We heard about the Feast of St George when we noticed an ad while waiting for a train in an Underground station. We decided to check it out as after all I’m a St George supporter (NRL, St George Illawarra Dragon, Aussie Rugby League team) and also we saw the word ‘Feast’, it might be a food festival. Anyway, this take place on a weekend in April and it normally held at Trafalgar Square. Luckily, it was a sunny day when we went. It was packed with people already, there is a big red dragon made out of paper-mache, which children can take photos with it. There are a lot of food stall and also a large dining area for people to eat.
There is live music playing in the background, everything is so lively. At the back near the Portrait museum, they have an area where you can try the carnival game, free of charge and play as long as you want (At the time when we played, it wasn’t packed, so we got to play as long as we want). It was pretty fun to see and celebrate with others. People are so nice around there, especially if they see you with food on your arms. They will try to give you spaces to have a meal with them.
Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland, it is located North of Ireland or west of the main United Kingdom. We got to Belfast via train and ferry. The train goes from London Liverpool Street Station to Liverpool. From Liverpool, we got onto a ferry cruise overnight to Belfast. We got to Belfast early morning. Of course, there are quicker ways to get to Belfast, such as flights. Northern Ireland is part of United Kingdom, they also use British Pounds as their main currency. English is the main language that is used in Northern Ireland. The weather is similar to London, always miserable with a tinge of sunshine at times.
Food in Belfast is similar to what you can get in other places in UK. However I would recommend trying the lamb in Belfast, as most restaurant use local produce. Because of the rain it receive, it made the grass more green and fresh. When the lamb has good nutrient, then it made their meat a lot tasty and flavour. I would recommend to have Guinness at Belfast. After all Guinness came from Ireland, I guess the water made the difference to how it taste in other places. I still think Guinness in Northern Ireland and Ireland taste a lot better. It has a crisp and fresh taste when it first enter into your mouth.
So on Sunday, we went to the Sunday St George Market. As you probably can tell by our post, we tried to visit the markets in the cities we have been. This one is no exception. The market itself is quite small but reminds me of Spitalfield or Brick Lane market, as you have the arts and crafts section at the back while food is at the front. It is quite a big market, it took us about 2 hours to walk through it. I quite like it, as there is a live music playing during lunch time period. You can eat your food while listening to live music. The market itself is not as packed as Portobello Road market. It is located in the city, however it is a bit hidden in my opinion. It took us a while to find it using a map.
As you know Titanic was built in Belfast and its maiden journey was from Southampton to New York City in 20th Century. However the tragic strike which it was sank to the deep of Atlantic ocean when it hit the iceberg. There is a Titanic museum at Belfast which take you into what it was like in Titanic. The museum itself locates near the port side of Belfast. It is a bit of walk from city centre to the museum (I think it took us about 30 minutes and we were a bit lost at the time). The museum architecture is huge and it does resemble a bit like Titanic itself. Of course, this museum do require admission to go in. If you go in the morning, it can be quite packed but if you go in the afternoon, you can cruise through the museum with minimal disruption.
It is quite amazing to see the artefact from the ship after it sank. The museum takes you from how the ship is made to the legacy it left behind. Through the journey it is fascinating to see the determination of the people to build a ship (larger than any ship that was built at the time). They have a lot of random facts in the museum, such as how much food they need to bring aboard or what the life was like for the people who worked for Titanic. It is also interesting to see the classes which passenger was allowed to visit based on what ticket they bought. You can spent at least few hours in the museum if you are into ship or history or Titanic itself.
For more information, please visit their website: http://www.titanicbelfast.com/
Rail and sail is another option to go to places from London. We thought we will give it a try, as the sail takes place overnight, which means one less night of accommodation to worry about. So we took this option when we went to Belfast, basically the journey is from London Liverpool Street to Liverpool via train and then from Liverpool port to Belfast port by sail. The train journey is similar to other UK train journey we have been on. It takes about 3.5 hours to get from London to Liverpool. It was quite a comfy train ride. What this review is focus on is the sail part.
From Liverpool main train station to the Liverpool port is quite far, it took us about 40 minutes by foot. But we got lost in between because there wasn’t any sign or direction that leads us to it. The cruise company is called Stenaline. This cruise can take vehicle as well as passenger, basically the cruise itself is about 4 storey high, the bottom 2 are for vehicle and top 2 are for passengers. When it first load the vehicle, the driver must parked neatly and all passengers must be out of the vehicle after the car is parked. Passengers must be on the top 2 floors. There are about 40 or more room for passengers to get some rest, you have to pay extra if you want a room. In the rooms, there are bed and toilet, similar to a budget hotel. If you didn’t get a room, we saw passenger sleeping in the food area, however there isn’t any privacy and you have to adapt with sleeping with the lights on. In the passenger area, there are 2 food store, one is more of a café and the other one is more like a pub restaurant. Also there is a cinema as well as a small arcade game. There are plenty of things to do inside the cruise.
