Monday, February 27, 2006

Shopping: Winkworth Real Estate Agents

So, which room is the third bedroom?
This one?
This room outside the kitchen, near the lounge room, with a dining table, six chairs and a sideboard in it?
And a fireplace behind that blocked off bit of wall...
And a wall of book shelves...
Then which room is the dining room?
Also this one.
This is not really a three bedroom flat, is it.
Not when you put it that way....

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Books: Dead Simple - Peter James

It's a genre novel, so it'll be hard to convince you if you hate the detective-thriller-with-a-supernatural-edge genre, but Dead Simple is worth reading. It starts with a as a pleasant country drive, on a bucks night, when the groom is buried in the coffin with a porn mag, a torch, a bottle of whisky and a walkie-talkie, then his mates are killed in a car accident. The story accelerates when Detective Superintendent Roy Grace becomes involved and finishes with so many twists and turns it will make you car sick.

This is Peter James' first book in five years, and the first of a series of Detective Superintendent Roy Grace books. It is well worth reading, but don't take my word for it - read the first chapter and decide for yourself.

(Disclaimer: I must disclose that Peter James is my neighbour, and an excellent dinner companion. I would go as far as saying that he is the most polite man on earth, except that I think he smokes in our elevator late at night when he thinks nobody will notice.)

Dead Simple
Peter James
UK: £3.99, £6.60 or £12.92
USA: $16.50

14 March update: re-reading this, it looks like I am damning with faint praise. I'm not. It's a great read and I'm probably going to buy another of his books to read on the plane next week.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Food: Daddy Donkey, Leather Lane - crunchy, yet runny

Daddy Donkey draws in the crowds using the age old ploy of cooking spicy beef up wind of hungry people. It's more effective in the rain, when the smells concentrate under the tarpaulin over the stall, drawing you in like a hand around your neck. The meat is warm and freshly cooked, the spicey sauces are well blended, with plenty of flavour and no surprises, the black beans give it body and the salad is fresh and crisp. All is good, if expensive at five pounds when you can get a curry up the lane for three. And 10 mintues later, struggling to eat my burro before it fell to pieces, quickly running out of serviettes as juice ran down my fingers and into the foil protecting my desk, I wondered, "How can one small sandwich like product contain so much liquid?"

Daddy Donkey
Pitch 102, Leather Lane Market, (parallel to Hatton Garden), Farringdon, London
Lunch for one: large beef burro, £5

Food: Raoul's Cafe, Maida Vale - chilly, but for the food

The Universal Parents return to the antipodes today, so we showed Universal Stepfather Maida Vale by breakfasting at Raoul's Cafe. (Not Raoul's Deli across the road.)

The food was faultless, as you would expect from a cafe that imports its eggs from Italy. They were perfect, of course: softly poached, with golden runny yolks and a smooth full flavour. The fruit smoothies were also sweet and thick, though mine had a big lump of frozen berry in it, which I had to extract by skewering it with my straw. (Yes, for those that know, it was the most satisfying part of the drinking experience.)

I would like to say the fruit salad with nuts, greek youghurt and honey was as good as it should have been too - I wanted it as soon as I saw the fruit chilling in the display cabinet by the door - but the waiter forgot about it.

The restaurant was freezing when we arrived - so cold that my parents wore their coats through the meal - and the maitre'd was as frosty as his room. He spoke in short barks, seemed a little startled, and slightly resentful when we ordered food, and was more startled and resentful with every exchange. He roughly dropped the cuttlery in front of my mother because it was too far to reach across our small table, and looked like he might be sick when the parents decided on a cup of tea at the end.

Then Universal Stepfather tried to attract someone's attention to ask for the bill. Then I had a go. Finally we asked for the bill. Then Universal Stepfather tried to attract someone's attention to ask for the bill, again. Then I had a go, again. Then Universal Stepfather had success, and finally we asked for the bill, again. It all took so long that when the bill finally arrived, we rounded up and ran - pausing by the fruit salad as we opened the door. If the extra £2.50 was the fee for getting out fast, then it was cheap. Nice way to earn an extra 7% tip.

Raoul's Cafe
13 Clifton Road, Maida Vale, London W9 1SZ
+44 207 2897313
Breakfast for three: three full English, coffees, teas and two fruit smoothies. £37.46

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Love Story: love means never having to say you’re sorry - Erich Segal

It is hard to do simple things well, but Erich Segal has. It is a love story, pure and simple. Boy and girl meet, fall in love, suffer the typical family tensions; boy is stupidly proud; girl loves him, coins memorable phrase, dies. The entire story is done in 133 pages of simple, unsentimental, quality writing, and every word is placed with a jeweller’s precision.

Love Story: love means never having to say you’re sorry

Erich Segal