5 Reasons why you should go to Royal Albert Hall’s Classical Coffee Mornings

Royal Albert Hall’s Classical Coffee Mornings in the Elgar Room, a Sunday music event I’ve been following for a while now, began the year 2017 on a fabulous high note with a performance by Pierre Frapier and Jennifer Hughes from the Royal College of Music.

img_0752

I always enjoy this series and come out of it invigorated but this last experience was so good, I had to write up this piece and spread the word about it. So here goes… 5 Reasons why you should go to Classical Coffee Mornings:

  1. Classical can be casual

Yes, it’s great to go to fancy piano recitals at Wigmore Hall and dress up every now and then. And the musicians there of course deserve that respect of not showing up in torn up jeans. But classical music can also be leisurely enjoyed in sneakers with a cup of coffee and a pastry. Personally, I also occasionally feel like aside from the actual music, there’s some “see and be seen” going on at larger concerts, which takes away the focus from the music. That’s definitely not the case at Classical Coffee Mornings, where you just grab the best table available and sometimes share one with others who are all there to enjoy an hour of music on a Sunday morning.

  1. Get a glimpse of the future of classical music

We all know who the living greats are. Even if we may not necessarily be able to pick them out ourselves, the fact that they are at the Barbican, the Royal Albert Hall or other great venues with critics and a lifetime of success that confirms their greatness, we know what we’re getting. Some of them can be very young too and some performers at this series have also played in those halls. But at this concert series, you’re always presented with young musicians from the Royal College of Music. No beginners of their craft with impressive resumes for sure but certainly still at the beginning of what is hopefully a very long career. You can become one of their earliest fans and look forward to follow their growth. Isn’t that fantastic?

  1. It’s just an hour (and £12.50)!

Going to an evening concert always makes it the foimg_0813cal point of the day. You don’t just pop by, this is what you’re going for. While I do enjoy a full concert that goes on until half past nine, it does also require from the audience a whole lot of energy and focus. After twelve hour days at work that start at 7am, I’m not always in the mood for that and can’t handle it too often. An hour on a Sunday morning though? Easy enough. Also, if you have a loved one or friend who might not be too familiar with or finds classical music too boring or stiff (I’m not one of them! But let’s be honest, enough people feel that way), they might be put off by the idea of a concert. Why not gently introduce them to this beautiful world with a shorter performance? You can even tell them about Elton John’s Big Red and lure them in with that pop connection!

  1. Challenge and inspire yourself with diverse repertoire

I must confess that I’m not the most educated classical musician, so one of my New Year’s resolutions was that I wanted to expose myself to more diverse music and push myself to listen to more and new music I don’t know. At the Classical Coffee Morning series, there’s so much diveimg_0749rsity. One day I heard Natsumi Ikenaga perform well-known pieces such as Bach’s Partita No. 2 and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. But on my favourite Sunday so far, I had the pleasure to experience an American themed piano and violin performance with compositions by Dvorak, Ravel, Provost and Frolov. If I had to summarise this repertoire, it’s the stuff dreams are made of. So much beauty I didn’t know! So, whether you’re a musician yourself or not, go and find fresh creative inspiration here and take home some of that youthful energy from these wonderful performers.

  1. Make it a day out in South Kensington

The Classical Coffee Morning could be your energising creative start to a day out in South Kensington. My last one was followed by a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum’s “You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970” (until Feb 26) which was fittingly an exhibition driven by music. There are so many other choices within walking distance such as the Science Museum’s new mathematics wing, the Winton Gallery or the Natural History Museum’s “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” (which I check out every year), there’s bound to be something for you. I completed my day with a lunch at Bumpkin. There are plenty of other delicious options to pick from to complement your day, where you can sit down, discuss and digest your morning experience alongside good food. And while in the winter months, this might not be recommendable, you can always walk it all off with a stroll through Hyde Park. There you go! Your full Sunday planned!

