Posted in Books, london, Reviews

Book Review: The House of Silk – Anthony Horowitz

A couple of years ago, at my sister’s urging, I watched an episode of BBC’s Sherlock starring the one and only Benedict Cumberbitch, I mean, Cumberbatch. After the first episode, I was hooked. By the time we got to the episode where John Watson got married and Sherlock made that incredibly moving, one-of-a-kind, original, quintessentially Sherlock best man speech, I was irrevocably a fan. 

I love mysteries. From the newer crime thrillers to the classic whodunits, I love it when I’m taken through a journey of clues, signs, false alarms and red herrings. I love stacking my wits against the main character and trying to solve the mystery before he or she does. And though it rarely happens, I love it when a plot twist manages to surprise me, when the answer to the mystery completely blindsides me as it seemingly comes out of nowhere but the clues have actually been right in front of me all along.

Most of all, I love seeing people use the underrated skill of simple deduction and common sense to solve a puzzle. And this is what is the at the heart of the House of Silk. This is this month’s Waterstone’s book club selection by the way and thank goodness for that or I might never have otherwise picked it up. 

Confession time: I’ve never actually finished reading the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories of the great detective although we have a lovely hardbound copy, a gift from me to my sister. After reading this book, I may be inspired to start reading it despite my ever growing to-read list. I have read the first few pages which is why I think I have grounds for the opinion that Anthony Horowitz has kept true to the style and voice of the original without being an exact replica. 

I love how familiar the rhythm of the writing is; I recognise it because its so incredibly British. And because the British people in this book have been so fantastically written like the way they talk, its like the language and the accents I hear every day have been coalesced into one book. From the cultured tones of the upper class to the cockney accent of the East, it all leaps vibrantly from the page. I cannot say enough of the writing. It quite simply flows; its so seamless and easy to read. 

Now to the mystery. I had initial reservations that this will turn out to be some boring stalker story or that it will be about another married couple where one of the partners is the cuplrit and/or is having an extra-marital affair. But, and I have to issue a MILD SPOILER ALERT here, by the time I get to the framing of Sherlock Holmes, his imprisonment and really clever escape and then to the way he solved not one but TWO seemingly unconnected mysteries, my brain just gave up and I surrendered to being taken on the wild ride that is this story. I may have guessed some elements of it, but it managed to completely surpise me by the time I got to the ending.

Finally, I am not surprised that there have always been speculation about the true nature of Sherlock and John Watson’s relationship. The bond they share is strong and unique in its strength, so often does it supercede other bonds, even that of marriage. Watson is so loyal to Sherlock and would do anything for him, and though its not always clear or obvious, this sentiment is certainly reciprocated by the more taciturn Holmes. I think we should all stop speculating and just celebrate the fact that this special partnership and friendship exists, and leave it at that.

Overall, I cannot wait to discuss this book at the Armchair Murder Mystery book club next Wednesday. If you fancy a good discussion with fellow book lovers – and free wine – head over to Waterstones Piccadilly and join us for an evening of literary fun. 

Cheers, bookworms! X

Posted in Food, Lifestyle, london

Fri-Yay Food Trip: Dishoom

After a whole week of rotation to trauma and orthopaedics, an eventful Friday filled with drama and the prospect of going home to the Philippines for the first time, my sister and I decided to take our dear friend Romelyn out to Dishoom last night before her flight to Cebu today. 

I was first introduced to Dishoom by my friend Katie and I have fond memories of catching up with her and my other favourite gal pal Caterina over a bowl of black daahl and a steaming pile of nan bread. The wait can sometimes seem interminable and its not unheard of to queue for at least an hour before you can even get to the bar and then wait another half an hour to get a table. But it is surely worth it.

