Tuesday, November 10

Film: Spectre Click for more info

And just like that, here we are with the fourth in the Daniel Craig series of Bond movies. It's astonishing to think that it all started almost a decade ago, and looking back I seemed to have enjoyed the transformation of the Bond movie to something a little more mature and darker that the usual.

And yet ironically the fourth movie seems to throw us back to the realm of the fantastical - and not always in a good way. Sure, the action is crazy and the cars lovely and the girls hot and the one liners snappy. But when you consider the level of manic of the villains, how dastardly their plans are and even the manner in which they are willing to expend harm... it all gets a little 70's and 80's at times.

That said, I don't think I minded that much since I did thoroughly enjoy the movie overall. I didn't even mind the convenient plot twists and retcons encountered; if anything I saw them as bonuses. So in conclusion, yes, a recommendation for a more hybrid throwback of a Bond movie.

Saturday, October 31

Food: Rocco's Click for more info

The hunt for a food bargain really does take you to the most unexpected of places. I never thought I'd spend a Saturday night in a small hotel in Gidea Park (!) but here I was with a bunch of friends ordering hand made pasta.

And it wasn't half bad. The food was adequate and the service friendly - this was a place with a maximum of 20 covers and it far exceeded expectations if scale was anything to go by.

And the best bit? A meal of three courses (well two and a half since we shared desserts) came to the princely sum of £8 each... which is a veritable bargain in anyone's book. That said, the preference would probably be to pay a little extra for a better overall experience, which kind of proves that the bill isn't everything.

Thursday, October 29

Food: Proper Burgers Click for more info

You know, I'm tempted to actually go ahead and create a "burger" tag - it seems like food reviews these days have become synonymous with fatty patties and hipster decoration.

But then a place like Proper Burgers comes along and, quite frankly, it makes digging through all the dross out there kind of worth it. The food was great, with my Brisket 4, a combination of patty and pulled meat, being pretty much sublime - if I have one comment it was the the 4oz patties were a little on the small side. We did overdo it with the desserts, not being able to resist ordering both the mess and the apple pie - all quite uniquely made on the premises and tasty for it. I think that demonstrated a larger sense of pride that Proper Burgers has over its contemporaries.

Service was top notch, although the place was pretty empty this Thursday evening. Price wise, we hit a expensive £16 per head although as mentioned we did go overboard with desserts. The Brisket 4 was also a special - all in all I think you could get away with a decent meal at around the £11-12 mark which isn't too bad for such good food.

If there were any downsides it was the hipster level infinity of the place (a wall of audio cassette tapes? Please). But hey, with food like this I can rise above that. Recommended.

Wednesday, October 28

Food: Chai Ki Click for more info

After having such a great time at its sister restaurant I, perhaps foolishly in hindsight, expected more of the same from the Canary Wharf location in the brand new Crossrail Place.

Instead we received all the things the lack of which I felt made Roti Chai so great. An overpriced menu? Check. A slightly hipster atmosphere and clientèle? Check. Good food that wasn't as great as it should have been? Check.

To be fair the service was great and ambience was good enough to allow our party of four to have a decent time. Quite frankly though even Dishoom was better than this place, with Roti Chai still topping both. And at £35 a head the bill was a bit of a shock, although some diners were a little frivolous with their ordering - with a little discretion I think you could expect a bill of around £25 which is still a little on the pricey side for what we got.

So not really a recommendation here - although a final qualification would be that, unlike Roti Chai, Chai Ki doesn't offer a street menu - something that could have been the missing ingredient tonight.

Tuesday, October 27

Film: Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension Click for more info

The first Paranormal Activity (2009!) was made with a budget of $11,000, and was instantly a cult hit as well as achiving a certain level of success at the box office. As the franchise as progressed, the budgets have increased and, perhaps unsurprisingly in a cynical world, the effectiveness of the concept has decreased.

The genius of the films is of course the implied horror - the door closing by itself, a creaking off camera, and the various witnessing of other things we weren't meant to see. But with budget comes a need to make this more explicit - instead of allowing our imaginations to run riot we're spoon fed the scares. Eventually you're left with a more regular ghost story, albeit one shot from the peculiar viewpoint of a character operated camera.

