Pursuit of elegance

Is this my best side?Emerging from the docklands of London, and moving to the docklands of Cardiff instilled in Juno the deep rooted need to pursue something not easily equated with the streets of former industrial heartlands… the embodiment of elegance. The interpretation of indifference has often been too easily attributed to the demeanour of cats, whereas for Juno the cool cat exterior was simply her way of communicating the natural superiority she felt over the humans whose mission it was to serve her!

On my latest work trip back to the place of her origin… Newham, East London, I was determined that some of that elegant demeanour should rub off. I and my trusty companion journeyed forth through the Isle of Dog’s and Wapping’s of the former maritime powerhouse that was once the world famous London docks, in search of elegant vitals in sublime surroundings. In the depths of the memory banks reminiscence of one St. Katherine’s Dock kept re-surfacing:

St Katherine's Dock [1]

 

Kilikya's [5]

 

A wide range of budgets and ethnic sources of restaurants and bars are available in these relaxing surroundings, but recent Turkish delights from Islington were over-powering the decision-making equipment, particularly when Kilikya’s Turkish Restaurant hove into sight, occupying a central position in one of the former dockside buildings.

The table offered a mesmerising view of water-bound tranquility…

Kilikya's [4]

… while the interior presented a subdued atmosphere conducive to the forthcoming art of consumption. The success of the pursuit had finally been confirmed by a casual glance at the wine menu, offering Cankaya, a Turkish white wine accurately described as dry, light
and elegant!Kilikya's [2]

We had most definitely achieved that ‘mission accomplished’ vibe, and it was time to surrender to the inevitable Turkish delights on offer. A selection of succulent olives and side of flatbread set up the palate for a feast. Iskender Kebap, a mix of marinated cubed chicken & lamb delicately spiced with an addition of yoghurt, a Biber Dolma presented stuffed red peppers, and even chips to die for!

Kilikya's [3]

As a midsummers evening began to give up its visual splendour we had a last opportunity to take in the elegant surroundings we had enjoyed for the past couple of hours…

St. Katherine's Dopck [4]

And all of this happened within the shadow of a true London architectural icons…

Tower Bridge at night

Until we speak again take Juno’s lead and bring some elegance into your life.

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It is what colour?

ChilledIn my experience black cats are colourful in character, but there is seldom any question about confusion over their colour. Juno quickly had an eye for the colourful space, particularly one where she could survey all of the world around her from a perch on a chesterfield sofa.

But even she might have initiallyPurple Poppadom [1] baulked at the idea of poppadom’s coming in a shade of purple! So, fortified by some good prior reviews, it was time for a friend and I to venture forth in search of the Purple Poppadom and search was the operative word, as this gem is easily missed as you stroll along the main Canton thoroughfare in Cardiff. Yes it is that tiny door to that place upstairs:

Once you have found it the welcome is warm and friendly, helped by booking a quiet time of the week (early Sunday evening). And the purple decor was of the restrained variety…

Purple Poppadom [2]

 

 

Whatever you think you know about Indian cuisine, leave it at the door, as a quick glance at the equally restrained menu initially leaves you wondering ‘what is that?’ But don’t get me wrong, the menu deserves time to be spent reading it to get the twists and signatures in the dishes; while possibly drinking out of Buddha shaped beer bottles!

Purple Poppadom [3]

A reference to a starter originating from the street food stalls of Lucknow was tempting. It is a bit like the UK ‘M&S Food’ supermarkets that go in for naming the place of origin as a means of elevating the recognition of their signature dishes. Venison Pao came delicately spiced, with melt-in-your-mouth minced meat, topped off with a fried egg. Not your standard Indian restaurant dish, but after a couple of mouthfuls I resolved never to eat anything but this for the rest of my life!

Purple Poppadom [5]

It would take something rather special to stop me from just repeating the starter order. Luckily this place has plenty more temptations where that one came from. Coconut rice and Peshwari Naan should have been relatively easy to choose, but there were a few other accompaniments running them close. The Kashmiri Roganjosh and Saag Gosht provided variations on lamb that once again can only be described as melt-in-the-mouth perfection.

Purple Poppadom [7]

Purple Poppadom [4]For the record, the poppadom’s were not purple (but one of the accompanying chutneys was, alongside green and yellow varieties!)…

Juno would have been baffled, but we came out… replete. Until we speak again may your dining experiences hit a purple patch!

Chillout, dude

JunoMore sunshine please always had a pretty chilled out way of approaching every day, particularly when there was sunshine to soak up…

But she sure would have understood the latest instructions to come with your cuppa at Coffee Barker in Cardiff’s Castle Arcade:

Barker wall plaque

Until we speak again do as the good coffee people tell you!

Turkey, anyone?

Juno was never oneJuno and turkey to miss the lip-smackingly tasty opportunity of turkey…

But even she would have been proud, if initially confused, of what her native London has recently served up under the name of Turkey.

To begin with there was the strangely un-metropolitan surroundings offered up by a gentle stroll along the Regents Canal between Mile End and Angel. Who would think from the following view that you were in the centre of one of the world’s largest and most recognised cities?

Regents canal [1]

But gradual progress was to take us into something more akin to metro-land as we approached the newly gentrified Islington…

Regents canal [2]

Upper Street is widely known as one of London’s premier eatery locations, with much of the world’s cuisines represented along its mile. Yet, as with Broadway in New York, you can be well served by a glance just a few yards off the main drag, as we were to be on this occasion. From Istanbul to Beirut was a call not to be missed… conjuring up all of the culinary allure of a Turkish and Lebanese fusion.

