Sunday, 31 May 2015

Eats | Trinity Kitchen, Leeds

During a recent trip to Leeds, it was recommended by a friend that I try out the Trinity Kitchen, which is in the Trinity Shopping Centre in the city centre. It was described to me as the "how you dreamed the food court would be in your childhood". Fortunately, there was not a jacket potato based pun in sight.

In the interests of trying out at least 2 vendors, I opted to go for a main course and a pudding. There was such as wide variety of options available that it took some choosing; I eyed up Vietnamese Pho, Burritos and Thai curries, before finally giving into the unladylike, but deadly temptation, of sticky, spicy pork ribs, from the Chicago Rib Shack.


The ribs, which came in either spicy or BBQ, came with a nice little portion of good fries, a dish of coleslaw and a homemade iced tea. They were delicious, meaty and full of flavour. I thoroughly enjoyed them, more so in the knowledge that the whole thing had cost me only £8.00. My companion also partook of a pizza place, which provided a fresh tasting, medium sized pizza for a similar price. So far, so tasty.

Once I had dabbed away from the rib sauce from my fingers - with a handy wet wipe provided by the vendor - I moved onto a sweet treat I had had my eye on during my cruise around the stalls/vans; the Bournville Waffle Company.

I chose the Rocky Road waffle, as above, and enjoyed it very much. A masterpiece of culinary sweetness? No, probably not, and definitely not as much of a find as the ribs. A wholesome, warming pudding? Oh yes. I was left feeling very satisfied.

In short, I enjoyed my experience, which was cheap and cheerful, with some surprisingly good food on offer. I cannot wait to go back and try something else - if I can tear myself away from the ribs, of course. 

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Eats | Shiso, London

One Saturday evening recently I went for a night out in Hornsey and went for a meal at the Shiso, which describes itself as a Modern Japanese Kitchen. 

My friend and I ordered a few bits and pieces to share and enjoyed tucking into freshly made sushi rolls, both large and small, featuring cucumber, melt in the mouth salmon, tempura prawns and avocado. We also enjoyed some yummy chicken gyoza and a warming chicken katsu curry with rice (not pictured).

We enjoyed our meal and found at the end that the price was reasonable (around £15 a head). I have nothing bad to say about the food at all, with the exception of saying that perhaps for somewhere describing themselves as a modern Japanese kitchen, they had very little on their menu that wasn't sushi.

The restaurant itself I am still undecided about. The ambiance left something to be desired - the style was quite canteen like, with some very strange decor, including geese hanging from the ceiling. Perhaps my inner snob was messing with my head here, but I had imagined something a little more chic than what we actually ended up with.

If you can ignore your inner snob (and I hope you can, they are a bad influence), go to Shiso for yummy sushi for a reasonable price, with both a takeout and delivery option too.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Eats | Barbakan, York

During a recent springtime evening, after visiting the polling booth to attend to my democratic voting  rights, I met with Alan (my beau and partner) to go to our favourite Polish restaurant for a pleasant dinner. Barbakan is situated on a street within the city walls of York, but slightly out of the way of the usual bustle of the city centre. It is on a quirky street (Fossgate/Walmgate) with some other dining gems, including a delightful Italian, a Yorkshire/French fusion tasting menu and a brilliant late night Indian. Worth a trot down the street if you're in the city and feeling peckish.

Back to the Polish restaurant, though. The little place has only 8 - 10 tables and is run most nights by only 1 server and 1 chef, as far as one can tell. You would think this would be a problem, but they act as an efficient and brilliant team, providing timely and friendly service combined with genuinely delicious food.

To start I had a sheep's cheese which was served with a tangy cranberry chutney, whilst Alan had a selection of Polish meats and sausages, served with pickled mushrooms (pictured below). These were accompanied by freshly made bread and a soft cheese infused with garlic and herbs, compliments of the house. Our starters are always pleasant here and we could not fault these dishes.

However, the true gem - in my humble opinion - of Barbakan is their Pierogi  dish (pictured above) - fried dumplings, filled with either mashed potato, cheese and herbs or with melting pulled beef. I always opt to have a mix of beef and potato/cheese, and they never disappoint. Accompanied by sour cream and small, tasty morsels of fried smoked bacon, these dumplings are truly divine. 

I had never had Polish food before coming to this restaurant - and now we go back regularly for our fix. On this particular occasion, we were delighted to discover we had fallen into the early bird category and so our meal cost a little over £20 each, including drinks.

A little gem that is worth seeking out.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Eats | Fischer's, London

During my visit to Freud's London house, I spotted a very expensive academic book in the giftshop about Viennese Cafe Culture. Having discussed this briefly with my companion, we decided that what we needed to refresh ourselves was a slice of cake and a hot chocolate or coffee in elegant surroundings, preferably of the art deco variety.

