Thursday 24 March 2011

Dim T - Restaurant in London

What a wonderful finish to a great night out to London. On occasion of hubbies birthday we saw the HurlyBurly Show and of course one has to attach a nice dinner to it. Question usually arises, though: Before or after the show?

Before the show, one might feel the strain of digestive activity while cornered in a seat between a lot of people, but at least one doesn't go hungry, while after, one might already be tired or has a train to catch. This was the first time that we dared the latter, and it was fabulous for various reasons. First and foremost came the avoidance of above mentioned tight spot, while hunger was tackled by a decent slice of cake for afternoon tea, and second, the restaurant we chose was well worth the wait. On recommendation we had asked for a desk with a view, and I am not sure if that would have worked out that well at an earlier time with the restaurant fully booked. Additionally, the night light made it all even more worthwhile.

The restaurant we went to was 'Dim T' an Asian restaurant serving a wide range of dishes from all over Asia, and Chinese teas. Having secured a taxi in front of Garrick theatre we arrived at More London Place (Tooley Street) in a jiffy and only had to take a brief walk to the waterfront.

I only very rarely cross the Thames, and to see the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London together from this side is just very impressive, but to sit in a restaurant, and to eat good food while having this view is extraordinary.

My red 'Thai Curry with duck' was delicious and Detlef's 'Fire Cracker Prawns' were definitely crackling, at least when he decided the chilly should be eaten in whole it brought tears to his eyes. The boy just loves is hot! We had Dim Sum for starters which are not entirely my favourites, but that is more due to my personal liking rather then the quality of food. Detlef was happy to step in for me while I enjoyed the spring rolls.

We went there on a Saturday, had booked for 9:15 and about half an hour later the restaurant slowly emptied, and hence it was no problem to get a table at that window. After the starters we swapped places so that the birthday boy could have a look at the panorama as well.

This is a restaurant we definitely will visit again, the prices are absolutely reasonable, the food is delicious,  the view is priceless, and I even had the perfect company. A lovely night time walk across the bridge brought us straight to the Tube station and only a short while later we sank into our train seats in perfect timing. 

What a wonderful night out!

Wednesday 23 March 2011

The HurlyBurly Show, London

OK, I might not be the best person to review a show, I have issues! But reviews are always about a personal point of view, aren't they? So let me explain mine.

Since forever I find that shows are too loud. I don't know if I am too sensitive or if the worl has gone rather deaf around me... The phenomenon however already occurred about 20 years back in Berlin when I watched 'Cirque de Soleil'. The show was breathtaking, but my head had swollen to the size of an exploding star. It was the same when I watched 'Fame' in London a few years back. And that brings me to another issue: If I go to a show, especially in a city like London, I am expecting a blast.... and Fame was... well, ok-ish. I however have seen better shows by the entertainment team of my holiday club. And I don't mean that condescending; those guys were incredible!

So, here I am telling you about a London night out on the occasion of hubbies birthday. We both like burlesque, there are not a lot of shows of this type in London, this part  of the world seems to be a bit squeamish, and when we found the 'HurlyBurly Show - A Contemporary Burlesque Revue' we of course had to go. Raising another issue: Squeamish is not a word that would describe me. My honeymoon location was chosen for the nude beaches and I have thrown my bra in photo shoots, so I expected quite a bit.

Travelling from Ipswich we arrived well in time, there are nice coffee places like Caffe Vergnano on Charing Cross Road just a hop from the Garrick Theatre. Picking up the tickets from Box office was straight forward as had been the online ordering before, and there we were sipping our drinks and waiting for the show to start. 

Interval was only 10 minutes so one could order and pay for drinks before, what was a good decision to have taken as otherwise one wouldn't have been able to go to the loo. 

The theatre is on the small side, typically English, cosy and nice to be in, but we had booked rather late, all the good seats were gone, and I initially was worried that the heads in front of me would spoil the view, but I could see the stage perfectly well from seat R3 in the stalls

And then the show started and all that I am writing now has to be seen on the background of the above: It was an entertaining show and we enjoyed it, but it was LOUD! And not just loud... the sound system was not very pleasing on the ear. Brass music went straight through the head like a power drill. Towards the end I had to hold my ears close and we may have shouted at each other on our way home with people in the train thinking: 'Oh well, typical old couple, a bit deaf already.' And that was how we felt, numb-ish humming in the ears for a few hours to last.

