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
- John's Pictures
Main Index (text only)
- John's Travel
- Other Related Sites:
Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
- Regent's Canal and Clerkenwell
Serpentine and Spatzle
Bored Yet Again
Seven Stars etc
Toad in the Hole
Goma and Daikon
Eating and Shopping
Breakfast at the Regency Cafe
Falafel and Thali
No Riots in Pimlico
Clearing out my desk
Sausages and Potatoes
- Regent's Canal and Clerkenwell
- [Sunday 28th August 2011]
Chie proposed going for a stroll along Regent's Canal this afternoon, from Mile End to sort of Clerkenwell-ish. Whilst this stretch is not exactly lined with idyliic scenery, it was at least interesting, and an area of London I'd never really seen before.
Conveniently, near where Chie's route had us leave the canal was a pub called the Wenlock Arms, which I've been meaning to try for some time. It's very much a locals pub, but very much unspoilt and reassuringly rough around the edges. They had an impressive seven real ales on tap, most of which rarely seen in London, and also a real cider (Thatcher's Cheddar Valley) which I plumped for.
After that we continued our meander towards Smithfields Market, in the hope of finding somewhere open for a late lunch. The only place still serving food was a little Sam Smith's pub called the Rising Sun, next door to where John Betjeman used to live, that surprisingly I'd never been to before. Had some very basic pub fare there, and then continued our stroll.
Next we wanted to have a wander round Charterhouse Square, and in particular Florin Court, which is used in the Poirot TV series as Whitehaven Mansions, where Poirot's apartment is.
We finished off our afternoon's outing with a visit to the Musem of London, where there's currently an exhibition of historic street photography in London, which was quite interesting. Although possibly even more interesting was the exhibit they had in the cafe there, a set of time lapse videos around London over a 24 hour period. It was fun trying to see how many places we could recognise. Had a very pleasant cup of tea and a slice of lemon drizzle cake there.
Back at home in the evening Chie made a slightly unusual Japanese curry with beetroot in, which had a fantastic colour to it. Later on I watched Page Eight on the telly, which I quite enjoyed, particularly as again I could play the game of seeing how many places in London I could recognise. In particular they had a scene in Santini, an Italian restaurant in Belgravia I've been to a couple of times, and at one point they mentioned having a meeting at a "coffee shop on Ebury Street" which I assume must be referring to Tom Tom, another regular haunt of mine.
- Indoor Picnic
- [Saturday 27th August 2011]
A friend of Chie's had invited us down Wimbledon for a picnic. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly for this year's rather pathetic excuse for a summer, it turned out to be pretty wet. So instead we went to Chie's friends flat and attempted to have a sort of indoor picnic there. We were quite a large group - about ten of us - and being a typical sized London flat it was a bit cramped. Oh well.
Headed back home towards the end of the afternoon. In the evening I cooked some Quorn "steaks", and made a red wine and peppercorn sauce to go with them, as well as some satuéed potatoes and, oddly, some boiled beetroot. It was surprisingly good.
- [Friday 26th August 2011]
Not much to report really. Went to the usual beer and pizza thing, but a couple of my colleagues had a bit of a falling out, which caused a bit of a strange atmosphere, so we all left relatively early.
Couldn't really be bothered to do anything particularly imaginative for dinner, so defrosted some leftover bolognese sauce from the freezer, and had spaghetti, with some broccoli and spinach mixed in as well for a vague sense of healthiness.
- Serpentine and Spatzle
- [Thursday 25th August 2011]
Was determined to get out of the office at lunchtime, having worked long hours the first half of this week, and having had pretty uninspiring lunches, I was starting to get sick of the sight of it. So I decided to take a stroll over to Hyde Park, and try out the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen, which I'd heard about in Time Out's Best Pizza in London feature last year. The pizza wasn't exactly amazing, but it was a pleasant spot, overlooking the Serpentine, and combined with a stroll through the park before and afterwards it made for a nice break from the current rather cramped conditions at the office.
