Saturday, October 25

Food: Ariana Click for more info

I think the fatigue any Londoner has with Persian food is well deserved - I'm still waiting for the identikit cuisine to best fish and chips or curry or whatever the nation's current love is, but I don't think it'll take too long. As such there's really not much to say about Ariana really; you'll already know what to expect as you would have tasted it all before.

However what made Ariana different was the subtly brilliant time we all had. Eating out isn't necessarily always about the food (most certainly not for a non-foodie like myself), and it says a lot that we were able to enjoy our time there for over three hours on a Saturday night, lounging away on the staged platform seating. There's not many places a party of six or so could have done that, so Ariana does get major credit for creating such an ambience.

Oh and yes, the food was okay too - generous portions didn't have us wanting for more, although at 8 quid for a main no points were won for any special level of value. But the desserts sucked so you may want to avoid those.

Otherwise I can't think of any place local where we would have had such a lazy and enjoyable time and for that alone Ariana comes recommended.

Wednesday, October 15

Food: Le Chef Masgouf Click for more info

So apparently there aren't many Iraqi restaurants in London - they're all more Persian or Lebanese - which might explain why I was excited to check out the venue today, recommended by an Iraqi friend. I guess it was my own ignorance of cuisine that meant I couldn't really tell the difference: as far as I could tell it was the same humus for starters and the same mixed grill served with the same rice for mains that we received. That wasn't an issue in itself as it had been a while since I enjoyed such a menu - and on top of that the food turned out to be rather good stuff. Tasty and juicy in the exact right ways, I even embraced the grilled meat and chops, the bits that I usually avoid.

As the meal was paid for I can't quite comment on price, but in terms of food it was all solid and a good alternative to the usual fare you'd get a few metres away in Edgware Road (spit).

Monday, October 6

Food: Jimmy's World Grill Click for more info

Oh dear. Three consecutive buffets in three consecutive months? Even if you take account of the fact I didn't review the few places I have already written about that I visited in between the three buffets, that's still a pretty poor show. I won't be offended if you walk away now.

On the other hand, it does put me in a pretty good position to compare - a sort of buffet veteran as it were. I now know how to navigate the tables, how to pace myself for maximum taste and variety, and where to focus my attention on in order to experience the largest range of food possible in the given two hours or so these places think it's normal to allocate.

So Jimmy's then? Well it was decent I suppose. It had a middling range of food, most of which was halal. The quality varied but most was above average - the mexican stand was a pretty novel idea. Desserts were above average too, although the gimmicks like an ice cream machine and chocolate fountain were available to make it seem we were getting more than we actually were.

Service and atmosphere were both okay - this place was noisier than JRC so probably more suited to larger parties. The cost was also pretty decent, coming to around 14 quid for the session.

Out of the three I've most recently visited Jimmy's most certainly wasn't the worst - I guess the decision to go lies on those intangible things like mood and company. However just like the other places I can't quite bring myself to recommend it fully; I guess you just have to accept buffets as a part of the food scene now.

Wednesday, September 24

Book: Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn Click for more info

Yes fine, I'll admit it - I only read this book because of the upcoming film release. I guess it's a kind of bandwagon jumping, although I did resist reading when most of the London Underground was so there's a bit of a moral victory there. But of course I had already decided it for what it was: a trashy populist thriller aimed at the common denominator of readers - the type who feel clever because they're reading something off a paper page and not an iPhone screen.

But what's this? I was... wrong? Well let's start at the beginning. Gone Girl has some pretty decent levels of the stuff I look for in a book - characterisation - it's almost even a bit too much as the main protagonists exceed reality and become a little caricature at times. But still I have to applaud the author for creating character so refreshingly deep and multilayered, and in fact it's the depth of character that the book rides on for the most part; the plot is a little shifty, although the writing standard itself is sound.

But toward the middle of the book it all starts going terribly wrong. As genius as the "method writing" of the author is (I actually reckon she might be a little unhinged in real life), the cracks do start to show as the plot fails to keep up with the people portraying it. In fact it all reduces to something a bit feminist and propaganda-ry by the end of it, and that's not even mentioning the ending which by all measures was just a cheat.

