Oh my, what a train wreck this film was. It was too long, too boring and too stingy with the payoff, and so... normal it felt like a waste of an Orange Wednesday voucher.
I think my main issue is with the identity crisis the film goes through. It just doesn't know what it wants to be - apart from different from other Supermen perhaps. The trouble is that it seems to have gone a little too far. Okay, the disdain for shaky-cam and super-zoom might be just my personal gripe, but if I wanted to watch a apocalyptic sci-fi disaster movie I would have picked one. And really, don't get me started on the dodgy editing. Here's a tip, movie makers: explicit will always trump implied action.
I've heard some reviews make that now typical and elitist justification for bad re-imaginings like this, that only real fans will "get it". Well perhaps I'm not a real fan, but I'm hardly a Batman or Marvel expert either that didn't stop me from enjoying The Dark Knight or The Avengers multiple times. I see niche appeal as a flaw, not a strength, and if you need some kind of affinity with a subject to enjoy a film I don't see that as a good thing.
So no, no recommendations here. Perhaps it's one to wait for the DVD of; just skip to chapter 10 or so and you might just get to see a decent superhero movie.
Wednesday, June 19
Oh my, what a train wreck this film was. It was too long, too boring and too stingy with the payoff, and so... normal it felt like a waste of an Orange Wednesday voucher.
Sunday, June 16
Okay I admit it - the main reason I ate here was because it's as close as I'm going to get to having a restaurant named after me. But egotistical decision making aside, it did turn out to be a relatively good choice with some pretty decent burger and fries accompanying a solid milkshake and pretty heavenly red velvet ice cream dessert. My only criticisms are that it was a bit on the small side - in hindsight I should have just gone for the double - and maybe a little unexciting in terms of taste. I'm also not sure how much it all cost exactly but I suspect it wasn't as budget as the McDonald's next door.
But it wasn't bad at all, and I'll definitely be checking out the new branch opening soon in my own home town (halal permitting of course).
So yes, I've totally given up on having any kind of morning during my stay here. On the bright side today apparently has much less to prepare for than last night. After picking up some flowers from a shop accompanying a mandir (the place to get flowers from apparently), we made our way to the venue.
Most of the afternoon was spent hanging out with the bridal party while everyone got ready, joking around and watching the Disney Channel. The wedding itself was great: simple yet elegant and beautiful - pretty much like the host family. And poignant - both for the typical wedding reasons of a bride leaving her home but also for the fact that the reason I had even come to Dubai was coming to an end.
Amazingly we managed to break all records and finally sit to eat at around three, the hall being dismantled around us while we dined. It was great.
And the night didn't end before delivering another first for me - Halal MacDonald's at 3:45am. As my friend-cum-babysitter said to me, this was as close to clubbing as it was going to get for us.
Saturday, June 15
I have a feeling that the late end last night will set the pace of the holiday these next few days - it wasn't even an official wedding event or anything.
After just about getting up for Jummah, we headed off to the venue for tonight's mehndi. I really want to say I went to help but it was just more chilling and dossing for me really - still, it was nice to be involved.
The mehndi itself was bags of fun, and I'm shocked by how late events can run here. It was all (and I'm including my flight fare in that too) worth it for the dancing though. There were four tracks from Yeh Jeewani Hai Deewani for heaven's sake.
Oh and I'm sure you can all guess by now what the soundtrack of this holiday was for me.
Friday, June 14
It's not like I totally hate Dubai but I definitely don't understand why so many people come here for holidays. I guess Sun, sand and halal McDonald's just isn't quite enough for me. I can see why the whole crossing of cultures appeals - even though I not so secretly see that as a clichéd manifestation of identity crises.
And yet this marks the third time that I've visited here. I managed to pretty much exhaust the tourist trail on my first visit, and so it's quite telling that two out of the three visits have been so I can attend weddings. You see the thing is that although I don't feel Dubai as a geographical place, I (and I say this without reservation) love the people here - and as I found out almost a decade ago weddings are a wonderful, brilliant way to hang out with them.
So even though it was massively fun on this, my first day here, it was kind of expected that I would hang in parlours while ladies got their make-up tested, learn to sew sequins on a dupatta, be taught dance steps to Balam Pichkari and end up driving almost the height of Dubai at 3am in a tank of a 4x4 that passes as normal in these parts. This is why I came.
The truth is that I had only decided to come less than a week ago, and that only after the invite had literally dropped through my letterbox. I still don't quite believe that I left work on Wednesday to take the night flight that got me here this morning.
