Monday, 23 June 2014

Hutong, The Shard

When people tell you that having a baby takes up all your time, they are not joking. An outing a day, we can manage. An outing plus responding to emails, or publishing a blog post? No chance. And yet every day just goes so fast, and Wolfie gets bigger, and I wish time would slow down and I could bottle my memories of every single moment with him.

Mum came to soak up her first grandchild (read: completely spoil) which handily coincided with her birthday. We headed to Hutong to celebrate with views over London.

How gorgeous is my mum?

When we were growing up, peking duck was my brother's favourite, and I was always a little bit envious of the excess portions he would always be offered first when we were lucky enough to have any. Hutong's offering is some of the best I've had, with a particularly good hoisin sauce, and the second course they serve the remainder of the duck up as is a delicious version of sang choy bow. 

The lotus root was satisfyingly crunchy and spicy, and the salted egg yolk prawns were delicious albeit presented fairly poorly.

We expected the crispy lamb ribs, marinated for 24 hours, to be the star of the show but unfortunately we were a little disappointed. The flavour was fairly one dimensional, despite their tantalising and impressive appearance. The duck definitely stole the show and is 100% worth visiting for.

We nursed our full bellies while watching a thunderstorm roll across London, its lightening actually striking the Shard as we digested our lunch. 

I've missed celebrating so many birthdays and special occasions with my family. It was a perfect venue to share only the second birthday I've been with my mum for in the last seven years.

Hutong on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Hungry like the wolf - a new chapter

I've always thought of life as divided into chapters of a story. There was being a a kid, high school, university, starting work, backpacking adventures, living abroad, meeting the love of my life, more backpacking adventures…and now being a mum. 

Little Wolfie (not his real name, but one that we did seriously consider before deciding that we really weren't cool enough to be those parents) appeared on the pages of our story a month ago - over two weeks early - and I honestly feel like we've had him forever. 

People tell you about the unconditional love you will feel for your child, and how much your life will change, and it turns out they're telling the truth. Who would have believed it?! I could never have imagined feeling this way. Even while I was pregnant, I was anxious about motherhood and what that would mean - not working, not having the freedom to do as I pleased, being 100% responsible for a small person every day and knowing exactly what to do. 

Every concern I ever had has vanished. I look at Wolfie and my heart feels like it will explode. He's the cutest thing I ever laid eyes on, even when he's screaming. I just can't believe how lucky we are to have him, and what a little miracle he is. 

And obviously he takes just after me. The perpetually hungry little man is happiest when he's eating, and he's been making sure his mummy is getting all the food she needs too - accompanying me out for steak, burgers, brunch, dim sum, pizza,  mexican, seafood, and cake. Happy, happy days.

By the way, pork crackling with guacamole? Best. Idea. Ever.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The Nut Tree, Murcott

Well hey there, world! What's been happening with you while I've been a weird flux of childbirth classes, applying for my next residency visa, and immersing myself back in the world of cheese?

As a little reward for all my hard work growing a little person (37 weeks already, yikes) and a final last hurrah to adult weekends away, the CG, Miss J, Mr S and I headed for a shopping, spa and golfing weekend at Bicester. Total. Relaxing. Bliss. 

Made even better by being spoilt rotten - new handbags from the CG for my upcoming birthday and a super generous double birthday celebration dinner organised by J & S at The Nut Tree - a gorgeous village pub that just happens to have a Michelin star.

It's been a while since we've been for a proper three course (I know, I know, times are definitely changing) and this one did not disappoint.

Jerusalem artichoke soup with truffle and cornish lobster salad kicked our meals off with a bang, while Mr S made me incredibly jealous with his smoked Loch Duart salmon - I cannot wait to fill my boots with sashimi as soon as the baby has left the building.

While the boys went for slightly safer options of beef and lamb for their mains, Miss J and I took the plunge and tried the stuffed pigs trotters - which weren't too pretty, but were incredibly tasty. Chicken wrapped with pork...what's not to love?

It's a good thing we have separate stomachs for dessert, because we were definitely not left wanting after our first two courses. Generous portions, all round.

We finished off with soufflé, sticky toffee pudding, and jaffa cake (which I don't recommend having if you want to avoid the bitter disappointment that will forevermore come with consuming normal jaffa cakes).

It might just be the hormones talking, but I feel so lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life - and so many that appreciate food as much as I do! I am one lucky, lucky lady.

The Nut Tree Inn on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Ben's Canteen, Battersea

I'm watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations (um, hello - food AND travel? Just two of my favourite things EVER) and a cold chill sneaks up my spine. I look down at my freaking ginormous belly and think "I am never going travelling again."

Drama queen? Who, me?