Performance wise I'd like to pass hubbies judgement: 7/10. The girls were good, especially one dancer was really inspiring, but I saw the DVD of the Crazy Horse Show with Dita von Teese and I'd say: 'They might take on that one dancer mentioned above, and then they would train her.' But my judgement might just be spoilt by the telly.
And finally the show itself. Again  a hubby statement: 'I'd like to have it a bit naughtier'. See, there were a lot of naked rears, stringy costume and boobs with tassels, but we were missing the 'tease' bit in it. It was very much 'Revue' and not so much 'Burlesque'. We missed an arc of suspense going through the show. The numbers rolled one after the other, but except of the solo of the dancer mentioned above, which was quite at the beginning, I wouldn't be able to pick a highlight, and I surely wouldn't be able to determine a peak point of the show.

It nevertheless was an entertaining evening and the show is very watchable. If you don't want to get engaged in interaction with the audience, then don't sit in the front; the people who did, surely enjoyed it and there was a lot of 'whoohooing' and whistling going on. So people did have a good time!

For us the show was inspiring as we now decided to make show going our new hobby. We will get ourselves well fitting ear plugs, and off we will go into the London nightlife!

The Court Restaurant at the British Museum

first published in 2008
I don't think we ever spent so much money on so little food before…

… but what food it is!

Remember? When I did the review on Milsoms at Kesgrave Hall which has a really posh reputation I said that I either don't understand what posh means or that I am just not.

The Court Restaurant (London's Do&Co) works the other way round. You will enter as a normal person and you will dive into a world of dining that will make you feel posh without being awkward about it.

The waiters are of professionalism and kindness that our kind of people rarely encouter. They are around and of service without being noticeable. I don’t like restaurants where they think the ultimate service is to show up every 10 minutes and to ask if everything is OK. Not here! These waiters are trained to catch your eye when needed.

Although the noise from the museum’s Great Court can be heard, it is as if one is sitting on an island away from it. Like living close to an outdoor swimming pool; it’s good to know that there are people having fun and life is buzzing, but one doesn’t have to be part of it right now. It is peaceful, white noise.

We had booked online, were a bit early and got lucky so that we were guided to our table swiftly and addressed by a waiter in German. A little bowl of exquisite olive oil was filled and a basket of a house made variety of little breads was offered.
From a previous visit I know that you can ask for another one to go with the starters, as we had greedily eaten the first one in a jiffy.
Well, then the anguish of choice. You may find it annoying, but for me this suits my new lifestyle: The menu changes rather frequently, meaning that you can’t order the same thing again.
One has to take chances, although there is always a safe choice like chicken. And those spices they use... Very international, most of it a bit Asiatic, always brilliant!

I usually go for the safe choice ordering chicken – this time we both went for the exotic option on the starters, driving up the price a bit more.
We were so excited about our starters of ‘Caramelised Scallops and Tuna Rolls’ and ‘Salad of Fried Squid’ – can you imagine, me and squid – that we forgot to take pictures. Scallops  are a kind of big mussel which – again, me and Scallop but I had to try – is really, really nice. 

However, the Court Restaurant would be one of the few places where I would dare ordering them. My squid was absolutely superb and served in a little basked made out of fried potatoes – don’t ask, you have to see it – and that tomato, avocado medley with lemon aioli; ahhhh! 

And I usually don't like avocado. And so it went on with the main course, which we eventually remembered to take a photo of. From there you can see that it is not a lot. It is not a restaurant where you can get away with just having one of the courses. However, due to breaks in-between one is eating slowly, thus getting a filled feeling with less food. This actually is a very healthy way of eating a meal.

BTW: They have a real thing going with peanuts. This peanut sauce for the Chicken Sate is heavenly. We once had a curry based on peanuts and it was of the same quality.
After the desert I was so full that I wouldn’t have wanted a single bite more, yet didn’t feel stuffed, so that I could enjoy the rest of the day without carrying a baseball in my tummy.

It’s a shame that from the pictures you can’t fathom the kind of flavours unfolding in these dishes. Usually, if I like something I start stuffing my face and eating faster. Here I was indulging in mingling aromas and needed ages to get through my desert. I’m not making this up. I’m usually more of a gourmand rather than a gourmet, but at Court Restaurant I’m starting to understand how food should be.

Unfortunately anniversaries have the odd nature of only taking place once a year. I'm looking forward to finding another reason to go back there soon.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Milsoms Hotel and Restaurant at Kesgrave Hall

First published May 2008

When we bought our Christmas trees sort of around the corner in our area we were always wondering what kind of mansion that might be, back there behind the trees.

Now we know: It has become a Milsoms Hotel and Restaurant. Didn’t tell me anything at first except that you can eat and sleep there - until I was told that it is one of the poshest places around. Apparently there is a Milsoms at Colchester (next town) and it’s famous. Gosh, I don’t seem to have a lot of poshness in me, have some catching up to do in that respect.

