To Liz, with much thanks and affection.
It's not many restaurants that recognise me on the phone before I identify myself, have met my entire immediate family, know not to seat Babs and me at a table for 2 because of the amount of food we inevitably end up ordering, been the last stop of my hen night, hosted my office's Chinese New Year dinner, and been known to say (even if it's a PR line, it's still a good one): "We thought you and your friends might show up tonight. Yes we have a table for you."
All that and the food, the food, the food, is why Goldmine in London is (officially, I've decided) the one restaurant I miss most in the world while we're on the road.
Ironically it's also the reason I don't have any Goldmine photos, as I recently discovered with horror. I always thought "well of course I'll be there again soon". And then suddenly you're on a bus to Bruges (read posts on Bruges here and here) and you're not scheduled to be back in London till Fall 2010. I'm still kicking myself. Food bloggers, let this be a morality tale to you all.
My Goldmine story, like its own, begins at Four Seasons.
Spring 2005. Work sends me to London for training. I get in touch with Liz, an old friend from school. She says let's catch up over Chinese food at Four Seasons.
Like a Blighty Bumpkin, I jump into a taxi and head to the The Four Seasons Hotel, wondering if Liz always eats at such swank places. Obviously, she meant the Chinese restaurant Four Seasons on Queensway in Bayswater, where we finally meet, a phone call and much laughter and embarrassment later.
Fall 2006. Work sends me to London for a 3-month project, and leaves me to sort out my own housing. I decide easy access to comfort food is a high priority if I'm going to be a stranger in a strange land for a while. (Now I know it's always a priority in any personal real estate decision.) The budget just about covers a studio in Bayswater, a 5 minute walk from Four Seasons. Huzzah!
So once a week for about 2 months I shout down the phone as I leave the office to pre-order my Four Seasons takeaway box. I jump on the tube, elbow my way through the eternal eat-in queue, do a song and dance to try (in vain) to get the attention of the dragon lady who runs front-of-house, and eventually, get my box (now cold), elbow my way back out the door and scamper off home.
At one of those parties where it seems like every Singaporean, Malaysian and Hong Konger laywer and banker in London gathers, I let on to Liz that I credit my pick of my neighbourhood to her, and her introducing me to Four Seasons.
"Oh God, you don't still eat at Four Seasons, do you?" she exclaims, "the chef's not even there any more. Went down the street to Goldmine. We all eat at Goldmine now. Leave Four Seasons to the tourists."
The Blighty Bumpkin neon sign above my head glows brighter than my 5th gin and tonic on my cheeks.
Any given Sunday, 2008. Babs has since popped up in my life in a big way, and I've transferred to the London office and moved back to Bayswater. Sometimes it's a text message that goes around in the afternoon. Sometimes it's a decision taken at the end of a weekend trip with friends. Sometimes it's even a spontaneous gathering of various parties that showed up at the same time. But its purpose and destination is always the same. Sunday dinner at Goldmine.
Like so many Indiana Joneses sneaking past the Germans to the real X-marks-the-spot in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, we slink as quietly as we can past the crowd at Four Seasons a few doors down to Goldmine, chit chat with the ever cheerful waiter Jeffrey, and get down to the business of hoovering the inventory.
The staples are of course the roast duck (more flavourful and moist than Four Seasons) and crispy pork belly (does this really need further description?). In case you're not dining with someone who knows all the items on, and off, the menu, here are a few of my favourite Goldmine gems:
- Crispy salt, pepper and chilli squid
- Ah-mah chow siew yoke, literally translated as Grandma's fried pork belly. Pork belly chunks refried with dark soy sauce, garlic and preserved vegetables
- Siew yoke mui choi: Pork belly stewed with sweet and salty preserved vegetables. The closest version to how we make it at my parent's house. Heaven when eaten with plain steamed rice.
- Steamed egg with seafood
- Hot plate tofu with minced pork
- Claypot eggplant with minced pork
- Dou miao (snow pea shoots) with broth and 3 types of egg. Absolutely exquisite when they have it
- If you feel like splashing out, try the prawns fried with oatmeal
- If you manage to snag a table during the 15 days of Chinese New Year, pre-order a yu-sheng platter to partake in a quintissential Singapore-Malaysian tradition of ringing in prosperity for the new year. A raw fish salad is tossed (high as you can) as dining companions chant auspicious wishes.
- Wash down with Tiger beer. The Chinese restaurant label might suggest a Qingdao beer pairing, but really the culinary style is Singapore-Malaysian
All I ask is that you tell Jeffrey and team that I say hi, I miss them, and I'll be back as soon as I can.
London W2 3RR, UK
+44 20 7792 8331