In fairness, I'm talking backpacker style, roughing it travel. Travel that requires no plans, just landing and deciding to go where your fancy takes you. Maybe it's me being narrow minded, or not really knowing what to expect, but I'm guessing kids and travelling without a plan don't really mix. Hell, I don't know many of my friends with kids who can get out the door for the afternoon without planning what to pack, where they're going, and when they'll be back.

Luckily, brunch requires slightly less planning than a trip to Honduras.

I've been meaning to visit Ben's Canteen for ages, and our only disappointment when we finally got there last weekend was that they had run out of chorizo. Oh, the tragedy. 

Mr and Mrs H opted for a burger (if it's two past midday, burgers are a-ok) and breakfast sandwich, which I was unfortunately too preoccupied with stuffing my face to happy snap.

Miss L and B went for the sweet corn fritters - a true indicator of any antipodean style breakfast menu in my opinion.

And the CG and I opted for smashed avocado on toast. I think I've consumed an average of 4 avocados a week the last few months. Might have to step up the pace.

Perfectly runny eggs, creamy avocado, proper hashbrowns, and a big old smoothie. Sounds like a good Sunday to me. 

There's way too much on the menu to choose from which means we'll have to pop it onto our list of local haunts and go back again and again. What a hardship.

Ben's Canteen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Franco Manca, Clapham Junction

I'm studying again. STUDYING. I don't even know how to study anymore. All because I need to pass a test about life in the UK so I can remain in the country I've called home for the last six years. Blergh.

Somewhere between the stone age and the formation of the coalition government, we managed to squeeze in a little visit to Franco Manca, which opened locally just recently (or maybe not so recently, given that my days and weeks have been rushing by sooner than I can say "do you think we could convert one of our cupboards into a baby room?")

The place was buzzing, although a twenty minute wait on a Saturday night isn't too shabby really.

The kitchen pace is frantic, but the staff still have time to smile. On a related side note - the CG reliably tells me (if it's on TV it must be true) that cycling for ten minutes at the gym burns 49 calories, while 100 laughs burns 150 calories. Henceforth I'm going to attribute his zero fat physique to his excessive (and often inappropriate) laughter.

The soft, chewy, sourdough bases had the boys declaring them the best "restaurant pizza bases" they'd had (a fairly clever distinction for them to make since they clearly intend on consuming my homemade offerings again in future).

Definitely one to add to our regular local rotation - although I might have to finish learning approximately 300 names of important British sportspeople, artists, architects, writers, musicians and film makers first.

Wish me luck!

Franco Manca on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 2 February 2014

The year of the horse

Happy Chinese New Year folks! 'Tis the year of the horse, which I must say I'm most pleased about given our firstborn should be "energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able". No pressure.

The longer that I'm away from home, the more I miss the traditions that I used to find so trite. The sweet box that was always on hand for when visitors popped around, mandarins in hand, containing rock hard peanut brittle, round little biscuits with sugary icing drops on top, watermelon seeds you had to crack open with your teeth for the meagre reward of a bland seed to munch on, sugary treats in the shape of lotus roots...

I'm sure I'd have one mouthful and be cured of my nostalgia, but there are some things that I do wish I had more often than once a year. After the dim sum experience we had at Pearl Liang, we decided to head back to try them out for CNY so we could ensure a year of health, wealth, and family.

We kicked off with yee sang - which we "prosperity tossed" together standing around the table. 

The higher the toss, the more prosperity comes your way, so you can imagine the enthusiasm. 

Every dish you eat at Chinese New Year has meaning. 

Rice for fertility, luck and wealth - it symbolises a link between the Gods in heaven and the men on Earth.

Lobster noodles for good marriage and unity (the lobsters) and long life (the noodles).

Whole steamed fish for prosperity, and turbot in particular for treasure.

Prawns just because everybody loves prawns. Especially when they're crispy, salty, and garlic-chilli delicious. Oh, and because the word for prawn in Chinese sounds like the word for laughter - a little sprinkling of happiness for the year. 

Black moss seaweed (nicknamed "hair vegetable") for good luck and wealth, with dried oysters for double the luck.

Abalone for definite good luck, just in case anyone was in doubt that the black moss and oysters would let them down, and shitake mushrooms to ensure you seize those opportunities.

Vegetables wrapped in beancurd, or "monk's parcel" with wood ear mushrooms for family harmony and longevity.

And a whole chicken for more prosperity, and togetherness and completeness of the family (yes, that is the head as well).

Next year we're planning on celebrating with my family for the first time in years. Not just because we'll have a little one to reap the rewards of red packets filled with money from all our married relatives of course. Although that certainly isn't a bad reason either.