Birthday Trip to London Part Two: Climbing Up a Slippery Slope…

After the disastrous first half of my London trip seemed arrested by the fine dinner at Fino on that Friday night, I was hoping I’ve turned a corner for the rest of the trip. I thought of cutting things short and heading back to NYC earlier, but it was just total inertia that prevented me from doing that…

The next morning I limped my way around the Paddington canals. My former usual brekkie place is now gone (Core Grill), so I meandered all the way to the far end of Paddington and went for a dimsum at Pearl Liang.

I had a good and voluminous meal there a few months back so hoped for a similar experience. The food was solid again, starting with some tasty fried turnip cakes.

turnip_cake

This was accompanied by some excellent pork and chive dumplings.

pork_chive_dumplings

With some wine in hand, I tried to relax and enjoy…but wasn’t easy. Lots…I mean LOTS of annoying children everywhere. Crying babies, unruly kids that parents don’t seem to want to control. This really made the experience totally annoying. But I digress… Next came the scallops shumai.

scallops_shumai

These were very nice. And finally some steamed tripe…

tripe

This last dish was just what I needed. I quickly settled up before I shouted at some of the parents for letting their children run around and throw things at other tables…

I took a long walk around the Paddington canals trying to do some thinking, but that failed. Nothing got resolved. I ended up back in my room trying to sort things out and spent hours online dealing with paperwork that I didn’t need to do yet. but I chose to do them now, so I can really just close up shop.

I didn’t even want to do anything that Saturday evening, so went to get a quick takeaway and headed back and just brooded…not exactly the glamorous Saturday evening fun you’d expect in London…

Sunday began no better. Slept extremely badly, and that ulcer is getting worse. I got a few replies from yesterday’s emails and things moved ahead quicker than I thought for shutting down the rest of my work. So I said, what the hell, made some quick and very decisive — and life-changing — decisions and headed out for lunch.

I went to one of my “comfort” places in London, a place I’ve been hiding in since the 1990s: San Miguel’s just across the street from Edgware Road Tube. It’s not mind-blowing food, but it’s comfortable like a glove. The staff, which remained the same since I’ve been coming here, immediately asked why I haven’t been around for so long. Ah, to be missed…

champinones-albondigas-pulpo_gallego

I started with a trio of tapas — mushrooms in garlic sauce, some solid albóndigas, and the obligatory pulpo. Nice and relaxing to enjoy these three with some nice wine and catching up with the staff, all with footie in the back. I took my time and decided to add a fourth tapa, some nice gambas in garlic sauce.

gambas

These were nice, flavourful and cooked perfectly. I relaxed more there as they gave me the usual brandy on the house, and I left happily — though the climb up the stairs was not helpful for my ailing ankle…

I limped around that part of London for a little but was told that there was a demo by some radicals down Edgware Road, so decided to ensconce myself back in my room for awhile. Sorted out more stuff, and basically pulled all the triggers I needed. Wow, life is all change now…

I met with a dear friend for dinner back at Medlar — where I had a fantastic meal a few days earlier. I think it was really now that I felt relaxed…knowing I’ve did all I can this weekend to make things move, and now it’s all on auto-pilot. And it’s good to unburden to someone who you trust 101% — and there are very, very few people on earth who I trust so much.

So by Monday morning I was somewhat back to a near-normal state mentally, but physically not improving. In fact, the left ankle remained bad while the right lower leg was getting worse. And the ulcer from the NSAID really got worse too. Ugh…

I had a nice big and relaxing lunch — I will write this up in a separate review next. But that afternoon’s meeting with a friend turned into a longer drinking session than expected, and the Guinness really helped to exacerbate my stomach situation. I managed to grab some takeaway and headed back to my hotel and just slumped over in pain…ugh, the damn NSAIDs….

I felt much better after the rest (finally slept relatively well) and made my Tuesday brunch with a good friend and former boss. The limping wasn’t better, and now an added problem. My back is starting to really go, as well as my shoulder. It’s like the stress is just moving up and my whole body is falling apart… Geezus, and I’m only 41… It always happens when I miss my gym sessions…

I went back to the room and tried to stay on my back and soak in the tub, but neither helped. So I managed to get an appointment with a therapist that a friend recommended, but not until tomorrow. So I just tried to relax the day away. Didn’t bother with lunch or anything, just tried to minimise movement…ugh…

Now dinner was a total disaster. I agreed to meet a good friend at Umu in Mayfair. Crazy expensive, but I had a wonderful meal 2 years ago here. This time was total rubbish… Poor service, server was utterly confused and we couldn’t get proper descriptions from him. Wrong cocktails were brought, and our wine was warm (not even room temperature). The tempura veg was awful. The eel was excellent as well as the proper wagyu seared, but the experience was so piss poor I didn’t take pictures nor want to say more about it. But it was pure pretentious shite and this place is an embarrassment to London fine dining. Everything that’s wrong about the restaurant scene in London can be seen in this one experience…

But the evening was rescued by my mate, who dragged me to Dukes for drinks afterwards. We were greeted by the maestro himself, Alessandro Palazzi.

alessandro

He personally made us several rounds of his amazing Martinis… Now that was a great way to close off the trip really. I headed back to the hotel that night, having been distracted from all my physical malaise and the horrible Umu dinner, somewhat relaxed. But I was glad I was headed back to NYC tomorrow…never have I wanted to leave London so badly…

And, of course, my final day in London just had to end in farce… I went to the midday appointment to the therapist and this person turned out to be just awful. Pressure put on wrong places, didn’t do much good for my lower back, and if anything, my shoulder was in more pain afterwards! I was looking at the walls for which bloody institution issued the damn licence…seemed more torture than physical therapy! Perfect metaphor for this entire trip!

Ugh. To say that a 30-minute ice cold shower at the Virgin Atlantic lounge in Heathrow was the best moment of the day is saying something. Back to NYC…ugh…

Pearl Liang
8 Sheldon Square
London, England

San Miguel’s
256 Edgware Road
London, England

Umu
14-16 Bruton Place
London, England

Dukes
St James’s Place
London, England

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