In the evening I was in the mood for making something a little unusual for dinner so I decided to try my hand at making Spätzle, the Germanic answer to fresh pasta. I made a light blue cheese and spinach sauce to go with some of them, and then pan fried the rest. It made an awful mess of the kitchen, but the end results were rather pleasing. I think I probably ate more nutmeg this evening than the entirety of last year.
- Bored Yet Again
- [Wednesday 24th August 2011]
Same thing again for third night in a row. At least on the way home this evening I was treated to a rather nice sunset.
- Bored Again
- [Tuesday 23rd August 2011]
Again Chie was out, and I had nothing to do. Worked fairly late as I did the previous evening, then left the office, but didn't feel like going home and cooking for myself, so instead headed towards Mayfair for a bit of a walk around and some dinner. I had remembered that the Goat Tavern did a particularly good version of veggie "fish" and chips (the "fish" being halloumi) , so I ate there. I also popped in to the Running Footman for a bit of atmosphere, and then trudged home again.
- [Monday 22nd August 2011]
Chie impressively went out three nights in a row at the start of this week, to various plays and performances, with assorted friends of hers. I on the other hand had nothing planned, and many of the usual suspects I might go for a drink with were away or otherwise engaged. So I had a rather boring first half of the week, and ended up working late most nights. Ho, hum.
- [Sunday 21st August 2011]
Similar to yesterday, mostly slobbish and indoors in the daytime, and then headed out later on in the afternoon. We've had some Habitat vouchers that we'd never quite got round to using up for some time, and Chie had started to worry with them recently going bankrupt (again?) and some stores closing, that maybe they wouldn't be valid any more.
Chie wanted to get a bookcase (a very sensible idea as we have lots of books piled up on the floor) and so I spent a while looking at the Habitat website . I then had a slightly farcical time phoning round all the (remaining) shops in London to see if they had it in stock - none of them did, they all said we had to order it, but it seemed you had to pay in advance to order things, and you couldn't do that with vouchers. On about the third call one of the more helpful shop assistants pointed out if we didn't mind actually coming to the store in person we could use our vouchers to order the item. So off we trekked to King's Road for an odd form of shopping where we came out of the shop with less things than we went in with (i.e. the vouchers). I felt a bit guilty somehow, only spending vouchers in there, given their current financial woes - I heard from one of the shop assistants that they'll stop accepting vouchers mid September, so I imagine a lot of people are doing the same at the moment.
Did a bit more shopping on King's Road, including buying a proper ice crusher, and then headed back home, for an Aviation in the gardens (see pictures).
- [Saturday 20th August 2011]
Slobbed about most of the morning and afternoon, and just headed out towards the end of the afternoon in the direction of Soho, with the sole purpose of buying some ingredients for a cocktail at Gerry's on Old Compton Street.
Having read about the Aviation cocktail in the most recent issue of The Chap I was keen to try it. It contained both maraschino (a kind of sour cherry liqueur) and creme de violette (which I had never heard of before). As I love cherries and anything tasting of violets it sounded right up my street - it also had a decent age to it (dating back to 1916) and had pleasing associations with an earlier era, when air travel was actually something glamorous, rather than the tawdry and miserable ordeal it is today.
Here's the recipe according to The Chap:
40 ml gin
5ml Creme de Violette
5ml lemon juice
I bought Luxardo for the Maraschino (which, looking around on the web, seems to generally be regarded as the one to have) and a creme de violette from a company called Monin - they actually had a choice of two at Gerry's.
I even went to the full extent of crushing some ice, shaking it (albeit in a pint glass rather than a cocktail shaker) and straining it through a tea strainer. I was very pleased with the end result - sweet, fragrant and quite heady, but very drinkable.
For dinner I made a kind of vegetarian version of coq au vin, using a slightly unpromising looking blob of frozen "vegetarian ham - chicken flavour" I had picked up in Chinatown. It actually turned out rather well - thanks as ever to the magical cooking powers of our Le Creuset.
