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 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.

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.

How healthy are Whole Food energy bars?

This review is written for us by a guest blogger (&, in the interests of full disclosure, a dear friend).

Gautam Chima is a serious cyclist (none of this Sunday morning-India Gate-post a selfie on Facebook stuff for him 😛 ), a musician, a keen angler – in fact we met up in Himachal, on a fishing trip.

Here Gautam reviews an energy bar that he has tried and enjoyed, and even though he writes from the perspective of a cyclist here, it seems to me that this would work equally well for all the trekkers and hikers and long distance runners out there.

Over to our guest blogger:

“Tirath Singh is a road cycling friend of mine, and its an old habit of mine to never ask about anyone’s profession. That conversation is too boring to have, and quite frankly if someone wants to tell me what they do; id rather have them start that discussion!! However, the loophole of this policy is that sometimes I miss out on some really cool things. case in point, apart from being a pretty good cyclist, Tirath is also the “Chef Partner” at Whole Foods India and previously unknown to me , he is concocting some really clever “healthy” food, tailor made to our Indian conditions.

So as it turns out I was looking for someone to sponsor us some granloa bars for a race, and lo and behold, our knight in shining armour, that’s Tirath, sent us a huge cache of granola and endurance bars. Surprise, Surprise! Now being the true-to-my-roots-punjabi, i was really skeptical about the goods. I mean how could these compare to my tried and tested training/racing staple “Nature Valley” bars?! Anyway, “kee farak paenda”, i don’t have to eat them, i just have to distribute them.

Onwards to raceday and while distributing the Whole Food goodies, i realized id left my personal stash at home. Hunger strikes and you eat what you get. Opened up the “Endurance Bar” and down it went, and another , and another! Fast forward a year later, and my Nature Valley stash is still safe and secure, hiding in a cupboard!

So what makes it tick? among all the “healthy” seedy stuff the label displays, its the jaggery and coconut that spins the magic . Dont get me wrong, im no fan of coconut taste in my food; but thats the thing; my butter chicken fried taste buds can hardly tell there’s coconut in there. The Gud and dates hold it all together beautifully , without being over sweet. “YUMMY” is an understatement.

And that dreaded feeling of reaching out into your back pocket, only to find a dried flaky bar disintegrate all over you, as you try to eat it…..no longer a part of my training life! The bar is sticky and comfortably soft in your mouth; and all of us who deal with dehydration on a daily basis , know the awful feeling of putting something flaky and dry in our mouths, mid ride.

Its an instant shot of energy, so delicious that you need to make sure youre not snacking on it regularly! I’ve had these in 3 hours races, and all day climbs, 1 every hour and they keep me going! Ive seen cyclist friends finish their morning hour-long hammerfest with one of these, before heading off to work! Its a formula that is balanced, and well, just works! Also, it feels good to support a local product, knowing its sooo good! I take them everywhere, on a long drive, trekking and even fishing trips.

buy it in their stores, or buy it online. what’s the worse that can happen? you’ll think it was horrid and that i’m getting paid to peddle Tirath’s bars. on the flipside, you may, just may discover a treat that makes training a bit more fun and enjoyable!!

Word of caution : this review is ONLY for the “Gluten Free Endurance Energy Bar”, they have other bars as well but this ones the keeper for me.”

11168088_10152984007127312_4849243521955071206_n

Gluten Free Endurance Energy Bar

Thanks, Gautam.

On the shopping list this goes!

MYKONOS: a good Greek restaurant in New Delhi

Battling the summer heat and a long powercut in Shahpurjat, 3 of us had lunch the other day at Mykonos, a cute, refreshingly simple and natural Greek restaurant.  Sonam had eaten there once before, but Asha and I were first timers.

Mykonos_0412

The restaurant is run by a Greek lady called Anastasia, who hails from Thessalonika, and is the probably the happiest person you will meet on any given day.  She is chatty, friendly, explains the menu, cheerfully apologises for her English (the day I can speak Greek, Anastasia, then we can revisit the question) and greeted us all like long lost friends, with kisses and bearhugs.

The A/C wasn’t working for most of lunch, due to the massive powercut, so the door was propped open, and we gazed at the trees outside, and we all made a promise that we’ll be back in the winter, to eat out on the tiny balcony with a tree top vista.

Mykonos_0396

The decor is white and blue and has a refreshing seaside feel to it, which was oh-so-welcome on a hot Delhi day.

Mykonos_0397

 

Mykonos_0400

Mykonos_0399

On Anastasia’s advice, we opted for a mezze platter, and several small dishes, so we could see what we liked, and it was the correct decision.  Cool mezze were just what we needed :

Mykonos_0402

Mykonos_0403

The tzakiki and humous were too delicious, and as for the pita bread…fabulous.

I enjoyed the vine leaves (below) but was less keen on the sauce which I felt overpowered them.  Next time, I’ll have just dolmades:

Mykonos_0405

 

The Greek salad was lovely:

Mykonos_0404

The feta has a completely delicious, different taste from locally sourced feta as do the tomatoes, which had a rich taste.

As a vegetarian, this kind of food is perfect and what I crave.

Mykonos_0401

 

I didn’t have the coffee, but Asha assured me it was good and strong.  Nor did I have the dessert, which my companions told me was excellent.

Mykonos

Mykonos card

We paid own bill and I did not mention that I write reviews.

