Thursday, January 7, 2010

London remembered: A dozen random "bests"

BEST PUB: The Churchill Arms, Kensington Church Street.
I'll always remember the small lads perched on stools, sipping lemonades and watching Arsenal v. Aston Villa, the decor devoted to County Clare's GAA teams and the friendly young barman who befriended us. When I asked about the Manchester United v. Leeds United result, he told me Leeds had won and that I should "rub it in" to the other barman. Cheers, mate!
BEST CIDER: Addlestone's Premium Cloudy Cider.
I sank a pint (or was it two?) at The Malt House in Fulham, as the pub filled with Chelsea supporters.
Ah. It was two pints, sorry.

BEST FISH 'N' CHIPS: Geales, 2 Farmer Street W8.
I had haddock. Inger believes the chips were so crunchy because they had been briefly par-boiled before being placed in the fryer.
BEST DESCRIPTION OF AN ESSENTIAL OIL: At Neal's Yard Remedies in Seven Dials.

It stated: "Myrrh. Blends well with Frankincense."

Y'know, I've read that somewhere before.

BEST OPENING PARAGRAPH IN A 300-YEAR-OLD BOOK: "Being a very dismal account of four young men, who made a match to play at cricket, on Sunday the 6th of this instant July 1712, in a meadow near Maiden Head Thicket."

-- "The Sabbath Breakers," displayed at the museum of Lord's Cricket Ground.

BEST SIGN AT A FOOTBALL GROUND: "Caution Beware of Stray Footballs."

-- Entrance to the North Stand, Brisbane Road, Leyton E10.


Rowe was absolutely brilliant, as was the remainder of the pantomime's cast.

BEST SANDWICH: Egg and cress (pictured, left), served with the cream tea special at Auntie's Tea Shop, Cambridge.

Second place goes to the sausage and fried onion sandwich at the Lamb & Flag, Covent Garden.

BEST MUSEUM: Joint first place goes to the museum at Lord's Cricket Ground, St. John's Wood, and the London Transport Museum, Covent Garden.

BEST REMINDER OF MY RAGING ANGLOPHILE TENDENCIES OF HIGH SCHOOL: Stepping into the Rough Trade record shop in Brick Lane, I realized within moments that the album playing on the shop's stereo was "Sister Feelings Call" by Simple Minds, my favourite album by my favourite band in high school. It was eerie.

BEST SONG BY THE JAM HEARD IN A RESTAURANT: "The Bitterest Pill," heard while I ate cottage pie in the S&M Cafe in Portobello Road.

BEST PUNK ROCK PILGRIMMAGE: Inger photographed me snarling outside No. 430 King's Road, Chelsea.

Now a Vivienne Westwood shop, No. 430 was the location of "SEX," the Westwood and Malcolm McLaren shop where the Sex Pistols were formed.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The most fitting farewell

I couldn't think of a better way to conclude my visit to LONDON.
I browsed a used bookshop in NOTTING HILL GATE and found four treasures for a total of two quid:
1. "THE CRICKETER'S BEDSIDE BOOK," a 1966 collection of 31 historical essays, edited by the late Ron Roberts.
2. SHOOT! magazine from 21st of May, 1977 (Arsenal's David O'Leary and Bristol City's Paul Cheesley on the cover).
3. SHOOT! magazine from 10th of June, 1978 (Tottenham's Glenn Hoddle and Southampton's Nick Holmes on the cover).
4. SHOOT! magazine from 24th of February, 1979 (Tottenham's Osvaldo Ardiles on the cover).
It was actually a SHOOT! magazine from 1983 that helped fuel my ANGLOPHILE tendencies, back in my youth.
As I prepared for bed on my final night in London, I sipped cider (two-litre bottles of STRONGBOW? Rule Britannia indeed!), listening to TEST MATCH SPECIAL on the radio and read the old soccer magazines.
It seemed like a perfect way to say farewell.