However, hubby and I were invited to the one in Ipswich. And I have to say – this is a really interesting concept and you have to understand it otherwise the visit can go horribly wrong.

First of all, they don’t take bookings. So if you have plans for afterwards better show up for the earliest slot possible – but if everybody is thinking that way?... let’s just not go any deeper there.

Probably it’s a good thing that Ipswich is a rather dead area and nothing to do afterwards anyway. Thus it all seems to be about having a good time there… and to leave the money of course, although prices are not too bad for a posh place.

So you drive there, walking is not a good idea as the street doesn’t have any pavement to walk on, you get to a nice big car park and don’t find the stairs which lead down to the mansion – which is a beautiful house and the setting is just lovely. They have a big terrace to sit and it is all very open and welcoming – just that the silly stairs were hidden behind a car and either it wasn’t signposted or we were too stupid to see it.

Hence walking the long way round on the gravelled streets hopping and skipping along to get the stones out of the sandals we arrived with the last bit of poshness having vanished from at least my appearance. Detlef is much better in keeping his countenance.

Luckily our hosts were already there so we were guided through the further proceedings: Go to the bar, get a drink, sit in the lounge and have a chat. OK, I can do that. The place has an interesting style of decoration. Loads of leather and really big old looking sofas and arm chairs combined with contemporary tables and lights. Daring, but very nicely done.

The ambience is very warm and welcoming – until a short person tries to sit comfortably. The seats of the armchairs are about the length of two thighs and leaning on with the back was impossible except if I would have taken the calves up as well. Hmmm, as we already have established that I’m not really posh anyway I could have been sitting there with my feet sticking out and it might even have been ok.

Then we got called to the table – don’t wear bare back top if you want to lean on – or choose your chair carefully – about half of them are upholstered with reindeer skin, the rest of them is leather. I was dressed appropriately, however just thinking how well that would have gone down with my sun burn. So I shipped safely around that cliff.

Again we were lucky that we were invited so the procedure of ordering was quickly explained to us. Milsoms is organised like a pub. There is a nice little tile on the table telling you the table number, a pad, pencil and a pile of menus. You choose, write it down and they pick it up or you can bring it to the bar as well. Drinks are served at the table.
That gives a nice and relaxed atmosphere and people are actually dealing with the matter of choosing rather than chatting while the waiter is waiting impatiently. Just one tiny little hiccup: The menu is not as straight forward as a pub menu. It has some weird words in it which the English guests didn’t know either. And it doesn’t list the ingredients which may be of concern to people with dietary needs. Did you know that clam chowder is made with pork? Googelled it: Now I know.  Sometimes it’s made with wine, didn’t know that either. That is not really good if you have Muslim guests and if there is nobody coming taking orders who you could ask.

So most of us went for the obvious choices. I had a warm goats cheese as starter with beetroot. Well, I thought I’d put up with the beetroot as I usually don’t like it. However, that dish was lovely! The cheese was soft and creamy – goatie, yes – but without the slightest bit of a sting and I don’t know what they did to those beetroots – they must have been grown in heaven and not in earth. Altogether a tasty small bonne bouche for people who don’t want to be filled by the starters already. Just loved it!

The pasta starters were big portions and looked delicious as well. The others I didn’t track as I was happily occupied with my own dish.

Main dishes were delicious as well, although I wouldn’t lift mine into heaven. I had ordered organic chicken breast and got a leg. What I quite liked as the leg has more flavour anyway. However, if they take whole chickens apart and use the bits they probably should have it on the menu as part of chicken instead of breast. There is a choice of side order like mixed veg - nice but unspectacular, gem salad – well, it’s salad, or fries which looked nice as they were surely cut from a big potato. The people who had them liked them very much.
For desert I went for typically English, so I had the first bread and butter pudding of my life: Yummy!
When I asked the lady who picked up our pudding orders how often she has to come back because it was unreadable the response was: Very often!

Hmmm, we might be a bit too researchy, computerish, number spoiled – but why on earth don’t they number their dishes?

Altogether it was a lovely evening and the few quirky things add to the fun as one is never getting bored there. The ambience is lovely, the staff is very kind and skilled and there are loads of them.

The only thing that bothers me is the 'not booking table'. If I were to go with Detlef alone that might work, but I might be too German for that if I would have to entertain guests. In our case we knew that two of our guests had to leave for London that night and the gentleman next to me had a very subtle and sweet way of looking at his watch and keeping his calm.

So basically: ‘Yes, great place!’ with a teeny weeny ‘But!’

