Dr John Hawkins
Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff,
home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.
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- Recent Entries:
- Korean Lunch
Grain Store and Chap Ball
Erika Getting Better
Erika Ill Again
Dim Sum and Hyde Park
- Korean Lunch
- [Sunday 8th December 2013]
Keen as always to sample a cuisine Mum might not have had before when she comes to London, today we decided to have Korean food for lunch. After some initial difficulty finding a Korean restaurant which was actually open for Sunday lunch, we eventually settled on Kimchee in Holborn. As a vegetarian this is the best experience I've ever had of Korean food at a restaurant - they had a vegetarian "set menu" - kind of like a Korean thali or bento I suppose - called a backban. I thought this was really good, even if it did take a while to arrive as it was new on the menu and the chefs were still figuring it out.
After that Chie went off to do some shopping, and I went with Mum to St. Pancras, where we rounded off her visit with a light tea at the little Fortnum and Mason offshoot there, and then waved her off.
- Grain Store and Chap Ball
- [Saturday 7th December 2013]
Mum arrived in London at midday, she'd come so she could babysit Erika this evening, so that Chie and I could go out together.
We went to meet her at St. Pancras, and decided to go to one of the restaurants in Granary Square behind Kings Cross for lunch. After some initial irritation at Caravan, where despite arriving not long after midday we were told there would be an hour's wait for a table (further proof that "brunch" is an annoying concept which should be banned), we instead tried the Grain Store next door, which probably ended up working ut better for us anyway. Although not an entirely vegetarian restaurant, there's a strong focus on vegetables and so quite a few vegetarian dishes on the menu. I think the menu they gave us at this time of day may stylistically have actually been something along the lines of brunch (lots of dishes involved eggs in some form or other), but I chose to ignore this, and manage to enjoy the meal regardless. The Welsh rarebit and mushroom croquettes were particularly good.
After that we headed back to the flat, where we spent most of the rest of the afternoon, apart from a foray out to the supermarket and do a couple of errands.
Made a sort of stew for dinner, then after giving Erika a bath and putting her to bed, Chie and I headed out to the Chap Ball (officially the Grand Anarcho Dandyist Ball). On arrival we found it all a bit odd - even more eccentric than the Chap Olympiad somehow - and Chie in particular didn't really know what to make of the entertainment that had been laid on for earlier in the evening (something Vivian Stanshall related, which was a bit too obscure even for me). However, things improved a bit after that, with some dancing, surprisingly (not really my sort of thing) - and we had a dance instructor collectively lead everyone in a Charleston, then the Lambeth Walk, then (perhaps not so authentically) a Conga. So that was fun.
Kyle and Hannah joined us there after a little while, which was jolly nice, and throughout the evening I enjoyed spotting some of the "celebrities" of the Chap world, and managed to get pictures taken with a couple of them too.
The only real disappointment for me was how badly my bow tie ended up, and I only had myself to blame for that! I'm confident I can do a better job of next time.
- [Friday 6th December 2013]
Ali (my PhD supervisor) popped into the office this afternoon for a tea and a chat, which was very nice - I haven't seen him for a couple of years now.
Again Chie and I swapped roles this evening, she went to her work Christmas party, and I stayed in to look after Erika. I made pasta and cheese sauce for our dinner, and was really pleased by how much she ate - finally her appetite seems to be back to normal after being ill most of last week.
- River Cafe
- [Thursday 5th December 2013]
Went and got my hair cut this morning (overdue as always) and decided to go back to Briggs in St. James's, where I had a delightful chat with Phillip, the 80 something year old barber.
My manager was in London for a few days this week and so had arranged a "team" outing (me plus the one other engineer still working on the project in London, plus a former team member to make up a table of four) - dinner at the River Cafe.
We started out with a drink at the Sloaney Pony (the White Horse in Parsons Green) - it's only the second time I've been there and I actually quite like the place.