So, here are my 5 reasons to check out this music series! Three more events scheduled until April. I hope to see you there and perhaps even share a table with you soon!

Advertisements

My Piano Repertoire Roadmap Fall 2016

After a few weeks of having a proper break from the piano (travelling, working on/drowning in my novel draft and very unlike me, just switching off 😮), I’m back with my love and have to say sometimes stepping away really does help to refocus 🎹.

I’ve spent some time today on setting out my repertoire roadmap ahead. I don’t know how other people go about these things but I like to have variation in my pieces and always try to mix it up with different targets in mind. Since an increasing number of people around me ask me what I’m playing at the moment (out of genuine interest rather than because they ran out of conversation I hope… 🤔), here’s what I’m working on right now:

The Challenge Piece: Ravel ‘Sonatine 1st Movement Modéré’

The first of the three Sonatines was completed in 1903 followed by the two others two years later. Personally, I only really like 1 and 3 and my attention span is way too short to enjoy these three in one go but… All three together are part of the DipABRSM repertoire list and the first pieces I’m preparing for that exam (and possibly the ARSM before that), so those are going to be my constant companion ahead. Hence, this is my challenge piece at the moment; something to step up to and to push my boundaries.

The Diversity Piece: Brahms ‘Hungarian Dance No. 5’ for four hands

The diversity piece is my space to try something different, be it a genre or style I haven’t tried before, which can still be technically demanding but perhaps not a piece that fits the bill of say an DipABRSM repertoire piece. This piece right now is a pet project I’m working on with my mum. Within the memories of total agony and tears learning the piano under a hugely talented and completely ruthless unforgiving very Asian mother (fortunately she despaired quickly enough), playing Diabelli’s Jugendfreuden together was a rare ray of light in the darkness. Attempting this four hands is rather exciting since we haven’t done anything like it in over twenty years and I only play solo.

The Easy Fun One: Arlen ‘Over the Rainbow’

Everyone knows ‘Over the Rainbow’. Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s version is not only the closing song to one of my fav romcoms (generally not a fan of them and especially not of Adam Sandler) but also holds a special place in my heart from an unforgettable holiday in Hawaii. This is an ABRSM grade 6 piece and an absolutely beautiful modern option to play. Perfect for some easy fun that still adds lots of joy and is pleasing to everyone around.

The Technical Piece: Chopin ‘Etude Op. 25 No. 2’

I rather enjoy doing an etude on the side and keep that in mind whenever I plan out my repertoire (although admittedly it’s the first component that drops off from my agenda when I don’t have enough time…) but so far had shunned Chopin preferring less popular selections like Moszkowski. This is my first attempt at a Chopin Etude… I know people can have mixed feelings about etudes but I have plenty on my list that I look forward to tackling alongside my other pieces.

Now that’s the roadmap… Let’s see how long it lasts 😝

So, that’s me: challenge, diversity, easy fun and technique pieces.

How do you choose your repertoire of simultaneous pieces? How much planning do you do ahead? Do you plan your repertoire around long-term goals? I’d love to hear how other pianists go about this!

 

‘Creative WHAT?’ – The different reactions I get from saying I’m a Creative Writing student

As the second term of my MA Creative Writing comes to an end, the boot camp element of our learning experience has been completed and we’re pretty much off on our own now, intermittent workshops and tutorials along the way. At this point, being part of a writers’ community is an undeniable and wonderful part of my life, which most of my friends and family know and accept. But it’s quite funny what sort of diverse reactions you can still get from saying you are on a creative writing course to other people. Apart from encouraging words of support, which I of course appreciate very much, there are several types which I’d like to describe here quickly:

