Olympic withdrawals

Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet.  I’m suffering quite badly with Olympics withdrawals.  Does anyone else feel flat after a magnificent 16 days?

Every athlete that made it to the Olympics should feel like a winner – not many people can call themselves Olympians.  For all those that took home medals, may you wear them proudly and know that you are a champion in your sport.

How awesome is this photo? Taken from the Nova937 Facebook page – thanks Nova!

To London, thank you for staging a memorable and truly inspiring event.  I loved watching it from the BT Live Site at Hyde Park just as much as I did on TV back in Australia.  London 2012, you did Britain proud.

A good pub lunch Sunday Roast: Scarsdale Tavern, Kensington London

I love a good pub lunch.  I also really love a good Sunday roast. The weather in London was overcast and drizzling, just for a change, and the thought of sitting in a cute pub tucking into a hearty lunch was like a ray of sunshine breaking through a grey day.

I lived in London for six years during the last century, and had organised to catch up with some friends at the Scarsdale Tavern.  It’s a short walk from High Street Kensington tube and once you turn off High Street Ken into Edwardes Square, it’s like you have been transported to a tiny little English village. The huge oak trees line the street, almost forming a complete leafy canopy.  The terrace houses seem to all be homes to gardening gurus. Cute flower boxes with colourful plumes hang from windows and fences and across the road is a large gated private garden for the residents to use.  It’s really lovely.

The Scarsdale itself is traditional English pub, posh-suburb-style.  There’s a little umbrellaed beer garden out the front, and a large bar about two steps in from the front door.  Heavy drapes frame the windows and the walls were tastefully decorated with old fashioned paintings and English memorabilia without being cluttered. The only modernisation visible is the installation of TVs in the corners.  Thank God for that! I mean, the Olympics are on!

As a group of eight, we had the bossy yet accommodating manager put a couple of smaller tables together to seat all of us.

The black board menu featuring delicious sounding dishes such as slow roast shoulder of lamb with rosemary and redcurrant (15.95 pounds) couldn’t kill my hankering for a traditional English roast.

The roast of the day was roast beef (12.25 pounds) – hurrah – that means we were also going to have a Yorkshire pudding, the traditional baked batter that is served with roast beef; it’s purpose is to mop up gravy.  Yum yum yum!

All eight of us ordered the same thing, roast beef. It was a roast beef sort of day really.  And everyone’s plates were empty when cleared away by the waitress.  Our tummies where all so full, so we drank some more beer. I can’t explain that one! 

As far as roasts go, it wasn’t the world’s best gourmet experience. But it was a good hearty roast beef.  The gravy could have been thicker, however it was tasty.  The vegetable accompaniments could have been more traditional rather than the nicely cooked carrots, zucchini (courgette), and cauliflower.  Personally, I would have preferred roast potatoes, roast carrots, roast pumpkin, and green peas.  Still, it was very enjoyable and hit the spot.

Later in the afternoon, after a couple of hours of digestion, we ordered for dessert.  It was a disappointment.  Microwaved mass produced sticky date pudding with packet custard.  The taste was ok, but not really worth mentioning. The chocolate pudding and ice cream was in the same league.

The honey dew beer served by none other than a friendly Australian chap (we are everywhere!) was deliciously moorish and a half-pint after half-pint made for a most enjoyable way to while away the afternoon, catching up with friends while keeping on eye on the Olympics on TV.  I was behaving, hence the half measures ;).

Thanks Donna for booking The Scarsdale and for the recommendation!

FACT FILE:

23a Edwardes Square
Kensington, London W8 6HE
Tel: +44 (0)20 7937 1811

Scarsdale Tavern on Urbanspoon

Hawksmoor, Spitalfields, London

Hawksmoor Spitalfields was the haven we were searching for.

The three of us, Zorba, Claire and myself, felt a bit disheartened when we couldn’t get into the Olympic Park at Stratford earlier in the day.  The consensus was that a good lunch was in order.

Using the reference notes from my food magazine editor Chris, we decided to go to Hawksmoor in Spitalfields after a quick walk through the Spitalfields markets.

Without a booking on a Saturday, we were lucky to find an available table. Hawksmoor specialises in steak and it is the ultimate carnivore’s dream. The meat is supplied by the Ginger Pig, a well-regarded producer. Steaks are charged by weight, for example, t-bone £7.50 per 100g, sirloin £8.50 per 100g. The available steaks were listed on the blackboard, e.g. Rump 900grams, Sirloin 750grams. These were huge steaks and quite pricey too. A bit more than we wanted to spend really.