Such is the case with this, the sixth (and allegedly final) chapter in the Paranormal Activity series. That's not to say that it was a bad film; on the contrary I really enjoyed it and was caught squealing in terror more than once. It just was on the same trajectory as the previous sequels were on and so disappointed.

But still, if you're looking for a bit of a scare you can't go wrong with this and in that context it earns a recommendation anyway.

Sunday, October 25

Egypt: Faith After The Pharaohs Click for more info

The British Museum is hosting an exhibition covering the transient period of faith in Egypt; from the Pharaohs and their many gods to the lasting dominance of the Abrahamic religions.

It's a neat theme: transience itself brings with it a sense of organic change and humanity, something that is often juxtaposed with Godly concepts like religion and faith - thus bringing a possible challenge to the sensibilities of most people of faith.

Otherwise it's the usual gallery of pottery, crafts and literature. The exhibition is on the small side, so could probably be combined with a tour of one of the museum's other rooms. Otherwise it's pretty standard fare that just falls short of a recommended visit.

Thursday, October 22

Food: Band of Burgers Click for more info

Move on, nothing to see here.

Okay fine. The food was good - I mean it was most certainly not the worst burger I've tried. Otherwise BoB was pretty much another in the long list of gourmet burger joints, this time in Camden.

Which reminds me, I really need to go back to Stax.

Wednesday, October 21

Film: Back to the Future Trilogy Click for more info

I'm not really one for "my favourite" questions. Ask me what my favourite song or country visited is and I wouldn't really know. The same goes for movies: the best I can answer that question is: "I don't have an ultimate favourite movie, but I know Back to the Future is in my top ten and I'm always able to watch it when it's on".

I was pretty young when Back to the Future was released here in the UK. What's striking is that I still remember the first time I had heard of the film: it was on a BBC breakfast show, and they showed the scene where a relatively unfamiliar Marty McFly creeps into a deserted house that is full of clocks, jacks up a huge speaker system and trashes himself and the home on his first riff. Now I knew the film was about time travel, but apart from the clocks on the wall there was nothing I saw in that scene that related to time or even science fiction. And yet, somehow, I knew I had to watch it. Another memory: Shreddies were running a promo for the film and I managed to collect at least three of the adventure books on offer.

And yet I don't quite remember if I had watched Back to the Future in the cinema. Parts 2 and 3 I do remember, and that vividly, but as it stood BttF was the one that would have always been relegated to the smaller screen. Until today, of course, the future day on which Marty and Doc arrive in part 2. When I heard that cinemas up and down the country were planning on playing not just one but all three films from the trilogy I just knew I had to see them.

Of course the films themselves are pretty perfect - and I don't think that's just nostalgia talking. There's just not much that comes out of a negative assessment of the films. For a start the soundtracks are perfect, with the main theme still making me well up each time I hear it. The screenplays are amongst the tightest I know - I can't think of any scene, shot or script going to waste, which is why even the previously intimidating six-plus hours we spent in that single sitting actually flew by. I never looked at my watch once. This lack of fat in films is most certainly a generational thing, but Back to the Future did the best out of its contemporaries.

Then there were the cast and characters. Doc Emmett Brown did inspire me to both science and science fiction; I shared the love of Jennifer Parker (both of them); I was simultaneously intimidated and allured by Lorraine Bains; and of course I wanted to be Marty McFly (and yes, I bought a skateboard). I over each viewing of the movies I learned all their lessons and experienced all their feelings.

As a genre Back to the Future tends to be mislabelled as science fiction. Now I'm not a movie buff, and most certainly am not in a position to override the more obvious and well established categorisation of the films, but I really don't think the primary driver of the films is sci-fi; in fact if anything they're really bad time travel movies. What these films are really about are the plots (of which there are sub-plots) and character development (of which there are many progressions). In that context time travel merely becomes a prop on which to hang themes of survival, interpersonal relationships and escape, of which it may have been possible to transpose all to a different story, but not at the same time. It's this genius that allows us to have a third part which is almost exclusively set in the Wild West but still fits in perfectly with the rest of the series. And of course it also allowed us to have a baddass flying DeLorean. And I have to admit, watching the three films back to back as a trilogy did have an enhancing effect - there were themes and references I didn't notice before, and an increased appreciation of part 3, which was previously considered by me to be the weakest.

