Over the past few days I’ve found myself missing busking.
I never really expected to miss it, because when you’re trying to make rent on a London flat by busking in the snow in February it loses most of its glamour and excitement. But it can be a lot of fun, and although you’re unlikely to make all your necessary money that way, it can provide a little bit of extra income. Continue reading “Tips For Solo Female Buskers”→
At the end of last year, when I was finally allowed to go outside again and able to walk more than about seven paces without collapsing in a pathetic heap, I started a Sunday tradition of going for a walk along the river. Gradually this seems to have evolved into spending Sundays wandering around various bits of London, before coming home for a warm bath and a hot chocolate.
At the beginning of this year, I looked through all the places I’d been bookmarking since I moved back to London four years ago, and decided to actually go to them. Most of these are either restaurants or wine bars, and almost all have been recommended either in wine magazines or by wine aficionados (which I almost shortened to ‘winos’, but nope. Different thing.) I booked myself in for one per week initially, but after the first trip I realised that (a) it would be exhausting to go out that often and (b) my budget would be completely blown after the first one each month. So I think my self-dates will have to be once a fortnight at most.
Last weekend I did the self-date on Saturday night, and the wandering around London on the Sunday. This made me exceedingly happy and meant I had a very lovely weekend, so now I’m going to try to do as much of that as possible in the coming months.
The atmosphere is just beautiful. Precisely the right mix of cozy, quirky and refined. “Do you work in hospitality?” the obscenely attractive gay waiter asked me when I’d finished (and praised) my starter. I replied that I didn’t, and he explained that a lot of ‘industry people’ go there on their nights off, because of the great food and the excellent wine list.
So yes, the wine: let’s do the most important bit first. The list is extensive and includes mid- to high-end wines, at barely any markup. In general they’ve only added on the amount you’d pay if you bought a bottle at retail price, rather than the minimum £20 extra a lot of places will add to their high-end bottles.
I went for a Château Magneau Graves 2014 because it was the best red half-bottle I could find. I have now invested in an extra wine stopper which will live in my handbag along with my emergency corkscrew, so that from now on I’ll be able to order by the bottle in restaurants without having to down the entire thing with my meal.
Food-wise, I began with the crispy duck, which was very good but wasn’t crispy. I was a little disappointed at the lack of crispiness, because I’m all about the texture of my food, but I got over it because it did taste very good.
I followed this with the roast sirloin main dish, which was lovely, but the star of the show was the Jerusalem artichoke which came on the side. This could easily have been a dish in its own right, and it made me want to go back and just order a plate of that. I very much want to try to replicate it at home, but I have not the slightest idea how to try.
I didn’t take any pictures of the food because I was too busy eating it. Sorry not sorry.
Finishing off with a ginger pudding with butterscotch sauce was another excellent choice; I am a bit of a sticky toffee pudding connoisseur, and this was the closest thing to that on the menu. I washed it down with the only cognac on the spirits list, which was very good – a Château Marignon, I believe. It’s worth noting that the spirits list is pretty short and they only do two whiskies (one of which is a Teeling, so at least you have a nice flavourful option) – Andrew Edmunds are all about the wines.
Possibly my favourite thing about the evening was that I never felt rushed. After each course the waiter asked if I wanted to wait a bit before the next one: encouraging breaks between courses is something that’s hardly ever done, especially in London and especially when you’re dining alone. It can often feel like you’re meant to gulp stuff down as quickly as possible before grabbing the bill and leaving, which doesn’t make for a relaxing dining experience. Here, however, you’re encouraged to chill the hell out, which after all is kind of the point.
By the end of the evening I’d made friends with the waiter to the extent that he brought me a little taster of one of the wines he’d been serving earlier – an absolutely beautiful Madiran Château Montus 2012. That’s what I’d recommend if you’re going, especially if there are enough of you to get through a whole bottle. The waiter also recommended the De Toren ‘Fusion V’ Cabernet Sauvignon Blend from the South African section of the list, and based on his other recommendations I’d be inclined to trust his judgement.
All in all, it was an excellent evening and it came to about £80 including service. I was a bit sozzled by the time I left and I ended up leaving a tip on top of that: “You don’t need to leave a tip, darling, service is included” said the waiter as I stood up to leave, and I sort of hadn’t realised that because I hadn’t wanted to look too hard at the bill, preferring just to hand over my card and hope for the best. I tried to style it out and pretend I’d deliberately left an extra tip, but that probably seemed a bit strange and now I’m convinced the waiter probably thinks I’m an arsehole who likes to flash my money around and so I can never go back.
You should go, though. It’s absolutely lovely.
I wandered home in the drizzly rain, the statue of St. Volodymyr tracking my progress. He was the ruler of Ukraine from 980-1015, and his statue can be found on the main road between Holland Park and Notting Hill stations. It commemorates (yes it did take me three tries to spell that correctly) the establishment of Christianity in Ukraine, which St. Volodymyr undertook in 988.
I’m a bit of a wine snob, let’s get that right out there in the open. My monthly wine budget is equal to my monthly food budget, and often I actually end up spending more on wine than on food. Almost always when I go out for dinner, I’ll order wine that’s more expensive than the main dish.
Having said that, it’s not necessarily true that the more you pay for a bottle (or glass) of wine, the better it’ll be. And I’ve been promising my mother that I’d put together a guide for people who don’t want to spend a shitload of money every time they want a nice red to go with dinner. So here it is. Continue reading “My Favourite Red Wines For Under £20”→
First of all I should apologise to the lovely people at Penguin who sent me this book to review, because they sent it in mid-December and it’s now mid-February. Sorry about that.
I must also apologise because they asked me to take a selfie with the book in a place that means a lot to me, and I told them I don’t really do selfies but I’d try to do the place thing, and then I completely forgot because January was fucking mental.
I haven’t posted since my review of Force of Nature on the 15th of January, which was a cheat post anyway because I wrote it last June. Before that I did my End of Year Reflections, plus a few other posts thinking about the year that had just happened and the one that was coming up.
Well, suffice it to say 2017 wasn’t exactly excellent. For the past few years I’ve adopted a Russian tradition of writing a wish for the upcoming year on a piece of paper, burning it, then tipping the ash into a glass of champagne and drinking it as I welcome in the new year. This year I didn’t get a chance to do that, but if I had then my wish would have been for the year to be better than 2017.
I reviewed The Dry by Jane Harper a while ago, and since I’d liked it, the publisher sent me an advance copy of Force of Nature too, which will be coming out soon.
The Dry was Harper’s debut novel, and it’s often the case with debuts that the author hasn’t quite found their voice yet, or finds it towards the end of the book. I liked The Dry, but it wasn’t one I recommended to anyone in 2017. It was a good solid novel, but nothing more than that.
Force of Nature, on the other hand, is a different story. It’s one of those books that truly defines the term ‘page-turner’.