Eating London

After a few lovely days in Edinburgh, Heather and I hopped a train back down to London, so we could then eat the entire thing. If you do not know Heather, let me quickly explain: she is a sous chef. When I was her roommate, there were cookies everywhere all the time. Heather likes food. So her primary goal in London was to eat at a bunch of places. I went along for (most of) the ride.

Having a visitor was a good way to get back into being in London. My time home was so short, and Edinburgh was so lovely, that I was feeling a bit out of sorts and generally unenthusiastic to come back here. But showing someone around places, and being able to try out new spots that you’ve been meaning to try, or places you’ve never heard of, is really helpful.

The first night back, we went to Chop Shop, which is owned by the same people that own Heather’s restaurant in New York. The staff knew she was coming, so they were of course very friendly and chatty. I went to see the kitchen! I’ve never been in a restaurant kitchen before, so that was fun. Had some tasty food and interesting cocktails. Dinner was long, and as we were a bit tired from travel and had to get up early the next day, we headed home after.

In the wee hours of the next morning, we dragged ourselves to Smithfield Market. Smithfield, over near my old Farringdon/Clerkenwell stomping grounds, is a big wholesale meat market. Restaurants get their meat daily from this place, and they go early to do it. We got there probably around 7am, and all the big business was already over. But don’t worry, we still saw plenty of dead animals.

After that, we went in search of breakfast. One of Heather’s food writer friends recommended E Pellicci and I am SO GLAD we went. It’s just a hole in the wall greasy spoon in Bethnal Green, but is one of the best places I’ve been. We walked in and saw cops eating their breakfast, which usually seems like a good sign, since they should know the local spots. We sat and ordered up some gross wonderful English breakfast, and took in the scene. The owner was walking around the few tables in the place, talking to everybody. It was clear almost everyone else that came and went were regulars. He came over to talk to us, get our story. Heather explained she was visiting me, and when I said I was a student, the guy called me a “brain box”, then said Heather had a real job!! since she’s a chef. A regular overheard me talk about book conservation and pulled out a beautiful 1960s hardcover crime novel and asked how it looked. I wanted to stay and eat breakfast all day.

Instead, we wandered east London, through Shoreditch and Spitalfields. We walked through the City and I took Heather to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, one of my favorite spots just because it’s a weird old maze of a building. After more walking and a trip to the Museum of London, we stopped for another drink at Jerusalem Tavern. I’d read about this place in a silly guidebook I had in 2007. It’s almost around the corner from my old tube stop, but I never made it there. Since it was near where we were headed for dinner, we stopped in, and it was lovely. It’s a tiny place, and it was crowded with after-work drinkers. We found a little corner to perch in and watched all the people drinking outside. Drinking outside is a thing I’ve noticed, but not paid much attention to. It fascinated Heather. I don’t mean just sitting at a table outside or something. I mean just standing on the sidewalk outside the pub with a drink in hand. This happens everywhere. Huge masses of people standing outside pubs. Sometimes there’s plenty of room inside, but why drink inside when you can stand outside! We joined in later in the week, but for now, we stayed inside.

Once we were done drinking, we went to drink some more. We were having dinner at Polpo, an Italian small plates restaurant. There was a little wait for a table, so we went downstairs to the negroni bar. Heather really loves negronis and was very excited to drink here. I had my first negroni, and really enjoyed it. Dinner was great too, just tried a whole bunch of different things, and had a nutella pizza for dessert.

The next day, Heather wandered solo, while I went to one of my work placements. We met up for coffee, dinner, and a show. Had coffee at the adorable and tasty Free State Coffee, which I had been meaning to try. Dinner was at Fryer’s Delight, which was sort of underwhelming. It’s on Theobald’s Road, so I used to walk right past it twice a day on my way to and from class. I always liked their little fish mascot guy. It was fine fish and chips, but not anything super amazing. But I guess it’s sort of a fish institution, so whatever. For a show, we went to see Jeeves and Wooster, which was lots and lots of fun and very British. It currently stars Robert Webb and Mark Heap, which makes it even more exciting. I love Robert Webb for Peep Show and all the Mitchell and Webb stuff, while Mark Heap just seems to pop up in lots of things. Usually playing someone sooooorta creepy. They were both wonderful. Though I do wonder what it would have been like if Stephen Mangan stayed a bit longer and was in it with Mark Heap. Green Wing reunion dreams come true! Alas.