There were other steaks on the menu, such a 400g Rib-eye for £28. That is what Zorba chose. Zorba’s steak tasted smoky and delicious. He enjoyed it, although he said it wasn’t the best ever steak of his life. But still very very good.

Claire chose the Hawksmoor acclaimed hamburger with triple cooked chips. I pinched a few of her chips as they were crunchy and delicious! Claire loved her burger.

I went for two starters instead. I loved the sound of them both and couldn’t choose between the pork belly ribs and the young beetroot and pea salad with goats cheese and tarragon.

Young beetroot and peas salad with goats cheese and tarragon

My ribs were sticky, fatty and oh so tasty. The beetroot salad was really yummy, and it felt good to eat vegetables again.

We had two pints of beer each and it was a very enjoyable lunch.

Big shout out to our lovely waiter – his service is what really made this lunch exceptional. He was knowledgeable, friendly, and efficient.

Lunch for three including two pints each came to £101 (A$150). Not too bad really.

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FACT FILE

Hawksmoor Spitalfields
157 Commercial Street
Shoreditch London E1
Tel: +44 20 7426 4850

http://thehawksmoor.com/locations/spitalfields

Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar on Urbanspoon

London 2012 – Olympic Park

After an awesome night in Hyde Park for the official London 2012 Opening Ceremony party, we were keen to get more of an Olympic fix and decided to meet my friend Claire the next morning and head to Stratford to Olympic Park.

We knew that there would be a £10 entry fee just to get in to the Park (no events included), but what we didn’t know is that we had to pre book tickets online before arriving. There was no gate and no where we could pay £10 to get in. So many tourists were in the same boat as us, just wanting to get in to Olympic Park and just soak up the atmosphere knowing there was no chance of getting into any events. Not possible. We tried to book tickets on Claire’s phone there and then without success. Alas, it was not to be.

The view of the thousands of people trying to view Olympic Park

One of the security guards suggested we go up to level 3 of John Lewis, one of the UK’s biggest department stores, and from there we’ll see a view of the Olympic Park. Ok, that sounded like a good plan, so that’s what we did. And so did about 40 million other people, half of which I’m sure were not wearing deodorant. It was hot, stuffy and stinky. Let alone near impossible to get near the window to see anything.

Olympic Park

Zorba had enough after about 16 seconds and said he would wait for us outside. Claire and I shopped for London 2012 merchandise and didn’t find anything we liked in our size, so we left also about 10 minutes later.

We found Zorba waiting outside the Olympic Park tavern – I expected him to be in the tavern having a beer whilst waiting for us. Grumpily, Zorba said that it was £3 to get in, and then you had to pay for beers. Out of principal, Zorba refused to pay.

Near where Zorba was waiting for us, Claire spotted a little compact camera on the ground. Oh no! Someone has lost their camera! Shame.  Claire and I had a look at a few of the photos to see if there was anyone in them – and there was one lady of oriental descent wearing a purple top. We looked around the immediate area, couldn’t see anyone that resembled the lady in the photos and shrugged our shoulders. There was no way we’d find them in this crowd. Claire decided to hand the camera into the lady with the megaphone. Just then, I saw a lady with dark hair wearing a purple top, so I approached her to ask if she had lost her camera. Meanwhile Claire and Zorba were shouting at me, “Di what are you doing? It’s not her! You’re crazy!”.

The lady I approached seemed perplexed when I asked her if she had lost her camera. She said no and seemed a bit put out by my forthright nature. I apologised and said we had found a camera and that there was a lady that looked a bit like her in a purple top in some of the photos. I said sorry again and walked away. Claire and Zorba thought I was bonkers! Oh well, I tried.  I know I’d be devastated if it was me who lost a camera.

Three minutes later I get a tap on my shoulder by the very lady I was talking to.  She said it was her camera that she lost – after I walked away she checked her bag and her camera was missing. She described the camera case it was in and was so thankful I approached her. We told her that we handed it in to the megaphone lady. She was very thankful and said bye as she set off to collect her camera. You see! I was right! My good deed for the day done [pat on back].  Claire and Zorba were freaking out that I had managed to find the owner of the lost camera in the throngs of people that were milling around at the time.  I suppose it was uncanny!

