The Grazing Goat

Friday night, Niki and her husband, Konan, and Bob and I dined at The Grazing Goat.

Niki and me in The Grazing Goat

It is a combination restaurant and hotel. How lovely is that? It probably would have been much better than the Hilton Metropole we stayed at (shoddy furniture, shoddy service, intermittent WiFi, a saggy mattress, overpriced food and drinks, thin walls, and overheated room)! But we ended up staying there because that is where the conference Bob was attending was being held. Bob and I usually stay at boutique hotels or a Hyatt when we’re traveling. The Hilton lost an opportunity to woo us to stay there again, for sure.

The interior of the restaurant (located upstairs above the bar) was cozy. This photo was snapped about 20 minutes before the restaurant was packed. The noise level, despite the crowded room, was low, which made it easy to have a dinner conversation. Service was superb and attentive!

It was hard to pick from the myriad of delicious items on the menu.

We started off with a dozen oysters on the half shell. These Carlingford Rock oysters were splendid – briny and rich. They reminded me of my very favorite oysters, the Sydney Rock oyster.

I chose the half free range Suffolk chicken after being assured that these chickens were small and that “half” wouldn’t be too much to eat. It came with creamy mashed potatoes, jus (gravy) and the most amazing bacon and sage stuffing “patties” I’ve ever had! (I could have eaten 10 more of those!) The chicken was flavorful and moist. Delicious!

Bob had the special – the pork belly with mashed potatoes. I wish I could tell you what they tasted like, but by the time I lifted my head from my incredible meal, Bob was all done! Hrumph! From his cleaned plate, I knew that he loved his meal.

I was very (pleasantly) full from my dinner so I got the pineapple salad with passion fruit sauce and a scoop of mango sorbet for my dessert. It was light and a great way to end the meal. Bob and Niki shared a cheese plate and Konan had a yummy looking chocolate brownie.

The only bad thing about the meal was that it was the last time we were to see Niki and Konan for this trip! We have plans to get together again, sometime in the future! (We’ve invited them to come visit us here in Northern California!)

Categories: Good Eats, London | 4 Comments

Portobello Market

Thanks to Jama of Alphabet Soup for suggesting that I check out Portobello Market while I was in London. Niki was more than happy to take me there on Friday afternoon.

It wasn’t too crowded on an early Friday afternoon. I hear it gets jammed-packed crazy on Saturdays. I’m not a huge fan of crowds, so I was happy to avoid that. I had been expecting more of a market-style area with stalls, but mostly it was cobblestone streets lined with quaint boutiques and souvenir trinket shops. There were a few stalls set up, along the street as well.  If you’re wondering why I didn’t take more photos, then I must admit, I was very distracted by shopping! I saw some great embroidered pillows that I would have bought if I had room in my suitcase. I did buy a cute purple Italian purse, and a pink leather coin purse. I also saw some fabulous teacups, but again, no room in the suitcase. Next time I need to bring an extra bag to lug all my finds home. (Or ship them back. That’s a possibility!)

-posted by Debbi (of course, since I’m the one who loves to shop!)

Categories: London, shopping | 4 Comments


While I was waiting for Niki at Waterstones (see previous post), I perused the shelves, and it should come to no surprise to those of you who know me that a cupcake book nearly leaped off the shelf and into my arms. It was The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and yes, I bought it! Even better, Niki told me that we’d be walking right past The Hummingbird Bakery! Joy! Bliss! And YUM!

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The bakery had a line going out the door! Popular, yes? It was a cozy bakery, with big cakes (carrot cake caught my eye) lined up under glass domes on top of the cases full of cupcakes. Because of the way we entered the shop, however, I wasn’t able to get a good look at all the cupcakes before someone offered to take my order. Panic! But fortunately, she was patient as I moved around to look at each and every one before deciding on a chocolate cupcake with hazelnut filling and chocolate frosting topped with honeyed pralines. Niki was thrilled to be able to get a gluten-free cupcake.

I do love a good cupcake, and The Hummingbird Bakery’s is very good. However, my favorite cupcakes continue to be from Teacake here in Burlingame, CA. Good thing, too. It would be horrible if my very favorite cupcakes came from a country I only went to infrequently!

That being said, I highly recommend The Hummingbird Bakery’s cupcakes – they were moist and flavorful, and the hazelnut filling made it quite uniquely delicious! I am looking forward to trying out some of the recipes from the cookbook – particularly the banana chocolate cupcakes, green tea cupcakes, and marshmallow cupcakes (as well as the cakes, pies, and cookies included in the book).

