A London Fish and Chips Story: Sometimes, You Can’t Go Back, But You Can Go Forward

The famous fish and chips at Geales
London is just so London – Foggy day or not, I love it!

I’m an Anglophile

Glover Gardens followers know that I love London. I have for a long, long time. I’ve been an anglophile since reading The Secret Garden and Great Expectations as a child. My first actual foray into that foggy town was in 1997, and I’ve probably been there 20 times since. Every time I get into London, I’m torn between retracing my steps and trying something new.

Tell me – how does a gal decide between serendipity and going back to enjoy a beloved spot once again?

Retracing My Steps to Geales

Serendipity often wins, but last December, I finally went back to a cozy little seafood restaurant I had happened upon early in 2004 and returned to several times that year as part of a series of business trips. Just off the beaten path in Kensington near Notting Hill Gate, Geales has been open since 1939. That’s 80 years of serving seafood – they know what they’re doing!

From the Geales website

More Posh Than I Remembered

It was cold and drizzly on that December 2018 evening when I went back to Geales, and a little spot at a corner table was just what I needed to warm up. The place was more sophisticated than I remembered; back in 2004 it was loud and crowded, had a fisherman’s-wharf / corner market feel with fish and chips served in newspaper, and maybe even red-checked oilcloth on the tables. Travel-weary and in T-shirt and jeans, I felt a little underdressed in the genteel surroundings; you’ll note how smartly dressed the folks at the next table are.

View from my corner table; I did some people-watching and got caught (by the lady)

While researching Geales to write this post, I learned that there was a big revamp done in 2007 and a change of ownership, which explains the more upscale decor (slick but unfussy).

Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor
This photo courtesy of TripAdvisor
Photo from Geales via USA Today article

Let’s Talk about the Food

But let’s put the decor aside and talk about the food. The menu has definitely been updated. How updated? Well, alongside classics like mussels, fish and chips, fish pie and fish cakes, there are choices like lobster linguini with sun-dried tomatoes, and wild mushroom risotto with truffle oil. I’d have dressed better if I’d known that!

Lobster linguini from the Geales Facebook page

My first course was taramasalata. It was an excellent version of this special cod roe-based spread, very light and creamy, and not dyed an artificial pink like so many are. I’m pretty sure that Geales didn’t have taramasalata back in the early 2000s; that’s part of its new sophistication.

Taramasalata with grilled flatbread

My dish of choice back in 2004 was usually mussels served in a tin bucket, but I went for the grilled fish this time. However, it was my waitperson’s second day on the job, and she brought me fish and chips instead. She was delightful, young and earnest, and I didn’t have the heart to complain. So I ate it. Wouldn’t you? When in London…

Fish and chips with mushy peas

I almost never eat fried food, but the fish and chips were delicious, and the mushy peas were the perfect accompaniment. So very British. Breaking with tradition, I went for Tabasco instead of malt vinegar, threatening my Anglophile status. But hey, Tabasco is a global thing, right?

A Worthy Fish and Chips Experience

I didn’t realize until I was writing this post that Geales was ranked #3 on USA Today’s article, the 10 Best London Fish and Chips Restaurants. Perhaps I was meant to have fish and chips on that rainy London night. Serendipity.

All-in-all, it was a nice meal and worthy experience. While I was expecting the homey warmth and fish-market ambience that I had enjoyed in the earlier version of Geales, I got over my surprise at its more upscale vibe pretty quickly as I savored the food and the people-watching. (People-watching was always good at Geales.)

The Serendipity of the Unknown and Surprising

My conclusion is that sometimes, you can’t go back. What was there before no longer exists in the same form. But if you take a step back, look at it as something new, an opportunity, perhaps you can go forward. When the known and comfortable becomes the unknown and surprising, it can be serendipity.

Haiku: The Chip Shop

serendipitous
mushy peas and fish and chips
unspoiled by poshness

National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo)

Note: because February is National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo) and I’m a habitual haiku-er (is that a word?), all posts will have a related haiku. For more Glover Gardens haiku, click here.

© 2019 Glover Gardens

January Dreaming: April in Paris in the Gardens

The seventh post in a series, January Dreaming. Click for the series, and see the end of the post for the backstory.

It’s January. It’s cold, dreary and wet. So I’m dreaming. Of Paris in April.

When I’m in Paris, I do my best to visit as many gardens as possible.  My oh my, do I love Paris! Especially in the spring.  It’s no wonder that the City of Lights has inspired so many songs, including the classic April in Paris.

