Charlotte’s

IMG_20150919_194715-pWe hadn’t been to Charlotte’s Place, Ealing, in a while, and given that we had a good cause for celebration, we went and enjoyed a lovely evening.

We started with a glass of Prosecco and ordered our starters.

The good wife received a starter of Smoked Sea Trout, which was very nice yet served in a laughably tiny portion, sprinkled across a plate with Frisee salad tops – a bad joke of a presentation.

I enjoyed Terrine of Duck, which hadn’t set and made me wonder how on earth they managed to cut and plate it. It tasted very nice but lacked texture; the dish was a mush with the very soft terrine, a bland liver mousse and an equally unexciting apricot and gin mousse.

For the main, we enjoyed fillet of pork (she) and quail (he), and all was very well with that, accompanied by a very nice bottle of Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France.

We bot chose the same pudding, Blackberry and port jelly with compressed greengages and juniper ice cream. I scream! The jelly wasn’t set and contained whole fruit, so was a compote, not jelly. We found it nice, and thought it worked better as a compote as it would have in form of a jelly, but it’s still mislabeled. The compressed greengages didn’t give much and their compressed nature completely eluded us, but we found the juniper ice cream intriguing and delicious with the blackberry compote.

A cup of stale and fairly disgusting coffee, made a long time ago and slowly reduced on the hot plate, and a rather nice Grappa concluded our meal. Even though we thought there was much room of improvement, it still made for a lovely meal, over average for the area as we know it but under average for our previous experiences at Charlotte’s.

The evening was certainly rescued by their brilliant service. Absolutely spot-on. Attentive but not invasive, courteous but not grovelling, just right. Ten out of ten for the service, no doubt.

 

Great Expectations

DSC_0274Yoel replied and explained that there was “an unprecedented level of correspondence […] [expressing] concerns over this particular location.” He goes on explaining that we “face a serious issue with street drinking and the inevitable anti social behaviour that it causes in and around the [..] area …”

What’s the f* point, I wonder?

If nobody expects persons treated at the drug and alcohol rehabilitation site to be ex-drug users or ex-alcoholics, what’s the point?

I am also forever curious about the great expectations some people apparently have, and would have loved to find out if a group of former alcohol and drug abusers can live up to these. Are those people expected to roll around in the street, stark-naked? Shout obscenities? Lure the local primary school children into a life of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll?

I think I might have wanted to join in, at least in the rolling-around naked whilst shouting obscenities part.

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An Open Letter

DSC_0304I reported twice, so far, on the local rejection of plans for converting a run-down small office block into a place of rehabilitation treatment for drug and alcohol addicts. [one] [two]

Today, even the local Councillor for the Labour party beats his chest with the successful defeat of such plans, in form of a locally distributed pamphlet. Enough is enough! If the man doesn’t come speak to me, I need to speak to the man. And so we did. A copy of our message follows:

Dear Cllr Yoel Gordon,

Thank you very much for your letter with news about The Studios, Hanwell. Please allow us to express our deep regret and most heartfelt resentment about this affair.

We expected the local conservative representative to jump onto this particular bandwagon, the bandwagon put into motion by the local well-to-do not-on-my-doorstep party. She did. From a representative of the Labour party, we expect awareness of the needs of the society as a whole, though.

Maybe also a little bit of common sense.

You, and your “defending the communities” are actively helping to build a society nobody in their right social mind can wish to live in. The “anywhere but here” approach is an outright antisocial policy. We do not wish to be associated with such a policy.

A much needed drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility now needs to find another location (and probably face the same resentment again). In Cambridge Road, we are stuck with a derelict and (seemingly) partly unused office block, featuring a forecourt ideally suited for drug dealing in the evening hours. We almost wish the local dealers move their business there.

 

 

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No No No

DSC_0105No solicitation, some people write onto their letter boxes or front doors, No junk mail some others. You can even buy these as stickers or in engraved brass, and, quite possible, you can even buy these from a travelling door-to-door salesman.

It seems that I need to make my own sign though. It would go something like this:

No solicitation, none whatsoever.

This includes, but is not limited to, the sale or recommendation of goods (such as UPVC windows), services (such as tree pruning or gutter cleaning), or spiritual concepts (such as Christianity).

