Xi'an - Home To Great Emperors
An article I wrote on a recent press trip to the capital city of Shaanxi province, Xi'an for 'Nihao' - the in-flight magazine for China Southern Airlines (May issue).
One of mankind's greatest feat achieved
On this day, in 1953, Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and New Zealand mountaineer, explorer and philanthropist Edmund Hillary summited Mt. Everest. You cannot help but kind of wish they had left the mountain alone after that...
Located in the heart of London's Covent Garden, at first glance Sticks'n'Sushi looks like any other Japanese eatery providing nothing but the finest of exports of Japan's signature cuisine. So where does the Danish concept come from? The brand was founded 18 years ago in Copenhagen by three entrepreneurs - brothers Jens and Kim Rahbek and Thor Andersen - who are all of half-Danish, Half-Japanese heritage. They decided to add a unique angle and touch to the otherwise average sushi that was available in Denmark at that time. Now, it must be said that there is no surprise that any food which is cooked outside of it's country of origin is hard to beat the real stuff - it may be classed as authentic as possible, however it will never be the same as it would back in it's native place (i.e. Japanese food tastes only good IN Japan and so on...trust me on that quote...it's true for any cuisine no matter how much expats boast on about providing the true 'authentic' experience in their adopted country!).
Nevertheless, on that note I must say that the sushi at Stick'n'Sushi does taste authentic as it can be and is perhaps more healthier than most (native Japanese people may or may not disagree..). It's definitely a unique cuisine that combined the mixed-race heritages together using food, and that concept is firmly embedded in the culture of the eatery's decoration, ambiance, music, and of course the rare combination of traditional sushi and yakitori sticks. The service was extraordinaire too. It is therefore no wonder that the Sticks'n'Sushi brand has experienced huge success and has arguably become known as the provider of the best Japanese cuisine in the Nordics.
There are two restaurants in the U.K. - one each in Wimbledon and Covent Garden.
Flowers in remembrance
On a junction of a busy London street lies a well place set of flowers wrapped around a road sign pole. These are not some sort of decoration, but most probably a remembrance tribute to a cyclist or a pedestrian who fell victim to a road accident. Behind the flowers a cycle lane can be clearly seen. Road accidents can happen anywhere, and sadly the chances get higher in a busy metropolis such as London.
It's also worth pointing out how amazing how time plays an important part in our lives. While there has been a gradual decline in cycling in countries where it was seen as the traditional mode of transport, such as in China, Vietnam and India; on the other hand there has been a surge in cycling in cities such as London where cycling was not so common.
Exotic offerings at Borough Market
Been open for over 400 years, Borough Market is one of the oldest and most liveliest markets in London. Rather than being just another market selling fresh seafood, fruit and vegetables, Borough Market has been known since times in memorial for selling exotic meat, and other unique offerings (wheatgrass drink anyone?!). No tourist should leave London without experiencing this fascinating place...go and see it as soon as you can!
It's not magic...it's art
While tourists may stare in amazement, in actual fact this trick is not that complicated - he is standing on a metal bar that extends from the pole and downwards via his leg- hence supporting bar for his body. It's not an illusion, it's art. The 'trick' for the artist is to avoid moving and to prevent the amounts of pins & needles that he will get because his blood supply will not be that active if he stands in one position for long periods! Occasionally they do move and that's when you can tell it's not magic at all (I would hope the likes of David Copperfield prove me wrong...but I don't believe there is a such thing as magic...): Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Westminster Cathedral is somewhat of a gem which not many people see despite it's presence right in the heart of Victoria because everyone is too busy either commuting to/from work or just don't notice the huge building. Located right next to Victoria Station, and opposite the London HQ of Google and Microsoft, the Cathedral offers some nice views of London from the top of the tower.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the tower was the best and highest vantage point to get nice views of the capital. However, these days the views are becoming obstructed due to the large number of high rise glass buildings that are sprouting around London. It's probably a good time to go and experience the views from here before it's closed down in the future (I wouldn't be surprised). There is an admission fee of £5.00.
Mews of Mayfair
As a tourist in London it is sometimes challenging to find a really good genuine English restaurant that serves nothing but the best of British cuisine and not your off-the-cuff eatery catering solely for tourists. Because I have lived in China for many years, so therefore I wanted to relive my English taste buds and indulge in some home-made English dishes such as ‘Fish and Chips’, ‘Salt Baked, Cotswold Chicken’ or ‘Twice Cooked Pork Belly’. The Mews of Mayfair, with its four-floor restaurant and bar, provides those dishes and much more.
