Monday 26th April. Oxford

It's Monday and Mai has returned to her treatment. I'm typing this on the train, bound for Oxford, and I'm feeling very posh, not only because I'm travelling in style for once, but because this new computer has sufficient battery power so that for the first time on this trip, I can work for a couple of hours without an AC outlet. Woo hoo!

In less than an hour, I'll meet my cousin Matt, who I haven't seen for about twenty years, but let's recap on yesterday before I get ahead of myself. Mai and I started the day with a picnic breakfast in Mark's cute little backyard. Turkish bread, avocado, jam donuts, iced tea. The breakfast of champions, no?

Picnic, Mark's place. Michelle showing Andy how to smoke a hookah.

The day was destined to be warm, not as warm as yesterday, but I was confident to head out without a sweatshirt. Mark was still in bed when we left at eleven o'clock- his work keeps him on the computer until the wee hours. Mai and I were meeting Andy and Michelle for lunch, so we had to be on our way. Our other friend Rob didn't join us, making up some excuse about being in Glasgow. We met Andy and Michelle and their friend John in Brick Lane, a funky bohemian sort of area in the inner north east of the city, near Liverpool Street tube station. There were lots of street markets around, and Brick Lane itself was full of leather shops, CD stores, bars and restaurants. We relaxed in a little Hookah lounge, ate mezzes, drank copious amounts of Moroccan mint tea, and smoked peach tobacco through a hookah pipe for most of the afternoon.

Picnic, Mark's place. Michelle showing Andy how to smoke a hookah.

Andy and Michelle had mentioned a photographic exhibition they were interested in. It was a collection of black and white photos depicting the 'truth' behind Mao Tse Tung's revolution, quite interesting. It was just off Liecester Square, which was ideal because afterwards, Mai and I would be within walking distance of the Indonesian restaurant where we wanted to have dinner. It was her choice. Last week a reader sent a very generous donation, part of which was to be allocated to taking Mai out for dinner at the restaurant of her choice. It was a little early for dinner yet, only six o'clock when we farewelled Andy and Michelle. We had time to take in a movie, and wouldn't you know it, the new Tarantino bloodbath was fresh on the screens. This should make you laugh...

The first Kill Bill didn't do much for me. I saw it in Montreal last year, and found it to be fairly uninspiring in its overuse of violence. Still, I was curious to see how he followed up with Kill Bill 2. I'd read varying reviews, so it was about time I found out for myself. I explained to Mai that the movie would surely have a lot of fighting and blood and killing in it. She was fine with that. So we lined up at the Prince Charles Cinema, just off Leicester Square. The Prince Charles is an older cinema and was charging four quid, when the new complexes on the square itself were charging ten.

The cinema was packed, not a spare seat in the house. As the lights dimmed, and the tape started to roll, I sighed loudly to myself. In my haste to save a few pounds, I hadn't noticed one small but crucial detail. I'd bought us two tickets to a screening of Kill Bill, the original film which I'd already seen and didn't even like! Mai of course, was oblivious to this, and quite enjoyed the movie, unaware of my pain.

Now it's time for my first The Savage Files RESTAURANT REVIEW!

Who- Nusa Dua
Where- 11 Dean Street, Soho
What sort of food- yummy Indonesian
When- open seven days (I think)
How to get there- nearest tube Leicester Square. Walk to number twelve Dean Street, and Nusa Dua will be right next door. You'll recognize it, because it will be the one with the sign that says Nusa Dua.
How much- mains a very reasonable 6 to 10, but fixed menu specials provide even better value

On an reconnaisance mission earlier in the day, Mai and I had located the restaurant, and ensured that it would still be open to serve us after our movie was finished. As soon as we'd entered, the service was friendly and personal and made me look forward to coming back. There was a two-course special on offer, which particularly appealed to a tightass like me.

Upon our return, the same waitress seemed happy to see us back. We were seated promptly, and a drink order taken immediately, an important detail that too many restaurants overlook. I ordered a sparkling mineral water, which came in a glass, just how I like it. Mai ordered a mango juice, and by the quiet little mmm's and ahh's she made while drinking, I'd say it was just how she liked as well.

We ordered from the two course special, which had a huge variety of dishes to choose from. Neither of us could go past the satay chicken skewers for an entree, which I later realized was a bad idea as far as writing a review goes. But the chicken skewers were tasty and tender, and the sauce mild and nutty. I would've enjoyed a dollop of hot chilli sauce on the side, but by the time this thought came to me, I'd scoffed both the tiny skewers, and all that was left was a smear of peanut sauce. Mai said the satay sauce was different to what they have in her country, but my only criticism was that there weren't twenty or thirty of those little suckers on the plate. Scrumptious.

I almost forgot the prawn crackers and clear Indonesian soup that preceeded the satays. Mai laughed and said that was the sort of soup her Mum makes when she's 'lazy for cooking'. Mind you, I enjoyed the soup and the crackers, because both were included in the price of the two course dinner!

For mains, I craved more chicken. The dish that I pointed to on the menu was "Jalang Jalang Su-su" (roughly translated as walking titties!) It came as a tender breast of chicken, sliced and grilled (or grilled and sliced) and in a tasty creamy sauce that at different times, revealed hints of coriander, coconut, peanut, ginger and eschallot. It took my taste buds on a field trip and then brought them home tired but happy.

Mai ordered the prawns, which arrived looking resplendant on a bed of crispy stir fried vegetables, accompanied by a cute little round omelette and a neat mound of rice. I do think a neat mound is an important touch. The prawns themselves were fat and enticing, and there seemed to be a generous quantity of them, I thought. Unfortunately, six months in England has seen Mai lose her taste for hot spicy foods, and within minutes she was sweating like a well, she was sweating a lot! She should've known what to expect by the name of the dish Minang Poontang something-or-other, which means "make you cry, make you scream, make your ass burn bad long time". She ate most of the meal, but had to leave the big juicy prawns. I couldn't help her finish them, but not because I found her meal too hot. I just don't like prawns.

The dessert menu was a little less impressive than the meal menu, but that was fine because we both fancied the Pisang Goreng, the fried banana. It was fried in a light batter, and served with a drizzle of chocolate sauce, and accompanied by a scoop or two of ice cream with coloured sprinkles on top. I just love fried bananas, and the capuccino that came with it topped the night off.

Service- ****
Food- ****
Value- ****
number of candles on the table- *
number of stops on the underground back to Mark's place- **********

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