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Archive for the category “Food”

Barbican, Rollins and Mileage

Yesterday was another Rollins gig, this time at the Barbican in London.

It was a bit more complicated than last week’s gig in Bristol, as it involved collecting another friend of mine from over by Oxford, then getting a train to London, across to Barbican, getting food, going to the gig, and then a similar journey for the return.

All told though, it went really smoothly.  I’d booked pretty much everything in advance, including the train tickets and reserving a table at the restaurant of choice, so it was as organised as humanly possible.

The restaurant in particular was a real success – the Jugged Hare, just round the corner from the Barbican itself. I’d seen it before, but never eaten there, so went for it when the chance came up, and booked for their pre-theatre menu. I am truly glad I did.  They specialise in game of all sorts – it’s definitely not a great place for vegetarians! – but there’s enough variety in the menu, if game isn’t your thing.

To be fair, there is a vegetarian option on the menu – well, it says “Vegetarian – £14”, so it could be a fillet of vegetarian, for all I know.

The three-course meal was great – particularly the venison haunch, and their sticky toffee pudding was amazing. (as was the accompanying mince-pie ice cream, which has to be tasted to be believed)  Knowing how easy it is for me to drive to Barbican in general, I will be returning. Several times.

The gig itself was great – Rollins spoke for three full hours, with no breaks. The show was about 50% the same as the one I saw last week in Bath, but I can live with that – it’s better than being entirely the same!

The journey home was OK – getting the trains back went smoothly, and then a drive through snow to drop off friend, and then another hour and a bit on motorways in heavy snow (though thankfully not settling) to get home, which happened just after 2am.

So a long day, but an entirely worthwhile one…

Leaving 2015

It’s the end of 2015, and for the first time in a long time, it’s been a good year. It’s had its ups and downs for sure, but the general direction has definitely been upwards and positive.

On the ‘ups’ side, we have…

  • worked all year on the same contract, which has made things a lot easier
  • built up some savings, for the first time in at least a decade
  • started up my own company and business, plus laying the groundwork for next year’s developments
  • been out to a good range of restaurants, and had a long weekend in Edinburgh
  • done some writing, and developed some ideas for working on in 2016

On the ‘downs’…

  • When I say ‘worked all year’, I mean it. Holidays and breaks have pretty much not happened. Certainly nothing more than that long weekend in Edinburgh
  • I’ve not built up the savings as much as I could/should have – but that’s been down to stuff with the car, the restaurants, and actually having a decent year of non-monastic living
  • having my own company again means I also have to deal with HMRC, Companies House, and bastard accountants
  • I haven’t actually finished any of the writing things

So it’s all swings and roundabouts, but all told it’s been a good year with a lot of stuff I’m really pleased about and/or proud of.

Table for One

This year, I’ve had a plan about going out and eating in restaurants on my own. It was a project for the year – and it’s been quite successful.

I’ve always had an insecurity about eating alone in restaurants – some people are like it about going to the cinema alone, or to the pub on their own. For me, it was restaurants.

But I’m really bad at having insecurities like that, and tend to face them head on. So I challenged myself to do more of it, to get comfortable (or at least familiar) with walking into places and just getting a table for one.

I started the year the way I wanted to go on, with New Years Eve in Cambridge as a single. It was a menu I wanted to try, so why not?

There’s been plenty of other places along the way – standard pubs etc., burger-based restaurants (no, not Mcdonalds!) and proper places, as well as Michelin-starred ones. It’s been a varied old year, and I’ve done a lot of solo dining.

It’s been a successful project, I think. It’s still not something I like doing, asking for a table for one, but it doesn’t worry me anywhere near as much, so that makes it a success.

I’ll carry on into 2016 with the same thing – there’s places already booked that I’m really looking forward to, and I’m sure there’ll be many others on a more randomised basis.

Pushing the Limits

Over the last year in particular, I’ve been more and more interested in Michelin-starred restaurants, and have been to a few, as well as other high-end places that don’t have stars.

