Saturday, June 30

Food: The Savoy River Restaurant Click for more info

Possibly one of the fancier places I've been to in a while, the River Restaurant certainly starts to impress well before you even get there, the Savoy itself being pretty darned lush and decadent. Of course the service that comes with such a place is also of a high standard too, with all being immediately polite and accommodating - particularly since this was actually a surprise party of 12 people.

As usual we stuck to the set menu, myself going for the chicken and mango starter (the meat and chicken are halal), the salmon main and the apple tart dessert. If I'm totally honest I was only really taken with the dessert, with the other dishes being well under the par I had experienced in other hotel restaurants recently.

The disappointment in food made the bill of £37 per person even more of a sting - if I factor in character and service of the place I would call that a fair price, so I guess it's up to the individual to decide what they value in a restaurant. For me though I would say it's not really something I would choose to go to too often and doesn't quite get the same recommendation alternatives would.

Friday, June 29

Katie, Freed

I'm sure all of you would have heard the amazing, yet sadly unsurprising, news by now. Of course, I'm not the kind of guy to say "I told you so", so instead I shall link you to all my commentary on the whole saga:

28th April, 2005: I Have Straight(ish) Teeth Too

11th June, 2005: Link of the Day

6th January, 2006: Link(s) of The Day

13 December, 2007: Katie Holmes In No More Babies With Tom Shocker!

Being a mature gentleman, I am of course still able to express affection for dear Katie. Just so she knows. If she's reading.

City Circle: Ten Things You Should Know About Happiness Click for more info

First of all: yikes! Has it really been that long since I last came to City Circle? Crazy stuff. Still, it was pretty poignant seeing the place again - some things had changed, a lot yet hadn't really.
But yes, seeing as my days as a pseudo-regular attendee are long gone, it took something a little more than the usual to grab my attention. And this was it: a talk on how to be happy, a topic I've covered a little here on this blog and elsewhere (in reality). I admit it: I didn't really come for guidance, but more for vindication.

Ajmal Masroor is a Cool Enough Dude. He's concise and accessible, although I wouldn't really call him "one of us" quite yet. A lot of what he says is common sense and he didn't really surprise today either, pretty much telling us all stuff we should have already known. In brief, here are those ten things:

  1. Happiness is all around us already (or, be happy with your lot, there is always someone worse off).
  2. Happiness is not found in material gain.
  3. Happiness comes from within.
  4. A content heart is vital to be happy.
  5. A happy person is one of sound character.
  6. A happy person shares their happiness, their wealth, their time.
  7. Happiness stems from true and meaningful relationships.
  8. Happiness is correlated with simplicity.
  9. Happiness comes from serving others.
  10. Those who celebrate life are happy.

I may have paraphrased a little but you get the picture. The talk was a good one and it was good to have attended.

I left the talk after Masroor was done, hoping to avoid the inevitable annoyance brought by an inane Q&A (see? I know how to be happy); it's a little depressing that the majority of people will miss the point of what was being said.

No, you don't have to point out the irony in that.

Saturday, June 23

Food: Nabrasa Click for more info

Ah but it should have been so much better. Go on, take a look at the website yourself. This was supposed to solve all of the problems we had with Cabana; a fully halal menu and an "all you can eat" pricing structure getting rid of all any fear of racking up a high bill.

But to be honest Nabrasa was all it claimed to be. The non meat buffet was pretty nice; varied and plentiful there was enough there alone to keep you busy - and indeed there is an option (albeit a pricey one) if you would want to stick to that. But no, we, and I'm guessing everyone else there, came for the meat on tap, the servers who come around with skewers to cut off all types of grilled meat straight into your plate as you ask for it.

The trouble is that the food wasn't that great. Out of the five types of skewer (the variety alone was kinda disappointing), I only really enjoyed the chicken wrapped in turkey bacon; the other meats proving to be a little too fatty and chewy for my liking. The thing is that the lack of quality didn't seem due to cost-cutting, but just a lack of cooking talent. As such, it wasn't the idea that was at fault here but the execution. For those of you interested the final bill came to 26 quid for the buffet and pricey mocktail.

So yes, as a novelty the place was pretty cool, but I don't think I'll be coming to eat here any time soon unless the quality of the food changes.

