Wednesday, 28 April 2010
Apologies to all red heads. Remember, it's artistic liscence - I'm sure M.I.A likes you really.
(If the video has been removed, then click here).
Saturday, 24 April 2010
Kelly, Jodie, Sarah, Natalie, Jess, Simone, Sandra.
If you're tucked in to the right pocket of the park and in the right company, then you'll get away with it. Which we were - with Kelly's friends and her sister Jodie on a birthday London jolly, it was a manageable place to be for a couple of hours in the sun. But from now on, Victoria Park only!
It's a beautiful setting - right on the Regents Canal front, at a relatively quieter section of it, just in front of De Beauvoir. Sitting there in the sun I ordered a couple of coffees - wonderfully dark & bitter - and a granola, stewed fruit and yoghurt breakfast. Fantastic. The only thing missing was a newspaper to mull over.
The service was incredibly friendly and welcoming and it is a spot that doubles as an amazing viewing platform for all the passing runners, dog walkers and cyclists - many of whom double-take at the sudden emergence of such a lovely cafe.
The Towpath has recently extended it's hours, (specifically on a Thursday), but I urge you to visit and get there early. Seats are limited and it is busy by 10am, particularly on these glorious sunny mornings that we are currently being afforded.
Aside from breakfast food, they have a lunch menu and snacks in the evening. They have an alcohol liscence and even a little bike repair shop attached, called Route Canal(!)
Get yourself down there, but don't steal my spot in the sun.
The setting is fantastic. I have been in this space before, in its previous incarnation as the (now relocated) T Bar. But it has been treated with much more of a design eye, more considered - almost like a vast deli. The bar, for pre-dinner drinks, is integrated in to a giant butchers block at which you can sit whilst surrounded by hanging hams and wedges of cheeses.
The main restaurant area is huge and scattered with tables - some communal bench-like and some for smaller parties - like us. In fact, I think we got the pick of lot, under the huge windows facing the new East London line, where the newly opened, (and incredibly empty), tube trains passed by over the bridge behind.
Robin and the East London Line.
On to the food -surely the most important thing to talk about. You can see the full menu here, but Kelly and I chose the long stem broccoli & spicy sausage and mushroom & egg. To be honest, whilst the ingredients and topping combinations are impressive, I wasn't bowled over by the pizza itself.
For me there was too much crust - the base was thin but the topping didn't cover enough of it! I enjoyed it all the same and combined with the fantastic setting and the wonderful company, it was a great evening. However, if you want pizza in the area, then I'd also suggest going here and here. Having said that, unlike most pizza restaurants, the desserts were very good.
The lemon pot was sweet, creamy and moreish. Whilst Robin pigged out on the mini doughnuts with a chocolate sauce, that seemed to, erm, well vanish!
We went for a digestif at local Carpenters Arms before, ( a bit drunkenly), crashing out to bed.
Hannah & Robin in the Carpenters.
Thursday, 22 April 2010
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
The Tim Burton directed film stays true to the 19th Century novel by Lewis Carroll, but that is perhaps part of the problem. This isn't a bad film at all, in fact, once it gets going, is thoroughly enjoyable. But it doesn't seem to give enough, perhaps it's even one dimensional - the Burton trademarks, the quirks are few and far between.
Johnny Depp seems very comfortable in his role as the Mad Hatter. His make up and direction are fun, but his accent, (where he chooses Scottish), seems like a parody and not always consistent. The real star, for me, is Helena Bonham Carter. Playing the Red Queen, (meant to be the least likeable character), she is infectious, funny and very watchable.
At times the film reminded me of one from my youth, a cult 80s classic - The Never Ending Story. I loved that then, and I'd be surprised if kids didn't love this film now. Particularly with humorous touches added in Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, both played by Matt Lucas, (with the help of some computer graphics).
It is a fantastical romp, perhaps let down slightly by Burton not being brave enough, but kept afloat with enough fun, action and great lines from the increasingly likeable Alice like, "Sometimes I believe six impossible things before breakfast." (But of course Burton has Carroll to thank for that).
See it. But perhaps in 3D. And perhaps with your kids. If you have any!
