Resto 5 Franco Manca, Kings Cross

February 11, 2019

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Once upon a time the only place to get a decent drink or a bite to eat if you were on the way to Kings Place was either the Lincoln Lounge or the venue itself. Now all sorts of shit is springing up around York Way to service the ever gentrifying residents and workers of the area.

The Lincoln Lounge is still keeping it real but alas they don’t do bait (well, they’ve got crisps) so we took a punt on a quick dinner in Franco Manca before the excellent Steven Osbourne did Prokofiev as it should be done.

This FM is proper restaurant-sized so it was a mystery to me why, in a half empty restaurant, the waiter should squeeze us into a corner between two other couples. I couldn’t be arsed to argue, I was too hungry.

The menu is pleasantly brief – snacks, salads, pizzas and pasta. We went for an alfalfa (or as they called it when I was growing up, ‘cress’) salad, a meat board and a mushroom pizza to share.

Then the craziness began. The salad arrived in record time. Now I like a salad but I don’t really see a small bowl of it (and no plates to eat it off) as worthy of putting down in front of two people and retreating as if you’ve just delivered a feast in Cana’. So we stared at it and wondered if anything else was going to show up. After about ten minutes we got the pizza. Counterintuitive – where was our thin, raw meat?

Oh, you wanted that? Yes, we did.

Someone taking your order without writing anything down is only impressive if said food is actually delivered.

So now we had pizza, two plates, meat board, salad, wine and water on a table the size of a postage stamp. But we managed. The pizza base was excellent but was scant of mushroom. The meat too was top quality, while the salad was a salad.

If you want to survive in the Italian market you’ve got to do better than that.

5/10

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

Resto 4 Saigon, Northampton

February 6, 2019

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I’ve been working in Northampton for about six months now but thus far without the opportunity to eat anything but canteen fare and humble pie. A visit from the Old Boy was an opportunity to break out of the campus routine and see what the town has in the way of gastronomy.

I’d been recommended Mandarin by one of the students – James had other ideas. He’d spotted Saigon on his way from the station and I was happy to do that. After a pint in the excellent Wig & Pen we strolled up to Saigon with phô in mind.

We were early (I was booked on an 8 o’clock train) so the room was empty of customers but that was okay – there were plenty of staff to make up the numbers. We took a table in the window; who would want to deprive themselves of the Northampton street scene? With its broad vista of pound shops, chicken shacks and Polski skleps it was like being at home in Harringay.

But looking at the menu I knew I wasn’t in Harringay any more – everything was about 30% cheaper. We went for a summer-spring roll mash up to start and a beef phô for main. The summer rolls were fat tubes of fresh veg with a sticky sweet sauce. Hard to get wrong and the bees knees when done to perfection (as these were).

Spring rolls were wrapped in a crunchy green shell and came with a haystack sized pile of fresh leaves alongside. We spurned the veg and got stuck into the rolls straight away. This prompted a rapid intervention by the owner who stormed over and enquired, ‘You ok?!’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘You wrap the roll in mint and lettuce – MORE FLAVOUR!!’ This seemed less a piece of advice than a command. We complied rapidly. ‘The girl not tell you?’ We couldn’t help but admit that she hadn’t. ‘I tell her.’ Oh dear.

The girl (who looked like her daughter) didn’t seem overly fussed about getting a bollocking when she brought us the phô so all was good. The phô was a big bowl of good stuff – a rich broth and about half a cow in it, the fat melting into liquid, sitting amongst a good helping of noodles.

The owner brought us the usual fish and soy sauces but these were unnecessary. We’d already tested what looked like a home-made chilli sauce in a little china bowl on the table, dipping the complimentary prawn crackers in it when we got our first beer. This sauce was straight from Vulcan’s kitchen, chilli seeds visible in a bright red paste that promised sweet burning fury in the gob and utter devastation of one’s middle-aged digestive system. I piled it into the phô and ordered another beer as an antidote. I was in chilli heaven.

Meanwhile the owner started gearing up for Chinese New Year by sticking a kitsch pig in the window. ‘Year of pig! VERY LUCKY!!’

