Monday, January 25, 2010

Gastrotourismo (Happy Birthday!)

Last night we broke the seal on celeb-chef restaurants: Gordon Ramsay's gastropub The Warrington. It wasn't exactly what I expected in terms of atmosphere since the gastro and the pub were on different floors and had totally different decor. Entering through the front doors you see a cozy, comfy pub with leather sofas and plenty of room to relax. Upstairs you find an elegant dining room, white tablecloths, lovely armless leather dining chairs and comfy banquettes with lots of pillows.

The family was well turned-out. I think it's called casual-smart over here: hubby in Levi's, french-cuffed shirt, Burberry cufflinks, and an olive corduroy blazer; me in a black tunic with gold sequin detail, dark black skinnies tucked into boots, Missoni scarf, and a Robert Lee Morris for Elizabeth and James snake bangle bracelet which is totally awesome; kid in a Hamley's pirate costume, sans hat and eye patch, but with his face painted like Spider Man. Yes. You've read that correctly. We went directly from a Peter Pan fancy dress birthday party in St John's Wood (where I did not meet/see/or hear about Kate Moss, but where I was happy to see the happy marriage of small children dancing to Abba with an adult-sized Tinkerbell and my own seemingly bottomless glass of Brut Rose) to our dinner reservation. We were the first ones to arrive at The Warrington restaurant and the staff didn't bat an eye at our spider-faced cherub.

On the contrary, there was an amazing kids' menu and coloring sheets and crayons. Orlando had a perfectly cooked medium rare butter roasted rump steak served with best chips I've sampled in London so far, and for dessert, a sticky toffee pudding that made me rethink my whole "restaurant desserts are not worth saving room for" mantra. On top of it all, he was given a private tour of the kitchen by our lovely hostess Laura, and our Parisian waiter indulged my boy by speaking with him in baby French.

On the grown-ups' menu were a chicken liver madeira parfait (not what I expected of "parfait" at all, more like a slice of terrine) with yummy chutney and toasted brioche, venison carpaccio, and pan fried sea bream with braised leeks and fennel. We washed it all down with a Chassagne Montrachet (Bernard Moreau et fils), and topped it off with Calvados and Port. It was the best food I've eaten in London so far, and one of my top 20 meals, ever. One would hard pressed to beat the value of the prix-fixe Winter menu at The Warrington.

I would, and will, return again and again, but for this week we are repenting for our monetary and calorific excesses (mostly due to the hooch) with homemade lentil soup. And even once payday rolls around again, there are only 4 more months and about 4 million more restaurants to experience. AND, I haven't even begun to SHOP. With London Fashion Week (and London Fashion Weekend, to which I actually have tickets) around the corner, I think restaurant hopping is going to have some serious competition in the allocation of funds debate. Oh! Speaking of shopping, here's a wardrobe/packing update: have actually worn every sailor-stripey item, some more than once; have worn many of the tagged items and (maybe lentil soup related?) they fit!; have worn the heck out of the two pairs of suitcase space hogging boots.

Three weeks in. So far, sooooooooo good.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Day 10 and it's the first time I have exercised. Ugh. In my defense it has been snowy, wet, and gross outside. The in-building gym we were counting on, while still in existence, is off-limits because "the equipment has not been properly maintained and is not fit for human use." And, our boxes sent from home only just arrived and in them were my beloved collection of fitness dvd's. So, today it was a little Turbo Jam (T3 for those of you who are into TJ, too). Feels good to move and sweat.

I started the day on a positive note, too, with a little yoga in the kitchen while I was waiting for the kettle to boil. Multi-tasking! And before we started homeschooling I got dressed in my exercise clothes (down to shoes, FlyLady) so I would have a constant reminder that I should exercise today.