Monday, January 4, 2010

To Ms. Annika Hogstrom: An apology

I couldn't help myself.
I know I promised 10-year-old ANNIKA I wouldn't eat any "bunny" when I was here.
I completely intended to keep that promise -- the "game terrine" at Corrigan's Mayfair didn't contain any rabbit *to my knowledge.*
However, when INGER and I entered the HARWOOD ARMS gastro-pub in FULHAM yesterday, we were met with this blackboard-advertised, daily special:
"Whole rabbit leg stewed in cider & mustard with smoked bacon, prunes and brussel tops."
You had me at "stewed in cider."
I had to order it!
Before it arrived, Inger and I shared a starter: chanterelle and Jerusalem artichoke tart with watercress and Ragstone goats' cheese.
The rabbit arrived, and it fell off the bone and tasted absolutely glorious.
"Don't tell Annika it was a bunny," Inger helpfully advised. "Tell her it was a mean old hare."
In either case, I am now formally apologising to you, Annika. I am sorry, but I simply had to order the rabbit.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Keeping up an 800-year tradition of drunken university antics

It's the banner headline in today's CAMBRIDGE NEWS, which I picked up during a day-long visit to the famed university town:
A learned institution also noted for it's students' reckless attempt to free-climb the outsides of 800-year-old college buildings, CAMBRIDGE faces a pressing crisis, according to "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells," who e-mailed the following comment to the newspaper following a recent night of on-the-piss escapades by layabouts:
"Complete and utter madness. What on Earth is this country coming to? Where on Earth is the pleasure in spending hard-earned money on alcohol, and then just vomiting it onto the street?"
INGER made a dead valid point in this raging debate:
"It's not the students' hard-earned money. It's mummy and daddy's money or part of their college grant."
Here, here.
Don't let a few Tunbridge Wells disgusteds ruin the pissed vomiting of Cambridge students!

Friday, January 1, 2010

U.K. update: A pub scorecard

The following is an updated scorecard of the pubs I have visited.
DUKE OF WELLINGTON, 179 Portobello Road, W11 -- PINT: Strongbow. CLIENTELE: A few locals, a few more tourists. FAST FACT: A pug type of dog walked into wearing what looked like a dog-sized army coat.
CHURCHILL ARMS, 119 Kensington Church Street, W8 -- PINT: Fuller's London Pride. CLIENTELE: Mostly locals, some chatting with the Irish proprietor, others craning their necks to see Arsenal v. Aston Villa on the telly. FAST FACT: Pub's decor consisted of memorabilia associated with County Clare's Gaelic Athletic Association clubs.
SUN IN SLENDOUR, 7 Portobello Road, W11 -- PINT: Aspall's Suffolk Cider. CLIENTELE: Typical Notting Hill Gate mix of young professionals and European tourists. FAST FACT: I once watched the barman chucking empty kegs out of a sidewalk trapdoor toward the waiting beer distributor's lorry.
COACH & HORSES, 391 Leyton High Road, E10 -- PINT: Strongbow. CLIENTELE: Primarily locals who have just witnessed another dire performance by nearby, underachieving football club, Leyton Orient. FAST FACT: Spotting my Leyton Orient football scarf, a local lad playing snooker asked what I thought of the club's chairman. I was able to intelligently respond. Huzzah!
DUKE OF YORK, 2 St. Ann's Terrace, NW8 -- PINT: John Smith's Extra Smooth. CLIENTELE: Professionals spending their lunch hour down the pub, the cheeky bastards. FAST FACT: I ate a slightly upscale version of the traditional pub grub called "bangers and mash." It consisted of three Cumberland sausages and mashed potatoes smothered in onion gravy.
THE PLOUGH, 27 Museum Street, WC1A -- PINT: Bullmer's cider. CLIENTELE: Mostly tourists coming in from the torrential rain. FAST FACT: Pub was slightly less crowded than the hordes who pressed against the glass case in the nearby British Museum to see the Rosetta Stone. Only slightly less.
LAMB & FLAG, 33 Rose Street, WC2 -- PINT: Courage's Best Bitter. CLIENTELE: Locals who knew the way by heart and tourists who had stumbled into the pub strictly by coincidence. FAST FACT: To reach this hard-to-find pub, we had to walk down a series of increasingly narrow and crooked alleys in a warren of streets immediately to the west of Covent Garden.
PRINCE EDWARD, 73 Princes Square, W2 -- PINT: No pint. I had a cup of warmed Pimm's. CLIENTELE: Students from rather posh backgrounds, plus a few guests from the boutique hotels nearby. FAST FACT: My sister Inger told me I should tell 14-year-old daughter Kerstin that the pub's name was in fact, "Prince Edward Cullen." I certainly shall not. Have you heard Kerstin squeal for that pale Vampire bloke?
SEVEN STARS, 53 Carey Street, WC2A (pictured) -- PINT: Aspall's. CLIENTELE: Older folks and a black cat eating its dinner on the bar, but usually barristers, solicitors and judges, based on the proximity of the law courts. FAST FACT: William Shakespeare was preparing for the first performances of "Twelfth Night" when this pub opened in 1602.
THE GEORGE, 213 The Strand, WC2R -- PINT: Hog's Back Brewery's OTT (Old Tongham Tasty), a locally brewed, real ale. CLIENTELE: European tourists. How do I know? This one bloke with guidebook to "Londra" ordered a beef burger and proceeded to eat it with a knife and fork! FAST FACT: Samuel Johnson once used The George as his postal address.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hearing the adhan after curry -- another slice of London life

