Archive for February, 2017

Cricket as Revolution

February 23, 2017

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend an excellent panel discussion on Cricket as Revolution organised by the LSE as part of its literary festival. The two speakers were Dr Prashant Kidambi of The University of Leicester and the journalist and cricket historian Peter Oborne. 

It was an excellent evening. Prashant kicked off with an unscripted 15 minute talk outlining the theoretical approach that he’s taking to a social history of Indian cricket that he’s researching now. His argument that the development of cricket is closed tied to the modernisation of Indian society in the twentieth century is one with which I agree wholeheartedly and whose grid of analysis (the rhetoric of equality on the field v quotidian bias on class/ethnic/caste lines, the role of mass media, the varying role of nationalism, and the role of class formation) could be applied across a range of sports in a range of territories. 

Against Prashant’s coolly analytical voice we then had Peter Oborne give a less coherent but more impassioned account of the role of cricket in the formation of Pakistani identity. His shoot from the lip style in the discussion afterwards was entertaining and entailed an unexpectedly enthusiastic digression on the development of women’s cricket in Pakistan. But I reckon his fondeness for straight talking (for example the comment, ‘Dubai is the most corrupt city on earth … with the possible exception of Bueno Aires’) may give something of a headache to whoever has to edit the discussion for podcast. But if it does go up on the LSE site I do recommend a listen.

The open discussion ranged widely but focused more on present-day issues than historical events. Of course I’m interested in both but as a researcher I would have been interested more in the latter. The former I’d rather discuss in the pub or at the match. But it was good to see such enthusiasm for the game among the audience, and especially the stout defence of the Test game against the rise of T20.

Prashant I’d first met when he examined me for my PhD and during that meeting he’d mentioned that he was working on a piece about the first all-Indian cricket tour of the UK in 1911. My thesis was largely concerned with the growth of international sport in the imperial context in the 1900s and I was aware that my own section on Indian cricket was weaker compared to some of my other material but Prashant was nice enough not to take me too much for task about it.

So it’s now a pleasure to see that he has brought his work on the tour to fruition and his book should appear in the summer. Before then he will also give a paper at the Sport and Leisure history seminar series at the IHR on the subject which I’m very much looking forward to now that I’ve heard him speak, if only briefly, about it last night.

By an odd coincidence I’d given a lecture on Indian cricket the day before in which, to put it simply, I outlined that contrary to traditional (i.e. white, Anglo, middle class) it wasn’t MCC that gave the game to the world, the world took the game from the English and developed it as best they could under colonial rule. Prashant can tell the story of the tour much better than I can so I urge you to either buy his book or come along to the seminar, which will be on 5th June 2017, if you’d like to hear more about it.

#cricket #India #LSELitFest

Resto 13 The Parcel Yard, Leicester

February 21, 2017

Chatting to a friend at the weekend he told me that I appeared to have had far too much good food this year. On the face of the reviews thus far he’s right but what he didn’t know was that I had a rotten experience up my sleeve just waiting for publication.


The Parcel Yard, from the drinking point of view, is an old friend. For a station pub the beer is good and reasonably cheap, with decent loos and cheerful staff. So I didn’t think there could be anything wrong with getting a quick bite before getting back to London last week.

Oh well, things don’t always work out how you want. I got there at seven and my train was at eight. Ample time I thought for a burger to be delivered and demolished even for a clock-fretter like me. I ordered and went to find a table. Argh, all that was left was high stools! Well, that’s not their fault and mebbe it’s just a quirk of mine that I hate high altitude seating so I put up with it and waited for the burger.



Looked around the room … was there a charabanc party in the far room? It appeared not. Had they run out of cow? If so nobody thought to let me know. I told myself that if it got to 7.30 I’d go and ask for my money back. As if the chef could read my mind the burger arrived at 7.29. I asked why the delay … busy in the kitchen. I raised a sardonic eyebrow but my rumbling stomach told me not to pursue the matter any further.