There’s a link to one of my favorite recordings of that jazz classic at the end of the post, along with the lyrics.  But this post isn’t about jazz, it’s about the dazzling colors and green spaces you find all over Paris.  There just isn’t enough time, however long the trip, to enjoy them all. Ever. So … you just have to go back, again and again. Here are a few gardens pics, from just one trip in April of 2017, taken over just one weekend between two very busy work weeks. I’m not giving details about the locations in this post, because it’s really about the big picture: just GO. Paris will not disappoint you in April. And dreaming about it in January is… Just. So. Right.

April in Paris

https://youtu.be/XeKC0vxCc_w

Lyrics

Composer:  Vernon Duke
Lyrics: Yip Harburg*

I never knew the charm of spring
I never met it face to face
I never new my heart could sing
I never missed a warm embrace

‘Til April in Paris, chestnuts in blossom
Holiday tables under the trees
April in Paris, this is a feeling
That no one can ever reprise

I never knew the charm of spring
I never met it face to face
I never new my heart could sing
I never missed a warm embrace

‘Til April in Paris
Whom can I run to
What have you done to my heart

*Did you know? Yip Harburg wrote the lyrics to all the songs in The Wizard of Oz.

The Backstory of the January Dreaming Series

If you read this post, January Dreaming, you know that the inspiration for this series is my Mom’s longstanding loathing of the pitiful month of January. Like her, we’re dreaming of good times in warmer months, and celebrating those good times in this series.

© 2019 Glover Gardens

January Dreaming: Scotland’s Stonehaven Harbor in August

Stonehaven Harbor

The sixth post in a series, January Dreaming. Click for the series, and see the end of the post for the backstory.

Sunny good times of the past get us through dreary Januaries of the present. Today, the focus is on Stonehaven Harbor on the Scottish coast.

It was a glorious August Saturday when two colleagues and I happily found ourselves in Aberdeenshire’s picturesque Stonehaven Harbor, giddy from a trip to nearby Dunnottar Castle. The castle is the subject of a future post, so I’ll just share one photo here to whet your appetite.

Approaching the ruins of Dunnottar Castle in Aberdeenshire

Glorious, isn’t it?

The nearest town to Dunnottar Castle is Stonehaven, and the harborside is delightful. Enjoy these memories with me.

The street along the harbor is shared by pedestrians, cars and dogs and we even saw a dad pulling a small boat on a trailer while his sons pushed, no one moving with a sense of urgency.

Pub customers took their beers outside to enjoy the sunshine and blue skies on that August Saturday. I took out my camera and started shutter-bugging. I had just learned from Ray of The Storyteller blog how to ask permission to take a photo with a glance and a nod, which I did. (Thanks, Ray, it worked!)

Happy with the beer in the sunshine

This gentleman reminded me so much of beach locals on the Bolivar Peninsula in Southeast Texas where I grew up. Tanned, laid back, slightly scruffy, reveling in the coastal, outdoorsy life, not caring at all what the rest of the world thinks, marching to his own drummer. He was really nice and somewhat bemused by my interest and intent to put him in the blog, as were the young ladies he had stationed himself beside.

The scenery and people-watching is fantastic at Stonehaven Harbor. And like everywhere else in Scotland, there are flowers, flowers and more flowers, and benches for enjoying the view.

If you find yourself in Scotland’s Aberdeenshire region, don’t miss Stonehaven. The memories you make will linger long afterward, and warm you up on a cold January day.

The Backstory for the Series

If you read this post, January Dreaming, you know that the inspiration for this series is my Mom’s longstanding loathing of the pitiful month of January. Like her, we’re dreaming of good times in warmer months, and celebrating those good times in this series.

© 2019 Glover Gardens

January Dreaming: Kensington Palace High Tea and Gardens

The fifth post in a series, January Dreaming. Click for the series, and see the end of the post for the backstory.

In the dead of winter, it’s nice to dream of warmer good times. On this overcast January afternoon, I’m sipping some Earl Grey tea and reminiscing about the time The Grill-Meister and I enjoyed a traditional English tea at Kensington Palace in late summer.

Image from Kensington Palace Pavilion Restaurant in The Orangery

Let me tell you, Old Bean, this lifelong anglophile and foodie from Southeast Texas was in high cotton that day! Afternoon tea at the palace where Queen Victoria grew up – by Jove, it was a jolly good show!

Soaking up the history and sipping champagne

Check out those desserts!

After this scrumptious afternoon feast, a walk in the garden is not only pleasant, it’s required! It is so lovely there.