Claire ordering her custom made magnum

We had a bit of a walk around the Westfield shopping complex in Stratford, which is huge and impressive. Every big brand has a shop there, Prada, LV, Versace, etc, as well as other quirkier shop fronts, such as Magnum ice creams. I know, why would Magnum have a shop front? Who knew that you could custom make your own magnum? You start with a ‘naked’ magnum, and then choose white, milk or dark chocolate coating, then up to three sprinkles – Claire chose almonds, ginger and something else I can’t remember. The only reason this gets a mention is because I’ve never seen it anywhere before. Claire said it was more of a gimmick than a fantastic ice cream eating experience.

It’s a little like the whole building dedicated to M&Ms in Leicester Square. Four floors of M&M characters, country colour-coded packets, even an M&M themed London bus was inside the M&M store! It was pretty cool. A total tourist gimmick but nonetheless, pretty cool.

Without event tickets, online entry tickets, or last minute mobile phone online entry tickets, we had no chance to get in to Olympic Park and nothing really more to do at Westfield.

And this ends our Olympic Park entry attempt. Unsuccessfully.

There is always a silver lining, right? Our silver lining was the great lunch and afternoon we had cycling around London. You can read about it in my next post.

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I’m in London town…

Ah London.  It always feels like I’m going home when I arrive at LHR. Everything is so familiar, so easy.  Everything works.  Everything functions. Everyone understands  me.  It’s easy, which is just as well because I was feeling so so so down after saying good bye to Zorba.  Thank God for my friend Kath in London. Her and I have been great friends since I first moved to London and we worked together in 1996 and it was so good to see a friendly face feeling as blue as I did. 

Kath’s basement flat in Baywater is like my second home.   I used to hang out there all the time when I lived in London and have stayed with her and her Italian hubby Fiorenzo several times now. They are great and always make me feel so welcome.  And we always eat really well there too!  Fiorenzo is a typical Italian in that good food is the most important thing – and Kath has become like that too.   We spent the first night in London hanging out at their place, chatting, and eating – mmm beautiful slow roast pork belly with a salad of radishes and wilted rocket.  I would have paid for that meal at a restaurant is was so good!   We also drank – the three of us polished off two bottles of prosecco, a bottle of Nero D’Avola (sicilian red), another half a bottle of Nero D’Avola, several shots of grappa and an amaretto. No wonder I was feeling a bit foggy the next day!

London really turned on the weather for me – NOT.  Rain, cloud…It felt weird to have to wear warm clothes again after sweltering in Italia. 

I met Donna and Caroline Mounchaguy who I used to work with at 6pm in Sloan Square. Donna took us to a swanky place for drinks and dinner, which was nice.  One of her friends Dr Steve came and met us after dinner. It was a fun night. The funniest thing was standing outside having drinks.  The pavement was marked with a white line and everyone standing outside with a drink had to be within the white line. It was funny watching the beef cake bouncers telling everyone to step inside the line all time.  So different to Italia.  Imagine trying to get Italians to do that?! It would never happen!

Bayswater was my old ‘hood’ in London and I know the area really well. It was great to walk around there again, visiting some of my favourite shops. I also went walking through Hyde Park which is one of my most favourite places in London. It feels like a sanctuary away from the bustle of the big city – big old oak trees, pretty flower gardens, people out enjoying life jogging with their dogs, or lazing on the grass.  I love it .

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Donna took me to a place that she describes as Libararchi’s lounge room.  Beach Blanket Babylon on Ledbury Rd in Notting Hill was so ostentatious!  Big chandeliers, gold gilt boarders on everything, ornately decorated bar, staircase and toilets, and full of ‘beautiful rich people’.  Put it this way, a cheap bottle of wine on the wine list and one bloody mary came to A$64.  Who cares? This was a one off!  We didn’t stay long – Donna had friends at another bar at Sloan Sq and I wasn’t really in the party mood, so we said good bye at 9.30pm and I went and hung out with Kath and Fiorenzo.

The next day Kath and I spoilt ourselves with a manicure and pedicure and we went to Ottolenghi in Notting Hill to pick up some gourmet takeaway salads for lunch. YUM!

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Leaving London was hard too.  Kath Taylor has been a best buddy for ages and I really hope she and Fiorenzo can come to Perth next year for our wedding prequel.  Yes, no wedding, just a wedding prequel (engagement) celebration instead.  Please please I hope they can come!

Next stop, Egypt with Hubba!