Categories: Good Eats, London | Tags: | 6 Comments

Fun Friday Frolicking with Niki

(Too bad Niki’s name didn’t start with an “f’.) 😉

On Friday, I waited at Waterstone’s in Notting Hill to meet Niki. I took a cab, and when double checking with Niki on where to meet her, I’d accidentally said, “Nottingham.” She laughed and said if I ended up in Nottingham, she couldn’t help me. I was so paranoid that I triple-checked with the poor cabbie to make sure I had said “Notting HILL” and that he’d understood me. The cabbies here in London are all so polite and so helpful. When he couldn’t find the original store I was supposed to meet Niki in front of, he seemed reluctant to drop me off. I assured him that I would text her to give her my new location.

Of course I went into Waterstones (bookstore) to shop! I ended up buying a book (more on that later). No surprise.

We stopped for a fabulous lunch here:

I had the most amazing mussels with penne pasta!  We skipped dessert (more about this later – I know I’m a tease). Then, we spent the afternoon shopping! Great fun! (yes yes, more details later!)

After we were shopped out, Niki and I stopped for drinks at The Providores and Tapa Room on Marylebone High Street. She introduced me to these amazing tapas:

Pepinos – something or other. I can’t recall the name of these Spanish tapas of roasted peppers with salt. They were amazing and not too spicy!

When Bob finished up with his conference, he met us here. It was Friday night past 6 PM and we were sitting outside enjoying our drinks! Why did we choose to sit outdoors? This place requested that any four-legged companions dine outdoors. Good thing it was a warm enough evening. Here we are posing with Tank. He’s just so adorable!

More about our trip, soon!

-posted by Debbi

Categories: books, Good Eats, London | 2 Comments

Borough Market

You know Bob and I had to visit a food market, right? (Thanks to Niki for the heads up!)

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We took the Tube first thing in the morning to the London Bridge stop, and walked across the bridge to Borough Market. Most of the vendors handed out free samples and we noshed our way through the market. We did buy a chorizo roll (highly recommended by Niki) and it was indeed scrumptious! The cheeses were amazing – wish we could take those home with us. We also sampled red deer sausage.

-posted by Debbi

Categories: Good Eats, London | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Out & About in London

I’ve not been doing a good job of snapping photos. I promise to do better the rest of my visit.

Yesterday was a working day for both of us so we didn’t really get out and about. I did manage to get a lot of writing/revising done. YAY!  I also stopped across the street from the hotel at a Marks & Spencer to pick up lunch – organic free range egg salad and watercress sandwich, bottle of water, and a bag of four apples for under 5 pounds. Tea at the hotel sports bar? 5 pounds!

-posted by Debbi

Categories: London | 10 Comments

Six Years and Three Continents

I met Niki in Shanghai, six years ago, when I came across her advertisement for private yoga lessons while shopping at the Western grocery store. I called her, we hit it off, I hired her, and we became fast friends.  She ended up moving back to the states a half a year before Bob and I moved back – fortunately, she moved to Los Angeles and I could still see her when we visited my parents. Then, we moved to California.  Soon after, however, while on assignment in London, she met the man who was to become her husband. She and her hubby now live in London. And fortunately, because of Bob’s business travel, I’ve been able to see her – in Paris last year, and in London now.

I met up with Niki in Chelsea where she recently opened her own studio Barrecore. The space is just fabulous and if I were not so intimidated, I would take her up on taking a class while I’m here. But the women I saw there looked oh-so-fit and oh-so- athletic. I’ll pass this time. 😉 If you’re in the area, I highly recommend Niki’s studio, however. I’ve known her for over six years and trust her advice and suggestions when it comes to health and fitness! And FYI, she’s been a trainer for some pretty big names!

I also met this incredibly adorable fellow, Tank, Niki and her hubby’s Japanese Chin. I’m in love!

What did we do all afternoon? Shopped, of course! Fabulous stores on Kings Road. We made some purchases (of course).  I love how in London you can take your dog everywhere and all the shopkeepers seem so thrilled to meet the four-legged companions!

We tired ourselves out and went to the Markham Inn, where yes, dogs are allowed, to have some drinks while we waited for Bob and her hubby to join us for dinner.  Needless to say, dinner was spectacular! Foie gras that was reminiscent of chocolate fudge in its texture and richness. As Niki said, “I could have this for dessert!” I had the sea bass with fennel and tomato confit. Tender, moist, juicy! Dessert, for me, was pancakes (crepes) with Chantilly cream and hazelnut sauce. Melt me! Tuesday was Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Tuesday so many restaurants were serving pancakes.

