Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Real Greek restaurant review.

I’m not very well-versed in Greek cuisine, and one look over The Real Greek menu had me realising that perhaps, on the whole, it wasn’t for me as about two-thirds of the menu contained lamb ingredients, an ingredient that I’m not hugely fond of. Nonetheless, the whole point of going to a restaurant of a particular country is to try their food, so I still ordered some lamb cutlets, which proved to let the side down as they were a bit too fatty and not all that edible.

Everything else was wonderful, though. The pitta bread was lightly buttered and heated at just the right temperature for optimal enjoyment. I ordered a standard chive dip, as well as a fishier one for experimentation, and the fish dip was sensational; I didn’t leave a drop left on the plate. For meat dishes, in addition to the lamb, I ordered some giant prawns. They didn’t turned out to be quite as giant as promised, but they were marinated so well in garlic sauce that the inner taste of the prawn was tapped out entirely and thus I can’t complain. I also ordered some chicken, which came in the style of a kebab, all on one stick, with some nice Greek dip to complement the eating experience.

Lastly, the cheesecake I had for dessert was pure heaven. Cheesecakes are something I've eaten my fair share of, as I have a very sweet tooth, and the cheesecake I had yesterday was one of the finest I've tasted in my life. The cream was so perfectly soft and perfectly mixed; I adored it.

So for the lamb alone (and the fact that rose wine, my favourite type of wine, was out of stock - a real let down ;____;), The Real Greek doesn’t quite hit the extreme heights of some of the best London restaurant experiences I’ve had, but everything else was near perfect. Do not say no to that dessert!

Grade: B+/A-

Lolita, was a meaneater, clocked him like a taximeter.

I know it's somewhat perverse considering the news coming out this week of Kristen Stewart's indiscretion, and I am in no way condoning infidelity (the man she cheated with, the director of the snoozefest that was Snow White and the Huntsman, was married with two kids, oh dear). But homewrecking aside, the news of Kristen's little transgression has made me like her more. 

I'd always regarded her as a pretty, but very bland actress, who I wasn't even sure had a pulse, judging from her awkward public appearances. But evidently, she not only has a pulse, but is a dark horse to be reckoned with, one capable of breaking British heart-throb Robert Pattinson (an equally poor actor)'s heart. And so, I decided to take a closer look at some pictures/gifs of her, and realised that the girl really is stunning.

(what colour are her eyes? Grey? Blue? Green? idk, I love them.)

Rocking the ponytail here!

Aww, poor heartbroken R-Prattz.

I still abhor Twilight, though

Weekly round up of a couple of nice meals I've had.

Who doesn't love a cheeky mojito during the week? Utterly refreshing and so well-blended I didn't feel I was getting drunk. From Häagen-Dazs.

Flawless tequila surprise, also from Häagen-Dazs

Greek-themed menu from work canteen. £2.95.

Not the healthiest, but I have a weekly quota of junk food that needs to be fulfilled somehow. Burger King.

Scampi, large wedges, peas and tartare sauce. £2.95, work canteen.

Full English (essentially everything in this x2). £6.75, cafe on local highstreet.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Restaurant Review: Bangalore (Bank)

A dimly lit Bangladeshi restaurant in a little nook of London’s financial centre, blink and you’ll miss Bangalore. However, this would be to your peril, because boasting some delicious dishes at very reasonable prices (particularly if you book in advance using a meal card), it is one of the finds. (Although, in an area that features nothing but investment banks, perhaps that is damning the restaurant with faint praise).

There is a very diverse range of potential starters, and the portion sizes are so generous that two starters + a side could easily constitute a filling meal for a customer. I had the chicken tikka, and it was much better than the centrepiece meal that I’ve had at various Indian restaurants. Poppadoms were offered as soon as you entered, and, I must say I was delighted with the three choices of dips that accompanied the poppadoms. One was radish, which as an ingredient itself I am pretty uncertain about, but the way it had been prepared and sorted meant that it tasted AMAZING with the Poppadom. One of the other dips was mango chutney, but unlike the store-bought mango chutney that you get with your Indian takeaway, this chutney mix tasted homemade. Again, a sensation.

