Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The things the Brits just can't get right


Having just celebrated our two year London anniversary, I have discovered that I am still as much in love with this city as when I first arrived. Perhaps even more so, considering that now we actually have money to spend, rather than just watching everyone do the fun London stuff or eating the wonderful London food. Even so, I DO miss home and right now with all those gorgeous little babies growing up so fast (one stands out in particular – my nephew who I haven’t met yet and am counting down the days until I get my hands on his chubby little cheeks – I believe the countdown is currently at 72 days!) I’m missing it more than ever.

And what makes me miss home even MORE, is a list I have recently compiled of all the stuff England does badly. I mean, REALLY badly. So here is my 'Things the Brits just can't get right' rant list.

  • Coffee. I don’t know WHAT they’re doing over here but it is nearly impossible to get a decent cup of coffee. One that you take a sip of and just feel happy. I have experienced this only twice in the past two years in England (Italy, Portugal, France and Spain, this doesn't apply to you). And both times were coffee shops owned and run by Kiwis and Aussies. You can't argue with that.
  • Fish and chips. Massive, chunky oily batter than leaves your hands slippery with grease and your stomach hating you after one bite. And the fish tastes like nothing. Yet the Brits think it’s the best thing  in the world and something they're famous for. Don't believe them. It's all lies.
  • Beaches. It's not a beach if it doesn't have sand or sun. Enough said.
  • White wine. If you ever get offered a glass of English white wine, run away. Fast. Trust me, I am yet to taste a good one and the last one I had was so bad, B and I left half the bottle at the restaurant. And believe me, leaving behind alcohol in that proportion NEVER happens.

Have you noticed that almost everything on my list is food? That’s a bit worrying and yet, it continues...

  • Steak. Every claim in the book that this place does amazing steak and that place is genuine and awesome. Not. True. Nothing compares to the awesomeness that is the Caxton steak lunch deal back in trusty old Brisbane. Where you can get a decent steak, cooked to order and at a great price (schooner of XXXX Gold optional - man I miss home right now!) Because yes, England does have good steaks but it will cost you the equivalent of a mortgage repayment. And you can't have it with a XXXX.

This is not a proper beach. Nor is it
proper beach weather, Eastbourne
- June 2012

I whinge yet how can you REALLY complain when this
is an every day site in lovely London?
- June 2012

And so my list comes to an end. I could go on about the weather, summer, and my hatred of 1 and 2p coins, but then this would become a serious rant, rather than a blog so let’s just leave it at that and I may do a part two another time!


So it’s been almost six weeks since my last blog and since then, loads has happened with the wedding. One such happening was my slight wedding-induced panic at a) the thought of all the things still left to do and b) the thought of all eyes on me as I walk down the aisle/say my vows/the whole entire day. But as for a) my best matron (she’s married, she’s not allowed to be called ‘maid’) of honour, my ever so helpful Mumzie, bridesmaids and friends all came to my rescue just by asking ‘can I do anything to help?’ In the end, everything was an easy fix (I know, typical over dramatic bride) but just by those people asking the question made SUCH a difference and really calmed me down. J does deserve a special mention, she has been my rock during all this and the one who has been the victim of one too many wedding rants. Best matron of honour EVER!

And so, the guest book pen has been purchased (oh the things you worry about when planning a wedding) the grooms outfit is complete and the flowers have been ordered (thanks Mumzie!) The countdown is officially on but I can’t help but think I’ve forgotten to do something REALLY important. Oh well, if I have, at least my nail polish will match my shoes.


June was a bit of a lazy month. We did get in a sneaky trip to Cambridge and a trip to the seaside to Eastbourne, both of which were awesome so I guess that's something. Nevertheless, I’m getting seriously itchy feet, wishing the days away until next Thursday afternoon when we will be on a plane to Sardinia, Italy for some MUCH needed sunshine, Vitamin D and relaxation. Oh weather, if you rain on me that long weekend, I will most definitely cry!

And so, for the purposes of my blog still seeming like we travel on a weekly basis and making as many people back home as jealous as I can, I will backtrack all the way to May, when we took a long weekend to the country that now has a permanent place in my top five most loved countries.

Germany. Berlin and Hamburg to be precise and one word just sums up the whole trip. Cool. Seriously, seriously cool. The people are lovely and can switch to perfect English if you stutter and stumble while trying to get out some sort of broken German sentence when attempting to order a beer. The architecture is amazing, the walking tour was informative, the history was mind boggling. The street art in East Berlin, the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, Hitler’s bunker, the holocaust memorial – just wow.

We spent three nights in Berlin and spent one of those days cycling around the city, using the incredibly efficient bike paths to travel to places we hadn’t even considered visiting. It rained but it didn’t really matter because we saw so much and had the most brilliant time. Oh, and German beer is seriously good. B had looked up various ‘must visit’ pubs so that was really our cycle path – follow the beer trail. 

