25 Oxford Street,
020 7287 5953
Tube: Tottenham Court Road
The Cost & Date: Tuesday December 16th 2008 for lunch :: £20.90 for 2.
Food & Drink: For appetizers, we had steamed pork & chive dumplings (you get four, we had eaten two in the photo). I had a duck la-mian soup (above), and my friend had a pork/chai siu la-mian soup. We also had some tea.
Setting: Small, relatively clean. Small toilet though.
Service: Straightforward, not bad.
Story: Another connection through my flatmate, but this restaurant is fairly well known and popular due to its central location. My flatmate actually met one of the cooks that actually does make its specialty, handmade la-mian. Whenever you pass by the window on Oxford Street, it’s all steamed up due to the hot food and the noodle making. It’s nice, warm, and cozy. A good respite from the insanity of Oxford Street. I liked the noodles. You can tell it is handmade and not from a premade package. It’s not too salty either. The dim sum was not bad at all.
Overall: I’d definitely come back, but it can be a bit busy on the weekends and later weekdays. It’s not too expensive, but I think it’s more or less a good deal considering London restaurants. Better than some Chinatown establishments.
Due to the beauty that is the Royal Shakespeare Company’s special student rates where you can see £5, I was able to score two tickets for their 2008/09 London season at The Novello Theatre on the Aldwych. Words can not contain how much I wanted these tickets when I first heard about the cast and the fact I was going to be in London at the same time. Both performances had me in bliss for 3 hours 30 minutes. The two nights I went were December 30, 2008 and January 10, 2009 (the last performance). The difference between the two are mainly focussed around the fact that David Tennant was still recovering in the former replaced by Edward Bennett, but was back for the latter. I also had opera glasses (£3.99 at the NT shop) for the second showing which allowed me a view of their faces, making it even more interesting. As a preface, I must admit that I have not seen any Shakespeare play of this caliber, and as much as I love the performing arts, I have not been able to indulge in as many shows as I would like especially given I lived in a town not as cultural as London. Therefore, this was quite special for me.
This week, I finished book one of Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire series and I am about to start book two. I only really need to read it and book three and then I will write a review of the eight books so far. I think I’ve been on the same scene in Hamlet for two weeks, but I did buy JKR’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard last week at Hatchards. I’ve read the first story out of five. It can be easily read in one or two sittings, and I must find the time. I may do it right after this entry actually.
Today, I went for a long walk by the Thames, mostly on the south side from Southwark Bridge to Westminister (and then back to London Bridge). Underneath Waterloo Bridge, there are tables piled with used books by a few booksellers.
I must admit that I have a severe addiction to buying books, especially used books. I can not resist them especially when I find books I’ve loved or books I really want to read:
I am aware that all of these books are by British authors and that two of them are war novels. Three novels for £10.25, not as cheap as back home, but I do really want to read Atonement and Birdsong. Though finding the time for them is another thing. I have accepted that I probably will not get a library card, and that is not a guarantee of getting to read the books I want to read. I am glad I bought these. I never regret book purchases even if it is a vicious addiction. These aren’t the last books I will buy either; I can feel that my book acquirement lust is insatiable. I really will need to ship all my things back when I move out of the country.
I was so cold after I stood for at least 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour browsing books under a bridge that I popped in Foyles afterwards to browse which did not help the addiction. I am glad I went out, but now I must look away from all those tables when I do that walk again.
This week, I will finish Beedle Bard, read more Hamlet, start A Christmas Carol, start a Penguin Ian Flemming anthology that has Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, and Moonraker. That’s enough, but I have own so many books now! I still have a lot to do for school even if classes are over. I am leaving for Wales a week from Tuesday, and I will be bringing a couple of the aforementioned and maybe one of the sad war novels. Nothing like a romantic war novel for Christmas/Boxing Day.
Have a festive week.
Austenbook – Working off of Hamlet on Facebook, this is wonderful.
Daily Routines – A really interesting blog that features routines of writers, artists and other people of import.
