Having Reservations…

Yesterday I went out with some friends of mine to see a show followed by some drinks and dinner. 

We had a great time. Handbagged was witty, topical and a lot of fun and with a few drinks under our belts (there may have been three grapefruit Cosmopolitans involved…for me), we expected that dinner at American-eatery-in-Soho, Jackson and Rye, would contribute some worthy state-side vittels to finish off our evening. 

And the verdict? My inaugural grits (a kind of polenta porridge) were weird, pleasant-ish but not right with shrimps, my sea bass with apple and fennel slaw was light and lovely and the pecan pie was mmm…mmm scrumptious!

But I digress. You see, Jackson and Rye don’t take reservations which is a pet peeve of mine. And I am coming across this situation in London with greater and greater frequency. 

A catch-up dinner with a friend at no-bookings Italian ‘tapas’ joint Polpo last year was planned around being there just before 7pm to ensure we got a table rather than when we were actually hungry or what was convenient for us. And looking for somewhere to eat after the theatre with Lil Chicky last October was fraught with queue after queue.

(We eventually found a table at Tuttons right on Covent Garden which was lovely…and for future reference, book-able.)

I remember when Jamie Oliver opened his sans booking restaurant chain Jamie’s Italian in 2008 and we thought we’d head down to the one in Kingston to give it a try. We queued outside – no room inside for waiting – for a barely acceptable 15 minutes. I’ve been to Jamie’s Italian once since when we were lucky to have only a five minute wait. 

To say I was put off is putting it mildly. I accept that if I haven’t booked then I have to take what I can get but this we-don’t-take-bookings nonsense is all getting a bit much for me. I don’t want to have to trawl Soho post-show because of this growing ‘no booking’ policy. What ever happened to looking after the customer? Couldn’t they at least allow some tables to be booked, leaving some free for these apparently all-important walk-ins?

Polpo’s website offers an explanation of sorts, saying that their casual Venetian ‘bacaros‘ are designed to encourage the locals to pop in for a bite to eat and to build a sense of community amongst their regulars. There are 3 Polpos and 1 Polpetto in Central London, none of which take bookings. Who are these ‘locals’ I wonder?

In any case it would appear these places are doing rather well and that the standing in line has become a badge of honour – after all, if you’ve queued (or waited in the bar) for at least an hour, the food had better be rave-worthy, or at least good enough for you to tell everyone about. I don’t know about you but after an hour, my palate becomes a little less discerning, swamped by a-drink-(or two)-while-I-waited or the sounds of my stomach growling with hunger…or both.

Luckily last night’s drinks were at one of our favourite drinking holes, the Freedom Bar, just two doors down from Jackson and Rye so The Umpire kindly did a recce before we gave up our pre-dinner perch. And the meal was delicious.

But if I’m really honest, I have my reservations as to how long I really would have waited for it.

A Place For All Seasons…

Two sleeps.

 That’s right peeps. Only two sleeps to go.
I have two sleeps left in Kingston.
Nestled under the currently thinning winter canopy of the tree that has, for almost seven years, shaded the highs and the lows of this Australian abroad.
It has been my haven.
An oasis, tucked away at the top of the winding street.
A spiritual home.
Summer Shade
A place of happiness and heartbreak.
Of worry and frustration. Of peace and calm.
Autumn Colour
A place for all seasons.
 Where I succumbed to my love of books, brilliant skies and bracing British winters.

Winter Sunset
Where I wrote my first blog post, discovered the joys of an afternoon spent baking and picked my first blackberries.

A Burst of Spring
And it’s almost time to go.

To leave my cosy front window.
To tap away in pastures new.
That’s right peeps. Gidday HQ is on the move.

Did Somebody Mention Christmas?

Last we left things (see Lazy Saturday), I was bracing myself for a rather chilly foray into Kingston to run a couple of errands before heading over to A’s for red wine (yes more), a home-cooked dinner and some girly telly. 

So I set out just after 4pm (you know, just after our ‘sun’ has gone down and it’s, well…dark), crunching down the sporadically-gritted path to the bus stop, resolutely telling myself that a) it was not as cold as my nose was telling me it was, b) it was ok not to walk all they way into Kingston today because it was cold/it was dark/time didn’t permit and c) that I would feel much better with these errands off the to-do list. 

And then I got into Kingston to find…

…the lights are up…
…the tree is out…
…and there’s a gorgeous new old-fashioned sweet shop in Castle Street (where I spent about 20 minutes wondering around in child-like amazement).

Buoyed by all this festive cheer (and a reunion with my phone which seemed to go quite smoothly), I crunched on to A’s who had promised an evening of home-cooked lasagne and mooching on the couch, curled up under blankets and just feeling all warm and toasty. 

I didn’t think it could get any better, but it did… 

She was making lamingtons when I got there!

