Category Archives: attractions

I Found My Mojo

I’m afraid that title is a shameless pun, because not only did I find my mojo, I was lucky enough to see a play: funnily enough, called Mojo. 

With a sparkling cast list including Rupert Grint (yes, Ron Weasley for the Potter fans out there), Colin Morgan and Brendan Coyle from the universally loved Downton Abbey – to be honest, the play could have been dreadful and I’d probably still just have basked in their amazing…ness? Aura? 

I don’t know. But I’d have been basking.

Luckily, the play wasn’t awful. It won the Olivier aware for best new comedy, admittedly back when it was new – but the comedy was no less fresh than I imagine it was back then. Dark, hilarious and poignant – often all simultaneously – it was hard to tear your eyes away; but easily the best performance came from Ben Whishaw as Baby. 

A deeply disturbed, abused, scary and unpleasant character, he played the role with a certain amount of vulnerability that left the audience both loathing and pitying him. The play, despite its comical ambition, could also be seen as a study of his psyche as well as – as Billington wrote in his review in The Guardian – ‘a critique of a patriarchal world in which men talk big in order to disguise their loneliness, panic and fear of emotional contact.’

Sometimes the lack of set movement can become slightly claustrophobic admittedly, however one can’t help but think that that’s probably the point – given that this group of men has more or less become trapped inside the club they work in after the owner’s brutal murder (he’s found in two bins.)

Given the language and the sometimes coarse humour, it’s perhaps not a play for the faint hearted – but without this, the dialogue would be liking the sharp fizz and crack it so effortlessly conjures. 

Overall, whilst funny, this play had a much deeper message to it, backed up with loud 50s rock ‘n’ roll music and a certain amount of dancing. The run ends on the 6th February; if you can, I would suggest you run to grab a seat…its definitely worth a watch. Even if just to watch Ron Weasley spout very rude words and play at being a gangster. That’s entertainment in itself. 

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*Insert witty Halloween related title here*

I want to say I’m going somewhere wild or off the beaten track for Halloween. I’m not. I’m going to my friend’s house and hopefully she will feed me food. 

I also plan to spend today tracking down a pumpkin, even if I have to rip it from a damn farmer’s field. 

The last week has been spent in a blur of supermarket related madness, wearing purple (unfortunate, given that I dyed my hair and its now exactly the same shade as my uniform) and nursing a bottle of wine. You know I’m tired when it takes me a week to finish a bottle of wine. 

Any how, this is a Halloween post. So let’s get back to the spooky stuff.

Sooo…I could list the stuff to do, I feel it’s a bit of a cheat since I’m not doing it, but hey. One thing that looked really cool was Backyard Cinema in Camden. Lots of horrors as you’d expect, so head up there if that tickles your fancy. 

London Dungeons are naturally doing lots of creepy things. 

There’s lots of lectures and fright nights and stuff at different museums. Actually there’s a few I’ll be heading to at Barts Pathology Museum (the wine and refreshments included in the price have nothing to do with why I’m going. I merely want to widen this pile of mush I like to call a brain. Ahem.) So I guess there’ll be more to say then. Maybe you’ll bump into me. You’ll know me when you see me, my dazzling personality generally gives me away. 

Otherwise, just carve a pumpkin, get some candy and eat it all before the Trick or Treaters come. If they egg your house just egg them. Boom.

Okay no, not really. I mean – do everything up until the egging part. In fact, perhaps leave a lolly or a couple of chocolate bars or something to keep ’em sweet. If you have that kind of self control. 

I don’t. I don’t care how good the kid’s costume is, those Haribo are MINE. 

Hmm. This post isn’t very Halloween-y. Let’s see what I can do about that.

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BAM. Field full of pumpkins. They’re coming for you…(photo from ymcastlouis.org)

Did you know no one knows why we carve pumpkins – or originally beets or turnips – but the theories include to guide guisers on All Hallows Eve, to represent Christian souls in purgatory or to scare away the evil spirits on ‘Samhain’ – when the veil between Death and Life is at it’s thinnest.

Seriously. Wikipedia told me so. 

Japanese Matsuri Festival

Forgive me for being pretty late in this post. Between a variety of stress including, but not limited to, a dissertation that is making me want to bang my head against a brick wall – I’ve let this slide somewhat. Any how this festival happened 2 weeks ago, but I figure you guys aren’t too pernickety.

