Resto 21 Coriandre, Paris

July 21, 2018

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I’d had my eye on Coriandre for a while as a new wave alternative to the trad Parisian Indian. The room is really welcoming and fresh – exposed brick on one side and a colour scheme of cool green and white giving a modern yet tranquil feeling.

The staff were energised and cheerful which helped to lift my mood too after a long day’s travelling at the end of a tiring week. The menu promises healthy Indian food and this is what it delivers. A selection of meat and vegetable samosas had perfectly crisp pastry without being greasy with piquant fillings. The three chutneys on the side could only have been improved by being delivered in greater quantity.

The healthiness extended to the bread – nan naturel was a simple flat bread, lightly leavened. I knew it was doing me good compared to the Standard‘s product but I hankered for a slather of ghee on there. My lamb main was perfectly spiced and came with good fluffy rice and fresh salad.

It being a night of celebration we added on khulfis at the end and these were the stars of the show. Pistachio packed a punch and the texture was perfectly judged. The Indian red that we’d ordered was robust enough to handle all the spices and we rolled out of there very happy chaps.

8/10

#Food #Paris

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 20 Au Cadrans du PLM, Paris

July 10, 2018

Au Cadrans was not my first option when I found myself stuck at Gare de Lyon in a state of travel fretfulness.* But there was no room in Le Train Bleu (the woman said, it could be that she didn’t like the look of me) and so I had to find an alternative.

Au C is directly opposite G du L so ideal if you have an hour to kill between trains. Quelle pause! It was worth the Eurostar turmoil just for this 50 minute pit stop of Parisian pleasure. Professional waiter, cold beer, massive salad with big lumps of salty goat cheese. Sanity restored. The clientele a good mix of locals, French tourists and overseas visitors sitting together on a tranquil terrasse.

Recommended.

8/10

#Food #Paris

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

* 2 1/2 hour delay on the Eurostar, rail strike in Paris, heat wave in full force, busiest travel weekend in France, France v Uruguay quarter final. Thank god I was travelling alone and not with children.

Resto 19 Sathees, Paris

June 26, 2018

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The Marché St Germain. It has an Apple store, a Marks and Spencer and an arcade. But it’s not Covent Garden. Oh no, there’s none of your stick riding Yodas here. Or tedious shouters with flamesticks shoved facewards, gurning for a jaded mob of tourist cretins. This is left-bank Paris and they’re too civilised for that crap.

There’s a range of foodie places in the market and there was no method in my choice of Sathees, it was just the one that was there. You can sit al fresco in the sun or the shade beside a not too busy road. Good thing.

Their menu is stripped down – tartinettes for the most part, a couple of soups and desserts, all wholesome stuff with organic ingredients and Poilâne bread (with flour rolled by mill). I picked a salmon and guacamole tartinette with a glass of Sauvignon on the side.

The bread was chewy crunchy and the combination of fish and guacamole not as incongruous as I’d feared. After a day’s march through the life of Delacroix in the Louvre, his ‘arse and St Sulpice it was just what I needed. But if you require more than a snack this is not the place for you. This is pecking food. High quality pecking food.

Service was friendly and in French (good thing) with the clientèle a genial mixture of well-heeled tourists and locals. Recommended.

8/10

#Food #Paris

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Sport and Leisure History Seminar

June 23, 2018

One of the perks of being a part-time academic is having to do lots of unpaid work aimed at raising one’s profile within your discipline. However, sometimes this work is more a pleasure than a chore. Such is the case with being a co-convenor on the IHR’s (Institute of Historical Research) Sport and Leisure History seminar series. Our final speaker of the academic year is Beth Gaskell who will round off our series of papers on sport and the military by looking at the coverage of sport in newspapers in the nineteenth century. Her abstract is below:-

Parade Ground and Playing Field: The Central Role of Sport in Nineteenth Century Military Periodicals

During the 1790s the first newspapers, magazine and journals aimed specifically at a military audience began to appear. Such periodicals slowly began to gain popularity, and from the 1820s onwards their number steadily increased, until by the late 19th century there were over 100 titles. From their early days sport played a central role in military periodicals, with coverage of sport appearing in almost every title produced.

This paper will investigate which sports appeared, the type of sport content that was featured, and why sport played such an important role in military publications. It will examine key concepts such as military discipline, professional training, esprit-de-corps, morale and boredom, and it will also explore the relationship between sport and empire.