Personally recommended.

And a return visit is planned.

Emerging from the by now deliciously cool European feel A/C restaurant to this view was a bit of a culture shock…but what a view.

Mykonos_0411

Rangoon Tea House, Yangon, Myanmar

On an all-too rushed inaugural visit to Myanmar, we managed to squeeze in a visit to this recently opened tea house in Yangon, for a refreshing cold drink and a welcome break from pounding the city streets in the hot February sun.

Hubby stuck to Coke, so nothing new to report there.

I had a truly excellent papaya smoothie, but it was Anjali who won the award for being the most adventurous (& authentic) with her iced tea, Myanmar style – ie with lashings of condensed milk AND evaporated milk.  There was a whole menu of various local iced teas to choose from, with cute drawings illustrating the ratio of condensed milk and evaporated milk to tea.

Anjali declared hers to be delicious.  I had a sip and it was good – strong tea flavour and nice and sweet.

The decor is charming, with a few curios (but not too many) and lots of space between tables, making the tea house feel spacious.

Myanmar_Yangon_2084

Myanmar_Yangon_2086

I realise that the photo (above) might make it look as though the Rangoon Tea house is patronised only by foreigners, but this is far from the truth.  We arrived a little before noon, but within half an hour the place was full, with a mix of local Yangon youngsters and foreigners, both expats and visitors like us.

They have got their classy, elegant merchandising organised right from the start.

Myanmar_Yangon_4148

Myanmar_Yangon_2085

Good service.  Good standard of spoken English from the youngsters working there (not at all a given, we discovered, as we travelled through this gorgeous country).  Clean loo.

Cute place.

Next time (& there will be a next time, and soon, I hope) we will eat there, too.

Myanmar_Yangon_4145

Myanmar_Yangon_4146

At roughly 1000 Kyat to the US$ this cost us $7.

IMG_4376

The address and phone number of the tea house are on the bill, above.

Personally recommended –  for drinks and charm.

And no, I didn’t tell them I write reviews and blog, and yes, of course, we paid our own bill.

Starbucks, Connaught Place, New Delhi

It’s taken a while, but I finally visited a Starbucks in India.

The fact that I ended up in the wrong Starbucks for my first-time meeting with a well-known author is not especially relevant to this review, other than the fact that sitting alone (in the wrong place, you remember) gave me time to observe my surroundings.

And jolly impressive they were, too.  Now please don’t take this wrongly, all ye diehard “Mera Bharaat Mahaan” people, but sitting in Starbucks in Connaught Place, you could have been anywhere in the world.  Which is what you sort of expect in a Starbucks, right?

I knew I was in India, because of the very polite service and the “Ma’am” added to every sentence, but in case of doubt, here you go:

India_Starbucks_8888

But what was totally un-Indian (and y’all know I love India.  Live here, remember) is the feeling of space.  It’s lovely and restful, when you find it.  And it was quiet and the cappuccino was excellent.

So all round great experience.

Too bad I was in the wrong Starbucks for my meeting.

India_Starbucks_8887

India_Starbucks_8891Oh yes.

Price.

Rs 147 for a very generously sized cappuccino.  Not bad at all.

Stylish coffee mugs from Tiffinware

I am a big fan of the Tiffinware range of gorgeous household items, and have shared them with you in two earlier blog posts – here they are, to remind you.  Review one and two.

Risham Chawla, the talented Delhi based designer, has recently introduced some delightful coffee cups, and for a caffeine addict like your truly, these are an immediate must have.

 

Gorgeous colours.

Sturdy.

Keep your coffee beautifully warm.

What more can you ask?

Mugs in a row

 

Coffee mugs

 

Irresistible, right?

Personally recommended.  I have a lovely bright pink cup, and I love it and it cheers up my day no end.

IMG_1238

 

The mugs cost £15 each, or £27.50 for 2 and for Indian shoppers, the price is Rs 2750 for 2.

Order them online.  Now!  Start your new year in colourful style.

MOGAMBO, a classic Kolkata restaurant

It’s been a while since I was last in Kolkata, which was known as Calcutta then. That’s how long it has been, and then some.

On a fabulous journey of re-discovery last week, we checked out one of the old time classics of this great city –  Mogambo.  It has a delightfully retro feel to it –  just the way I remember the India of the early 80s, before the economy opened up and everything flooded in, good, bad & indifferent.  Mogambo has staff with turbans, and booths in which you sit, and little red reading lights, and it’s all fabulous, starting with the menu and its running commentary on the food:

Mogambo_9466

Mogambo_9467

I had the Fish a la Diana as it so happened, and yes it was rich, with all that cream, but it was delicious.  And a huge serving too :

Mogambo_9470

Our friend Sue had the grilled fish which she also pronounced delicious :

Mogambo_9473

And hubby dearest, who is a bit of a steak-aholic, had the Irish Beef Steak.  Yet again, pronounced delicious and (for once) cooked exactly as ordered –  very rare.

Mogambo_9472

All in all, a good lunch, reasonable prices, good service.  Could’ve done with MRP for the water and Coke, but perhaps that’s not how it’s done in Bengal?

Mogambo_9478

Mogambo_9476

bill Mogambo

 

Recommended, for the ambience and also for the food, which is good and hearty.  I didn’t tell anyone that I blog and write reviews, and we paid our bill.