31 December 2011

Ghost Tape Vol.6

I love Ghostpoet and you should too! The latest mixtape from one of the nicest and very talented artists on the London scene. Whoop Whoop!

Tube Strikes On Hold

Via: Tube Strikes On Hold | Londonist

Whoop whoop. A bit of a delay on the latest tube strikes. Without saying too much on my personal opinion of these things, I'd think this is good news and a delay of a nuisance to all.

In other news, I could take this time to remind you that your Travelcards will be going up by 5.6% ...or circa £5 for 1 month in zones 1-2 in less dramatic descriptions of the situation.

Happy Travelling!

'via Blog this'

30 December 2011

Abandoned and Ghost Tube Station Infographics

Spotted on - London Underground Tube Diary - Going Underground's Blog

I love a good infographic - and even more when it's actually interesting and telling you something new!   


View all 5 featuring the District, Central, Metropolitan and Northern lines here.


'via Blog this'

29 December 2011

A Tale of Two Cities

World, I love London.  This should be common knowledge at this point as I wouldn't have studied here, shelled out the mega £££ on visas and started a blog about all the places and things I love about this city.  As of late, however, I've discovered a London I didn't know existed.

Each morning I catch the bus to Finsbury Park station for the Victoria line to work in Central.  The bus comes about every 5 minutes, and only takes 5 minutes to get to the station. If it's running a bit late I walk a part of the way until it shows up or I get to the other station with more busses.  When I get to Finsbury Park, I walk down the tunnel, full-speed typically, to get to the Southbound Victoria line platforms. I know how to time it just right so I can beat the laggers getting of the bus and catch the train as soon as it shows up.  My office is at the centre of Tottenham Court Road so I typically walk (a lovely 10 minutes in the morning) from Warren Street to the office as that's the closet stop on the Victoria line. When all is said and done I can get from N19 to W1T in just under 30 minutes.

On 15th December, I got a little too excited about probably the only Rihanna song I like playing at the Christmas Party


*did you get the same Man Like Me/Ikea ad because ZOMG I love them!
Man Like Me - Glastonbury 2011


See - now I'd like to get up and dance! This song gets me in a good mood - but now I'll only be able to think about slipping on the floor and falling. Falling really fast. Falling really hard. I thought nothing of it; I've danced and taught dance for years. I've sprained, bruised, displaced and twisted more things in my day.

For the following week, each morning I caught the bus to Finsbury Park station for the Victoria line to work in Central.  The bus that comes about every 5 minutes, and only takes 5 minutes to get to the station was running late. I walked a little bit towards the station but I didn't get as far as I normally do - something was slowing me down.  I walked down the tunnel, at a rapidly decreasing speed, to get to the Southbound Victoria line platform. I know how to time it just right so I can beat the laggers to the platform, but I found myself becoming one fo them.  I walked (a piercing 15 - 20 minutes) from Warren Street to my office at the centre of Tottenham Court Road. When all was said and done, I got from N19 to W1T in just under 45 minutes.

This went on for seven days. And then I did something I typically never do.








I cried. This pain was serious and I couldn't take it anymore.



If I followed the advice from NHS I would've had to wait another 3 or 4 days to be seen by a doctor, so I went straight to Accident and Emergency (aka the ER) the next day.  I don't have the actual X-ray but here's a drawing and the technical term for what was is going on in my foot:

Fractured Foot

Apparently that fall did more than just hurt a bit; it ripped off a piece of bone. I dance on my toes/the balls of my feet, and you most likely walk on this part of your foot the most.  I'm unable to use that bit for 4-6 weeks now and have been sentenced to crutches.

1 week old foot wrap

Now World, each morning I catch the bus to Finsbury Park station for the Victoria line to work in Central.  The bus that comes about every 5 minutes, and only takes 5 minutes to get to the station was running late. The next bus: 11 minutes. I couldn't walk to the next stop, I couldn't even walk to the station if I wanted to do so.  I eventually made it to Finsbury Park and hobbled, at best, down the tunnel trying to avoid the person I was just 2 weeks ago speeding past the 'laggers'.  I make it to the Southbound Victoria line platform and on a good day, after what is now a 15 - 20 minute tiring journey to the station, and hope that someone isn't 'pretend sleeping' on the tube so I can rest for the measly 4 stops I have to Warren Street. I wouldn't dare exit at Warren Street to get to my office at the centre of Tottenham Court Road. I'd rather hobble a little but stay underground longer just to switch for the Northern Line to Goodge Street. But everyone from media is on their way to work at this hour so this is a busy station to leave.  I hobble up the stairs that most commuters try to position themselves closest to on the train cars.  I get pushed, I'm in the way, people are huffing and tutting, we all need to rush to the 4 decrepit lifts that take just as long to come as if we chose to walk the 193 steps up to ground level. I hobble, as best as I can at this point. I'm tired - your wrists take a lot of pressure moving your entire body. I make it to the office and I don't move for the next 8 hours until I have to go home.

When all was said and done, I got from N19 to W1T in just under 1.5 hours.

World, I'm not writing this entirely to have a whinge.  Obviously it sucks massively and I absolutely HATE those crutches even though when I try to walk without them my body reminds me quite sharply that I need them still. But could you imagine a London where THIS was your life every single day?  When TfL say they have 'step free' access (which is QUITE limited mind you) do they consider the massive tunnels connecting platforms as well?  And us, we've all done it - been a pretend sleeper on the tube so you don't have to get up for someone. 4 stops, hell 2 stops on the tube may not seem like a lot, but after crushing most of your body weight on your wrists for 30 minutes, those few stops are the only time to relax before dragging yourself along again.

So, World, I won't be seeing much of London for a while - it's really too much effort without a personal door-to-door cab around London at the moment. But I'm starting to get a bit concerned for those that need an Accessible London - particularly during the Olympics!  Maybe Annie Mole has some suggestions - but for the time being, Ariel Seeking will be resting.


29 November 2011

North London - Kentish Town - The Oxford

You know the whole 'looks can be deceiving' thing? Yea, that's what I think of The Oxford.