The next stop on our trip was Hamburg. Not quite as happening or exciting as Berlin but great just the same. We even managed to find a brewery! I think B has a GPS tracker inside of him that just happens to stumble across every brewery known to man. We spent lots of time just wandering around Hamburg and because the weather was pretty rubbish, did a spot of shopping too. Although what B describes as shopping (in and out as quickly as possible looking at nothing, only zoning in on the one thing you entered the shop for) is not really what I call fun.

And then there was the food. I adore German food. The bratwurst, the sauerkraut – ahh, I love it! In between all the beer sampling, we had some awesome food including pork knuckle (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it) which rocked my world. German meatballs in a creamy herb sauce, more pork knuckle and seeing as it was white asparagus season (or 'spargle' as the Germans call it) a seasonal set menu which included cream of white asparagus soup, slow roasted pork with sauerkraut (yes, I ordered it with almost every meal – breakfast excluded) and potato dumplings (like a big ball of dough but surprisingly delicious) all for the tasty little price of €8.50. Then Hamburg served me with the best roast chicken I have ever tasted in my entire life. It was AMAZING. I hardly let B have any because I wanted it all for myself it was that good. I would fly back tomorrow to have it again. I left Germany feeling very bloated but very, very happy. It has well and truly earned it's place in my top five. 

Holocaust memorial, Berlin
- May 2012

Museum island, Berlin
- May 2012

Holocaust memorial, Berlin
- May 2012

East Berlin gallery
- May 2012

Dreary weather in awesome Hamburg
- May 2012

Well seeing as the ‘life’ and ‘travel’ section of this blog post has already gone into way too much food detail, I’m not sure if this last part is really relevant. But as you all know by now, food dominates my life so I STILL have lots more to blog on about.

Work baking continues. It seems that every team meeting, every birthday and every ‘just because’ occasion falls back to me to bake. I can’t say that I mind, I love feeding people and as long as there’s some for B to try, he’s happy too. So lately it’s been triple chocolate chunk brownies, lemon drizzle yogurt cake with lemon cream icing and apparently my ‘best ever’ contribution of chocolate brownie cookies with peanut butter frosting. After I made those ones and knew what went into them, I only ate one quarter of a cookie but they went down a treat and have been request for an upcoming birthday. In November.

THE brownies - calories per cookie are terrifying
- June 2012

Home cooking has seen my new obsession of Chinese cooking come to life with a trip to a giant (seriously, this place was massive) Chinese supermarket to pick up my supplies. On my first attempt I made steamed beef and coriander meatballs, steamed prawn and tofu moneybag dumplings and a ginger and pork soup – all, if I do say so myself, were amazing. I plan on doing a mini Chinese banquet at some stage but I’ll keep you posted. B doesn’t think my Chinese cooking phase will even last that long so I’m determined to prove him wrong!

Chinese dumplings - not bad for a first attempt!
- June 2012

As for eating out and about, there’s so much to talk about! Highlights have included a trip to Camden Town Brewery (with a second visit scheduled for this Friday) although I have to admit, no food was consumed. I will have to try harder this week. We visited Jamie’s Italian with our friends from Canberra K & B and we all had to agree that it just wasn’t up to scratch. It was ‘good’ but not great which, for Jamie’s standards, was really disappointing. A trip to Eastbourne over the Queen’s Jubilee long weekend saw us stop in at a pub, just for a drink, and stay for a pig on a spit roast lunch. Just yum. A trip to a tiny, unknown tapas bar (thanks for the recommendation J!) saw me try sand eels, mussels, lamb sweetbread, beef cheeks and lots of other weird and wonderful things. The wine here stole my heart though. A rosé that actually tasted like strawberries but was lovely and dry – perfection.

Speaks for itself
- June 2012

The baby eels. Strangely enough, they
tasted like fish and chips in one bite
- June 2012

And finally, to wrap up this blog, B and I visited Bread Street Kitchen, a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, to celebrate our triple celebration – three months until our wedding, two years living in London and nine years together. I had high hopes. Most of them were fulfilled, just not from the food on my plate. My fish (what IS it with English and getting fish wrong?!) was over cooked and just a bit rubbery but the sauce and artichokes on top were great. B’s lamb dish just fell apart when you touched it – seriously amazing. I should have gone with my gut instinct which was to have the pork collar but was put off by B's answer. When I asked him what he thought it might be like, he said, “That’s where they snap the piglets head off!” Nice.

Bread Street Kitchen. Too dark for pictures of
the food so instead, a picture of the impressive
wine fridge that went along an entire wall. Love
- June 2012

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