Ironically, our visit to The Happenstance was nohappenstance itself but I can understand how people could easily stumble upon it. Just a stones throw from St Pauls and Fleet Street offices, this would be a haven for both well walked tourists and desk slaves. It’s part bar, part restaurant, part deli and florist?! That’s a lot of hats to juggle but on this particular evening, we were only concerned with what they can manage with their restaurant hat on!
We were guided through the bar, which was full every which way you look, to the dining room at the rear. I was immediately taken aback by how huge it is, and though it may be a little done to death, I loved that painfully engineered rustic interior, the high ceilings, and open kitchen combination. The kitchen is big too, which is understandable when you look at the variety of dishes it promises to churn out – in my mind, more dishes equals more pressure so I had my fingers crossed for the kitchen team.
What’s so special about pizza? It’s nothing but a bit of dough topped with a handful of ingredients, sometimes even less, then baked in the oven. That’s it. No tricky cooking techniques, no fancy kitchen gadgets… when done right, a good pizza is oh so delicious… and satisfying… and addictive. Its simplicity makes it accessible; it’s food for the people – why else would it be so well known and well loved all over the world?
Italy does them the traditional way, New York has the huge $1 slices, Copenhagen like theirs organic, and there’s even no shortage of hole in the wall pizza vendors in Havana; pizza is everywhere. Here in London, pizza seems to be enjoying a moment in the limelight and as a result there are decent pizza restaurants popping up in every nook and cranny of the city. No complaints from this end because I bloody love pizza.
Now that I’ve been to a few cocktail masterclasses, I’ve come to the conclusion that making cocktails is quite an operation and the people who make them are quite the entertainers. Our teacher at Mint Leaf just oozed charm, the one at Rum & Sugar seemed to have endless energy, and not one to buck the trend, the resident mixologist at Reform Social at The Mandeville Hotel was cracking jokes all over the show. All three had their audience in raptures while mixing up delightful cocktails – I can barely pour a glass of wine while talking. Note to self, that needs some practice.
Actually, that’s not the only thing I need to work on. You might expect that after attending at least three of these so-called masterclasses I might be on my way to being a master at making my own cocktails. Well if that’s what you thought, I haven’t managed your expectations particularly well. I haven’t rushed out to buy any of the essential (and very cool) equipment required and I haven’t stocked my shelves with a wide range of spirits. In fact, I haven’t even come close to recreating any of the delicious concoctions I have been taught to make. Why?!
A forecast for the slightest bit of rain over the weekend was enough to send the doom and gloomers into overdrive, proclaiming that the British summer was well and truly over! It probably is and it would be very un-British to not have a whinge about that fact, but let’s not get too down in the dumps about it… I’m going to be bold and say we had a rather good run of the sunshine and warm weather. There were a couple of false starts and unbearable heatwaves but overall, I can’t complain. We’ve spent some quality time in the deck chairs we lugged home on the tube about two years ago, and I’ve enjoyed many al fresco lunches at the office!
The only thing that stopped me from all out declaring that it was a good and proper summer was when I realised I hadn’t made the customary trip to the beach. In my humble opinion, no summer is complete without dipping at least my toes in the sea and enduring the hilarity of finding sand everywhere for weeks. If I can tick that off, then yep, this has been a goody.
If someone told me they had found a great crab restaurant in the City, I’d be double checking exactly which city they were referring to. The City as in the one in London? I’d say they were having a laugh. When I’m craving some crustaceans, I’m picturing a little beach shack and cheery fishermen, not a concrete jungle filled with stuffy offices and suits chasing their next step up the corporate ladder. But such wild claims are just calling out to be investigated and luckily for you, a certain someone and I took one for the team.
Arriving at Broadgate Circle on a Friday evening did nothing to quell my suspicions that we were on a bit of a wild goose chase. The mosh pit of City-slaves were definitely more interested in letting loose and popping open the prosecco than they were about any food, decent or otherwise. But undeterred, we sidestepped around them and made our way to Crab Tavern to see if there could possibly be a decent crab dinner to be found in the City.
My first contract role in London was based in Kensington and I must admit it was not a bad part of London to ease myself into the trauma of working again after four months of gallivanting around the world. The company I worked for was in an industry as far from glamorous as you could get yet we shared a building with a rather chic interiors brand and a carpark with a well-known record company. There were also always rumours of people spotting Prince Harry at the local M&S; I never quite believed that one, but hey, it’s High Street Ken darling, anything can happen.
During those six months I got used to rotating my lunch options between the usual high street chains, having the weekly splurge at Whole Foods, and basically spending my pay cheque before I received it on lunch break shopping trips. It wasn’t financially ideal but compared to where my office is based now, it was just lovely. Then we moved offices and I never ventured back because I didn’t have a reason to. I certainly didn’t expect that when I did, it would be for a midweek curry.
As embarrassing as it is to admit, I am one of those cheery people who truly believes that food brings people together. People like to eat together, some people like to cook together, and heck, I know lots of people who like to talk about food together. That might not be the same in your circles, but it’s most definitely an occupational hazard of moonlighting as a food lover/writer/photo-documenter. When people discover my alter ego as ‘Connie Consumes, International Consumer of Food’, many ditch whatever line of conversation we were running and skip to the food talk. Not that I mind at all because I’ve generally got food on the brain.
Once we get the ‘what is this blog thing’ out of the way and steer away from restaurant recommendations, we get down to business with the bit I really love… just nattering on about anything and everything people love to eat or cook, the weirdest things they’ve eaten on their travels, friends and family who are exceptional cooks, signature dishes… I’m inherently nosey, you might have realised this if you’ve met me so I could keep chatting about this stuff for hours on end. Test me if you dare.