From the outside it looks like your standard high street pub; picnic tables, a beer garden, standard 'pub' facade outdoors. From the inside, it's gotten a bit confused and calling itself a gastropub.

I don't trust places that coin themselves as 'gastropubs'


Looking at my notes from this meal, I'm struggling to find one positive word.  If I could make a wanky word cloud, things like 'pretentious' and 'overpriced' would dominate the space.

The interior is separated into two areas that can be described as a 'pub' but really a seating area for light dining, and a back dining room for what I can only assume houses something like a carvery.  The menu is like a child jumping up for attention hoping its parents will think it's a pretty pretty princess with 'aubergines' 'asparagus' 'corgettes' and £13 salmon salads.  FFS, if you're dressed like a pub, act like a pub. No one wants to walk out £10 lighter after ordering 2 simple ciders. I settled for a £10.50 fish and chips which were far too fancy for my liking.

Apparently they have comedy on Thursdays and a pub quiz on Tuesdays. I don't intend on heading back there to check them out - at least not on an empty stomach.  I'd recommend The Oxford as a nice place for a drink, but only a quick one as there isn't much atmosphere.

The Oxford can be found at:

256 Kentish Town Road
London
NW5 2AA
Nearest tube: Kentish Town 

The Oxford Pub and Dining Room on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

28 November 2011

North London - Camden - The Camden Head

During my quest for the awesome-est pub in North London I decided that the route from Camden High Street to Junction Road would be the best place to start.  Camden is about a 20 minute walk from my office on Tottenham Court Road, making it even easier to decide on a whim that going to a pub on a Tuesday night is a brilliant idea.

I feel a bit old (like my parents) admitting this, but I absolutely love comedy nights, which The Camden Head puts on Monday and Tuesday nights.  Comedy here will set you back a mere £3 or £5 for 2 tickets.

We came quite early so grabbed we a pint and some food first. Even though I'm the American and the BF is the Brit in this equation, my pub meal of choice is always fish & chips while his is a burger. (WTF?)

Fish & Chips, £7

Classic Burger £7
Now in honesty, for a pub menu some of the items are taking the piss (wild boar & apple burger, pies that replace meat and beans with leak and butternut squash) but I will fully admit I am a repeat offender for their food.  So much so, that when Whitney Dunlap came to visit me from Ohio, I made sure to take her there.

Inside The Camden Head 

It's a beautiful pub with wooden interior and deep sunken sofas, books and board games for entertainment making this pub resemble a family lounge. And it's no wonder that it felt so cosy and comforting - The Camden Head was voted as having the best staff in 2010!  There's also a great photo of Camden High Street on the wall from 1903. 

You may have noticed that I've gone on for a bit about the food and neglected the comedy night.  I've only gone to their comedy night once, and maybe I came on an off night, but it wasn't that great of an experience.  We spent £5 to sit in a crowd of maybe 7 people, 3 of whom were the acts for the night.  I've been to free comedy nights that were astoundingly better.  

I love The Camden Head; the food is delicious, the atmosphere is relaxed and the cider on draught is crisp and refreshing. Definitely one of my must-visit pubs.

The Camden Head can be found at:

100 Camden High Street
London
NW1 0LU
Nearest Tube: Camden Town

Camden Head on Urbanspoon

27 November 2011

Don't Call It A Comeback

When I started trying to blog again I decided I would go to as many places in North London, carry my trusty notebook and camera around to document these visits and write about them as soon as I finished.  Looking through my notebook, I can see I've written about the places I visited. Looking through my photos I can see I did document the locations.  Looking at the date...I can see it's been a good 3 months since it happened!

A few things have come in the way: partially the financial resources to try out places all the time, another part is my obsession with TV and the Fall US schedule picking back up. (I'd blog about TV but it's a lot easier to tweet it out)

Well London and beyond, I'm finally sat at my laptop, opening my notebook/iPhoto and ready to clear out my draft folder.


18 September 2011

North London - Angel - Sangria

I have a very scary addiction to Tapas restaurants.  It mostly has to do with me not being able to eat whole meals in a reasonable amount of time, so eating multiple tiny meals seems to make up for that.  If you're ever strolling around Angel on Upper Street, you'll notice that there are numerous eatery options all waiting for you to explore.  I was getting a bit overwhelmed with choosing a place to eat so I normally fall on my defaults at this point: Tapas, Italian or Chinese.

There were a few Italian places but they seemed more like Pizzerias (call me un-American, but I'm not that fussed over pizza) than pasta joints, and I'd already walked past the one Chinese place they have between Angel and Highbury & Islington stations.  I noticed a sign, jutted out onto the High Street that said something along the lines of Authentic and Spanish and Tapas so I was intrigued. It had a main seating area and a small outdoor terrace seating area down an alley on its side which looked really nice.  I like things that look a bit different, and aren't your same-old High Street establishment...boy, did I fall into a massive trap.

When I sat down at our table (I was with the bf), I almost instantly regretted our decision. The waiters fluffed about for a bit before one decided to host our meal experience, and clean off our table - our very wobbly table. I'm not sure about you, but 30 tapas plates on a wobbly table doesn't sound like a great idea. I suppose at this point we could've chosen to go inside, but we had already committed to being there, may as well commit to where we were seated at this point!

If you read my post on The Real Greek in Covent Garden, you'll know I wasn't impressed with their food. My vist to Sangria occurred the next day :( and I seemed to be having a strike-out weekend in London.  I can easily say that Sangria is my worst tapas experience, ever.  We ordered:
  • olives, which tasted like they had been fermented in garlic for 3 months too long
  • mussels which came out lukewarm and were cold about 5 minutes into the meal
  • a £10 cheeseboard that had stale, plastic-like cheese from being in open air for too long 
  • and a small plate of chorizo which is pretty hard to ruin so that may have been the one saving factor to this meal


We debated ordering Sangria but a jug would set us back at least £18.  I've seen other reviews for the restaurant and perhaps this was a matter of us picking the wrong things to eat - I hear they have a delicious paella. 

