Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2015: Week 48

I was a bit of a recluse this week. I had one of my most relaxing weeks ever. I was home all day on Sunday.

I had a session with Pete on Monday morning and a piano lesson that afternoon. After my piano lesson, I had a facial at Dermalogica at the Dubai Mall. I’d run out of Entertainer vouchers but they offer 25% off on Mondays – so I always try and book on a Monday! I went home after that and carried on with some work.

My parents left for Tenerife early on Tuesday morning, at about 4am – and I didn’t leave the house until Friday afternoon, apart from to go to the gym. Tuesday and Wednesday were wet and grey, and I felt quite cosy at home.

Seriously though – I would wake up, go to the gym, come home, shower and get back into fresh pajamas. It was amazing. I’d either work or read in bed. The flat was so quiet. I even stayed in on Thursday night!

The weather has definitely cooled down a lot, which means there are clouds almost every day, which means there are amazing sunsets almost every evening.

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On Friday, some friends and I went over to another friend’s place on the Palm. We got there at around 4.30 pm and the four of us sat outside, sipping chilled champagne. There was a beautiful sunset.

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Another couple joined us later on and we ordered some Lebanese food for dinner and then toasted marshmallows on the open fire. It was actually a bit chilly once the sun had gone down. Just before midnight, I thought it was time to go home – my two other friends had left earlier as they had work the next day, and the other couple were leaving too. I booked an Uber, which was 20 minutes away. About 10 minutes later, I checked my Uber app to see where the car was, only to find that the driver had cancelled the journey and that there was now a price surge of 2.8x. The cheek! I didn’t rebook – we decided to have another drink instead. A few minutes later, the Uber driver called me to say he was outside. He asked me if I’d cancelled the journey – I said I hadn’t, and that he had. Anyway, I told him I’d managed to get a lift and didn’t need the car. So my friend and I had another drink and then we thought it would be a good idea to do some karaoke! It was 2.30am by the time I left his place – we were having such a laugh, singing along to old 80s songs.

On Saturday I went to the New Orleans Jazz Brunch at Imperium at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray. I’d been to their regular Friday brunch in February 2013, and had been wanting to go back. We had a lovely table outside – and we ordered some drinks to start with. The food was more or less the same as the Friday brunch – although the last time we were there they had fresh lobster and fresh salmon on the outside grill, this time they had fresh prawns. The spread inside consisted of everything: a seafood table, salads, beef Wellington, roast lamb, oysters, mussels, a pork section, scrambled eggs with truffles, cheeses and a huge variety of dessert. The food was fresh and tasty – although the beef Wellington was chewy and a bit disappointing. I skipped dessert and had a variety of cheese instead. I have to say that even though the choice of food is fantastic and the ambiance is lovely, the service is a real letdown. And I remembered that from last time too. But that seems to be a problem in most places in Dubai – first-world prices and third-world service. We had two Entertainer vouchers for brunch, so we each ended up paying AED260. Not bad for all you can eat and drink!

I think the hotel itself is stunning and every time I’ve been there I’m so tempted to check in for a week!

The chandelier in the lobby of the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray

The chandelier in the lobby of the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray

It was 6pm by the time I got home as we hit traffic on the way back. I got into my pajamas and chilled for the rest of the evening. Perfect.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 47

I was home all day on Sunday until the evening when I went to a Sculpt Yoga class at Rawr Yoga in Media City. The class is run by Chandra, my friend who organises the Jamaican yoga retreats, so I went along and then the two of us had dinner together afterwards. We went to Circle Cafe in the CNN Building in Media City. The weather was lovely so we sat outside. I ordered a fresh juice (carrot, ginger, orange) and an Asian chicken salad. Chandra ordered the green juice and the goat’s cheese salad. The portions were huge! I’d heard a lot about Circle Cafe and was glad I could finally try it.

I had a session with Pete on Monday morning and a piano lesson that afternoon. After my piano lesson, I had a massage at Spa Zen at the Nassima Royal Hotel. I’d booked a 90-minute massage and it was just fantastic. I think I even fell asleep at one point. I didn’t want to get up and go home when it was over!

I was home all day on Tuesday until the evening. I joined a friend at her swing yoga class at Voyoga in Tecom. Oh. My. Goodness. It was really tough!

I didn’t have my session with Pete on Wednesday as the gym in our building is closed while they give it a makeover. That afternoon, I went to a secondhand bookshop called House of Prose in Jumeirah Plaza (shop 5-B). I’d been looking for somewhere to donate some books and a friend told me that they buy books from you. I took about fifteen books and the lady in the shop went through them while I browsed the shelves (dangerous).

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She told me they only buy the books they need – and the ones that they don’t need can be donated to charity. Perfect! She also told me that whatever books I bought from them could be returned and I’d get a 50% refund. Amazing! I did end up buying a book (I just couldn’t help myself).

