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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Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
- First Fitting
Pub lunch and Vita Organic
Working from Home
Leong's Legend and the Coach and Horses
Shoko-chan's last night in London
Burrito, Pimm's and Japanese Curry
Deep Fried Pizza
Sunday with Shoko-chan
Saturday with Shokochan
Longest TGIF ever
Chie back from Moscow
Champagne with Kyle and Hannah
Horse and Groom
Andy's Japanese Class
Burritos in St. James's Park
Bank Holiday Monday
Boston Baked Beans
Chie's Mock Test and Dried Beans
Westminster Pubs with Iain
East Midlands to London
Saturday in the East Midlands
Off to the East Midlands
Two Greedy Italians
- First Fitting
- [Saturday 25th June 2011]
A lazy morning followed by a busy and rather self indulgent afternoon. The highlight being the first fitting of my suit. So, around lunchtime we left the flat and headed over to Savile Row for my 2:30 appointment at Norton and Sons, where I was met again by head cutter Stephen Allen who was, as before, very friendly and interesting to talk to.
I'd been a bit apprehensive in the run up to the first fitting, particularly about the cloth I'd chosen. It had been hard to imagine what the full suit would look like from the small cloth sample, and I was worrying that in the search for something a little out of the ordinary I might have gone a bit too far. So it was a big relief to have the first glimpse of the suit today and be reassured that what I'd chosen was, whilst being definitely in the realm of blue rather than navy, just about the right balance between restrained and interesting. Moreover it was great to have Chie with me this time as well who gave the cloth her approval too (although I suspect she couldn't really say anything else!). As you can see from the pictures, the suit is in a very early stage at present - there's no filling in the jacket yet, and all the stitching at this stage is temporary - after this fitting it will be completely taken apart and restitched, after adjustments have been made. However, even at this point I'm really pleased with it - the trousers are an excellent fit, and the jacket already has a sense of the sort of timeless classic cut I'd hope for from the Row. So I'm looking forward excitedly to the second fitting, which will hopefully be in about a month's time.
More indulgent shopping ensued after leaving Norton and Sons - Chie bought a pair of shoes from Vivienne Westwood - and then we decided lunch was a pressing matter, and headed to the tiny Goat Tavern in Mayfair. It being a Taylor Walker pub they had veggie fish and chips on the menu, which I find very hard to resist, and theirs was a particularly good execution thereof - down to the addition of what appeared to be aonori (a variant of the seaweed used in sushi) in the batter.
Following on from this, after a bit more window shopping, we decided to split up for a bit, as Chie wanted to look at bags, and I wanted to look at cufflinks. I slipped into Gray's antiques market just as they were closing, and on impulse bought a pair of Victorian silver cufflinks. They have Birmingham hallmarks, the date is 1888, but I haven't yet been able to identify the maker's mark. They're the oldest pair I've bought to date - having also acquired an Edwardian pair (from either 1906 or 1909) and an Art Deco pair (from 1935).
We met up again a bit later on for a wander round Selfridge's, wherein we had a glass of wine at one of their slightly disappointing bars and then started to think about heading home. A few minutes before arriving back at home we decided we were both too lazy to cook, so went to the little tapas place near where we live for a light dinner, which seemed to suit the warm weather rather well.
- [Friday 24th June 2011]
Just showed my face very briefly at TGIF at the end of the day today, as most of the people I'd usually hang around with there were in Disneyland. Afterwards went for one quick drink at the pub with a couple of people from my team, before heading home to make dinner.
I was really in the mood for kimchi, and so had bought some hakusai (Chinese leaf) in Sainsbury's, and some chilli paste in the vain hope I might be able to improvise something similar with the kind of ordinary ingredients you can buy in a normal supermarket. So once I got back home I tried using a combination of chopped ginger, garlic puree and chilli paste, to approximate something like the flavour of the real thing. It wasn't really a huge success, although that said it probably needed to be left overnight at least to be a fairer comparison. I think the key thing is the type of chilli peppers they use in the proper Korean recipe, which seem to have quite a different flavour to the sorts of peppers we use in the West.
