Today was what I like to call a great Olivia day.
Which is not, as it might sound, a day dedicated and centered solely on celebration and appreciation of me. Though, according to my mother, “everyday should be Olivia day!” which is a statement that can only be attributed to the tender and gracious generosity of motherhood. No, this kind of day falls too comfortably into genus Jong Un, which is a classification I’d prefer to be disassociated with.
An Olivia day is a great day filled with quintessentially Olivia things. Today, those things were a glorious morning in southeast London, an afternoon at the Globe, and a religious ramen experience.
I woke up before 7 (I have miraculously become a morning person, which was previously a goal in my five year plan so, post-grad achievement wise, I am excelling) for a beautiful run through Southwark, Bermondsay, and the City. After cleaning up and making myself presentable, I wandered through SoHo and Covent Garden in their quieter hours. Tried on a couple pair of jeans without hyperventilating (gold stars all around) in the changing room, looked at a lot of shoes, and treated myself to a real cup of coffee before trekking back home to Southwark for a 14:00 showing of Twelfth Night at The Globe.
At this point, a soft grey blanket of rainclouds huddled close to the Shard, and I knew from days of anxiously checking the BBC and tracking the weather up to the hour, that the skies were scheduled to open up at exactly the start of the show. So I came thisclose to skipping the performance and taking a nap, but I am so glad I sucked it up, coughed up three pounds for a tacky plastic poncho, and stood for nearly three hours in the rain at a show that absolutely comes in my top five best I’ve seen in London.
Feste is a gorgeous, magical drag goddess. Malvolio is a spritely but ferociously smitten wisp of genius physicality. Sir Anthony a flamboyant would-be adonis if it wasn’t for his scrubby mustache, persistent lisp, and general lack of masculine
virulence. Mariah is deliciously coquettish. Duke Orsino’s “if music be the food of love, play on” becomes fresh and sultry as a pop song that I wish Harry Styles would consider covering (this is an official plea to his agent). And of course, the initially composed and statuesque Olivia – charmingly girlish in her smitten-ness. A luminous moon hangs heavy in the background, and we get the impression that the whole thing is a little enchanted (aren’t all of Shakespeare’s lovey comedies?) as soon as the stage lights go up. All of it glitters under two disco balls and a crystal chandelier, and Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” reverberates behind it all. Many of the lines have been rewritten into songs, giving it an indulgently guilty pleasure Abba vibe, and the costumes can be characterized as Scottish highlands chic with a 70’s disco glam flair.
When I left the theatre, the tips of my fingers were blue, but I was dizzy with delight and had to keep covering my mouth because smiling foolishly for no apparent reason is considered manic by the English.
The only remedy for frozen fingers and the sort of rain-cold that seeps into one’s skin despite the thin layer of poncho plastic separating one from the elements, is ramen. If the culinary focus of my first go around London was curry, than the focus of my second is most definitely ramen. And lucky for me, I’m only a couple miles from Brixton – home to, of course, the best jerk chicken joints in London, but also lots of reputable ramen.
If one were to ask for a ramen recommendation when visiting Brixton, she would be directed, firstly, to Koi Ramen’s permanent spot in Pop Brixton – the boxcar park/microcosm of gentrification in the area, crawling with city-slickers crammed into narrow spaces between craft cocktail carts and independent brewery pop-ups, polishing off tapas and tacos and chuckling knowingly to their mates in that British way that British people do. Koi Ramen is a solid joint, but I think the folks at the set-up in Pop Brixton at least have gotten a little bit too comfortable. On busy nights, they dish out the stuff in bulk. The stock is solid and the Tonkatsu broth is rich and heavenly. But I expected a little more tenderness from the pork belly and the egg was overcooked and not nearly salted enough.
The best ramen I’ve had to date is the one I ate today, just a mere hour and a half ago, at Okan Ramen – an unassuming noodle bar around the corner from Brixton village. Normally, I’d order the Tonkatsu – if there’s pork belly on the menu and you don’t order it, what the heck are you ordering instead? But I went with their signature dish (which, while not cooked in a pork based broth, does have sliced pork pelly) and knew, from the first spoonful of chicken broth, that this must be the place. Don’t worry, David Byrne, I found it.
A nice balance of sesame and soy, a sizable heap of bamboo sprouts, and tender pork that, had it been any softer, might have dissolved – though it maintained a richness that paired well with the silky broth. And the egg… I will dream about that egg. I wish I had 20 of that egg cooked exactly the same way on every dish I eat from now until my last meal and yes that includes dessert. Savoury and gooey, it coated the back of my tongue with its salted golden viscosity and I had opened my mouth to a sunrise. Or maybe a sunset, when the sun hesitates and blurs on the horizon and spills over the landscape like a thick yellow yolk. Regardless, it was spiritual, baby.
Also, it was really solo-diner friendly. There are lots of places I want to eat at in London, but a solo diner can’t just walk into Barrafina on a Saturday night and expect the staff to be super psyched about seating her. I went a bit earlier in the evening to avoid this awkwardness and was served punctually and respectably, which doesn’t always happen in the British service industry.
And now, I’m going to finish American Pastoral to fulfill my book a week quota, and then pass out to a dream of salted egg yolks and merry romantic mishaps under full moons.