We started our holiday with an epic evening run through the many types of transportation London has to offer on a strike day. Our friend R. was in the Irish play 'Translations' by Brian Friel at the other side of town and we wanted to make sure we would be there and see him on stage.
What ensued were a few days filled with food, sight seeing, theatre, sunshine, happiness and friendship. What could you ask more of a holiday?!
We even managed to sneak in a couple of cheeky cocktails with our lunch session. Mine was a yuzu lemonade that besides yuzu also included some white rum, honey and calpico (a Japanese soft drink). We also shared a few small dishes such as warm edamame beans with lemon and sea salt (I could honestly eat entire bowls of those, they are so delicious), ebi bites, spicy pork wraps, lamb chop sticks, marinated duck breast in rice paper and a few avocado hosomaki. The à la carte menu has a big range of dishes, and I would happily go back there and try a few more of those.
Ordering cocktails proved itself difficult as everything sounded so interesting! I opted for a kumquat and passion fruit cocktail, which was very tasty and refreshing. We chose a few plates to share and went for: pork belly with crushed squash, pickled walnuts and sake; mackerel with cucumber gazpacho and salsify; courgette and manouri fritters with cardamom yoghurt; and a side of rainbow chard with a mustard vinaigrette and almonds. It was all delicious and flavoursome. The pork was cooked to perfection and so tender that it somehow reminded me of succulent duck meat. The combination of courgette with manouri cheese in the fritters accompanied by cardamom yoghurt was really my favourite of the dishes. if I had not had my eyes on a delicious dessert, I could have easily eaten a lot of those. And speaking about dessert, I am very glad I left some room for one. I chose a delicious peanut ice cream with a dark chocolate sauce and peanut brittle to add on top. I can admit I hesitated a bit when the waitress offered to bring two extra spoons for sharing for E. and my friend (I guess that's understandable...). It was a wonderful dessert, not overly rich and sweet. The bitterness of the dark chocolate and peanut brittle was a great balance with the sweetness and creaminess of the peanut ice cream.
After some coffee for the boys and green tea for me, we were all set to walk to the 5th floor of the Photographer's Gallery and start our visit. As soon as we walked in, we were welcomed by the amazing work of Irish photographer Richard Mosse. His exhibition called 'The Enclave' is worth a look as the images are quite stunning and vibrant with amazing colours, the photographer having used a type of infrared film.
I also spent a bit of time looking at the amazing portraits taken by John Deakin. His street life scenes were particularly interesting.
If you are in London in the area of Soho, I really recommend a stop by this gallery if you have an interest in photography.
We quickly regretted wanting to go and see the mummies in the Egyptian exhibition. While trying hard to read the descriptions and explanations about the process of mummification, we were very often pushed against the glass displays by a horde of tourists whose only aim was to get as many photos as possible of the mummies.
When our friend was nearly knocked over by someone's elbow, we decided to make our way to the top of the museum to a quieter exhibition as we realised we had not brought protective equipment (such as helmets for example) and also that our patience clearly had limits.
The exhibition of Japanese artifacts happened to be the most peaceful place in the whole museum and we ended up staying there for a little while. I really loved the prints of Noda Tetsuya's 'Diary' series. The way he altered the photographic images gave the portraits and landscapes another dimension altogether. A very beautiful exhibition well worth a visit.
The moment we arrived at this great little market, I regretted having had a consistent breakfast as the temptation of eating a lot of food became permanent. There was a lot of choice, a lot of sunshine and happy faces. I loved the feel of that market which had a strong sense of community.
I could not resist buying one of Fergus Henderson's St John's famous custard doughnuts, A friend of mine was recently raving about them and once I spotted the stall, I knew I had to treat myself to one. And what a doughnut! It was light, fluffy and the custard was really out of this world with its amazing vanilla flavour. The lady beside me at the stall told me that every Saturday after her yoga class, she treats herself to a custard doughnut at the market. And she had the biggest happiest smile on her face. I guess this would happen to me too if I could treat myself to one of those wonders every Saturday (yoga class or not!).
After grabbing a few doughnuts (yes, I can be of 'bad' influence to my friends), we spotted the Little Bird Gin stall and decided to have a small cocktail each before spending an afternoon of walking in London. Each cocktail was beautifully presented either in a vintage glass or a quirky paper cup. All were adorned with cute little birds cut out of lemon or orange peel. E. had an Early Bird gin martini, K. went for a Rose-Berry Collins and her sister J. chose a non-alcoholic cocktail called the 'I'm not drinking'. My cocktail of choice was called the 'Bluebird' with gin, blueberry grenadine, lemon juice, blueberry shrub syrup and a favourite of mine: crème de violette. It was the perfect drink for a beautiful Spring day in London.
We were meeting some of our friends for lunch at the Borough Market that day. As soon as we arrived there,we realised that Saturday was probably the worst possible day for a visit of the Borough Market, trying to find some food and not losing each others there. We all headed for a quiet bit of lunch and catching up in a pub nearby instead.
If you feel overwhelmed by the huge crowds of the Borough Market on a Saturday, the Maltby Market might just be the best alternative for you. It happens to be not really far from it and is only opened on Saturdays.
Those few days in London were all I needed to relax before the next weeks of busy work and events that were awaiting me back in Dublin. I am always grateful for great food, good weather, beautiful cities and most of all amazing friendships.