Using the improvised kimchi I made a kind of kimchi nabe for dinner, also including some fresh tofu and shiitake. It was OK I guess.
The remainder of the evening was really quite boring, and I found myself eventually browsing property sites, something that has become a futile affliction with a depressing familiarity.
- Pub lunch and Vita Organic
- [Thursday 23rd June 2011]
Most of the engineers from my office had gone to Disneyland Paris for an "offsite" (basically a jolly) for the latter half of this week, which made it a lot quieter than usual. Although, regrettably, the two desks crammed very close to mine were still occupied. The few of us that were still around decided as a sort of consolation prize for not going on the offsite (our own choice) that we should go out for a pub lunch today.
In the evening Chie wanted to go for udon at Koya, a Japanese restaurant in Soho. So we met up near there after work, but on arrival found a really long queue out the door, and decided not to bother. Instead, we went to Vita Organic, a vegan buffet place that surprisingly Chie was more keen to try than I was. I wasn't particularly impressed - it was a strange mixture of cuisines (some dishes sort of Chinese, some sort of Indian) which never really works in my opinion. I also managed to get something caught in my throat which seemed to exacerbate my ongoing cough.
Got the bus back as the sun was beginning to set. We sat on the top dock and enjoyed the views of the rather nice sky over the landmarks of London.
- [Wednesday 22nd June 2011]
Went back into the office today, but still didn't really feel 100%, and had developed a bit of an irritating cough. Wanted to get out of the office at lunchtime so went to the Thomas Cubitt, a nearby gastropub in Belgravia, and had a rather disappointing veggie burger. I don't remember the last time I had a veggie burger which I actually enjoyed - I don't know why I keep ordering them.
In the evening both Chie and I felt tired and weren't really that enthusiastic about cooking, so we came up with a low effort pasta bake using some left over mushroom soup. It wasn't great.
- Working from Home
- [Tuesday 21st June 2011]
Both Chie and I had started to develop some kind of chest cold in the past day or two, and I woke up this morning with a bit of a fever, and felt pretty hoarse, so decided to stay at home for the day. I think at least partly I'm starting to feel really run down, and very much in need of a holiday - we're almost half way through the year, and I haven't even used up the holiday I carried over from last year yet. Part of the problem is we can't think of anywhere we really want to go, plus the added difficulty of us both having various commitments at work meaning it's difficult to find a week when we can easily take time off. Hopefully that will get a bit easier over the summer though.
Between a couple of much needed naps, I actually managed to get a fair amount done today, free of all the distractions (i.e. other people) that I'd have if I had actually been at the office.
- [Monday 20th June 2011]
Not much to report. We'd both started to feel a bit unwell today - some sort of chest cold or something - so I had left work "early" - i.e. at 5:30, and went home by way of Sainsbury's where I bought the sort of things you tend to buy when you're feeling under the weather - soup etc. Had spaghetti for dinner, with a lazy tomato sauce from a jar, and some very garlicky garlic bread, thinking that might help our colds a bit.
- [Sunday 19th June 2011]
Chie went out for tea with her friend Noriko-san in the afternoon, and I headed to the office to get a bit of work done. I wore my new shoes, of course.
Later on in the afternoon, Andrew (who was also in the office it turned out) reminded me that our former colleague Benoit was in London this weekend, and so we arranged to meet up for a late afternoon / early evening drink, and Kyle also came along to join us. It being a Sunday none of us really wanted to stay out very late, so we just had a quiet pint in the St. George's Tavern, followed by another quiet pint in the recently reopened Windsor Castle (formerly the Cardinal) and then waved Benoit and co off at a bus stop on Victoria Street.
Was back home in time for dinner with Chie, and a quiet Sunday evening in.
- [Saturday 18th June 2011]
My much loved and well worn brogues had got a hole in them - a big split across the sole - and with all the wet weather we'd been having recently this was becoming a real nuisance. One of my feet would be soaked through almost as soon as I went outdoors. So it very much seemed like time to buy a new pair of shoes.