Right? Right?!

Any how, its a big old shindig in Trafalgar Square to celebrate all things Japanese – from sushi to martial arts to music to anime to…well, you get the picture. Only been going for 2 years but already a big deal, and worth going to even for the atmosphere.

I only got there around 5 or 6 having worked all day, so unfortunately I missed a lot of the displays. Wasn’t bad though, arrived just in time for a very lovely sunset:

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And I wasn’t too late to stuff my face with raw fish and ice cream (not together. That would be weird.) and listen to some very restful music. 

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Photo of the sushi bento box, and my friend’s hand. She was eager to get on with soy saucing this bad boy up. I got this for £4. £4! For SUSHI?! This is unheard of. Big variety, very filling, and the first time I’ve ever eaten raw squid (odd texture. I recommend sticking to calamaris if you’re a squid fan. Although to be honest I don’t think I’ll ever get over being tricked into thinking a calamaris was an onion ring. Cue nasty surprise.) Any how beautifully made, and surprisingly very filling! 

On we went to nosey at an anime wall…drawing thing?

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POKEMON. I grew up wishing I could BE a pokemon. I have Japan to thank for that. 

Ahem. Any way, from food stall to food stall we went. I had green tea ice cream (no photo but it wasn’t that interesting to look at. If I could share ‘taste’ on here I would. But I can’t.) and this pancake thing with this saucy thing in the middle that was apparently Japanese – unfortunately I can’t remember the name. OH I CAN. DORAYAKI. 

It’s Dorayaki. 

There was a large stage, much like for Chinese New Year, where a variety of acts gave us a taste of different elements of Japanese culture. When we were there it was classic music, but there’d been a range throughout the day…

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(That isn’t a picture of the stage. It’s just lots of people in Trafalgar Square. The stage was in the opposite direction but unfortunately as it got darker it got harder to get a decent photo. Hopefully this one will do instead.) 

Next year I hope to return earlier in order to catch more of the celebration. I can only see it getting bigger to be honest, and it inspired me to…wait for it…

GO TO JAPAN. 

But…y’know, not right now. Although that would be cool. 

Any way I have lots more to ramble on at you guys about, including a pub with tasty cider and another pub with a free cinema underneath it. And BEANBAGS. 

Hope you’re all plodding along okay. I must now go and try to stop my housemate’s dog crawling under my bed and getting stuck again. He just doesn’t seem to learn. 

Rainy Days in London Town

When it rains in London, the parks don’t do you much good. Of course there are cafes in the bigger ones – but in general, you’re trapped until it stops raining.

And this is England. Once it starts, it never seems to stop. Much like a hormonal woman watching Titanic (or, if you’re me, Toy Story 3. I know, I know.) 

But there are other things on other. Museums. Cafes. Restaurants. So whilst I’m trapped inside by the rain and overtime at work, here’s a run down of my favourite things to do when the heavens open – which, lets face it, is most of the time when it gets to September. (Also since I did a run down of things to do in the sun, it seemed appropriate.)

1. Natural History Museum

There’s always fun exhibits on. You can wander around most of it for free, but there’s a charge for some of the more interesting areas. I don’t think there’s much open now – but soon enough there’ll be the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, and in February there’s Britain: One Million Years Of The Human Story. Am actually quite excited for that one!

An ice rink also opens come 31st October and they usually do a Night at the Museum, where they show you artefacts they have that are surrounded by folk lore. They even have a cursed jewel, said to have left all it’s owners dead in it’s wake…spooky!

2. Pubs. Millions of Pubs.

This was on my sunny list, but there’s nothing nicer than sitting inside a cosy pub, with a fire or at the very least central heating, with a pint (or a glass of wine if you have to get all sophisticated on me) and a friend. When it gets closer to Christmas they break out the mulled wine and cider too, and even in winter a lot of the pub gardens have blankets, shelters and heaters for you to snuggle under. 

One of my favourites is The Coach And Horses on Barnes High Street. They have a huge garden, blankets freely available and heaters you control yourself. It’s kind of refreshing to be sitting outside, watching it pelting down around you but not getting wet yourself. There’s often deals on the food too – we got 2 courses and a bottle of wine for £20. The staff were friendly; even though you needed a form for it they allowed us to fill one in there and then. 