It's a testament that the film is still going strong. It's difficult to see which films released this year we'll still be watching and talking about in three decades' time. On a personal note I'm glad I got a chance to revisit the trilogy in the cinema and then write about my love of the series. I do still hum the theme to myself often, I do still pretend to be driving a flying DeLorean or riding a skateboard, and I still get goosebumps each time my speedo hits 88mph (on private track days of course).

And after watching the trilogy my my opinion has actually changed; the trilogy is no longer one of my favourites but the favourite. In some ways it always has been, but I achieved the explicit realisation the moment I watched Marty McFly race down Main Street in a DeLorean toward a clock tower in order to consume a lightning strike that would send him home. All with a tear in my eye. If something that invokes that reaction is not something that can be considered the favourite I can't imagine what else could.

Tuesday, October 20

Book: HorrorStor, Grady Hendrix Click for more info

I tend not to read too much horror - I think the last time I really engaged with any was way back in the Point Horror days. But I cam across this novel (in paperback of all things!) and it seemed like an easy enough read so I thought I'd give it a try to see if it could convince me to explore the genre in more depth.

I think the first word that came to mind was trashy. Horrorstor isn't a very sophisticated read. The plot is daft, the characters one dimensional, and the writing accessible (which after two years of WoT is actually quite welcome). Overall the book is quite fun, both in its story of an Ikea-a-like store going crazy as well as how the physical volume itself resembles an Ikea catalogue, and since it's such a cheap read it's hard to knock it too much.

I wouldn't go as far as recommending it however, but if you have it and a few hours at hand you could probably do worse.

Food: Enoteca Super Tuscan Click for more info

I've been clamouring for Italian for a while now, so I was looking forward to visiting Super Tuscan this evening. I did approach with caution however; the place was primarily a wine bar after all, so there was a chance that the food could lack.

But my fears turned out to be unfounded and I found the place to be pretty decent. The food was good, if a little pricey for the portions and the place itself was intimate and comforting but where Super Tuscan really shone was with the service. The attention and care we received was pretty striking and well worth the entry fee alone - and yes fine I may have left with a bit of a crush on one of the waitresses.

The bill was a little surprising at £30, although I would suspect discerning vegetarians could get away with £25 for a three course meal. Despite the cost I'd still recommend it, and not just for the pretty waitress.

Sunday, October 18

Food: Souk Bazaar Click for more info

Sister to a previous place I've written about, Souk Bazaar is still a generic Moroccan restaurant that thinks it's more than it is. Despite the years that have passed and the change in location, the review is pretty much the same - the private lounge (accidentally) provided to the seven of us did lend itself to comfort and intimacy and a decent enough vibe, while the food was (literally) not much to write about. The star of the show for me was the tagine lamb with prunes, with both the meat and fruit doing their bits to make a pretty awesome dish.

Everything else was mediocre, but we were all well fed by the alleged seven portions of the set menu we collectively ordered. The price came to £12.50 (no drinks, but we did get tea and baklava included) which although in theory was a special offer, turned out to be a fitting cost for what we got.

So yes, like it's bigger sibling it's hard to make any recommendations here.

Wednesday, October 14

Book: Winter's Heart, Robert Jordan Click for more info

In real time, I've now hit the year 2000 or so in terms of when this book was released. I've written before how much of a time machine it feels reading through a series that spans so many decades of real life; of course this is more of a side observation than anything to do with the book per se.

The book itself marked a return to the more direct storytelling theme of the earlier volumes in the series; for sure it was long and there are still characters mentioned who I'm sure I'm supposed to know but seem like strangers to me. But that's okay - I've long since made peace with the fact that I'll never really follow what's going on 100%: I suspect one would need to read through the books at lest once more before that happens.

But plot wise it really was pretty straightforward, and hence a joy, to read. It almost felt like tons of distance was being covered - characters developed, plots progressed, and by the end of the book I didn't quite want it to end.