Followers of St Florian, in the very spirit of St Florian’s principle, are also kindly requested to go elsewhere.

Anita Kapoor, elected councillor for the Conservative Party (Elthorne Ward) now prides herself of having successfully campaigned against plans to convert a derelict local building into a local centre for rehabilitation of former drug users. In reality Anita will have jumped onto the bandwagon brought into motion by others, but I guess that’s what politicians do.  I told you about this campaign earlier.

I can only hope that the local junkies discover this excellent site really soon. The Studios, as the run-down small office block is known, has amble parking space, good mobile phone reception, a forecourt with space to mingle, meet and trade at all times of the day. The site is generally unoccupied outside main working hours, rarely checked out by the police, and offers a few dark corners for more private meetings.

 

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Petition Day

DSC_1454Ding-dong, the door bell goes, so I go and answer. Whether I’d sign her petition, the lady wonders. It’s against an application for change of use of the Studio office block nearby, which is to be converted into an alcohol and drugs centre – her words, not mine! No, she sais, she doesn’t know what that means either, but she thinks it could describe a place for rehabilitation and treatment, and fears that even ex-offenders might frequent it. Again, her words, not mine.

You hypocritical little weasel, I think to myself, and explain that I shall not sign her petition. Converting a run-down office block with dubious tenants into a place of rehabilitation and treatment is a fine thing, I explain, and petitioning against something while not even knowing what it means is hugely disagreeable. I suspect, I continue telling her, that in reality she is protesting against anything which might happen because it might happen on her doorstep.

I deny politely and close the door, and wish I hadn’t been quite so polite. What a hypocritical weasel, really! I can’t comprehend what kind of society people want, if it doesn’t include rehabilitation and treatment for those in need of such things. I find this mindset objectionable and highly antisocial.

Shame, shame, and shame again on all those not on my doorstep people.

I almost wish she comes again.

 

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Charlotte’s

DSC_0859A lovely meal was being had at Charlotte’s Place in Ealing yesterday night to mark a special occasion: our 30th!

30 years of food-related memories (and others), so here’s the latest memory added:

For starters, we enjoyed a pork and fennel sausage with Sauce Gribiche (him) and Foie Gras, ham hock and artichoke terrine with a fruit chutney (her).

For the main, we enjoyed hake with octopus and Salsa Verde (her) and cod with fennel and Sauce Vierge (him), followed by a cherry Panna Cotta (her) and a cheese board (him). All enjoyed with nice bread (good), plenty of free water (excellent) and a passable Pinot Grigio.

The very subtle difference between Sauce Gribiche and a fine remoulade was lost on me, but it was as nice as any mayonnaise-based sauce ever will be. The Salsa Verde proofed popular thanks to an unexpected punch of mint. The Cornish Cod was cooked well enough to make me envious, but the dish lacked a small highlight; maybe a little more of the tiny, tiny, tiny portion of Walnut pesto would have done the trick (which was really lovely actually). The wilted Gem Lettuce underneath was a little overcooked but still acceptable. The cherry flavour in the Panna Cotta was lost against the accompanying blackberry compote, but all in all, Charlotte’s continues to be the best restaurant in Ealing that we know of. Not cheap but not expensive either, and the whole balance between price, ambience, food and service is very good indeed.

It’s well worth a visit more than once in thirty years.

 

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A Surprise Icebreaker

DSC_0278One of my highlights of the week is my weekly shopping walk on an early Saturday morning. Weather permitting, I grab my over 20 year old wicker shopping basket and a couple of reusable cotton bags, and make my rounds:

First stop often is the Hanwell Fishmonger. They are open every day 8am to 8pm, offer a superb selection at very reasonable prices, and do a great job at gutting and cleaning. This past Saturday, for example, I bought a pair of Red Mullet and half a dozen of Scallops. I pay £11 and tell them that I’ll be back to collect things in about an hour.

The next stop is the West Ealing Farmers’ Market. I often buy cheese and meat here, and of course all kinds of herbs, fruit, veg and the ever-so delicious Isle of Wight tomatoes. This past Saturday, I bought fennel, spring onions and Victoria Plums.

The third stop is Cudi’s Food Store in West Ealing, the 24/7 multi-cultural super market with a great fruit and veg selection at very reasonable prices. This past Saturday, I was looking for prickly pears, but they had non. Instead, I found they had fresh Chanterelle Mushrooms. The real thing, a whole lot of them for just £4.99. Bargain, even if they might faintly glow in the dark.