Beth Gaskell is a fourth year PhD candidate at the University of Greenwich. Her research investigates military writing, military-media relations and the professionalisation of the British Army in the long nineteenth century, with a particular focus on the rise of the professional periodical press. She is also a qualified Librarian currently working as Curator, Newspaper Digitisation at the British Library, and has previously held posts at the Royal Astronomical Society, the National Army Museum and the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Her chapter on ‘Bibliographic issues: titles, numbers, frequencies’, appeared in the Colby Prize winning volume, Researching the Victorian Periodical Press: Case studies, which was published by Routledge in July 2017.

#history #IHR #military

Resto 18 Bufala di Londra

June 11, 2018

As any Haringey resident who’s had dealings with the council over arranging a parking permit would testify it is the simple things that are often the most difficult to get right. Similarly, the preparation of a decent pizza and salad would seem to be a task that is beyond some restaurants. Fortunately Bufala di Londra doesn’t fall into that category. In fact on the food side of things it nearly hits Paesano level heights.

Being ravenous helps – after an afternoon of intense theatrical discussion I needed something filling and I’d had my eye on Bufala for some time. The room was fairly quiet on a Sunday teatime but plenty of pizza was going out the door for takeaway, an encouraging sign.

The menu is simple – classic pizzas with no gimmicky ingredients, just high quality Italian produce. I noted that they fermented their dough for 72 hours and started slavering in anticipation. The wine list is strong but with only house white (or red) by the glass. But that doesn’t matter if it’s a good straw coloured Sicilian with plenty of oomph. Some juicy Nocellara olives while we waited was a good idea.

I had a pizza with mushroom, truffle salami and chilli. And it was good. Such chewy dough that would have been a treat on its own without the addition of high quality mozzarella and deliciously bosky mushrooms. The rocket and parmesan salad on the side was big enough to share between two. I’m getting hungry all over again just thinking about it and I’ve only just eaten lunch.

With friendly, efficient service and a good table in the window the only way this meal could have been improved was if the restaurant was at the end of my street rather than being on the wrong side of the tracks.

9/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

The Crouch End Festival and Alfred de Musset

June 10, 2018

As anyone who read the post on Marivaux and last year’s Crouch End Festival piece, Corbyn Island, will know in adapting pieces I like to do some half-arsed research in the milieu of how the originals came about. And in contrast to Corbyn Island the update of A Door (Should be Open or Shut) is nevertheless a period piece rather than being located in contemporary Britain. Mid-century London wasn’t too much of a stretch for the update and fortunately the background and context for Musset’s play, Il Faut Qu’une Porte Soit Ouverte ou Fermée, was less unfamiliar to me if only because I’ve been something of a Delacroix obsessive for some time.*

Where’s the connection with Delacroix? Well, of course they’re both French Romantics though working in different disciplines, but the connection is much more personal than being inspired by the same mid-nineteenth century ideas. Delacroix was a great friend of the musician Frédéric Chopin and his lover, the writer Georges Sand. And Musset was previously a lover of Sand.

It was good to hear that Paul Kildea’s new book on Chopin’s Piano is in part concerned with recovering Sand’s reputation (in popular writing that is, it’s been a task undertaken with relish by feminist academics for decades) from its traducement by followers of Chopin (and Musset, especially his brother Paul) who have trashed her literary reputation largely out of unthinking misogyny.**

So as well as reading de Musset’s work I’ve been reading Delacroix’s diaries (an ongoing project over the past few years***, Sand’s memoirs and Paul de Musset’s (very) partial biography of his brother.

Props for 'A Door (Should be Open or Shut)

Props for A Door (Should be Open or Shut)

What did I take from this reading into the new production? Our production is set in 1940s Soho and when I realised that the production of Absolute Hell  would be using pretty much the same setting, and running at the same time as us, I was rather fearful that people would think that I’d been inspired by that. But in fact I was inspired by de Musset’s own life.

De Musset himself was a drinker. A serious drinker. As in he died of it. But this aspect of his life doesn’t bleed into the literary works that he created so I decided that to make the connection with his life I’d update the play from an aristocratic salon to somewhere more modern. Since we had a pub bar as a set it seemed natural that the setting I’d update it to would be one of London’s drinking clubs of the 1930s/40s.

Although there are references to Soho stalwarts such as Francis Bacon the model I was actually thinking of wasn’t the Colony Club. Rather I had in mind Foppa’s, which appears in A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell. So we’re more in 40s Fitzrovia than 50s Soho. To someone who never knew either in their prime Fitzrovia offers a rather more literary locus which looks back to the 19th Century (and de Musset) rather than forward to the late twentieth and Jeffrey Bernard. Although the female lead is an artist.

A fun part of the production has been assembling props – a 40s Woodbine astray, an old-fashioned bottle of scotch, a cigarette case and a whiff of 40s in the costume of the characters. And the cast – Anna Rogers, Matt Griffin and Ruari Johnson – have been extraordinarily successful at bringing Musset’s characters to life in a faux-Fitzrovian setting.

