Wednesday, January 29, 2014

BAR REVIEW: Rupert Street (Soho)


Continuing with my exploration of Soho, I went to Rupert Street, a drinking hole famed for being a gaybar, but thankfully, let straight clientele in, and, above all, prides itself for letting all drinkers have fun, whatever their persuasion.

Go between 4-8 and you will hit Happy Hour, where you can get two cocktails for a tenner. These cocktails shit all over the awful one I had in Worship Streep Whistling Shop, in terms of taste and alcohol content, and aren't too shabbily presented either.


Everyone in Rupert Street looked like they were having the time of their lives, and the familiar, unpretentious music went a long way to getting me in a jovial mood: Taylor Swift and Girls Aloud decorated the jukebox, and I found myself singing along to the tunes giddily after my first pint.

In all, I would recommend Rupert Street to absolutely everyone! It's funny that the bar shares its name with the adorable Harry Potter actor, because the charm of the place also matches his.

Grade; A


Sunday, January 26, 2014

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Banana Tree (Soho)

I seem to be frequenting a lot of restaurants in Soho recently. It's just a part of London that I absolutely adore; the hustle and bustle is wonderful, and unlike areas like Shoreditch and Hoxton, it doesn't seem to be so up its own ass. Another one was added to the list on the 9th of January, when some Indo-Chinese cuisine was tested. Overall, the results were positive, although the quality of the sauces far eclipsed that of the food.



As you may have gathered by now, I love me some seafood, and in particular, prawns. So a prawn stir-fry seemed the natural option to go for. It was fine, but firstly, I didn’t notice any difference in the taste and way it was prepared from, say, a standard Chinese stir fry (thus casting doubts over the legitimacy of the so-called Indo-Chineseness of it all), and secondly, the vegetables and herbs were all tossed in rather haphazardly, leaving me to feel the chefs here go by a “bung it all in” philosophy, rather than treating their dishes as an art.

Starters were good, but sadly the portions were left wanting, and, were anyone to pay for this according to the prices on the menu (rather than with TasteCard), then I’d seriously grumble about the meagre quantities.



In terms of value for money, we got the whole meal for £25 using TasteCard, so for cheap and cheerful, Banana Tree gets my thumbs up. Just pay close attention to the menu, and bear in mind that different dishes differ in terms of how well-cooked they are.

Grade: B

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Product Review: Next Just Pink Eye Collection.

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Compactly presented and with a sleek heart-shaped-mirror, the Next Just Pink Eye Collection would be a wonderful invention, the perfect size for dainty handbags. If only all the components themselves were up to scratch.

On the upside, the eyeshadows themselves are great. A soft consistency means I can rub the required amount onto the nib of my finger and apply as much/little as I want. The three colours are a good contrast - I tend to use the middle one more than the other two, and whilst they wouldn’t suffice if you were trying to create a BOLD look, in terms of subtle amounts of make up, it does the job.

Sadly, the two little tubes, of eyeliner and mascara, are a bit of a nightmare. The mascara is a cakey, crumbly mess that is far more likely to make you resemble a sad panda than elongate your eyelashes. And the eyeliner simply doesn’t work; there’s no fluidity to the them, and it clings stubbornly to one part of your eye. So don’t act like I never told you - rely on these two items and you will run into disaster.

However, for the cuteness of the mirror and the effectiveness of the eyeshadow (as well as the fact that the product was a Christmas present), I won’t be too harsh in my grade ;)

Grade: B-

BAR REVIEW: Zebrano’s (Soho)



Zebrano’s is an easy-to-locate, cheerful bar/restaurant in the hub of Soho. Happy Hour spans 5-8 (don’t quote me on this) in the evening, meaning that genuinely delicious cocktails (the lychee one was wonderful) can be purchased for reasonable sums. The waiters and waitresses were warm and easygoing, which is a huge novelty in such a touristy area of central London, let me tell you!



The food isn’t fantastic, although that may have been partly our error in selecting two platters. There were good things on both platters - namely, the sauces and the spring rolls, but the red meat itself was unfortunately, a little stale. However, Zebrano’s accept TasteCard (provided you ring up in advance) so not too much dollar was shed, graciously.

The thing that made my Zebrano’s experience so likeable, however, wasn’t the food or the drink, but rather, and pardon the rather pretentious term that’s coming up - the ambience. Acoustic musicians sang in the background whilst we dined and drank our cocktails, and the blend between familiar pop songs (Crazy, No Scrubs, etc) as well as their own creations was a delight, and thankfully, the musicians could both sing and play their instruments, which is a hell of a lot more than can be said for some “singers” I’e encountered in my time.

Overall, whilst I probably wouldn’t recommend Zebrano’s to dine in, in terms of a drinking hole to kick back at after work, it more than does the job. Check it out.

Grade: A-/B+

Junk food watch: McDonald's.


A filet o fish meal for me, a Big Mac meal for my brother, as well as a free cheeseburger (as I'm a student), and chicken bites, all under £10.

Grade: A-

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Told you I was keen on gravy.

Quorn lasagne, potatoes, veg and gravy, £3.00, Work Canteen.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sunday, January 19, 2014

BAR REVIEW: Worship Street Whistling Shop (Shoreditch)



Not too far off the Finsbury Square main road and just 10 minutes walk away from Liverpool Street Station is the Worship Street Whistling Shop, a bar which epitomises Shoreditch “edginess”.

The cocktails were all extremely steep (£10+, no Happy Hour), but that was expected given the location. What was not expected, however, was that there was no such thing as getting served at the bar, which is pretty standard of all other bars and pubs I’ve been to. 

I wondered why they would make their life so much more difficult for themselves with this needless bit of bureaucracy, but then I saw the answer: by serving us in our seats, they could heap on an extra 12.5% tip. For bringing the drink from the long length of the front to 10 yards away. There’s your service charge. (to add insult to injury, when I asked a simple question, "can I pay for each drink before I receive it?", the waitress gave me a long, needless rant about how much she hated tabs. Me too! That's why I asked that question, duhh!)



I’m not really a big fan of hipsters, so I didn’t really like the vibe of the place either, and the lighting was so dim it’d make Hollister look like Disneyland. The drink itself was impeccably presented, but the taste itself was lacking, and the quantity, for £11.25, was nothing short of shocking. 

I don’t know about other people in Shoreditch, but when I go to a bar, its with an aim to get drunk and have a good time. I fulfilled neither criteria yesterday at this bloated, quirky-for-quirky’s-sake place, and thus, I really could not recommend it.

 Grade: E

Sandwich watch: three in one, Waitrose.

£3.14, Waitrose.

BLT: 8/10 (the definitive BLT remains the Marks and Spencer one)
Prawn mayo: 7/10
Egg and cress: 7/10

Overall taste: 7.5/10
Value for money: 7/10

Meals I've had at work this week.

Wednesday
Beef, potatoes and greens. £3.30. 8/10.

Thursday
Pork, potatos, greens and graaaaavy. £3.30. 9/10.

Friday
Chicken burger, chips and peas. £3.30. 5/10



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sherlock series 3 review







Few things have been waited for as eagerly as series 3 of Sherlock. The last time we’d seen the infuriating but brilliant sleuth, he’d hurtled to his death from the top of St. Bart’s hospital. Or had he? Through misdirection and false theories aplenty (including an amusing nod to slash fiction, which no doubt Mark Gatiss was mildly disturbed by when he first discovered, before choosing to use as a force to his advantage), the show’s creators Gatiss and Moffat finally revealed to us how the great detective did it, and it’s fair to say that the reaction of the general audience was that of being underwhelmed. Ignoring, for a second, just how muddling and convoluted it was, how many extra players Sherlock’s escape plan entailed, the thing that disappointed the most was the fact that the so-called independent, famously misanthropic man, had to enlist the help of his older brother to get him out of a quagmire.

That little quibble aside, the first episode of this season had a few treats, mainly in the form of Sherlock taking his sweet time revealing to Watson that he was still alive, at the worst possible moment: when Watson was about to propose. It was good to hear Molly had moved on from Sherlock, by getting herself a new boyfriend, though later, when he emerged, we realised we’d spoken too soon; the man looked like a bargain-basement Cumberbatch.

With all the characters being reunited, the plot sat on the back foot somewhat, and when Sherlock realised that the so-called “underground terrorist attack on London” was, quite literally, an UNDERGROUND terrorist attack, you weren’t terribly surprised. Especially when we’d been shown footage of a shifty-looking man wandering on a Tube, and then seemingly disappearing. As far as convoluted plots have gone, this wasn’t Gatiss’ best work.

If the first episode of the series disappointed, then the second episode truly flabbergasted with how poor it was. Every now and then, on a twenty-episodes-a-series show like Family Guy or Friends, the show’s creators will do a “whacky” episode; quirk for quirk’s sake. Due to there being 19 or so other regular episodes, we allow this one-off display of craziness. However, when there’s only three episodes a series of Sherlock, we’re led to expect high quality from ALL the episodes. Happily, we got this in series 2, where the three episodes - one introducing Irene Adler, one, a fantastic modern spin on the Hound of the Baskervilles, and the intense final episode with the showdown with Moriarty, both held our attention throughout. In series 3, the second episode’s main plot device was Dr Watson’s wedding, and, although there were flashes of brilliance, the majority of it was just ponderous.

