Category Archives: Reviews
Once inside I found a lively L-shaped room filled with the happy buzz of people whose appetites were soon to be sated. The decor is Manhattan loft-style, with exposed terracotta brick walls, cosy booths, an open kitchen with bright stainless steel surfaces and when I walked in the kitchen counter was already covered with plates of Iberico ham in different guises. I’d starved myself all day so that I’d have capacity for everything on the menu, so you won’t be surprised to hear that one glance at the ham caused some (discreet) dribbling into the flute of delightfully dry cava that had been offered at the door.
In his welcome address Simon Majumdar, one of the Dos Hermanos behind the event, explained that there had been one thousand applications for tickets for tonight and we were the fortunate fifty to receive them. That was certainly interesting to hear – only five per cent of applicants would share the Dine With Dos Hermanos experience at Pizarro tonight and I was one of them (HOORAY!). I took my seat at a table with three lovely strangers, ready to begin the serious task of eating Mr Pizzaro’s fare.
First to arrive at our table was a plate of croquetas –perfect orbs of gold and so very creamy that they disappeared in a flash, causing me to dub them ‘flash croquetas’. I adore croquetas and these were at the top of their league – no gristle or tough old chunks to distract from the smooth, cheesy potato, just the right consistency with a smoky ham flavour wafting through the middle.
Next to appear was a spread of Jamon Iberico in three different forms, my favourite of which was the chorizo. Sliced paper-thin each mouthful brought more strange noises of contentment. My husband, a die-hard sausage-lover, would have hogged (pardon the pun) the plate for himself, had he been there, so I’m quite selfishly relieved he wasn’t. The accompanying bread was also good – bouncy, yeasty sour-dough, but the quality of the ham before us was such that it fully warranted being eaten on its own.
I went slightly bonkers with delight over the carpaccio of cod with fennel and orange. As the self-dubbed Queen of Carpaccio this combination was right up my street. The fish was fresh with the versatility to add the smack of ocean to the aniseedy fennel and zing of citrus. The only problem with Neptunian carpaccios such as this is that I’m always left wishing for more, still, there’s a way to get around that: I’ll just have to order double quantities next time.
We were next presented with the head of hake – this was understandably ugly yet delicious, with forks about the room excitedly excavating cheeks and precious fleshy bits from all parts of the fish head. Softened red pimentons were scattered liberally about the dish and these were a revelation in themselves – packed full of flavour but with an unexpected velvety texture on the tongue.
By now the guests were all heads-down, merrily eating and critiquing each plate. Meanwhile, the staff didn’t stop. Plates were cleared and new ones presented in a very efficient operation, especially considering that this was soft-opening week so everyone was working hard to get it right before inviting the public to come in and chow down. Such seamless professionalism was impressive, a testament to organisation skill. Not one of the wait-staff looked harassed, just focussed. What’s really amazing is how friendly they all were – no mean feat given the pressure they must have been under.
A side of tiny florets of cauliflower was a pleasant surprise. Cold, crudité-like, with the unexpected tang of vinegar, the cauliflower was simple, refreshing and palate-cleansing before the shift towards the heavier tastes of the evening: duck livers and Iberico pork cheeks.
The duck livers were served with red onion – or were they shallots? Small, red skinned, onion family… the liver was heady, stronger than chicken liver, yet smooth and gamey. The Iberico pork cheeks then arrived – morsels of porcine paradise. They practically dissolved in the mouth requiring next to no mastication – therein lies the beauty of slow-braising.
Then we were onto the cheese course – I regret I didn’t get the names of the cheeses, but being a fromage fan I was easily pleased here as there was a good representation of types – a couple hard and manchego-like with rind, one I’m sure was made from sheep’s milk… some black grapes and fruit chutney were the accompaniment.
And lastly, some cake – my single mouthful of this was enough as desserts are not really my thing, besides which I was thoroughly enjoying the PX Fernando de Castilla sherry, which eclipsed anything else I might have tasted at the time.
Throughout the evening, José Pizarro’s partners in wine from Cillar de Silos had kept us informed about and topped up with various glasses of Spanish goodness. We’d started the evening with a beautifully dry cava, which I wouldn’t hesitate to serve to friends as an aperitif, and then moved onto a rare and special fino from Gonzalo Bayass. The Duero wine-growing region was well represented by the Rosado de Silos and Illar de Silos Crianza from the Silos cellars, and lastly we had the delicious sherry to round off the evening. By the time I left for home I was one very happy bunny.