  1. The ‘Creative WHAT?’-type
    More common among non-British or non-native English speakers, mostly because the concept of creative writing as something to learn in an academic setting, is often unheard of abroad. The “what?” can range from neutral ignorance to a derisive judgment that clearly in their eyes, creative writing cannot be considered a subject to study. We’re not naïve/stupid enough to believe we can be taught how to be a best-selling authors, but there’s still a lot in the art of writing that can be taught, much like even the best musicians or artists are not only born with a natural talent but have been taught along the way to grow that talent. Equally, if you’re absolute rubbish, throwing money into courses will only get you that far and we know that too.
  2. The ‘Are you writing about ME??’ paranoia-type
    Prevalent especially among my work colleagues, there seems to be some deep-rooted fear/paranoia that we must be writing about the people around us. To that I’d like to say, 1. Seriously, I have more interesting things going on in my life and 2. I did say CREATIVE writing, right? Although for some characters/scenes/ideas, I may draw from real life experiences, fiction is fiction because it’s fiction. Get it? So, while I might concede that some things are drawn from reality, a reason why I like writing is that writing can go beyond reality, bending time and space, allowing for anything to happen on a piece of paper.
  3. The ‘Oh, I’ve got a great story you can write about!’-type
    In stark contrast to the previous type, this one WANTS us to write about them and then goes into great detail about their story idea. You can tell us your idea and I really don’t mind. The more I know about the world, the more material I have. But do bear in mind that someone who has decided to become a writer hasn’t done so because he has one idea he wants to write about. Most of us just want to write A LOT and have loads of ideas and if anything, are struggling to choose what to write about within that. Still, thank you for any of your suggestions.
  4. The ‘So, are you going to be the next Man Booker Prize/Nobel Prize in Literature winner?’-type
    This can come in various tones from absolute sarcastic joke to naïve belief that this can just be done like that. To those that joke, I’d like to say, why not? It could be! More likely me than you, who is not writing, right? And to those that believe it’s possible, I thank you for that belief in me but I’d also like you to understand that it’s not that easy. Just like you could be an office worker who never gets promoted, we could be writers who never get published. The spectrum is large and while most of us wouldn’t say no to a prize, we’re equally happy to accept that we can be writers (even good writers!) without that.
  5. The ‘I always wanted to write too!’-type
    Well, go on! Write! You can write for yourself or join a group and if you choose the latter, there are endless opportunities from short one-day courses, through to regular creative writing groups and university-certified courses like mine. I encourage anyone who ever thought to write, to write!

Anyone wants to share their experiences? Write me! 🙂

A Tale for the Time Being – bending time and space

How often does it happen that the narrator’s great-uncle died in the same way as your own, sharing the same ideals? My great-uncle was a Sky Soldier (a Kamikaze pilot) too who was a pacifist at heart and was forced to die for his country just like Nao’s great-uncle, Hiroki #1 as she calls him. My great-uncle was a student of German studies and kept a German book  with him until the very end. And like the secret diary Nao discovers, the book which contained his handwritten notes was salvaged later and returned to his sister in the 1970s. I only learnt about this last detail now asking my mother more about him, after reading Ozeki’s Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel “A Tale for the Time Being.”


For the past ten years, whenever anyone asked me whether I had a favourite book, I said Goethe’s Faust. That’s because at some point in time when I was perhaps eighteen that might have been true but mostly because I really didn’t have a favourite anymore. I could also never truly identify with a character in a novel nor share their cultural values. This all changed when I read “A Tale for the Time Being.”

Everything Ozeki writes about Japan is so true, so real (no matter how disturbing and unreal it may sound in a Westener’s eyes) and a reflection of contemporary Japan while incorporating the traditional values, all from the viewpoint of a true 帰国子女 (Japanese returnee students). I’ve never been bullied in the way Nao has been, nor did I have any other painful experiences but having lost my father at a young age, I once attempted to integrate into Japanese society as a high school student… And failed miserably. I loved the details, the stories within the stories (like the former soldier who donated money to save whales) and wondered which details were based on the author’s own life and which weren’t but that’s always the secret of a writer. In a way, I wish it would all be true because the world would be a wonderful place if it were so magical.

