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Summer in London

Ahhhh, the warm weather is here, but for how long?

Last summer in London was probably the best weather I could have ever hoped for. For one, I HAD A TAN. IN ENGLAND.

Two months of 70+ degrees (with one month consistently over 80) reminded me a little bit too much of home. I’ve missed Michigan summers for five years, but it really affected me in 2013.

I’m crossing my fingers and toes for a repeat and so far, so good. Our windows fly open as soon as I get in the door, the garden is coming along nicely and our first round of BBQ burgers this past weekend were divine.

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Getting hitched.

So, somehow in all the craziness of the last couple months Charlie and I got engaged. Even at 31 (which seems a totally respectable age to get engaged in these modern times), it feels really adult. Though I know many successful couples who have, I can’t even image what it would be like to take this step in my 20s.

It’s been a crazy four-year journey going from being flatmates who ventured into the dangerous territory of rebound flirtation to spending the rest of our lives together; but at the same time, it’s been totally effortless. Without getting too cliche, I get to marry my best friend.

We’re holding off on too much wedding planning up front. To be honest, there’s so much change going on right now, the last thing we need is to worry about what kind of bunting we’ll have or whether or not we send out save the date cards. The important bits (style, locations, time of year) we’ve pretty much sorted, so now it’s just a matter of actually getting out there and doing it. 

I’m really glad I have a background working in PR though. The event planning experience is totally going to come in handy. Bring on the colour coding, spreadsheets and clipboards. 

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The veil of social

Recently I wrote a blog post for a news site that has attracted some negative attention. The gist of it is, I wrote a piece on a rhetorical question because there hasn’t been any research on the subject. I find the fact that no one *has* done any research curious. Long story short, it blew up into something I didn’t anticipate. Debate-wise, I take a lot of the points on board. I might have worded things slightly different in hindsight, but I still stand by the overall point and I’m not going to change it because a small percentage of people took offense.

However, my frustration with it all actually stems from the fact that people, thinly veiled by eight time zones, a different culture and an axe to grind, are not interesting in having a conversation or debate. If you don’t agree, absolutely fine, but let’s figure out each others’ motivations first before going in for the attack.

We’re not boring, we’re domestic.

It’s shocking how quickly you get back into an old routine. We did ‘nearly dry January’, which means no alcohol apart from my birthday weekend. We were climbing the walls, but sleeping the night all the way through, having the energy for the gym and losing all the Christmas weight made it ever so slightly easier.

This first week in February made a harmonious January feel like a distant memory. Body pump Monday, lovely dinner with Jaz on Tuesday, theatre on Wednesday (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was pure imagination. Loved it.), and working till 8 on Thursday and sadly, Friday.

Our weekends have become painfully normal. Not in a bad way, we’ve just become terribly domestic. Homebase, the big Sainsbury’s on Finchley Road, Yoga on Sunday and hopefully today a trip down to the Black Lion (our local gorgeous if not slightly overpriced pub). 

Though we still manage to retain a couple ‘cool’ activities that don’t scream of responsibility. We’ve been prepping tunes for next weekend’s party in Oxford. I may even have the guts to play a graveyard set. We’ll see though. 

Oh, and I found tater tots in London. Bacon-wrapped, cheese covered tater tots. Hurts so good.

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There’s more to London than restaurants

970388_10101175072193004_497622277_nComing from a foodie, it’s tough to say, but I fell out of love critiquing restaurants. It’s still something I often do, but recently (ok, the past 18 months), I’ve done it in private. There was something about it that, towards the end of my regular blogging stint, that began to annoy me.

Certain restaurants I went to, I found I didn’t really have anything interesting to say. I was priced out of a lot of others. The food blogger community is a bit cliquey. It got old, I got busy, so I stopped.

In the meantime, I’ve had a really good time not feeling the guilt of not having posted for a week, and then a month and then two… I was enjoying more of what London had to offer. Charlie and I moved into an amazing flat, I worked my way up the corporate ladder a bit more, went to South Africa, finally had my mom visit. I was and am busy just enjoying life.

I do miss blogging though and so I’ve decided to take it back up, but without guilt and without a ‘theme’. Nom nom London isn’t just about eating anymore, it’s about devouring everything the city has to offer me, even if it’s a few mundane pictures of my garden and what Charlie and I did last week.

Here’s to hoping I keep it up this time.

Welcome to Nom Nom London

Well, it’s been nearly two months since my last review. Frustratingly, this isn’t because I’ve not been bothered to blog or go out to eat. It’s because I lost the Om Nom London domain name, and I’ve spent the last 8 weeks trying to get it back.

Long story short, unbeknownst to me, my OmNomLondon.com URL wasn’t under automatic renewal, and some EVIL companywith nothing better to do than rip off unsuspecting bloggers (owned by Go Daddy – the thieving bastards), purchased the domain from under my nose and tried to charge me over £200 for the pleasure of getting it back.

