Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

London: October 2013 (Part 2)

I met one of my cousins for lunch on Wednesday – we were meeting at Raoul’s and the weather was still amazing so I walked through the park to Lancaster Gate and then took a bus to Clifton Road. I decided to have the pasta with asparagus and truffles instead of my usual eggs. I went home after lunch and did some work.

That evening a friend took me to Restaurant Story in London Bridge. It was a small place but every table was full. There were two set menus: one for six courses and the other for ten courses.

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We decided to go for the six courses but wanted to try the scallops on the ten-course menu, and our waiter said that they were quite flexible that way and added the scallops to our order.

The waiter then placed a candle on our table. It reminded me of the nursery rhyme ‘Wee Willy Winkie’. He also brought over some starters which weren’t included on the menu, such as these flowers with herbs:

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Our waiter told us they were best eaten whole, so that’s what we did. They tasted like… flowers. With a little bit of flavour but mostly they tasted like flowers.

He then brought us grilled corn with butter and ‘rabbit sandwiches’ (yes, real rabbit):

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We were then given a basket of fresh bread. He told us that while we were eating our starters the wax from the candle was dripping into the plate below and we could dip our bread into it and eat it. The candle wasn’t made from real wax, it was made with beef dripping!

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It’s not something I would normally eat, but I tried it.

The portions that followed were small. The scallop dish was really small:

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The main course (wild duck) was a ‘regular’ portion. They brought the uncooked pot to us before they started preparing it so we could see what it looked like.

Before our almond and dill dessert, our waiter brought over some Brie with truffles – it wasn’t on the menu but I had to have it.

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We then had our almond and dill dessert:

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It doesn’t look like much but it was fantastic!

So by the end of our six courses (which turned into eight courses) we were very full.

The weather turned on Thursday – there was a definite nip in the air. That morning I went to meet a friend of mine who was getting her hair done at Aveda on Westbourne Grove. Everyone in London is so busy that I told her I would just sit with her while she had her hair coloured and cut. We were there for about three hours and by then it was lunchtime so we went for sushi. We went to Suzu on Hammersmith Road, close to her place. I’d been there with her before and the food is always excellent. By the time we finished lunch it was time to pick the kids up from school. I went with her, met the kids and then went home to do some work. It was 4pm by this time!

That evening I met up with a friend for a drink. We met at Selfridges and then went to one of the pubs in St Christopher’s Place. I had two glasses of red wine and was home in time for dinner. My first night in! My cousin and I had spaghetti and watched ‘Friends’.

It rained all day on Friday so I decided I’d stay in and catch up on some work. The thought of venturing out didn’t appeal to me at all! I pottered around, did some work, watched some TV. It was just what I needed.

That night I went to stay at a friend’s place. I went over, had a drink, and then we went to Pizza Pomodoro for dinner! I hadn’t been there since 2010 (or maybe even 2009) and the place has not changed at all. We had the garlic bread and garlic mushrooms, and then I ordered an American Hot pizza (or whatever they call the equivalent). The pizzas were smaller than I remember but still tasted great! And the live music was as good as ever… After dinner we decided we’d have dessert and a drink at the Lanesborough. We ordered the cheese platter and the cheesecake! It was a chilled out fun evening and wasn’t too late.

The next morning we woke up and decided we’d go for breakfast. We walked down South Audley Street and into Mount Street Gardens. I didn’t even know this place existed! There was also a beautiful sculpture which reminded me a bit of The Godfather.

'Fire' by Nic Fiddian-Green

‘Fire’ by Nic Fiddian-Green

We also passed a beautiful church.

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Church of the Immaculate Conception

We walked to Bourdon House in Duke Street, home of Dunhill. Again, I didn’t know this place existed – it’s a Dunhill store and retreat for men: barber, spa, private cinema, bar/lounge, cafe, humidor. Another hidden gem (well, not anymore)! We ordered some coffee and the Eggs Benedict. As my friend doesn’t eat meat, he asked them whether they could do the Eggs Benedict with Cheddar cheese rather than ham – it was the best Eggs Benedict I’ve ever had.

After our late breakfast I went to Raoul’s to meet one of the girls for lunch. Of course I couldn’t eat (initially) so sat with her while she had her eggs. For dessert we decided to share the French toast and then moved on to Baker and Spice for another coffee.

