September 29, 2009

First House Guest

I had my first house guest this past weekend! My colleague Serene from Singapore extended her work trip over the weekend and stayed with me. She's into vintage stuff and markets so we went to Portobello on Saturday morning. The last time I went to Portobello I didn't really manage to see much of the vintage and antique shops and wasn't very impressed. I was quite amazed to see all these alley ways of shops in the snaking galleries behind the main shop front. Much larger than I thought they were and full of all sorts of trinkets and furniture and jewellery from yesteryear.

I managed to pick up a few nice pieces of jewellery for myself and Serene also scored quite a few purchases. Wan headed straight for his German food truck with another friend and we only managed to catch up just before we were due to leave for our lunch appointment. I had a proper undamaged Hummingbird Red Velvet this time and it was truly moist! I need to make cupcakes like that. This second trip opened my eyes its treasure trove and I will definitely be back.

We left my friend shopping and the 3 of us headed to Launceston Place (off Gloucester Rd) for lunch with other members of FAT (Food Appreciation Team, more on that next time). Launceston Place is part of the same group of restaurants (D&D London) as Orrery (which wasn't that great) and quite a few other nice restaurants. The chef Tristan Welch was previously from Petrus so it was something I was looking forward to after a friend recommended it highly. A 3-course lunch for £19 sounds like really good value at this restaurant. After some initial confusion, we managed to claim the table and got our order in before the kitchen closed. What followed was possibly one of the best meals I've had in London since I arrived (have I said this before?).

All of us had similar variations even though there were 3 choices for each course. We were served pickled cucumber in a yogurt sorbet as an amuse-bouche and for starters it was pumpkin soup or crab risotto. I personally had the pumpkin soup, which was amazing, very smooth and velvety with the right sweetness, accented by the tender beetroot cubes and finely grated cheese for slightly more creaminess. The crab risotto seemed pretty good too, full flavoured and served in a crab shell with a wasabi-laced pesto puree.

09 London Food

We then had our main course, which was poached chicken breast (yes all 6 of us had the same thing) with girolles in a hollandaise sauce, accompanied by some kale and baby carrots which we ordered as sides. While it sounded simple, the chicken breast was very tender. Usually I tend to avoid chicken breast as it is usually dry but this was juicy and tender, without the fattiness of the thigh. The baby carrots were really delicious as they were caramelised.

09 London Food1


The palette cleanser was a lime and raspberry sorbet, a little too sour for me but did its job. For dessert, most of us ordered the roast peach with almond ice-cream while there was also 2 people sharing the gigantic apple tart. The apple tart was excellent, handmade flaky puff pastry with chunky pieces of caramelised apples served with clotted cream. Yum. My roast peach was alright but next time I go back, it's going to be the tart. I was quite wowed by the food, although the same could not be said about the service. Patchy at best, and not very friendly.

I was so full afterwards (we only ended lunch at 4.30pm) I had to walk around to be debloated. I went home and 'exercised' by potting my plants, which caused a massive backache afterwards. Stooping over the step and scooping compost into pots in the dark was not exactly fun. I had gotten some lavender, herbs and small flowers the previous week and just chucked the pots on the balcony. I only recently managed to buy my compost and long container so I wanted to transplant the plants. Unfortunately, I don't think I have very green fingers and my plants look worse after repotting. I must have overwatered most of the plants cos the lavender's drooping (apparently it likes well-drained dry soil) and the violas are also wilting. Sigh. At least the herbs look ok.

I can't believe after that we still went out for dinner at Cha Cha Moon that night (one of my fave cheap eats) albeit a little later than usual. I finally got to try the Chiu Chow Rice Cake, which was chwee kueh! I had spied it on my last visit and was determined to see if it matched up to the ones back home. Sadly, they were served cold, and small (they probably made it in a petit four tart shell) and the chye poh was mixed with bean sauce and a bit salty. The chicken satay salad was not bad but the winner of the night was the tea. Advertised as Hong Kong Milk Tea, it was really teh tarik (HK Milk Tea usually has another taste) and it was good! My constant gripe about Cha Cha Moon is that there is no dessert :( They really need to add dessert (are you reading this Connie? heehee) and it would be perfect!

September 24, 2009

Summary of the Week

I know I'm rubbish at updating. It's been quite manic these past few days. I've quite a bit of backlog in terms of posts - at least I try to tweet more regularly...