So that's nine down now, and for the first time since beginning the books I can actually see the end coming. It's exciting and poignant stuff and I both can't wait for and am apprehensive of the end.

Tuesday, October 13

Film: Sicario Click for more info

Even after having had some time to process it, I'm still unsure about how I feel about Sicario. The good is obvious - it has a solid yet pure and simple plot, it has a pedigree of talent to boast about (which for most of us watching meant Emily Blunt), and it's shot and edited brilliantly.

But there was something missing. Maybe a certain level of depth, or characterisation? Maybe the technically simple plot had a bit too much implied, making it all more hard work than it needed to be?

Whatever the case, it was enough to tarnish an otherwise brilliant film. It still gets a recommendation, but just not the one of "film of the year" strength I was hoping to give.

Monday, October 12

Film: Singh is Bliing Click for more info

Oh man. What a horrid film. It's not often that I actually regret having spent the time to watch a movie, but Bliing not only made me feel sad and ashamed about my life and how I'm spending it but has been the film most able to push me the closest to actually leaving it half way through.

Even Amy Jackson couldn't save this one. Awful awful awful. Avoid like the plague.

Sunday, October 11

Film: Hotel Transylvania 2 Click for more info

I can't say Hotel Transylvania 2 was ever on my watch list, but how often do you get the chance to watch an animated film at 11am on a Sunday morning?

That said, there wasn't much particularly amazing about the clash of culture story that this, the sequel, expands on. There are funny bits, there are sad bits, there are heart pulling bits. Cue credits.

Still, the nephew and niece seemed to enjoy it so I guess there's that.

Tuesday, October 6

Film: The Martian Click for more info

I like to think I'm immune to the whole "if you've read the book then you'll hate the film" reflex that most people describe as having. If a film sucks I think it would always have regardless of any personal experience I've had with its plot or characters - I understand that it's impossible to represent a full volume in the relatively small number of minutes available on screen, and I'm generally happy with the distillation most novels go through.

Which is why it's easy for me to say that The Martian was a good film. It was well made, coherent, engaging and thrilling at the same time. It's a pretty easy recommendation to make. It looked and played great, and I left being totally in love with Jessica Chastain.

But it's not a patch on the book. And I guess that's what's most disappointing really - that the pure genius and talent of the book has been left to its pages and that the majority of people who have watched the film will never know it. That makes me pretty sad.

So yes, I do recommend The Martian, the film. But I super recommend The Martian, the book and I implore that you all read that too.

Saturday, October 3

Food: Restaurant 92 Click for more info

Restaurant 92 was pretty much what was expected from another on site hotel restaurant. The food was of a standard high quality (if that makes any sense at all), the vibe suited to quiet but fun conversation and all the other little things that makes a evening out decent were lined up pretty well. More detail on the food: soups and smoke salmon starters were thoroughly enjoyed, with the (halal) chicken mains hitting the spot adequately.

There was a bit of a service failure with desserts, with us having to wait an astonishing 45 mins for our three items, but were one of the highlights when they eventually came. The Eton mess in particular was gorgeous. We eventually were offered all the desserts complimentary which was a neat touch considering.

Overall, we had a pleasant enough evening; but unfortunately for Restaurant 92 being pleasant in central London doesn't quite cut it.

Saturday, September 26

Food: Director's Cut Click for more info

I feel that I've been on a pretty good roll when it comes to food recently. I can't remember the last place I went to that I was truly disappointed with, and a lot of cynicism I had with regards to what's out there has dwindled as I swallowed one pleasant surprise after another. A lot of that cynicism was directed against identikit gourmet burger places and other hipster joints, but finding places like Stax and Uptown has taught me it's worth giving them a try.

Alas by its very nature luck cannot last forever, and I was always going to find myself complaining about a lame burger place sooner or later. And unfortunately that place appears to be Director's Cut.

The place was decent enough I suppose. Service was charming if a little confused, atmosphere was lacking (we were the only ones there), and the food was adequate at best - we chose not to stay for dessert. On the positive side the bill didn't break the £10 mark (after a 10% NHS discount) which is always impressive. But the true test of a place is whether we'd see ourselves there again and in this case the "no" was pretty unanimous.