And so to the verdict on Dine with Dos Hermanos: well worth the effort. The evening was superb, the food and drink quality, the conversation excellent – especially as it mostly revolved around the common interest of the Fortunate Fifty: food. The icing on the tarta is that Simon Majumdar is, in my opinion, a really good egg with the right sort of priorities – family and food. As for José Pizarro, well, he kindly gave me some advice on how to make my tortillitas de camarones better, and that was a bonus to the evening that was most gratefully received.
Pizarro is definitely worth visiting if you’re heading down Bermondsey way. Don’t try to book – there’s a no-reservations policy, but as a back-up, if things are busy, you could always pop along the street to José, the slightly more senior tapas bar in the Pizarro stable, which opened to great acclaim last year. Definitely go to Pizarro if you’re fond of all things Iberico ham, be sure to try the croquetas, and if you’re in the mood for bubbles, why not give the cava a whirl? From what I hear Pizarro has had the odd teething problem since the DWDH evening, but that’s to be expected of any new establishment. Put simply, I’ll be returning soon with my chorizo-chomping husband in tow; he’s even fussier about food than I am, so if that’s not an EPIC seal of approval, I don’t know what is.
Pizarro, 194 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3TQ
One day it was sure to happen: Monsieur and I would look in the mirror to find Tweedledum and Tweedle-ette staring out at our over-nourished selves. Recently, that day arrived. I wondered if we were indeed genetically linked to Jabba the Hut, such were the rolls of flab about our bellies. In our enjoyment of food, Monsieur and I had each gained a cautionary number of kilos in the years we’ve been together and now it was finally time to shake them off. I’d started to dread getting dressed because nothing looked right, yet I was loath to buy the larger size. My wardrobe was in dire straits and our families no longer ate alongside us discussing subjects like current affairs, travel or politics. No, they would recognise our love of food by kindly offering us seconds as the next deluge of diet tips tripped off their tongues. Family mealtimes were now too often filled with unsubtle reminders that my husband and I were FAT (God bless the honesty of blood relatives, not…), so, lest we anticipated living a life where conversation with loved ones would revolve around DIETS and EXERCISE forever after (yawn), we had to act. Now. The diet would no longer start tomorrow; in fact, it started a few weeks ago and you’ll be relieved to hear that Monsieur and I are already smaller versions of our roly poly, butter-loving selves and happily continue to shrink towards our target weights.
To coincide with the change in our eating habits, Fuelmyblog asked if I’d be interested in reviewing a framed enlargement service at a branch of the photography shop, Snappy Snaps, a stone’s throw from where I work in Hammersmith. Ah, now this could work out nicely, I thought, for I needed one of those weight loss inspiration photos somewhere prominent in the flat and the front of the fridge wouldn’t work in our case – it’s non-magnetic laminate and I hatehatehate sellotape on appliances.
Choosing the right image wasn’t too hard; I went back through the pictures of my hike up Ben Nevis some time back, Before I Got Fat. Downloading a picture of me at the summit of the highest peak in Great Britain, looking slimmer, fit and happy, a version of moi that I’m determined to see again, I took it on a USB to Snappy Snaps, who checked the image on one of their computers, agreed some minor cropping for the enlargement, asked the all-important question: “gloss or matt?” and told me to return at lunchtime the following day to collect the finished product.
The service was a breeze. I returned on time, almost to the minute stated on my receipt and, sure enough, my inspiration photo was ready. The 10 x 8 inch frame was affordable (less than a tenner total) simple in black and sturdy enough to stand but can also be hung on the wall. It now lives next to a papier mâché fish on a chest of drawers in our hallway. The photo certainly does the trick. I pass it numerous times each day and it spurs me on to keep up the shrinkage. Here it is:
(The red fish is my friend, the lucky Vietnamese water puppet! She guards the framed photo now and with piranha-like teeth will maim the hand of anyone who tries to move it… )
Where I think Snappy Snaps most deserves praise is for keeping their high street stores in spite of so much online competition. I admit it’s been a while since I visited a physical photo store; I generally let my mouse do all the walking. However, when I order prints, enlargements, greetings cards made from my photos or other photo products online, it can be a very hit-and-miss affair. Colours alter, finishes vary and one photo book ordered by a family member had to be sent back to the printer 4 times before they got it right. When I speak to my friends and colleagues, this sort of experience is perfectly common, after all, we’re dealing with computers here, not people. So imagine how refreshing it was to pop into my local Snappy Snaps, for a friendly, fast and efficient service given by real human beings. It only serves to reinforce the importance of the physical store in a world where shopping is done more and more frequently online. Agreed, computers are great. Online shopping can be practical. But sometimes, we just need a person.
