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:
Tweed Run
Moving Desks
Ai-san back to Japan
Curry with Frank and Ai-san
Day Out with Ai-san
Cocktails at the American Bar at the Savoy
Sunday with Ai-san
Mixed Bag
Friday
Macaroni Cheese... with Brussel Sprouts
Spud
Burgers
Bangers and Mash
West Malling
Drinks at the Ritz
TGIF
George's and Kym's
Horse and Groom and Noura
Tuesday
Monday
Horniman Museum
How to Spot a Savile Row Suit
St. Moritz with Mum
Whisky Society with Kyle and Al
Brighton
Tuesday
Halloween Pizza
Sunday in London

Tweed Run
[Saturday 26th November 2011]
I'd just heard about today's Tweed Run from a colleague yesterday. It was far too late to actually enter, and besides I don't have a bike. Nonetheless I was keen to go along and take a look, never wanting to miss an opportunity to witness such a heavy concentration of tweed in one place.

After taking a few snaps of the tweed clad cyclists at the starting line in Covent Garden, Chie and I headed to Notes for some coffee. I'd been here once before for a kind of tasting session, and today we had two different coffees from their Brew Bar. I sort of like the fact that coffee geekery is way over my head, and I don't recall any of the specific technical details of how the two coffees were produced or what exactly the beans were (although I do remember a mention of Mt Kilimanjaro), other than one was sort of smokey, an the other was sort of fruity. No prizes for guessing I preferred the smokey one, and Chie preferred the fruity one.

This led quite nicely into lunch, and I decided to take Chie to Spud, the jacket potato place I'd been to a couple of weeks ago for the first time and had rather liked. I'm not sure I was quite as excited by it second time round - maybe because it was earlier in the day and the potatoes hadn't had quite as long to cook - but still it was filling and quite satisfying.

We then did a bit of shopping - I bought a couple of prints in Storeys on Cecil Street, in particular a reproduction of a poster advertising "A New Blue Train to the Cote d'Azur" which rather jumped out at me, having retraced that famous route twice now - in March this year and in summer 2009. It's a copy of this lithograph from 1928 by Pierre Zenobel, which recently sold at Christie's in Paris for ?5,250. Mine cost under a tenner.

We also headed to Chinatown to buy some Chinese ingredients from See Woo on Lisle Street (in particular vegetarian "prawns") - before getting the bus back home.


Headed out again a little later in the afternoon to go to Sainsbury's, and in the evening I made Chinese food. I always like to make more than one dish when cooking Chinese: one was soya slices (we get these ones with a particularly good texture from Taiwan via Japan) in a pepper and black bean sauce, and the other vegetarian prawns and pak choi with garlic, ginger, sake and mirin. I also made some hot and sour soup to start - I have no idea what the recipe is supposed to be for this, I just improvise with chilli and rice vinegar. I was extremely pleased with how well cooked both dishes were, but the black bean dish turned out to be terrifyingly hot. The jar of black bean sauce we'd picked up at See Woo today had looked innocent enough, I'd only used a teaspoonful (ish), and the modest description on the label had barely prepared us for the reign of terror it was about to exact upon our tastebuds. As a result neither of us dared finish this dish, and found ourselves cautiously picking out bits that didn't look too threatening and trying to scrape the sauce off. It was somehow very tasty though, just in a somewhat frightening way.

After dinner we watched the latest DVD Chie had received from Love Film - Maurice. As often seems to be the case with period dramas I found I enjoyed it more for the clothes than the actual story. After the film I found myself searching on ebay for an old white tie tail suit.
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Moving Desks
[Friday 25th November 2011]
Proper work ground to a halt even earlier than usual at my office today, as we were required to pack up our desks and vacate the floor by 4:30. We'd been temporarily housed on the 3rd floor for the past few months whilst the 4th floor underwent a significant refit, our things were going to be moved over the weekend, and we'd be in the newly refurbished floor on Monday morning. I was slightly frustrated to see some people took that as an excuse to essentially stop work at lunchtime, and spend a couple of hours inefficiently packing up. To make a point I worked right up until 4:25, and cleared my desk and unplugged all the cables from my computers in the space of five minutes.

