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108 Garage – Restaurant Review

The struggles you face in London are truly real. Sure, there’s the ones everyone knows about (rent rises, Southern Rail, the chaos of the first snowflake landing, the ‘liberal London elite’, etc etc). But those pale in comparison, surely, to the guttural need to be constantly ~ I N – T H E – K N O W~.

I’ve tweeted about FOMO to an audience of eye rollers before, and it did seem a contender for Word of the Year before alternative facts got in the post-truth way (A shame of many facets, to be sure). Whilst in the midst of my tweetstorm (three likes and a scathing reply, shout out to my fans), Giles Coren posted this:

And let me tell you, friends, that when Giles Coren tells you to get to a restaurant, you immediately stop what you’re doing and book a table. Or at least I do, so I did.

108 Garage Wine

Round rolls the fateful Saturday, and after battling through the carnage that is Portobello Road Market, we emerged into the promised culinary haven to settle in for a few hours. Perched at the bar (another great Giles tip), we had a vantage point straight into the tiny kitchen and across the red-brick hues of the restaurant. Copper and industrial steelwork lined the walls. The beautiful staff joke with us and each other. Chef Chris Denney asks if we had allergies and hands us appetizers. I make eye contact with Jonathan- who is typically a fair but harsh judge of my restaurant choices- and he is buzzing.

Chris Denney at 108 Garage London

We order, as you should too, the five course menu. For food this good it is startling value at £35 a head. Between the two of us it meant we got the try every dish on the set menu, so go with someone you’re willing to share the good stuff with.

The chicken parfait was so smooth you wouldn’t be certain you had actually popped it into your mouth if it wasn’t for the blow-away flavour. Cured mackerel is light, happy. The beetroot is sharp, happy. We sit wide eyed, happy.

108 starter five course menu

108 Garage John Dory Dish

Our mains are John Dory and wagyu, respectively. The fish (pictured above, out of focus in excitement) is exquisite alongside an almost Portuguese-style sauce, the samphire and pumpkin seeds genius texture additions. It was a smart dish and a lovely dish. The wagyu comes donning a mustard seed relish, and melts just by looking at it. This dish was a particular flirt- Chris Denney was preparing other guest’s wagyu tantilisingly in front of us, meaning that even as we ate we were driven to distraction by the next batch of beef…

108 Garage - wagyu main

A palate cleanser, served over the bar by one of the chefs, of pink-lady apple sorbet.

Pink Apple Sorbet palate cleanser

I cannot reliably report on the date and IPA cake as I did not get a look in. I can however report that the cheese was fantastic. Black bomber is a little cheesy punch in the tastebuds. It came crumbled onto fresh (and also crumbly) cracker breads and generous pickle. Every morsel was appreciated and licked up.

108 Garage date and ale pudding

Not willing to let go of our experience just yet, we ordered cocktails to prolong the joy. I had a rosemary and tequila concotion, Jonathan had the house signature (£10 each). As we sipped and stared out into the restaurant, Jonathan decided that we would come back. Which, forgive me Giles Coren, is probably the best compliment you can give a restaurant.

108 Garage cocktails

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Prophecies in pubs

I was at a pub in Spinningfields with some people I didn’t know too well. I’d shlepped out to the outskirts of East London (far, so far!) after work to maybe solidify a friendship or two out of a group of women I’d only met once before.

As the evening twinkled on, and as we chatted through a few bottles of red, the conversation turned to careers. These guys were quite media-y, and we compared notes on our bosses, work kitchen sanitation and plans for the future. Radio presenter, author, journalist, screenwriter. Paths paved and journeys halfway through- all going somewhere else with a nervous energy and wicked eyeline flicks.

The group had shrunk a little and I probably had volume-control issues thanks to the Malbec. I declared that all I wanted was a job that was a) interesting b) paid the rent and c) fulfilled me in some way and (drumroll please) d) I had someone to gossip and go for lunch with there.

Now. Judging by the reaction of my coconspiritors, this was asking a little too much from the media industry. We chortled at the likelihood of me finding this special snowflake princess job, and carried on merrily until it was time for the last tube home.

IMG_20170124_213140_569

That morning, I’d had a job interview. I was pretty happy with how it had gone, but post-performance doubt was dripping it’s way in. I wanted it to work out- it hit so many passion points and it felt like the right place to switch things up for me. But, ah well, you never really can tell with these things.

