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…
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!
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.
Although officially away for ten days, with two of those days basically travel days, that meant I had eight full days in London to look forward to. Not bad! The plan was to arrive in London around 6.30 pm and get to the apartment by about 9.00, in time to pop over to one of the local pubs recommended by Jo & Mark for a quick snack and a drink. But of course I was flying with RyanAir.
I got to the airport in plenty of time, so I just relaxed with a cold beer and did a bit of stuff online while I waited for the boarding announcement. I was one of the last to pass through into the departure lounge and about two minutes later came the announcement… a 2 hour delay!
At which point we were all stuck in the hot and airless departure area and not allowed to go out for a drink or to comfortably sit elsewhere. Finally we were off, with my already late estimated arrival now even later. After all the faff at Stansted – passport control, customs, luggage pick up – I hopped the train to Liverpool Street Station and then got a taxi to the apartment.
Upon arrival I dropped my bags with the porter and said I’d be back in an hour to collect the keys, then hightailed it over to the closest recommended local on my list, The Prospect of Whitby (apparently the oldest riverside pub in London). Got there about 10.40 pm and asked if the kitchen was still open. Um…no way. In fact, I was told they were closing in precisely 20 minutes. So dinner that night was a glass of pub Pinot Grigio and a packet of Kettle Chips. But on the way home I was rewarded with this lovely view…
And once home I felt immediately “at home” once again in Jo & Mark’s beautiful apartment in Wapping (it’s the second time I’ve stayed here). I did the bare minimum unpacking, had a cool refreshing shower to “wash the plane” off me and fell into my comfy bed.
More to come…
The June 2016 Málaga Getaway wasn’t all tearing around town, as I also got to enjoy some lovely chillax time at Casa de los Principes. I especially loved the mornings there and also when the late afternoon sun came through the windows. But well, okay, most of the time I was tearing around. Had a biz meeting Friday morning and then on Friday evening and Saturday lunchtime I met up with other friends I hadn’t seen yet. Checked out two new eating establishments: Aire Gastrobar (meh) and Brunchit Organic (good). Also, there was a fair bit of walking, though I didn’t make it out to Pedregalejos this time. I almost ended up staying over the weekend, but then decided to come home, thinking that perhaps I’d pop back down for another short stay late-July. And maybe even fit in the two day-trips with Victor that we’d originally planned to do. We shall see..
Two absolute sherry pleasures this trip to Jerez… revisiting Bodegas Urium and being educated and entertained by the inimitable Alonso Ruíz @alonsourium, who runs this incredible winery with his daughter Rocio @RocioUrium. And the next day a new discovery for me, and a private visit to Bodegas Faustino González to sample their pure “en rama” range called Cruz Vieja @cruzviejajerez. It was great to be inside sherry bodegas again, and sharing amazing experiences with people who are so passionate about what they do. It was also great seeing so many friends again. A few vids…
… and I didn’t get lost once!
Probably because I walked everywhere and it was daylight. Once again I didn’t have much of a plan, though Jeffrey @FoodieHub had set me 3 final foodie challenges: to track down and eat London’s best sausage roll, best grilled cheese sandwich, and best pizza. Well, clearly that wasn’t ALL going to happen, but the Ginger Pig sausage roll and the Kappacasein grilled cheese could both be found at Borough Market, and thus a plan began to take shape. On a whim I got in touch with Twitter pal @CoteDuPy (who wasn’t able to get to our Twitter meet up) to see if he was free to meet for a quick sherry at José Pizarro’s tapas bar in nearby Bermondsey street. And he was! So we had a lovely visit and shared some gorgeous garlic-chilli prawns before I head out on my mission.
I’d always been curious about Borough Market, though my friend José has long lamented that it was no longer recognisable. And although I’d never seen its previous state I understood exactly what he meant as soon as I walked in. Yet another charming market gone upmarket. Though unlike places like Madrid’s San Miguel “Market”, at least there were still a few places you could actually pick up a few veggies, fish and whatnot, though probably at much higher prices than before it became so trendy. To be honest, if I lived in London I probably wouldn’t go back to Borough Market. Meh.
I also found these “legendary” food items to be quite unspectacular. The grilled cheese sandwich was, well, a grilled cheese sandwich. Three types of cheese, five types of onion (really just a small spoonful was added) on sourdough bread. It just tasted like lots of melted cheese, no finesse going on there. And since I knew there was no way I could eat a grilled cheese AND a sausage roll, I decided to have the roll wrapped up to eat later as a snack at the airport.
So after checking in and all that I found a seat at a bar, ordered a glass of wine and asked if I could eat my sausage roll there. No problem. Except I couldn’t eat it. After two small bites I couldn’t carry on. Talk about DENSE. And really not all that flavourful. I will give GP the benefit of the doubt that it is probably best eaten hot out of the oven and not several hours later at the airport, but still. It was super stodgy. Ended up bringing it home and even the flatmate (who is not a fussy eater) wasn’t thrilled with it. Anybody else tried this and liked it?
And that was the end of my London Getaway. You can see all kinds of photos on my Instagram, and I do hope to actually write something a bit more than these few “postcard” blog posts. It truly was an amazing week and it left me longing to go back again soon. Oh, and I got to see Tower Bridge for the first time!🙂