I envy each and every one of you who have work offices in Zone 1. While you’re topping up your caffeine levels at one of your five local Prets or grabbing a fancy schmanchy sandwich or salad, I’m lining up for something far less appetising at a school dinners style canteen in Zone 4. You may roll your eyes at having to dart past people on your lunch break, but spare a thought for me… I look out the window and see a dire combination of carparks, grassy knolls, and geese… barely a soul in sight as there’s nothing to dart out for in this neck of the woods.
I miss the high street chains and the independent cafes, but most tragically, I miss having a decent pub round the corner from the office. For months I have stoically told myself that I didn’t care about the cheeky half pint at lunch time every now and then, that well deserved wine at the end of the day, or the customary Friday pub lunch, but then I was reminded of their restorative powers all over again when I visited The Square Pig. My envy and loathing increased, particularly towards those of you who work in or around Holborn.
The first thing that hits us in Asadal is the smell. We had barely been in this Korean restaurant a minute and the warm inviting aromas were already making our stomachs rumble. It felt so secluded downstairs, I could hardly believe that only moments earlier I was jostling my way through the peak hour moshpit around Holborn station. It’s dimly lit and simply furnished, I get the sense that they care more about practicality than style which suited us just fine.
If we were here with a few friends in tow, we probably would have tackled the a la carte menu. With more mouths to feed, you can get away with carefree over-ordering, but with just the two of us, we had to be a bit more selective. Instead of enduring my inevitable long-winded deliberation process, I saved our stomachs from further rumbling and decided on the Asadal Special Set. Sometimes when you’re ready to eat your arm, a short cut is a must.
According to the Oxford Dictionary: a barbeque is a meal or gathering at which meat, fish, or other food is cooked out of doors on a rack over an open fire or on a special appliance. Technically speaking, this is correct and covers most bases, but what this definition from the pedantic wordsmiths doesn’t tell you is just how many incarnations of the humble barbeque there are!
Is there really anything as satisfying as eating a hunk of meat (and vegetables too I suppose) that’s been cooked over a grill? No, no there isn’t, not in the Connie Dictionary of Deliciousness anyway. The classic Kiwi sausage sizzle will always hold a special place in my heart but recently my love of the barbeque has expanded to include the Korean version with spicier meats and an epic array of sides, and the American version with all the meats cooked low and slow.
“Oh sure, we’ll definitely be getting a barbeque!”
That’s what we said at the start of last summer when quizzed endlessly about it by our charred-meat deprived friends. Why? Because as all stereotypes have some truth to them, every great Kiwi summer requires a great Kiwi barbie, no matter where you are. It might also have something to do with that fact that we have a decent sized outdoor area all to ourselves, complete with rickety picnic table and chairs. It’s no grassy New Zealand backyard, but it’s not bad for London.
So a barbeque made sense; they’re not that expensive anyway and of course we’d have people round all the time to make the most of it. But that’s not how it works in London is it? Not if the weather gods have anything to do with it. When the sun is shining and you decide to have an impromptu barbeque, everyone’s already busy, but when you’re a bit more organised and plan something in advance so people can actually come… the sunshine doesn’t come to the party.
Having never graced Thailand with my presence (madness I know, because who hasn’t been to Thailand) my experience of Thai food is somewhat limited to the western-friendly versions dished out anywhere but Thailand. In their defence, most are usually run by expats wanting to bring a piece of their local cuisine to their adopted home, or at the very least have a sourced a chef who does have roots in the country. But they’ll inevitably still be tailored towards the palate they are serving. What you then end up with is a large menu split into categories such as curries, stir fries, noodles and rice, soup on occasion, and 10 or so dishes in each category- something for everyone you could say.
As an indecisive orderer with a shocking case of plate envy, I hate being confronted with a multipage menu book. Add the fact that the descriptions are usually a bit lacking, and I am really in my personal hell as I try to navigate from the tom yum goong to the pad preaw wan, all the while trying to pick something I haven’t ordered before, but not wanting to choose something too obscure that I won’t like. Even when we dined at the Lotus of Siam, often described as the best Thai restaurant in America or the world even, the ridiculously large menu was still my undoing. I used to smirk at the people who always order the pad thai or the green curry after a starter of fish cakes, but over the years I have been worn down by sub-par choices (a burn-my-insides-spicy pork mince slush comes to mind) and now generally resort to a red curry or spicy stir fried type dish. It’s just easier, and there is less chance of diner’s remorse.
As the days get longer and warmer back home in NZ, I have been reminiscing about the great Kiwi summer. My Facebook newsfeed is already fast filling up with updates on the increasing temperature, photos of early alfresco dining, and of course, talk of the first summer barbie. There is something comforting in the hiss of meat patties hitting the grill or covering charred sausages in Watties tomato sauce, all with a beer in hand. Ahh, those were the days… With daydreams like these, coupled with the fact the London summer has definitely left the building, it was no surprise that my heart did little somersaults when I head about Meatopia UK.