A short walk around Covent Garden


There is something very wrong with the British Museum. On Saturday morning there was a 45 minute-long queue to get through the security check, both at the front and the rear entrances. Since we live in London and the museum is less than half an hour by tube from our house, I didn’t see the point of wasting time. Instead, Mr Gochugaru and I went for a walk to nearby Covent Garden.

My point is that it should not have to take 45 minutes to get past the security check. It will get worse from tomorrow, when their staff go on strike.

It was our wedding anniversary, which we don’t often celebrate. Historically, Summer was when the world descended on London and we had to host multiple visitors. For many years it was also the week of the annual Scout camp, where I would be away helping out with admin and catering (pitching tents is not my forte). After a while I just gave up trying to mark the day. This June and July saw us still receiving a mixture of visiting students and relatives.

I treasure the long years we have put in to our marriage and you know what, we are still happy.


Mr Gochugaru and I met during our first year at university, bonding over our shared wonder of London and the sheer woe of hall food. Hall food meaning the institutional meals at our hall of residence in Brunswick Square. At weekends we would walk down to Covent Garden’s cobbled streets to visit the crafts market, its individual shops and occasionally to catch a theatre performance. Some favourite shops from that time: Covent Garden General Store, Cranks restaurant and (the name escapes me) a spice shop which sold some very delicious samosas in its upstairs cafe.

This is still a popular place to visit and here are a few shops which I took note of during our walk.


The latest Indiana Jones film has just been released, and you can purchase a fedora at Stetson, 58 Neal St, London WC2H 9PA. A fedora = Indy’s hat and a Stetson = cowboy hat


Stanfords Travel Bookshop at 7 Mercer Walk, London WC2H 9FA, around the corner from their original site in Long Acre


Macarons from Pierre Hermé are ideal for any occasion. 38 Monmouth St, London WC2H 9EP


Udderlicious Ice cream was shut when I passed by but one of the flavours I could see on their board was Dragonfruit and Banana, which was what Junior 1 had just eaten in their Islington branch


Following our recent trip to Berlin I discovered the European Coffee Trip App. They recommended WatchHouse, 7 Upper St Martin’s Lane, London WC2H 9DL and Grind, 42 Maiden Lane, London WC2E 7LJ. There is the ever popular Arôme for pastries and coffee/ tea, 9 Mercer Street, The Yards, London WC2H 9QJ. Photos from a previous visit here.

I came across Fair Shot which is a social enterprise supporting and training adults with learning disabilities to work in cafes. It wasn’t time for lunch but this is definitely on my list the next time I am in Covent Garden. The sandwiches looked appetising and large enough to share between two people. 3 Slingsby Place, London WC2E 9AB.



I was told of the Japanese cafe Katsute 100 on the top floor of Uniqlo Covent Garden, 19-21 Long Acre, London WC2E 9LZ. Given that I much prefer tea to coffee, this was a real find. Full menu here and prices below, in case you need to decide before you reach the cafe. There are cakes as well so I think it would be best to visit with a few friends for a tea and cake testing session.



The shop itself is interesting as it has a glass roof, letting in natural light


We had to return home soon after, as we were having friends over for dinner. I cooked some dishes from the Falastin Cookbook and will write about this later. There was a lot of leftovers which meant I had the Sunday off cooking.


Other shops:

I do not have a photo of St John Bakery but they are located at 3 Neal’s Yard, London WC2H 9DP. This is near to Neal’s Yard Dairy,17 Shorts Gardens, London WC2H 9AT, where you can sample and buy fine British cheeses. Seven Dials Market is a food hall with independent food traders. To be honest, I miss some of the shops which have closed due to the dire economic climate we are in, but am encouraged by entrepreneurs who are still willing to open a business nonetheless.


Slow-roasted Beetroot with Labneh



This is the dish I could not stop thinking about during dinner at Otto in Berlin, after I left the restaurant, and as I returned to my kitchen in London. Chef Vadim Otto Ursus’s beetroot, sloe berry, labneh and brown butter is not easy to describe because it is unlike any other dish I have had, beet or otherwise. I attempted to make it using his recipe which I found here.


Otto’s June 2023 menu and the the beetroot dish


The recipe below has been adapted to suit my own cooking practicalities (I use the oven a lot). For chef Otto’s original recipe please see here.

