Monthly Archives: September 2013

Globalisation with noodles.

Guinness, Falafel, Pigeon & Green Curries in Dublin.

Is it me or are our cities and our foods globally converging?

When you tell folk in England that you are off to Dublin they presume stag weekend. When you say you are working there they have some knee-jerk Victorian stereotype about subsisting on cabbage, potato and Guinness.

I wonder when it was actually like that? If it was ever like that? Work has sporadically brought me to Dublin for approaching fifteen years  and I have had many great meals here. I don’t recall a bad one.

Take lunchtime the other day. Being a Thursday there was a food market at the canalside on the Mespil Road. It was thronging with hungry officeworkers who were keen to enjoy a brisk early autumn hour in the sun.

What to choose?

As far as I could tell, there was no Irish food on offer at all. Thai noodles, Keralan street food, Schnitzel, Burrito, Paella, wood fired Pizza. No wait. Aha! There’s a jacket spud wagon which I dismiss to avoid the mid-afternoon dip it would convey. Herr Schnitzel – who appears to be from about as German as Father Dougal – woos me with a cheeky, cheery invitation. I balance on a the swing beam of a lock gate to tuck in and people watch. €5 well spent.

The Camden Kitchen, Dublin 8

The day before? It was the lunch-time special at the local noodle bar. Watching Dubliners rush by as you shovel tasty noodles with chopsticks makes the mind wander. Firstly, Dubliners rushing. An oxymoron? Far from it. There’s an energetic, purposeful urgency around. People who look like they’ve on their way somewhere. Although if they are in cars, then they are not on their way anywhere as the traffic is crap. Huge increase in the number of push bikes though.

The evening before that the team met at a local independent one-room-and-a-kitchen terraced house restaurant: The Camden Kitchen. OUTSTANDING. What a great dinner! Wood pigeon with pate on brioche to start followed by tender braised Ox cheek. A bourbon panacotta with a beautifully matched Aussie dessert wine to wash it down. A colleague attempts to tell a local about it only to be stopped: “I’ve no need to hear about how grand it is, you can’t move for great food around here.”

At the top of the league for the week? The Keshk Café Restaurant (bring a bottle). A Dublin Lebanese served by Poles, washed down with (Italian) Peroni and (Argentine) Malbec. A work dinner where the conversation stopped when the food started. All we were left with was a noisy collection of umms and ahhs.

Even the hotel bar food – usually the first call for mediocrity – is sumptuous. Hearty burgers, delicate curries, decent portions.

Two weeks ago I was eating noodles in Shanghai. Just as tasty and only marginally cheaper.


I get to do it all again next week. Wondering what the new crop of food outlets will offer? We have spied a few…

PS: Naturally, a pint of Guinness is still de rigeur and somehow tastes magical. Although, oddly, I’d never drink Guinness in the UK.

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China. Scale.

All numbers herein are approximate.

During a trip to China it’s probably inevitable that one thinks about the size of stuff. If you’ve not been to the People’s Republic, you’ll already have some preconceptions of its vibe. The old stereotype – one of many I fear – is of the sheer numbers of people. Yes, yes, yes, one has heard it all before. But then you arrive in town and start to wander around

“The New York of Asia” someone said to me. Yeah, right. New York by itself is a mere 8 million souls. You need to include New York–Newark, New York–New Jersey–Connecticut–Pennsylvania Combined Statistical Area to equal Shanghai. Shanghai is immense. According to one piece of research, it’s THE biggest “proper” city of all time.

Oh yeah? Wanna play big? Check China out. The Daddy is the Ghuangzhou built up area weighing in at around 44 million. And you think it’s busy queuing at the checkouts of Morrisons on a Friday… So 60% of the human live in Asia. 1 in 5 of us on the planet are Chinese. So in our family there’s me, Mrs Beer, Ms Beer, Master Beer and Granny Feung-Shui-Chiu.

I think Mrs Beer is the Chinese one.

It’s easy to become dazzled by the numbers here. The Metro is dazzlingly cheap, clean and – my Great Aunt Mable! – dazzlingly BUSY. The standard (wide) gauge trains are packed to the gunnels with commuters. The trains are around 2 X the length of your longest (London) Tube and much more spacious. At least I imagine so without their seething yet well-mannered human cargo.

In terms of human (relative) scale you don’t feel like a monster at 5’11”. The Chinese are not a race of uniformly small folk. Isn’t it funny how lazy stereotypes remain true in your mind?

I gave up counting the number of skyscrapers. Although to be fair, the cloud and smog was hampering efforts. One dreads to even consider the power, drainage, water supply considerat Bicycles 2 Bicycles 3ions for a conurbation of such magnitude.

According to Katie Melua, there are nine million bicycles in Beijing. (The inspiration came during a visit to with her manager Mike Batt who wrote the song  two weeks later.) Well, the most bicycles in Shanghai I saw were in a wonderful installation at No7 The Bund. The view from the rooftop bar was of a grand scale too. The price of beer? Off the scale.

It’s not cheap here. Not at all. One-to-one scale pricing with, say, London. Now there’s a stereotype that is outmoded. The sheer amount of money in this town, this country is of a scale beyond my Welsh comprehension.

And that’s just in one town.

But then again it’s a small world.

The Bund 1

I happened upon The Scale of the Universe 2 website and now my head has exploded. You want scale? Go check it out:

Room view 2

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