Saturday, February 02, 2008

Getting Serious at The Crown

Phil and the fried calamari at The Crown.

In spite of my best intentions, I always seem perennially late. Just when I think I've got the timing down, it's off. This time it was way off. The last time I spoke to my cousin, Mimi, I thought I'd meet her in an hour. I was off by two hours.

You know how it is, you just get so into what you're doing that time flies past and you didn't even know it. Luckily, family is family and mine are very patient. Mimi and her husband, Phil, were out shopping in Picadilly Circus when I arrived.

I hadn't seen Mimi since I was last in Manila at the beginning of 2001 when I was able to participate and cover the EDSA2 Revolution. That was seven years ago and since then she closed up her shop and moved to the London area. Outside of the pastries at Flat White and Fernandez & Wells, I hadn't eaten anything, and I had consumed a large quantity of coffee and espresso at Square Mile, so I was pretty hungry and jittery.

Like all good Filipinos, Mimi and Phil suggested we eat Chinese.

Hell no. I didn't travel all this way to London just to eat Chinese food. I wanted real, traditional English food. I wanted Curry Chips.

Of course, we're around Picadilly Circus, which is an absolute madhouse of people and tourists. Prospects of eating well in a tourist area are low indeed. When searching the internet via iPhone turned out to be fruitless, we turned to people on the street. Lots of people with good intentions recommended all sorts of places. One even suggested a vegetarian place. God Bless That Girl.

In the end, hunger and desperation won the day and I chose a place called The Crown. It's a pub on the street level and a restaurant upstairs. The pub area was packed with rugby fans watching the Six Nations Tournament of England vs. Wales (Wales is my choice) and the upstairs restaurant was largely filled by Spaniards in red uniforms with a big, automatic handgun silkscreened onto their jerseys. Futbol or rugby, I couldn't tell. They were Spaniards, sans botas.

Home Baked Aberdeen Angus Cottage Pie with chunky minced lead beef in a rich gravy, cheesy mashed potatoes and fresh, green vegtables.

The room was manned by a woman who was somewhere between grumpy and rude (I really couldn't tell anymore). Maybe she was just British. Whatever the case, I was more concerned with passing out that understanding what her troubles were.

For our dinner, we ordered several dishes. First off was Fried Calamari (decent enough) with a sweet and hot Asian-style dipping sauce (that was pretty good). Phil went with a steak (not bad). Mimi had salmon and boiled potatoes (I didn't try it, but it looked pretty bland), and I went with both the Fish and Chips and a Cottage Pie. Of course I did because I wanted to try a variety.

Fish and Chips.

I hate to say it, but there's really no point in belaboring it any longer. If these dishes were indicative of traditional English food then it's no wonder the American Forefathers wanted to get the hell outta there. The fish actually smelled fishy when I cut into it. The batter was crispy, but so thick. Neither the tartar sauce or vinegar really helped to enliven the fish. Even the chips were bland.

The pie wasn't mush better, just a lot cheese. And a lot of mush in the form of mashed potatoes and the meat and gravy filling. Actually, the brown gravy and meat were pretty tasty - with some salt, but where was the "life"? Where was the "ooomph" in the cuisine?

Perhaps that's why I've like Curry Chips so much. There's actually flavor and spice in the curry. Layer that over my favorite french fries and how can you go wrong? I just wish they had it here on the menu.

Mimi and the salmon.

The rest of our time was spent catching up on family gossip, how things are in England and plans for the future. Like a good family member, the inevitable question came up early on. The question of: "When are you going to find a nice girl and settle down finally?"

A loaded question indeed but one that no amount of diversion would divert. Sooner or later (always sooner than later), she would bring the story around to my needing to settle down (it's really amazing how women in my family are so good at that). We could go on and on about my womanizing (or desire to womanize) and she'd bring it right back.

Finally, I had to tell her the only thing that made any sense. That I thought I had found someone who I wanted to "get serious" with and plan for a future, but that relationship was over now. That as much as I had tried and hoped for the best, that's not the way it's going to be - and that maybe one day I would be ready to try again, but right now, I don't.

That worked for about half an hour, then it was back to scheming and planning on how I should meet a nice girl to settle down and get married...

This must be a conspiracy orchestrated by my mom.

C'est la vie!

The Crown
64 Brewer Street
Soho, London W1F 9TP
020 7432 9711

No comments: