Thursday, February 26

Book: A Crown of Swords, Robert Jordan Click for more info

Book Seven down, and I am officially over half way through the WoT series. This volume was better than the last, not least because stuff actually happened, but it also seemed to flow a bit better. That said there were some pretty slow bit and I'm left hoping that the pace doesn't become the norm going forward.

Oh and I'm still confused about exactly what's going on. But hey! On to 8!

Tuesday, February 17

Film: Project Almanac Click for more info

Depending on the audience, time travel can be a tricky subject to film about. For the general (read: normal) public it's all about the drama involved with meeting dinosaurs or killing Hitler/your grandparents, but for the geeks (you know, those brought up on TNG) it's more about expressing the mathematical beauty of causality and the elegance of balancing the formula of temporal relocation. These guys need a tight storyline otherwise they probably won't enjoy it.

Which, as Project Almanac proves, is a load of bokum. I think it's fair to say that Almanac treats time travel with very little respect - the whole presentation of the concept and its consequences is pretty shoddy, inconsistent and cheap; it's clear from the start that the film is all about the drama of... well okay, there were no dinosaurs or Hitlers and most of the issues that the protagonists used time travel to deal with were wholly of the teenage angsty kind.

And yet, the film wasn't that bad really, not once you stop looking for holes and inconsistencies. What's left is quite fun, if not at all deep, and the film just manages to be decent enough to watch.

It still just falls short of a recommendation though. And oh, if you did want to watch an extremely tight film about time travel you should definitely check out the excellent Los Cronocrímenes or Timecrimes (credit to Mash for that one).

Saturday, February 7

Florence Day One: Firenze

It was clear from the start that timekeeping wasn't going to be a major theme of this trip. For a start I had only booked my flight a little over 24 hours before take off, but the real indication was when I arrived at an empty gate - as everyone had already boarded the plane. Yes, City Airport is super efficient and yes, in theory you only need to (baglessly) check in 15 minutes before your flight... but no, in terms of stress it pays to arrive a little early than you need to. Of course this was a once off and I had learned my lesson and would never be so lax in catching a flight again. Oh no.

But I was on the flight and that's all that mattered really. Florence was never really on my list of places to visit (the first and only time I had previously been to Italy was Rome in 2003), but as some friends were already going I decided to crash and tag along. Three days sounded like a decent amount of time to spend in the region, and The Leaning Tower of Pisa just had to be something worth seeing. Other than that though I went in blind.

Although I initially cursed the insanely early flight it did pay dividends - after leaving the airport and checking into our hotel we were free to start exploring by noon. By virtue of it being situated right outside our hotel, the immediate sight to see was the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (photos here), a majestic cathedral with an immense dome that really did seem like something that belonged in a film. We bought a combined ticket that allowed us to climb both the dome and bell tower - there's not really much between the two in terms of views (of course the tower had a better view of the dome), but the climbs have their own sense of adventure in both. The ticket also allowed us entry into the baptistery (which was nice) as well as the museum in the basement of the cathedral (which was less interesting).

Next on our list was the Galleria degli Uffizi (photos here). This was a pretty sizeable art gallery containing the works of various classical Italian artists including at least three Ninja Turtles - I was actually quite surprised at how many I recognised, which is both a testament to the value of these pieces and a indication of my ignorance of the deeper aspects behind the famous art we see so often.

Our final stop of the day (both due to a lack of time as well as inclination - it appears three is the maximum number of museums we could handle in a day) was to the Galleria dell'Accademia (photos here), home of Michelangelo's sculpture David, and pretty much the reason we crossed town. The visit was whistle-stop, and the gallery did have other nice exhibits too, but the highlight was definitely the sculpture itself.

For our first night in Florence we decided to meander across Ponte Vecchio (photos here) to the south bank of Florence. We eventually ended up at Gustapizza, a cute intimate little stone baked pizza place that had brilliant food at a friendly price which I heartily recommend. After that we took a punt and visited Libreria Cafe la Cite, a bookshop-cum-cafe that offers live music at night.

It was a great way to end our first night in Firenze, and after day one I was already totally glad that I had been convinced to come. Random photos from the streets of Firenze can be found here.

Saturday, January 17

Food: Waterfall Kebab Centre Click for more info

I actually paused for a moment before deciding to review this place, something that appeared to be a typical high street kebab shop. I mean the line has to be drawn somewhere right? If I wrote about every new place I ate in then this place would be even more tired and mundane than it already is. Heck, I might as well start tweeting my every meal or something.

But then I realised firstly that I'm not really a food snob, secondly that no one actually cares about the ethics of food writing and thirdly - and most importantly - everyone needs to know about Waterfall Kebab Centre.

First up, let's start with the food: it was awesome. All of it. From the grilled meats (I had the Adana) to the fried chips to the salads, everything was prepared with such care and pride we started enjoying the food even before we tasted it. And once we did that I realised that this was a special place.

So on to service then. Our server was polite, chatty and engaging[1] - it was almost like we were visiting someone's home for dinner, and I guess in hindsight it's not really surprising that the place was a family run joint. We even started talking about movies and cake baking at two separate points. The free tea and baklava at the end was just the icing on the cake really.

Cost wise there were no complaints either; a tenner a head got us a spread of starters, a main each and a few drinks for the party. Totally worth it. If there was a distracting point it's that the place was essentially a kebab shop: it's probably not the place you would take the highly maintained Londoner date of today. Although quite frankly if they turned their noses up at this place I know which I would choose to stick with.

So there you have it, probably the best kebab shop I've been to. Totally recommended.

[1] And I challenge any of the guys I was with to deny fancying our server.

Tuesday, January 13

Film: Taken 3 Click for more info

Oh man oh man. What a dire film.

Maybe it was a lack of budget, or inclination, but there was none of the spirit, charm and charisma of the previous two films here. The plot sucked, the acting was poor, the editing awful and the action almost non existent. In fact the best thing about it was its merciful length.

It's such a shame seeing how much I loved the first and liked the second. What a disappointing turn out.

So not recommended - just pretend there are only two films in the series.

Saturday, January 10

Food: Zi's Click for more info

Ilford is quite the location for a variety of food, if not that of consistent quality. Still, we tend to give local business a chance when we can and stonebaked pizza is still a novelty in these parts so our party for 10 were all ready to give it a try.

There were ups and downs. The garlic bread was a little strange, and came with a bitter taste we concluded was due to an abundance of raw garlic. On the other hand, the pizza mains were great in their simplicity and solidness - I went for the chilli peperoni (the meat is all halal) which hit the spot pretty well.

Otherwise the place was clean, the service more than adequate and the ambience well suited for our party. Prices were decent, even after you consider the special opening offer of all pizzas for 6 quid.

In short, Zi's has pretty much become the go to place for Pizza in Ilford, and although that might just be by default that shouldn't take away how much of a decent place it is. Just avoid the garlic bread.

Thursday, January 8

Book: Watchmen Click for more info

As I had already seen the film (albeit ages ago), I was quite looking forward to reading Watchmen. After continuously being told how much off par the movie adaptation (which I liked) was from its source as well as how often it's billed as the most important graphic novel of all time there was not really anyway to be anything but excited really.

And yes it was good - the depth of the characters and plot and how it all unfolds is pretty magical, and I suspect can only really have been told by a graphic novel. Did I fall in love with it though? Well honestly no, I can't say I did. Just why it didn't take I'm not entirely sure since on paper it should have been right up my street, but I suppose it comes down to the fact that ultimately I'm not as passionate as comic books as those who cherish Watchmen are.

Having said that I am now off to revisit the film, so there must be something it's done right.

Monday, January 5

Link of the Day

On the Phenomenon of Bulls**t Jobs

It actually started with my stumbling across what appeared to be a couple of 200 unauthorised posted on the tube (see here and here). On searching for the quote I reached the original source, an article by David Graeber originally written in 2013 when it appeared in Strike! magazine.

Amongst other things, the genius of the article is in its length, conciseness, clarity and especially in its content: I don't think there will be many people reading it who wouldn't have been doing so while nodding their heads in agreement. For me personally, it was able to vindicate some of the things that friends and I would have concluded a long time ago; that productivity of a workforce doesn't equal the number of man-hours expended. And as someone who has long established their relationship with work (I certainly know my own answer to the "What would you do if you won the lottery?" question), I thought some of the ideas in the article were bang on.

Sunday, January 4

Karachi 2014

It's telling that on my last trip to Karachi I had only posted a handful of travel articles. As my trips back home become more and more frequent (it had actually, amazingly, been less than a year since I had last visited, which is a record in itself), I appear to have less and less to say as my time there becomes more and more run of the mill and less special. This in itself isn't a bad thing - on the contrary actually: I like being a part of the furniture there and being able to skip the sometimes awkward stage of regaining familiarity with relatives and the environment.

That said this trip was different, mainly because I was travelling with my wider family this time instead of just my folks. This meant that the trip was largely tailored to the kids in our party: I have never been to as many Karachite attractions, museums and fairgrounds in two weeks as I had on this trip - heck I didn't know Karachi even had as many attractions, museums and fairgrounds in the first place.

In fact the whole trip was pretty exhausting, and that not necessarily in a bad way... it was just different to what I was accustomed to. In any case, as part of my intention to return more frequently there'll be plenty of chances to have a more low key visit in the future.

Tuesday, December 9

Book: Lord of Chaos, Robert Jordan Click for more info

Before I start with the review proper, there are a few observations I'd like to note. Firstly, it has now been (well) over a year since I started the Wheel of Time series. That's a long time to read any series, and although I suppose it is yet to top GoT I am still under half way through.

Secondly I just found out that this volume, Lord of Chaos, was published in 1995. That's like 20 years ago. For context, the Wheel of Time series as a whole completed this year. I'm not quite sure how or even if I could have travelled with a story over that much time, but it does feel like I'm cheating. With a time machine.

Lord of Chaos itself was a strange book. Like some of the other so far, it felt like it had a big middle rather than a proper flow of start-middle-end; it's a pattern I've come to expect now. Climaxes do occur though - usually ones which catapult the story - so it's not all bad.