TGIF, the usual end-of-the-week beer and pizza thing started earlier for most people as a result, it normally doesn't get properly underway until 5, but by 4:45 it was already packed - particularly given the added attraction this week of some visiting guide dogs.

Chie had a dentist appointment nearby at the end of the day, after which she came to join us for a drink at the office.

Went for dinner with some people from work, including my friend Simon who had recently joined the company. We planned to go for a pub dinner, but it seemed a bit too busy, so eventually went for tapas at Goya instead.
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Ai-san back to Japan
[Thursday 24th November 2011]
Ai-san was heading back to Japan today, but not before she joined me at my office for one last English breakfast - her third this week. It's rather heartwarming to see a Japanese person (or anyone for that matter) display that level of enthusiasm for English food. I waved her off after that. I do hope she enjoyed her little trip to London. It sounds like she's working very hard in her job as an air hostess, and hasn't had more than a couple of days off at a time for months. Rather frustratingly although she's perpetually on a plane she effectively doesn't really get a chance to travel in any meaningful sense of the word. She only does short haul flights, and typically the turn around times are less than an hour. She's technically been to Hong Kong countless times, but almost never gets a chance to even get off the plane, let alone get out of the airport. She told us her November trip to London was her "summer holiday".

What with Ai-san having been with us for the first half of the week we'd had a busy run of evenings out, so tonight we were quite content with a quiet night in. Chie made Japanese food for dinner, including some fried tofu steaks in a very nice sweet mirin, sake and soy sauce.
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Curry with Frank and Ai-san
[Wednesday 23rd November 2011]
Today was Ai-san's last night of her short stay in London, and we'd arranged to meet up with Frank, who used to be at university with her and Chie. We were also joined by Keisuke-san, who they knew via Taiko, the Japanese drumming that some of Chie's friends used to do in their university days.

Curry had been proposed for dinner, and so Chie and I decided to take them to Woodlands in Haymarket. It's an entirely vegetarian South Indian restaurant which Chie and I have been to many times before, and I'm always really delighted with how well this place seems to go down with non-vegetarians. Tonight was no exception, and the food seemed to be very well enjoyed by all.

After dinner Keisuke-san headed home, leaving the four of us to go for an after dinner pint in the Red Lion on Duke of York Street, which, although regrettably a bit overcrowded, seeemed to go down rather well too. Frank seemed to have a bit of interest in old pubs and so I'm hopeful I can at some point in the future take him on a tour of some of my favourites.
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Day Out with Ai-san
[Tuesday 22nd November 2011]
As Ai-san didn't have any specific plans for her few days in London, today I took the day off and offered to show her around a few of my favourite places.

We started off with breakfast at my office. Ai-san had already been to the Regency Cafe yesterday, it turns out she actually quite likes English breakfasts, although I suspect more out of nostalgia for her university days than any serious gastronomic interest.

From there we walked to the Saatchi Gallery, and looked around the "New Art from Germany" exhibition. I'm not sure Ai-san is really a big fan of contemporary art but was pleasingly open minded (or perhaps this is just Japanese politeness?) and happy to have a wander round anyway. Probably the highlight was Jeppe Hein's "Mirror Wall" - a large vibrating mirror. Looking into it for more than a couple of seconds quickly introduced a kind of sea sickness, and yet it was oddly compelling.

After the Saatchi Gallery, and a quick wander around Partridge's, we headed to Sloane Square tube, and from there went to Temple.

The remainder of our day out was then a tour of antiquities in and around Temple and Holborn. We started with a peek at the Old Roman Bath and the Watch House on Strand Lane. From there we went for a walk around some of the grounds of Inner and Middle Temple, two of the Inns of Court, and popped into Temple Church. It turns out Ai-san was quite familiar with the Da Vinci Code and so had heard of Temple Church, which was helped allay my concerns that I was just taking her on a tour of a lot of crusty old relics she wasn't particularly interested in.

