Posts Tagged ‘restaurant’

O, I do like to be beside the sea

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to Danda!
Happy birthday to you!

Hip hip hooray and all that.

As you’ve probably guessed, it was Danda’s birthday yesterday so, in true birthday style, we ran off to the beach for the day. And it was glorious. The weather stayed warm enough to spend all day walking around but breezy enough to not be uncomfortable.

The day started with fancy lunch. I love a fancy lunch, as some of you may already know. I love fancy lunching. I love Michelin stars. I love pretty food.

This lunch did not disappoint.

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It started with bread, after which we were presented with calf’s tongue with piccalilli. Did I ever mention how much I love the free extras at nice restaurants?
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We had the same starter, a leek and potato soup with white truffle cream. My goodness, do I love a truffle! I love a truffle. I went crazy for this soup. It was really really good with some of the fresh bread dipped into it.
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Next up, Danda’s main was mackerel with mashed potatoes, spinach and tomatoes.
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Mine was a confit duck leg on a bed of lentils and bacon with cavolo nero and thinly cut, fried potatoes.
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It was easily the best duck I’ve ever eaten. It was so soft and fell off the bone without any resistance at all. The skin, which I worried about because it can be quite fatty and disappointing, was crispy and beautiful. The jus was fantastic too. I just ate and ate and hoped it would never end. Sadly, it did so off we went, out into the daylight, to seek our next adventure.

We found it on the Brighton Wheel, looking down at the seaside town from the sky.
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We then went for the longest walk ever in search of the Naturist Beach. O, what? Wait. I mean. I meant. I didn’t mean we went looking for it. I meant we were walking and then we saw it. By accident.

There was one bloke with a cap on chatting to a fully dressed couple and that was it. Disappointing.

We headed out to the marina to see what fun could be had there.
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There were a lot of generic could-be-anywhere shops near the marina so we decided to wander back to the beach but not after spotting an amazing ‘5D’ ride thing that we just had to go on. It was one of those rollercoaster simulator things and it was really good. We got given 3D glasses and were splashed with water or blown with wind. It was fast and furious and I yelped quite a lot!

We finished the day by splashing about in the water and lying on the beach looking at the sky.
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T is for…

TIBERIUS’ PALACE!

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that we’d had an eventful evening. And I wasn’t lying. It started with a simple look through our guidebooks for restaurant recommendations. We read a write up for a place called Savardina da Edoardo which sounded pretty good. It was everything I look for in an Italian restaurant when romanticising about my ideal place to eat. The review said things like ‘set among the orange and lemon groves’ and ‘family-run’ and ‘welcoming atmosphere’ and ‘fantastic service.’ It also said it would be the perfect place to stop for lunch or dinner when trekking up to see the Villa Jovis.

This sent us on a search to find out what the Villa Jovis was. It is the name of the Roman emperor Tiberius’ palace on Capri. He moved there ten years before his death, for fear of being assassinated if he stayed in Rome, as had happened to Augustus before him. He ruled the Roman Empire from Capri, through a network of fires and smoke signals to convey his orders which seems, to me, an inconvenient way of doing things. But who am I to pass comment on the most successful empire the world has ever seen?

And so, the scene was set. We would hike up to Tiberius’ Palace, the Villa Jovis, in the early evening then come half way back down the hill, to the Trattoria Savardina where we would have dinner, then finish the walk back to our hotel at a leisurely pace.

Off we went, at about 7pm, so a little later than planned but Danda found out that Chelsea were playing football so he stayed in the hotel to watch it. We walked up the steep steep hill, looking to the top of the hill, excited to go and see these two thousand year old ruins of the emperor’s palace.

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I wanted to stand at the edge, looking out over the Bay of Naples and imagine being the emperor. I wanted to imagine living on top of the steep unforgiving cliff edges, called Tiberius’ Leap, as Tiberius forced people to throw themselves off it if they had displeased him.

As we worked our way further up, we realised that this is where the local Capresi people live. The town and shopping area had once been fisherman’s villages but has now been given over to pleasure seeking tourists and the locals have headed up into the hills. We passed a school, working farms, lemon tree groves – all the signs of village life in Italy.

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We rounded a corner and suddenly, as the light was fading in the sky, everything was tinged with the beautiful colours of the setting sun.

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We kept on heading up. We could see the Villa Jovis complex up ahead of us but it was still a fair walk. We got our groove on and sped up. As we passed a couple in the street and stopped to work out how much further it was, the young man asked if we spoke English then said, ‘Villa Jovis?’ We nodded vigorously and pointed to check if we were heading in the right direction.

