Eating at Smith’s in Wapping

In London for my birthday, we decided to eat locally, and since we were staying in Shad Thames, the choice was lots of nice but a bit run-of-the-mill-and-not-special-occasion-y places.

Or Smith’s.

Smith’s it was.

We walked across Tower Bridge and strolled along the river to Smith’s, a large, rather green, glass confection with great views.

Sadly, even though we’d called in person the previous day to book, and mentioned it was my birthday, we didn’t get a table with a view of the river as requested, but never mind.  Can’t win ’em all.  That’s what you get for having a birthday on a Saturday in London.

The restaurant was packed, and as an avid people-watcher, it was a fascinating crowd.  (I don’t live in the UK, just for the record, and haven’t for 40 years, just in case I sound weird in my people judgement).  But basically, I felt as though I’d time-travelled back to the days of City FX traders with lashings of money and very blonde girlfriends.  There was lots of champagne-drinking, girls in dizzying high heels & plunging necklines, and the people next to us ordered stonking great lobsters and caviar (but were both glued to their mobiles, which was totally 2017).

All quite fun.

Now, I must mention that we are not an easy combo to feed.

I don’t eat meat, and hubby is allergic to anything fishy or sea-foody…but it was my birthday, remember, so I was indulged and he had a côte de boeuf which he pronounced excellent.  He also drank white with his beef, because it was my birthday.  Nice man.

I had oysters to start.  Divine.

Then scallops.  Equally divine.

All very nice, and I guess it was childish of me to feel a twinge of jealousy when the lady at the table opposite us got the whole “happy-birthday-to-you” routine.  I went over to wish her, as a fellow-birthday-girl, but she smiled and told me it wasn’t actually her birthday till the following week…ah well, you can’t win ’em all Mark II.

We paid our bill, & I didn’t say that I blog or review.

Good.

Recommended.

Eating at Cafe Lota in the Delhi Crafts Museum

Finally.

Finally I got my act together (thanks, Catriona) and not only visited the Crafts Museum after aeons, but also had lunch in the absolutely adorable Cafe Lota, situated just at the entrance to the museum complex.

Been meaning to go there forever, and it was every bit as charming as I’d heard.

Like the whole Crafts Museum complex, there was a distinctly retro feel to the place.  A calm, unhurried, un-pushiness, which was balm to the soul.  Here’s a link to a post I wrote about the Crafts Museum.

It’s also about shopping, too 🙂

I decided that if ever I should be so lucky to live in a home with a large courtyard studded with trees, I think I’d like to make a similar space as Cafe Lota has done.

You sit under trees, but are roofed in.

The food was interesting, and that is meant positively.

Indian, but Indian nouvelle-cuisine-y with interesting things on the menu – like mushy pea rotis which, as a Tyke, I obviously had to have.

I’ve never been a chaat fan, after a horrid experience in what was then Bombay in the lovely early days of getting to know India.

Scarred for life, I swore off chaat for decades.

The occasional try over the years didn’t make me change my mind, and yesterday’s dish was fine, but actually, I’m still not a fan.

Catriona loved it, so it’s clearly me.

We had sole cooked in mustard which was heavenly, so heavenly I forgot to take a photo.

And then this mushy-pea bread, makhana and lotus stem combo:

Nice, different, interesting, but a tad awkward to eat, if I’m being honest.  But yet again, the fault is all mine.

Loved the vibe, loved the feel of the place and will definitely plan a return visit.

Great service – un-pushy, un-hassle-y, smiley.

I paid the bill myself, and did not mention that I blog or review.

Victoria & Abdul

Oh dear.

What a let down.

The story, that of the unlikely friendship between an ageing Queen Victoria and her Indian servant, is not only a delectable one, but the additional fact that Abdul Karim’s diaries were only recently discovered is also thrilling.

Add the incomparable Judi Dench to the mix, and we should have had the blockbuster to beat all costume-historical-sweeping-blockbuster-epic-y thingies.

Except we don’t.

Judi Dench is her usual incomparable self.  Not one word of criticism about her performance.