This was a review post for Snappy Snaps & Fuelmyblog. I received 1 framed photo enlargement so that I could review these for you. My review is honest and in my own words.
Snappy Snaps online – click here
Fuel My Blog – click here
Among my vices various, those who know me will tell you that I am a self-confessed, bona fide bag lady. It would be perfectly accurate to call me a bagophile or loverrrrr of all things bag. Ever since I was given my first small cane handbag with chocolate leather closure and handles and chocolate cotton lining at the grand old age of four, I’ve been hooked on handbags, mainly because of an irrational fear that I might get bored without some portable entertainment in my possession at all times. So my handbags generally have to be large enough to accommodate 1 x book to read, 1 x Moleskine journal, digital camera and pens plural (in case one runs out), on top of the regular paraphernalia of phone, keys, money, lip gloss and travel pass.
To be absolutely clear, I love bags of all shapes and sizes – suitcases, duffel bags, totes, evening purses, shoppers, and I even admit to having a vague interest in airline sick bags of the empty and never-used variety. (Please do note, however, that I draw the line at squeaky vinyl or Judith Leiber.) Much to the annoyance of crowded-out golf bags, shoes and evening dresses, the majority of one large cupboard at home is given over to this particular passion for bags, the collection of which was recently augmented by the addition of one large example from a London-based company called ‘Clippy’.
Monsieur will tell you that when I’m not growing my bag family, I love collecting bits and pieces from our trips – ready to stick into my journal, which is always with me (in a bag). He’s so accustomed to this now that before he bins detritus from his pockets, he’ll turn to me and say “do you want to keep this ticket/ card/ receipt/ brochure?” (delete where applicable); rolling his eyes with amused indulgence when I reply “yes, please.” (At least I’m predictable). What doesn’t find its way into my Moleskine will end up in albums various or treasure boxes filled with souvenirs. I’m a proper little squirrel with sentimentality issues; that much is certain.
So when you take one bag-lover-stroke-memento-hoarder and offer her the opportunity to review a clear plastic Clippy bag covered in clear plastic pockets just begging to be filled with bespoke decoration, including souvenirs, you are single-handedly responsible for making the Universe a much happier place for one particular bag lady.
The new bag was not a done deal. Yet. I had to order it online for starters. Here’s how it went:
First, I visited the Clippy site and found that there are two ways to order a Clippy bag:
- You can order the bag with empty pockets and fill them yourself at home, or
- You can upload your own photos and/or use the Clippy site’s stock images to fill the virtual pockets of your chosen bag, so that you can see how the finished bag will look and leave the hard graft to all those clever Clippy folk.
***Either way, you’ll be faced with a dilemma: pink handles or black handles? Now, THAT is the question.
I followed the instructions for option 2, doing everything possible online, and was quite unprepared for how much fun this would be.
The first part of the process is registering your details on the site (easy peasy) before choosing your bag. There are various styles – from pencil cases and washbags to totes and shoppers. Was this part difficult? Only for the bag-o-phile who has a hard time making decisions. In the end I tore myself away from the darling metallic ringbinders which would be oh-so-perfect for random travel jottings, to choose an eighteen pocket shopper (nine pockets on each side) just begging to be stuffed with excesses of sentimentality.
Bag chosen, I moved on to the next stage: uploading photos to the site. This was the hardest part of the process, only because I am that abovementioned indecisive bagophile. Which to choose? Should there be a theme? What about balancing colours? Should I go garish and clashing or keep it sleek in black and white?
In the end I uploaded a selection of photos (colour, in case you were wondering) representing two of my other passions: travel and food. The site allows you to move the photos around from pocket to pocket so you can see how they’ll look once inserted in the bag. Once you’re happy with the overall effect, you save and send your finished virtual bag via the Clippy site links to the Clippy people (who, for some reason, I imagine are adorable little pink oompa loompas – apologies if that’s not the case.).