Friday, September 25

Food: Steak & Co Click for more info

Another steak restaurant and another qualification that no, I'm not actually that big a fan of steak. The exceptions have been pretty rare (bdum tish) - an Argentinian in Buenos Aires for example, or halal ostrich in Capetown - but given the choice I'll always choose the convenience of a burger over a slab of filleted meat. The point being that if I do actually like an offered steak then I must have found it special. Now it's easy to argue that the steak served today was more gimmick than substance, but I'm not sure that it was. But wait a second: I'm skipping ahead.

The novelty at Steak & Co is in the presentation of your food. It all starts when ordering - My medium rare was downgraded to a rare, while my colleagues' well dones were substituted for mediums. This was for our own good, as the steaks themselves are presented on a steak stone hot enough to cook the meat further to your exact taste. You're given butter and seasoning too, so it really does become quite the involved experience.

Now my initial reaction when presented with the concept resembled a little bit of denial - I don't cook at home so it would be almost perverse to do so while eating out. I even asked if we could do away with the hook and just get the chef to cook the steak. Luckily the look of disbelief given to me by the server convinced me to give the experience a try and I'm actually glad that I did.

Leave aside the novelty of eating meat you've prepared yourself, I do actually think cooking the meat myself added something to the taste and texture of the steak. Without even really realising it, I was experimenting with different amounts of butter, seasoning and time on the stone, meaning each bite was quite unique. Of course I'd be fooling myself if I ignored the fact that most of it was due to the preparation in the kitchen, but I do genuinely believe that the hot stone thing made a good steak great.

Along with drinks and dessert the bill came to a healthy £25 per head which isn't the cheapest meal, especially considering I had to cook it myself (that's a joke. Maybe). But overall I would recommend Steak & Co over some of the other more popular steak options out there.

Saturday, September 19

Food: The Bermondsey Square Hotel Click for more info

If you haven't already figure it out, one of the main sources of restaurant discovery for a particular group of social eaters I dine with is cost: we regularly avail ourselves of offers, Gourmet Card listings and budget dining. That's not to say we will lower ourselves to dirty chicken; oh no, some of the places we get to visit can only be described as gems.

Take this, the on-site restaurant of the Bermondsey Square Hotel. It's quiet, intimate, offers great service and allowed our arty of 8 or so to enjoy a pretty decent evening of good conversation and food. I stuck to the fish and chips which turned out to be a pretty solid choice, but I did sample some quiche and squid. Desserts were more than adequate too.

The price came to a hearty £12 or so, which was a bargain considering. Still it's a little difficult to recommend going out of your way for; but if you happened to be lost in Bermondsey and needed something to eat I'm sure you could do much worse.

Tuesday, September 15

Film: The Visit Click for more info

Ah, Shyamalan. Having enjoyed perhaps a couple of his films I've quite confident in my opinion of him being a bit of an overrated filmmaker, albeit one who is able to pander to the plebs. But Unbreakable and The Village did prove that I could enjoy the stuff he made - and if anything there is enough there to convince me to give him a chance when I can.

The Visit is his latest flick and a return to his more esoteric style of story telling. As always the premise is very simple - two children decide to spend a week with the estranged grandparents whom they have never met. As is par the course with a Shyamalan film anything more than that is certain to spoil, so I'll stop the recap there. The film is very funny though, quite possibly Shyamalan's funniest.

What I can tell you is that the talent in the film is pretty tremendous. I'm still struggling to decide who exactly stole the show for me, but the two kids and the grandmother gave some wonderful performances - the film is worth going to see just for them.

So yes, I can definitely add The Visit to the short list of Shyamalan films that I like, and so it goes away with a sold recommendation to watch.

Friday, September 11

A Brimful of Asha Click for more info

For those of us perpetually on the same, it's always compelling and relevant to listen to someone recount their own story about being on "the hunt". The twist in this tale was that the story was told not only by the protagonist Ravi, but also with his mother, the titular Asha.

