Saturday, 14 January 2017

Archies Bar, Deptford Market Yard

The newly opened Deptford Market Yard
Last weekend Becks and I popped down to the newly opened Deptford Market Yard for a spot of lunch. The approach to the station has been completely transformed by the new, wide public square and the railway arches which have been converted into small business units. Even on a slightly dreary and damp day the area was looking good.

There are a few options for lunch and we selected Archie's for some grilled cheese sandwiches.
Queso Fundido and chorizo
We completely over ordered and I spent the rest of the day in a pleasant cheese coma.

Of the savoury dishes we chose my favourite was the posh cheese and onion toastie that is made with Keen's cheddar, ogleshield and onion. You could definitely taste the quality of the cheese which has been grilled until it came oozing out of our sandwich.
Goats cheese toastie
The highlight though, without doubt, was the ricotta cheesecake. It was unlike any other cheesecake that I've had before being much softer and creamier. Unlike most ricotta cheesecakes I'm guessing that it hadn't been baked. It came in a delightfully generous slice too, but something tasting this good can't be good for you....
Posh cheddar and onion
The staff were super friendly and they have fitted out the small railway arch well. The short menu is full on cheese so make sure you, and all of your party, are in the mood for cheese before you go as there aren't any options besides cheese, cheese and more glorious cheese.
Ricotta cheesecake
Archie's Bar London
Deptford Market Yard

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

What on earth are you doing in Rancho Cucamonga on your honeymoon??

Becks with her giant pancakes
It would be fair to say that I wasn't particularly looking forward to the long drive from Solvang to Joshua Tree National Park, so the night before we'd been looking at the map of somewhere to break the journey along the way. We settled on Corky's Kitchen and Bakery in Rancho Cucamonga as a point to aim at, a bit over half way and beyond what should be the worst of the LA traffic.

Corky's didn't turn out to be the idyllic American diner you'd perhaps be dreaming of, instead it was modern building in a small parade of bland shops just off the freeway. But we'd arrived and I was looking forward to a break from the driving so we headed inside.
Reuben sandwich
Detecting our foreign accents, one of the friendly servers asked us what we what we were up to. When we said that we were on our honeymoon we the rather startled, and priceless response, "what on earth are you doing in Rancho Cucamonga on your honeymoon?".

Eating enormous pancakes is what Becks' was doing. The pancakes were so large that the accompanying scrambled eggs and bacon had to be served on a separate plate. They were fearsome looking beasts but Becks put in a valiant effort only leaving a amount for a takeaway box.

My reuben was thankfully a lot more modest.

Rolling back into the car we completed a trouble free drive to the Air BnB apartment we'd rented in Joshua Tree just outside the National Park.
Our Air BnB house in Joshua Tree
In the evening we took a load of washing to the laundrette and sat there while it was going round in the machine. There were some 'characters' who came to do their washing while we were including one women, who after studying us, decided to come over and tell us that she thought we were a well suited couple.

Fed up of eating out we made our maiden visit to Walmart to pickup some supplies for the next couple of days. The US hypermarket was a sadly underwhelming experience and not that different to big supermarkets in the UK or France (or at least the Joshua Tree branch wasn't).

Monday, 26 December 2016

Hiroshima, Japan

After breakfast in the hotel we walked up to Hakata train station in Fukuoka to catch our bullet train to Hiroshima. Taking my first ride on a bullet train in Japan was one of the things I was looking forward to about our holiday in Japan and it didn't disappoint.

We got to the station well in advance of our train, and standing on the platform, the first thing I noticed was just how many bullet trains there were. They aren't some sort of special service a couple of times an hour, but were constantly zipping in and out of the dedicated bullet train platforms.

The second thing that struck me was the precision of everything, there were lots of clear signs telling you where to stand for your carriage / seat number, the trains stopped perfectly in front of the platform edge doors and it goes without saying that all of the trains were on time.

The only thing that would have made the experience better would have been a speedometer in the carriage so we knew how fast we were travelling.
Hiroshima sports dome
After unsuccessfully managing to find a locker for our luggage at the train station (a bit of a theme during the holiday), we dropped of our bags in our Air BnB apartment and then set off for a walk around Hiroshima.

Full of tourists and emotion we initially didn't spend too much time in the Peace Park, instead starting our sightseeing of Hiroshima just to the north of the park.
Hiroshima castle
We spent some time in the grounds of Hiroshima castle which was convincing reconstructed in 1958. We didn't go into the castle itself, but wondered round the grounds and looked inside a temple inside the grounds which seemed to have the Japanese equivalent of a christening taking place.
Shukkeien garden.
After the castle we wondered across to the Shukkei-en garden. We arrived with only half and hour before the garden closed, which was just enough time to have a look round. It was a tranquil and pleasant space, largely free from the large number of tourists that seemed ubiquitous in the rest of the city.