I could not find any purveyors of sloe berry juice, but research indicates that it is possible to head up the road to Hampstead Heath and pick my own during the right season. Most people would pick sloe berries to add to gin (indeed there was a very popular book published 30 years ago called Sloe Gin and Beeswax which showed you how to make this) but if I were to find any, it would go into making this beetroot dish.

Since sloes are in the same family as plums and cherries, I opted to use tart cherry juice as that was what I could find. I would imagine pure cranberry juice would also make a good substitute.



The dish took two days to make but most of the time it looks after itself: roasting, soaking, dehydrating and then briefly boiled before serving. As it can be prepared ahead of time, it is a perfect addition to the vegetable platters from the other Otto i.e. Ottolenghi, whose dishes I cook every weekend when I have friends and family around the dinner table.


For the Beetroot:

1 kg medium-sized fresh beetroot

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

600 g tart cherry juice

250 g labneh
strain 500 g full-fat sheep / cow yoghurt to make your own labneh

4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

2 – 4 tablespoons olive oil

a few leaves of Belgian endive, for serving


How to Make:


Top and tail the beetroot, then give them a quick rinse under water if the skin is muddy. Dry with a paper towel then wrap each beet in some foil. Bake in the oven at 200°C / 180°C fan for 50 minutes.

Switch off the oven but leave the beetroot cooking in the residual heat for another 30 minutes. By this time they will be just right, yielding but not too soft.

When the cooked beetroot has cooled a little, remove the skin. When I was about to proceed, Niece Number 2 showed me her super efficient and neat way of doing this: cup the beet, still in its foil, in the palms of both hands. Simply twist the foil, which will act like a ‘scrubber’ to scrape the skin off the beet. The skin literally rubs off in one go and the whole process takes a few seconds.

Cut each beetroot into 6 wedges and place in a large non-reactive bowl, e.g. a glass or ceramic bowl. Mix the cherry juice with 2 teaspoons of fine sea salt and pour over the beet.

Cover the bowl with a lid and let it sit overnight at room temperature. It was by now 10pm and I went to watch some K-Drama.


Day 1 stages: baking the beetroot and soaking overnight in the cherry juice



In the morning, preheat the oven to 70°C/ 55°C fan. Line 1-2 baking trays with baking paper.

Using a pair of tongs, remove the beetroot from the juice and place evenly on the baking tray. Reserve the juice for later.

Dry the beetroot in the oven for around 6 – 7 hours. This was my second attempt and I felt a bit more confident. Both timings seemed OK but I would not stray outside these limits.

The beetroot can be used immediately or kept for later.

Just before serving, place the beetroot into a pot with the reserved juice and pomegranate molasses. (For one portion, use six wedges of beetroot, 80 g reserved juice and 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses).

Bring everything to a boil to reduce the juice a little. Remove the pot from the heat.

To serve, arrange the beet and juice in the middle of a deep plate. Place a few pieces of the endive on one side, and a dollop of labneh on the other side. Drizzle over with the olive oil (1 – 2 teaspoons if making individual portions) and serve immediately.


Day 2: the beetroot before and after dehydrating in the oven for 6 hours


Plating up: my second attempt (top) and first attempt (bottom)


I was very glad that my only companion at the restaurant was Mr Gochugaru, who after 34 years of marriage knows that I am usually not one to lick the last drop off a plate. I know he is not like that either. However we found ourselves taking turns to scrape, with our spoons, what we could of the remaining juice. Happily I don’t have worry about this in my own kitchen. This afternoon, after trying out the second batch with Junior 3, I simply added more yogurt to the remaining juice and ate it like a sort of savoury yoghurt treat.




Berlin: The Final Day

Berliner Tagebuch: Sonntag 10 Juni 2023 / Berlin Diary: Sunday 10 June 2023



Another bright day in Berlin and a lovely mid-morning walk around some imposing buildings after breakfast. I realise I feel physically smaller in Berlin than when I am in London. London has its share of grand buildings but the narrow streets somehow contrive to mitigate their grandeur.

Before you read on, please see here for details of the transport and museum passes we used for this Berlin trip. All information correct as of June 2023.


Frühstück / Breakfast

We started the day with local walk, passing by a reconstructed Checkpoint Charlie (touristy and slightly pointless taken out of context) and then to Bonanza Coffee Roasters.


