Archive for March, 2010

A Weekend of Underground Restaurants

This week’s blog is totally off-topic, so be warned, okay! I’ve been to an underground restaurant (AKA supperclub, AKA restaurant in your livingroom, AKA Come Dine With Me – but on a larger scale) before, but last weekend I did two back to back, and they were so good that I thought I’d blog about them!

Sheen Suppers

So my weekend started early on Friday night at Lara Newman’s restaurant: Sheen Suppers which is, unsurprisingly, in Sheen! For those of you who read my blog with any regularity, you will know that Lara is the first person I met on Twitter who I met in real life, so I’ve been to Sheen Suppers a couple of times before, and it is always good and always great value for money!

Supperclubs all work differently and, as I am learning, are all totally unique! Sheen Suppers is more like a traditional restaurant – you book a table for your party of however many and sit with your friends. There’s a suggested donation of £25 per person which gets you four courses (five if you count the tea and coffee) of divine food, a glass of excellent, paired wine (and from the massive EuroCave in the living room you know they know wine!) with each course (or port for the cheese course) and a fantastic atmosphere.

Lara’s house is the kind of place you could spend all day in and still not see everything. The attention to detail is just phenomenal – from the books in the fireplace to the decoupage in the bathroom, to the pink knitted animals in the (pink) kitchen. It’s delightful! The dining room seats up to around 18, and we were a full house. It was cosy without being cramped.

As I say, this was my third meal at Sheen Suppers and I’ve yet to be served something I didn’t like. The menu was as follows and was 100% home-made, from the gnocci to the crostini:

Starter

Pinenut Crostini with Prawns, Mozzarella and Basil

Main Course

Gnocci with Shin of Beef Ragu, Courgette and Parmesan Salad

Cheese Course

Grand Rustique Brie, Denhay Vintage Cheddar, Cropwell Bishop Stilton

Dessert

Ginger Blondie with Ginger Mascarpone Cream, White Chocolate and Ginger Truffle

The starter was a safe bet for me – I lurrrve prawns! But for those who prefer to avoid seafood there was something similar with some rather nice looking ham instead. Likewise, the main course was fantastic and the homemade gnocci were particularly light and delicious. I also loved the courgette and parmesan salad as it ticked the garlic box big time! Mmmm! Cheese is never my favourite course (I swap out anything blue with anyone who will trade with me!) but the port somehow makes it nicer… In fact, I really don’t know why I don’t drink more port?!

But the Ginger Blondie… Ohhh the Ginger Blondie! That has got to be the single nicest dessert I have ever eaten in the world ever! I’ve never heard such a noisy table fall so silent so quickly! Now it’s not for those shy of sugar, I’ll concede, but ohhh it was so good! Lara has been kind enough to post the recipe and I cannot wait to try and make it for myself!

Things start to wind down from about 10.30pm onwards (it starts at 7.30pm) but inevetably there’s a few stragglers and those who stay for a chit-chat afterwards! Such a great night!

And so, from one great night to another! After a late night of singing and one too many glasses of Prince’s Ginger Liqueur I was, err, a little delicate on the Saturday, but undeterred all the same…

Lex Eat

Supperclub number two was Lex Eat, which is run by the lovely Alexis! So forget all the pre-conceived ideas I may have given you from Sheen Suppers – apart from the divine food, Lex Eat is nothing like it! For a start, you book your number but the dining is communal – so we were a two on a shared table of eight. You’re not split up from your friends / other halves or anything hideous like that, but you can expect to make polite conversation with your neighbours! The suggested donation here is £20 for an array of courses which I’ll talk about more shortly. It’s BYO booze but in actuality there was some booze included, which was a lovely surprise.

Alexis’s house is equally divine as Lara’s but in a totally different way. Imagine a clean, modern, minimalistic apartment with an amazing mezzanine floor, a vintage record player, and reviews and thank you letters pegged around the downstairs bathroom. It’s like something out of a magazine – really beautiful!