Before Dishoom, my sister and Romelyn have always been skeptical about indian food. I was met with dubious looks and, in Arlene’s case, a serious frown, when I first suggested trying Dishoom at the Shoreditch branch. Obviously, these two have since changed their tune and we are now frequent visitors to this place, especially since the Kingly Street branch ( near Carnaby Street) is about a 5-minute walk from the flat.

Here are a few of our favourites in one photo:

Yum, yum, yum, yum, YUM!!!

When eating at Dishoom I find its best to have some sharers rather than having individual plates. For starters, we really like the Calamari served with different kinds of sauce/dips/whatever it is you call them.

You cannot go to Dishoom and not try their nan bread. Because I am obssessed with all things cheesy (from music to food to movies! Haha), I love ordering the cheese nan whereas my sisger prefers either the garlic or plain. I think its best served with the House Black Daahl. Let me tell you, I have no idea what’s in the Daahl and I don’t want to know but it is incredibly delicious when paired with the nan bread. If you want something a bit more sweet, you can also pair with with the Chicken Ruby. 

And finally, because the Filipino in us cannot have a meal without rice we often share Dishoom’s version of the chicken biryani. Its not that big a serving, but if you’ve already had everything else, I don’t think its a good idea to expect to consume a whole one by yourself because its really filling.

Ah, Dishoom. Still one of my favourite places to go to for a pick-me-up. Its not that expensive either. If you’re not consuming the cocktails, it will cost you about 25£ each. If you do order drinks, it can go to about as high as 35£ each, so be warned, the drinks are expensive. Also, if the long queue is stopping you from visiting, you can always come before 6pm because they will still be accepting reservations before then. Plus, they serve free drinks for the people queuing, which is another reason to give them two thumbs up!

Hope you get a chance to enjoy Dishoom as much as I do. Cheers! X 

Posted in Food, Lifestyle, london

Saturday Food Trip: Koba

My sister and I did an unexpected shift at the hospital yesterday and we both ended up staying until 8pm for some reason. So because it had been a long day and it was our workmate Gianluigi’s, last official day at work, we decided to treat ourselves to some korean barbecue.

Now London is a place that won’t ever run out of   korean barbecue restaurants, and in your quest for the best bulgogi in town you’ll run a gamut of choices, from the cheap to the reasonably priced to the really pricey. I think Koba is a place you go to every once in a while when you’re craving for GOOD korean barbecue. Its not the cheapest option for barbecue in central London; I think in terms of budget Superstar Barbecue in nearby St. Giles might be a bit easier on the pocket. However, in terms of quality Koba is definitely better.

We’ve been to Koba so many times that the waitresses already know they have to help us out because we’re just hopeless with the grill. That’s the other great thing about Koba: they have excellent and efficient service. The staff are always there to help you out if you need anything and they will do the grilling for you if it looks like you’re struggling (which I usually am).

There’s plenty of other choices apart from the barbecue. We usually get korean seafood pancakes for starters. They’re so yummy I could eat them all day. My sister and my friend Romelyn are both big fans of kimchi, which is a traditional korean side dish so we tend to get that as well.

I wouldn’t recommend having a lot of starters because the meats from the barbecue are quite heavy on the tummy already. BUT. One of my ultimate favourites in Koba is their seafood and egg fried rice and I don’t care how heavy rice is, I will always order the fried rice.

Also I didn’t have the chance to take a photo of it but the crab salad is also really good for a starter. The perfect combination of the saltiness of the crab and the vinegrette/dressing that they used was incredibly delicious. Gian went so far as to ask the waiter if they had bread because like the true Italian that he is, he wanted to mop up the remaining juice with a focaccia or something. Obviously a korean restaurant would not have bread of any sort, more’s the pity. 

Anyway, like I said, the korean barbecue selection are the true highlights of the restaurant. Depending on you hungry your party is and how many people are actually in your party, you might want to order a couple of plates. Usually, if its just my sister, Romelyn and I we can be satisfied with one. But Gianluigi was apparently really hungry so we ended up ordering both the Koba and Seafood platter.