For more information, please visit their website: http://www.stenaline.co.uk/ferries-to-britain/rail-sail
So when Paddy took us around the countryside of Northern Ireland, he took us to one of the smallest draw bridges in the world. We were there quite early before the attraction was opened. So we walked around and soaked up with fresh air from countryside. When it was opened (Yes there is an admission to it, it goes back to preserving the area), we walked about 15 minutes before coming to the bridge. It was quite small (a bit disappointed) but still we made our way to it. After that, he took us to a ruined castle. We didn’t go inside but we walked around the outside of the castle. It was beautiful as it was by the coast and rocks. It is quite amazing to see how much of it still left standing after all these times. It is astonishing to see what people in the past achieve without too much of machinery work.
After that, he took us to Giant Causeway. The boy really want to see it, as it was done naturally but not man-made. Paddy reminded us that the tourist shop at the front, you need to pay admission to go in. But if you go via on the side, it is free admission. (Luckily Paddy reminded us). So we went via the side and walked about 25-30 minutes to get to Giant Causeway. It is quite amazing to see the natural phenomenon. You can walk on it and just wander around the area.
On the way back to Belfast, Paddy took us to see some of the places where Game of Throne was filmed. It is amazing to see the real life scene and also how much computer effect it use to make it look like in the past. But the places where Paddy took us is really beautiful. Although it is small towns, but it has its characters. It can be accessible by cars, which is really nice (not packed with tourist).
So when we went to Belfast for a weekend, we couldn’t cover the tourist attraction without a car. Some of those places are not accessible by public transport. The boy was reading in a blog which a cab tour can take us to all the places which the boy wants to go. We had to book in advance as this tour is one of its own in Belfast. However there are other cab companies trying to copy the business model but the service they receive was really poor. An advice, make sure you book the original Paddy’s cab tour. Other businesses tend to leech off the reputation of the original one.
We got off the ferry early in the morning, about 5:30am. We thought we need to wait for the cab but no, the cab was waiting for us. He was there about 15 minutes before we arrive (talk about the service). We introduce ourselves and we realise we got Paddy as the driver (the business owner). We got him for the full day as we want to go to the troubles and giant causeway (it is about 1-2 hour drive from Belfast). That take up the full day but if you want to go just one place, you can book him for half a day. He took us to the troubles one as you can visit there at any time. The murals are painted outside of residential areas and you can visit at any time. Paddy took us and gave us the history about the troubles. They have an interesting past, from how they caused it to what happen during the trouble times and to what it is now. He is not biased in terms of explaining the history, although he has his own view but he didn’t influence us to what we should believe it. He gave us a neutral perspective.
After the troubles, he took us to the countryside to see Giant Causeway. It was quite a long drive and before getting to there, he took us to lunch first (it has been a while since we last ate). It was really good, it was by the one of the ruined castle in Northern Ireland. This place is a small cottage, ran by the houseowners who are friends with Paddy. The food was really nice and prepared with love. It had a really warm and cosy feeling while we had our meals. During each sight visit, Paddy would wait for us in the cab while we got to see it ourselves at our own pace. He would tell us where to meet him and we can take as long as we want.
At the end of the tour, he took us where Games of Throne was filmed and showed us some of the places. It was so magical when we went there. After that, Paddy took us back to Belfast and dropped us off at the hotel. We had so much fun with Paddy, not only he was the driver but he was also our tour guide as well. It was really fun and the service was brilliant. I would recommend him to anyone who wants to be taken around in Belfast/Northern light, he is one of the most professional taxi driver/tour guide I ever met.
For more information, please visit their website: http://www.belfastblackcabtours.co.uk/
So we arrived at Maidenhead about 2 hours before our lunchtime, we had a quick walk around the town before heading to Bray. Bray is a small town, literally we walked around the town in less than 20 minutes. We had our way to the restaurant. It is a small cottage with Fat Duck logo on it.
We were greeted by the waiter and showed us our table. Because it was the boy’s birthday milestone, he received a card which is the menu of today’s meal and is signed by all the staff in Fat Duck. The drink waiter asked us what we like to drink and the wine waiter brought us out a huge book of their wine list. We chose the non alcoholic options. The food waiter asked whether we had any allergies before getting started. The starter waitress came out with a cleaner platter before we started our journey. The first dish was a liquid nitrogen foam ball. In the foam, it had a mixture of ingredients and the waitress made the foam ball at our table. I quite like it as I took the non alcoholic options.
There are a lot of memorable dishes in the tasting menu. I quite enjoy the Mock Turtle soup, basically it is a snail porridge. I think it is really well done, it has the texture and looks like a bit like it. Fat duck gives us the explanation of how Mock Turtle dish was created. I also like Mad Hatter Tea Party. Basically the broth is the gold watch which they put into the cup with hot water. There are sandwiches that go with the soup. Also the other one worth mentioning is the sound of the sea. This is a seafood dish but it reminds you of the sea. You can even eat the sand.