From there we headed past the Royal Courts of Justice - by way of the most gorgeous cash machine in London (in the rather splendid tiled entrance to the LLoyds TSB law courts branch) - to Carey Street, and the Seven Stars. I bored Ai-san for a while with the usual spiel about what an amazing survival the pub is, given the Great Fire of London destroying everything to the East in 1667, the construction of the Royal Courts of Justice wiping out everything on the South side of the street in the 1870s, and the Aldwych / Kingsway improvements causing many of the old buildings to the West to be demolished. Were it not for the important Lincoln's Inn (another of the four Inns of Court) to the North the pub likely wouldn't have survived. Ai-san patiently listened to all of that, but in reality was of course far more interested in the pub's new cat, Ray Brown, who kept us company over lunch. The pub's landlady, the characterful Roxy Beaujolais, was there for a while when we arrived, and as we were the first customers of the day we had the opportunity for a bit of a chat which was an added bonus.

After lunch we headed up through the grounds of Lincoln's Inn - which has a wonderful Oxbridge college feel to it - and out across Lincoln's In Fields to the John Soane Museum. This was the big highlight of the day for me - I'd been wanting to go for some time, but it gets really busy at weekends and so I'd been saving it up for a day off like this, mid week. A large part of the museum is devoted to John Soane's collection of architectural pieces. Some original, some plaster casts, of all sorts of columns, pillars, statues, corbels, cornices and other architectural details which are displayed in a maze like series of little rooms and passageways. He also built up a rather impressive private art collection, including some fantastic pieces by Canaletto and best of all recent favourite of mine, William Hogarth. I was particularly excited to have a chance to see the originals of A Rake's Progress up close. Apparently John Soane would have lots of visitors in his own lifetime who came to admire his collection, and as such the artists would use it as a sort of showroom, based on which reproductions of the originals could be sold.

We fit in a few more antiquities after that, including St. Etheldreda's Church and Ye Old Mitre. I was quite surprised by the number of people that were in the Mitre around 3ish on a weekday afternoon - don't these people have jobs or something?

We meandered our way back to Temple from there, and got on the tube back towards SW1. Ai-san decided to return to Sloane Square to do a bit of omiyage shopping in Partridge's, and I decided to go home first for a bit of a late afternoon nap.

In the evening we headed back to Holborn once more, and met up with Chie, to go for dinner at an Italian restaurant called Ciao Bella, which my attention had been drawn to by reading James Sherwood's blog (James Sherwood being the author of the book I read recently on Savile Row, and therefore someone I assume to have all round excellent taste). I'd seen Ciao Bella before on Lamb's Conduit Street, close to the Lamb Tavern, but had always previously dismissed it assuming it would be a bit naff. Well if it's good enough for James Sherwood, it must be good enough for me. So we gave it a go. It was more of your sort of homely comfort food type of Italian fare, a bit different to what I've recently got used to with all the upmarket Italian eateries in and around Belgravia and St. James's, but regardless (or perhaps because of that) I rather liked it. We started with some baked scamorza and aubergine, and some reassuringly pungent garlic bread. For main course we ordered for four (although there were only three of us) and I had a vegetarian version of spaghetti putanesca (i.e. without the anchovies). It was rich, saltly (even without the anchovies), oily and the spaghetti was al dente - simple but very satisfying. The place is obviously hugely popular - we were packed in like the anchoves they had left out of my spaghetti putanesca, They seem to have found a niche of down-to-earth and reasonably priced Italian food which is nonetheless more genuine than anything you'd find in a chain, but without being just plain naff as so many low end Italian places in London are.
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Cocktails at the American Bar at the Savoy
[Monday 21st November 2011]
We left our guest Ai-san to her own devices in the daytime today, thinking she'd be tired after her flight, and would probably just want to slob around and do her own thing.

In the evening the plan was to get dressed up and go for cocktails at the American Bar at the Savoy, the next on my list of famous hotel bars in London I wanted to visit. We'd suggested this to Ai-san before she came to London and pleasingly she seemed very keen on the idea too.

Given that neither of the girls are particularly sturdy drinkers, it seemed prudent to eat before the cocktails ensued, and Chie proposed Wahaca, partly because it's fairly close by, partly because it is very popular in London at the moment, partly because Mexican food isn't very common in Japan, but perhaps mostly because Chie has been saying for some time she really wanted to eat their churros (Mexican doughnuts) again.

