Birthday Weekend (Part One)

This past weekend was my Birthday Weekend. Of course you are less happy to shout about the birthdays, the more you have had. However, not being one to miss an opportunity to be the centre of attention, I had a wonderful weekend of pampering and fun. Birthdays, you see, are the single most important holiday of the year. Purely for selfish reasons of course. Of all the holidays, you share the day with the least people possible. You might even be lucky enough to know NO ONE who shares the date with you. How good is that?

So, D and I wandered around London all weekend : something that is so rare these days as we are both working all the time. On Saturday we went to Borough Market by London bridge. If you love food, you would love this market. Small producers, specialist foods from all over the UK and France, Italy, Germany etc. They have alot of amazing cheeses, meats, vegetables, wines, you name it! Some of the stalls sell cooked food, ready to eat stuff as well. We bought alot of nice cheeses, some wild beef, and some rare spices, including some Hawaiian salt which D has always been keen to try. Me, I'm suspicious of pink salt.

Lunch at Fish!, a restaurant right there in the market that specialises in, yes, you guessed it, fish dishes. Unfortunately we were a bit disappointed, we'd been there before but this time it wasn't as good. It was 4.30pm and the haughty hostess greeted us with "have you got a reservation?" and when we said "no", she remarked, with a practiced sneer at her clipboard "not at all?". Jesus christ. It's a fish restaurant in a food market which seats 150 people and you currently have 15 chairs occupied. This number only decreased during our 90 minutes or so in the damn place. I had to send my calamari starter back because it was so rubbery. My main dish of grilled monkfish with garlic & herb butter was excellent though. I love monkfish. Plus we had two bottles of Prosecco to wash it down! And the good thing about Fish! is that it's like a greenhouse : all glass walls. So when the sun made a sudden appearance at 5pm it was really a lovely place to be sitting.

Then we went for a wander along the Thames and over the Millennium Footbridge near St Paul's cathedral. I've never walked across this before, it was built to commemorate the millennium (in case that wasn't clear) and it stretches across the Thames from the Tate Museum to St Paul's cathedral on the other side. The bridge was really controversial when it first opened because of the "wobbly" effect when too many people walked across it. One of the many famous British Millennium Disasters.

Blackfriar's Pub sign

Steve & Rachel

Tony & Julie


Went into the Blackfriar pub for a pint - it's a beautiful old triangular Arts & Crafts pub which didn't use to be opened on weekends. It's so gorgeous inside. Then we walked up to the Spitalfields/Farringdon area and happened on a neat little restaurant called Flaneur which was actually a restaurant in the back of a food hall, so you eat at tables surrounded by 20 foot high shelves stacked with exotic boxes and jars and bottles of food from around the world. My idea of heaven, or what? (Flaneur apparently means "idle man about town". I wonder if there is a feminine equivalent?) It was really low lighting and beautiful big wooden chairs which made you feel very small (an excellent tactic for peddling enormous quantities of food). We had a three course meal which was great, plus a bottle of cava because of course D was totally spoiling me. I had some great asparagus with Roquefort butter, and a steak. D had a really mushroom rissotto for his main course. I have never found rissotto to be acceptable as a main course. It's just a bowl of rice!! C'mon... Dessert was a wickedly good chocolate cake. When they brought the cake to the table, they also brought an enormous soup terrine of freezing cold double cream. Decandence personified. Yum!

Sunday went to the cinema in Hampstead, to the Everyman 'cinema club' which is a new trend here in London at least. Cinemas with big sofa or armchair seating that you reserve in advance, and they serve cocktails and wine and coffees and things. Really comfortable and nice! We saw Brick, which was excellent. It's a kind of murder mystery set in a high school in the present day, but the dialogue is all very stylised 30's and 40's slang : like a Mickey Spillane detective flick or something. Afterwards met some friends at the Gaucho Grill which is an Argentinian place, on Sundays they have an all-you-can-eat BBQ out back. Of course, nothing is straight forward when I'm involved (I have a restaurant curse) but the manager was very accomodating and at the end of the day we stuffed ourselves on meat, which is what we all wanted. Afterwards, went to a "secret pub" that my friend Rachel showed us, hidden behind a bunch of houses in Hampstead. Oh my god, the houses in Hampstead! In the village part, where we are, there all all twisty little footpaths and gorgeous, incredibly old houses all built higgledy-piggledy on top of each other. I was being a total pest and looking right in everyone's windows at their furniture underwear and stuff. The pub was called the Holly Bush which is again, a very very old building - 17th century to be precise. So gorgeous!

After the Holly Bush we all went down into Camden to meet up with some friends of Julie's who were in town for the day.Honestly, it was just so nice to get out and about for the weekend. Usually I'm either working these days or trying to catch up with laundry and cleaning and other delightful domestic chores at the weekend. Having two days to just enjoy being in the city was a total treat.

Part Two coming up next weekend! See, Julie's birthday is on the 18th so we are having some mutual celebrations and that means I get to stretch things out for another whole weekend! Hee hee hee.

Birthdays, you see, are the single most important holiday of the year.

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