Overall, I wouldn't recommend Sangria for food at all, it's far too expensive for the disappointing quality. The do have a deal on paella during the week and that may prove to be worth the visit if you're hungry.  On the other hand it did seem like a lovely location for a few drinks and nice buzzing atmosphere for when the sun goes down. Also, this door was cute.

Sangria can be found at:

88 Upper Street
London
N1 0NP
Nearest Tube: Angel  


Sangria on Urbanspoon

03 September 2011

International Bacon Day - Bacon and Blue Cheese Salad

How did I, the Queen of Baconville, not know that today was International Bacon Day?  To be honest, every day is a Bacon Holiday for me.  I find ways to put bacon in every meal I can possibly eat.  I haven't perfected bacon as a dessert yet (although apple and maple syrup bacon is aMAZing!) but I do have several recipes to make bacon your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

I'm going to go with one of my healthier options, a Bacon and Blue Cheese Salad. Now I know the next few sentences are going to sound a bit crazy, particularly to the UK readers as mixing flavours seems to be out of the question for you lot - but I promise it's delicious.  So here's what you need:


  • Spinach although I got stuck with iceberg lettuce today - it's mildly refreshing)
  • Bacon and no messing about, none of this Danish/Canadian whatever bacon. This needs to be crispy so American Streaky is the only way to go
  • Red Onion, not white, red, otherwise you'll mess up the flavours
  • Blue Cheese 'cause that's what I said was going in the salad
  • Assorted veg if you want to make it a bit healthier, but they have to be mild in flavour so no peppers or tomatoes, I threw in some mushrooms today
  • Dried cranberries yes, something sweet with cheese and meat and everything. Just do it. Or strawberries even.
  • Egg - hard boiled, not scrambled. It's good for you.
  • Vinaigrette - the sweeter the better. Strawberry vinaigrette does well or red wine and add some sugar - no balsamic.  This salad is a heavy dose of sweet+salty, which is probably my favourite food combination ever.
Fry the bacon (2 slices per person) in a little bit of veg oil on high heat until it's crispity good. At the same time boil a pan full of water with the egg covered in water. When the bacon is done take it out and chop it up. In a large bowl, throw in those greenery and veg things to make it healthy.  Don't forget a little bit of red onion roughly chopped. The egg is probably done by now, you can take that out and run it under cold water until it's cool - it helps to break the shell as well. Cut that up and you've got this colourful little salad happening! Throw about a kid's handful (or 2 tbsp if we're counting and stuff - we don't do that in my kitchen) of the dried cranberries in. Chop 1 tbsp of Blue Cheese and throw that on top.  Next is the dressing. If you don't have pre-made vinaigrette then separately mix 2 parts vinegar to 1 part oil (preferably Extra Virgin Olive Oil) and whisk it as fast as you can so they mix and become a little thicker. If it's too tart, pinch some sugar in the mix. Drizzle over your salad, and put the food in your face. You can thank me later.

I'd put a photo of the salad I just made, but I ate it all while writing the post.

14 August 2011

Don't Change Me: The Difference in American and British Female Beauty

Some time back, I was watching a video posted on my Newsfeed via Moveon.org that prompted me I to write this post.  It's actually a topic that I've been thinking about for some time now and has made me second guess what one considers as 'skinny' or 'beautiful'.




The first thought of Americans is that they're fat and obese, and while we do have a large population and this is the significant case for many American females, I don't believe it is representative of most American girls. Actually, I think American girls tend to be more polar when it comes to their weight; you're either on the slim and slender end or you're above plus sizes.  The clothes that we purchase back home typically come in about 3 or 4 different sizes before it jumps straight to plus sized clothing.  I also think the shapes of many American women varies greatly than the shapes of British women.  We have far more slim, boyish shaped girls than our cousins across the pond in Britain.  British women have far more curves and design to their bodies, and hold their sizes with confidence - it's a very beautiful thing.

When I left the States, I was a size 3/4 (8 England) and weighed about 130lbs ( around 9 stone).  I've been here for nearly two years and I now fluctuate between a size 10 - 14 (8 - 12 US) and weigh at least 10 stone (150lbs).  I'm not happy about it, and I'm not comfortable at this weight either.  Luckily I don't grow wider, I've just gained a lot of weight in my bum and gone up a bra size. At home, I would definitely consider my current self quite fat and disgusting.  In England, this size is considered average and to some even 'fit' (that's in looks maybe not in health).

Obviously this is a VERY big generalisation but it is something I've always noticed since I moved here. Maybe it's just women in London know how to flatter their sizes better than women in Ohio (this is a very big possibility). I'm not sure where it is that we've gone different in the States, where curves aren't fully embraced or aren't outwardly expressed as being as beautiful as they are over here - but I really like the thinking in Britannia.

While I don't intended to stay at my current size as I don't feel my frame holds this weight very well, it is nice to think that even if I don't make it back to a size 3/4, for just some time I finally filled my shirts and hid my boyish shoulders.

Have any other expats found they've gained more weight since moving to England? Let me know in the comments. Thanks!

21 July 2011

Local North London

Tufnell Park, Archway Station, Holloway Road: this is part of what I call home.

A few weekends ago, I tackled the very long walk from Camden Town to Upper Hollway via the route the 134 bus takes North.  Surprisingly the walk actually didn't take as long as I had expected - and it happend to be one of the warmer nights of this lovely London 'summer' season.  I mentioned in an earlier post that I really like the area of North London where I live, because it boasts a sense of community with shops for the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker.  During this walk home, that realisation became even more apparent as I walked past joiners, and dry cleaners and places that sold everything you need for a home including the kitchen sink.

I find it really impressive that businesses like this can exist in a world of ASDAs, B&Qs and Primarks. Once this blog becomes a bit more established I'd like to interview the owners of these businesses and see how they feel about owning a local shop in a globalised city.  (It's good to write your goals out, right? That means you'll actually do them!)