It did seem a slightly incongruous venue to be in with a suit, tie, pocket square and cufflinks, and I more or less lost my appetite as I was near paralysed with fear of dropping any part of the messy finger food they specialise in at Wahaca on my suit. I did however quite enjoy a mojito, which got me in the mood for more cocktails.

From there we headed to the Savoy, and to the American Bar therein. We initially sat at a table, but it was a bit dark and uninteresting, and shortly after we arrived a rather loud piano player started playing very close to us, so I decided we should move and sit at the bar instead. In hindsight this was an inspired bit of thinking, as not only was it lighter, quieter and had nicer decor, but the evening was much more fun as a result.

After my first cocktail (I chose a White Lady, mainly just on the basis of it being one of the Savoy's famous drinks) I got chatting to the barman, and started to describe the things I liked in cocktails. So for the second drink we mutually agreed a Savoy Pink Gin would be the right thing to have. This was rather splendid but contained a frightening amount of gin. I followed on from that with the bartender's recommendation based on what he'd inferred about my tastes - a cocktail which wasn't on the menu called the Argentina cocktail. This was quite delicious - probably the best drink of the evening - but alas the only ingredient I remember was he orange bitter.

Whilst talking to the bartender we asked about a couple of trophies we had seen behind the bar, one of which was for the Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year award. It turns out the head bartender at the Savoy, Eric Lorincz, had won this competition last year. He then mentioned this year's competition, which had been won by a Japanese bartender Manabu Otake.

By an amazing coincidence, a short while later, Manabu Otake came and sat down at the bar next to us - this took the bartender by surprise as much as it did us! Apparently he was visiting London for a few days to do some promotional work in connection with the competition, and was very keen to try some of the best cocktail bars in London during his trip. I felt very pleased with my choice of venue for the evening at this point. We got chatting to Manabu-san who I like to think was quite pleased to see some friendly Japanese faces. He was clearly itching to get behind the bar, and our friend the bartender had him mak a White Lady, which made for a couple of great photo opportunities.

I really enjoyed our evening at the Savoy, it was easily the most fun of the evenings we've had at the other hotel bars in London over the last few months. I made a mental note to always wherever possible sit at the bar - much more fun than sitting in isolation at a table.
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Sunday with Ai-san
[Sunday 20th November 2011]
We started the day with a funny sort of breakfast, I'd bought a couple of tins of Ful Medames (stewed fava beans) and having been told by one of the waiters in Noura that Lebanese people typically ate this dish for breakfast, I thought I'd give that a go. We didn't have any Middle Eastern flatbread so I made do with some flour tortillas I found in the freezer. I'm not sure Chie quite knew what to make of it but I thought it was quite delicious.

In the afternoon we headed over to King's Road to do a bit of shopping, I was trying to persuade Chie to get a new dress to wear for our upcoming visit to the Savoy, but she couldn't find anything that particularly grabbed her. So ultimately all we ended up buying was some vegetarian friendly shampoo from Holland and Barrett.

In the evening Ai-san arrived from Japan - she was going to be staying with us for a few days. As always she'd filled almost half her suitcase with food and drink from Japan for us, including a bag of new crop rice from Kyushu, and six cans of non-alcoholic Japanese beer.

As it was a Sunday night, and we imagined everywhere would be a bit dead, not to mention the fact that Ai-san would probably be tired after her long flight, we decided to eat in. So I made a kind of roast meal (toad in the hole with vegetarian sausages). Perhaps more impressive was the starter - I made my own blinis using a left over baked potato, served with vegetarian caviar and sour cream. We also had the bottle of Chapel Down sparkling wine which has been in our fridge for a while, and seemed like a fitting accompaniment for the vegetarian caviar.
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Mixed Bag
[Saturday 19th November 2011]
A bit of a mixed bag of a Saturday - we decided around 2:30 we should probably get out of the flat, but didn't have any particular plan in mind so just got on a bus into the centre. On arrival we realised there wasn't really any shopping we wanted to do, so thought instead we might try and take in a museum. I've been wanting to go to the John Soane museum for some time, but on arrival there was a big queue outside and we thought it better to come back in the week at some point.

So, as we were in that neck of the woods we went to the Seven Stars for a drink, and sat at a table beside a sleeping Ray Brown, the new pub cat. He seemed quite determined to remain asleep throughout our stay, but regardless it was still somehow pleasant to just be in his presence.

