A couple of weeks ago when I told a certain someone we were headed to Shepherd’s Bush for dinner on Friday night, he casually replied ‘oh cool, somewhere you’ve never really been before…’ while humming the theme tune to Only Fools and Horses. To which I not so casually retorted, ‘um excuse me, I’ve been there several times now… remember how I whinged about the platform changes while lugging my shopping bags around?!’. And then as quickly as those words escaped my mouth, I was wishing they really hadn’t because I then had to admit that a certain someone was right. These admissions are not something I take pleasure in.
The handful of times I had been to Shepherd’s Bush involved me emerging from the tube station, walking to the Westfield, walking around the mall (several times), and then back down to the tube again… so fine, I’d admit defeat, I’ve never really been to Shepherd’s Bush. I’ve never seen a concert at the O2, or checked out the wares for sale at Shepherd’s Bush Market, and embarrassingly, didn’t even know the Bush Theatre existed!
Once upon a time I was a fresh faced seventeen year old pondering what on earth I was going to do for the rest of my life. The grown ups will tell you that ‘the world is your oyster’ but in the very next breath go on to rattle off a list of their ‘approved careers’ which will give you what they consider stability and status. Common inclusions in such lists: lawyer, doctor, accountant, engineer… all options I was given, all admirable professions many of my friends engage in now.
But what didn’t make the list? I went to a fairly traditional girls’ school and despite the ‘girls can do anything’ mantra, encouragement into trades were unheard of and anything in hospitality was somewhat frowned upon. Now, a bit over ten years later, I have no doubt that those traditional professions will still be encouraged but I wonder if careers in the food and drink industry have gained a higher status these days given society’s gastronomic obsession. I certainly hope so because I truly believe it’s a highly competitive industry which requires just as much ambition and dedication if you want to be at the top of this food chain.
I would class myself as a bit of a slap-dash, taste and tweak as you go kind of cook. My parents are exceptionally good cooks so I guess I picked up basic skills by diffusion as I never made a meal until I moved out of home at the start of university. Our family home has shelves of cookbooks but I doubt my parents meticulously follow the recipes, only really using them to get ideas for dishes and flavour combinations. In most cases when I ask my mother how much of this or that she puts into a certain dish of hers I’m trying to recreate, she unhelpfully tells me it’s ‘angga-angga’, which is her Malay version of saying ‘approximately’. Like I said, unhelpful!
So how she manages to turn out amazing cakes and Malaysian kuih I’ll never know, perhaps after years of practice she’s perfected her own imperfect precision? I, on the other hand, do not have years of experience on my side and still lack the discipline of precision so most of my baking and desserts are basic affairs. This must explain why I almost always order a dessert at the end of the meal and didn’t have to think twice about heading along to Basement Sate for a dessert degustation then a pastry masterclass! I get to eat something and learn to make something – no brainer really.
There’s a restaurant that serves levitating cuisine? What does that even mean? Does the food float around? That’s going to be a bit ridiculous to eat…but maybe we could give it a go, I wonder how I book…
And there you have 10 seconds in the life of my food-obsessed mind. Obviously this is not a moment I am particularly proud of because really, who is silly enough to believe there’s such a thing as a levitating restaurant. In my defence we do live in a city where you can dine in the dark, sip your coffee with cats all over you, and eat cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner so why not food that floats? Is it too late to convince you that I’m not actually stupid…
A lot of people shy away from a tasting menu; some are overwhelmed by the number of courses, a few are put off by the cost. Others might even think it’s only reserved for the food snobs in our midst, but I’d like to convince them otherwise. I am a big fan. Obvious reasons aside, my seemingly insatiable hunger and that horrible plate envy, I like a tasting menu because it not only tells you about the style of the restaurant, but gives the chefs a chance to show off a little. It’s one thing to create a menu for the whole restaurant, it’s another to pull together a handful of dishes that flow cohesively to form the perfect meal.
It also saves me from the mental arithmetic of weighing up the pros and cons of each dish, mixing and matching course options for the ideal combination, then finally factoring in a certain someone’s choices to maximise our exposure to the menu. I know it’s a product of my own making but it can be a little tiresome and quite frankly sometimes (rare but it happens) I don’t mind having the choice made for me. Proof that it’s possible for control freaks to have a day off.
We all know the importance of this even without listening to property gurus Kirstie and Phil bang on about it to hapless house-hunters all over the country. With a potential house purchase you’re probably wondering what the community is like, what your transport options are, whether the high street has a decent smattering of shops and if you’re like me, where the nearest supermarket is. I imagine it’s much the same when you’re looking for your restaurant location, though perhaps minus the supermarket worry. So when I arrived at Queenswood in Battersea Square, I was a little stumped. I don’t know the area well at all but looking around, I’m hoping the owners know more than I do because honestly, it feels like it’s in the middle of not much else.
To get there, we took a leisurely stroll from Clapham Junction which took just under 20 minutes, coming from Battersea Park station will take you closer to 30 minutes but I suppose there are bus options too. We’re just not really bus people, especially on a Friday evening during peak hour. At the Square there’s a handful of other restaurants, the most memorable being the rather swanky London House, one of the Gordon Ramsay empire which was reasonably busy, while the others were hardly occupied. This doesn’t feel like an area you stumble upon. So are these red flags or red herrings?
I’ve been to a lot of restaurants where you can tell the dessert menu is an afterthought. They’re generally the ones with a crowd-pleasing chocolate dish and some fruit based thing to appease those watching their figures but as disappointing as this can be, I’d rather boring than bad. As long as that chocolate brownie is gooey or your crumble has the right fruit to crumb ratio, I’ll forgive your lack of originality. I guess they are smart enough to know they only need to meet the minimum requirements to satisfy those schmucks out there who’ll eat anything to end on a sweet note. Schmucks like me. I’ve been burned before, I’ve eaten at enough restaurants, I should know better but even when I do smell a rat, the devil that is my sweet tooth just takes over and orders anyway. I know, I have willpower issues, is there a group for this?!
A friend once asked, with a slightly disgusted glint in her eye, whether we ate pudding every night because that would just be outrageous right? Well at the time I was shamed into denying it, ‘oh no, of course not, maybe just once a week’ but of course that’s a big fat lie with a quenelle of ice cream on the side. Sorry pudding-police, t’s more like several nights a week. However on Sunday I pushed myself further, not just one dessert but five, in one sitting, oh yes the things I do for my craft! With a couple of sweet toothed friends in tow, I skipped the main and went straight for desserts at Happy Endings Presents a Month of Sundaes at POND Dalston.