I will get around to returning this to the bookshelf in the office kitchen, I swear, just let me read it one more time.
Predatory Thinking: A Masterclass in Out-thinking the Competition. An eye-catching cover design with more imagination-capturing stories inside. Dave Trott is a famous adman. The whole book is a series of short stories (plenty of non-adland ones in there, but enough to make any marketer grin knowingly) that demonstrate predatory thinking. Which is very much needed; what is predatory thinking anyway? The title of the book and the blurb on the back might make you think its all about besting someone else, outfoxing and winning. But Dave's view is broader than this. For him its about creativity, changing the context of a problem until it is a problem you can solve and applying your thinking in ways that no-one else has thought of.
Here are some pf the stories that made me think, and what exactly I thought of them:
Overall, whilst the book is entertaining, by the second third of the book Dave has gone off piste and back to his familiar territory of advertising, with most of the anecdotes lecturing about what good advertising is and what it isn't. He's a little bit guilty of doing the very thing he says the best advertising doesn't do: talking to ourselves [advertisers] rather than the people, and believing the people should listen. If you are okay with a little bit of creative agency lecturing from a legendary director then go right ahead, its worth it for the stories that are about real life - kids, accidents and dreams.
Firstly I have to apologise to my readers for not posting anything for so long. Secondly I have to apologise to readers of the bookshelf on the Marketing floor at work. I have deprived you of great books, for months, and had them instead sitting on my bookshelf, riddled with markers as I promised myself one day to write a review.
That day has finally come. A little less than a year ago, I went on a self-help book binge. I didn't have a TV or a live-in boyfriend to occupy my time so I turned to books to learn more about myself and the world.
The first book I'll tell you about today is one which I read after briefly having met the author. And I use those word loosely: he worked in my organisation and gave a speech to the graduates at an offsite development day. While it's too long ago to remember the exact content, he was engaging although occasionally for what felt like deliberately provocative aggression (at one point when his planned music came on fairly quietly through the speakers in the huge room, he said something along the lines of "This is shit", a cheap joke at the expense of the organisers). Putting that aside, the idea was fascinating and inspiring. Here he was, perhaps only a year older than me and he had already published his own book, not only overcoming his own personal struggles but trying to help others with theirs!
Thinking Lies: Learning How to Believe in Yourself by David Hulman
This book is a snappy, digestible introduction to the most famous techniques of self-belief and self-actualisation, but narrated with David's personal experience and perspective. Some of my favourite gems, without giving it all away:
When I finished devouring the book, I reread the back cover which says it is "aimed specifically at those aged 16-25" but then in the same paragraph says "everybody wants to believe in themselves". Maybe his publisher made him specify an audience for this book, or maybe he decided this for himself. I couldn't help but wonder if this was another of his "thinking lies" - that no-one older than him would find his advice credible. But that's not true, it truly is valid for everyone, so embrace it David.
Just to be cheeky, I'm going to post my next book review in a separate article. One message per element and all that ;)
Who knew that this would all start out from binge watching Youtube videos of The Real? In case you don't know what The Real is, its an American chat show hosted by some ladies who talk about all sorts and as the name implies "keep it real" which is hilarious and entertaining. Anyway one day I stumbled upon a clip of them doing a Who Am I episode where the presenters (all women of colour) of the The Real took a DNA test that was meant to reveal their ancestry. The results were presented in the form of percentages of different areas of the world that their ancestors were from, according to their DNA and how it matches or doesn't to a big global database. I'm no scientist but I found the episode fascinating and I ended up tracking down the test they used and buying it for myself! The test AncestryDNA tests costs a lot of money so you might want to save up a bit before you splash out on finding out who you are.
Trying to predict the results
At university, whenever I was waiting for exam results I used to get a sick kind of pleasure from speculating and predicting my grades. And my ethnicity is no exception. So I started doing some calculations based on what I know about my family. No-one really knows what goes on 7 or 8 generations back so I'm probably getting this all wrong but that's the fun of it.
Straight up, I'm half English and half Peruvian. If that was purely it, you would expect my results to show something like 50% British and 50% South American. However, having seen the vast mixture of races that Adrienne from The Real had, I'm trying to segment it even further, and I'm using stereotypes to help me. My English family have dark hair, dark eyes and tan well. Perhaps they have a bit of Mediterranean blood? I'll whack that in there. And the surname Turner is supposedly French, so I'll add that to the mix.
So far I'm up to 5% Iberian Peninsula (aka Spain), 5% French and 40% British.