Are there downsides? The only one I could observe was the awkward location of the eatery. It is difficult to find - but so are rare gems. The restaurant and it's amazing, yet underused, Cartizze Bar is neatly hidden away on Lancashire Court, a posh lane near the affluent ---New Bond Street---. It's perhaps one of the main reasons why 60% of the restaurant was empty when I went there - and the bar was closed at a time when it shouldn't have been. The Cartizze will look like a simple hole in the wall if you have ever experienced real top quality bars - such as the Ozone Bar at The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, Azzure bar in Hong Kong, MINT in Shanghai, or the Flair at The Ritz-Carlton Pudong Shanghai. In other words, I found it to be nothing extraordinary. It's a nice place for professionals to meet though- no doubt about that.
An eatery, such this ---Mews of Mayfair---, could easily be pictured doing so well in a place such as Shanghai Xintiandi, Suzhou's Tianyu area. or even in Dubai's ---Wafi City---...it's the kind of stuff that expats would love to go to. But the problem with chic eateries in the West is that their management are sadly not well advised or equipped to deal with such international business ventures. It's sad...and there is a huge expat market that is missing out on great home cooked food- expats in China still have to go to 5-star hotels in order for us to get a close enough experience to authentic Western food. It's just like, say for example, Chinese expats not having to get their authentic Beijing duck in London or Paris (Chinese food only tastes good IN China), or Indian expats in Europe having to indulge in 'Indian food' that is actually cooked by Bengalis (no offence to Bengali people)...and so on.
The cost for a meal for two people can go up to around £100 on average. While the restaurant may come across as being too posh for most people, a quick glance at the Menu suggests that there are dishes that are affordable by everyone. For example, a massive plate of--- 'Fish and Chips, Pea and Mint Puree, Wasabi Tartare'--- for less than £16.
在伦敦旅游它有时具有挑战性的找到一个真正的好真正的英式餐厅，供应什么，但最好的英国美食，而不是你的现成的，袖口食堂餐饮专为游客。因为我已经在中国生活了很多年，所以因此我想重温我的英语味蕾，并沉迷于一些自制的英式菜肴，如--- ‘Fish and Chips’, ‘Salt Baked, Cotswold Chicken’ or ‘Twice Cooked Pork Belly’.-本 Mews of Mayfair ,与它的四层楼的餐厅和酒吧，提供那些菜等等。
有没有缺点？唯一个我可以观察是食堂的尴尬位置。这是很难找到 - 而且还有稀有宝石。餐厅和它的惊人，但平衡使用，定价过高, Cartizze Bar被整齐地隐藏起来的 Lancashire Court 附近的富裕 New Bond Street一个豪华的车道。这也许是主要的原因，为什么餐厅的 60％是空的，当我去那里之一 - 酒吧被关闭的时候它不应该。该 Cartizze Bar 看起来就像墙上有一个简单的洞，如果你曾经经历过真正的顶级品质的酒吧 - 如 Ozone Bar 在 The Ritz-Carlton 香港， Azzure Bar 在香港， MINT 在上海，或 Flair Bar 在 The Ritz-Carlton Pudong 上海。换句话说，这是什么了不起的事。
一个小餐馆，这这样的---马厩 The Mews of Mayfair ，很容易被描绘得这么好的一个地方，如上海新天地，苏州天宇区。甚至在迪拜---瓦菲--- ...这是什么样的东西，外国人很愿意去。但在西方别致的餐馆，问题是他们的管理是可悲的不是很好的建议，或有能力应付这样的国际商业投资。这是可悲的...... ，有一个巨大的外籍人士市场是错过了伟大的家庭熟食，外国人在中国还是得去5星级酒店为了让我们得到一个接近足够的经验，正宗的西餐。这就像，例如说，中国的外籍人士不必让他们地道的北京烤鸭在伦敦或巴黎（中国食品只有口味好于中国） ，或有沉迷于“印度菜” ，实际上是由熟印度外籍人士在欧洲孟加拉（没有冒犯的班的人！ ） ......等等。
成本一顿饭，两个人可以去高达约 100 英镑的平均水平。而餐厅则可能会遇到由于过于豪华对大多数人来说，一个快速浏览菜单表明，有菜有负担的人。例如，一个大规模的板 'Fish and Chips, Pea and Mint Puree, Wasabi Tartare' 为小于16英镑。
Additional reporting by Ruila Lin
Coconuts and popcorn explosion!
Best View in London?
The lovely cafe on the 6th floor of the Tate Modern which overlooks St Paul's Cathedral provides diners these views. All the tourists, and locals alike, adore it...it is claimed to provide the best view for tea in London (though fond drinkers of Tetley or PG Tips tea may disagree because the Tate only serves fancy light flavoured tea...). The truffles, and cakes are ridiculously scrumptious though. Go and experience it as soon as you can!
