Archive for October, 2018

Resto 37 Bon Vivant, Bloomsbury

October 29, 2018

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Where does one go when one’s just staggered out of Jean Cocteau’s Orphée wondering ‘What the f*** was going in that thing?’ French I guess, to keep the vibe going. Not too far either if it’s the coldest day of the year and you’ve got a stinking manflu. So we went to Bon Vivant, which has replaced a perfectly good Italian on the corner of Marchmont Street, something I’d slightly held against it when walking past previously.

But rarely does London stay still and BV does a good job of imitating a standard French bistrot. A pungently good French soup worked wonders as a starter. Despite being in the grip of  la grippe mâle. I could taste the garlic and got a good fishy slap around the chops to boot. The Viognier fared less well against such a blast of flavour, I should have picked a red. Good bread kept us going while we waited for the next round.

For main a confit duck leg was good without being to slaver for and came with death by spuds (one of The Fall’s B-sides compilations) but not by vegetables. Some frizzy lettuce made like tumbleweed across the plate before I pronged it and scoffed it. A sticky red wine sauce was excellent, as was the service.

The room was empty when we arrived at 6 on a Sunday but it soon started to fill up with mostly visitors to these shores. The music was all over the place, starting Europoppy and then moving onto to something more soporific. Except for the volume which always stayed just the wrong side of discreet. I could have done with some Georges Delerue, or indeed to keep with the Orpheé theme, some Georges Auric. And what the pre-pubescent boy at the next table made of the rather lascivious décor in the ‘powder room’ I’ve no idea but it wasn’t to my taste. The food, on the other hand, was. Next time I’ll order me own légumes.

7/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 36 Fah Thai, Southsea

October 24, 2018

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I’ve been in serious training for the Great South Run for several months. Dr Oddbin’s and Dr Nando’s carefully calibrated groundwork meant that when I arrived in Pompey the night before the race I only required a visit to a couple of local hostelries and a restaurant to round off a gruelling program of shoving things in my face to be in peak condition for the big day.

The Golden Eagle provided liquid refreshment while we decided that Fah Thai would provide the necessary pre-run carbo-loading. A brief wait for a table on a busy Saturday night saw us ensconced in a cheerful room hung with oriental knick knacks. Fellow diners munched and conversationed hummed pleasantly. I didn’t want to stray too far from the mainstream so shared a crispy fried seafood and spring roll starter with a Thai Green Curry to follow.

The food was good and there was plenty of it, thus satisfying both of my requirements for the evening. Cheerful, prompt service dispelled the slightly condescending chaos of Koh Thai from the memory. Fah easily outclasses Koh in all areas of the game in this neck of the woods.

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Pompey never looked so good.

The weather was glorious for the following day and thanks to the power of Thai food I completed the course in a creditable time. Future runners could do worse than follow in my footsteps.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 35 Victoria Stakes, Crouch End

October 23, 2018

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Membership of the Crouch End Players entails a gruelling amount of pre- and post-show entertainment that only the strongest constitutions are apt to survive. But it does have the upside of getting to try out the ever-changing restaurant scene in N8. The Victoria Stakes, however, is a stalwart at the foot of Muswell Hill yet curiously I’d never eaten there before.

The room is gastropubby without choring on about it (we dined in the downstairs bar, I think (though I’m not certain) that it’s more formal upstairs). They had a new menu and the staff were eager to know how we liked it. I liked it a lot – solid bistrot style dishes with plenty of options for veggies and vegans.

I was a hungered man and went for the onglet steak. This came cooked, sliced and seasoned to perfection (and I mean perfection, i.e. high end restaurant quality) with lashings of crunchy chips and a satisfyingly hefty lump of watercress on the side. House red didn’t spoil the effect and the only downside was that the bream across the way had plenty of fish but not enough accompaniments.

Service was cheerful and efficient, making the VS a good option if you’re seeing any future CEP productions at the Moravian Hall.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Sport & Leisure History Seminar Autumn 2018 #3

October 18, 2018

Monday 29th October 2018

‘American Tourists in Britain in the 1950s: Archetypes, Prejudices and Realities with Dr John Law

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.

Our third seminar of the term will be given by a Dr John Law from the University of Westminster. He’ll be talking to us on a subject drawn from his forthcoming book on Americans visiting or living in Britain in the 1950s and their (sometimes horrified) reactions to what they found there.

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As you can see from the cartoon above that I found on John’s website the American tourist in London often cut a distinctive dash in the urban scene. The paper promises further rich visuals as well as material drawn from archival sources and interviews with US survivors of 50s Britain, its weather, its food, and its hotel rooms.