Now for the Peruvian half! When you Google Peruvian you usually see photos of indigenous, Andean mountain folk with with puffy cheeks, slanted eyes and a tan. Judging by my Peruvian family's relatively light skin and European-looking bone structure I would guess their ancestors aren't 100% native to Peru. In fact I was told that my great grandmother was a Chinese mistress to a judge, someone else has claimed that the Saona branch of the family was founded by two Italian brothers, and another has said that the Black branch had previously changed their surname from Felthaus, or something German like that.
So guestimate for that half of me is 5% Chinese, 5% South American (not that that is even a category in the test), 10% German, 10% Italian, 20% Iberian Peninsula. I've been quite conservative with the non-European nationality estimates as I do by a large look Hispanic.
So how right was I?
So what I was most wrong about was being 40% Great Britain which I based on the fact that my Dad's family is English. However the AncestryDNA test looks back thousands of years ago and Europe West has a lot of mixture with Great Britain due to migration so it makes more sense now. Its also worth remembering that this is a computer's estimate of my ethnicity based on comparing my DNA to that of a panel of people that they think are "native" to a region (i.e. tribes or other families that have not mixed too much with other ethnicities). Each persons DNA that they inherit from their parents is random and so a sibling could have different results. Anything under 4% is considered a "Low confidence" region meaning I might not have any ancestry there - there goes my British pride!
What I do think I can conclude is my "English" side of the family despite their dark Roman looks are probably descended from France, Germany, Benelux etc, a dose of Irish and a smattering of Scandinavia. Yum. And on my Mum's side, there is more Native American than I thought, which in turn reduced the amount of Iberian Peninsula.
I would recommend this test to anyone who is interested in genetics and what DNA they have inherited from their ancestors from thousands of years before. If you do buy the test, remember its just an estimate and that you are unlikely to get ethnicity that fits your current nationality or even your recent family history and it does not mean you are adopted ;)
I'm shocked that a year has passed since I last went to Lima and I've only written two articles since then! As anyone who knows me knows, I'm in the running for being the least Peruvian Peruvian having never been anywhere outside of two cities there. On the plus side that means I do get to know Lima quite well and have reviewed some more restaurants this year! Click if you haven't already read my 2016 Lima Restaurants Review.
Segundo Muelle *****
We ordered causa de pescado for starter which is basically mashed potato with fish in a sauce on top. This was really nice and the only thing I could fault were huge chunks of onion that were still a bit on the raw side (which is usually my issue with chinese food). Next up was lomo saltado con quinoa a la huancaina. Lomo saltado is a really fail safe dish in general for Peru, so I was intrigued to see it served with quinoa a la huancaina as I'd never heard of that combination before. The lomo was delicious and had plenty of sauce and while the quinoa was equally scrummy but very liquid so it became somewhat of a soupy stew. Which is fine but I wouldn't have minded some more stodge to the base. The Segundo Muelle faces out to the sea and is quite chic so that makes it one of the pricier options. Peruvian portions are fairly generous (not to the extreme like Americans) so a starter and a main fed both my mother and me, along with some chifle to nibble (thinly sliced plantain dried into crisps).
Mirador, Club Nautico de la Marina *****
This was the final meal I had with my family before me and Mum headed to the airport. The location of this restaurant was lovely, overlooking the sea near to a Naval school. Mum was nervous and said we had to look smart to get in but she was just being over the top as usual. We ordered causa chorrillana which was like the one in Segundo Muelle, sushi, arroz chaufa, tacu tacu del maitre. Can you tell my uncle likes to eat a lot? All of them were great classics and I'll focus on the tacu tacu which I had been curious about for my entire holiday. As it turns out, tacu tacu is rice and beans smushed together into a rectangular blob. My particular variation was covered in a sauce that none of us could work out and also plenty of mozzarella cheese. It was comforting and a filling kind of dish however as I like to food spicy I found I had to add lime and aji to get a proper flavour kick.
Doña Evita, Mercado de Jesús María ****
This is a stall based in the middle of the market where you can get good value and soak in a bit of local ambiance while you simultaneously sweat. I ordered a ronda which included arroz de marisco (seafood rice), chicharrones (basically calamari) and ceviche. It was a hearty dish for S/14 and I ended up taking home another meal's worth. It's great value but as you sit at a counter in a corridor of the market (keeping an eye on your handbag) its not the most relaxing or intimate of places.
