I am feeling so crazy inspired right now!
Whenever I go to a museum I always come out feeling so creative but the elBulli exhibition at Somerset House is on another level of inspirational.
This restaurant was started in the mid 1950s by a German couple, the Schillings. elBulli actually stands for "The Bull dogs" which were Mrs Schilling's pets. Marketta Schilling herself lived there until she died in 2007. However, ownership had long ago passed to Ferran Adrià in the early 1990s who transformed it into a 3 Michelin Star restaurant.
This weekend I was left thinking Heston Blumenthal was a genius but if that is the case then Ferran Adrià is a culinary deity. The guy is on some other tip. Some of the videos and images of the foods he created looked like foods I ate at The Fat Duck and I am convinced that Heston took some inspiration from Ferran Adrià.
In fact, the association I independently made between the two was just confirmed by a Wikipedia article that states, and I quote, "Along with British chef Heston Blumenthal, Adrià is often associated with "molecular gastronomy", although like Blumenthal the Catalan chef does not consider his cuisine to be of this category."
In July 2011 elBulli was closed for 2.5 years of research; I have no idea what new methods they are coming up with all I know is I definitely want to visit elBulli when it reopens. Ferran Adrià is also working on the elBulli Foundation, a museum that will be dedicated to the history and methods of elBulli over time and Bullipedia, an educational resource and creative portal for professional chefs.
What Adrià has done to food, I would love to do to hair products: basically, completely ignore all the currently accepted ingredients and perhaps methods and create something completely new: a super detangling, super moisturising hair product line for natural hair. God knows I would certainly benefit from it.
What an inspirational day.
We've only just admitted to each other that whilst we enjoyed the culinary birthday I had planned we did very much feel out of place amongst these Bentley wielding, Michelin Star eating, designer clothes wearing hot shots. I'll take you to the start...
...back in May I was walking around Blackheath village with my cousin Cecillia when I told her I was at a loss with regards to what to do for my awesome husband's 30th birthday. She knew I'd bought him a couple of cook books for our first anniversary and he'd recently very successfully taken up the challenge of learning to cook; consequently, she suggested taking him out somewhere really special, somewhere known for it's culinary delights. I totally agreed - enter: the world of Michelin Stars.
I had very limited knowledge about Michelin Stars but I knew they meant "great quality food" and the more Michelin stars you had the posher your nosh. 3 michelin stars are the most you can have and the UK has only four such restaurants - the whole of the US has 11 such restaurants, this demonstrates just how very rare the accolade is.
I won't take you through all the deliberating I went through but ultimately we ended up going to:
Then the next morning, I told him.
"Remember that video we watched?"
"Yeah?" Harry said.
"Well, we're going to The Hand & Flowers for lunch!"
He smiled, "Phew, I thought you'd booked a cookery course and I wasn't up for doing any work!"
I continued, "We're also going to the 3 Michelin Star Fat Duck for dinner!"
"Two places in one day?"
"Yep." He looked happy but worried. I knew it was probably because he thought I was wasting money." We then watched these two videos which incidently were a continuation of the above series of Masterchef, The Professionals:
After watching these three videos we were officially both excited. I gave Harry his first birthday present: a white shirt that I had personally designed on iTailor.
The Hand & Flowers
Of all the places we went to this is the one I felt least out of place in. The desserts we had here were my favourite of all three restaurants because they were more hearty. The prices are also A LOT more reasonable so we'll be going back here.
Just to give you an idea of how popular the place is, the restaurant was booked up for weekends for about 12 months in advance! They also have 4 rooms to let but could I get one? Oh no, not 3 months in advance, as at May every weekend until February 2014 was fully booked!
The food in pictures:
After lunch at The Hand & Flowers we wanted to take a walk but were actually quite tired so we decided to drive to our cottage for a nap.
Clematis Cottage, Bray
When we got to Clematis Cottage I gave Harry his second birthday present: another custom designed shirt from iTailor, this time in blue.
After hanging out and posting some pictures to instagram we slept for a while before getting ready for dinner at the 3 Michelin Starred The Fat Duck; our first experience of dining at this level.
The Fat Duck
The Fat Duck's 14 course taster menu is something else. The food comes along with a fair amount of abracadabra and without someone there to explain it, you wouldn't have a clue what you were eating.
It goes without saying that the staff were all extremely polite and professional. Also, although the food was extremely complex it didn't matter who you asked, they knew exactly what it was and how it was made.
Bookings at The Fat Duck are almost impossible. They open up for booking at 09.55 a.m. exactly two months in advance. I had a friend on hand trying to get a booking from that time alongside my attempts. I failed, she succeeded after about 3 hours of trying!
I wasn't quite sure if I was "full" after the Fat Duck; there was space there for more but I decided it was because the food was so tasty rather than my stomach not being satiated. Anyway, the whole experience had lasted over three and a half hours so we were both tired.
At this point, Harry didn't even know about Le Gavroche.
The next morning after having breakfast, going for a walk and showering I presented Harry with his third and final birthday present: another iTailor shirt in a different shade of blue to the second, "One for each decade you've lived. " I said.
"Not one for every year I've lived?" he joked!
I also told him we were going to Le Gavroche. He looked unhappy:
"That's too much," he said, "I've had enough of fine dining. I feel guilty now."
To be honest, I was feeling guilty too by this point. I did think the indulgence of the day before was plenty to keep us going for months to come but I knew tonight was extra special, tonight his mum, dad, sister and brother-in-law would be there. I knew this would definitely make a difference to him and I wanted to tell him but I couldn't.
