Archive for the ‘London’ Category

Resto 7 Lao Café, Covent Garden

March 6, 2019

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The first birthday dinner of 2019 was a leftfield choice. Lao Café is the only Laotian resto in London, possibly the UK. One of us had been to Laos (not me) so knew what to expect – leaning more towards Thai food than Vietnamese but quite distinctive. I was happy to try it out.

Lao Café’s interior is refreshingly modern and zappy with a great big mural on one wall. We had a table in the window. In fact we’d commandeered two tables to cope with the amount of food that we’d ordered, so I felt a bit guilty since there was a queue at the door by the time we left but the owner didn’t seem to mind.

I sucked on a glass of wine while perusing the menu – my interest was immediately piqued by ant eggs. This was a new thing to me. I’d have them as part of a Lao mushroom curry. Alongside that we took a Lao papaya salad and a fish dish for two with some grilled sticky rice.

“You want that spicy?’ enquired the owner. ‘Yes please.’ She looked sceptical. ‘One, two or three chillis?’ I looked at Karen for guidance but she stared back inscrutably. ‘Three, why not?’ ‘You’re sure?’ I sensed a challenge being laid down. I nodded resolutely but ordered a beer just in case.

I definitely needed that beer! The heat was slow to arrive but ferocious when it did. In a good way. At least that’s what I said in between glugging down cold booze by the brace. The fish was excellently cooked – meaty and bony so requiring delicate knife skills. Ant eggs were less of a delight, although the curry they rode in on had an excellent depth of flavour with a high mushroom content that would make it a good lunchtime option. The Lao element to the papaya salad appeared to be hard-shelled baby mud crabs, which I was happy to deposit alongside the fishbones uneaten. I was also less than enamoured of the grilled sticky rice, though that may be due to the fact that I’d had a tooth extracted at the weekend and the hole in my face rapidly turned into a sticky rice mine.

Despite ordering less than the recommended amount of two salads and two mains we still couldn’t finish everything that was brought to us. The service was outstanding – really friendly and quick. I especially liked the feller with the low slung jeans who brought us the wrong bill (lower than we expected) and quite happily admitted his own doofishness about it. Even at the higher rate the bill was reasonable for this part of town for the amount of grub/drink we’d got.

I’ll be back to Lao for curry but without the ants or crabs – this is a place where it’s good to know your way around the menu.

8/10

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

‘A Soldier’s Song’ visits the Inns of Court

March 5, 2019
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The Devil’s Own recruit from the quality.

‘He’s a devil this boy!’ I didn’t know when I wrote that line for A Soldier’s Song how apposite it would turn out. As part of the research for the production of the show we had a cast visit to the Inns of Court & City Yeomanry Museum in a crepuscular corner of Lincoln’s Inn where the Regiment still has its HQ.

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Appropriatley Dickensian digs for the Inns of Court & City Yeomanry

As you can see from the poster above the Inns of Court are nicknamed ‘The Devil’s Own’ so it seemed entirely correct that our Hector, the dashing World War 1 hero, should be described by his old batman Hobbs as a devil.

Major O’Beirne gave us an excellent tour of the bijou collection of memorabilia and photographs which tell the story of the regiment from its origins in England’s deep past right through wars local and global to the present day.

One sinister highlight was a Nazi flag rummaged from a box in a cupboard rumoured to have been swiped from Luneberg Heath on the day of the Germans’ surrender in 1945. The Devil’s Own themselves had had a tough introduction to Europe, landing in Normandy with instructions to blow bridges across the Orne only to find themselves under fire from some trigger happy American Typhoons.

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The Berkhamstead Boys pose in 1915

Of course we lapped up the tales of derring do but nudged our host in the direction of World War One – what had the IoY been up to between 1914 and 1918? By coincidence it turned out that they’d been based in our leading man’s backyard of Berkhamstead! Looking through the photographs he could pick out the golf course – once used for trench warfare – Kitchener’s Field parade ground, and local landmarks like this church porch.

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Looking through the sepia images of young men being trained for War it really was a most inspiring visit, especially with the wealth of visual detail that we were able to pick up. I only hope James’s moustache can live up to WW1 standards!

#theatre #London #ASoldiersSongPlay

Sport & Leisure History Seminar 2019 #5

February 27, 2019

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Monday 11th March 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 exploration of the deveopment of the fashion for replica kits in football with Chris Stride we take a radical change of direction for our next paper. On Monday March 11th Luise Elsaesser of the European University Institute in Florence will give a paper on the role of polo in the development of the British Empire in the late-ninteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

Not only are we promised some ground-breaking research on cultural transfer at the height of empire, there’s going to be some serious moustache action in the presentation.