I blog for a hobby, and I certainly don’t make any money from it. Technically, it’s a*losing* game as I pay for my own meals!  Needless to say, paying to get my URL back was just not on, so I’ve registered NomNomLondon.com as the new name of my blog. It’s a subtle difference, and hopefully Google won’t completely kill my search rankings. Now I just have to get used to saying ‘Nom Nom’ instead of ‘Om Nom’.

Normal service to resume soon!

Otto – Notting Hill

There are several reasons why I’m not a professional food blogger, or even one of those consistently ranked into arbitrary Top 10 lists (money, time, the inability to come up with 17 different ways to describe something as ‘salty’), but the main one, I think, is that I am often late to the scene on restaurants. While punters scramble to search for reviews of Pitt Cue, Dabbous and Burger & Lobster, I’m bringing up the rear chatting about last year’s news.

Like Otto.

I’ve been wanting to try it out ever since it opened and I spotted it looking down from the top of the 328 bus. It looks almost like a coffee shop from the outside, but then you see the chalkboard set up outside that says pizza (ooh!), cornmeal pizza (huh?). Intriguing to say the least. Nowhere in London does this. In fact, I’m sure it’s out there, but I hadn’t seen anyone do this. Must try.

Fast forward a year and a bit, and I don’t live in the area anymore – a recipe for disaster. But then, I get an email from Otto’s PR advertising beer (they have Blue Moon!) and a slice for a fiver. Reason enough for going back to the old ‘hood, I thought.

Turns out the press release was a teensy bit wrong, and the deal is only if you join a club. However, the owner (or manager on duty, I’m not sure which) decided to give us the deal anyway, which is a lovely gesture (and why I’m mentioning it).

Like any good independent/modern pizza place, Otto’s menu is full of quite a few decent flavour concoctions. Apart from a cheese and tomato for the less adventurous palette, you’ll find slices with toppings like grape and brie (a special they had on the blackboard), BBQ pork and red lentil kofte.

The cornmeal crust makes them much, much, much more filling than a regular pizza. For a shorty like me, one piece actually filled me up quite nicely. I’ll admit it’s a little weird at first (sort of like a cornbread biscuit), but I got used to it quickly. I won’t say that I’d go for it every time as my pizza base of choice, but it didn’t detract.

And while the crust is uber-important, it’s the quality of the toppings that really make it for me.  I had the aforementioned kofte, which was nothing short of amazing.Why anyone hasn’t put red curry sauce and lentil koftes on a cornmeal base before? The thing I remember most (in addition to the zesty spice and fresh coriander) was the fact that it was so heavy. This pizza has a little junk in the trunk.

The other two slices were of a slightly more normal variety (think we had the sausage and pepperoni), and were good, but not as good as my little Middle Eastern pizza treat. Even my lovely boyfriend who tends to stick to the boring stuff classics agreed.

I just wish I lived closer.

Otto Pizza on Urbanspoon

Banana Tree – Soho

At first I thought Banana Tree was an Alan Yau restaurant. It had to be. The style of the menu, the atmosphere, the overfilled dining room so loud you can barely hear your boyfriend even on a Tuesday night at 8:45pm. It had to be. But nope, despite all the similarities, Banana Tree is a chain of Malaysian/Thai/Vietnamese-style canteen style restaurants headed by chef William Chow (which coincidentally rhymes with Yau. Scary…)

I had a £60 voucher to spend given to me by their in-house team – and trust me, £60 will get you VERY far in this restaurant. Three starters, two mains, rice and a bottle of wine to be exact.

Despite a couple misses, the food I’m happy to say was actually really good. The only thing I could fault is the presentation, which is why I’m not going to post many pictures. I don’t know if my camera was acting up or what, but the photographic evidence of our meal was not pretty. However, if you’re curious and don’t judge books by their covers, head to my set on Flickr.

Here’s the one that came out alright – Tamarind Crispy Fish with Thai Basil Glaze (£8.45):
banana tree

Tasty, it was, too. So many cheaper East Asian restaurants rely on gelatinous gloop that serves as ‘glaze’. This was light and accented the fish perfectly, which incidentally, did stay crispy throughout the meal.

We also really liked the Char Grilled Blackened Chili Pork (£8.25). It was an incredible deal considering the amount of meat on the plate. It was blackened, but not burned, something I’ve never been able to achieve at home.

The Spiced Lamb Lettuce Wraps (£5.85) were quite lovely and aromatic. If there’s one thing Banana Tree isn’t afraid of, it’s spice. Not so much hot spice, but full and flavourful accents of clove and star anise that this style of food is built upon.

The only misses of the night were on the starter/nibble side. I found the Sweet Corn Cakes (£3.25) and the Vietnamese Spring Rolls (£4.25) way too oily – like they’d been sitting in the fryer for the length of the bible.

Overall, though, a great experience. Service was pleasant and snappy. Most of the staff looked like they were actually having a good time, which always bodes well. Happy staff = happy service = happy customers. I’ll be back.

Banana Tree on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: As above, I was given a £60 voucher to try out Banana Tree. I had a completely anonymous dining experience, typical of any off-the street patron. Again, I can’t say how glad I am that PRs and restaurants are finally offering bloggers anonymity. It’s fantastic.