Getting dressed for a dinner date when you have no idea where you’re going can be a little tricky, am I right, ladies? I hate being overdressed or underdressed, but will err on the side of over if necessary. I like to consider my shoe options depending on the distance we will need to travel on foot, and my bag options depending on how long I’ll need to carry it for. I don’t really care for putting slap on my face, but I do put some effort into what I wear, even if it’s often done in haste.
So with twenty minutes to spare, the novelty of surprise wore off, the suspense was killing me, and I finally asked a certain someone for a hint as to where we were dining that night. Next thing I knew, Fred Astaire was belting out ‘Puttin’ On the Ritz’ from our front room and I just had to double check I had got the right end of the stick. Mistakingly thinking you’re being swept off to The Ritz when you’re actually going… well, anywhere else… is a disappointment I wouldn’t even wish upon my most treasured arch nemesis. But I wasn’t mistaken; it was a dress and heels kinda night…
Do you ever arrive in a new city and find yourself thinking about how much it reminds you of your hometown? I wonder if it’s an expat/immigrant/nomad thing because I’ve noticed recently that we do it a lot. I can’t imagine myself living back in Wellington just yet but I do miss little things about it… the breezy waterfront, the compact city centre, and our famous steep streets. So I guess when we find somewhere that has some of those things, we almost instantly feel a little more relaxed and at home.
When we arrived in Bristol, we had a good feeling that we would like it… by the time we left, we were certain of it. We found a harbourside area where you can get a whiff of the sea, a compact city you can easily walk around in, and hills to give your calves a work out. Tick, tick, tick; no wonder we felt so at home there… throw in the friendly local vibe and the vibrant dining scene and we were sold! Ours was a very snappy visit, but we’d be more than happy to drop by again…
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.
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.
There’s a conversation which happens quite often in our house: it involves me proclaiming how excited I am about dinner that evening, a certain someone asking me where I’m headed, me responding matter-of-factly with the restaurant name, a certain someone asking where that is… then me looking and feeling rather sheepish because I have no idea. Oops.
What follows is some frantic google mapping and Citymapper tapping and the realisation that it’ll take me 45 minutes to get there but I’ve only got 30 minutes up my sleeve. And it’s in a part of town I’ve never been to which inevitably requires another ten minutes added to the equation because I will have to stop every two metres to check that the little blue dot on google maps in facing the right direction. Did I mention how I’m not great with directions?
Like 90% of the Antipodean expats in London, we can talk your ear off about our jaunts to the continent. You want itinerary ideas? We’ve got them. You want restaurant recommendations? We can make you hungry. You want to hear some horror stories? We can make you laugh. But ask us about the UK and many of us might be silenced.
Most of us end up in London, in spite of the crowds and cost of living, because we can move here fairly easily and it gives us the incredible freedom to duck off to Spain or France or wherever within the same day. Too seduced with those options, many of us forget about exploring England. A certain someone and I have been guilty of using England as the fall back option when it comes to holiday planning but I’m pleased we have ventured outside of the M25 a few times; even more so when I think about how well we’ve eaten on these trips.
Hablas Espanol? No? Me neither, but I wished I did. No really, I used one of my precious birthday wishes on it, but I think perhaps the cake and candles weren’t big enough as sadly I didn’t magically wake up with the ability to rattle off a conversation in Spanish. So until the language gods bless me, I must rely on the handful of words I know, all the essentials like ‘please, thank you, wine, anchovies’ and a certain someone’s slightly more advanced vocabulary which also includes asking for a table for two and the bill.
While our conversation skills aren’t particularly advanced, our menu-deciphering abilities have definitely improved… just goes to show what the focus of our trips are! This was our third visit to Spain; we loved the food in Barcelona, we loved the food in San Sebastian, and Madrid did not disappoint. We went a little more upmarket on this trip, visiting not one, but two fancy pantsy Michelin star restaurants, bringing our 2015 total to eleven!