We had a big night planned on Saturday – me, my cousins and some friends were going to Brasserie Chavot in Conduit Street for dinner and then to Annabel’s for some dancing. I loved the atmosphere at Brasserie Chavot but the service was really slow. For starters I ordered the crab mayonnaise with avocado, and for my main course I had the beef ribeye.

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Both courses were excellent. I was too full for dessert.

As I mentioned, the service was so slow that by the time we finished our meal it was 11pm. Our plans for dancing at Annabel’s were thrown out the window as the two married couples decided it was ‘too late’ and that they needed to get home. That left three of us – we ended up at the Polo Bar next to the restaurant and we had a bottle of wine. The bar shut at 1am but it took us ages to find a cab (it was raining again)!

On Sunday I had lunch with a schoolfriend at ASK Italian next to Gloucester Road Station – a steaming bowl of creamy pasta and glass of red wine was in order. We caught up over a couple of hours and I walked back home (after buying an umbrella). I was home the rest of the day.

That evening my cousin and I went to Stick & Bowl in Kensington High Street for dinner. I thought we’d walk there as it’s not even ten minutes away but my cousin wanted to drive. We got there, spent fifteen minutes looking for parking, dropped the car back home and then walked back! It’s a cheap, quick Chinese restaurant and I’ve been going there for almost thirty years. My mum used to take me when I was younger, and I used to take my brother. I hadn’t been there in ages. Hot and sour soup, black bean chicken and rice – perfect for a cold Sunday evening. And we were home in time to watch ‘Downton Abbey’!

I love my life.

To read more about London, click here.

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London: October 2013 (Part 1)

I left Dubai on Friday, 4th October and was going to be away for almost four weeks. As I was packing I just didn’t feel like travelling – four weeks is a long time to be away from home! I was also dreading the weather. As we touched down at Heathrow, the captain announced that it was 21C outside and it was expected to stay that way for a few days. I was going to boil! I’d packed jumpers and had my coat with me.

Every time I go to London I end up coming home absolutely exhausted. I hoped this time would be different because surely four weeks is enough time to catch up with everyone? Apparently not…

I was spending the first ten days at my cousin’s place in Kensington and then moving to St John’s Wood after that. I got home at about 6pm and needed to sort out a few things including my new SIM card. My cousin had informed me she had a work thing on that evening and wouldn’t be home so I made plans of my own. I met up with a friend at his place in Park Lane and had a drink with him and another friend. They asked me what I fancied eating – I don’t know why but travelling always makes me ravenous! I told them at that point I’d settle for a pack of ham from Marks and Spencer. We walked to Pizza Express in Bruton Place, off Berkeley Square. It was just what I was in the mood for – a drink and an American Hot pizza with jalapenos. Every time I go back to London I’m shocked at how cheap alcohol is and how expensive cigarettes are!

After dinner we went to the bar at Claridge’s for dessert and a couple more drinks. We ordered three desserts but I found them disappointing. Surprisingly the best one was the ice cream! After another vodka we walked back to Park Lane and I got a cab home. I was exhausted.

The following morning I went to see my cousin in Maida Vale and her twin girls who had just turned a year old in September. I spent about an hour with them and then went to meet one of the girls for brunch at Raoul’s (the other was away for the weekend). We shared the crab and avocado salad to start with and then I had scrambled eggs and sausages. Wow – I’d missed that! I didn’t go totally overboard and have French toast for dessert because I had four Saturdays to enjoy with them…

That night a friend was having her 40th birthday at the Haymarket Hotel. She had a sit-down dinner for 60 people – we started with drinks in the Library and then moved into the Shooting Gallery for dinner. The food and service were excellent – and it was nice to see so many people in one go! After dinner there was a live band and some dancing, and then a few of us went to Morton’s in Berkeley Square for a few more drinks. It was a heavy night and I got home after 3am.