Chie decided she wanted to go to Harrod's after that (something to do with vouchers I think?) so we got on the Piccadilly line from Holborn to Knightsbridge. We mainly had a wander round the Food Hall, and just bought some chocolates - I decided it would be good to buy some violet creams, and see how they compare to Fortnum and Mason's.

We headed back home by way of Belgravia, and spotted the new Pierre Hermé shop there, so decided to go in, and bought some macarons.

I don't remember what we had for dinner, but after dinner we had a bit of a tasting session of both the Harrod's violet creams (which were good but for me didn't dislodge Fortnum and Mason's from the top spot) and a couple of the macarons. The white truffle and hazelnut macaron was divine (when Chie sniffs something with truffle in and screws her face up I know it's good) - really very truffley indeed.
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Friday
[Friday 18th November 2011]
Didn't go to TGIF (the usual end-of-the-week-beer-and-pizza thing) today, somehow I wasn't really in the mood for beer. Instead I left work at 5:30 sharp and headed home by way of Sainsbury's, to buy things for maxing a Quorn chilli. I had a craving for something spicy, possibly as I felt like I was starting to get a cold.

The chilli was moderately successful, helped by lots of fresh chillies and new jars of cumin and coriander, as well as the usual George's Marvellous Medicine of a couple of dashes of all sorts of other flavourings - Henderson's relish, tabasco, Angostura bitters, brown sugar, stock powder, bay leaves, lots of black pepper, some cayenne chilli powder and probably a few other things I've forgotten. I like that kind of cooking. I also made some fresh salsa with a little raw onion, raw chillies, raw tomatoes and some olive oil and lemon juice, that I was rather pleased with.

We watched Burn After Reading after dinner, the latest DVD to arrive from Love Film, one of those ones that neither of us can remember ordering, and we both had a vague feeling we'd seen at least some of before. It wasn't bad I suppose.
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Macaroni Cheese... with Brussel Sprouts
[Thursday 17th November 2011]
Chie cooked dinner this evening, and made an interesting take on macaroni cheese, which also included cauliflower (not that odd I suppose) and brussel sprouts (a little strange if I'm honest). Still, unexpected members of the brassica family aside it was warm and hearty and very satisfying.
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Spud
[Wednesday 16th November 2011]
I've been craving a jacket potato at lunchtime the past few days. Inexplicably nowhere near my office seems to sell these, so I went all the way into the centre to a new place called Spud, which I'd heard good things about. Managed to persuade Kyle to join me too. The potato was very satisfying, and I quite enjoyed their take on Boston Baked beans as a topping too (although of course I prefer my own).

In the evening went for "a drink" with Andrew and a couple of other chaps from the office, which ended up with us staying in the pub until closing time. Somewhat regretted that in hindsight.
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Burgers
[Tuesday 15th November 2011]
Burgers for dinner.
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Bangers and Mash
[Monday 14th November 2011]
Made bangers and mash for dinner. Was particularly pleased with the gravy - onions, port and lots of black pepper.
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West Malling
[Sunday 13th November 2011]
Michelle had invited us to come and visit her and Steve in West Malling, in Kent today. It's only about a three quarters of an hour trip from Victoria by train, and I'd been keen for and excuse for Chie and I to go somewhere in the country where we could both wear our tweed jackets. So it made for a rather nice day out.

We arrived in West Malling around 10:30, and after meeting Michelle and Steve at the station headed out for a bit of a stroll. The weather was rather lovely - a crisp but sunny Autumn day. Michelle took us on a bit of a tour of orchards, and as the harvest had already taken place any apple left on the trees were effectively rejects and up for grabs. There's always something rather special about eating fruit straight from the tree, something we appreciate even more nowadays as a result of living in London.

After our stroll our thoughts started to turn to lunch, commencing with a pre-lunch "snifter" (as Robin would say) at a pub called the Five Pointed Star, which had all the country pub details you'd hope - an open fire, low hanging beams, and some suitably grizzly "ooo aarrr" type regulars. Lunch proper was then had at a pub called the Scared Crow, which rather bizarrely had a mostly Mexican menu. I had a Ploughman's which was OK I suppose.

