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.

Putting the Adidas Supernova Glide 6 running shoes through their paces

In the two short years in which I’ve been running, I have discovered many things.  Many, many things, and all of them good things.

Except, perhaps, the habit I have of getting too fond of my running shoes, which means that the arrival of a lovely new pair is always accompanied by sadness and regret at the passing of the old pair…

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Thus it was that when my lovely Adidas Climachill Cosmic Boost began to wear out, I had to take the inevitable “old & new” photo.

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I loved my Climachill, and did a follow-up review, just so I could talk about them again.

But time (and daily running) take their toll on shoes, and so enter a new pair of Adidas shoes into my life.

And, yes, how lovely and bright and springy they look, compared to my old ones…that disloyalty again!  I really do love the bright colours, completely cheerfully OTT bright.

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The Supernova Glide 6 are sturdier shoes than the Climachill, which means that they instantly felt more cushion-y and, yes, springier than their predecessors, without ever feeling heavy, especially after the super-light Climachill.

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They are made of that nice mesh, that feels easy on the feet.  In my case, as I have big ungainly feet, the mesh makes putting the shoes on nice and easy, and they feel instantly comfortable.  Not at all tight, nor in need of being broken in, even from Day 1.

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Lacing is easy :

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The cushioning is good and has lasted well, despite heavy usage, with almost daily running.

I started the year wearing these shoes, on 1st January exactly, and have run some 752 km in them thus far, including my first ever full marathon.  And then my second ever full marathon.  So, sadly, in exactly 3 months these beauties are now up for replacement.  Overdue, in fact.

They have travelled well and often in less than 3 months, running on many surfaces, from the roads of Mumbai and Delhi for my 2 marathons, to the beach in Sri Lanka last week, and the pavements and parks of London:

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Great shoes, that don’t feel tired or worn out, despite their 752km.

Would I recommend them?
Definitely.

Would I buy them again?

Yes, indeed.

Will I get all sentimental about retiring them?

Oh most definitely.

UNCLE VANYA at the Almeida Theatre, London

Let’s start with a disclaimer, shall we?

I’m not a “professional” critic, nor, sad to say, even a regular theatre-goer these days.  (Further disclaimer : I live in New Delhi, and so am many, many miles from anything remotely resembling London’s amazing theatre life.)

Even so, the level of bowled-over-ness and “oh-my-God-that was-amazing”-ness that was on display after seeing “Uncle Vanya” yesterday afternoon at the gorgeous little Almeida Theatre was impressive.  And that was from my 2 London girlfriends who go to the theatre constantly, and who are both terrifyingly knowledgable about the city’s theatre scene.

I was just rendered speechless and on an emotional high after a wonderful, visually exciting, moving performance.

The Almeida Theatre is an amazingly intimate space, which the staging of the play fully exploits.  From time to time the actors hop down from the stage set and talk directly to the audience.  I was sitting in the third row, and felt as though they were chatting personally, so goodness knows how the lucky audience members in the front row felt.

It seems invidious to single out any one member of this accomplished cast.  They were all excellent.  Truly.

But Paul Rhys as John is stunning.  He seems to deteriorate before our eyes during the course of the play, not just in language and expression, but also in shape.  He looks thinner and older by the end of the show.

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But every actor is truly superb.

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The set is an ingenious slowly revolving cube that means that your literal view of the scene unfolding in front of you is constantly changing.  The tempo is slow and languid and yet each time there was a brief 10 minute interval, we couldn’t believe how quickly the time had flown by.  I loved the language of the new translation, which felt fresh and contemporary without ever sounding gimmicky. It was also very, very funny at times.

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Truly fabulous.

Recommended.

We paid for our tickets and (I fear) no one at the Almeida knows that I blog…

Indian Summers

How is it possible to be so out of step  – and, perhaps to coin a phrase – so out of thinking step, with pukka critics, with the folks with a day job, who review TV for a living, who get paid to pass judgement?

We just finished watching “Indian Summers” last night, and when Episode 10 was over, the mood was, “Thank the good Lord THAT series is done and dusted”.  But, hey, what’s this?  Everyone else seems to have loved it.