One phonecall in the midst of TK Maxx Christmas hell later… I got the job.

A month or so on, I’ve started my new role. I can’t guarantee it’ll meet my Princess criteria just yet of course, but either way I’m feeling really damn well positive about the whole thing. These women I’d admired – at the same, earlier and later stages of their career journeys- had seemed so full of zing that I can’t help but think this whole dream career thing has a whole lot more to do with attitude than I’d thought.

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The gin is in…

Where gin is concerned, I consider myself an eager student.

Once upon a time I was perfectly happy with whatever house gin was included in the student union happy hour, but as I’ve grown up and (at least partially) on my way to becoming a sophisticated woman, I’ve cultivated a taste for fun, more developed gins.

One of the ways this has substantiated itself is through my new love of gin-souvenirs. When in York, I picked up a lovely local sloe gin from my favourite pub House of Trembling Madness. When at Taste of London, I scoured the best options and triumphantly picked out a little keepsake of cocktail gin. So on and so forth, with increasing fascination and an increasingly fuzzier head.

I picked up these little trinket sized treats- from London’s own Edgerton Original Pink Gin. The pomegranate involved in the heady mix of your usual botanicals gives it this cheeky rosy-pink hue. The touch of sweetness takes away gin’s usual bite, so could quite easily be served straight.

A video posted by Farrah Kelly (@farrahkelly) on


You could be forgiven for thinking the colour was a gimmick or novelty- but on further inspection, pink gin is in fact somewhat of a nautical tradition-and what sailors don’t know about spirits isn’t worth knowing…

I think the pink adds a real charm to a classic drink, so I whipped up some fancy looking G&Ts to greet my sister with before we headed off for our festive holiday to Berlin’s Christmas markets. That’s proper Christmas spirit, in every sense of the word. Auf wiedersehen!

Pink Gin

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Telling a story.

I’m very well versed in the stories of my own life.

I have phrases deftly crafted to get the right levels of hilarity, tension, and tenderness in every anecdote, told firstly at work, then the pub, then at a dinner party, then recounted over email, and perhaps again at work many months later. This effort is so vigorous, that my only concern when sharing one of my tales is that the listener (/reader) might have already been on the receiving end of this one, and therefore notice how nuts I am for using the exact same phrasing twice. Key events (first day of university,  terrible day at the office, trip to Venice, etc) are on hand, script ready at any given moment. In short, my boyfriend’s nickname for me is ‘Farrah Three Stories’.

Obviously everyone does this to some extent. I continue to tell my retellings with a happy heart. So this weekend, when I told a group of strangers a story that left me in tears, I was a little stunned with myself.

I was sat in a fabulous little old lady’s front room talking creative writing at Laura Jane Williams’ How to Write Words People Want to Read. (You might have already noticed, but I have a blog, and I’m doing my darndest to motivate myself into writing for it once more. Hence the creative writing workshop.) Through the magical power of inspiration, empowerment and doughnuts, we were invited to write about the first time we’d met a significant person. Right. Pen to paper.

I worked on it hard and with pride for five hours. It was only when it came to reading it aloud did I realise the impact this one little memory had on me. Each word that had been put down in innocence now formed a narrative about my own life I had ignored before. Through no conscious decision, I had chosen my own #tragicbackstory. How embarrassing.

There are parts of our lives we choose to engage with. Then there are the other parts. They might be boring, sad, embarrassing. We skim past them, we all-out forget about them, we direct our attentions elsewhere. We fill in the gaps with the things we are prepared to engage with. This is our narrative.

Through this workshop I realised that this narrative is a powerful thing- so powerful that it can inadvertently tap into feelings long since thought of. We spent the afternoon together talking technique, inspiration, editing and critiques, but I think the most impactful thing about this day was the very real realisation of the gentle power of telling a story well.

I was at first frustrated with myself- it really doesn’t shout ~be my friend, I’m super cool and creative~ to be bursting into tears like that. I was mortified, mate. Yet here we are, on reflection, and on reading the very sweet message Laura Jane left in my copy of Becoming, I’ve come to see that this lil’ outburst of mine is the best outcome I could have asked for.

I don’t have to resort to the same stories and the same words on rote. There is a creativity lurking about waiting to be caught and put to work, and if crying in a room full of strangers has taught me anything, it’s that I may as well get imaginative with it.