One that fascinates me is The Fat Duck, which re-opened this year after a major refit and refurb. However, regardless of that fascination, there’s no chance I’ll go – primarily because I just think their attitude currently is horrific.

For one thing, you pay upfront – the full price of the food, at the time of booking. And that price is exceptionally hefty – £255 per head, no less. That’s nothing short of obscene – while I’m sure it’s a remarkable one-off experience and rah rah rah, I could go to the three-Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse in London and have the full 10-course tasting menu.  Twice.

Bear in mind, currently the Fat Duck has no Michelin stars. That’s worth remembering.

The attitude doesn’t improve when you start to read their terms and conditions, and even more so with their FAQs.

Among those, there’s a number of gems…

  • You can’t get a table for one – the smallest is a two. And they won’t change that for anyone.
  • You can’t arrive early and have a drink at the bar. There’s no bar. (I get that the place is small, but still)
  • There’s no waiting list, or notification if someone cancels. You’ve just go to keep on checking on the website. That’s it.
  • If you cancel the reservation and they can’t rebook the table (or if you cancel with less than 28 days to go) you don’t get your money back. Only if they can rebook the table do you get a refund.
  • On top of that £255 per head – and a minimum of two people, so we’re already on £510 – they add a ‘discretionary’ 12.5% service charge to the bill. Plus, of course, any extra drinks, wine, etc.  Even if you’ve only paid for the food, that’s an extra £63.75. That’s just taking the piss.

And all that, without even a Michelin star to its name.  That is one hell of an ego at work.

So no, much as I’d love to go and experience it, the Fat Duck can fuck off.

Taste of London – Winter

Earlier this year, I went to the London Taste festival in Regent’s Park, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

When that finished they started also talking about a Winter festival, I got a ticket for it ages back, and went up to it today.

The Winter one was at Tobacco Dock (same place as Meatopia, earlier in the year) but on a larger scale than Meatopia. I’d never realised that Meatopia uses less than half the space available in the Dock, which meant that on occasion it was a bit disorienting, to be in places I thought I knew, but turned out to be on the other side of the building. Most confusing.

Taste is interesting – it’s less focused than the other ones I go to, there’s more varieties of food to try, and it’s driven a lot more by restaurants showing off what they do. For that, it’s really good – nice to have variety, and ranges of food from curried stuff through to meringues, as well as a big range of street-food type stuff, tacos, sliders, burgers and the like. It’ss a lot smaller than Summer Taste (which is fine) and a lot of fun. I got to have a fine range of foods, and had a great day.


2015/16 – Getting Out More

As things stabilise more here, I’m looking at what I want to do in 2016 – and in particular towards taking some breaks. This year has ripped past, and I’m renownedly shit at taking holidays at the best of times.

So part of the plan will be to do some weekends away, as well as a couple of longer breaks.  I’m looking at places/destinations at the moment, so that I can book them before the end of this year. That way I can have them as immovable events when it comes to going to a new contract in 2016.

I’ve already booked up a couple of weekends away, and it’s all looking pretty promising. And continuing on from last year’s side-project about being more comfortable with eating on my own, there’s more places booked and going to be booked on that score too. Details of those will follow as and when through the year though…


As people should have gathered, I’m currently doing a bundle of plans for the coming year, as well as continuing to make changes to my general life, health, fitness and so on.

One of those changes is – yet again – cutting down a lot on my caffeine intake, and seeing how things go.

My caffeine intake is highly cyclic, I cut it down (and sometimes out) for a while, and then it slowly goes back up again. And lo, another cycle continues.

Anyway, this time round I’m working on it again, and so far it’s fairly successful. I’m drinking a lot more water, and the Diet Coke intake is commensurately much, much lower.

What’s annoying, though, is that even with a massively reduced intake, it hasn’t affected my insomnia at all. It’s annoying because just about every person who has ever pointed out I drink too much Diet Coke (or caffeine in any other format) has said it explains my insomnia.

But nope, even when I’m just drinking water – and have been for a couple of weeks – my sleep is still atrocious. Indeed, sometimes even worse than usual.

It really is bloody annoying.

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