Another one is The King’s Head, Roehampton. You may know these are both Young’s pubs, but even though they are a part of that group they’re all so different that to be honest – you’d never notice. The King’s Head has been refurbished recently – its warm, the food is gourmet (if pricey) and the staff are really friendly. We went there as a group for dinner and drinks at Christmas, and they bent over backwards to make us welcome. We’re hoping to go again this year!

To be honest, many of the nicer pubs are further out. In Central London they are either ludicrously expensive or small and dingy, but that could just be lack of exploration on my part. There are some lovely little ones in Chelsea or Kensington. The two above just happen to be my favourite for rainy days!

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3. Camden Market

Most markets are free to the open air and generally quite miserable in the rain, but Camden is different. Most of it is undercover, and you can shelter whilst looking at the odd little knick knacks found throughout. There’s the book store full of old copies of classics; a store hung all over with gas masks (I kid you not); a shop guarded by a giant robot statue and that essentially houses an all day rave. Then of course there’s the food stalls. 

You can get a good container of tasty curry there for £4. It was just the right size to quench my hunger I was pleased to say, and cheaper than what you’d get practically anywhere else. If curry isn’t your deal, there’s Thai, Chinese, Burgers, Pizza, you name it – it’s there. You can also puff away on shisha at the Moroccan cafes dotted about, or investigate the Stables Market. Horses were once housed there and there are now some impressive statues to commemorate that. 

4. Book Shops.

Brick Lane Book Shop being my current favourite, although there’s another in Balham (unfortunately I don’t know the name) but I plan to investigate it very soon. It’s dark and smells of old paper, perfect for hiding. My favourite kind. I love the old places, the different places, the independent places. Waterstones and WH Smith are great – but you find the real treasures in the old, forgotten stores or the charity shops. I can happily spend hours hiding away in London book shops (although after reading on someone’s blog they went into a book shop only to find it was a front for a somewhat dodgier kind of deal, I’m a bit more careful before stepping inside…)

5. Coffee!

London is brimming with coffee shops. And I’m not talking about your Costas and Starbucks and Prets. There’s a whole world of cafes to explore – I even have a book full of them. 

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Proof. There’s me, and I have the book. Can’t say better than that.

I’m now on a coffee trail throughout London. I’m thinking every 2 weeks, or maybe once a month if it gets a bit pricey, of trying out a new place in that guide. I’ve already got my sights set on the closest one…roll on Thursday…

6. Sleep

Now this is my personal favourite. But it’s also somewhat boring, so I won’t spend too much time on this. You get the gist!

Any way happy rainy day to you all, I hope you’re having a fun packed day of…well, fun.

Pratts and Payne, Streatham

So this weekend I was working, tramping the hills of Highgate in the far north of London to hand out leaflets. Not too taxing, admittedly…in the end we finished early on the second day, and ended up heading for a pint at a nearby pub. 

Now, I don’t often head that far north, it’s an alien planet – and even quieter than normal given the Northern line of the tube was shut – making it a mission to get there, I can tell you! 

That’s one thing about London transport, at least part of it shuts down every weekend, without fail, for maintenance work. Why don’t they do it at night – when it isn’t running any way? WHY?!

But any way. If I get too much into the whole London transport system I will explode, and that would make a mess.

Back to the delightful voyage of food related discovery I went on through Streatham! Much more pleasant.

So after heading to The Hideaway Jazz Cafe, we moved on to ‘Pratts and Payne’ for some English grub (by the way, why is ‘grub’ slang for food? Its possibly one of the most unappetising sounding words…) They were busy, and service was somewhat brusque. They kept us waiting for the food, but when it arrived, it was admittedly delicious. My other half went for ‘huevos rancheros’ and I had ‘goats cheese, honey and fig tart’ – all much fancier than we’re used to, with our current diet of baked beans on toast!

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I have to admit, I’ve never seen a square egg, but its all about learning new things! It was quite spicy, but very tasty, and a surprisingly filling portion given the cheap price.

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I love me a bit of goats cheese. The fig set off the taste nicely with a certain amount of sweetness, and the presentation wasn’t half bad.

