of the flat, stretch my legs, and get a bit of "fresh" air.
So I went for a long stroll by myself with the vague inclination of trying to find a nice pub to have Sunday lunch in, but somehow I never quite found the right place. I eventually walked as far as Barbican (over 4 miles from where I live!), which seemed a bit like the end of the world, so at that point I just got on a tube and headed back.
Bought a load of vegetarian pastry products in Holland and Barrett on the way back home, which, along with some lazy Marks and Spencer roast potatoes, formed dinner. It wasn't bad I suppose.