But what’s this?! Looking down I see a collection of nonsense straight outta Shoreditch. One child sized burger and an aluminium buckette of chips with some (admittedly v good) coleslaw on the side. But the size of the food wasn’t the chief source of my consternation.

The eats were assembled on the kind of wooden crate in which job lots of satsumas are retailed by the Turkish grocers of Green Lanes. Rough board base (with a greaseproof paper on top), four substantial sides and four lumps of further wood sticking up at each corner. I believe there are whole websites dedicated to the ludicrous means (planks, slates, dog-bowls) various knobheads have chosen to deliver their product to the poor consumer. This is my own contribution.

If I were the Labour candidate for Stoke I would make it my no. 1 campaign pledge that all food should be delivered ON A PLATE. I would win by a landslide.

The burger was dry.

3/10 (for the beer and coleslaw)

p.s. I did make the train but at the price of indigestion.

#Food #Leicester

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap



Resto 12 The Lion and Lobster, Brighton

February 15, 2017

In Brighton for a cousin’s birthday we were needing to lay in some bait before taking on Crazy Mouse.* She’d booked the Lion and Lobster and we trooped upstairs as a pack of Levetts to a room all to ourselves. A wise precaution given the occasionally combustible nature of such events in the past.

The building is a wonderful Regency warren of rooms – getting to the bogs (and back) being a challenge on a Thesean level. The room was perfect – panelled walls, pictures of Essex and a doorway to the decking for the fag addicts.

It was a Sunday so roast was the offer. I went for the bovine variety, two good slabs of topside with excellently cooked veg (and plenty of it), roasties, Yorkshire and gravy. It was sumptuous and made me very happy. To go with that a reasonably priced South African Shiraz. And dessert? Oof, well, I guess I’m only going to spend the next two hours on rides on the pier, what a splendid idea! It was a decent crême brûlée but a bit of a let down after the main event.

Happily, no tempers having been lost, we staggered off down the front for our rendez-vous with death.


Crazy Mouse. Fearsomely oxidised.

*I have no doubt as to the lunacy of said mouse, but the adjective that most came to mind while riding the rodent was rusty.

9/10 (I was tending to an 8 but my son insisted on 9)

#Food #Brighton #CrazyMouse

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 11 Al Duca, St. James’s

February 15, 2017

St. James’s again! This time after the wonderful Soviet show at the RA where the best stuff (apart from Malevich who never stops making you think even after a glut of him at Tate recently) was unfamiliar. Especially Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin and his still lifes. Just wonderful.

Dratted February rain meant we didn’t want to stagger far from Piccadilly but nor did we want to go somewhere too pricy (definitely ruling out Boulestin!) or packed with tourists. Al Duca fitted the bill. The room is surprisingly big once you’re through the door and we got a nice table by the window. Plenty of linen and a round of excellent bread while you’re having a look at the menu is the sign of a civilised operation. Fellow diners were a smattering of people out for the evening with some of the post-work crowd from the offices round about.

The food is classic Italian with (I’m hazarding a guess, I’m no expert except for knowing that they love a bit of donkey in Vicenza) the emphasis towards the north. I could have any or all of it, it all looked good. In the end I took octopus to start and turbot off the bone for main. The octopus had a surprising (in a good way) chilli tinge to it. And the turbot arrived with a dinky portion of saffron potatoes that made me wish I’d ordered something more substantial for a starter. But it was very very good.

Al Duca scores highly for service. The Maître d’ was happy to chat through the wine for us before we picked out something from the Alto Aldige which slipped down very nicely. As did the high class grappa that we had with coffee. It’s worth going to Al D for the grappa alone – they’ve got a card of about a dozen and we picked a golden smooth beast that was a far cry from some of the rotgut I’ve slopped down over the years. A big thank you for the waiter who recommended it to us when he could have picked something twice as expensive.


#Food #London #Italian

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Resto #10 Boulestin, St James’s 

February 11, 2017

Meeting a friend at the library we were looking for somewhere new within walking distance. I’d read about Boulestin a while ago (when it had freshly revamped a classic restaurant brand) – some okay, some bad. On the whole I liked it.