- [Friday 19th August 2011]
Not much to report. Went to the usual end of the week beer and pizza thing (wherein I never actually eat any of the pizza, as it's pretty naff, and I would rather save my self imposed pizza ration for really excellent pizza) and it was just about pleasant enough to sit outside. It really has been a remarkably crap summer.
Headed home after that, knocked up a quick bowl of pasta for dinner by myself (Chie was out with friends for the evening), then headed out towards Notting Hill Gate with the plan of meeting up with Chie after she'd finished. Owing to some communication difficulties, and some closures on the tube, that didn't really work out, and we ended up going back home separately.
- Seven Stars etc
- [Thursday 18th August 2011]
Went out this evening with Kyle, George, Al and a few people Al works with. Started off at the Seven Stars, where we stood outside for a bit, and despite wearing a jacket I was taken aback by how cold it was. It's supposed to be August! Next we headed to the Old Bank of England for some warming pies. I had a stilton, pepper and mushroom pie which was a bit naff if I'm honest, but I was glad of some hot food regardless. Finished off the evening at Ye Old Mitre where pleasingly the snug was available.
- [Wednesday 17th August 2011]
Al proposed going for a quick drink after work this evening - I always much prefer impromptu evenings out like this rather than anything planned in advance. Didn't stay out very long - just visited the Old Shades on Whitehall, followed by the Harp.
- Toad in the Hole
- [Tuesday 16th August 2011]
Toad in the hole for dinner. Was very pleased with how it all turned out this evening - I followed a new simpler recipe for the batter which is just equal quantities in volume of eggs, flour and milk. I also turned the oven up hotter than usual (more like 230 degrees), used plenty of oil, and made sure it was very hot before pouring the batter in.
- [Monday 15th August 2011]
Dined on leftovers this evening - principally the remains of last night's Japanese curry.
- Goma and Daikon
- [Sunday 14th August 2011]
Chie went to see a friend in the afternoon, leaving me to my own devices. I didn't really do much other than venturing out to Waitrose to buy things for dinner. I had bought a rather large daikon (long Japanese white raddish) recently which was proving hard to use up. So I thought for dinner tonight I could do two things - a daikon salad with goma (sesame) dressing, and then a Japanese curry with daikon in it.
It has been a while since I've made goma dressing - it's basically just a case of grinding some sesame seeds using a pestle and mortar, then adding a bit of sesame oil, some rice vinegar, and some sunflower oil. Maybe a bit of sugar too. It goes really well with daikon cut into matchsticks, or with green beans.
Tonight's curry also came out rather well, thanks to long and slow cooking in our magical Le Creuset.
- Eating and Shopping
- [Saturday 13th August 2011]
Nice day out in London today which wasn't particularly planned at all, but instead consisted of a series of just acting on whims.
I wanted to go to Manze's Noted Eel and Pie House to start the day - which ended up more like lunchtime. I had been talking to this place with Andrew from my office recently, and so invited him and his wife along too, as they live nearby. Whilst I'm not sure they immediately fell in love with the place as I had done, I think it was satisfying for them to tick one place off their "we must go there some time" list that everyone seems to have.
It's always interesting to see the weekend patterns of other people who live in London, and it seemed their plan for the afternoon was to wander up to the Barbican to see an exhibition there. We walked together as far as St. Paul's, en route going along the nice part of Bermondsey Street, which seems to be the gentrified part of that area of the city, and was rather nice.
From St. Paul's Chie and I got on the 15 bus - one of the old Routemasters - to Charing Cross. Our second whim of the day was a quick taste of ice cream (or was it sorbet?) at a gelateria called Gino, which was rather good. We followed that up with a quick post lunch drink at the Harp, which was also rather good - they have a fantastic selection of real cider there (by London standards where it is largely non-existent). I had a Milwhite's straw filtered which was rather good.
