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tazzywazzy

tazzywazzy
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Member since: 09.03.2006

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    • More Motors Forum / Discussion / 41 Readings / 38 Ratings
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      13.11.2007 14:44
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      Is it really worth it?

      This is a bit of a change to my normal reviews, it is not about going out, eating, or drinking, it is about an oh so interesting diesel particulate filter! Now I am treating this as a bit of a challenge, since my knowledge of cars goes as far as "that's a green car" or maybe "that car has metallic paint", and as for my knowledge of the inner workings of a car or their parts - well that's man domain.

      After my last statement, before I go into my review, I think I should add that women are just as capable of fiddling with car parts as men (there I did my bit for womanistness).
      For anyone who is anywhere near technical, please note, this is written for people like me who have no idea about cars or their inner workings, the review is based on a nice little story and no technical jargon in sight - sorry to disappoint!

      ~"What is a diesel particulate filter?"~
      A diesel particulate filter or a DPF is surprisingly enough found in diesel cars, from what I can gather, it is "like" the catalytic converter, in non-diesel cars, but instead of reducing the toxicity of the fumes, it cleans the exhaust gases that are created by burning diesel fuel.

      Now the stuff that the filter needs to clean or get rid of from the fumes is like soot, so it follows that the soot needs to be removed from the filter in some way (this is the important bit to focus on, you will be tested later!).
      ~This is all a bit boring - why exactly aren't you writing about the stuff you know - like restaurants and drinking and debauchery?~

      Snarf recently bought a new car, a Seat Leon FR, a very nice car actually, I was going to put this review under the product, but I thought it was a bit unfair to single Seat out, as Seat are not the only manufacturer who will be putting this part in their cars.
      So the story starts:

      Snarf got his new car and whist ogling it, the man told us that it was fitted with a DPF and that this part was going to be in all new diesel cars by 2009, to comply with new legislations. It was explained that there is a little warning light on the dashboard, and it would come on if the filter needed clearing. The man told us that if the warning light came on, to clear the filter the car would need to be driven on a motorway (for the technical ones out there, so that the revs reach a certain rpm).
      We all thought nothing of it (Snarf's brother also got the same car, how sad are they?) and set off on our merry ways. Oh, the man also told us that we had to be careful with the filters, as they were really expensive parts to replace - about £1,000.

      So we had the car for a while and did a fair bit of motorway driving at the beginning - seeing parents and the like, and everything seemed fine, Snarf was very much enjoying his new toy. A couple of weeks ago, and with only 600 miles on the clock, the warning light flashed up, so Snarf took it up to the A12 to give it a run, but the filter did not clear. So he called Daddy Snarf, who actually owns the dealership that the cars were bought from, he suggested taking the battery out, poking it and prodding it (well, it was probably more technical than that, but that's what I heard).
      Another problem to mention with the filter was that ALL the warning lights eventually came on, on the dashboard, and the car would only reach a maximum of about 40 miles an hour, so what to do? - To clear the DPF the car needs to be driven at motorway speeds, to get the revs up and the heat of the engine up, to burn off the "soot" and clear the filter.

      ~The AA Come to the Rescue~
      In the end, the poor car limped home and Snarf called Seat, as he was still under warranty. Seat sent out an AA man to have a look at the car (part of the service you get when you buy a new Seat), but the man could not fix it - he and Snarf ummed and ahhed over it for a long time, but unfortunately no amount of manly standing around the car could fix it. He told Snarf to call Seat and get them to arrange for the AA to take it the the nearest Seat dealership.

      Snarf followed the instructions and another AA man came along and fixed the car to the back of his van and took it away. Snarf later spoke to the Seat dealership - New Southgate Seat.
      ~The dealership - New Southgate Seat~

      New Southgate Seat was our closest dealership, we were told that we could not get the car looked at until Tuesday, but that the AA could tow the car down and leave it with the sales team, which we thought was fine, so the AA took the car down, and left the keys in the capable hands of the Sales Team.
      On the Wednesday, after the appointment, Snarf called up New Southgate Seat and asked if they had found out what was wrong with the car. The worrying response from the receptionist/services desk was that the appointment was cancelled as we had not shown up for our appointment. At this point Snarf began to freak-out, as they were saying that his car was not even on the premises! After a couple of phone calls to the very helpful team at the AA the car was eventually located in their lot *phew*.