If you have an iPhone, you should read books on it.
Not exactly literary, but Wikipedia has a List of Misconceptions.
Well, this has proved to a fruitful reading weekend. Since Friday night, I’ve read books four to eight of the Sookie Stackhouse (Southern Vampire) Series by Charlaine Harris. I have not read the first three (and was spoiled by a friend) yet, but I will get back to rereading the series. They are quick reads, and I, like many others were attracted to the series by the HBO TV adaptation of it “True Blood”. The series is addictive (hence the reading four novels in less than 48 hours). I can not help compare it to the Stephenie Meyer Twilight series, and the Souhern Vampire series is advantaged in its older themes, but it is a better series all around, no doubt about it. The characterisation is well thought, the plots intriguing, the tone both humorous and dark. I can not wait until the book nine comes out in May.
As I said last week, I have begun rereading Hamlet slowly. I’m still in Act One, taking my merry time on bus rides and whenever I find myself free. This is probably my second rereading of the play. I do like Shakespeare (especially the sonnets); I like being able to read it aloud and hearing the iambic pentameter. I have read more tragedies than comedies though, but I do think Hamlet ranks highly among the ones I’ve read because it has some beautiful soliloquies. I dislike or am indifferent to all the characters except Horatio (only because he seems to be the most decent guy of the bunch). I do like the construction of the play, the use of the Mousetrap and the meta play within the play. Reading has made me more excited that I will be seeing it in a month on stage, and it will be a serious performance by the RSC. Of course, this was why I bought the book in the first place. More observations of the play as I continue to reread it. In the mean time, I bought my a few more books this week.
I did indeed buy A Christmas Carol and other Christmas stories by Charles Dickens. I really need to read up on some Dickens especially considering how English his works are. It’s debatable if I will actually read all these books. Little Dorrit was just adapted on BBC. I bought The Old Curiosity Shop simply because I actually pass buy it weekly when I’m in Holborn; the building looks the same more or less. I much prefer Penguin, Oxford or Everyman classics to Wordsworth, but each of these was only £1.75 eac at Lovejoys on Charring Cross Road. As much as I wanted to go for the 3 for 2 fiction deal at Borders, my frugality won out in the end. But with prices like that, I can get a few more classics there and save up for contemporary books later.
Next week, I will have reread more of Hamlet and maybe go past the first page of Year of Wonders. I want to start A Christmas Carol soon, but I’m starting to think I can wait a few more weeks before starting to. I want to read a lot of it on Christmas Eve to get in the real mood.
Have a good week!
FictionalCities – Recs of books set in Florence, Venice, Berlin, and London.
The New York Times 100 Most Notable Books of 2008 is out.
Schmoop is a new literature student guide. I read the Pride & Prejudice guide, and I liked the informal style of describing the books themes and characters. It made me really want to reread P&P (not that it is difficult to want to reread P&P).
My Old Place: Authentic Northern Chinese
88 Middlesex Street
London, E1 7EZ
020 7247 2200
Tube: Liverpool Street Station, Aldgate
The Cost & Date: Thursday 20th November 2008 :: £65 for 5.
Food & Drink: We had soup, lamb on skewers, pig’s feet, fried crab, celery- mushroom- shrimp stir fry, this other dish I can’t remember and white rice of course. We had aloe vera for a drink.
Setting: Laid back Chinese style. No place mats, mandarin speaking staff, and 80% of customers were young Chinese. Apparently there’s a big basement with karaoke too. Type of place that is busy most nights with regular customers.
Service: Busy, but food came quick and fast. Card machine was broken. Good to bring cash to restaurants like this which are more on the laid back and unpretentious.
Story: One of my flatmates has been in London for five years and invited me and a few others to this place. She first went to this restaurant’s other location in Bethnal Green, but apparently that place is very small. I like this place, and the portion sizes are bigger than what you would pay for in Chinatown. The grilled lamb on skewers was really good; I definitely recommend it. The pig’s feet weren’t bad, but I’ve had better (at home and in China). We were all stuffed though and it is honestly a very good deal compared to some other places. We had leftovers and it was on the spicy side too which is nice.