Sunday was a crazy busy day! A friend was running the Royal Parks Half Marathon and I’d told his wife I’d meet her for breakfast while he was running. For some reason my phone wasn’t working so I didn’t get any of her messages and was running very late! We met at the Sheraton Park Tower in Knightsbridge where they have a breakfast buffet. When I got back to the table she looked at my plate and then looked at me: ‘You have got to be kidding.’ Nope, no joke: sausages, salami, mortadella, Parma ham and a ham and cheese omelette. I guess I really missed pork! The breakfast is fantastic – I’d recommend it. Our waiter also told us that the table we were sitting at was his favourite. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Because George Clooney and Leonardo di Caprio sat there! Wow – I started wondering how I could walk out with one of their chairs…

Once I’d finished eating we walked back to Hyde Park hoping to catch her husband at the finish line. The weather was amazing and I wished I’d taken my camera with me. We saw him running in at 2 hours and 14 minutes – amazing! And he didn’t even look like he’d broken a sweat. When we caught up with him, and he’d caught his breath, we asked him what he wanted to do. ‘I want a pint,’ was his reply. So we crossed the road and went to The Paxton’s Head on Knightsbridge. I was feeling a bit rough from the night before and asked for a half pint – of course, nobody listened to me and I was handed a whole one. The pub was full of other people who had completed the half marathon. We had our drinks and left (I really couldn’t finish mine). We went back to their house and relaxed for a while.

At about 3pm I thought I’d leave them to nap and walk around for a while. I walked up to Selfridges and just as I was thinking about going home my cousin called suggesting we meet at Yauatcha for a late lunch. So I started walking back towards Oxford Circus. By the time we sat down to eat it was about 4pm. I didn’t think I could eat anything after my breakfast, but clearly I was wrong! The food at Yauatcha is excellent – but I thought the service was terrible. Aside from all the usual dim sum, we had a bottle of wine to go with our meal. Yes, drinking again! We’d finished by 6pm, my cousin was heading out elsewhere and I decided to walk for a while – it’s one of the things I miss about London when I’m in Dubai. The sun was setting at the other end of Oxford Street and I managed to take this photo. I took a bus to Kensington and got home at 7pm.

At this point my feet felt like they were on fire. I wasn’t used to walking, and certainly not in heels or my regular day shoes. A friend told me he’d pick me up for dinner at about 8pm and I was so relieved because I thought he’d bring his car and we’d go out for dinner. At 8pm he called me asking me to meet him at the end of the street – he’d walked and wasn’t driving! I met him and we hadn’t really decided where to go – we were just walking around trying to find somewhere. We eventually decided to walk to The Churchill Arms in Kensington Church Street. Even though it was a long walk, and I felt like I was walking on hot coals, it was a nice evening and we talked all the way there and back. I was most surprised that we didn’t even have to wait for a table. I know you’re wondering how I could have possibly eaten any more that day but we only ordered one portion of spring rolls as starters, one green curry with prawns and one pad thai – to share between us. And all the walking I did helped! I was home by 10pm and had an early night. I was exhausted!

On Monday I had a couple of check-ups I wanted to get out of the way (mammogram, etc.) and everything was fine. As I was around the corner from a friend’s place I popped in for a casual lunch – we had soup and quiche. I then walked to John Lewis to meet a friend who was browsing there – I just wanted to say a quick hello. We walked around for about 15 minutes and then I went back to Kensington. I tried to do some work but just couldn’t stay awake so I had a nap!

That evening, my cousin and I went to XO in Belsize Park for dinner with a couple of friends. I hadn’t been there in years and really enjoyed it. It wasn’t too late a night and we were back home by 10.30.

On Tuesday morning I met a friend for coffee in Starbucks in Kensington High Street. I decided I couldn’t bear to wear my slip-on shoes any longer and wore my trainers instead. I also decided I’d go to Kensington Gardens after coffee and walk around and take some photos with my camera. I got to Starbucks and my friend asks, ‘Why do you look like a complete tourist?’ ‘Because I feel like one!’ I told her that in the 20 years I lived in London, I’d never really walked around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. I wanted to make the most of the weather too. Ever since I’d been in London I hadn’t needed my coat and in the evenings I’d only used a shawl – amazing for October! After coffee, I walked back towards the park and went in.