I’ve been to London quite a few times since this summer vacation with the Grill-Meister in 2010, but haven’t gone back to have tea at Kensington Palace. Somehow, it just doesn’t seem right to go without him. If he doesn’t come with me soon, though, I might just have to!

The January Dreaming Series Backstory

If you read this post, January Dreaming, you know that the inspiration for this series is my Mom’s longstanding loathing of the pitiful month of January. Like her, we’re dreaming of good times in warmer months, and celebrating those good times in this series.

© 2019 Glover Gardens

January Dreaming: A Summer Afternoon in Laguna Beach

The fourth post in a series, January Dreaming. Click for the series, and see the end of the post for the backstory.

Time for a Detour

Pulling into Laguna Beach - there's the water!
We followed our friends into town – there’s the water!

Headed to LAX after a lovely time with friends in the wine country of Temecula a couple of years ago, we had time for a detour in Laguna Beach. What a wonderful town – more quirky than cool (fine by me!), colorful, artsy and fully embracing its California beachy character.

Lunch First!

We landed at The Cliff as though it was fate. Literally perched on the edge of the cliff, this restaurant is perfectly situated for dining al fresco with a view of the deep blue. The Cliff serves hearty, unpretentious coastal fare and throws in the view for free. Their tag line is apropos: “Beauty on the Beach”. See for yourself below.

The Cliff was a great place to enjoy a meal and “pass a good time” as they say in Cajun Country.

Brown’s Park

Just next to The Cliff is Brown’s Park. The land was donated to the city of Laguna Beach by a businessman after his grandfather’s seaside house, which had been in the family since the 1930s, was demolished by a winter storm in 1998. It’s an unusual park consisting of a single scenic walkway and a beachside lookout with stained glass.

An enchanting, almost hidden pathway leads to a lookout point
An enchanting, almost hidden pathway leads to a lookout point

Along the way, there are benches, and the table and chairs are actually bronze statues.

Bronze table and chairs statues at Brown's Park in Laguna Beach
There’s a bronze book on the table between the chairs; it’s the little things

The brickwork itself is intricate and beautiful.

The brickwork is artwork
Brickwork as artwork

At the lookout, there is a poem embedded in two stained glass panels which heralds the park’s purpose:

In this fleeting moment 
what extravagant respite
as booming surf speaks its
mystical passage across
the undreamed depths.

There’s also a plaque with a poem from the original owner of the land:

Let me live in a house by the side of the sea,
Where men and women wander by
Where there is beauty and grace and excitement that's free
On the beach, in the sun let me lie
Let me listen to ocean's melodious roar
And its rhythm, so soothing to hear
As the foam-covered waves seem to reach for the shore
Under skies that are sunny and clear.

-Joseph E. Brown

“Where there is beauty and grace and excitement that’s free” – we felt it!

A Quirky and Artsy Town

We spent just a bit more time on this lovely June day walking through the city. It oozes beachy personality.

Flora and Fauna Abound

The trees, plants and flowers in Laguna Beach are abundant and vivid, almost as though they’re in Technicolor in an old Hollywood movie.

Goodbye, Laguna Beach

No trip to a seaside community is complete without a walk on the beach.

Pondering the mysteries of life in the music of the azure sea and crashing waves
The Grill-Meister pondering the mysteries of life in the music of the azure sea and crashing waves

Back on the road, we were already reminiscing about our short time in this charismatic little haven, and we still are on this cold January day as we dream of summer good times.

The Backstory

If you read this post, January Dreaming, you know that the inspiration for this series is my Mom’s longstanding loathing of the pitiful month of January. Like her, we’re dreaming of good times in warmer months, and celebrating those good times in this series.

© 2019 Glover Gardens

Reminder: all recommendations, such as those in this post, are based on personal opinion and experience and should not be considered as advertisements (Glover Gardens is not a commercial blog).

Kitty Fisher’s in London Pulled Me In, Fed Me Well and Charmed Me Completely

…and I didn’t even know they were trendy, hot and famous, with a “cult-like following” (to quote a review)!


Photo of Kitty Fisher’s courtesy of TripAdvisor

It Started with a Walkabout

It was a chilly and rainy December Saturday, and I was in London. I had slept well, slept hard and slept late in my cubbyhole-sized room at a giant chain hotel in Kensington / Shepherd’s Bush. Rested and ready, I headed out to do what I love to do most in London: walk around and take in the sights, smells and sounds of the place. The feel of it. And the people. Most of all, the people.

I took my time, and my first find was C. Lidgate’s, the subject of a previous post.

