A few months ago, one of my former colleagues said something like, “Hey, we’re thinking of taking the ferry to France for the weekend. We’re taking the car. Do you want to come along?”
I am the worst person to say these things to.
Because I always say yes.
And before you know it, I’m off to Portsmouth with my friends A and C and we’re driving their car onto the quite large and substantial ferry. If you like logistics and operations like I do, this is pretty damn amazing. ALL THESE CARS. Squeezed onto this one ferry. Off to France! Across the sea. Amazing.
We booked cabins on the ferry and I had a spacious four-berth room to myself. It was tiny and pink and clean and neat. Not luxurious at all, and I slept like crap down in the bowels of the ship, but it was not bad, all in all. (I really cannot imagine sharing this room with three other people though, unless they were my children and even then, it would be hard.)
As soon as we got onto the ship, A. hustled us to the posh restaurant and procured a corner table. I am laughing as I’m writing this because guys, it was a real restaurant, with real food! Quelle surprise! The service was very French and very lovely. I had the poached sole and we drank Champagne out of tiny bottles and capped our night with some Muscat and the dessert bar, where we may have eaten all the Tiramasu and all the cheese. Lactose intolerant, we are not.
Bright and early the next morning, we arrived in the medieval city of St. Malo. They have ramparts there. For the next 36 hours, we drove around Brittany and Normandy and drank all the wine and ate all the oysters. A perfect weekend, really.
Surprise! I went out to lunch in Clerkenwell! Sorry, I don’t travel far for lunch when I’m working from home, so EC1/N1 it is. And 155 Bar & Kitchen it also is. And you know what? I like 155 Bar & Kitchen. I want to move in. I want them to come over and decorate my flat. I want to be a kajillionaire so I can buy all their jewelry and spritz myself with all their custom scents. And I really want that gold herringbone floor.
But first, a word about the service.
I called and made a booking because you know…there is nothing more awkward than trying to dine solo but no one has any space for you. I arrive at the restaurant and they immediately know it’s me. They show me to a table, perpendicular to a nice enough man but if I take this seat, I will pretty much be staring at his jaw the entire meal. He’s dining solo too. This feels awkward. Am I the only person who thinks this is awkward?
I am shown to another table. The bench is bedecked with pillows. A kajillion pillows. This cannot be normal. Am I to recline like a pasha? Why all the pillows? But then I realize…the table next to me has gotten rid of all their pillows and put them on my bench. I hand all the pillows to the host and sit down.
And I open the leather-bound wine list.
Only it’s empty.
There’s nothing in it.
The server arrives. “Would you like something to drink?”
I order the chicken caesar salad, a ridiculous bargain at £8. £8! It’s not a huge portion, but it’s still pretty perfect. (What it misses in presentation, it makes up for in taste.) They must have a sous vide machine or something back there at 155 because the chicken is ridiculously tender. Either that, or someone is very good at the poaching. If so, I need to have them over to my house because my frozen chicken breasts never taste so nice when I poach them. (Probably a little pan-frying there too.)
You know what’s even nicer than a chicken caeser and a glass of Sauv Blanc when you’re dining solo? GOING SHOPPING IN THE RESTAURANT AFTER LUNCH. It’s like my dream.
Yes, 155 Bar & Kitchen is all the new thing: the LIFESTYLE thing. A “carefully curated” thing. Go have lunch, go buy pretty trinkets. Go hang out at the wine bar downstairs. Now there’s a sure way to make money in the restaurant industry. IF…you can attract the foot traffic on a weekday afternoon…people who want to eat your food and buy things they really don’t need on a Wednesday at 1 pm and then drink wine downstairs afterwards. Hmmm.
The Verdict: I like 155 Bar & Kitchen. I hope it prospers.
London restaurants love their hand wash. And hand lotion. I tried to explain this to Chicagoans once, that I missed the posh hand wash and hand lotion in London restaurant loos and people laughed at me. But I’m serious. I love nice hand wash. I am now on #HandWashWatch and paying attention to who’s stocking what where. Surprisingly, I have no London photos of Cowshed. Because that’s my favorite. Also surprising? I haven’t encountered any Molton Brown lately.
Posh hand wash and lotion is not cheap! I’ve been doing some research:
Guys, I booked a trip to Hong Kong and Thailand in the new year! I haven’t been back to Hong Kong since 2000, during my two week bike tour of the south east corner of China with Backroads, the cycling vacation specialists. Prior to that, I spent a few days in HK and Bangkok with my parents in 1998, at the height of the currency crisis where we ate all the dim sum…for cheap!
