Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Brian Micklethwait on Ashes to ashes
itrat batool on Ashes to ashes
itrat batool on Ashes black out
Michael Jennings on Ashes to ashes
Natalie Solent on Victor!
Natalie Solent on Victor!
Peter Briffa on Ashes black out
Michael Jennings on Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Michael Jennings on Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Schrodinger's Dog on Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Most recent entries
- Comrade Blimp
- Ashes to ashes
- La Porte des Indes
- Friend on telly
- Sculpture at St James’s Tube
- Digital photographers holding maps
- More photos of things past
- Father Christmas Aerodrome
- How big should these squares be?
- Daniel Hannan’s latest book(s?)
- The Kelpies of Falkirk
- A quota thought that (luckily for me) went nowhere
- Polish girls in Moscow doing a selfie
- Music classified
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: Food and drink
One of the jobs of random blogs like this one is recommend such things as restaurants. This is one of those postings. If you read no further, just know that I recently dined at La Porte des Indes, and I liked it. It’s just a short walk away from Selfridges in Oxford Street, where a friend had been working. Address: 32 Bryanston Street.
So, to the details of why I liked it. One: the food was very tasty. Always a good start. And while we were waiting, they gave us little plastic cups of soup, also very tasty.
However, although I like the way tasty food tastes, I now unable to consume very much food all at once. Perhaps I am lucky, because being unable to eat too much, I am not becoming as fat as I might otherwise become, what with so much of the food I do eat being junk.
But there is a way in which I am often unlucky, which is when I am dining out. Often, I just can’t manage to eat all that I am paying for.
So it is that a service I especially value is when I am allowed to take my leftovers away with me. A restaurant willing to package up all my delicious but indigestible leftovers will now have a special place in my heart, and stomach.
La Portes Des Indes was not cheap, when I and a friend dined there about a fortnight ago. But I still remember the delicious taste of the chicken, the pain of realising that my stomach would not be able to do it justice, and the small translucent plastic carton they used to put my spare chicken in, so that I could eat it later. I’ve had bags made available in such circumstances before, but never a plastic carton.
I paid about twice what I usually want to pay when dining out, but I also dined twice over, once in the restaurant, and then again back home, the next day.
The place looks great as well. The outside is unprepossessing, like a fast food joint at the bottom of an office block. But when you step inside, it’s like you’ve entered the restaurant equivalent of the Tardis. It’s really big. It used to be a dance hall, so they said. And the décor has been preserved from that era and added to, rather than stripped out and replaced with modernistic dreariness. Plus, the ambient noise was not too loud and we could hear each other talk without any shouting. Crucial, for me. I often leave things early for this one reason.
It is interesting how the prices of basic supermarket products now seems to fluctuate rather more than they used to. My last stash of Gold Blend also cost £3 a go, for two. Today, I bought three of these packets. For the last few weeks it went up to £4.50, and I held off, waiting in hope of a price drop again. Today, I was nearly out and would have to buy some, no matter what the price. But, glory be, it was down to £3 again.
Could these fluctuations be a consequence of containers? Is it that containers have made supplies of things like branded coffee less continuous, more prone to famine or feast? And are we now enjoying a capitalist version of what happened under communism, in which suddenly a rumour would fly around Moscow saying that a consignment of meat had arrived, and immediately the queues would form. With us, the news that Gold Blend is on offer at Sainsburys flies around on our mobile phones, or in this case is featured on my blog, at which point it’s first come first served.
Or is it merely that logistics geniuses, armed with super-computer-networks, are now able to do sums about the precise prices they need to charge at any particular moment for any particular thing, in order to make maximum use of scarce warehouse and store space? If you get my meaning.
Or maybe it’s a bit of both?
Michael Jennings presumably knows the answer to these questions, because Michael Jennings (see the first two of these comments) knows everything .
Time for an I-told-you-so moment.
I told the Australians not to rouse the kitten:
Darren Lehman may have made a bit of a mistake, when he called Broad a cheat for not walking when Broad was clearly out and should have been given out, and said that Australian crowds should have a go at Broad in the Ashes series this winter in Australia. Lehman was only joking, but it was a joke he may regret.