Once again, sorry for the slightly dark pictures, next time I’ll have my camera charged and ready to go. I guess with my excitement at seeing the outside world again, I forgot it!

Any how the atmosphere was pretty buzzing, although the decor struck me as a tad odd with what looked like neon sales signs displaying prices in frames across one wall (49p! and so on). The fireplace had…well, a fire, painted into it, and we nabbed some comfy armchairs next to it. Luckily no heat eminated from it, given how hot a night it was. There was a nice selection of beer (including Fruli – strawberry beer, perfect for my childlike palate!).

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I would perhaps go back for a drink, and the food was very tasty, but I think if I was cashing out for dinner in a restaurant, I personally would perhaps go for something a little more unique (although if there was another food festival involving cheap food? I’d be there like a shot.)

Festival of Neighbourhood

There’s something in heat and humidity that seems to make people both lazy and grumpy.

By people I do of course mean me.

However, it has provided a much needed opportunity for tanning – given the population of the UK is generally either pale and pasty or tangerine orange due to bad fake tan, a little natural melanin can only be a good thing. And where better to get out into the sun than at the festival of neighbourhood taking place at the Southbank Centre.

Gardens galore, with window gardens expertly placed along Queen’s Walk right by the Thames, to Roof and Woodland gardens atop Queen Elizabeth’s Hall, sandy beach by the river and even Beanotown – hosting workshops and events through the summer! (There’s a bar as well, for the big kids amongst us). 

You can even get your garden on and show off your green thumbs – a treat for the majority of Londoners who don’t have access to a garden. 

It’s not often any kind of neighbourhood feeling is found in London. Generally it’s just a huge city of individuals, with no real ties to each other. There’s that rare instance of community spirit – after the riots in Clapham Junction, residents were out in their masses with brooms ready to clean up the mess – hut hopefully this festival will serve as a small reminder of the tight knit communities we once had. 

If not, it’s a nice place for a drink, so everybody wins!
I will be paying it a visit tonight, photos to follow…

Stress, Dumplings, and A Really Sore Ear

I’m afraid to say this has been one hectic month. Between studying, doing exams, being ill, looking for a job and now for a new flat – all whilst my laptop has been repeatedly crashing (I swear I came close to tearing it’s wires out and wearing them as a trophy. Unfortunately that would void the warranty.) it’s all been a bit up in the air and as such I haven’t been giving this blog and you lovely folks the attention you deserve. For that, I’m sorry!

I have squeezed in some London exploration however. Packed around the trials and tribulations of my every day life – I packed in some dumplings.

We’d booked tickets to see Omid Djalili live at Leicester Square Theatre – a smaller venue than I realised, much more intimate and definitely one I would recommend. Afterwards, all of us having a hunger on, we were heading to a Mexican place I’d heard about – but unfortunately there was a long wait. But never fear, when in London one can almost certainly head to Chinatown for a filling meal…

Having passed about a million suspicious and delicious looking all you can eat buffets (somewhat of an exaggeration. It was perhaps more like 12.) we stumbled across the delectable Dumplings’ Legend. untitled

 

The name had me running in there like a…hmm. All my similes appear to have left me. Like something that runs very fast towards something that it really really wants. Not perhaps the most poetic, but accurate.

Any way we got in and say down at a vast table – far too large for a mere 5 of us, but at least there was a table free. As you walked to the seating area there was a room surrounded in glass windows, where you could watch the chefs putting together the dim sum and dumplings which was pretty cool.

We ordered a variety of food…lots of dumplings, naturally. A sharing platter, to be precise. And they were delicious! Perhaps not on the level of Opium (mentioned in an earlier post – a speciality dim sum/cocktail bar) but a perfectly tasty – and cheaper – option. Plus there was one green set, that apparently had been coloured with algae, which was interesting. Unfortunately these were all snaffled before I managed to get a hand in!

Portions were huge, I had stone bowl rice with pork and duck – delicious but enormous. Others had beef and broccoli, chicken noodles, and mixed meat I think. It all came very quickly and very hot, somewhat of a bonus in itself. The service wasn’t bad – could have been a little friendlier but to be honest, it was a busy Friday night so I wasn’t expecting long chats about philosophy.

