Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

London: February 2013 (Part 2)

After the first four exhausting days in London, it really didn’t get any better.

On Tuesday I was invited to Hakkasan Mayfair for a boozy boys’ lunch to celebrate one of their big birthdays. Yes, I know I’m not a boy but they’ve always considered me one of the boys. At least they used to until I lost a lot of weight! The four of us met at the restaurant at 1pm and had a drink at the bar first: two of us had a cocktail (I had the Thea Martini) and the other two started on the first bottle of red wine. After our first drink we moved to a table by the window and ordered our food. We ordered a huge selection of dim sum. And by the time the food came we had started on the second bottle of wine. To cut a long story short – we ordered main courses (prawns, beef, fish) and even dessert (two chocolate desserts and a rhubarb something or other):

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But when the boys say ‘boozy lunch’, this is what they mean. We had:

  • A cocktail
  • Four bottles of red wine
  • Dudu shots
  • Dessert wine
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I knew it was going to be heavy. I’d been telling myself since Friday that I wasn’t going to get too drunk at lunch as I had things to do afterwards (shopping at John Lewis and dinner at Arirang). My cousins had their doubts. I was determined to be ‘fine’.

After lunch we thought it would be a good idea to go to Mews of Mayfair for another couple of drinks. It was almost 5pm by this point. We got a comfortable table with some sofas and settled in. We had:

  • A bottle of champagne
  • Two espresso martinis
  • A glass of red wine (totally unnecessary)

A little after 6pm we decided it was time to head home (or run errands in my case). The boys staggered home and I walked to John Lewis. I picked up what I needed (bras) and walked to Arirang where I met my cousins.

Dinner was good, but as you can imagine most of it was a blur! We had the usual kim chees, chicken, beef bulgogi, sizzling pork belly in sake sauce and the barbecued bacon too.

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There was a lot of food. No wonder I put on weight in London!

We were home by 10pm and I was in bed soon after.

I had lunch with one of the girls and another friend on Wednesday. We went to Raoul’s (yes, again!). I’d never had the crab and avocado salad there – but it is amazing! I’d have happily eaten just that for my starters, main and dessert. But I didn’t – I had the ham and cheese omelette instead.

That night was my other friend’s 40th birthday. He was having a dinner in the wine cellars of the Stafford Hotel in St James’s. The wine cellars double as bomb shelters during World War II and a part of the wine cellar still displays World War II memorabilia:

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Before dinner there was a wine tasting contest (I got four out of six correct) and then we sat down to eat. We had crab and avocado salad to start, the main courses were either grilled fish or Beef Wellington, and there were loads of chocolate desserts. I had a slice of the birthday cake (a Chelsea T-shirt) but left the rest. The wine was flowing, there were speeches, there was singing and dancing (a singer/guitarist and saxophonist were playing), and we eventually left at 1.30am. It was a wonderful evening…

On Thursday I went over to my cousin’s place for lunch to hang out with her and her twin girls. We ordered pizzas from Le Cochonnet and played with the 5-month-old girls (so adorable).

That evening I’d arranged to meet my old work friends at a pub near the office (not that any of them work there any more). I’d also told a few people in the IT department to join us – we used to spend (too) many hours at The Wimpole after work together! It was great to see them all – and I was so relieved to hear that those who wanted new jobs had found them (and better jobs, in some cases). We were at the pub till they closed and stopped for a shawarma on the way home.

On Friday I had to go to Old Street. I had a meeting with the publisher who had bought the journals from RSM Press. When I decided to go to London I told them I’d be in town and thought it would be a good idea to meet them as I now do some freelance work for them. I’d had a couple of conference calls with them before and am in touch with one or two of them almost every day so it was nice to actually meet in person. I had a meeting at their office for about 45 minutes and then three of us walked to a pub close by called The Princess of Shoreditch. Everything on the menu looked really good – and I eventually chose the steak and Stilton pie (and so did the other two). If I’d had room for dessert I’d have had the rhubarb and apple crumble!

After lunch I realised I had nothing to do until dinner. I took the tube to Bond Street and went shopping. I browsed in Debenhams and tried on seven dresses. I ended up buying six of them! I also bought a pair of nude peep-toe heels from Russell & Bromley which I’d had my eye on since Christmas. A very productive afternoon!

I met my cousin at Sotheby’s (where she works) at 5pm and we took the bus home together.

That evening I met a couple of friends at Princess Garden for dinner. It wasn’t a heavy night or a late one – it was just nice to sit and talk and have a glass of wine. The food at Princess Garden is really good – I can’t think why I never went there more often when I lived in London.

I was home and in bed by 11.30pm.

I love my life.

To read more about London, click here.

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London: Part 1

So I’m back in Dubai now. I got home from the airport at 9am on Tuesday, went to sleep in my own bed, and woke up with a fever and sore throat. It’s no surprise really – the last three weeks were bound to catch up with me somehow. I’m just glad I didn’t get sick while I was there. That would have really pissed me off.

My holiday was fun, but exhausting. I’m pretty sure I was more tired after this London trip than after my brother and sister’s weddings combined.