Can it be me?  Am I the one at fault for not liking such a super expensive period production?

Perhaps my critical instincts are not honed enough.

Or, perhaps, more prosaically, me a Brit, married to an Indian and the mother of two gorgeous Anglo Indian children, and living as we do here in India, and my husband having grown up in Simla…perhaps our critical antennae are tuned a little differently.  I say “our” because, for the record, hubby was as underwhelmed as I was.

We were given the boxed set last month, while on holiday in England, and once back in scorching Delhi, we settled down to watch it with great anticipation, naively imagining something as fabulous as “The Jewel in the Crown”, perhaps, or “Heat and Dust”.  I mean, after all, in the aftermath of such a totally gorgeous, glorious, fabulous production such as “Downton Abbey”, here comes a period drama about India in the last days of the Raj…ooh, yes, what could be nicer.  Gorgeous frocks, gorgeous scenery, drama.  We imagined it all.

Not a bit of it.

Frocks first of all, because it’s the easiest thing to deal with.

Why does Ms. Walters wear that same rather peculiar dress, looking more 1960s than 1930s, over and over and over again?

Why does Leena wear the same dark green sari over and over and…

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Now onto that gorgeous scenery.  My sister (who kindly gave us the DVDs) mentioned that it was filmed in Malaysia.  Perhaps if you don’t know India, don’t know Simla, it might have worked, but since we do and we do, it didn’t.  The look, the architecture, the vegetation, the sounds, the tea plantation – none of it looked nor felt Indian.  Sorry, but it just didn’t.  It looked and sounded like tropical Malaysia

Now I am going to have to tread a little carefully in my next comments, in this age of uber PC-ism…but sorry, the Parsi family did not look remotely like a Parsi family.  Ditto those orphans, who looked nothing like Ango-Indians, not even remotely like mixed race children.  It would have been so much more dramatic, I think, to have had children who looked the part.  Especially the oddly feral little boy Adam.  If he had looked pale and half European, I feel he would have been a much more haunting and dramatic presence.  More unsettling.

And, yes, on a point of order : I may be wrong here, but I do not believe in a million years that the Viceroy would have done bad Indian accent, head waggling impersonations.

And as for the slow, oh-so-slow lingering camera angles…that just went on and on and on…my goodness me but they did drag things out.  The action sort of speeded up in the final 2 or 3 episodes, where suddenly all the wandering plot lines were yanked together, but then – blow me down with the proverbial feather –  just when you thought they had dispensed with the slow filming, we have Mr. Dalal running in slow-mo.  And we have long, lingering footage of Mr. Dalal and Alice dancing …it’s OK, we get it.  They love each other and are gazing lovingly at each other across a crowded dance floor.  We.  Get.  It.

So, yes, actually – very disappointed, both in the muddled storyline and the seriously mediocre acting (other than the fabulous Roshan Seth, who dazzles.  And who is the only one in that family who really looks and sounds like a Parsi).

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Who is the hero of the piece?  Ralph Wheelan and/or Mr. Dalal?

Are we actually supposed to like Ralph?  I do hope not, because my only thought was that by marrying a woman whom he thinks is rich but is actually skint, at least this scheming manipulative man would be getting some kind of comeuppence.  What a nasty, two-faced hypocritcal bit of work he is.

Cynthia is just downright unpleasant.  And can anyone tell me why she was at the hanging?  Her role as a glorified innkeeper permitted her that?  I hardly think Dalal pere et fils coming to her all-white club was comeuppance enough for her.

So little did I like her character that I actually thought she was going to go up in flames in the final episode when she drunkenly lights candles – and why the Hindu shrine in her drinking den?

 

Not a fan.  Not at all.

And what’s with the plural “summers” in the title?  Does that mean there is more to come?

 

FYI, here’s what Channel4 said about their own show:

  • Set against the sweeping grandeur of the Himalayas and tea plantations of Northern India, the drama tells the rich and explosive story of the decline of the British Empire and the birth of modern India, from both sides of the experience. But at the heart of the story lie the implications and ramifications of the tangled web of passions, rivalries and clashes that define the lives of those brought together in this summer which will change everything. It’s the summer of 1932. India dreams of Independence, but the British are clinging to power. In the foothills of the Himalayas stands Simla; a little England where every summer the British power-brokers of this nation are posted to govern during the summer months.

