Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Affordable Art Fair

October 19, 2017

I haven’t got round to my full Estorick post yet, in fact I’d like to go back before I tackle it, so in the meantime my art focus falls on the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea Park. This is my third art bunfight of the year after the RA’s Summer Exhibition and the Venice Biennale (not that I was in any danger of buying anything at that!) and I was there at the invitation of my talented friend, Nick.

Nick Kobyluch – not just a talented artist, also a fine centre back.

I’ll spare his blushes and briefly state that he does fine landscapes that are topographical without being pedantic. See the depiction of Elephant and Castle tube over his shoulder to discover how he finds the ray of sunshine in even the gloomiest London locale.

And the Fair? I’d recommend a visit if you’re in the area. Like all of these kinds of things you can get a bit art blind by the 100th stand but there is plenty of good stuff for the discerning eye. I was most taken with the photographs of delapidated buildings by Dan Oude Elferink. The temptation to take one home was strong but I reckon it best to approach purchases without free wine in the tank and we decided to visit the Ranen Art Gallery at a future date.

Punters queue to bag up their art. We kept a cool head.

Try and get there early if you can as the aisles get tight as the evening progresses, and no one likes tight aisles. As it was two knobhe … err, art fans spilled my drink while looking at the walls rather than where they were going.

A relatively clear aisle, it looks safe for beverages. But watch out, those red trouser guys come out of nowhere.

And is it affordable? Well it’s a relative term isn’t it. Some stands have prints (and originals) for sale at under a monkey but most featured works are four figures and above as far as I could see. So if budget is an issue for you follow the racecourse golden rule and keep your maximum stake in one pocket and your taxi fare home in the other. 

Resto 52 Pizza Nellie, Paris

September 7, 2017

I wasn’t hungry but the boy was so pizza seemed a good compromise. The one across the road was shut and I think Nellie hadn’t yet opened either but they had the door open and didn’t throw us out when we went through it. Hence we dined alone initially but were soon joined by a smattering of locals and not locals.

The menu is your regular pizza/pasta. I went for a La Reine as James had already snaffled the Napoli. We had a salad alongside. The pizza was good, plenty of topping and crispy enough. Despite my lack of hunger I devoured it in its entirety. The salad was a good helping with thankfully not too much dressing. Alongside we had a pichet of cheap red after being presented with a complimentary aperitif of what tasted like Ribena but probably wasn’t.

By this time pizzas were flying out of the door and it felt a shame to leave but one of us had an appointment with friends and I had an appointment with a good walk. The staff were very friendly and persuaded us to take a parting coffee. For around 20€ a head this was pretty good value for Paris. It’s worth going to Nellie’s if you’re in the area and in the mood for simple pleasures.

7/10

#food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 51, Vallée du Kashmir, Paris

September 6, 2017

We wanted something cheap and cheerful before seeing Dunkirk (or Dunkerque as they have it round here) in the Gaumont up the road. I was drawn into the Valley by remembrance of curries past, specifically of eating in an Indian by the Jardin des Plants after a freezing day’s walking with my then small children and the manager bringing us our own table-side calor gas stove. I was so cold and grateful I nearly cried. That is what I call customer service; the food wasn’t bad either.

We didn’t need a heater in the V du K but I would advise sunglasses. They have enough lights inside to land a jumbo jet. Flashing lights that would have Huw Stephens giving a stern avertissement for those with epilepsy. Lights in the ceiling. A TV churning out cheesy Indian pop videos. Lighted walls. Hell, I suspect they have lights on their lights.

I can just imagine their discussions with their accountant when they’re asking him why they’re not turning a profit:

‘But guys, in a businesses of your size you really shouldn’t be spending €20,000 a month on electricity. Are you sure someone hasn’t hooked up your supply to an industrial turbine?’

‘It’s the lights. We like lights.’

‘The lights? Yeah, I noticed those … And I’m blind. You need to do something about that.

‘We worship the lights.’

‘Bof, it’s your money.’

They like lights. They worship lights.

There was only one other guy in there but it was early by French standards. I remembered that things come in a curious order in French Indians but I couldn’t remember exactly how. We went for standards (as usual when testing a new place) with samosas and onion bhajia up front then a chicken jalfrezi for me for main and a Himalayan lamb for him. One popadom was placed on a side plate so we ate it while waiting for the beer (I didn’t know they did kingfisher in bottles so small but it was good and cold). We wondered why there were no chutneys but the mystery was solved as they arrived with the starters. As did the nan. Hmm.