It's a shame actually because for me it was just enough to spoil the book. It was great while it lasted, but ultimately the prophecy came to pass and Gone Girl did turn out to be just another trashy page turner designed to please the masses. Ironically though I do think it'll make a better film.

Wednesday, September 17

Food: JRC Global Buffet Click for more info

In a town full of generic identikit all you can eat buffets, anything different can immediately be seen as something really special. Take JRC Global Buffet for instance - it's huge for one, quite well done up for another, and at first glance has a pretty decent range of food to pick from. There were Indian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Continental kitchens, each with the staple, if not comprehensive, dishes that you would expect to find.

But looks can be deceiving, and things start unravelling a little for a Muslim visitor when they realise that not everything is halal - the Chinese in particular appeared off limits. But still there was plenty to compensate; in particular I don't think I've been to a buffet that has sushi and teppanyaki - I think I saw staff walking around with a stick of BBQ too at one point. The quality of food was more decent than otherwise - surprisingly the beef lasagne was worth the entry price alone. Desserts were also of a decent nick and range, although I was a little rushed for time so didn't get to investigate as much as I'd like to.

Otherwise this was pretty standard stuff, albeit if a little above average. At £15.99 it was priced on par, and even the drinks were of a decentish value.

I'd definitely like to visit again at some point, at which point I'd hope there would be slightly more of a choice. As it stand though JRC is a good effort in a sea of mediocrity.

Saturday, September 13

Burq Off Click for more info

On paper Burq Off didn't stand a chance - an autobiographical one woman play telling the story of her repressed upbringing in a Pakistani family home and her coming of age rebellion as she discovered her sexuality (amongst other things) while living away for uni. Sigh etc. And yes if I'm honest I really didn't have much more than contempt for the cliché (and I guess by implication Nadia) itself.

And yet I came away having really enjoyed the show. The reason? Well it turns out that Nadia Manzoor is actually good - really good - at what she does now: theatre. Putting aside the genius and talent that comes with a one actor show (the final character count was 21 which is pretty impressive), she was brilliant at taking on the disparate roles and evoking emotion in us, the audience. In fact it went so far that at times it was quite confusing - we were supposed to feel bad for her when she was laughing? Laugh at her when she was crying? It was a bit of a roller coaster at time, and I found myself mentally tripping up quite a few times. I think intense was the word I immediately used when talking about the show afterwards.

So I guess for me Burq Off was just another example of raw talent shining through bad content. I'm perfectly fine with that - after all, it's not like Manzoor's next show will be telling the same story.

Tuesday, September 2

Film: Lucy

I really enjoyed Limitless, the film agaisnt which Lucy will always be compared. And for a while it fared pretty well - the only thing better than watching an everyday Joe gain superpowers is watching an attractive Jane do the same.

However the Besson craziness does kick in pretty soon (at under 90 minutes, it has to), and by around two thirds of the way through the film embraces the abstract and goes a little nuts. That's not fundamentally a bad thing and I'm sure the arty types will love that, but I personally preferred the plot led approach of Cooper's version.

Still, that's not to say Lucy was a bad film and I have no qualms in recommending it.

Monday, September 1

Book: The Fires of Heaven, Robert Jordan Click for more info

And yet another chapter closes in the saga that is The Wheel of Time. Characters have levelled up, geographies have transformed and plots developed. TFoH was a comfortable read: it's come to the point where I was successfully guessing the themes and pages to come - but don't get me wrong, that isn't to say that the book was formulaic or predictable either.

One of the downsides of cramming on a saga like this is that you don't get a chance to absorb and develop as the characters do - they have been written to unfold and develop over years rather than months and so the transformations they have gone though can be jarring for someone like me who is reading them back to back. But that's a minor, almost tenuous complaint really, although I have to say I was vastly irritated by one of the lead characters (I'm almost certain that was by design).

A cracking book and series, I'm left looking forward to six.