This is only the one of a number of series of stimulating talks to be held at the IHR in the S&L series, scroll down for the details of future seminars or go to the IHR’s website. The talks take place in the Past and Present Room on the second floor – doors open from 17:15 and the seminar to start promptly at 17:30. I hope to see you there.

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Resto 34 Rosso Pomodoro, Covent Garden

October 14, 2018

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Having been to the extraordinarily good Mantegna-Bellini (I’d say it’s a must see) the previous Friday we returned to the NG for the Courtauld Impressionists. This too is an impressive show. If you haven’t been to either the Courtauld or the National Gallery before. If you have there is literally nothing new to see save for a fancy book created by Mr C to show off his impeccable taste. Since we have a membership for the NG we didn’t have to pay for the tickets (although in a way we kind of had as part of the membership).

There’s a questionable morality around making people (i.e. the British public) pay for something they already own and can usually see for free. Don’t get me wrong, there’s an upside to the sectioning off of these masterpieces behind a pay-wall. Seurat’s Bathers can be revelled in in all its glory without the usual accompaniment of tedious selfie takers and listless tourists getting in the way.

Bringing the two collections together also allows for excellent juxtaposing of works in fresh ways. I was especially struck by two Daumier illustrations of episodes from Don Quixote, especially as the Courtauld’s picture is usually rather inaccessibly hung high up above a chimney breast. But the fact that major paintings like ‘Bathers’ (and many others) are not available to the public throughout the year sticks in the craw somewhat.

So I consoled myself with pizza. Rosso Pomodoro I haven’t been to for some time. They pride themselves on being a Neapolitan outfit and so it was satisfying to get a round of fried stuff to share up front. According to my son Naples is the Glasgow of the south, a place where they’d deep fry their own offspring if they could sell them through a hole in the wall.

The calamari was excellent – squid rings and octopus childers in a fluffy batter. Less enjoyable (though very tasty) was the seaweed croquette. This was more croquette than seaweed. Delicious and fluffy but definitely bringing to mind the potential implications to my arteries of eating so much fatty food.

It was a good job I was hungry as the quattro stagioni that followed was a generous chunk of pizza that overflowed with high quality toppings, especially in the cheese department. The dough is fermented for 24 hours and this tells in the finished product – it’s not often that I want to eat every last portion of a pizza crust but on this occasion I did. Even if ultimately I didn’t manage it; it was with regret that I had to call an end to my struggle.

The service was very good throughout and in seats with a view of the misguided fools queueing to get into Dishoom we were in an admirable place to people watch the parade of human traffic through Covent Garden of a Friday night. It’s worth giving RP a go if you want a change from PExpress.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Cricket and Society in South Africa, 1910–1971

October 12, 2018

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Thanks to the encouragement and energy of the editorial team of Bruce Murray, Richard Parry and Jonty Winch Cricket and Society in South Africa, 1910-1971 is now in print as part of Palgrave’s series of studies in sport and politics. The largest guffaw of the BSSH’s* recent conference came when one of the delegates said that sport and politics shouldn’t mix. Our book is a c. 70,000 word refutation of that statement.

My own chapter looks at the career of Percy Sherwell, first captain of the ‘Summerboks’ and all round imperial biffer for Britain. Further chapters broaden the scope of the traditional historiography of cricket in South Africa beyond tales of great white men to examine cricket amongst the black and Asian communities as well as women’s cricket. Or as the publisher puts it the book

  • explores Southern Africa’s sporting image, grounding it in analyses of the subaltern class that have been hitherto marginalised or ignored
  • traces imperial networks beyond the UK as mediator of empire, and brings women’s role in the sporting politics of Empire into clearer focus and
  • challenges the dominant narrative of Imperial sports history by interrogating and filling in the gaps and silences in the record of the excluded

Naturally, I would encourage anyone with an interest in cricket history to buy a copy, or ask your library to secure one. Further details can be found here.

*British Society of Sports Historians

Sport & Leisure History Seminar #2

October 7, 2018

Monday 15th October 2018

‘Sarah Meyer, An Englishwoman in Japan: Judo as Propaganda in the 1930s’ with Amanda Callan-Spenn

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.

Our second seminar of the term will be given by a post-graduate researcher from the University of Wolverhampton, Amanda Callan-Spenn. Her subject, Sarah Meyer, is a woman whose career reads like the plot of a Booker-shortlisted novel.

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But don’t just take my word for it, come along to the seminar on Monday 15th October to find out how Meyer became one of the pioneering figures in the globalisation of martial arts between the wars.

This is only the one of a number of series of stimulating talks to be held at the IHR in the S&L series, scroll down for the details of future seminars or go to the IHR’s website. The talks take place in the Past and Present Room on the second floor – doors open from 17:15 and the seminar to start promptly at 17:30. I hope to see you there.

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