Long, leisurely dinner comfortably chatting among friends. Perfect! And I get to hang out with Niki again tomorrow! More to come!

-posted by Debbi

Categories: London | 6 Comments

Bar Boulud

We have long wanted to eat at Daniel, the Daniel Boulud restaurant in New York. Hasn’t happened yet. When we arrived in London, Bob did a quick check on Open Table to see if Bar Boulud had any openings here. At 5:30 PM, there was one opening for 6:30. We grabbed it! Then, grabbed a cab to the Mandarin Hotel where the restaurant was located.

We arrived early, of course (we tend to be early everywhere), but our table was ready and the hostess graciously seated us. We had a prime view of the kitchen. We only have photos of our food, because we were told that photos were discouraged in the restaurant because “very famous people” often dined there. We didn’t see any while we were there, although Bob and I had fun speculating which very famous people ate there. (Gwyneth? Adele? Colin Firth? Doctor Who?)

Loved the napkins:

After perusing (and oohing and aahing over) the menu, we decided to go with the prix fixe menu so we could try a few dishes each. It was a smart move on both our parts. The entire meal was incredibly delicious – heavenly, to say the least!

We both started off with the Soupe Forestiére – a creamy earthy mushroom soup that had the texture and color of a thin chocolate shake. We couldn’t get enough! I found the ricotta toast slightly bland, however, so I saved my calories for the rest of my dinner.

Next, I had the Volaille aux Ecrevisses:

Succulent roasted chicken breast, glazed asparagus, over rice pilaf in a crayfish sauce. That sauce was amazing (as most French sauces are)! And there were four small crayfish as well. They tasted just like lobster. Mmmmm! And yes, I ate everything on my plate!

Bob had the Daurade a la Plancha:

Sea bream in an amazing beefy black garlic jus, spinach and celeriac. Bob also cleaned his plate! Fish is relatively easy to cook, and yet we are surprised at the number of times we’ve had overcooked fish at restaurants. (In fact, his fish and chips at a chain joint for lunch were so horrific he couldn’t eat it – and ended up splitting my tuna melt with me.) This fish was perfectly done, tender and juicy with a crisp skin.

Alas, by the time dessert arrived the restaurant was packed and we didn’t want to take photos for fear of being chastised by the staff. But let me tell you, dessert was amazing! I had the Gateaux Basque – it’s a traditional French cake from the Basque region – flaky almond crust with a creamy custard-like filling with a side of brandied cherries. It was sweet but not overly so. I loved the crisp crust! Bob had two scoops of passion fruit coconut sorbet (he said the best sorbet he’s ever had) with a side of two crunchy biscuits Brittany. Perfect for Bob because they were obviously full of butter and not overly sweet.

An incredible meal – unlike anything we’ve had in a long time!

It’s only 8:20 PM as I write this, but I’m seriously exhausted. I think I’ll read some more of Sophie Kinsella’s I‘ve Got Your Number (laugh out loud funny so far) and drift off to slumberland!

-posted by Debbi

Categories: Good Eats, London | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Hello From London!

Just off the 10+ hour flight from SFO to Heathrow – at our hotel in London and feeling a little (okay, a lot) jet-lagged. All we’ve managed to do so far is check into the hotel (longest check in process ever -Hilton really needs to step it up), and grab a quick bite to eat for lunch.

My goal is to get some writing done, but we’ll see. I am ready to start:

I’ve got my Americano black with a shot of hazelnut to fortify me.

This is my view (not spectacular, but hey, I’m just happy to be in London)!

My good luck charms for writing inspiration. The bottom item was made for me by my lovely daughter when she was 11. I bought the blue elephant during my most recent trip to Tokyo from Toypark in Ginza, a fabulous 5 story toy store. And I bought the adorable fairy doll from Etsy at Alkelda Dolls. I blame/thank Jama of the fabulous blog Alphabet Soup, for tempting/introducing me to the site. (She does that a lot – makes me want to shop!)

I promise that the rest of the posts while Bob and I are here in London will be more travel/food related. Give us a day to get acclimated to the time. (Poor Bob will mostly be working, but I’ll definitely have things to share with you soon!)

– posted by Debbi

Categories: London | Tags: | 8 Comments

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