Weekend jaunt in London

I spent a wonderful weekend in London recently, and despite the wet had a fantastic time traipsing around the capital enriching my soul with culture and my tummy with delicious food. This is a bumper edition of what I did on Saturday.

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Saturday morning started off with brunch at Maltby Street Market. My friend had delicious fried chicken with waffles from Waffle On and I had a bountiful lamb wrap from a stall manned by two ladies who brought some Mediterranean cheer to the dreary day. We got a bacon brownie and salted caramel brownie each from Bad Brownie as takeaway for dessert later on, some freshly squeezed juices and a coffee to warm up.

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You would think that after that we’d be done with the food bonanza for several hours yes? Nope, off we went to Cafe TPT in Chinatown for some tau fu fa. This is a soft, unctuous beancurd dessert served with syrup in its simplest form but of course we had the jazzed up versions of mango tau fu fa and red bean tau fu fa. Portions are huge and served in lovely wooden buckets. Then yes, we were done for a few hours but part of that was enforced deprivation via the The Father, a play at Wyndham’s Theatre telling the sad but often comedic story of a father and daughter coping with his Alzheimer’s disease. The play’s fractured and disconnected format puzzled us initially until we realised that the story was told from his view of the world in his mind and then it finally clicked. Claire Skinner in her frustrated and long-suffering role as daughter was competently portrayed but the star of the show had to be Kenneth Cranham who played the lead with a charming combination of grumpiness, humour and pathos.

Off we hopped, skipped and jumped to the Natural History Museum who were having their annual exhibition of Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Apart from being thoroughly depressed that 17 year olds were producing photographs at a level that we could only aspire to, I was completely inspired by the photos on display, many of which had an important message or story to tell. A picture truly tells a thousand words. Ironically, mine aren’t very good as I snapped them on my camera phone in low light conditions.  The three below were my favourite in the exhibition.

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Reflection in black – A black macaque stares at you hauntingly with a disturbing humanlike gaze. Black macaques are critically endangered and still hunted for food in Indonesia.

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Broken Cats – Winner of the Photojournalist Award category. I found this particularly disturbing. Big cats in a Chinese circus have been drugged, their teeth pulled out and are controlled with a pole with a spiky end. Shockingly taken only 3 years ago. No more circus shows for me!

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A tale of two foxes – Grand Title winner. This is a subtle message in global warming, where the red fox’s expanding territory threatens the white fox’s survival both as competitor and predator.

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Doesn’t the museum foyer remind you a little of Hogwarts? The exhibition is completely worth your time and money and if you find yourself in London with a couple of hours to spare, please do make a visit.

For dinner we headed to Soho to trendy new establishment Bao. From their humble beginnings as a street stall to opening a permanent place by savvily securing funding from established restaurateurs, our meal at Bao has to be one of the best I’ve eaten. There was not a dud amongst the Taiwanese street food dishes we ordered. I love discovering new flavours in new cuisines and everything was just so good. Their egalitarian policy of no reservations does lead to queues but at least you know you’re guaranteed a seat at the end of it. Our queue of 45 minutes on a Saturday night was not bad I think, especially considering what we ate at the end of it. We ordered a feast of small dishes and shared them all.

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Look how cute and precise this is, they put individual timers for each teapot to ensure a perfect brew each time.

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Foam tea – chilled oolong tea topped with foam cream, very refreshing against all that rich food.

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Clockwise from top: Savoury aubergine mash and wonton crisps, lamb shoulder bao, classic bao. The classic bao was my favourite dish of the night – melt-in-your-mouth braised pork shoulder topped with peanut powder and folded in a pillowy milk bun.

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Clockwise from left: House pickles – sharp, crisp and delicious, fried chicken topped with hot sauce which reminded me of Kentucky seasoned flour my mum used to cook with when I was a child at home, and another pic of that wonderful classic bao because one isn’t enough.

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Scallops in a yellow bean, garlic and soy sauce sprinkled with seaweed powder. The scallops were cooked just so. It’s rich but delicate at the same time and full of umami goodness. They tell you to slurp the sauce up and that is exactly what we did. I could have had a couple more of these easy!

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These meaty grilled mushrooms were delicious topped with jewels of century egg and spring onions.

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Guinea fowl with chi siang rice – still good but probably the least exciting of the lot. Break up the soy braised egg yolk to coat the rice with eggy sauce.

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And to end an excellent meal – a sweet dessert bao filled with Horlick ice-cream. Malty goodness!

Don’t be afraid of the queue, turnover is fast as you order whist you’re queueing up and food comes out quickly. Service is efficient and knowledgeable and they don’t make you don’t feel rushed. A brilliant end to a brilliant day!

But wait…..

The brownies were still in my bag! No intermission during the play meant no snacking so we munched on them whilst watching Date Night on Netflix at home. Bliss.

 

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