Koba’s marinade is definitely better than Superstar’s and I also find that they have better-quality meats as well.  I remember Gian, who is a true coinousseur of all things culinary, being disappointed about the food when we last ate at Superstar but he gave this one his stamp of approval. Tutti bene as they say. I’m glad I’m finally able to return the favour after he made me taste one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had in my life.

Koba usually gets busy around 7 to 8pm. Unless you’ve made reservations, you stand a better chance of having a table if you go a bit early or a bit late, like closer to 9. Its located near Charlotte Street, its more like Rathbone Street to be precise. 

Cheers to more food trips. Happy weekend everyone! 

Posted in Food, Lifestyle, london

Friday Food Trip: The Roti King

Ah, the joys of de-stressing over food on a Friday night. After a really long day, I went to dinner with my sister and a couple of friends to an unknown (unknown to me anyway!) place near Euston called The Roti King.

I have to admit to being a bit skeptical at first. I’ve never really been fond of Malaysian food, apart from nasi goreng. But I am also the kind of person that is easily swayed by good advertising and believe me, the really long queue outside the restaurant was as good an ad campaign as any.

We must have waited about 90 minutes just to get into the restaurant. They had a really small space, I don’t think they could have sat more than 30 people at any given time. So top tips if you want to try this restaurant?

  1. Be prepared to queue 
  2. The chances of getting a table earlier depends on how many there are in your party. There were people who had only been queuing 5 minutes but a table for two was available so they were able to jump the queue. Whereas because we were a party of four, we waited a while.
  3. They do takeaway as well so that might be an option to consider.
  4. Its cash only guys. The nearest cashpoint is in Euston station so be prepared with some G’s.

Anyway, we finally got in around 8:30 and by this point the savoury smell was really getting to my stomach. I was so so hungry (so what else is new) that I just rattled off appetizers straight away. Roti to me is like a softer version of nan bread, or the malaysian equivalent of crepe. We ordered roti with spinach and cheese, roti special (this comes with either chicken, fish or lamb curry sauce) and the chicken murtabak which is roti with chicken and egg filling.

The first two were awesome. The last one was a bit bland and really filling, especially since we still ordered mains. I think if we ever go back there again, I’d order more of the roti with chicken curry. It was just so so good, my mouth is watering at the memory.

So, with the mains I would recommend sharing. We didn’t anticipate the portions to be as big as they were. I also didn’t anticipate how spicy the dishes would be which was stupid of me seeing as the dish I ordered had a big red S (for spicy) beside it. I am not known for my tolerance for spicy food so for the life of me, I have no idea why I ordered the sambal fried rice. Sambal literally means chilli-based. We are talking about rice that was probably cooked in chilli! It was so spicy that the first spoonful had me reaching almost immediately for my glass of diet coke.

Tip: My friend Angelica recommenda getting the soya milk to counteract the effect of the spiciness. I never knew that. Unfortunately, the only thing I tolerate less than spiciness is soya milk. Ugh. 

It was incredibly delicious despite that though. I didn’t finish the dish because there’s only so much spice I could take so my sister swapped plates with me and I was able to try her flat rice noodles instead, called char kuey teow, also really really good. I forgot to take a photo of it but its almost similar to the one below except that they used flat rice noodles intead of canton and I’ve always loved flat rice noodles, or ho fun as the Chinese call it. 

All in all, I give this restaurant a 4 out of 5 rating. It was good and it was cheap. With the amount of food we had we only paid about 14£ each and we would have paid less if we thought about sharing instead of ordering one dish each. As it was, we ended up asking them for a box for our leftover.

