Category Archives: London Lore

Waiter, There’s A Moral Dilemma In My Lunch!

I did a very bad thing. No, not recently. It must have been seven or eight years ago. It happened at the end of a shopping trip in Brent Cross, North London. After trudging through the aisles like two people who only ever go shopping when they absolutely have to, my friend and I decided to reward ourselves with a nice lunch at Wagamama, which, back then, was still quite a hip chain of Asian fusion cuisine.

I’d eaten there a few times before, but my friend hadn’t, so I recommended a tasty stir fry, which she duly ordered. I can’t remember what I had, but I do remember that I only enjoyed the first two forkfuls of it because of what ensued.

The food arrived, looking all fresh, healthy and delicious. We started to tuck in.

“Oooooh! Yummmmmm!” My friend’s eyes grew wide and then closed slowly as she slipped into a trance of eating pleasure. “This is just the best tofu I have ever tasted in my whole damn life!”

My cardiac activity seized for a few seconds.

This was not tofu.

I had forgotten to tell her to substitute the chicken.

My friend had been a faithful vegetarian for the past quarter of a century. Until 40 seconds ago. How could I have made such a terrible mistake?

She clearly had no inkling that there was anything amiss. And why would she? After all, she was having lunch with no other than moi, a professional nutritionist attuned to people’s special dietary requirements.

I kept smiling as convincingly as I could muster while trying to make all the right food appreciation noises – no easy feat when your airways are constricting.

What was I to do?! My panicked monkey mind went into overdrive. Coming clean about my oversight and apologising profusely would probably be the right thing to do. But what good could possibly come of it? Lunch would be ruined, a good meal wasted. Right now, at least one of us was still enjoying it.

In fact, I’d never seen anyone take such delight in their food. For a fleeting moment, I wondered how someone, who went that gaga over some run-of-the-mill strips of chicken breast would react to a juicy slab of beef teriyaki or a soft-as-butter, slow-roasted lamb shank.

Nobody was being harmed here, I reasoned to myself. This was not a case of food allergy. (If anyone was experiencing all the symptoms of anaphylactic shock, it was me!) And the chicken had already been very dead for quite some time. I was, in fact, not only saving my friend’s stellar lunch experience, but also an animal from having given its life in vain. And it could have been worse – that could have been pork there on that plate. (My friend was not only vegetarian, but also Jewish.)

At this point, she turned to one of the servers who was rushing by, balancing several steaming bowls of ramen on his tray. “Hey, I just loooooove your tofu! So chewy! How do you get it to have a texture like that? Could I talk to the chef? I need that recipe!” (My friend was not only vegetarian and Jewish, but also American).

The bed of coals I was sitting on had just got hotter by another thousand degrees.

Coals

The waiter, a pimply young man on the minimum wage, flashed a flattered smile in my friend’s direction, but he did not – to my infinite relief! – relay her request for a personal audience to the chef, who was up to his armpits assembling meals for the lunchtime crowd.

After what seemed like an eternity, during which I remained hell-bent on engaging my friend in spurious conversation to draw her attention away from both the “tofu” and the wait staff, we finally cleared our plates.

“Hey, how about dessert?”, I asked, staring longingly at the door. “But not here, you know what these Asian places are like – crap sweets.” A blatant lie, at least where Wagamama is concerned. But I had no intention of prolonging this torture.

We paid and I leapt into the neon lit mall, which, at that moment, appeared to me as welcoming as a fragrant spring meadow populated by purring kittens. We headed straight for Millie’s Cookies. And never has a box of hydrogenated fat, sugar and food colouring washed down with coffee from a paper cup tasted so good.

Jane, if you’re reading this, I’m really, really sorry!

Cruising Down The Thames To Greenwich

This is my last batch of London pictures from last week’s trip. You can pat yourselves on the back, you’ve held up most valiantly. Thanks for indulging me in my nostalgic reveries…

I wont torture you with tedious explanations – I’m sure each and every one of you has a tourist tat dust catcher of at least one of these landmarks on their mantlepiece.

Tower bridgeSt Paul'sTower bridge & boatLondon Eye

London river viewCanary Wharf ResidentialCanary Wharf

And a few shots from the hill in Greenwich Park:

Greenwich Park 1Greenwich park view 2Greenwich park view 3Bottled Ship, Greenwich

— THE END —

* Phew! *

 

 

That’s Just So… North London!

I spent a decade of my life North London, and those who’ve read my previous few posts will know that I went back there last week for the first time in three years. Anyone who moves to London will suss out very quickly just how attached Londoners are to their neighbourhoods. Many will only socialise in two places: their part of town and the city centre.

There is a particularly curious divide between North and South – to convince a North Londoner to cross the river and set their Kate Kuba encased feet onto the southern Thames shore, you’ve got to come up with a pretty good reason. Taking their children hostage and threatening to force-feed them food additives should do it.