We also fit in a cup of tea at Michelle and Steve's house and a visit to their allotment, as well as another pub or two, before getting on the train back to London in the early evening.
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Drinks at the Ritz
[Saturday 12th November 2011]
Recently I've been enjoying visiting the bars at London's grand hotels - particularly now that I have the sort of attire which feels appropriate. Having been to Claridge's and then Duke's the next I was keen to try was the Ritz.

I'd originally tried to plan this with the chaps, but that had met with a mixture of slightly luke warm enthusiasm and scheduling difficulties. So Chie suggested today the two of us go instead, and that's what we did this evening.

It turns out that the Rivoli Bar at the Ritz is actually only ten years old, and as it happens I think today may actually have been their tenth anniversary. Previously this corner of the building had been shops, apparently. It wasn't really clear where the bar at the Ritz was previously, or indeed if there even was one. I know the hotel has undergone other changes - the ballroom is now a casino for example. So discovering that was a tiny bit disappointing, but still, nonetheless, getting to the bar means going through the foyer and the large central hall of the hotel which are all very grand and impressive. I noticed there are tables out in that rather more glamorous and impressive open space, and I wondered if those in the know have their drinks there rather than the newer and somewhat more pokey bar. I got the impression the majority of the customers in the bar were tourists, although reassuringly there were at least a couple of good old chap types. I enjoyed the first drink I had - a Ritz 100 - it was a sort of Champagne cocktail with Grand Marnier, vodka, and gold leaf (!). The second one was somewhat less memorable.

Anyway, all in all that was fun, and if nothing else I enjoy any excuse to wear my suit.

I'd looked around on the web earlier for somewhere to go for dinner, and with a combination of the web and the Zagat guide had settled on Delfino's, a pizza place in Mayfair. I had a "monti a prati" (mountains and plains) pizza, which was a nice idea - sort of a cross between a normal pizza and a calzone - but actually was a bit bland.

We walked home from there, stopping off en route at the Berkeley to tick another hotel bar off the list. We just had one quick drink there and didn't linger particularly long. They have two bars it seems - the Blue Bar and the "Caramel Room". We went in the latter as Chie preferred the quieter of the two. Not really much to get excited about though.
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TGIF
[Friday 11th November 2011]
Went to TGIF as usual at the end of the day.
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George's and Kym's
[Thursday 10th November 2011]
A propos nothing in particular a few of us from work went to the St. George's Tavern after work, which we then followed with a late Chinese dinner at Kym's in Pimlico.
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Horse and Groom and Noura
[Wednesday 9th November 2011]
Went for drinks at the Horse and Groom in Belgravia, followed by dinner at Noura.
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Tuesday
[Tuesday 8th November]
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Monday
[Monday 7th November]
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Horniman Museum
[Sunday 6th November 2011]
Mum wanted to meet up with Adrian, Liz and the kids while she was down in the South East, so proposed we go for a trip to the Horniman Museum, thinking it would be easier for them to get to than coming into central London.

As it turned out the three of us coming from Pimlico found a very convenient bus service, but Adrian and Liz somehow managed to take a wrong turn en route and were quite late, but anyway, they got there in the end.

I didn't know quite what to make of the Horniman museum - it's an odd mixture of different sections. We started with the natural history section, which has a rather impressive stuffed giant walrus, but then after that it continues with a really incongruous collection of different exhibitions. Still, the kids seemed to like the music instruments section (where the are instruments the kids can play with) and the aquarium, so I think it can probably overall be described a success.

After lunch we headed to the nearby Dartmouth Arms for Sunday lunch which I think met with general approval as well.

We waved off Adrian, Liz and the kids after that, and then got on a train - our first time to take one of the new Overground line trains (and I quite liked it - clean and spacious) - back towards London proper. We put Mum on the Victoria line at Green Park, from where she returned to St. Pancras to get the train back to the Midlands.
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How to Spot a Savile Row Suit
[Saturday 5th November 2011]
I took some pictures in the daytime today thinking I'd write an article on how to spot a bespoke suit - I'd seen a few hints in various places, chiefly:

- Working cuff buttons, although you also get these on some non bespoke suits.
- Wider buttonholes. Although I found this to be barely noticeable.
- A raised "crown" on the sleeves.
- No belt loops on the trousers.