If you’ve read this far why not book a ticket now to see the show? You can visit the Crouch End Players website or email cepfestival@crouchendplayers.co.uk 

Thanks to Paul Travis for the photo of the props, and for other shots of the preview night.

#Theatre #London #crouchendfestival

* I’ve written about him before and I’m looking forward to visiting the blockbuster show of his work at the Louvre later this month.

**You can listen to an excellent podcast with Kildea here.

***i.e. the French unedited edition lies next to my bed. And has done for some time! The Phaidon edition in English is what I’d recommend if you want to read pretty much the best writer on art of the nineteenth century as well as one of its key practitioners.

Resto 17 Khoai Café, Crouch End

June 9, 2018

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After Matthew’s Kitchen I’m slowly munching my way through Topsfield Parade during the Crouch End Festival prep. In fact not prep because my visit to Khoai was a pitstop on the way to the excellent Storm in a Teacup, which acted as a phenomenally good curtain raiser to the dramatic freebies on offer.

And it was a good pitstop too. For my dining companion it was memorable as once being the venue for a date with a man who turned out to be a (fortunately non-lethal) knife obsessive. For me it was memorable for overturning my harrumph at the could be better Kho of the previous week. What Kho got wrong Khoai gets right.

Starting with the service. I was early so the room was pretty empty (I think a younger member of the Khoai crew was doing her homework in one corner) and it was a pleasant thing to be told to sit pretty much anywhere. The room is good for either getting in the window and gawping or tucking yourself away; I did the latter.

A requested cold beer was delivered promptly and I’d slugged it down as the rest of the party arrived. We went for soft shell crab up front then a spicy Bun Hué for me. There was a good amount of crab and rather than any stickysweet sauce  there was a pleasingly simple garnish of fried onions and chilli. I’d gone for the Bun Hué as I fancied a bit of heat and boy did I get it! A rash stuffing of the bird’s eye into the maw of a hungry man brought on a chilli induced apoplexy followed by the enjoyable sensation of one’s mouth returning to acceptability. There were plenty of prawns in there too and the whole thing did what I wanted it to do, i.e. fresh veg, fresh noodles and flavoursome soup.

At around twenty quid a head invlud my drinks in this was not fine dining but it was good value in an area of London that suffers from a slew of hipper places (I think Khoai is family run) that charge a premium for having such crucial things as curated music and cutting-edge fonts on the menu.

8/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 16 Koh Thai, Southsea

June 5, 2018
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Koh – probably more difficult to get into now than when it was a bank.

Well, this was an odd one. It was a sunny evening in Southsea, a part of the country I’m not familiar with, and we were looking for spice. Koh seemed to fit the bill. The restaurant is in a pretty impressive building (probably a former bank) in a residential area and when we entered it was to find an equally impressive room with a bar at one end and tables on ground and mezzanine floors.

A hen party lay in one corner of the room and a smattering of other diners populated the rest. We asked the maitre d’ for a table for two? She eyed us suspiciously, ‘Let me have a look’ she said before retiring to a far away computer. Once there she spent five minutes sizing us up like Johnny Wilkinson  addressing a difficult 60 yard punt from the left touchline. Then she went to another computer and had a look at that. Perhaps it was linked to the Criminal Records Database. I turned to my son and said, ‘Ok, let’s go’ and just as I turned to leave he tugged my elbow and muttered, ‘She’s coming back!’ So I turned back to find her about a foot from my eyeballs. Apparently she’d managed to locate a spare table. And we’d cleared the security check.

So that wasn’t awkward.

This fitful start out of the way we looked at the menu. Koh does Thai tapas, a nonsense term that could not disguise the fact that the menu was your standard fare such as you’d find listed in pretty much every local Thai joint in the country. We were offered a taster menu but decided to go for a crispy squid and spicy spring rolls up front followed by a red curry for me and stir fried noodles for him. Did we want cocktails? Two for one was tempting so we ordered some prawn crackers to go with them.

My Kohparinha (geddit?) arrived with the crackers. The prawn crackers were legion and excellent. The cocktail on the other hand was a tame beast. The other one (which was better) showed up just about when we’d finished the crackers and I was ready for a beer. Draught Singha being off we had a couple of Koh’s own  lager which did the job. I had the feeling that everything was skew-whiff and that there was a gap between what the management thought their restaurant was (an exclusive hip eatery in a buzzy part of the city) and what it actually should be (a friendly local restaurant serving excellent food).