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You can find her abstract below …

‘Dashing About with the Greatest Gallantry’: Polo in India and the British Metropole, 1862-1914

The period from 1870 to the Great War was defined by a new and more intensive phase of imperialism. This presentation analyses the impact of Empire on the metropole. In suggesting that the imperial space was not a one-way street the example of the Indian game of polo is used. Unlike most imperial sports, polo was adapted by the British from their colonial subjects, creating the opportunity of a common cultural space. How did polo influence socio-cultural and political power constellations in India and the metropole? More nuance on regional contexts and the effects of sport on specific groups will be provided. Unpacking the resulting interdependencies, ambivalences, and the mutability of polo in a British imperial self-image, the paper does not neglect Indian agency. Polo showcases an interrelation of ideas and beliefs which are used to understand the respective environment as well as the internationalisation of sport.

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.

 

Marivaux and Berlioz

February 19, 2019

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Rehearsals are in full swing for A Soldier’s Song and now, thanks to the wonderful Nick Kobyluch, we also have our artwork!

After a weekend of Berlioz on Radio 3 it’s also now time to reveal that ASoSo (as it’s become to cast and crew) is itself inspired in part by Hector Berlioz. On reading the original Marivaux it rapidly became apparent to me that the male lead’s romantic obsession with Araminte had a powerful resonance with the real life obsession that Berlioz had with the actress Harriet Smithson.

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Harriet Smithson – Shakespearean actress and Berlozian muse

It’s the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death this year and so there’s a lot of French romanticism in the air. I only hope that I’ve done the crazy old romantic justice and mashed up his life with Marivaux’s plot and my own sprinkling of English Romanticism to make something rather special.

Do come along to the Moravian Hall at the end of the month to find out! Tickets will be on sale from 25th February 2019.

#Berlioz150 #theatre #London

A Soldier’s Song, an original play by Geoff Levett adapted from Marivaux’s Les Fausses Confidences will run at the Moravian Hall from Wednesday 27th to Saturday 30th March 2019.

 

Sport & Leisure History Seminar 2019 #4

February 19, 2019

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Monday 25th 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.

Our next paper will be given by Dr Chris Stride of the University of Sheffield who will be talking to us about the fascinating history of replica football kits. Come on, we’ve all got our favourites, although I do hope Vinnie Jones in a Leeds strip isn’t one of them.

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The abstract for Chris’s paper is below … come along for polyester pomp and an analysis of the rise of the replica.

For anthropologist Desmond Morris, writing in his seminal 1981 study of football culture The Soccer Tribe, ‘the adornments of the followers’ were of much interest. However, despite the continuing presence of the scarves, hats and flags Morris described, it is likely that a similar study carried out in the 21st century soccer landscape would relegate them to a mere footnote beneath a single, overwhelmingly favoured item of match day clothing – the replica football shirt.

Child-size football kits had been packaged and promoted as replicas since the late 1950s, and after shirt designs were first copyrighted in 1974, became an increasingly lucrative industry. However, at this point in time shirts were not marketed towards, nor worn by adults. Using both quantitative analyses of data gleaned from 1000+ crowd photos, a similar number of programme adverts, and a survey of fans to model the growth in purchasing and promotion of replica shirts from 1975 to 2000, it is possible to identify the phases of adoption, from the trailblazers, through wider adoption, to today’s ubiquity.

Three key stages of adoption are identified. First,  the wearing of shirts by a small hardcore of fans in the 1980s, inspired by their popularity as cup final fancy dress in the 1970s, wardrobe inertia in those who had worn them in their early teenage years, and social changes in leisurewear, most notably the growing acceptability of sportswear as street fashion prompted by the 70s jogging boom. Wider adoption was, however, suppressed by the threat of violence at matches, a residual sense amongst older fans that football shirts were for children and players only, and the lack of any meaningful distribution network or marketing strategy to adults. Second, a late 80s boom, as the infrastructure for football’s future hypercommodification begins to fall into place, the threat of matchday hooliganism recedes, and the football shirt becomes a fashion item in a brief period of cross-polination between football and music subcultures and the euphoria of Italia 90. Finally the birth of the Premier League and a rapid gentrification and commercialisation of the game sees a new, older market for football shirts rapidly developed and exploited by focused marketing and design.

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 6 Tomo, Hornsey

February 17, 2019

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Back in Hornsey for a play (someone else’s) at the Great Northern it was thought wise to lay in some bait before in prep for the after-show party. Not having had the greatest experience at La Giaconda across the road we decided to give their rivals a go.

Tomo was busy but not too busy to squeeze us into a corner table. The menu is full Italian – pizza, pasta and fish/meat – but we kept it simple. A Tartufo pizza with sausage and truffle (an altogether superior production to that we saw at the National the night before) accompanied by a rocket salad with artichokes. The pizza was delicately turned and sausaged enough to satisfy. House white by the carafe did the job on the side.

The service was outstanding – three members of staff keeping the whole room happy. If I hadn’t had an appointment with fringe theatre I would have stayed for home made sorbet and grappa. I’ll happily go back soon to amend that.

8/10

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

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 …

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


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