First impressions were good. The room feels light, a nice change from the rather ‘masculine’ venues around these parts, and we were given a table with a view of the famous (amongst the guiding fraternity a least) courtyard which had once hosted the Texas Legation. High quality art work around the walls added to the air of sophistication.

The food was pretty. I’d ordered like a supermodel – artichoke soup (poured at the table over a bed of croutons and dinky mushrooms) followed by a good lump of turbot. Stuffed that in my face, yum. The clientèle around us was a mix of hedgies and loungeurs. Our waiter got tremendously excited when I ordered a Hungarian white – it was the first one he’d sold. Such enthusiasm was a good thing.

Coffee was delicious but then the bill. Oh ah ooh ooh ah, wahoo. Oh well. Slightly north of my usual lunch budget and definitely above what you’d pay in the kind of Parisian bistrot that Boulestin models itself on. But hell, the food was good and we were eating on one of the most expensive streets on earth so what did we expect?


#Food #London #French

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Resto #9 Pierino, South Ken

February 6, 2017

Sometimes you’re better off dead

There’s a gun in your hand and it’s pointed at your head

You think you’re mad, too unstable

Kicking up chairs and knocking down tables

Well, it wasn’t that bad – I wasn’t in possession of a firearm and I hadn’t yet assaulted any furniture. I was, however, starving mad. The kind of wild-eyed ‘I should get a kebab’ hunger that only comes over you after spending too long in the pub debating when would be the best time to get something to eat, only to find on emerging onto the street that the ripe time was several hours ago.


So I was hungry and I wanted pizza. Carluccio’s having a ‘ten minute’ waiting time (yeah, right) we roamed the streets and found Pierino. It did the job. I ordered in a hurry – calamari to start was wolf-food, it barely touched the sides. In its brief existence as a course I only had time to note that the chilli sauce was rather ketchupy and had plenty of bite.

The pizza was a magnificently large affair. Quattro stages of good topping and a charred crispy base. I felt its civilising effects wash over me along with a glass of house white. Sanity was restored.

So my review may be slightly biased  but I found Pierino to be the perfect pizza outlet at that point in my life. When we arrived it was rammed with the post-museum crowd and we were very happy to be found a table by a friendly waitress. And for this area it was good value.


#Food #London #Italian

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap



Review #6 Café Den Turk, Ghent

February 2, 2017

The oldest bar in Ghent (reputedly) Café Den Turk was our choice for a quick lunch after the excellent MIAT textile museum. My worries about it being a tourist trap were soon allayed. The rest of the clientèle were a mixture of locals and visitors and the bar wears its history lightly.

The barman is a star; as a non-Dutch speaker I found the menu slightly impenetrable but he was happy to help out and did so patiently. A plate of cheese with a few slices of bread and the local Tierentyn mustard was very good, as was a selection of cold meats which he was right to flag up as less of a meal, more of a beer chasing snack.

One Leffe and an Orme later I was ready to face the trip to Brussels. This was the perfect place for a winter’s afternoon of conversation and to recharge one’s batteries.


#Food #Gent #Ghent

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Resto #5 Belga Queen, Ghent

February 2, 2017

We booked up the Belga Queen on the recommendation of our HoWest chums and they didn’t disappoint. The photograph doesn’t quite capture the apparently perilous degree to which the exterior of the building leans out from the perpendicular. This rickety mediaeval façade conceals a hi-tec interior that is all dramatic walkways and romantic lighting. We were directed to a window table with a view of the canal, smugly walking past less fortunate diners.

The restaurant sells itself on the use of local ingredients, many of them homegrown. For starter I went for a shrimp croquette – a nice crispy cone with squishy fishy goodness within. Main of turbot was a generous lump on a bed of greens and a rich sauce. The service was excellent, with our waiter having both the look and demeanour of Alex out of Hot Chip. The only disappointment was a rather bland ice cream for dessert served with the local jelly-babyish sweet.

