I’ve been planning this since June and now it’s just one more sleep until #GaliciaGetaway! It will be my first visit to Santiago de Compostela and I’m really looking forward to it, as well as seeing Anna & Jorge again (on their home turf!). I’ll be arriving in Santiago at midday mañana… looks like it will be quite a bit cooler (and that Thursday might be a good day to stay in). But it will be very different from my recent getaways to London and Madrid. Stay tuned…
Lest people think that ALL I ever do when I visit a place is look for the best places to eat and drink, here are some photos taken on various walks around Madrid. Of course one of my favourite sites is the old Tío Pepe sign, restored to its rightful place in Puerta del Sol a couple of years ago. Below are some other “postcard pics” from my most recent #MadridGetaway…
While I was in London, staying at Jo & Mark’s place, somehow the idea came up that it would be fun to pop up to Madrid for a couple of days and visit Jo, who is there taking flamenco classes all of August. Checking the calendar I saw that I could comfortably squeeze in a quick two-night “getaway” between London and Galicia, so what the heck. I found a nice hotel – Casual Madrid del Teatro – at a good rate (which turned out to be just around the corner from Jo’s apartment and almost next door to my favourite sherry bar La Venencia) so it really couldn’t have been more perfect.
I arrived Sunday midday and, after checking in, met Jo at La Venencia for a quick sherry before heading over to David Muñoz’s fabulous StreetXO, which I was dying to try again. I also hadn’t been to their new location in calle Serrano. But it turned out to be a bit of a walk (read: Death March) in the HEAT and when we finally arrived they had just closed off the queue for the lunchtime service. Undaunted, we decided to try Cascabal next door, run by another michelin star chef, Roberto Ruíz, whose PuntoMX is the only Mexican restaurant in Europe with a star. It was a fabulous late lunch that later segued into an evening tapeo back in the centre of town, with a lot more walking and bar hopping involved. Food pics are over here.
Somewhere close to midnight we finished our outing as we’d started it, with a penúltima sherry at La Venencia. And by one of those very random of coincidences ran into our mutual friend (and sherry educator) Mómoko from Jerez (!!!).Which led to another penúltima (or two). Mómoko was just in town for the day doing research for a book she is writing. I mean, seriously, what were the odds? This was also when I decided to stay an extra night, which proved to be an excellent idea.
My last day in London and I’d made plans with Fiona Becket @food_writer to meet her for a last lunch in town at a restaurant she was reviewing. That was before I realised that my flight was at 5.30 (not 6.30 – Spanish time!) which wouldn’t leave enough time. Then I was chatting with Sam at @FoodieHub who said that Vicky @amsterdamfoodie was also in town and we could squeeze in a “quick bite” at Box Park, just around the corner from Liverpool Street Station, where I had to get the train to the airport. Done.
As you can see, it was more than your usual quick bite (though to be honest, they took more than half of it back to the office). But it was quick. In less than an hour I was back at Liverpool Street Station with ten minutes to spare before my train.
Stansted check-in and security was a hot and tiresome hour and a half, so I was in need of a Cold Beer after that, while I waited to board my plane home.
And before I knew it I was flying over Sevilla, almost home. It was an amazing, if exhausting, 10 days. I’m so thankful for all the friends who came together to meet up with me, and also grateful to Jo & Mark who let me stay at their apartment (otherwise 10 days in London would never have been possible). I’ve got so many nice memories, and even more photos. Next stop… Madrid!
My next to last day in London was quite eventful. I had plans to meet John @cityjohn at Borough Market and walk along the South Bank, but he got delayed so I started off with a quick lunch at Arabica (recommended by Thane @thaneprince and it was amazing).
Happy barman Emanuele working on some colourful cocktails
Muhummara: roasted red peppers, harissa, toasted mixed nuts
Armenian-style Lahmacun: Levantine flatbread, spiced lamb, tomatoes, peppers, pine nuts, lebneh
John met me half-way through my Lahmacun and helped finish it off and then we made our way over to craft beer bar The Rake which was celebrating their 10th anniversary, and where we knew we would most likely run into beer expert and mutual friend Melissa Cole @melissacole
Melissa and John
Juuso and James at the Wine Pantry
From there John & I made our way over to the Wine Pantry, a spot recommended by my friend Mark, which features English wines. We had a small tasting of three wines before having a full glass of something we both liked. Then John had to meet his cousin at the cinema and I had a bridge to cross (all by myself – check out to photo!) and we said our “hasta luegos”.
Have I mentioned I’m slightly obsessed with the Shard?
Once over the bridge I walked straight up from London Bridge to Spitalfields Market, stopping to have a final dinner at Taberna do Mercado.
green beans in tempura with a mussel and coriander broth
Bifana: bísaro presa pork, yeast mayo, fennel
Then home to start packing…
This was the second BIG EVENT in terms of friends meeting up for a special meal in the evening, but first I was meeting my friend Thane @thaneprince for a quick bite at Calcutta Street, a new place that has been getting rave reviews.
