mother’s day

Mum went to mass and I met her at the Tesco’s nearby. I don’t know if it’s because of Mother’s Day, but mass ran very, very late. I was inside the tiny Tesco’s for a good 45mins. Silver lining is I got to look at every shelf on every aisle and found some stuff I want to buy next time.

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Met sis at a Taiwanese noodle place for…Taiwanese noodles. Mum had their signature beef noodles which proved to be the best choice. I opted for the fried chicken noodles, with the fried chicken served on the side. Whilst very crispy, it was way, way too salty. We shared one of their signature desserts. Mango, sago, chewy bits, and about 10 other ingredients. Very nice, refreshing. I’d have that again.

Went to ikea to finally order a bed for me. Or rather, it’s a sofa bed that rolls out into a single bed. When we move back, it can go in Papa’s room as a chair for relaxing. If we have visitors, which is rare, it can be used as a guest bed. Delivery on wednesday. Can’t wait. The sofa is fine to sleep on, except it’s getting hotter and the fabric doesn’t dissipate heat and gets itchy too.

Dinner with mm’s family. Both her parents are quite seriously ill at the moment, so it’s good to get together for a meal.

mum’s birthday

It’s mum’s birthday!

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We went to frites for lunch, where they have a nice semi-buffet. The salad bar has plenty of salad, and only 1 or 2 have meat so Robert also had lots of choice. I had mussels too, but should have just stuck with the salad bar, there was too much food.

Afterwards, mum and I went to look at bathroom stuff. We’ve looked for a long time, and finally decided on American Standard. Got all the model numbers and prices from one shop. TMI about buying toilets, it’s absolutely necessary to sit on all of them to find the one that is most comfortable.

mum birthday

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Mum’s birthday! We went out for an errand, had tea at mcdonalds. I left mum with her cheesecake and met sis for an hour at a wine tasting event. It’s an english sparkling wine company that is expanding and they had 4 different wines for tasting. I focused on the drinking and eating some of the canapés while sis was busy socialising. I did some small talk but found the posing, invisible social jostling and marketing speak way too fake for my liking.

Picked mum up from marks where she went after she fnished at mcdonalds. Dinner was at Jimmy’s Kitchen, an old colonial era restaurant. Except for my niece who opted for pasta, we all had the set menu. I had tuna tartare as starter, mum and sis had roast beef salad which sat on top of a chewy, hard cold yorkshire pudding. For mains sis and mum had rainbow trout and I had slow cooked lamb shoulder.

Sis ordered a baked alaska for dessert and they wrote happy birthday on the plate. Nice meal, predictable food.

mum’s birthday

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For mum’s birthday this year, we had dinner at an italian restaurant near a) sis’ place, b) my old office. We stayed home for lunch cos it was so hot. Mum had her regular physiotherapy session which she didn’t want to reschedule. I went earlier to stop by the apple store to get her a new ipad—she said it was fine to get it later but I wanted her to have her present on her birthday.

The restaurant wasn’t crowded, mostly people at the bar out front taking advantage of happy hour. Mum had salmon, Papa had lasagna, sis had veal, my niece had spag bol and I had spaghetti aglio e olio. I asked mum over the weekend what sort of cake she wanted and she said cheesecake, so I made blueberry cheesecake. I asked the restaurant when I made the reservation if they would let us bring a cake and they said sure thing, no charge. Very nice of them! When we arrived, the manager took the cake to keep in the fridge, after our mains he brought it out and the staff had decorated the plate and put a few strawberries as decoration. I scattered more blueberries on top. It was well received, it’s one of the lightest cheesecakes I’ve ever made. We gave the restaurant a big tip.

I think Mum was very happy at her birthday celebration. She seemed to have a good meal and she complimented me on the cheesecake. She was happy, of course, with her ipad. Yay!! If she’s happy, we are all happy.

no family recipes, it’s okay

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It’s International Women’s Day. There are articles where writers talk about the women who have most influenced their lives. Top of the list, their mums and grandmothers.