 

Summarizing the story, telling you Ruth in British Columbia discovers a lunchbox washed up on the shore that contains the diary of a 16-year-old suicidal girl, Nao Yasutani, living in Tokyo, and gradually gets sucked into her life, does this book no justice at all. Reading precisely this sort of plot summary is what put me off this book in the first place. What this story really does is effortlessly bend time and place, and in the process create a magical world, where everything is somehow connected and anything is possible. The reader becomes the writer, the reality fiction and vice versa. 

 

I’m not religious nor do I believe in many things, but I do believe in some sort of destiny (like the one that brought my pet garden snails, my turtles and my dog into my life) where we’re all connected and can’t help but believe I was meant to read this book. I always had a totally unfounded negative bias towards English-writing Japanese authors and I would have never read this one if it wasn’t for Philip Palmer, who in one workshop on alternative worlds in my MA Creative Writing, couldn’t stop praising this book. 

 

Do you feel like I’ve told you absolutely nothing at this point? Then, there’s only one thing I can tell you now: read this book.

The Providores and Tapa Room – Total Fusion Delight

Clearly I’m late to the show with my discovery of The Providores & Tapa Room, as once I shared my Friday night experience with my colleagues, several recognized one of their favorite restaurants. But better late than never! As I had an appointment near Baker Street, my friend spontaneously booked a table in the upstairs restaurant. Not knowing what to expect, I was taken aback at first, entering the busy Tapa Room, a bit too loud for my taste. But I was quickly directed upstairs to a much quieter and simple but elegant environment.

From the name, expecting something Spanish, the fusion menu – and we’re talking REAL FUSION – took me by surprise. What is left of Spanish is probably only the tapas style dishes, where it’s recommended to order two to five courses from the menu. We opted for 3 courses plus a dessert. Adding to that, from their wide selection of New Zealand wines, I had a glass of Gewürztraminer, sweet round and fresh, as I like it.

My first dish: “Coconut and black cardamom laksa, a chicken hijiki dumpling, soba noodles, soy truffled shimeji mushrooms, a soft boiled quail’s egg, crispy shallots, coriander.”

20140425_194322

Laksa with… dumbling and soba noodles?? AND a quail’s egg?? It all seemed too weird to be any good. Appropriately delivered with chopsticks, the coconut taste in the laksa was delicious going well with the dumplings. What was still weird were the soba noodles. Not so weird as to be bad but… Still made you wonder if fusion had to go that far.

My second dish: “Salad of freekeh, goats’ curd, endive, hazelnuts, grilled aubergine and spring onions, pickled raisin purée, roast tomato miso dressing.”

20140425_201454

This was way easier to understand and to digest. I’m a big freekeh fan already and welcome the cereal in my dishes. A very well-balanced dish with the creamy texture of goat’s curd and a fresh dressing made this one a dish I’d like to recomment

 

My third dish: “Seared yellowfin tuna, papaya, carrot, cucumber and coriander salad, Thai lime dressing, peanuts, sesame.”

20140425_203618

The thick pieces of yellowfin tuna were so juicy they could have rivalled a steak. If I had any nag, it was that the experience was over too quickly. Perhaps one more piece of tuna?

To finish off the evening, I went for the rather tame “toasted coconut Frozen hazelnut nougat, cafe latte ice cream, cherry ponzu sauce, hazelnut snow.”

20140425_210601

While I’m more than happy to experiment during the course of a meal, I’d like the certainty of a delicious dessert at the end. This one definitely succeeded. Although slightly worried by the cherry ponzu sauce, even this tasted well with the nougat, adding a bitter-sweet refreshing taste.

Two courses £33
Three courses £47
Four courses £57
Five courses £63

Plus a discretionary 12.5% service charge added to the bill.

The Providores has a warm and welcoming atmosphere to it. Although not easy on the wallet, the fusion cuisine is surely worth the experience. I’d recommend it for a small group of friends to celebrate together a night off.