For Heather’s last food filled day, we looked at a lot of food. I took her to a big Sainsbury’s, because she was interested in seeing what British grocery stores were like. Then we headed to Borough Market, which she loved, predictably. We spent a  while in Neal’s Dairy Yard tasting different cheeses, presented to us by a guy that was in London from Chicago on a CHEESE INTERNSHIP. It was amazing. We then spent a good while at The George Inn. In 2007, my friend Mike made a group of us walk for like a million years to find this place because he learned about it in an architecture class and it was Very Important Historically. When we finally found it (we were dumb and couldn’t find anything back then), no one wanted a drink, so we all went home. I hadn’t been back. So I figured this was a good opportunity. The George is the only surviving galleried inn, whatever that means, and it is charming. Lots of little rooms to sit in, and a big yard to drink in as well. We could have sat here all day, but in the end decided to troop up to Camden for a bit, so Heather could squeeze a bit more into the trip.

Heather had a very fancy dinner reservation that night, which I did not join her for. The next day, she was off! I spent the next week doing a book survey with my fellow book students at Lambeth Palace. On the first night of Passover, I had a small seder. A Jewish friend from Stratford came down for a meal, and a few of my friends in London came by. It was a bit makeshift, but I think we did well! There was chicken soup (well, fake chicken since there were vegetarians), matzah balls, horseradish, kugel, latkes. I was just really happy people were interested and came. We made some modifications to the seder plate, most noticeably in the inclusion of my dear sheep Vinny instead of a bone to signify the paschal lamb. It’s ok, Vinny, you won’t really be sacrificed!

seder plate

seder plate

Have been back in class for a few weeks. Doing a lot of book sewing and case bindings so far. Getting better at the sewing. At least  I think I’ve stopped stabbing myself and bleeding everywhere, so that’s good. I went to see Bill Bailey (a wonderful British comedian you should check out) a couple weeks ago, and a production of The Pajama Game on the West End last weekend. A very silly show that I have a twinge of nostalgia for since it was my senior class musical. Hit up the British Library’s comic book exhibit which was great fun, and went to the Jewish Museum, which was a strange experience. On the hunt for an object to write about for an essay.

I also went for a walk along Regent’s Canal. I’m not completely sure of the bounds of the canal, but I went from King’s Cross over to Little Venice. It cuts through Camden Town and the market, past the zoo, and various docking/mooring areas. I had high hopes for Little Venice, but it wasn’t very exciting. Just lots of boats and LOTS of people. Still, it was a nice walk, and made me really want a boat home OR a friend with a boat home that would invite me over for boat BBQs.

That brings us almost up to date. I’m tired! Until next time…

Happy New Year!

Welp, it’s 2014. Has been for a few days now. As class starts again Monday, I’m frantically trying to remember everything I learned in science last term. The break ended up being quite busy, with a few people visiting London and much to do. I did spend some time at the library, though! I like going to the British Library, it feels like I am doing Important Things. So at least that’s some kind of motivation.

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A note on theatre things, because it is fresh in my mind.

I like seeing plays! Often, theatre cheers me up. It’s been a thing I’ve loved since I was a little kid, heading into the city every year with my family around Christmas, to see the lights and a show. Sometimes I get a little silly with it and use it as a reward. Sometimes it is themed. As in, I went to see The History Boys on Broadway the day I finished a British Lit exam. It’s a thing I don’t mind doing alone, since it’s not a social occasion.

I haven’t really seen that much theatre in London so far. I saw a Propeller show in Guildford, The Drowned Man, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. In like 3 months! That’s ALL. 😦 😦 😦

When I was here in 2007, I remember theatre being incredibly accessible, especially for students. There used to be student standby tickets, where you could turn up at a theatre maybe an hour or two before curtain, and if there were unsold tickets, you’d flash your student ID and the box office would sell them to you cheap. I’m not sure if this is still common practice, but I get the sense that it isn’t. Though I guess it wouldn’t hurt to go around asking at theatres. Day tickets seem to be the more popular thing–what we’d call rush. Getting to the theatre when the box office opens for a cheap seat. I like that theatres do this, but for more popular shows, it can mean having to line up at 6am or something ridiculous, for a box office that opens at 10am. It’s upsetting to see practices here getting more and more like Broadway, because let’s face it, unless you’ve got money, Broadway is becoming almost impossible. I don’t think top ticket prices are quite as bad here–at least at the Barbican the most expensive seat for Richard II was £55. Some theatres do have cheap seats–the National has £12 tickets available for all their shows, though you have to book pretty early to snag one. Other places have concessions available, which, as a full-time student, I qualify for. I got tickets for American Psycho at the Almeida and was able to pick some good seats for the £16 concessions rate. So there is still hope!

I’ve been trying to get to more theatre, though. Last week I randomly decided to day ticket at the National. I wound up seeing From Morning to Midnight. I will pretty much see anything the National puts on (and, excitingly, there are a bunch of things coming up there that I really want to see), and this had the added bonus of featuring a few actors I knew and liked (Adam Godley, Gina Bellman, Jack Tarlton). The staging was beautiful, really inventive. The first act was fast paced and funny. Second act got weeeeeeeird. But was still fun to look at. And for the Lyttleton at the National, day tickets are in the front row. Fun!