Anita's Restaurant ***
Located on Pasaje Jose Olaya which is directly off of the Plaza Mayor de Lima. We went here for a cheap lunch menu at only S/10 and were even able to see the main square from our table. For starter I got tequeños (sticks of a won-ton pastry wrapped around cheese) which came with a nice salsa that said it was guacamole but it wasn't like what we are used to in the UK so either they ran out of guac or have a very different interpretation. My main was a causa de polla which was similarly pleasant. That with a big glass of chicha morada and ice was a perfectly acceptable meal to refuel after a long day out and about in the centre of town. The only negative I would say is that a cockroach scuttled into the premises which meant I had to call a waiter.
For anyone who knows anything about Peruvians, we are super proud of our food and many genuinely believe it is the best cuisine on the planet! Therefore please take my star ratings as relative to each other - Anita's with 3 stars is not bad at all, it was a starter and a main for £2.38 in the centre of Lima which was perfectly acceptable and great value! Peru has a very clear class system (which maybe one day I will write about) which dictates the kinds of restaurants that people can afford to go to and how they will be perceived. Tourists are fortunate in the sense that they can come and go as they please with less judgement in various establishments so I like to show a variety of low to upper cost options in my reviews. Thanks for reading, hasta luego!
What this book is about
The Glass Wall refers to the differences between men and women in how they communicate, think and behave. The book looks at this divide and how it prevents women from achieving their full potential in the work place.
I first heard about The Glass Wall when Unerman and Jacob came onto the radio to promote the book which was published in September. Unerman is the Chief Strategic Officer at Mediacom, an agency my company is a client of, whilst Jacob is the CEO of Pearl & Dean. As women at the top of their respective professions, I figured I could lend an ear and an eye to what they had to say.
What it promised to deliver
The book essentially promises to provide easy-to-apply strategies for success, whether the reader is a woman looking for a career boost (“on the way up” as they call it) or a manager (“from the top”) looking to harness the power of their female workforce.
There are 41 (some overlapping) strategies for each reader type, split over 7 chapters that represent areas of the male-female divide, usually supported by studies. For instance, the first chapter on Ambition had some striking statistics:
How it delivered
The strategies are a satisfying mixture of modifying your behaviour and being true to yourself. For instance, as a woman you may need to consciously talk more about your great work in order to stand out against men who naturally show off more. Simply getting on with it and being brilliant at your role without promoting yourself will lead to you getting passed over.
Some of the strategies are trickier to implement than I believe the authors realise for women who haven’t spent 20 or so working years fighting, bottling and unleashing their frustration. For instance in the Anger chapter two strategies include taking the power back when you are undermined and confronting people who exclude you – scenarios which are complex enough to deserve entire chapters of their own. The book did raise a smile out of me though when I read a tactic I’ve used myself under the subheading “Go feral”!
What makes the book very readable is the fact that in balance to the social studies and interesting stats, there is a wealth of anecdotes and case studies from real women facing different situations you might be able to relate to.
Some great points
Strategy #37, being “Always on” is about constantly being judged whether you are aware of it or not. Other techniques go hand in hand with this such as body language, inputting at the very start of a meeting so as not to have your point left behind later, and sitting near the boss.
#13 Speaking their language. This was a woman’s story about how she presented an idea to her boss and he shot her down immediately. She came back to him with it expressed using a football analogy and he loved it. The moral of the story is that rejection is usually of the format of the idea, not the idea itself and that flexing your communication style is the key.
#34 Playing the numbers game, or in other words “Don’t ask, don’t get” – one of my favourite mottos. Men are four times more likely to ask for higher pay than equally qualified females are. Researchers concluded this is a learned behaviour that dates back to childhood games where boys play more aggressively (plus are socially reinforced to do so) and learn that asserting themselves can mean a potential win. Men are more comfortable hearing the word “no”; women might give up after that first disappointment when instead they must keep going past the second, or third for that matter.
When it came to the advice for management, a lot of it was about changing cultures through leading by example – they didn’t pull any punches and I would be amazed if any leader committed to working against all of the unwritten, ingrained behaviours that are highlighted in the book that we take for granted in society.
What could have been better
The introduction was very long winded. In fact, there was a Foreword, a Preface and an Introduction. The scene setting could have been a lot more concise, I definitely got frustrated waiting for the book to start giving me the actual strategies. The scene setting was mostly trying to convince senior leaders why having equal representation on boards is good for business which I didn't need telling - perhaps it would have been more fruitful to write separate books for the two audiences.
