I cannot remember the exact moment I fell in love with food but I am certain it happened over a meal with my mother and her family. I do not know a more gregarious bunch of people so in love with “the meal”. Menu requests for the family’s Saturday Lunch would start coming in on a Tuesday. Screaming matches that started with martinis and escalated over prawn curry rice, almost always ended with the ras malai. And as they left, way past tea time, each one would say, “Too much eating. I’m going on a diet from Monday.”
A trip to any restaurant with Ma’s family is unequivocally embarrassing for everyone present – no subject is taboo and none of them came with a volume control. But these meals were also honest, heart-warming, and hilarious. Quite different from my father’s family that still believes the best place for any discussion is under a carpet. I think I know everything I do about speaking my mind from witnessing the unabashed display of emotions at meals with Ma’s family. Consequently, the only setting I associate with dealing with problems is a meal… and it was time for me to go back to the table.
All my working life I have shied away from working for/with either parent. I did not like what was left of their lives after they were done at the office. I also did not like how, slowly, the lines between home and office blurred then disappeared. Those who know me well know that work has never been my priority. I have worked very hard at jobs that I madly love just so that these jobs will allow me to lead the rest of my life exactly as I want it. At the annual reviews at work I always say that the only was I can assure my 200% commitment to the office is if the office can assure me a life outside of work.
Not surprisingly this has been often misinterpreted as a lack of ambition, a shirking of responsibilities, a fear of failing at the company’s Partnership Track. Kindly and diligently I have gone about my world, not allowing such negativity to interfere with it (too much). This week I celebrate my 4th anniversary with HVS. In this time I have been promoted from a position that didn’t quite exist to a position that desperately needed to exist; without trying to, I have proved my detractors wrong. And yet, instead of elation all I have is a sinking feeling in my heart that something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.
I have suddenly found my work/life balance completely out of whack because against every dream my work has sneaked into top place while the rest of me seems to be gasping for air. I have to either change the way my work works, or change the way I feel about it. And the only place I could make this decision was back at a Table for ONE.
I had a James Bond moment as I walked into Umu “the only Kyoto style restaurant in the UK”. Discreet doesn’t begin to describe the entrance. When I finally found the front door it took me a few more minutes to realise I needed to wave my hand over a thingamebob that opened the door with the softest swoosh. I first visited Umu only a few days ago with my mum, Thomas, Chris and Akiko.
Umu’s specialty is a tasting menu but instead I chose a selection of Appetizers, Sashimi and some Modern Sushi: Foie gras custard, brown crab, ginger sauce (£13), Fried oysters, yuzu vinaigrette, chives, ginger (£6), Usuzukuri: thinly sliced fillet of white fish, chirizu & wasabi-soy sauce (£12), Diced scallop, tofu, ginger sauce, sesame seeds, mustard cress (£5.50) and Seared tuna, Maitake mushroom, kinome (£4.50). Each course revealed itself like a pearl glistening in its shell. I feel almost possessive about this meal that exposed such overwhelming flavours that I can neither compare nor describe.
I cannot remember the last time I lost myself in a meal as I did at Umu. As I washed down a delicious scoop of their matcha green tea ice cream with a glass of Riesling I felt the air fill my lungs again.