I would definitely recommend this place if you’re looking for authentic food and like us, you’ve spent a little too much this month and payday seems ages away.
Cheers! x 

Posted in dating, london, relationships

Seventeen Thoughts That Run Through Your (or MY) Head on A First Date

I have been called a serial first dater so many times. Dating for me is like one of those things that I need to tick off on my yearly to do list, like: travel ✔️try a new workout ✔️lose a few kilos ✔️ go on a date ✔️✔️

As I always explain when people ask me why I’m single, I don’t necessarily feel like I’m somehow less just because I’m not one half of a couple. I do my own thing and live my life the way I want it to, not as society expects me to. But every now and again I do feel like it would be nice to have someone to share these experiences with and so commences my annual dating bonanza, a series of first dates that never really lead anywhere.

I think bad dates are a universal experience. I certainly have my share of stories to tell but apart from the initial apprehension, I do enjoy meeting and getting to know someone. Here are some of the thoughts that inevitably run through my head on a first date:

  1. Oh God, what am I going to wear?
  2. Hair up or hair down? Hair up makes me look more chic but hair down hides the fact that my face is as big as the moon. What to do, what to do?
  3. Am I wearing too much perfume?
  4. God, let this case finish early so I can get out of the hospital with enough time to freshen up.
  5. Why why why did I schedule a date on a work night?!
  6. Damn, I should have taken the tube instead of the bus.
  7. Please Lord, let him look better than he does in the photos.
  8. Oh, and please don’t let him be a psycho.
  9. Okay, he’s attractive enough. I can work with this.
  10. Hmm, has a sense of humour. Great.
  11. Would it look bad if I get another glass of wine?
  12. Why do first dates in this country mean just drinks? I’m really hungry and could do with some food.
  13. Pace yourself, anj. You know you have to drink water in between liquor so that you don’t get too drunk.
  14. This date is going better than I thought it would.
  15. Yes, there is definite second date potential here.
  16. Ah, the goodnight kiss.

And depending on how well number 16 went….
17. Please let him text me. I really like this guy.
Hahahahahahaha

I don’t know why I constantly find myself on a first date situation. It would be nice to try a long-term thing for a change but I’ve come to accept that if its not in the cards for me, I’m gonna have to learn to deal with it. The one thing I don’t want is to feel pressured to settle just because society dictates that women have to be married at a certain age. Don’t ever settle, people. The kind of love we’re all looking for is worth the effort, the wait and the endless first dates.

Posted in Food, london

Food Tripping: Authentic Naples Pizza in London

Fun fact: modern pizza originated in Naples. 

Another fun fact: the Pizza Margerita was created for the Queen Consort of Italy, Margerita of Savoy. The original toppings were mozarella, tomato and basil and these were meant to represent the colours of the Italian flag.

Growing up in the Philippines, I was exposed to the American (bastardized) version of pizza. The crust was thicker and the toppings more varied (and weird, like pineapple). It wasn’t until I came to the UK and had the chance to travel that I had the opportunity to try “real” pizza.

Everyone who knows me know that I love everything about Italy: the food, the language, the places to visit and the people. Some of my closest friends in the world are Italian. Which is probably why I often find myself talking with hand gestures (it just allows you to express yourself better, to be honest! Hahaha).

Ive been to different parts of Italy about four or five times now and it never gets old. However, I’ve never been to Naples. But yesterday, my two Italian friends and colleagues decided to bring me to a place in London that sells authentic Naples pizza. We had a long long day at work (three REVISION hip replacements, about 70 heavy sets to organise, quick turnover, high stress levels) and we needed to de-stress. So off we went from Warren Street to the heart of Chelsea. 

Chelsea is an area I don’t really visit very often, I’ve always stayed more North of the river but there are some great places to eat in Chelsea and the food was cheaper than I thought it would be. Anyway, the place we ate at was called Santa Maria. The restaurant had a really casual and relaxed feel to it. We arrived at about 9pm and were able to get a table without any trouble. My friend Gian says its better to come a bit late because otherwise we’d be queuing for our table.

I was already excited looking at the menu. For starters, we had this soft mozarella dish that I’ve now forgotten the name of (I know it starts with a B) and it was so delicious I felt like I was having a religous experience. 