The papers and mags are full of New Year's resolution inspired articles on diets and exercise plans which have been encouraging to a degree. But where do I buy kettlebells? The tool essential to what Look Magazine reports are integral to the "15-Min Workout That Transformed Her Body!" Her being Jennifer Anniston, who as far as I am concerned had a a pretty enviable figure to begin with. Then there are the detox centers featured in the February's UK InStyle magazine in places like Spain, Morocco and South Africa. Probably not jetting off to any of those retreats any time soon. But still, the whole NEW YEAR, NEW YOU thing is exciting and appealing and I am determined to keep up the healthy life-style I finally recaptured this past Autumn. Feels like a million years since my gym bunny days, but it's amazing how, now that I've crossed that psychological line that kept me from getting it done, I feel like I never gave it up. It was such a big part of me, I guess it didn't really go anywhere, just went into hibernation.

And this kettlebell thing is not so much an example of an obstacle to fitness, but of the adjustment to living an urban life again. I mean, in South Bend I would just cruise the town in my giant car hopping from Target to Meijer to Dick's to wherever until I found them. Or I'd order online. But I have a real mental block getting used to public transportation again. Additionally, I am now a one handed shopper, the other clutching the hand of my fearless son. And can I order on the internet? Of course I can. But I have irrational hesitation over international shipping, matching shipping and billing addresses, confidence that I actually know my post code--all these things are so easily overcome but they are HUGE in my mind right now.

The next psychological hurdle? Hitting the pavement and becoming a runner again. Have 25 minutes? Pop out for a little noodle. Happen to wake up early on a gorgeous sunny morning? Sneak out before the rest of the house wakes up and go for a six-mile run. (But it's so nice out! Just 3 more miles!) This is the attitude I want to recapture. Even after the baby arrived I used to make time for a little post-nurse jog before hubby headed to work. Once we moved I just never really kept it up. Didn't like the jog stroller, cold weather, rain, hot weather, creepy dude always on the bench, anything really. I'm hoping that this return to urban life will inspire me to see the sites in my sneaks. I've seen lots of runners out there. I want to be one of them. Now I just have to believe what I tell myself, "I can run. I can run. I can run."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What I Ate This Week, Part 2

Just in case you forgot from the previous post:


So, this is micro herbs salad with organic baby plum tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, lemon and olive oil dressing; organic baguette; Prosecco Rosato; cullatello; venison ballotine; brillat-savarin; braeburn apples. Add to that the kid was already asleep, it was an awesome dinner indeed.

Monday, husband sick. Didn't stop the rest of us from having a delightful lunch of market leftovers, plus some organic chicken bangers for the little one.


While we were shopping and eating our way through the Market on Saturday, we shared a sausage roll from The Ginger Pig, the most amazing bacon, blue-veined cheddar, and onion sandwich ever,IMG_1951

fresh shucked oysters washed down with dry pink bubbly, and a tasty assortment of samples of cheeses, olives, and weird and delicious meat products. We'll be back again this Saturday, for sure! Oh, and ps, here's proof that I'm getting some wear out of the stripes.IMG_1959

What I Ate This Week

I had planned to write mini-reviews of all the neighborhood restaurants we've hit since we've arrived (5 total), and to do that every week. But then we realized that we were acting like we were on vacation and would be broke soon if we didn't start eating at home. And then we shopped Borough Market and I knew I wanted to report on all its wonders. So, here, eight days of eating out, in, and about.

First the restaurants. Two noodle bars, Miso and Wagamama, both have communal seating. Delicious, comforting, warm bowls of broth and noodles, perfect for weary travelers. Tuesday was Indian lunch at Chowki and it was amazing. Palak paneer, dahl, naan, raita, samosa, chicken tikka, and rice--little tastes of a lot as part of the prix fixe lunch special. Orlando had some very tasty lamb sheesh kababs, but those were mostly enjoyed by the grown-ups since he was more interested in rice, naan, and raita. Pizza Express didn't disappoint. They had a great kids menu that even included a "bambinoccino" at the end. So cute. Our last meal out was forgettable pub food, though I did like the peas, the gravy, and the Marcle Hill cider.