Monday, June 18

Film: Snow White and the Huntsman Click for more info

I should have listened to my gut really. I mean, hey, I'm not the type to write off a film just because it has a certain actor in it (Salman Khan aside), but anything that had anything to do with Twilight (aka, those sorry excuses for movies) I should have known would be bad.

And Snow White was indeed bad. Choosing to go all "dark" and arty, it ends up being as dry as a bone, ironically soulless and just plain boring. The classic story doesn't even save the film; nothing much really happens in the movie and it feels like a big lump of middle with not much beginning or end to talk about.


Sunday, June 10

Book: Holes, Louis Sachar Click for more info

Sometimes there comes a book that makes it all seem so easy. Characterisation, plot, drama - Holes has it all, and all in under 240 pages of wonderful prose.

Stanley is a kid who, after being accused of the major crime of stealing a pair of trainers, gets sent to Camp Green Lake to do some time. The holes he and his co-inhabitants have to dig seem at first to be an exercise in character building, but it soon becomes apparent that there is more to their punishment than that. And it is on this mystery that the whole book is built.

Flashing between Stanley's present and his ancestral past, a tale is spun that was such a joy to read that I was a little upset when it ended. The bottom like is that if you claim to like books then you must read this. Recommended.

Saturday, June 9

Food: The Montagu

Today's fancy dinner was at the five-star Hyatt Regency Hotel. The Montagu was certainly fancy from the start - the decor and service both being top notch before we even sat down to look at the menu.

As is the usual, we stuck to the set menu. However as the meat and chicken served there was all halal, we had more than the fish and veggie dishes to choose from. Nevertheless, I stuck to the razor clam and herb soup for my starter, the fish for the main and an apple tart for dessert. The starter was an easy win, adding to my increasingly growing taste for soups, while the dessert was generous. The main was a little dry and although wasn't bad was a little disappointing.

But a good time was had by all, proving once again that a restaurant is about slightly more than just the food. And at around £25 (via TopTable) for the three courses, a mocktail and sides shared between pairs there really wasn't any complaints about value either. Recommended.

Friday, June 8

Indexed Click for more info

Ah, vindication:

While I have no doubt that seeing the world is an amazing thing to do, I do think that many of us take for granted how much we love home.

SMBC Click for more info

Here's a new strip that I've started reading:

Proof that women don't appreciate what they have available, or that men are fickle scum? You decide. Either way I guess the lesson here is to expect someone who walks on coals for you to have, uh, leathery soles. Or something.

Wednesday, June 6

Film: Prometheus Click for more info

Maybe I just didn't get it? Perhaps I should have seen the movie as an arthouse flick instead of science fiction? I dunno. All I know is that I didn't really enjoy this film that much. My only surprise is my surprise, since I got exactly what I expected after watching the trailer.

But let me try to remain objective here. The plot was pretty nonsensical (which was impressive considering how simple it was), the acting shabby, the direction poor and stuttery. There wasn't even a technical basis on which to watch this film.

I've already spent more words on this than I wanted to. Totally not recommended. In fact, I think I'll watch Alien over the weekend to get the taste of Prometheus out of my mouth.

Saturday, June 2

Khalid and Rifat

I've long become desensitised to amazing things. For whatever reason over the past decade I've been lucky enough to meet a whole bunch of authors, politicians, entrepreneurs, PhDs, film directors - the list really goes on. But what makes my meetings invariably special is that I didn't meet these people as authors, politicians, entrepreneurs, PhDs or film directors, but as normal people. It's this normality that desensitised me to their achievements - not in a bad way but in a more inspiring one, because if normal people like these can achieve such great things, then surely the rest of us can too?

Anyway, opening waffle aside, Khalid is one of these inspiring people. It'll take me many fingers to list exactly how many pies he's had his in, but for me personally the most important must have been his involvement in establishing ICSS. I think the key characteristic I admire about Khalid is how unafraid of failure he is, or rather his ability to recognise that sometimes an effort is worth more than the result.

It was great to see him get hitched today, and I can't wait to see him out and about as a married. Inspiring once again for sure, and not least because of the constant reminders during his nuptials of how I was "next" in the group (even though I blatantly am not).