Dinner itself was similar to the last time I'd been there - it's very glamorous and exciting atmosphere and the service was excellent, but I'm not sure anyone quite felt the food was as exquisite as it maybe could be. I went really over the top this time on a terrifyingly expensive main course - tagliarini with 10g of Tuscan white truffles, personally shaved for me by the legendary Ruth Rogers. I can't seem to resist ordering truffles - particularly white truffles - whenever I see them on a menu, they're effectively the pinnacle of gastronomy, particularly as a vegetarian... and yet I always wonder afterwards if it was really worth it.
Anyway, despite the hideous expense I did still enjoy the experience again, everyone in the restaurant just looks so glamorous, and, well, posh.
We rounded off the evening with a pint in the world's smallest bar room, at the Dove, a little further along the Thames. Quite a contrast from the glamour of the River Cafe but very nice nonetheless.
- [Wednesday 4th December 2013]
Tonight was my turn to stay in and look after Erika while Chie went out with friends. Made Mexican food (a Quorn chilli) for dinner.
After putting Erika to bed I wiled away the remainder of the evening practicing tying my bow tie, after which I might as well go the whole hog and try on my dinner suit again - now that I finally have the proper shirt to go with it. It certainly helped to add a hint of glamour to an otherwise dull evening.
- Christmas party
- [Tuesday 3rd December 2013]
Met up with Chie and Erika after work to catch the tail end of the Moreton Street Christmas lighting up ceremony. It's the one posh shopping street in Pimlico, which, given house prices in the area, is always what I feel like the other streets ought to be like. The ceremony was organised by the Moreton triangle residents association, who also looked like a pleasingly well heeled bunch.
After that we went back home for dinner, then I headed out to my office's Christmas party. This was the engineering only one (usually the better of the two, and the only one I'm going to this year), and they'd chosen a bar atop Millbank Tower as the venue. So there were some nice views to be had, albeit that misted up windows made it nigh on impossible to get a satisfying photo. As always with these things the music was too loud and I could hardly hear what anyone was saying, plus the drinks on offer were pretty unexciting, but still, don't look a gift horse in the mouth and all that.
- [Monday 2nd December 2013]
Somewhat back to normal today, Erika only having been to nursery one day last week, today I resumed my usual task of getting her up in the morning, feeding her breakfast, and taking her to nursery. It seemed to take ages this morning - her appetite still isn't really back to normal and feeding her breakfast was really hard work!
On the way home I took a picture of the foul Christmas decorations at the EasyHotel Victoria (this video conveys it better than that picture), an amusing contrast to the very tasteful festive decor St. James's Palace I'd seen on Sunday.
Chinese food for dinner, it being a Monday - and a bit of a joint effort. Chie made ma po tofu and I made a stir fry with some mock beef, broccoli and pak choi in a black bean sauce.
- [Sunday 1st December 2013]
Pretty quiet day overall. Mostly just stayed at the flat, I just headed out around 3:30 with Erika to go to the supermarket to buy things for dinner. Yesterday's Thanksgiving meal, nice though it was, had left me with a craving for roast potatoes, so it being a Sunday some kind of roast meal seemed appropriate. I made toad in the hole with extra Yorkshire puddings.
Chie and I rather enjoyed it, but like the previous couple of evenings it was hard to get Erika to eat more than a few mouthfuls - her appetite still seemed to have been thrown off by a week of being ill, and not really eating much.
Consequently she woke up in the middle of the night and was apparently quite hungry, so her and I went and sat in the kitchen eating leftovers at 4am.
- [Saturday 30th November 2013]
Spent the morning thoroughly tidying the flat, I think somehow this was a reaction to Erika having been ill all week - on some not entirely rational level I wanted to get rid of all the germs. In addition she still had quite a bad cough, so I set about ruthlessly expelling all the dust from our bedroom, where we hardly ever vacuum. My highly domestic morning continued with some laundry, and I have to admit overall I found it all quite satisfying.
I was granted a bit of time off in the afternoon, and headed to St. James's to buy an evening shirt for the upcoming Chap ball. After much deliberation I'd finally settled on Hawes and Curtis, as they seemed to be the only place with the exact combination of slim fit, wing collar, marcella, studs, and in the right neck size and arm length. So finally I had the complete black tie outfit. Whilst I was out I also picked up a bottle of wine for this evening in Berry Brothers and Rudd, and had a very pleasant twilight stroll home taking in St. James's Palace and Westminster Abbey.
