Friday, September 19, 2008

Bloomsbury's Aptly-Named 'Hare and the Tortoise' Restaurant

Karen, her husband Douglas and I discovered that the Asian restaurant called The Hare and the Tortoise in the Brunswick Center in Bloomsbury is very aptly named indeed. We decided to meet there for our weekly Thursday evening rendez-vous. The long line snaking outside the door confirmed our suspicions that this was a very good restaurant indeed. Having eaten out almost every evening this week, I wasn't ready to part with more than a fiver for dinner, so I was glad the menu presented some skinny-wallet options.

The line crept along like a tortoise on a leisurely vacation. Just when our legs were ready to give way beneath us, we were seated. Made to wait for ages while we studied the menu, Karen had to practically drag a waitress to our table to take our order. More examples of the tortoise-like qualities of the place. Karen and Douglas settled on sake and sushi and were a little depressed at the tiny little bottle they were presented. Their sushi platter was attractive enough but, Karen opined that she had "had better". As for me, my Curry Laksa was delicious and reminiscent of all that marvelous street food I had eaten from off the carts in Singapore--seriously spicy, with the thin rice noodles that I love, chunky slices of chicken and prawn and a huge mound of them too--so much that I took two containers home for which I was made to pay an additional 20p!

That's when the hare-like qualities of the restaurant became evident, When it came time for us to pay our bill, not one but three waitresses materialized like magic and hovered officiously around our table as we divvied up our expenses. Oh, they were swift indeed when it came to collecting our cash. Pity they didn't exhibit the same speed and enthusiasm when seating us and serving up our orders.

Still I shouldn't complain, at least not too much. For I ended up paying just 6 pounds for that deliciously warming bowlful. And at London prices, that's a steal!

Today was special for me because I made one of my fondest fantasies come true--I taught my class in the lovely gardens of Bedford Square as it was such a fine day. Ever since I first visited our London campus, three years ago, and had spent some time dozing in the garden on a beautifully sunny day, I had said to myself, "Wouldn't it be just lovely to teach a class here?" The setting is perfect as the private garden is full of mature trees, has a decidedly solid wrought-iron railing that encircles it and is punctuated with occasional wooden benches. It is also unbelieveably quiet and serene considering that we are in the heart of commercial London.

Well, my students were delighted when I suggested we hold class outside. But, as happens so often and unexpectedly in London, it turned chilly and we were grateful for our cardigans and jackets. Then, even more unexpectedly, a din began right behind the bench on which I was seated to lecture to my class, and when I turned around I discovered that a young chap was doing some welding as part of the incessant construction and refurbishment acitivity that is taking place all over the city, probably in preparation or the Olympics. Anyway, I sent to find out how long he would be and when he said, "Five minutes more", I continued teaching my class there until our break when we decided to move back indoors.

It is amazing how much pleasure I take in these little things--the ability to finally find a pleasant enough day to allow me the luxury of teaching a London class in a private London garden in a Georgian Square.

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