Indeed we were.

#food #Northampton

9/10

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

Sport & Leisure History Seminar 2019 #3

January 31, 2019

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Monday 11th February 2019

It’s a real pleasure to be one of the convenors for the British Society of Sports History sponsored Sport & Leisure History seminar series at the Insitute of Historical Research. And this term we have a diverse range of speakers and subjects to pique the interest of the historically inclined.

After an excellent analysis of the development of the Special Olympics from Tom Weir it’s the turn of Gary James present another paper based on oral history and researching the development of women’s football in Manchester. To find out more read his abstract below and then come along to what should be a stimulating discussion next Monday.

Researching the History of Women’s Football: Manchester City, 1988-2018

Abstract

This paper will provide an overview of a project capturing the experiences of women playing football between 1988 and 2018 for Manchester City Ladies, now Manchester City Women Football Club. Through an oral history project capturing the lives of women involved with the sport the experiences of female footballers have been captured and compared to establish their views on how the sport has developed; childhood activities; team participation; opportunities; reactions, national competition and the development of professional clubs. These female footballers, whose experiences include touring with Manchester Corinthians in the early 1970s through to participation in the Women’s Super League and the Women’s FA Cup final, were interviewed over an 18 month period during which they discussed the transition from playing when football was banned from FA approved venues through to the development of the modern league structure. This talk will provide evidence of how the Manchester City Ladies developed into the club it is today, providing images and testimony from the women involved throughout its life.

This is only the one of a number of series of stimulating talks to be held at the IHR in the S&L series. For the details of seminars forthcoming in 2019 go to the IHR’s website. The talks take place in the John S Cohen on the second floor – doors open from 17:15 and the seminar to start promptly at 17:30. I hope to see you there.

 

Resto 3 – BFI Riverfront, Waterloo

January 28, 2019

 

Bonnard provokes nostalgia – all those sunburst gardens, shady book-supporting desks, sinister cats and naked bints in baths (together with their underlying psychological tremors) recall times past in many climes.

As does the NFT. It will ever be the NFT for those of a certain age.

Reincarnated many times since I proposed marriage while waiting to see Hamlet Goes Business, whatever is done to the Riverside Bar it will never recapture the tobacco-stained, schlobby fading glory of my first visits with Clive James in my pocket.

However, the latest splurge of cash on the place has seen a definite improvement since the time when I had a memorable row with one of the rudest servers I’ve ever encountered. (And there have been a few.)

The offer now is Italian small plates, which was exactly the kind of thing we were looking for. We took a spread of cold and warm things, including a vegetable pizza (vulcan was at the pizza forge, doing a damned fine job as far as I could see). This brought high quality salami and olives, zucchini (battered) and excellent pizzette.

A bottle of house white did the job very well and I’m glad to report that the service was excellent. Though perhaps less so for the lady next to us who had a glass of white poured down her dress.

So, a vast improvement in food, service and atmosphere, I’d like to go back some time and try out the rest of the pizza. Alas, we didn’t have the time to linger and watch some Antonioni, spontanaiety being more elusive thanks to my recent marriage to Mrs Woof.

8/10

#food #London

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

Resto 2 – Holborn Dining Room, Holborn

January 21, 2019

Back in Blighty, I was to Holborn to meet a friend for dinner. He insisted that I book the Holborn Dining Room on the recommendation of Jay Rayner. (I don’t read The Guardian – not because of JR but because I can’t be arsed. As an academic this is quite the social disease.) In return I insisted we have one in the Princess Louise first, it wasn’t a difficult sell.

The HDR turned out to be in the Rosewood Hotel, seemingly a venue where superlawyers of various nations go to spend their Brexit earnings. We seemed conspicuous by our normalcy, perhaps that was why the waiter marched us past a whole slew of empty tables and plonked us in a corner at the far end of the room. Was he worried that we might make a break for it before settling our bill? Certainly Phil, with his double hip replacement, isn’t up to some Olympic-level table hurdling, so he needn’t have worried.