Recently, I’ve been reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s original “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”. Bearing in mind that this was long before the era of iPhones, laptops, walkie talkies and the like, it really is enthralling to delve into the mind of such an old-school detective. Hints of Sherlock’s deductive prowess were shown in the first two episodes of series 3 of the TV show (for example, when he immediately susses that a lady’s internet boyfriend has gone missing, that it is the stepfather who was pretending to be him all along, that is based on the short story “A Case of Identity”), but, lamentably, series 3 seems more intent on carving him out better as a person than a sleuth. As such, he’s a more rounded human, but a less interesting character.

Redemption for series 3 came in the season finale, which was back at its finest, and like what we’d been used to in seasons 1 and 2, could work as a stand-alone watch. The storyline centred around a newspaper mogul, Charles Augustus Magnussen, played by the terrifically creepy Lars Mikkelsen, channelling Rupert Murdoch in his performance. We wondered if Sherlock had completed the full transformation into #human when he started dating Janine, a woman he’d met at John & Mary’s wedding in the previous episode. Graciously, it was just the Sherlock we all know and love, the cold, calculated man who tramples over people’s feelings; in this case it was because Janine was Magnussen mogul’s secretary.

There were shocks aplenty in the final episode, although seeing Sherlock in a crack den, for anyone who’s familiar with the book and his penchant for opium in them, was not one of them. The episode was unashamedly emotional, with the peak of the series’ writing coming when John tells Mary “The problems of your past are your business. The problems of your future are my privilege,” which is a Renee-Zellweger-in-Jerry-Maguire moment, if there ever was one. Whilst the writing this series was far from its best, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman continued to be wonderful, and Freeman’s delivery of said line drew tears from this viewer. And, of course, the closing shot took us all aback. Gatiss and Moffat were reminding us that, for all the frivolity and second-rateness of episodes 1 and 2, Sherlock most certainly hasn’t lost its ability to entertain and gobsmack in equal measure.

Grade: B

My 2014 Oscar Predictions.

No guts, no glory. I haven’t done this for a couple of years, so excuse the rustiness.
 

Best Picture
12 Years a Slave
Gravity
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Nebraska
Saving Mr. Banks
Philomena
Her
Blue Jasmine
Frozen (there’s your wishful thinking)
 
 
 
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Best Director
Steve McQueen - 12 Years a Slave
Alfonso Cuarón - Gravity
David O. Russell - American Hustle
Spike Jonze - Her
Paul Greengrass - Captain Phillips

 
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Best Actor
Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a Slave
Bruce Dern - Nebraska
Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyers Club
Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street
Robert Redford - All Is Lost

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock - Gravity
Judi Dench - Philomena
Emma Thompson - Saving Mr. Banks
Meryl Streep - August: Osage County

Best Supporting Actor
Jared Leto - Dallas Buyers Club
Michael Fassbender - 12 Years a Slave
Barkhad Abdi - Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper - American Hustle
Daniel Brühl - Rush
 
Best Supporting Actress
Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years a Slave
Jennifer Lawrence - American Hustle
June Squibb - Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey - The Butler
Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine
 
Original Screenplay
American Hustle
Nebraska
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
Blue Jasmine
 
Adapted Screenplay
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
Captain Phillips
Philomena
Before Midnight
 
Foreign Language Film
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Broken Circle Breakdown
The Grandmaster
Omar
 
Documentary
The Act of Killing
Blackfish
Stories We Tell
Tim's Vermeer
The Armstrong Lie

Animated Film
Frozen
Monsters University
The Wind Rises
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Célestine
 
Cinematography
Gravity
12 Years a Slave
The Grand Master
Inside Llewyn Davis
Captain Philips
 
Editing
Gravity
12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips
The Wolf of Wall Street
Rush
 
Score
Gravity
12 Years a Slave
Saving Mr. Banks
Philomena
Frozen
 
Production Design
The Great Gatsby
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Gravity
Saving Mr. Banks
 
Costume Design
The Great Gatsby
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Saving Mr. Banks
The Invisible Woman
 
Original Song
Let It Go (Frozen)
Ordinary Love (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)
Young & Beautiful (The Great Gatsby)
Sweeter Than Fiction (One Chance)
The Moon Song (Her)
 
Visual Effects
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Pacific Rim
Star Trek Into Darkness
Iron Man 3
 
Make Up and Hair
The Great Gatsby
The Lone Ranger
American Hustle
 
Sound Mixing
Gravity
Captain Phillips
Rush
Iron Man 3
All Is Lost
 
Sound Editing
Gravity
Captain Phillips
All Is Lost
Rush
Pacific Rim

Pizza watch: Icco's (Goodge Street)


Delicious pizzas, rich in ingredients, and with a super-thin base, so you're ingesting flavour rather than carbs. They're also produced right in front of you, efficiently and quickly, so the wait isn't too agonising. The fruit smoothie was also wonderful, and the whole meal came to £9, which I was ecstatic with!