As tradition now dictates, this means a trip to Brighton, which is still bafflingly the only place I've found selling decent vegetarian shoes in the UK. In fact, the only place I've found in the world really - during my last trip to New York I'd had a search about on the web, and the only shop I'd found selling "proper" non-leather shoes was in fact reselling the ones made by the Brighton based company.
Anyway, we were both feeling a bit lethargic in the morning, and umming and arring about whether we could really be bothered to go all the way to Brighton. Especially since we'd realised the crazy difference in ticket prices - if we'd gone from Victoria, walking distance for us, the day return would be £22 each. For some reason though going from London Bridge worked out at just £10 each. Having learnt that I was then loathed to be needlessly ripped off, but that did mean the additonal hassle of getting the tube to London Bridge. Oh and it was raining again.
Eventually we mustered the required enthusiasm, and got on a train at London Bridge just before 2.
On arrival in Brighton we proceded straight to Vegetarian Shoes, where I bought two pairs, a slightly worryingly pointy pair of brogues, and some "Liam" shoes, which were a sort of fake suede. We then headed on from there for a very late lunch at Food for Friends, a vegetarian restaurant which is a bit of an institution in Brighton, having been going for 30 years (and, fittingly enough, I realised I last went to when it was almost exactly half as old as it is now). That was actually a bit of a disappointment, but maybe that was partly down to having just chosen the wrong thing from the menu, and/or the strange time of day we went at.
To make up for our slightly disappointing lunch, I proposed going for ice cream, and thanks to Google Maps found a very good little place doing Italian style gelato. Alas it was a bit too windy to eat our ice creams on the sea front, so we just sat in the sheltered little alleyway outside the shop. After that we thought we'd brave the sea front for a bit, and as you can hopefully see from the pictures it was extremely blustery - it didn't really feel like the middle of June. Oh well, at least it wasn't raining in Brighton.
We gradually meandered through the Lanes and the North Lanes from there back to the station, including a visit to Infinity Foods (a really good health food shop with lots of vegetarian stuff), and got the train back to London around 6 o' clock. I realised we'd only been in Brighton for around three hours, but had packed a lot in and it was really fun as always.
- Leong's Legend and the Coach and Horses
- [Friday 17th June 2011]
Chie went out to see a play with a friend from her office this evening (something with John Malkovich in it). After a brief attendance at TGIF, Kyle very wisely suggested that it would be good to go and get something to eat, and so along with Andrew and Iain we jumped in a taxi and headed for Chinatown - where Kyle had proposed going to Leong's Legend, a Taiwanese restaurant he'd been to before and thought was very good. I'm always braced for disappointment when it comes to Chinatown, but actually this place (perhaps by virtue of being Taiwanese?) was really good - I had the vegetarian hot and sour soup followed by the vegetarian ma po tofu, both very spicy and flavoursome. The staff were also really chirpy and upbeat, and actually smiling - something I don't think I've ever encountered before in Chinatown, or Chinese restaurants in London in general.
From there we headed into Soho for a post dinner drink - I suggested the Coach and Horses on the basis it is a really decent traditional pub, but one that seems to attract a very interesting and unusual crowd. Oh and they server Orchard Pig, which is a rather excellent cider, with stilton like qualities.
- Shoko-chan's last night in London
- [Thursday 16th June 2011]
Tonight was Shoko-chan's last night in London, so we thought it would be nice to go out for dinner for a bit of a send off. Chie decided some Indian food would be fitting, and as she had some early evening souvenir shopping to do in Mitsukoshi, the Woodlands in Haymarket seemed like the obvious choice.
After dinner we went to the Red Lion on Duke of York street, which was almost eerily quiet - it is usually packed on a Thursday, and we figured it must have been something to do with the rain. Anyway, it was nice to actually be able to sit down here for a change.
- [Wednesday 15th June 2011]
Chie and Shoko-chan went out to see Wicked (a musical based loosely on the Wizard of Oz) this evening. I had a very strong suspicion it would not be my sort of thing so left them to it, and instead just had a quiet evening in.