Iain and Audra invited us along to a Thanksgiving dinner this evening. I've never been to one before, but it's something I've been mindful of every year for the past few years as a result of working for US based companies (it means a couple of days of peace and quiet!). I was in two minds about whether to go or not to begin with, as Erika still wasn't completely recovered from her week of being quite ill, but I think we were all a bit fed up of having spent so much time stuck at home that the change of scenery seemed like a good idea. I actually quite enjoyed the food - particularly the macaroni cheese - although it seemed a bit strange to have this with a meal which was essentially a roast meal (gravy was involved) but not have any roast potatoes.
- Erika Getting Better
- [Friday 29th November 2013]
Although still a bit up and down, Erika was finally starting to show signs of getting better today (the picture of a smile here was more or less the first one we'd seen this week).
I decided Chie and I needed a bit of a treat after our ordeal this week, so for dinner I went and picked up sushi from the Japan Centre.
- [Thursday 28th November 2013]
Erika still poorly. Today the plan was to split nursing duties half and half, so Chie would go to work in the morning, and then we'd swap over at lunch time so I could go to work for the afternoon. In practice though I hardly spent any time at the office, as Chie sent me a message to say she'd called the doctor's surgery to try and book an appointment as Erika's breathing was quite rapid, and the receptionist had (without really any knowledge of the situation) suggested to take Erika to hospital. Despite initially reassuring Chie that it really wasn't that bad, this kind of worrying is contagious, I couldn't concentrate, and decided to just head home so I could assess the situation myself. We then spent an hour or two trying to decide whether we should take her to hospital or not, and eventually managed to calm down and convince ourselves we were overreacting.
Not a very fun day!
- [Wednesday 27th November 2013]
I felt it had been a slightly better night last night (although perhaps just because I'd had a few pints and therefore was more oblivious to it) but Erika still wasn't well enough to go back to nursery, so today we swapped over, Chie took the day off, and I went to work.
We tried to make Japanese curry for dinner, but realised we'd ran out of the all important Japanese curry roux. They sometimes sell it in Sainsbury's but had sold out. I tried to improvise using various spices but it really wasn't the same.
Chie had a bit of a break in the evening and went to yoga. Erika really wasn't her usual self still. She didn't seem to want to get up to mischief, and instead just wanted to sit on my lap, or lie on the floor looking forlorn.
- East London
- [Tuesday 26th November 2013]
After that particularly bad night last night, I volunteered to take the day off work today and look after Erika, so Chie could have a "break" (i.e. go to work). Erika really didn't seem well enough to go to nursery - besides anything else she isn't sleeping properly (and neither are we) so I just didn't think she had the energy for it. I took her to the doctor in the morning, and he said she'd had a cold which had turned into an ear and chest infection. He prescribed her some antibiotics for it. Fingers crossed it will get better in a few days - we really need at least a half decent night's sleep!
As Andrew was going to be away until the new year, we'd arranged to have some early pre-Christmas / leaving drinks. Despite having not really slept properly the last two nights, and being further tired out by a day spent looking after Erika, I was determined to go along as I felt I needed a break. Chie got back from work at 5:30, we gave Erika a quick bath (we'd skipped this the last couple of evenings as she hadn't seemed well enough) and then I headed out for the evening.
The original plan had involved a cocktail bar which had proved hard to make a reservation at, so in the end we went on a completely different tack and did a short tour of pubs in my favourite part of East London - along the Thames around Rotherhithe and Wapping.
We started with the Angel, and I'd forgotten what an absolute little gem this was - with its three partitioned bars at the front (public, saloon and private), an open fire, and the spectacular river views along to Tower Bridge. I don't think I'd actually been in the evening before, and by night the views are particularly atmospheric.
Next up was the Mayflower, which also really delivered this evening - whilst it doesn't have quite as nice views as the Angel, we'd chosen to eat there, and the food seemed to impress all round.
