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Fine dining: Galvin at Windows

I’m back in the UK for a few weeks – and meeting my family these days means trying out a delicious fine dining restaurant! I’ve been over-eating the whole trip, but this will be the highlight – my first trip to Galvin at Windows, high up on the 28th floor of the Hilton Hotel at Hyde Park Corner.
I’ve been to other Galvin restaurants, mostly recently Galvin la Chapelle, and my family had been here before, but it was my first time. This Michelin-starred branch is headed by South Korean chef Joo Won, and while we were led to expect South Korean influences, I can’t say I detected any. What we enjoyed was Anglo-Franco fine dining, most likely because we opted for the Sunday lunch menu.

After enjoying the view out over Baker Street and Gloucester Place, spotting familiar places and trying to figure out where certain key places were, my first course was seared foie gras on Iberico pork and brioche with tomato chutney. All the elements were excellent, and there was a very pleasant variety here, but the overall taste of the dish became peculiarly like an extremely high-quality hamburger – with foie gras. It was tasty, but I much preferred the simple, straightforward presentation of foie gras I had at Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road.

Next was a variation on beef with Yorkshire pudding – only the beef was a fillet and the gravy was peppercorn sauce. This was an excellent dish, with high-quality meat, some interesting flavours to match the very traditional Yorkshire pud, and with a little cabbage that added interest to the texture and some light flavour to an otherwise heavy dish. My one complaint was that the sauce was a little too sweet overall.

We had some cheese next. I never used to like cheese, but cheese with grapes works so well. The Roquefort was particularly tasty with it!

Dessert was an apple tarte tatin, one of my favourites. With a light Rosemary ice cream, it was a little more than I needed since we had cheese as well, but very delicious.

They also made Dad a little birthday cake! That was sweet – can’t fault the customer service today.

 

Pet Post 10: Numa frogs (and a guest)

Final pet post! And yes, it’s more froggies. Five of them, in fact!

Living together in a pretty tank with lots of hiding spaces are four numa frogs and one daruma pond frog – or possibly a dark-spotted frog. They were all herped from the wild and are all a bunch of greedy fat frogs! Unfortunately it’s too difficult to photograph them in their tank, so I had to catch ’em all and put them in a small one for pics.

This is Stripe, named for obvious reasons but establishing a theme that will probably soon become clear. He’s actually one of the smallest, now, but as feisty as the rest.

This is the daruma frog, with his big kawaiiii eyes. As he’s different from the rest and has a cute appearance, he’s called Gizmo. But he’s actually the biggest and toughest of these frogs now and pushes the others around, lol

And here you can see the rest of the gang. The other numa frogs are Daffy, Lenny and George. Not after the Of Mice and Men characters, but their derivative – these are all names from the Gremlins movies. I’d have stuck to Gremlins, the first movie, but most of them don’t have names…and I can’t call them ‘Plate-throwing Gremlin’…

 

Pet Post 9: Schlegel’s Green Tree Frogs

Almost done with these pet posts! Just one more after this. Today, our breeding pair of Schlegel’s Green Tree Frogs.

Honestly, the froggies are my housemate’s passion rather than mine, and though I come to see them as very cute – especially the silly pacman froggies – it takes me a little longer to bond with them, and these two are still very new.

They’re nice to look at, with cute feline faces and nice green skin, and have the very cute habit where the larger female carries the smaller male about during mating season. That’s how they got their names, Backpack (male) and, extrapolated, Handbag (female). Gender-role names, quite the opposite of my guppies! At first they were reluctant to eat but now it’s no problem, so I hope to enjoy their company more and more going forward.

Pet post 8: Tokyo Daruma Pond Frog

Introducing Cookie!

Currently our biggest frog, though we’ve temporarily housed bigger – from toads to one huge bullfrog – and easily the craziest, this is Cookie the Tokyo Daruma Pond Frog.

Facts about cookie - He lives on his own and enjoys a special feeding routine
- If you want to get him out of his case, he waits in a convenient dry spot until the last second, then belly-flops into the water
- His rank is captain
- He is running for president

Pet Post 7: Japanese Tree Frogs!

These fine little fellows are ama-gaeru, or Japanese Tree Frogs. They’re very pingy – they can jump a long way – so I didn’t attempt to get them all into one photo. Instead, we’ll see them in their rather lovely little house.