We paid just under £20 each for a filling meal, and that in London, is spectacularly cheap. And they happily bagged up our left overs to take away. So there you have it folks – Dumplings’ Legend…they really are a legend!

Oh, and the sore ear in the title? Well, my ear is sore. I think I have water stuck in it. Not really relevant, but I felt my title needed to come in a 3. Stress and dumplings doesn’t sounds so happy. Or even worse, stress dumplings. Who wants a stress dumpling?

Blergh.

Negril, Brixton

Earlier this week I tried out a new restaurant down the road from us – as you may have gleaned from earlier posts…or perhaps you didn’t, in which case this is all news to you!

So, having read up on it, (the restaurant, I mean…) it seemed to be a stalwart of the Brixton foodie scene – which is surprisingly rich, with restaurants and cafes all over the place selling various worldly cuisines. Lots of people mentioned how delicious the chicken was, how nice the staff were, how much the locals loved it.

Personally, I couldn’t wait. I had a hankering for some Caribbean food, and having stopped off there on Sunday for some of their yummy home made lemonade, I was looking forward to sampling more of the menu. Particularly since it seemed so affordable, and was the first restaurant with a B.Y.O.B. policy that I’ve seen in this area. Finally, somewhere to take over the large, empty rift that The Hammersmith Cafe left in my life when I moved to Streatham…

So on the bus me and my other half went, sunglasses on – feeling decidedly vampirish in the sunlight after a long, dark winter. Unfortunately the sun has not lasted into the week; yesterday the weather was bordering on schizophrenic, with heavy rain, rolling thunder and brooding clouds one minute, and innocent looking sunshine the next.

Any way, on this particular day, the weather held and we sat outside in their roadside garden. It’s fenced off from the street, with fairy lights and plants decorating the area – which I assume only adds to the ambience when it gets darker, in the evening.

We got there early, and so had the pick of the tables; but it gets very busy. Practically every table inside was reserved. As more people enter, the service can get a little slow. But to be honest, I didn’t mind. The staff were very polite and friendly – it seems to be a family run restaurant and it can feel very homely and casual. The decor is a little sparse, and to go to the toilet you pass through a part of the kitchen – but none of this took away from the charm.

The menu has a range of Caribbean dishes, including a vegan section for…well, for vegans. Or anyone else who just happens to like tofu (they do exist!). ‘Ital’ – a diet many Rastafarians follow, which in it’s strictest form is entirely vegan. This was explained on the menu itself, which I thought was pretty interesting.

We ordered Ackee and Saltfish with Plantain Wedges as a starter. My other half was dubious as to whether or not she’d like it. Even I was a bit nervous about the plantains; they were a staple part of the diet when I travelled to Costa Rica a few years ago – along with rice and beans…Honestly I wasn’t sure how happy I would be to taste them again, given that by the time I left I swore I didn’t even want to see one again, never mind eat it…

But how wrong can you be? Very wrong, it would seem. Our risky venture paid off, with the Ackee and Saltfish being utterly delicious – and the plantain wedges giving a nice sweetness to balance the salty, fishy, oddly creamy texture.

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This was just a starter portion, you can get it for breakfast or even as a main course for lunch and dinner. It’s actually the national dish of Jamaica – even though Ackee is actually a fruit native to West Africa (as well as toxic, when it hasn’t been cooked. Yummy.) I’ll certainly be getting some more when I next grace Negril with my presence – hopefully tomorrow, yay!

Onwards, there are certain deals you could get – kind of like Nandos, chicken and 2 sides or a burger and a side and so on. My other half had Jerk Chicken with Rice and Gungo Peas and a ‘Festival’ – a sweet cornmeal dumpling with a touch of vanilla. She asked if she could have the chicken very hot, and it came with a small ramekin of the hottest jerk sauce I’ve ever tasted. Seriously, I dipped the very end of my little finger in to taste the smallest drop I could, and my whole mouth was still on fire. I don’t know if the dish comes with that sauce primarily or if it was her request for something spicy, but either way she was happy (if a bit watery eyed and red by the time she’d finished). The Festival gave a nice counter balance to it all, though she made the mistake of dipping it right in the hot sauce and taking a big bite. Steam practically shot from her ears and I was very glad I hadn’t made the same mistake.