The weekend went by in a flash, spent mostly unpacking my stuff (yay!) and going to markets (Borough and Columbia again) and buying some plants. I got a small olive tree (which I actually wouldn't call a tree, more like a plant) and some lavender and calla lilies. I stuck them in my balcony, waiting to be repotted when I have time to go get the supplies. I hope they don't die before that.

On Tuesday I went to Paris for another day trip for work. Everything that could go wrong went wrong that morning. The taxi I booked was 20 min late (I think they completely just forgot about my booking) and I left my tickets in the office. Arrived at St Pancras with only 15 minutes to departure and sprinted (with a bad back) to the ticket office to beg them to reprint my tickets and sprinted to check-in and clear customs. Luckily I made it. And all this before 7am, sigh.

Work aside, I managed to spend some time after the show at the supermarket. As Le Bon Marche and La Grande Epicerie was en route from the show venue to Gare du Nord, I did some marketing there. The French definitely place a lot more emphasis on food so it was a joy to browse and shop there. There was so much specialty stuff available, from baking to world food etc, I was like a kid in the candy store. And molecular gastronomy is like the latest food fad to hit Paris with a few shelves dedicated to tools for making espuma (foam), gelatinising things and turning foods into weird texture using gums, chemicals and whatnot. Amazing. Everywhere I went, they were selling foaming canisters (like the stuff you get whipped cream out of). I never imagined that molecular gastronomy would be accessible to the home cook, but there it is! And now I know where to get supplies if I ever venture into that field.

I didn't have enough time to visit FNAC to pick up some cookbooks :( (I did go a little crazy the last time I was there bringing back tomes on macarons and other yummies) Honestly I think nowhere can you find good patissere books except in France though most are in French. The cookware section in the store also beats the ones in London hands down, just so many more varieties of cookware and dinnerware and much better designed. I wanted to get some pie/tart moulds but I clouldn't decide whether to get a few small ones or a big one so didn't get any. I seriously have a kitchenware hoarding problem. Need to make use of then stuff I already have.

Oh, and also managed to squeeze in a quick visit to my favourite home store Maison Du Monde! I love love love love it. I would buy everything there if I had endless supply of money haha.

September 17, 2009

Why Everyone Needs a Phone Line in UK

I can't wait!! My shipment arrives today! Or at least it's supposed to... one more hour.. counting down! Maybe by the time I finish this post, it'll be here!

After yesterday's fiasco with the Internet guys, my confidence is not very high in the systems here (what systems??). I took the day off, or rather it became more like working from home, to wait for the Virgin Media guys to come and install internet. There I was, all happy to finally get real broadband, instead of my 3G dongle thing. But as the time passed, and I waited and waited, I finally called up the hotline to find out when they were coming cos in this country, no one really gives you a specific time and you have to just WAIT. The lady on the phone told me they'll come before 1pm but specifics she won't give me i.e. just be PATIENT.

Finally they come and they start poking around the house looking for the correct socket. After climbing up and down my small balcony to examine the wires running outside and testing every single hole in the wall, the guy told me it seemed like I couldn't get Virgin Broadband in my house though from my postcode it seemed like I could. What?? After I had waited 3 whole weeks for this appointment you tell me I can't get Virgin broadband??? (background: they're the only ones that do fibre-optics cable, the rest of the providers give you ADSL through the telephone line, which means you need an active phone line first but more on that later) Anyway, they poke around outside some more and finally they call me over to the common corridor, and point to a bunch of wires hanging from the ceiling opening, looking pretty despondent, "Ma'am, these are our wires. Unfortunately, they don't go anywhere. You'd have to get permission from your landlord for us to drill some holes through the ceiling and door and run these wires in the common area to get it into your house. I doubt you'll be able to get that permission though." Geez, thanks guys! So what do I do now??