A small amount of googling later, we found ourselves in Fischer's, a stylish cafe and restaurant close to Bakers Street station and Madam Tussaud's.

 We both had a hot chocolate - mine with a hint of coffee/mocha, which unusually for me, I quite enjoyed. In addition, we both decided to continue the Vienna theme by choosing to try the Sachertorte - a famous Viennesse chocolate cake which was both chocolate, fruity and delicious. Served with silver cutlery, it felt delightfully decadent and elegant.

The staff were attentive, the decor was pleasant and the cost was reasonable, as I feel that when you're paying for the ambience and style, it's an accepted compensation. On a side note, the toilets at Fischers were also wood-panelled, full of mirrors and little touches, giving a general impression of going to the loo in a first class on the Titanic.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Days Out | Freud's House, London

On a recent trip to London, I headed to Finchley Road to visit Sigmund Freud's house. A big turn of the century building on a large and tree lined street, away from the bustle of the city streets, we were lucky to visit on an at least mildly sunny day.

Photos weren't really allowed in the museum itself, particularly in Freud's study, which has been preserved in its entirety, first by Freud's daughter Anna and then after that by the subsequent owners. The star item in the study is Freud's analysing couch and his own green tub chair where he would sit whilst listening to his patients (pictured above in the postcard). However, the museum is full of other treasures of the Freud family, some fascinating photographs and interesting videos to watch, including family video footage with poignant commentary by Anna Freud.

One thing that I felt was missing was any real information about Freud's most famous cases, such as the Wolf Man or the Rat Man, which might have assisted with a further understanding of his methods and his theories.

Still, a nice house with a pretty garden out the back, with a very interesting history. Worth an afternoon visit? Be prepared for a £7 ticket price, but it is worth it for a brief glimpse into the life of one of the psychological pioneers of the early 20th century.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

What I've Been Reading | April 2015

One of my chief joys is reading; my local library is my friend. I have been making some attempts to read some of the items that have been on my mental "to read" list, and have been surprised to find I have enjoyed the experience this month. Without further ado, onto the books. All opinions are mine and if you agree or disagree, I would love to hear from you.

I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith

I suspect this is a book I was meant to be read about 10 years ago - it has a youthful naivety about it that I feel would have been a perfect compliment to my mid to late teen years. Having read it for the first time now, in my late 20s, I feel more able to sit back and enjoy the pleasant wash of the narrative and the quirkiness of the characters, without entirely sympathising with their plights.

The story of Cassandra Mortmain and her unusual family are at the centre of the story; indeed, it is Cassandra's journal that the novel is taken from. There is er father, previously a literary genius and now a fading, slightly unhinged presence in the family home; her step mother, a previous bohemian muse, now desperate to claw back from of her previous sense of achievement and regain the love of her husband; Cassandra's sister, Rose, who is determined to use her beauty and wiles to escape from the claustrophobic poverty of the family home; and finally there is Stephen, the family servant/stray orphan, who is passionately in love with Cassandra, much to her chagrin.

Into this mix come 2 Americans, Neil and Simon, who proceed to turn the life of the Mortmain family upside down. Without giving too much away, this is a coming of age story for Cassandra; her innocence at the beginning of the novel is slowly turned to knowing and understanding, not without a share of sadness and heartbreak. The end is, in particularly, very moving.

The Outsider - Albert Camus

I picked up The Outsider because I know it is something I should read, and it looked short enough to get through in one sitting and out the other side with a greater sense of self knowledge. I was right. 

The story of a man who commits a crime without a seeming motive, who is subsequently judged by his community, not for his crime but for his emotional detachment and his previous behaviour is an interesting study in human behaviour, our reactions to it and the nature of justice. I could not conclude myself whether Camus wanted his narrator to appear to suffer with mental health problems, or to be simply somewhere  along the autistic spectrum. I would be intrigued to hear other's views on this one.

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

When this came out a while back, everyone was talking about it and how brilliant it was. I picked it up a few times in book shops and read the synopsis, which did not lure me in. Odd, really, considering I enjoy fantasy, and magical historical novels are my bag. I loved Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell, for example. However, I saw this in the library recently and decided to give it a go.

I can honestly say I have not enjoyed a novel so much for a long time. I came away from the last page feeling dazzled and breathless, and devastated that the whole thing was over. The story is of a battle of strength between 2 magicians, in the setting of a Victorian circus - but it is so much more than that; it is a love story, a story about friendship and about what the definition of a home is.

