A week of indulgent eating

As I said, this blog is going to mostly focus on food. So it seems to make sense to start with last week…

Nick was in London for the week, and I was on leave, and I think we spent most of it eating and drinking! Tough I know.

We started relatively simply, with Lola’s cupcakes in Selfridges, on Monday afternoon


Nick’s Red Velvet and my Cookies and Cream. Yum!

Tuesday after giving the legal notice for our marriage, we went to St John Bread & Wine, the original in Spitalfields. This was somewhere that Nick had wanted to go for ages, and I was pretty excited about it too. We are both pretty adventurous eaters, so the idea of nose-to-tail eating was appealing.


We started with a kohlrabi and shrimp salad. It was very pretty and very light, and a perfect first course.

IMG_2380 Next up was probably the stand out dish of the meal. It was liver and foie gras pate, on sourdough bread (such good bread) with capers. It was thick and creamy, very rich, and absolutely amazing. In fact I’m still dreaming about eating it again!


Third up, amazing jerusalem artichoke salad with capers and a creamy dressing. The artichokes were roasted and they were incredible!

IMG_2382  Finally, ox heart salad. Again with rocket and capers (I guess they had a few of those around!). I’d never had heart before, and I’m not sure I loved it. Nick described it as a combination between steak (in terms of texture) and liver (in  terms of flavour), which was pretty accurate!

The next day was Nick’s birthday, and his present from me was lunch. I had decided a couple of months ago that I wanted to take him somewhere really great for lunch as we could go midweek. After a lot of research, I opted for Hibiscus, Claude Bosi’s two star restaurant in Mayfair. They have a pretty incredible lunch deal, for three courses, half a bottle of wine, coffee and petit fours. The room at Hibiscus was lovely. Quite simple, but warm, and busy enough to have a nice buzz without being crowded. The art work on the walls was really interesting, amazing pictures from around the world, and we really enjoyed looking at that.

We started with olives and salted caramel nuts, which were surprisingly good nuts! We tried quite hard to hang on to them, but they took them away once they brought our food.


An amuse bouche of mushroom in coconut milk and curry powder – amazing!

We then shared our next two courses:


Grilled octopus, and pork pie ravioli – the best dish of the day – it sounds a bit odd, but was amazingly tender pork, cooked like pork pie pork, in pasta with a mushroom jus.

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Partridge with romesco, cauliflower, capers and raisins, and veal cheek with amazing truffled parsnip mash.

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Nick wouldn’t share his birthday dessert, warm chocolate madeleines with whisky cream, pistacho, and coffee sorbet – all his favourite flavours! I had the caramelised blonde chocolate tart. We then had a lot of petit fours – three types of aerated chocolate and three types of madeleines, leaving us pretty full and happy!

But, even so, we managed to fit in a bit of dinner that night anyway! We went down to Sager + Wilde in Hackney, just five minutes from our flat and somewhere I’d wanted to go for ages! It was pretty busy, but we stuck around and got a table where we were able to enjoy a lovely French white, followed by a pinot noir, and shared a plate of cheese and a proscuttio and cheese toasty – an amazing end to the day!

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Moving on…

Well it’s been a while since I updated this blog, but there have been a few suggestions that maybe I kick start it again. Things are going to be a bit different for now though. For now, it will probably mostly be food, and travel, but I’m sure there will be more to come…

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Protest, what protest?

Last weekend, when I was in Nottingham with my family, my Israeli cousins told me about a protest on the streets of Tel Aviv. Unfortunately I didn’t get the full picture from them, but I did learn that a few people had taken tents onto one of the main streets, and started camping there, in protest at high rent prices. These people had been joined by others, and the protest was growing. The protestors seem to be very middle class, and many are young, in their 20s & 30s, although older people are protesting too.