Unfortnately we found nothing to rave about, the food was plain at best, mediocre at worst. Nothing horrible, just not tasty. And we were served some cloudy Italian “natural” white wine, which didn’t help. Apparently the dinner menu is more extensive – at lunch we only had the choice between 4 wraps. Meh.
Undaunted, Thane took me to a pub just around the corner, built on the grounds of the old Middlesex Hospital. Nothing remains of the hospital other than the church, which is now a freestanding bulding (before it was enclosed within the hospital) and you can see the church from inside Percy & Founders, which is where we went for a restorative glass of “unnatural” wine.
After that I did a bit more shopping and general roaming around, looking for some gifts to take home. And once again I GOT LOST and only just made it in time for dinner at one of London’s newest spots – Pidgin – which offers a set menu (just the one) that changes weekly. On this occasion there were eight of us…
Delicious tasting menu, though with cocktails and several glasses of wine we certainly drank more than we ate. We finished the evening at a pub around the corner, which is where things go a bit fuzzy for me, other than the boys putting me into an Uber after the pub closed.
It was Sunday and, as I had a whole lotta nuthin planned, I decided to do one of my favourite things… check out a local market. I’d been hearing great things about the Maltby Street Market, so decided to check it out (even though it meant walking over bridges – twice!). Ever since my surprise panic attack on Friday I was feeling especially vulnerable – right okay, terrified – of going out on my own, but decided to bite the bullet. In this case Tower Bridge wasn’t as “threatening” as I’d feared and catching a glimpse of my Shard also helped me forget I was supposed to be afraid, and I made it across without incident.
The Maltby Street Market is an offshoot of the now super popular and upscale Borough Street market, created by people who used to belong to Borough Street but became disillusioned by the direction it has taken. It is open Saturdays and Sundays and is a short walk off Tower Bridge, in Ropewalk lane. I fell in love with it immediately. Also… note to market organisers. Make sure you have your Wine Guy situated just past the main entrance. This was how I met Philip…
Philip Morton runs M-wines and focuses on specialty wineries with a production of 1000 bottles a year. And as soon as I started talking with Philip I knew I’d found a special place. He was not only very keen on telling me about his wines but, upon finding out I was hoping to try various foods throughout the market, warned me that the portions sizes were usually massive. Then he popped across the way to Lahpet and asked if they could do a couple of sample sized portions for me…
Brothers Dan Anton and Jono serving up fab Burmese street food.
Tealeaf salad and prawn curry. Burmese street by Lahpet
Next I couldn’t resist Bar Tozino… six jamones on offer, sherry galore. I don’t usually opt for Spanish food when I’m in London but I was feeling homesick so I poked my head inside and was immediately welcomed by Juan, who commenced to offer me slices of Ibérico to go with my perfectly chilled manzanilla.
Feeling pretty much stuffed at this point but still curious I made my way over to the Hoxton Beach falafel stall and Moody was happy to make up a “half order” for me, just so I could try it out.
Then I saw these beauties… scotch eggs by Finest Fayre. So I bought a chorizo one to take home for supper (it was not likely I’d be going out again that day).
And then I met Mark, the Gay Farmer. Mark produces a unique 50/50 blend (picual and arbequina) extra virgen olive oil from his family’s groves in Murcia. Such a lovely and passionate man, clearly in love with what he is doing. I can’t wait to try the bottle I took home with me.
Then THESE. Is it a cake? Is it a waffle? Is it a donut? Irene @dhan_waffle is creating one of the most unique desserts in town. You really want to try these Taiwanses eggy delights with tasty toppings.
By now the market was beginning to shut down so I had a last glass of wine with Philip and made my way back towards Tower Bridge… and then I saw a sign for something called the Doodle Bar. Intrigued (and still a bit thirsty) I turned the corner into Druid street and found this wonderful new bar, just opened here the day before, from their previous location in Battersea.
So I sat at the bar for “la penúltima” before heading home and totally loved the ambiance, the friendly staff, and especially that I could recharge my iphone at the bar using one of the many USB chargers.
Finally it was time to head home and I made my way back over Tower Bridge. This was my one “totally on my own day” without meeting up with any friends. But the whole experience at Maltby made me feel so at home, so much in my element (chatting away with everybody) that I never felt like I was on my own. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon, followed by a cosy Sunday evening in.
Saturday was amazing. First of all it started off with me discovering that the number 100 bus took me directly to Waitrose and back again! No more 45 minute Death Marches. So I popped over there in the morning to stock up on a few things. Then got ready to meet very old and very dear friends Sara & Steve – can you imagine that I met them online even before Twitter! In fact, they don’t even have Twitter accounts (though Sara was convinced/forced to open an Instagram account during dinner – but I’m getting ahead of myself). The plan was to meet up at Liverpool Street Station, which by now was a piece of cake for me to get to. From there we went over to Spitalfields Market and had a wander around…
This Turkish food stall smelled amazing, but we were saving ourselves…
We ended up stopping at Taberna do Mercado for a bottle (okay, two) of lovely crisp and fresh Portuguese white wine. We were there between services and got to witness the staff meal, which looked so cosy and convivial that we wanted to join them. Afterwards we went to Vertigo 42 for cocktails with a SERIOUS VIEW…
Outrageously expensive, and not something I’d probably do again, but it was fun and I got to see my Shard from a whole other perspective (yes, I am slightly obsessed with the Shard…)
Then it was off to the main event of the day – dinner at Quality Chop House. I’d been here before (last year during the Foodie Hub awards) but it was the first time for Sara & Steve and we all loved it. Hard to pick a favourite dish but THOSE confit potatoes (a signature dish) are crazy good.
