Friday, 29 August 2014

Review: Tom & Serg, Al Quoz Dubai

As a new expat in Dubai, I figured the best way to understand what this city had to offer was to read about it. So since I arrived I have been reading food blogs, religiously buying Time Out Dubai  and finding places on instagram to follow and lets face it, drool over.

I stumbled across the Tom & Serg instagram feed thanks to the explore feature and it was love at first sight. It seemed like such a cool place, with amazing looking, hearty dishes and during Ramadan they mixed up the iftar offerings with a Rule the Roast. I never made it to the roast dinner unfortunately and ever since I have been kicking myself. 

But yesterday, I finally made it to Tom & Serg, albeit to pick up take-away and it is as cool as it looks on instagram. The huge space has an industrial feel, yet somehow they've made it feel homely. Maybe that has something to do with the super friendly, attentive staff that greet you. I fell in love with the chalkboard wall and the cool open cased light fixtures that hang all the way down from the ceiling. And it has plenty of seating with a mezzanine floor for extra space, so even when we went at about 12.30 it didn't feel crowded. It was full of people working on their laptops, families having lunch and friends catching up over coffee and it really felt like a place for anyone; no age limit, no style profile, just a welcoming eatery. 

And the food is simply delicious; the breakfast menu caters for those heading down the healthy route or those wanting to treat themselves and they have a small but strong range of dishes, perfect for lunch or dinner. We opted for the morning after wrap, a breakfast style burrito with a fantastic collection of flavours, generously crammed into a paratha. With scrambled egg, beef bacon, roast chicken, mozzarella, crushed avocado, tomato and a black bean & lime salsa, it is a must try lunch fix. I can also sincerely recommend the super gooey, chocolatey brownie and the fresh orange juice too.

There is so much to do in Dubai that for a newbie expat it becomes a bit overwhelming, but slowly and surely, my bucket list of places to eat, things to see and stuff to do will be conquered. Starting with a return trip to Tom & Serg. 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Medical: Moving to Dubai with

Keeping my feet on UAE soil was a sticking point and sorting out my visa asap was at the top of my priority list upon landing here. So much so that first thing Sunday morning we were up and out, after just two days in the country, sitting in a waiting room at a The Al Safa VIP medical centre in Jumeirah, waiting to complete my medical assessment for my visa.

Most people back home in London found it awfully strange when I told them that part of the visa process for Dubai included a medical assessment. I guess it sounds kinda strict when you take a step back and think about it. But their strict visa processes ensure the country runs the way it does and that ain't a bad thing let me tell you. 

That's not to say I wasn't nervous about the whole process. Navigating immigration procedures in a foreign country is always nerve racking and my experience in Cyprus, despite being a fellow EU citizen was less than ideal. So I had several sleepless nights about the process in Dubai. Needless to say it was super easy and the medical examination took just a few minutes of my day and we were on our way. 

We used the VIP service which sounds fancy, but in reality you pay a couple of hundred dirhams extra which isn't much in the grand scheme of things and you get through the process a lot quicker. There are companies you can pay to help you or your own company will do it with you. We did it on our own and had no problems so my advice, visits Al Safa Medical Centre. 

If you want to know more about the medical examination process, my next article for is now live: More About The Medical Examination in Dubai. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

The expat situation: a mothers take

Expat life in Dubai is turning out pretty well. And if I am honest better than I had imagined it would. So while I am enjoying sun it is all too easy to push the homesickness and the moments of missing friends and family to the back of my mind. But what about the people left behind?

millie where is everyone? 

My future mother-in-law is a pretty amazing women; she has taken me under her wing and accepted me into her family and is much more than just the boyfriends mother. She is my go to for advice whether it be about life, work, cooking or any number of those random questions that only mothers know the answer to. 

She has always been amazingly supportive of our life choices and no matter how much she misses us, she always accepts our decisions. Despite the heartache of goodbyes and missing important milestones, she secretly loves the fact that we are expats because she gets to live vicariously through us and this blog. 

So when she came to me and said she wanted to write something for the blog, I jumped at the chance. And her writing will fit in perfectly in my little internet diary. This may or may not become a regular feature but a mothers take on our little expat situation is certainly an interesting read. 

The Expat Situation: A Mothers Take

First let me introduce myself.  I am today's guest blogger and you may have heard of me before; my former appearances have taken the form of 'the boyfriend's mother'.  I follow Mimi's blog avidly both from a simple interest point of view and from an utterly selfish point of view - a view to following the adventures of Mimi and her boyfriend (my son) as they embark on each new chapter in their lives.  

You could call it voyeuristic but I am simply the parent left behind, many miles away.  Which got me thinking.  Mimi's blog provides an insight into expat life; where to go, how to behave, how to cope with being so far away from home, but what about those left behind?  The friends and family back home - how are we meant to cope?

When they first told me they had decided to head off to seek fame and fortune abroad, my initial reaction of excitement for them turned into the realisation that they would be so far away and I panicked about how I would maintain the close relationship we had as a family.  However, with a little bit of effort on both sides, it's actually turned out quite well.  The internet has provided that essential lifeline.  From the daily thoughts and photos on WhatsApp to following status updates on Facebook and Mimi's superb blog of expat life and of course, the weekly Skype session, I still feel included in their lives without being overbearing (I hope).  