My sister INGER and I took the Circle Line to Aldgate Station this morning so we could stroll down BRICK LANE.
The center of the BANGLADESHI community in LONDON, it was largely devoid of the tourists that otherwise fill the streets and the Underground trains.
After we browsed the nearby Spitalfields Market, we reversed our travels and walked to 89 Fieldgate Road and TAYYABS -- one of London's most celebrated places to get CURRY.
We dined on fabulous SOUTH ASIAN food -- saag alou (creamed spinach with potato), karahi chicken, a couple of veg samosas and two orders of scrumptious tandoori nan.
It was absolutely delicious.
When we left the packed restaurant, we heard the adhan -- the Islamic call to prayer -- for the nearby LONDON ISLAMIC CENTRE.
It was a great moment that unveiled yet another aspect of London life.
Soon, we'll be getting back on the Tube to head for Westminster and the NEW YEAR'S EVE FIREWORKS.
Happy New Year everybody!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A busy day in Covent Garden

Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Rafael have scored and MANCHESTER UNITED lead WIGAN, 3-0, at half time of the PREMIER LEAGUE match on BBC RADIO 5 LIVE.
I am listening to the match as we relax in the flat, following a busy day in LONDON.
INGER and I spent the day in the area of COVENT GARDEN.
Here are a few of the highlights:
1. Neal's Yard Remedies was one of the first UK shops to promote aromatherapy. While browsing the essential oils, I spied the following small sign:
"Myrrh. Blends well with frankincense."
You know, I have read that somewhere before...
2. The London Transport Museum (pictured) presents the story of travel in the capital, from horse-drawn omnibuses to the most modern tube train car.
3. Hope & Greenwood's in Russell Street is a shop specializing in traditional British sweets, such as jazzies, sugar mice and sherbet lemon. If you visit London, you should visit.
4. If you stumble upon the Lamb & Flag pub in Rose Street, do stop in for a pint and lunch. The historic pub is located on a "street" that isn't even really an alley. I ate a sausage and fried onion sandwich that was terrific.
5. Neal's Yard Dairy is a traditional cheese shop, filled with huge rounds of cheese and staffed by cheesemongers wearing aprons and matching caps. We purchased Keen's cheddar, Gorwydd Caerphilly and a West Country cheese called Finn.
We're going to eat the cheeses with bread for dinner tomorrow night, after our visit to the LONDON EYE but before returning to the Thames for the fireworks.