While the drinks were disappointing the food continued to be top class. Spicy spring rolls were genuinely spicy – tight little rolls of fiery veg in a crispy shell. The squid was fluffy battered good stuff with a sweet chilli dip. Then my red curry also delivered a powerful dose of heat but with plenty of flavour to back it up. With a chef like this Koh deserves to be a success whatever shenanigans the front of house team were getting up to. The room remained resolutely half-full throughout our stay and with three people behind the bar and three or four waiting staff it was a mystery as to why the service was so hit and miss. The kitchen deserves better.

5/10

#Food #Southsea

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Sport and Leisure History Seminar

June 5, 2018

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One of the perks of being a part-time academic is having to do lots of unpaid work aimed at raising one’s profile within your discipline. However, sometimes this work is more a pleasure than a chore. Such is the case with being a co-convenor on the IHR’s (Institute of Historical Research) Sport and Leisure History seminar series.

Our next seminar is led by Dr Melanie Bassett of the University of Portsmouth who will be talking about the role of sport in the training and recreation of workers in the Royal Dockyard in Portsmouth. Having just spent a couple of days in Portsmouth myself I can testify to the continuing importance of sport in the culture of the Royal Navy, especially given the amount of land given over to sports grounds in the city centre.

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The Royal Dockyard glittering in the Pompey sun 

Abstract

Royal Dockyard workers in late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain were an essential component of Britain’s imperial defence. They were employees of the state who built the nation’s fighting ships. However, in an era of ‘high imperialism’, preoccupied with efficiency and racial degeneration, the Admiralty paid very little mind to the fitness and health of a vital and highly skilled section of their workforce.

In contrast to the men of the Royal Navy, who were by the late 1880s subject to the beginnings of a movement to ensure their efficiency and moral welfare through gymnastic instruction, the Royal Dockyard Workers’ activities were not centralised, nor were they particularly encouraged. Instead, the availability of sporting provisions was generated by the workmen themselves and more akin to what was occurring in other industrialised workforces but without the paternalism.

The paper will outline and evaluate the context which shaped the sporting and physical fitness provisions for Royal Dockyard workers during the period. It will first explore the contextual historiography to show where gender, class, and imperialism have intersected in order to illustrate how historical enquiry can inform an understanding of sport and the British people. The paper will then address the differences in attitudes and provisions for military and civilian employees of the Admiralty before turning to explore working-class exposure to prevailing attitudes to sport, masculinity, and the British Empire. Finally, the paper will highlight how the Royal Dockyard worker used the discourses of imperial efficiency and self-improvement to gain advantages in a world of expanding leisure opportunities.

The examples will show the wide ranges of sporting activities in which Royal Dockyard workers took part and will also explore the idea of ‘playing at being soldiers’ through involvement in the Volunteer and Territorial Forces was viewed by the Admiralty. Rather than being merely ‘caught’ in the intricate web of imperial discourse, this paper will demonstrate the innovative and self-starting attitude of various Royal Dockyard workers and the rhetoric they employed in order to turn the situation to their advantage.

Dr. Bassett will be speaking in the Past and Present room at the IHR at 5.30pm on Monday 11th June 2018. 

#History #royalnavy #Portsmouth

Resto 15 Matthew’s Kitchen, Crouch End

June 4, 2018

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Looking to lay in some bait prior to a date with the Players on a Friday night we had a stroll around Crouch End, open to suggestion. Bistro Aix had its door open was a bit Marie Celeste like with music blaring out, provoking us into a rapid retreat.  Matthew’s Kitchen on the other hand looked very inviting with it’s window open onto the street and a friendly smile from the waitress as she showed us into the room. Early on a Friday evening the room soon filled up with a good selection of locals while we looked at the menu.

MK specialises in fish (though you can get meat off the grill if you’re a carnivore and veggie dishes if you’re a herbivore). Smoked mackerel with beetroot and horseradish leapt off the page at me as a good test of a fish restaurant. This warhorse can be memorable or forgettable depending on whether it’s served or cold both in temperature and creativity. I took a main of cod loin with veggies and a bit of mash potato on the side.

The mackerel was only ok – a generous piece of cold smoked fish with plenty of beetroot but not a hint of horseradish in the sauce. I know that horseradish is a powerful beast but I do want to taste it if I’ve ordered it. The cod on the other hand was much superior. Perfectly cooked and just what I wanted. Even better looked the bacon-wrapped monkfish across the way.

A very good Riesling for 30-odd quid was a good accompaniment. I’d go back to Matthew’s Kitchen – for Crouch End on a Friday evening it was very peaceful with a perfect atmosphere for a bright summer’s evening.

7/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap


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