From here on shopping commenced in earnest, and I set about one of my least favourite tasks - trying to buy trousers. I seem to be awkwardly stuck between two waist sizes - the smaller of the two sizes just fitting, but not very comfortably, and the larger of the two looking comically baggy. This, compounded with the amount of physical effort in constantly changing into different trousers, and the fact it was a bit of a muggy day, led me to become quite irritable after a while. Eventually though we discovered Uniqlo had sizes that went up in inches rather than two inches and I found a pair that, whilst I wasn't exactly delighted with, at least got me of the hook for having to do any more irksome trouser shopping.
For dinner, I fancied a return visit to Rossopomodoro, a Neapolitan restaurant which I had been really bowled over by last time. The food was excellent second time round too - I persuaded Chie to throw caution to the wind and try the calzone fritti (deep fried pizza) which is just an amazing culinary experience - surprisingly clean and fresh tasting and also very fragrant. The "topping" (which is of course inside the pizza as it is a calzone) - cooks in a rather unique way that you wouldn't get by baking - so you have a crisp outside, then fantastic spongey dough, then a really vibrant and moist inside. I went for the slightly less outlandish, but still excellent vitulana - a pizza bianco (white pizza - i.e. no tomato) with porcini and truffle sauce.
Headed home after that, and slobbed in front of the telly for the remainder of the evening.
- Breakfast at the Regency Cafe
- [Friday 12th August 2011]
I hadn't managed to eat dinner the previous evening - as much as I love the Whisky Society the food isn't always particularly interesting from a vegetarian point of view (the sole option last night was something involving the world "flan" which really didn't appeal). Consequently I was quite hungry when I woke up this morning. So I decided to take the unusual step, for a weekday, of going to get a hearty breakfast at the Regency Cafe. This was a very good way to start the day.
Slightly unusual day at work as well, there was a kind of "summit" for a project I'm only ver tenuously involved in, and so I was asked to come along to a brainstorming session in the morning. Whilst I had to restrain myself from being cynical about some aspects of the format of the session, I think we probably did discuss some good ideas, and it actually made for a pleasant break from the usual routine of work. The attendees, myself included, then went to a dim sum place for lunch (where I had a bowl of mediocre noodles) which also made a pleasant change from the norm.
Chie was out in the evening (it was her Hiroshimakenjinkai thing), but following the previous evening's whisky extravaganza I thought it best to just have a quiet night in, and catch up on some domestic chores.
- Whisky Society
- [Thursday 11th August 2011]
I haven't been to the Whisky Society in ages - probably six months or so? Partly this is down to the throat problems I was having at the start of this year, which kind of put me off drinking whisky to some extent.
Anyway, I had a text from Al in the afternoon saying that he'd be there in the evening, and I thought as it had been so long that would be a good opportunity to re-acquaint myself with this one time favourite haunt of mine.
Had a few good drams and a good old natter with Al, Kyle, and Al's friend Hugh. Rounded off the evening with a visit to Ye Old Mitre, where conveniently I also met up with Chie, who had been at a karaoke evening with some people from her company at a restaurant nearby.
- Falafel and Thali
- [Wednesday 10th August 2011]
London seemed very much back to normal again by today, and I was determined not to spend another evening stuck indoors glued to the TV / Internet.
Went for falafel for lunch, at a kebab place in Pimlico I had only heard about because of someone mentioning on Twitter the previous evening about the long queue of police there. Not particularly great falafel as it turned out, but it's always nice to try somewhere different.
In the evening I met up with Chie near my office, we spotted one of the Google Maps buses, and on a whim hopped on it, without really being sure exactly where it would take us. Luckily it delivered us into the centre, and we decided to go for curry at Masala Zone for dinner. Not quite as good as it has been on previous visits, but still, nice to be out and about and see a sense of normality restored to London again.
