Sunday, September 29, 2013

Longitude 0°8' at Le Méridien (Piccadilly Circus)


Following the success that was two people being wined and dined, very well, for £29 on a deal I’d bought off LivingSocial, I developed a fondness for package deals off the internet, and thus bought another one, this time off Wowcher. My guinea pig was the same fella as last time, Handsome Theo. Only, where the Grappolo deal had been to mark our anniversary, since then, we’d broken up, so this was just a little visit as friends. Potentially awkward and painful, but had I not used the deal, it would have been four cocktails gone to waste, and that would have been a real tragedy.

The deal cost £17, which for “four cocktails and six canapés”, sounded too good to be true. Well, it was, in that it played very slyly on the fact that humans make assumptions. It was, quite literally, 4 cocktails, and 6 canapés. Not six plates, just six. I’d assumed that it would be six plates, but, as we all know, ASSUME makes an ASS of U and ME.



Fortunately, we’d had a big-ass lunch so even the smallest portions of canapés managed to feed us, and, whilst I skipped the ham sandwiches (I don’t like ham), the cheese and pesto bite was delicious. The cocktails, less so. They were all extremely strong. This is usually a trait I encourage in cocktails, as the ones they serve in Slug and Lettuce are usually entirely soft drink, with about ½ a shotglass worth of alcohol in it. Even I, the most lightweight person in the world, would find it hard to get drunk on that. Yet they don’t taste bad at all, because of the lack of alcohol. The Longitude 0°8' cocktails went the opposite way – there was alcohol alright, but due to the lack of flavouring, fruits and sweetners, it pretty much felt like we were drinking pure vodka. Not pleasant.



I feel massively cheated by the fact that there were just six tiny little canapés, and not, as I’d dreamed in my head, six plates of them. But that’s slightly my problem, I should have looked at the £17 pricetag and realised not to be greedy. So the majority of my money went on the cocktails, then. But they were not good. Add in the fact that because Longitude 0°8' was an “upmarket” place and thus they can’t have their punters being too comfy, the sofas were rigid and unwelcoming. The woman who served us looked like she’d rather not be there. Oh, and the clientele were the biggest selection of hoity-toity goons I’d ever seen. (Then again, with an RRP of £14.50 for one of those disgusting cocktails, you’d have to be a dumbass to go here.) When it comes to pretentious bullshit, this place would give Laduree a run for its money. Avoid.

Grade: F

Monday, September 23, 2013

Two meals at Wasabi Sushi & Bento.

Sweet & spicy chicken bento, £5.45
 
I didn't like this very much, unfortunately, as it looked amazing in the box. The sweet & spicy sauce wasn't like the one I'm used to in Chinese food, and the cold chicken tasted off as well. I commited a faux-pas by not putting any soy sauce onto the rice, and as such, they tasted stale and were difficult to ingest, and the greens were extremely bland.
Grade: F
 
 

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Bento box (noodles/rice and two meat dishes), £5.45
I had this on the same day as the previous one, which is unusual as I don't generally go back to places where I have a bad memory of. However, this was after the Chelsea game on Saturday and I was absolutely hammered, and feeling peckish, so, beggars can't be choosers. This went down a treat! The noodles were soy, but didn't taste too different from what I'm used to, and the hot sauce either side were both terrific. The chicken was actually well-cooked this time, which is more than I can say about the previous meal, and when I meshed the two sauces together, the outcome was delicious.
Grade: A-

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

Scoop (South Kensington)


Before the Chelsea game on Wednesday, I had an amble around neighbouring Tube stations whilst waiting to meet a friend. I was feeling a bit peckish, but not hungry enough for a full meal, so when I saw Scoop, a luxury ice cream place, my curiosity was piqued and I helped myself to three scoops.

Of the three, two were roaring successes (the cherry and the fruit sorbet flavour), and the third, biscuit, whilst not exactly to my taste palate, was still specked with crushed biscuits, which gave them an interesting texture nonetheless. But, as said, the other two were wonderful, and they definitely tasted high-end. It's pretty hard to go wrong with ice cream as it as so I was going to be satisfied either way, but it was refreshing to be in a place in South Ken that didn't rest purely on its laurels of the upmarket location, but, rather, strove to make its food as classy as the postcode.

Grade: A

Monday, September 16, 2013

Yogland (Bayswater)

 
Situated on an extremely happening road leading from Queensway tube station to Bayswater tube station is Yogland, a well-packaged place, with appropriately clean furniture (to the point of appearing sterile) and some delicious flavours of yoghurt. However, this frozen yoghurt joint that was hard to love, despite having a fair amount going for it.
 
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There are six self-service frozen yoghurt dispensers, and the idea is that you fill them up with however much you like, chose all the toppings you want, and at the end, you are priced by weight. Fair enough, if not for the fact that a lot of the toppings were truly poorly presented (the mango slices were bathed in dirty-looking water, berries looked unwashed, etc). Furthermore, the maintenance of the frozen yoghurt themselves was inconsistent. Strawberry cheesecake came out from the nozzle with no problem, suggesting it’s a popular flavour that they take good care of, but when I pulled the lever for apple sorbet, the first thing that came out were green droplets of water! Yuck! A total appetite-killer, and you could not miss the irony that they'd spent all that time making the chairs and tables looking good, and not the food itself.