After dinner we waddled back over to Liverpool Street and I caught my bus home, feeling happy and full, and also full of love for these two guys. We’ve been through a lot together, and I hope we’ll keep going through and sharing all our life stuff. Good people, good friends. xx
Friday was SHOPPING DAY, as I had a few places I wanted to check out in the Regent & Oxford street area. I hopped on my trusty number 15 bus, which took me directly to Trafalgar Square, just around the corner from Regent Street (not the shortest route, but saved me from having to take the Tube). I got off the bus and immediately lost my 4G connection, so Maps stopped working too. Then I started crossing the square and – who knows why? – just after taking this photo I was overcome by one of the worst panic attacks I’d had in years. In fact, since the whole cancer thing I’d pretty much stopped having attacks, but suddenly there I was terrified in the middle of Trafalgar Square. Somehow I got to the other side and saw two women talking in the street, so I went over and asked them for directions to Regent Street. This calmed me down a bit (distraction therapy) and I was able to carry on, but then realised the time (going on 2 pm) and decided to stop somewhere for lunch first. A nearby-ish recommendation from my Twitter pal Robin @HERMANOPRIMERO proved to be the perfect spot for solo dining.
I got a place at the bar and ordered a couple of tasty dishes, had a couple of glasses of wine, and thus fortified I was suddenly much less “panicked” and able to head out shopping…
hot butter devilled shrimps
black pork Kari Dosa with chutneys: coriander, tomato, coconut
What followed was a four-hour shopping expedition, mostly fruitful. I got some new clothes – Sevilla has very little “fat lady” clothes that aren’t awful polyester numbers better suited to grandmothers and maiden aunts. But man, it was hell walking in totally packed Oxford street, with many people staring at their phones as they walked, so bumping into everyone else. At some point I heard back from my friend Lizzie @hollowlegs who said she was able to get away from work early after all and would meet me at Noble Rot Wine Bar for their famous slip sole (apparently one of the trendiest dishes in London atm). Yes! But that meant getting there. From Oxford Street it looked a straighforward walk, but once again I got lost and – once again – Peter came to the rescue, directing via WhatsApp messages. And I finally arrived…
slip sole with smoked pimentón butter
roast saddleback chop, coco de paimpol beans and salsa verde
Lizzie chewing on a bone
It was great to catch up with Lizzie and hear all about her new job. Unfortunately she wasn’t able to join the couple of group dinners I’d arranged so I was really happy she made the extra effort to join me here for a quick bite, even though she had to get up at 5.30 the next morning. We called it quits around 9.30 and Lizzie also helped me order my first Uber! I got home exhausted and happy, and wondering how I was going to fit my new stuff into my already over-stuffed suitcase. There was only one solution – I’d have to buy another bag.
One issue with my otherwise fabulous apartment in Wapping is that the WIFI is dodgy, to say the least, making it impossible to work. And although not ideal, Mark suggested I pop over to the nearby Yurt Café to take advantage of their WIFI. Turned out to be an unusual and interesting venue, a massive yurt with a small patio basically under the rail lines. So I was able to get some work done and it was a nice place to spend the morning.
Later on that evening came one of the week’s BIG EVENTS. Dinner at Som Saa…
whole fried sea bass – spectacular presentation but didn’t quite deliver on taste
star dish of the evening – pork neck with “nahm jim” sauce
While the food was mostly good (though nothing spectacular other than that one pork dish imho) it was a terrible shame that a gathering of witty and wonderful people ended up in a shouting match across a rather narrow table because the FUCKING MUSIC WAS TURNED UP TO MAX. Seriously… why? It’s a small venue, and it’s a restaurant (with a small bar area as you come in). Ironically the bar is quieter than the restaurant. So what’s with the fucking ear-splitting music, unless it’s to make clients eat up and leave fast so they can turn more tables? Som Saa started off as a pop up and, after the owners went off to do research in Thailand, they opened this very new restaurant in Commercial Street. I’m told they didn’t actually change their pop-up menu much after their research and to me it all felt a bit contrived. Staff didn’t seem well-trained… overall not an experience I’d repeat.
all the Som Saa dishes we tried
just to show I wasn’t exaggerating about noise level – we measured it
Afterwards us diehards (John, Mark and me) headed to a wine bar in nearby Spitalfields Market as Thane & Bob headed home (they had an early morning next day). Can’t remember the name of the wine bar but Mark ordered for us and we enjoyed a couple of lovely wines – always a treat for me to try non-Spanish wines. Afterwards I got on one of my trusty 3 buses that seemed to take me almost everywhere and got home to find messages from the boys asking me to check in. Nice. Nice friends, great evening out.