desperately seeking distractions

So, my long-distance relationship just got rather more long-distance.

This week I have been decidedly offline and spending some quality time with Olivier. I think I mentioned a while ago that he was being posted abroad… well, yesterday he left. But before he left, we had a lovely couple of days together.

I met him at St Pancras on Thursday night after work and took him to one of my favourite restaurants, “Le Mercury” in Islington. As strange as it might seem to take a French person to a French restaurant in London, this place really is quite special. They actually have two restaurants, “Le Mercury” and “Le Mercury Deuxieme”, both on Upper Street, a couple of doors down from each other. Apparently the reason for this is that their first restaurant became so wildly popular that they needed more space, so “Deuxieme” was born (and this is the one I have been to, both times I’ve eaten there).

Their regular menu is very simple, delicious French food, with plenty of meat and fish dishes and classic French desserts. With starters at £4.45, mains at £9.95 and desserts at £3.45, it is unbelievably good value. This time we decided to go for their Christmas set menu, which was three courses for £19.95. Each of the courses was absolutely delicious, and actually more than we could eat. I had the braised beef, which was tender and full of flavour, and was perfectly complemented by the garlic mashed potato (definitely trying that one at home!), the baby onions and the seasonal veg. After our main courses Olivier and I were both feeling pretty full, but managed to find room for a chocolate tart and a creme brulee for pudding! Our entire bill, including a bottle of wine and the tip, came in at just under £60. You won’t find better value than this in Islington.

If you’re interested, here is their website.

I didn’t take any pictures because a) we were busy having a romantic evening together, b) my phone doesn’t take great pictures in low light and c) I find taking pictures of food in restaurants a little embarrassing, which is why I probably won’t turn into a food blogger! But if you type “Le Mercury London” into Google images, you’ll get a pretty good idea of what it’s like!

On Friday my mum paid for us to go on a spa day, and we had a wonderfully relaxing time, enjoying the pools, saunas and steam rooms. As it got dark outside, we floated in the shallow salt pool with a couple of glasses of wine. I discovered that, due to the combination of the salt water and the plastic wine glasses, you can float your drink in the water. Being rather childish, this caused me immense joy! You have to stay close to your drink if you don’t want it to float away, but still… it was pretty cool!


(Yes… I know… it is a little odd that I felt more comfortable taking my phone into a swimming pool to take this picture than taking a shot of my dinner at a restaurant… but whatever!)

We then went home, decorated the Christmas tree and had an early Christmas dinner with my family.

Yesterday I took Olivier back to St Pancras, and suddenly his departure became very real to both of us. Despite having remained very calm about the whole situation up until now, I found that when faced with him actually leaving, I just couldn’t hold it together. We said a very tearful goodbye, and then he went through the barriers. I stayed and watched him in the queue, until he went through security and I couldn’t see him any more.

Once I was sure he had really gone, I called Lizzie and told her I needed to drown my sorrows and eat my feelings. So, like the great friend she is, she hopped on the tube and met me at Oxford Circus, and we went to the Hummingbird Bakery for cake, tea and sympathy. The Hummingbird Bakery is a bit over-hyped… the one in Soho has no bathroom, so you’re clearly not supposed to hang out in there for ages, which is usually what I want to do when I eat cake. I also wasn’t very impressed with the cup of tea which was served with milk and the teabag STILL IN IT! (I find this really revolting, for some reason. The teabag and the milk should never touch.) Personally I think somewhere as pricey and well-known as the Hummingbird Bakery should be able to stretch to teapots and jugs of milk. But I wanted a huge, sugary cupcake, and that is what I got. (Two, in fact.) Next time I’ll just remember to order a latte with it.

Once we had both eaten more cake than we could really handle, Lizzie and I got back on the tube and headed over to Annabel’s new flat. She has just moved in with her boyfriend Giorgio, and their friend Giovanni, who Lizzie is now dating. We had a lovely dinner together, and whilst I wished Olivier could have been there, an evening in their company definitely made me feel better.

Before Olivier left he bought me a lovely pair of soft flannel pyjamas for Christmas. Just the thing to keep me warm all winter and make sure I don’t look remotely sexy whilst he’s not here. It’s 3:30pm and I still haven’t changed out of them today. Sod the gym, I’ll go tomorrow. Today I am wallowing.


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