The background to it is that UK has like 3 major TV/Cable/Phone providers (like Starhub back home) - British Telecom, Sky and Virgin Media. The rest of the telcos like Vodafone, O2 etc do some mobile and internet but not that comprehensive. Since there are these major providers who do everything, you'd think that you can just call up one company and get it all done in one installation and one bill right? WRONG. Apparently, whilst everyone has 3-in-1 packages, for most of the internet here, it's all through ADSL. And what does ADSL need? An active phone line. And here's the punchline - only BT provides the phone line. So that means that before you can do anything at all with anyone, you have to get BT to activate your phone line (and pay them while at it, this is the hidden cost that NO ONE tells you when you see all those cheap packages - £11/mth!!), which is why everyone ends up getting BT internet and phone. I was totally resisting this monopoly cos I really don't think I need a home phone line, since I had my mobile. After a lot of research, I thought I could bypass this by getting cable internet through Virgin (I wanted TV too but apparently I can't get their TV from where I am) and TV through Sky. Which brings us to yesterday's fiasco. And now I'm back to what I was trying to avoid i.e. getting a phone line. I don't even want to think about how long more I have to wait for the phone line and THEN the internet.

I proceed to call up Sky (my provider for Cable TV who's coming to install TV on Sat) to see if they can do an all-in-one installation for me when they come around. I get passed from one person to another and everyone I speak to has thick Scottish accents, which for the life of me, I cannot decipher over the phone. I kept going "Sorry? Say that again? I don't understand," to them and they must have thought I was a nincompoop. Finally after a long time, this is what I understood - I'd have to get my Sky TV and become a customer first, before he could send an order to BT to activate my phoneline (through Sky) and this will take 10-15 days. After my phoneline is active, then he will set up my broadband order and send me a self-installation package through the mail (another 3-7 days) and I will be all set! Errr, that's another 2-3 weeks if my maths doesn't fail me. By this time, I was totally exhausted and told him yah, whatever you need to do, go ahead. I just want my broadband, with or without a stupid phone line. The system just tries to wear you down with all its silly rules and regulations and waits to the point where you just surrender and let them do whatever. And this is supposed to be a first-world developed country??

That's the story of my Internet/TV/Phone fiasco, which I hope will not be repeated today with the movers. I had similar problems with them, having to call them up once every few days to check where my shipment was and everytime they told me they'd call me back with the information and not once did they call. I always had to call back to chase. So I'm really praying very hard that it comes today, and I'll be having TV from this weekend onwards! Plus my Kitchenaid, containers, vases, books, coats and toiletries!!! Oh and I watched Julie & Julia last night, so I'm quite inspired to cook, which means I want my things!! Please please please let it be here today!

September 14, 2009

Monday Blues

Just a quick post to let people know I'm alive. Work's beginning to build up and honestly, I feel kinda swamped at the moment. A lot of the time I feel inadequate to make decisions, not having the background knowledge or relevant info but I suppose I need to bite the bullet and survive this baptism of fire (I hope!).

Despite endeavouring to spend more time at home, relaxing and just doing nothing, I've not been able to do that. The days just fill up (which is good in a way) and even during weekends, I find myself out more than in. This past weekend, we went to Bicester Village, which is the factory outlet near Oxford and boy did we shop. On Sunday, we went to Greenwich and though it was grey and cold, which meant we couldn't sit around the park, we spent a nice couple of hours walking the market and town.

This was followed by a meal at The Gun, a gastropub at Canary Wharf. The Gun came highly recommended and it was all in all pretty good. Good flavours hearty food. I had the Pork Belly which was this really well cooked errr seo bah for lack of a better term. The meat was soft and came apart quite easily and the skin was very crispy. The fat was also melt-in-your-mouth though I cut away most of it since I really shouldn't be eating so much fat. My companions had a ribeye steak and veal rump. The accompaniments for each dish was very good - shoe string potatoes and onion rings and hand cut fries. For dessert we shared a chocolate pistachio tart with honeycomb ice-cream. It was as good as it sounds, not overly sweet and the ice cream was great! Overall, a nice dinner and pretty reasonably priced (we spent about £25 per person).

The Gun
27 Coldharbour
Docklands London E14 9NS

T
: 020 7515 5222

September 10, 2009

Midweek

I've finally kinda caught up on the housework, put away the leftover laundry, cleared the table somewhat and *almost* cleared the boxes. My new white table and fuschia pink chair from Maison Du Monde came yesterday, which was a nice surprise when I returned home and saw two big ass packages awaiting me. Amazing that I got my furniture from France before stupid UK Ikea (still another 2 weeks!). Go figure.