I have to say; I was wary of the communal dining concept, even though it’s quite popular at underground restaurants. It still wouldn’t be my first choice, but it was very cleverly done. On arrival we were introduced to other people on our table and encouraged to mingle. Then, at the table itself, the tablecloth (which was actually brown paper – very clever!) had notes all over it explaining the menu… But naturally you couldn’t see the whole table so you had to talk and share what was on and around your place setting. A really excellent way to get everyone talking!

So onto the food! Again, everything was home cooked…

On Arrival

A glass of bubbly moscato

Nibbles

Hot & spicy popcorn

Starter

Mushroom risotto with thinly shaved pear & amaretti biscuit crumbs

Main Course

Slow cooked pork belly with salsa verde, roasted butternut squash, bean salad + freshly baked foccacia

Palate Cleanser

Little spoon of coconut milk & lemongrass sorbet

Dessert

Almond tart with poached figs + orange & cardamom ice cream with a sprinkling of almond praline

(Plus the usual tea and coffee shenanigans, of course!)

Yet again there was nothing I didn’t like. The spicy popcorn was the find of the night for me – Lex kindly emailed me the recipe afterwards and I’ve made it twice since. Sooo good! Contrary to my initial expectation, the amaretti buscuits and pear worked really well with the mushroom risotto (I’m a bit of a mushroom risotto purist) and it was a great start to the meal. The pork for the course was also divine, though I have to say that I don’t think we really needed the foccacia – I did try some (and it was lush) but there was really plenty of food without it and I wasn’t totally sure it went with everything else. The sorbet palate cleanser was a fantastic idea – it was served on little spoons and was a really nice addition to the meal – very impressive! Dessert was another sugar-fest. The Almond Tart (served on very cool tiles!) was absolutely delicious and the ice cream cut into it really well.

Sadly, we had to leave a bit early (10pm – again, it started at 7.30pm) from Lex Eat because I had a train to catch, but I imagine the merriment continued for a good while after our departure!

So two fantastic nights all in all! Though both underground restaurants worked on the same principles you can’t even compare the two – they are such different experiences! And it’s really spurred me on to try and find some more. It was interesting to speak to the other guests at Lex Eat who had been to other places and had good and bad experiences. I guess we have chosen well so far!

If you want to find out more about supperclubs hen there is a Ning Network you can check out. I highly recommend everyone go to one – you will not get such good food at such great prices anywhere else, and it’s such a fun night! 🙂

That Little Thing Called Communication

So I have asthma. Not really bad asthma, but bad enough. I have a blue inhalor for attacks and red one for preventative use (I know, I know, they’re usually brown, but the brown ones make me worse for some reason?!) I’m not very good at using the red one – I just can’t seem to integrate it into my daily routine – so more often than not I let it get too bad and end up reaching for the blue one.

I’ve had asthma since I was 15 or 16 (half my life, almost!) and I can’t remember a time when my blue inhalor wasn’t a Ventolin. As the asthma sufferers out there will know, Ventolin is the brand of choice when it comes to reactive inhalors. They’re made by GSK and somehow have taken over the market. There are actually different types of Ventolin inhalor, but Salbutamol is the active ingredient in all of them, and it’s actually also available unbranded as a “generic medicine”, not just as Ventolin.

A couple of months ago I did an anonymous survey about my Ventolin inhalor. The idea was to find out how I’d feel about receiving a generic version instead. I hadn’t really thought about it before – as I say, I can’t actually remember a time when I haven’t been given Ventolin. The survey was quite thought provoking and the long and short of it was that I decided I’d be happy with a generic Salbutamol product, so long as it was identified to me by the Pharmacist.

Well guess what turned up in my collection from the Pharmacist the other week? A generic Salbutamol inhalor! And guess how I feel? Pretty naffed off  to be honest! I’ve gotta say, the fact that neither the Pharmacist or one of their assistants saw fit to take two (count ’em!) minutes out of their day to explain to me that, though it wasn’t a Ventolin, it’ll do the same thing, is really rubbish communication IMO! If it weren’t for the fact I’d done a survey on this very topic the other month, I would genuinely have believed that they’d issued me with the wrong prescription. I’d have taken it back down there and told them as much, and then I’d have been really mad that I’d gone all the way down there to change it when I found out it didn’t need changing.