If I were to quibble with any aspect of the menu, it would be that certain dishes were too spicy. The spicy chips, when I began eating them, were fresh-tasting and wonderful, but by the time you put the fifth chip in your mouth, you realised that a jug of milk was required to stop yourself from crying. On the upside, the quality and taste of the chips (bar the unbearable spiciness) were top notch, and, at just over three pounds for a sizeable dish, you definitely couldn’t complain that you weren’t getting value for your money. This same vein of thought carried through to the Indo-Chinese fish and noodles. The fish was exquisite and the noodles themselves were great. There was just one stipulation: you could only eat a tiny spoonful at a time, lest your tongue get burnt off.

If, however, you actually use your brain unlike I did and refrain from ordering everything hot on the menu (spicy dishes are distinctly named so it should be fairly easy to evade them), then you’re in for a treat at Bangalore. The starters, main meals and sides are all lovingly crafted, very well presented and amount to a thoroughly satisfying culinary experience.

Grade: B+/A-

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Film review: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (Christopher Nolan, 2012)

After eight years of relative inactivity in the streets of Gotham, mainly thanks to a Harvey Dent act – constructed in false honour of Harvey Two-face from The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne is a recluse in his manor, hobbling around with a walking stick and never showing his face. However, he’s kicked back into life – quite literally – by Selina Kyle, a swish, sassy cat burglar who’s also not bad to look at. 

It soon transpires she’s working for a greater evil, Bane, a hulking badass who was born in a prison known as “hell on earth”. Walking around with a hugely creepy gas mask in front of his face and casually disposing of anyone who gets into his way, Bane christens himself “Gotham’s reckoning.” But Bruce Wayne, never one to take attack to his beloved city lying down, fancies letting Batman reckon with him.

Nolan’s final instalment of his epic Batman trilogy is the most ambitious of the three, and no shortage of love nor money has gone into creating it. Action sequences which would be hard to direct at the best of times are made ten times more so with the almost unmanageable size of the quantity of extras employed – the American football game stands out in particular here. 

There are one-on-one fight scenes, as well as thousands-on-thousands, and some of the martial arts sequences (particularly involving Selina Kyle aka Catwoman) are thrillingly choreographed. But the real challenge didn’t lie in any part of the action, but bringing the trilogy to a close in both an emotionally satisfying way, and one that did justice to the massive Batman franchise. Other critics have been left wanting by the ending, the direction of the film (at 164 minutes, it will test your bladder), as well as the sprawling nature of the screenplay.

Indeed, Nolan co-write this film with his brother Jonathan, and at times, the dialogue (between Batman and Bane in particular) feels twice as portentous as that of Inception, and, considering I sure-as-hell was no fan of Inception, that’s certainly saying something. Another aspect of the film that has bugged some people is that the majority of time, it was difficult to decipher what Bane was actually saying due to the mask in front of his face. 

This was infuriating and confusing, definitely, but overall, I was quite impressed with how it contributed to the eerie, ominous sense of the film. Then there are the plot holes. Usually when I watch a film, I choose to suspend belief and just go with it, but there were a few subtle things that even I couldn’t ignore – for example – how policemen who had been trapped under rubble for months were suddenly as sprightly and energetic as ever. I won’t reveal any others at the risk of spoiling the plot, but plot holes are so rife in the film that some wags have taken to giving TDKR the moniker “The Plot Holes Rises.”

But all this pales in comparison in the grand scheme of things, when the end product is so epic. Chris Nolan recruited the majority of the cast of Inception for The Dark Knight Rises, so he must really enjoy working with them. 

Of the Inception crew, Marion Cotillard impressed me the least here. There were times when her facial expressions were borderline Drama GCSE, and considering the amazingly accurate depiction of Edith Piaf she has given before, we all know she can do a lot better. 

