Category: Review

04/04/07

Permalink 09:38:24 am, Categories: Food, Review, 409 words   English (UK)

Vanilla Black

The second time I went to Vanilla Black I knew what to expect. Potentially this leaves room for disappointment, but there was no disappointment to be found.

I'm not a vegetarian, and sometimes I struggle to be enthusiastic about vegetarian dishes. Looking at the menu I thought that there was nothing on there I really fancied. The best option for the main course was almost but not quite the same dish that I had last time. I plumped for some stuff that I thought I could bear.

The truth is that this meat-eating savoury thing is just in my head. There were five of us, we each chose something different, and we all tasted each others food. Everything was gorgeous. I could have had anything from the menu and liked it. The choices I did make were probably the best choices for me that night, but on another night I would have had something different.

To put it bluntly, this place does stuff with vegetarian food that Cranks can only dream of. They have a Michelin recommendation and they fully deserve it.

I had a deconstructed lentil dhal to start. Even having tasted it, I can't say that it sounds inspiring (the menu does go into a little more detail than just the title). Lentil dhal is probably one of the first things that comes to mind when you think of a vegetarian restaurant, but this was incredible. The deconstructed part just means that they cooked everything separately and then put it all on the plate at the end. (Does that sound lazy to you; It's not, it's inspired.)

My main was a crispy vegetable 'lasagne' a rich and sweet tomato and onion relish bound together an aubergine and cucumber filling sandwiched between layers of something that was a cross between a flour pancake and a rosti. It was all topped with a good ball of shepherd's purse cheese, rather like a fresh mozzarella.

Conveniently there were five dishes on the desert menu, so we just ordered one of each. I got mostly a belgian chocolate pudding with white chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cream. By far the least inspired choice on the menu, but it was just what I was in the mood for. Everyone else got something much more interesting and again everything was delicious.

The atmosphere is quiet, informal and the service attentive but not fussy.

so far this place is 2 for 2. Keep up the good work.

26/03/07

Permalink 09:13:14 am, Categories: Food, Review, 413 words   English (UK)

The Wharf - Teddington

We went out for dinner the other night to The Wharf, right next to Teddington Lock. The atmosphere on arrival was pleasant, although it was early and the dining room was virtually empty. There was a brisk chill in the air outside and the space heaters in the dining room had brought the temperature up nicely, it wasn't long before people were asking to have them turned off.

Things didn't get off to a brilliant start with the menu however. The only vegetarian main was off, and they obviously hadn't thought through anything to replace it. They were however prepared to consider variations on anything on the menu. In the end, we made do. There were 4 of us; we started with a Mezze plate between two, a pressed ham hock terrine and I had a caesar salad with chicken and bacon. Service was unexpectedly swift and the starters were all generous and very satisfying. My salad was simple but very well balanced and the Mezze plate contained pitta with a herd and garlic dressing, houmous, spicy baba-ganoush and a chunky guacamole, alongside that, feta and artichoke hearts.

To follow, I had a steak burger and my companions had corelli with chicken and chorizo, spiced rump of lamb, and a large plain caesar salad. The burger was tasty and succulent, presented with cheese, bacon, tomato and a tasty tomato relish. There was a mountain of fries on the plate, but they were a little underdone and somewhat anaemic.

We washed this down with mineral water and a very pleasant Laiback Pinotage from the Stellenbosch. Service was prompt and attentive almost but not quite to the point of intrusive and the staff were very helpful.

As our meal drew on, the room began to become quite full, it's obviously a popular place and my companions have failed to find a booking in the past. It didn't seem excessively noisy or crowded as things filled up, but we did notice a lot of cigarette smoke drifting in from the bar, despite having an ostensibly no-smoking table, and by the time we were leaving, the not-so-delicate sounds of a Gwen Stefani track were beginning to punctuate the hubbub.

I wasn't paying, but the prices on the menu seemed very reasonable and I think the whole experience was value for money. It's difficult to judge a place on a visit like this, but I would go again, for an early table, probably after the smoking ban comes in.

16/03/07

Permalink 01:49:57 pm, Categories: Review, Film, 426 words   English (UK)

Hot and Fuzzy

I don't get to the cinema as often as I would like. I don't want to go on my own and my tastes in film don't often coincide with those of others.

I did get to see Hot Fuzz this week. And I have to say that I was mightily impressed.

=> Read more!

28/02/07

Permalink 11:58:41 am, Categories: Review, Books, 632 words   English (UK)

Books of Magic

Magic is having something of a revival at the moment. There are two films about magicians doing the rounds, The Prestige and The Illusionist. I've not yet seen either, this is a book review.

I recently read two books about magicians:

Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

=> Read more!

26/02/07

Permalink 01:36:24 pm, Categories: Review, Television, 422 words   English (UK)

The hooded man

Over the years there have been many tellings of the legend of Robin Hood. 23 years ago, British television saw the arrival on screen of 'Robin of Sherwood'. ITV3 has started showing the entire 3 series again, and they are repeated once more from tonight.

Although I have all 3 series on VHS, it's been more that 10 years since I last saw any of this; but it's not lost any of its impact. Since then we've had Kevin Costner's lengthy mostrosity and a ridiculous and bizarrely anachronistic 'Robin Hood' from BBC1. Nothing since its original airing has come close to 'Robin of Sherwood'.

The storytelling was simple and truthful, not laced with modern day references or post-modern tricks. The write Richard Carpenter wove into the traditional and familiar storyline, a magical thread full of saxon mysticism which well befits the raw strength of the legend itself. In Carpenter's hands Robin becomes not only an people's hero, but an instrument of the forest god and a force of light against the Dark forces of the despised King John.

The casting was perfect, the relatively unknown Michael Praed taking the lead role, supported by a ensemble of Merry Men including Ray Winstone and Clive Mantle. Judi Trott portrayed Maid Marion, an ethereal saxon beauty who I was surprised to realise reminded me a great deal of Francesca Annis.

Nikolas Grace's Sheriff of Nottingham was no pantomime villain, as seen so often. He was a cunning man, failing more often because of a betrayal, or the incompetence of his own men rather than an overreaching self-destruction. His brother Hugo, the abbot providing a fine interplay, showing the competing politics of church and state, each side in it for their own ends, neither side with the slightest regard for the common folk. Finally, Gisburne; here the casting and writing came together with a perfectly balanced character. Not a buffoon, but not as clever as he thinks he is, headstrong and arrogant, with a belief in the superiority of the Normans that frequently causes him to underestimate the saxons.

Yes, it's 23 years old and it shows, the gradient filters on the camera stick out like a sore thumb, but that's a complaint you can level at pretty much every film from the 80s. Despite its vintage it still stacks up and even the soundtrack by Clannad is as haunting as ever.

If you remember it, or if you've never even heard of it, give it a look. I promise it's so much better than any recent retelling of the tale.

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