If you are a local business owner in the Northern London area and you would like your business featured on this blog feel free to get in contact with me. I'm really interested to hear and share your stories!

20 July 2011

Central London - Covent Garden - The Real Greek


On a sunny (yea, I'm surprised as well) weekend afternoon in London, some friends and I met up in Covent Garden for a much overdue lunch.  I don't typically go out of my way for Greek food as it doesn't fit my Chinese or Italian obsession, but we landed at The Real Greek.

As expected in Central, it was quite busy from the moment you walked through the door. Not that there was an overflowing amount of restaurant-goers jumping at the chance to go to The Real Greek - but because the two or three servers couldn't keep up with their tables.  It's not exceptionally large inside, and the seating arrangement feels more like a big family dinner where you share your tables with distant cousins and crazy uncles.

It took us about 5 minutes to read through the menu and decide what we wanted for lunch.  It took the staff about 25 minutes to finally take our order.  The portions were served in a tapas style, with smaller plates that could potentially be for sharing - lending more to that feeling of a large family dinner. As they are cramped for space, the servings are brought out as plates on a tall rack rather than several plates that will further clutter the table.

Dishes ranged from about £4 - £7 each, so if you have a big appetite and a small budget make sure you go with a larger group so you can share each other's portions. I ordered a red pepper and feta dip with pita, some olives and a pork skewer. I may not be the best judge of Greek cuisine, but the best thing I had that afternoon was the £14 carafe of rose we ordered.   The olives were far too salty, the skewer (yes £5 for one small skewer) had lost all of the juicy qualities that meat should have, and you could barely taste the feta in the dip.  At home I frequented a place called The Happy Greek only for their delicious red pepper and feta dip: Kopanisti. The Real Greek's version did not deliver on my expectations.

I'm not one to dine in Central, and it did feel a bit more like a chain restaurant which is another disadvantage for most of my dining experiences.  I more than likely wouldn't come here again for a meal, definitely not for an intimate meal as there isn't much privacy.  I feel I keep finding places that don't impress me, so I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer.  However, I do feel that Greek food should burst with vibrant flavours that is as colourful as their dishes - and £15 later, that just didn't happen for me at The Real Greek.

The Real Greek can be found at:

60-62 Long Acre
London
WC2E 9JE
Nearest Tube: Covent Garden

www.therealgreek.com/coventgarden.html

Real Greek Souvlaki & Bar on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

16 July 2011

Central London - Fitzrovia - 三峡人家 (SanXia RenJia)

I have a weird obsession with Chinese food. I'm not sure where or why it started but I have some form of pork, noodles and/or rice at least twice a week.  Because, I love it so much, I'm very particular on how it's taste. Some people love the Chinese food in London's Chinatown, but I always feel like I'm eating something cooked in dirty bath water! I tend to prefer the shops that are a bit outside of Central, but I have been surprised before.

My office is on Tottenham Court Road, in the heart of tourist trap London so we have our fill of fast food and chain restaurants in the area. If you head a bit North, to Fitzrovia, Goodge Street pours over with smaller establishments and a variety of flavours.  As Chinatown is quite close to my office, I wasn't too keen on trying any of the places nearby - assuming they would taste like Chinatown restaurangs. One day I finally made the leap!

There are two Chinese restaurants on Goodge Street: one that has a buffet and where everything is written in Chinese characters. I went for the one that was written, 三峡人家 (San Xia Ren Jia). My little bit of Mandarin told me that said, '3', 'something about a mountain', 'a person' and I didn't know the last character. (Google translate says '3 gorges? wtf!?)

Inside, it tends to be a relaxed atmosphere.  There are large, circular tables, great for sharing dishes when you're in a big group. The rest of the building is an open plan, so it's not a very intimate setting for those looking for a quiet date.  The menu is about a million pages long.  I've read it a few times and I still dont see my standard Pork Chow Mein on the list. No worries, I ordered it anyhow and it was still prepared.

As I was on my lunch break, I was in a bit of a rush (I don't have actual lunch breaks, I work straight through them most of the time).  It took about 10 minutes, but that was an acceptable wait.  The food tasted exactly how I wanted so it passes my Can You Make Pork Dishes? test. My only problem was that for £5.50 it was a fairly small serving. I get a delivery from Crouch End that can feed me for three days on £5.50!

San Xia Ren Jia does offer student discounts and special menus during lunch, so perhaps it finds its value in portions with those special offers.  It is also a Karaoke Bar and from it's menu, it proclaims to have bubble tea! We all know how much I love bubble tea. :) They weren't offering it when I went there so I'm not sure if that's still true. Their style of cooking is self-described as 'Authentic Szechuan, Cantonese & Hunan Cuisine'.

As there is a lack of Chinese restaurants that I like in Central, I have and will continue to go there. I just hope I can get some bubble tea soon, and maybe about 33% more food in my takeaway box!

SanXia RenJia can be found at:

29 Goodge Street
London
W1T 2PP
Nearest Tube: Goodge Street

www.sanxia.co.uk

Sanxia Renjia on Urbanspoon





11 July 2011

SPOTTED - Street Art - Brick Lane

I'm not one for talking about art or pretending I know anything about it - but when I stumbled upon this in Brick Lane I was nothing but smiles.  Even in the ever-so-hungover state that a night in East London can put you in...

It took 28 years, but I found Sesame Street!

What random street art have you found in London that put a smile on your face?

02 July 2011

North London - Camden Town - Chaboba

Well friends, here we are again. I seem to be on a quest to find as many bubble tea shops in London as I can. Unfortunately, Bubbleology was not the shiny treasure chest of bubble tea that its PR has made them out to be.

You know, Twitter is a lovely place, I find. Just when I was weeping into my over-priced, and incorrect bubble tea order from before, I received this tweet:


Well, it just so happens that I in fact love bubble tea and live near/love Camden Town! Sounds perfect! I was a bit weary as I had been fooled by friendly tweets from brands that didn't deliver in-store before.  However, I am happy to say, that Chaboba's Twitter account is just as lovely as the Mango milk tea I ordered!

