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Hen Party by Check On

London loves a good pop up. And frankly, London does a great pop up. 

Sunday's Hen Party, by Check On at The Endurance was no exception. 

Bloody Mary's are always a winning start for me.

Insanely, I hadn't eaten since The Fat Duck the day before. By the time food was served, I was practically ready to faint. Our table nearly inhaled the sweet corn, salt & pepper, and BBQ chicken dippers as soon as they hit the table.

Then it was time for a little tea.

And dumplings. The chicken consomme was exactly the hot, tasty thing my greedy little self needed. Drunk straight from our tea cups, it was gone all too soon.

Appetites whetted, we waited with anticipation for the main event: spineless roast chicken.

Served with truffle chips, peas and gravy.

I have no idea how you even start to debone a chicken yet keep it intact - but it was a sweet novelty to simply cut a roast bird into quarters, no carving required. 

The chicken was so juicy, the stuffing so ample, the seven of us struggled to finish our two plump chooks despite not wanting to waste a mouthful.

Stuffed to the brim, we still managed to find room for eggs and soldiers - or vanilla creme brûlée with shortbread dippers. 

I'm so glad we live in London.

The surprise party - part 2

This post originally appeared on Laugh Lots, Travel Often.

Despite PetiteFolle's slanderous claims that I might verge on being a control freak, hence my lack of willing participation in any surprises, I can attest to my love of one kind of surprise: the random night out.

While the organised night out on the town certainly isn't high up on my agenda these days (because, as you know, I'm getting old), I do appreciate the in-the-moment conversion of a bar area into an impromptu dance floor.

You know those nights.

The ones where someone cries "It's still early!" once you've finished dinner,  followed swiftly by "Let's just go for one."

After one (bottle), watches are consulted, and another cries "We've still got 2 hours before the last train - plenty of time for one more!"

Then suddenly, you find yourself sucked into a round. And you can't leave without squaring up your turn.

The last train goes. Without you on it. And once you've resigned yourself to catching a cab, it's pretty much all over, red rover.

Drinks will be spilled. Tables will be danced on. Someone will cry. And fast food will be consumed before falling into bed at 4am, on a Wednesday night, your daily alarm reproachingly letting you know that you've only got a three hour window of sleep before a full day of meetings. Followed by a work gala dinner to attend. Snap.

But despite the headaches, the queasiness, and the rapid fire consumption of greasy foods the next day - it will all still be worth it, because it was just SO. DAMN. FUN.

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Heston's The Fat Duck

Words cannot begin to describe what an amazing day I had today. And possibly not even pictures. But I'm willing to give it a shot.

Two months ago, the CG enlisted the help of multiple friends so he could bag us a table at Heston Blumenthal's famous The Fat Duck for my birthday present. Miss J came through with the goods (have I mentioned how much I love this woman?) so on a gorgeous sunny day, we headed to Bray for the foodie experience of a lifetime. 

After a pre-drink at the local pub, we excitedly traipsed over to the main event. Every single person working at the restaurant acknowledged us as we entered, and the same level of service continued for the whole five hours we were there.

While we sipped champagne, Mr S and I pored over the bible of a wine list, plotting our lunch accompaniments.

First up, amuse bouche. A beetroot and horseradish mouth explosion that melted on your tongue.

Followed swiftly by nitro poached aperitifs - vodka and lime for the CG and I, and gin and tonic for Miss J and Mr S. 

Now I'm just going to say up front: please excuse the amount of superlatives that I'm going to litter this blog post with, but I just can't get over how incredible every course was. The whole theatre around the meal left me gushing over every little detail - from the flavours, to the effects, to the crockery, to the stationery. Every. Single. Detail.

The gazpacho made me want to lick the bowl clean.

But it was soon overshadowed by the smell of oak moss rolling across the table in dramatic fashion while we dined on truffle toast and a multi-layered savoury concoction.

Deliciously hearty snail porridge was next.

Followed by roast foie gras and scallops.

A crazy Mad Hatter's tea party had us oohing and aahing over dissolving gold pocket watches and super tasty mock turtle soup in a teapot, accompanied by toast sandwiches.

And as if that wasn't enough to impress us, we then listened to the sounds of sea while we feasted on foam that tasted of the sea, sand with a heavenly salty crunch, and super fresh shashimi. For a seafood and Japanese cuisine lover like me, this dish was heaven.

Perfectly poached salmon followed quickly after, then our pigeon "main course".

Savoury dishes done, we cleansed our palates with hot and iced tea. As in, the left side was hot, and the right side was cold. I have no idea how they do it. Different temperatures on top and bottom, I'd probably understand - but left and right? 

An egg was presented to us next - the shell made of chocolate, and the inside a creamy, tangy, sweet filling. This time it was the CG who was in heaven.

Vapourisers spritzed the air around us for the "BFG" (black forest gateau), evoking the smell of the forest.

Before we went on a tour of Scottish whiskys, with an American one to boot.

Finally, we were handed bags of sweets to finish with a menu that actually smelled of sweet shops. Just brilliant.

Impressed beyond belief, we popped over to Heston's pub, The Crown, for a sober up drink in the beer garden to make the most of the sun.

10 hours after we left home for lunch, we returned. Best birthday present EVER.

The Fat Duck on Urbanspoon Square Meal


Last week, the CG alerted me to something fishy going on when he went to show me an email, then, before I even had time for my eyes to adjust, whipped it away from me and refused to let me read it for myself.

Of course, a red alert was sounding. Suspicions suitably raised, I became even more suspicious the next day when it was revealed that PetiteFolle was staying in London for the weekend. 

After discussing with a number of friends what they were up to on the weekend however, I decided my suspicions were unfounded. The CG was clearly acting alone. I became convinced that he was arranging an elaborate edible diorama for my birthday, possibly involving cherubs.

As it turns out, my friends are just damn good at lying to my face.

After complaining bitterly that the CG had forced me to go out in the rain and wind for a drink, only to "forget" the tickets to whatever show he was taking me to, and us having to double back with a now broken umbrella, I found our living room full of friends and party nibbles on Saturday night.

It was a lovely surprise, involving a lot of cheese, bubbles, and Lizzie's amazing baking (plus possibly a little singing and dancing into the wee hours of the morning, but who can be sure if there are no photos to confirm said activities?)

How many men does it take to open a bottle of bubbles? Three, apparently.

A huge thanks to everyone who came. I'll never be able to trust you aren't lying to me again.

The Shiori, Bayswater

If you read Laugh Lots, Travel Often, you'll already know that I postponed my birthday after a bout of the "no-tasties". I can't believe in the space of two months I managed to lose my tastebuds twice, both on important food occasions *insert dramatic sigh here*.

After an appropriate amount of whinging and crying about how unfair life is, the CG and I had a nice eve of instant noodles on the couch, the two of us coughing, spluttering, and administering cold and flu meds to each other.

Luckily, my irresponsible 'buds returned just in time for a meal with the girls I've been very much looking forward to for a number of months, at The Shiori.

Twelve perfectly presented portions showcasing a broad array of Japanese cuisine, were laid out in front of us over the course of nearly four hours.  

The shashimi was so good, both to eat and look at, that it hurt me to finish it.

My favourite course of the evening: melt in the mouth nigiri sushi that you painted your soy sauce onto.   The o-toro, scallop and prawn were so creamy it was almost hard to believe they were seafood. So, so, SO GOOD.

It was an absolutely beautiful meal with some very beautiful ladies.

The Shiori on Urbanspoon Square Meal