The chair is even brighter than in the picture. I contemplated for a long time if I should get the grey (other than black above they also have this dark grey) instead of the pink. I wanted a pop of colour in otherwise pastel/white room. Well, it really erm pops. the colour in the above looks more like a very strong pink, and well mine is BRIGHT almost flourescent pink. Guess it's also cos of the light shining on it. Regret it a little :(

I've had quite a few busy days at work, lots of networking which tires me out cos I'm not so good at it. Didn't manage to catch the window to watch 2-for-1 movies today, really can't bear to watch on any other day and spend £13 on a movie. Came back home after my event and actually cooked beehoon. I had opened up my fridge and the vegs (which have been sitting there for quite a while) were calling out to me. So I finally made the beehoon I had been planning to make since Sunday. As usual I made way too much, will bring the rest of it to work for some friends tm. Can't wait for the weekend, plans to go to Bicester, which is the factory outlets though the sunny weather is gone. Has the sizzle really fizzled?

This blog is kinda turning into I did this, I did that blah blah chronicle huh. Not very interesting I must say. Oh well. Boring life, what to do.

September 7, 2009

My Weekend

It was quite a packed weekend, starting once again with an outing to Ikea on Friday night. Background - I had gone there just on Monday since it was Bank Holiday and we rented a trusty Zipcar to carry back all the stuff. Somehow we managed to spend the ENTIRE day in Ikea, like from 10am - 7.30pm, and we still didn't manage to get everything cos errr I was quite indecisive plus several pieces of the furniture were going to be too heavy and big to lug back by car. The VW Golf, however, did manage to fit in all the small barang barang which somehow added up to a mountain of stuff. And since I didn't have access to my house carpark with my key yet, we had to unload by the street and wheel 3 trolley loads across the street and parking lot.

And yes, we went there again on Friday as I couldn't get all the stuff online (what's the point of online shopping if you can't get stuff online??). Got my boss's car for the weekend so off we went. Once again, we came back with a whole load of stuff. This time, at least we got into the carpark and there was only one load. I spent a good part of Saturday evening building the furniture until my hands hurt. I had never wanted a power drill more. Then more hand torturing on Sunday evening as I set out to do laundry. I never liked doing laundry since college days, and my old fears came flooding back when I had to wring dry my handwashing. My hands were still smarting from the previous day's furniture building and it was not fun at all. I think I put too many things into the washer-dryer as well cos my things didn't really dry and I had to hang dry most of it still. While the laundry was drying, I proceeded to scrub the limescale and water marks off my bathroom glass divider and the bathtub. Again, not fun. I can't imagine having to do this on a regular basis - it'll eat up all my weekends! I haven't even stayed there for 2 weeks! The kitchen probably needs some wiping down as well, and I'm sure it'll get worse the more I cook. Gah.

Yeah, so lest people think I lead a glam glam life, I don't! It only seems that way cos I blog about the highlights. On regular days, I wake up, take the tube to work, spend the day at work in meetings or in front of computer, go home, unpack/clean/run errands/cook, sleep and then it starts again the next morning. Occasionally here and there I do go out for nice dinners and try to do some shopping (I think Saturday will be marketing/shopping day). I will also try to cook more. Can't wait for shipment and all my cooking equipment to come!

Oh, and we went to Datchett and Windsor on Sunday, the former for a work-related social event in this huge huge house with big grounds, where there was free flow drinks, food, ice-cream, entertainment, bbq, the full works for about 150-200 pple. We even took a steamboat up the Thames (yes the house is right on the Thames further out where Thames is a narrow river) to Windsor. Neighbours with the queen, now that's a prestigious postcode. The place was just amazing, and we even got to take back vegetables from the hostess's garden!

We left early cos we wanted to take a look at Windsor Castle, but unfortunately it was already closed :( We walked around and had tea (or rather I had coffee, yes travesty I know) & scones at this really cute place called The Crooked House of Windsor. It really is quite slanted and crooked. According to its history blurb it was built in 1592! Apparently it's the place to have tea in Windsor and is featured as one of Britain's must-go tearooms. Well the ambience was great, the scones were not too bad though we thought it would have been better warmed. The Americans at the next table had the full-fledged tea set, sandwiches, cakes, pastries the whole works. I do need to do tea at one of the institutions here in London one day.

After tea, we walked around and unexpected came across some cheap wall art that we bought. It was a nice way to spend the Sunday afternoon. I will be back to actually go to Windsor Castle next time.
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