Walking through the stables market in Camden Town is a great way to spend an afternoon in London.  If you have a lot of time on your hands you can get lost in the hundreds of stalls.  Although, it's a good thing that I have been to the stables so many times, otherwise I might have completely missed Chaboba.  Even with the address given and using Google Maps, to someone that's walking through the market for the first time, they would completely miss Chaboba. Just after you cross the bridge near the market, there's a small walkway along the canal.  Turn left here, and climb the stairs to the building on your right. Chaboba is tucked away waiting for you to discover its deliciousness.

When I finally stumbled upon Chaboba I was surprised by the size of the location. I think I was expecting more of an indoor cafe, as atmosphere is equally important for my bubble tea experience as is the tea itself. Luckily it's surrounded by all of the beautiful shops that make Camden Town the awesome location it is today, so there is no lack of great atmosphere here.  

Outside, someone was offering samples of bubble tea to other market-goers and tourists. I may be generalising a bit, but nothing makes me laugh more than British people being confused by the concept of something called 'tea' that isn't PG Tips + milk. 'What is that? TEA? Really?!' Teehehe, silly Brits. :)

Inside, in comparison to the other bubble tea location I sampled which was very busy and showy when it came to the interior design and service, Chaboba relishes in simplicity and minimalism. I like that; no gimmicks, no begging to be accepted as something 'hip' and 'cool' just simple and delicious bubble tea.

Chaboba's simple design

Chaboba offers a variety of flavours in their Milk, Fruit and Crush Bubble Teas where the Crush is a smoothie type version.  They also offer hot teas and snow ice, but my next visit will most certainly include a taste of the Bubble Waffle.  I have no idea what to expect but it sounds amazing!

I have two go-to flavours when it comes to my bubble tea: it's always a milk tea and it's either Mango or Almond.  I was a bit heartbroken when I didn't see Almond milk tea on the list so I hope that's coming soon guys! At the end of the day, I can't complain much about Chaboba at all.  I had a satisfying mango drink, with decent tapioca pearls (they were a bit on the small side) for an acceptable price.  

I was getting a photo of the logo but just realised I captured my order as well!

Would I go there again? Most certainly and it's not just the great tea and the fact that I love Camden that will bring me back. Hats off to the team (or person) running their social media accounts.  I have to say, you are doing brilliantly and not many brands get it right.  You deliver your message well both online and in-store.  Your friendly encounters, fun banter and constant awareness of what's being said about bubble tea online has certainly gained you a new loyal customer and I'm sure others will follow.

Chaboba can be found at:

8 East Yard
Camden Lock
London
NW1 8AL


UPDATE 11 JUL 11:

I returned to my beloved Chaboba over the weekend to introduce my friend to Bubble Tea. We both enjoyed it and I''m glad I've shared it with someone new. I didn't go for the bubble waffles like I planned, but I  DID try popping boba's in my tea.  This was the first time I had them and it is seriously like a party in your mouth.  They literally pop when you eat them! Popping bobas have changed my life and are a new staple in my bubble tea now! :)

Mango milk tea with tapioca pearls and lychee popping bobas!!

INTERESTED - East London - Rooftop Film Club Queen of Hoxton

A few months back, a fellow American ex-pat friend of mine posted a flyer on Twitter for an outdoor film experience in London.  Where better to drench yourself in the memories of drive-in theatres and double feature films that shaped most summer nights growing up in the States, than in trendy, revival city of everything that once was, Hoxton/Shoreditch. Enter, the Rooftop Film Club located on the rooftop of the Queen of Hoxton.

Annoyingly, London hasn't lent itself to many outdoor-appropriate days this summer, so I haven't made much of an effort to visit. Not to mention, tickets seem to be hard to come across as it only seats 100 people - the entire month of July is already sold out.

The Rooftop Film Club includes classics such as The Goonies, Big, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Coming to America and Casablanca this month and tickets are £9 + a booking fee. I'm quite interested to check out this rooftop film experience and see how it compares to my childhood drive-ins. I think that watching movies outdoors makes the film more interactive and I can just imagine the crowd shouting together 'Hey You Guys!' singing along to 'Moon River' or even better yet (and possibly depending on the number of Americans present) tossing our locks to 'Soul Glo'.

I'm not sure what the Rooftop Film Club has in store for August, but I'll try my best to get a ticket and come back with a review.

19 June 2011

South West London - Clapham Common - Firefly

Here's another post that's been sat on the back burner waiting to be published.  Extremely late, but again fully worth the post.

For some reason, all of the South Pacific expats move to South West London.  I'm not sure how this started or if it's a myth that became fact, but it seems to be true. I don't typically go South of the river unless I absolutely have to, so there won't be many South London posts here. This night, the night of the Barcelona - Manchester United Champions League Final I cheekily might add, I was having a night out in Clapham with some Aussie mates.  After a few musically themed drinking games, we popped into a bar called Firefly.
The cast of Firefly

Nope not that Firefly, but how sweet would a Firefly themed bar be??! To be honest, I can't give much of a review on the bar itself - it was pretty standard and maybe just a notch above a pub except they had a DJ playing (I use this term lightly).  Being the awesome bunch we are, naturally, we made a makeshift dance floor from the walkway between the tables and the bar and had ourselves a few dances.

The actions of the night, which I struggle to remember, aren't as important as the video posted below.  The DJ played this mashup, and I'm not sure if it's genius or just thoroughly confusing.  Either way, have a listen and let me know what you think in the comments.

17 June 2011

Central London - Secret LDN - Soho - Gallery Rendezvous

Wow this one has been sitting in the Drafts folder for some time now!  Delayed but still worthy, here's my review of an unexpected night in Soho.

I love finding new places that take you by surprise.  It seems that this month I've been rediscovering all the things I used to do on a regular basis at home and finally doing them again in London (re: Bubble Tea).

