Resto 26 Kappeli, Helsinki

August 15, 2018

My first visit to Helsinki was in 1994 so it’s taken me 24 years to drum up the effort to go to Kappeli. Or indeed the coin. But I’m glad that I did.

The venue is legendary for Sibelius fans (I’m one of them). This is where he chummed up, scoffed and bantered before doing more self-wreckage across the way in the Hotel Kamp.

One can’t expect the same atmosphere to prevail 140 years on but I would have preferred not to have Mussorgsky piped into the karsi (much as I love Pictures at an Exhibition). Why not Kullervo?

The dining room though is a joy. Glass everywhere to watch people strolling by. A corner tête à tête room shut with a sparrow flapping within as if part of an installation. Solid burghers of Helsinki munching beside upscale tourists. And our Anglo-Finnish party to confuse the waitresses.

The food was solid Nordic grub. A green salad up front with pickled cucumber the star, followed by a beautifully smoked salmon (in Kappeli’s own smokery) with proper allotment style spuds on the side. But a paucity of broccoli. Dessert of a baked Alaska style ice cream with summer fruit could have done with more (wild) blueberries and fewer strawbs.

The wine list is solid and overpriced. I don’t believe that K’s sommelier does much travelling. But then this is an Institution and unlike Pegasus the need is not there to find a clientèle. It queues at the door. Which may also explain the lack of charm on the service side of things.

All the same it’s worth going to more than once. For the terrace. And probably for the cafeteria side. The quality of the food there looked as good, if not better, than in the restaurant.

7/10

#Food #Helsinki

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

Resto 25 Pegasus, Tallinn

August 14, 2018

Tallinn has a wealth of mediaeval architecture dating from its time as a prosperous Hanseatic town but I must admit that I was more interested in getting a handle on the Soviet-era attempts to fix a modernist mask to the mercantilist frame of the city.

The Soviet-era concrete of the civic centre; crumbling faster than the Turkish economy

While the appeal of the 1970s Lenin centre was that of being able to stare, Oxymandias-like, at the mighty works of the USSR and pity the hubris it was not all crap-concreted elephantism during the rule of the Reds in Estonia.

For example, the building in which Pelican is situated is a beautiful piece of Soviet modernism with cute idiosyncratic touches like the porthole windows through which we could peek from our terrace seats into the bar.

I wanted to go to Pelican for the architecture and the history. This was a centre for political dissent during Soviet rule. In these days of the revival of the strongman in politics it does no harm to celebrate the achievements of those who were individually weak but collectively strong in the past. Would that their like may triumph again in our own age.

So the location is perfect at Pelican. Could the restaurant live up to it? You betcha. Starting with the welcome. Our waiter was cheerfulness personified and attentive to detail, giving us a couple of rugs (unprompted) in case the weather turned chill.

He also kicked things off with complimentary home cooked bread. This was warm from the oven and accompanied by a slather of creamy butter. Good thing.

The menu features seasonal Baltic ingredients but we kicked off with a mozzarella salad to have a touch of the Med in Eesti. High quality mozz, olive crumble stuff and basil juice (?!) was a good warm up for the main event.

Which was whitefish for both of us. Well cooked fish, beetroot crisps, good gherkin and a fennel foam (better than usual foam in the coherency department) which took us back to the north of Europe. Delish.

So good in fact that we ordered dessert, tempted on my side by rhubarb, which came pickled with a lot of good things alongside.

All of this was accompanied by an excellent Slovenian wine which would have cost double in London. I obviously wasn’t the only one who was enjoying the drink as when I went to the jakes a mature lady, on exiting the trap, walked straight into the full length mirror at the end of the corridor.

The whole was not cheap by Estonian standards. But quality is worth paying for. If you’re heading to Tallinn I would strongly advise you to resist the cluster of tourist traps around the main square, and anywhere where the service is wenchish, and go for the cool modernist vibe of Pelican. You won’t regret it.

9/10

#Food #Tallinn

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

Musset update!

August 6, 2018

New Writing Image for Programme

Doing a bit of housekeeping on the homepage I noticed that last year I put a copy of the script for the festival on the Corbyn Island post. So if you want to download this year’s Musset translation click A Door (Should Be Open Or Shut).

If you’re interested in producing the play please contact me at geoffreylevett@me.com

Resto 24 Dear Pizza, Highbury

August 5, 2018

Another meal, another pizza. But this time the Italian vibe started earlier in the day with a visit to the Estorick. If you don’t know the Estorick you should familiarise yourself soonest. A perfect museum to visit if you have a spare hour in north London, it has a small but perfectly formed collection of 20th Century Italian art with temporary exhibitions that are of an exceptionally high standard in terms of curation and novelty.

At the moment they have two exhibs, so even more reason to go than ever. On the ground floor the rooms are given over to original artwork for Campari, ranging from the late nineteenth century to the 1990 World Cup (my favourite piece – a football themed jigsaw which put me in mind of not just Toto Schillaci but also Georges Perec).

Early Campari ads. Thirsty again.

Futurists working at the command of fascist era booze mongers turns out to be a match made in heaven for the visual arts. And having been subjected to around 29 images of Campari it was difficult to resist a cocktail in the gallery’s very peaceful garden. (Service 10/10, we didn’t eat.)

I was less keen on the neo-futurists’ interventions in the permanent galleries. Their anti-capitalist rhetoric was a bit one note for me, though entertaining in parts. Irony ladled on irony can be very wearing, especially when funded by the Arts Council. But I’d still recommend it for its variety of approach (music, video, sculpture).

And so to dinner. A shortish stroll to Dear Pizza who lured us in with their promise of a garden. Strictly speaking I’d say it was a yard. But an awning-covered yard on a hot day is rather pleasant. The cooking was higher quality than I was expecting – octopus arrived with a very good sauce. The pizza was excellent (can you get bad pizza any more? Oh yes, p***a h*t), as was the service.

What a great day, and spent in our own manor with no need to get the tube.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 23 Firebrand Pizza, Lisson Grove

August 4, 2018

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in Lisson Grove for a rather underwhelming production of Medea we wanted quick eats out of the sun. Firebrand Pizza looked a good bet.

It’s a shady room with a big window to watch the folks of the Grove go by. The menu is standard pizza and starters so went for a platter of meat up front followed by pizza and a side salad.

The meats were superior fare, even the mortadella (which can often be a bit spammy) pitching in with some smoky flavour. The pizza was good without being wow. A bottle of Sicilian white on the side helped it down.

The service was excellent from two friendly waitresses and at under £30 a head all in it was pretty good value. Worth going to if you’re in the area.

7/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 22 Viet Eat, Holborn

August 1, 2018

In torrential summer rain we ducked into Viet Eat for a quick dinner thinking a bowl of Phô would be just the job. But it didn’t go well. It was early evening and the room wasn’t busy, just a smattering of tourists, so there wasn’t really any excuse for the slackness of the service. Asking for a fork and spoon we were told that Vietnamese food is usually eaten with chopsticks. No shit! But just give me the flatware and save your condescension for someone who gives a toss.

The food too was underwhelming. The broth on the Phô was a bit underpowered so I slathered in some sauce for a bit of flavour. The rest of the dishes were fine, not memorable. Not worth revisiting.

4/10

#Food #London

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

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


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