The wine was Belgian and went down well enough, though to be honest having invested quite heavily in the local ale in the afternoon my palate wasn’t in the most refined state.

For a romantic evening this was a good find and the evening got even better once we’d found the Hot Club de Gent where they were playing some seriously good jazz.


#Food #Gent #Ghent

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Review #7 A La Mort Subite, Brussels

February 2, 2017

Like the Café Den Turk À La Mort Subite is the kind of historical location that could, if it chose, go down the route of celebrating its own celebrity by going easy on what made it good in the first place and turn itself into a Belgian theme park. And like the CDN it is to its great credit that it doesn’t.

My dining partner wasn’t so sure but a glance at the header photo to this post will show you why sudden death is still keeping it real. They have a homemade dog bowl and they’re prepared to use it.

Not only that, it avoids the linguistic divide in Brussels by addressing potential canine customers in a neutral language.

ALMS has a glorious interior that retro stylists would kill to steal. We were sat next to an aging picture of an aging jacques Brel (not every Flamand’s favourite Belgian I know but I remain a fan) with a view the length of the room. There was a good mixture of locals and tourists with the emphasis on the former. Service is formal but in a good way – I respected the waiter’s right to take his fag break before he brought us our bill in part because he looked like the late Gordon Kaye but mainly because he’s a pro and has his rights.

The food was hearty – a cheese omelette with the longest slice of bread I’ve ever seen for my fellow diner and a straightforward croque for me. Gueuze with that was very nice and did the trick before we strolled off to see Neil Hannon. Next time I’ll take my dog.


#Food #Brussels #Bruxelles

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Review #8 Mub’Art, Ghent

February 2, 2017

The last of our eating places of a very high quality weekend was the surprise package. To borrow from Rumsfeld (who seems strangely less crazy than once he did, that’s the power of 2016) Mort Subite was a known known, Belga Queen was a known unknown and Den Turk was an unknown known. Mub’Art, however, was an unknown unknown since we hadn’t even known it was there before we went to the fine art museum in Ghent.

Well, the museum set us up for a fine lunch. I’m a pretty seasoned gallery goer but out of all the cities I’ve been to over the last few years Ghent has one of the finest. It has just the right amount of world class things (Bosch, Breughel, Rubens being the obvious ones) mixed with famous locals (Ensor, Spillaert) and then a whole raft of new to me things like the Belgian impressionists (on whom Seurat seems to have been a tremendous influence, among others). 

Added to this you have an expertly curated room on the Dutch golden age which mixes championship quality painters (Hals and Maes apart) with period objects to contextualise the art that they produced.

And then the star of the piece, but catch it while you can, restoration of two panels from the van Eycks’ Ghent Altarpiece happening right before your very eyes. We had visited the original in situ in St. Bavo’s but had to rub up along people with audio guides and little genuine interest in the work beyond ticking off a list of things to do in Ghent. So finding an empty corridor from which to watch the craftspeople at work on sprucing up the knights was an unexpected treat.

So I was already well disposed to the museum when we took a punt on the restaurant. Museum restos are always a risk – too formal and they don’t work for the cross section of galley visitors. Too canteeny and you feel that you might as well have taken your own grub and eaten on a bench.

Mub’Art gets it just right. The food is seriously good cooking but with a popular price, while the service is friendly yet consistent with giving you the feeling that you’re definitely out for a meal. Attention to detail on the design of the room was also noticeable, in fact that was something that was true in most of the places we visited.

We took the set menu. Soup to start was a warm, thick chicory broth – quite filling! But not as filling as the chicken vol-au-vent which was a chicken on chicken attack of meatballs and stew with a dainty piece of pastry perched on top. Salad and chips alongside were beyond my compass but I manfully consumed the main event with relish. 

A Rothschild Sauvignon at €27 was a bargain and the whole lot came in at under forty quid each, which isn’t cheap if you’re on a budget but is good value if you want a treat. It was the perfect end to an excellent trip.


#Food #Gent #Ghent

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

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