Monday, January 28

Film: Django Unchained Click for more info

I wouldn't say I'm a Tarantino fan. I mean, sure, I really like many (most? all?) of his films, and I love how he manages to keep his audience on his toes too. I just don't think he's Amazing with a capital A.

That said I did think Django was pretty brilliant. As was the case with Kill Bill, the beauty was in its simplicity - there was no ambiguity here, we all knew who the good and bad guys were, what everyone wanted and how they were going to get it. The acting was solid, the dialogue sublime and I even appreciated the soundtrack.

The whole movie was so easy to watch, it was easy to forget how long you were sitting there for - this despite the many opportunities there were to end the film early.


Saturday, January 19

Valentino: Master of Couture Click for more info

Yes, that's right: this was an exhibition on fashion. And leaving aside my general disinterest in the topic, I actually reserve a special sneer for Valentino, the jeans of whom were such a big deal way back in school and college. Looking back I'm glad I wasn't another rude boy statistic who owned a pair.

On the other hand I do like to expose myself to new things, particularly those outside of my comfort zone. And there's no doubt that fashion has a relevance in society and culture whether I like it or not, so when I had the opportunity to check out an exhibition on one of the world's biggest designers, I thought it would be interesting enough to check out.

And it was for a bit. The first 5% of the exhibition is a display of various letters, invitations, sketches and memorabilia from the life of Valentino, all evidence of a world apart from that of our own, where a dress or party could be a life changing event. The final 5% was a collection of various media demonstrating how some examples of designer clothes were made - you know, fancy pleats and bows and flowers and the like.

The bulk of the exhibition (90% for those of you who really don't like maths) was on the catwalk, a collection of over 150 dresses created by Valentino. It was all a bit overwhelming actually, although I was surprised (or perhaps not) by how few I actually liked the look of. I suppose then I prefer the more boring, conventional and square look - and since that's an explicit opinion I've only formed after seeing what else was available, I guess even for me there was some value for coming here today.

Overall I would have preferred a bit more about Valentino's development - perhaps twice or even three times what was actually presented - but I suppose those who know fashion more intimately would have gotten exactly that through the medium of wardrobe. But exhibitions like these are supposed to be a little more accessible than that, otherwise there's a danger of them just becoming gratification; in this case fashion porn.

So then in general terms I can't really recommend this one, and that not just because I'm not interested in the topic being covered. But then again, those who will enjoy this will already know that they will anyway.

Food: Burger and Lobster Click for more info

I'll be the first to admit that I got sucked in by the almost constant mentions this place has gotten both in the media and amongst friends. It's pretty much exploded on the scene over the past few months, even with people who never talk about food. But despite these constant attention I never really knew what it was - until this week I thought it was called Lobster Burger, a place where you could buy, well, a lobster burger.

But no, it's actually called Burger and Lobster - a name that must come first in the "does what it says on the tin" category of restaurants. You see the premise here is very simple: you sit down, order one of three options on a verbal menu (a burger, a lobster and a lobster roll), and pay a fixed cost per meal of £20 (plus the now standard 12.5% service). All three meals come with some (very awesome) chips and a salad. Drinks are separate, and your server may tell you if there's any dessert available, but other than that this is it. Oh and the burgers are beef, by the way.

Gimmicky as it sounds, I have to say that it works. Due to the nature of our party, beef burgers were not an option, but the lobster was pretty good in spite and perhaps even because of the hard work you need getting into it, and while the cold lobster roll was a nice easy option, it tasted good enough.

Food aside, the place was decent and clean, with good service (I can only imagine the efficiency of a kitchen that only serves three dishes). And adding it all up, I would say that 20 quid is a decent price to pay for the lobster, if slightly too much for the roll.

A final note on trying out the place though - apparently the place gets very busy, leaving waiting lists of up to two hours at peak times. They also generally don't take reservations, although the Soho branch does for groups larger than six. In that sense we were quite lucky today as we got in with zero wait at around 1:30pm, so fortunately I'm unable to comment on whether it would be worth the wait or not. Other than that, the place is recommended.

Friday, January 18

Book: A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin Click for more info

Part four, and I have to admit things have started to slow down somewhat. The reasons why are not apparent till the end, but explanation or no there is no doubt that the series is starting to drag a little.

This is, of course, a shame, but on the bright side "dragging" in the world of Ice and Fire still puts this leagues ahead of anything else, and so my recommendation to read it still stands. Roll on part five.

Wednesday, January 16

Indexed Click for more info

A warning to all those still looking for chairs:

But what about the sunken cost?

Monday, January 14

SMBC Click for more info

I know many reading will nod in agreement to this:

But seriously folks, for me it's simply just the left hand side. No lies.

Sunday, January 13

Food: JW Steakhouse Click for more info

For the sake of transparency I'm going to have to qualify this review from the start. Tonight's meal was the most expensive I've ever had to pay for. Those who know me will already know how much of my judgement this will affect, and I will be the first to admit that it has.

But it's experiences (for that must be what such a price buys) that tell you a lot about yourself - what you appreciate and value in life. I'll never see the value in designer labels or fancy jewellery but will easily spend on travel for instance. And although I've never claimed to be a foodie, today I can say with certainty that I'm not. I also know now that I am not a steak person - if the best steak in London doesn't do it for me, then none will. On the other hand I am able to appreciate why others might like a slab of meat, and I will also admit to have thoroughly enjoyed and seen value in meals that would have cost more than this one today.

