I went to my first London blues dance last week. It was an incredibly intimidating experience, and I only relaxed enough to move properly in the last five songs or so.

The instructor made an interesting observation when he danced with me: apparently ‘close embrace’ posture is different in Europe than in NA. Here, your back is completely straight (they actually said to make sure we were NOT doing a Lindy stance) and connection is more between the follow’s abs and the side of the lead’s waist. This also means that your bodies make a ‘v’ shape (like in Lindy ?), rather than being square onto each other.

There’s a very good chance that the European/NA split was his way of making me feel better about what is actually just terrible positioning on my part, but if that’s /not/ the case, then it’s confusing. I know that Blues varies a LOT from scene to scene and instructor to instructor, but this is a fairly fundamental difference. I also found it really difficult to dance in this new posture and keep things decent, despite the instructors’s insistence that this is less accident-prone. Thoughts, anyone? Was he being nice, or is this a real difference in styles, and if so, what do you think about the two?

 

When my parents were visiting we stumbled into a lovely restaurant in Notting Hill called Granger & Co.

It was a bright and gorgeous space, with huge windows, light wood, shining wine glasses and smiling, chatty staff.

I had a cappuccino:

and a semolina-crusted calamari salad, with baby spinach and fennel, and a lime and harissa mayo (£10.90):

They were cooked perfectly and were tender with just the right amount of crispiness in the semolina coating. The dip they served with it was sour and spicy – a bit too sour for my mood at the time, but it complemented the calamari really well and I can easily see someone else loving it.

My parents each had ricotta hotcakes (£10.80), topped with banana and caramel butter, served with maple syrup (as far as I recall). One of the best things I’ve eaten in a long while (I had to try some of theirs, obviously). The butter melted over them, caramel and all, and the ricotta added a great texture to balance out the bananas and butter. A delicious heart attack on a plate..er…bowl.

Great food and a great vibe. It was a bit on the pricier side (it is, after all, Notting Hill), but well worth a visit.

This place had been highly recommended to me, and I finally got a chance to check it out.

What can I say? This is probably the best Asian food I’ve had in Cambridge, and by that I mean that the dishes were traditional and tasted mostly like they were supposed to. How good they were was a bit of a hit and miss.

We started off with some steamed buns with pork, egg, or beef in them. The bun was overdone, the texture a bit too (stale) bready and the egg oversteamed but still delicious. The pork tasted the way it should, but the texture was completely off. I have no idea what they did to that poor piece of meat:

The dumplings (veggie & egg), on the other hand, were perfect. Perfect texture and absolutely delicious.

Here’s the inside:

Then we had some glutinous rice balls with red bean:

They were quite good, but the soup wasn’t quite sweet enough and I think it could have used a bit more red bean:

We were still hungry when we finished, so we ordered some noodles with egg and tomato.

This tasted quite different from all of the other iterations I’ve ever had, but I actually really liked it. The tomato tasted a bit like pasta sauce, which works for me since I don’t really like heated tomatoes. Not authentic (but then again, how authentic can egg and tomato be?!), but yummy.

The whole lunch came to £16.00, and in retrospect was probably more that three people had any business trying to finish (no regrets). All in all, I probably will come back here for my fix of Chinese goodness, but it’s no Hong Kong. Or Toronto. Or London.

Speaking of London, I had some dim sum there earlier in the year. It was ridiculously priced at £16.00 per PERSON (!!!!), but the food was absolutely fantastic, and a quick dip into a bakery afterwards for a sesame ball (I don’t remember how much this was, but certainly less than £1) was just as satisfying.

I’ve now danced on both sides of the ocean, and it makes for an interesting comparison. Some not very coherent thoughts:

  • It’s interesting how much stays the same. Swing is a tiny world, and you eventually get the same famous instructors, the same jazz routines, etc. etc.
  • The dance group here is apparently magic: every lead they touch turns to gold. I don’t know how they do it, but their leads get really good, really fast. Repertoire and musicality take as long as anywhere else to build up, but confidence is the key to a good dance, and their leads have just the perfect amount. Magic.
  • There’s a house style in every studio, and definitely in every city. I’ve noticed this most of all when dancing here with someone from Toronto: he dances like a Canadian. I couldn’t possibly tell you exactly what it is, but his repertoire screams Toronto Lindy. That’s not a value judgement in any way – I adore both styles. It’s just interesting to see that the difference exists.
  • On the same theme as the last point, people here don’t do dips half as often as in Canada. I wonder why that is.
  • They also treat blues very differently – there isn’t much of it, which definitely contributes to the reticence, but there is also definitely a level of discomfort with the closeness that you don’t see as much of in Toronto. In TO, there is very much the attitude that blues is just another style, another dance form. Here I think its sensuality takes the forefront in a way that it doesn’t in Toronto, and it makes people uncomfortable.
  • I love how interconnected both scenes are. Because everything is so close by in the UK, I think travelling to exchanges and other events is much easier, and it certainly seems like there are more of them here. I can’t wait until I’m done my masters and can actually make it to some of them. I’m also a little sad that I never got to go to Followlogie while I was in Canada.

Vanilla tea from the Tea Man in the market (About £4/250g).

With milk and, because I don’t usually like the taste of honey in my tea, 1/2tsp of sugar. So good. All the vanilla goodness of Chai for those days when you don’t want spices.