      We finally found out that the DPF needed replacing, and it was going to cost a grand total of (no pun intended) £1,500. The dealership needed to get confirmation from Seat that they would pay for the part to be replaced - this was to take about three days.
      ~SEAT - hang your heads in shame~

      After the debacle of the loosing of the car, New Southgate redeemed themselves. Seat stated that this very expensive part was not covered by the warranty and that Snarf would have to shell out the money himself to get it fixed. New Southgate Seat tried to persuade them that in fact Seat should play for the part, as it was a new car with 600 miles on the clock and the part was faulty.
      Seat still refused. Snarf asked the dealership to just order the part in, but they didn't want to - it is an expensive part and they needed assurance that someone was going to pay for it - fair enough. The recommended that Snarf got in touch with Seat Customer Services.

      ~Time for the Big Guns. Time to shoot Seat down~
      Daddy Snarf phoned up Seat and explained that he owned a dealership, and that he had purchased two shiny new cars, one grey and one black (that was me technically describing the specs of each of the cars) for his two Snarf Sons, and that one of them was broken. He carried on to explain that it was the grey one that was broken, and explained the story above, all about the filter and the driving and the trying to clear the filter.

      Easiest thing to do, at this point, is a dramatic reconstruction:
      Daddy Snarf: Hello Seat, I have a problem with the diesel particulate filter in your new grey (Seat Leon FR) car

      Seat: What's the problem
      Daddy Snarf: It's broken, at this point, story above is recounted

      Seat: Does Mini Snarf do a lot of inner city driving?
      Daddy Snarf: He lives in the city and the majority of his driving is in the city

      Seat: We don't recommend that you buy a car with a particulate filter in it if you live in the city
      Daddy Snarf: I have read the sales manual and the car manual and it doesn't say anything about the car being unsuitable for inner city driving

      Seat: well it's not
      Daddy Snarf: Are you telling me that I should go back to all my customers that I have sold the car to and tell them that if they are going to do a lot of town/city driving that the car is going to break? And that in future I should tell any future purchasers of this particular car that they shouldn't buy it if they are going to be doing a lot of town/city driving?!

      Seat: er.....well.....ummmm...It says in the manual that you have to clear the filter regularly...
      Daddy Snarf - We know, we tried (were you not listening to my story?), will you replace the broken part in my grey car?

      Seat: no, cus it ain't covered by warranty (that is them in their cowboy voice)
      Daddy Snarf: the car has only done 600 miles

      Seat: er....well...er....I'll get someone to call you back
      *I will update here when we finally get an answer from Seat*

      ~The bottom line (and some sort of techie bits)~
      From 2009 all new diesel cars will need to be fitted with DPF's, according to wickipedia there are a variety of different filters (see link below). The AA break it down nice and simply by explaining that the filter is like a "bag in your vacuum cleaner" and that like the bag, it needs to be "emptied regularly to maintain performance" and this is called "regeneration".

      Snarf explained to me that this process happens when the engine gets to a certain temperature, it cleans the filter. You can achieve this by driving the car above 40mph (i.e. On a motorway).
      ~Problem Solva (with my revolva)

      After a bit of investigative journalism (I asked Snarf), I have found that in fast cars, like Snarf's, with a 6th gear, the filter will not get cleared when driving down the motorway, as the revs are not high enough, the car needs to be dropped into fifth gear to keep the revs high, therefore heating the engine and getting rid of the soot.
      Daddy Snarf reckons that you can clear the filter by turning the car on and revving the engine - Tazzywazzy believes the following:

      If the engine needs to be hot and at a certain rev count (Snarf mention something along the lines of 250, but I might be making it up) then you are going to have to spend an awful lot of time revving and waste an awful lot of diesel if you need to do this on a regular basis.
      Tazzywazzy also asked the following question, surely Seat must be able to tell you roughly how much driving in a town or city will cause the particulate filter to clog, that way you can anticipate the problem and take the car out for a spin, before the problem actually happens.

