Saturday, December 20, 2014

Atlantic



After hearing a review on the radio for the book Atlantic by Simon  Winchester, I knew I must read it. A few days later, I was in possession of it and was eager to get started. Flash forward almost four years and I have still not finished. I now know why. This pearl of a book, brimming with tales terrible and terrific, was waiting to be finished whilst crossing the very ocean it speaks of in a vast liner.
There is just something so appealing to my sensibilities about reading of the Atlantic's splendour or malice whilst gazing out the porthole across her rolling grey waves.
In the middle of my first ever transatlantic crossing, from Southampton to New York, Winchester's book fuels me on and makes me feel so privileged to be making this historic journey, laden with ritual and life and death.
For anyone with a sense of adventure, this bookis a firecracker and prove thoroughly insightful as well as entertaining.
Detailing the life and times of this great ocean, Winchester's evocative language and genuine passion for this expanse, shine through.
"But the Atlantic Ocean is surely a living thing - furiously and demonstrably so... it is forever roaring, thundering, boiling, crashing, swelling, lapping..."
If one doesn't have a particular fondness for the sea, this book will certainly kindle and encourage man to pay his respects to this great lady.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bruges, Belgium


The Christmas Markets in Bruges was one event on our QM2 itinerary that I was extremely excited about. You know how much I love Christmas, and visions of old-world stalls laced with gingerbread and hand-crafted decorations danced through my head. Sadly, the reality was more rubbishy market stalls selling cheap made in China beanies and gloves. Sigh.


Bruges is a lovely town, very clean and sensible, with a distinct lack of seedy characters, and it has made me want to come back and visit Belgium again, however, the markets were a disappointment. Nevertheless, I managed to find a few stalls and shops more suited to my sensibilities. 


There was a Christmas shop that couldn't be any more Christmasy if it tried, where I was able to pick up some gorgeous little decorations. Phew. It would have been sad indeed to come away without new additions for my little cabin tree. 


The first, and only stall to my liking at the markets, all calico and twine, was a beautiful gourmet foodie type stall from De Klok, selling gorgeous jams and liqueurs. Being a sucker for a jam, apple and rose leapt into my hands, as did a chocolate-based liqueur similar to Baileys. Cannot wait to crack that open for a celebratory Christmas drink.


There were certain Belgian eats I had to consume before departing and they were the obligatory waffles, hot chocolate and chips in a paper cone. 


Warm and smothered in syrupy cherries and fluffy cream, these waffles were a real treat. Pretty to look at too, I appreciated the kitsch flag stuck in. Mmmmmm. 


I saw stacks of people queuing for what looked like fat, shards of potato excellence, however, they were presented in boxes… I needed a cone of chips, that's what makes them special to me, luckily, this chip purveyor par excellence coned them up for me. Swimming in mustard and ketchup, this was a meal fit for a king. Well played, Belgium. 


Would a visit to Belgium be complete without a small lorry full of chocolate to take back? No. As soon as I saw it, I headed straight for Leonidas. These chocolates are superb. They used to have a shop in Chifley Plaza, Sydney, and they were some of the best chocolates I have ever eaten (my mother - the chocoholic, can attest to this), however, they closed down a few years back. Terrible! I bemoaned this to the shop assistant. She said it got too expensive. Sigh. She loaded up a box of these beauties for me and I look forward to taking solace in each cocoa-y bite in my cabin over the coming weeks. Self control and restraint. That's what it's all about. Savouring and remembering. 



Although finger-numbingly cold, I did enjoy walking around Bruges' scenic squares and cobbled streets. Next time, I'd like it to be summer and I'd like to not have two shows that evening, so I can sit with a frosty beer and bowl of mussels. Thank you, Belgium. I look forward to our next dance. 







Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Queen Mary 2, The Canary Islands, Lisbon and I


Since I embarked upon the world's greatest ocean liner, the Queen Mary 2, on Novemeber 26th, life is very different. There are many adjustments one must make when living in a moving beast, and with our schedule busy due to getting all of our shows up and running, life has been rather hectic if not slightly fraught at times. Time ashore has been scarce, however, we have managed to spend a couple of days out and about on this current voyage to the Canary Islands and Portugal.


