Japan Calling

IMG_0390“I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m on holiday, not in Maida Vale” I said to The Brunette – my dinner companion for the evening. Contemplating the decor of our newest local restaurant  immediately imbued a sense of relaxation and calm. Dark wood, mirrored strips on walls – a nod to Japanese lacquer – minimal tables and a soupçon of light jazz to be heard in the background provided the comfort of the traditional with the frisson of the new.

A Gordon Ramsey type restaurant this isn’t.  If you’re after cooks shouting orders: ‘SERVICE! NOW!!’ you won’t find it here. Instead, sitting up at the kitchen bar – possibly the most action packed location of any restaurant – Ken and Masato Nezu noiselessly and respectfully went about their business creating exquisitely simple, wonderful to behold dishes.

fullsizeoutput_27a0Manners maketh man and most certainly add to the enjoyment of dinner out on a Wednesday night.  Politely we were asked what we’d like to drink.  We discussed the options with Toru the owner: “Try the sparkling Sake” he told us, “It’s light, not too strong, I think you’ll be okay.” He was right; gently floral, the colour of effervescent water it was to be relished for itself rather than any unwanted effects.

IMG_0377We took our food recommendations from Ken: “This is nothing special” he repeatedly told us. Yellowtailed carpaccio with truffle oil, grilled asparagus with sesame dressing defined with threads of chilli as a starter told us otherwise.

Venturing into the territory of the mains our reactions seemed to surprise him; but when sushi and sashimi plates are this good it’s hard not to express delight. The smoked eel sushi took me out of my comfort zone into a new level of enjoyment. This is not the challenging eel of cockney lore, rather a super tender smokey hot mouthful with the delicate crunch of cucumber, wrapped in rice so good the entire experience was synergy personified.

Finishing up with sesame and Yuzu fruit ice cream followed by a cup of Genami tea, Toru gave us some backstory: “Our chefs are from a sushi family, we invited them from Nobu. It is an art to create this food.  In Japan an apprentice doesn’t touch the fish for three years – they just watch. How you cut the fish alters the flavour; knives have to be sharp. How you press the rice requires just the right amount of pressure; the temperature is vital. Everything has to come together – into one. It takes time.

We left ‘Japan’ light but replete, warmed but refreshed: “How appropriate that two friends from choir should have such a harmonious evening” The Brunette remarked as the Murasaki team bade us ‘Good Night.’

Many thanks to Toru, Ken, Masato Nezu, Piyumi and Kauri for a delightful evening. Murasaki, 12 Lauderdale Road, London W9


The Image of Beauty

IMG_1686The first pedicure of the season is always a reason to be cheerful.  And, cheerful is the order of the day at Village of Beauty.

I walked in to sunshine streaming onto the plumply cushioned window seats.  Instantly at home I felt the need to lie down on one, like a kitten about to be pampered to within an inch of its life.

“Oh, our clients often want to do this” Kamila told me, “In fact one of them did, she fell asleep right there.”

I could just imagine. What’s not to love about a comfy sofa-like seat, sunshine on your face and the gentle hum around you of ‘me’ time being relished.

Downstairs I lay back on the therapist’s bed and thought of beaches and waves, sea salt and sangria that a treatment of this nature usually precludes. Kamila’s voice softly spoke to me, and any pain was minimised.

I noticed a photograph of Marilyn on the wall and asked where it came from.  “I’ve never seen that picture of her in my life before” I said, astonished.
“Ah, I pick it up at a car boot sale – it was just £1, somewhere in Wimbledon I think.”

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Premium Non Drop

P1070022I can’t help it, West London brings out the capitals in CWS: It’s the second time in almost as many weeks I’ve had to do this with a title. But then Pines and Needles is yet another example of this part of the world keeping it real – and in the family as it were.

Most of the year on the corner of Shirland road a stalwart of a dry cleaners can be found, but in December something magical happens.  A vertitable forest of fragrant pine trees appear, men in kilts run about the place – up and down ladders, hoisting trees over their shoulders, carrying them from the rooftop storage, and purveying them to anyone with the romance of a traditional Christmas still in their hearts.

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