The samosas were excellent, plenty of veg inside, and spicy. Onion bhaji in France is an onion ring, which is not to the British taste is it? I wanted sweatyoily balls of gut destroying deliciousness. These seemed insipid and trop civilisés. We were waiting for him to bring the mains but eventually realised that we were expected to eat our nan first. We chutnied the nan, the chutneys were good if nothing special while the bread lacked the crispness and ghee enriched luxury of its British cousin.

Then for the curries. My jalfrezi was curry but it wasn’t as ferocious as I wanted it to be. Oh my Standard, oh how I missed you. I’ll never betray you again. I couldn’t even see evidence of chili. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. I took a swig of Kingfisher and mopped up the last of the juices with RICE. Not nan because we’d eaten that. Everything was out of whack. Though the service was exemplary it didn’t make up for the wrongness of the food.

Perhaps my Valley of Kashmir induced hankering for Britain was responsible for my weeping through Dunkirk. Or it might have been Hans Zimmer’s astute, just this side of cichéd use of Elgar on the soundtrack. Or it might have been a not particularly good actor reading Churchill’s speech on a steam train (you can’t ruin rhetoric like that, it’s inobliterable). Or Nolan’s direction. Anyway I did that and I don’t mind, it’s good to have a good cry every now and then isn’t it?

Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can. Sorry Jay, you can’t; and I’ll never go for a curry in Paris again.

5/10

#Food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 48 Salt and Pepper, Ostkreuze

September 4, 2017


Having played one football match and watched another (the first finishing 2-6, the second 9-9) our team was looking for something other than pig to eat for a change. We found it in the shape of Salt and Pepper, an Indian restaurant which rather curiously allows you to order from the menu of the Mexican down the road. I have to say that alarm bells were ringing at that prospect but while the food was unspectacular it wasn’t awful.

The highlight came from a pungently spicy green dip among the three on offer with the popadoms. The other two were suffering from blandular fever. My main of mutton curry had good flaky bits of meat in an unspectacular sauce and a generous helping of rice. Naan wasn’t as luxurious as you’d normally encounter in the U.K. but maybe that was to fit in with the local taste.

Given that we were about 10 at table the service was straightforward and friendly with good beer (well, it’s Germany isn’t it?). Not being listed on the menu an enquiry was made as to whether Irish coffee was available. They didn’t know what it was but they said they’d endeavour to satisfy the demand. Presumably after a quick scan of Google a nausea-inducing glass of whipped cream, coffee and whiskey (what a waste) was provided which though not to my taste appeared to meet with the approval of my fellow diners.

S’n’P may not be the greatest Indian restaurant in the world (or even Ostkreuze) but it did the job for a hungry football team on a Saturday night.

6/10

P.s Cheers to Gavin for the picture, I forgot to take one.

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 25 Searcy’s St Pancras Grand Restaurant

May 9, 2017

I’d often wondered, as I hurried along to get a Midlands train, who dined in Searcy’s trackside at St Pancras. It seemed a halfway house between the luxury of the Gilbert Scott and the midbrow convenience of Carluccio’s et al elsewhere in the station that couldn’t really work. The door is narrow and you can’t really see inside to get a handle on who your company might be once you’re in. So we gave it a go at the weekend.

The room is tardis-like, much bigger than you expect, and pleasingly appointed. There are big tables, proper nappery and good, brasserie-style décor. The food is standard bistrot fare too. However, there’s nothing to mark out the restaurant as worthy of note, from food to service. It’s all competent without making you think you must go back so it’s noticeable that most of the customers (on our visit at least) appear to be out of towners who are indeed less than likely to need to go back again. And alas the prices reflect the location rather than the value of the experience. It’s all a bit soulless.

#Food #London

6/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 24 Saki, Crouch End

April 30, 2017

Opposite the now defunct Ohba Leaf Saki is maintaining a solid Japanese option in Crouch End. The elimination of its rival has obviously not harmed business for we were lucky to get a table even at around 6 o’clock. People arriving after us without a reservation were being turned away.