Bonnington Cafe in Vauxhall Grove
In operation since the economically tough 1970s, the Bonnington Cafe is a tiny communal kitchen located in Vauxhall Grove, a beautiful and quiet street of Victorian red bricks close by London's Vauxhall Bridge. Nowadays, the eatery has become a popular venue for lunch and romantic candlelit dinners.
As I walked in I was expecting to be greeted with a welcome smile, customer service, reception till - things that you would normally expect to see in a restaurant. Instead, I spent the first few moments trying to figure out where the staff were because there was no staff member to welcome me; albeit to my surprise there was only one person who was busy cooking in the kitchen at the back - doubling as the chef and waiter at the same time. Mind you, it's a nice cosy place in a neat setting and that's the beautiful thing about the Bonnington Cafe.
The food, which actually smelt very nice, is exclusively vegetarian but there is no resident full-time professional chef. A rota of cooks each take a different day, paying a rental to cover upkeep of the cafe and keeping whatever profit they make. If you are looking for a quick sandwich then you're perhaps better off going to the 'Italo' delicatessen just across the street from the eatery. I do give credit to the chefs for trying their best, even though at times the food comes across as if a student has cooked it.
The food is not expensive - I suppose the cafe's bring-your-own-drinks-policy somewhat contributes to that. Bonnington Cafe may serve as a perfect lunchtime layover for overworked doctors or bankers in the City of London. Or else if you ever wanted to be reminded of what lunch and dinner were like at college or university, then go ahead and dine with your heart's content at the Bonnington Cafe.
Brixton, in South London, has been the home to the U.K.'s African and West Indian community ever since the early 1950s, when the first wave of West Indian immigrants arrived to the U.K. (492 individuals) at Tilbury Docks on the Empire Windrush from Jamaica and were temporarily housed in Clapham South, close to Brixton.
These days the town stands as a symbol of British multiculturalism, with expatriates and immigrants from all corners of the world living in harmony - though most are still predominately from the West Indies, Africa, and Latin America. The Latin American, Spanish and Portuguese communities extend to living in the nearby areas of Vauxhall, Stockwell, Elephant & Castle, and Oval. I ventured to the shopping centre at Elephant & Castle for the first time in my life earlier this year and the place reminded me of Hong Kong's infamous Chungking Mansions!
I don't wish to sound negatively stereotypical, however I experienced the following while I got onto the bus at Brixton Station. An intoxicated man with massive dreadlocks got onto the bus with a can of Castlemaine XXXX (bear in mind that this was morning time...at 10am!). The driver told him to get off the bus unless he gets rid of his beer can - to which the man replied in a strong Cockney accent: 'What? This is Brixton man...this ain't f****** Germany or Russia!!'. To the shock of other passengers and bystanders, out of fear the driver let him on anyway! It is against the law to ride a London bus or tram with an open alcohol bottle or can. Police can arrest such a man.
No doubt that Brixton has it's fair share of deprivation, unemployment and crime - as can be the case in any other part of London and the U.K. (or anywhere in the world for that matter...). The good thing is that there is a tiny part of the town known as 'Brixton Village' which is becoming a popular hangout for those seeking to indulge in good food - especially Sunday Brunch.
The popularity of Brixton has reached the far corners of the earth...so much that even the Hollywood actor Will Smith paid a visit in 2013 because he wanted to see 'The Bronx of London'.
Evening Time In London
Just when I started to appreciate the beauty of London...
The Days Are Getting Longer
Brunswick House Café, London
Brunswick House is an unusual yet stunning Café located within a 5-story antique store, right opposite Vauxhall underground station. Everything is for sale here (including the Café's furniture!).
It provides a rather cosy setting for a tea or coffee; in fact it's provides the perfect alternative venue for Afternoon Tea. Go and experience it if you can!
On an empty block in a South London side street, artists have been plying their trade to great effect. They made full use of the wall!
Who needs a beach?
With the nearest beach to the capital being Camber Sands near Rye, East Sussex (or even Brighton...depends how many miles you are willing to drive), Londoners can be rest assured that during a low tide the banks of the River Thames double as mini-beaches for the summer enjoyment of the locals and tourists alike (though may not be clean!).
I donated ALL of my high-school and university books to charity and some to the local library...never knew education was so heavy (FIVE 23kg bags altogether!)!. Kind of a sad feeling to give away books, nevertheless I don't need them now (used them last 13 years ago), and I hope someone else finds them useful in life. Pictured are about 10% of the books I donated.
On a hot summer's Sunday, the Arqiva British Academy Television Awards were hosted by British personality Graham Norton at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London. Olivia Colman and Sean Harris won the best actress and actor Baftas.
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