Price: ££££

Food: ****

Service: *****

Decor: ***

 

Square Meal

 

 

A Wrong Proposal

They are sitting in a French restaurant just off Spitalfield, the one where they went for their first date ever. She never really liked it but still hasn’t gotten around to telling him, the romantic that he is, attaching special significance to it. Frankly she doesn’t care enough anyway, given he is footing the bill. He had suggested having dinner here last night and Christine had found it odd, knowing you had to book this popular place weeks in advance, especially a quiet corner spot like this one. He has to be up to something. Maybe he has something to confess, she thinks. She observes him. He looks nervous, sweat pearls building up on his forehead. So revolting, she thinks. Christine hates sweat.

She doesn’t see his left hand holding on tightly to the little dark red box deforming his jacket pocket, the treasure worth multiple months of his salary that he’s been holding on to for weeks now in anticipation. He had considered the champagne glass ploy, but once saw an episode of “Two and a Half Men” where the unsuspecting girlfriend ends up swallowing the surprise and decided to play it safe. Despite having visualized the moment over and over again, now that he’s here, his mind is a blank canvass. He tells himself all he needs to do is say four little words and go down on one knee without breaking his trousers.

“Would you like some wine tonight with your dinner? Shall I call the sommelier.” The waiter says after having taken the order, but George, his eyes burning holes into the menu doesn’t hear a word. She looks at him, giving off a mental sigh.

“George, do you want any wine? George?” Christine almost shouts pushing the menu forward and down.

“Huh?” George says, his face finally revealed to her again.

“Do you want some wine the waiter asked. I’ll take a glass but if you’re drinking too we can get a bottle.” Christine says, mild impatience in her tone. He is so distracted, what is going on, she wonders.

“Yes yes… Let’s have some wine…” The waiter walks off. His fingers are getting sticky and he starts rotating the box between his fingers. Closing his eyes, the smell of fresh bread left on the table fills his nostrils and he lets his mind wander through time to their first night here. She was so beautiful. She is so beautiful. And soon she’ll be all his.

The sommelier asks the usual questions; what are they having, fish or meat, do they have any preference on region and so on. George answers, his voice so weak, almost a whisper. What is the matter with him? Doesn’t he want to be here? After all it was his idea and she has better things to do than sit at a table with a man who doesn’t appreciate her presence. If he has something to say, he should spill it out soon, she thinks. Short-tempered as she is, she is boiling inside and lets her anger be reflected by picking the most expensive wine on the list, despite her having no idea what it is. Something from France with a high price tag, that’s all she needs to know at that moment. This time she gives off an audible sigh.

He winces at the price but tells himself there’s nothing that can be too much for this special day. He looks at her and for a brief moment he thinks she might be annoyed but can’t fathom why and instead dismisses it, deciding he must be imagining.

As the sommelier walks off, George suddenly shouts out much louder than normally acceptable in a restaurant. “Wait! Before the wine, could you bring us some Champagne?” After all these years, he doesn’t even know she hates Champagne. What is she doing with this man who clearly isn’t listening to her.

The sommelier complies and a few moments later, the champagne appears. Now or never, George thinks.

George raises his glass, readying his left hand. “Darling, there is something I need to tell you…” He says. Here it comes, she thinks. Her brain cells are in overdrive, playing out every scenario there is, more for entertainment than because she really cares. Did he cheat on her? Did he lose his job? Or is he gay? No, He definitely isn’t gay. But then again maybe his high sex drive is just an act to overcompensate for the fact that he really is. Maybe he cheated on her with a man at work and lost his job, now that would be funny, she thinks.

Her trail of thoughts is shattered by a woman’s scream on the other table.

“Oh my god, oh my god, this can’t be happening!”

They both turn to see a man down on one knee extending a blindingly sparkling item. It’s bigger than his, George thinks panicking. The woman is almost in tears. While his voice is too quiet to be heard, her “Yes! Of course, yes!” is more than audible.