This was the only time I had a problem. I’d save and send my bag, as per the on-site instructions, but the shopper repeatedly disappeared somewhere between my computer and the other end. Luckily, the brainchild behind Clippy, an accidental entrepreneur called Calypso, was there to talk me through the process. Neither of us could see why my bag design hadn’t reached her, but with some perseverance the system finally worked and my bag was despatched the following day. Hooray! NB I have to say that it would seem I’m the exception to the rule here. Everyone else’s online bag creations were behaving; just not mine.
And so, it was with calorie-busting excitement that I opened the grey plastic packaging to find my first Clippy bag. There were my images, all staring out at me from their designated pockets. A pretty gingham bow was tied around one handle and a Clippy badge sat in one of the central pockets – encouraging more multi-media insertions of my own. I took the bag for a spin around the office. The feedback from the girls was favourable, although progress was slow thanks to everyone wanting to know the story behind each photo.
Then it was time to get serious. How did my first Clippy stack up on the bagophilia barometer? Firstly, I checked out the quality of the photos in the pockets. Sadly, it wasn’t great. The whole concept is so eye-catching that quality photographic paper would definitely help make the images stand out more. As it is, the photos are on heavy stock paper such as I might use for a presentation document at work, with the result that they’re a bit flatter than they might be. In future, I’d probably opt for getting the photos printed myself and doing the DIY bag decoration at home. That way you have more control over paper weights and finishes.
Other than the image quality, I’m very happy with my Clippy. It’s sturdy, waterproof and versatile – equally suited for the likes of trips to the deli at the weekend or to the swimming pool after work. It would also be a clever carry-on bag for any holiday involving airports and uptight security guards, simply because it’s clear plastic. There are no secrets with a Clippy bag.
Having said that, on further exploring the Clippy site I found that there are optional bag-liners in case you’re a bit more private about the contents of your bag. If you really want to push out the bespoke boat, there are Clippy sticker packs and pocket liners to get you started, although personally, I wasn’t tempted. I’m good to go with a handful of metro tickets, postcards and restaurant cards, tokens, a good luck charm and a beer mat or two. And the best thing about my Clippy bag is that whenever someone notices it, there are automatically eighteen stories to tell. So, if an image is worth a thousand words, then I estimate that my eighteen Clippy bag photos and a couple of handfuls of mementos would fill a book.
Here’s what my bag looks like:
If you would like to try Clippy’s products for yourself, log onto the Clippy site here.
This is a review post. I was provided with the product free of charge for the purpose of honestly reviewing it. I have not been instructed what to write and my opinions are honest and my own.
It doesn’t seem to matter that Viet Grill is located a good twenty minute trek from the nearest tube station; last Friday evening saw it bursting at the seams and I’m quite certain it wasn’t Rent-a-Crowd. Monsieur and I were there to review this well-reputed bastion of Vietnamese cuisine in London and, in spite of having a reservation, for a split second I wondered whether we might have to wait to be seated; that’s how busy it was.
We rapidly realised that such fears were ill-founded as a waiter hailed a manager called Nam to look after us. We were soon sitting at a table blessed with elbow room, which looked to be the exception to the rule in this hive of Friday night activity.
Monsieur had already experienced Viet Grill, having dined here with a group of friends last December. I was the Viet Grill virgin in our party but this did not hold me back. As I checked out the recently-refurbished interior with feature fish tank embedded in one wall and a neon-lit shrine above the bar, Nam reappeared to ask whether we would like to choose our own dishes or would we trust him to order on our behalf. Before Monsieur could blink I had committed us both to Selection by Nam. Yes, Viet Grill’s staff knew I was there and why, but I was curious to see which dishes they thought would please us the most, especially as I’d spent the past couple of days devouring the menu on their website and fantasising about dishes like Saigon Ceviche Lobster and Crab Salad and Wicked Crispy Frog. I wondered, would such things feature as the staff favourites?
The first dish to appear was the Lotus Stem Salad. Described as comprising ‘shredded pork, shrimps, Vietnamese basil, peanuts and lime zest served with a sweet chilli dressing,’ this was a happy confusion of textures – the lotus adding a cool crunch, the pork contrasting in its softness and the overall effect reminiscent of summer by the beach. The Vietnamese basil, lime and chilli added Far Eastern flavour, altogether tangy and tart and hot against the tongue. Every single ingredient was served so fresh that there could have been a seaside farm in the kitchen. Thus far, Monsieur and I were impressed, but would our satisfaction survive the evening? Let’s find out.