The forth stop is Waitrose West Ealing, where I buy whatever remains on the list.

I will normally retrace my steps to find something which I forgot, or because I had to change plans slightly and now desperately need cherries or coriander or whatever, and I will finally stop by the Hanwell Fishmonger again and collect my purchase.

I am often approached by people commenting on my wicker basket. Most people carry plastic bags enough to cause a global plastic crisis all by themselves, and somehow envy the wicker basket, but come back in the following week for more plastic bags. Go figure.

Anyway, this past Saturday, I had a new experience: people always look at me and my basket, but this Saturday, they looked inside the basket and commented on the content. I could tell, because I was approached by three different people, commenting on and inquiring about the source of my Chanterelle (also known as Girolle) Mushrooms.

Who would have thought that a punnet of Chanterelles could be such an ice breaker with the otherwise rather reserved West Ealing shoppers? One lady in particular, who turned out to be German (married to an Italian named Mario), was positively excited about the prospect of affordable Chanterelles.

She made my day.

 

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Tuk-Cho

DSC_1126We recently went for a quick noodle soup lunch into the Asian Market Eating experience at Tuk-Cho, Ealing Broadway. We’ve been next door at the Thai Canteen before and weren’t impressed there (on account of bland food), so all advance credit to Tuk-Cho.

Oh dear. We shouldn’t have. We’d been a lot better off making our own.

The place was mostly empty when we arrived in the early lunch time hours, and filling to about 50% capacity during our stay. When we came, serving staff was already at 150% capacity though. Noodle soup bars and Asian market eating tends to be fast and furious (just try out wagamama if you don’t know what I mean). At Tuk-Cho, they took their time to take our orders and then again to deliver our meals. The single waitress (later joint by a colleague) was just not on top of things, there’s no two ways about it. Experienced waiting staff can easily handle the number of guests they had at the time, but at Tuk-Cho, they didn’t feel like rushing. A slow approach to fast food, fair enough.

When choosing from the menu, we liked the fact that Tuk-Cho tries to cover the whole of South-east Asia: a Malaysian Laksa, a Vietnamese Pho, a Thai Tim Yam Kung, a Cambodian K’tiao. Nice, we thought, and ordered one Laksa, one K’tiao. Both arrived after quite some waiting and were lame in terms of heat, and flavourless in terms of general aroma. A lame and bland Laksa, really? How hard can it be? Same goes to the K’tiao, which I will admit is a little harder to get right. I don’t think this one was even close. None of it was bad, but it was a far cry from being good enough – certainly not for a premium price of £8.40 (K’tiao) and £9.90 (Laksa), service not included.

These places come and these places go. We’ll be back when the name on the front changes again.

I made a Cambodian noodle soup myself just a few nights ago, as I begun getting worried that I might have leaned out of the window a little too far but – No, I shouldn’t have worried. All is well, and my mouth sung of flavours for a long time after the last drop was spooned out of my bowl. Not at Tuk-Cho though.

 

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Council Logic

2011-01-03 008Thankfully, our house is not in a controlled parking zone (CPZ). I’d be green, blue and purple of anger: when the council decides to make your street a controlled parking zone, it means that you need to go and pay a fee (in the order of £60 per annum, I believe) for the right to park your own car outside your own house. Road taxes paid for the car, substantial taxes paid for the fuel consumed by said car, and council takes paid for the house notwithstanding.

In their latest Around Ealing pamphlet, the council even boasts about the new and super-convenient facility which allows the purchase of visitor parking vouchers online and from your mobile phone.

I think the official justification is to prevent “wild parking” and to ensure that streets around popular hotspots, such as a shopping area or a tube station, aren’t cluttered with parking cars, leaving no car parking space for residents. In my simple little mind, it means that I need to produce proof of residence, and for each car owned, proof or ownership and road tax payment. In return, the council would supply a resident’s parking permit.

Everything else is nothing but unashamed money making without service in return.

The audacity of boasting and declaring the new payment methods an improvement! Have they no self-respect, no shame, no common sense? Oh. I see. No, no and no.