Walking around Hyde Park was almost like summertime, but without the hayfever.
Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

The Round Pond

The Round Pond

North Silver Thimble Shelter

North Silver Thimble Shelter

Autumn

Autumn

Speke Monument

Speke Monument

Two Bears Fountain

Two Bears Fountain

The Pump House in the Italian Gardens

The Pump House in the Italian Gardens

The Pump House

The Pump House

The Italian Gardens

The Italian Gardens

The Tazza Fountain

The Tazza Fountain

Peter Pan

Peter Pan

Peter Pan Statue

Peter Pan Statue

Henry Moore's 'The Arch'

Henry Moore’s ‘The Arch’

Diana Memorial Fountain

Diana Memorial Fountain

America - The Albert Memorial

America – The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

I went home after my walk in the park and had some lunch. Once again I sat down to do some work but ended up having a nap!

That evening I had dinner with the girls at Michael Nadra in Primrose Hill. I’d heard mixed things about the restaurant but I thought the food was fantastic.

Whitebait tempura

Whitebait tempura

Scottish salmon ceviche with chilli, red onions, sweet potato puree and garden radishes

Scottish salmon ceviche with chilli, red onions, sweet potato puree and garden radishes

Scotch fillet steak with shitake puree, glazed onion, triple cooked chips, baby spinach and madeira jus

Scotch fillet steak with shitake puree, glazed onion, triple cooked chips, baby spinach and madeira jus

I had the cheese platter for dessert. Amazing. Again, it wasn’t a very late night and I was home by 11pm.

I love my life.

To read more about London, click here.

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London: February 2013 (Part 1)

I had a friend and a cousin in London turning 40 in the same week at the beginning of February and decided I’d celebrate with them. I had bought a return ticket when I was in London last year so I didn’t need to buy another ticket – and I managed to use my air miles for a flight back to Dubai.

The last time I was in London it was a really hectic trip and I was determined not to do that again. I wanted to relax and hang out with my friends. Sadly, even the best laid plans go astray.

I was dreading the cold. One winter away and I’d turned into a wimp. I hardly packed any clothes as my Dubai wardrobe would have been completely useless there! I wore the one pair of closed slip-ons I own, my jeans, a t-shirt, a hoodie, a scarf, and luckily I had brought my coat with me when I moved.¬†My plan was to get a minicab from the airport, go to the storage place to get my winter clothes, and then go to my cousin’s place where I was staying. The journey really made no sense as I’d have to go from Heathrow to St John’s Wood and then back to Gloucester Road – and when we drove past Gloucester Road first I decided to just go home and drop my stuff off. I’d collect my winter stuff the following morning.

So from the time I landed, I’d been getting messages from friends telling me to join them at our usual pub in Oxford Circus. ‘Come straight from storage,’ they said. ‘Erm – and what about my luggage?’ ‘Bring it!’ I was actually very tempted – and had I gone to St John’s Wood like I planned I probably would have done that!

Anyway, I dropped my stuff off at my cousin’s place, freshened up and headed to Oxford Circus. I caught up with a few of the guys – it was so good to see them! We had a few drinks and all headed home. That night my cousin and I went to see her sister whose twins were almost 5 months old. I couldn’t wait to meet them but they were both asleep by the time we got there. I did get to hold one of them though. We ordered some pizza and had some cold cuts and wine. It wasn’t a late night as everyone was quite tired.

On Saturday morning I went to St John’s Wood to get my boots and jumpers. I opened the bag with my things in it and pulled out my boots and five jumpers: grey, grey, grey, grey and grey. I can’t believe how much grey I used to wear! My wardrobe has completely changed now – a combination of being a smaller size and living in sunnier climes!

I met the girls for brunch at Raoul’s after that. I had really missed them – especially over the last few weeks. I was also so excited to have scrambled eggs and sausages! And of course we shared a French toast for dessert. After that we walked over to Baker & Spice for a coffee. We hung out for a while and then I managed to get a ride back to Kensington with my cousin. I caught this sunset on camera:

2013

That night was my cousin’s 40th birthday party. She’d booked the private room at The Wolesley for 14 of us – it was beautifully done. The waiter was very generous with the champagne and I eventually had to ask him to stop refilling my glass as I’d had three glasses by 8.30pm! This was our menu:

2013

After dinner we went to Annabel’s for some more drinks and dancing – we were there till they closed! I had checked in my coat at the cloakroom, tucking my black shawl with the diamantes into the sleeve of my coat – but when I went to collect it at the end of the night my shawl was missing! I was so annoyed – it was my favourite shawl and my warmest… The woman in the cloakroom said she’d call me if it showed up but I knew it was gone for good.