Saturday, August 23

The Decade

Although most people don't realise it, ten is a pretty arbitrary number - a consequence of biology and cosmic design, it's simply because we have five digits on each hand that we picked ten for the first double digit value. But regardless of the reasons why, it's generally accepted to be an important number, and so here I am writing a post on what is the tenth birthday of this blog. Ten years since that first post. Crikey, I honestly didn't expect it to last this long and reaching this far invokes that paradoxical feeling where although the start seems like such a long time ago, it also feels so familiarly close.

Radio Shak has already been the longest project I've ever been involved in for a while now - longer than all my jobs put together, longer than any hobby I've participated in; heck it's outlasted many of the friendships I've had; which is sad if only because it's also appears to be pretty normal. On the other hand I can count many of my current friends as somehow being found via these pages, directly or indirectly, so perhaps this is just a symptom of the future.

As has been the theme in the previous few anniversary posts, I've all but accepted that this is what my blog will be now: mostly restaurant and film reviews (the hatred of which makes up the totality of any explicit feedback I've received) with perhaps the odd opinion piece every now and then.

Yes there will always be those fifty odd drafts I have saved which I might one day get back to completing, but they mostly seem oh-so-outdated now; as much as I like to deny it I suppose I am a different person from who I was a decade ago. On the other hand I'm reading the first few posts and maybe I'm not that different after all. Whatever the reality, I did (reasonably) think that my life would be different to how it has turned out, and that in all the obvious ways - in fact I think it was when I realised that change wasn't necessarily going to be the case that the steam might have run out here; perhaps that's also when I felt that I no longer needed to express myself in this particular way either (much to the joy of the friends I leveraged for my ranting instead).

So here it is, a decade of my ramblings. It might even be the milestone at which to stop, but I don't think there's any need for an action as dramatic as that - judging by the way the Internet is going I suspect it's more likely that Google will make that particular decision for me. On the other hand who knows, maybe I'll decide to focus more on my writing this year? I wouldn't bet on it though; after all, ten is nothing but an arbitrary number really.



Wednesday, August 20

Film: Guardians of the Galaxy Click for more info

Although GOTG was first pitched as "the other" Marvel comic book film, there is a lot that made it fit in quite well with its phase 1 and 2 movie siblings. We had the familar humour, action and plotlines that made the others so enjoyable to watch, although yes it has to be said that this film did deliver heavy on the funny - okay most of it was of the deadpan "but seriously" kind but it was refreshing in a self aware way.

The cast was good too - well, what you could see of them. Pratt had the charming rouge down to a T, Saldana was hot even in green, and the rest of the support, although heavily laden in makeup and CGI were hilarious and interesting and actually rather deep.

If I have one complaint it's that the film went a bit too fast for me - both the action and plot had me scratching my head at times, but overall it wasn't enough to spoil it and I think it was paced fairly well.

Of course you're going to watch this regardless of what I say, but hey, I'll recommend it anyway. You know, for completion.

Sunday, August 17

Food: Nawaab Click for more info

Ah Nawaab. The crutch on which all visiting Mancunians rest. I mean sure, I was lucky enough to have visited Manchester in the 90's when Wilmslow Road was actually something to boast about, and I still have a soft spot for the kobdeh at Rusholme Chippy. But 15 odd years is a long time and a lot can and does change in that time. Food is now London's forte, unless you're from Manchester and have enough pride to delude yourself.

Take Nawaab as an experiment. This is a wildly acclaimed joint in Manchester, the place that needs to be on the list of anyone who wanted to check the culinary credentials of the place. And yes, it's not half bad. In Manchester.

But take the place out of it's comfort zone and place it in the different context that is London and you see exactly how it ranks. And that is: not very well. The food was oily, the atmosphere cheap, the choice (Nawaab is a buffet) limited, the price unimpressive (£20 per head), the service poor... there really wasn't anything that made Nawab anything more than adequate really. I can think of at least five places across London that beat it.

And so there you have it: conclusive enough proof that Manchester doesn't really have the nicest Indian food in the UK, at least not any more. Not that that has anything to do with Nawab itself - no for that, I simply leave you with a recommendation to skip.