Then he said, easily and casually, as though the information were no big deal, ‘It’s closed.’

We stopped, unsure if maybe ‘closed’ might be the Italian word for ‘open.’

‘But you can go up this path,’ he said, pointing into the dense trees to our right, ‘And come to some safety bars and you can see the best view in Capri.’

With nothing to do but trust him, we clambered up off the path and into the trees, the light fading fast, and crept along the edge until we came to the view point.

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And it was glorious. We were so high up and the whole of the island spread out below us and we thought, with wonder, of how such a small place had brought us such joy.

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After a little while, we were getting hungry so we headed back down to the path and along the road called Via Lo Capo, to look for our restaurant, to ease the disappointment of not making it to the Villa Jovis.

We went up, we went down, we went around and in and out and about and eventually asked a lady passing by, to show us the way to the trattoria. I was ready for the lemon groves and the family-run and the welcoming atmosphere.

We did find it in the end. Look.

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And in case, like me, you are thinking it is not what it looks like, then let me tell you, I tried the handle and no, it definitely was not open. So both things we had come up the hill for were closed.

After navigating the hills back down with some difficulty, we had dinner in the Aurora restaurant which we had seen with good reviews (the likes of Mariah and Beyonce have eaten here) and we didn’t regret it. It was the most beautiful food I have eaten in a long time.

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The pre-dinner nibbles.

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Aubergine stuffed with mozzarella

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Insalata Caprese

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Pasta with zucchini flowers and parmesan

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Tiramisu and espresso, the dessert of champions

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Post dinner nibbles

It was the perfect end to an unexpected evening. The palace and restaurant were closed but the viewpoint and alternative dining were more than fabulous!

Danda and the little policeman jumper

I’ve just got a little story to tell you because there are children visiting and it is difficult to do anything of any length without them needing me to join in playing hide and seek or assist them upstairs to look under beds for dragons etc etc.

This story is about way back when Danda and I didn’t know each other very well. We had chatted a little, made polite conversation and he had asked me to dinner. We went to Wagamama’s, a Japanese chain restaurant with lovely food and great atmosphere. I often went for an hour before work and sat drinking green tea, nibbling on some noodles and reading a book.

We had been sitting in the far corner chatting, conversation was flowing and we found we had a similar sense of humour. All was well. I had dressed up a little for the occasion, in a batwing black jumper (bring back the 80s!), wraparoundy scarf thing that I had got in the Philippines, and grey trousers. I’d like to think I was channelling the shabby-chic look. Danda was wearing black trousers, a black V-neck jumper and a white shirt. He looked very smart.

At some point during the meal, Danda went off to the toilet and came back looking dismayed.

“Is everything ok?” I asked.

“No. I just caught sight of myself in the full length mirror. It’s this jumper. I look like a small off-duty policeman!”

And that was it. Our fate was sealed. Who doesn’t love a small off-duty policeman?

Midday in Paris

So yesterday, if you remember, I was swanning off to Paris for lunch. There wasn’t any real reason for it. Everyone was just being really January-ish. You know, ‘what is there to look forward to now that Christmas is over,’ and ‘it’s so cold and miserable’ etc etc. Now I don’t get too bothered by January. I like cold weather as I feel quite uncomfortable and sweaty in heat. So snow suits me down to the ground. Plus it’s good fun. I also didn’t have ‘a terrible year that I’m trying to move on from’, or need to ‘make a new start’ etc etc. All in all, I feel ok in January. As though to prove this point, I determined to have a January filled with fun. I have seen friends I don’t see often, taken lots of long walks and become dedicated to my Michel Roux cookbook in my Masterchef dreams.

In light of all this (and a deal on the Eurostar), I decided to go to Paris for the day. My manager had highly recommended a restaurant for lunch so it was sorted. The train journey there was fairly nondescript, apart from coming out of the Eurotunnel on the French side and being greeted by a sea of white…

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It was beautiful. It was a crisp cold day and the snow sat on everything in sight. It was still there when we came past again going home, the cold weather preventing any snow from melting.

We hopped off the train at midday, our minds boggled by the fact that we were now in France. It seemed silly, so easy and effortless. Get on the train in London. Get off it in Paris.

We had bought tickets for the metro on the Eurostar train so we just found our way downstairs and got on the underground, no fuss. When we got off to switch trains, however, there was a policeman shouting something at everyone on the platform about the ‘sortie’ – exit. We asked him what was the problem and he said there was a ‘suspicious bag’ so everyone must leave the station.

