One of my favourite local pubs

I’m spoilt for choices to eat and drink out in my area. I really don’t take advantage of it enough but that is probably a good thing since I eat out pretty much all the time when I’m travelling for work. One of my favourite places that is a great eating and drinking venue on a Sunday Fox and Anchor which serves beer in nice tankards, has an awesome jazz band on Sundays (shh – don’t tell anyone) and just awesome food.

I came here in the last few weeks, one to catch up with Gaz and Mike on the Easter weekend (yes, I know a long time ago)

And more recently when Mike was in town from Brooklyn.

Sidetip: It’s worth trying the scotch egg if you ever go here. One of the best ever!

Happy Chinese New Year

Ok, this post is a little late but nevertheless, Happy New Year (Chinese style), to the year of the snake! I hadn’t really planned any trips to Chinatown or anything as we had just returned from our ski trip and I wanted time to catch up on some house-related stuff but I did end up agreeing to meet my sister at one of our regular cheap, but consistently cheerful and good restaurants New Fortune Cookie (I had no idea it rated so high on TripAdvisor – it’s true!)

New Fortune Cookie

I decided to meet early because I don’t like eating too late on a Sunday and this turned out to be a good idea with such a crowd also wanting Chinese food on Chinese New Year. New Fortune Cookie has a great location next to the Queensway tube, so it gets a lot of traffic and it’s good food and reasonable prices with good service (I never feel like they are turning tables like other Chinese restaurants) means you end up with a lot of happy customer coming back. On this evening though, we had about a half hour wait even though we were one of the first people in queue. By the time we sat down, people were starting to stand in between tables, just because there wasn’t enough room. So chaotic, and entertaining.

We had quite the feast for the Chinese New Year, starting off with won ton soup and ensuring that we ordered a noodle dish for long life. Ordering Chinese appropriately for a special event can be quite overwhelming as symbolic nature of foods is complex. We opted for one of

Dim Sum Demonstration at Shanghai Blues

Shanghai Blues is a bit of a hidden gem located off the ever-bustling High Holborn street near to Covent Garden. It’s a hidden gem because it’s so easy to miss it and when its surrounded by tacky high street chains and a number of pubs on either side. During the week they normally hold some sort of jazz events and their high quality Chinese cuisine (dim sum on weekends) serve to also ensure steady business.

I’d read about their Dim Sum demonstration event from a London bloggers website and was excited to hear them re-run the event in September. They even flew Executive Chef Hong Qiu Feng flown in from Canton to help out with this particular event so no doubt it was going to be good.

The evening started with a welcome glass of champagne and some nibbles including coated peanuts and picked vegetables. The middle of the dining room had been converted into two large demonstration areas, with the ingredients for the dumplings already prepared and waiting for us eager participants to take part. I didn’t realise how simple the dim sum wrapper recipes were (equal parts rice flour + potato flour with some water or coloured juice – spinach or carrot for green or orange).

They also prepared the fillings for us (though we walked away with the recipes in a small kit prepared by them) and the heart of the evening ended up practicing filling the dumpling wrappers using methods particular to each type of dim sum.

We also got our individually labelled baskets that we got to fill with the product of our making so our we’d get to taste and see the finished products.

Considering the entertainment and the great banquet that followed, the cost of the evening was well worth the experience. There’s obviously a skill involved with dim sum making but I didn’t realise how simple some of the ingredients and preparation could be.

Returning to Marlow

I’d organised to meet some friends out for dinner at the Compleat Angler (pictured below) at at Marlow, one of the locations I worked at early last year. Although terribly inconvenient for commuting on daily basis, I could definitely see some of the beauty about coming out on a weekend and this was the first time I truly got to enjoy it. I think it helped that I visited last weekend when stunning summer hit all of the UK.

Funnily enough little towns like this don’t change too much. The town still had it’s little high street filled with a mish-mash of high street chains and the more boutique shops one would expect from a town like Marlow. I’m glad to see the local bakery/cake shop that proved particularly popular with the retired folk still operating. Although I arrived their quite late, it was nice to see the park was still ever busy and full of life.

One strange thing we did notice were the swarms of insects flying around the sky. They seemed to be particularly attracted to dark (or maybe it was the warmth of) objects since we saw a black car’s hood literally covered in them. We managed to catch one early on and although we didn’t really know what it was at the time, I guessed it to be a Mayfly (mainly because they sounded British, I didn’t know what one was but they just seemed like it).

Looking at the wikipedia entry and pictures, I think my guess was a good one.

We had a fantastic dinner at Bowaters restaurant in the Compleat Angler, and ended up with this spectacular view (above) on the way home!

2009 A Personal Retrospective

It’s that time of year to look back and see what’s been going on for 2009. It seems like it’s been a quieter year than most before and despite not wanting to do a lot of travel, it still seems like I ended up doing a fair amount.

The year started off in the US where I spent the day getting back from Boston before celebrating the New Year in New York. Since I was travelling to Marlow for work during the week, I didn’t end up going anywhere until March where I met the rest of the family in Japan.