I can honestly say that I enjoy good dialogue more than good description; I have been known to skim read long passages of description. You cannot do that with The Night Circus. It will capture you and pull you in, and it is beautiful. 

Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie

Another old story that I have wanted to read for a while - principally because I have enjoyed the Poirot adaptations on UK television and I whilst I have read some Poirot before, never this one. For some reason (perhaps due to the most recent adaptation being a much darker story and style), I was expecting something more in depth than the average Poirot novel.

On that front, I fear I was disappointed. This has a great story to it - which I won't spoil for you aside from saying that the Orient Express gets stuck in a snow drift and during that time, one of the passengers is murdered. Poirot, who happens to be travelling in the same carriage, must track down the murderer from all the other passengers in that carriage. There are secrets, lies and red herrings. The conclusion is magnificent for it's sheer ingenious audacity.

I feel it was missing the depth of moral dilemma that I was expecting, but that doesn't make it a bad read. It is an excellent read. After all, it is Agatha Christie. Somehow, though, I felt a little let down.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Eats | Sticks n Sushi, London

I recently reunited with a few school friends for a get together, and we chose to go to Sticks n Sushi in Covent Garden, London. I love sushi and one of our friends is a vegan, so we wanted somewhere everybody could find something they would like.

The menu was huge and having not been there before, I felt fairly overwhelmed. Luckily, the restaurant are already prepared for this and offer a second menu which features lots of selection plates so you can try a few bits and hopefully establish a few favourites. In light of my conundrum, I chose a selection plate called Mixed Emotions, which gave me both a selection of sushi and a small number of sticks as well, including miso salmon and chicken meatballs.

Other members of my party had larger sushi plates, or opted for some huge, scrumptious looking salads, such as the fish salad below. The vegan among us had a vegetable salad which she informed me was very tasty too.

To end, I sampled a trio of desserts(L-R); a chocolate fondant with peppermint caramel centre and crystalised ginger; a yuzu crumble with italian meringue topping; 2 dark chocolate caramel balls with sesame coating. All were very moreish but I would definitely order the first 2 in combination again, as the richness of the chocolate fondant was cut through by the citrus taste of the yuzu.

I won't lie; this was an expensive meal. We were charged heavily for water, which was unexpected. The food itself is small, delicate, delicious and a work of art. Unfortunately, you are paying for that masterpiece. If money were no object, I could spend £150 - £200 in one sitting at this place. In my case, my meal (without wine) was about £40.

As a treat, for a special occasion, try this out; if you can afford it, eat here every day. Highly recommended. 

Monday, 4 May 2015

Days Out | Sony 2015 Photography Awards Exhibition, Somerset House, London

I have a confession to make: sometimes, art bores me. I don't always understand it and I definitely prefer "beautiful" art rather than the "thought provoking" variety.

However, with an open mind and open heart, I recently went to Somerset House in London to attend their recent photography exhibition, featuring photographs from around the world looking into the future of urban development, entries to the Sony 2015 Photography Awards and a special contribution to photography exhibit, highlighting the work of Elliott Erwitt.

There was a lot to look at, and I had museum fatigue by the end; however, there was plenty of photographs that offered both great beauty and thought provocation in equal measure.

The exhibition is on at Somerset House until 10 May 2015, tickets £8.50.

Hand dying clothes | A beginner's guide

I had been in possession of the above cream silk dress for a few years, but I confess I had fallen out of love with it. It had been a bargain when I bought it because it had some staining and ingrained dirt. I wore it once but felt that it was too dirty to be worn again.

Recently I began to toy with the idea of dying the dress a colour to cover the staining issues. After all, I would consider wearing it again if I felt that it didn't look shabby or dirty - why give it away when I could get more wear out of it? 

One issue - I had never dyed anything before, unless you counted tie-dying parties when I was 12. What if I messed it up? 

It turned out to be so simple, I fear I may have to restrain myself from dying more of my clothes and soft furnishings, just for kicks.

ingredients - dylon hand dye, £2.99 and table salt, £0.23
wash your item and leave wet
mix your dye into 500 ml of warm water. mix 250g of salt into 6L of hot water.
add your dye water to the salt water.
put your item into the water.
stir regularly for 15 minutes, then intermittently for 45 minutes.
remove from dye water and rinse with cold water.
hand wash in warm water and rinse again until the colour runs clear.

... and there you have it. Frankly, the most trying element of the whole process was the rinsing, but I can cope with that. You also cannot be entirely certain what colour you're going to get, especially if you are dying silk like I was. 

Despite this, you can see the results at the top of this post - transforming the dress into something that feels completely new. I confess I feel pretty proud of myself right now.