We rounded off with the Prospect of Whitby, over the river (now so much more convenient with the re-opening of the old East London line in the guise of the Overground line). Again, the views couldn't really top the Angel, but looking out over the water here was very atmospheric, and after we'd finished our pints we took advantage of the little flight of stairs by the side of the pub to get down onto the foreshore.
- Erika Ill Again
- [Monday 25th November 2013]
Erika's fever had come down this morning, so we'd hoped it might just be one of those one-off things - perhaps teething related, or something like that. Apparently though she wasn't her normal self all day at nursery, she didn't really want to play or do anything, and in the evening her fever came back, she was coughing a lot again, and her breathing was affected too. Poor little thing.
We had a particularly bad night as a result, it just seemed like everything we tried to do to help just made it worse, and this really got to Chie. She got really upset in the middle of the night. I tried to do my best to keep a level head, but I felt exhausted too, and was now trying to deal with not just a poorly little girl but also a very stressed out not so little girl. Definitely a low point!
- [Sunday 24th November 2013]
Went to see the Australia exhibit at the Royal Academy this morning with Andrew, Gemma, and her family. I wasn't in a particularly arty mood today, so volunteered to just whizz through with Erika and wait in the cafe. Although I did like the Persian rug with the hole burnt in the middle. After that we all went for lunch at Tibits (the only baby friendly place I could think of nearby) and then went to ruin a hipster coffee shop by showing up with two buggies.
We spent the rest of the day back at the flat, which was just as well, as Erika started to show signs of being a bit unwell in the evening - she wasn't really her usual self, and had a bit of a fever and developed a rather nasty cough. As a result none of us got a particularly good night's sleep tonight.
- Dim Sum and Hyde Park
- [Saturday 23rd November 2013]
We'd arranged to meet a friend of Chie's for dim sum at lunchtime today. Rather than go to the usual haunts (Royal China or Joy King Lau) Chie wanted to give a new place a try, so we went to Pearl Liang near Paddington. It's in quite an interesting spot, just North of Paddington station, where to be honest I haven't ventured much before. We walked some of the way there, as it was a nice day, getting the bus as far as the Dorchester Hotel (it always seems a bit ridiculous to me that it has a bus stop) and then a stroll through Hyde Park, and up past Paddington from there. It hadn't really occurred to me before that the canal goes so close to Paddington, and with some recent redevelopment the area to the North East of Paddington station is actually very pleasant.
Lunch itself was fairly good, although it is unlikely to supplant either of our regulars as a new dim sum place.
After lunch we wandered back down through Hyde Park, and took in some of Winter Wonderland, the annual Christmas fair they set up there. After that we popped into the Waitrose in Belgravia, and bought some macarons from the Pierre Hermes shop round the corner.
For dinner I made cannelloni, which I thought would make a break from the usual lasagne. It ends up being about the same amount of effort, and isn't really as nice, but it's good to try something different now and again, and it was nice that Erika ate some of it too.
- [Friday 22nd November 2013]
Just went very briefly to TGIF, and then headed home by way of Sainsbury's, where I bought tofu and chives, as I fancied hiyayakko (raw tofu with usually soy sauce, grated ginger and chopped spring onions, although in this instance chives seemed like a good substitute). Not much else to report really.
- [Thursday 21st November 2013]
Got a text from Leon saying he was in London, and proposed going for a pint. So after work we went for a pint at the Ship and Shovell, following which we met up with the girls for dinner at Rossopomodoro, which was very good as always.
- [Wednesday 20th November 2013]
I leafed through the recent bottling list I'd received from the Whisky Society this evening, and excitedly noticed a bottling from Kilchoman on there. We'd been to the distillery when it was in its infancy and as a result I have a special fondness for it. So somewhat on the spur of the moment, after putting Erika to bed, I decided to pop out to the members rooms and pick up a bottle. Not sure I was able to pick up all the themes in the tasting notes, but impressively Chie, who hadn't read them, listed them all - peaty, antiseptic, maritime and honey.
- [Tuesday 19th November 2013]
Spent a while in the evening getting annoyed about the lack of choice in non-leather / vegetarian shoes. Not really much else to report!