She is absolutely perfect as Queen Victoria.Perfect.

But for the rest of the cast…yet again, at the risk of repeating myself, what a let-down.

Stellar names delivering flat performances, with Eddie Izzard a notable exception.

I haven’t read the original book, nor do I know enough about that period of British & Indian history to speak with any authority, but I’m pretty sure that an Indian servant like Mohammed would not have slightly cheeked off the British, used words like “bloody” and been so, well, so 21st century in his open disdain for the British and their way of life.

Also, and I may be over-estimating Queen Victoria, but would she really not have known the background to the Koh-i-Noor?  One of her prized pieces of jewelllery?

And now let’s move onto young Ali Faizal, who plays the charming, handsome and likeable Abdul Karim.

Great eye-candy, totally, but what a sadly one-dimensional portrayal.

The actor is utterly charming, and you like Abdul unwaveringly, but other than smiling sweetly and affectionately at HM, what else does he do?

Victoria and Abdul
Judi Dench (left) as Queen Victoria and Ali Fazal (right) as Abdul Karim

Lovely visuals, as one would expect, but that was it.

Didn’t care about any of the other characters, they were all so 2 dimensional.

Liked Ali Faizal.

Loved Judi Dench.

But left the cinema feeling slightly cheated.

This movie could’ve been fabulous.

Could’ve been epic.

Instead, it was formulaic, and even a little silly at times.

But, having said that, it is still worth seeing for the wonderful Judi Dench.

Eating at Côte in London

On both our trips to London this year, we have based ourselves fairly & squarely in SE1, probably my favourite part of the city.

We walked miles along the Thames, explored the City and the fabulously renovated Docklands area, including my all-time favourite St. Katharine Dock.

We also ate several times over the weeks at some of the restaurants at St. Katharine Dock, especially Côte.  Once we ate at Côte in Hay’s Galleria, but our “regular” became SKD.  The service was always pleasant and efficient, the views over the little harbour are brilliant, and there are heaters for those who (like us) prefer to sit out and eat, despite the fickle English weather.

At lunchtime (we didn’t go there in the evenings, as it so happens) Côte offers a reasonably priced menu, which you can order as either 2 or 3 courses.

My husband is allergic to seafood, I don’t eat meat, but we always found things we both wanted on their menu.

As a bit of a creature of habit where food is concerned, I tended to have the same thing every time we ate there.

The why-fix-it-if-it’s-not-broke logic.

The dish in question was THE most delicious mackerel terrine, which was always consistently good, and a generous helping, too.

Loved the presentation, on a wooden platter with that cute individual jar.

 

Hubby tried an interesting-looking & interesting-sounding yellow beetroot salad one day.

Nothing wrong with the quality of the beetroot, just that despite its striking looks, it was –  sad to report –  a tad underwhelming, taste-wise.  Nice, but a bit bland.

Doesn’t it look lovely, though?

I never even knew you could get yellow beetroot.

I subsequently Googled it – as one does – and it doesn’t stain.

So now you know.

 

Anyone who knows me that I have long since given up eating puddings and chocolate – both of which used to be the highlight of any meal for me.

Fighting middle-aged flab was simply not compatible with eating pudding and so, sadly, many years ago I gave up the unequal fight.

I share this with you, not to elicit any sympathy, but to highlight the fact that, despite years of not touching pudding, every time we lunched at Côte, I had pudding.

Their frozen berries and hot sauce are to die for.

Trust me.

Too too yum.

Recommended, after several visits.

We paid our own way every time, nor did we tell anyone that I blog and write reviews.

Visiting the exhibition “CHRISTIAN DIOR, COUTURIER DU RÊVE”

Let me be completely upfront with you.

This review is going to be nothing but breathless prose, incoherent, uncritical admiration and lots of photos of THE most fabulous exhibition imaginable.

Yes, indeed, my reviewing colours nailed well & truly to the mast.

If you haven’t already seen the breathtaking retrospective of the work of Christian Dior, then make time.

Go. See. It.