- Burrito, Pimm's and Japanese Curry
- [Tuesday 14th June 2011]
Had another excellent burrito from Piccante Mexican Grill for lunch.
In the evening, Chie and Shoko-chan made dinner - Japanese curry. As the weather was nice we also managed to have a quick pre dinner glass of Pimm's out in the gardens.
- Deep Fried Pizza
- [Monday 13th June 2011]
Chie took the day off today to do more touristy stuff with Shoko-chan. Having felt like I'd done my bit over the weekend, I decided to leave the girls to it this evening, and instead went out to meet up with Al, who proposed going for a pint or two at the Harp, and Andrew from the office came along too. The weather had taken a dramatic turn for the better following the awful wash out of a weekend, and it was pleasant enough to stand outside the pub.
Keen not to fall into the all-too-easy bad habit of after work drinking and ending up not having any dinner, after our first pint I proposed going to get something to eat. At the weekend I'd read about Rossopomodoro which had rather appealed to me for all the Neapolitan specialities I hadn't seen anywhere else in London. Justifying it to myself with "when in Rome..." (I guess that should really be Naples) I went the whole hog and ordered the calzone fritti - deep fried pizza. It was really delicious, and surprisingly light and easy to eat - sort of like a savoury doughnut. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
After dinner we rounded the evening off with a final drink at the Lamb and Flag.
- Sunday with Shoko-chan
- [Sunday 12th June 2011]
Another day out with Chie's friend Shoko-chan, although today the weather had taken a considerable turn for the worse, and it was something of a struggle to maintain any kind of enthusiasm. Always a bit disappointing when you're trying to show off your city to a visitor.
Knowing full well it was going to be a pretty wet and miserable sort of a day I suggested to plan in mainly around museums. We started at the Tate Britain, and from there took the Tate-to-Tate boat along the Thames to the Tate Modern. After this our stomachs were rumbling (well mine certainly was) so hurriedly crossed over a particularly wet and windy Millenium bridge and headed over to the Black Friar for lunch. Therein Shoko-chan again tried British food - this time sausages and mash - and again it was somewhat hard to gauge her reaction. Ho, hum.
From there we went in the direction of the British Museum, wherein it seemed all of London's tourists were sheltering from the rain. Shoko-chan wanted to see the mummies, as you do at the British Museum, which is always the most popular bit, but I've never seen it as crowded as it was today.
Following this we had a failed attempt to find a coffee somewhere, and then eventually decided we'd punished ourselves enough, and it was time to go home.
- Saturday with Shokochan
- [Saturday 11th June 2011]
Chie's friend Shoko-chan came to our flat this morning, who was visiting London from Japan, and was going to be staying with us for a few nights. It turns out she is a fan of Jamie Oliver, so we decided to go to Jamie's Italian for lunch.
I thought the food was pretty decent - I started with a deep fried courgette flower, and had a mushroom filled mezzelune for my main course. I even stretched as far as dessert - the not-very-Italian Eton Mess.
After lunch we had a bit of a wander about, but eventually I decided I'd be better off leaving the girls to it, and went back home for a bit of an afternoon nap, and got some work done.
In the evening Chie and Shoko-chan brought back some things from Marks and Spencer, and Shoko-chan was introduced to some very British food - shepherd's pie. It was a little hard to precisely gauge her reaction to it.
- Longest TGIF ever
- [Friday 10th June 2011]
Stayed really late at TGIF (end of the week beer and pizza thing at work) this evening, while Chie was out with her friend Shoko-chan, who was visiting from Japan be staying with us from tomorrow. Many of the best usual suspects were in attendance - Andrew, Kyle, Iain and Gemma, and everyone seemed to be in a buoyant mood.
- Chie back from Moscow
- [Thursday 9th June 2011]
Chie came back from Moscow this evening - she'd apparently had a wonderful time, having been able to squeeze in a bit of sightseeing between all her meetings etc.