And besides, that’s not the way we roll.

This minor irritation aside the service was excellent throughout, as was the food. And at £23 for a steak and kidney pudding (accompanied by the richest sladge of gravy, poured steaming hot from the boat) I should bloody well hope so. But Rayner’s no liar, this stuff was the shit and no mistake. Fray Bentos seemed a very distant memory.

Sides of sprouts (a bold move in the post-festive season!) and chips were equally good even at the risk of pushing the bill to the yamma hamma end of expensive. If you’re on a budget and hungered for stodge load up on bread, it’s complimentary.* The cheapest wine comes in at £34 (if you’re drinking red) so bear that in mind too.

The room is a great barn of a place, quite masculine and, frankly, full of the kind of people I would usually cross the street to avoid. So a weird one this – I had an excellent dining experience that cost me a packet yet I couldn’t wait to get back to my usual milieu amongst the Pitmen of The Whippet for a digestif and a good chat about home.

6/10

*Though I forgot to check if there’s a cover charge.

#food #London

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

Sport & Leisure History Seminar 2019 #2

January 21, 2019

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Monday 28th January 2019

It’s a real pleasure to be one of the convenors for the British Society of Sports History sponsored Sport & Leisure History seminar series at the Insitute of Historical Research. And this term we have a diverse range of speakers and subjects to pique the interest of the historically inclined.

After an excellent start to the year with Dr Jon Hughes it’s the turn of Post-Grad Tom Weir to talk to us about the history of intellectual disability in Britain. This will be a real breakthrough subject for the the seminar series and take us into a refreshingly novel area of intellectual enquiry. To find out more read his abstract below and then come along to what should be a stimulating discussion next Monday.

The difficult birth of Special Olympics GB

Abstract

Special Olympics GB can trace its existence to a very specific moment in time: when Chris Maloney’s attention was attracted by the enthusiastic cheering of Paul at poolside during a swimming lesson in Gloucester. This has been well documented, but less well known is the difficulties encountered in the first few years; from arguments over the name, difficulties finding athletes to compete, through to the vital role of Chris’ mother and the Kennedy Family. This talk will explore the initial development of Special Olympics GB, considering also what other provision existed for people with learning disability in Britain, from Mencap Gateway clubs, Adult Training Centres through to the ‘Mini-Olympics.’ It will also discuss the reluctance of the British Sports Association for the Disabled (BSAD,) then led by Sir Ludwig Guttmann, to support initiatives for people with learning disability.

This is only the one of a number of series of stimulating talks to be held at the IHR in the S&L series. For the details of seminars forthcoming in 2019 go to the IHR’s website. The talks take place in the John S Cohen on the second floor – doors open from 17:15 and the seminar to start promptly at 17:30. I hope to see you there.

 

Resto 1 of 2019 – Gaffel Haus, Berlin

January 17, 2019

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Rather a slack start on the reviewing front in 2019. It was a couple of weeks ago that we were in Berlin for a very brief visit. The arrival day food equation was very simple to calculate:-

Hunger + zero temperature + Berlin = Sausage

After a quick drink in the cocktail bar next door (Windhorst, highly recommended for drinks and music) we opted for the Kölnisch delights of Gaffel Haus as our sausage merchant. I was worried for the integrity of this place – from the outside it looked like a tourist trap – but once inside I was reassured. Yes, it was a tourist trap but the locals didn’t seem to mind and there were plenty of them in evidence.

The room is big with plenty of Köln memorabilia around the walls, enough to remind me of fun times in 2018. The menu had everything I expected (and wanted) and nothing more. So it was sausage, chips and sauerkraut with tiny beers on the side please.

The food didn’t disappoint (it’s not the most complicated cuisine to get right I guess) and the service was excellent. As the evening progressed the room filled up and we realised we were actually lucky to get a table. It was a good way to kick off the trip.

