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:
Gourmet Night
Lunch at the Regency Cafe
Two Park Plazas and Drummond Street
Wednesday
TomTom
Monday
Visiting Mum - Sunday
Visiting Mum - Saturday
Up to the East Midlands
Noodle Noodle
Lunch at Santini
Bree Louise and Ravi Shanker
Japanese Vase Again
Sushi-nic in St. James's Park
Breakfast at the Regency Cafe
Rounding off the Week of Entertaining
St. John
Entertaining Visitors Again
Entertaining Visitors
Monday
Jokes Newington and Peking Palace
Shopping
Friday
Rasa
End of Q2
Vik and Dining at Shepherd's
Back at Work
Back in London

Gourmet Night
[Saturday 24th July 2010]
Went to look at a flat this morning. The address was cited as Pimlico Road, which made me think of the very nice antiques shops, and the farmer's market, but when we got there it was actually round the corner, in a slightly scary looking ex-local authority estate - you know, one of those ones with the outdoor corridors on each floor, where people hang their washing out etc. I guess I should have expected as much given the price - 340k doesn't really get you anywhere you'd actually want to live in SW1.

Still, at least it got us out and about fairly early in the morning. So we went from there for a look around the Pimilico Road farmer's market, and bought some Kent cherries and courgette flowers there. Then we popped into nearby William Curley, a chocolate shop which apparently has some Japanese influence, and had a quick espresso there whilst perusing the chocolates. Headed on from there to the very nice Waitrose in Belgravia, before heading back to the flat.

Spent most of the afternoon just lolling about at home.

Had a very gourmet meal in the evening. Started off with the courgette flowers we'd bought earlier - stuffed these with mozzarella, coated them in a light tempura batter and then shallow fried them along with some sage leaves. Really delicious! For our main course we had tomato and mozzarella ravioli, topped with steamed samphire and drizzled with truffle oil. Also delicious! Finished off with the Kent cherries, and all of this accompanied by a bottle of Camel Valley Brut, a really excellent English sparkling wine we'd picked up in Cornwall.
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Lunch at the Regency Cafe
[Friday 23rd July 2010]
Veggie burger and chips for lunch at the Regency Cafe.
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Two Park Plazas and Drummond Street
[Thursday 22nd July 2010]
A guy who works on my previous project was visiting the London office this week (we seem to be getting a lot of visitors recently - maybe word has got round that we're actually having some good weather this summer...?). So this evening I accompanied him and another guy from the project to go and find some Indian food.

He was transferring hotels today, so had all his luggage with him, and I thought it would probably make life easier if we went and dropped that off first. Somehow we got confused about which hotel it was, so we ended up visiting two different Park Plaza Hotels, and having a drink in the bar at each. It made me think that might be a fun idea for a bar crawl - visiting lots of different hotel bars like this.

Once we'd finally go our visitor checked in, we headed over to Drummond Street, and had dinner at Diwana. Somehow I didn't think the food was quite as good as usual this evening, but at least the food is cheap, and you can take your own drinks which makes for further economy, so I think it was probably forgivable.

Rounded off the evening just around the corner at the Bree Louise, which I've only recently discovered, and thoroughly enjoyed a pint of perry there.
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Wednesday
[Wednesday 21st July]
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TomTom
[Tuesday 20th July 2010]
A cup of coffee at Tom Tom in Belgravia.
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Monday
[Monday 19th July]
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Visiting Mum - Sunday
[Sunday 18th July]
Spent most of the morning in Mum's kitchen - my favourite room of the house. I'd decided to make a girolle and cider pie, using the two things I'd bought at Ashby farmer's market yesterday. This was augmented with some fresh herbs from Mum's garden - I think the sage worked particularly well.

Had a big roast meal at lunchtime, then got the train back to London around 3:30.
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Visiting Mum - Saturday
[Saturday 17th July]
Spent the day with Mum in the East Midlands.

Started off in the morning with a visit to Ashby, and were lucky enough to catch the Farmer's Market there. They have a pretty good mushroom stall there, where I availed myself of some Scottish girolles, and I also bought a keg of Norbury's Worcester Cider.

On the way back from there we stopped off at Breedon-on-the-Hill. I must have driven past it hundreds of times, but don't think I've ever actually been in before. It's quite impressive - they have some Saxon stone carvings in there of weird and wonderful mythical creatures which are over a thousand years old.

Had lunch back at the house, followed by a wander round the village in the afternoon.

