Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I’m back in London for a week with my client over here. Since it’s my third time, now, I’m getting a bit more comfortable with the area, and able to establish a bit of a routine. And as we all know, for me, routine is the key to stability.

I made a serendipitous reservation at the wrong hotel. The Travelodge I’m in is a 15 minute walk from the office, but about 40 GBP/ night less expensive than my more proximate alternatives. I thought this hotel was the hotel by the office, which is a Holiday Inn Express. I’ll stay there next time.

The good news for me is that my hotel is across the A40 from a shopping plaza containing a Gold’s Gym, containing an erg, which I’ll use tomorrow morning. The plaza is also home to such culinary bastions as Burger King, Pizza Hut, KFC, a restaurant claiming to be a “Mexican Grill”, a bowling alley, and a “Dragon King Chinese Buffet”.

Coming from California, I can say that I have eaten real Mexican food, I know real Mexican food, and London, you’re no authority on Mexican food. Which left me at the buffet.

Also coming from California, I’ve had good Chinese food. And I believe there’s probably great Chinese food in London some place. And wherever that Chinese food is, I bet it’s not next door to a bowling alley. So I had ratcheted my expectations down to an appropriate level.

I tried the things not obviously made with four tons of corn starch. The lo mein was passable, the rice noodles had curry powder on them, the lemon chicken was decent, and you could really taste the cow in the beef with black bean sauce (not a good thing). I tried to eat a balanced meal, and chose to think of myself as tanking up for my erg tomorrow morning. And I wanted to get my money’s worth out of "all you can eat".

After tanking up on food, I tried some strawberry ice cream, which was good. But I was still hungry. I noticed something that appeared to be cake on the dessert bar, next to the more authentic Chinese desserts, which, being authentic, I had no cause to eat. Dessert requires cream and butter and refined sugar and wheat flour, none of which the Chinese know what to do with. Yet here before me stood a cake. And if they can curry the noodles, maybe they can do a cake. London is a melting pot of sorts.

I read the sign: “Bannoffee”. Given the very creative Engrish I’ve seen on instruction manuals, clothing care labels and signs in Beijing, I figured this was a very bad miss on “cake”. But since I could see it was a cake, I ignored the sign and served myself one of the tiny slices. Given the rest of the buffet, I had learned to “trust but verify” the palatability of my food. I armed myself with a fork (chopsticks & cake = not possible) and sat down.

Turns out the sign was right. I was eating a banana cake with whipped cream frosting with toffee sauce and tiny toffee chips on it. And it was fucking delicious. I immediately decided it was my new favorite thing, and I should endeavor to make it myself upon arriving home.

And then I remembered I was at an all you can eat buffet. And I was a grown up. And I have about 5% body fat and burn 1000 calories an hour on the rowing machine. So I could have seconds and thirds on the cake I was eating after my ice cream course, and no one could stop me.
And so I did. And it was awesome. And I apologize to the Chinese for thinking they sucked at dessert. Turns out they figured out how to make dessert rock after all: Outsource to the English.