Tuesday, August 12

Film: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Click for more info

Apes! With guns!

That pretty much sums up Dawn, although yes, I guess there was a political plot of sorts somewhere too. The simplicity of the film worked in its favour though - there wasn't much to dislike and overall it had a lot of balance and good pace. The visuals were pretty outstanding - I often forgot I was looking at computer generated imagery and believed that there were talking apes in the world.

It wasn't as good as the first one, but that's okay. Recommended.

Wednesday, August 6

Food: Roast @ E7 Click for more info

Apparently the spin off of a very popular and successful take away in East Ham, Roast does well in the now too common "Muslim bros do meat" category. A bit too well I suppose; as such there aren't many surprises here. We have the same BBQ chicken wings everyone else does, the same burgers and chips, and of course the same milkshakes. The quality of food was well above average, and my half pounder (comprising of two quarter pounder patties) was deceptively simple - it actually was one of the best burgers I had in the recent spate of attempts I've had over the past year or so. Even my friend's doner was pretty awesome.

However due to its typical menu and layout Roast did struggle to differentiate. I guess the nasheeds playing in the background was an original touch (if you're into that sort of thing) and it was great to have a quite corner in which to pray when we needed to. Location is pretty good too, with it providing convenience to the meat eaters of Wanstead, although there is a BBQ Express next door.

Pricing was very confusing, and that to the detriment of the place. Most mains were listed at under a fiver - a price that didn't include a side. This puts Roast firmly in the "amusingly expensive, who do they think they are" section - but it was the half pounder at a quite insulting £8 that really made this a place I probably won't return to. The total price for the evening was £15 each, which is at least a fiver more that what I would have otherwise wanted to pay. The pricing confused me as far as to prompt me to actually ask the owner what it was based on. He all but indicated that it was arbitrary - which isn't as crazy as it sounds in a world where people are paying up to a tenner for "gourmet" burgers.

It's a real shame, because with some tweaks this place could be a great hit. As it stands I fear it will just attract those with more money than sense.

Sunday, June 22

The ICSS BBQ, 2014

I'm not sure why I stopped writing about the ICSS BBQs - the last post was made way back in 2009. I've been to all of them except for one, and it's been interesting to see how each year had evolved from the last - the last few have been quiet, intimate affairs, and for some of us for the better.

We decided to throw open the doors again this year to celebrate the tenth year of ICSS - a pretty amazing feat in itself - and it was good to see the old faces and new all coming together to, well, stuff their faces. We were obviously out of practise hosting such a large event as the flow of meat dried up at times. But it was all worth it as always, and I like to think the guests were forgiving of us. I do think that we broke some kind of record with the sheer amount of cake we had though.

But otherwise we had the usual face painting, henna, cake decorating and bouncy castle slide as well as the not so typical in the form of Silkroad playing some live music. The sister school CWSS was also on duty providing some much needed help.

I guess all that was left to do is start the countdown for the next decade's anniversary. Good times until then.

Food: Bounce Click for more info

Okay this might be a bit of a cheat here - although I had a pizza dinner here Bounce isn't primarily a restaurant, but what I can only call a "ping pong" bar. I didn't count the exact number but you're basically in a room full of table tennis, uh, tables and loud music, the idea being to have a bat around while chilling with friends. They even had ultraviolet lights at one point.

It certainly was novel and if I'm honest... not that pricey if the group is big enough. Unfortunately the music was way too loud which kinda defeated the purpose of having too many people there. The food (which pretty much consisted of pizza) was decent if a touch overpriced, so all in all Bounce is probably a place to try rather than frequent.

Aamir Rahman: The Truth Hurts Click for more info

I'm happy to accept my reputation as a cynical hater when it comes to fun stuff, and my ability to analyse anything to death comes secondary to genuinely not accepting the usual Facebook/Twitter fodder as anything of quality. But brown comedians get a special mention here - I just don't think they're funny. I've already attempted to explain why elsewhere - the built in censorship, the fear of offending an unsophisticated and immature audience, the lack of originality - but in all honesty I don't care enough to have to explain it: brown comedy just isn't funny. Well, except for Aziz Ansari (I hope).