I'm still finding the reading quite hard; I have to reread quite often to get my head around what was actually being said and if I'm totally honest I don't think I even grasp all the characters and politics fully. But thankfully the book does work on many levels so I don't even feel like I'm missing out too much.

All in all LoC was a good chapter in the saga that is enveloping my literary world - and for once I want to actually race on to book 7 straight away instead of picking up something else in between.

Thursday, December 4

SMBC Click for more info

I'm not saying I'm old, but...


Wednesday, December 3

Film: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 Click for more info

Maybe I'm just becoming cynical, but these deliberate stretches of books into movies are beginning to grate a bit. I mean there really isn't much happening in Mockingjay Part 1 that could have been edited out in a longer single film but hey, I suppose ticket sales are key now.

Still, the film (and its predecessors) is better than the (half-) book, and I suppose for that I am thankful. Jennifer Lawrence is watchable of sorts and the rest of the case supports her well; it's just a shame it labours more than it really needs to.

Hopefully this would be addressed in the next (and final?) film, so for the sake of continuation and completeness I suppose I will have to recommend this, albeit begrudgingly.

Saturday, November 22

Food: Hoi An Click for more info

It's hard to believe that it's been over two years since I visited Vietnam, but on of the things that I do remember is how easy we had it, food wise. I'm not that much of a fussy eater but with that ingrained preconception of far east food those of us who are Muslim or Pakistani (or both) have, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the cuisine we came across during our tour.

Which makes me wonder why it's taken so long to find Hoi An, a halal Vietnamese joint right here on my front step. Now if I'm totally honest I can't really make any claims to the authenticity of the place - I'm far from discerning enough to specify that - but the food tonight was just as good and enjoyable as I remember it being. I stuck to the relatively simple prawn pancake and chicken curry dishes, and they were both sublime in their simplicity.

If there was one complaint it was that of the price: £20 quid a head put today's food miles away from what we had in Vietnam as part of the fun of eating there was the embarrassingly low cost to eat. I guess it was cheaper than a plane ticket, but I can't help but feel it could have been more appropriately priced given the experience. Still, I would go back and I suppose in that sense Hoi An is recommended.

Friday, November 14

Film: Happy New Year Click for more info

It was an especially good year in 2013 for Deepika fans - so it went without saying I was going to see Happy New Year. That said I'm not a total Deepika fanboy: I still haven't watched Finding Fanny for instance, but this film has been on the radar for a while now so was pretty much unavoidable. That's in spite of my misgivings of what appears to be yet another ugly Farah Khan film. But hey, that video alone would have been worth the ticket entry alone.

But what's this? It turns out that Happy New Year wasn't actually that bad after all. In fact it was more than pretty good - it most certainly ranks as one of the funniest Bollywood films I've seen. Yes there are bad bits, but not enough to ruin the film. And yes, that video was a highlight, but even I would have to admit that the remaining DP scenes came second to the giggles the rest of the film had to offer.

It didn't even feel like the three hours it ran for. I wouldn't call HNY a work of art, but as something to enjoy on a rainy grey winter evening it hits the spot and then some. Recommended!

Tuesday, November 11

Film: Interstellar Click for more info

I always hold a level of fear while going to watch a new Christopher Nolan film. That OCD-like behaviour I portray in other spheres of life tends to manifest while watching films too, which means I need to know everything about what happens, the mystery has to work out and everything needs to fall into place. That's not to say that I'm bothered by loose ends - it's never my fault if a script sucks (I'm looking at you, Equilibrium) - but it does bother me when I know it's my lack of concentration or ability to follow that's lacking.

Which brings us to Nolan. The wonderful thing about his films is how watertight they are. Everything makes sense (well within the bounds of the fiction his films are set in), all the pieces fit and the payoff when it all clicks together is almost always ecstatic. The downside is, of course, how damn difficult it is to watch a Nolan film to it fullest extent. I'm still not sure I understand Inception fully and the last time I watched The Prestige I think I picked up at least a handful of new insights. Nothing comes for free I guess.

Interstellar is a great film for both old and new reasons. It has the same multilayered, multidimensional (is there any Nolan film that doesn't play with the passage of time?) and puzzle box feel to it, yet appears to be the most accessible Nolan film to date. There's no head scratching here - okay fine, perhaps I'm overestimating the general level of physics knowledge out there, but I really don't think the science jargon was as much a barrier as, I dunno, dreaming within dreaming or running a film backwards. Even less so for all the trekkies and Whedon geeks out there for whom this will all be par for the course.

But Interstellar was also an action film, a character drama and, okay fine, a space opera (of sorts). You didn't need to put down your popcorn to concentrate if all you wanted was a good story. It was there.

There were flaws though. Some of the answers to the puzzles were a bit weak for Nolan, a result I feel of the lower cost of entry, and the whole thing just didn't feel as water tight as his previous films. Rather than see that as a step back however, I think its a sign of a maturing film maker who has realised enjoyment doesn't necessarily come from making your audience work very hard.

At the end of the day Interstellar is a brilliant film and one that has to be watched. Recommended.

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.