Whenever I turn down Gerrard Place, left after the fire station on Shaftsbury Avenue, I brace myself. The smells of Chinatown hit you in a sickly, sweet wave – it is the aroma of sticky ribs, crispy-skinned duck and plum sauce. It is all at once too much and not enough, often overwhelming, especially on the tender stomach of a hangover which hasn’t yet been fed. The boy and I have two favourite places in Chinatown – Lido (one of my very first reviews) and Golden Dragon.
Lido evokes childhood memories for the boy, long distant weekend lunches with his father, but Golden Dragon is all our own. It’s huge, and all the waiters are in formal attire. The man at the front wears a hands free kit and conducts himself as if this were a couture fashion show – military precision and little mirth. We are seated without a smile and delivered our plates, saucers and green tea. Something about this kind of service makes me profusely polite and thankful for every little bit thrown my way – which eventually seems to rub off on the waiters, who thank you back as they clean plate after plate from our burgeoning table.
Usually, because good Dim Sum is a treat deigned only for those who get off their arses early afternoon and make the trip to Chinatown, we order about ten dishes (too many) and induce a Dim Sum coma that can only be relieved by sitting down with the top button of your jeans undone, and a promise not to overdo it so much next time – which we never keep.
Something GLORIOUS happened tonight. I helped get my friend a date. On Tinder. What began as a casual scroll, delete, scroll, delete, LOL, like him he has cat, became something much more serious – it became REAL. She’s just come out of a long-term relationship and it’s her first official date since then. And I helped it happen. I feel proud, like nudging the co-dependent chick leaving the long-term nest. Go forth my little one, and fly.
Ashamedly, we didn’t do much else but scroll through Tinder all evening and message randomers randomly on her behalf – I can’t believe how rubbish at flirting the majority of British men are. If only they knew they had five screeching women ghost writing every line back. They’d probably run for the hills.
When we did take a brief moment to look up from my friend’s phone, I noticed that we were sitting in the rather lovely Summer Tales in Red Market, just off Old Street roundabout.
I am in a JOYOUS mood. When I first sat down to write this review, it was simply because I was drunk. I’m not talking about tipsy – I’m talking about that listening-to-loud_music-and-snarling-along-to-the-lyrics-like-your-Mrs-Beyonce-Swift-in-a-music-video drunk. The pure, virginal kind of drunk where the night is full of possibilities but it’s a weekday so you decide to call it a night while lamenting the more innocent times when such insignificant details as weekdays had no impact on your social life.
And I have not written a drunk review in FOREVER and as a friend kindly pointed our recently, ‘that was kind of my thing’. Ouch.
BUT THEN, oh dear readers, things got WAY better.
So I’ve been trying to do this thing where I burn 500 kcal a day at the moment. I know, I know – I don’t need to lose any weight, I look fabulous, whatever, but it’s all to counteract this OTHER thing I’ve been doing called the Gluten Challenge. Which is exactly what it sounds like – a challenge to eat as much goddamn gluten as you can for six weeks so I can get tested to see if I have coeliac disease. Which, as you might have guessed, is an allergy to all things gluten. My Mum has it, and the docs reckon I have IBS, so I thought it’d be a good thing to just rule it out.
My blood test is on Monday and I’m about, ooh, 110% sure I don’t have coeliac disease anymore. Just turns out that years of eating really low carb six days a week and then getting drunk on the weekend and ordering a Papa John’s can be a bit of a shock to the ol’ digestive system. Now that I’m happily stuffing entire loaves of wholemeal sourdough down my gob it probably just makes me a bit bloated.
Doesn’t mean that I’m not going to give it all up come Monday – give me an inch and I will take a mile. What began as a relatively healthy toast and soup diet has now become three Weetabix for breakfast, artisan baguettes for lunch and pasta for dinner – every night. It’s been glorious, but as with everything, I just don’t know when to stop. Which might be why I’m munching through an entire bag of Turkish flatbreads as we speak, leftover from the takeaway the boy ordered while I was out researching this review last night. Unlike me, he has self-control, and has become a bit of a fitness freak/ health addict over the last weeks – as if he’s righting the balance, or something. Which leads me nicely onto the point of this whole blog – my dinner at Stokey Bears, on Stoke Newington High Street. Continue reading
I am SO glad I went to Berners Tavern. Not just because it is an incredible restaurant but also because I finally got the chance to write another review. Yes, it’s been months people. I am a terrible blogger. In my defence – I just kept going to restaurants that weren’t quite up to scratch. There was the tapas bar on Broadway Market – delicious seafood risotto, everything else tasted like it had been drowned in salt. And I LOVE salt. I had to leave the patatas bravas it was so salty. I was VERY upset.
Then there was Hoi Polloi in Shoreditch – again, high hopes that were met with disappointment. I had a perfectly good sole but it was so ugly I couldn’t bring myself to take a picture much less review it. My friends had the burger which arguably looked delicious and was lovely and pink – so do have that if you go.
So imagine my delight when the boy’s and my five year anniversary rolled around – the PERFECT excuse to go out and spoil ourselves rotten. I suggested Berners Tavern because, well, LOOK AT IT…
Ah Rita’s. Beautiful, beautiful Rita’s. Let me compare thee to a summer’s day. If music be the food of love, play on. All that jazz. I fucking love Rita’s.
So I first went to Rita’s back when it was a plucky pop-up at Birthdays, serving Chicken and Waffle and Green Chilli Mac & Cheese to bemused hipsters on Stoke Newington Road. It was great. My friends weren’t really in to it (“deep fried chicken and honey?” they cried. “On waffles? With collared greens? What the fuck is this shit?!”)
BUT the boy and I were into it, although one portion of deep-fried chicken on waffles is probably enough cholesterol for a lifetime. They then went away for a bit – to be replaced by Psychic Burgers and now Mother Clucker (FUCK YES, going this weekend).
The thing that nobody tells you about Duck & Waffle – well, nobody told me at least – is that the lift is made of glass. Completely see-through, 100% transparent, crystal-clear glass. Which means having to travel some forty floors, stomach-lurchingly fast, in a diaphanous death box.
I wasn’t prepared for this fact and only discovered it as I was roughly shoved into the damn thing by six squealing women (my friends), whizzing upwards in a terrifying trajectory of doom – and by then it was all too late. I stood with my face pressed up against the doors and my eyes squeezed shut until the horrific ordeal was over, ignoring the shoulder pulls and taunts of “look, Izzy, look, it’s beautiful!” while silently screaming GET YOUR GODDAMN HANDS OFF ME AND DO NOT SPEAK ONE MORE WORD UNTIL WE’RE ON SOLID GROUND.
So this was how I made my entrance to Duck & Waffle, shaking and limping thanks to jelly legs and an unrelated incident from earlier that day – something to do with a fitness DVD and overzealous burpees (damn you, Jillian Michaels).