Christine rolls her eyes in disgust at this pathetic public display of wanna-be relationship. She leans over and whispers to him. “Proposing in a restaurant, isn’t that so lame.”

George drops back the little box in his pocket. Not today.

 

Magdalen – Beautifully unpretentious fine food

So this is my second review in 2014 and for the second time, I’ll be raving about the place, making me worry whether I lost my “edge,” but I do believe I just happen to have a lucky food start to the year.

Recommended by a friend’s colleague, five of us Japanese finance girls in London ventured to the Magdalen last week for our girls night out, the location of London Bridge often chosen as a good compromise for the City vs Canary Wharf crowd that needs to be accommodated. Part of the modern day phenomenon, relying dangerously too much on Google maps, I wasted a few minutes walking up and down the corner of Tooley and Shand Street before activating my brain the tiniest bit and actually checking the address which indicated that Google maps was in fact lying to me, the restaurant being just one block down on Tooley Street itself.

Having booked for 18:30, it was a rather early dinner and despite it being Thursday evening, I was the first one in (first one from my table as well). The initial quietness was temporary though, as soon enough the place was buzzing with guests. The very tastefully decorated wooden interior had an elegant understatement about it, which was to be reflected in the food as well.

The seasonal menu (I LOVE seasonal menus!) was easily structured on a one page double print with today’s date. There was a selection of about eight starters and main courses each with starters ranging from £8 to £12 and mains around £18 (though mine was over that at £23.50). A challenge for a group of non-native speakers like us (despite decent English skills) was to understand what was on offer. Braised Dexter featherblade? (We wrongly deduced it must be some kind of bird) Roast Calves sweetbreads? (We were pretty sure it had nothing to do with bread) Gurnard and Kid? (We could hardly tell whether this was about some animal or not) After a few google searches and asking our friendly waiter however, we narrowed down our selection.

20140123_194447For the starters, we were split between the Devon crab salad and Italian ham and baked ricotta toast (3 to 2). My starter of Devon crab salad was nicely presented with the few pieces of blood orange giving a refreshing zest to the more than satisfying amount of crab meat. But I must say the Italian ham on the other side of the table looked more than delicious, again with plentiful of that salty ham, the flavour filling up the air, with the baked toast.

20140123_204336On the mains, we went all our ways and I chose the calves sweetbreads (after having researched what it is). Now I know sweetbread isn’t to everyone’s taste and although I’m a sweetbread lover and could go for almost any form, I believe these were very nicely prepared to even please the amateur or first timer out there. While still having that strong juiciness, the meat wasn’t all too chewy or fatty and was also very mild in taste to enjoy.

20140123_212150Nothing really jumped at me on the dessert menu but I still went for the chocolate tart. Although the tart was fully meeting my expectations, the fruit pieces in the Armagnac ice weren’t necessarily to my taste. Still, with my camomile tea, the tart with just the right amount of moisture went down well.

If I were to come up with any shortcomings…(And that would definitely qualify as nit-picking) It’s that we got four pieces of bread even though we were five!

My menu for the night:

Devon crab salad, blood orange and salsify £11.00

Roast calves sweetbreads, braised lettuce, white beans and chicken juices £23.50

Chocolate tart and prune & Armagnac ice cream £6.50

Our girls night out averaged £52 with three courses and a bottle of white wine. The Magdalen is a very classy restaurant of understatement with caring hosts where food definitely plays the central role. I’d recommend it for either a date (not necessarily that anniversary celebration but definitely more than your average weekly dinner out) or a small group, quiet enough to enjoy food as well as conversation.

 

Price: ££££

Food: *****

Service: *****

Decor: ****

 

Square Meal

Sushisamba – Converting the Fusion sceptic in me

My first restaurant review in 2014 aptly connects to last year having had to book well more than a month in advance to pick a date that worked for us. After reading quite a few critical reviews on Sushisamba, I feel hesitant to say it, anxious to come across as too simple and naïve in taste but… I must admit I absolutely loved my experience there celebrating a friend’s birthday, easily catapulting it into my Top 5 special occasions restaurants in London.