Welcome to Paris. You’re about to get blown up.

Optimistically, we looked at our map of Paris and concluded that it would only be about 15 minutes to walk the five stops to the restaurant so we set off along the river.

Let me just say this – it did not only take 15 minutes and, despite the freezing weather, we arrived three minutes late, out of breath and quite warm!

The restaurant itself looks unassuming….

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…but inside has the lively fun atmosphere typical of a French restaurant. Four men discussed business loudly in the corner, a large family chattered happily, laughing when one of the teenagers looked suspiciously at the food they had been served, a group of Japanese tourists next to us photographed everything excitedly.

And us? We watched. We watched everything. We watched the kitchen.

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We watched the food going to the tables. We watched the animated waiters telling their little jokes as they rushed about. And we loved it. It was such a fabulous little place to tuck into a corner and watch Parisian life happening.

And we ate. Of course we ate. We chose the tasting menu and prepared to eat whatever the chef was cooking that day. We started with a cauliflower and fish soup, which was definitely a highlight of the whole meal.

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We then had a beef tartate, with oyster, shrimps and radish.

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We moved onto mackerel with white beans and a green salad foam.

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Next up was a rich slow-cooked beef dish with a carrot soup.

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We were then given a dish to share, which looked like short pieces of pasta dressed with chilli oil. We looked closer and realised that, actually, we were eating baby eels! They were way tasty.

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Then it was onto another hearty French dish, a small rack of lamb with pomme puree. This was the best of the mains we had.

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It was then time for dessert, which blew our minds. We were presented with a huge bowl of rice pudding and two smaller bowls, one with salted caramel and one with caramelised walnuts and almonds, to put as much as we wanted of each in our bowls.

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Midway through this delightful bowl, small glasses of lemon sorbet and mango were put next to us, so that we hardly know where to start.

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It was dessert heaven.

After this onslaught of foodie indulgence, we paid and emerged into the sunlight, three hours later and thirty stone heavier. As we wandered along, carefree and a little cold, I saw it….

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A TRUFFLE SHOP! A shop. Full of truffles. The most truffley things I’ve ever seen in one place. It blew my mind. Danda took a seat and left me to it in the end. They had truffle pesto, truffle pasta sauces, truffle aperitif, truffle flavoured chocolate drinks and (this one floored me), truffle popcorn!
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I purchased some truffle honey and a truffle pasta sauce and of course a bag, to carry things in and pretend it’s a bag of truffles.

By this time it was late afternoon and we had wanted to catch Notre Dame in the fading light so we walked back the way we had come and found our way to the cathedral.

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It’s so massive that it’s almost impossible to get the whole place into one picture. We wandered in and took a seat. Suddenly the excitement of the day gave way to a moment of tiredness and we had a sneaky little nap under the colourful mosaic windows and beautiful chandeliers.

After realising we must have looked like homeless people, we pottered off to make our way to the station for our train home. We still had two hours so we dawdled along the river and stopped off if we wanted to.

We came unexpectedly across the Pompadou Centre and went inside to look at the bookshop. There was a coffee shop so we sat for coffee and I bought some little cakes. They weren’t quite the beautiful petits fours and delicate macaroons I had been envisioning for the afternoon coffee stop but the centre itself was lovely so we sacrificed taste for ambience.

With an hour until our train, we kept going and reached the station twenty minutes early.

We then had a second dose of wierdness when we boarded the train in Paris, got off it in London and went back home to have a cup of tea on the sofa and watch an episode of Family Guy.

What’s that you say?

O, did you say something then? What’s that? You want to know where I’m going at this early hour in the morning?

Well, I shall tell you. I am going to lunch.

Lunch, you say? Lunch? At this time in the morning? Why are you leaving the house at this time to go to lunch?

Well, the lunch, say I, the lunch takes a little while to get to. I must take a train to get to the lunch.

A train? A train at five to eight in the morning? Is it far away, this lunch?

O, not too far. Just two and a half hours.

For lunch, you ask. It must be somewhere nice.

Yes, it comes highly recommended by a friend, I tell you. The head chef is marvelous, the food fantastic. I am very excited.

Is it a place I’d know, you ask. This fantastic restaurant, will I have heard of it? Is it in London?

O no, say I. It is not in London. The restaurant is called L’Amie Jean. Have you heard of it? It’s out of London. It is, in fact, in Paris. Yes, did I mention that? Yes. Yes, it’s in Paris. I’m going for lunch, yes. Yes I am.

