thelondonyears

Final London Supper

34093948935_71fc5be4bf_mThe packers were done and the children asleep so we went out for our last dinner in London for a long time, at our favourite local sushi restaurant Roka where we’ve celebrated many occasions including an anniversary and Nick’s arrival. It was a late night out, but this close to leaving London we decided sleep would have to take a backseat. The food was great, as usual: an assortment of sashimi, rolls, spicy edamame, broccolli, and rocket shrimp. I was getting sentimental. The difference between leaving NYC and London was that with the former we thought it would only be three years tops and we’d frequently visit home. With the later, now that we have small children, I don’t think it’s realistic that I’ll see much of London while they are so little.

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April 17, 2017 Posted by | Restaurant Review | Leave a comment

28-50

33744576505_575d6dbe9b_mOur final outing in London took us to Marylebone where we had tapas (smoked salmon, beetroot salad, seabream ceviche, green beans, and, finally, a rich tiramisu) at 28-50. It was a warm and sunny day spring day so central London was exceptionally buzzing. It’s only a matter of hours before the movers pack up the kids’ toys, the family’s wardrobes and our evolving library (non-fiction bestsellers are a thing of the past, now it’s mostly books by Julia Donaldson and the adventures of Amazing George). It feels a little surreal to know that I’ve spent the last eleven years of my life rooted in London and that it’s unrealistic I’ll return with the children for at least another three years. We’ve done a good job taking time out from their routines to enjoy the city before we leave . Returning to our favourite neighborhoods, restaurants, galleries and theatres has been great for me to both enjoy what the city has to offer and give me the opportunity to recall old memories from our time living in London.

My outlook on London life is completely different post-Motherhood. When we go out, I very much feel like an outsider observing the busy world around me. There’s something about being a Mum that both speeds and slows time; every hour with the baby counts from a napping and feeding perspective – all my time with him is meant to ensure his needs are met and he’ll get the nutrition he needs to sleep well. For the toddler, so much of my time spent with her is making sure she’s playing and exploring in a safe environment. Motherhood during maternity leave inevitably shrinks the world into the spaces where the children spend their time (the home, playground, museum, daycare) so when I go out with M, I’m reminded that there’s a public world completely disconnected to the domestic sphere in which I function. I enjoy seeing people who have put thought into the way they dress, groups of friends and colleagues laugh and banter, couples holding hands. The difference between observing people with young children versus people who are pre-Parenthood or have independent children is the look and vibe they give off of having infinite time: time to relax, time to socialise, time to eat, “me” time, time to sleep, time to deepen relationships, time to enjoy what London has to offer.

Our main topic of conversation over lunch was the logistics around the move. We also thought about how our lives will change being back in NYC. As their mum, most of my thinking has been around getting the kids on EST and settling the toddler into her new daycare. Everything else is just details. Motherhood is so physically and time-demanding that philosophizing has taken a bit of a hit. Although I’ll think about London often and the friends with whom I share memories, I’m ready for the next step which is giving our kids the opportunity to bond and form relationships with both our families.

March 30, 2017 Posted by | Restaurant Review | 1 Comment

Boisdale CW

33229131990_fae974fa7a_mI woke up with Marvin G’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” stuck in my head the morning after an evening at Boisdale CW where a London GF treated me as a send-off. Ironically, but perhaps expected of a soul/jazz/blues lounge, is how utterly New York the venue felt. The black-and-white framed photographs of African-American artists, pop art paintings hanging on the walls, and the sheer vastness of the space are more typical of American versus English venues. Whereas M and I have been enjoying the city during the day, it was my first evening out in a loooooooong time. I felt a bit of an imposter sitting so ordinarily amongst all the drinking, chatty, carefree diners around me. None of them looked like mothers with eyes squinty from tiredness or  weary that a late night out meant they’d only deepen the backlog of lost sleep they’ll never have a hope of regaining. Cheerful and positive as usual, GF and I updated each other on work (including my recent visit to the office), our overlapping friends, her active involvement in diversity and women’s initiatives at her bank, her Instagram foodie account, and the inevitable challenges of trying to juggle work, health and Motherhood, etc. An evening out which included great conversation an old GF, the opportunity to dress up in lace versus typical spit-up friendly cotton, live feel-good music and comfort food made it for a fun send-off.