    – Written by Channel4

How good are M&S sports socks?

At £6 a pair, these super cool-looking running socks are not cheap.  But after a month of daily, intensive use, I am happy to report that they are good and soft and cushioning and, actually, yes, well worth their £6.

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You see, they are more than “just’ a sock.

Here, read the M&S literature for yourself:

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They really do feel good.  Ditto my feet, after pounding the unforgiving Delhi pavements in our equally unforgiving pre-monsoon heat.

Am a sucker for L & R on my socks, I have to confess.

Ditto the cute message inside the sock, hidden from view.

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Personally recommended.

Value for money?

Yes, I think so.  Can’t quibble with something that keeps your feet blister-free.

Would I buy them again?

Yes, already did.  I tried them out for a couple of weeks in London & stockpiled before returning to Delhi.

Hurry ! Hurry ! Last few days of the Pre-Raphaelites at Tate Britain

The utterly magical Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at  London’s Tate Britain closes on 13 January 2013, and if you haven’t yet seen it, do yourself a favour and go now.

 

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I am a hopeless Pre-Raphaelite junkie.  Have been since my Oxford days, but even for an addict like me, this exhibition is utterly breath-taking.

Every single luminous painting you have seen is here, and the combined effect of so much beauty is, well, almost overwhelming.

Used to seeing these masterpieces in an isolated collection here, and another gallery there, to see them all together, grouped thematically (see below), makes perfect artistic sense.

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 You have 12 days left.

Do not miss this extraordinary exhibition.

Tate Britain.

10.00-18.00 daily with late night opening until 22.00 on Fridays.

MUGHAL INDIA exhibition at the British Library

For anyone with an interest in India, then the blockbuster “Mughal India” exhibition at the fabulous British Library in London is not to be missed.

As in absolutely not to be missed.

Let me rephrase that first sentence somewhat.  For anyone with an interest in India and/or history…this exhibition is a must-see.

There are beauties and treasures there that are dazzling, and even for Indian residents such as us, there were fabulous things we had never seen before.

The exhibition is – as one would expect from the British Library –  extremely detailed and you leave with a sense of perspective and – though I rather dislike the word –  an overview of a dynasty that had such a huge impact on the Indian subcontinent.

One word of advice : allow yourself time.

There are so many utterly fabulous, brightly coloured, jewel-like miniatures, all deserving of detailed examination.  It is a crime to skip any of them.  There are coins, armour, artefacts, photographs, books – so much to see and absorb, so , as I sadi, you need time.

Personal favourites were the rather OTT crown of the last Moghul emperor, which Queen Victoria bought, of all things; and a breathtaking 5 metre long painting that consists of a 360 degree view over Old Delhi.

Highly recommended.

We just walked in and bought tickets on the spot, despite being warned by friends that we should have booked online for a timed entry.  But doing the latter can only be a good idea.

The exhibition is on until 2 April 2013.

 

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Where to eat good Polish food in London ?

Our London based friends were already great fans of GESSLER AT DAQUISE, a Polish restaurant in South Ken, and so at their suggestion,  off we headed, the 4 of us, on a lovely summer evening.

The restaurant has been in London since the 1940s, and the slightly faded, old-fashioned decor pays hommage to that fact – in the nicest possible way.  There is what one imagines to be an authentic whiff of old Warsaw what with the bistro setting, the large wooden table for serving, the mirrors – I loved the ambience.

The service was attentive and kind, and actually rather stylish, which is not a word one uses much these days for waiters, is it?  Again, a a slightly old-fashioned feel to it, which is very welcoming.

The young Indian sous-chef who served our food at the table was thrilled to talk about India and speak Hindi with us, and couldn’t have been more charming.

And now to the food, where I have to say up front that I wasn’t as thrilled by the food as my 3 carnivorous companions, simply because I am not a carnivore.  I am essentially a vegetarian although I do eat fish, which left me with Hobson’s choice on the solidly meat-based menu.  There was one cold fish starter, one warm fish starter and one main dish.  Not one single vegetarian offering.