At home it's been a lot of cereal, toast, tea, ham sandwiches, pasta, salad, boring whatevs. But we've had a couple great meals at home constructed from Borough Market booty. IMG_1964


Friday, January 8, 2010

Just One More Thing

It is such a joy to be able to buy sparkling mineral water without all the locavore guilt usually associated with it. A small country that has its own water and sells litres of it for less than a dollar--heaven! I do buy the occasional Pellegrino at home, but feel guilty with every sip for the huge carbon footprint I'm leaving. I mean, shipping water, in glass bottles, all the way from Italy? Ahh! And so I justify buying Faygo club soda as a substitute because it's bottled in Detroit and that sort of counts as local, right? Wrong. But now, lovely semester in London now, I am free to quaff all the lovely bubbly water I like without a moment's pause. Oh, but wait: I need to figure out where to take the recycling.

I Really Thought I Should Buy This

What is my problem?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Get On Your Boots

First trip to Boots! I have been trying to get in there all week. I love that place. It's usually my first stop, but apparently four-year-old boys (and their daddies) do not love this UK pharmacy as much as I do.

I even signed up for a Boots card, making me feel like a local. Plus! As a member I received the Boots Beauty magazine for FREE!!! A 1 pound value! Already making money. And the check-out clerk did a great job pretending to be interested in the fact that we can now buy some Boots products at Target. I'll totally be back to that location.

I also got some nail polish remover, nail polish, nail files with the Boots logo all over them, candy, lint brush, deluxe gift set of Soap and Glory lotions and potions leftover from Christmas (for half price!!), milk, tissues, rubbing alcohol which is called "surgical spirits" here, making it much more fun to use, surgical scissors, and antibiotic cream.

The last 3 items were purchased so that my sweet devoted husband could take out my stitches. I had a mole removed just in case about 4 days before we left town. Awesome timing, right? The same day he had his teeth cleaned. We are so on top of it.

Oh! And I forgot to say that I bought the magazine where Frosty gets her kit off to show what a woman in her forties really looks like. I read about it in the paper this morning. So very interested in that Primrose Hill set. Do they even live there any more?

Okay, anyway, tonight was our first dinner at a pub and we got a good look at Big Ben. I'll have a post totally devoted to what I ate this week in a couple days. TTFN!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

KateWatch: What's Mossy Doing?

Second day here and not one Mossy experience to report. Can you believe? Word is she's in Phuket with Naomi Campbell and Jamie Hince and she's taken up synchronized swimming for exercise. I sort of hope she keeps her ciggie in her mouth while she does it. I mean, hope she quits and all, but in the meanwhile, you know, it's part of the package. Or at least she could be a little drunk. Or nude. Man, I hope she comes home soon. We've got a party to attend in St. John's Wood in a couple weeks! I'm totally going to make her be my friend.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

First 24 hours (who packed my suitcase?)

Our London adventure has begun! Terrific start, so far. Great airport and flight experiences. We moved into the (tiny!) flat with ease and are having a terrific time settling in.

I thought it was fair to consider myself a seasoned traveller and that would imply that I had a handle on packing. Unpacking my suitcase made me doubt this proposition. I'll let you be the judge. (I know, Mom, you are thinking of our own trip to London and the honker suitcase. But considering the latest incarnation of the honker was a gift from you, you must assume some responsibility for all this.)

Apparently, all my years of travel have taught me that it is imperative to pack 3 nearly identical shirts. IMG_1926

And that's not enough, dear reader. It is essential to pack the dress version of the same, bringing the total of stripy sailor-type garments up to four.


You may be surprised to know, despite what common sense would tell you, that you should also take as many brand new, tags on, never worn items with you as you can. IMG_1929

Some of these may or may not even fit. You don't know, because you've never tried them on.

To round it all out: a minimum of 7 handbags, several tubes of mascara, 8 pairs of shoes (most of which are black and fairly interchangeable with one another, only one that might be called "practical" for winter in London), no books, toothpaste, or shampoo for your son, giant box of Q-tips, a leopard print jacket with the button missing, no razors, a back cardi with a huge hole in the armpit (it's designer!), and a vest that you dug out of the goodwill bag in a last minute panic.

So, coming to London? Feel free to use my helpful packing tips! I'll let you know how my picks pan out over the next 5 months.