It was sooooo good to come home again. I had a wonderful week in London, but this is where I belong, where my heart lives. Also these guys… ❤
So…….. woke up with an eensy hangover after the excesses of my very full-on Friday. But after a shower, and some juice and yoghurt, I felt ready to once again get ON THE BUS and head over to meet Tim @biltawulf at José in Bermondsey. And then suddenly it was Sherry O’clock and we were off. The main plan for the afternoon was to (finally!) have lunch at 40 Maltby Street, but first we took a stroll through the Market. You may recall my first ever visit to Maltby Street Market, during which I fell in love with the place, meeting several of the vendors and spending an amazing afternoon chatting with everyone. A return visit a year later was less happy, as the market was over-crowded and felt less personal. So I wasn’t sure what to expect this time.
I had been looking forward to this ever since Thane @thaneprince got tickets for the Sorolla exhibit a few weeks ago. The first of its kind in London since 1908. So I got up extra early to be sure I was on my bus by 9.00 am, and I arrived at the National Gallery right on time. Phew! The exhibit was exquisite. And afterwards we had a treat in store as Thane had booked us for an early lunch at the fabulous Lao/Thai/Mekong pop up by JeoJeo at Sun and 13 Cantons in Soho.
Day three in London was supposed to be a long-awaited meal at Darjeeling Express with Stephen, Sara and her parents, but due to this and that it ended up being just me and Stephen. Not ideal, in terms of variety, for sharing plates of Indian food. Luckily Michael @renoirspanishguides had been in touch and was up for lunch, so after a quick beer o’clock with S at Hawksmoor in Air Street, we all met up at Darjeeling Express. I had never met Michael in person before – another Twitter pal meeting!
Was up bright and early because I knew I had to get over to Picadilly by 3.00! 😉 Okay, it’s not THAT far from Nicola’s place in Clapton, but as the tube makes me jittery I opted for buses to get around. And I was lucky to have three bus routes near me that took me pretty much everywhere I wanted to go. Anyhow, I had a brief two-hour window to meet up with my friend Julie @woollygee for a drink before meeting my “date” John @cityjohn for yet another drink before the BIG EVENT.
Julie just happened to be in town for a big event of her own, and I met her at the elegant Royal Overseas League, where she was staying. We enjoyed some chilled viognier in the garden, overlooking Green Park, and had a chance to catch up. Then it was time to meet John.
John had chosen the Grenadier to meet because it was near the embassy and is also a classic and charming pub full of history. I told him I would probably get there before him as it seemed to be a shortish walk from the ROL, but I didn’t take into account some serious “getting lost” time. It turned out I got to the Grenadier mere moments before it was inundated with the after work crowd, and grabbed the last two free bar stools just before John walked in.
Then it was off to the Embassy – and the reason I was in London in the first place – to celebrate the accomplishments of my dear friend José Pizarro, including 25 years in London as a chef and the upcoming publication of his next cookbook, Andalucía (available now for pre-order on Amazon – can’t wait to get mine). We arrived somewhat “fashionably late” to find it was already heaving both inside the vast vaulted rooms and in the pretty garden out back.
Well, what can I say? It truly was an EVENT. Aside from feeling thrilled to be there, and enjoying the fabulous food and wine passed around during the evening, it was also fun to meet up with old friends and also meet some new Twitter pals I’d known ages but had never met in person.
But mostly it felt so amazing to be sharing this special moment with this incredible man I’d first met on Twitter, then in person in London in September 2010, just before he opened his tapas and sherry bar José… and the rest is history. I’ve watched him go from strength to strength, from one success to the next. But he remains the same genuinely caring and well-grounded guy I first met nine years ago.
Despite the opulent setting, it was quite a relaxed occasion, and totally in keeping with José and his way of doing things. There were a few speeches, the most moving being José’s when he thanked his mother for teaching him everything he knows. I’m so happy I went, and feel very honoured to have been a part of this wonderful celebration of my friend’s life and accomplishments.
More pics and a video below.