There were a few extra flavours that you had to ask for instead of getting yourself, and being a bubble-gum nut, I went for that. But when the woman scooped it up, I couldn’t help noticing she collected up all the scraggly, fallen-off pieces of ice cream, as opposed to the delicious, full, untouched food that you're supposed to serve. Suffice to say, a place with a lot of potential, but let itself down with bad maintenance and people on the till who didn’t think of the welfare of their customers.
 
Grade: C-

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Two Short Book Reviews

Cell (Stephen King)

A chillingly crafted novel channelling the dystopian world that unravels after mobile phones have the ability to send people into crazy killers, and how those who weren’t affected by “The Pulse” try to survive as the initially mindless “phone crazies” begin to get smarter. The protagonist Clay, is a likeable, resourceful guy who we can root for, and his sidekicks Tom and Alice, are good foils for him, interesting enough in their own right without detracting from Clay's voyage - to get to Maine to find his son. The story sometimes moves a little slowly, with Stephen King being particularly languid with Clay’s voyage, but there are shocks galore throughout the book, as well as dark laughs. Well-written with descriptions so vivid you could actually imagine this happening, this is a science fiction novel that even I could enjoy. Grade: A-

Hickory Dickory Dock (Agatha Christie)
Hercule Poirot gets up to another one of his adventures, this time, introduced to him by his assistant, Mrs Lemon. Mrs Lemon’s sister works at a youth housing centre, where things have inexplicably gone missing or been sabotaged. These petty thefts, however, are soon owned up to, but the perpetrator then appears to have committed suicide… or did she? As with most Agatha Christie, the joy isn’t in so much as the whodunit (though I never would have guessed, I was foiled again!), but in getting to know the characters, this time, the boarders in the hostel. Each have their idiosyncrasies and quirks, and it is to Christie’s merit that she pulled the wool over my eyes once again, and got me suspecting completely the wrong people. Grade: A-

New Accessorize sandals.

Even though Summer is pretty much over, I still like to wear sandals to work. Pairing sandals with chinos + a shirt gives the outfit a feminine twist, I feel, plus it allows me to be creative with my toenail colours, more so, say, than I would be with my finger colours.

 
I got quite lucky, because there were only one pair left in the sales, and they were just my size (4.) The RRP was £32, which I'd consider ridiculous, but with the 70% sale, they came to £9.60, so I snapped them up!
 
I like these sandals a lot, especially the suede straps, which are both comfortable and fashionable to wear. Furthermore, they're a little different from previous sandals I've had, where the big toe and the other four toes are separated at the front. This doesn't have that, which rids the potential uncomfortability that the aforementioned setup can incur.
 
Overall, these are comfy and fashionable, I like them a lot!

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Caffe Concerto (Leicester Square)

We stopped into Caffe Concerto on Anna's birthday for a taste of some of their legendary desserts.

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They tasted fantastic, and weren't too ridiculous by central London standards (£5.30-ish), but the service was atrocious and the general atmosphere was not a welcoming one.

Chipotle (Covent Garden)


In Bath, I visited Mission Burrito once, and thought I might as well try my hand at the task of finishing a whole burrito (it's about 2.5 the size of the one pictured above) in one sitting. As I didn't know I was going to MB that day, I'd had McDonald's for lunch, so, suffice to say, I was not successful. But the little trip did set off my love of burritos, and after having cheekily had bits of Theo's burrito from the same chain when we were in Wimbledon on Sunday, on Wednesday, when I spotted Chipotle again in Covent Garden, I didn't hesitate to grab one all for myself.

The burritos here are the best I've had. I don't know what it is, but the quality and consistency of the carnitas is far superior that of in Bath (because lbr London > Bath, just truthin'), and the sauces, spices and vegetables that they layer on top of the pork are also created with more care and spark. Plus, a burrito in the Bath store costs about seven quid. The carnitas pork one I had on Wednesday was just £6.95, so it was cheaper than a single in Bath, score! I also helped myself to the pretentious-looking drink because I liked the sexy shape of the bottle. I wolfed down my burrito with no consideration for table manners because it was just so goddamn delicious, meaning for under a tenner, I was fully fed, and left the place with a big grin


Grade: A

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Random nailkit my dad got me from China.

