Listen to a Londoner: Chelsea Menzies

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Chelsea Menzies, 24

Chelsea is a freshly qualified teacher who, for some reason or another, choose to relocate from the friendliest country in the world to East London.

LLO: Where are you from, how long have you been in London and what brought you here originally?
CM: I’m from British Columbia, Canada and arrived in London in September 2010.  I came here with the promise of a teaching position, but moreso came for the adventure.

LLO: What’s been your biggest challenge as an expat in London so far?
CM: Navigating a city that I’m totally unfamiliar with, and learning to trust my instincts.  Having grown up in a fairly small Canadian town, the idea of London is pretty intimidating and took a while getting used to.  I still get a little overwhelmed when I lose my bearings, but I’ve discovered that you’re never too far away from a tube station or a street map.

LLO: Which part of the city are you most familiar with and what’s your favourite thing about it?
CM: I go exploring in central London almost every weekend, so I have Oxford Circus to Trafalgar Square down pat.  I love everything about it: the shopping, the food, the people… every time I’m there I discover something new that I love about London.

LLO: Best cosy London bookshop with that lovely book smell and fantastic atmosphere that keeps you coming back?
CM: West End Lane Books in West Hampstead.

LLO: Is there a place in London that always seems to make you happy?
CM: Every time I see the Big Ben, I can’t help but smile.  I don’t know what it is about it, maybe because it’s so quintestentially “London” and always reminds me of how incredible it is that my life has brought me here.

LLO: Favourite book or movie based in London?
CM: Not to sound incredibly cheesy, but it has to be “Love Actually”.

LLO: If you were to leave London, which five things would you miss most about it (people not included)?
CM:
1. Primark and all the other great (and cheap) shopping
2. Pret A Manger…yum yum yum!
3. free museums and art galleries
4. the big red buses
5. being in a city with so much history

LLO: Which London market keeps you coming back and why?
CM: I admitedly haven’t been to as many markets as I’d wish, but I really love Camden.  The people-watching there is amazing.

LLO: If I have one night in London and want to get away from the tourist chaos, where would you recommend I go for diner and drinks?
CM: For my birthday this year, my friends and I went to a little restaurant in Soho called Inamo.  It’s a sushi place that has an interactive ordering system, where the menu is projected onto the tabletops, making them like computers.  While we waited for our food to come, we also played games like Battleship, and could watch what was going on in the kitchen with a chef-cam.

LLO: Favourite London discovery?
CM: Well, I met my boyfriend here, so that’s a pretty great discovery.

Thanks Chelsea!

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Listen to a Londoner: Luiz Hara

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you want to be interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Luiz Hara

Luiz’s London Foodie blog is a well known resource for Londoners looking for a range of delicious meal options, light snacks or unbeatable cocktails. He shares some of his favourites for different occasions for this week’s Listen to a Londoner.

LLO: How long have you lived in London? 
LH:
Since 1992, so 18 very happy years!

LLO: Tell us a bit about your blog – The London Foodie. 
LH:
I started ‘The London Foodie’ in 2009 as a platform to express my gastronomic creativity (much suppressed in my current investment banking role) and my opinions on the London restaurants I visit, but most importantly to get to know and meet other London foodies out there.

It’s been a most rewarding project. Through The London Foodie I learnt about some amazing restaurants and supper clubs I wouldn’t otherwise have visited, met some like-minded people, and started The London Cooking Club at my home.

I eat out a lot and write about these experiences at The London Foodie. Readers can find my reviews by the restaurant index, or by cuisine or location.

My aim is to find restaurants serving outstanding food that will not break the bank, exploiting the full range of nationalities and cooking styles on offer in London.

LLO: How did you become so obsessed with food? 
LH:
Food was always part of our family – my parents were restaurateurs for a while, and my mother had her own Italian restaurant for many years in Brazil after their divorce.

My dad was also an accomplished cook, and would rustle up some fine meals for my three siblings and me when he wasn’t taking us out to some of his favourite restaurants in Sao Paulo. Through my dad I learnt a great deal about Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Syrian and other cuisines from a very early age.

My Japanese grandmother was also a great influence – she lived with us and wound spend her whole day finding the best fish, meat and vegetables in the street markets of Sao Paulo, and cooking the most delicious Japanese-Brazilian meals. When I think of fusion style cuisines I always recall my grandmother.