On a night out after work, someone in our group mentioned a karaoke place in Soho. This was definitely something out of the ordinary for most of us as the pub that's about 5 steps away from our office doors is our normal setting.  Nonetheless, we weaved through the damp, narrow streets of Soho after deciding a dance club was not on the cards for the night and finally stopped in front of a standard Chinese restaurant. (?)  This took us by surprise for two reasons 1) we weren't in Chinatown which isn't far from Soho, yet made this place stick out like a sore thumb amidst the other bars and 2) there was no one in the restaurant. OK, I lied a little bit, there were two girls in the restaurant but that was it!  As our group consisted of a very loud batch of 10+ media types we definitely felt like we were in the wrong place.

The name of the restaurant: Gallery Rendezvous. Not exactly what you would expect a Chinese restaurant to be named, maybe they're really Vietnamese but we'll roll with it. When you walked in, although it was as empty as the alleys it bordered, you felt like you were being invited into someone's home.  The man, possibly the owner, serving the tables saw the size of our group and offered us, pretty much a grand buffet of food for a £10 each.  It was like we had our own private party and catering team.

I've come to realise that I have two favourite cuisines; Italian and Chinese...but I'm very specific about my Chinese food.  I know American-Chinese isn't as authentic but it is amazingly delicious and anything that comes close to it is a win in my books.  In fact I don't like many of the restaurants in Chinatown at all, I prefer the ones outside of Central.  As we were so close to Chinatown I was pretty worried about their cooking methods.  The fact that this man offered us so much food for a flat rate had me worried, but it was everything I could have wanted!  A friend from Taiwan once gave me the advice:
"If you want to know how well a Chinese restaurant can cook, order their pork dishes. If they can't cook pork, you don't want to eat there."
And pork there was a-plenty! We ordered our food, asked for as many pork dishes as possible and after about 10 minutes we were escorted out of the restaurant for our karaoke session.

Neon light in Gallery Rendezvous Karaoke room


You would not have known that there was an entire 2 floors dedicated to karaoke rooms in the Gallery Rendezvous.  You would probably hear it, as not many people are there eating, but if you saw it you may have thought you stepped into the TARDIS.  We walked to the top floor into a large rectangular room which had been arranged with L-shaped sofas along blank walls soaked in blue neon lights.  The "Karaoke Machine", was a PC tower from circa 1998, wired to a large flat screen TV.  To choose your karaoke songs, you had to scroll through the selection of downloaded karaoke music on the PC and put them in a playlist on, you ready for this?....WINAMP!
We must have gone for a ride in the TARDIS because it looked like something straight out of a college dorm (university halls) during the Y2K crisis. Not only was the setup shoddy, so were the videos/songs. Missing tracks, mild porn videos for songs that didn't match, a YouTube photo slide of Beyonce for Halo - I mean it could have at least been a photo slide of a heavenly sky, no?  The rooms went for £30/hour, but as we were a large group it was a small amount to pay for a very entertaining night.  Luckily the singing happened quite late in the evening and we were all in a right state, so the mishaps brought more laughter than annoyance. 

Overall, I had a great time.  The singing, although loud and sometimes painful, really had the whole room in a great mood.  I may come back for another karaoke night if in the right state of mind.  The food however, was perfect and it was a shame we didn't snatch up some takeaway boxes because there was so much food left over by the time our 3 hour karaoke session finished.  

Come back for the food, stay for the entertainment.

I actually haven't had Chinese food since this night and that was about three weeks ago.  I'm still trying to find my new favourite Chinese restaurant in the N19...  *logs in to hungryhouse and looks up a decent takeaway*

Gallery Rendezvous can be found at:

53-55 Beak Street
London
W1F 9SH
Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus


Gallery Rendezvous on Urbanspoon


12 June 2011

SPOTTED - London Underground - Google Maps

I was having a read of the lovely London Underground blog and came across this post about Google Maps and its issues with Tube stations.  I almost feel like Google Maps is committing a hate crime by changing names, languages and sometimes completely omitting some stations from its maps. Oi, Google, what did we ever do to you?

It's been irking me for some time now that Camden Town Station is M.I.A. according to Google Maps
Come on out Camden Town Station, we know you're there!
But now I've come to find that Google's also making our stations have nonsense names in Japanese, rebranding stations to businesses in the area and apparently we have a bit of Germany in West London. Not even to say the least, but we've also been shafted on public transport guides built in to Google Maps in comparison to other major cities.

What the deuce Google Maps?! Quit being so city-ist and put London back on the maps (so to speak).

Read more about Google Maps' discrimination on London here: http://london-underground.blogspot.com/2011/06/south-ken-tube-sponsored-google-maps-on.html

05 June 2011

WHAT?! "It's hard dating American women"

It's hard dating American women | News

My friend sent this post to me from the Evening Standard on Facebook this morning, and let me tell you - this is the most ignorant and skewed editorial I've read in a long time. I don't take offence to it because none of it actually works for his argument, I just think this guy needs to screw a few bolts on tighter. If the title of his article were "It's hard dating women from NYC" then by all means go for it, I'd agree. But he started off his article talking about a CANADIAN and somehow felt his stint of living in Manhattan justifies his evaluation of all North American women. It looks like this post is quite old as well, but still worthy of my dissection. I've highlighted and commented where he's gone wrong and I really hope this isn't the view that all Englishmen (including my boyfriend of nearly 2 years!!) have on Americans.