March 23, 2017 Posted by | Restaurant Review | Leave a comment

Copita

33229131030_9d352e0e51_mOur lunchtime outings into central London take me to my world pre-Motherhood, pre-East London. I walked around Soho for a bit before meeting M at Copita where we sat at the windows facing the street so as to keep entertained with the people watching. It’s so refreshing watching people dress their own way versus the typical high-street/business fashion I’m used to living in a financial district. Our tapas included carmelized almonds, aubergine sprinkled with crushed hazelnut and honey, truffled goat cheese with an almond and honey dip, artichokes seasoned with thyme, and scallops with cauliflower puree (my favourite); for dessert, we shared carrot cake with an all spice ice cream. Afterwards, we walked around the home furnishings and kids clothing departments at nearby Liberty which is so prettily decorated for the Easter holiday. The chandeliers were bordering Chihuly-artistic, the pillow cases energised with vibrant colour and much of the tableware antique-y. It was a sunny, albeit cool, day so we took a brisk walk through Soho; topics of conversation included my morning at work (goodbyes before we leave London), the friendships our toddler has made at daycare, the seemingly-endless “To Do” list we need to complete before departing, and what we’ll miss most about London (eg. Europeans and civility).

March 23, 2017 Posted by | Restaurant Review | Leave a comment

Caviar House & Prunier Mayfair

On a typically-English afternoon (wet and grey), we took the tube to our old neighborhood where we lunched at Caviar House & Prunier Mayfair, situated practically across the straight from our pre-Parenthood flat. Positioned so we were facing the windows looking onto Piccadilly, it was a bit surreal to see that although our lives have changed drastically in the last three years, the old neighborhood remains the same: energized, colourful and crowded. We ordered the lobster salad (which contained a sweet surprise: mango) and the seafood platter (smoked salmon, graviax, tartar, shrimps, king prawns, and oysters) before heading to The Parlour, the ice cream parlour at nearby Fortnum & Mason, for dessert (a classic vanilla milkshake). Much of the conversation revolved around the bubbees (of course): our imminent move, childcare options in NYC, weekend activities, etc. Our favourite London restaurants remain the same even if the conversation couldn’t be more different from when we arrived eleven years ago.

March 23, 2017 Posted by | Restaurant Review | 1 Comment

Cecconi’s Mayfair

32330708704_2201d46217_mWe returned to our old neighborhood to lunch at Cecconi’s Mayfair, our favourite restaurant in London. It’s the place where we’ve celebrated many a birthday, anniversary, and baby-related news for the last eleven years. Perched at the bar, we ordered the chef’s selection (I’m open to spontaneity at Cecconi’s) and the cannelloni. Apart from the incredible Italian cuisine, Cecconi’s is known for its people watching which is always best to do from the perspective of the bar. I enjoyed watching the mix of local hedge fund employees (young Southern European men in jumpers), media-industry hipsters (fake tans and leather jackets), and ladies who lunch (immaculate up-dos and exposed clavicles). Afterwards, we walked up Bond Street where I enjoyed the outrageous window displays before heading to the Halcyon which is showing Andy W’s pop art along with some Santiago M, among M’s favourite artists. Andy W’s art is always entertaining but also ubiquitous. However, the Halcyon space in itself makes a visit worthwhile and we have a lot of memories there over the years so it was great we got to squeeze in a final visit as we wrap up our time in London.

February 28, 2017 Posted by | Restaurant Review | Leave a comment

American Art in the 1930s

32330695784_44589bf961_mWhat used to be a weekend ritual has turned into the occasional indulgence: I recently read a review of “America after the Fall: Paintings in the 1930s” at the RAA which arty GF and I visited a few days later. GF thought it was apropos that we should view American art as I prepare for repatriation; I agreed it was but for a more personal reason, nostalgia. During grad school in Boston, I once took a 20th-Century American Art History course concurrently with a Faulkner seminar. Both informed one another as my art historian professor was a not-so-closeted Socialist/Communist with great empathy towards the plight of average Americans post-Depression and my literature professor’s understanding of the social climate was steeped in the journalism coming out of the Dust Bowl, a refreshing break from their colleagues who typically subscribed to some arcane school of theory. So seeing the familiar post-Depression depictions, paintings that are regularly adopted for postcards, magazine illustrations and Google images, in Real Life felt both a bit foreign for their closeness as well as familiar for their themes as I had discussed and written about them as a student long ago.