Overall: Recommended for Northern Chinese food. Bring cash, and call ahead if you’re more than four any time and probably good to call ahead in general. People often line up for this place.
Last Sunday, my internet was down and I could not do any work so I read and finished Sense and Sensibility, but was unable to post a Salon entry. Today, I am reading for school (of course), but I am going to try and squeeze in the first chapter or so of Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks.
Been very busy the last two weeks, but on Friday, I finally managed to take a long bus ride to Marylebone and headed to Daunt Books. Lovely, bookstore with a galleria of books by geographical location.
Today, I also took a walk between the rainy periods to go to the Globe Theatre to buy a very tiny copy of Hamlet.
Yes, my hand is small. It is bound in leather, unabridged, and only £4. I have a normal paperback sized copy back home in Canada, but this is a nice souvenir. It’s so small that I will have to take it with me everywhere. I’ve already read a couple of the first ickle pages, and it will offer some companionship in boring lectures perhaps.
The holidays are fast approaching which means more time to read again, and I think I will be buying copies of JKR’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard and A Christmas Carol. I have always wanted to read more Dickens, and being in England now, I think it’s essential he’s at the top of the TBR pile. Too bad, I left Bleakhouse back in Canada, but I will scour Charring Cross Road and Hatchard’s for some cheap Dickens in the coming months.
Have a good week.
The Europeana site, Europe’s digital library, had to be shut down after its release this week, but will be coming back mid-December. I’m anticipating it.
Based on the Book – a listing of all books, plays, poes that have been adapted. The site also has some other good booklists.
BBC News had a piece for World Philosophy Day. While not very literary, still very interesting.
A page of other literary links.
Stealing the idea from The GirlAlive British Food Experience, here is the first list of “British” foods that I’ve tried and my thoughts on them. You can get a lot of them in North America and elsewhere, but they are probably not as readily or popular as they are here.
Digestives: While most of the foods in this list will not carry over when I move out of the UK, digestives are not one of them. I liked them before coming here. I had the McVittie’s Dark Chocolate digestives the first couple weeks here, and I love them. Pricey at around £1.20 (and regular ones just below that), but I had them on sale at the time. Like many people, I dunk mine in tea, but I also like them plain. Great with Earl Grey (which I will always think of Jean-Luc Picard and now, living in the UK).
Cadbury Chocolate: It deserves it’s own line because it’s ubquitous and different from NA Cadbury. In Canada, I never really ate store bought chocolate bars because I prefer dark chocolate and those were always too sugary. The chocolate here is sweet, but just a bit more richer. I think there is more milk content in these. I prefer these to NA chocolate bars if I had to choose. I don’t have them regularly, but I like Buttons and the Milk Chocolate line.
Chocolate Hazelnut Spread: Specifically the one made by Green & Blacks (fairtrade chocolate brand now owned by Cadbury). If I am going to have so much sugar on my bread, might as well be organic sugar. I opted for this instead of Nutella which I never bought back in Canada since it was so sugary/I was indifferent. G&B’s spread does have its first ingedient as sugar, but it is lot better than I remember Nutella being. I have spooned it out of the jar when I had cravings for chocolate or sugary. It is that good! I am trying to make my jar last though. I would continue to buy the G&B when I leave here if I could, but not chocolate hazelnut spread in general.
Mince Pies: My first time with these were the Sainsbury variety. Then I recently had the Starbucks version; the latter were actually just a bit better since they had icing sugar on top. They are good, but not required for my Christmas enjoyment. Maybe if it gets more festive and I try some more expensive ones.
Flapjacks: 2 for £1 at the convenience store. While these were sweet, I am very eager to try to bake my own as I like this concept of chewy, sweet oaty goodness. More later as I am going to use honey instead of golden syrup.