Go to Paris, if you are not lucky enough to live there.

Go.

See this stupendous exhibition of wondrous clothes, exhibited in an absolutely stunning way.

BUT – if you do go, be sure to book in advance, but that will not stop you having to queue, I warn you.  Pre-booked tickers make for a shorter queue, but there is still quite a lot of waiting involved.

And whatever you do, do NOT go on a holiday or over the weekend, if you can avoid it.  We couldn’t, being only briefly “de passage à Paris,” and the crowds and the heat definitely spoiled a lot of the enjoyment.  I was surprised at the lack of crowd control and crowd flow.

There were, quite frankly, w-a-y too many people in each room, and there were several exhibits in the early stages, in the first 2/3 rooms that we could hardly see, so thick was the crowd.  Have to wonder why they don’t have a system of timed tickets, enabling better crowd movement.

Right, having got that off my chest, let me rave about the clothes on display.

From the museum’s website, in their own words:

“The Musée des Arts Décoratifs is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the creation of the House of Dior. This lavish and comprehensive exhibition invites visitors on a voyage of discovery through the universe of the House of Dior’s founder and the illustrious couturiers who succeeded him: Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and, most recently, Maria Grazia Chiuri.”

There are sumptuous gowns and frocks and dresses on display, grouped sometimes by designer, sometimes by theme, sometimes accompanied by a work of art that inspired the designer.

And by “work of art” we are talking Old Masters and Egyptian statues.  Too fabulous.

Like so.

There were dresses that were simply breathtaking in their beauty:

Seriously, how utterly jaw-droppingly gorgeous are these 2 confections (above)?

Sometimes, you need to stop drooling over the outfits, and take a moment and try & separate the clothes themselves from the way of displaying them, to admire the genius of the people who curated the exhibition (below).

There is drama and theatricality in the presentation, but never too much so as to overshadow the clothes.


I loved the groupings by colour:

I loved the groupings by country and influence… will you just look at that flamenco inspired dress!  To die for.  Total perfection.

Now look at these 3 dresses in luscious shades of pink (below).

The reverential atmosphere was lightened at this display by a tiny, wee Australian muppet, who pointed to the dress at the left and said in a loud voice, “That’s my dress, Mummy”.

There was a sigh of agreement from every woman in the vicinity.

I loved every single thing about this exhibition.  Except the crowds.

Totally & utterly recommended.  Even with the crowds.

CHRISTIAN DIOR, COUTURIER DU RÊVE  from 5 July 2017 to 7 January 2018

Musée des Arts décoratifs
107, rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris
France

We paid for our own tickets and no-one knew that I blog and review.

Eating at The Peak Lookout, Hong Kong

Yes, OK, OK, agreed.

The Peak in Hong Kong is super touristy, with coach-loads of tourists selfie-ing away to glory.

The tourist tat gets worse with every visit – & is set to get even more so, once that giant Coca Cola can is up & running for even more selfies…

BUT, the good news is, The Peak Lookout stays as classy and elegant as ever.

We’ve eaten there a few times before – the last time in 2014 – and there is a sense of timelessness about the place, which is welcoming in a place like Hong Kong, where change is the norm.

We trundled up the Peak in a double-decker bus – as one does – made a reservation, and then wandered through the tourist hoards for a while, before succumbing to the heat, the humidity and the noise of a zillion selfies being taken, and headed for our 30th wedding anniversary lunch.

We’d requested a table outside, but the charming girl on duty asked us if we were sure, since it was so hot out.

I had pleasant memories of dining under one of the beautiful shady trees, as I had done on my last visit, but that was dinner, and this was lunch, so we moved indoors.

Lovely food, efficient attentive service, and I do so like the look and feel of the restaurant.

 

The building, a 19th century Grade II listed building, is a piece of Hong Kong’s history.

Quoting Wikipedia here:

“In 1901, the site was handed over to the government and built into a chair shelter and rest place for sedan chair carriers for both public and private sedan chairs.”

Nice.

