This was going to be the year I finally got to visit Japan, a country that I have been itching to get to since missing out on a school trip back when I was fourteen. Somewhere towards the end of 2016, we hatched a plan to spend three to six months in Japan, just eating, exploring and hopefully learning some Japanese. The length of time raised some eyebrows but we weren’t phased; we figured, if not now, then when?! Well it turns out, it won’t be now… and the when might actually be next year. Plans: some were made to be followed, while others were made to be broken. I’d like to think this one is just on hold.
The annoyingly sensible decision to put the brakes on this grand plan was made a couple of days before we ventured to Elizabeth Allen’s Shibui residency at Carousel, featuring her take on European and Japanese fusion cuisine. Ironic consolation or just rubbing salt in the wounds? I think if it had been bad, it would have been the latter but it wasn’t, so while we can’t yet experience the real deal, it was a good reminder than there are plenty of places in London where we can savour that taste of Japan in its many guises.
A certain someone often asks me if I would ever start up my own food venture. The man poses a valid question; I spend so much of my time consuming food and consumed in the food industry that it would seem logical to have a career in something I truly love. Sometimes, at my most cynical, I think it’s probably a luxury. But other times, like when I’m perched up at the bar in the newly opened Yuu Kitchen, I think, why the hell not?
There are a steady stream of diners coming through the front door, all greeted by enthusiastic staff and even more exuberant art work plastered across the walls. The manga-style characters are what we’d call an acquired taste, but we like the uniqueness of it. Looking around, I spot many tell-tale signs of satisfaction; lots of nodding and smiling, lots of chatter, lots of dishes flying out of the kitchen. I would be chuffed to call a restaurant like this, my own.
One of my most frequented areas in London is that grid of streets surrounding Carnaby Street; not really an original choice I know, but I’m content with joining the masses who adore this part of town. It’s famed for being a great shopping destination – slightly less crowded than Oxford Street and a lot more interesting in its offerings – but I actually love it for the plethora of restaurants dotted in between the shops. No matter what I find myself hungry for, these streets never fail to deliver me something scrumptious.
I have my go-to senõr for ceviche, that slick American for barbeque, and even the trendy Korean for a bibimbap and a cocktail… oh, and I can’t forget the belly-warming ramen bar or the place where I finally found a kebab that I liked. That’s more than enough to keep me going back again and again, but it just had to go and outdo itself and give me another reason – a gem for those times I’m craving an Indian curry.
Fridays are usually only notable as that day I breathe a sigh of relief and bid farewell to the working week that was. Last Friday was a different story; Friday 24 June is not one many in the UK will forget in a hurry. The day after the night before, a day of celebration for some and commiseration for others but either way, history was made. We said see you later to the status quo and hello to the coming months, or more likely years, of uncertainty.
On a day when more people than ever were thinking and talking about national identity and pride, I thought it was timely and ironic that we were headed to a supperclub which billed itself as intimately British in style yet leaning on its Chinese-Malay, French and Spanish heritage. This speaks volumes to me about our ever developing global communities where traditional lines of ethnicity, race, religion, and opinion are slowly being crossed or erased. As a child of migrants, and now a migrant in this country, this scenario of blurred lines is the type of national identity I respect and believe to be our current reality.
When a certain someone and I moved to London we agreed to do four things every month to help ensure we were making the most of our time here; it’s all too easy to slip into a comfortable routine, take this city for granted then next thing you know, you’re on a plane back to NZ and you haven’t even had an exorbitantly priced cocktail up the Shard?! It’s still on the list. So anyway, every month, alongside trying an ‘out of the ordinary’ restaurant (smugly overachieving), travelling somewhere (top marks for effort with a special commendation for some random locations), and getting a dose of culture in the form of a show or exhibition (failing miserably), we also aim to throw a dinner party…
For someone whose parents constantly had people over for meals, both planned and impromptu, the idea of having friends over for dinner is one that excites rather than daunts… to the point where I’ve been known to get a little carried away, neglect to count how many people I’ve invited (ten), decide to throw a slider party (four types with roughly two per person which equals a lot of teeny tiny burgers) which then results in a certain someone putting his foot down and saying never again! Of course he was only joking and there have since been more dinner parties; the compromise is a cap on the number of guests and a ban on having mini burgers on the menu! I’m ok with both these caveats.
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!
Whoever invented brunch is my kind of person; that woman (or man) really understood the meaning of ‘weekend’. They knew that Saturday and Sunday mornings are for sleeping in and lazing about; sometimes nursing the hangover from the night before, other times just procrastinating and avoiding those pesky chores. They knew that by the time you’ve managed to get out of bed and make yourself look respectable you’re actually pretty hungry. In fact, if you’re anything like me, you’re rather starving. The thought of the weekday status quo of cereal or marmite (New Zealand, of course) on Vogels just doesn’t hit the right notes… you need something more, after all it is almost lunch time. And that’s where brunch comes in; you basically only need two meals in the weekend, and this is one of them.
Like the rest of the weekend, brunch is best savoured slowly. It’s the perfect time to catch up with friends you haven’t seen in ages, something which happens too easily in London, and share those dating disaster stories or tube rage rants. London has a plethora of great brunch places, but last weekend I decided to try something brand spanking new- Le Bun’s ‘Le Brunch’, as part of their month-long residency at Old Bengal Warehouse near Liverpool Street.