It was delicious, with tender chicken as well. The fact the sauce came to the side rather than on it meant you had a certain amount of control over just how hot hot HOT you wanted it, too!

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I decided to try something a little different, and went with Goat Curry with a Roti – a Jamaican flat bread. The meat was tender, and tasted similar to venison – interesting, since I’d never eaten Goat before. The Roti was perfect to mop the whole thing up. I did feel the actual curry could have used something more, just to bring out the flavour a bit – but I’m no chef, that could just have been me. It wasn’t too spicy, which was good for me! But I believe one only need ask for extra spice, and they’d oblige. They all seemed more than happy to help.

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There was a mere £2.50 corkage charge per person, for as much drink as they’d like. Way cheaper than buying alcohol pretty much…well, any where. We were happy with a couple of beers and a ciders each, just to wash down the meal to perfection.

Heading back tomorrow evening for some more delicious food. We will be making reservations this time though…don’t want to risk missing our spot. All in all, I think I’ll be spending more time in Brixton, now…for the Ackee and Saltfish if nothing else!

Negril on Urbanspoon

Brixton Windmill

I’ve had to get creative, since my purse and debit cards were stolen I am – for a lot of the time – left without any money. So this has, of course, limited my movements around the capital.

The sun and warmth on Sunday were rather inspiring though, and I felt that a day such as that should not be wasted. Especially given the dreadful weather we’ve had up until now. So on went the specs and the laptop, and a quick google search later, I headed to Brixton with an oyster card that my other half very kindly donated to my cause (a travel card that one can use at a slightly discounted price on London transport…for those not in the know), and some loose change in my pocket.

First I ducked into Brixton market space. Many stalls were shut, of course, but the majority of the foodie places were open – and completely packed. It was a veritable Smorgasbord of choice, ranging from coffee and cake, to pizza, to Chinese, to burgers…I wished I had more money so I could more or less restaurant hop; all of the food looked delicious!

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The seating spilled out from the little shops onto the covered arcade, and you could see everyone making the most of the rare heat with shorts, sunglasses and sun tan lotion abound. I regretted my choice of wearing a coat; I had assumed it would be cold. Instead I wound up mildly sweaty lugging a thick coat all around the place with me. Something I loathed doing as a child; I would almost always thrust my coat at my mother and run ahead giggling gleefully to cries of ‘don’t go too far! And STOP at the curb!’ But sadly there was no mother – or other half – to thrust my coat at today, so I had to make do and turn it into a kind of cape.

It was a reasonably long walk to the windmill, one of very few remaining in London beyond the 20th century. It’s recently been refurbished, I believe, and the day I arrived there were tours – all fully booked unfortunately, but I didn’t mind just having a nosey from the outside.

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They’re running a campaign to get it producing flour again. That’d certainly be quite a victory for those that love their local produce. I certainly wouldn’t mind buying a bag of flour produced down the road, in Brixton. I believe that would bring it up to being the only flour producing windmill in London – but please, correct me if I am wrong.

It’s set in a pretty little park, with a…I wouldn’t go as far as to say cafe, it was more a table inside a hall selling – rather tasty looking – home made cakes. There was seating outside, however. It was nice for a wander, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it was worth visiting on it’s own – maybe tie it in with a day in Brixton, visiting the Ritzy or the market or the 02 Academy for a gig!

Finally I walked further up the hill to a Caribbean restaurant named ‘Negril’. To be honest I’m going to remain rather brief on this, as I’ll be visiting again tonight for a slap up meal (after rather a complicated, faffy way of getting at my money!) and I feel it would ruin tomorrow’s post.

I hope your Sunday’s were as sunny as mine, and that the start to your week hasn’t been too painful thus far…

Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour

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It’s been a while since me and my other half ventured out for dinner. So we were pretty excited to venture back out into the world of those strange beings, ‘other people’, and treat ourselves to something tasty. 

Opium has been on the cards for a long time. We booked to go way  back in January, but became too ill and had to cancel. Since then time has flown by, until last night, when we finally made it there. 

It’s hidden behind the jade door on Gerrard Street in China Town, between to very loud Chinese restaurants. Easy to miss, apart from a small bronze sign and a very tall, serious looking bouncer manning the door.