But it's not fair for me to introduce Aamir Rahman with a diatribe of my own issues. He describes himself as a political comedian, something I haven't yet had a chance to see live, so there is that. And there were some genuine belly laughs throughout: there's no doubt about it, Aamir is a charming guy. On the other hand, it did feel like he was holding back a lot of the time (I think he dropped the f-bomb once) and yes, not only had a lot of the jokes already been made in groups of friends, but most of the political points too. There's something about a guy on stage complaining about how we all have to apologise for terrorism that feels so patronising. Where's the depth? The irony is that in the few moments Aamir had to improvise or react he was actually funny. Maybe that's the trick here.

So yes, a decent night out but not really one that lasts in my mind. Still, at least it gave the audience something to tweet about - amusingly at least five people in the audience claimed to "know" Aamir. You gotta love social media, eh?

Thursday, June 12

Film: 22 Jump Street Click for more info

If a film could be deemed schizophrenic, 22 Jump Street most certainly would. Just like the first one, I couldn't quite place my finger on whether this was a spoof, a situation comedy or improv - it was probably all three, a fact alone that makes this a unique film (well, again, apart from the first one).

But my confusion regarding the film doesn't end in trying to classify it: I honestly don't know if I enjoyed it or not. The good bits were really good, the bad pretty poor, and at time it laboured the point (some of which were comic genius - like the self deprecating references that they were in a sequel cash in) oh so much.

Hmm. So I guess I'll recommend this, but perhaps only for DVD.

Tuesday, June 10

Book: 2 States: The Story of My Marriage, Chetan Bhagat Click for more info

Oh man. I generally have the belief that books which make it out of their native lands do so on merit. Not so with 2 States, a book about two kids' struggle with their love marriage.

I guess such a concept isn't really novel here in the UK: we've been exploiting the theme for the past thirty years (even overdoing it in the past decade as Muslim women decided to use their newly found literary freedom to write about love and how the guys they were matched with always seemed to suck).

If I sound crabby it's because I'm just so bored of the genre. But the book is just too clichéd and predictable to be labeled a sell out. I tried enjoying it as a trash novel but even that didn't work, because not only is it badly written (Twilight was a masterpiece in comparison) but the characters were one dimensional and, well, boring. They did make me feel like punching them each in the face, so I guess some emotions were evoked.

Those who don't read much (read: Brown people) will love this, just as they lapped up GGM and got excited with the Ferreiras. For those who actually care about what they read this is definitely one to skip. On the other hand, the film adaptation has Alia Bhatt in it so I'm looking forward to watching that. Silver linings, eh?

Thursday, June 5

Food: Olives and Figs Click for more info

Just when I thought there could not possibly be any more room in London for yet another generic Turkish, here I go. There really wasn't much I liked about Olives and Figs; the service was poor, the place cramped, the food unsubstantial - even the price made no effort to redeem coming to a princely 20 quid per head for starters and mains.

Yes, I had a fun night but that was more due to the company than the place, although I do suppose there aren't many restaurants who would be willing to host a rowdy bunch of fifteen so I guess that's one silver lining. Otherwise move on - there's nothing to see here.

Tuesday, June 3

Film: Edge of Tomorrow Click for more info

Yes, it is exactly as you think: EoT is just Groundhog Day with futuristic guns. And despite the exoticness of time travel there's not quite that much originality here. If you're expecting Star Trek then prepare to be disappointed.

On the other hand, as a film EoT is pretty solid. It's well paced, looks great and has some charm courtesy of Cruise and the lovely Emily Blunt. The plot develops well - it would have been very easy to waste the context here - and the payoff is decent. There may have been a bit of an issue with the ending, but it's forgivable enough given the rest of the film.

Thoroughly enjoyable, EoT gets a reccomendation from me.

