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Arsenal-Newcastle, Mozart, the trip and catering report

By Marcel Bogaerts.

Marcel is the (excellent) treasurer of the Arsenal Belgium supporters club from our co-writer Walter Broeckx. He has been an Arsenal supporter since many many years and is the oldest (board)member of the supporters club. A supporters club that since Walter and the new board took over has prospered like never before and since last week has reached the milestone of 100 paying members. More than the double than we have ever had before.

Last Saturday after the game I was asked to do the catering report for Untold. Obviously I am flattered, and it’s with pleasure that tonight I am trying to produce a nice story for you, in decent English. I do apologize for any mistakes that I most certainly will write, and I hope that none of you will hold that against this Gooner from Belgium.

Arsenal fans from Belgium have different options when going to the Emirates. If those of us from Arsenal Belgium, apply for tickets and we get what we aske for, we organize a group trip by Eurostar, by bus or by private cars. Not so for Arsenal-Newcastle, this was my own initiative, together with my son Oliver and my friend Stan.

Our trip started on Friday evening. Nobody was getting on a bus for at least 8 hours with an empty stomach, so we decided to meet in a pub in Antwerp, called “Kelly’s Irish Pub”. Stan’s wife had fed him properly, so he was not hungry. Oliver ordered fish and chips and I went for a bacon and cheese burger with real Belgian chips. A pint of Guinness for each completed the meal.

The Eurolines bus departed on time, 9pm Belgian time. Stops on the way to Calais were Brussels and Lille, and it was Saturday before the driver parked his bus on the P&O ferry. In the large bar we ordered another pint of Guinness. Until then I had slept on the bus, but not for long uninterrupted periods.

That changed quickly once we were on English soil. When I woke up the bus drove by the Elephant & Castle Underground station. We had arrived in London. At 5.05  Saturday morning the bus reached Victoria Coach Station.

The shopping centre at Victoria Rail Station unfortunately does not open before 6 AM. We decided to walk and find our hotel. The Romanos Hotel is a small bed & breakfast venue in Charlwood Street, and within 15 minutes we found it. Naturally, the place was closed, there was no night reception and we could not get in. Well, at least the walk did us good and we went back to Victoria Station to find the shopping centre open. Although Sainsbury’s supermarket showed some promising “hot breakfast” message outside, there was nothing of the kind. It was a supermarket, nothing more. Other eateries also advertised with promising breakfast messages, but opening hours were 7.30 at the earliest.

Only McDonalds was open at this time of the morning. There was a cue of hungry people, but service was quick and we bought a coffee, a bun with meat and egg and a slice of roast potato. Nothing special, but it was breakfast and we needed it.

My hotel voucher indicated that check-in was only at 1pm. Our backpacks were not heavy and around 7.30 AM we topped up our Oyster Cards and used the Underground to reach Notting Hill Gate station. On Portobello Road there was already activity, and we spent some 1,5 hrs there. I like Portobello Road market and its atmosphere. Oliver bought a nice souvenir for his girlfriend, the sun broke through the morning grey, it became a fresh and bright morning and it was not a problem that we could not yet go back to the hotel and check in.

I suggested to go to Covent Garden. I have something against waiting at the elevator in Covent Garden Underground station. The alternative is the tiresome hike up to the countless, steep, winding stairs, so we got off at Holborn instead and walked for ten minutes. The first thing we saw and heard in Covent Garden was a lady singer, performing “Voi Che Sapete”, the lovely aria from Cherubino in Mozart’s “Nozze di Figaro”. Besides football, I also love opera and Mozart, so the day became better and better for me. I don’t know about Stan and Oliver though.

A street artist performing some magic was the second act we could attend. That was nothing special, but we remembered passing a Starbucks a while ago and decided it was the perfect time for a coffee.

It was about 11.45 am. I thought that the hotel would not mind us checking in a bit early. It was a five minutes walk from Pimlico station. We had booked a family room for three. It was clean, but even three midgets would judge the room to be utterly small. Let alone the shower and toilet, with a surface of not even 2 square metres. Which made Oliver say that a young couple, that likes to shower together, would not be able to do that there. Did he miss his girlfriend?

Anyway, it was time to show our Arsenal colours. We walked back to the underground station but noticed a pub called The Cask Pub and Kitchen. In fact I had my mind set on the Piebury Corner, but we could not just let The Cask unchecked and went in. A pub with about 25 beer taps is something that even in Belgium is rarely found, so we had to check the beer menu and decided to try the Highlander Ale. It was a tasty, light, slightly bitter ale and we soon agreed on the idea that a well cooked burger would be exactly the right thing to accompany our drink. We got a glazy bun with a perfectly grilled hamburger, bacon and cheese and a good serving of chips. The chips were larger than the real Belgian fries, and, as Michel Roux would say (yes, we in Belgium also watch Masterchef), they were ever so slightly overcooked. Nevertheless, an acceptable meal in a pleasant environment, served in a friendly way.