Banoffee Pie: An English dessert cake of toffee, bananas, and chocolate. I had this in a restaurant drizzled with ginger caramel. It was excellent. I need to store this at the back of my brain so I can remake it for myself one day. Otherwise, I just had a really good version in the restaurant
Crumpets: Less than £1 for six. Very nice, soft and buttery when toasted. I am a girl who likes carbs after all. Probably not as good for you as whole wheat bread or pita, but I like the texture and the crunchy underside.
36-38 Dean Street
London W1D 4PS
0207 494 4716
Tube: Tottenham Court Road, Leicester Square, Picadilly Circus
The Cost & Date: Tuesday, 11 November 2008 Dinner. £44.10 (with 12.5% service charge) for two, me and my friend M.
Food & Drink: We just made right as happy hour ends which meant we had two Caipirhnas for the price of one. Rioja Chorizo for a starter; we each ordered the paella and followed it with a chocolate banoffie pie. M also had tea.
Setting: This is a chain restaurant. Vintage meets modern explosion? It’s a big space, comfortable tables and warm atmosphere. It’s dark, but offers intimacy. Not crowded on a tuesday night which is typical, but not dead either.
Service: Pretty decent, but not outstanding.
Story: M and I were here for hours since we had not seen each other for months, and now she’s in Paris and I’m in London. We could afford to splurge, and I know £50 for two is not splurging in this town, but it is where we come from. We stayed for hours, and the best part of the meal was the drinks which were like mojitos, minty, limey and cool and the banoffie pie which was drizzled with really good caramel (and I’m, not even a big fan of caramel). The chorizo was a tad oily, but we were hunrgy and we both liked chorizo. The paella had two mussels, some chicken, some squid, and one big shrimp. It was not stellar, but not bad. I’d try something else if I were ever to come here again.
Overall: Really not that bad for a chain. Not as awful as Garfunkels (so bleh that I won’t even review that). Recommended for drinks (Happy hour 1700 to 1900), and they had a tapas special between 1600-1800.
50-54 Kingsway (near Holborn station)
London WC2B 6EP
+44(0)20 7430 1888
The Cost & Date: Lunch for 2 was £12ish. Dinner for 4 was £50ish I think.
Food & Drink: For the lunch session, I had salmon maki. For dinner, I had the soba noodles. Tap water for drinks.
Setting: Nice decoration. I like the ladies washroom. The sushi bar has revolving mechanism.
Service: Nothing to complain or rave about.
Story: Both times, I was with this one friend who goes here quite often for the Udon. Due to the central location, this place is busy most times for lunch and dinner. The maki was actually good in that the salmon did taste fresh. The soba was way too salty for me though. I love buckwheat noodles, but there was too much salt in it.
Overall: Meh. The decor is pretty nice.
As I have expected, my move and my pursuit of my postgraduate degree has hampered my reading. I have read more of Sense and Sensibility since two weeks ago, but I am still not yet half way after a month. In the meantime, I roam around London and this week, I finally made a tour of some of the major bookstores in this town.
I love bookstores. What bibliophile doesn’t? Like libraries, I get a tingle or warm, fuzzy feelings when I enter them. They bring me memories and give possibilities. I love the smell of new books. One does not judge a book by its cover, but I like to admire book jackets, especially of classic books. I enjoy browsing big and small bookstores, new and used. I brought five new books with me to London, and I am unsure if I will be able read all of them in a year. Still, when I enter a bookstore, there is always more than one thing I want to take home with me. I must use my self-control.
With that said, I do intend to buy a copy of Hamlet in the coming week. While I have a copy at home, I would like to own one here and reread it because this past week, I also scored tickets to the London showing of the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet (albeit bad seating). My bookstore journeys this week all offered more or less the same selection of Oxford and Penguin Classics from the new book stores.