And already it's a decision I'm utterly glad to have made. Spontaneity rocks - who knew?
Saturday, June 8
In a time when chicken shops have become pretty ubiquitous, it's nice to see something a little different. Handmade beefburgers with a selection of sauces? Yes. Good value? Yes. Decent service? Yes. A clean looking restaurant? Yes.
These things alone make BBQ Express unique in the world of cheap fast food, but it really helped that the food tasted good too. For the sake of impartiality I will say that I might have had a few issues the next day, but I'm hoping hard that it wasn't BBQ Express - I guess I'll confirm that the next time I go, which I think will be very soon.
Tuesday, June 4
At first there isn't much not to like about YJHD. It was cute, fun and oh so pretty. We're talking an FGF of at least 50 here. After a while however I begun to see the film for what it was: insubstantial, with a loose plot hanging on charm, chemistry and a most awesome soundtrack (really - there's only one song I don't really like on it).
And not that it's at all relevant, but (music numbers aside) Deepika really didn't look as droolworthy as she otherwise always does. To be frank she was almost mortal, but I'm just going to put that down to bad make-up. Oh but I do have to give a special mention to the gravity defying single strapped sari blouse though. Purely from an academic perspective of course.
So standard Bollywood then? Well yes; and ultimately it was a film that did suck me in like a cheap drug. But you know what? I'm not even ashamed in admitting that here.
Friday, May 31
At first glance (or at least, taste) there isn't much too spectacular about Qasida. The Turkish food is adequate if a little bland and dry, the novelty private rooms are way too cramped and impractical and Whitechapel is hardly the sexiest of locations. We hedged our bets and shared multiple mixed grills, and as I've already mentioned there wasn't much to write home about. At £15 per head the price was on par if not a little cheap. The place looked okay too, with a simple and clean vibe that made it seem like the food equivalent of an Ikea store.
But where this place lacks in other aspects, it easily knocks it out of the park when it came to service. We were just very well looked after - almost to a point where the constant attention seemed a little imposing. A mini prayer room - eventually to be expanded to a 200 person space - as well as a planned crèche manned by two primary school teachers (which although slightly troubles me in principle is definitely novel) also manage to convey the impression that Qasida is more than just about the food.
But alas food is what makes a restaurant and without that the impact of everything else does drop. Which is a shame because if the kitchen did receive a bit more attention I can see this place becoming a decent solid option for a quick and easy dinner out.
Wednesday, May 29
Sunday, May 26
The first adjectives I think when trying to describe Amena are "class" and "poise". Unlike some of her sistas in society Amena seems to have managed to steer clear of bad manners, bad humour and bad language and as a result we're left with that well mannered and well spoken classic lady type which is oh-so-rare nowadays. This is important to note (and applaud) as it's a very rare quality in an age where loudness and vulgarity seem to acceptable (and even popular) traits for boys and girls to have.
That's not to say Amena's not a laugh; she just happens to be hilarious in a decent way - and usually all at her own expense. This self-deprecating humility comes not from insecurity but from smarts - but she will also know exactly how to humour her friends without being patronising about it. You're never offended by anything Amena has to say - and even then she's always quick to accept her mistakes and apologise for them. In short there is no shortage of emotional intelligence here.
As the co-creator of the phrase "HBD", she's also a prime example of how we are all responsible for the way we feel and perceive things. I don't think I've ever heard her complain about the cards she's been dealt, again a very unique attitude in a world where it's more normal for us to demand what we're apparently owed. And she can bake, which is always a bonus.
I briefly met Mohiyuddin today, and it was clear from quite early on how much of an all round nice guy he is. Responsible and easy going, he seems to know exactly how to treat the people around him be they new introductions (like us) or old friends or, of course, family. I have no doubt that both will give each other their dues and it's this that makes them such a wonderful couple.
 actually it was I who created this term, but the context of this post doesn't permit me to state that apart from in a footnote.
Saturday, May 25
Some books are harder work than others. For instance, the series I had been reading for the past year (A Song of Ice and Fire) was almost a pleasure to read - not much was missed and it was just easy to absorb; albeit without sacrificing depth or complexity.
Then you have a book like Baudolino, a book that, well, made me feel a little thick. I think I must have only taken in around 70% of the story - there were times when I had no idea where the characters were, or how they got there... or even who they were. And on completion I still don't know where some of the main protagonists came from.