- Champagne with Kyle and Hannah
- [Wednesday 8th June 2011]
Lunch at Oliveto with Iain and Andrew. Excellent as ever.
In the evening, for no particular reason, Kyle and I felt like a bit of reckless extravagance, so decided to head out to find somewhere to drink Champagne. After a bit of a wander we ended up at Gallery Mess - the café/bar/restaurant place attached to the Saatchi Gallery. Therein we had a bottle of their Greno Brut (a Champagne I had never heard of before - I believe it may be attached to the house of Pommery) and some rather ridiculous little antipasto plates. Kyle's other half Hannah joined us there, and after finishing up our drinks, it still being fairly early, we decided to head on for another drink at the Antelope round the corner. There we had another Champagne I've never heard of before, whose name I don't even remember.
We spent most of the evening talking about tailoring - very much a hot topic for me having just last week ordered my first bespoke suit. It turns out Hannah is something of a seamstress and I was impressed to find out she'd made the jacket she was wearing.
- Horse and Groom
- [Tuesday 7th June]
Popped out for a drink with a couple of people from work at the Horse and Groom in the evening. Didn't stay very late.
- Andy's Japanese Class
- [Monday 6th June]
Chie flew off to Moscow this morning, where she'd be on a business trip for the next three nights.
My friend Andy is currently doing Japanese lessons on Monday evenings at SOAS, and tonight he invited me along to join him for drinks afterwards with his fellow students. The teacher came along too, and as a result we were in one of those odd and slightly embarrassing situations where a bunch of non-Japanese people felt the need to try and speak Japanese to each other. I'm almost reluctant to use my Japanese with people who are actually having proper lessons, much like people learning to drive are advised to only have lessons with a qualified instructor rather than a member of their family, so as to avoid picking up bad habits.
Anyway, it was briefly quite exciting to be back in a student union again, albet the one at SOAS where presumably the majority of the students are doing these kinds of evening classes, etc.
After the rest of the students left, Andy and I continued on to the Queen's Larder on the other side of Russell Square, and then finally the Old Nick in Holborn.
- [Sunday 5th June]
Didn't leave the flat at all today - Chie wanted a complete rest after the drama of her exam yesterday and her upcoming business trip to Moscow (her first ever business trip!).
- Chie's Exam
- [Saturday 4th June 2011]
Today was the big day of Chie's exam, which she'd been studying for since the end of January - and after which she'd have the rest of the year "off" - meaning she'd just be doing a full time job, rather than a full time job plus he course - until next January.
The day started rather badly, she'd booked a taxi with Addison Lee several days ago, and a couple of minutes before it was supposed to arrive she got a text message saying it was going to be up to 20 minutes late. By the time it actually arrived it was close to 30 minutes late, but by then Chie had already left and got in a black cab instead. Even then she only just made it there in time, thanks to road closures in the City. A rather stressful episode she could have done without just before the exam!
I spent the morning working, and then headed out about 2:45, thinking I'd go over to East London so that I could meet Chie after her test (which was being held at Excel, in the docklands). I got the jubilee line to Canary Wharf, and then a brief trip on the DLR from there to Westferry, where I got off and retraced the steps from a riverside walk I'd done a couple of times before, which was designed to be punctuated by the pubs along the Thames there. Today it was more about the walk than the pubs, but I couldn't resist stopping off at one or two, and particularly enjoyed a visit to the Prospect of Whitby, all the more for having been reading Samuel Pepys' Diary recently, who is said to have gone there.
In the end I didn't actually meet Chie after her test - she went for drinks with a couple of friends who had also taken the test, and I decided it would be better if I headed home and made dinner for us.
Somehow I decided I'd push the boat out and make pizza - including making my own dough for it - something I haven't done for years. The end result was surprisingly not that bad, especially considering the rather quick and approximate way I went about it.