Grade: A

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Golden Globe Predictions, 2014.

I'm tentatively announcing my re-entry on the Oscar buzz scene! For the past few years, I was doing my undergrad, where we had January exams, and I simply didn't have the time or emotional energy to get all invested in who was winning what. However, I'm now doing a part-time Masters whilst working, and don't have exams until next Summer, so I can dedicate some time to studying movie awards with as much gusto as I did before Uni! Whoop!

So, what better way to start than by predicting the Golden Globes, which occur tomorrow!

Best actress, comedy or musical
Predicted winner: Amy Adams, American Hustle
Alternate: Meryl Streep, Orange, Osage County

Best supporting actor
Predicted winner: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Alternate: Bradley Cooper, American Hustle

Best Score
Predicted winner: 12 Years a Slave
Alternate: Gravity



Best Song
Predicted winner: Let it Go, Frozen
Alternate: Ordinary Love, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Best Director
Predicted winner: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Alternate: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

Best Actor
Predicted winner: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Alternate: Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips

Best supporting actress
Predicted winner: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Alternate: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave

Best actress, drama
Predicted winner: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Alternate: Judi Dench, Philomena

Best comedy or musical
Predicted winner: American Hustle
Alternate: Nebraska

Best drama
Predicted winner: 12 Years a Slave
Alternate: Gravity

Best actor, comedy or musical
Predicted winner: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Alternate: Christian Bale, American Hustle

Best animation
Predicted winner: Frozen
Alternate: Despicable Me 2

Best screenplay
Predicted winner: 12 Years a Slave
Alternate: American Hustle

Best foreign language film
Predicted winner: Blue is the Warmest Colour
Alternate: The Hunt

I can't be bothered to predict the television categories, but I predict Breaking Bad and Behind the Candlebra to sweep the board, as well as Lena Dunham to continue being recognised for her awful Girls (blah).

Monday, January 06, 2014

Life isn't waiting but I'm not stopping now.

Two black pumps I've acquired in the post-Christmas sales.


Sparkly pumps: Forever 21, £14.49
Plain black pumps: Dorothy Perkins, £6.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

PUB REVIEW: The Prince of Teck (Earl’s Court)

A short walk away from Earl’s Court tube stop, The Prince of Teck is that bit more elegant than the vast majority of dives I’ve visited, and can probably be best described as a pub with aspirations of being a bar.

Not that The Prince of Teck’s delusions of grandeur are a bad thing. Because it’s slightly more upmarket, you’re spared the company of unhinged boozehounds, and instead share company with city professionals who graciously have that London DNA imbued in them of just wanting to get drunk with their mates, and won’t be making small talk with strangers for no reason. Furthermore, the staff are extremely attentive and friendly, and never do you feel like you’re being an inconvenience to them, which is more than I can say for other London restaurants, where the pint-pullers glare at you for so much as asking for a drink.

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Alcohol is slightly overpriced, but that’s expected, given the Kensington postcode. The food was exemplary – my sausage and mash were absolutely delicious, and it was good to see that the chefs had taken on board my request for extra gravy. My colleagues all spoke highly of their meals as well, and the choices on the menu transcended the standard paint-by-numbers fare. Such is the hegemony of The Prince of Teck in the dining stakes, then, that I would give this place a huge thumbs up. Visit it if you can; getting inebriated has never been so much fun.

Grade: A-

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Christmas at Hilton Kensington.

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Starters:
 
Main:
 
 
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Dessert:
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Overall quality of food: 4/10.
Overall quality of entertainment/DJ/alcohol quantity: 8/10.
 
 

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Tandoori Nights (Covent Garden)




I went to this dive a few months ago, but such was the poor memory of it, that I had to give it a while before I could stomach thinking about it again.

I should have seen the warning signs when we walked into the restaurant and it was empty. Tandoori Nights boasts how it's won all these these prizes, but the simple fact of the matter is were it really brilliant, the place should have been bustling at the prime dinner timeslot. Instead, save a few greasy, creepy-looking waiters, the place was empty.

We had regulation choices: a chicken and a seafood dish, and both were godawful (I distrust any chicken tikki masala in such a sweet sauce) and were left, unfinished. The naan bread was edible but the rice was microwave-standard, at best.

So we weren't particularly impressed with the food, then. But the service, oh god, the service. A particularly slimey man wouldn't stop hovering around our table and trying to pressure us into ordering more, despite the fact that we'd clearly been none-too-impressed with what we'd eaten so far. Definitely not a culinary experience I intend to revisit.

I'll tell you one positive thing about this place: it sure does make a good case for getting your own meals and consuming them in the comfort - and pleasure of not being harrassed - of your own home.

Grade: F