But they went ahead and roused the kitten anyway. Here is George Dobell reporting on Day One of the Ashes:
Rubbished, ridiculed and reduced - the front page of one Australian tabloid dubbed Broad a “smug pommy cheat” on the morning of the game - England, and Broad in particular, arrived with abuse ringing in their ears.
Broad, it was claimed by an Australian media stoked by their national coach, was little more than a medium-pacer whose disregard for the rules shamed him, while England’s batsmen were running scared of Australia’s pace attack.
But instead of wilting in the cauldron of the “Gabbatoir”, Broad appeared to revel in the occasion. Indeed, he even admitted he found himself whistling along as a large section of the crowd chanted “Broad is a w*****.”
This may be no surprise to the England camp. As part of their exhaustive preparation process - a process that was ridiculed at the start of the tour when sections of the Australian media were leaked details of England’s nutrition plans - England’s players were analysed by a psychologist and Broad was one of three who, in his words, “thrive properly on getting abuse”.
“It’s me, KP and Matt Prior,” Broad said. “So they picked good men to go at.
“It was good fun out there. I think I coped with it okay. It’s all good banter. Fans like to come, have a beer with their mates and sing along. I’m pleased my mum wasn’t here, but to be honest I was singing along at one stage. It gets in your head and you find yourself whistling it at the end of your mark. I’d braced myself to expect it and actually it was good fun. I enjoyed it.”
Australia 273-8. Broad, so far: 20 overs 3 maidens 65 runs 5 wickets, including the first four, and including the one truly class act in the Oz top six, Clarke.
Last night, at Chateau Samizdata, I and all others present drank this:
Until last night I did not know that there was any such thing. Well, I knew there was Sauvignon Blanc, but not called that.
Sadly, I failed to properly include the hippo at the top of the label on the left, but you can see plenty of the hippos here, because of course there is a website and you can read all about it.
Clever marketing, I think. The real wine buffs will like it, if they like it, regardless of the name. “Oh yes, it’s actually rather good, you know” blah blah. And the wine unbuffs like me will like it too, because it’s a laugh, and a bit of a tease of wine buffs of the sort who expect wine not to be called such a thing. So, win win.
This is a posting of a type that is likely to become more common here, as the years roll by, because it is about bodily discomfort.
The discomfort today, which lasted all day, came whenever I tried to walk, and was all around my midriff. This was either caused by eating too much junk food, or by the manner in which I slept last night. Perhaps both. Maybe it was not junk food, but rather: too much cheese. The pain is in what I think is called the lumbar region, lumbar being a word I googled with the spelling wrong, making it sound like wood, which tells you that this kind of thing is rather new to me. Google corrected me, like a rude doctor. I hope that tomorrow morning all will be well, but just now that does not feel likely.
The blogging advantage of this particular discomfort is that it is not too undignified or disgusting. I am also beginning to experience discomforts that are very undignified and very disgusting, but these I prefer not to tell you about.
This latter reluctance explains, I think, why the discomforts of old age come as such a surprise to many people. The previous lot of old people only supplied to me a very censored version of what was happening to them, so I now have to find most of this out for myself.
Although, it could be that the previous lot of old people did tell me these things, but I wasn’t paying attention.
The worst thing about it is that you just know it’s going to keep on getting worse, and worse, and worse.
Photos mature with age. The most commonplace snaps can turn into something a bit more interesting, with the passing of time.
Consider this one, one of the very first that I took with my Panasonic Lumix FZ150:
I know. It’s a shop.
But the thing is, it’s now boarded up. That photo was taken in January 2012. In January 2013, this happened:
The administrators to Jessops face a battle to rescue any of the company’s 192 shops after leading camera makers tightened the terms on which they sell products to the company following a downturn in the market.
Rob Hunt, joint administrator for PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: “Without the support of certain people, we are looking at complete closure.”
Jessops has since made a partial return to life, but so far, that Jessops, which is in Strutton Ground, near where I live, has remained shut.