Lanzarote was a strange place; desolate and lacking in atmosphere, however, merely thankful to be on land and sitting in the sun, the afternoon was passed with cold beer and tapas. There is nothing like a cold beer in the sun. Refreshment at its peak. 



Today, we explored Lisbon. I had two things on my agenda: tarts and chicken. That's all I wanted. Lisbon has a certain dilapidated charm about it and it was pleasant to wander the lane ways and streets in search for the required booty. 




Thankfully, all wishes were fulfilled and I got my tarts. The second was superior to the first. Audibly crisp pastry and creamy custard, accompanied by a strong coffee. Its restorative powers were sublime. 


I had imagined this famed Portugese chicken to be on every street corner, but it was actually harder to find than one might think. With a tip off from the man in the Gin Bar, I found myself seated in front of a large plate of burnished chicken. The place looked like it hadn't been touched since the 1960s, and was full of character and locals. Perfect.



Sailing out of Lisbon is a pretty sight. The pink stripy sky and her Golden Gate-esque bridge. Now to relax before showtime tonight. 









Monday, December 1, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

La Bouchee



When in London, catching up with my gorgeous girls, a fabulous dinner is essential. With no plans made, we decided to wander in South Kensington and see what gem we could uncover. Boom! Enter La Bouchee. After walking up and down Old Brompton Road, we return to the French joint that had caught our eye. La Bouchee is a darling little French bistro, with wooden tables and an old world feel. It is busy and has instant atmosphere. You walk in and feel transported. It is Paris, sometime in the early twentieth century, but it is not dated, it is classic.


With snails on the menu, Skye and I cannot pass them. We share the little devils, smothered in garlic and parsley. Utterly delicious. Melinda, the American, refuses to try one, but I coax her and she enjoys it. She wants more. That was the last one!



I have been craving meat. I order the burger. I know it's not going to be a burger burger, all dinted and greasy, but I want a big hunk of meat and I want fries. Done. The burger is good. And for £16 is a London bargain.



Other dishes ordered include a steak cooked to perfection and labelled one of the best steaks in London, and a duck that falls apart in your mouth. 



Skye's favourite dessert, île flottante, features on the menu, and even though I had already promised my heart to a gelato place down the road, we share one. This dessert of poached meringue is light and gorgeous, and it tickles your tongue as you spoon it into your mouth. Mmmm.

Of course, no proper catch up would be complete without lashings of red wine. We order a bottle. And then another. The 2011 Bourgogne Vincent Girardin Pinot Noir is utterly delicious: cherry and berry and not too heavy. 

The service is delightful, all very French. I am tempted to order in French #bilingualwanker makes it into the status update.

This boîte is one to be remembered and frequented. In fact, I think we should make it our regular haunt. J'adore.

La Bouchee on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tukdin

Located in Lancaster Gate, Tukdin is a bustling little restaurant filled with regulars who look like they know good Malaysian cuisine. 
Coming from Sydney where there is such a large Asian population, good Asian food is never very far away for me, however, in London, it is certainly not as prevalent.
In fact, I am rather excited to sit down to some Asian food. It's been far too long.
The Beef Rendang is packed with flavour and falls apart in your mouth, however, the meat is dry, and lets the dish down. Also, it is described as mild, and is more of a medium heat level. To me, that is not a problem but for the Beautiful Man, it is right on his upper heat limit threshold. 
The Sawi Goreng, which is described as green vegetables with prawns and squid stirfried in Chef Fauzi's special sauce, is a cracker of a dish. Certainly on the medium-high end of the heat scale, this dish is full of punch and flavour. The seafood is tender and well cooked. 
I feel that due to the other reviews of this restaurant and the clientele (mostly Malaysians) that there are many great dishes on the menu, it's just a matter of knowing what to order.
For a restaurant in central London though, it is relatively cheap, with dishes around the £8/£9 mark. Service is prompt and friendly. Due to its religious affiliation, it is a dry restaurant. A beer would have gone down nicely with that spice, but nevermind.


Tukdin Flavours of Malaysia on Urbanspoon
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