I must say I don’t feel influenced by Mum or either of my Grandmas. [Caveat: I don’t feel terribly influenced by anyone specifically so it’s nothing against Mum or Grandmothers.] I don’t think there’s any legacy they will pass to me. People who are chefs or go on cookery competition shows always say that their greatest cooking influence is their family. “I cooked at my grandmother’s knees” is a common sentiment.

I don’t have any family recipes passed down from the older generation. None of my grandparents cooked. Mum is an okay cook, but she is a better appreciater of food. My dad is the best cook in this group, and like me, he’s not the best at presentation.

I learned cooking from tv and reading recipes. Now I cook so I can share with my family. I wish I had a chance to cook for my grandmothers.

brussels revisit day 1

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I was just there, but since Mum was interested, we went to Brussels for a quick overnight trip. Eurostar and Novotel 1 night total £300 for 2 people.

I had to remember how to navigate. Last time, there was a lot of walking so I wasn’t as familiar with the metro. There were stations where both sides of train doors opened and we got off at the wrong side and had to get out of the station and re-enter to change. Weird. Once settled at the hotel, we walked to the Grand Place and looked around. Got duped to having lunch at one of those supremely touristy place — I had waterzooi and Mum had moules, both were mediocre. Never say yes to smooth talking people lurking outside restaurants!

Since we had the day pass, we decided to fully utilise it. Took the metro to near Gare Midi to visit the Cantillon brewery, which apparently is the brewery to visit if you were to visit any brewery. The problem was, the staff there were few and overloaded so we got almost no attention or instructions. At least it was a self-guided tour and I had some understanding of the process after visiting so many whisky distilleries. The tasting was 2 glasses of their product, we had (or rather, I had and Mum took a small taste) gueuze, framboise kriek and faro. The raspberry kriek was just like cough syrup but I liked the caramel faro, which tasted like sherry.

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After the brewery tour, we took the metro all the way out to the NW to visit the Atomium. This was probably the only memory we had of our first visit to Brussels, when I was still at school. It was a nice day and a nice enough visit. We didn’t go up to the top.

Dinner was frites at the place opposite the hotel. We bought some of the skewers and sausages, plus one carton of frites each. Took it back to the hotel to enjoy in the comfort of our room, together with the TV. Nice.

camden, primrose hill, waitrose

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US Mother’s Day and a gorgeous sunny day. Mum and I went to Camden market, not to walk around but to the street food stalls. This time we had chicken & mushroom pie, seafood paella and chorizo tortilla. Then we walked around some of the main street shops, and I saw some creepers that were pretty dope.

Walked off more of our lunch at Primrose Hill. I’d never walked up to the top of the hill, and was impressed with the view up there. After walking back down, we took the bus to Waitrose at Finchley Road and bought more food.

lunch at the ledbury

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It’s Mum’s birthday, and I’d booked lunch at The Ledbury, one of the best restaurants in London. Two Michelin stars. And only a few bus stops away on Ledbury Road, near Portabello market.

We opted for the lunch menu at £35 for 3 courses. The meal ended up being 7 courses, more on that later. The restaurant is on a corner, a black building but once inside it was nice and bright. A large mirror at the back wall gave the effect of a bigger space. There are about 18 tables, we were one of the first to arrive and by the time we left the place was full.

I ordered a half bottle of valpolicella for myself, having declined the offer of champagne. Even the bread and butter were cute. As is normal nowadays, we got an amuse bouche of foie gras and kumquat jelly on crunchy biscuit. We both started with the white & green asparagus cooked in earl grey with a crisp pheasant egg. The asparagus was fabulously sweet and the egg perfectly soft boiled.

We got an extra starter, buffalo milk curd with truffle toast and grilled onion broth. The milk curd was just like custard and the toast smelled and tasted of truffle. Very nice.