In the evening we went for dinner at a Chinese restaurant called Golden Dragon, which had a surprisingly good vegetarian menu, considering it's sort of in the middle of nowhere (near a big junction on the A50).
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Up to the East Midlands
[Friday 16th July]
Got on a train to the East Midlands this evening. Amazingly for once seat reservations were actually working in both directions on this trip, although we did have to boot people out both times.
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Noodle Noodle
[Thursday 15th July 2010]
Lunch at Noodle Noodle - a quick and cheap noodle place near my office.
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Lunch at Santini
[Wednesday 14th July 2010]
A couple of pictures of my lunch at Santini.
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Bree Louise and Ravi Shanker
[Tuesday 13th July 2010]
A quick pint with Tim as he was passing through London at the Bree Louise near Euston Station. Followed by dinner with Chie at the Ravi Shanker on Drummond Street.
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Japanese Vase Again
[Monday 12th July 2010]
A couple more pictures of the Japanese Vase I bought recently.
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Sushi-nic in St. James's Park
[Sunday 11th July 2010]
A sushi picnic in St. James's Park for lunch. Also including some silly pictures of our weighing scales.
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Breakfast at the Regency Cafe
[Saturday 10th July 2010]
Yet more pictures from the Regency Cafe!
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Rounding off the Week of Entertaining
[Friday 9th July 2010]
Rounded off our week of entertaining visitors this evening with drinks out on the balcony of our office, basking in rather glorious sunshine.

Difficult though it was to drag ourselves away from the rather excellent spot (and the free drinks) we eventually decided for the sake of variety we should probably go and find a pub, so I took our guests to the Antelope near Sloane Square, which I think met with general approval.

Whilst we only seemed to manage one pub each evening this week (the usual pub crawl never seemed to quite materialise) they were all of a pretty high standard, so I hope our guests were suitably impressed.

Rounded off the evening - and the week of entertaining - with a late dinner at Oliveto. I was particularly keen to show our guests from the US - a country which seems to think New York is the pizza capital of the world - that even London could hold its own on this front.
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St. John
[Thursday 8th July 2010]
After the previous two fairly low key evenings of entertaining our visitors at work, tonight I was determined to really pull out the stops, and do my best to impress them with just what a great city London is.

So we started out the evening at the Whisky Society (one of our visitors was a keen whisky enthusiast), and then followed that with the obligatory visit to Ye Old Mitre.

The main event of the evening was then a late dinner at St. John, which I think went down really well with our visitors. Here's my review:

These people really know what they're doing - from their deceptively simple menu to the extremely on-the-ball staff, to an atmosphere which is quite unique - filled with fashionable young creative types. It's the sort of restaurant I can imagine would make other restaurant owners jealous.

As a vegetarian I had never really thought there would be much in it for me, with their "nose to tail" philosophy and everything. However I had heard from a woman I got talking to on a plane recently that apparently they always have something vegetarian on the menu, and it is always consistently good.

The menu changes daily, having looked at the menu on a few different days in the run-up to our visit I'd seen that the vegetarian option changed wildly from one day to the next. On the actual day we went, it was a characteristically basic sounding "girolles on toast". It may come across as more of a starter or a light lunch sort of a meal, but this was actually an extremely satisfying main course - some excellent bread, some fantastic wild mushrooms, and a simple but very flavoursome (and perfectly seasoned) sauce of butter and herbs.

I just loved this refreshingly minimalist and unfussy approach to cooking - all of the main course seemed to be just one or two things, using the best ingredients, perfectly cooked, on a simple white plate. This wasn't nouvelle cuisine or anything - the portions were all a reasonable size - it was just really good food paired down to the absolute bare essentials.

I'm really looking forward to going back, and introducing more people to this exciting place.
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Entertaining Visitors Again
[Wednesday 7th July 2010]
Similar to the previous evening - I went home first, and made dinner for me and Chie (a simple vegetarian spaghetti bolognese) before then heading back out again to join some of my colleagues at a pub in Belgravia, where they'd been watching the football. I timed it rather well - arriving just as the game finished.
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Entertaining Visitors
[Tuesday 6th July 2010]
A couple of people working on my project were visiting the London office from the US this week, and tonight marked the first in a series of evenings spent wining and dining our guests.

It was pretty low key this evening - just went to CASK - a pub/bar specialising in foreign beers. I left our guests there with some other colleagues for a while to pop home for dinner, as Chie had made "mame gohan" and "nasu dengaku" (peas with rice and aubergine with miso paste) and was keen for me to not miss out.
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Monday
[Monday 5th July]
Not much to report.
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Jokes Newington and Peking Palace
[Sunday 4th July 2010]
My friend and former colleague Robert had a spare ticket to Jokes Newington today, and rather kindly invited me along. It was a sort of Fringe preview mini comedy festival, where a whole bunch of comedians got together to test out the material they were going to be taking to Edinburgh in a couple of months time.

I got to see Stewart Lee live for the first time, which was rather good. Other surprise hits included the wonderfully lacklustre "Two Episodes of Mash", with their low budget sequence of non-sequitur sketches.

As I was already in North London, it seemed a good opportunity to try out a vegetarian Chinese London I've been wanting to go to for a while, so I left the mini-festival after 6 and met up with Chie in Archway, to go for dinner at Peking Palace. Here's my review:

I've had a vegetarian version of crispy duck in several places now, and this one was easily the best - they had really thought about the texture. Very tasty indeed.