One question I was curious to see how they would handle was that of sexual dynamics in the work place. Unfortunately they didn't do it justice. The topic was only covered at a shallow level, with a few pointers on dealing with inappropriate comments/“jokes” and how to style it out when your private life becomes talk of the office. More investigation and tried-and-tested advice is needed in this area; just look at any online Q&A forum and you'll see hundreds of women asking what do if they fancy their boss or how to reject the advances of a work colleague without damaging their career.
Finally, there needs to be more recognition that not all women conform to these “truths”, the implication being that the entire book won’t be relevant to you. For instance the Creativity and Ambition chapters were interesting but didn’t apply to me which might imply I’m more “masculine” in those respects. That said if you are in a hurry, there is a helpful key to navigate you to the most salient chapter e.g. answering yes to “Do you feel like giving up?” or “Do you take things personally?” leads you straight to the section on Resilience.
Overall this book provides a fun, passion-inciting, and addictive read, and I will certainly refer back to the book in order to keep some of the strategies fresh in my mind. I would recommend The Glass Wall to any working woman: it may help you decide what you want (whatever it is) and it will definitely reinvigorate you to go out and get it.
So it's been just over half a year since my last post. I've been super busy since I finished the graduate scheme and began my new, dream role as a food brand manager. However, I haven't been too busy to stop eating and travelling so without further ado here is my restaurants review for Miami, USA.
***** Lagniappe House
3425 NE 2nd Ave
We met up with a friend in this very hipster restaurant. The entrance looks like an old fashioned living room but with a bar, and had a quirky band playing in it. We went out back, which was a massive yard full of mismatched tables, trees and adorable fairy lights that added to the cosy atmosphere in the dark night. Also in the yard is a fridge full of differently priced wrapped cooked meats and cheeses. You select the ones you want and they bring them to you sliced up on a big platter served with jam, bread and olives - heaven. It was so moreish I honestly can't remember much about the barbeque main course after that which I was too full for!
**** Jimmy'z Kitchen Wynwood
2700 N Miami Ave
This is a restaurant we found on a top ten list for the happ'ning Wynwood neighbourhood (which was strangely quiet when we were there, presumably because of a confirmed Zika case there a few days previously). The ambiance and decor was modest but the food had a very home made feel to it. I ordered a Puerto Rican dish called chicken mofongo which is like a big ball of steamed potato with other stuff in it, served on a bed of tasty sauce and meat. It was gloriously stodgy (which is a positive in my books as I like my food to be filling). I can´t wait to try more mofongos in the world to get some more perspective on it.
7971 Bird Rd #17
We stumbled upon this gem as we walked deliriously through the baking streets of Miami Beach. I was delighted to find a Peruvian restaurant and so we took a chance. In terms of choosing from the extensive menu, we stayed on the beaten path (or should I say, what I knew were crowd pleasers) and chose aji de gallina (chicken stew) and lomo saltado (beef stir fry). Neither dish disappointed us and they were served with aji (chili) so you could spice it up more if you wanted to. El Chalan is great, comforting Peruvian cuisine in American sized portions; we couldn't finish our plates even though we wanted to (and the waiter said those weren't even the smallest ones on the menu)! I just wish I could go back and try the seafood dishes next...
*** Cantina La Veinte
495 Brickell Ave
Now I feel guilty as when I put a three star in Miami, its not because its bad, in fact its still good. I just needed to elevate the previous restaurants as their food is on a next level. La Veinte is a super trendy Mexican restaurant with unexpected Great Gatsby-esque sophistication. The people in this place are clearly well off and the food is not cheap. Feeling rather poor in comparison, we stuck to ordering tortillas which came in those warm wicker baskets like Chinese pancakes do, a sizzling dish of fillings, and different chili sauces. If you want to eat flavourful high-quality Mexican food and listen to mariachis performing at the top of their lungs (rather than converse with your dinner date), then this lively hot spot is just the place for you!
** Bachour Bakery + Bistro
600 Brickell Ave
Again, not at all a bad place but rather on a scale relative to the other awesome places I went to in Miami - as a guidance, this place has 4.8 stars on Google Reviews! This is a small but chic bakery/cafe which covers off patisserie products as well as the light bunch occasion. I ordered the truffle bun (an omelette, in English muffin bread with some sort of sweet bacon spread at the bottom) which was delicious and I would recommend as an orgasmic breakfast. The bun does come with quite the price tag of $12 so it is not an everyday place, rather it is a little bit pretentious what with its granola bowls, lack of bagels and food served in jars instead of on plates.