This fine specimen of a froggie is called Desperate Dan, for reasons he’s helpfully demonstrating right here. He loves to puff up his chin and make a lot of noise, especially after eating. Fortunately, he doesn’t do it that often.

This little cutie is our oldest frog, named Fef after a popular Japanese talent with a speech impediment. He lived alone for a long while until he got these three new friends, but he still likes his private time. Unlike the others, herped from the wild, Fef was store-bought.

Our lady of the group is named to fit in with Dan – she’s called Minnie the Minx. Fittingly, she’s pretty feisty – if she’s going for a cricket and Dan gets there first, she gets angry and chases him off.

   

Finally, we have our lone wolf, Pegleg Pete. We found him with one foot missing, but that hasn’t stopped him being able to live happily and eat well. Despite this pose, he’s usually tucked up in a corner keeping himself to himself.

Bonus pic, Fef’s baby photo from a year ago. Actually, he hasn’t changed much!

Pet Post 6.5: Tadpoles!

There are still a few more friends to meet, but we have some new faces, five cute little tadpoles of different sizes.

They’re not really full members of the pet family, and they won’t be tadpoles very long, hence the .5 designation, but it will be very interesting to watch them grow and develop into frogs – or maybe toads!

Pet Post 6 – fire-bellied newts!

Only a couple of pics today, because much as I love ’em, these guys don’t really photograph so well.

These are Taro and Tyrone, the Japanese fire belly newts. They’re actually very cute, with red bellies, funny inquisitive attitudes and faces that look like Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon. Indeed, it’s a real shame Pixar never made their Newt movie!

Taro is pretty special to me because he’s actually the first pet I ever had. Well, strictly speaking, when I was about 6 my grandparents in Taiwan bought a live fish to eat, and my brother and I were so horrified by the idea we made them change to keeping it as a pet. It lasted about a day in a bowl in the bathroom before jumping out and dying while we were off sightseeing. After that, I never had another pet until September 2015, when I bought my very first real pet. That was Taro, and Tyrone joined him soon after. They’ve lived happily ever since – my longest-lasting pets! This pic is from back then, in 2015.

Pet Post 5 – fish and more in the community tank

Today I’m introducing my fishies! I have a nice big communal tank with an interesting variety of creatures.

Perhaps most conspicuous is that I have 4 African clawed frogs. They’re funny, chubby aquatic frogs that I was originally drawn to for their bright colours. However, the brightness was artificial, the result of somewhat cruel injections that dye the animals’ skin so they can be marketed as ‘Tutti-Frutti Frogs’. Not very healthy. Fortunately, my first three have now faded to a normal colour and seem perfectly healthy, while the last I bought specifically as a non-dyed pinkish-white one. Their names are a little strange…the oldest is called Kirby because he was bright pink. The two biggest ones for some reason got called Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. The small, newest one is named Gladys. They’re silly, cute frogs with a lot of personality, but they can eat other small fish if they’re docile…they ate the two medaka I bought!

Next, two silver mollies named Jamie and Cersei, of course after the Game of Thrones characters. They’re peaceful fish who like to stick together in pairs, and sometimes hide in the decorations.

: A fancy goldfish sold in Japan as a ‘Ping-Pong Ball’. I love these silly round fish, which wiggle in a very cute way, but they’re not hardy at all so I’ve lost several of them by putting them in tanks that aren’t fully cycled (stupid of me). I have one just now, who seems to be doing well. He has one black eye like an eyepatch, so he’s called Sagat.

Archibald and Evil Archibald, the cory catfish. Archibald is my oldest fish, who I’ve had for around a year. He’s a busy little creature who cleans up after the others. His whiskers make the name seem perfect, and whenever I see other cory catfish I think of them as ‘archibalds’. They’re social so I got another one, not albino this time, and the darker ‘colour scheme’ made me think of sci-fi and video game tropes, so he got landed with the name ‘Evil Archibald’. Poor thing!

Four of my five neon tetra. Cute, hardy little fish who stay in a shoal, unfortunately a little susceptible to being eaten by the frogs. These five seem quick enough to always escape their clutches, though. They’re called Pugh, Pew, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert and Dibble. Yes, ‘Pew’. Got to tell them apart somehow! (I can’t tell them apart at all.)