8/10

#food #Berlin

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

Sport & Leisure History Seminar 2019 #1

January 8, 2019

Monday 14th January 2019

Boxkampf Max Schmeling gegen Walter Neusel in Hamburg

Max Schmeling and his attendants celebrate victory – come along to the IHR on January 14th to find out who he battered and why it mattered.

It’s a real pleasure to be one of the convenors for the British Society of Sports History sponsored Sport & Leisure History seminar series at the Insitute of Historical Research. And this term we have a diverse range of speakers and subjects to pique the interest of the historically inclined.

Kicking off 2019 will be Dr Jon Hughes of Royal Holloway who will be talking to us about ‘The Biggest Boxing Match in Europe’. To find out more read his abstract below and then come along to what should be a stimulating discussion next Monday.

I would offer insights into the fight between Max Schmeling and another German boxer, Walter Neusel, in August 1934. The fight was stage managed, under the Nazis, at a huge open-air venue in Hamburg and attended by at least 80,000, possibly more. It was an interesting example of the Nazis experimenting with the propaganda potential of sport, two years before the Olympics, and formed part of a failed bid to move the symbolic focus of professional boxing away from the USA and back to Europe, and to Germany in particular. I’ll look at the circumstances surrounding the match (Schmeling’s first in Germany since 1928) and its representation in the media, reflect on the geopolitics of boxing in this era, the symbolism of the heavyweight title, and the compromises that the Nazis were willing to make – neither Schmeling nor Neusel were conformists in any sense, as both had Jewish managers and had been reluctant to compete in Germany. This occasion is much less well known than e.g. Schmeling’s two fights against Joe Louis, but in many ways just as interesting.

This is only the one of a number of series of stimulating talks to be held at the IHR in the S&L series. For the details of seminars forthcoming in 2019 go to the IHR’s website. The talks take place in the John S Cohen on the second floor – doors open from 17:15 and the seminar to start promptly at 17:30. I hope to see you there.

 

Cast is Announced!

December 28, 2018

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Having only produced small scale festival productions in my brief theatre career I’ve generally been a beggar rather than a choose when it comes to casting. But now that we’re doing a main show I get to play with nearly all of the toys in the Crouch End Players toybox and together with the director, Victoria, had to run auditions.

Fortunately Victoria is an old hand at this shit because frankly I didn’t have a bloody clue and Ayckbourne’s advice in his excellent book The Crafty Art of Playmaking advises producers to let the writer nowhere near the audition process. Alas I’m both producer and writer on this project so couldn’t duck the responsibility.

However, with Victoria at the helm and a couple of Players Legends on the team we were able to put the wannabe Comédien(ne)s through their paces. For those who didn’t make it to the final nine I have only craven apologies at having not been able to find room for everyone.

And what a final nine they are! Here is our final selection, they make a fine company …

A Soldier’s Song Cast

(In order of appearance)

Hector – James Allnutt

Clarke – Marion Dancoing

Hobbs – Jamin O’Donovan

Uncle Charles – Dave Mahon

Rose – Alex Seeetnam

Harriet – Hannah Shaw

Mrs Dubois – Rebecca Cutts

Lord Chilton – Matt Griffin

Sam – Vicky Murdoch

The show will run from Wednesday 27th March 2019 to Saturday 30th 2019 with four evening performances and a Saturday matinée at the Moravian Hall, Priory Rd, Hornsey, London N8 7HR.

#theatre #London

 

 

Resto 45 Winchmore Hill Tandoori, Wichmore Hill

December 24, 2018
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One of these teams knows how an offside trap works. Can you guess which one?

Having watched Granit Xhaka and his defensive chums only just fail to sabotage a fine attacking display by Arsenal’s front four in a lunchtime kick off by the time we’d reached the food part of our post-match festivities in Winchmore Hill stomachs were empty but we were bonhomie full.

The WHT was buzzing of a pre-Chrimbo Saturday night. Did we want three popadoms? Did we hell. We wanted many popadoms. And rice. And naan. We wanted to tick off all of the clichés and possibly coin some more. The staff were gracious in indulging our middle aged goofery.

And we ate like kings in our own tiny minds.

8/10

#Food #London

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


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