Culture and Crispy Duck in London

When you leave school, there are people you intentionally know that you’ll never speak to again, there are the people you can’t imagine not living with (yes, that’s boarding school for you) and so stalk continually to the present day and then there are those people you feel awful for not staying in touch with but just never get round to picking up the phone. We went to a wonderfully individual school in Oxford, and while it is sadly completely unlike the school we knew, it still stands on the Banbury Road between Summertown and Oxford and still fills me with butterflies and I can still smell the freshly polished floors and powdery chalk of the first night back of term. The wonderful thing about an individual school is that it produces the most wonderfully individual people all doing the most interesting things. One of whom is our friend, Alice. I have the utmost respect for anyone who is good at art as I am atrocious. I have about three stock doodles, one is of a crushed flamingo and is a simple crude affair, one is of a little person and one is of shapes and shadows. But Alice is brilliant and not only is she brilliant but she is also producing large numbers of amazing paintings and pieces of artwork and she is displaying them in art galleries and selling them! Unfortunately, I don’t keep in touch with Alice as much as I should but she’s a lovely, lovely person who is so horrifically talented she makes you feel bad!

On Tuesday, Jackie and I were lucky enough to be invited to Alice’s, art exhibition in Mayfair. Now a trip to London from Oxford should be relatively straightforward, it’s just down the road and we go often but this time, it took a little bit longer!  It started when I was dispatched into Oxford to buy an engagement card and took longer than the time given to me. We got on to the Oxford tube on time and were elated to find seats but less so by the snoring from the poor girls behind us, for those that are bemused by the name it’s not an underground train service but a coach that goes from Oxford to London in just over an hour every 20 minutes and a million times cheaper than the train.

We alighted in Notting Hill Gate, as we like getting off the bus there for browsing and for general wandering, also it saves being swept up in the rush of people getting off on Oxford Street or Victoria. As we passed a charity shop we last went in 3 years ago, Jackie decided she needed to have a quick browse and found a pair of boots that she simply had to have. Her trainers were resigned to her handbag and the new boots went on and off we went to the Tube station.

Excitedly, and Jackie with her new Oyster card in hand, we jumped on the Circle Line to South Kensington. We could have run across London faster! There had been major disruptions, surprisingly due to signalling failures, on the Circle and District lines and we meandered from station to station increasingly checking our watches as we were getting later and later. We’d originally intended to change later down the line but we leapt at the chance to get off as soon as possible. We changed at South Kensington for Green Park and were suddenly thrust into Piccadilly and not sure which direction we should be headed in. We put the address to the trusty Blackcurrant and followed it at speed past Harry’s Bar and the Ritz (where I would have quite like to have stayed for a while over a cocktail, alas I had far bigger fish to fry) through to Shepherd Market where we became truly lost amongst the alleys. It was just like Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and even worse, there was more than one art gallery filled with tinkling laughter but we got there in the end!

It was a sea of red dot stickers, they were nearly all sold which was alright because we weren’t in the market for buying right there. It was amazing just how prolifically good someone can be and we played ‘which would you buy’. We both fell for an amazing pen and ink of a triceratops in the Natural History Museum and Jackie was disappointed as she actually had her heart set on it. My other favourite, and I would have bought it if I could, was of the Joshua Reynolds’ statue in front of the National Gallery.

Anyway, we had a chat with Alice and studied the art for a while. At about half eight, we left and deciding it was still a little early to leave London, having taken such a long time to get there, Jackie suggested Chinatown as Leicester Square was only a couple of stops away on the tube. I don’t believe I have ever refused a chinese and never having been to London’s Chinatown, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Now I’m not entirely sure what the name was (looking at the photos it was the Canton restaurant) or actually where you could find it if you want to revisit (as you turned off Leicester Square, it was sort of on the right opposite the most amazing shop selling lanterns and things, turns out it’s 11 Newport Place) but it was delicious in a late night Chinese kind of a way. Earlier in the day, it has a roasting sort of a place in the window and the duck and pork comes seriously recommended. It’s also open until 12 am which suits post-theatre! We had crispy duck, followed by greens in garlic sauce, singapore rice noodles and a crunch provided by sweet and sour chicken. It was tasty and just what we needed to keep the hunger at bay knowing we wouldn’t be back until gone midnight.

Afterwards, we strolled through Chinatown and took a different set of lines back to Notting Hill Gate where we got back on the bus to Oxford. It was a lovely night and a wonderful opportunity to see a friend who has really achieved something.

The Ritz

Chinatown at night (the camera on my Blackcurrant does not like night times.. apologies for the blurring)

Canton Chinese Restaurant, Chinatown, London

The various parts of a Crispy Duck pancake

Jackie described this as artistic duck arranging.. hmm..

Colourful supper

Alice’s website, should you wish to buy some of her art (for yourself or for me!):http://www.alicehall.co.uk/

Chinatown has its own website: http://www.chinatownlondon.org/ where you can choose a restaurant from the 78 in Chinatown (that’s a lot!!)

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