Lidgate’s is a carnivorous cook’s dream! There’s a huge selection of meats, fish, poultry, sausages, cheeses, pies, condiments, cured meats and deli items.

Part of what makes London a fantastic walking city is the Tube, because you can hop on when you’re through walking in one area and quickly make your way to another. Which I did. I love the Tube system!

Shepherd Market was My Destination

My Tube stop was Green Park Station, the nearest to Shepherd Market in Mayfair. I LOVE this tiny celebrated enclave with its rich and colorful history that practically walks alongside as you make your way through the square on cobblestone streets past pubs and restaurants in historic stone buildings. It was the home of the first Mayfair public market in the late 1600’s, and has always been popular with writers and artists. And me.

From www.shepherdmarket.co.uk

Although it was drizzling in that way that only London can drizzle, I walked through the streets in Shepherd Market several times, trying to decide where to have my late lunch / early dinner. Pausing in front of various establishments, I scanned their posted menus and checked out their ambience, sneaking a look at the meals on the tables.

The Manager at Kitty Fisher’s was Irresistible

At Kitty Fisher’s, the manager opened the door as I was lingering outside drooling over the menu and literally pulled me into the door, albeit gently: “Don’t you want to eat with us?” I couldn’t resist her and did as I was told. (Like Eliza Doolittle, “I’m a good girl, I am!”) Kitty Fisher’s namesake is the famous 18th-century courtesan, but she couldn’t have been half as charming and welcoming as the front-of-the-house team in this lovely little place.

The manager, on the right, is the one who literally pulled me into the restaurant; the bartender the left entertained me the whole time I was there

I spent two happy hours at Kitty Fisher’s. The ambience is an appealing mix of cozy old England and fresh, trendy-foodie-creative.

The bar at Kitty Fisher’s is warm and appealing, like the staff

I Like to Sit at the Bar and Watch

I sat at the bar, my favorite place to be when eating alone.

Bartenders have great stories, and watching them work is fascinating. The good ones are always willing to narrate what they’re doing. Kitty Fisher’s bartender (below) was making one of the infused liquors used to create their imaginative cocktails, one of which is called “Bad Kitty” (see the photo on the left from an article in The Times). I wasn’t in a cocktail mood that day, but will try the Bad Kitty next time…it has gin, sloe gin, elderflower cordial (house-made), lemon juice and cava. Sounds great!

Enjoy the Meal with Me

And the food, oh the food! Sweet Tower of London, the food was magnificent! Sit down with me here and let me describe it to you.

I started with bread and butter, the perfect way to warm up on a foggy day in London town. Yeasty, crusty, chewy, it had a satisfying, grandmotherly quality, but on the other hand, Grandma never toasted her bread on a wood-fired grill (look at those grill marks!) or served it with whipped butter dusted with onion ash. That’s right, onion ash. Yum!!!

Check out those grill marks and the dusting of onion ash – oh my goodness!

And then there was the pasta, the glorious pasta, specifically: smoked cod belly and egg yolk raviolo with pickled golden raisins, hazelnuts and curry butter. It was heavenly, a rich and subtle combination of complementary flavors and textures. The creaminess of the egg and sauce are perfectly balanced by the crunch of the toasted hazelnuts and smoky cod.

Rich and satisfying, this pasta was a patchwork quilt of flavors and textures

“Eat your vegetables,” my late mother’s voice always rings in my head, and I’m so glad I listened to her at Kitty Fisher’s. (“I’m a good girl, I am!”) The hispi cabbage was a satisfying surprise, a big, thick steak-like slice of it that was grilled and then topped with a mustard seed sauce.

Surprisingly good hispi cabbage “steak” with mustard seeds

A Walkabout Inside the Restaurant

Kitty Fisher’s wasn’t busy when I was there in the middle of that rainy Saturday afternoon and only a few other customers were there to enjoy it. (Apparently, this is highly unusual, as all the glowing reviews take pains to mention the need for reservations and how hard it is to get a table.) 

After I polished off my delicious meal, I wandered around and took pictures.

Downstairs has an old-school, snug, clubby feel with its red upholstery and dark green walls, but isn’t stuffy.

Downstairs at Kitty Fisher’s

Kitty Fisher’s building was once a Georgian bakery, and the relics embedded in the walls downstairs are part of its charm and personality.

Reviews I read from diners who ate downstairs mentioned the experience of watching what goes on in the small kitchen, which is visible through glass doors.

Star Treatment Makes Memories

Noticing me with my touristy curiosity and camera, a member of the kitchen team came out to meet and greet me, and then summoned the rest of the staff to take a photo with me. Really. It wasn’t even my idea. They are that nice.