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For main course, Mum had turbot with radishes, barley and a cream of white beer sauce. I had pork cheek & jowl with pear, celeriac and dandelion. They brought the roasted pork as it came out of the oven for me to “inspect” before sending it back to the kitchen for plating. Mum’s fish was super fresh, love turbot. I had a lot going on my plate, the crunchy skin, the fatty meat of the cheek and then the melt-in-your-mouth softness of the jowl which had been slow cooked. Lovely sauce too.

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Mum had blueberry, mango & pear sorbet for dessert and I opted for coconut cream in milk chocolate and sea buckthorn bed. I’d told them that it’s Mum’s birthday so they gave us an extra dessert — lemon soufflé with sauternes ice cream. Everything was perfect. We ended with petit fours. Mum had a peppermint tea and I had a glass of Hedonism, an unusual blended grain whisky from Compass Box. I think, yes, 7 courses:

  1. amuse bouche
  2. asparagus starter
  3. milk curd and truffle toast second started
  4. fish and pork mains
  5. sorbet and coconum cream dessert
  6. extra dessert lemon soufflé
  7. petit fours, tea

The bill came to £120 which I think is good value. The extras were the wine, whisky, bottled water, tea and service charge. There was no skimping on portions, textures or flavours. Everything was perfectly cooked and presented. The service was friendly and helpful. When bookings for August opens on 1 June, I’ll be on their website to make a reservation for mm’s visit.

stockholm day 3

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We purposely went easy on breakfast because we were going to visit the food market later so wanted to save space. Before that, and after checking out / depositing our bags, we had time so we hopped on the #2 bus to the end on the island of Södermalm south of the city. Residential areas, with blocks of flats that reminded me of Switzerland. And on the water too, so pretty. I bet it’s great to live there. Took the #55 bus back to the city, stopping off at Slussen, immediately across Gamla Stan. The views back towards the city were, as usual, stunning. Fresh air and a bright blue sky day, wonderful.

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Time for lunch at Saluhall, just behind our hotel. From the moment we entered, we knew it was great. Historic building, and stalls selling great, great food — fruit & veg, meat, cheese, jam, fish, chocolate — all of the highest quality. There were restaurants inside too, serving fish, smorgasbord, and hot food. The hot food stalls had counters, which were way more attractive than sitting at tables at the small restaurants. There weren’t many counter seats, we lucked out in spotting someone just about to pay so we queued up behind him. Basically it’s choosing the dishes displayed at the counter, which are also on the menu. Mum had meatballs and I had raggmunk, a potato pancake with salted pork dish. We helped ourselves to ligonberry sauce and pickled cucumber, as well as the complimentary lemonade. 110kr per dish (about £10), it’s the best value food we’ve had this trip.

Went back to the central area to buy chocolate, then it was time to head back to the hotel to pick up our bags, repack and head for the airport. There was time to spare so we sat at the coffee shop near the gate. I spent some of our remaining kr on pickled herrings, reindeer pate and chocolate wafers.

stockholm day 2

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Breakfast is included in our hotel room, and served in the lounge. Who says continential breakfast is not filling? Delicious ham, pate, cheese, salmon and salad, and I discovered 2 jars of wonderful pickled herring, so yummy. They also have hot food — bacon, sausage and eggs. Thus satisfied, we set out for a full day of exploration.

First stop, the bus #2 then tram #7 to Djurgarden, the large island to the right of the city centre. What I wanted to visit was Vasamuseet, the museum that houses the Vasa, the only remaining 17th century boat in the world. It sank on its maiden voyage and was salvaged in the 1950s. The ship remains pretty intact, and the work that went into restoration has been impressive. There’s lots to see, we’re able to view the ship on different levels. It’s not the most visited museum in Scandanavia for nothing.

We managed to catch one of the vintage trams back to the city, and then we were off to Gamla Stan, or the Old Town. Didn’t go inside the palace, but did catch the changing of the guard, which was more a display show for 45 mins. There were marching soldiers, stomping running soldiers, horses, military bands on horses, lots of shouting and a bit of flag waving.

