Resto 11 Pizza X Drink, Stroud Green

April 16, 2018

On the site of the now defunct Gustavo’s (not missed) Pizza X Drink has another go at the bargain pizza market. They pull it off nicely. They’ve decluttered the room, a good thing, and kept the big windows so you can do some people watching.

Water was delivered immediately I was sat down (good call as I had a raging thirst from watching Middlesex crush Northants on the hottest day of the year so far) and I perused the menu. It looks more complicated than it actually is. Either you pick your own sauce and toppings or you take one ready made. I went for a Mexican with a side salad and a pint of Stella.

The beer was chilled and delivered by the manager himself (a cheerful feller who was also busy training his staff, good thing). The pizza was good without being amazing but at £5 for a man-sized portion I wasn’t complaining. Properly fiery jalapeños, ground beef and onion were perfect for me. The disappointing thing was the base, which was a bit on the pale side, I’d have liked a bit more crunch. The salad was a generous measure and they remembered to hold the red onion.

All in all Pizza X Drink is perfect if you want a quick pit stop to meet friends or on the way out. And for a total of £13 you’d find it hard to eat that well for that kind of money elsewhere in Stroud Green.

8/10

#Food #London #N8

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

Sport and Leisure History Seminar

April 9, 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 ones 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.

I’ve been the co-ordinator for this term’s series which has the theme of the military and war. And we’ve got a cracking line up of speakers, beginning with Prof Gary Sheffield of the University of Wolverhampton speaking on sport during World War 1.

These seminars are free and open to both academics and the interested public. Come along to the IHR in Senate House on Monday at 5.30 to hear Gary present his latest research, and to have the opportunity for discussion afterwards.

I’ll be flagging up future speakers in future posts so keep an eye out if the subject catches your imagination.

Resto 10 Radici, Islington

March 21, 2018

In Islington for a production of Tennessee Williams’s Summer and Smoke at the Almeida we were looking for something quick before showtime. The bar at the A being packed Radici directly opposite the theatre seemed a good option.

Radici does Italian and while the modern/modernist room doesn’t scream italia the bambina they’ve employed to bowl around in a charming fashion certainly gave the place a homely feel.

We were in a hurry but we were also starving so couldn’t avoid ordering a couple of cichetti to warm up. The test of an Italian for me is often the state of their calamari. Radici’s was excellent, putting to shame the filthy greasy stuff served up at Prezzo. This calamari was of the tentacular variety with fluffy batter and a mean (in a good way) squid ink mayonnaise. I wanted them all to myself. As I did also the aubergine, smoky and luscious, that was on the other plate. Unfortunately marital bliss doesn’t usually ride on the back of one side of the deal scoffing all the grub so I grudgingly moderated my intake.

A main of pizza was a good choice for the hungry and the pizza was too big for me to consume in the time available. Zucchini fritti were as good as the calamari, being straw-choppped and light as a feather. Booze of a Trebbiano variety likewise had to be wolfed down as showtime approached but being delicious I was happy to do that thing.

We were in unison in thinking that we must go back as soon as we can to eat at leisure and check out the desserts. With excellent service (especially the waiter giving us a reminder that we would have to leave soon at just the right time) Radici works very well.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 9 Polpo, Covent Garden

March 11, 2018

Odd that I should never have been in Polpo before and this omission was rectified for a birthday celebration prior to Macbeth at the National. After some table shenanigans (we were moved twice) we settled in to look at a particularly appealing menu. Polpo bills itself as small plates so I asked the waiter how many we should order between two. He was of the opinion that if we were five at table we should order five dishes. Which seemed a bit cryptic.

So we used our own judgement. While we worked out what we were having we supped on Bellinis (decent, if not outstanding) and grazed appetisers of olives and smoky nuts. As far as I could see a tagliatelle was good enough for me and we decided to share a salad of courgette and basil. The tagliatelle was excellent – plenty of deep flavoured sauce with good lumps of flaky chicken and mushrooms. I couldn’t resist snaffling a slither of venison meat ball from across the way and that too was top drawer. But the star was the salad! Thinly sliced raw courgette in a yummy dressing.