(Lotus Stem Salad)
In addition to selecting the plates now appearing before us, Nam had also chosen our wine. I already knew that Viet Grill had enlisted the services of wine guru, Malcolm Gluck, to match wines to their dishes, and various reviewers before me have found this to be one of the unexpected bonuses of an evening at this Kingsland Road restaurant. Therefore, I was quietly confident that Nam would choose the right bottle for us, but when a Gewurztraminer appeared, my heart sank. Monsieur and I usually steer clear of this grape variety, as it tends to be too sweet and fruity for our taste. Choosing to trust Nam’s judgement, however, paid dividends. The Hunawihr Gewurztraminer Reserve d’Alsace (2007) matched particularly well with everything we ate that evening, especially as Vietnamese food tends to include a sweet element somewhere within. To its credit, our Gewurztraminer sang along with the food without being a diva. That is, its zesty flavour was complementary to the food without being overpowering. Thus far, it was a perfect match.
A plate of Beef Vinh arrived next, followed by Chicken Royale. I’m not the world’s biggest carnivore, but when Monsieur tried the Beef Vinh he described it as “so soft, it’s like eating cotton.” I couldn’t resist, so tried a piece of the beef that had arrived in kebab-style sans-skewer, slivered and rolled before being charcoal grilled and served in bite-size chunks. A dipping sauce next to it was later identified as fermented soy and although adding a dash of something extra, it wasn’t really needed because the beef was so tender and flavoursome, thanks to the addition of five spice, that it was stand-alone melt-in-mouth joy to our taste buds.
As for the Chicken Royale, Monsieur gobbled up his share with relish. He’d ordered this dish on his previous visit and thoroughly enjoyed it on both occasions. Slightly sweet, the chicken is free range (thank the Lord, because happy hens are tasty hens) marinated in cinnamon and fresh herbs before being roasted and dressed in a soy broth, giving it an almost honeyed flavour. Apart from adding to the taste, the marinade also gives the chicken a deep golden shine, so not only does it taste good, this chicken looks as royal as its name on its simple bed of house salad.
A word about the salad garnishes at Viet Grill – there’s no floppy lettuce here. Everything tasted as if it was just plucked from a homestead’s vege patch, rinsed in spring water and shaken dry before landing on the plate. Surely to get such a simple thing as garnish so very right shows that the people in the kitchen care about their produce and attention to detail. Whoever supplies Viet Grill with its ingredients is someone I’d dearly like to supply my fridge at home.
The next surprise to arrive was a whole oven-baked mackerel, eyes and fins and all. It had been marinated in lemongrass and wrapped in banana leaves, according to the menu. A waitress boned it deftly at the table, leaving us to dig in, which we did repeatedly. Mackerel is quite an oily fish, so often seen in the form of smoked fillets on supermarket shelves. This was a whole new take on mackerel for me. Mouths full, Monsieur and I hummed our happiness back and forth at each other across the table as we demolished the entire fish, leaving only head, tail and a few random bones behind. The lemongrass had imbued the flesh with a delicate, sweet perfume and the skin was so perfectly cooked that it lacked the usual slippery sensation that the skin of an oily fish so often has, and, without being cremated beyond edibility, the skin instead had a fine crispness to it meaning that we ate most of that, too.
Nam interrupted us part-way through our mackerel munch-fest to ask how we liked our meal. “The mackerel is delicious!” we enthused. “I know.” he agreed, “I take it home twice a week for dinner for me and my girlfriend.” If I lived closer to Viet Grill, I’d do exactly the same as Nam and take this fish home often. Not only is it good for you (mackerel is rich in Omega 3s), Viet Grill has a take-away menu so if you don’t want to dine in, you can have this dish at home for an unbelievable £8.00 (it costs £9.00 if you eat in; a fact that Monsieur and I cannot quite fathom because it’s such unbelievable value for such a sizeable and delicious fish).
Which brings me onto pricing. Considering the quality of what Monsieur and I were trying at Viet Grill, none of it would break the bank. And if you are still hardened against spending your hard-earned beans in these tough economic times, there’s a two-course Recession Set Meal for £9.50 per person. For soups, pho and One Dish Meals, if you dine before 3.00pm you can do so for £5.00 a plate (or large bowl) in these categories. The wine may set you back a few quid, but if you check out the retail prices on the internet, you’d be surprised that the restaurant mark-ups are so modest here.