The most notable bookstore street is Charing Cross Road which was popularised by 84, Charing Cross Road. It features many specialist and second hand book stores, I went in to a few like Any Amount, Quinto, Henry Porbes, and a couple of others. There is a small side street called Cecil Court which has more small specialty book stores devoted to rare books, motor books or general vintage books. Charing Cross Road also has Borders, Blackwells, and the famous Foyles. I like the Foyes actually. It’s big compared to the other shops, but not too large. It’s rather well lit, and I liked the selection. I definitely need to go back sometime to check out the used books section and inevitably, spend money.
The next day, I went a few streets west to Piccadilly to check out the largest bookstore in Europe Waterstones and Hatchards (its sister company). To be honest, I found Waterstone’s too large. One does not get a sense of closeness with books. I got it from Foyles and Hatchards (the oldest bookshop in the UK founded in 1797). The latter of which is down the street from Waterstones. It also has several levels, but the books are all packed closely together on distinctive black shelves. It’s much more intimate as a result. It is also right beside the luxurious food hall Fortnum & Mason. Neither is good for the wallet.
The only bookshop I want to go, but have not is Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street. I’ll make it there soon. If I don’t find anything too special or good in second hand stores, I’m going to get Hamlet at Foyles. They actually had the a very good Shakespeare collection.
At some point this month, I will finish S&S. By that time, I may have a library card. Have a good week everyone!
This is my first restaurant review on the blog. I have always wanted to try this out, and now I’ve moved to London where there are restaurants aplenty and a large possible population to go to them. A few warnings first: I can be a harsh towards eating places. It is not so much that I am picky of food, but I did not grow up going out a lot. While it is not that I do not like that others cook for me, I prefer home cooking (not necessarily my own). Secondly, family members and I have all worked in the restaurant industry, and while I love food, the experience with the business aspect of it makes me wary and also knowledgeable about what goes on behind the scenes. While I can be sympathetic to servers having been one before, I also know of servers who have gone the extra mile. I rarely have restaurants I go back to; it takes a lot for a restaurant to become my regular or favourite. Finally, this feature will not be as frequent due to this and other reasons, and since I am new at this (and harsh), bare with me. This is why this restaurant has no photo. I will also try to review more casual eateries and cafes.
2A Kensington Park Road
London W11 3BU
Tube: Notting Hill Gate
Tel 020 7243 1800
The Date & Cost: Sunday 19 Oct 2008 / £45 for 4
Food & Drink: Malay Chinese restaurant. I had the Penang Char Kway Teow (a signature dish apparently) which is wok fried rice noodles with prawns, beansprouts, egg, fish cake, soy sauce, chive and chili paste. The others had dumplings, a curry noodle dish, the beef, and another dish noodle I don’t quite remember. Two had drinks. We all had tap water too.
Setting: Probably the best thing about this place is the architecture and design. Their website has maps of the curved dining rooms on two levels. We were seated on the first floor, and it is decorated modernly with minimalistic touches. It did not look cold, and while we were there at night, it was still bright. I did like the decor and look of the place.
Service: Our waitress had a hard time understanding my choice of Penang even when I pointed to it and said the menu number. She forgot someone’s diet coke. They gave me less change than I asked for. Service in Europe is not the same as in North America so I have to have even lower expectations here now. Service was not horrific or anything to rave about. Service charge was not included in our bill so tip accordingly.
Story: This was the first real restaurant I actually ate out in England. One of my American classmates lives near by, and after some wine (from Nicolas) and cheese (we had some damn good English sheep milk cheese), we headed out for dinner around 8ish. We basically walked around and found this place decently priced considering the area and also spacious and well lit. Our other options in the area included asian fusion, pizza, and of course, pubs. The food was not that bad and we all liked it fine. My dish could have been done far worse, but was not terribly filling at £7.80. Also, while the menu has many spicy options, I am finding that spice in this country is not really spice at all.
Overall: Considering the other things in this area that we saw, this is a pretty good option. It may be a bit trendy, but food is decent considering the price range (also good for the area). I like the decor most of all though, and people who enjoy well and intriguingly decorated restaurants will enjoy the curved dining room which is a bit small, but interesting and well lit.