We spent the day walking along the Thames in Marlow. Some of the houses along the riverbank were insane. One private residence had a garden so large there were two gardeners on motorised mowers tending to the lawn! It could not have been a hotel because there would have been hotel patrons in the yard enjoying the river views on what was a gorgeous summer day but it was grand enough.
We left Marlow at a good time and arrived in the Mayfair area 30 minutes before the dinner booking but there was a problem: the "surprise entourage" were running late. I had to stall a very annoyed Harry for 30 minutes...Harry's sister Whatsapped us a picture complaining how late she was working and I thought, nice touch, but...
...in the end we still arrived about a minute before our group. In fact they were metres behind us and I thought Harry would see them. I pushed him across the road to Le Gavroche and I lied that I needed the loo to buy a little more time for the crew to get to the restaurant. The toilet was downstairs near the still empty dining area. Luckily Harry used the loo too and took his time, as usual.
When he came out of the toilet I wasn't sure how everything would go down, I had always imagined us arriving at the table and the family whispering "surprise" - I don't think you shout in these types of places! I was still thinking about what to do when the waitress said:
"Would you like to be shown to the table or do you want to go to the bar for a while?" I don't even know if she knew the conundrum I was in so I said bar and Harry fortunately agreed immediately. He still looked a little unhappy (although that could have been because he'd lost his wallet earlier that morning!)
The family were at the top of the stairs at the bar and I said to Harry, "Do you want to sit there?" Pointing to an empty seat next to his dad. He looked up not recognising the four people sitting there for an instant and then he realised he was looking at his fabulous fam. We hadn't seen them for a month. He grinned the happiest grin I had seen all day and we were shown to our table.
The food was fabulous, however, the crowning moment of that event happened when Michel Roux Jr of the Roux chef dynasty came to our table. I had made a request via a waitress but didn't dare to hope.
He posed in a picture with us AND signed autographs. We were all star struck and indeed very happy.
It was a beautiful evening.
I enjoyed these two days but I am actually happy to return to my normal life. For us, being in these places was a real treat, something very special - but, what do the have mores do to get that "I'm having a treat" feeling?
For us, dinner out at the restaurant chain Giraffe is a treat so this culinary adventure was a SUPER TREAT. I am left with one desire now: to take a journey through the thoughts of a Have More to see the relative contentment of their life and lifestyle, I'm just curious.
Anyhow, to a great life with Harry and many more years.
If you're reading this you're considering hiring one Darren Black, a Yorkshire man who does jobs all across England. I live in London and in the time he's been doing my job he's been as far and wide as Oxford and Southampton. Anyway, I'll cut a long story short - don't hire him.
He's a nice enough lad, great demeanor. He's not a typical charmer, not too smooth and that was part of the reason I hired him: he seemed trustworthy.
I hate giving negative feedback but I have to in this case as I don't want others to make the same mistake. This is what went wrong on my job: he came over and I described exactly what I needed done BUT:
1. Some things you describe to him will not be included in the quote. In my case the most obvious was the tiles, the contract stated the price of tiling would be later agreed but I read it too fast and missed that one. My fault. What he didn't mention would not be included and in the end I had to fork out extra for was:
8. Darren forgot to tell the electrician to fit the extractor fan. The building regs folk told me it's a must. I told Darren and he asked the electrician to come back to fit it. This required the wall to be "holed" and those holes, 3 of them in total, haven't been properly decorated over.
To add insult to injury, there should be 300mm between the boiler flue and the extractor fan but there are only 250mm. I don't know if building regs will catch me out on that.
9. Worst of all, Darren owes the electrician loads of money so the electrician is refusing to give me my Electric Certificate. Without that certificate my local council's building regulations department will not pass this project.
10. When the job was started on 11 June, 3 to 4 weeks was the estimated time for delivery. This is August 21 - 10 weeks have now passed.
UPDATE DECEMBER 2013
You would think that is where the problems end...you would be wrong.
11. When the rains started the roof started leaking hence the stain in the trio of pictures above.
Credit to the roofer, when he was told about the problem he came to fix it immediately.
When I posted this blog on 21 August Darren came the very next day - although he had initially claimed to be in Southampton. He asked me to take everything down and promised to correct everything that was wrong.
He found a plumber via Rated People. This second plumber was a dream; he corrected all the issues and found plenty more. EVERYTHING in the bathroom was leaking including the toilet. The plumber worked every day for 4 to 5 days and Darren said he would pay whatever it cost. The job was about £750 which was roughly £400 more than Darren owed me.
Darren never paid that balance and I forked out an extra £50 to get the electricity certificate. I considered taking Darren to small claims court but in the end I decided it was too much trouble and I have moved on. It could be worse, for that, I should be grateful.
So, there you have it. You decided whether you want to hire the man. I consider myself to be a good judge of character and even I got it very, very wrong.
Do you know the difference between the two? It’s an important difference.
If you own a business that business continues to make money whether or not you are there. If you own a job, yes, you’re still in control but once you go off on holiday your revenue stops coming in.
I learnt this way of thinking when I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki in 2007. He says a lot of professionals like doctors and lawyers make this mistake when they start their own practice because they do all the work themselves.
If you want to actually own a business you need to thinking of a structure that gives you revenue even when you’re on holiday, e.g. a legal partnership where partners get a share of profits in addition to bringing in clients.
If you own a service business, you can franchise your business when it gets large enough. If you make a physical product you can eventually find a manufacturer for mass production - there are only so many "widgets" you can make yourself.
My whole life set up in a way that my current hard work will continue to pay dividends for a long time to come – even while I sleep! Through Black Girl – Getting To Wealthy I help other people do the same:
By Heather Katsonga-Woodward
I'm always thinking, debating, considering and revising my views - some of those deliberations will be shared right here.