- [Friday 3rd June 2011]
Met up with Chie for lunch again, this time at the Regency Cafe. It's the first time Chie has been for lunch here (her office being on the other side of London, it wouldn't normally be very practical!), but unfortunately it was not a great success. They have fish and chips on a Friday, but there was a bit of a problem with the fish she ordered - for which I wouldn't want to assign any blame to the Regency, where the food is normally unfailingly excellent - and to their credit without any fuss at all they gave us the money back for it. However by that point Chie had lost her appetite and it was a bit of a disappointment, which cast a rather grey mood over the rest of the afternoon. No doubt exacerbated by the fact Chie's exam was looming, and after months of studying she was naturally a bit stressed. Ho, hum.
I went to the usual end of the week thing at the end of the working day, and sat out with some of the chaps from the office on the balcony for a bit, which was very nice. After that I headed back home and we head a rather boring pasta based dinner - some pasta sauce in a jar which wasn't as nice as I'd remembered it was, and some asparagus that was definitely past its best.
- Boston Chilli
- [Thursday 2nd June 2011]
Made a Quorn chilli for dinner, incorporating some of the boston baked beans I'd made last weekend.
- Burritos in St. James's Park
- [Wednesday 1st June 2011]
As Chie was off work all week studying for her exam, it meant we could meet up for lunch, which was rather nice. As it was a very nice day outside - as though summer had suddenly been switched on for June 1st - I thought it would be nice to go and buy something and eat it in the park. So we met at my favourite Mexican takeaway - Piccante Mexican Grill - bought a couple of their excellent burritos, and then headed over to St. James's Park. It made for a very nice break from work.
In the evening Chie was out with a friend, so I decided to try out the newly refurbished Windsor Castle (the Sam Smith's pub formerly known as The Cardinal), which had apparently just re-opened the day before. They've put in some very nice panelling, and more partitions than it had before (consistent with how many public would have looked in Victorian times). It has been done very well, but I am starting to get a feeling that these Sam Smith's refurbishments are, well, a bit samey, and when you can still smell the new paint it's hard to get a sense of authenticity.
- Bespoke Suit
- [Tuesday 31st May 2011]
As a result of my increasing interest in all things sartorial over the past few years, I'd been thinking for some time it would be quite special one day to have a bespoke suit made, and of course, being in London, there's an obvious place to go with that in mind - Savile Row.
It had taken me some time to finally get round to it, in particular the difficult task of choosing a tailor. Having done some extensive reading on the web I had narrowed it down to a shortlist of two or three, but finally the clincher was the vegetarian question - I wanted a suit made without any silk or other (dead) animal products used. At least one of the companies I had spoken to seemed a little perplexed by this request, and so I was much reassured when I called Norton and Sons to find out they'd had other customers with similar (and even more complex) requirements and it wouldn't be a problem at all.
Moreover, there was something very appealing about Norton and Sons - they're very much one of the traditional tailors on the row - having been established in the 1820s, and have been on the row since the 1860s. However, thanks largely to their very stylish (and relatively young) director, Mr Patrick Grant, the place has a bit of a contemporary feel to it as well - the best of both worlds.
So at lunchtime today I was booked in for my first appointment. I met Stephen Allen, the head cutter, and together we set about the slightly daunting challenge of trying to choose a cloth from their cupboards full of sample books - they apparently have over 8000 to choose from. I'd decided I didn't want just a plain black or navy suit, I wanted something a bit bolder and more interesting, and I eventually settled on (what I hope will turn out to be) a rather fetching shade of blue. I also chose the material for the lining - a very bright blue - but then of course other people wouldn't normally see that. I had my measurements taken whilst I was there, and then went through a long list of questions about the style of suit - how many buttons on the jacket, single or double vent, what style of pockets, and so on. I have to admit for a lot of the questions to just asking "what do most people have?", despite having carefully studied Hardy Amies' ABC of Men's Fashion on all these issues the night before. Anyway Mr Allen was very friendly and easy going throughout - I'm sure he's used to people who have never had a bespoke suit made before.
There's a reassuringly unhurried pace to the process from here - the suit could take about three months to complete and I think there will be two fittings between now and then. My first fitting will be in four weeks time - I'm very excited to get that first glimpse at the finished article.