Bonanza does coffee, of course, but their pastries are really excellent too


Morgenaktivität/ Morning Activity

Berlin has unique pedestrian traffic lights that feature a charming red and green ampelmännchen/ little traffic light man, with a hat on

The Ampelmann shop sells any type of souvenir you can think of, which makes it a fun visit



Ampelmännchen had its own Google Doodle to celebrate its 56th anniversary on 13 October 2017

56th Anniversary of the Traffic Light Man


Towards Bebelplatz: like so many large institutions undergoing renovation, St Hedwig’s Cathedral (top) is currently closed. The juristisch fakultät / law faculty of Humbolt University (bottom)


We stared for a long time at the facade of the Humbolt Forum, curious as to whether it was a new building designed to look old, or an old building newly restored. Its history is complicated and here is an insightful article from The Guardian. I should like to see the views from its rooftop terrace (closed on Tuesdays, ticket required).


Front and side of the Humbolt Forum


Courtyard and rear of the forum


We returned to the Nicholas Quarter / Nikolaiviertel (see previous post) to visit the Knoblauchhaus, which was the family home of Carl Knoblauch and his family


The interior reminded me of visiting National Trust houses here in the UK. There was a lot of furniture and portraits, but what stood out for me was this painting of the New Synagogue (which we spotted on our first evening in Berlin)


We had a few minutes in the Museum Ephraim-Palais before returning to our hotel for a late check-out. Entrance (top) and interior staircase (bottom) of the museum


When walking around Berlin, do look down at the pavements and roads from time to time. The border between East and West Berlin, where the wall once stood, is marked out so you can see what lay each side of the divide



This was a busy trip but not exhausting, as we stopped for sit-down meals and had some rest stops factored into the day. Although I did quite a lot of background reading to prepare for the trip, there are still interesting facts that come up each time I return to articles or the guidebook. This is to be expected, as Berlin is a large city! If I were to go again in a group I would consider hiring a professional tour guide so we could have a history lesson whilst walking. Find a suitable guide and tour here or here.

Here are some the places we did not get round to trying or visiting:

44 Brekkie for breakfast/ brunch/ lunch.

Five Elephant for coffee and cake. Their branch in KaDeWe serves cakes by French patisserie Lenôtre and an apple strudel which I did not have space for after lunch.




If I had not been so absorbed with museums I might have found time to do some eating and food shopping at Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg. As it was, I did not go anywhere near Kreuzberg. So this is a definite must for the next trip.

Another must if the weather is hot and if it still exists (shops open and shut all the time): Korean bingsu / shaved ice at Cafe Gong Gan, located in Manifesto Food Court, The Playce, Alte Potsdamer Str. 7, 10785 Berlin


A walk around Gendarmenmarkt was high on my list but the entire site is currently off limits due to ongoing renovation works


KPM (Königliche Porzellan Manufaktur / Royal Porcelain Manufactory) has hand-made their porcelain in Berlin for over 280 years. I am not in the market for a whole new dinner service, but I should like to tour their manufactory.

I would still like to visit more museums and art galleries. Top of my list would be the Deutsches Historisches Museum (DHM / German Historical Museum) which is currently closed.

Many rooftop terraces with views were recommended but we ran out of time. Maybe next time: a drink on the rooftop terrace at the Hotel de Rome.

Finally, for a person who much prefers tea to coffee, I still look out for cafes because that’s where I would find the thing I love most for breakfast, which is croissants. If they do cakes that’s a bonus. Here is a comprehensive list of coffee places in Berlin from European Coffee Trip which currently lists 550 roasters and 3715 cafes across Europe. I searched for Berlin and it returned 249 entries. I downloaded their App immediately on my mobile phone.

What I did not do: eat currywurst, doner kebab or Brammibal’s vegan donuts (the point of donuts is that they are an unhealthy occasional treat). I left the Birkenstock shop well alone because I am now much older and need to wear sensible shoes that lessen the chance of tripping


Let’s learn some German words!