** El Carajo
'2465 SW 17th Ave
Calling all wine lovers! This is your secret treasure trove for wine and tapas. I say secret because this tiny little restaurant is actually hidden in the depths of a gas station shop. But I don't drink wine so let's focus on the Spanish food. The arroz chorizo (chorizo rice) was commendably tasty, the empanada langostino (shrimp pasty) also good, whilst the patatas bravas uninspiring (although I do admittedly have a bit of beef with patatas bravas in general). I knocked a star off for location - this place is more or less in the middle of nowhere - but the rustic ambiance is quite cute and it's a hit with the wine crowd.
* La Sandwicherie
229 14th St, Miami Beach
This is not a restaurant as we discovered upon arrival but rather than open air stall that specialises in sub-style sandwiches (but more cold fillings than hot). Luckily, we managed to get seats at the counter to eat our food which was necessary as it was quite messy. I ordered the SoBe (short for South Beach) which was avocado, turkey and brief in abundance. On top of your sandwich you can also order a variety of salads. As usual I went a bit over the top and was therefore unable to close the sub. Instead I had eat salad with a fork then tackle the enormous sandwich. This place is best reserved for a filling lunch on the go when you are out and about in the Miami Beach area.
Hope you enjoyed this review, and please do try the top 3 places if you are ever in Miami. Hold tight for another review on attractions in Miami and the Caribbean!
Daaamn Mari! Back at it again with the restaurant reviews!
Sette Oche *****
Via dei Salumi 36, Trastevere, Rome
And the foodgasm award goes to… the rigatoni a la carbonara! Unlike the boring creamy carbonara I’m used to in the UK, this was drier, based on strong parmesan/pecorino with egg and topped off with lots of black pepper. Simple but delicious. The pasta itself was enormous compare to the rigatoni you buy here and was cooked extremely al dente but something about the chewiness was very comforting. The other dish we ordered was gnocchi which was also delightful, melting with mozzarella in the tomato sauce. To top it off we had a scrummy hot chocolate cake with runny hot chocolate in the middle served with whipped cream, but it was quite a small portion. The whole service was fast, perfect for when you are hungry. Unfortunately charged us for the bread and olives which we didn’t actually ask for. Reasonable cost at 34.50 euros including soft drinks/water.
La Fiorentina ****
Via Andrea Doria, Rome
We ordered a thick spaghetti with the typical amatriciana sauce (tomato, pecorino cheese and cured pork cheek) and a four cheese pizza. The quattro formaggi was as you’d expect but got a bit dull after a while. In contrast the pasta was really really tasty but the bits of meat might be too salty for some. Still well worth a visit if you value flavour!
Spaghetteria L’Archetto *** (and a half)
Via dell'Archetto 26, Rome
I had a lovely tomato bruschetta for starter – although there were more interesting bruschetta varieties available I’d never heard of before such as melted cheese and mushroom, if you want to get fancy. The carbonara was nice safe option, but it didn’t blow my mind, as it was quite similar to what you would get in Prezzo and lacking originality. The pizza L’Archetto after its namesake comprised of tuna, bacon, mushrooms and amatriciana sauce (in this restaurant called “matriciana”). I thought they were extremely stingy on the bacon as the entire pizza had around 3 bits (bits not even pieces) on it and I also deducted a star because the tuna wasn’t well drained and so the whole thing became one of those watery messes due to the thin bases typical of Italy. But don’t let my harsh critique put you off, it is still a good restaurant with plenty of fantastic reviews from other diners. And its good value too, coming in at 26 euros for two mains and a water.
Visiting Peru (gap-yah or not) seems to be all the rage nowadays so hopefully this will be a helpful article for those – of all budgets – who have yet to take the plunge. I visited Lima recently to see family and haven’t strayed far from there so in the absence of tourist attractions to review, I’ll be writing about food – my number one favourite part of travelling.
La Bonbonniere *****
Calle Burgos 415, San Isidro, Lima
Let’s get the awkward and obvious out of the way first: it sounds French, not Peruvian, and yes, it’s a chain. But this popular place is more than capable of bringing on a food-gasm. I ordered an interesting fusion dish Risotto de la Crema de AjÍes con lomo saltado (literally risotto of the cream of chillies with stir fried steak). I assume it was some sort of Italian twist because the dish lomo saltado (tasty stir fried beef, onions and peppers) is usually served with chips or white rice). I in fact found the risotto to be deliciously cheesy, the lomo saltado extremely tasty, with a tantalising gravy drizzled around the edge. Overall a very comforting and flavourful dish. The others at my table ordered salmon and a burger and were similarly delighted with their choices. This restaurant is in a classy neighbourhood and so the price was around 38 soles (£7.96) not including drinks.