The excellent kitchen staff at Kitty Fisher’s, swarming me with welcome

In addition to praising the food and remarking on Kitty Fisher’s diminutive size and imposing presence on the London restaurant scene, reviews by restaurant critics unfailingly mention the patronage of stars and TV personalities (Kate Moss, Brad Pitt, Nigella Lawson, to name a few) and even a former prime minister (David Cameron). I’m a nobody from the colonies, but the staff treated me like I was royalty and served me a meal to match. If everyone gets that star treatment, and I suspect they do, Kitty Fisher’s will be around for a long, long time.

And I will be back to reunite with these folks who made me feel like family.

Photo taken at the insistence of the manager; don’t I look happy and well-cared for?

© 2019 Glover Gardens

Reminder: all recommendations, such as those in this post, are based on personal opinion and experience and should not be considered as advertisements (Glover Gardens is not a commercial blog).

January Dreaming: Frangipani Winery on an Afternoon in June

This is the third post in a series, January Dreaming. Click for the series.

Wedding arbor at Frangipani Winery in Temecula, CA

We’re conjuring up some summer to get us through January. Are you with us? (See more about the January Dreaming series at the bottom of the post.)

Today, we’re reminiscing about one of the wineries we visited on our ‘Wine for No Reason’ trip in June of 2017 to California’s Temecula Valley, which sports over 50 vineyards.  Frangipani Estate Winery is quiet, verdant and lush – and the wine is good, too! “Just off the beaten path,” says the Frangipani web site, encouraging visitors to “drop on in today”. I’d love to, especially on this chilly, blustery mid-January day! But for now, the memories will suffice.

As you can see, Temecula is beautiful, probably almost as nice in January as it is in June. We’ll be back.

January Dreaming: The Background

If you read this post, January Dreaming, you know that the inspiration for this series is my Mom’s longstanding loathing of the pitiful month of January. Like her, we’re dreaming of good times in warmer months, and celebrating those good times in this series.

© 2019 Glover Gardens

Reminder: all recommendations, such as those in this post, are based on personal opinion and experience and should not be considered as advertisements (Glover Gardens is not a commercial blog).

January Dreaming: Paris in July from the Taxi Window

This is the second post in a series, January Dreaming. Click for the series.

If you read yesterday’s post, January Dreaming, you know that the inspiration for this series is my Mom’s longstanding loathing of the pitiful month of January. Like her, we’re dreaming of good times in warmer months, and celebrating those good times in this series.

Paris is charming just about any time…in the springtime (like the song says), summer, fall and winter… but I was especially enchanted last July on the way back to my hotel from a business meeting. The parade for winning the World Cup had taken place earlier that day, and everyone was either happy or in a hurry. I had a point-n-shoot camera with me and spent a very enjoyable 40-minute rush-hour taxi ride snapping pics of the tourists and locals as they darted about this very walkable city.

In Paris, even a taxi ride during rush hour is enriching and interesting.

© 2019 Glover Gardens

A Chicken-Fried Good Time in New Orleans is In Our Future

Now there’s one more way to enjoy my beloved NOLA: a chicken-fried festival of flavors. A plethora of plentiful poultry done right. A cache of crunchy chicken goodness.

Photo from Shoofly by Ellis Anderson; that’s the fried chicken from Willie’s Chicken Shack

Shoofly Magazine, the pride of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, did the world a public service by sampling the best of the best of the chicken-fried offerings in nearby New Orleans, and published a great article about it: The Grand New Orleans Fried Chicken Pilgrimage.

A simple story about a food festival grows to epic proportions when it kicks off the search for some of the city’s best fried chicken. 

– Shoofly story by Ellis Anderson

We’re a little obsessive about New Orleans here at Glover Gardens and are revving up for another Jazz Fest jaunt later this year. Shoofly’s tribute to fried chicken adds complexity to our journey, because we are already stressed by the “so little time, so many great meals to choose from!” dichotomy. But we’ll figure it out, and if we have to make extra trips to NOLA to sample the crispy chicken delights highlighted in the magazine, we’ll do it.

Photo from Shoofly Magazine by Ellis Anderson: the Roosevelt Hotel’s Monday night chicken

Give the article from Shoofly a read, and think about joining us at Jazz Fest later this year when we’ll be tasting the chicken and jamming to the tunes. Thanks to the folks at Shoofly Magazine for adding to the never-ending lure of NOLA.

© 2019 Glover Gardens