There’s such a selection of wine that it was very difficult to pick something out. A carafe of 50cl of Soave (we thought we’d stick to the Veneto) went down very well. After a shaky start service improved drastically and a nice touch was a sprig of mimosa brought by the management for the lady in our party to celebrate International Women’s Day. I could do without the tastefully distressed faux authentic trimmings in the room but with superb food and booze coming in at under thirty quid a head I can see why the Polpo CG was packed even at teatime on a Thursday. Likely I’ll be back too.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 8 The National Café, Trafalgar Square

March 3, 2018

I’ve reviewed the restaurant on this site before but it’s had a reboot under a different management since then so it does count as a new restaurant. Out has gone the dark wood and red leather banquettes. In comes a more Scandi vibe with pale furnishings and sleek cutlery. They can’t do anything about the windows (obvs) but it does make for a sunnier feeling room even on one of the coldest days of the year.

They’ve also increased the bar area making this a good place to meet if you want somewhere peaceful and reasonably priced on a Friday evening in the West End. I had a glass of wine before looking at the Degas and Murillo exhibs (both free, both excellent) and then returning for dinner in the restaurant.

The restaurant is still a bit ghostly of an evening, there were a few other parties but they were dotted across the room. Queen’s greatest hits on the sound track (the whole evening, I was fortunate enough to catch Another One Bites the Dust twice), while a marginal improvement on U2 and Eddie Reader, was definitely surplus to requirements.

A pre-theatre menu of two courses for 17 quid seemed a bargain. Beetroot salad to start was excellent, with a good lashing of goat’s cheese and plenty of veg. Main of pheasant* was a good portion of leg with yummy crispy skin and a slather of pumpkin for moisture. However, that was it. I should have twigged that anything beyond what was described on the menu was going to have to come from the sides (at £5 a pop) but it wouldn’t have done any harm for the waitress to have asked if we wanted any stodge. A bottle of viño verdhe was very good – in fact the wine list was the star of the show and I wanted to try any number of them – but for carbs I had to pick up some crisps on the way home, which I guess saved me four quid. But I would have preferred my spuds on a plate and daintily boiled and buttered.

* Apparently it was actually guinea fowl. How unreliable I turn out to be on the edibles. But not the music.

7/10 (again)

#Food #London #Art

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

Resto 7 Bistrot de la Porte Dorée, Paris

March 1, 2018

After a morning in the rather wonderful Museum of Immigration in Porte Dorée (worth visiting for both building and contents) we were famished. I’d scouted out Le Swann as the place to go in PD but that was shut so Bistrot de la Porte Dorée was our fall back option. And what an option.

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To walk through the door was to enter a world that you’d find it very hard to find in the hipster fleshpots of the Marais or République. I suspected it would turn out to be an excellent lunch when the maitre d’ turned round sporting a burgundy shirt matched with a diagonally striped grey silk tie of which Doug Mountjoy in his pomp (c. 1978) would have been proud.

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Doug Mountjoy. Welsh legend.

We were shown to a table beneath a kitsch version of a Dutch still life of fruits de mer and various other foods. Dotted around the room were portraits of legends of French chanson and film (Jonny Hallyday’s look was particularly fierce, he seemed to be giving me the gimlet the whole meal through) and the odd transatlantic icon, such as Bob Marley smoking a joint, thrown in for good measure.

A set menu was on offer, €32 for two courses and €41 for three, wine included. Bargain, especially as an apéritif of something pink and fizzy was part of the deal. The food was classic French stuff, making no concession to the past 40 years of culinary fashion and none the worse for that. With the apéro we munched on toast and pâté de maison and considered.

I went for a starter of beef cheek, always a favourite. A generous amount of cheek paired with a lentil salad and carrots. All good, apart from the carrots which were overly salted for my taste. A full-bodied 2009 Gaillac helped that down admirably and proved to be a more than adequate match for a main of rabbit and pasta. Did we want dessert? Yes, but we also wanted to be able to walk the half an hour to the Château de Vincennes so we just had a coffee instead.

So the food was good but the real joy of the room was the people watching. Our waiter, not a young man, had a plaited rat-tail beard of the kind found on superannuated trustafarians yet to reintegrate back into civvy street. Across the way a party of eight or so retirees consumed their lunches while arguing vociferously about politics. And to our left a lone lady of a certain age with improbably jet black hair demolished a bottle of rosé in single combat.