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Lunch was at one of the restaurants on Stortorget, a square at the heart of Gamla Stan. The salmon Mum had was as beautiful as the one yesterday; and I had a moose burger that came with a huge bowl of the sweetest grilled new potatoes. Gamla Stan has pretty houses and narrow streets, we didn’t spend as much time as I’d like exploring. Took the metro to hard rock café to get my souvenir shirt, then back to Djurgarden, this time right to the end of the tram line to Waldemarsudde, a place of peace, beauty and crisp air; and then a brief stop at Skansen, an outdoor museum with historical significance. We didn’t go in, just visited the shop.

We made full use of our 3-day pass, took the tram/ bus combination back to the hotel. We weren’t very hungry so stopped at the supermarket at the station to get yogurt and drinks, that was it for dinner.

stockholm day 1

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Taking Mum to Stockholm for the long weekend. She’s always wanted to go to Niagara Falls and Scandanavia, so I’ve managed to take her to two of her dream destinations. I’ve never been to Stockholm myself so I’m looking forward to this trip too.

Flight was very early, 7.40am, so a very early start. T5 going out is never a problem and we were sitting down at Giraffe having breakfast just after 6am. Even had time to wander around the duty free before getting on the shuttle to the departure gate. 2 hr short hop flight. The walk inside Arlanda airport from the plane to baggage reclaim was very long, I guess it gives the airport staff time to bring our bags out. I’d pre-booked the train to city centre, only 20mins, very efficient.

Bought a 3 day travel pass (metro, bus, tram) so even though it’s only one stop to the hotel, we took the metro. We’re staying at the hotel stureplan, situated in an old building that still has one of those tiny caged lift. Our room wasn’t ready so we parked our bags and set off on foot to explore the city. Walked along pedestrianised streets to the waterside, it turned out to be a sunny if windy day. From the waterside, we walked back up through one of the main shopping streets. On the way we bought chocolate, visited a wine supermarket I thought was a regular supermarket and generally window shopped.

It was almost 2pm and we were starting to feel hungry. The cafés along the touristy street didn’t appeal. And then, as if by magic, we turned into a pretty, tranquil, green courtyard that housed the central badet spa and a few bars and restaurants. It was nice enough to sit outside at the restaurant Hubertus. Mum had a lovely grilled salmon with potato, courgette, mix veg and salad (lots of accompaniments) and I had a seafood pasta and a Falcon Export beer. We stopped by the Hötorget market on the way back to the hotel and bought a punnet of strawberry.

After checking in, I crashed on the bed for 20mins. Needed that nap, been up since 4.30am. When we were ready to leave again it was almost 5pm and we realised that most shops are closed. And a lot of them don’t seem to open on sunday either. Took a short walk then took the bus to Sergels Torg, the central traffic roundabout with a large scupture and fountains. Next doors is the Kulturhuset (Cultural Centre) with museums, small galleries and theatres. Not much to eat in terms of restaurants, we found a Turkish festival at Kungstradgarden and had shish kebab. It was beginning to get windy and cold so we took the bus back to the hotel.

mum things to do

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So far (well, it’s only been a couple of days) I’ve had to go to work so Mum had to fend for herself. She’s been to Oxford and Regent Streets, her free bus pass giving her the freedom to go shopping to her heart’s content. I’ve done the cooking when I got home from work — I don’t like people messing in my kitchen and I’m the better cook. Things I’m planning to do with her:

  • Stockholm this coming long weekend
  • Edinburgh and Orkney with RM weekend of the 19th
  • Borough and Brixton markets
  • steak restaurants
  • I have a reservation at The Ledbury next week
  • she wants to go on the Eurostar, so Paris or Brussels (again for me)
  • may be the WB Harry Potter tour, not sure

prague with mum day 3

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Breakfast was, at all places, the sausage stall in the square. We had the whole morning and part of the afternoon, and wanted to go back to the market square we saw yesterday. We were looking for small souvenirs and found some nice simple fridge magnets. Bought some sweets and fruit too.