LLO: You were born in Brazil to Japanese and Italian parents. Where can we find the best Brazilian, Japanese and Italian food in London?
LH: Italian cooking, like Japanese, is all about top quality ingredients and these do not come cheaply. It is impossible to replicate these cuisines in the UK on the cheap, apart from pizza and certain types of pasta. For the best and most affordable pizze in London I would recommend Franco Manca, Rosso Pomodoro and Pizza East. The Riverside Cafe is undoubtedly one of the best Italian restaurants in London but also one of the most expensive.

Other than outstanding Japanese fine dining joints like Nobu and Zuma, an affordable and very authentic Japanese restaurant I love is Asakusa in Mornington Crescent. For top quality sushi without the price tag, Atariya Fishmongers and their small sushi outlet on James Street by Selfridges is also a must.

I have yet to find a good Brazilian restaurant in London. I am however very excited to hear that Jose Barattino of Hotel Emiliano in Sao Paulo will be cooking at Skylon on the Southbank for the Brazilian Festival throughout the summer 2010. The well thought out menu and his cooking showcase the best that Brazil can offer.

LLO: If I only had one night in London and wanted to go off the beaten track, where would you send me to eat and drink?
LH:
There is nothing further from the beaten track than spending an evening eating at one of London’s supper clubs. The opportunity to go into someone’s home, share your table with some interesting Londoners for a fixed donation and bring your own wine is one not to be missed.

There are some amazing supper clubs I would very highly recommend like Fernandez and Leluu in Hackney for great atmosphere and food, Friday Food Club in Blackheath for the best British food in London, Cucina Cinzia in Fulham for really authentic and delicious Tuscan food outside Italy and LexEat! in Shoreditch for their sensational and no-fuss cooking.

LLO: I’m skint, but hungry for something tasty and don’t feel like cooking at home and don’t like chain restaurants. Where should I go?
LH:
There is a misconception that London restaurants are expensive, but due to intense competition and the multitude of cuisines found here, there are some great deals to be had.

I would head to Kingsland Road for some amazing and very affordable Vietnamese food, Song Que and Viet Grill being my favourites.

Along St Giles Street by Centre Point at a place now known as Little Seoul, there is a cluster of excellent value Korean restaurants that will not break the bank. Assa is one of these restaurants, and their lunch special with appetisers, main course and unlimited tea is priced at £5.

For European alternatives, Franco Manca, and its wonderful sourdough base pizza, is also very good value. Also worth a look are the many Turkish and Greek restaurants along Green Lanes with Antepliler being one of the best.

LLO: You just came back from a trip to Vietnam. Where can we get a taste of Vietnamese food in London?
LH:
Kingsland Road, also known as the Pho Mile, would be a good place to start. The best Vietnamese food in London however is not to be found at a restaurant – for a taste of authentic, fine dining Vietnamese cuisine, I would try and secure a space at Fernandez and Leluu for one of their Vietnamese evenings. At £35 for a six-course dinner and BYO, it is also excellent value.

LLO: Best restaurant for vegetarian options in London? 
LH:
My favourite vegetarian restaurant in London is Mildreds on Lexington Street. The quality of ingredients used is always high, it is reasonably priced and with a casual and cosy feel about it which I like very much.

LLO: My boyfriend and I want to go out for a romantic dinner followed by drinks. Where would you send us?
LH:
Skylon, on the first floor of The Royal Festival Hall, is one of the most romantic and glamorous restaurants in London. Chef Jose Barattino is serving 2 & 3 course menus priced at £22 & £25 respectively. The views of the Thames are fantastic and the cocktails second to none.

I would then go for a leisurely stroll along the Southbank towards the Oxo Tower, and up to the top floor for a glass of Champagne at the Oxo Tower Bar.

LLO: What’s the best restaurant in your postcode?
LH:
I live in Islington N1. My favourite restaurant in this neighbourhood is Ottolenghi on Upper Street. I love the style of cooking, a mix of Italian and Palestinian – it is packed with exotic flavours and made from the freshest, best quality ingredients. I also love the big, beautiful platters of food on display, the concept of sharing tables and the opportunity to eat and share many small dishes.

Thanks Luiz!

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Sushi Walrus

Sarah is here from New York for a week. As a thank you for letting her stay with us, she made us some of the most orgasmically-delicious sushi for dinner tonight. Here’s Daniel, one of my flatmates, holding the goods and demonstrating his chopstick skills.

sushi