Doña Julia ****
Corner of Jirón Huiracocha and Avenida República Domincana, Lima
The story of this place is that it started out as a food stall and grew into the restaurant it is now, still serving food on polystyrene plates (but with metal cutlery). I chose the traditional anticuchos de corazon de res (cow heart skewers) which was lovely, especially with the three types of aji dip which should be enough to set chilli-lovers hearts on fire.
Inside Centro Cultural Peruano Japones, Gregorio Escobedo 803, Lima
This is a Japanese restaurant in the Japanese cultural centre as there is a big Japanese community in Peru – the former dictator President himself was Japanese. If you make the mistake of going for quantity over quality than this place comes down to a 3 star. Our group of four chose a Pack (i.e. a set menu) and not everything on it was brilliant. I ate far too much and ended up with a tummy ache. I’d recommend the makis and some gyozas as I personally don't like a meal that is purely cold. I wouldn’t bother with the seafood rice as it’s basically a glorified chaufa (Chinese fried rice). If you are feeling particularly patriotic you can also opt for some Peruvian fusion dishes such as sushi a la huacaina.
Pedestrian square near Mercado San Bartolo, San Bartolo
I should warn, some of these places are in San Bartolo, a small beach village not too far away from Lima. This was my only taste of ceviche for the whole trip as I’m not a huge fish fan. The ceviche was great and surprisingly more-ish considering its basically raw fish with raw onion. The escabeche (fried fish fillet, served with aji, onion, tomatoes) was so-so and I enjoyed the accompaniment more than the protein itself.
La Jugueria ***
San Bartolo road, between Los Barcos and Mar Pacifico Sur roads, San Bartolo
At least I think that was its name. The perfect place to eat on the cheap, with a two course lunch menu with house soft drink at 9 soles (£1.89). We were running out of money but got a shitty avocado salad for starter (they had run out of causa), good aji de gallina (chilli chicken stew served with white rice) for seconds and a jug of chichi morada (traditional purple corn drink).
Various, Lima, Peru
This is a supermarket chain that serves chilled but ready to eat traditional foods to take away that are cooked in-store. It’s a way of trying Peruvian cuisine dishes when you are broke, at around 4 soles per box. I had perfectly agreeable papa rellena (stuffed potato) and sangrecita (ground black pudding / morcilla), a medicore arroz chaufa (Chinese-Peruvian fried rice) and the frijoles (bacon and beans) did taste a little fishy. I would definitely avoid the empanadas, the pastry was too sweet, the filling too dry and bland.
Trying new food was one of the things I was most excited about when planning my trip to China. However, the reality was rather more hit and miss which led to me experimenting less as the days went on. You can expect to struggle with big chunks of meat that mean you have to bite a piece off, put it down, then put some rice into your mouth. The meat will often be fatty to the point that it is a bit disgusting (and this is coming from a girl whose favourite foods include chorizo and pork scratchings). And you will occasionally be served a dish that has large chunks of barely softened onion. But I ask you to persevere until you find that delicious wonton soup or discover you have an insatiable appetite for hotpot. Google Maps of these restaurants can be found in the gallery at the end.
***** Faigo Hotpot
Faigo Hotpot is an awesome, trendy and reasonably priced (around 100RMB for one) hotpot restaurant chain. It was so good in Beijing (IN88 Mall) that we sought out another branch in Shanghai (in the mall above East Nanjing Street station). A hotpot is basically a soup broth that simmers atop small flames on your table that you add ingredients to which cook in mere minutes to create your hotpot. The way it works in this restaurant is you select a base soup (I recommend the gorgeous Satay), then you choose ingredients from the different sections (mushrooms, meat, seafood, dumpling, carbs, veg, etc) which you simply mark with a pencil on the order sheet as each item is numbered. We chose around 5 ingredients to add to the soup and would highly recommend the beef cubes.