In the years just before it closed it had an unbearably “helpful” shop assistant, who behaved like he’d been on some mad American training course in how to relate to customers. He wouldn’t leave you alone, and instead would engulf you in loud, totally fake bonhomie. I used to browse around in there from time to time, occasionally buying things like batteries and SD cards, and pondering my next camera. But because of this person, I stopped going there. Was I the only one, I wonder?
Talking of Strutton Ground, did you know that the Goon Show first saw the light of day in Strutton Ground? Yes, on the top floor of the pub at the far end of it from me. I saw this in a TV show about Spike Milligan.
I guess that’s probably more interesting than a Jessops closing. I’ll see if I can dig out more photos of things that have changed, that are rather better than that one, taken longer ago.
I used to defer gratification when I was a teenager. Now that I am middle-aged I take it when it presents itself. Not only have the opportunities become rarer and more precious, but the benefits of deferral are always in the future. And my future is getting shorter every day.
“A moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips.” This equation advises us to forgo the pleasure of tasty but fattening food. It may be good advice when you are 20. But as you age and your hips’ lifetime shortens, the scales begin to tip in the direction of instant labial gratification. No one counts the calories of his last supper.
Those are the first two paragraphs of the first column in a collection of columns entitled Free Thoughts, by Jamie Whyte. All available on line.
I found them while looking for this (about housing subsidies being a bad idea), which is by Preston Byrne. Byrne is my next Brian’s Last Friday speaker (about housing subsidies being a bad idea), this coming Friday, as I’ve already written about on Samizdata.
This time last year I was speculating that Halloween seems to be supplanting Guy Fawkes Night, here in Britain, as indeed it does seemto be. Many reasons for this were suggested by me, and by various commenters. Undoubtedly one of these reasons in that Halloween offers shops more chances to sell stuff, stuff that, thanks to China etc., is now unprecedentedly cheap, compared, e.g., to food.
So it was that the imminence of Halloween announced itself to me a few days ago, in what is basically a food shop, Tescos:
That stuff all looks rather jolly, rather than scary or “spooky” (the claim made on the jars of sweeties), doesn’t it?
Part of the joy of digital photography is that you can photo mad crap like this for free, rather than waste any money, and more to the point space, actually buying it and taking it home.
Later, in the Kings Road, I encountered a much spookier clutch of Halloween stuff, in the window of a shop that specialises in selling “gifts”, unlike Tescos. The Tesco stuff was for kids.
This is more like it:
It was the headless woman having her breasts cradled by the hands of a skeleton that got my attention. But, they surely missed a chance with the blood round her neck. It ought to be dripping down from the bloody stump.
Time for me to ask, yet again: Why are decapitated women in shop windows not creepy?
This is a memo from me to me, and also an email to a friend, about another great photo op that I don’t want to forget about until I’ve done it.
The friend wants us to meet up at this, which has excellent views of both the Gherkin and the Shard, from approximately as high up as they are. This is me saying yes I very much want to do this. I am always on the lookout for such lookouts, and further suggestions are always very welcome.
Located on the 38th & 39th floors of the Heron Tower, SUSHISAMBA delivers a unique blend of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine, culture, music and striking design to the City of London.
Yeah yeah, foreigners cooking and overcharging for it. I get it. But what can I see? What can I photograph?
Europe’s two highest dining outdoor terraces flank the restaurant, offering unparalleled views of the City to the west and the Olympic Park to the east. Award-winning architects Cetra Ruddy designed the restaurant’s 13,423-square-foot (1,247-square-meter) space, which has direct access via two scenic lifts from a dedicated entrance on Bishopsgate. The venue is open daily for lunch and dinner, offering outdoor dining, a bar and lounge, and premier event space.
Scenic lifts. Sounds terrific. Even better if you get stuck in the scenic lift for ten minutes (not for ten hours), two thirds of the way up.
SUSHISAMBA’s menus offer an inventive culmination of three cuisines. Guests will be treated to Brazilian Churrasco and Moqueca, Peruvian Anticuchos and Seviches; and Japanese tempura and sushi.
With any luck, the lack of proper meet+2veg food, which does not taste like it was assembled in an explosives factory, will put enough people off going to this place to give me a reasonably free run of it, and plenty of photo ops. But that might be hoping for too much, and anyway, you only ever really find out what’s what with a deal like this when you actually go there, which I most definitely intend to do.