Michael Caine was very good, as he has been throughout the trilogy, and he has a few heart-rending scenes in which he tells Bruce how much he means to him. But my favourite performance of the Inception bunch is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays a John Blake, cop, who, like Wayne, is an orphan, and thus sees him as a kindred spirit. Blake is very resourceful and comes to Batman’s aid at various points throughout the film and makes for a commendable supporting hero. And as the baddy, Tom Hardy is absolutely terrifying. He had a thankless task, having to follow-up Heath Ledger's terrifying Joker as the Batman villain, but he gives Bane genuine malice when the character could have easily become a hilarious caricature and for that, Laurels should be given to Hardy (boom boom :p).

Christian Bale, surely one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood, takes the lead role again wonderfully. It doesn’t quite match up to his work in The Fighter, The Machinist or my personal favourite, All the Little Animals (remember that film? lol), but in a role that is so easy to get wrong, he gets pretty much everything right. 

However, every scene he shared with Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman was stolen from her, for she was sensational. I had my qualms about seeing wholesome Princess Mia from The Princess Diaries playing such a sexy, amoral role, but Hathaway nails it. Her fight scenes are electrifying, and she deserves further plaudits when you consider she’s doing them in six-inch stiletto heels. Like a real cat, Hathaway slinks about the film like she owns it, and as a result, it really feels like she does. There’s also an engaging turn from English Rose Juno Temple as Catwoman’s friend and possible lover. Temple doesn’t do much, but it’s a proud moment to see her in such a huge blockbuster.

So engrossing that I did not check my phone once throughout the viewing of The Dark Knight Rises, I honestly couldn’t recommend it enough. It definitely has flaws, and several blog entries could be dedicated to the inconsistencies alone. But the overall good in the film – and boy, there is a lot of it – more than counterbalances it. 

Christopher Nolan has really done himself proud here, and for this alone, I am willing to forgive him for Inception (incidentally, Hans Zimmer’s score at points really do sound Inceptionish throughout the film (528491 from Inception sounds like it was played in every scene in TDKR), but we’ll allow). His brooding direction has given Batman what was seriously lacking in the previous cringeworthy George Clooney-starring Batman Forever films – soul. 

Much like Bruce Wayne, I haven’t been fulfilling my film critic duties much this year. But The Dark Knight Rises is my very own Bane, in that sense. The passion for cinema is back, all thanks to this film. 

And at the end of the day, there is no bigger compliment I can pay a film than that.


Some delicious dishes I've had this week.

Mozzarella, cheesy spicey tomatos, potato and salad. £2.70 from work canteen.

Meatballs, spaghetti in spicy sauce. £8.50, Slug & Lettuce in Uxbridge. (Huuugely recommended.)

Full English (orange juice included). £3.95, Cafe on local highstreet.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A favour, please!

My very talented friend Hannah has designed this lovely QWERTY Scrabble T-shirt:

All those of you with a Threadless account (and even those who don't - make one! :p), please head on over here and vote 5 for it, so it can get printed!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sarastro review (Strand)

Just off Covent Garden, next to the theatre playing Woman in Black is Sarastro, a truly unique little restaurant with a wonderful kooky vibe and some delicious plates to boot.

Cute little alcoves (reminiscent of the boxes one sits in to listen to the opera) make up the restaurant, and eating your dinner in a box, slightly detached from the rest of the room, really gives your meal a cosy feel, making Sarastro a great place to bring potential dates. The menu didn’t offer a huge range of dishes, but what it did offer was creative, with each dish offering something distinctive. For starters, I had a mozzarella salad which was completely to die for. Balsamic vinegar was used sparingly, but in doing so, it really bought out the flavour of the greens, and the mozzarella cheese cubes included were absolutely delicious. I rarely rave on about salad as I generally consider it to be rabbit food, but Sarastro deserves plaudits in bringing flavour to a potentially dull dish. At £6.35, I thought it reasonably priced considering the central London location, and, honestly, the delightful sensations your taste buds will experience when consuming it makes it worth every penny.