My parents got back from India on Wednesday evening so I spent the evening at home with them. I was home all day on Thursday too – I went to the gym in the morning but worked the rest of the day.

On Friday I was out for brunch with some new friends at Hanaaya at the Jumeirah Mina A’Salam. What a spread! I stuck to sushi and the Lebanese stuff – I probably should have eaten more as I had a lot of wine. After brunch we walked over to Bahri Bar and had a few more drinks there.

I didn’t know this but they have a little turtle rehabilitation project at the Mina A’Salam and you can watch the turtles at play…

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I got home at around 7.30pm and then had dinner with my parents at Yabani at City Walk.

I spent all of Saturday at home, in my pajamas 🙂

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 44

After the gym on Sunday I came home, got into my pajamas and worked for the rest of the day. I suddenly had about 20 papers to copyedit, all with deadlines for this week!

On Monday morning I had a session with Pete and later that afternoon I had a piano lesson. After my piano lesson I walked over to Spa Zen at the Nassima Royal Hotel (formerly the Radisson Royal) and had a massage. I had one more voucher left which expired at the end of October and I needed to use it. The massage was amazing, as always.

After my yoga class, Ajay (our cook/housekeeper) and I went to Lulu for the weekly shop. Tedious, as usual. I came home and worked the rest of the day. Dad was out playing poker so it was quiet at home and I got a lot done.

I had another session with Pete on Wednesday morning. That afternoon I met up with a friend who was visiting from London with her family. She had a hectic schedule but I knew she was staying at Chelsea Tower Apartments so we managed to meet for a coffee. After that I came home, got into my pajamas and worked until the evening.

On Thursday evening I met up with some friends who were visiting from London. One of their friends who lives in Dubai had suggested meeting at Times of Arabia at Madinat Jumeirah for dinner. I’d never eaten there and thought it was an odd choice for Lebanese food. I met them there at 10pm – which suited me fine as I had so much work to do that day! I was the first to arrive. When I got there I noticed that the whole place smelled like grilled meat. My hair and clothes were going to stink when we walked out of there! I sat at the table and waited for the others. When they arrived, we ordered some food and wine. The food is pretty much the same as what you would get anywhere else. I hadn’t had hummus in ages and had forgotten how good it was! With our main course we ordered a portion of grilled prawns – these were excellent. We skipped dessert and walked around for a while but by this time it was 12.45am and most things were closing. I was happy to go home and carry on with some work.

On Friday I met some friends for brunch at Tesoro at the Taj in Business Bay. We picked this place because I had two Entertainer vouchers for brunch – so we’d get four brunches for the price of two. The place was lovely – very chilled – with a live band and saxophonist in one corner playing jazz. It was really nice. It was also very bright, which was great as the weather had just started to get cooler and it’s nice to be outdoors.

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Tesoro is a Peruvian restaurant so there was a good choice of ceviche and sushi. There was also a pancake station where you could have pancakes topped with guacamole or Peking duck (Peruvian?). I didn’t have much of the main course – just the beef anticuchos which I liked. We weren’t sitting outside but once it was a bit cooler we moved outdoors – the view was stunning.

We sat outdoors with our wine for quite a while and I got home at 7pm. I went home, sat with my dad for a few minutes, got changed and headed off to see Take That in concert! Yes, it was a busy day! I’d been looking forward to Take That for ages. We didn’t get to the Media City Amphitheatre until after 8pm and the place was rammed. I’d never seen it so crowded!

I also took a video of ‘Relight My Fire’ but I can hear someone singing really badly in the background and it may have been me! They sang a lot of their old songs: ‘Never Forget’, ‘A Million Love Songs’, ‘Could It Be Magic’, ‘Love Ain’t Here Anymore’, ‘Pray’, ‘Rule the World’. They were brilliant and were on stage for the whole 90 minutes.

When the concert finished, we headed to the bar at the Radisson Blu because we knew it would take ages to get a cab. We had some more drinks (I’d been drinking all day) and at around 12.30 we left. On my way home I stopped at Zaatar w Zeit because I was famished! Their pepperoni pizza really hit the spot.

I woke up on Saturday feeling… ugh. I spent most of the day in my pajamas but had to go to a condolence meeting at the Oberoi at 6pm. I came home after that and got changed. I met my friends from London for dinner at Bussola at the Westin Mina Seyahi Hotel. I’d never been there but had always heard how amazing it is. We sat outdoors on the terrace – the weather was lovely. I left the ordering to them – I had some burrata (yum), seafood salad (it looked better than it tasted), pizza with salami (real salami) and pizza with mushrooms and truffle oil. I could smell the truffles from my end of the table and my mouth started watering! We also had some wine.