A link to this posting will go to the friend. I find that this personal blog is good for writing emails to people. What I have found myself doing recently is writing the email as a blog posting, and then emailing them the mere link, introduced with a brief summary of it. That way you achieve email brevity and say what you really want to say about whatever it is, and you get more readers for what you have written, in this case a not quite so tiny trickle. (I’ve sent the link to this posting, about how I want a new sofa/bench, to all sorts of people.)
The merging of the public and the private, which is a big story of the century so far, and which I will definitely be writing about some more, in other blog postings but not this one.
Alas, not that kind of bouncer.
No, not taken by me, of course not. By my compulsively globe-trotting friend Michael Jennings, who has recently been trotting around in Georgia ...:
Foreigners, eh? An endless source of fun.
… and in Warsaw:
The Warsaw one being bigger, because the title of the email in which this one arrived went:
This is my favourite photo for quite a while.
I’m guessing this is because the old Soviet-imposed Palace of Culture is upstaged behind and beside by skyscrapers, and in front by Polish people actually having quite a good time, buying stuff, doing capitalism etc.
I can remember when that bag of wind John Gray was saying that liberated Eastern Europe, for which people like me had such high hopes, would all end in tears, because in John-Gray-world high hopes always do. But look at it now!
I visited Warsaw in 1984, I think it was. I recall rather liking that Palace of Culture, even though I wasn’t supposed to, on account of the nastiness that it was built to spread, and probably also because of the defencelessly fine stuff that got smashed to rubble to make way for it. I could entirely see why the locals all hated it. I, on the other hand, considered it to be an example of one of my laws, which states that the splendour of a building is inversely proportional to the excellence of what goes on inside it when it first opens for business. Later, better things can get done in the thing. But the tendency is: not to start with.
Lunchtime O’Booze is the name given by Private Eye to a certain vintage of Fleet Street era (i.e. when they really all did work in or near to Fleet Street) journo. One of these (now long retired) characters was staying with me earlier this week, kipping down on my sofa-bed to be precise. Tony now lives in France, but he was over here for a few days, to participate in a lunch, with a dozen or more of his old Fleet Street cronies.
I met up with Tony on Sunday evening, and we dined out, very well. Thanks to my twiddly screen, I was able to take photos of him like this, with the camera resting in the middle of the table, and me just looking down at it:
Tony looks rather like one of those South African type villains in The Saint, which I have been watching lately from time to time, waiting for the IPL to start on ITV4.
Next day, Tony departed for the lunch. Ring me when it’s over, I said, maybe we can do something in the evening. Nine hours later, Tony rings to say he’ll be back soon, and eleven hours later he is. I feared drunken disruption. Which I would have survived. Tony has been very hospitable to me over the years. But the evening ended very pleasantly.
To give you a further idea of what kind of lunch it was, here is a limerick, which Tony brought back from it:
An Argentine gaucho named Bruno
Said I’ll tell you something I do know
Girls are just fine
And boys are divine
But a llama is numero uno
And here is a photo, taken by someone else with Tony’s phone:
The big guy - a very big guy indeed - in the middle used to play prop forward for the Harlequins and is now a wine correspondent, the sort of bloke who has a special table in his home for drinking guests under. The ultimate oh-stay-a-bit-longer-and-have-another-one bloke. I think the guy on the right drives new cars for a living, in such places as the south of France, and then writes about them. Certainly, someone of this kind was involved.
Do not ask men like this to drink and drive. They just might do it.