In this dish, you have to listen to the sound of the sea while you eat this dish. It just reminds me of my hometown, Wollongong. The dessert what I remember is the take home sweet shop. There is an apple crumble flavour lolly, which you can eat the wrapper as well. But what I like the most in the dessert part is the hot and cold tea. It is amazing feeling to have hot and cold things at the same time. It is really sensation feeling.
For more information, please visit their website: http://www.thefatduck.co.uk
Address: High St, Bray, Berkshire SL6 2AQ
To celebrate a birthday milestone of the boy, we decided to try Fat Duck. Fat Duck is the original Heston Blumenthal restaurant. It is located in Bray and the nearest train station is MaidenHead. From Maidenhead, you can catch a taxi there. Bray is a really small town with about 30 houses. It closes on Sunday and Monday of the week. It can seat 40 people in the restaurant but in the kitchen, there are about 80 chefs dealing with your meal. Basically 2 chefs per diner. Because of the reputation and the number of seating, it can get quite hard to get a booking at the restaurant.
The boy read review about booking Fat Duck, basically there are about 10000 calls per day just to make a booking. The line opens on 10am, basically it may take over 2-3 hours just to get through. Another way to make your booking with Fat duck is via online. Open table offers the timeslot which are available, you can secure that quite quickly. Another way is to drop them an email to see if you are lucky. For Friday and Saturday timeslot, it is nearly impossible to secure a booking, as many people preferred to go then. It is easier to get a booking during weekdays, especially for lunch time. The tasting menu is 14 courses and goes for 3-4 hours for the experience. Make sure you are not overbooked yourself
Our experience with Fat Duck booking was really lucky. The boy was reading online and was planning to make the booking the next day. However he went to open table website and basically saw a timeslot for Tuesday lunch. He immediately booked it and got a table. This took about 15 minutes, it is really a chance of luck to get a booking with Fat Duck. Once we confirmed with our booking, fat duck sent us an email of the video of tasting menu. The video goes for 7 minutes and it takes you a journey of what you will be experiencing in the tasting menu.
We have been searching for cheap tickets to see the Book of Mormon. It was something that the boy wants to see, as this is more of his type of musical. We checked on the website and the cheapest tickets are 97GBP and it can get up to 175GBP for front stall. Luckily we were going to see if you could get returned ticket. Returned tickets are when people who booked their tickets in advance but they couldn’t make the session. The theatre will resell the seats. The returned tickets are at 97GBP, so we were going to give up. Suddenly the staff told us that there is a lottery going to take place at 5:30pm, you can enter into the lottery at 5pm. There are 21 tickets front row seats at 20GBP. All you need to do is to fill out a form and select 1 or 2 tickets. Remember to bring your ID. We were so lucky to win 2 tickets.
Luckily we didn’t have any plans on that evening. We grabbed a quick dinner and made our way back to the theatre. The theatre itself is close to Piccadilly Circus. It is quite close comparing other theatres we have been to, I don’t mind a cosy place to watch a musical. The front row seat isn’t as bad as what you think. I’ve seen a movie on the front row seat and that is bad. The whole time you have to lift your head up high to see the screen. On the other hand, the front row seat of this musical is different. The stage is at your eye level and the orchestra is just below the stage. It was my first thing getting a front row seat, I was quite excited and worried that I would have the same experience as the cinema. My head and neck didn’t hurt after the musical.
The jokes are witty and the songs are funny. It is one of the better musical we have been to. The actors are really good and entertaining. The set is pretty well done and being at the front you can see how the backstage staff operate. Although the musical had no boring parts, I’m not sure whether I would pay great amount of money to watch a musical.
For more information, please visit their website: bookofmormonlondon.com
So we came across this place when we went to Soupe du Jour. What caught attention to this place is the Jamon hanging by the window. I really like Spanish Jamon, they are cured ham for 24-36 months. I love the smell and the taste of it, I can never had enough of Jamon. We decide to go to the place as there wasn’t any restaurants open on Sunday. It was an early lunch which we were the first customer to arrive. The staff were just setting up the place. The restaurant itself is quite small, 2 benches with about 8 seats each. It made this place really cosy and staff can interact with customers. I quite like this type of place.
The food itself is quite appealing and appetising. The service is quite fast and decent, although they miss the boy’s order. But they quickly fix up the mistake. I do recommend ordering the Jamon as the starter, you get the Jamon and few slice of toasts with it dressed with olive oil. Their olive oil is amazing, it just goes well with the dish. The boy ordered the eggs, inspired by North African dish. You have to try this one as well, I’m a big fan of red sauce based type of dish, basically that is what this dish is. Tomato and capsicum sauce and cracked egg in the middle, all cooked in a small pan over the sandwich press. I thought that is clever and good way to cook something without having a kitchen.
For more information, please visit their website: Address: 73 Beak St, London W1F 9SR
Address: 43 Lexington street, W1F 9AL