Pray tell me what the random scalpel-lookalike things are actually for?  photo SAM_0556_zpsfe1999bf.jpg

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Monday, September 02, 2013

The Casual Vacancy (JK Rowling) review


 
Released last year to bated breaths and eager eyes, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first foray into the adult-book market. Having held back from reading it when it first came out so I could savour every page and give the book the measured, impartial critic it deserved (the worry was that, had I devoured it so quickly like I did with the final Harry Potter book, I would miss nuances like I did with my first time reading of HP VII, so keen was I to get to the end of the saga), I found myself extremely disappointed with The Casual Vacancy, which was, at best, overly-detailed and ambitious, and at worst, a self-satisfied, muddling mess.
The action kicks off when well-loved Parish Councillor Barry Fairbrother bites the dust due to a surprise bout of aneurism in his brain. Initially, the townpeople of Pagford, the fictitious West Country town where the book is set, mourn his death, but soon, practicalities kick in. His death leaves a “casual vacancy” to be filled, and three men put themselves forward: Miles Mollison, a lawyer and family man is the frontrunner, being the son of Howard Mollison, the leader of the Parish Council, but there is also Deputy headteacher Colin Walls, who wants to run out of love of Barry, as well as bullying petty crook Simon Price, who, on hearing of the unofficial perks of being on the council, can’t resist the idea of receiving some bribes of his own.
Having penned the source material of the box office smashes Harry Potter, one can’t help but think she’s got half a mind of the movie rights of this book. For, whilst the setting, Pagford, is a small town, the themes of the book are anything but. Adultery, drugs, self-harm, racism, abuse, duplicity, you name it, this book’s got it. There are several families which come into focus, and the actions of each have repercussions on other people, some of these which trigger off a Domino effect into something much larger. But whilst this makes for interesting films, such as Magnolia or Short Cuts, on paper, it harder to keep track of, particularly at the start when she juggles between narratives and it is hard to keep up.
That is not to say the book is a total failure. As with Harry Potter, there are moments of extreme wit – her describing of a teenage boy band that one of the wives in the novel becomes obsessed with can only be sculpted on One Direction, and is an incisive comment on how little there is to live for when the spark goes out of a marriage. Similarly, in the latter act of the book, when the action really takes off and people begin posting on the Pagford town message board as The_Ghost_Of_Barry_Fairbrother, chaos, and dark humour, reigns. As with some of the later Harry Potter books, when Rowling gives the internal monologue of the characters in The Casual Vacancy, she offers a window into their psyches, however dislikeable, and it takes a talented writer to do that.
But even as the most ardent Harry Potter fangirl, I cannot overlook all the flaws in this novel. First and foremost, it strives for so much, and in doing so, achieves so little. I read this book whilst also reading Tampa by Alissa Nutting and Cell by Stephen King, and compared to this book, the narratives of those two are so straight-forward and unpretentious, it made me want to cry tears of joy. Even if we put my inability to follow the plot down to me being a bit dense, there are other things – Rowling’s depiction of a crack addict and the conditions she lives in could be lifted right out of an anti-drugs campaign they made for teenagers, so laden are they with caricature.
Very few characters in the novel are likeable. Sukhvinder Jawanda is one of the few that I liked, and it is credit to the novel that she gets a brief glimpse of redemption. But I despised pretty much everyone else in the novel, so much so that, when tragedy did strike at the end, that I was left with a hollow “so what?” feeling that contrasted with the endless tears I shed in reading the Harry Potter books, and even then, you could feel Rowling desperately trying, to no avail, to pull at her readers’ heartstrings. The teenagers are painted with a general paintbrush, the majority of them being antagonistic, ungrateful to their parents and far more interested in getting laid than studying. I’ve been a teenager and that’s just not how it is. Where has Rowling been getting information, episodes of Skins?
Where the teenagers are whiny little gimps, the adults are described as hypocrites who are only out for mercenary gain. They only think of themselves and aren’t able to see how their own kids are rebelling right under their eyes. Whilst no doubt haphazard parenting exists, for there to be so many poor parents, all so closely linked, beggars belief.
Recently, Miley Cyrus cringed out the world at the MTV Awards by “twerking” and basically just trying to shed her good girl image so much that it reeked of desperation and trying too hard. With The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling is doing the literary version of exactly the same thing. Sex, drugs and gratuitous swearing (hell, I’m a tetchy football fan with an attitude problem and I don’t even swear as much as the saps in this novel do), I cringed on pretty much every page. That Rihanna’s “Umbrella” was used as a motif throughout the novel just compounds the humiliation that was reading The Casual Vacancy.

Golden Dragon (Chinatown)

The dishes were, as with New China, a little on the pricey side for what they were, but as I went in a group of 6 this time, I got more variety for my money.
 
Grade: B+

Sunday, September 01, 2013

The search for London's best breakfast: Makcari's.

I had this yesterday when nursing a brutal hangover:

 
It was £5.50 for ten items, as well as a drink (I had lemonade), and the carbs of the meal cured my hangover up a treat. That being said, the sausages weren't as good as I've tasted before, and the bacon wasn't as nice as the Frankie and Benny's one. But the egg was fantastic, the tomatos were my obligatory being healthy fix and there wasn't too much baked beans as per the Poppins breakfast. Bonus points for the fact that we could mix and match what we wanted to our own tastes; mine ended up looking quite different from my brother's, and I admire a cafe that accepts that not everybody likes the same thing.
 
For those interested, this is what my brother had:  photo SAM_0543_zps4311272e.jpg
 
Grade: A-.