This is a trip and catering report, and I will not talk about the game, Arsène Wenger and his team and mister Mason. Enough has been said about this. Let me just add that we were as delighted as everyone else with the victory, and we were more than ready for our evening meal.

Some weeks ago I had talked to Andrew Crawshaw of Untold, asking him whether he knew a good Indian restaurant near the Emirates. I love Indian food,, but Belgium is not the place for it. We have a few Indian restaurants, but they tend to be rather expensive and the food they serve is often not up to the level of their after dinner bill.

Andrew was more than willing to help us, and I had asked him to join us as our guest. His suggestion was to go the Indian Ocean Tandoori, Holloway Road. He had booked a table for us and we had agreed to meet him after the game, in front of The Armoury. Finding Andrew, with his leather cowboy hat, is not a difficult task. It was about 15 minutes walk to the restaurant. The place was full with diners, of which quite a lot of happy Gooners.

We were seated in a nice boot and soon we had our drinks. They did not serve alcohol free lager, so Andrew went for a lemonade. No beer from the tap there, but the bottled Cobra lager was light and fresh and it went well with the pappadums we ordered for starter. Our main course was Andrew’s suggestion. It was a biryani, I have forgotten the name, but if you go to the restaurant it’s number 1 on the biryani list. We got a lot of food, a very richly with rice and meat filled plate, a good vegetable curry next to it and some delicious nan bread to make the dinner really complete.

Around 9.30pm three well-fed, happy and tired Belgian Gooners called it a day. We took the underground in Holloway station, not without saying goodbye to Andrew of course. Thank you very much Andrew and see you again soon at the Emirates!

A good night sleep then was followed by a simple continental breakfast. We bought some lunch in Sainsbury’s and boarded the bus at Sunday morning 10 AM. This time the bus crossed the channel on board of “Le Shuttle” and we arrived back in Antwerp at 7 AM local time.

Once again another great Arsenal experience and it tastes for more, much more!

The Untold index and today’s anniversaries

19 comments to Arsenal-Newcastle, Mozart, the trip and catering report

  • TommieGun

    If in the end somebody had to eat @ McDonalyucks, then it’s a story with a very sad ending.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Eat or die 😉

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Marcel, well done and thank you for the report. I thoroughly enjoyed our time together it made for a great evening after an excellent Arsenal win. I look forward to next time

  • WalterBroeckx

    Which reminds me that it was on my first trip to London with the school when I became an Arsenal supporter we also discovered McDonalds. A McDonald was very rare in Belgium in those days. So I had my first BigMac in London. In those days when we didn’t know any better it tasted rather interesting to a 18 year old boys being out in London for the first time. And it was cheap. 🙂
    But as our country has their cholesterol shop in every little town where you can eat fat and greasy we are not that easily shocked by such food. 🙂 Mind you if I had to make a list of fast food from favourite to least it would be our own fritures, then Burger King, Quick (the Belgian fast food chain) and then at the bottom McDonald.

  • Gord

    Still in Belgium, you mention a burger that also had bacon. In the USA and Canada, the “default” bacon is mostly fatty strips taken from the pork belly. Canada does have a bit of a reputation for back bacon, and consequently in the USA you can find mention of Canadian Back Bacon. Hawaiian pizza (ham and pineapple) often replaces the ham with Canadian back bacon. There is also something here called peameal bacon, which is a back bacon rolled in ground peas (sometimes ground other stuff). In consulting Wikipedia, they seem to think that most bacon consumed in the UK is of the back bacon variety. What kind of bacon was used in Belgium? In the UK, when some shop has a bacon burger, what kind of bacon is that?

    Oink.

  • TommieGun

    Off topic

    Seriouly, the media acts like a schizopherniac.

    I clearly remember Jim White writing that Wenger must go, about a month ago.

    And now this –

    https://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/blogs/jim-white/retiring-master-thierry-henry-shows-most-of-all-the-magnitude-of-arsene-wenger-s-genius-141804033.html

    Not that I object- but I find the pendulum swinging way, way too erraticly.

  • Gord

    If one accepts that pizza is fast food, I think my favorite fast food is a pizza I have to make for myself. It is a variation (old version?) of a Wolfgang Puck recipe. Most of the (genuine) Wolfgang Puck versions I seem to run across, have caviar instead of capers. I don’t eat it often, due to the fairly high price for smoked salmon (Pacific salmon in my situation).

