Palermo Sicily

What with Covid-19 raging away around the world I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get away on holiday this year. Various different countries came and went off the safe quarantine list, so my options started to get quite limited. In the end after a couple of abortive holiday attempts, I decided to head to Sicily. Italy was on the safe list and I figured if the UK cancelled the air bridge while I was away hopefully it would only be for mainland Italy not the islands and Sicily was meant to have a particularly low R rate. A few years ago I’d spent a glorious month in Sardinia with an ex, so I’d always wanted to check out Sicily as well. I waited til the UK Government usually added countries to the no fly list on Thursday evening and then when Italy was still safe booked my flights for just a few days later to avoid any chance of then getting cancelled. Return flights came to a relatively bargain price of just over £100. Though it was was Ryanair and I elected to only take hand luggage. I always think this is enough, but it’s really not. I do really need more space for all my many grooming products!

I checked in and posted on Facebook that I was flying to Palermo and on landing I got a message from an old friend, Gabriel, telling me he was also in Palermo and that it was his birthday weekend, so before I knew it we were meeting for drinks and he was inviting me to his birthday party on the Saturday night. Suffice to say I spent the first few days in Palermo rather tipsy. We went to a lovely little bar/ restaurant called Al Chiosco where we had many Aperol Spritz and then dinner. Later on we ended up in Exit, Palermo’s only gay bar which was really buzzing. I met a lovely couple from Turin and even bumped into another London friend there. That went on til quite late and to be honest I don’t even remember getting back to my Airbnb I was so drunk. Saturday daytime was therefore a bit of a write off, then in the evening it was time for Gabriel’s birthday party. I met the boys at the bar from last night and we got a taxi to Villa Napoli, a stunning venue just a short car journey outside Palermo. The party was amazing and I got to try at lot of traditional Sicily food. We also had a full on dj and proper disco which was amazing after so long of being in lockdown and nightclubs closed in the UK.

Laksamania

Finding a good authentic laksa in London is not easy, but I’d heard good things about this place and with the Eat Out to Help Out scheme I felt it was as good time as time as any to give it a try. What with it being named after the namesake dish I had high expectations. I started with a honey duck bao bun. While the filling was pleasant enough, the bun was a bit hard in places and certainly not the soft pillowy bun one would expect. It was also torn, to be honest if I was the chef I wouldn’t have served it, but they did. Not a great start. For the main dish I of course also ordered a laksa. There was several different options but I went for the classic Singapore-style curry laksa. This dish was better, as one would hope for a restaurant literally named after the dish. Was it the best Laksa I’ve ever had no, not the worst either, pretty average overall though. Also afterwards I had quite a nasty stomach ache, which I’m not certain but may or may not have been from the meal. Either way don’t think I’ll be going back. My search for a decent Laksa in London continues.

The Green Goose, Bow

The Green Goose is my local ie. the closest pub to where I live. It used to be a really rough old East End boozer called The Lord Cardington. In fact the Pokemon Go stop still has it listed under that name. A few years ago now it was taken over and had a massive much needed refurb. I’ve been quite a lot since then, but this was the first time after lockdown and the first time I’d been for food. I went for dinner there with two of my neighbours Adam and Craig who are in my support bubble. We went as part of the Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, therefore all the food was half price up to a maximum discount of £10 each. After a few pints of Five Points IPA, we ordered a chateaubriand, which was for two to share and also a rib eye steak. All came with chips, roasted tomato and a little watercress salad. We all ordered our steaks medium rare, they were perfectly cooked and a bargain at just £10 each because of the deal. Really good quality meat as well. They also had a whole lobster on the menu for just £10. With our steaks we had a lovely Argentinian Malbec which perfectly complemented the food. I mean is there much better in life than a perfectly cooked steak and a glass of decent red wine I ask you? Afterwards, though we really didn’t need it, we all ordered the sticky toffee pudding with ice cream. It’s one of my favourite desserts ever and this was a decent version. Love this place, good honest pub food done very well.

Everybody’s talking about Jamie

As a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community I’d been wanting to see ‘Everybody’s talking about Jamie’ for ages. It’s based on the brilliant BBC documentary ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’. The musical follows a 16 year old teenager as he overcomes bullies and prejudice to become a fabulous drag queen.

So when my friends David and Simon mentioned they were going to see it I crashed their date night and became their spare wheel. Only joking I did ask if I could join them and they very kindly said it was fine. We had a lovely pre-theatre dinner round the corner from the theatre at Sophie’s Steakhouse in Soho.

I enjoyed the show, but the other boys were less impressed. We all though it wasn’t quite as slick a production as we would expect from a big West End show. Almost seemed quite amateurish in parts. We’re not sure if it was possibly because of a recent change in cast. We all agreed the second half was better than then first. The whole show is camp as tits, really heartwarming and positive so I still enjoyed it. As an extra bonus which I hadn’t realised when booking the tickets, Ru Paul’s Drag Race star, Bianca del Rio, was back starring in the show, so that was nice as I’m a big fan of her. So while we all enjoyed it, me particularly, we feel liked perhaps they needed to slightly concentrate a bit more on finer details of the production.

 

 

The Game Bird at the Stafford Hotel

This year for my Terrence Higgins Trust Supper Club I chose as our restaurant of choice, The Game Bird at the Stafford Hotel. I really like game and I’d read that Jay Rayner, the brilliant Guardian restaurant critic, highly recommend this place.

We met pre-dinner at the hotel bar, it’s quite a small bar so unfortunately there wasn’t any free space for us inside so we ended up sitting outside on the terrace, thankfully it was heated. The outside area at the Stafford is lovely btw, a really quiet pleasant space in what was the old stables back in the day. It’s off the busy St James Street and is a little haven that not many people seem to know about. It’s a wonderful spot for a drink during the summer, can highly recommend it. Unlike all the restaurants I’d been before for The Supper Club we were seated in the main restaurant which is painted in a pleasant if not terribly exciting shades of grey. Sophisticated and elegant, but just a tad boring. I would have preferred to have been in one of their private dining rooms to be honest, though the restaurant was at least quiet.

All the food is all covered in the ticket price, so we ordered a dozen oysters for the table pre-meal. We had six Colchester rocks and six Porthilly rocks. Both were delicious, the Porthilly were larger than the Colchester, but maybe not quite so sweet. I love oysters and don’t get to eat them often and so they were a real treat. For my actually starter I had dressed Devon crab. A classic dish, it was excellent. There were so many good options I struggled to choose, but I knew I wanted something fishy and the crab was the most expensive starter and thankfully I wasn’t paying so wanted to get my money’s worth! Then for mains I ordered the signature game bird that the restaurant is named after, this consisted of roast pigeon, parsnips, cabbage, braised leg and ‘bullshot’.  On the specials menu there was a Beef Wellington for two, which was presented and carved at the table. It looked amazing, I was very jealous of my dining companions who ordered it. I’m not a massive mushroom fan though so although I love beef fillet I avoid Wellington because of the mushroom duxelle. For dessert I ordered the sticky toffee pudding soufflé with pecan ice cream. I have a bit of a sweet tooth and sticky toffee pudding is probably one of my very favourite desserts so I was really intrigued to try this. I wasn’t disappointed it was delicious, surprisingly light with just a hint of sticky toffee.