For lunch I had oysters, which were on a special promotion & they were delish.Followed them up with mussels, which were equally delish:Hubby celebrated our anniversary with a club sandwich, which he declared excellent:We paid for our lunch, didn’t mention that it was our anniversary, nor that I blog and review.

How good is the coffee at The Coffee Academics?

Excellent.

Truly.

As a total coffeeholic, I’d already Googled “best coffee shops in Hong Kong” prior to our trip there last week, and found The Coffee Academics.

Then, on arrival, one of the first things I was told by my equally coffeholic-y hostess, was that The Coffee Academics was just down the road from her flat.

And so after a lovely run along the beach in Repulse Bay, I had a flat white caffeine fix.

[jwplayer mediaid=”27302″]

Great coffee, lovely presentation.

The next day, I had a post-lunch caffeine fix in their Lang Kwai Fung outlet & it was equally good, and equally elegantly presented.

The décor of the coffee shop was uber-cool:


So, yes, a fan.
Totally.

I paid for my coffees, and no-one knew that I blog or review.

Testing the underwater housing for iPhones

On a recent scuba diving holiday in Thailand, we all tested out the housing for my iPhone7, first in the hotel pool and then during a week’s diving trip.
Result?
A resounding success and such fun to use.You simply place the phone inside the housing (above) and snap it tightly shut, using the black catch (below).  It really is that simple.
It is also super-simple to use, with just a couple of things to be done to your phone before use – basically, you need to put the camera icon in the centre of the screen, at the bottom, so you can access it via the housing.

And that’s about it.

You can video, slow-mo, the works, and there’s a fitting so you can put it onto a grip, as I did.

This case was bought in China, and comes with spare O rings.  The box is well-padded, meaning the housing is safe from scratching etc during the time between diving trips!

The photos and videos were way better than I would’ve thought, so, yes, an all-round success story.

There are housings easily available online for different phones, so am only including a couple of links, since these both appear to work on the same principle as mine in the review.

 

How good are ASICS Nimbus running shoes?

Yesterday, I was chatting to one of the lovely fellas in my running group, Navi Singh, as we ran our warm-up laps, & he was singing the praises of ASICS running shoes.

Now before you jump to any conclusions, this was nothing to do with the fact that we are part of the ASICS Running Club, since the club is only a few months old and Navi, as you will see in a moment, has been a loyal ASICS fan since 2011.

He waxed so eloquent on the subject of his running shoes, that I arm-twisted him into writing it up for the blog.

I expected a re-hash of what we’d chatted about.

But no!

This is a product review like no other 🙂  Just read it and see what I mean.

Navi, my friend, this is such a fun review!

And now, let’s hear his thoughts.

Over to Navi.

“My run buddy Asics was introduced to me in the year 2011.

I was never an athlete in school. My flirtation with running started in college days as evening runs, listening to 80’s music on the cassette player Walkman.

Typically while growing up in the 80’s, the sneaker brands known to us were Adidas and Nike.

Reebok and Puma came in around late 80’s.The sneakers were brought more as a lifestyle fashion statement. The interesting thing about running shoes was, you buy new sneakers and then wear them sparingly while going out, partying etc. They were used for running after 2-3 years, ie. when they got old.

Now it’s the other way around. I use the new shoes for my runs, and after few years use it for everyday wear.

Fast forward to 2011.

I tried Asics shoes by default and fell in love with them instantaneously. The first ever model I brought was Cumulus 13, even ran my first half marathon in them. The feeling you get after wearing them is like floating in the air, thanks to the gel technology of Asics. I used them for almost 3 years of road running and the damn shoes still bounced back. The mid sole has the longest life compared to any other brand available at least to my knowledge.

It is unbelievable that I still have that shoe and is going strong.

My second pair of Asics was again Cumulus (15).

Another amazing aspect of Asics is you need very less time to ease into the shoes. The 2014 ADHM I ran in my new Cumulus 15, was only 15km old. (Not that I recommend/advocate anyone doing that!)

The love affair with Asics continued, and I brought Nimbus (17) for the first time in 2016. And fell all the more in love with them. It would be not wrong to say they are the most cushioned neutral shoes available.

