Monday, January 14, 2013

Fortune in misfortune

Christmas in London was crazy. Meeting friends and family, and trying to slot in a few working hours and some miscellaneous long pending tasks. One of these was to renew my passports. I had put this off for a long time, dreading the infamous long queues and more importantly the inconvenience of being without my passports for a number of weeks.

Fortunately, my father, by circumstance, was forced to renew his passport a few weeks earlier and shared with me what a pleasant, smooth and fast process this was ... So early on 2 January I went to the passport office and that same afternoon I had 2 brand new passports ready for travel.

Feeling relaxed and knowing I wouldn't have to do this again for a few more years, I was caught off guard this morning at Heathrow airport when checking in for my flight to Moscow. I was not accepted for travel having a (valid) visa in a cancelled passport! With some important meetings that I needed to attend in Moscow this week, I couldn't afford to just abort my trip, so started calling around and finding out what to do (full credit to Aeroflot staff for their friendly and helpful attitude ... they could have made it so much worse!).

I received differing information from this process taking 2 days, to being available the next day, to getting this done within 2 hours. Having this unplanned day free in London by default, I decided to chase the option of 2 hours. I left my check in suitcases in the left luggage at Heathrow and rushed by train and tube to Notting Hill Gate to meet the Russian National Tourist Office. I was greeted there by some very friendly Russian ladies who did assure me that I will have the visa in my new passport within 2 hours. I checked for flight availability, and there was indeed an option to travel the next morning, meaning I was only going to lose 8 working hours ... which I could make up at the tail end of the week.

Feeling relieved, I went to find a decent cafe in the neighbourhood where I could wait out this 2 hours until my passport was ready. I wanted wi-fi, so considered the usual suspects of Starbucks, Cafe Nero and EAT when I passed a nice looking "shop" called Recipease. It appeared to be owned (or branded, or licensed, or franchised by Jamie Oliver).

As I walked in, I was hit by the unmistakable smell of delicious freshly baked bread. It was beautifully laid out with a pizza oven at the back and a plethora of different foods around the store. I asked a friendly helper who approached me if they had a restaurant and if they had wi-fi. Upstairs and yes she answered. I climbed the stairs and made myself comfortable as I waited for my travel matters to be sorted out.

The menu was excellent. Some light and healthy fare mixed with some wholesome filling main dishes. I opted for the Crispy Haddock Sandwich which was served on a seeded bun with lettuce, mushy peas and tartar sauce. It was fresh and crunchy, but the bun was huge! Maybe it's my aging years, but I ended up eating the "sandwich" with a knife and fork and only the bottom half of the bun (I would have mocked such a diner in my formative years).

The staff were well trained, knowledgeable about the food, polite and helpful. The restaurant was comfortable and homely ... it was a lovely find by chance and I hop to be going back again on future trips, perhaps with time and opportunity to explore the shop downstairs.

Right now, my phone has just rung and my passport is ready to collect.