“Fusion cuisine” is a word that usually makes me queazy and I’m especially skeptical of the results when it involves my delicate native Japanese cuisine abused and brutalised for the sake of a modern food experiment. And so I came with more than a healthy amount of bias towards this Peruvian Brazilian Japanese fusion food from across the pond.

On the 38/39th floor of Heron Tower, getting to Sushisamba I must say was a bit of a wanna-be fussy show walking through the door next to the neon orange restaurant sign on the ground floor past the receptionist walking through a short small corridor to the glass elevator. Not for people suffering acrophobia, the fast elevator provides a clear view of the city. Finally on the 38th, there was yet another small corridor to cross to finally reach the restaurant’s cloak room. Perhaps it was because we arrived at the same time as another party but guidance was lost somewhere and we ended up standing in the bar area not really knowing which way to go. After apprehending one of the many waiters rushing by, we were guided to the receptionist. After some waiting, our voyage finally came to an end, seated at a window table with a perfect view over London and the Thames which helped appease my earlier irritation. From then on, the entire experience was almost impeccable.

The interior was modern stylish. I had seen the terrace with the illuminated tree already online but the real view was even more stunning. We also came with the perfect weather to enjoy it. The lighting was very unique, not too obnoxious to steal the attention away from the food or service and yet very detailed. If you ever run into a conversational standstill, you can definitely bridge the gap discussing the various lightbulbs in the room.

2014-01-19 19.23.24

Our friendly waiter explained the menu perfectly well (his Spanish accent took a while getting used to but he made up for it in his charming manner), also highlighting his personal preferences without any hesitance. Whether or not I follow recommendations, I do like waiters who have an own opinion and give me a feeling of knowing and caring about the place they work at.

And so following our waiter’s suggestion to pick 2 to 3 dishes (not from the large plates which are for bigger groups) per person and choosing a few of his recommendations, we ended up with the following mix:

From the small plates

2014-01-19 19.32.10CRISPY TAQUITOS (2 per order) £12.00

Yellowtail avocado and roasted corn miso

WAGYU GYOZA  £12.00

Kabocha puree, sesame and su-shoyu dipping sauce

From the raw section

SASHIMI SEVICHE ‘MIXTO’ £11.00

Octopus, prawn, south coast white fish, sweet potato, aji limo leche de tigre

From the Robata

2014-01-19 20.05.11SALMON £14.00

Orange miso, peruvian dark chocolate

And finally from the Samba Rolls

SAMBA LONDON £16.00

Crab, tuna, salmon, white fish, prawn, scallop, wagyu, avocado, tempura crunch, wasabi mayo, aji panca, housemade soy reduction

STRAWBERRY MAKI £14.00

Soy paper roll, goma wakame, strawberry, yuzu crab mayo, tobiko caviar, avocado, sweet potato, wasabi mayo

2014-01-19 20.09.44

Strawberries in rice?? Dark chocolate on salmon??? We had our doubts. But almost as a dare, took up the challenge, only to find ourselves truly impressed by the level of sophistication and thought put into the dishes, not only in terms of taste but artistic display. It was truly fusion cuisine with influences of all three cuisines collaborating in our dishes. Daring, challenging and delicious.

After this more than filling meal, we took a peek at the dessert menu. ASSORTED MOCHI? We were a bit worried we might end up with the Japanese supermarket frozen food variant just a bit touched up, but were pleasantly surprised by a colourful dessert with so many diverse ice fillings. I myself went for the YUZU TART CHEESECAKE our waiter couldn’t stop marvelling about. The presentation was nothing like I expected: glazed scoop of ice cream, once you cracked the surface, a cheesecake with a magical freshness awaited.