The cushioning in Nimbus is out of the world.

I have compared it personally with Nike Cushlon and even the latest Adidas Ultra boost, & the gel cushion of Asics Nimbus way surpasses both the brands. And when you compare the price with other brands, it’s a steal. Typically the competition brands are around Rs17-20k range whereas Nimbus is in Rs12-14k range.

I would like to point out another misconception about Asics that runners typically have is that Asics is a heavier shoe. I have personally compared it with other brands, mind you it’s lighter compared to any shoe with that kind of cushion. Anyway, I could never understand the concept of 20gm here and there in a shoe, when you weigh around 50-75kg.

The Nimbus is so, so, so amazing that I have brought another one, this time the Red Nimbus 18, and it reminds me of the late David Bowie song “Let’s Dance” :

“Let’s dance put on your red shoes and dance the blues

Let’s dance to the song

they’re playin’ on the radio

Let’s sway

while color lights up your face

Let’s sway

sway through the crowd to an empty space

 

If you say run, I’ll run with you

If you say hide, we’ll hide

Because my love for you

Would break my heart in two

If you should fall

Into my arms

And tremble like a flower

 

Let’s dance for fear

your grace should fall

Let’s dance for fear tonight is all

 

Let’s sway you could look into my eyes

Let’s sway under the moonlight,

this serious moonlight

 

If you say run, I’ll run with you

If you say hide, we’ll hide

Because my love for you

Would break my heart in two

If you should fall

Into my arms

And tremble like a flower

 

Let’s dance put on your red shoes

and dance the blues

 

Let’s dance to the song

they’re playin’ on the radio

 

Let’s sway you could look into my eyes

Let’s sway under the moonlight,

this serious moon light.”

 

Told ya.

Isn’t that the best review ever, complete with musical accompaniment?

 

I liked this post so much, that I have added “Let’s Dance” to my own running playlist (why wasn’t it there in the first place, of course…) & written a short blog post about the song, with a link should you wish to download it, too.

So a second thank you to Navi is in order 🙂

Reviewing the Newton Motion IV Running Shoes

Exactly 3 months ago today, on 1 April, I won a pair of Newton Motion IV running shoes in a lucky draw in New Delhi, India, where I live. (SO not an April Fool, then!).

As my lovely shoes turn 3 months old today, and have probably racked up some 200km since, it’s time to share my thoughts on these beauties.

Because, let’s not fool ourselves, these shoes are beauties.

They are a fab colour, and there are so many cool design features –  yes, I know they are also super technical and functional features, obviously, but there are details which are stylish as well.

Like so:

The shoe felt instantly comfortable from Day One.  There was not one second of “new shoes” feeling.

The sole is super cushioned, with the lugs that are a hallmark of Newton shoes:

The lugs really do make a difference – I feel lighter when I run in these shoes. I know that’s a horribly untechnical expression, but it’s truly the way I feel – lighter and bouncier.

Here’s the technical low-down from Newton:

Another great feature of these shoes is the heel cushioning.  It’s also super stylish, in keeping with the whole look of these shoes.

And here’s Newton’s own info:

There is also excellent sole cushioning:

I do not use these shoes every day, but alternate with the other shoes in my cupboard, but when I return to my Motion IVs, I definitely feel as though my feet are more protected and “surrounded” –  does that make any sense?

In the 3 months I have owned these shoes, I have run in them many times in Delhi, where I live, and up in the Himalayas, running up and down damp trails in the hills of Himachal Pradesh.  I have run in the rain, in the blistering heat, on grass, in slush, on roads, on trail runs…and these shoes have not given me a moment’s discomfort.  Nor do they show any evidence of wear and tear.  They’ve been washed a few times, after a particularly muddy trail run, and they always come out looking as good as new:

Super happy with them.

Though I won these shoes, neither Newton nor the organisers of the lucky draw asked me to write anything, and I came under no pressure whatsoever to review them.

Will I buy Newton in the future?

Definitely.

And happy 3 month anniversary to us!