**** Quanjude Roast Duck
Quanjude Roast Duck was recommended to us by our hotel porter as a place to try the famous Beijing-style roast duck (or as we know it in Britain, hoisin duck pancakes). The menu was a bit odd, with limited English translations. We ordered a half duck, and assumed the rest of the items on the page were the sauce and pancakes. The duck was really tasty however I wouldn’t bother with the half duck’s head they give you as the crispy skin of this part didn’t taste good. The chefs come into the aisles of the restaurant to carve the duck in front of you which is interesting and the waitress kindly showed us how to fill and roll up our first pancake using chopsticks. The meal cost us around 200RMB.
**** Thai Restaurant
This is another restaurant in the IN88 Mall near Wangfujing shopping district, Beijing. We figured that Faigo was such a success that this mall must have more good restaurants so we tried the Thai restaurant next door (can’t remember its name). The portion size was generous and it was a yummy comforting curry, with plenty of veggies and a slightly thicker sauce than what we get in the UK. Please note that although I gave it a four star rating, this restaurant is just as nice as the Thai places we are used to.
**** Japanese Restaurant 1
As you can see, eating in shiny shopping malls became a bit of a theme for our trip as it we saw it as a way to guarantee quality and a translated menu, albeit a less authentic experience. This shopping mall was on the exit 7 side of East Nanjing Road station, Shanghai. I can’t remember the exact name of the restaurant but it was on the B2 food court level of the mall and was called something like “Kumaru”. You might also spot it by the plastic food models display of its dishes – a concept that freaks me out. I ordered pork ramen noodles which had a satisfying half egg floating in it but also a huge slab of fatty pork which was nigh impossible to eat with chopsticks but I suppose it gave the dish good flavour. This was again a reasonably priced safe bet.
This is a pub / pizza place on the corner of Jinbao Street and Jinyu Hutong. The pizzas had a really homemade feel to them with a thick base and hefty but interesting topping combinations that made a medium extremely filling if you are hungry. It was an open plan restaurant to the street so we dined al fresco rather than inside a packed food hall like many other places. The only thing that let the place down was the lack of English spoken by the serving staff - I tried to order bottled water a few times and eventually the chef came down and told me the kitchen was very busy and my pizzas would be ready in 2 minutes (I ended up just pointing at a coke).
*** ITALIAN-AMERICAN RESTAURANT
This Shanghai restaurant was next door to Japanese Restaurant 1 and provides a respite from oriental food if you need it. You can spot it by its display of cakes but I can't remember its name. I went for a lasagna which was nice but had hardly any pasta layers and was oddly served with a bread roll. The chairs are sofa style so it is comfortable. We were amused/bemused by a promotional video that was played on loop on a screen that showed westerners and Chinese people eating together and playfully stealing each other’s food (presumably because it is so delicious).
This is an Italian restaurant in the shopping mall on exit 2 of East Nangjing Road Station. I had an acceptable steak pizza (just cheese and steak with no tomato) as well as a pasta dish which was tasty but a bit small for a portion.
Grosfairy is located in the IFC Mall in Shanghai. It turns out this cupcake shop is a chain started in New York. The cute cupcakes caught my attention and I was even more intrigued when I saw flavours such as avocado and matcha! I settled on a bacon and maple cupcake for 27RMB and whilst it featured tiny fragments of bacon I found it really didn’t taste strongly of either flavour. Still, it’s a novel pick me up to get you through hard day’s sight-seeing in Pudong.
** Noodle Place
My first ever meal on Chinese soil was some noodles with a tasty minced meat at a Beijing noodle bar on the walk from my hotel to Dengshikou, my nearest subway station. It was pretty nerve wracking as the staff didn’t speak any English and appeared to be calling out the name of the dish when it was ready from the kitchen, which we obviously could not understand to claim our order. The noodles clearly hadn’t been stirred when cooking so they had congealed together which made it hard to mix in with the meat sauce. Overall it was crappy but cheap at around 20 RMB and I didn't get food poisoning.
** LOUNGE 7
We had dinner in the Bund Riverside Hotel the first evening we got to Shanghai because we were exhausted, starving and didn’t fancy exploring. I ordered the sea food fettucine which took a lifetime to arrive considering we were the only people in the whole restaurant, but at least it wasn’t prepared from frozen. In the end it was edible but reminiscent of those school dinners where you have to avoid the chunks of carrot and courgette that have been forced into the meal.
