Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Birthday in London

My wife was born on 3 Nov.  So she thought it would be special to stay in London for her birthday.  Her birthday was Thursday and our departure was scheduled for Friday, the next day.  We had the entire day in London, Thursday, to celebrate her birthday.
On Wednesday we took the Original London Sightseeing Tour.  When we returned to the apartment that night my wife was tired and her leg was sore.  Thursday was a day of taking it easy, keeping her leg up, watching some British TV, not overdoing it before our flight home.  We discussed going to a restaurant to celebrate her birthday.  I got a half-hearted commitment.

My search for a restaurant started with Jamie Oliver.  We had seen Jamie's Italian in Islington as we rode along the 38 bus route.  There was also a Jamie's Italian in the new mall at the end of the Overground near the Stratford Station, soon to be gateway to London 2012 Olympics. 

I just started making bread before I left the US and wanted to share my experience with my daughter and her new husband.  She would need a baking stone as described in my bread making bible, Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day.
While looking at Jamie's Italian at the mall, it would also be a good place to look for a baking stone.

Throwing my camera bag over my left shoulder, I left the apartment and headed for Hackney Wick Station.  It was drizzling a bit but generally it was another nice day during our late October visit in the UK.  There was never a time I needed to wear my heavy jacket during the our UK trip, not even on the river tour when it was breezy.  I boarded the train heading towards Stratford station, the very next stop, the end of the line.
new olympic bridge 6 Jan 2012
Lots of Olympic construction could be seen from the train.  
The olympic village is just across a canal from my daughter's apartment.  The canal is the western boarder of the village.  It's that dark vertical line to the left of the light shaded area in which the oval stadium stands.
The mall was within eyesight of the train station.  I might even say within a stone's throw.  Westfield Mall was huge, a bit high end, too.  
I mean, I never saw a champagne bar on the concourse floor of any mall I have ever visited in the US.  Of course, I try to stay out of malls in the US.

Westfield Mall opened in Sept 2011 and is still feeling its way with mixed use of public spaces.

There were 234 stores in this four story 7,883,700 square foot mall.

While looking for a Williams-Sonoma type store, I found a gallery of small shops near the James Lewis store.  I was impressed by one shop selling artisan breads and rolls, Karaway.  I was tempted to purchase a Russian Rye.  I circled that shop like a vulture floating on warm odorous updrafts.
Source:JW Waterhouse
The breads called to me like the Sirens to Ulysses.  Luckily I had stuffed my ears with wax before leaving the apartment.  I broke free of the singing and continued on my journey to purchase a baking stone for my daughter.

Two floors above the bakery, near John Lewis, I found Lakeland.  Lakeland is the UK's leading kitchenware specialist.  They didn't have what I wanted.  John Lewis was now in my sights, my last resort.  Even with the help of a store associate, from a different department, it took me quite some time to find a pizza baking stone on the bottom shelf of a free standing display.  
The box contained a near 15"(38cm) round stone with a wire cooling rack that had handles.  It wasn't what I wanted.

I was looking for a thicker 18" (47.5cm) square stone.  I gave up looking for the stone and turned my efforts to search for Jamie's Italian.

Looking for the baking stone, I had been through the entire mall and didn't see Jamie's Italian.  So I exited the mall just outside of John Lewis.  There, across a wide pavement, I saw Jamie's Italian.  

Source:Jamie's Italian
Attached to the window was their menu.  I took in the menu and I wasn't wildly excited.  It was a sure bet that the food wasn't the mediocre plateful I would get at a pizza shop in the US but the price reflected that.  If you ordered a full dinner, entrée and a side, it was pricey.  It wasn't pricey by London standards but it was by my standards.  Remember that you need to multiply the prices in British pounds by 1.5 to equal US dollars.  I entered Jamie's and received a menu to take back to the apartment to share with my family.  I was not going to make the decision, alone.  No way!  Not by myself!  Did I say I have been married for thirty-four years?  I have learned a thing or two in that time.

As I exited Jamie's I saw  across the wide pavement another restaurant, Bumpkin.  I walked over to view their menu in the window.  I liked the looks of this place.  Their menu was more like a traditional English Pub; venison, quail, mutton, salmon, partridge, ell, black pudding...   I didn't see much for a vegetarian; my daughter you will remember.   So I entered Bumpkin and talked with the manager.  He assured me they would accommodate the dietary needs of a vegetarian.  The manager gave me a menu to take home, even though it was not meant to be taken from the restaurant, and I headed to the Overground station.
At the other end of the mall was the train station.  At that very same end was Marks & Spencer food store.  I picked up some wine, apple cider, bread and a few other items and was off to the train.

Back in the apartment, my wife half-heartedly went over the menus.  It seems there was a change in plans after I left on my journey.  My daughter's high school friend was in London with her husband and two toddlers and they would be joining us for dinner.  There were no Sirens sweetly singing but our ship was surely dashed upon the rocks.  We would not be going out to a restaurant but staying at the apartment, entertaining.  Take out or as they say in London, take away, was in the works.  Fish and chips and mushy peas would be our celebratory birthday dinner.  At least we were in London for her birthday.  That in itself was special.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

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