You know what really gets my goat? People who say they’ve ‘done’ a city.
On my way to Copenhagen last year I sat next to two American students on the flight, whose conversation quickly turned into a competition over how many European cities they had each ‘done’. I sat quietly, biting my tongue, until one advised the other to only spend 24 hours, ‘if that’, in Venice. What? 24 hours? In a city stuffed to the brim with history and culture? Apparently there ‘wasn’t much to see’. Did you go to the Jewish Ghetto? See the coloured houses on Burano? Explore the Rialto market? No you didn’t. You saw the Basilica di San Marco, then sat in the square drinking an obscenely expensive cup of hot chocolate. You haven’t ‘done’ anything. Read more
It’s the worst rain storm in two years and I’m lying inside a tent that is not only the smallest the world has ever created, but also one that it’s becoming increasingly apparent is not entirely waterproof. I put my hand on to the tarpaulin floor and it sinks into a puddle of water. Great. So I pull my rucksack and other belongings on to the end of my inflatable mattress, and ignoring the cramps in my legs, curl up in a corner. Yep, my mattress is now a raft. And then, just when I think I might pass the night staying almost dry, a massive blob of water falls from the tent apex onto my hand.
God I hate camping. Read more
I learnt to make cocktails before I really learnt how to drink them. On my gap year I worked in a fairly fancy restaurant and was given a crash course in how to make most of the classics, although at the time the only cocktail I had probably seen the bottom of was a Bloody Mary; if you don’t count the ‘punches’ thrown together at teenage parties out of a mixture of the cheapest available spirits and what could be snuck out of our parents’ cabinets. Which I don’t, by the way. Read more
While we were all busy complaining about the sweaty tubes and chatting about the hottest summer on record, autumn seems to have quietly snuck up behind us and set up shop. There is a definite nip in the air, especially first thing, and when the sun does make its way through the clouds it is only for a half-hearted attempt at warmth. Yet as much as I love autumn, and its promise of snuggly new knitwear and mugs of hot Ribena, I’m not quite ready to give up on summer just yet. I’m doggedly still wearing my sandals, despite constant wet toes. Read more
“Inside. Funny place. Like being back in India. x”
This was the text Joe sent me just after he had arrived for our dinner at Roti King, and I was still making my way along Euston Road, battling with shoes that were viciously cutting my feet up. And he had a point. Down a back alley a few steps away from Euston Station, and occupying a fluorescent lit basement with dark brown tables and linoleum floor, it was hardly the most stylish of venues I have suggested we meet up at. Read more
Glowing reviews can be both a blessing and a curse for a restaurant. They obviously provide an influx of customers, a welcome blessing in London’s competitive restaurant scene, but these customers then come armed with very high expectations. Something of a curse.
No accolade is this more true of than being named ‘National Restaurant of the Year’ as Gymkhana, an Indian restaurant in Mayfair, was a few months ago. With a label like that you don’t go expecting a ‘nice’ meal, you go expecting something of an exceptional one. A bar that high is tough for any restaurant to consistently reach. Read more
When Ceviche, Lima and Coya all opened their doors in 2012, I scratched my head. Peruvian food was clearly having a moment, yet I had anything but fond memories of the food I had eaten there some eight years earlier. Horrible greasy hot dogs. Stringy guinea pig. Tasteless humitas (mashed corn and cheese wrapped in a corn husk and steamed). It was only the ceviche we found in the tiny seaside town of Mancora that made any made sort of positive impact on my palette. Fresh, hot and so full of lime it made our lips pucker, we ate at least one bowl of it every day of our stay.
So it was with slight trepidation that I booked a table at the then newly opened Lima. Pretty and refined, the food definitely did not look like anything I had eaten in Peru, and for the most part, thankfully, it didn’t taste the same either. But there were a few mouthfuls that chimed with the memory of a taste, and I found myself suddenly back in hot, dry Peru, wearing those horrific patterned trousers that are part of the gringa traveller uniform, and buzzing with the adventure of everything. I loved Lima and Ceviche (although stick to the ceviche and Pisco Sours at the latter, most of the other dishes aren’t worth the price). Coya, not so much. I’m not one to write scathing reviews of restaurants, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one: give it a miss. Read more
Whenever London supper clubs are discussed among the food-enthusiastic someone always asks, in a reverential whispered tone: ‘Have you been to the London Foodie’s Japanese one yet?’ (It’s always ‘yet’, because you can’t be a London-based self-declared foodie and not heard of it and desperately want to go, if not actually been). And until last week I had to reply through gritted teeth, ‘no, not yet’. I hate being the one who hasn’t been to the thing everyone is talking about! But now I can finally say ‘Yes, isn’t it awesome?’ And awesome it really is. It was some of the best Japanese food, no scrap that, best food full stop, I have ever had in London.
Before burgers, lobsters and chickens made single dish restaurants the talk of the town, there was Le Relais de Venise. For over fifty years the original Parisian restaurant has been offering its customers salad, steak, pommes frites, and not much else. There is now an outpost in Manhattan and three in London: Marylebone, the City and Canary Wharf, and it was this last one that I was invited to along with a host of other bloggers on Thursday evening. To say I’m not a massive fan of the area is well, an understatement. It’s all just so shiny and uniformly new looking. But arriving half an hour early for dinner I walked down to the river side. With the smell of salt, the squawk of gulls and the relative peace, I could have been beside the seaside. Until I turned around to face the cold gleaming-glass and sharp-edged towers of the Wharf. But for the first time I could see some sort of beauty in it. Read more
A while ago I wrote this post about my favourite cheap, casual and central places to eat in London. The sort of places to go with a group of friends on a work night for a proper catch-up without hurting your already bruised credit card any further. The sort of places where you can laugh loudly, rant about your passive-aggressive colleagues, and get all the salacious, gossipy details of your friend’s latest Tinder adventure while having one too many alcoholic beverages. The sort of places I really love, and that I think London does so well. And here, finally, is a full review of another one of these: Bi Bim Bap, a regular haunt of the NYSS (explanation here). Read more