Because that’s the kind of girl I am. That’s just what I do, isn’t it? I’m always popping to gay Paree for a spot of luncheon (I’ve never done it before).

Yes, Paris is basically my second home (I’ve been twice, each time for about a day).

I’m always looking up the latest restaurants to dine at, national boundaries don’t get in my way (my manager told me about the restaurant and booked it for me).

And so, my dear readers, I am off! No January blues for me. In the words of Buzz Lightyear; “To Paris…. And beyond!” (Not really, I’m just coming back to London.)

Acting on my bucket list

At the start of September, I posted a bucket list so I thought it was time for a little check in, to let you know about my progress.

1. Join a book club.
Ok, I still look hopefully at signs in Waterstones stores or online and intend to do it. To be honest, I forgot I’d kind of obliged myself to do it by writing it here so I forgot to make myself join one! I’ll do it, I promise.

2. Master front crawl.
I don’t swim as regularly at the moment for a few reasons. The main one is that they close the outdoor pool from October til April and the indoor pool isn’t as fun. Also, I pulled a muscle in my leg a few months ago so took ages to get back into it. Perfecting breast stroke is my main focus when I do get to the pool. Fail no. 2.

3. Go back to Namibia (or at least make solid plans about it).
Ok. This one is going well. A friend who I worked for as a travel consultant is over from Namibia at the end of this month. We are going for a drink to discuss a two week trip to Namibia next year.

4. Go on (or plan) an epic walking adventure.
Ummm…. Does Richmond Park count?

5. Try running (haha!)
This one I did…. Kind of. I ran for the bus this evening, which I jumped on in haste then five minutes later realised was not on its way to my house. It was the wrong bus. I ran. I ran for a bus. And it wasn’t even the right bus. But I did run. This is a fact.

6. Go to Secret Cinema at least once.
Ummm…. I went to the normal cinema last week… Does that count as being half way there?

7. Sign up for a college course (not sure what in, I just think would be fun. Maybe food).
I’m thinking of doing a course in history or ancient civilisation or something. Another thing I forgot I’d told the world I’d do so forgot to sign myself up for something.

8. Go to that restaurant in London where everything’s completely in the dark.
This one I have not done either but I have possibly done something better… I’m going to a lovely restaurant in Paris on Thursday which comes with a fabulous recommendation from my manager. I still have the restaurant-in-the-dark place in the back of my mind though.

So there you have it. Not progress as such. Not what you’d call ‘solid plans.’ It really just amounts to running for the bus and a planned drink with a friend from Namibia. But it is progress. Of a sort.

Dancing in public (part 2)

Yesterday, I left London (“Urgh! Why?” I hear you all ask). I’ve come north to see the friend I did a lot of travelling with years ago. We haven’t seen each other for years so I decided it was time to make the trip. He met me at the station and there was lots of hugging and catching up. We found a lovely Italian restaurant and I had an amazing fish skewer thing which had swordfish, scallops, prawns and cherry tomatoes on them.

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Unfortunately, I only remembered to take a photo once I’d already tucked in.

I finished up with a ristretto, because my ‘coffee habit’ is going ok now.

We were a bus ride from my friend’s flat so we popped into a bar first and each got a cocktail, as they don’t taste too alcoholly (I don’t like the sharp taste of most alcohol, hence being a non drinker). We then went to a ‘cool’ cafe where lots of cool kids were jiving to the Super Mario theme tune…..

On our way to the taxi rank, we passed a bar we’d come to last time I was up and decided to go in. As we entered, our feet stuck to the alcohol-covered sticky grotty floor. Immediately, I knew it was that type of place. You know. That type of place.

We ordered drinks and lingered by the bar and watched the dancers. And it was brilliant. One woman, with badly dyed frizzy blonde hair, was giving it everything, hindered only by the fact that she was in her late forties and extremely out of place.

My friend and I, with our two cocktails on our systems to prevent the usual awkwardness on the dance floor, were ready to join in slightly. We bobbed rhythmically at the side, laughed and joked, reminisced about times abroad, sang along, pointed to the overly drunk people, dancing so vigorously that they almost fell over.

After a while, my friend stopped dancing, looked at me and said, “Laura, I can’t do this anymore.” And we left.

Even though we had had something to drink and danced a little, we didn’t actually want to go tearing up the dancefloor. I’d previously thought that it was the lack of alcohol blocking me from getting into the spirit of things. But I don’t actually think that anymore. I think it’s because it’s just not what I do. It’s not part of my social activities to get drunk and dance like a maniac anymore. And that’s ok.

I think I’ll stick to dancing in the front room to the music channel.