My photos of the garden don't really do it justice, but it was a lovely space. We saw quite a few tiny crabs scurrying along the paths as we made our way round the eastern side of the garden.
Becks in the park
For dinner we started our routine of decision that beset us every time we wanted to find somewhere to eat in Japan. We'd wonder up and down the road staring cluelessly at each restaurant, then down a side street and possibly one more before finally choosing somewhere to eat for no good reason other than we stood outside it. And to think we consider ourselves decisive people most of the time!
Becks at the counter
On this occasion our indecisive shuffle led us to this Hiroshima style okonomiyaki restaurant. We were shown to two prime seats sitting at the counter of the hot plate where we got to see the chef making our okonomiyaki right in front of us. (Although Becks went rogue and was the only person in the place to have noodles instead.)
While I really enjoyed the theatre and atmosphere of the restaurant my okonomiyaki  did get a little same-y but the end of the dish. It probably missed all of the delicate subtleties of the dish.....

My Hiroshima style okonomiyaki
After dinner we went for a walk round the Peace Park before heading back to our apartment for the night. It was much more tranquil now that all the tour groups and day trippers had left which gave us time to appreciate the park much more than you could during the day.
A bomb dome

Restaurant address:
3 Chome-3-5 
Ōtemachi, Naka-ku, 

Friday, 23 December 2016

Monarch butterfly colony and Cachuma Lake, California

Monarch butterlfy 
It may have been a year since we went to California, and I'm midway through writing up our more recent holiday to Japan, but I'm determined to still finish blogging our last holiday too.

When Becks realised there was a monarch butterfly colony not too far from where we were staying in Solvang it became a must visit for us. The butterflies are supposed to have a peak of activity mid morning when the sun penetrates through the trees and warms the butterflies up.

When we got to the butterfly glade in Goleta it was beautifully peaceful and we had it to ourselves. The butterflies weren't being particularly active, still huddled together on branches of the trees, but we did get to see a number of the butterflies flying.

Towards the end of our time in the glade a group of four middle aged Americans arrived, completely ignored the signs asking you to be quite so as not to disturb the butterflies and were making a total racket. Not too long after they arrived we left them to it and headed back to the car.
Lunch at Brophy Bros in Santa Barbara
We weren't too far from Santa Barbara so decided to head back there for lunch after a successful visit to the pier a couple of days before hand. Rather than a second visit to the pier we headed to the marina to check out Brophy Bros, I'm not quite sure of the full story, but it's a restaurant where my aunt and uncle know the owner from their regular trips to California twenty years ago.

We had a quick lunch sitting on the balcony over looking the sea. I'd love to tell you what it was like, but I honestly can't remember.
Cachuma Lake
On our way back to Solvang we stopped at Cachuma Lake just as the sun started to set. We pulled in at a large camping area, that was completely deserted in winter, but judging by all the facilities in place must be very popular in summer.

We had a pleasant stroll round the campsite looking at different views of the lake in the glorious golden light. We'd read about California's drought and how many days it had been since it had last rained, but seeing how low the lake was really brought home how bad the drought is.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Four Hundred Rabbits, Nunhead

Courgette, pine nut and feta pizza
Last Saturday night we decided to pop over to Nunhead to check out the new(ish) pizza place Four Hundred Rabbits.

We arrived early and ordered a couple of pizzas that were delivered to our table pretty quickly. They have a relatively short menu with just six different pizzas on offer and they all sounded pretty appealing. I ordered the anchovy, caper, onion, mozzarella, tomato and rosemary pizza (£8.95). You could taste the sourdough crust and I really enjoyed the umami that the anchovies added to the pizza. They were quite generous with the tomato sauce which meant it was a bit soggy in the middle. I don't remember any rosemary.
Anchovy, caper and onion pizza
Becks ordered the courgette, garlic, pine nut, feta, mozzarella and thyme pizza (£7.95). I was lucky enough to taste a slice and remember it being generous with the toasted pine nuts and having a nice bite from the feta.

For dessert they serve gelati from Gelupo, a smart move as it would be hard to beat Gelupo's excellent ice creams making them in house. I enjoyed my gingerbread and mint flavours. The mint had a real fresh zing without a hint of any artificial flavour. Becks had a single scoop of gelati with a brownie. The brownie was incredibly rich and dense and which sounds great but was a bit too much in reality.
Gelupo ice creams
The staff were definitely part of the entertainment singing along to Christmas songs that were playing.

143 Evelina Rd
SE15 3HB
Four Hundred Rabbits Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, 16 December 2016

Japan Day 1: Fukuoka

Our ferry waiting to depart Busan
Our day in Fukuoka was one of my favourites of the holiday, although it didn't have the most promising start....

We took an early taxi from our hotel to the Busan international ferry terminal and after a painless check in, and a rather comical submission of our sales tax refund claim which required me to reverse back through immigration, we were onto the ferry.

Fearing that the three hour ferry ride might be a bit choppy I took some sea sickness tablets. It was a bit of a queazy first half hour for me and then I managed to sleep the rest of the way. Becks hadn't taken any sea sickness tablets and wasn't so lucky.....
Fukuoka cheesecake
We walked from the ferry terminal to our hotel, the Dormy Inn. An early check in certainly wasn't an option (I'm not sure if this was particular to our hotel or is a Japanese thing?) so we dropped off our bags and walked up to the main station so that we could activate our Japan Rail Passes and book tickets up to Hiroshima for the next day.