For the main, I had beef bourguignon. With most classy London diners (of which I consider Sarastro one), if you order a meat dish, it will be cooked very well, but there will not be a whole lot of it. In Sarastro’s case, there was quantity and quality of meat aplenty. The beef was complemented perfectly with carrots, potatoes, onion and red wine sauce, each ingredient which bought out the flavour of the beef, and the beef itself was helpfully divided into little “strips”, which made consuming it amusing as it was delicious. Finally, for dessert, I had assorted ice cream, which was modestly priced at £4.50. Again, it was delicious.

Overall, the Sarastro was a completely worthwhile gastronomical experience, with the restaurant also boasting a homely, offbeat vibe that the majority are sure to love. Come 8 o’clock there was also live music as a violinist and a viola player duetted on Ravel’s Bolero. To give their playing extra spice, they walked around the restaurant, coming up into the individual alcoves to momentarily serenade the customers. Their playing, as with the restaurant as a whole, were utterly charming.

Grade: A

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Favourite dish of the week.

Vegetarian tacos with guacamole. £2.70 from my work canteen. A.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

A few brief restaurant reviews.

 Nando’s (Park Royal, London)
I had what I usually have at Nando’s – the vegetarian burger (which many have thought a funny choice as they are famed for their chicken and I’m anything but vegetarian.) But I love the Nando’s veggie burger and having read the review of the film Killer Joe and heard about a KFC scene in it, I don’t think I can eat any kind of chicken ever again in my entire life. So I stuck with my tried and tested veggie burger and had two sides, coleslaw and chips, both of which were fine. There is only so much one can say about a chain like Nando’s; I would say it was “cheap and cheerful”, it’s definitely the latter, but now, I’m not so sure about the former. There was a time when Nando’s was known for being cheap student food; you could go in there with a fiver and have a good time. Now, the good times are still available (two trashy girls got into a catfight right near me! I took a photo for the banter, it was better entertainment than Jeremy Kyle tbh), but you need to have at least double that amount, for what feels like half the amount of food. Hmm. Recession indeed. B-/C+

GoodLiffes (Loughborough)
 An elegant and effortlessly classy eatery, me and my best friend Anna came here for brunch. Service, quality of food and promptness of delivery were all to be commended. The prices could have done with being a little lower, but that’s probably the tight-fisted goon in me. Overall, a more than satisfactory experience. B+.

Oh and there were pandas in Central London yesterday, banter:

The Torres kids.


Monday, July 02, 2012

Soap & Glory skincare products.

 I’m usually a stickler for routine in the skincare stakes, and live by Nivea soft moisturiser, which has served me loyally since I was about thirteen and as a result I have never once had so much as a blackhead. It is a simple, inexpensive skincare product that does everything that it says on the tin. However, now that I am a little order than thirteen and have the niggling issue of wrinkles to worry about, I needed to find a skincare product that not only did everything Nivea soft did, but worked hard to fight those signs of aging. And that’s where Soap & Glory, of which I already own their lipgloss (Sexy Mother Pucker – it’s my favourite lipgloss that I own) products came in.

I bought three products, one for the night time (Night Cream), and two for the day – the 6-in-1 cream as well as the Instant Radiance Energy Balm. I keep the latter in my handbag as it’s more travel friendly, and use the former every morning after I’ve washed my face.

The night cream has worked a treat; each morning when I wake up my skin feels smooth and nourished. I require less of it to cover my face than I did of the Nivea soft moisturiser due to the thickness of the cream, meaning that, whilst the container seems quite small, it has a very long life length (I bought the product back in April and am less than a quarter of the way through it now.) Indeed, used sparingly is the most effective way of applying the Night cream moisturiser as it is so good it doesn’t require massive dollops to work its magic.

The two moisturisers for the day are slightly more watery in consistency, and markedly less effective than the night cream. Due to the more liquidy content, they feel quite useless, and the 6-in-1 cream in particular has a has a close to nil effect on my skin, certainly nothing positive.

So a mixed bag, the night cream was a treat but the other two not only smelt poor but didn't do anything as moisturiser.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.

The Haagen-Dazs store in Leicester Square is so flawless that I simply can't stop coming back for more creations.