Leah McLaren, a 26-year-old Canadian, has written a piece for The Spectator complaining about how pathetic English men are. The poor girl has been living in London for several months and no one has made a pass at her. Now, I know what you're thinking. Perhaps she's not that pretty. Well, you're wrong. I've met Leah McLaren and she's an absolute knockout.
Indeed, I was so bowled over that when she told me about her difficulties with men it was me who suggested she write an article about it. That such a goddess can move through London society without being deluged with requests for dates is a terrible indictment of the English male. In Manhattan she'd be snapped up in a New York minute.
Without wishing to denigrate Ms McLaren, though, my own experiences with North American females have taught me to avoid them like a swarm of bees. I spent five years living in Manhattan and, frankly, I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than go out on date with another American woman. issue number 1, don't compare American women to NYC women, they'll be coming at you from all different angles, but issue number 2 - even I don't go for American guys, unless I know they've travelled around a bit. Do you know how little in common you'll have with someone that's only known what's in their backyard? If you do meet an American that's managed to rustle up a passport and live in another country for over the time limit of their half term away from uni, they automatically get +15 cool points
I always found the experience of being on a date in New York extremely uncomfortable. The trouble is, like most Englishmen, I'm very easily embarrassed. There's something far too direct about going out with someone solely with a view to assessing their suitability as a sexual partner. I prefer to sneak up on women and, when they're not looking, rugby-tackle them into bed.
North American women, needless to say, prefer a more politically correct approach. On the few occasions that I was able to persuade them to go out with me, I always marvelled at how unselfconscious they were about sizing me up. They invariably had a check list of questions that they shamelessly ran through over the course of the evening. What did I do for a living? What part of town was my apartment in? What kind of car did I drive? It was less like a romantic encounter than an extremely tough job interview. ...again, we're talking about NYC woman, not a lump of American women.
Even when I managed to jump this fence, I was still a long way from the finish line. North American women have a reputation for promiscuousness that is thoroughly undeserved.
They may demand equality in the workplace, but when it comes to romance they expect to be treated like Jane Austen heroines. As Leah McLaren writes in her article, "In North America, it is generally understood that men chase women, and women, in turn, leave themselves open to being chased." But the word "chase" scarcely does justice to the ridiculous obstacle course that has to be completed before an American girl will go to bed with you.
At the end of the first date - which invariably cost me an arm and a leg - I was lucky if I got so much as a kiss. As a rule , I didn't get past her doorstep until the third date and, even then, it was unlikely to be for anything more than a quick snog. It was as if they were still following the pattern they'd established in high school, even though some of these women were well into their thirties. Once you've embarked on the dating rat run in America, there are no short cuts to the cheese.
Part of the problem was that, as a short, balding, William Hague-lookalike with no visible means of support, I wasn't considered much of a catch. When American women complain that there's a shortage of eligible men - and Leah McLaren is no exception - what they mean is there's a shortage of tall, unattached, rich men who still have their own hair.
I tried everything to turn myself into a more eligible bachelor. My father, the late Michael Young, was a life peer and I applied for an American Express card in the name of "Hon Toby Young" in the hope of impressing my dates. Unfortunately, when the card arrived it was in the name of "Hon Young". Whenever I produced it at the end of a long meal, my dining companion just assumed I'd stolen it from a Korean medical student.
I even hired a market research company to "rebrand" me. This involved convening a "focus group" of six American women between the ages of 18 and 35 and having a professional market research consultant lead them in a discussion of my shortcomings while I sat behind a two-way mirror. It was a brutal experience. The low point came when the consultant asked them if they'd ever consider having sex with me. I can still hear the gales of laughter to this day.
The problem is, American women judge potential partners according to how many attributes they possess rather than what they're like as people. These are, in descending order: social status, net worth, physical appearance, apartment, summer house and, a long way down the list, personality. No man is held to possess any intrinsic value - we're all just the sum of our assets.
Luckily, towards the end of my time in New York, I met a nice English girl. Being from London, Caroline was a breath of fresh air. If anything, she was an inverse snob, more likely to rule men out if they were too conspicuously successful, particularly if they rammed it down your throat.
She was less preoccupied with men's external attributes, however dazzling, and more interested in what they were like on the inside. That was lucky for me. The fact that she found me funny was also a big help. American women never laughed at my jokes - and I mean never. ...i love British comedy. Maybe you just weren't funny dude
Perhaps the biggest difference between English and North American women is that English women just seem to laugh a lot more. Wherever I look in London, I see women throwing their heads back and roaring with laughter; it's like some wonderful, Hogarthian pageant. In New York the women always looked uptight, their spirits as undernourished as their bodies.
I followed Caroline back to London two years ago and last Sunday, over a glass of champagne in Le Caprice, we celebrated our first wedding anniversary. I wish Leah McLaren the best of British luck in her hunt for a decent Englishman. My tip would be to shed some of her nasty North American dating habits and start laughing at our jokes.

04 June 2011

Chicken Soup for the Hay Fever pt 2

A year ago, I blogged a recipe for making chicken soup whilst sick.  A year later and London's trying to kill me again. I've tried my best to push through it, but sometimes all you need is a lot of drugs and about 3 days of straight sleep. Because of this I haven't been able to go out in London and find new gems to blog about this week.

I did, however, make a roast earlier in the week and used that to make another chicken soup dish.  If you have a whole chicken on hand, you can use so many of the bits that you wouldn't eat for added flavouring in the stock.  (Don't be afraid of skin, gristle and bone!) This time, I made white rice and boiled it with spinach, mushrooms and a chicken stock cube in the water. SO good! And it's lasted me all week.

So next week I should be back to blogging about London but until then, drink Benadryl, pound the lemsips and eat some chicken soup.

Chicken vegetable soup with spinach and mushroom rice

29 May 2011

Relaxing London - Need suggestions

I am a bit of a snob when it comes to massages, spa treatments, beauty days and such.  I have no shame in admitting that I will pay a pretty penny if that means I won't fall asleep with a migraine, a bothersome nerve in my leg or aches in my feet.  I've pretty much done the standard damage on everything from my knees down as a dancer, and I tend to carry a lot of stress in my neck and shoulders and get migraines on a regular basis.  Help, I'm trapped in an old woman's body!!  Because of this and the fact that everyone likes to be pampered from time-to-time, I'm on the hunt for a quality massage/spa location in London!  I also think in addition to my regular London posts and SPOTTED posts, finding places to relax in the city would fit nicely on the bloggy space.

Right now City Sports Massage in Highbury & Islington is the only place I'm considering but this is only based on Google Page Rank, the design of their website and that it specifically offers a sports massage - not this fru-fru oils and chakras and light pats that leave you questioning what you spent £120 on 40 minutes later.