Anyway, here is a selection of pics that struck me as typically North London. Let’s start with a few shots of Hampstead front gardens and back streets…

Hampstead garden 1 Hampstead Garden 2Hampstead Garden 2

Hampstead Street

Hampstead pubHampstead street 2

Hampstead shop inside

Decor inside a Hampstead Shop

Hampstead street 3

I bet my bottom dollar that she’s got a quinoa burger on a bed of rocket and mango salsa in that paper bag…

The Bishop's Avenue

Take on Bishops Avenue, Hampstead Garden Suburb, dubbed “Billionaire’s Row”.

Highgate Tea Shop

One of my favourite Highgate Tea Shops. Oh, the cakes…!

Highgate message board

A message board in Highgate

Highgate house buyer

Now, a house in Highgate will cost you anything upwards of £3m… that’s a lot of cash propping up her pillow!

Highgate Pet Shop

What exactly happens at “Weekly Puppy Parties…?”

Highgate Car

Now, I just want to point out that I didn’t live in either Hampstead or Highgate, but in a more …erm… affordable patch wedged in between 🙂

 

London Cakes and Brekkies

I’ve had complaints. Several, in fact. About the dearth of food pictures from my very recent London trip. I want to assure you all that I did, in fact, eat. Morning, noon and night. And in between. Everything in sight. Especially Asian food (which is hard to come by in Toledo) and, of course, CAKES.

I wasn’t as conscientious as usual about taking food photos, but I did come away with some. Here’s a selection:

An adventurous Chelsea bun, with blueberries and pistachio topping, devoured in a new cafe in East Finchley. My friend had a delicious chocolate almond cake.

An adventurous Chelsea bun, with blueberries inside and pistachios on top, devoured in a new (to me) cafe in East Finchley. My friend had a delicious chocolate almond cake.

Brazilian Cake

At a Brazilian café in Cleveland Street. And yes, the board with the cake AND the chocolate truffle was mine 🙂

Belsize Park Cafe

A café in Belsize Park.

Highgate bakery

A bakery in Highgate

Doughnuts

I just had to home in on those jam doughnuts on the bottom right… and they were every bit as delicious as they look.

Let’s finish off with some breakfasts for those of you who prefer savoury fare. After all, this is what the UK is famous for 🙂

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict

Muswell Hill

Giraffe

Drooling…?

‘My’ North London: Hampstead Heath

I’m back in Toledo now (and have been for a full four hours), after the most fabulous ten days spent in my old home in North London. The weather was perfect – autumnal, warm and sunny – and even though I wasn’t able to re-visit all of my favourite haunts, I managed to include quite a few of them in my nostalgic tour. Like my beloved Hampstead Heath. Sigh. Let me share just a handful of photos…

Parliament Hill 1

The view of the city from Parliament Hill never disappoints…

The view from Parliament Hill never disappointsParliament Hill 3Hampstead Heath WalkHampstead Heath Lakes

Hampstead Heath Ponds

Entrance to the Women’s Bathing Ponds

 

 

A Stroll (And A Chuckle) Through Highgate Cemetery

Today, I met up with some old friends in Highgate, North London. After a hefty dose of coffee and cake, we decided to take a stroll through Highgate cemetery, resting ground of many famous authors, artists, revolutionaries, thinkers.

At first, we were a bit apprehensive about having to pay to get in (£4), but it was truly worth it. Our only regret was that we’d not arrived earlier, as the gates shut at 5pm, giving us just an hour to explore this amazing place. It has everything: dignity, beauty, nature, and, above all, a touch of humour.

White Flowers

Highgate Cemetery 1HC Writer

Funny ;-)

Funny 😉

Married to his job...?

Married to his job…?

HC cross flowersHC IvyHG art graveHC BranchHC butterfliesSisyphus

Probably the cemetery's most famous "resident" - Karl Marx was buried in 1883.

Probably the cemetery’s most famous “resident” – Karl Marx was buried in 1883.

Karl MarxAngelTreeHC schiefHC CrossesYellow Leaf

My chums, Tanja, whom I first met nearly 25 years ago when we were both au-pairing in the Midlands, and her lovely husband Russ.

My chums, Tanja, whom I first met nearly 25 years ago when we were both au-pairing in the Midlands, and her lovely husband Russ.

Cheesecake…? What Cheesecake?!

I was walking past one of my favourite Muswell Hill bakeries today for the first time in three years. Its hallmark used to be a delicious tray of freshly baked cheesecake gracing the window. Well, it seems that standards have slipped abominably since I left town three years ago:

MWH Bakery

WTF is this?! Alien turds…???

On a more positive note, I’ve had the most fabulous day, meeting up with a number of pals and flitting from one cake paradise to another in the process.

I spent the afternoon in Marylebone, where I used to live as a student (oh sweet nostalgia…) with local resident Karolyn. She is the author of one of my favourite blogs, Distant Drumlin, and one of the most lovely people on earth.

Simone and Karolyn in Patisserie Valerie

Karolyn and I in Patisserie Valerie, dosed up on cake and Earl Grey.