Sunday, 11 April 2010


Food rocks, doesn't it? I love eating and trying new things but, that said, I'd never describe myself as a 'foodie', mainly because I'm not big on cooking. It's not that I can't cook, it's just that there are other things I would rather be doing than spending my time slaving away in the kitchen, especially when you're cooking for one (get the violins out!). Basically, I'm lazy.

However, my attitude towards grub may be about to change after the week I've just had, during which fantastic food was the common thread which tied it all together in one big, tasty, blogworthy package.

First up on Tuesday night was one of the best events I've ever been to. The wonderful people over at Qype* organised a secret supper club, where a bunch of forty or so lucky Qypers got to meet the legendary Jim Haynes from that After Eight advert (yes, he's real, and every word he says is true!). 

Jim has been hosting epic dinner parties at his Paris apartment for decades and reckons that, all in all, he's had around 130,000 round to his place for dinner. Now that's a lot of washing up! Meeting Jim was brilliant; he was a total charmer and he kissed my hand like a proper gent, but what was possibly even more special about the evening was the stuff we got to put in our bellies. 

You see, this was no ordinary evening. To celebrate the presence of the undisputed King of supper clubs, it appropriately took place at the wonderful underground restaurant Fernandez & Leluu. And when I say restaurant, what I actually mean is this lovely couple's living room! Unlike Jim's decades of experience, Simon (Fernandez) and Uyen (Leluu) have only been hosting their supper club in their Hackney abode since last autumn, yet their culinary skills and hospitality has so far generated high praise indeed and now I can't wait to go along to one of their regular sit-down dinners.

I won't even try and describe the brilliance of the food because I'm not a food blogger and I could never do it justice. But I will say that it was all exquisite, including a platter of starters (with the yummiest prawn cocktail dip I've ever tasted), the most tender slices of beef carpaccio, and a sinful pot of posh bread and butter pudding made with criossants. The food is described in delicious detail at Feast on Scraps with some wonderful images on the LondonEater blog. The cocktails were shaken and stirred to boozy perfection, and are summarised with applaudable precision over at Billy's Booze Blog. There are some more great write-ups at One Million Gold Stars, Domestic Sluttery and, of-course, Qype. Yes the bloggers really were out in force at this one! High praise indeed must be given to the clever After Eight PR people, Sian and all the others at Qype, Simon and Uyen and, of-course, Sir Jim, for putting on such a wonderful evening of food, hospitality and good company. And, to top off my Qype love, they even made me Qyper of the Week - chuffed!

My week of gastrono-joy was completed yesterday, when I slipped into a summery dress and headed to the swanky Sanderson hotel for a girly afternoon with a crazy twist; a Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea! Although the hotel resembles a concrete lump from the outside, inside it's sleek and stylish and we were seated in the hotel's pretty courtyard garden. I'd never 'done' afternoon tea in my life, so had no idea what to expect, but when the waiter brought out our individual vintage cake stands stacked with multicoloured sandwiches, scones, cakes and lollipops, I couldn't help but squeal with childish joy.

There was no requirement for an 'eat me' label, as I tucked in straight away. The sandwiches were delicate, yet packed with flavour. The scones were light and seductively crumbly (although sadly we missed out on the clotted cream as they'd temporarily run out, and the butter substitute was too firm for the delicate scones). The cakes were really exciting to eat, with pink foam oozing from the 'Queen of Hearts' teacake, and crackle crystals making us giggle on the chocolate and raspberry cupcake. We finished our sugar fest with, errr, more sugar, this time in the form of a pineapple candy (it claimed to turn your mouth from hot to cold but I didn't experience this) and, finally, a chocolate a peppermint lolly which burst in your mouth (some great photos here). All this, with an unlimited supply of tea, for twenty quid! 

The hotel had only intended to run the Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea for a month or so to capitalise on the hype surrounding Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland film, but the popularity of it (it was full when we left) means that it is remaining a permanent fixture at the Sanderson. In which case, I can definitely see myself going back.

*If you've never heard of Qype I'd urge you to check it out. Not only does the site give you access to squillions of user-generated (and very well written) reviews so you can see what other people think of local restaurants, bars and shops, but they also organise loads of cool events for regular reviewers to go along to. So it's like a review website and a social network all rolled into one.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Blue moon

Strolling with a cheerful purpose up Tottenham Court Road I was slowed by a trio of boisterous, err, chavs, for want of a better word. The vocal threesome were laughing loudly - and obviously - at the girl in front of them, deeming her legs to be 'too large' for her jeggings. As I overtook them I cast them a derogatory glance for their cruelty. At the same time, I selfishly felt relieved that at least I wasn't wearing anything vaguely controversial that they could use to make fun of me. Then I remembered. Yes, I remembered that for the first time I had been brave enough to wear my rather garish bright blue tights today. Five seconds after I overtook them the inevitable happened, and they started a tuneful rendition of 'Blue Moon'. I had to laugh.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Narrative displeasure: Cracks and Creeks

I've been extremely busy with work this Easter weekend with one thing and another. This meant that I missed the first Matt Smith / Steven Moffat episode of Doctor Who at its (rather early?) 6.20pm slot on Saturday night, although I did manage to catch it on iPlayer later that evening.