- No Riots in Pimlico
- [Tuesday 9th August 2011]
After last night the mood in the office today had changed - whilst yesterday people had been making light of the situation, today there seemed to be a genuine sense of anxiety about it. Obviously, mixed with a healthy dose of gallows humour though.
Having read rumours on Twitter in the afternoon that there were going to be riots in Pimlico tonight (and even some that there already were) I was very slightly concerned. However I decided rather than just worry about it I'd do something - so went and visited some of the areas where apparently trouble was brewing. There was absolutely nothing wrong at all - and I then made it my mission for the rest of the evening to post pictures on Twitter of everything being just fine in those areas, and challenge anyone who was unhelpfully spreading rumours to the contrary. I realised eventually that if you searched for the name of any area or neighbourhood on Twitter, there were rumours about riots there. A ridiculous situation! I stopped worrying at that point.
There wasn't in fact any serious trouble anywhere in London tonight - probably because the police presence had been bolstered from 6000 to 16000 (and they were very visible everywhere I went today) - or maybe because this freak incident had just run its' course - in London at least. Unrest had of course spread to other parts of the country, but in London, for the time being at least, it seemed like things were back to normal.
- New Desk
- [Monday 8th August 2011]
The riots had been going on in London for three nights now but still at this point I have to admit to not having paid much attention - it was all happening in what to me were remote suburbs of London that I had never visited. So it could just as well be a completely different city altogether.
It was obviously a topic of conversation at work, but still a fairly lighthearted one. We all moved desks today, from the 4th floor of my office down to the 3rd floor. The sales people who had previously occupied the 3rd floor have all moved to a new office elsewhere in London, and we were temporarily camping out on the 3rd whilst the 4th floor underwent an extensive redesign. Our temporary home on the 3rd floor was rather cramped, and I likened it to being on a damp caravan holiday with extended family. Oh well, hopefully we won't be here too long.
In the evening the riots flared up again, and moved to new areas - worryingly parts of the city I actually knew, and where friends of mine lifted - most notably Clapham Junction. Although it was still a fair distance away from where we live that did change my perception of the whole thing, from a few isolated incidents to something more of an epidemic. So I spent the evening anxiously glued to Twitter and live streaming footage from the BBC. My friend who lives near Clapham Junction was fine in the end, but it was still rather an unpleasant time.
- [Sunday 7th August 2011]
Fairly typical sort of a Sunday. Lazy morning, ramen for lunch. Headed out in the afternoon towards Sloane Square / King's Road for a bit of shopping - bought a present and a card for Vera's upcoming birthday (she'll be 92!) in Peter Jones, and did some food shopping in Waitrose.
Walked back, by way of Pimlico Road and with a quick stop off at the Fox and Hounds, for a late afternoon / early evening pint. Had a pie for dinner (a shop bought one, not a home made one) with some roasted new potatoes and various vegetables picked up in Waitrose earlier.
- [Saturday 6th August 2011]
Chie was in Cambridge still for most of the daytime, leaving me to my own devices in London, and I had a rather slothful time of it.
In addition to doing some domestic chores and having a long soak in the bath, I spent some time reading Am I a Chap?, which has a rather fantastic directory in the back of places to buy chap-esque paraphernalia. Consequently I spent a long time oggling the tweeds at Bookster, which scored extra points with me as (A) they were based in Ross-on-Wye (a part of the world I am rather fond of) and (B) they had Islay tweeds (another part of the world I'm rather fond of). I'm somewhat tempted to order one - perhaps in Carron Tweed - one of the tweeds from Islay. In fact we've actually visited the Islay Woolen Mill, and chatted to the owner.
Towards the end of the afternoon I finally managed to drag myself away from tweed browsing, and headed out to the supermarket. I had a sudden desire to bake cakes - in particular something like madeleines. I followed a sort of combination of recipes - mainly this one from Heston Blumenthal, but I really couldn't be bothered with separating out egg whites, so searched around until I found another one which told me I didn't need to.
