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.