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This Week, I’ve Been Mostly Eating…

DSC_0084Over the extended Christmas season, we’ve been eating at other people’s houses more than usually, so I thought this week’s I’ve Been Mostly Eating might list some of the meals we enjoyed on those occasions:

A winter warmer, consisting of a Spanish-style chicken, chorizo and beans hotpot, served with baked potatoes, and finished with a fruity Pavlova.

A beautiful and traditional roasted fore rip of beef, served with all the trimmings and Yorkshire Puds, and a lovely apple ice cream with caramelized apples for pudding.

An orange-infused chicken liver pate with mixed herbal salad, followed by a roasted cured rack of pork, served with Sauerkraut and pommes dauphinoise, and a rice pudding tartlet with tropical fruits for dessert.

Last week, we also went to explore the Persian cuisine of West Ealing at long last. There are two (three?) Persian restaurants, always very busy, and we have always wanted to go. We ended up in the Shalizaar, and enjoyed that the Persian cuisine appears to be right in the middle between Greece and India. Interesting. We loved the grilled Aubergine starter (Mirza Ghasemi), and a green pepper stuffed with spiced-up rice. For the mains, we received a heap of rice sufficient to feed a family of four (each!), and a nicely done lamb kebab, accompanied by a disappointingly burnt tomato. The second mains was a braised lamb shank, served in a pomegranate sauce – not quite my cup of tea, but nice and worth a try. Quite oily though. Not licensed (also nice), serving Doogh, a minted yoghurt drink similar, but more flavoursome, than Indian Lassi.

(This post’s picture: a hotpot of lentils, Swiss chard and wilted salads, served with smoked duck breast, one of my own making and very much one to my own liking. T’is yummy!)

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Controlled Parking Zone?

parcometroThere’s a public hearing about a controlled parking zone (CPZ) in Hanwell town centre, are they nuts?

Oh no, they are not. Painting a few yellow lines, erecting a few new signs, and charging £75 per resident’s car per annum (£40 for a visitor’s permit), and cashing in on fines, is pretty attractive against any of the true solutions. Those include

a) create and maintain sufficient short-term car park space for shoppers and church goers or, more importantly,

b) make public transport so attractive that short term car parking problems go away.

This is not even a very well disguised money-making scheme for the council, given that there is no car park shortage in this area in the first place. The only occasional car parking problems arise from one of three local and easily identifiable sources:

  • Excessive praying at Our Lady and St Joseph can lead to a short-term car parking demand,
  • The car park at Gold’s Gym only takes a dozen or so cars, where the demand is probably three or four times that much at peak times, and
  • The Cambridge Yard building site brings work men during the day, and some stay in their cars over night.

Surely, church, gym and building site could be asked to make suitable provisions, and to encourage use of public transport. This is just the usual Ealing council hare-brained nonsense. All in favour of a cheap fund raiser for the council, without solving the actual problem, please vote Yes on the Hanwell CPZ Hearing.

Anyone with their head intact, please join me in saying No. You’ve got until December 23rd for the 120 seconds needed to fill in the form and return it in the free envelop provided.

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Something Fishy Tonight!

Hanwell Fish MongerThis blog gets hit by local searches, so allow me to recommend a new local business: the Hanwell Fishmonger, 111 Uxbridge Road, Hanwell.

They also have a website, http://www.hanwellfishmonger.co.uk/. Didn’t work for me when I tried, but maybe its a work in progress.

Just go in there. They offer the full spectrum of while and oil fish, cuttlefish and crustaceans. Their strength is in fresh whole fish, not so much in the omnipresent cod and haddock fillets. We had King Fish streaks and Sea Bream from them so far; very reasonably priced and delicious on both occasions. The boys behind the counter also know how to handle fish; I asked them gut and clean the Sea Breams for me, and they did a nice and neat job at it.

Supporting your local businesses rather than the big supermarket chains is vital for the upkeep (or restoration) of our town centres. A town and its community can’t thrive on used washing machine and used Rolls Royce traders alone, so I encourage everyone to support the local shops. Hanwell is not very glamorous, but offers a number of appealing local businesses: butchers, baker, grocers, florists, fish mongers, newsagents, hair dressers, a pharmacy, several cafes, an ice cream parlour, a great number of pubs and some restaurants, and many more.

One pound in every £7 spent in Britain is already spent at Tesco.

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