I love ice cream but did not have the space to try any from the Rosa Canina pop up shop near KaDeWe department store (see previous post). Some flavours are descriptions (e.g. Mozartkugel and Stracciatella) but for straightforward flavours here is a word list:

zitrone / lemon,

erdbeere / strawberry

butterkaramell mit steinsalz / butter caramel with rock salt

walnuts karamellisiert / caramelized walnuts

bourbon Vanille aus madagaskar / bourbon vanilla from madagascar

schokoladensorbet esmeralda / chocolate sorbet esmeralda (not sure who Esmeralda is)

Apfel Butterstreusel mit tonka / Apple butter crumble with tonka (bean)

himbeer mit basilikum / raspberry with basil

sicilianische blutorange / Sicilian blood orange

tonkabohne mit sesamkrokant / tonka bean with sesame brittle

joghurt mit Heidelbeere / yogurt with blueberries



Post Script

Not very important, but here is my opinion of Berlin Airport:

Some airports are too big e.g. you could easily spend three hours in Singapore’s Changi Airport eating and shopping. Berlin Brandenburg Airport is quite the opposite. There are not enough departure gates and seats within these areas to accommodate the passengers. The one business lounge in Terminal 1 (Lounge Tempelhof) is shared by over 20 airlines. Two things made the experience bearable: this was the first time in the whole trip I came across currywurst (don’t waist your calories) and also, they served some magnificent pretzels. These were pretzels so fresh, with just the right amount of saltiness and chewiness, that I had to stash some in a ziplock bag to bring back to London. They were still good three days later.


Berlin: Day 4

Berliner Tagebuch: Samstag 10 Juni 2023 / Berlin Diary: Saturday 10 June 2023



After the taxing schedules of the past few days, today we took a more chilled approach to seeing Berlin. We managed to pack a lot in, including a visit to a preserved section of the Berlin Wall.

Before you read on, please see here for details of the transport and museum passes we used for this Berlin trip. All information correct as of June 2023.


Frühstück / Breakfast

We spent 12 hours out on the town today, and I am glad we started with a great breakfast at Bonanza Coffee Roasters. As they are coffee roasters, things are kept simple in the tea department: it’s green tea or black tea. The apple puff pastry is the best I have eaten anywhere, including in France. There are other sweet and savoury patties, and cookies.



Morgenaktivität und Mittagessen / Morning Activity and Lunch

No foodie trip to Berlin is complete without a visit to KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens / Department Store of the West). Top tip: head straight to the 5th floor for kitchen equipment and to the 6th floor for their food emporium, bars and restaurants. You will be thoroughly spoilt for choice.


KaDeWe is continental Europe’s largest department store


German Bundt pans. Not quite Nordic Ware but very similar


The KaDeWe food floor (Harrods has a food hall – KaDeWe has a dedicated food floor) is magnificent. I am even now thinking of how to eat a whole day’s worth of meals here, from breakfast to dinner, then bagging some choice foodie gifts to bring back to London. As with every good thing in my life I think of my family, and how lovely it would be if we could experience this together.

I remember the first time my parents tried spit-roasted chicken, on a trip to France and Switzerland sans enfants. They were so happy, and always talked about it. One of the reasons I bought my first extra-wide Gaggenau oven 25 years ago (I am on my second one now) was because it had a spit-roast function.



Admiring this pistachio and summer berry creation from Lenôtre


Nachmittagsaktivität / Afternoon Activity

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is a short walk from KaDeWe and worth a visit to learn a bit about its history. Consecrated in 1895, it was bombed by Allied Forces in November 1943 (for some context, my mother-in-law was born then). Three years earlier here in England, the city of Coventry sustained heavy damage during the Battle of Britain. On 14 November 1940 Coventry Cathedral was destroyed by fire when it was bombed by the German Luftwaffe. The tragic event, and the Cathedral’s reconciliation work resulting from its response, is explained here.


A Coventry Cross of Nails / Nagelkreuz von Coventry, symbolising peace and reconciliation


Views of the front and back of old church tower, now a war memorial. Next to it are the modern hexagonal belfry (under scaffolding) and octagonal new church


Inside the new church with its stained glass inlays

From a church that was deliberately left unrestored to another that was completely rebuilt: St Nicholas Church / Nikolaikirche is Berlin’s oldest church, which was also destroyed as a result of Allied bombing in World War II. Laying in ruins, it was only in 1981 that permission was granted to rebuild the church using old plans and designs. The present church we see today is a reconstruction and bears little resemblance to what it would have looked back when it was first built around 1230.