Last night, I went to see Richard II at the Barbican. A few things to know:
-The Barbican is a massive arts complex that has theatres, a concert hall, cinemas, an art gallery, a library, restaurants, etc. etc. etc. In 2007, I saw 2 shows there, and we made jokes about how everything was in the Barbican–a roller coaster, a petting zoo, barber shop. We thought it was funny. Anyway, I LOVE the Barbican.
-David Tennant is starring in Richard II. In case you didn’t know. I, uh, sort of like David Tennant? I mean, he’s ok, whatever. Totally not one of my fake TV boyfriends or anything.
-Tickets for this went on sale back in March, I think. As I had a job at that point, I bought myself a fancy third row seat for a random night in January. I then freaked the hell out, since I didn’t know what my class/life schedule was going to be like and OH NO WHAT IF I HAVE CLASS/SOMETHING IMPORTANT I CAN’T SKIP so I bought another, cheaper, ticket.

I have no familiarity with Richard II, so I can’t give you a review on whether this was a good adaptation or if they were true to the text or if they completely screwed things up or what. I can’t really give you any kind of review, I’ve come to learn I’m pretty bad at that. I can tell you, however, that I enjoyed it. I can further tell you that David Tennant’s hair, from where I was sitting, was not as horrifying as I thought it was going to be (he has some pretty silly extensions). I have heard criticism of him in general, that he can sometimes overact and plays roles the same. I think that criticism is shit. I might be a tad biased, but I thought he was GOOD and unlike other roles. Also, Oliver Ford Davies and Oliver Rix, man. Sign me up for the York family.

I’m glad I get to see it again, and much closer. The Barbican’s theatre is freaking HUGE. I wasn’t even in the highest section and damn, it was far. Also the woman to my left was a loud breather (sounded like she was snoring the whole time), and the group of girls to my right were a bunch of giggling NYU in London students (ugh, we were that awful at one point…). At the interval, I heard them talking about NYU London and I was like “I went to NYU!!! I studied in London, yay!!” and got a whoooole bunch of blank stares. Oh, NYU. The worst.

I thought about joining the horde at the stage door, even though I hate hate hate stage dooring. I don’t have anything to say to actor people, and I don’t care at all about getting a program signed. I’d go for a picture, maybe. My seat was quite close to the exit, and that exit was right next to the Silk St. exit, where the theatre stage door is. I was probably one of the first people out of the Barbican, but when I looked over to the stage door, there was already a crowd waiting. Which means a bunch of people just showed up for the stage door, not having seen the show. I sort of expected that, but it was still annoying. So I went home. And was actually really sad? Did not expect that. I know other people going other days, so I might go be a jerk and meet them after the show/get a spot at the stage door. I normally wouldn’t, but…it’s David Tennant, y’all.

I’ve gone on far too long here, but one other thing!

Over my theatregoing years, I’ve been able to see a number of fancy actor people on stage. I’m almost always disappointed when it comes time for curtain call. I don’t know who these SUPER IMPORTANT AND SERIOUS actors think they are, really, but they never seem that happy to be there. Jude Law comes to mind, mostly. Saw him in Hamlet and he looked pissed that people were applauding him. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Daniel Radcliffe. Never have seen a person more excited to be on stage. Seemed genuinely shocked that people were there to see him and enjoyed his performance (for real, I saw the first preview of Equus here in 2007, he was so happy). So I was glad to see that Tennant was towards the Radcliffe end. You don’t ever want to find out your fake TV boyfriend is a jerk! He can stay on the list.

Filling Days

So,  I’m in London and I’ve got a bit of time. Due to the university being VERY CONFUSING about when my course starts/when I actually had to be here, I got here about a week and a half before I needed to. Which is good, I can acclimate and find my way around and such, but also a little annoying because some of the things I need to sort out, I can’t sort out just yet. I can’t open a bank account until I get a letter from school, which I can’t get until after my enrolment, which is Friday. I can’t get a real phone plan until I have a bank account. So I’ve got a little pay as you go SIM thing going and I’m just wandering about London.

Jet lag is actually sort of kicking my ass. I’ve been up until 3 or 4 every night, then oversleeping when I meant to get up. My body is so physically exhausted but my brain won’t stop. I’m hoping to kick that soon, but we’ll see how it goes. I just hope I don’t oversleep my first day of class!

I’ve done a bit of wandering my local area, scouting for various supplies. I have all I basically need now, and have been shopping almost exclusively at Poundland and the 99p store. Money goes quick, and I’m already a bit scared about that.

I’ve been trying to make plans for myself every day, so I actually get out and do things, aside from wandering aimlessly for hours. So, things I have been up to…

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