Friday, May 30

M.F. Husain: Master of Modern Indian Painting Click for more info

Tonight's random cultural visit was to the Victoria and Albert to see an exhibition of works by M.F. Husain. The first adjective I thought of when I saw the preview on the web was "fun", and seeing the pieces live proved that - with vivid colours and an almost cubist yet accessible style. Yes, I suppose it was modern art, but I understood what was going on anyway.

I learned that Husain started his career painting Bollywood cinema movie posters, which I suspect explains why they appealed; you can see the influence once you know it's there.

The only downside of the exhibition was the length - it was pretty much over within ten minutes. If you're in the area then it's definitely worth a look, but unfortunately it's just not enough to warrant a trip to see.

Film: X-Men: Days of Future Past Click for more info

The premise itself was sound: a tie up of all the various X-Men movies done right would have been quite the coup. Add time travel (otherwise known as "how to get away with rebooting") and we have all the ingredients of a classic comic book flick of Avenger proportions.

Alas Days falls slightly short of its potential. I wouldn't call it a bad film, but it is certainly a wasted opportunity. The old guard is underused, as is the context, and I was just kept wanting for more for most of it. The last 45 minutes or so do redeem the movie somewhat, but it all ends up being passable rather than great.

It's more disappointing than bad though, and if you are a comic book junkie then you'll definitely enjoy this anyway.

Thursday, May 29

Book: The Shadow Rising, Robert Jordan Click for more info

And suddenly it clicks - and the sheer scale The Wheel of Time will present became apparent for me in this, the fourth book in the series. We're given a peak behind the curtain in this volume - enough for me to be very excited at the prospect of reading the ten or so more books to come. It actually threw me back to the the handful of JRPGs I played when younger - with headspinning layers upon layers of plot, character and development, all presented in a way that all but forces you to invest in the long game. I actually wouldn't be surprised if some JRPGs borrowed from WoT's storytelling techniques.

As a book The Shadow Rising does drag a little (it's the longest so far in the series), but it's all essential I suppose and does more than enough to whet the appetite. And as far as epics go I'm still pretty early in the whole thing; I can't even guess what's to come.

Wednesday, May 21

Film: Godzilla Click for more info

Let's face it: the version that was released way back in 1998 (which, for those of you in denial was 16 years ago) wasn't that great. It was more a showcase of special effects, the type of shallow film that was gaining traction back then and one we haven't really managed to shake off since. Any newer version was always going to be better, but even so I was expecting some bad things today.

Which is why I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I actually enjoyed the film. Yes, it was still pretty shallow and a good showcase of special effects, but it managed to handle that inevitability by fully embracing the b-movie heritage from which it draws. There wasn't much emotional baggage here, no forced depth of characters, and although there wasn't quite enough Monster fighting for my liking, I didn't seem to mind as that gap wasn't filled by the film makers trying too hard to overcompensate (Pacific Rim, I'm looking at you).

So yes, a jolly good romp and one that I recommend at least for a home viewing.

Tuesday, May 20

Food: StickyWings Click for more info

Most times it's the simple things that work the best. Take StickyWings: not only is it exactly what it says on the tin but also does it so well, and any misgivings I had over a place that only did chicken wings were immediately dismissed when our order arrived.

The simple nature of place didn't limit it though - I can see this as a place for the guys, for mixed groups and for dates. The food was solid and fulfilling, and 20 quid worth of chicken and sides was more than enough for the three of us guys who were eating tonight.

Alas the pessimistic in me can see exactly where StickyWings is heading though - either it'll go under because people will dismiss it or it will become super popular and start cutting corners. It hasn't happened yet, so I'll be sure to be checking it out as much as possible before it does. Totally recommended while it lasts and for me a brilliant alternative to the current spate of "American burger diner bars" cropping up every five minutes.

Thursday, May 15

Food: Notting Hill Kitchen Click for more info

I've not had the chance to try tapas for a good while now - not since 2007 according to these pages, so I was especially looking forward to tonight. I was fortunate enough to be invited once more to a foodie meet-up (and yes, I feel dirty just saying that) at the Notting Hill Kitchen, an almost boutique like joint hidden in plain site in, well, Notting Hill.

