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).