Monsieur and I took it in turns to visit the restaurant conveniences in the basement, amazed to find another dining room below with even larger feature aquarium and yet more pho-slurping patrons. The loos were Ally MacBeal-style, that is, unisex, but the layout meant that this was not a problem if you prefer a bit of space between you and the opposite sex when you tinkle. The cubicles are spacious, with ledges for handbags which are great for people with O.C.D. about loo floors, all the fittings are brand new, and the colour scheme is a crisp white and olive green with dark wood accents. The only thing I’d mention is that the floor is slippery when wet, so take care, especially if you’re onto your second bottle of Gewurztraminer, as we were.
Now we just had to do our best with a Vietnamese dessert. Nam recommended tapioca cake, and sensing that The Blogger and her companion were close to maximum stomach capacity, brought just the one with two spoons. That was very considerate of him. The last time Monsieur and I ate tapioca was at the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam. That day it was simply prepared, served with a peanut and sugar dip that became a magnet for all sorts of wasps and jungle insect life. The Viet Grill tapioca cake was bright green and gelatinous to the point of being a bit rubbery. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a sprinkling of nuts, it was perfectly pleasant, but lacked in the va-va-voom of the other dishes we’d tried. Having travelled through Vietnam, Monsieur and I know that Vietnamese sweets can often be a bit alien to Westerners, so we didn’t allow this minor blip to colour our views of the evening. For all we know, a Vietnamese connoisseur of tapioca pudding might deem this a fine example but for us it was akin to eating a sweetly perfumed eraser.
Unfortunately, the Vietnamese coffee was also a slight disappointment, tasting a little like a Westernised version of the usual coffee poured over ice with condensed milk. It was still sweet andchocolatey, which is what I so love about Vietnamese coffee, but for some reason the Viet Grill version made us think of Starbucks frappuccino, so next time we’ll probably end with the Iced Jasmine Tea, just for a change. Besides, I adore the subtlety of jasmine tea but have never tried it iced before. It sounds like a glassful of eastern exoticism. Alas, there’s only so much one stomach will take in a sitting.
On our way out we waited to thank Nam, who’d disappeared into his back-of-house domain. As a waiter helped me to track him down, he allowed me to poke my head into the kitchen. This was where our fine meal had been prepared and was a revelation. Brightly lit with work surfaces that could well be used to advertise kitchen cleaning products, the chef’s team was busy at work – chopping, steaming, plating, stirring and more. In spite of it being 10.30pm, they didn’t look anywhere close to slowing down. Back in the dining room, a few tables were now free but the space remained close to full.
Then, there was Nam, asking how we’d found our Viet Grill experience. We thanked him for a thoroughly enjoyable evening and asked him to pass on our thanks to the other staff who’d cared for us so efficiently throughout the evening. Then we sent our compliments to the chef/s, commending in particular the mackerel, which Monsieur and I then talked about all the way home.
Yes, Monsieur and I will gladly return to Viet Grill. We highly recommend the Lotus Salad, Chicken Royale, Vinh Beef and Oven-baked Mackerel. If you follow in our footsteps, just make sure you order those dishes and you’ll leave happy. As for me, next time I’d be tempted to try that Wicked Crispy Frog, mostly because the name alone makes me smile, but partly because I’ve never before eaten frog and would like to try it, just the once.
Even though I didn’t meet him, I must now extend my thanks to the owner of Viet Grill, Hieu Trung Bui, who offered me the chance to review his establishment. Thank you, Hieu. I have a feeling we’ll be back for more mackerel, soon, because just thinking about it makes me dribble onto my keyboard. With food of such quality, at such reasonable prices, you can Viet Grill me, any day.
Follow VietGrill on Twitter: @caytrevietgrill
Or visit their website for more information: http://www.vietnamesekitchen.co.uk/
Everyone has at least one tale of woe regarding lost luggage. So far, I’ve been fortunate enough not to have lost a suitcase (touch wood), although they’ve often been ominously slow to come off the conveyor, or have mysteriously appeared on the wrong conveyor for whatever flight I’ve been on. With this in mind, it’s surely only a matter of time before my dirty socks wind up (without their owner) in New Delhi or Peru or in one of those unclaimed baggage auctions.