* Wangfujing Street Food
Having seen row upon row of stalls of grotesque yet impressive street food, I decided to try some on my first night when we were out strolling in Wangfujing. We immersed ourselves into the alley which according to Google Maps is called “Wangfujing Snack Street” and is packed with tourists. I chickened out of scorpion or fried tarantula and went for fried octopus on a stick and a roll of something. The roll was hideous – I thought it was a large spring roll of sorts but it was actually soggy in texture with barely any filling. I actually had to throw it away it was so horrible, and I never throw food away! Next up was my octopus on a stick, which was fried in front of me on a hotplate and then basted in an anonymous spicy sauce which didn’t look all that hygienic. I just about managed to eat this despite it being very tough and chewy but felt a bit delicate the next morning :(
* Japanese Restaurant 2
I had quite high hopes for the Japanese restaurant next to our hotel (at 3 Jinyu Hutong) but I was disappointed. I ordered a rice bowl with chicken as I felt like a hot meal rather than sushi. The service was extremely inattentive and the food was very mediocre. I had to add soy and chili powder to make the dish flavourful and the chicken was really fatty and cut in big long slices that are not ideal when you don’t have a knife.
Tesco (for bits and bobs)
For your bottled water and everyday snacks if you want to save some money or don’t feel like eating restaurant food, I would recommend you go to Tesco. You can buy international brands such as Walkers crisps but in all sorts of unusual flavours that you don’t get in England that make quirky edible souvenirs. The store I visited was in a shopping mall at 489 Henan S Road, a 10 minute walk south of Yuyuan Garden station exit .
My previous article got too beastly to manage so here is the second part, this time focusing on attractions in Shanghai!
**** Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre
This museum shows you the recent history of China through a rare collection of otherwise destroyed government propaganda posters, some with a fervent anti-British theme. Lovers of communist style posters will enjoy this artistically as well as get a political flavour of the times. Who knew the Chinese cared about Black equality in the US!? I thoroughly enjoyed this visit plus its small so very manageable. It's located in a basement in a residential compound on 868 Huashan Road, take the Jiangsu Road or Shanghai Library subway and stick to the main roads so you don’t get lost. At the gate the security guard will hand you a paper telling you to which building to go to.
**** Yuyuan Garden
This garden is set in the busiest of bazaars but once you are inside you feel like you've stepped into an oasis. It is busy and a little bit touristy but there are some little quiet areas where you can sit down and relax. It is fun to get lost among all the weaving paths and stone caves as well as enjoy the architecture. My favourite part was seeing the fish and turtles swimming in the pond (can you tell I like animals?).
**** Huangpu River Cruise
Worth it to get some nice views of the city and to watch the ships of sand and other wares go by. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the breeze and seeing what other shiny buildings there were round the corner. Its 120RMB which is quite a lot compared to other attractions but is a pleasant way to while away 50 minutes of your time. Note it’s an extra 30RMB to sit down on the top deck but they throw in a drink and packet of crisps.
*** Jade Buddha Temple
I usually say when you've visited one temple you've seen them all but this temple actually did look slightly different to the ones in Beijing - it had a more delicate artwork on the beams, monks wandering around and more impressive silks. The sitting Buddha is kept in a luxurious peaceful room that filled me with calm. However, the reclining Buddha was kept in a shabbier chamber which inexplicably had people selling souvenirs either side. On the day I visited it was free for some reason but normally it would cost you 20RMB.
*** Shanghai Museum
There are a few different rooms which are small but some do drag on: bronze, calligraphy, minority dress, painting, porcelain, money, sculptures. I was most interested by the beauty of some of the artifacts such as porcelain vases, paintings and the ethnic clothes collection of Chinese minority groups. We had to queue in the boiling heat but entrance was free so I didn't feel under pressure to stay long.
*** Pudong / World Financial Centre Observatory
It's basically just a soulless shopping mall and financial district, there’s really not much to do apart from go up to the Observatory (a very steep 180RMB) and see what you can of Shanghai through the pollution. I had never been in a skyscraper before, but still, it wasn't mind blowing. Pudong is super clean, shiny, modern and capitalist looking here and reminded me of those 360 virtual tours of what places will look like after the million pound investment.
** Century Park
This is a sweet place to go to if you want to get away from the bustle, bright lights and skyscrapers of Shanghai. My harsh rating isn't a sign of the park being bad, just that it is by no means a "must visit" if you are a fleeting visitor. We just took a stroll around, not exploring all of the zones and saw it had a river with bridges, lakes with fish (you can go fishing or hire a pedalo). My favourite part was seeing two goats on an island! If you do want some action there was a fairground with rides at one part of the park but it was quite dead. The entrance costs 10RMB.
All this blogging is exhausting, so I hope it comes it handy to someone, somewhere :)
- REVIEW: Predatory Thinking by Dave Trott