Back at work during the week, a friend visiting Israel tweeted a photo of the protests in Tel Aviv, which reminded me of the story, and that I hadn’t seen anything about it in the UK. And then this weekend, a friend from Oxford who is currently living in Tel Aviv had a number of facebook status about the protests. Again I had a look at some of my standard sources of news – UK papers, the Spectator Coffee House, the Telegraph blog pages, the Economist, HuffPo etc, but couldn’t see anything about what was going on Israel.

I’ve been reading a little about the protests from Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post, and I’m currently trying to find out some more, so I don’t want to promise and indepth analysis of the situation. I hope to be able to write a longer post about the story itself – rather than the lack of it – at some point. But it seems that protests have spread across Israel, and there are estimates of 150,000 people participating. Not a small number. The message behind the protests has spread beyond just rent to the high cost of living, and frustrating with Bibi’s government. Encouragingly, the full range of the Israeli population, including Israeli-Arabs, seem to be involved.

In response, oil price hikes seem to have been cancelled, and a committee to look at living costs has been formed. But people continue to protest about inequality, and some are demanding a move to more ‘socialism’. This is hardly surprising. Many people came to Israel to live on kibbutzim, socialist-style farming communities, where profit was shared, everything was communal, and often children were raised together, not in family units. Kibbutzim still exist, but they are often very different now, and Israel is a high-tech, capitalist society. Some of the original ideals appear to be resurfacing.

As I said, I hope to be able to provide more on the detail soon. And I continue to watch with interest. There is some coverage in the UK, but the protests don’t seem to be hitting our headlines just yet.

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Service please!

Having dinner in Hoxton last night made me wonder, again, why we settle for such bad service in the UK.

Our recent trip to the East Coast was N’s first visit to the US, and he says that at first he found the level of service in restaurants and bars intimidating, but he gradually became used to it. Now he misses it.

At dinner last night, we waited an hour for a table. They initially told us the wait would be 40 minutes, and when we looked unsure, they said that was likely an overestimation. It turned out to be an underestimate. They offered us two seats at the bar, but I asked for a table, because I don’t like sitting on a bar stool all night – it hurts my back. Luckily, they were able to accomodate that.

We sat down, chose what we wanted, and waited. And waited. In the US, almost as soon as you sit down someone brings you some tap water at least! Staff moved around us, but no one paid any attention to us. Eventually we asked the guy clearing tables if we could order, and he found a waitress who came over and apologised, and took our order. In the meantime, the couple next to us had evidently been considering walking out as they’d been waiting so long for their bill!

They finally brought our food, which was very good, but somehow they brought our main courses before our starters had been cleared away. Maybe that’s the style of the restaurant, but it was very odd! Having waited an hour and a half to get any food, I would have preferred a few minutes between course!

I wonder if the American pay structure is the solution to this. American bar & restaurant staff get tiny salaries and rely on their tips. I’ve always been against this in principle, however this can be very lucrative for bar staff, according to my friends. N believes that it’s not a staff failure, it’s a management failure – there need to be more staff. So I suppose if the restaurant could pay the staff less, which they made up in tips, that would help. On the other hand, I do feel that basic pay of $2-3 is pretty poor! So I’m not certain if I believe that is the right solution.

Oh the restaurant last night – Pizza East – added 12.5% service to our bill.

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Published… sort of

My boss has had an article published in the Athens News. I hope I’m not giving away too many political secrets when I suggest that I may have had a large amount of influence over the content of the article… Anyway, the article is here and this is the text:


Eurozone countries need stronger economic and monetary union

THE UK GOVERNMENT firmly believes that problems in the eurozone should be dealt with in the eurozone, and by those countries that use the euro. Decisive action is now necessary to deal with a crisis that is spreading throughout the eurozone and risks doing real damage to all our economies. Eurozone countries should now make clear how they intend to deal with this crisis and particularly the situation in Greece – and, I might as well add, with that in Portugal, Spain and Italy.
The British government has secured an agreement from the eurozone that we will not be involved in a second Greek bailout. Indeed the UK has not been involved in any discussions regarding the next steps for Greece. Furthermore, we did not participate directly in the May 2010 support package, and there has been no formal suggestion of UK bilateral loans, or use of the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism. The UK only (reluctantly) participated in the May support package for Greece through its membership of the IMF.
In order to resolve the current crisis in Greece, the private sector must become involved to accelerate growth and reduce the debt burden; individuals and companies must pay their taxes; concrete action must be taken to reduce the deficit, including asset sales, structural reforms and cutting the size of government.
Currently, it looks highly likely that there will be a Greek default or a possible second bailout. The debt markets suggest that markets do not believe that Greece can repay its debts in full and on time. In the meantime, Greece is becoming less and less attractive to both sovereign and corporate investors.
Perhaps the only solution is a new European Treaty for the eurozone countries which would call for even closer fiscal, economic and monetary union and, ultimately, some form of joint and several financial responsibilities among all eurozone countries. In the meantime, the risk of default remains high, and Greece may ultimately be forced to leave the euro.
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Playing in the Concrete Jungle

We got up early on Thursday morning to get the bus from DC to New York. I was hoping to be there around 1, but that was overly-optimistic and we didn’t arrive at the hotel until 3.30.

Sarah and Gretchen arrived at around the same time, and we went to get some food and sit in Central Park. Gretchen had brought us cheese ends – she lives near a large cheese company, and  when cheese is made and cut into square blocks, the bits that get cut off are sold cheaply. We then headed downtown, via the UN building (we saw the outside only) and to a bar with cheap margaritas. We stayed there for a while, then moved on for a couple of other drinks, until it was time for Sarah to get her train back. was pretty exhausted by the time we made it to bed around 1.

Friday was my birthday, and the day started, hungover, with cards and a few presents. Then we met Gretchen for brunch at Sarabeths by Central Park. She managed a champagne cocktail, but I stuck to black coffee! Gretchen has coeliacs, but had heard of a place downtown, Babycakes which does gluten free cupcakes, so we headed down there. It was a pretty amazing place, and their cupcakes were lovely and noticeably less sugary. We then found a place to get pedicures – definitely necessary after all the walking we’d been doing! (I should note that we’d sent Nick off to do some sightseeing after lunch, not sure he’s a pedicure kind of guy). It was nice to relax, and read some trashy magazines (People, US weekly), and my toes still look lovely!

Gretchen and I walked around Chinatown, attempting to buy handbags, until Nick came, and dragged us back in the other direction to go to a shop that he thought would sell good trainers, but they had nothing in his size. Then it was time to head uptown, where we said goodbye to Gretchen, and went off to meet my aunt & uncle who had come for the weekend from Austin, Texas.

Laurie & Nigel took us to Churrascaria Platforma, an all you can eat Brazilian restaurant that I’d been to before, and loved. Their salad bar is amazing, featuring sushi, amazing grilled vegetables, and even risottos, and then they bring around different cuts of meat. The best I had was the beef rib. We then went to see the Greenday musical, American Idiot. I love musicals, but wasn’t quite sure what this one would be like. Luckily, I realised that I knew more Greenday songs than I thought, and I thought the musical was excellent. Lost track of the plot occasionally, but that definitely wasn’t the point of it! I thought the staging was excellent, the lighting was very well done, but the sound had a few problems.We stopped in Times Square on the way back, so that Nick could see the lights and chaos, and then went for drink before home to bed.

On Saturday, Nick and I started the day with a walk down 5th Ave – much better in the morning when it’s quiet! – heading for a shop he wanted to go to. Sadly, this one was closed for refurbishment. We met Nigel & Laurie to go to Grand Central Station, and then off to the Yankees game. The Yankees have an amazing new stadium, with comfy, padded seats, but sadly no heating, as it was not a great day, weather-wise. Thankfully we were under cover, so protected from the rain. Watching the game was a lot of fun, Nigel taught Nick a lot of the rules, and we enjoyed hot dogs and Cracker Jack. Nick and Laurie had beer, but I was cold so stuck to hot chocolate!