Asia isn’t as cheap as it was in 1998, so I’ve had to be pretty cash-flow conscious about my 15 night visit. I am really trying not to pay for any hotel rooms at all, and instead I’m relying on hotel points and airline miles. I’m not as sophisticated as people like The Points Guy, so I’m sure I’m not always making the best decisions with my points and getting the most bang for my buck out of them, but really, I’m making these decisions primarily based on cash flow. I just can’t afford $100 to $200 USD per night for this trip, and nor am I a backpacker willing to share a dorm room with 3 to 5 other travelers. Decent business-class hotels are what I am looking for. To facilitate this trip, I signed up for a new credit card, the IHG Rewards Club Credit Card, and earned 80,000 points, which will facilitate two nights in Hong Kong. (More if I am open to a Holiday Inn.) I’m still fiddling around with exactly which points to use where, but here’s my current plan, points spend, and estimated dollar savings…an estimated $2000 USD in savings using points.
Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui
Hyatt Gold Passport
United Mileage Plus
U Chiang Mai
United Mileage Plus
A couple of thoughts:
Expiration dates: I actually have to use a lot of my points in 2016 because they will expire! Pay close attention to the expiration dates on your points. I use TripIt Pro to keep track of everything. My Hyatt points expire in May and without the 80,000 IHG Rewards Credit Card bonus, my IHG points would have also expired in May.
Working from the road: I mentioned I need business class hotels. It’s very possible that I may need to work from the road, so it’s important to me that I have easy access to the internet and hotel business centers. So while some people might say “I can’t believe you are blowing all your points on the Hyatt Regency,” the fact that I HAVE TO use my points by May AND that I need a good business center leads me to spend all my points on two nights.
Location, location, location: In choosing hotels, I could have course stayed in places for fewer points, but I prioritized central locations over everything else. For example, I could get 3 nights at a different Hyatt instead of 2 nights at the Hyatt in TTS, but I want to be in TTS.
Safety and traveling alone: Although I plan to meet up with friends throughout my trip, I’ll be traveling solo. So staying in better quality places is important to me.
Spending money on other things: Besides for general cash-flow concerns, another reason I am doing all this on points is so I have the extra cash to spend on restaurants!!
I am super-excited about this trip. Really, words cannot describe. If yo have any tips or suggestions, I am all ears!!
I learned a new phrase recently. “Local light haulage.” It explains all these services and bicycles zipping around town, bringing you things. You’ve probably seen more than your fair share of Deliveroo cyclists recently, for example. Newest on the scene is TakeEatEasy, a Belgian startup that has just arrived in London. Their selling point? They deliver from premium restaurants that might not normally deliver.
The PR from TakeItEasy got in touch and asked me if I wanted to try out TakEateasy and then gave me a £50 voucher I could spend with them. I’ve been working from home a lot and thought that I would use this opportunity to stock up on lunch for the week. I can never not have enough Lebanese food in my life, so on a drizzly Monday evening, I placed my order with Comptoir Libanais by Liverpool Street. It was 6 pm.
Shortly after placing my order, I received a text message confirming that my order had been recorded. And then I received another text, explaining that I could follow my courier online. I watched on the TakeEatEasy website as “Euan” made his way to the restaurant on his bicycle. 13 km/hour! I felt more than a little bad for making him go to all this effort in the rain but TakeEatEasy told me that my order would be with me in 17 minutes, so that was exciting.
And then Euan arrived at the restaurant. And I waited and waited and waited as the blip on my computer screen stopped moving. The 17 minutes were quickly over. Truth be told, I didn’t really believe the 17 minute delivery time, but that’s what they said so who was I to disagree?
At 7 pm, TakeEatEasy called me from Belgium to explain that there had been a problem at the restaurant and that the cyclist would be with me shortly.
Within 15 minutes or so, there was Euan at my door, apologetic and sopping wet. Apparently the restaurant had not noticed my order, so he had to wait for it to be prepared. He handed me the carrier bag of delicious Lebanese food, and I gave him £4 for his trouble.
All in all, an hour and 15 minutes is not too long of a wait for delivery of high quality food. But they told me 17 minutes. I really didn’t believe them when they said that — who can get anywhere in London in 17 minutes — but I took them at their word. Let’s just say I am glad I ordered on a quiet Monday night and not a Friday night!
Would I try TakeEatEasy again? Yes, I probably will if I want something from a restaurant that normally doesn’t deliver. However, I would probably place my order early though and maybe even confirm with the restaurant that they had received it to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again.
I accepted a £50 credit in return for trying out TakeEatEasy.