No Italian greeting this week, because this blog post is not about Italy! Cue gasps of horror and readers fleeing from my blog. Well, hopefully there won’t be too much fleeing, as I think the title might have been a giveaway that this isn’t one of my usual blog posts – but don’t panic.
Today I want to write about London.
London is my joint favourite city (joint with Rome, no surprises there). As Samuel Johnson famously said, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” It also happens to be the city that I live and study in, and I count myself very lucky to be able to do that. Not that it doesn’t take a lot of hard work; London isn’t exactly a student friendly city in terms of the cost of living. Next year when I’m back in London full-time, I’m hoping to write some blog posts about things to do, see and eat in London on a student budget.
This, however, is not one of those posts.
Last week I went home to be spend Matt’s 21st birthday with him. To celebrate, he, his family, his best friend and I went to a restaurant and a few bars in Mayfair that were so much fun and such a huge treat, and made for a night of New and Unexpected Experiences.
The first thing on the menu was gin tasting at The Chesterfield Hotel. At first I thought a gin tasting would be so-so, as I’ve only started to really like gin recently and I wasn’t convinced I’d be able to taste much difference between the different types. Gin is gin, right? Wrong. When we arrived at the Chesterfield, we were presented with a list of four menus, each comprising of three G&T pairings. We chose, and were then given a square plastic tray with three mini corked bottles of gin and a glass, lined with tiny pots of brightly coloured garnishes such as cardamom, star anise and pink pepper. It looked like how my five-year-old self imagined a scientist’s job to be, and it was fantastic! Unexpected Experience One: it turned out to be really good fun, and I was surprised by how different each pairing tasted and how the flavour could be altered by adding one of the extra garnishes. 10/10 would recommend, unless you don’t like gin, obviously.
Then we headed to a Japanese restaurant called Nobu, probably the most lovely and elegant restaurant I have ever been to. My intention had been to keep an eye out for celebrities, but after a cocktail in the bar downstairs, we headed upstairs and the food began to arrive; after that, there was no chance of my attention being focussed on anything but eating. We had the tasting menu, which was 7 small courses including dessert which were mostly fish-based and included Nobu’s signature dish, blackened cod. The cod was my favourite by far – it was so perfectly cooked that it just melted in your mouth, begging the question: how did they cook it without it falling apart? Magic, probably. Unexpected Experience Two was that my second favourite dish was eel sushi, which took me by surprise as I wasn’t expecting to like it at all, but it turned out to be delicious. I am lacking in photos because the food didn’t last long enough for me to get my phone out.
After an amazing dinner, we left Nobu feeling very satisfied but not at all over-stuffed to the point where we needed to lie down, which is how I usually leave restaurants. We decided to go for a quick cocktail in Sketch, which is a place I’d love to go back to. As we walked through to the bar, we caught glimpses of several other rooms that all appeared to have different themes and were all very modern and arty. The cocktails were great, but the toilets took the biscuit; Unexpected Experience Number Three was going for a wee in a giant egg surrounded by farm animal noises.
Finally, we rounded the night off in The Langham, where some of us had coffee and some continued with the alcohol. No Unexpected Experiences here, other than being horrified that anywhere could charge £5 for an espresso when my new Italian self would never pay more than 1€ maximum.
I loved being back in England for a week; even though I’m not homesick, it was wonderful to come home and see my family and friends. I was struck by how nice it was to hear so much English – living in Rome I still hear a fair amount of English, but it made me realise just how much I appreciate my language and the effortlessness of being able to understand every last word and nuance all of the time. Of course, other highlights of being home included getting to see my (greedy) dog…
Now I’m back in Rome and still loving life; the weather is warming up but I refuse to ditch my coat and scarf before the Italians do – the temperature is currently hovering in the low twenties and the Romans show no signs of showing any skin. I’ll keep you posted.
Until next time,