Rather than hitting Tokyo, we met them in Osaka where we headed out to places like Kobe, Nara, Himeji and then spent the rest of the time visiting the temples and shrines of nearby Kyoto. April saw me head up north to visit my old flatmate, now living in York. The start of May then saw me head to Chicago for the first time, for a wedding and catching up with lots of people I knew living there.

I also took advantage of the great weather to head to Brighton for the first time. The end of may, I headed out to Sardinia for a conference where we ended up pretty much isolated from anyone else for the entire week. Great times yet I still remember the water being particularly cold.

It was around this time that I also started doing the weekly commute to Copenhagen for several months. I think I ended up staying over on the weekend twice – once to see what life in Denmark was really like, and then another to head over to Malmo (Sweden) on a very convenient and modern train.

August then saw me returning to Chicago for another conference before finishing off the year with a trip to Edinburgh in November and then Finland for a pre-Christmas holiday. I’d also mention travelling to Cambridge daily since returning from Copenhagen but other than eating out and resting, I don’t really get to see much of Cambridge.

I don’t think I got to see as many bands this year seeing Aussie bands Eskimo Joe and The Living End in April, followed by amazing musician and talented whistler, Andrew Bird in May. I then saw John Butler outshine the Union Chapel in July. October then saw a flurry of activity including The Cribs, Franz Ferdinand and then Scottish musician, Calvin Harris play a sweat inducing performance at The Forum. The year finished off with a performance by Japanese musician, Ryuichi Sakomoto.

I think this was definitely the year of the Michelin-starred restaurants for me. I was very thankful managing to find the only booking open in a three month window for the world’s 3rd best restaurant, Noma. What an unbelievable experience the tasting menu here was.

Amazingly local food accompanied by great service. I still remember the evening sun setting at just before midnight casting an amazing warmth into the converted warehouse when we sat down to eat.

We had just as an amazing meal at Restaurant Paustian v. Bo Bech before leaving Copenhagen. When visiting Chicago for the second time, I made sure to head out to Moto to enjoy the delights of clever cooking techniques and dining dazzlery. I can still picture the sparkling bombs that explode in the mouth for dessert. I also took my sister out to Rhodes 24 for her birthday (admittedly quite late in the year) and also ended up having a lunch at (overrated) Gordon Ramsey’s Maze restaurant. There was plenty of other amazing food places eaten ate but I woulnd’t be able to list them all.

Dear Aubaine

I felt very disappointed by the experience I had at Aubaine at Brompton Road this morning, and wanted to share with you this experience so that other patrons may benefit from the feedback.

I had booked for three people for noon, hoping to have a leisurely morning with some good food and a great atmosphere. I will congratulate you on having a warm, bustling atmosphere however I would like to share what our experience was this morning. Other than having to ask for a couple of coffees and twice for tap water, everything from the ordering and delivering of food ran very smoothly. It was only after we had finished were we asked to move tables to seat a larger group.

We happily obliged as we weren’t too bothered by where we were sitting, however I felt extremely put out when, shortly after, another waiter asked us to leave because of a prior booking they needed to fill. Admittedly, we did not want to order any more food and drink as were full, however we all felt this was extremely rude, and a complete contrast from what you have on your website (, “You could spend all day here. This is encouraged.”

I do not intend to come across as rude in my email, I simply wanted to share what our experience was like in the hope that you can look at why this happened and prevent further patrons from suffering the same series of events that made our Sunday morning less than enjoyable.

Yours sincerely,

Patrick Kua

Fortnum and Mason Afternoon Tea with Kristy

Last weekend, I caught up with Kristy (of GK/UK fame!), for another one of our slow food days. Admittedly we cheated a little at this particular challenge, instead choosing to go out for a long afternoon tea. Other than the one that I had first in Canada at the Banff Springs Hotel, I had yet to do an afternoon tea experience in any of the places in London, and if anyone has visited here, they know there’s plenty to choose from. We decided upon doing it at the restaurant inside the long time standing, Fortnum and Mason.

Sunday is obviously a popular time to partake in afternoon tea at St James’ constantly busy from the time we got there until the time we left. Of course, being a slow food day, and being a while since I caught up with Kristy, we sat around for some time chatting with slowing eating the tiny bite sized morsels.

Afternoon Tea at Fortnum and Mason

I’m guessing that St James’ has a proper dining area because their afternoon tea is held in the bright, airy lounge area, complete with comfy sofas and chairs to host their customers. A pianist played almost continually throughout our time their, and Kristy impressed me by recognising many of the songs he would play. The lounges are comfy enough though if we both sat back, it felt like we had to shout at each other across the table.

As you can see from the picture above, we indulged in quite a bit of tiny morsels, starting with a set of savoury sandwiches, and a tiny tartlet that we both agreed was the best, moving up the stack to scones and a tiny selection of cakes that the waitress let us choose in particular from a large tray. Overall the afternoon tea experience was pretty much perfect with enough room between the tables for some privacy, and service for topping up the tea. The sandwiches, cakes and tea were all at the right level of quality and the only strange thing is probably the fact that Kristy and I barely made a dent on the average age of people there.

I have no idea about how it compares to other places for high tea, but Fortnum and Mason’s St James’ certainly delivers.

TheKua.Com Rating: 8 out of 10