Being in such a suave and quiet central London location, the experience started before you even enter the restaurant - you just know this would be a place where the classy and sophisticated go to eat, and in fact I found it a little awkward spoiling the vibe with our oversized and pretty rowdy party. On the other hand I would imagine it being perfect for smaller, more intimate groups, with the maze like layout of the place providing plenty of nooks and crannies in which to embed.

The food was good - well, what I could eat of it as a good 30% of it was meat based (usually pork). That was the fault of the set menu of course - I'm pretty confident that the restaurant has fish and veggie options too. What I did eat was pretty fun - the mini fish burgers and doughnuts placing high in my picks of the evening.

So a pretty interesting place albeit not for large groups - I'm also not able to comment on the price since I didn't pay - but it's definitely somewhere worth checking out if you happen to be in the area on a lazy Sunday lunchtime.

Wednesday, May 14

Food: Meat And Shake Click for more info

Oh Tinseltown, what have you done? Okay, perhaps it's a little unfair to blame what I see as the veteran place for the "fancy burger" epidemic we're currently facing, but I don't remember ever seeing this pseudo-genre of food much before the late nineties. And it would be fair to say that these later ones are an evolution on Tinseltown - they certainly are when it comes to price - but I have to say so far I've been disappointed with most of them. And alas despite the hype coming out of South London about the place, Meat and Shake is no exception.

It all comes down to style over substance - the place does pretty well if all you want to do is take pictures of food and post them on Facebook, or check into whatever app the kids are checking into nowadays. But when it comes to the real point of a restaurant - the food - M&S falls short of the mark. And not before robbing you of a decent amount of wonga too. The whole experience was just so shallow... But I will give it some kudos for the few touches of originality it had on the menu (check out the rack of ribs for example).

But otherwise no, no recommendation here I'm afraid.

Sunday, May 11

Food: Molana Click for more info

"Persian food" has long since lost its effect in making my mouth water - the conclusion being that it would always ever just be bland Indian food. But after finding myself in Ealing and being taken to Molana, I think I've found a place that is not only a decent Iranian but also rather special.

It comes down to basics really - Molana scores top marks in the usual categories: generous portions, good service, a presentable environment. But where it really does amazingly well is in the sheer quality of the food. It was so good, I began to wonder where exactly they must have sourced their ingredients from.

And all this without a premium price - a decent meal won't cost more than 15 quid per head which, for what you get, is pretty good value.

The only downside is the location, but who knows? Maybe I can suggest the place on the way to the airport or something. Recommended.

Saturday, May 10

Food: Vapiano Click for more info

You know, I don't think I eat enough Italian food. Chinese, Indian and (for heaven's sake) Turkish always seem to be the default choices, which is a shame because I think I prefer Italian over most of those.

Whatever the case, it was refreshing to visit Vapiano tonight - the food was good and prepared in pretty novel style, right in front of where you queue to place your order. We went to the Bankside location which was clean and spacious, with some very polite if overworked staff. As as a bonus desserts were good too - and served in both small and large sizes which I considered a masterstroke. The bill was easy to swallow too, with my main and dessert coming to around 12 quid.

Vapiano isn't the most amazing places I've been to, but it's most certainly a solid choice and one I'll definitely go to again if passing.

Thursday, May 8

Film: Bad Neighbours Click for more info

Acting seems like fun. But of all the actors I'm jealous of because of that fun, those who make films like Bad Neighbours top the list. That scatter-shot approach of "here's a context: now go nuts and don't worry about the camera" makes me realise that these guys aren't actually here to film anything; no, they're just having a party and a doss, and as a bonus are selling us the footage.

Because let's face it: we don't watch these films for the plot or the acting. We watch them to see Zac Efron's abs, hear jokes about pee pees and boobies and to witness the sublime Rose Byrne say mofo multiple times. This is pure slapstick, nothing more.

It's also a risky strategy, as slapstick can be very hit and miss. And although there were more than a few laugh out loud moments here, I don't think there were quite enough to carry the film the distance. That's a shame really, as all the ingredients were present and accounted for - they just weren't put together as well as they could have been.

One for a home viewing then.