He’s lovely though. 

Now, it really is best to make a reservation. They can get very busy; they certainly were when we were there. When we told the door bloke who we were, he checked the list then invited us in out of the cold whilst he radioed up to the hostess.

Ear pieces and everything, very MI5. 

After that, it was a bit of a mountain climb up 3 flights of stairs, leaving us puffing for breath at the very top – but we made it. The scent of incense was quite strong, (unsurprising given that pots of it were burning at every floor), giving the whole place quite a mystical vibe. 

Once at the top, we were quickly led to our seats and given cups of water – which throughout the night were constantly refilled by the very attentive waitress. The room itself was relatively small, with lots of snug seats, wooden chairs and relatively low lighting – giving off the ambience of it’s namesake: an opium den.

One wall was made up of a giant map, which I rather liked. And various small suitcases, umbrellas and such were on shelves above us. It simply added to the old-worldy vibe, rather than the impression of sitting in a lost property office. 

Our orders were taken. My other half had a caipirinha – their selection of regular cocktails is exceptional, and the liquor generously added. This makes a change to many current cocktail bars, which are unfortunately very stingy with the alcohol (and some, I suspect, water it down, or mess around with the shot measuring thingy-mabobs to ensure everyone gets slightly below the 50ml.) But not this place!

I went for one of their special Chinese styled cocktails. The list was, once again, impressive – and the cocktails all sounded wonderfully exotic. I went for ‘The Sorceror’, which came – interestingly – in what looked like a cough syrup bottle, with a label pronouncing ‘Chinese Medicine’ stuck on. The waiter poured it for me, and added a spritz of a rose scented fragrance. Very showy. It was deliciously fruity, consisting of Absolut wheat vodka, maraschino liqueur, pomegranate juice, aloe vera juice, lemon juice and rose syrup. The rose syrup gave it a slightly different taste and it was nice to enjoy something apart from the norm. The only downside was the drinks were really quite pricey, at least for our student budgets, coming in between £10.50 for the regular cocktails and up to £14.00 for the original mixes. There are several sharing cocktails (including one the table next to us had, that was served in a teapot with dry ice steam pouring out of the top. Very dramatic!) but judging by the prices, they were mainly for considerably larger groups than just us two!

We quickly ordered the dim sum, going with a variety. We went for Scallop Dumplings, Sea Bass and Fennel dumplings as well as Cantonese Barbecue Pork Buns. They arrived all together and steaming hot in wicker container type things, piled one on top of the other. This, the waiter explained, was so that the steam from the lower courses could maintain the heat and continue to steam the dumplings above them. Crafty!

We shared each of them, starting with the pork buns. And oh my, the pork buns. They were utterly delicious. The dough was light and fluffy, the pork tender and sweet. I honestly could have eaten about 5 helpings to myself. Sadly I was forced to share.

Next were the sea bass and fennel. The chunk of sea bass in each one was once again, generous. They were very flavourful; at first I was unsure whether it was to my taste or not, but by the second one I was won over.

And finally, the scallop dim sum. These were lovely. Scallops were tender and fishy and – well, everything you want from a scallop. I could have eaten a thousand of them as well. They are so morish.

Altogether the dim sum varied from about £6.00 to £11.00 (although the £11.00 dim sum was lobster, so I could understand that). To me, a little over priced considering you only got 4 pieces per portion – but they were the best dim sum I have ever had in all honesty, and they were not stingy on the feelings or over zealous with the seasoning. So I was happy enough to shell out, I just wished I could have more.

We had a lovely evening there, with friendly staff, amazing food and original cocktails. My only complaint was that it all seemed a little pricey, but I think I’ll be saving up the pennies to go back and sample some more of the menu. It was somewhere a bit different, a bit off the beaten track, and when you disappear behind an almost unmarked door – it makes you feel like you’re being let in on a secret. A feeling one does not often have in the capital, where frankly, very little is a secret.

I would recommend this place to anyone, if only for dim sum…which actually translates as ‘Touch The Heart’ – kind of romantic for something so delicious, and something perfect for sharing on a date. It’s also a nice place for visitors of London to find…definitely off the beaten tourist track, and not like anywhere else.

Just to add, please excuse the lack of photos. They didn’t really come out well!
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