Dinner At The Phantom Pig With Lisa Opie and Toni Friend, 22 September 2017

Chef Vix and his trusty sous chef Luke explain stuff with attentive care

This was Lisa Opie’s idea…and a jolly good idea it was too.

Several of her friends and clients had recommended this pop up restaurant in West Ealing, currently popping up just once a month at The Orchard Cafe, serving the sort of haute cuisine tasting menu food you’d normally expect to find in a far more sprauncy location than the regenerated former Green Man Estate.

We were up for it as, fortuitously, one of Helen Baker’s wonderful wine tastings, which had been scheduled for this night, had to be moved to a later date. Toni Friend was up for it too, so I was to be an honorary girl again for the second time in the last couple of months.

What a find this pop up restaurant is.

First up was a tipple with mystery snacks – the snacks comprising straw-smoked potatoes, a chicken parfait tart and a cauliflower soup – all good but the latter was outstanding.

The tipple, it seems, came whether you went for wine matching or not. We did opt for wine matching with the food. The tipple was a cocktail shot of flavoured liquor (brandy we think) that tasted mostly of lemongrass – probably to lull us into a false sense of healthiness – not least because it was served in a sort of test tube thing. Janie said it looked like a urine sample.

I’m not selling the whole experience very well, am I? Because actually every aspect of the meal including the way it looked and was served was very elegant and thoughtful.

Perhaps best I let pictures tell most of the story – with thanks to Janie, Lisa and Toni, all of whom provided some pictures. All three of them went a bit berserk with their smart phones once the courses and wines started to flow:

The “Beauty Of The Bulb” starter had a phallic look, apparently
Vix described the starter while sprinkling the apple jus
Attentive listeners, eh?
Janie and Lisa both got a bit snap happy across the table
“Never mind the photos…grubs up!”, I say.
Exquisite chicken, cod, ink and mushroom sauce.
The wine keeps flowing; one glass per dish
Here comes the superb duck…
…and here comes Mandy with the wine for the duck!
Mandy can also explain the meal to us.
Ged mucks in by tucking in to the duck.
Toni has a laugh with one of the charming waiting-folk…
…then listens with rapt attention to Vix’s description of the pud.
Toni asked the team kindly to sign a menu for Ogblog
Here also a list of the wine matches

The food was superb, the service delightful and the wine matches well chosen and very generously sized doses…

…perhaps a little too much so for part-timers like me. After Janie and I had been home for about five minutes, Janie rather cruelly snapped me taking a short nap on the bed before completing all of my pre-slumber procedures…

…but after a ten minute snooze I got up and sorted myself out properly. Someone else, who shall remain nameless, didn’t brush her teeth and come to bed properly until about 4:00 am…

…and still I couldn’t beat her on the tennis court the next morning.

We had a great evening and really look forward to trying The Phantom Pig again. We’d highly recommend it; the young and innovative Phantom Pig team are top notch and deserve to do really well.

Drinks and Nibbles With The Dedanists’ Society, The Estorick Collection, Islington, 5 September 2017

To Islington for a Dedanists’ Society fundraising event to raise funds for the The British Real Tennis Academy.

The event was held at The Estorick Collection…

...housed in a Georgian villa set in its own garden.  The galleries and garden will be open to all.  On show will be a new exhibition of the graphic designs of Franco Grignani (art as design 1950-90) and the gallery's standing collection of early 20th century Italian art.
An example of the Franco Grignani

Janie took most of the photographs. The tale of the evening is mostly well-told in pictures.

An example of the early 20th century Italian art

Toni Friend (not to be confused with her realist/dedanist/husband Tony Friend) joined us for the evening, which was most enjoyable.

Me and Toni posing quite convincingly as proper art aficionados

Actually we spent the first hour or 90 minutes of the evening not looking at the art at all – the evening was blessed with fine late summer weather, so we spent plenty of time early evening in the garden chatting with Dedanists – many of whom I know from the short time I have been playing real tennis. An interesting and pleasant group of people for a party.

There was fizz and some very tasty nibbles – prosciutto wrapped around grissini sticks and some buffalo mozzarella with tomato nibbly-things to help soak up the grape juice.

After surveying the galleries and chatting with people some more, we ventured back into the garden after dark, to find the look of the exterior of the house and the garden even more magical in artificial light. The last few photographs, which we took just before we left, show that magical quality

Some interesting work in the garden too
Janie does her Narcissus thing
See how beautiful the Georgian architecture looks…
…with modern illumination to set it off
One last snap of me and Toni as we leave the beautiful house and garden
I had prepared a light repast at the flat for me and Janie, passing on the Turkish meal which many of the Dedanists went on to enjoy after the party. I was to play real tennis the next day and then spend the following three at Lord’s eating, drinking and watching cricket, so light seemed right.

An Evening At Oklava Restaurant With Lisa Opie and Toni Friend, 24 July 2017

This was Lisa’s idea – she spotted that Restaurant Oklava was doing a couple of special tasting menu evenings and thought that sounded like such a good idea that she would book first, find companions later.

When Lisa suggested the idea a couple of week’s earlier, Janie said yes straight away without checking her diary – whereas I was sure that there was something about that date. When we did check, oh joy, that “something” was the fact that we had booked the day off, either to recover from or as the reserve day for The Women’s Cricket World Cup Final. 

Janie and I were still full of the cup on the Monday evening, until we got into the meal, at which point we were soon getting full with the meal. Modern Turkish food – but this is Turkish as we’d never tasted it before; really subtle flavours and fascinating combinations.

Wonderful menu – in case you couldn’t tell

Each dish was delicious, with the octopus and the lamb in particular being the standout dishes for both me and Janie; perhaps indeed all of us. We enjoyed the wine matching idea, which gave us a chance to try several Turkish wines at a modest additional price.

Chef Selin Kiazim must have been exhausted at the end of the evening – we had a late booking, but she didn’t show it…

…she even signed the back of Janie’s menu as a keepsake to insert in the excellent Oklava book, which Toni had kindly given to Janie a few week’s earlier…

…and even kindly posed with us for a picture or two before we left:

The Girls Monday Night Out Comes To An End

I’d been an honorary girl for the evening. This restaurant gathering, the day after The Women’s World Cup Final (have I mentioned that Janie and I went to that?), brought a very successful girlie long weekend to a most enjoyable conclusion.

Bailey’s Stardust, National Portrait Gallery, 4 April 2014

An evening visit to the National Portrait Gallery to see David Bailey canonical exhibition.

Janie and I went with Toni Friend.

Here is a link to the National Portrait Gallery resource on this show, which has some really good photographs, presumably being used at the time as “teasers”.

We really liked the exhibition, as did most but not all of the critics.

This search term – click here – will find you reviews, vids, the lot, if you want to know more about it.

Afterwards we went on to Haozhan chinese restaurant for dinner – we felt this place had gone down since our previous visit, but still was a good enough and convenient place to end an enjoyable evening.