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

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Taxi ride

FullSizeRender 23I hopped into an Uber. One of my first.  Would the driver be ‘black cab’ chatty, or would the whole process of booking a car through a phone app remove that human element?

I sat back appreciating clear blue skies after another frosty London night.  Glorious sunshine encouraged conversation and I couldn’t resist on reverting to that classic opening line.

“Oh yes, it’s beautiful alright.  How long will it last though?” said Afonso.
“Well, I guess we get the good and the bad, the latter makes you appreciate the first – right?” I commented.
“Oh yeah, that was brought home to me very recently by my son.” I caught his eye in the mirror.

I’ve had a notion to ask an Uber driver his story for a while now and this was my chance.  How had he come about this work I wondered and had he always been a cab driver?

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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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Home is a Disco Ball

P1060996Serena Morton’s disco party is deserving of capitals.

I arrived at her gallery in deepest and on this occasion, coolest West London, late – to find most guests had just vanished to the after party.  (I couldn’t help it. I’d been to the Irish Embassy for something – anything – and one does not like to leave the Ambassador early).  One of the security guards offered me a quick look around before locking up.

P1060948I knew it would be right up Conversation with Strangers’ street.  Disco.  Just that word is evocative of fun, decadence, good times and the inevitable classic tunes.  I looked at the photos on display taken by Bill Bernstein to celebrate his book launch. I was there. I could feel the energy, the eccentricity and that feeling of being with like minded souls.

A gold lurex clad dame approached me.  “Hi, I’m Serena.  Would you like a lift to the party?”  I hopped into a blacked-out-windowed vehicle and met others of her entourage:  Long haired polite pretty girls who welcomed me enthusiastically.

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