For our main course I chose the house special tom yam, the sizzling vegetarian "beef" in pepper sauce, and a tofu dish. The tom yam was the best of the three (and is marked on the menu as a house speciality) - a very rich and spicy, but also very fragrant and fresh tasting sauce. The lemongrass was particularly evident. The sizzling beef was very good too, a sort of richness often lacking from vegetarian dishes, again quite a piquant sauce but not overpoweringly so. I really liked the texture of the mock beef too.

Overall very tasty food, and it also gave the impression of being quite healthy - none of the dishes were particularly oily, and there were lots of fresh vegetables along with the mock meats, but none of that at the cost of flavour - it was exactly the sort of rich, flavour intense food I like, but they'd manage to achieve this without any MSG, or excessive use of oil.

Service was very good (the staff are lovely - very polite and attentive), and the price was almost embarrassingly low - a mere 32, and I left feeling absolutely stuffed. It's just a shame it's not a bit more central, or I think I'd be here every week!
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Shopping
[Saturday 3rd July 2010]
Spent the afternoon out shopping with Chie. Unusually, I actually managed to persuade her to by some stuff for a change - a pair of trousers from Fenwicks and a bag from Liberty.

Between the shopping we also went for a wander around the public gallery at Sotheby's - I didn't realise anyone could just wander in off the street and take a look around at the lots to be sold in upcoming auctions. It was rather interesting, although I don't think I've ever before seen a gallery with so many staff standing around, presumably to make sure you don't try and run off with anything.

Had a Japanese meal back at home in the evening, which was rather good.
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Friday
[Friday 2nd July 2010]
Not much to report.
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Rasa
[Thursday 1st July 2010]
Fancied Indian food this evening, so took Chie to a place I had read about on the web called Rasa. It ended up a bit of a disappointment. Here's my review:

Was very attracted to this place by the reviews, especially the comments that it was very good for vegetarians, and the quote on their website from Jamie Oliver that he has "taken people to this restaurant on about ten occasions just to show off" (although that might be referring to one of the other Rasa Restaurants).

So we ordered the 'Vegetarian Feast" for two. On the menu it said "Our team of award winning chefs, are expert at preparing the most exquisite mix of flavours and textures in a Kerala Banquet." so I all in all I had assumed we were in for something really special.

It started reasonably well, their take on the usual poppadoms was a bit more interesting than the norm, with a variety of other poppadom style things (acchapam, pappadavadai, murukku and banana chips) I haven't seen before, and some interesting pickles.

Then the starter was OK, but nothing particularly special - some vegetable bhajee - a potato ball, a slice of aubergine, and a slice of plantain (which to us tasted more like banana).

We had quite a long wait after that, and the main course was then a huge disappointment. The first dish they brought, simply "mixed vegetable curry" already had me worried - it was pretty much just carrots and green beans in a fairly bland curry sauce. It didn't really improve from there - there was a saag daal which had an unpleasant flavour to it, a dish of pretty much just savoy cabbage with some barely perceptible spices, and then a dish of mango yoghurt curry. This was the only thing that had an interesting flavour to it, but I was surprised at one point when I took a spoonful of it and my wife said "can I have half of that?" - it turned out I had taken the only notable piece of mango in there. Other than that it was just a bowl of sauce. The breads were nothing to shout about either - an average paratha, and some kind of bread with red onions in that I found to be stodgy and not all that pleasant. Plus some plain white rice.

In the end I had about two or three spoonfuls of each curry and then completely lost my appetite - it was just so boring. Given the price, and the use of words like "feast" and "banquet" in the menu, I'd expected something really special. What we got were four bowls of frankly uninspiring and unimaginative curry.

The dessert was nothing to write home about either - a small ramekin of lightly spiced rice pudding. There was nothing particularly wrong with it, it was just boring.

If the "vegetarian feast" had been half the price it was (19.50 a head), and there hadn't been any of the hype, I'd have just left thinking I'd had an average and uninspiring dinner and would have left it at that. As it was I left feeling frankly a bit annoyed - our total bill, including two beers and service, came to 54. We could have eaten South Indian food on any of several restaurants on Drummond Street for half that price, and it would have been much better.
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End of Q2
[Wednesday 30th June 2010]
Last day of Q2 today, so I suppose that means we're officially half way through 2010. Time seems to be flying!
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Vik and Dining at Shepherd's
[Tuesday 29th June 2010]
Vik, my old manager, was back in London this week so tonight a number of his former team members got together and went out for a few drinks with him. It was a delight to see him in rude health, and very much back to his old self.

Went to a couple of pubs near the office, but somehow dinner didn't really occur, and Chie had already eaten by the time we finished, so I decided to go out by myself to find something to eat, and a wondrous outburst of self indulgence, I went for a three course dinner at Shepherd's. Particularly enjoyed the pea and lettuce soup to start, and the Eton mess was pretty good too.
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Back at Work
[Monday 28th June 2010]
Back at work today after our week's holiday in Cornwall. Not much to report.
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Back in London
[Sunday 27th June 2010]
Back in London today.
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