Thinking back, my first-ever holiday with Monsieur was largely interrupted by the hassle of waiting for his suitcase to arrive, which it eventually did following a five-day detour to some Eastern European country that bore no relation in name or location to our destination. We were in the land of spaghetti and mozzarella, yet Monsieur’s luggage was travelling through regions of dumplings and sauerkraut, pierogi and borscht. On a practical note, with Monsieur’s bag gone, so were his clothes and shaving foam, but thankfully Monsieur is wise to the foibles of baggage handlers and always has insurance in place, so he wasn’t stuck in his travelling clothes with facial fuzz until such time as the wandering luggage joined us. Instead, he went insurance shopping for essentials, but even that wasn’t straightforward because after 4 days without it, he had so little faith in his suitcase ever turning up that he bought a new one. Then, on the way home, the airline stung him massively for having two suitcases, more than the per person allowance, in spite of the fact that it was their fault his bag hadn’t arrived on time in the first place. The whole exercise took a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy to reconcile. Inconvenient doesn’t even begin to describe it.
The irony is that airport baggage security is supposed to be much tighter than this. Theoretically, a bag cannot travel without its owner, yet Monsieur’s bag managed to do so disturbingly easily. To add to this messy mix, it’s not always the fault of the airline that bags go missing.
Following that first trip together, during which Monsieur and I wasted an inordinate amount of time calling the relevant airline/s for updates and ever-changing e.t.a.s, Monsieur’s suitcase continued to go missing, to the point where the lost luggage people at Heathrow recognised Monsieur’s name. Once, it was picked up by accident by someone who thought it was his bag until he got home and started to unpack. Luckily, that meant the bag was in the UK so was delivered the following day. On another occasion, it was left behind at the airport of origin, so arrived a day or two later. On yet another occasion, I was collecting our bags from the conveyor while Monsieur went off to sort out landlubbing transport and had to collar a woman who once more thought that Monsieur’s suitcase was hers. I wouldn’t mind, but his suitcase is distinctive enough not to be mistaken for someone else’s so what is it with these people?
Sadly, we’re not alone in such frustrating moments – many of our friends and colleagues bemoan the loss or misplacement of their luggage on an ongoing basis. In Lost Baggage Blues Therapy, a handful of us can talk easily for hours about misplaced luggage, without changing the topic.
Heads in hands, we groan out loud. Whatever can be done to stop our luggage from going missing when we travel, apart from only packing carry-on? Cue the development of a product that could change all that waiting around for lost bags that may never turn up: Reboundtag.
The folks at Fuelmyblog know that I travel a lot so they sent me this clever little travel accessory to review. It’s simple, really; a bag tag with in-built microchip containing both Reboundtag’s and the owner’s details, including your travel itineraries so that when a missing bag is located it can be immediately forwarded to wherever you are at the time.
I’ve recently activated one of these sturdy plastic tags and it was easy peasy. You just visit the Reboundtag site, register an e-mail address, password and the tag number, then visit the Members’ Area where you store your contact information, describe your luggage along with any identifying features, and upload itinerary information, such as flights and accommodation. You can also take advantage of a rewards system, should you wish to forward Reboundtag’s details to your contacts. So far, so brilliant.
With the amount of travel that we do, I have to say that my mind already rests easier knowing that I have a Reboundtag. Should my luggage ever decide to take a tiki-tour of the world without me, it should find its way back once a baggage handler locates it, realises it’s travelling on its own and logs its whereabouts on the Reboundtag website. Then, wherever I am, I can find out where my bag is (New Mexico/ Indonesia/ Glasgow) and tell the baggage handlers where I want it to be sent and when. (It doesn’t even need to be a baggage handler who does this! One of those accidental conveyor belt kleptos could do it, too.) This is particularly useful if you’re on an extended break because you can arrange to have the wayward luggage forwarded to wherever you are. Then again, if you’re just away for the weekend and concerned about your bag arriving at the hotel when you’ve already left for home, you can tell the handlers/ finder to send it back to your hometown, even requesting delivery to a daytime address so that you don’t have to wait around for the delivery at home when you should be at work. And in case you’re wondering about the safety of your details, you can choose to make them anonymous, so that you’re protected against someone finding out that you’re away and deciding to pop over to ‘borrow’ your DVD player.
In short, when it comes to Reboundtag I’m a fan. I’ve tried it now on two international flights and both times felt a lot calmer than usual about bidding farewell to my luggage at check-in. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one day all new luggage comes with a built-in Reboundtag-type chip. It would certainly make a lot of people’s lives easier, considering that approximately 42 million bags went missing last year, many of which were never reunited with their owners. That’s a lot of unclaimed knickers being auctioned.