Eeeeeeeeeee (aka squeal of excitement)!
Delicious little chocolate-dipped, coconut-covered bundles of sponge-cake yumminess!

And not wanting to be rude, I had three…

I think Christmas may have come a little early (27 days actually) this year!

Date Night: Alice & El Peyote…

Being free of any commitments this weekend (beyond chores that is…ugh!), J and I decided that it was time to have a Date Night and what could be a more traditional choice than a movie followed by dinner…

So we hit the cinema for a 3D journey down the rabbit hole with Alice to Wonderland.  All the elements from the original story I remember were there but Tim Burton did amazing things to twist the story and make it more ‘grown up’ and relevant.  It was a darker Wonderland for sure but the cast was brilliant and the 3D-ness really worked with this flick (unlike Avatar in 3D which left me distinctly under-whelmed).  It always was a slightly ‘trippy’ story anyway but it does seem that this particular trip is a match made in Tim Burton’s style-heaven…go see it on the big screen just for the experience!

And then it was off to a new (Mexi-terranean) restaurant in Kingston, El Peyote.  We found out it had only been open 6 weeks but let’s hope it’s open a whole lot longer than that because we had the best burritos…ever!  (And my prawn kebab starter – marinated in chilli and lime juice with a mango puree – was pretty scrumptious too.)  Fab food, quirky decor and great service – Long live El Peyote I say!

So that was date night…and now it’s Sunday and chores still await. So until next time…

Adios Amigos!

Mum’s the Word…

It’s another gloriously day here in SW London, my front garden is dappled with sunshine and the light is streaming in through my front window (and actually making me notice that the windows need a clean).  I’ve just come back from town with the top down on my car with the spring air on my cheeks and I’m mildly excited by the mere thought that I might be able to put my wet-laundry-bound clothes horse outside.  Such simple pleasures!
But there’s another reason that today is special and that is because it is Mothering Sunday in the UK.  (Yes, 2 whole months prior to the Australian one, giving me plenty of time to shop for a card before they all disappear and post it to Australia.)  I don’t normally celebrate this early version but this year it seems important for three very important reasons…

…my friend A celebrates her very first Mother’s Day today…

…we missed celebrating with J’s Mum last year (she passed away just 4 days prior)…

…my Mum – who I will see for the first time in 3 years in May – is worth more than just one paltry day and in any case,should not have to wait until May.

So to all the Mums and Mums-of-Mums and Mums-of-Mums-of-Mums, and especially to my very own superstar Mum…here’s to you, to all the roles you play, all the things you are to every one of us and all the things you do.

Happy Mother’s Day x

For The People By The People

There has been some exciting news on the work front this week. 

(No I have not been offered an amazing, multi-million pound job which involves travelling, eating and laying about – btw, how do you get one of those?)

We have launched a new site in our localpeople.co.uk network – kingstonpeople!

It’s a website for the people of Kingston but the great part of it is that it’s written by the people of Kingston so we get to bang on about politicians (who was that brave man from the Lib Dems braving the icy conditions on Windmill Rise yesterday to knock on doors and garner party support?), snow (how pretty, annoying, inconvenient, cold it is), transport (train delays), road works (including the question to grit or not to grit), and art (Out of Order, The Rose Theatre) as well as our fave (and not so fave!) places to eat, drink, shop and generally frequent…
So you can all go on and find out about the place I love to live in!  You can even register yourself and bang on about Kingston too…

Yay!  I am excited….

13 Festive Sleeps To Go…Gratitude

I opened up my blog today not knowing what I was going to write.  Sometimes it happens like this and today it meant that instead of rushing in knowing exactly what was there to be said, I took some time to read some of the other blogs I follow.

Earlier in the year, a friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer.  She weathered an array of aggressive treatments and has spent the last 5 months in India, giving herself the space to heal.  She only started blogging again recently and I read today that she has come home to Paris and it reminded me how much I love my little maisonette flat tucked away up here on Kingston Hill.  My sanctuary, where I can either invite the world in or take a brief respite from the little battles life presents on a daily basis.

Her words reminded me what there is to be grateful for and straight away it brought up some of the little pieces of news from family that have made my heart swell over the last week or so – like when my little sister was honoured as a life member of the NDSOC car club and I cried on the bus going to work reading how stunned and touched she was – or when my Mum’s partner got the all clear after being rushed into hospital with an aggressive form of melanoma. Or the regular newsletter from my itinerant Dad-and-Stepmum chronicling their latest travels through Western Australia over the last few weeks and reminding us all that they having been living this gypsy dream of theirs for 3 years.  Or when when I sat with my partner, his ex and his son, cheering and clapping furiously at his daughter’s end of year Christmas Dinner Concert last Saturday…

What a couple of weeks it has been.

So my brave, brave friend, in the midst of her journey, wrote her blog…and without even knowing it, became the inspiration for mine…