I was struck at how large and detailed the Edward H-pper paintings actually are, remembered how American art of that era captured a sense of the grotesque as in Philip  E’s “Dance Marathon” (1934), enjoyed the irony conveyed in the conservatism of straight- laced grannies in the “Daughters of Revolution” (1932), and compared how Grant W’s “American Gothic” (1930) was treated at the RAA similarly to how LDV’s “Mona Lisa” is at the Louvre: crowds surround both works of art and it’s a battle to get up close. I refreshed my memory about FDR’s New Deal and its accompanying Works Progress Administration and how The Project Works of Art Project was used to galvanize Americans’ skills to create and decorate public infrastructure. There was a bit of Georgia O’K and Jackson P towards the end, both signalling the rise of Abstract painting, another favourite era of American art history for very different reasons: its movement away from the overtly political and historical and emphasis on abstraction versus realism. While my liberal arts education hasn’t been particularly useful in my professional life or childcare, years later it continues to serve as a foundation of knowledge and cultivated appreciation for the historical and the artistic, giving me the tools to enjoy the occasional exhibit and enable me to exercise an Inner Life of the Mind.

February 28, 2017 Posted by | Museums | Leave a comment

Dinings

We ventured into a quiet street in Marylebone to lunch at Dinings in what looks like a townhouse not far from the courthouse where we took our British citizenship oath five years ago. Sushi is officially our favourite cuisine so we ordered the tasting menu in order to maximise our coverage: cold edamame to start, tar tar chips (tuna with jalapeno mayo and seared beef with chili), miso soup with spicy salmon and mushrooms, cold tapas (seabream, lobster, beef with porcini), seabass carpaccio with truffle, hot tapas (shrimp tempura salad and grilled chilli garlic black cod), an assortment of sushi (seabass, tuna, salmon, eel and omelette) and for dessert, matcha green tea ice cream and blood orange sorbet. Needless to say, we were impressed by the cornucopia of different flavours and textures, colours and presentation. I enjoy Japanese food for the precision and preparation, always giving the impression my food was carefully handmade and arranged so as to amaze me with its delicate taste. It’s such a different experience from dining on any other cuisine: the quiet atmosphere, understated decor, modest food portions, and emphasis on eating raw. We recalled our earliest experiences eating sushi, what we know and have read about Japanese culture and, of course, the children (eg. Babu’s progress eating solids). Babu’s favourite foods are not nearly as precise as our lunch at Dinings; he’ll eat anything as long as it’s pureed and comes in a colourful jar or pouch.

February 28, 2017 Posted by | Restaurant Review | Leave a comment

Going-away party

Today we hosted M’s paternal side of the family and a few others for our our going-away party at Parlour. We shared our repatriation plans (living arrangements, work, settling the children into NYC, etc.) and got updates on the family’s going-ons as well (moving house, decorating, baby-making, work, etc.). Our little brown mouse quite enjoyed all the attention she received from M’s cousins, and Babu was happy to get passed around and cuddled. After I said a few words to our guests, one of them asked what we’ll miss most when we leave. Apart from the opportunity for easy European travel, I’ve enjoyed spending time with and getting to know M’s UK family. We’ve spent quite a bit of time with M’s cousins, aunties and uncles over the years for both casual get-togethers as well as celebrating significant milestones (weddings, babies). And I’m so glad we had family with whom we could share the two bubbas so they could start building their own relationships with extended family.

February 19, 2017 Posted by | London | Leave a comment

“Buried Child”

32957223455_63cbdf4425_mFor our latest in a series of dates I’ve organised so M and I can enjoy London before repatriating to NYC, we lunched at Terroirs, an understated yet established French restaurant not far from Trafalgar Square. The air smelled like spring – the sun was out and there were dozens of tourists taking selfies by the square’s fountains. We dined on crabmeat-avocado toast, duck magret, nduja, a small rillette and, for the finale, chocolate mousse. It was a sprawling and rich meal, to say the least, as expected when eating French cuisine. Afterwards, we hung out at Trafalgar Square and laughed over our little brown mouse’s toddler antics from that morning before heading to Trafalgar Studios to see film actor Ed Harri- star in “Buried Child”, described as an “American gothic” play about an aged patriarch and his ill-fated descendents. The meal was definitely the high point of the afternoon as the matinee was a little too dark for a sunny afternoon straight after a generous meal. After the show, we took a stroll up Pall Mall, through St. James’ Park, and along Piccadilly before heading home to see our bubbas.

February 17, 2017 Posted by | Theatre | Leave a comment