A while back, I had an enthusiasm for posting thin, horizontal pictures, of a sort that are ideally suited to the blog format, because they don’t provoke a lot of annoying scrolling up and won (the way the rest of this posting actually does), like this one:
I took that picture near South Kensington tube station, earlier this week. It tells you that the sign is on the outside of a restaurant called “Gessler at Daquise”, which is an odd name for a restaurant, but there you go. Gessler is a Polish family, and Daquise is ... what? A place in South Kensington? A building? There is a Gessler at the Daquise website, and it would appear that “Daquise” is a legendary restaurant, so legendary that they didn’t want to drop the name when the Gesslers took over. Or something:
Several decades of hard work and evolution have produced what arguably is the best Polish food offer in the world. Our U Kucharzy restaurant in Warsaw has gained both national and international acclaim, and was awarded a Bib Gourmand status by Guide Michelin for two years running - the only restaurant in Poland to be awarded such accolade. Now we are running a legendary Polish address in London - Daquise in Thurloe Street, which has been around since 1947. Our aim is to make it great again and we hope to see you there in the process!
Here is another snap of the outside, that shows what it looks like:
I didn’t eat that much, but what I did eat, a pancake, was delicious. The menu looks enticing, as do the prices. I shall return.
Meanwhile, I enjoyed the ambience. Not too loud for intelligent conversation, which restaurants often are, even if there’s no music.
Above all, given the excellent light that day, I loved the look of the place.
Here are two more photos, in the Digital Photography Imitates Art genre.
First, a still life:
Perhaps rather too much stuff there for a proper still life, but I liked it, especially the string of lights and all the little signs. Maybe you had to be there.
And second (note the Rothko influence on the décor in this place) an abstract:
With added mirrors, showing me from the neck downwards.
Most fun of all was the staircase down to the basement toilets:
That’s right. It’s in the front window!
At his talk chez moi on Friday Feb 22nd (see below) on How globalisation has made the world less rather than more homogenised, Michael Jennings intends to show us some photos. Indeed, he will be dropping by earlier in the week to make sure that the relevant technology can be guaranteed to work properly on the night. This may also require some creativity with the seating.
Here, in the meantime, are a few photos that he has emailed to me, together with commentary. Enjoy.
This is in Sukhomi, Abkhazia, a breakaway non-recognised state that is de jure part of Georgia (and is supported by Russia). Mango is a fashion label that grew out of a stall in the Ramblas market in Barcelona, and is now to globalised retail what the sub-prime market is to home ownership.
An interesting phenomenon occurs when there is a market for a particular international business, and that international business does not operate in that particular market for whatever reason: because the market is too small, too distant, too poor, too corrupt, or there are political problems. Clones of the business will often spring up. These can be particularly entertaining in places where there is no trademark law, trademark law is weak, or where it can be legally difficult to pursue claims from the owner of the trademark. This burger place in northern Cyprus in no way resembles Burger King. Obviously.
One of the most extreme cases in which this phenomenon occurred was in South Africa under apartheid. Many international companies boycotted the country, which in some ways was a modern country with a sizeable middle class, economy and legal system. (In various other ways, it wasn’t and isn’t.) South Africa in 1990 was therefore full of quite good clones of international businesses, that until then were constrained as to where they could operate, but faces competition only from one another at home. Post 1990, the international businesses that they were clones of entered South Africa in a big way, and the South Africans themselves were subsequently able to compete in the wider world. The South African clones weren’t good enough or rich enough to compete in the home markets of the major internationals, and have subsequently expanded into countries that are poorly served by the internationals for a variety of reason - this means Africa, parts of Eastern Europe, parts of Asia, parts of the Middle East. Politically dubious markets of questionable legitimacy a lot the time. One often finds South Africans and Russians side by side.
One could write an entire book about fake Apple Stores. The ones in China (this one is in Tianjin) are the most awesome. The entire story of international brands in China is itself fascinating. Everyone is there, because of the perceived size and importance of the market. Yet the country is far more chaotic, far more unstable, far more corrupt, for more authoritarian, has weaker copyright and patent laws and a weaker rule of law in general than many of the markets these companies would generally consider operating in.
India is more problematic in some ways: bureaucratic beyond words, and culturally difficult in ways that make foreign business models work less well, or at least require a lot more adaptation. (Imagine you are McDonald’s, and you are told that you are not permitted to use either beef nor pork in the food you sell). There have historically been limits on foreign investment. Supermarkets are only now in the process of being legalised. Very large companies can find entry to the Indian market - car makers or mobile phone companies. Medium sized companies - which is where most of the interesting stuff happens - find it much harder.
It’s going to be an interesting evening.