For me the problems came from both the pacing of the book (the friend who loaned me it aptly described it as "meandering") as well as the assumption that the reader understood the politics of thirteenth century Italy and Christendom. I found this lack of connection a little frustrating at first, but after a while I soon warmed to the book and was able to enjoy it despite the holes in my understanding of it.
The book itself (or at least the bits I engaged with) is pretty good. It's essentially a biography of the fictional Baudolino, from childhood all the way to old age, and explores themes of dogma, moral corruption and self justification of obviously bad acts like lying on a grand scale. It's actually a very good lesson on how perception can become reality, and by the end of the book you begin to understand and share the in-joke the author himself is playing on you, the reader - which kind of explains why you have to throw your objectivity out of the window if you want to really enjoy this book. The multiple disparate characters bring tons to the book, and are well laid out in contrast to each other - although they might not be that deep themselves, as a collective they generate bags of characterisation.
Overall though, although I don't have any regrets in reading it, Baudolino was a slog to get through. But although it wasn't completely to my taste it was enjoyable enough and I am sure that others might appreciate even more the journey they share with him.
Wednesday, May 22
Sometimes it's really hard to assess something you've seen. Maybe it's some magic ingredient that's missing or perhaps it's just the mood in which you were when you saw it, but there are times when your head doesn't quite agree with your heart and you don't know why.
Melodrama aside, I'm not exactly sure why I didn't enjoy Into Darkness as much as I should have. I mean it had some great visuals, excellent acting and the plot was good enough (but not amazing). It could have been because I was coming down from watching the amazing Fast 6 (and yes, I have no right to mention that here, but that was a great film).
Thinking about it further I do start forming some conclusions: technically, the pacing was well off; it was almost as if the beginning merged headlong into the climax, and there's something unsatisfying about a payload that gets delivered in that way. But a bigger problem that that was how it just didn't feel like Star Trek; it was all too nice, too easy... too sterile. The ancillary characters were a bit too ancillary, the locations way too incidental and all the reasons why I watching ST so obsessively over the years just weren't there, or at least weren't there enough.
But it is a good film (and chances are I would have been a little more forgiving had I not watched that other one on Monday), and I do recommend it. I guess I just expected a little more from my three-yearly does of Starfleet.
Monday, May 20
Oh my, this was a brilliant film. I won't even attempt to justify that claim by talking about the plot or the acting - if you've seen any previous instalments of the franchise you'll already know where you'll stand when it comes to the film as art.
But in terms of cars, bang and wallop Fast 6 has spades of the stuff. I'm actually struggling to think of a moment where it sat still. It was funny, loud and so, so much fun. Gal Gadot adds tons to the film too.
But that's not even to say this was a mindless popcorn flick - there were so many "Oh my god" moments, so many "Oh, snap!" exclamations, so many coverings of the mouth in awe that I felt like a cheerleader at times. And now it seems I am gushing.
Definitely recommended - and without doubt my film of the year so far.
Saturday, May 18
"Back in the 80s and 90s, if you brought a date to the Hispaniola it would pretty much be a done deal."
Not that it mattered much to me (of course), but this was the tagline that was prescribed to us in the week coming to the birthday party we were to have in this place. Leaving aside the graphic detail (chi chi), the sentiment is sound in theory - what could be more romantic than a meal on an, albeit permanently moored, boat on the Thames?
It certainly was novel, that's for sure. I mean sure, I've lost count of the number of times I've eaten on a boat, but there was something different about this place, this setting. It could have been the Thames, but more likely it was the fact that this was restaurant first and boat second. Perhaps that's why the rocking was so unsettling (and for some of us, nauseating). Buyers beware then, although I suspect it's better on the outside deck where you know you're on the water. I'd also suggest heading out there if you did actually happen to bring a date. It'd pretty much be a done deal.
Due to our party size we went for the set menu which allowed us to pick one, two or three courses (yes, you could just have dessert) from a more-limited-than-usual selection - even more so for the majority of the table, who just happened to be Muslim. It said a lot that almost all of us ordered exactly the same starter (a salmon dish) and main (fish and chips).
Points were scored by the restaurant when they mixed up a fresh batch of ale-free batter, but immediately lost when the salmon starter came without the potato pancakes that were described. The well fought for table salads in compensation didn't save them, but at least the food was good. A good selection of dessert ended a pretty well rounded meal, food wise.
But otherwise service was adequate, and I have to say I quite enjoyed the live piano too - the inevitable happy birthday ditty went way beyond the call of duty.