A bill of €70 was a bargain and the reason why I’ll never go back to the Bistrot de la Porte Dorée is that some memories are too good to disturb with fresh layers of experience. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go, you should.

9/10

#food #Paris

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

Resto 6 La Petite Porte, Paris

February 28, 2018

Arrival in Paris was delayed by snow so we had to be satisfied with a planche and beers adjacent to the theatre. La Petite Porte was right next door so we plumped for that.

Good call. The bar we had been in while cheap (€3.50 a pint in happy hour) was colder than Vladimir Putin’s eyes. La PP on the other hand was warm in both welcome and ambience. We slipped into a table at the back and didn’t even look at the menu. We wanted planche (it was after all the only thing on offer) and we wanted white wine.

We took a bottle from the Languedoc that was noticeably good. The planche was a superior product with 5 cheeses (stinky, blue, goaty, creamy and crunchy in case you were wondering) and plenty of meat. Bread was hacked before our very eyes and was yum double yum if you’d not eaten for several hours. My one quibble is that the planche was undervegged, I like a bit of greenery whether it’s cornichons or rabbit food.

The room filled rapidly and by the time we left it was a squeeze to get out the door. Young went elbow to elbow with the more mature and everything was very convivial. La Petite is highly recommended.

8/10

#food #paris

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

Resto 5 Middeys, Crouch End

February 25, 2018
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Middeys. Or should it be Middey’s? You be the judge.

Saturday morning was set for a Frühschoppen with a visiting Frankfurter so we met in Crouch End at 11 o’clock. Could we find a pub that was open? No we couldn’t. Since the demise of Wetherspoon’s the Broadway has definitively rid itself of working class drinking culture and breakfast beers are off the menu. So we turned to Middeys and a second helping of breakfast to supply the required helping of whoopee soup.

I’ve never been in any of the various incarnation of food outlet in the old ‘lectric board showroom (apparently they’re a source of constant heated debate on the Crouch End Appreciation Zzzzzzocietyzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Fazbook page) so this was a new experience for me. A nice big, bright room is what you get – filled on a Saturday morning with the usual CE suspects. But that’s not a bad thing, although it does limit one’s liberty of expression somewhat when you’re surrounded by pre-teens and grandparents.

Prosecco was demanded before we saw the menu and I had a look at breakfast. I didn’t want to go large so went for a sourdough toast with cheese of goat and sundried tomato. It was fine. Across the way the classic 80s combo of baked potato and cheesy beans was a far more substantial affair.

Service was prompt if not disposed to any kind of verbal repartee and for fifteen quid a head the cost was par for this area of London. But we did have to repair to the Queens to get what we had wanted an hour earlier – cold lager, uninhibited, occasionally scabrous conversation and nice’n’spicy nik naks. Such things are too easily taken for granted.

7/10 (docked a point for being undertrapped in the ladies)

#food #London #N8

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

 

UPDATE: Frantz Reichel and French Sport Cancelled

February 22, 2018

Alas Frantz will have to wait. Due to industrial action Senate House will be picketed on Monday 26th February and not wishing to cross the picket line the Sport and Leisure History seminar will thus be postponed to a future date tba.

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In the meantime why not enjoy this picture of Walter Rothschild riding a tortoise from CB Fry’s Magazine (1906) and apply to it a metaphor of your choosing. Who/what is the tortoise? What is the lure? Whom the rider?

Frantz Reichel and French Sport

February 17, 2018

Just a quick post to flag up a forthcoming paper that I’ll giving at the Institute of Historical Research on one of the neglected figures of early twentieth century sporting history.

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The photograph above is of the memorial to Frantz Reichel, Olympic champion, French Rugby Union captain and the doyenne of French sports journalists for the first 30 years of the twentieth century. Although neglected now it was a significant intervention into the urban fabric of Paris when it was erected in the 1930s.

I’ll be talking about the symbolism of Reichel’s memorial, the surprising story behind its design  by Tony Garnier, and the turbulent story of its destruction under Nazi rule.

If you’d like to come along to the paper it will be in the Past and Present room at the Institute of Historical Research in Senate House on Monday 26th February at 5.30 p.m. Entry is FREE.

More details can be found here … http://www.history.ac.uk/events/event/15430

Or if you’d like to know more contact me @finsburyparker

#frenchhistory #France #History #sporthistory #IHR #tonygarnier


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