In the evening Chie was out with a friend from work, so I decided to do a bit of exploring, and managed to get Kyle from the office to tag along. Still at the back of my mind is the ongoing pressure that we really ought to buy a flat at some point, and once again I thought it might be time to try and challenge my prejudices about South London, where you get much more for your money. I'd heard there was a nice little area in Kennington called Cleaver Square which had a nice little pub on it (The Prince of Wales) and so it seemed prudent to go and investigate. The pub was quite nice - that in itself was something of an achievement as to date I'd never really found any genuinely nice old pubs South of the river, with the exception of Borough. Better still, we sat with our pints on a bench in the middle of the square, watching the locals playing petanque, which was very pleasant.
Unfortunately finding this one exception to my pretty negative image of South London doesn't actually help the process of choosing somewhere to buy - Cleaver Square being a well known "desirable" spot means prices in the square itself are much higher than the immediate surrounding area, and more or less back up to the sort of levels you'd get in parts of the centre of London. Which rather defeats the object.
- Bank Holiday Monday
- [Monday 30th May 2011]
I had more or less forgotten this weekend was going to be a bank holiday weekend, and Chie was again busy with studying for her exam (less than a week to go now!) so we ended up not doing very much today.
Just went out in the morning for a pain au chocolat at the new Le Pain Quotidien which has opened in London. This Belgian patisserie/café chain seems to have been all the rage in London over the past year or two, but I'm already bored of them, on only my second visit. London does not need any more chains.
After quickly popping in to Sainsbury's we went back home, where we spent the rest of the day. I made ramen for lunch (when I say "made" I mean I made the stir-fry to go on top of it - the actual noodles were of the instant variety), Chie studied for most of the afternoon and I got some work done. In the evening Chie made kakiage, a style of tempura where you make a sort of nest out of sliced onions, carrots etc, and in our case some soya chunks. Rather delicious but of course accompanied by the usual sense of guilt you get whenever eating deep fried food. Consequently I did a stint on the exercise bike after dinner, whilst watching some program on the telly about Egypt.
- Boston Baked Beans
- [Sunday 29th May 2011]
Having soaked the beans overnight I got up this morning and immediately started cooking. I love making boston baked beans - it always makes me think of Roald Dahl's George's Marvellous Medicine. Plus of course the Le Creuset pan is perfectly suited to this kind of long, slow cooking. Although I realised I had soaked far too many beans to fit in just that pan, so ended up having to use a second pan.
They were ready in time for lunch. Not sure I was 100% happy with the first batch, but they do tend to improve over time.
Headed out a little after 3:30 for a bit of shopping although I don't recall what, if anything, we bought.
Dinner was, of course, more beans! To make it a bit more interesting I also cooked some Quorn sausages and sautéed some potatoes.
- Chie's Mock Test and Dried Beans
- [Saturday 28th May 2011]
Today Chie had the mock version of her upcoming exam for the course she's been doing the past few months. So I was mostly left to my own devices in the daytime. I did a bit of work in the morning, and then just before 3 headed out with the intention of doing a bit of shopping. The weather has been really funny this month, and after a warm spell in April, most of May had actually been pretty grey and occasionally quite cold. So today I thought I'd make the most of that, and headed out in my tweed jacket, it being probably (hopefully) the last time I'd want to wear a heavy jacket until autumn now.
I had decided I'd like to make Boston Baked Beans this weekend, which means buying dried beans. So I initially headed towards the Waitrose in Belgravia, and was rather disappointed to find they didn't sell either of the kinds I was looking for (ideally haricots, but failing that black eyed beans). I then tried the Waitrose on King's Road, and no luck there either - nor in the Holland and Barrett nearby. I eventually found them in Partridge's, where I also met up with Chie, having finished her test by then.
Given that beans require soaking overnight, they wouldn't be ready until tomorrow lunchtime at least, so dinner this evening was instead some rather unadventurous pasta, with a tomato and wild mushroom sauce we'd bought in Partridge's which was a bit disappointing.