So when Chie returned from Cambridge I prepared a three course dinner with which I was rather pleased - a very simple green salad to start, then a porcini risotto which came out extremely well, followed by my take on madeleines to finish.
- Clearing out my desk
- [Friday 5th August 2011]
Packed up our desks at work today, ready for the move to the other floor. Consequently the afternoon was not hugely productive. I had accumulated all sorts of rubbish I didn't really need over the last 4 and a half years, and on previous desk moves had just stuffed it all in the little "pedestal" (the under-desk set of drawers) and wheeled it to my new desk. This time we weren't taking the pedestals with us, so finally I had to sort through all that accumulated junk. It was rather satisfying to feed all that paper into the recycling bin.
Chie went to see a friend in Cambridge this evening. Fortunately I fared slightly better than I had on Wednesday. Started off with the usual end-of-the-week-beer-and-pizza thing, which had a reasonable attendance, and then managed to persuade a couple of the chaps to head out into Belgravia for some follow up drinks.
On the subject of chaps, I received a copy of Am I a Chap? today, which I look forward to perusing.
- Empty Desks
- [Thursday 4th August 2011]
We're in the process of reshuffling where people sit at work, and some people have moved to a different building altogether, so this week there was an entire empty floor in my office. Of late I've found my proper assigned desk quite a frustrating place to try and get anything done - I'm rather hemmed in there, it's almost constantly noisy, and I get continuously interrupted. Anyone who writes software for a living will know how hard it can be to make progress without sustained periods of concentration.
So, this week I took advantage of the fact there was a whole empty floor, and went and worked there for most of the week. Luckily I can be reasonable productive with only my laptop, so I had already got into the habit of occasionally going to find a quiet corner of the office to hide in if I needed to get something done. Better still, the virtue of an entirely empty floor meant I could pick the best desk, and so spent a lot of this week sitting by the biggest window, with lots of natural light, and plenty of peace and quiet.
Went out for noodles for lunch - which was nice, but seemed to give me a stomach ache afterwards. I don't think I'll go there again for a while. In the evening I made pasta for dinner, with an imaginary peasant-ish sauce of dried porcini and beans. It tasted satisfyingly rustic.
- [Wednesday 3rd August 2011]
Chie went out with a friend this evening, but I was left at a loose end as all the usual suspects from the office seemed to have other plans.
I didn't really feel like just going home, so I headed out of the office around 7 (after the usual weekly meeting that ends then) and wandered through Belgravia, up to Hyde Park Corner, from there along Piccadilly, up along Bond Street, then Savile Row, up Regent St, and then from there through Soho to Cambridge Circus, where I proceded to jump on a bus and go home. It was rather pointless in hindsight.
Back at home I really couldn't be bothered to cook, so had a rather uninspiring dinner of some leftover macaroni cheese I found in the freezer (so the not eating cheese plan didn't last) and a spicy vegetarian sausage thing (sort of like a Peperami).
- Sausages and Potatoes
- [Tuesday 2nd August 2011]
Dinner tonight was a joint effort - we had vegetarian sausages with sautéed Anya potatoes, broad beans, and an onion and perry gravy. Quite nice, although the gravy was a bit too thin.
- Less Cheese
- [Monday 1st August 2011]
I've decided to try and cut down on cheese a bit, as I suspect it is the single biggest contributor to me getting somewhat chubbier over the last couple of years. As a short term strategy to avoid food being bland and pointless in its absence, today I ate lots of spicy food.
For lunch, I went for a burrito from the Piccante Mexican Grill which was excellent as ever, even without the cheese (although admittedly it definitely adds something). Given that it was just rice, beans and some salad (and their hot sauce) in the end, you'd think it would be fairly low in fat.
In the evening I met up with Chie at the supermarket to buy things for dinner. I made a Thai curry, which, whilst completely devoid of cheese, is apparently still quite high in fat, owing to the coconut milk. It is suprisingly hard to come up with meals which are low in fat and not also will-to-live-sappingly-boring.