I had some lunch at a café in the station (Becks still couldn't face food after the ferry). On our way out of the station we discovered a very high end looking food court, something we found was common across Japan. I'd heard that Fukuoka was famous for cheesecake, so after trying out several different flavours we bought ourselves a slice to share. The packaging was a bit over the top with ice packs included.
Night market in Tenjin Park
Following the cheesecake we walked back to the hotel and checked in. After short time in our room we went for a walk round Fukuoka. We didn't really have any aims for our walk, absorbing the sights and sounds of our first day in Japan.

By complete chance we stumbled upon Tenjin Park where a night market was being held. It had the feeling of a small producers / farmers market, although not being able to read any Japanese we didn't really have a clue what was going on!
Dinner at the night market
After doing a lap of the market we decided to pick up a couple of dishes for dinner and stood at one of the communal tables eating with the other locals who were enjoying a meal after a day at work.

One our way out of the market we picked up a mango soft serve cone as a little sweet treat.
Mango soft serve
We drifted a different way back to the hotel and came across a large number of Yatai, traditional street stalls. Fukuoka apparently has half of all the yatai left in Japan. Unfortunately we were tool full from the market to try any of the stalls.
Yatai (food stalls) in Fukuoka
The Dormy Inn was midrange and modern hotel, but I loved it because it seemed so, well, Japanese. In our room was a set of pyjamas that the label advised us to put on and wear round the hotel so we put them on, and after reading the guide, headed to the onsen for a good scrub!

There were separate onsens for men and women. I was quite pleased that there weren't too many other people in the onsen to laugh at me now knowing what to do. Hopefully I got the etiquette right, scrubbing and rinsing thoroughly before getting into the hot pools, both of which were way too hot! I didn't last long in either hot pool before washing again and trying all of the different moisturisers and tonics before heading back to the room.
Free hotel ramen
We chose the hotel largely on the basis that they served free ramen between 9 - 11pm each evening. So still dressed in our pyjamas we headed down to the restaurant for a bowl of noodles before bed.

Friday, 9 December 2016

South Korea Day 5: Baseball, coastal walks and more spam

Becks and me at the start of the Igidae coastal walk
On our only full day in Busan we decided to check out the Igidae coastal walk which is on the eastern side of Busan.

Leaving our hotel we avoided the expensive French chain bakeries that had caught us out the day before at Seoul station and went for an independent looking bakery to pick up a few snacks. The bakeries in South Korea and Japan were always a bit of a lottery, you'd pick something up that for all the world looked savoury and then was filled with sweet red bean paste!

Fuelled up we caught the underground to Namcheon and then walked through a dull residential across to the start of the coastal walk.
Suspension bridges on the coastal walk
On the walk we got a few reminders that the typhoon that had hit the day before where some large waves must have pounded the coastline. We drifted for an hour along the coastal path and then turned round and retraced our steps. We didn't see any other western tourists on the walk, but there were a few locals out for a walk. Some looked like quite serious retired exercisers who I suspect do the walk regularly.
Housing blocks in Busan
On the walk back to the underground station I took the above picture of a coupe of residential tower blocks. One of the things I'll remember about Korea is the scores of identical residential tower blocks that we saw. The bigger numbers painted on the side of the blocks are the only way that you could distinguish one from another.

Before jumping onto the metro we stopped in an attractive looking Gimpab shop for a snack. They didn't have an English menu so we pointed at a couple of safe looking choices, but like last night we were served spam!
More spam gimbap
 In my research of Korean before we left home, a visit to the baseball came up as a must do (along with buying new glasses). The internet was full of warning stories about sell out games and the tantalising prospect of being able to take your own pizzas into the stadium to eat while you enjoyed the game.

We made a beeline for the ticket office as soon as we arrived at the stadium but needn't have worried because the ground wasn't even a tenth full. My Korean wasn't up to much and we accidentally ended up with tickets for the away fans section, the LG Twins.
Outside of the Lotte Giants stadium
Tickets secured we headed to the club shop so that I could buy myself a baseball gap and then we went in search of the promised pizza. We couldn't find the shop I'd read about on the internet so instead ended up buying a couple of pizzas from a restaurant in a local shopping centre. I also bought a can of beer from the 7 Eleven. They changed the rules this season to stop allowing you to bring your own cans into the stadium so they helpfully pour your beer into plastic cups for you instead.
Baseball action
In all honesty the games was pretty dreary. The most excitement was coming from the Lotte Giants fan zone. We were going to move seats to enjoy the atmosphere, but then the LG Twins scored a run and the fan zone went eerily quiet. Why not cheer on your team to help them come back from behind?

I have to admit we left before the end of the game. Chased out by one of the people in a nearby seat who was eating some rather whiffy dried squid.