I guess the main hook here is the sheer charm of the whole thing. Asha (or "aunty" as I feel compelled to call her) is genuine and authentic, right down to the inevitable mistakes, missed lines and awkwardness on stage she warns the audience about. By its very conversational nature the fourth wall is constantly stripped down, and it becomes quite difficult (in a pleasant way I suppose) to figure out what's real, what's fiction and what's improvised. In fact, it's Ravi's clear experience on the stage which sometimes detracts from the whole thing, as his performance repeatedly reminds us that ultimately he is an actor on a stage.

Otherwise it's a pretty typical story - set a fair few years ago Ravi's parents want their son to get married and are happy to resort to the ol' emotional and physical blackmail to do it, the son refusing to marry for anything other than romance and love. It was a bit of a biased story toward the latter - the cynical side of me saw it as mere pandering to a progressive audience (I, of course, finding myself agreeing mostly with aunty). The fact that Ravi admits he did get married a year after the story was set kind of explained a lot and ultimately detracted from the potency of the message; but hey it is only a play after all.

Very funny and touching, I'd recommend A Brimful of Asha - it's playing for a very limited time here in London so catch it while you can.

Food: Woody Grill Click for more info

It's hard to place Woody Grill. On the one hand it's a typical turkish kebab grill place - it serves the same kebabs, kofte and skewers that they all do. It has the vibe of a greasy local, yet the franchise does also shine through too.

So instead of trying to box the place in a category I'l talk about the food: solid, tasty, clean there wasn't much more for us to ask for when we received our kebabs. It was cheap to boot, with a generous dish with fries coming to £7 or so.

It's hard to recommend Woody Grill as a place to actually set out to visit, but as a pre-theatre quick win, it, uh, quickly won.

Friday, September 4

Food: Roti Chai Click for more info

For most in London the faddy Indian cafe scene pretty much amounts to one choice: Dishoom, a place that serves good food at a decent price, but also a place that is not without the flaws that come with manufactured trendiness (in short, bad service and a certain clientèle). It's a shame because apart from these almost dealbreakers Dishoom could be a great place.

But it turns out that there are alternatives: Roti Chai is a little more underground, a lot more classy and overall a lot better for it. You get to keep the great food, swap out the stressed service and enjoy a meal in a more chilled out atmosphere. To qualify, we stuck with the upstairs - the "street cafe" as opposed to the the main dining downstairs so the vibe may have had a lot to do with that. It's also worth noting that a new branch has opened in Canary Wharf... so yeh.

Speaking of food, we kind of had a scattergun approach to ordering - highlights included the buns (chicken beat kebab), the chicken lollipops and lamb curry, all deceptively portioned but ultimately generous. The bill came to a slightly expensive £17 per head, but I guess that's the price to pay for avoiding the lah lahs.

Monday, August 31

The Barton, Poughill Click for more info

I've written before (here and here) about the accessibility of holiday homes in the UK. If done correctly they really can be magnificently quick wins in terms of time, planning and cost. That ease in logistics however does place more of a burden on other parts of the holiday - there isn't usually a lot to do in and around the countryside so it pays to prepared.

Luckily there are plenty of options to fill the time these days. Boardgames and good old fashioned conversation are the staples, but as the future keeps getting closer we now have streaming sticks, tablets and portable videogames to add to the list. We had all these as well as a cricket bat, and so thinking back I can't really remember a bored moment in the converted barn we called home this weekend. We were staying on a farm so had some stock to checkout, although chickens and sheep do get boring after the first minute or so.

Although there is plenty to do in Devon, it's a big place and we happened to find ourselves in a pretty secluded corner of it. Still after a bit of research we did head out a few times to see what we could find to do. Canonteign Falls was probably the biggest attraction in the vicinity, although we did choose to stop our visit after seeing from afar what claims to be the highest falls in England. Torquay was then the closest seafront; it was a bit of a shock to the senses to be honest with what I imagined it to be contrasting sharply with reality.

Finally we also spent sometime aimlessly wondering around Exeter University. Now ordinarily I'd be quite excited to hang out in a uni (cough splutter) except it was a Sunday during the Summer close and so pretty much deserted. Still we did manage to get into the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies which was kind of cool.

The biggest theme of the weekend however had to be the food. Whether it was lunch or dinner, we were very well looked after. I can't of course, lay claim to any of the credit but considering it was all top notch and came to £20 per person over the three nights it couldn't not be the biggest success of the weekend away.