2014-01-19 21.16.502014-01-19 21.16.41ASSORTED MOCHI £8.00

soft japanese rice cake filled with ice cream

YUZU TART CHEESECAKE £13.00

sugar sphere, crispy yuzu, strawberry gelée, yuzu-basil granité, orange zest

At the end of our dinner, like so many of the popular busy places, the next group was waiting to get our table, but without any rushing, our waiters at Sushisamba, more than polite, kindly suggested we could move on to the bar to enjoy the view some more. On this occasion we didn’t, but we’ll sure do next time.

Square Meal

The Letter and the Speech (or Documents of a Twisted Personality)

I sit, the blank digital page of the screen shining against me in the dark, take a sip of water and sigh. Looking down, looking up again, I finally take my fingers to the keyboard.

For those who don’t already know me, I am Allison and the Maid of Honour today. Claudia and I know each other for fourteen years now and I am touched to be standing here today on one of the most special days of her life. This wedding is double special for me as the groom has grown over the past year to become a very close friend of mine too.

I have known Claudia from just about the age where boys started to play any role and have accompanied her through all her ups and downs, loves and heartbreaks. There are many funny memories I cannot share in this censored environment. Instead I’d like to focus today on clearly the only one relationship that ever mattered.

When it comes to Sandeep and Claudia’s relationship, I had a front row seat in the movie theatre premiere, having been there from the earliest days. I remember Sandeep’s fierce courtship and Claudia’s denial, hesitant to lose a wonderful friendship. But it’s perhaps just that hesitance that made this relationship even greater when she finally gave in. Because when that first kiss was shared on our living room couch, it wasn’t just a steamy moment but a sweet promise of all that would eventually come.

There are two key moments I remember thereafter:

February 2013, the visit to Singapore

The day you, Claudia, came back from visiting Singapore and Sandeep’s family for the first time officially as his girlfriend. You were all smiles telling me how much you loved it there, how wonderful his mother was, taking you in her arms like you were her own daughter. I never told you this, but that day I cried alone in my room, in happiness and sadness. Happiness because I knew you had finally found the one. Sadness because I knew that it was the end of an era for you and me.

June 2013, the proposal preparation

When Sandeep messaged me asking me to meet him in the nearby pub in the City, I knew it was serious. I didn’t dare say anything but already knew what he was going to ask.

“I want to steal your roommate from you,” he said half asking as if requiring my permission. From this day on, I spoke to Sandeep almost every day, planning the proposal, collaborating on secretly measuring Claudia’s ring size, discussing when and where the proposal was to take place, even suggesting he should practice going down on one knee, making sure his trousers don’t crack. The highlight of it all was that I was allowed to be a part of that very special moment, right there in that romantic setting of their favourite French restaurant where Sandeep was so nervous he couldn’t get the ring out, while Claudia was gasping and in tears.

Another fourteen months have passed since that special night. Although you are husband and wife for the first time today, I know your hearts and souls have merged already long ago.

Now, I invite you all to stand and raise your glasses in a toast to Claudia and Sandeep, wishing them ever-lasting love and happiness in their new life. To new beginnings!

I put my fingers to rest. I read over the draft and save it as “Claudia_wedding_speech.doc.” I open a fresh page, sigh once more and type away again.

Dear Claudia,

I know this must be coming as a shock to you but I cannot hold it any longer. Today, I am writing you to request terminating our friendship. We know each other for over a decade and have been sharing a flat for half of that time and so it may seem irrational of me to request such a sudden end.

But truth be told, for the longest time, ours was a marriage of convenience, me having a two bedroom flat and you being a clean person to live with. When you started to refer to me as your ‘best friend’ or ‘soul sister,’ I was taken aback. To me, you were nothing more than a person who lived in the same square-foot space who paid me regularly. And yet, like a weak-willed man giving in to an overbearing girlfriend, I gave in to your neediness and have a couple of years ago even decided to upgrade your status in my mind and call you a friend.

Continue reading “The Letter and the Speech (or Documents of a Twisted Personality)”