- Stewart Lee
- [Friday 27th May 2011]
Kyle from work had arranged for a group of us to go and see Stewart Lee this evening at the Royal Festival Hall. The more I see of Stewart Lee's stuff, the more I like him - being effectively a comedian who largely satirises comedians - a sort of meta-comedian, if you will. Although perhaps tonight's giant venue wasn't really best suited to him - I'd previously seen him as part of Jokes Newington last year, a sort of Edinburgh Festival warmup gig. That had been in the tiny back room of a little non-descript bar, which I think suited his style of comedy much better.
- Foursquare Meetup
- [Thursday 26th May 2011]
One of the founders of foursquare was in London this week, and had arranged a social event at a bar in Soho for people to meet up and chat about location based services, etc. I'd found out about the event thanks to the researcher I'd had lunch with yesterday, and spent the majority of the evening chatting with him. Also met a couple of other people who were generally interested in this space.
Must do more of this sort of thing!
- [Wednesday 25th May 2011]
I'd been contacted recently by a researcher who was working in an area closely related to my project, and today we met over lunch - I'm hoping we might be able to find a way to collaborate in the future. It was quite fascinating to be able to get a bit more of an in depth insight into what is going on in the rest of the world in this field.
- Westminster Pubs with Iain
- [Tuesday 24th May 2011]
Went to a selection of Westminster pubs with Iain - The Cask and Glass, The Speaker (wherein I had a Ploughman's lunch - in the evening!), The Red Lion and finally St. Stephen's Tavern.
- [Monday 23rd May 2011]
- East Midlands to London
- [Sunday 22nd May 2011]
Spent the morning with Mum in the East Midlands. After lunch got the train back to London.
In the evening we went to Fairuz, a Lebanese restaurant in Marylebone, with Chie's friend Noriko-san. Here's my review.
- Saturday in the East Midlands
- [Saturday 21st May 2011]
Spent the day in the East Midlands with Mum and Keith.
Headed out from the house towards the end of the morning in the direction of Coalville, and after a brief inspection of the Lidl there (!) and a quick wander around a 13th Century manor house we headed on to the Belper Arms for lunch. It's a pub I'd found thanks to Google, having searched around to find really old pubs in the area - it is apparently the oldest in Leicestershire. Whilst not a particularly noteworthy exterior, the interior was just splendid - here's my review.
Spent the remainder of the afternoon back at Mum's house, enjoying the back garden, which was particularly nice this time of year - and lots of things to eat! Had some alpine strawberries, and lots of interesting herbs.
In the evening we went out for dinner at the Chinese restaurant near where Mum lives - which is becoming a bit of a tradition now.
Afterwards I also popped into The Cross Keys - the pub where I grew up - for a bit of nostalgia.
- Off to the East Midlands
- [Friday 20th May 2011]
After work got the train up to the East Midlands, to visit Mum for the weekend. Chie was busy studying for her upcoming exam, so decided to stay in London.
Not a particularly great journey - as is almost always the case on East Midlands trains the seat reservation system was broken, and I ended up sitting on one of the little fold down seats at the end of the carriage the whole way. Plus the train was delayed by over an hour just outside of London.
- West Belgravia
- [Thursday 19th May 2011]
Went out with Iain and Kyle from work this evening, and focused for a change on the pubs on the Western fringe of Belgravia - The Fox and Hounds, the Duke of Wellington, The Antelope and The Star. As is often the case on nights out adhering to this format we ended the evening with pizza at Oliveto.
- Two Greedy Italians
- [Wednesday 18th May 2011]
I'm writing this over two weeks later and really struggling to remember what I did in the first half of this week. All I can decipher from various digital records I leave behind was that I must have watched an episode of Two Greedy Italians (apparently) - I think this must have been the third of four. Not only had this (along with recently buying that Le Creuset) helped to rekindle my interest in cooking recently, but also it made me really want to go to Italy again.
- [Tuesday 17th May 2011]
- [Monday 16th May 2011]