First things first: I thought Smith was excellent as the Doctor. I also thought Karen Gillan did a good job as his assistant, and I felt the opening scenes of him with the young Amelia were really well done. Although the giant eyeball-cum-spaceship looked a bit flimsy, I felt the overall production values of the show had been turned up a notch. I loved the stop motion scene when we were seeing the village green through the Doctor's eyes shot by shot; it almost felt like I was watching a film in the cinema rather that a Saturday night show on the BBC. Yes, the theme music is different and seems to be missing a rather key note in the eerie whistle-y melody whilst also featuring a big brass band. However, this isn't really a big deal in the great scheme of things, and I was more upset when the Neighbours theme tune changed from keyboard to saxophone.

I've written previously about how I've really enjoyed Moffat's episodes in past series. I think Moffat's real strengths lie in creating tension, creepy narrative hooks ("don't blink" or, on Saturday, "the corner of your eye"), strong female characters and absorbing stand-alone stories. My fear is whether he'll be able to offer us engrossing ongoing storylines (like Russell T Davies' 'Bad Wolf' mystery), scary aliens (his most successful episodes have featured creepy 'things' rather than gooey monsters) and, most importantly, the long-term characterisation of the Doctor himself (don't forget that Moffat's most heralded episode - Blink - barely even featured David Tennant, and was driven by the one-off character of Sally Sparrow, played by the now Bafta-winning actress, Carey Mulligan).

Although I think Saturday's episode got off to a great start with a strong story, I think the story could have been told a lot better. The concept was brilliantly creepy; a little girl has a crack in her bedroom wall, through which a shape-shifting prisoner from another world has escaped and has been hiding in a secret room in her house for over a decade. This part of the story was told really well. But then the second spooky aspect - the fact that this escaped alien prisoner can take the form of human beings by latching on to, and becoming a visual representation of, their dreams - was lost in all of the running around in the second half of the episode. Coma patients are the best victims for this because they are permanently asleep, but it was only when the alien targeted Amy's unconscious after she collapsed in the hospital ward - and significantly changed into the young Amelia with the 'raggedy Doctor' because that's what she dreams about - that this part of the story really became clear (to me, at least).

So, in my opinion, the episode was by no means perfect, but overall a fantastic start to a new era of Dr Who, and I can't wait to see what Moffat comes up with next. 

And now I move from a good story which could have been told better, to a rubbish story which was told even more terribly than the story itself. Yes, that's right, it's time for me to ramble once more about THE SHITNESS OF JONATHAN CREEK.

Paul McGann, who was the eighth Doctor and also starred in the Easter special of Jonathan Creek. What a link!

I don't know why I bother these days. The one-off special in January 2009 pushed the boundaries of the ridiculous too far, but this year's episode didn't even bother with the boundaries in the first place. Call me a 21st century media consumer with no attention span whatsoever, but are we really meant to remember who Sheridan Smith's character is and how she knows Creek after she made her debut over a year ago in a one-off episode? Is Creek *really* the kind of man to chat up a bird at a bus stop and take her home for some spur-of-the-moment hanky panky? HOW DID THEY ESCAPE FROM THE BASEMENT? 

I'm sorry to those who have no idea what I'm banging on about, but these are just a few of my gripes. The strengths of Jonathan Creek in its glory days were always the writing and Creek's gentle, self-deprecating humour. Now, it seems that the writers are grasping at straws trying to throw in a few illusion-related mysteries for the sake of it, with a bunch of dislikable characters who all roam around their country mansions whilst plotting ridiculously-complicated crimes that the audience has no chance of guessing whatsoever. Then, when Creek figures it all out - HE LETS THEM GET AWAY WITH IT! No narrative closure and a pointless waste of time for all involved. A bit like this blog post, then.

Chris Gay-ling-gate: A brief thought

Some interesting debates going on today about the Chris Grayling B&B story. As reported in The Observer yesterday, the shadow Home Secretary was secretly recorded saying he believed that people who run B&Bs should have the right to turn away homosexual couples. The fact is that it's against the law for ANY business to discriminate. If the Tories want this law to change then they should come out (for want of a better phrase) publicly and say so. But Cameron has stayed very quiet since the recording was made public. What that means I don't know, but the issue has definitely touched a nerve with absolutely everyone, one way or the other, so the Conservative Party should make their stance official.

Posted via web from Thoughts as she has them