The rebuilt exterior of St Nicholas Church in the Nicholas Quarter / Nikolaiviertel


Besides being a church, St Nicholas is also a museum which charts its 800-year-old history


The church is a regular concert venue and there is an organ recital here most Fridays at 5 pm. Confession: I intensely dislike organ music


We had time to nip into Hamburger Bahnhof / National Gallery for Contemporary Art before dinner. The permanent exhibition was closed but we viewed three temporary exhibitions: one quite awful, one quite interesting and one quite entertaining…a bit like a typical outing to the Tate Modern. The museum shop here is one of the best we came across and I can recommend it for books, gifts and souvenirs.


Hamburger Bahnhof was built between 1846 and 1847 as the starting point of the Berlin–Hamburg Railway, and is one of the oldest train station buildings in Germany


Abendessen / Dinner

The dish I thought about most after I left Berlin was otto’s beetroot, sloe berry, labneh, brown butter. I kept trying to work out, from our server’s description, how to make it in my own London kitchen. Thanks to a Google search I came across the recipe from chef Vadim Otto Ursus.

Even before we begin, how can you not like a name like Otto? Otto is 8 in Italian, an auspicious number for Chinese people, and Otto reminds me of chef and restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi, whose cookbooks I adore.

I did make the beetroot, which took two days. It was worth the effort and I will write this up after I complete the Berlin Diary posts.


Here is otto’s menu when we visited in June 2023


Here is what we ate: pickled vegetables, pointed pepper, oyster mushroom, white asparagus, veal and beetroot


After dinner / nach dem Abendessen

Bernauer Strasse is a short tram ride away from otto restaurant, and here you will find sections of the Berlin Wall preserved as a memorial. There is an engaging podcast on BBC Radio 4 called Tunnel 29 which brings to life the desperation East Berliners faced when the wall was erected so suddenly in August 1961. The story tells of a group of men who dig a tunnel in an attempt to escape to West Berlin. (The book based on the podcast, by Helena Merriman, is published by Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 978-1529333978.)

Tiny bit of background: Post World War II, Germany was divided into West and East Germany. Berlin, the capital of East Germany, was itself internally divided, with West Berlin run as a liberal democracy.

Imagine you have a round cake. The left half is iced with vanilla frosting and the right half is iced with chocolate frosting. Within the right half there is a small circle which should be wholly iced in chocolate, but half of this is iced in vanilla. That small circle is Berlin, and the vanilla part of that small circle is West Berlin. If you take a box of matchsticks and stick it around the vanilla section of the small circle, that would be your 96-mile-long Berlin Wall.

The evening light was fading now, and the Visitors and Documentation Centres were closed. This is on my list for the next Berlin trip.


The outdoor sections of the Berlin Wall along Bernauer Strasse are accessible 24 hours a day


Chapel of Reconciliation (top) and Documentation Centre (bottom)


We returned to The Playce in Potsdamer Platz because I (strictly I, not we) wanted some ice cream. Caffe e Gelato is quite standard in its gelato flavours but the location was convenient for us. Next time I’m bringing more people so we can try the chocolate ice cream bars and parfait desserts in jars.



Let’s learn some German words!

Today, it is the translation of the prayer which is on the base of the Coventry Cross of Nails in Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Known in English as the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation, this prayer is recited in the new Coventry Cathedral every weekday at noon, and also throughout the world by partners in the Community of the Cross of Nails. The response is Vater vergib / Father forgive. There are some similar-sounding words that help us follow the lines.




The hate that divides race from race, people from people, class from class
Father forgive

The greedy striving of men and nations – to possess – what is not their own
Father forgive

Possessiveness – which takes advantage of people’s work and devastates the earth
Father forgive

Our envy of the well-being and happiness of others
Father forgive

Our lack of participation in the plight of the homeless and refugees
Father forgive

The pride that leads us to trust in ourselves, not in God
Father forgive



Den Hass – der Rasse von Rasse trennt, Volk von Volk – Klasse von Klasse
Vater vergib

Das habsuchtige Streben der Menschen und Völker – zu besitzen – was nicht ihr Eigen ist
Vater vergib

Die Besitzgier – welche die Arbeit der Menschen ausnutzt und die Erde verwüstet
Vater vergib

Unsern Neid auf das Wohlergehen und Glück der Anderen
Vater vergib

Unser mangelndes Teilnehmen an der Not der Heimatlosen und Flüchtlinge
Vater vergib

Den Hochmut – der uns verleitet – auf uns selbst zu vertrauen nicht auf Gott
Vater vergib