So yes, a decent enough night out, for a decent enough price - most paid £20 for three courses - and assuming you did actually get what you wanted out of it (wink wink, nudge nudge), that's pretty good value there. For the rest of us who are just going for the food and dining experience, I would say that there are plenty of other options out there for a fancy night out.
Sunday, May 12
You know, I thought I was done with generic Indians. Yes, in my even-less-imaginative-than-I-am-now days, I wouldn't have even thought of going to anywhere else than a curry house for a dinner out, but since discovering that London has so much more to offer than boring yet solid baltis, barring a few exceptions I tend to experience a much wider range of cuisines each month. And yes, full qualification here: I wouldn't have even tried Caraway if I hadn't been given some vouchers to use there.
I'll start with the good. Which is pretty much just the food - it was actually pretty good. The meat was well cooked, the flavours bursting, the mango lassi just about refreshing enough to pass. If food is why you go out to eat, then you won't be disappointed with Caraway. Oh and the place itself was clean and well presented.
However the place does fall short in other aspects; mainly in the customer service department. Having to eat on a clock doesn't really make for a great dining experience, as doesn't the inflexibility around how or when I was able to use my gift voucher. Don't get me wrong - I'm all for rules and discipline, but it doesn't take much to realise that fancy restaurants are actually in the hospitality industry, and in the hospitality industry service means more than food.
The bill came to a total of 70 quid or so which I thought was a bit too much considering what we ordered, but then on the other hand the portions were generous so perhaps we over ordered. But alas at the end of the day Caraway is just another generic Indian, which is actually a bit of a shame as it has the groundings to be so much more.
Saturday, May 11
Friday, May 10
It shows how long it's been since I last visited a place when it doesn't appear in my blog. But I have been to Momo's before, which I suppose is a good indication of how memorable it is. The romance starts before you even get there - tucked away in a corner behind Regent's Street, it almost feels like a little secret part of London that only a few know of.
Which of course is silly, particularly after you see how busy it can get there. The occasion today was a long overdue get together with some university mates - a good test to see how amicable and accessible a restaurant can be. Top marks to Momo then, as we found it pretty easy to regress to a bunch of rowdy and loud students sitting around the perfectly sized round table in the corner of the place. I express the detail here because it really is important.
Service had few complaints - perhaps the constant reminders that we had to be out by 9pm or the threat of a fine for a no show while booking left a sour taste in the mouth - but that was soon forgotten once we got the food. I rarely rave about meat but tonight I got to taste some of the most succulent chicken and melt-in-the-mouth lamb I'll have this year.
Cost wise, we had to pay around 25 quid per head (for just the food, excluding drinks) which was of adequate value considering we shared all our dishes. It was a very satisfying night out overall, and perfect for act of rediscovering friendships.
Wednesday, May 1
I'm not sure why, but this is a comic that struck me a little. I'm not even sure I understand it all to be honest.
Perhaps it's the whole anti-capitalism vibe? Or just how it rings with the attitudes I encounter during the more "significant meetings" I have in life? It's interesting how, given a new perspective on things, we realise how much of the stuff we universally take for granted is man-made.
Tuesday, April 30
Even Tony Stark wasn't able to forget last year's The Avengers - it was almost like he was admitting that nothing was going to match up to that juggernaut of a movie. And alas he was correct as this didn't leave that fresh comic book taste as other Marvel films have in recent times. Of course it was fun and had some very cool set pieces... it just wasn't fulfilling enough, something that very could have been because we're all so spoiled now. I do think that the first two were better though.
RDJ was pretty good of course, but otherwise this is one for DVD night.
Wednesday, April 24
Although I've come across many of 1st Ethical's leaflets (mainly in my local mosque) this was the first time I was attending any of their seminars, and I have to say I was pretty impressed. This was in part due to learning about the work that they do, but mainly because of our host this evening, Imam Mohammad Abid Khan. He almost effortlessly led us through the basics of Islam's take on wills and inheritance, giving us a solid understanding of the stuff that will cover most use cases.
I think for me was Imam Khan's ability to engage both the topic and the audience. He managed to talk about the issues on deeper than usual level, both by filling out all the assumptions a typical audience would usually make as well as avoiding the canned reasoning and lip service you'd find elsewhere. That's not to say that the material was overly academic or dry; on the contrary, the real value came from how accessible he made it all.
Of course as usual it was the audience who got in the way of the talk running smoothly, with various digressive questions being thrown in at each slide. I reckon a format with the questions at the end would have allowed Imam Khan to have flowed at a decent pace, but then the interactions did make it more engaging I guess.