Sometimes I just need to read and not comment - on days when I am missing them I can see what they are up to and I know they are safe and happy.  The one line What'sApp comments tell me they are thinking of me during their daily routine and of course the weekly Skype sessions bring me into their home and them back into mine.   Of course it's no substitution for kisses and hugs but it'll do for the times in between reunions.  Yes, it takes a little bit of effort on both sides but it provides that all important reassurance, for all of us, that we are loved and thought of.

But just when things are all fine and dandy, along comes an important day on the calendar like Christmas or a birthday - theirs and ours.  So how do you celebrate with such a vast landscape between you?  Planning is key.  Ideally you know when these dates are coming up giving you enough time to ensure that cards are dispatched in plenty of time (make sure you allow for a dismal postal service - I've already bought this year's Christmas cards - I'm not taking any risks).  Ensure that the time for 'the birthday Skype session' is agreed in advance - avoiding the disappointment of missing a call due to the huge time difference.  

The issue of presents is one I'm still working on and which I admit to having failed at dismally this year.  The trick is to recruit someone who lives in the country with them who you can trust to do the 'shopping and wrapping' for you hence avoiding paying extortionate postal costs that far outweighs the value of the present you bought!  Alternatively, you can try and persuade them to wait until you see them again but this does imply that they have a patient personality - not one of my son's greatest attributes!  By the way, don't even think about 'digital' cards or gifts.  

Having lived abroad myself for many years, I know that there is no substitute for tearing open an envelope or wrapping paper on your birthday or Christmas which has come from home - especially when you wish you were with your family.  It shows you love them and wish they were home too.

I mentioned recruiting a friend.  From a parent's point of view this is key.  You need to find out the name and contact details of at least one person that sees them on a regular basis.  And make sure that person has your contact details too.  It's not something we want to think about but what if you need to make emergency contact?  Or what if you haven't heard from them for a while?  This is easier to do nowadays with the internet but still essential.  Hopefully you will never need to do this but it's just one more thing that will let you sleep peacefully at night.

And last but not least - the big reunion.  Again, planning is key (both diary and financial).  Book a flight as soon as you can, even if it's months ahead.  British Airways book 364 days in advance and have started a deposit option (pay the balance later).  Knowing when I am going to see Mimi and my son again cheers me up on days when I miss them.  It means I can start collecting for a 'goodie box' of things that I might come across that I know they will love.  I have downloaded a free countdown app (Days Until) on my phone and I know that it will be exactly 25 weeks, 4 days and 11 hours until I see them again.

Working abroad is one of the greatest experiences and adventures they will ever have but keeping up solid family relationships is essential for everyone.  Once the initial excitement has died down the realisation that they are on their own will hit them as much as it will hit you.  All it takes is a little bit of effort and thought and a fast internet connection.  

The world is really not that huge after all.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Review: Aquara at Dubai Marina Yacht Club

You can take the girl out of England but you can't take away her love for a roast dinner. It may be 45 degrees outside but crank up the air conditioning and a plate full of roasted goodness looks much the same as it would in England. 

It is those home comforts that make expat life a little easier and there is no better way to channel home than through your stomach. But finding a decent roast dinner in Dubai is harder than you would think; sure it is a city of endless options and pretty much every taste is catered for, however there are just a handful of places providing a good, homestyle roast dinner. 

Thank goodness we live in close proximity to Dubai Marina Yacht Club. Aquara Restaurant & Lounge is a mixed bag depending which night of the week you visit; on Tuesday's it is filled to the rafters with young ladies, taking advantage of the Ladies Night promotions but on Saturday (our version of Sunday) the clientele and atmosphere turns more relaxed and families and young couples take advantage of the amazing roast buffet on offer. 

Now I am not usually a fan of buffets. They never really live up to my expectations; who wants to eat soggy food that has been sitting around. But the Saturday Roast at Aquara blasted my buffet experiences out of the water. The quality of the food is amazing and I like the fact that I can see through to the kitchen and watch the chef preparing fresh stuff that is promptly whisked out onto my plate. 

And the selection of dishes caters for meat eaters and veggies alike. The roast lamb was delicious and full of flavour and there were rows upon rows of side dishes from roast potatoes, roast carrots, parsnips and beetroots, to cauliflower cheese, fresh steamed veggies, yorkshire puddings and even a extensive variety of salad options for those wanting to go down the healthy route. 

I was a happy girl before I had polished off the contents of my plate and then I clocked eyes on the deserts. Crumble and custard, mini eton mess and fruit. Obviously I had just indulged in a full on roast dinner so there was no point taking the light fruit option. Homemade apple crumble, almost as good as my granny's was the perfect way to end a delicious meal. 

The only problem with a roast dinner in Dubai is after you have stuff your face and you break free from the confines of the air conditioning, you emerge into the same climate that you escaped from a few hours earlier. A full stomach and a 40 + degrees are not good partners. Maybe I got greedy but a lie down after a roast dinner at Aquara is advised. 

sunday sound #34


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