Watched the not very exciting hourly chime of the old astronomical watch and had lunch at a restaurant on the square. Mum had ham and I had boar goulash with hash browns. Walked to an Aldi’s to get sausage. Then back to the hotel to collect our luggage, but not before getting more of those yummy minicakes from the supermarket. I like our hotel location, it’s perfect.

There was a line for the shuttlebus so we thought we’d get on the next one and get to the airport early. I had some money left over and we bought more sausages at the airport for Mum to take back to Papa. We both enjoyed the trip and the plenty of good food. By the time we got home it was quite late but not too tired. Took 250+ pics: full set at flickr.

prague with mum day 2

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I’d brought tea bags so we had tea and bread for breakfast in our room. Then we braved the metro and the #22 tram to the top of the hill to Prague Castle. The castle grounds is huge, with many buildings. Most of them were on a ticket, and we opted not to purchase it. The only building that didn’t charge is St Vitus Cathedral but the queue to get inside was too long. It was nice enough to walk around the castle and enjoy the architecture.

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The view, once we got to the other side, and looking down into the city, was spectacular. The day was a bit hazy, otherwise it would have been postcard perfect. The walk downhill was nice too, at the foot we came across a hot dog stand that had this huge delicious sausage. Mum loved it. There was an outcrop underneath the bridge with a really nice view of the river, great photo ops.

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A slow walk back to town and we ended up at a small pizzeria “V Laznich” where Mum had sausage again, and I had the goulash with dumplings. There were only a few tables, but the service was very slow. Ah well, plenty of rest for the rest of the day walking. Crossed Charles bridge again, this time able to see clearly the religious statues and the crosses. Very symbolic. By the time it was almost 5pm and we reached a street market by accident. Bought fruit, and then yogurt and bread from the supermaket as a light dinner. Another good day.

prague with mum day 1

I took Mum to Prague, 3 days 2 nights. Investigated package deals, and easily settled on BA holidays, since I didn’t fancy flying easyjet. More research on tripadvisor and I decided on staying at the Marriott. Booked a minicab from home, £30 to T5. Had breakfast at, of all places, wagamama. Flight was uneventful and fast. For probably the first time in my flying career we only took hand luggage. My research showed that aside from taxis the best way into town is by minibus. It’s been something like 10 years since I’ve visited Prague and it is much, much more advanced now. English is spoken everywhere. The bus stop was clearly marked and when we got into town we discovered, to our delight, that the Marriott is literally across the road!

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It was in the afternoon, so we had time to explore. The first place we found was a Billa supermarket just a few doors down from the hotel. Talk about convenience. We bought these minicakes, which completely filled the spot for further exploration. A few more minutes and we were at Republic Square. More food awaits, this time a street stall that had huge whole ham joints smoking over real wooden fire. Had to try, had to try. Delicious.

Energised from the food, we explored around town. Managed to see the Opera House, Old Town Square, the astronomical clock and the narrow streets that radiated out from the old town square. I even bought a hard rock café polo shirt.

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Lots of new sights and shops to explore. These vintage cars were part of an offering for tourists to be driven around town on the open top vehicles, very cool. There were small craft shops, lots of touristy souvenir shops and we came across an absinthe bar that looked positively bohemian. Very fitting, since the word bohemia was originally used to describe this region. Much as I would have liked to sample the absinthe bar, I was with Mum, so that was out of the question.

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I did reward myself with a large beer at dinner, which would prove to be my default mealtime drink here. Dinner was at a restaurant in the old town called “U Kocku” where the menus came in 6 language and had pictures. We had the set dinner of tomato soup and a choice of meat for mains. Mum had the pork knee and I had the pork ribs. The picture suggested that the knee would be served, knuckle style, on metal swords. Alas, the swords were missing and it was just a rather large roasted meat. Tasted nice, but a lot of meat. The ribs were good too, but needed some sauce.