As I said, Hobson’s choice.

I had the cod (below), because there was nothing else, and though the accompaniments were delicious the fish was very cod-y.  Rather heavy and rather dull and I left most of it. (And no-one asked me why, which was a little odd, given the otherwise attentive service)

I did try the herring (below) from my friend Eden’s tasting menu (and the staff kindly gave me an extra piece) and that  – on the contrary –  was absolutely delicious.  Thick and tasty and served with all kinds of lovely stuff on the side – fab thick cream, for example.

The duck was declared delicious, and it looked pretty good, even to a non meat-eater.

The tasting menu and the beef were both also declared to be a triumph.

I also had a taste of Eden’s beetroot & dumpling soup, (above) from the tasting menu : very good, and such a new, interesting taste.  And such a fab colour.

Moral of the story ?

Head to GESSLER AT DAQUISE if you love meat, and what I can only call authentic-looking food, served in generous portions.

I found £150 for 4 a tad pricey, but I am way out of touch with London prices, so who knows ?

 

 

 

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DAVID HOCKNEY A BIGGER PICTURE at the ROYAL ACADEMY

The  timing of my visit to the Hockney exhibition could not have been better. An early weekday morning, and the weather was grey, windy, piercingly cold, with a hint of snow. London at her most miserably winterish.

The contrast between the freezing grey outside and the explosion of colour inside the Royal Academy was electric. Just walking into the first gallery was like a dose of warmth and sunshine.

Today was my Road to Damascus moment as far as David Hockney is concerned.

I knew a little of his work – “A Bigger Splash”, obviously, and some of those extraordinary photo collages of the Grand Canyon, but, to my shame, not much else.

To my eternal shame, I didn’t even know know Mr. Hockney is a fellow Tyke.

But this morning, if a fairy godmother had waved her magic wand and given me enough money (and ginormous walls) I would have bought every single painting there, so bowled over was I by the work of this wonderful talent.

Wandering round the galleries full of colour and happiness made me feel happy. I know I had a daft, dippy expression, smiling at people –  but then again, everyone else looked happy too, and smiled back, and chatted, so obviously I was not alone, in the feel-good stakes.

I have frequently been moved by seeing a particular masterpiece – the Madonna of the Rocks last week, for example at the Leonardo Exhibition at the National Gallery –  but never have I felt so incredibly happy at an exhibition.

And never have I felt so ridiculously proud of being a Yorkshire(wo)man.  There, I’ve said it.  True, I have never actually seen my native west Yorkshire looking as riotously colourful and vibrant as Mr. Hockney’s landscapes, but I have seen the hedgerows full of meadow sweet and hawthorn bushes that he so eloquently paints, in the countryside I remember as a child.

Favourites from amongst these amazing pictures ?

The effect of all those canvases in “The arrival of spring in Woldgate East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven)” was amazing – an array of fabulous little details of grass and flowers and shadows and leaves, all contributing to a stupendous whole.

And as for those films (digital video) –  utterly glorious and I laughed out loud during the dancing, as did my neighbours in the projection room, and when Mr. Hockney appeared, brandishing a mug, lots of people applauded.

The exhibition is a delight.  An utterly delightful treat for the senses and the soul.

I am cross with myself that I have wasted so many years of my life not knowing enough about David Hockney : today I became a total and utter adoring fan.

Mr. Hockney’s talent and exuberance and mastery of so many media is impressive.  Damn it, why can’t I do such amazing things with my iPad ?

Entry to the exhibition costs £14, and you really do need to book.  I was incredibly lucky, walking by yesterday afternoon and being told I could go straight in, or choose whatever time I wanted, but I understand that booking online isn’t quite as easy.

I opted for the first time slot, 10am, when the Royal Academy opens, and by the time I left, it was getting quite crowded, so I would advise the earlier the better.

There is more merchandise in the shop than you can shake a stick at, but if you buy only one thing, let it be the catalogue.  It’s heavy, and at £29.95 it’s expensive, but it is well, well worth it.