Monday, November 14, 2011


I've always been a keen cyclist, but I never really took a serious interest in the particulars of the sport, that is until I moved to London and discovered the whole community & subculture which surrounds it. All I had known of cycle culture from Christchurch, was the flocks of lycra-clad, carbon frame straddling battlers, who bust their guts out on climbing the painfully steep port hills (not my kinda fun). Other than that, being an urban cyclist in New Zealand exposes you to the usual abuse of boyracers, who would literally try to run you off the road, usually before throwing an empty beer bottle in your direction and shouting "FAGGOT!" or "HOMO". London is quite different, there is a different kind of appreciation here, as England has a richer cycling history. Getting your hands on a piece of cycling heritage is still very possible, as bikes from older independent frame builders & workshops are still floating around the market. Aside from history & tradition, the sheer population allows for a much deeper strata of appreciation groups, whether they be for touring clubs, collectors, track racers, or mountain bikers.

One of the keystones of London's cycling community is the L.F.G.S.S, or London Fixed Gear & Single Speed community, whose online forum is the perfect meeting place for cyclists who are interested in mechanics, bike building, social rides, events or just open discussions. Last Saturday I met up with a group of 30-odd members from the forum for the first time to partake in a group ride/event called the Udon Run. Basically, think of a pub crawl, but on bikes, and in addition to beer, add Japanese food. Sound like a good idea? You can bet your left one it was. Not only was I getting the chance to experience a slew of Japanese cuisine, but also riding through parts of the city I'd never seen, all while taking over the road as a juggernaut of cyclists. Aside from the amazing food, I really enjoyed the feeling of community, the conviviality of people sharing a hobbie (you think I'm talking about cycling, but I'm actually talking about food!). I'm not going to waffle on about the what everyone ate & which restaurant was the best, this was more a more a milestone of meeting new people & breaking the old stereotype of Londoners being a cold & unfriendly breed. Thanks L.F.G.S.S, & see you soon!

Our itinerary for the day was:

  1. Ryo, Soho
  2. Fujiyama, Brixton
  3. Kyoto Garden, Holland Park (origami competition)
  4. Bento Cafe, Parkway
  5. Swain's Hill
  6. The Flask, Highgate (Hype Haiku Workshop)
  7. Akari, Angel

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Harro Kitty: Necco on Exmouth Market

Lately I have been kicking myself that I never took the opportunity to visit Japan while I was living in New Zealand. I had a three year window when a good friend of mine Josephine was living in Tokyo, so a holiday for me would've included free accommodation, local knowledge & undoubtedly a guided tour of every drinking venue within the local precinct. Well, let bygones be bygones, I missed that boat. However, I'm now discovering London has it's own little pockets of Japan, tucked away in secret places. I may have been living under a rock for the first year and a half I've been in London, as I'd never even heard of Exmouth Market until last month, despite being only a few blocks either side of two common commuting routes I cycle daily, but I was lucky enough to be guided along by my friend and fellow food blogger Doreen @londondear to the fairy light laden wonderland that is - Exmouth Market. The market is full of all kinds of cafes, restaurants & the like; from Antipodean eateries, to tapas & cocktail bars, but a cute little Japanese venue called Necco was our port of call for the evening.

It's a safe observation that Japanese are famous for not doing things in half measures. Aesthetically, they are a hyper-culture, a people who don't just take an idea & run with it - they take an idea, dismantle it, supercharge it, reassemble it more efficiently, paint it every neon colour ever seen by the human eye, give it a catchy jingle & then race it from 0-100mph in under 10 seconds. This kind of all-or-nothing attitude applies to the visual identity of Necco, which is the Japanese word for cat ("neko"), and seriously....everything in this restaurant is some kind of cute cat or butterfly related paraphernalia. The interior looks as though a bunch of school girls were let loose super-soakers filled with "liquid-cute", transforming every object into something twee (if Sailor Moon & Sailor Jupiter were real, they'd totally be found eating at Necco). Being a bit of an aesthetic snob, I really appreciate this attention to detail - I almost wish that the staff painted on whiskers & wore cat ears (perhaps that's just some sort of latent teenage hentai fantasy I'm having though).

The food here is affordable, well presented & from what I can tell, fresh & tasty. I had a sashimi platter & takoyaki (octopus balls), which come roped in a kind of bbq sauce & Japanese mayonnaise that's omnipotent in fried dishes like takoyaki & okonomoyaki (a kind of Japanese pancake/pizza/omelette). Josephine once told me of her faux pas of telling her new students in Japan that takoyaki is her favourite food, which is the western equivalent of telling your students that hot dogs are your favourite thing to eat...nice.

Now I'm just itching to go back for some of their desserts, like their green tea cake which looks amazing.

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