Lunch: The Easy Way to Michelin Star Dining

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 0

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ntil very recently, I thought that Michelin Star dining was something out of most people’s reach, reserved just for special occasions. I eat out a lot (a lot, probably more than I should) but never thought I could afford those restaurants, never really looked into it.

Not long ago, I finally went to my first ever Michelin Star restaurant, Chapter One in Kent, a lovely airy space with white tablecloths and very attentive waiting staff. It was a sunny Sunday lunch and that’s really all there is to it, the secret that probably isn’t a secret for everyone else: lunch menus! Lunch menus are an awesome deal! Sure, they are from a reduced set meal, and you might not get all the fanfare of a Saturday night dinner, but it’s worth skipping out on a la carte to get a real bargain on some great food. The mains tend to be the least exiting for me, it’s all about the starters and deserts. Full disclosure: I’m a fish eating vegetarian with a sweet tooth. My meat eating dining companion (ok, my boyfriend, but that doesn’t really have the same ring to it) had a great looking starter which came in a jar with some smoke. Yeah, maybe should have made a note of its name. But, hey, new at this, will do so next time. But oh, the desert! Chocolate fondant with blood orange sorbet that was simply divine.

My second michelin star venture was soon after, for a friend’s birthday we went to Galvin La Chapelle for Sunday lunch with live Jazz. It was wonderful and for £29 for a three course meal, not exactly breaking the bank. It’s worth noting that it’s less for 3 courses than for a main from the main menu, and it was still great, the soup was especially delicious. Not realising I ordered a soup and expecting asparagus and cream, it was lovely (read: funny and embarrassing) to receive the two smallest asparagus pieces i’d ever seen with a dollop of cream on them and for the few seconds before they poured the soup on top, I thought I’d walked into a michelin star nightmare. Surely, I can’t be the only one that imagined you get a leaf in the middle of a large plate with a few drops of sauce artfully arranged around it?

I work around the corner from Arbutus and I’ve been meaning to go there for a while now as its Working Lunch seemed like an excellent idea. So, I took a slightly longer lunch break and went to check it out, it felt rather extravagant – a michelin starred lunch, but for £17.95 for two courses (though I went for 3…) it’s a fantastic deal. Once again special mention has to go to the soup, a cold carrot soup with blood orange, hazelnuts and olives, which sounds rather insane, but the blend of the different flavours and textures was simply divine.

That’s it so far, but hoping to add to this list very soon.

Let The Right One In – A Retrospective

Monday, July 28, 2014 0

 

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s I’ve already mentioned, I love me a West End transfer, I see it as a second chance to see something I missed the first time around. FOMO is the YOLO of 2014, I’ve been told, but maybe I’m a trend setter, because I’ve always had fear of missing out when it comes theatre. But as much as I try to see all the things, it’s not always possible, so I hope for a transfer. And in the cases where the original run is critically successful and sold out, often enough it happens.

If possible, seeing the original run is always my preferred choice, as these tend to be smaller theatres and cheaper. (I saw The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Nighttime during its National days for £6 – standing day ticket and best £6 I’ve ever spent) But even in cases when I’ve seen the original, the return always makes me happy as it gives me the opportunity to pester all my friends, to go see this thing right now!! Run, don’t walk!

This is all a long prelude to say that Let The Right One In is brilliant and that while I saw it at the Royal Court in December, it is now on at the Apollo till the end of August and I am seriously tempted to go for one of the many deals that are out right now and see it again.

As is often the case, I went in completely unprepared, not having seen the film or read the book or even a synopsis. I knew there’d be vampires and that was it. What I was unprepared for was a beautiful, eerie, but very human (I’d ask you to forgive the pun, but if you stick around you’ll see I have a penchant for terrible puns) story about isolation and love, about facing your bullies and your mother’s alcoholism. The stage is spare, silver trees, a lone lamppost and a climbing frame that is pivotal in a climax that made me forget to breathe for a while. Oh and also ask an usher at the end as to how exactly did they do that, was it magic? Technically, no, though set design is magic to me.

Oh and sure, there are plenty of gory bits, even one or two scary ones, but if you are in for your typical horror story, then you are missing the point, and you should probably go for Ghost Stories (I give it a solid 6 out of 10) or even better The Woman in Black.

Mr Burns (Almeida)

Monday, July 21, 2014 0

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inally, last week I had my first visit to the Almeida Theatre, I’ve been wanting to see pretty much everything that they do, but am never early enough and invariably it sells out. (Luckily a lot of it transfers to the West End, where I get to pay more money to sit further away – Chimerica, Ghosts, 1984 and the soon to open Charles III, that I really need to book.) Not this time, I booked this blindly. Or maybe not, but by the time I saw my calendar said Mr Burns (I put everything in my phone’s calendar, if I don’t, it will not happen, I was recently supposed to take my parents to the ballet for their anniversary, I’d put the wrong date in my calendar and missed it. Bad times.) all I remembered was the Simpsons connection.