    Premade pizza shell
    thinly sliced red onion
    pizza sauce
    thinly sliced smoked salmon
    dill cream cheese
    capers

    Preheat oven.
    apply thin layer pizza sauce to shell
    put some red onion on shell
    nominally cover shell witha single layer of smoked salmon
    another slice or so of red onion
    some of the cream cheese
    capers

    Heat in oven a couple of minutes. It cooks fast, because ingredients either are precooked or don’t need to be cooked, and there isn’t a lot of it present (not much to heat up).

  • Gord

    OT: Breaking News

    Garcia has resigned form FIFA over handling of his report on corruption.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/30522170

  • nicky

    Marcel.
    A fascinating report on the trials the Belgian branch have to face in order to attend the Emirates.
    Some of the food and drink would be an acquired taste in my book…but interesting.
    My first experience of Guinness was the bottled variety in the hospital bay of a troopship returning from the Far East in 1945.
    Recovering from malaria, I was prescribed 3 bottles a day.
    Later in life I had the misfortune to encounter the occasional pint of dodgy draught Guinness which has caused me to give up the drink….it is weight-making anyway.

  • blacksheep63

    thank you Marcel, Tony and I might have to try the Cask I don’t think we have been there. If you are in London again and wish to go to Covent Garden then get off at Leicester Square and walk, its closer than Holborn and also avoids the deep stairs. And McDonalds is only good for using the toilets!

    Glad you had a good day in my city and merry Christmas to all Belgian Gooners!

  • ARSENAL 13

    Marcel, hope you liked the Indo-English biriyani.

    If you visit India, you’ll be in for a shock. The Indian restaurants in Europe will look soooo un-indian.

  • bob mac

    Excellent article; and very pleased you all enjoyed your trip.

    As one who travels almost, but not quite as far, I am sure it was well worth it.

    Your English does not require any improvement, it is far better than mine after a couple of Belgian beers.

  • Marcel

    Arsenal 13, Same story for Indonesian restaurants in Europe, or even Chinese restaurants… I have never been in India, maybe one of the coming years…. Obviously the food will be MUCH better there. And if it will be a shock, it can only be a very positively surprising one, I’m sure.

    blacksheep63, indeed the Cask is worth trying. And yes, we know that Leicester Square is closer than Holborn for a walk to Covent Garden. But we were on the Central Line (coming from Notting Hill Gate) and we did not want to change to Piccadilly Line for the stretch Holborn-Covent Garden-Leicester Square and then walk back.

    We’ll be back in London soon I hope… but for now merry Christmas to all of you!

  • Pat

    So – a second Belgian gooner who can write an article in excellent English! An example to us all. And a very enjoyable article.

    Merry Christmas to you too, Marcel. And a Happy New Year!

  • gouresh

    Next time, try the lamb Rogan josh. Its a Kashmiri dish. Yuummmmyyyy.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Marcel – A very nice write up and an enjoyable one .Well done.

    ARSENAL 13 December 17, 2014 at 6:20 pm – Speaking of Indian biriyani , I ‘ ve yet to taste chicken biriyani as good as that was served in the Swagath Restaurant in Karkala , where i did my pre-medical !

  • Menace

    Great write up Marcel. Glad you guys enjoyed the beer & the food & the game & the result.

    My favorite fast food is vada pao (a deep fried vegetable mix in bread). The vada is golf ball size & the bread is a white roll from a 6×4 batch. The cost is a mere 4-10 p a pop. It is eaten with a chutney and goes well with tea (chai). So for 50p you can satisfy a hunger pang. Fast food chain Burgers, Pizza and sandwiches are all over rated when it comes to taste. Home made are usually better. But Indian street food is the best for flavor, taste & price…….and all the games are live on TV.

    A merry & peaceful Christmas to you all.

    COYG.

  • ARSENAL 13

    Brickfields,

    Swagath has disappeared from the food scene, well almost. And continuing with Biriyani, it tastes good when you have it fresh. Best time to have it, in a restaurant ie, is around 12pm.

    @Marcel.
    “And if it will be a shock, it can only be a very positively surprising one, I’m sure.”

    Haha, yeah. Definitely.

  • Barney B

    Marcel,
    When I lived in Luxembourg, we played in the Belgian Cricket League. Naturally enough, many of the cricket players there had strong Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi/Sri Lankan roots. So if you want to track down good (& good value) Indian – in its broadest sense – food in Belgium, make contact with your local cricket team for their guidance.

    There’s at least one team in Antwerp, as far as I remember, & it will help fill up those anxious summer months when there’s no Arsenal activity to entertain you…