We left after the 7th inning as the rain picked up, and Nick and I stopped on the way back to go to the Museum of New York. We only had an hour there, but there was a great video of the history of the city, which was really interesting, and some good photography exhibitions, including one about New York Green Carts, which sell fruit and veg in areas where very little fresh produce gets eaten. We met Nigel and Laurie at Morton’s Steakhouse, where I ate probably the best steak I’ve ever tried! We then had to say goodbye, and get back to hotel in pouring, pouring rain! I think my jeans were wet from rain bouncing off the pavements, which were running with water, and there were firetrucks everywhere.

We got up early on Sunday to go to the Top of the Rock, the viewing platform at the top of the Rockefeller Centre. It was good to go early, before it got too busy, and it was a lovely clear (if windy) day to do it. We went back to the hotel to shower, pack and check out, and then to Carnegie’s Deli for brunch. A large chunk of meat wasn’t necessarily what I wanted again, but Nick wanted to try one of their huge sandwiches, so we shared their Reuben. We then spent the afternoon shopping and walking around the city, making the most of the lovely weather, before it was time to go to the hotel, get our bags, and head for Newark.

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Working on Holiday?

On Tuesday we were determined to actually do some sightseeing rather than just shop (well Nick was…) so I sent him off the Holocaust Museum in the morning, whilst I went off to meet the Boss. He was also traveling in the US and his meetings sounded interesting enough that I was happy to go along. Especially as we were close enough for me to go to Georgetown to do some shopping while Nick was at the museum!

We then walked down a windy, drizzly Mall (as in the area by the Capitol, not a shopping mall!) over to the Supreme Court & Library of Congress. Unfortunately we go there too late for the Supreme Court lecture, but we got to see the exhibition and inside the court room. Then we headed off to the LoC, where again, we didn’t have enough time before closing to see all the exhibitions (there are at least 5) but we did get a chance to admire the beautiful building, and Nick wanted to go into the reading room, unsurprisingly.

Bri arrived in DC on Tuesday afternoon, so we went for dinner and drinks with her and her friend Sean in U Street in the evening. It’s not really an area that I know very well so it was nice to see a different part of DC.

Wednesday we managed to get in rather a lot of sightseeing, starting at the Capitol, where we did the official tour which included an amusing video at the start called “From many, one” which was typically passionate about the amazingness of American democracy. Our tour guide was very enthusiastic, although Nick is increasingly concerned about the frequency that we are told to “watch our step” here. Perhaps people in the US fall over a lot.  We also managed to get gallery passes for both Chambers, and saw some budget debate. It’s reassuring to know that it’s not just our legislature that is frequently occupied by just 3 people, saying not very much to each other!

We followed that with a quick trip to the Old Post Office tour, for some views of a rather grey city, and then to the Museum of American History, which was closed when I lived there. It has some great, if random, things, like Dorothy’s Slippers and Kermit the Frog, as well as exhibitions on communities in the US (that gallery reassuringly empty of noisy children). We then made a very brief visit to the National Portrait Gallery, mainly to see the Presidents exhibition, where I discovered that they’d changed a lot of the portraits of the modern presidents, including my favourite one of Bill Clinton

We then headed off to the Old Ebbitt Grill as someone had told us that their raw bar is all 1/2 price between 3 and 6pm. It was too good and offer to miss and ordered their seafood platter: a lobster, 12 oysters, 12 clams, 12 prawns and 12 crab claws for $50 is a pretty good deal. Bri met us there to enjoy the seafood feast, and then we headed back to the Hill to an old favourite, the Cap Lounge, where we were joined by several of the people I worked with when I was there, as well as a couple of other friends. It was really lovely to catch up and I was sad that it was the last night in DC.


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