Mum was staying with us this weekend, but was out at the daytime in the conference. In the evening she returned and I'd decided to take her to Hunan for dinner, the Chinese restaurant on Pimlico Road which doesn't have a menu. Being a Saturday night it was pretty busy, and as a result of asking for vegetarian food for one and non-vegetarian food for two the service ended up being a bit haphazard, and they also didn't pay much attention to our requests on Mum's behalf to make everything as mild as possible (the food is pretty spicy here), but I think all of that aside Mum enjoyed it. It was also a good excuse for me to wear my suit, although this resulted in a few curious looks in the restaurant as I was far more smartly dressed than anyone else there. Oh well.
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St. Moritz with Mum
[Friday 4th November 2011]
Mum came to stay with us in London this week. She arrived around lunchtime, spent the afternoon wandering around Bond Street, and then we met up at 6 in Soho for an early dinner at St. Moritz. It is becoming a bit of a tradition when Mum comes to London to eat an international cuisine somewhat off piste from the usual suspects, and so Swiss food seemed like a good candidate.
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Whisky Society with Kyle and Al
[Thursday 3rd November 2011]
Al proposed a visit to the Whisky Society this evening, which seemed like a good idea as I hadn't been in ages. We met up in the George on Great Portland Street after work, then proceded from there by taxi to the Society.

We ate there for convenience, and as always I was somewhat underwhelmed by the vegetarian option - some kind of cannelloni with roasted vegetables, but rather bizarrely the roasted vegetables were root vegetables like swede, which made for an odd combination. Still, I suppose it filled a hole. I also thought the staff were a bit snotty this evening. At least one of the whiskies I had was pretty good - an Islay malt of course - and as always I wonder why I bothered having anything from anywhere else.
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Brighton
[Wednesday 2nd November 2011]
We had an "offsite" this afternoon with our visitors from the US, and took them all to get some sea air in Brighton.

The weather wasn't particularly clement - it was grey and windy (which thinking about it is pretty typical considering my past few visits to Brighton) and I wonder what our visitors made of it, most of them having come from sunny California. Following a windswept and definitely bracing stroll along the beach, and a visit to the pier (including a quick go on the dodgems) the consensus seemed to be that going indoors would be a good thing, so we retreated to the Druid's Head for a late afternoon pint, before eventually heading on for an early dinner of fish and chips at Bardsley's.

Not sure I massively enjoyed the chips and Bardsley's, and the "bubble cake" (some kind of cheese and onion fry-it type thing) wasn't that fantastic either, but to their great credit they had Veuve Clicquot on the menu, and something about having Champagne with fish and chips felt suitably decadent.

A subset of us fit in one last pub before getting the train back to London.
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Tuesday
[Tuesday 1st November 2011]

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Halloween Pizza
[Monday 31st October 2011]
Lots of people working on my project visiting from the US this week. I took some of them out for the evening today, by special request we had dinner at Oliveto (I was pleased to hear one of the visitors had fond memories from a previous trip). To my surprise on arrival it was full of kids (and some grown ups) in Halloween fancy dress. I didn't really think the well heeled residents of Belgravia would go in for that sort of thing, but I suppose it's quite an international sort of an area.

After dinner a quiet pint or two in the Antelope.
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Sunday in London
[Sunday 30th October 2011]
A fairly quiet sort of a day in London, but not necessarily a bad thing as it seems like we've spent lots of weekend away in the past couple of months.

Chie made a pumpkin soup for lunch, from a Japanese kabocha pumpkin she'd found in Waitrose yesterday. I'm not really a big fan of pumpkin usually but this was actually quite nice. After lunch we eventually headed out for a stroll, I wanted Chie to try out her new tweed jacket (so of course fittingly accompanied her by wearing mine too). I originally thought we might head to Richmond Park, but what with the clocks having been put back this morning, and generally not being very organised, by the time we got out of the flat it seemed like it was already starting to get dark. So instead we just had a stroll along the South bank of the Thames. I suppose we probably looked a bit eccentric wandering along the river in central London, clad in tweed.

Made a Sunday roast for dinner which came out rather well.
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