Best served with a glass of peroni, in my own personal opinion

Just as an aside: I love cheese. I think cheese makes any dish taste better, there is no dish that cannot be improved by cheese. When I was in Rome, I got told off by one of the restaurant owners because I wanted to add parmesan to my seafood risotto. You DO NOT, apparently, add cheese to seafood, its just wrong. You can just imagine the italian accent and the passionate hand gestures when he was telling me off. 

Anyway, the real star of the night was the pizza. My one real failure is that I tend to be safe and conservative when choosing my pizza toppings. I really should be more adventurous and try new things (in all aspects of my life that probably applies!) but I always seem to want to stick with what I know best. I had the Santa Carmela pizza which is pizza with tomato sauce, mozarella, parma ham and basil. It was really delicous, not to mention massive. 



Look at all that cheesy goodness! 





Anyway, I now think that the secret to pizza is to keep things simple. And if you ask my Italian friends, it is important to use Italian ingredients. I reckon after this I may never have Domino’s and Pizza Hut ever again. 

Anyway, this is one of the reasons why I love living in London and having a diverse circle of friends. You just learn so much about other cultures and traditions and you can only gain from their perspective because oftentimes its so different from your own. The cuisines are just a plus, its the company that really matters. Thank you friends for bringing me here! 

Santa Maria is about a 10-minute walk from Fulham Broadway if anyone wants to try their pizza. Cheers! 

Posted in Careers, london, Self-Discovery

Adulting 101

Let me just state for the record that there are times when I absolutely hate being an adult. Sometimes I find myself longing for the days when all my problems can be solved by a pint of ice cream and reassurance from mum and dad that everything will be alright.

You get a real appreciation for and understanding of your parents as you grow up I think. You begin to see that a lot of the time, adulting is simply about winging it. You fake it and hope to God you make it. As much as you try to use logic and as much as you try to weigh your options before making a decision, a lot of the time you make decisions on a leap of faith. All you can do is pray that you make the right one.

I suck at making decisions. Partly that comes from my desire to have everything. I find it hard to accept that in order to go for something I want, I have to give up something in return. I’m also really afraid of change. I’m the kind of person that gets attached to people, places and things. I’m incredibly sentimental. I remember when I was young (and stupid), my crush gave me a box of chocolate crinkles all wrapped up with a ribbon on top. I think I kept the box and ribbon for about 2 years and cried over it when, as puppy love tends to do, things didn’t work out.

This isn’t a post about puppy love, forgive me for digressing. 

The point is that I get incredibly attached. But sometimes attached is just another word for stagnant. Or stuck. And there comes a time when you have to think about what you really want out of life, and where you see your future going. I’m now in a position where I can think about settling in London and making a life for myself in this city. Its challenging, especially in terms of having a career and managing your finances. Its important to love your job but what I’ve learned is that its also important to keep moving forward. There are a lot of opportunities out there if you have the courage to go for it. And practically speaking, you also need a job that pays the bills.

(If it were up to me, I would be a bookseller at Waterstones, to be honest. But sadly that career path is not in the cards for me.)

This isn’t a very coherent post and its very much a reflection of my mental state of mind. I haven’t been able to blog much because I’ve been confused about the direction that I’m going to take my career (and life) in. I’ve had to weigh whether what I gain is worth giving up something (or someone lol) that I really love. I’ve also found myself questioning whether I have what it takes for me to take that leap, whether I’m ready for such a big step and this is when I usually find myself listening to Miley sing The Climb.

If I think about it from a sensible and logical point of view, I think I already know what decision I’m going to make; at this point, its all a matter of taking the steps to get my heart to accept what my brain already knows. I really really hope that I’m doing the right thing not just for me, but also for my family (and my future family!). As soon as I make the decision and take that irrevocable step, I can resume blogging and doing my book reviews, hopefully soon.

Until then, wish me luck guys.