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
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

Swimming with this Mermaid