Two simple goldfish, named Suzanne and Roxanne. They’re the biggest fish!

The skeleton crew! Three fish that in Japan they just call ‘Translucents’. These are pleasingly weird to look at and have quite cute behaviour, staking out their territory and largely sticking to it. I call them Funnybones, Skeletor and Brook, after various cartoon skeletons.

Guppies! I have 3, though will probably get more later. At the same time as Archibald, I got a guppy I called Sally Skirt. She passed away a while back, but started a tradition. The two males I have now are called Stacy Skirt and Suzy Skirt. The female is called Samson Skirt. They don’t need to conform to your gender roles!!

Jaycee the golden apple snail. She’s the creature in the tank I’ve had the longest. She’s grown huge since I got her. Not sure why she decided to be out of the water when I took this picture – she very rarely does that!

One of my three Mickey Mouse platys, so-named for the Mickey-like pattern on their tails. My three are called Stanshall, Ruskin-Spear and Bohay-Nowell, because when I see these fish I get the Bonzos cover of silly 30s song ‘Mickey’s Son and Daughter’ stuck in my head.

Two golden Siamese algae eaters. These fish spend most of their time hiding, but it’s nice to see them when they appear. I bought them to take care of the algae growing on my aquarium glass, which they seem to do quite well when I’m not looking. Their names are Snoopy and Snootles.

Last but not least, three Butterfly Hillstream Loaches, or Hong Kong Plecos, also on cleaning duty. I didn’t expect these bottom-feeders to zoom around the tank quite like they do. They’re funny creatures and tend to stick near my bubble filter because they like currents. They’re also usually hiding, but when they appear they always make an impression! I’m not sure they do much cleaning but they’re a fun addition to the community tank.

Pet post 4 – turtles!!

Today I’m introducing my crazy turtles! You thought I’d finished my list of pets? Haha, not even close. Turtle power!

Turtles are quite a responsibility. Too many people get these little cuties when they can sit in your palm without thinking about them getting bigger. Well, they will get bigger, much bigger, and owners need to be prepared to accommodate them when they do! That said, here are my three silly scuttlers, Coin, Pebble and Rock.

Coin was the first little turtle we got, and for a long while he was all on his lonesome. He’s a bit of a timid one, always ready to run away from the slightest thing, but he likes having friends now and loves stretching out his lil’ legs under the basking lamp.

Pebble, like coin, is a midori-game, which just means ‘green turtle’. Its English name is the common slider, or pond slider. They’re a very cute breed of turtle, especially when they’re little. Pebble is braver than Coin, and they’re easy to tell apart from their markings, but this picture may be deceptive. He doesn’t have a gangsta attitude – he was just sleepy.

 

Rock is a zeni-game, or Chinese Pond Turtle. He’s much more laid-back and easy-going than the other two, but maybe a little slow on the uptake, too. One of his favourite habits is climbing on top of the others.

Pet post 3 – Meeko the Sugar Glider!

My newest pet, and my first-ever mammal, is this little beauty – Meeko the sugar glider.

I aimed to buy a Japanese momonga, and that’s what I thought she was at first, but she’s actually an Australian sugar glider. That still makes her a momonga – the Japanese call all flying squirrels ‘momonga’ – but she’s a fukuro-momonga rather than a Japanese momonga. ‘Fukuro’ means ‘bag’ or ‘pouch’, which is appropriate because they’re carried in pouches as young and enjoy spending the daytime in carry pouches like this one.

Meeko was much cheaper than most other sugar gliders because she’s already over a year old. It’s much easier to bond with baby sugar gliders. But she was one of the cutest I saw and I’m happy to put in extra time and effort to build a bond. At the moment she’s still on the nervous side, but she rarely ‘crabs’ at me and seems to enjoy being stroked – progress!

Sugar gliders are social creatures and once I feel I have a strong bond with Meeko I’ll be getting her a friend. At least one more, but we’ll see. I bought her a huge cage, but unfortunately the bars are too wide and she can escape – so for now she’s in a smaller one…but she seems to love it in there. For playtime, though, we take her to the smallest room and have the lights dim. Her favourite place is the top of the curtains – where she strikes explorer poses!