Should you decide to try Reboundtag for yourself, here are some useful details:
This page explains the RFID technology behind the tag. Personally, I’m not fussed about the tech, as long as it works, but you may be interested to read more about it.
- Each tag comes with three years’ membership.
- You can choose between one Reboundtag at £19.99, a family pack of three at £49.95 or a business executives’ pack at £149.99. (Whichever way you look at it, that’s a small price to pay compared with the cost and trouble of replacing lost suitcase and contents.)
- There’s also a corporate facility whereby you can order Reboundtags for all your travelling staff and have your company logo printed onto them.
Unfortunately, I can’t yet tell you how well Reboundtag works because so far, my Reboundtagged suitcase is safe and sound. Should this change, I will return here and add my experience. In the meantime, if you have a Reboundtag tale to share, please do let us know in the comments below.
October in London: it’s dark in the morning, a chill is in the air and at work the central heating isn’t working so we wear scarves all day long. It isn’t even Hallowe’en yet.
Cue a timely newsletter from the folk at Fuelmyblog asking for interested bloggers to review the snug boots made by Australian brand, Emu. I needed no prompting to reply. This sort of footwear is right up my street, having a reputation for being both warm and comfortable. I fired off an e-mail to say I would be more than happy to review a pair of tall, black, Bronte-style Emus.
The boots arrived yesterday, which was perfect timing as it was a cool 18 degrees Celsius in the office. With blue lips I skipped back to my desk, box under one arm, to try them on. Opening the box I pulled out the Emus and smiled. In smart black suede with merino wool lining, they have a sensible rubber sole with the sort of traction that should help me to stay upright in the snow this winter, a feat not easily achieved. The boots certainly looked warm and comfortable from the outside, but how would they feel once on?
I pulled on the first boot and – what? – my foot would only go so far. I wriggled my toes and felt scrunching. Ah. This doofus had forgotten to remove the paper ball keeping the boot in shape. Paper ball jettisoned, I tried again, this time with success. The boot fitted perfectly and my right foot had found its cold weather heaven. Until that moment on an early winter’s morning I had not realised exactly how cold my feet had been.
For some time I kept just that one boot on. I didn’t think I could get away with wearing my Emus to meetings; at least not yet, but while I was at my desk I could at least get a feel for them. Eventually realising how odd I must have looked with loafer on left foot and Emu on right, I reluctantly removed the Emu, wishing the day away so I could take my Emus for a test drive after work.
On leaving the office it was suitably cold, grey and dull, but I was now happily wearing my Emus, every step taken a delight to my spoiled feet which adore comfort such as this. It’s like walking on a sheepskin, with full support, especially in the arches, and on sitting down I had to stamp my feet a couple of times to make sure they weren’t floating above ground.
The verdict? I love Emus and may well invest in a tan pair in one of their different styles. But this is not the end of this tale.
Earlier in the day French Colleague had noticed my Emus sitting under my desk.
“Aaah, you have EEEE-mus!” she enthused, “I have them too. I prefer them to UGGs.”
“Why’s that?” I asked,
“Because they have better traction. Actually, I have two pairs of Emus now.” Quite the menagerie.
That can only be a good thing for me as long ago I stopped wearing heels in the street due to a rather nasty accident. I caught a heel between cobbles, resulting in a broken front tooth, severely bruised knee, grazed forehand and grazed hands. No, I didn’t call a ‘trip-or-fall’ lawyer, although perhaps I should have, given the size of the dental bill. Overnight I changed from no-pain-no-gain perpetual-heel-wearer to flat-footwear-afficionado. There’d be no more heels caught in cobbles or tube station grates for me. Heels are now reserved for work or special occasions.
On the travel footwear front, Monsieur and I will be visiting Portugal in a few weeks. Breton-Crêpe-Lover was giving me advice on Lisbon this morning when suitable footwear came into the conversation.
“In the streets there are lots of… what you call… stones, errr…”
“Yes, cobblestones, so you shouldn’t wear heels. Just flat shoes.”
Looking at my feet she noticed the Emus.
“Yes, those are PER-fect.” she said with a nod. “Wear THOSE in Lisbon.”
So not only are my new Emus comfortable, toasty-warm and soft on the sole, they’re also going to keep me safe from broken teeth. What a relief.
Fitness Footwear UK stockist of Emus with FREE UK delivery
Their homepage is here.