So yes, Devon is nice, but if anyone is thinking of going it might pay to check out what's going on in the area.

Sunday, August 23

A Matter Of Procedure

If my blog was an actor, it'd probably be unshaven and drunk on a park bench somewhere. And that pretty much sums up the way I feel about writing these anniversary posts, this one marking the eleventh year (heck, the fact that I'm actually writing this on the 13th of September says a lot really). I wouldn't describe it as dread; more indifference I suppose. Kind of like having to talk to that aunty from Pakistan on the phone.

But principles and etiquette do matter and as strange as it sounds I do feel I owe this place at least one explicit acknowledgement per year. Whether that's to remember the past or maybe even give some self encouragement to start writing again in the future it just feels like the right thing to do.

It's telling that the "blog" folder in my newsreader goes weeks without any new items. The web feels like it's becoming less so in it's adolescence, and I guess ultimately it's the anti-establishment, self-righteousness that drives me to write even the more inane posts here. The fact that those personal blogs that I still produce content rank amongst the richest I read. So yes, "in my day" it really was better, and spending the time to write and remember that in such a meta way seems important.

On the other hand if I really did care I'd write more - it's just easier not to. But hey, only a few years left till retirement, maybe I can pick it up again then.

Friday, August 14

Food: Uptown Burger Co. Click for more info

Despite previously complaining about the abundance of so called gourmet burger joints here in London, I have since found The One that is my favourite, the rest now forgotten. On the other hand, good food is good food and a good burger is still a good burger and it's always handy to have options, especially if they're close to home. Uptown Burger manages to do just that, providing a solid option for those in my part of town.

Simplicity seems to be the key with Uptown - the menu is very straight forward and maybe even limiting for some (they don't even offer dessert which I found amusing). The combinations on offer appeared to be pretty unique, with jerk sauces, pineapples and a clutch of dill pickle variations on offer. Prices were also pretty decent - we snuck in at under a tenner per head for a shared starter and burger each and came away pretty satisfied with what we got for that. Service and the level of cleanliness were also sufficient.

Tidy and intimate, Uptown is definitely a place I'll check out again for a quick local bite. Recommended.

Wednesday, August 5

Film: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Click for more info

Ho hum. I guess it's probably asking too much to expect anything different, but nevertheless I did go into seeing this with some level of anticipation. But there really were no surprises here: we got good action, some funny bits, a pretty prominent (perhaps even overly so?) Simon Pegg and an insurmountable enemy that would stretch the IMF even further than last time.

So no, Rogue Nation wasn't a bad film per se, just not a very memorable one. Still, for a franchise that's hitting 20 years (yes, that's right, TWENTY years) that's a pretty impressive feat in itself.

Tuesday, August 4

Food: Doner Kebab Click for more info

First of all, major kudos to any restaurant for being able to grab a name like that. It's like calling a pizza place, well, Pizza.

Other than that the premise is a bit of a strange one. Doner Kebabs are supposed to be cheap, of dubious quality and in some cases even dirty. Trying to clean them up and add a little class is ambitious at best; to then go ahead and charge for that was always going to be a challenge.

But still, we gave it a go and I have to admit that it almost worked. The place was clean, the service excellent and the food good - in fact it was one of the best doner kebabs I have tried. The unfortunate thing then is that "the best kebab" isn't actually saying much, and despite enjoying the meal it was still painful to pay the 8 quid or so for the privilege. It's just not scalable I'm afraid.

Saturday, August 1

Food: Kasaba

Trying to remain objective can be a bit of a curse - take for example a world where generic Turkish grills really are everywhere: a place like Kasaba doesn't really add much value. And yet I still have to take time out of my busy life to log its existence because, you know, it qualifies as a new restaurant.

Okay, I suppose for those living in and around the Gants Hill area it's probably worth knowing about. And the food wasn't bad, just not really original. Service was decent if a bit rushed and I suppose it was nice having the shop front fully open on the warm August day that we visited.

But still, really, there's nothing novel or new to see here. I may as well point out where the local tube station is (it's right outside the restaurant).