Utterly full now, we walked towards Charles Bridge, intending to walk off a little of the dinner. We ended up crossing the bridge to the other side and then slowly walking back to the hotel. I bought another beer at the supermarket and Mum bought scads of cereal bar and yogurt. We also got bread for breakfast — with a supermarket nearby there is no need for expensive hotel breakfasts. An excellent, excellent day.

errands and whole foods

Took half a day off to run errands with Mum. Got her registered at the surgery; got a couple of Prague guidebooks for the weekend; changed our addresses at the bank. The second aim was to go to Whole Foods. Somehow it didn’t excite her as much as the Chicago Whole Foods, may be because it’s smaller and with different products. We had an early dinner there of pizza, tostada and gelato.

mum’s first day

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Mum and I both woke up early, don’t know why. We made good use of the unexpected couple of hours by going to the post office to get some errands done. Then I got a zipcar and we went to brent cross. Had a late lunch of surprisingly good grilled chicken at nando’s. We had a whole chicken, garlic bread, chips and unlimited soft drinks for £18.95. I drank 4-5 glasses of coke zero and the chicken was a decent size. We’d go back again.

Bought some stuff at Boot’s. Hopped over to Lakeland and walked through the whole shop. Walked up and down every aisle at Tesco too. Very satisfing day of errands and semi-essentials shopping.

mum the presswallah

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The Presswallah, originally uploaded by Antarix

mum came over to help me iron my mountain of clothes piled on top of the armchair. I think it’s been weeks and dozens of loads of laundry since the last time anything got ironed. Hee. Mum claims she likes ironing, which i actually believe, cos she irons a lot when we were young. She definitely takes much more care (and longer) than when i do it.

Looking around online brought me to this wonderful photo of a presswallah in India, who basically irons clothes for people. It’s a noble occupation, and so fascinating to me culturally. There’s also a youtube video of another presswallah.

mum’s birthday

It’s Mum’s birthday today, it’s always either on or close to Mother’s Day so double celebration. We took her to a traditional (and noisy!) restaurant for dinner. Well, Papa paid. We ordered enough food for 8 people when it’s only the 4 of us and my niece. Lots to take home though. Good food.

Then we went back to Sis’ place for cake. She cleverly bought slices of a variety of cakes — 3 different cheesecakes, apple crumble cake, lemon cake — and arranged in a circle. Much better than just one choice of cake.

Parents came back and took my old Delsey suitcase. Hee, one fewer clutter item from the apartment, but I still need a bigger place.

Mum’s birthday

Mum’s birthday today. We all went out for lunch on Saturday already, at a buffet sort of place. But Sis and I thought we’d take her out on her proper day.

I booked the French private restaurant I booked for the dept Christmas dinner. Our menu was:

  • Small appetizers – asparagus & prawn sauté, ox tongue terrine, baked escargot tart, stuffed duck breast w/ peach, spinach nuts roll
  • Salmon & dill tropical salad
  • Crab Chowder w/ pumpkin
  • Pan-fried Goose liver with red wine jus
  • Choice of main course – Stuffed pork loin roulade w/ Balsamic mushrooms or Scallop & Fish roulade in light curry sauce
  • Lemon Soufflé Cake
  • Herbal tea or Coffee

I wasn’t feeling 100% as far as my stomach was concerned that day, so I was terribly full by the main course and could only manage a bite or two. I had the pork, Mum and Sis the fish. I totally forgot Sis doesn’t eat pork so she’s only limited to one choice. The fish was nicer I thought.

I brought a bottle of châteauneuf-du-Pape, originally I was going to take a Henckell Trocken, but somehow having champagne with a meal doesn’t appeal to me that much.

Baby was also there, she’d had dinner at home already and behaved very well in the restaurant, playing with crayons, toys or hide and seek around the tables. There were only our table and another party of 5 so enough room for her to run around.

This is a good restaurant, no corkage, no service charge, menu changes everyday. Of course being a “private” restaurant it’s hidden away and won’t entertain walk-in customers.