I got to London on a hot Thursday afternoon – my flight landed at about 2.30pm. I switched on my phone to a message that said: ‘Welcome home – fancy a pint at 5?’ Why yes, yes I did. I got to my friends’ place where I was staying at 4.30pm, unpacked a suitcase and walked over to the pub. It was HOT. I had a pint with the boys and then headed home. That night I hung out with my friends, we caught up over dinner at home, and we were all in bed reasonably early.

On Friday morning I had a doctor’s appointment – I’d booked it weeks in advance as I just wanted to get it out of the way and not have to think about it during my holiday. That afternoon I met a cousin who was also visiting London for lunch – we went to Phoenix Palace. Oh, pork – how I’ve missed you! Char siu pau, char siu puffs, char siu

I then popped in to see my old work friends at the office – it was just before 5pm and we ended up going to The Wimpole across the road. Some things never change. I had three glasses of wine and before I knew it, it was 8pm and I had to leave to get ready for dinner.

Seven of us went to the Arts Club for dinner. I’d never been before but it’s a great place to people-watch. We ordered starters to share (Spanish charcuterie plate, yellowtail with citrus dressing, endive gorgonzola and walnut salad and a few other things). For my main course I had the lamb chops – which were really good. I can’t remember what we had for dessert (so it couldn’t have been all that)!

It wasn’t a very late night – we didn’t venture up to the bar or down to the club – but it was a fun evening. It was like I’d never left London, but had only been away on holiday for two weeks.

On Saturday I had to go to the chatti (naming ceremony) for some friends’ twins. I didn’t even get to meet them as I had to leave at 1.30 and the ceremony wasn’t finished yet. I left Cricklewood and headed to Raoul’s for brunch with the girls – SO good to be back. I had scrambled eggs and sausages, and we shared the French toast for dessert. Yes, it is bread, but it was a special occasion. After that, one of the girls and I sat in Baker and Spice for a couple of hours, catching up. Again, it was like I’d never left.

That night was going to be a long one. A friend was having his 40th birthday at The Ivy Club with an afterparty at a different venue. He’d invited about 100 people and I thought it would be a good way to meet everyone at the same time. Good timing!

The party was fun – we got there at about 9.30 and at 10pm I realised I’d already had three glasses of champagne and would have to slow down if I was going to have a coherent conversation with anyone there. I switched to water for a while, and then moved back to the champagne.

The Ivy Club shut at 2am and the venue for the afterparty was the Montcalm Hotel in Marble Arch. Finding a cab at that time of night was impossible – I ended up taking a rickshaw with one of the guys. It’s not something I want to do again – ever. The rickshaw cycled through Shaftesbury Avenue, Regent Street, Oxford Street and Marble Arch. Cars and buses came dangerously close and I had to close my eyes a couple of times because I wasn’t sure I wanted to see what was going to happen. We got to the Montcalm Hotel – the music was on, breakfast was being served, and the bar was open.

The bar was supposed to be open until 5am but I left at around 3.30 – the rickshaw ride had killed whatever buzz I had going and the woman at the bar was taking too long to sort out the drinks. I found out the next day that even though the venue shut at 5am, some of the guys carried on until 10am and beyond. Impressive. At their age, anyway.

Sunday was relaxing – I went to Busaba for lunch with a friend, wandered around the shops for a while, met some friends and their kids in the park, and then had dinner at Le Cochonnet in Maida Vale with some other friends. I was so tempted to have a pizza but settled for the fish instead. Later that night I wished I’d had the pizza. I woke up at 3am feeling queasy and unsettled – basically the fish made me really ill…┬áIt was 4am by the time I went back to sleep – and I was exhausted the next day.

I was home most of the day on Monday – I had a follow-up doctor’s appointment in the afternoon and didn’t do much else. Early that evening I met a friend who was in town from Tenerife. We went to the Duke of York in St John’s Wood and had a couple of drinks. After that I met one of the boys for some martinis at our usual place in St James’ – it was surprisingly empty. After a couple of drinks we walked up to Nobu Berkeley for some dinner and more drinks. It was fun to catch up. Lovely evening, as always.

I didn’t do very much on Tuesday either. I woke up feeling a little ‘dehydrated’ and ended up going to Primrose Hill for brunch. We went to Cafe Seventy Nine – a vegetarian cafe. I ordered the full English breakfast (vegetarian sausages included) with gluten-free toast. I’d never tried gluten-free bread before. When my friends asked what it tasted like, I said ‘Anything drenched in butter tastes good.’ I couldn’t even taste the bread. We walked around the shops for a little while and went home.

I was supposed to have a 4pm meeting with the guy who is now doing my old job at the office, but when I got there I was told he’d gone home. Charming. I hung around the office for a while, printed off my boarding pass for my work trip the next day, caught up on some emails, and then went to the pub with my work friends. We were at the pub for a while and then decided to go to Busaba for dinner. I know I’d just been there but the food was so good I didn’t mind going back. It wasn’t a very heavy night as I knew I had to be up at the crack of dawn for my flight the next morning…

Read more about London here.

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