East of Ealing

Easy like #AlmostSunday morning

It’s Sunday. No – it’s Saturday! This is one of the recognised downsides of my rebranding of Friday as “#AlmostSaturday”. Yesterday while out and about a grim realisation dawned upon me that my jeans may self destruct at any moment. Luckily I’m 50 yards from Next on Oxford Street so I’m able to rescue myself from one of those impromptu ripped clothing crisis that the Incredible Hulk would be all too familiar with.

Things of Leon

It’s Chinese new year and I want to do something appropriate. The Time Out website says that there are some oriental things going on at the London Docklands Museum and so a plan is formed. I’ve never been that far east of Tower Bridge so it’s an opportunity to experience something new. Apparently there is a branch of Leon there and having been to the marvellous branch at Spitalfields and experienced some lovely things it’s a prime candidate for lunch. Docklands turns out to be very impressive.

Docklands
Docklands

It’s toytown stuff with huge office blocks, the Docklands Light Railway and a shopping centre boasting some quality names. This must be the only retail centre in the UK with no pound shops or empty units. It turns out that there is also a great range of lunch choices and the lure of Japanese takeaway Wasabi is sufficiently strong to relegate Leon into second place on this occasion. Why don’t we get this quality and range of eateries in the Midlands? There’s not a McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut or KFC in sight here, just a great range of healthy fresh food outlets.

Chicken Katsu
Chicken Katsu

China Crisis

The museum is free to enter and charts the history of the dockland area from Roman times through the middle ages and upto the present day. The content is well presented and sections on the slave trade, wartime and transformation into a financial district in the 1980s are most engaging. My favourite annecdote concerns the firemen that doused sugar warehouses set alight in the blitz – they would salvage items entombed in molten and resolidified sugar to take home and break up as a sweet toffee treat. They weren’t too bothered about any health risks of such actions since other events presented a much higher risk to their wellbeing. I emerge after a couple of hours wondering where the Chinese exhibition got to since I never saw it. Oh well…

Beer of the Tiger

What to do in London on a Saturday night? Whatever I want, of course! And what I want is a top ale in a local pub followed by interesting eats. Beer In The Evening website informs me that the Carpenters Arms is not only a stones throw from my hotel in Marble Arch but serves real ale house and is popular with the locals. And so it is. A pint of award winning Betty Stogs bitter sinks agreeably in a bar where most voices sport a London accent and there is a darts match going on in the back room. My window view of the side street I also interesting. There’s an Iraqi restaurant across the road hosting some family party. In the street a cycle rickshaw passes having come all the way from Covent Garden and later I double take as I thought I saw a sushi delivery van drive by. I’m moving in around here!

It’s only a short tube hop to Leicester Square but it might as well be a trip to the moon. The streets are packed with people of every description and purpose but all attracted like fireflies to the shiny lights. Chinatown is aglow with red lanterns and bunting even though official celebrations take place next weekend. I opt for a Cantonese restaurant that looks a little shabby around the edges but is popular with young Chinese people so can’t be too bad. It’s a soap opera. I’m led to a table where I order Udon noodles and Tiger beer.

A senior gentleman who has been directing the waiters comes over with a dish of food and asks in broken English whether I mind him serving it at my table. I’m not quite sure what he’s asking me but reply that this will be fine. He then sits down opposite and embarks on what I now understand to be his dinner break. He eats with a spoon which surprises me. Then after 3 minutes he shouts an order at a waiter who produces a fork and gives it to me. I thought I had been using chopsticks happily and successfully up until now but perhaps I’m being told otherwise. It’s not the first odd behaviour – I was presented with the bill immediately after ordering before actually receiving anything. To cap it off my dinner date grabs a rice bowl, pours some of his green tea into it and dunks pieces of pork from his meal into it. I’m not falling for this because I know if I do this next time I’m in Hong Kong in the pretence of pretending to know what I’m doing everyone will stop and laugh. They do things differently here.