The menu is standard sushi/sashimi, bentos and curries but no ramen as far as I remember. Which was good as it made me try something different for a change. We took a range of appetisers to share which arrived as they were cooked. Duck dumplings were excellent – crispy and squidgy – while the octopus balls (‘When was the last time you had octopus balls?’ badinaged across the table) were okay but not especially life-enhancing. Best of the three was the squid; fluffy batter sweet and hot chilli sauce, made for not sharing, you’ll want the whole plate.

Big food was eel on rice. How I love eel! This was well cooked in a tasty sauce on sticky rice. I wish I’d got some veg to go with it but apart from that it was perfect. Asahi on the side worked fine and for about twenty quid a head this is a good option in a fiercely competitive N8 market.

#Food #London

8/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Saki

Resto 22 Dragon, Crouch End

April 15, 2017

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A Chinese restaurant isn’t the traditional venue for a Good Friday dinner I guess but when you’re in the grip of the perma-hang it’s  a good option. The last time I was in Dragon was at least twenty years ago but it’s a good sign that in a place like Crouch End it still exists. Few other restos in N8 have such staying power.

We got a mixture of starters and then a main each with some mixed vegetables. All of the starters were piping hot and cooked fresh – definitely a good sign in a genre of dining that too often (in my experience) relies on the reheat. We should have got two soft shell crabs as between four of us I was lucky to get a crabnail.

My main of sizzling Szechuan prawn arrived suitably spectacularly and had a good kick of fresh chilli. I should have had a beer but my mind said I’d had enough so we had wine. It wasn’t the best wine but it was quite cheap. In fact the whole meal came in at under 25 quid a head for plenty of food and drinks each.

The room was quiet for a Sunday evening and this is a shame when other places around here are bursting at the seams. The décor may be old-fashioned but the atmosphere was pleasantly calm, and the service was excellent. I think it won’t be two decades before I visit again. For a trad Chinese Dragon does a good job for which more ‘designed’ places in this area would charge you a premium.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Restaurant 19 Galette Café, Paris

April 8, 2017

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We wanted a quick lunch on the way to the Louvre and galettes (or Breton pancakes) seemed a good option. Half empty when we arrived the room was soon full with students, local workers and a few tourists like us. The seating is tight with individual tables around the fringe of the room with a communal table in the middle. This gave the space a nice, informal vibe that was just right for our mood.

The menu has a good variety of galettes to suit most tastes. I had a mushroom and chicken with a Grimbergen on the side. Being Breton they go big on cider so I felt a bit guilty at not trying some (especially with pictures of the producers smiling rustically down at me from the walls) but I lost the need for cider when I was about 16.

The galette was delicious – chunky and rustic with a good helping of mushrooms and chicken on top. I think double up the carbs by adding potato to the mix was a bit unnecessary but it didn’t diminish from the tastiness of the dish. A highly recommended non-touristy spot close to the d’Orsay or the river for a quick bite.

8/10

#Food #Paris

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

Resto 18 Goppa’s, Hackney

March 28, 2017

Killing time before heading to a gig at MOTH club (one of the best ever!) we were looking for quick food. I couldn’t be tempted by a steakwich at The Globe, even though the company was charming, so we pressed on to Goppa’s, lured by pizza.

On an unprepossessing (but is anywhere in this corner of Hackney prepossessing?) stretch of road Goppa’s is alluring from the outside. A warm room, rough and ready seating and a nice bar with Italian pop tunes on the stereo. I liked it immediately.

The menu is more sophisticated than expected with the usual pizzas but a great variety of pasta as well as a good range of smaller dishes. We went for calamari up front followed by Tuscan sausage pizza with a green salad. The calamari were great – light batter and straight from the pan. I was wondering where the aïoli was but actually they didn’t need a dip. With a squeeze of lemon they were absolutely perfect and I wish I’d had a whole bowl to myself.

The pizza had a good base and plenty of sausagey-mushroom topping. A large one was enough for two to share. The salad was a slight let-down after all this excellence with a bit too much salt in the dressing for my taste but others may differ. With a cheap bottle of white the whole thing came in at about 30% less than you’d pay at a medium-level chain so it was great value too.

Business was slightly slow on a quiet early Monday evening but I expect it’s busier later and at weekends. The staff were really friendly and if I’m back in the area I wouldn’t hesitate to visit again.

Recommended.