I wonder how many people went back and questioned what they were issued? I wonder how much time they wasted with confused, angry customers when they could have taken just a minute or two to explain the situation?

If you’re a regular sufferer of something (anything) then the chances are you know and understand your medication quite well, so to have it changed on you without explanation is not good customer service. I think this is true of anything – if you have regular customers with expectations then it’s important that you meet them. And if you can’t meet them, or if you have to change a service or product that you offer for whatever reason, then you need to manage your customers’ expectations and communicate the change to them.

I go out of my way to give my custom to an independent Pharmacy because I think it’s important to support independent companies (especially with the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury and other big chains all diversifying and dominating the markets) but I’ve got to say, I’m really unimpressed by the communication in this instance and, if it happens again, I’ll be getting my prescriptions elsewhere…

</rant>

Social Media Holiday?

So my sister flew off to China the other week. We’re not really sure if/when she’ll be back as she hopes to stay a couple years and lots can happen in that time! (I’m thinking rich Chinese husbands here…)

China’s a beautiful country: I’ve had the pleasure of visiting a couple of times and it’s a truly amazing place so I can totally see the attraction. But China is also a bit of a black hole in terms of the internet and social media: No Facebook; no YouTube; no Wikipedia; sometimes access to blogs and Twitter, depending on the mood of the powers that be… To me, that makes it heaven on earth and hell on earth all at the same time! On one hand a beautiful, developing country steeped with a rich and fascinating history; and on the other hand lots of stuff I love banned

So my sister’s relocation had already got me thinking, but then I caught up with a friend last week too, and he got me thinking about it even more! He has just returned back from a self-imposed three month social media break. I was surprised – he seems to have survived unscathed (though it’s plausible he’s covering some deeper wounds…!) and all the better for it! So with my sister, my friend, China, and lots of recent talk on Twitter about social media stalking, I can’t help but wonder whether we shouldn’t all take a break from time to time. Take a chance to re-connect with the people and world around us! And  maybe it shouldn’t just be a social media holiday either – maybe it should be a break from technology in general. Smart phones, netbooks and laptops make everyone overly accessible these days. When do we really and truly turn off? I imagine some people do… People with more self-discipline than me… Maybe people with more money to burn or more commitments to keep… 

But I have no wish to stop my social media activity altogether. A lot of people don’t understand it (Mr J included) but it adds another dimension to my professional/personal development, my work life and my social life. When I started out it was more about networking, but as I’ve come to meet more and more people, and learn more and more new things, it’s benefitted me a lot on a work level too. We’ve had job opportunities, the chance to market ourselves more (for free, I might add!) plus I’ve learned so much about business, marketing, recruitment, and so on, and (I think) I’m able to bring a lot more to the table professionally as a result.

Though I personally think there’s a big future in social media, I know it’s not for everyone – the lines between my work life and personal life have never been so blurred as they are now. It’s a grey area made up of many different shades. And not just because of the relationships I’ve forged but also through the 24/7 access that it engenders: Be it helping a client with something on Twitter at 7am; emailing a student on the weekend; or responding to an amusing comment from a contact during work hours. Social media is such a blend of work and personal that I don’t really switch off from anything at all any more, but I’m kinda OK with that.

But social media is an integral part of my life and turning off from it would be difficult. Mr J and I naturally plan to holiday in China at some point during my sister’s stay, but it won’t just be a tourist holiday for me; it’ll be a social media holiday too! But maybe it’ll do me good. Maybe I need one. In fact, maybe we all do from time to time…


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About Me

Over ten years’ recruitment, employability, HR and sales experience in both the private and public sectors. I've worked in construction recruitment, FMCG headhunting, and in higher education on the employability agenda.

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