Enough philosophy though, let's get to the food. The menu was straightforward enough: we pre-ordered our halal steaks a few days in advance, with myself teaming up with another to split an Angus Rib-Eye and American New York Strip - we had no idea which to choose so we hedged our bets. This was lucky, as I definitely preferred the accessibility of the Strip to the chewy gristle of the Rib-Eye, even though I would acknowledge that the latter tasted better.

Starters and sides were standard enough, and not worth mentioning explicitly, barring the table bread which was all kinds of awesome. A special note does go to the cheesecake, which might just be the one thing I go back for (although the place does apparently do a decent fish and chips too).

The atmosphere, table configuration and service all confirm the theory that after a certain cost it's the experience you pay for and all were pretty much top notch, although also on par with other places I've been to but of a fraction of the price.

Which brings me to the final bill. The evening cost an incredible (perhaps just to me and the student on the table) £55 per head, of which the steak alone was £35-40 depending on the cut chosen. If this is how much a decent steak costs, I can see why the consumption of red meat can indeed lead to heart attacks.

Which leaves me in a pretty interesting position here at the end of this review. Of course on principle there is no way I can give JW Steakhouse a general recommendation. But if someone with more money than sense did ask me if I knew of a top-end steakhouse that would offer halal meat, then JW will always have to be the first I suggest to them.

Saturday, January 12

Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire Click for more info

The British Library is currently hosting an exhibition on the Art and Culture that arose during the reign of the Mughal Empire across the sub-continent. This alone made it an inevitable visit, but I must admit that I was pretty surprised by the scope of the whole thing once I arrived.

The sheer number of items on display was pretty overwhelming. Around 90% of the material were, unsurprisingly maybe, books or pages, while the remainder consisted of artefacts, photos and painted art. Even the two hours or so we were there wasn't quite enough to soak it all in.

As someone who is largely ignorant of the history of India of that time I found it pretty eye-opening. I didn't realise how relatively recent the last of the Mughals was around, and neither did I know how deep and wide their governance was during the initial incline and peek of their time over India.

The exhibition was set up pretty well, with various sections covering a different aspect of Mughal life, and another in the middle tracing the life of each and every one of the Mughal emperors - you could just about imagine how the whole epic unfolded. Everything was also very well curated and I found myself spending as much time reading about each item as I did looking at the item itself. Most of my many revelations came from the information boxes under each exhibit.

Rich, interesting and quite rewarding, the Mughal India exhibition at the British Library is running till the 2nd of April, and I definitely think it's worth a look.

Wednesday, January 9

Video of the Day Click for more info

Ah, but we all knew this already, right?

And yes, I did laugh out loud at the last line. Ta to Mash for the link.

Link of the Day Click for more info

How to pick a husband if you want to have kids

Yes yes, I know I promised never to post articles like these any more - and to be fair there have been at least ten of Penelope's articles that I've forced myself not to link to lest I be mistakenly taken for a misogynist brute who has nothing but criticism for his fellow sisters. And anyway, with women like Penelope saying the same thing in a much better way (read: with a woman's voice) I don't really need to.

But I just had to refer to one of her most recent posts, since it's such a big theme in my own interactions with women (read: rishta - please excuse the euphemism this one time). Now don't get me wrong - I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am fully and unequivocally behind the right of a woman to choose what they want from life, perhaps even more so than that of a man. It's just that my need of a certain type of wife stems from who I happen to be; and I certainly hope that who I happen to be fulfils the needs of the certain type of wife I marry. There are no universal answers here.

However there is also a need for a lot of people (women, men and yes possibly even me) to be aware of who they are and what they want. Now it's easy to dismiss Penelope as loon who applies theoretical statistics to the incompatible science of relationships, but (at the most) anecdotally and (at the very least) in terms of fairness and justice and simply what makes sense, I would say there's a bit of weight in what she says.

Perhaps once we acknowledge that we can't have it all, we might actually realise that we don't actually want it anyway?

Sunday, January 6

Film: Wreck-It Ralph Click for more info

There's not much to say here that you won't already know about this movie. Blah blah Disney, yada yada feel-good, great animation, lots of laughs - even the 3D was pretty stunning. We had the staple and solid plot, clear good and bad guys (despite the premise of the film) and the same rush of emotion and tears toward the end. So yes, standard. It was recommend before I even watched it really.

BUT! The sheer level of fan-service and videogame trivia/porn in this film elevates Wreck-It Ralph well above all those other awesome animations. The way they were included and brought together, some playing more of a part than others, gave an indication of just how much care went into avoiding tramping on all the memories the parents of the audience (because let's face it, who else is going to recognise Q*bert?). It was pretty amazing to see.

For most people this will be a great film. For those who grew up in the 80's and 90's playing videogames, this will be something far better.

Tuesday, January 1

Food: Taste of Pakistan Click for more info

I have to say, the gall of naming a Pakistani restaurant "Taste of Pakistan" alone is pretty compelling. Only a place with culinary balls would go there, so before even entering we knew this place would either be great, or bad. The fact that it was packed (enough for the mere two of us to be almost turned away) said a lot.

But I'm glad we finally got to sit down. The premise here is pretty straightforward - a basic menu, generous portions and good food all add up to a solid experience and there aren't many gimmicks here.

Well okay there might be - but it is a good one. The flagship item on the menu has to be the Chapli Kabab deal, with three of the plate sized slabs being served with a hanging naan, all for a tenner. If we had known better we would have stopped there, but we also ordered the Chicken Karahi for the sake of variety. A jug of Mango Lassi rounded the meal up.

The meal came to around a tenner a head, but as I say we did overorder a little. As for a recommendation? Well I now know where I'll be grabbing dinner every time I'm early for an airport run - heck I might start heading out early just so I have an excuse to eat there again.