8/10

#Food #London #Hackney

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

Two exhibitions at the British Museum

March 26, 2017

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All the publicity for the British Museum recently has been for The American Dream, a show about prints from the past sixty or so years in the States. If you pair it  with America Between the Wars at the RA you can get a pretty good overview of the art of twentieth  century America. At the cost of quite a lot of shoe leather – neither show is negligible.

The BM’s is the more extensive however, more extensive and more comprehensive than I’d imagined it would be. Up front are the star names – Warhol, Rauschenberg (haven’t we seen enough of him lately?), Johns and Jim Dine.

The last I admit was new to me, which made him the most interesting of the nominated big three, who get their own rooms pretty much. Dine’s Red Design for Satin Heart was truly a thing of beauty. I won’t reproduce it here because as a digital image it looks a bit Clintons Cards. You have to see it in situ. Dine is more interesting than Oldenburg (who has a few prints up front) in his monumentalisation of the ordinary, for example with his print of paint brushes. He makes his re-contextualised implements living subjects whereas Oldenburg it seems is more concerned with artifice.

Then up comes Ruscha. Was I rattled by the Ruscha? (There’s one for all the Pavement fans out there.) Well, not really, it seemed that his processes – for example his use of gunpowder in print-making – were more interesting than the things he produced. Once you’ve seen three or four rooms half-full of slick stuff satirising ad-land you start to wonder whether the satire was ever there in the first place, except as a counter-cultural rhetorical device.

It was at this point (about halfway through) that I came to the opinion that the exhibition was far too big to take in in one go. But I ploughed on because in London, with so much going on, one’s best intentions of going back to a place rarely see fruition. And this is where I got a bit annoyed.

Minimalists were up next but then what’s this? The last three rooms are dedicated to Aids, women artists and black artists. And I question the whole basis of that. Because your average punter is likely to be art blind by the time they get to these rooms and therefore possibly miss some compelling work.

If the curators were going to switch to such an explicitly thematic approach I wished they’d front-loaded these rooms so that they were the first things that the public sees. Were they scared that if the punters couldn’t see a friendly Warhol from the door (well, not that friendly, it’s an electric chair) that they wouldn’t dare venture inside? Do the public have to be sold the familiar constantly?

I’m not arguing that Raschenberg/Warhol/Johns et al aren’t interesting or important, just that their work is so familiar that you only need to close your eyes to conjure it up. On the other hand I hadn’t seen ANY work by the artists in the last two rooms devoted to women and ethnic minorities (oh, except for another Warhol, who is represented by a depiction of a race riot, which seemed banal in the extreme next to much more complex work by less famous artists on the same subject of racial tension and radicalism in late twentieth century America). The unfamiliar isn’t necessarily obscure because it’s less interesting. As the Guerilla Girls point out.

So I would recommend going to the exhibition and starting at the last room. Your mind will be freshest to soak up the wonderful work of unfamiliar artists. If you’re as ignorant of American art as I am. Do not miss Kiki Smith’s Born 2002, which has the best wolf ever. Or Dotty Attie’s Mother’s Kisses which the label po-facedly informs us ‘hints at incest.’ Hints at like the Sistine Chapel hints at Christianity.

And the other show? Well, you’d hardly know it was there given the lack of press attention or indeed publicity for it in the museum itself. Just a discreet sign pretty much by the door of the prints gallery if I’m not mistaken.

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It is a wonderful thing. You might at first glance think it’s just for the connoisseur when you see Victorian depictions of the English countryside by the yard as you enter the room. But anyone could find something to their taste in here as the art gets far more radical as you progress around the room. Which is not to say that there aren’t things of genuine beauty – of course Turner, Constable and Cotman blow everything else away.

But I was taken by the unexpected depictions of London in watercolour. Especially this week. A Nevinson of Air Street and Piccadilly Circus tube under construction has a bus fleetingly viewed through a half-built Regent St Quadrant. Joseph Parnell’s Balloons Over London showed barrage balloons over the Thames at Battersea during WW1. But not barrage balloons as I imagine them – big fat silver sausages. These balloons are dainty Montgolfier affairs. Montgolfier turned sinister.

And best of all Henry Moore, London Skyline. St Paul’s is central to an extraordinary composition of a sheltering family, seemingly sheltering in the womb of London while wraiths stalk a fractured landscape. But St. Paul’s, like The Dude, abides. London is the place for me in good times and bad. Oh, and the watercolours are free.

#BritishMuseum #AmericanDream #London #Art


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