I met up with a schoolfriend for lunch on Sunday. She was staying at her parents’ place in Wimbledon for the weekend and I was thrilled when she said she’d meet me at Gloucester Road as she had to come into central London. We walked to Ask and sat down for some pizza and a glass of wine. I couldn’t believe I was actually having another drink after the night I’d had. We spent a couple of hours together, catching up on our lives and then she had to go. I had no plans for that evening so I went over to some friends in Portland Place (where I stayed last time) and hung out with them for the rest of the day. We got a take away from Pearl Liang (I really fancied a hot and sour soup!) and by the time we were done with dinner we all looked like we were going to pass out.

Monday was a long day. I met a friend for brunch at Raoul’s. Instead of my usual scrambled eggs and sausages I decided to have the mushroom tagliatelle with truffle oil. It was delicious!

2013

After lunch I ran some errands for my mum and then walked from Park Lane to M&S and Selfridges. I was just browsing – wandering around aimlessly. I decided to walk up Baker Street and then to St John’s Wood. I walked down St John’s Wood High Street and realised I still had an hour to kill before meeting my cousins at Richoux so I went to Starbucks, ordered a chai latte and read my book until 4pm. Is that sad??

I met three of my cousins (including the birthday girl) for tea at Richoux. My mum had asked me to have a scone for her so how could I refuse? We met for just an hour as everyone was rushing off to do other things. People are busy in London!

I met up with a friend who I hadn’t seen since before I moved to Dubai. He had moved to Hong Kong a couple of months before I left London but was now back in town. We met at Baker Street and walked to The Marylebone on Marylebone High Street. I had a couple of glasses of red wine (which were quite unnecessary). It was great to see him and catch up – we’ve known each other since we were about 6 or 7 years old!

After I met him I headed to Tsunami where I was meeting the girls for an early dinner. I’d forgotten how good the food is there – the nasu goma, the ohitashi, the crab shiu mai. Just divine. I think the starters there are much better than the main course dishes they have (although their black cod is excellent too). I was so full by the end of dinner I could barely move.

I was home by 10pm and rolled into bed, absolutely exhausted.

I love my life.

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The Spaniards Inn

In a couple of weeks, five of us girls are heading to Barcelona for a weekend to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday. To be honest, I really didn’t think this would happen at all, given their husbands’ and kids’ schedules but it’s all been bought and paid for. We’re actually going!

We decided to meet last night to talk about the trip, what we wanted to do, where to go – we’re only there for two nights and it’s going to be difficult to do everything – eating, drinking, sightseeing, shopping, relaxing. Where do you start? We’re flying with Easyjet – none of us is happy with the baggage restrictions, so instead of taking just hand luggage we’ve decided to share a suitcase or two – that way if we do end up shopping (which I’m sure some of us will) we won’t have to worry about how to bring things back. But, I digress…

We decided to have dinner at The Spaniards Inn (isn’t that appropriate?). I’ve gone past it countless times in the last 25 years but had never actually been inside.

2011

The Spaniards Inn, dating back to 1585, is one of the most famous pubs in the world. It’s located by Hampstead Heath and is popular with tourists and locals alike. The pub is quaint – with oak panels and lots of nooks and crannies. I can imagine the pub garden being full on a hot summer’s day! On a clear day you can apparently see all the way to Windsor Castle.

The pub also hosted many great literary figures – Keats, Shelley, Byron. It’s mentioned in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and also in Dickens’ Pickwick Papers (which I intend to read some day)… 

Across the road from the pub is the tollhouse on the Finchley boundary. Interestingly, the pub is in Barnet and the tollhouse is in Camden! 

The menu is traditional British pub food – sausages and mash, Shepherd’s pie, fish cakes, and so on – which I thought was just average. None of us was particularly wowed by the main courses, and the dessert menu didn’t appeal at all. 

But I’d definitely go back for a pint… and some ghost-hunting! Any building as old as this is bound to have a resident ghost or two – the cloaked figure of Dick Turpin is said to appear inside the pub (legend has it he was born at the pub; his ghost has also been seen on Hampstead Heath on a black horse) and horses have been heard galloping across the car park in the middle of the night. How exciting!! 
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