Kilis Kitchen [2]

Kilis Kitchen comes with nothing but the highest of recommendations; small but intimate at the front but with a lighter additional room to the rear.

Kilis Kitchen [3]

But you need time to takeKilis Kitchen [4] in the fabulous menu (and even try the Turkish red wine).

Dolma (stuffed vine leaves) with Sucuk (spicy lamb sausage) made a tasty mix from the starter…

Kilis kitchen [5]

 

Then comes a shish kebab to make you forget whatever it is that those fast food take-aways churn out. Succulent tender char-grilled lamb skewers proved a truly mouth-watering taste; but I am sure Juno would have turned up her nose at the lightly grilled green chilli pepper, and the tastiest of side salads, let alone the basmati rice (to her it would have been a waste of plate space better devoted to meat and more meat!).

My vegetarian companion was equally complimentary about the char-grilled halloumi starter and pan-fried marinated sardines main course. What’s more, the evidence emerged that Turkish-Lebanese combinations have learned the art of perfect chips!

Juno readyThis meal left both of us feeling like Juno’s more usual post-banquet pose…

But we had to make do with another stroll along the busy boulevard of Upper Street as it teemed with the late evening diners.

Until we speak again, don’t be drawn to the main drag when some of the real jewels are often just left-field.

Stumbling into Chinatown

Anything that involved water orArmadillo pose sport tended to induce the same reaction from Juno…

If you combined them both together you could even induce the audible sound of cat-snoring!

Bute East Dock [2]

 

But much to my surprise, just the other day, not only did both coalesce into the strangest of mixes for a Cardiff location, but they also constituted a welcome disturbance to the usual becalmed nature of the local Bute East Dock. Dragon Boat racing had surreptitiously arrived:

Dragon boats [1]

Bute East Dock warningIt would appear that the longstanding welcome provided at the dockside… that of imminent and painful death if you so much as breathed within a mile cordon of the inviting waters, can now be ignored. Is this a strange triumph for the laws of ‘Health & Safety‘, as historic industrial waterway gives up its toxic defence?

Or, perhaps it is just a UKIP ploy to con overseas visitors into plying their favourite pastimes while unwittingly reducing their numbers through leisure-based poisoning agents!

Either way, my usually quiet stroll past The Wharf (site of Brains Brewery’s sad but gradual neglect) was happily interrupted by more than the usual quota of waterside fun-lovers, thrill-seekers, and barbecue-chompers:

Dragon boats [3]

I was half expecting to hear ‘Hawaii-Five-O‘ theme music to blast out across the dock as the contestants took to the new addition of clean water in the city…

Dragon boats [4]

But I was quickly alerted by the comparative lack of muscle-bound athletes that I had indeed stumbled into a quaint Chinese custom being appropriated by a few Saturday afternoon fun-seekers, not a new cultural takeover of Wales as China’s preparation for world-dominance…

Dragon boats [5]

Nonetheless, this would still be a sight of fierce Welsh competitive spirit. The organisers of the annual University Boat Race had better be prepared to move over, there is clearly a new kid on the block…

Dragon boats [6]

Dragon boats [10]

 

 

With another race over, the victors make their way towards a well-earned pint of Brains SA, and the losers will have to make do with the consolation of a warm pint of flat Euro-fizz (or two pints of Brains SA in the view of Fat-Freddies Cat!).

Until we speak again may all of your toxic algae provide you as much pleasure as that which we nurture ‘down the docks’!

They do things very strange…

Juno was always very clear… “The beach is a place for dogs, don’t bother me with all of that sand and sea stuff.” And I have to agree, I’ve seen plenty of dogs being walked on or near beaches (don’t forget those pooper scoopers dog owners!), but a cat on a lead flouncing across the dunes is something that belongs only in the strange recesses of the imagination.

On a recent visit to the infamous Barry Island in South Wales (for anyone who has seen the UK TV programme Gavin & Stacey) I was reminded of a lyric by one of my favourite bands of all time… Steely Dan“Over there in Barrytown they do things very strange”. So, maybe a cat on a lead, blah-blah-blah…

Following on from the unseasonal wintery start to this June a couple of days ago, it was good to experience Barry Island’s ability to create a mysterious draw of that sea and sand. It has the ability to entice all living creatures (except feline’s it would appear):

Barry [8]

But the sea here is not for the faint-hearted; my memory of childhood visits was of a hike to get to it, and that still seems to be the case. Juno would certainly not have been the slightest bit inquisitive about something so wet that was also a distance away. It seems that people only travel to it in packs these days!

Barry [4]

However, for students of classical architecture, you might think that Barry Island has the doric column vibe going, in order to stimulate those with an interest in culture:

Barry [1]

But close up… you begin to see the cultural vibe is more of the ‘they do things very strange’ (or even ‘Gavin & Stacey’, who are serially referenced in this arcade):

Barry [6]

It is safe to say that many things at Barry Island have not changed since those long forgotten days of my childhood. A fading but familiar sign might have been the subject to prick up Juno’s ears, something to do with food. John’s is still going:

John's cafe [1]

Though a few spare penny’s wereJohn's cafe [2] lavished on the entrance…

… not too many are required for daily specials:

John's cafe [4]

 

 

 

 

 

 

But for a true stroll down the seaside memory lane, and to prove to the Juno’s of the world that in Barry ‘they [just might] do things very strange’, just gaze at the internal decor:

John's cafe [3]

So until we speak again, enjoy your memory lanes, and feel free to go ahead and do something very strange! Why not let me know about it with a comment on this blog post?