Monday, 19 April 2010
Whitley Bay beach on a fine, sunny (windy) morning
We raided Whitley Bay's seemingly endless Charity shops in the afternoon, Kelly coming out on top in the buying stakes. We then went up to see local legend, (at least in my eyes), and long time family friend, Clive.
Clive (back to camera), Kelly and Mum.
Predictably he was in his garden. In a hat. With a glass of wine. We had a natter in the sun before moving on. Kelly and I headed down to the Quayside, surely Newcastle / Gateshead's most beautiful asset, where the evening sun cast an even more beautiful light upon the surroundings.
A view of the Baltic from the Millennium Bridge
After briefly popping in to the Baltic, we holed up with a glass of wine in the Sage, the sun streaming through the glass, domed facade, affording us the most pleasant and relaxed beverage I've had in some time. (Throw in to the mix a spontaneous and humorous chat with a couple of local Grannies and you have a perfect scene).
Sir Norman Foster's, Sage.
We then walked up to Pani's restaurant in the centre of town, to meet a host of friends for dinner.
It was great to see everyone and also introduce to Kelly to all my old friends too. We went for (several) digestifs in Alvino's just around the corner, before retiring home in the early hours.
Sunday brought a lie in, then a car journey with mum & dad, over to see Ruth & Andy in Leeds, (scroll down to the post below). After checking out their new house to be, we went for dinner together at the Mustard Pot in Chapel Allerton.
Courgette & feta fritters
Brownie & ice cream
It was a good meal which set us all on our way - Kelly & I back to London. Mum to Newcastle. Dad to Nottingham. Ruth & Andy back down the road.
It was a fantastic weekend. Really, really good. So here's our Graham with a quick reminder:
Tuesday, 13 April 2010
Monday, 12 April 2010
The set up
Liam seated and ready.
Once watched and with Quoc departed, Liam and I went for dinner at Four Seasons in Chinatown, on the promise of the finest roast duck in town.
Liam tucking in.
Soft shell crab & prawn dumplings to start
Pak choi & rice accompaniment
Liam's promise was not false. It was indeed the finest, sweetest, fattest most fantastic duck I have ever eaten. The whole dinner in fact an absolute pleasure. But it's richness left Liam and I glad of the fresh air on our cycle home - if only to stave off the imminent onset of gout!
Breakfast in the sun by the lake,
Girls on tour. From left to right, Emma, Simone, Sarah, Sandra, Kelly.
Ice cream Sundae. I mean Saturday.
Kenna in his land.
It's an impressive place - more so when Kenna describes just how down in the dumps it was previously. It was a rip-it-out-and-start-again project and for the purpose it serves as a unique and still 'secret' salon, it's a triumph.
One of the individual rooms
A friend of Kenna's posted this online too:
Bikes at the (almost) ready
Ready to (almost) race
Ready to (definitely) eat
Sunday, 11 April 2010
Thursday, 8 April 2010
'Whip It' is the story of Bliss Cavendar, (Ellen Page), growing up in, and very quickly out of, Bodeen, Texas. It's a very similar plot line of, 'kid-trying-to-grow up-too-quickly-but-ultimately-learns-from-her-mistakes', to the film 'An Education', (reviewed by me, here).
Bliss is fed up with her mother's plans for endless beauty pageants in which she has no interest. Instead, a roller derby league in Austin attracts her attention, resulting in skipping pageants, school and becoming a roller heroine in the process. But of course nothing is as rosy as it seems.
This undoubtedly girly film is guilty of being a bit too long, but is carried along by the outright fun that is being had. The cast are great and very recognisable, (Barrymore, Page, Juliette Lewis, Eve and more). I think what kept me so tuned in was my enjoyable expedition to Vauxhall Roller Disco the previous week and my affection for 95% of the soundtrack. (Barrymore didn't date a Strokes drummer for nothing!).
It's a watchable, funny affair and certainly a good move for Barrymore's directorial debut. A film that is like a contemporary 80s cult classic - maybe the grown ups in 20 years time will hark back to this along with Superbad and the like.
Go and see it? Nah, wait for the DVD!