So yes, although a lot of what was covered was basic I certainly left the talk feeling empowered. I'd definitely be interested in attending a 1st Ethical seminar again.
Friday, April 19
Wednesday, April 17
So this is interesting. I first visited Chaudhry's as a guest of a wedding party a few weeks ago and I have to say that I rather enjoyed my visit there back then. The food was good in terms of quality, taste and (most important for a buffet) the variety, and it made enough of an impression to get me to go back with friends in tow.
Except this time the experience was a little off. The food was merely okay, and the range a little stunted, although apparently this was by design as the servers explained how they have a different layout for the weekend. Bummer, but at least that explains the price difference depending on what day you visit.
Today the entry cost £11, which is hardly worth fussing over considering. Drinks were a little extortionate at £9 for a jug of okayish Mango Lassi, and the few desserts were nothing to write home about. On the other hand the place was clean and service more than adequate.
Whether or not you should go depends on what day you're planning to then: definitely avoid Chaudhry's on the weekdays but you might get lucky on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night.
(Part 2, here)
It seems pretty surreal how I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire almost a year to the day (it was actually the 3rd of April when I did), but here I am, finally, at the end of all the books that have been written so far. And I am sad. Sad because there's nothing else to read from the land of Westeros (right now). Sad because the habit I've formed over the past year has abruptly come to an end. And finally, sad because there's only two more books to go. Frankly I'm confused as to how such a classic isn't finished yet. This wasn't the case for Narnia or LOTR.
This latest one (the fifth, just in case you're struggling) is by far the largest yet - which is probably why it had been split into two here in the UK (as I refuse to believe it was to spin money). It isn't actually the best book, but that's not saying much in a series of this calibre. Sure, reading all of them in such quick succession may have spoiled me a little, and if I'm honest I'm not quite sure where one ends and the other begins, but so much was crammed in Dragons that it all felt a little too thinly spread at times.
But still, it's a pivotal book in the Ice and Fire saga and therefore by implication a must read. Totally recommended. And now we wait for number six.
Tuesday, April 9
Now here's a little gem, apparently known to all but me. Kind of like Waga's but with Thai food, and so much better, I'm left wondering why I haven't checked it out before.
Good food, dodgy square tables (really, what are they thinking?) and a decent bill of £16.50 per head including drinks makes Busaba interesting enough to have found its way into my list of staple places to go to when you can't be bothered to find anywhere new to check out.
Friday, April 5
Now I'm pretty sure I've been to this place before - being only a few doors down from the seminal Guanabana, it would have served as a solid alternative at least once in the past few years. Either way, there's no reference on my blog so tonight gave me the opportunity to correct that oversight.
Pan Asian is a vague and ambiguous term. I would probably say the food was mainly Korean, with some fusion of the adjoining countries chucked in. Then again I generally don't really care about the origins of the tastes I'm experiencing - wherever this stuff comes from it was quite good.
The starters more so than the mains - the chicken wings were sublime, the tofu excellent. The mains weren't too bad either, myself going for the soft bun sandwiches... but if I do go again I will probably just stick with more starters.
The bill came to £22 per head even after we skipped dessert. I found this to be pretty pricey considering the overall experience, and that is a bit of a shame. Still, if we follow the trick of sticking to starters then this could turn out to be much more of a classic place to eat.
Thursday, April 4
Saturday, March 30
Friday, March 22
It goes to show how limitless the food options in London are when I get to check out yet another unvisited hotel restaurant. One08 is the name (clever, as it sits at 108 Marylebone Lane), with The Marylebone Hotel being the enclosure this time around.
The place was dark (in a good way) and intimate, with us getting a perfectly sized round table for five. For the Muslim there weren't many options on the already limited menu; between us we exhausted the starter options and we had to ask the chef to adapt the beer battered fish and chips; they were happy to do this and the grilled version of the dish wasn't too bad.
We were using a Top Table offer to get 50% off our food bill, and it all came to around £16 a head which was fair enough value, but not so much had we paid full whack. On this basis the place gets a recommendation I suppose, but if you have to book a place then you're better off going elsewhere.
But in this instance the story doesn't quite end there. After pointing out a piece of bacon that was found in one of our otherwise vegetarian salads, we were well looked after when it came to paying the bill. It's probably bad form to say exactly how we were made to feel better, but they did pull out the stops to do so and that very quickly. It's not the kind of service I'm used to seeing, and although it could be argued that it shouldn't have happened in the first place it's impressive that they made the effort to correct their mistake - enough at least for me to note it here and send a thank you email afterwards.