First of all, the theatre is lovely and small, just the way I like it. It has a very nice looking bar that I didn’t have time to check out, but would certainly try to return to soon. We had excellent seats (yay for cheap under 30 tickets! Though having to show ID to prove that I am in fact under 30 was pretty sobering) and as soon as we were covered in darkness, the stage dimly lit by a fire, I was pretty sure I was going to like it. Mr Burns has been dividing critics, and perhaps understandingly, as it relies on the audience’s knowledge of one particular episode of the Simpsons and heavily borrows from pop culture in general. Without this knowledge, your experience would certainly be lacking.

I don’t want to reveal too much, but have you ever wondered what will happen to popular entertainment in a post apocalyptic world? There is a saturation of future, disaster and post disaster worlds in film and television, but this is the first time I’ve seen it in a play, which was exciting in itself, but it also tackled the subject matter from a new angle.

As the first act unfolds through the characters sitting around a fire, retelling an episode of The Simpsons, we learn a little about the sickness and nuclear disaster that killed most people. The world building is brief but great, I particularly enjoyed that each survivor keeps a list of the names of all the other survivors that they come across and there is a sort of ritual where they each check a list of their loved ones against everyone else’s lists, it’s an interesting tidbit that raise so many questions. I only wish there was more of these, as the details we are given are just barely enough to paint a broad picture, and in fact reduce as the  play progresses. The attention is firmly set on the Simpsons story telling, which bonds a relative group of strangers and gives them a sense of momentary comfort.

Act II, which is set seven years later, was my favourite as you see that our characters have learned to live in this new world without electricity, by forming a theatre group largely performing reconstructions of Simpsons episodes, paying their audience for ‘remembered’ lines. Most of the action is of the group rehearsing for their show and includes a hilarious medley of pop songs.

The third act was perhaps a bit too long, almost to the point of self indulgence, as its point about the transformation of a story could have been made in half the time, but I am willing to forgive that as the costumes were so beautiful and I really liked the music and the performances.

Rift’s Macbeth Review

Sunday, July 20, 2014 1

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have long bought into the immersive theatre craze, from a middling Minotaur performance in Bermondsey’s biscuit factory, to a rather fun exploration of King’s College London and Somerset House in DreamThinkSpeak’s In the Beginning was The End and Punch Drunk’s epic Drowned Man. But an overnight performance of Macbeth still came across somewhat daunting. 12 straight hours, could I handle that?! Well, with tickets from as little as £20 for a hard package (though I paid double that for the ‘Luxury’) in which you get dinner, a night’s accommodation, plus the show itself, compared to the astronomical prices of other immersive ventures *cough*secret cinema*cough* I figured I’d give it a go.

And I am very glad I did, though the sleepover gimmick felt just like that – a gimmick, the location, an imposing East London tower block, and the very talented cast kept me entertained throughout. Unlike other immersive performances I’ve seen, I am happy to say that this wasn’t a loose or symbolic reinterpretation, the play was there, in its entirety.

It starts with a passport check, as we get ready to enter a fictional Eastern European country named Borduria, its occupants, speaking with suspiciously Borat-like accents, serving as our guides into Macbeth’s fictional world. A concept that I wasn’t entirely sold on, as it seemed to add an unnecessary complication to the set up. Our phones are checked in, our pounds exchanged with Bordurian currency and our bags taken away from us.

The action begins immediately after, as we find ourselves in the middle of Macbeth and Banquo’s encounter with the witches in a dark and seriously spooky underground space. The moment is wonderful, and for me only matched in intensity by Macbeth’s decent into madness during the banquet scene and his second encounter with the witches. A good thing as it almost successfully distracts from the actual meal we are given, which includes a botched attempt at a borscht soup, probably one of the worst things I have ever tasted. (On the flip side, they were great with giving us water throughout and the drinks are a decent price, but I gotta say if you are staying overnight, bring snacks.) The final scene on the roof and the immediate build up to it, which I do not want to spoil is similarly tense as are a few breaks from the plot where the murderers get involved with the audience that feel truly frightening. Those are the moments where you know it’s not real, but you don’t quite believe it.

It’s not all great. A large part of the final act conveyed as ‘Breaking News’ via a flickering TV set is a major low point, and despite the advertised ‘all night’ set up, the action ends comfortably around midnight. After which, cast and audience alike congregates in the bar to spend the remainder of their hard earned Bordurian cash.

But despite its flaws, I had a pretty magical evening, which is hard to explain. It was perhaps aided by my lack of phone, i.e. any connection to the outside world, but at times I felt like I was truly transported to another land, where anything was possible.

I found out after that there are multiple casts looking after multiple groups, which must be a logistical nightmare and meant tightly timed toilet breaks, but was flawlessly executed as we not once crossed paths with anyone else. And I may be biased, but I think we lucked out with the best cast, Lowri James’ lady Macbeth and Humphrey Hardwicke’s Macbeth were both spectacular.

Other things to note:

  • Look out for the updated king’s portraits
  • Getting picked out as a murderer’s favourite is not a good idea
  • Be aware of nightly apparitions