A Posh Day Out in London

July 2009

It was the occasion of our Silver Wedding Anniversary! Something special needed to be arranged and hubby was in charge. A party was out of the question: This would be OUR day and it needed to be perfect. And perfect it was!

We live close to London, so 'a day out in the city' is nothing special per se. Others however pay a lot of mony to get there. So we started off with the realisation that we are actually rather lucky to have a great location so close to home - so 'London' was decided upon.

Then of course one would like to be pretty, wearing heels, possibly dress and cute handbag as opposed to backpack. Transport needed to be arranged accordingly: 1st class train tickets and enough cash for taxi rides.
Turns out that some of the more modern taxis accept credit card, but since we had the cash we spent it.

This kind of travel arrangement allowed for my favourite dress and the 5 inch heels and I felt very 'Sex and the City' indeed - A perfect start into a perfect day.

On arrival at Liverpool Street Station first action always is a rather un-posh visit to the loo worth 30p – thank God for the machines to change coins, that really can save the day – then clothes, hair and make-up check; London here I come.

Taxis are located behind platform 10, and off we went to the British Museum. Don’t get me wrong, the museum is one of the best places in the world to brush up on culture and history, but what we were after is the restaurant; for us one of the best places in the world to have lunch.

A few years ago we discovered it by chance and from then on we visit it for our anniversaries. Do&Co Court Restaurant never disappoints and yet again it was a wonderful experience. The booking was made online, the confirmation came promptly and on arrival it became clear that Detlef’s mentioning of our silver anniversary was picked up upon.

We were greeted with a glass of Prosecco which we thoroughly enjoyed. I have to admit: In regard to everything sparkly we are utter laymen. We usually just don’t like it, but this was a fine glass, and since breakfast was long forgotten, I got into swing quite nicely even ordering a beautiful glass of Rose wine. Not too bad for somebody whose usual order is a Diet Coke, alongside a comment: ‘No thank you, no alcohol it gives me migraine’.

A tiny bit tipsy I was brave again in my order and going for fishy things and oh those pasta were divine. I did not get disappointed. Have you ever noticed that pasta is getting cold very quickly and if one is lucky the restaurant heats the plates before serving? I have no idea what sort of dishes they are using: The plate was at room temperature and the pasta stayed hot to the end.

We were dining for two and a half hours; chatting, eating and drinking guided through our courses with the subtle attendance of the waiters, which we already enjoyed so much during previous visits. 

Avoiding one of the typical London summer rainfalls we strolled through some of the exhibitions and then caught one of the taxis in front of the museum to get to Kensington Gardens. I was prepared to have a short walk to get to Kensington Palace which is located in the park and cannot be accessed directly by car. 

 We of course visited the exhibitions, had to however cut it a bit short for a good reason. We were after more food, or better: The experience of food!

The Kensington Palace Orangery restaurant only serves afternoon tea until 6PM in summer and we definitely wanted to indulge in this most typical of rituals which describes Englishness better than anything else. Oh my goodness, did I misjudge the amount of food involved. Try the ‘Champagne Tea’!

Firstly, I had never better tea. I have been drinking a lot of Earl Grey tea of all sorts: I now know how it is supposed to taste! Oh yes, there is ‘tea’ and there is ‘TEA’. Secondly, I now know what the fuss is about sandwiches. Common people might think it’s something bland with no crust served at the wrong time of the day… Oh no, these salmon-dill sandwiches were exactly what I needed at that moment in time and they were just superb. Then things turned  - oh well, really really bad: Scones with clotted cream.  I didn’t know what clotted cream is… Now I know! How can they do that to me? That is sweet butter… No, not sweetened butter; it is non-salted butter which is very very fresh and creamy. Being German and not used to salted butter anyway... a dream! And all of that with berries. 

One would think that it can’t get any worse but it did: Belgian Chocolate cake with cream – the clotted version again. Detlef had gone into strike by then, he is not a real cream fan and the chocolate cake was a bit too dry for his taste. Well, he wouldn’t know when heaven falls down on earth. Just try a bit of cream with the cake… a sensual explosion. Gosh was I lucky that I chose the dress that is most forgiving of big meals! 

We definitely needed a walk. So off we went up North through the park up Queensway to Whiteleys - a bit of a different, less posh but a wonderfully bustling cosmopolitan world all of a sudden. After a stroll through the mall we took a taxi right in front and headed back to Liverpool Street station. While waiting for the train we helped ourselves to a well deserved cappuccino and used my new iPhone to research locations for our next trip to London.

A perfect finish for a posh day out in London!