After dinner, we went back to their hotel. They were staying at the Fairmont the Palm and we decided to have some tea/coffee on the terrace. I got home at around 1am. I did no work at all over the weekend!

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 17

I got back from Vietnam late on Monday night. I was home by about 2.30 but chatted with my mum for a while before passing out. I can’t remember the last time I was so tired. I would have gladly spent all of Tuesday in bed but had a piano lesson that afternoon!

I also had loads of work to catch up on as I hadn’t done anything (including check my email) while I was away.

On Wednesday evening I went back to my meditation class. We started with another Tibetan breathing exercise, a standing one this time. It involved standing with your feet apart, and rocking from one foot to the other very slowly, extending one arm at a time, depending on which direction you were rocking in (if you’re moving to the right, extend your right arm). I preferred the walking meditation from the first week though.

We then talked about our experiences with the 4x4x4x4 meditation from the week before. I told the group I really hadn’t enjoyed it and the fact that I wasn’t supposed to inhale for 4 counts made me more stressed than anything else. The teacher explained why: inhaling equals life, exhaling equals death. We then talked about death and various religious/spiritual views on what happens to us once we die. We then did the meditation exercise we would have to practise for the week: alternate nostril breathing. I do this in yoga all the time but found this much more relaxing. I’ve noticed I sleep so much better on the days I go to my meditation class (and the days I manage to do the meditation exercises)!

On Thursday I was taken out by NP – it was her birthday present to me: lunch at Zuma! We started with a glass of champagne (I know, even I didn’t think I’d be able to manage a drink for a while after Vietnam – I was wrong). We both had the set menu but then ordered a couple of things from the a la carte menu to share (including tuna tataki – my favourite!). And of course the dessert (green tea and banana cake) was fabulous as always.

That night I had dinner with a friend at Left Bank in Souk Al Bahar. I had some Entertainer vouchers and I’d never been there so we thought we’d try it. We didn’t order any starters and just went for the main course and a bottle of white wine. I ordered the sea bass and she had the fish and chips. After dinner we walked over to Karma Kafe for a drink and had a couple of glasses of wine. It was a nice evening and I was home before midnight.

A few weeks ago I’d seen an offer for Friday brunch at Latitude at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel – buy one, get one free – so three friends and I had booked it and had been looking forward to it. We got there at 1pm and were shown to our table. The selection of food on offer was impressive (but nothing like Al Qasr) – I had sushi, dim sum, a couple of duck rolls, and a grilled red snapper. I also had some cheese and some cheesecake. And of course alcohol was unlimited. The one thing that was disappointing was the service – they clearly didn’t have enough staff and we soon realised that our waiter was the only one in our section of the restaurant. I expected more from a 5* hotel!

On Saturday afternoon a friend and I went to Spa Zen at the Radisson Royal on Sheikh Zayed Road. We sat by the pool for a while and then both had 90-minute massages. It was fantastic. I will definitely go back for some more pampering. I had an Entertainer voucher for the spa so we got two massages for the price of one.

I was home the rest of the day, just relaxing and catching up on work.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 6

Well, half a week, really, as I got back from London on Wednesday morning and spent most of the day either sleeping or unpacking.

On Thursday night my Mum and I went to see Zakir Hussain in concert at the World Trade Centre.

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I’ve seen him in concert many times, the last time was in November 2011 in London. What I love about him is that he always performs with different musicians. For this Nirvana 2013 concert he was performing with Bela Fleck (banjo), Edgar Meyer (upright bass), U Srinivas (mandolin) and Rakesh Chaurasia (flute; and he’s the nephew of Hariprasad Chaurasia). Much of the music they played was created by the musicians in the days just before the concert – because they don’t usually play together! They played a fusion of classical Indian music, jazz and rock. They were brilliant (you can read a good review of the evening here). They played for about 2 hours without a break. Suck on that, Enrique!

On Friday some friends and I had booked brunch at Imperium at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Hotel. The hotel is fabulous!

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That’s not a great photo, but the entrance is beautiful.

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Even the chandeliers in the lobby are amazing!

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We were there a little early so we walked around for a while before going to the restaurant.

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It was a beautiful day to be outside and our table was in a shaded outdoor area. It was an all-inclusive brunch, so we got a glass of Prosecco on arrival and we had the option of wine or a selection of cocktails for the rest of brunch. We went with the Chablis. It cannot compare to the brunch at Al Qasr (I don’t think anything can!), but there was an impressive variety of food on offer – lots of sushi, salads, some roast meats, fresh grilled lobster, and even a pork section (which was empty). Considering there was so much to eat I actually managed to stay away from carbs the entire meal (apart from a bite of chocolate dessert at the end – which really wasn’t worth it). We stayed till 4pm and then headed back home.