Suggestions are welcome, reviews will follow!

Hootsuite Case Study - Audience Engagement

Not sure why this wouldn't let me digg it so putting it on the bloggy space.  WARNING this is a work related post. Turn away now if wanky marketing words and social media buzz phrases cause internal bleeding and rage.


Central London - SPOTTED - Elvis

Well, I didn't really see Elvis, I saw an impersonator.  It was quite random I have to admit and I'm still not sure I understand the link that was trying to be made.


Without much more information, all I can say is that a new salon opened in Fitzrovia called Czaro.  Elvis won't be cutting your hair, but from the launch party they were having it did look to be a bit swanky on the inside.  They invited us in for some of their snackies and drinks but I felt a bit underdressed and was enjoying the more casual setting of the Samuel Smiths pub we were in next door, The Champion.  Also spotted: Comic Sans (!) being used on a sign inside The Champion. *facepalm* I can't take things seriously when it's done in Comic Sans.
Yes, using comic sans over the age of 12 is amiss

Not sure if I'll be going to the salon but they did give me a voucher as an incentive.




27 May 2011

Central London - Soho - Bubbleology

I love bubble tea. I haven't really had it since I moved to London, but it was a regular part of my diet back in Columbus, OH.  I'm not sure how I found out about it, but there was some great buzz about a new bubble tea place opening in London called Bubbleology. I checked out the menu and planned for my trip there.

I've gone twice now, just to make sure my view of the place was correct.  The verdict: je suis not impressed. For a regular sized bubble tea it's £3.25, for a large it's £3.75 and any additional jelly/bobbas are 50p. Price-wise, fairly manageable. Service-wise, not worth the money.

Day 1: It was a hot day in London, a rare occasion so I made my way to Bubbleology for my standard flavour: Almond Milk tea. In the states this was typically served hot, but as it was hot outside I didn't mind having the ice in there. I went for the additional litchi jelly in my tea to go with the tapioca bubbles. Overall it was pretty good and refreshing on a hot day.  Unfortunately inside the shop seemed to be about as chaotic as the scientific decoration they have throughout the shop.  There was only one person manning the till and doubling up as the bubble mixer person.  It's fine that there was only one person, it wasn't busy that day, but there didn't seem to be any sense of urgency to take orders and make drinks.

Day 2: The heavens decided to open up and piss down on us Londoners, so comfort food was on the list of desires.  I wanted soups and warm drinks and a blankey to snuggle in while we waited for the rain clouds to go away. I thought that Bubbleology needed a second chance - maybe they were just having an off day before. This time it was heaps busier and there were three people working; A manager that spent his time wiping down the work bench about 20 times, a girl that was taking orders and making everyone's drink wrong and another girl that didn't do anything at all but walk around and finally take the long queue of orders at the last minute. I decided on a large Almond Milk tea this time but I wanted it warm (as I saw someone else ordered a warm drink) and I added mango jelly instead of litchi.  When my drink finally came along (we spent a good 20 minutes in there) it was made with ice, which I specifically asked not to have and the tapioca bubbles that are standard with the teas were missing, I only had the mango jelly. I spent the extra 50p on the jelly so why were my bubbles missing?!  It really didn't help that it was still pissing down rain as well and just made the situation all the more frustrating.  Two times of not being impressed is enough, I won't take my chances on a third for some time now.

Bubbleology, while you seem quite friendly via your Twitter Account, and from the outside you appear to have your tea making game faces on, and the extra aesthetic effort put in to making it look as '-ology' as possible is much appreciated, you and your team are not quite ready to handle people like me, who expect quality when paying the price, as your loyal customers.

Bubbleology can be found at:

49 Rupert Street
London
W1D 7PF
Nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus

www.bubbleology.co.uk/

Bubbleology on Urbanspoon


Chalkboard depicting the science of bubble tea

A bubbleologist

A very formulaic brew indeed

26 May 2011

North London - Holloway Road - Indian Ocean

My first North London discovery since revamping the bloggy structure!  This wasn't much of a discovery as I didn't happen upon it, but rather used the lovely Yelp app on my iPhone to find a relatively cheap place to eat around the N19 area.  I was meeting a friend I hadn't seen in a while for dinner so it had to be somewhere we could chill and talk.

Luckily it was found and we made plans to meet at Indian Ocean for 8pm.  The many reviews I came across online seemed to put them as a top notch Indian restaurant in the area.  Arriving fashionably late (the joys of getting out of Central in a timely manner), the first thing I noticed was the design. I suppose because I was actually looking for the place I was able to appreciate the effort they took in making it look like an Indian escape from the bustling city high street. I've walked past it so many times and never really noticed it before.

Taken from WhoseView.co.uk

When you walk in there's a reasonably large open seating plan and a wall lined with cosy booths separated by hypnotising cutout patterns. My friend had taken a spot in one of the booths which was perfect for our three hour dinner/catchup session.  The servers tried to make you feel like royalty even though the prices are made for the pesants, so that was appreciated as well.  They were quite accommodating to the fact that we spent the vast majority of our time talking and not spending much money, so I'll forgive one of the servers for hinting that it was time for us to leave when we had finished our meal about 30 minutes prior.

The detail in the booths

I'm not much of a curry eater, which I'm sure is some sort of living-in-England sin, and the reviews seemed to praise Indian Ocean quite a bit; but I would say for the price, this was a pretty good meal! I even walked away with some leftovers.  I've been on a coconut kick when it comes to my curry so I had a Murgh Korma while my friend ordered a beef dish with mushroom rice.  We were both very satisfied and it was a brilliant setting for catching up.

Indian Ocean - nothing spectacular but decent for the price. I will more than likely make my way there again if I'm in the area and craving a curry or showing friends around.

Indian Ocean Tandoori Restaurant can be found at:

359 Holloway Road
London
N7 0RN
Nearest Tube: Holloway Road

Indian Ocean Tandoori on Urbanspoon

Beef and Mushroom Rice

Chicken in a creamy coconut sauce


Swimming with this Mermaid