The trouble with afternoon drinking (for me) is that I usually want to carry on into the night – but this particular day I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to go out! I ended up sitting at home and doing some work in the end (I did have lots of catch up on after my trip to London).

I was home all of Saturday, working.

I love my life.

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Friday brunch at Al Qasr

Ever since I moved to Dubai, people have been asking me whether I’d been to a Friday brunch at any of the hotels. They’re always shocked when I say that I haven’t. ‘Oh, you must try it!’ OK, but with whom? And what’s the big deal anyway?

Earlier this week, I had dinner with some cousins at Okku and I had the same conversation with them. They said that when they moved here they would go to Al Qasr for Friday brunch quite often but stopped because they’d put on so much weight. They said it was worth going to. I said I’d keep it in mind. 

The next day I met up with some friends from London who were staying at Al Qasr. They said they’d booked Friday brunch for the five of us (including their two kids). Great! I’d finally get to see what all the fuss was about.

I took a cab to Al Qasr – of course I got the cab driver who had never heard of the hotel and I had to direct him there. Apparently any muppet can be a cab driver in this city – he couldn’t even tell the difference between left and right.

But I digress. I got to Al Qasr at 12.30. I’d never been there and the hotel is stunning. I wish I’d taken my camera with me.

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I met my friends and we joined the queue for brunch. There were hundreds of people there and the dining area was huge – there was seating both indoors and outdoors. We were given a glass of champagne on arrival and then led to our table outside. 

We sat down trying to decide what we were going to eat – you could spend the entire day going from station to station and trying everything on offer. We had a look at the map and planned our route. ‘You can find me at the pork station,’ I told them. ‘Or at stations 31 to 37.’ It turned out I didn’t need to go to any of the alcohol stands as the waitress kept refilling our champagne glasses. If the kids hadn’t been with us I think it would have been a completely different afternoon. 

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I started with sushi – which is healthy – but when I got to the Spanish section I helped myself to chorizo, jamon serrano, patatas bravas and paella. There was also a pot of very unappetising white sausages. I skipped that. On my way back to the table I passed a stand which seemed to serve just melted cheese – so I got some of that too. I love cheese.

Brunches are a great place to people-watch. You can tell the tourists from those who live in Dubai. Tourists are in shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops – men and women. Expat women are in fancy dresses, heels, make-up; men are in trousers or jeans and shirts… I did see an older woman who I thought had really gone over the top – she was wearing a long navy dress and the first thing that came to my mind was ‘mother of the bride’. Sure enough, a couple were having their wedding lunch there! I thought it was a great idea. A great live band, flowing champagne and wine, and an endless supply of food – what more could guests want? 

Then it was time for dessert. I was going to have something chocolate…

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And then saw the red velvet cupcakes…

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So…

I had both. Yummy. I think I put on all 13 kg I’d lost in one afternoon (yes, I finally made it to 13 kg)!

We were there till about 3.30 and would have stayed longer but the kids were getting restless.

Would I go back? Absolutely, only next time I’m taking my camera… 

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The Constant

The only constant in my week (that I look forward to) is brunch with the girls every Saturday. For the last four years or so we’ve been going to Raoul’s in Clifton Road. Before that we used to go to Patisserie Valerie in Marylebone High Street, and I can’t remember when or why we started going to Raoul’s, but it was a good call…

The menu is varied – they serve everything from a full English to sandwiches to pastas and more substantial main courses. For a long time, my standard meal was scrambled eggs and sausages (after all, there’s nothing like a big sausage on a Saturday) but after a while I needed to be more adventurous. The eggs are a specialty – they’re flown in from Italy and have the brightest yellow yolks I’ve ever seen. My most recent favourite dish is the Croque Madame – a toasted ham and Emmental sandwich with a fried egg on top:

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The French toast is out of this world. I don’t know what they do to it, but it is a-ma-zing. On occasion we’ll order it as dessert and share it. I don’t know if it’s the bread they use, or the fact that it tastes so buttery, it’s divine. 

Just before Easter this year, Raoul’s was closed for two weeks for refurbishment – we didn’t know what to do with ourselves! One weekend we had brunch at Fego in St John’s Wood High Street – the menu looked good but the food was disappointing. Especially as many people I know go on about how good the food is. Our eggs were so rubbery, we could have bounced them off the floor. I’m not going back there any time soon.

Gosh, we were happy when the new Raoul’s re-opened:

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It’s not usually that empty – it was a hot day and most people were sitting outside. We usually have to wait for a table on Saturdays – just because we go there every week doesn’t mean we get any special treatment. The only criticism I have is that the staff can be a moody lot – we’re lucky if some of them even acknowledge us as regulars… We’re not asking for much – a smile every now and then will do!
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