      Seat's response - "we don't know"
      ~Trust the one's who know~

      On the AA website (see weblink below) they state that when the filter reaches about 45% a warning light will come on, but when it reaches about 75% other warning lights come on, on our car all the lights came on straight away. AA also say that when this happens the car needs to go back to the dealer for "regeneration" - I think this means for a new part and shelling out a grand.
      The AA state that they are "seeing some evidence of these systems failing to regenerate, even on cars used mainly on motorways" they also say that if you are doing town/city driving - don't bother (that was me surmising).

      ~Tazzywazzy has the final say (as usual)~
      If we had known about this first, we may have gone for our first choice of car a BMW 1 series, but it was much more expensive that the Seat Leon, and we would have bought it second hand, and Daddy Snarf doesn't stock them, oh and BMW servicing is expensive.

      If you are considering buying a new car in the near future, I have thought of some points to consider (all on my own!):
      Diesels are cheaper to run and (generally) more reliable, but if you have to run your car every x amount of miles that you do "regular, everyday driving" how much extra does this cost you in fuel per month?

      If you are going to have to replace a rather expensive, temperamental, and necessary piece of the car often, due to the filter filling up or failing, fairly often - maybe going for a "more unreliable" petrol engine is the way forward.
      Hope this has helped, I was completely unaware of this new legislation and bit of car (unsurprisingly) but the AA were very surprised that either Snarf or I knew it existed and how to try and clear it - information is not widely available and it seems that even the dealership's are unaware of the ramifications of this part, due to the manufacturers not telling people the whole story.

      Webography:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dieselparticulate filter
      http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/fuels-and-environment/diesel-p articulate-filters.htm

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      • More +
        15.10.2007 17:16
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        Brilliant family fun!

        ~Bit of banter to make review more interesting~

        Since going off on some jolly holidays, I have found that my bank account has been suffering (obviously those millions of pounds I earn from ciao are sitting in a high interest savings account), so in an attempt to save money, I have taken to having games nights with my sister, her boyfriend and Snarf. We have played a couple of games (left over from our childhood), but the most recent that we played was Articulate.
        ~Bit about Articulate (to bulk out this review)~

        I first discovered this hilarious game a couple of Christmas' ago, when Snarf's parents bought it as a "family" present, and last year, Snarf got it in his stocking, and last night we finally broke it out of it's cellophane wrapper.
        There is unfortunately a minimum of 4 players for this game, and little sis' boyfriend was working, so there were only 3 of us, but this game is so good we cunningly found a way around it - but more about that later and back to the game.

        Articulate is a brilliantly simple game, aimed at 12 years old + and you can have any number of players from (according to the box) 4 - 20(+), the aim of the game is to get your little cone round the board to the finish line before the opposing teams - now the way that you get around the board is by guessing what a member of your team is describing from the cards supplied, and guessing as many as possible before your 30 seconds run out - sound simple so far? Well it is!
        ~What's in the Box?~

        For the princely sum of £24.99 (RRP) you get a round board, a little spinner, for the middle of the board, 4 playing pieces, a little egg timer and a bundle of cards, about the size of a credit card (in a nice little box, for nice tidy storage)
        ~Playing the Game~

        The board is basically split up to look a bit like a dartboard, with lots of different coloured segments (42 in total - 6 lots of the 7 colours listed below) on it, each coloured segment represents a colour (which in turn represents a category) as follows:
        Cyan - Object
        Orange - Action
        Dark Blue - World
        Yellow - Person
        Red - Random
        Green - Nature
        White (with a spade symbol) - pretty much like a wild card

        On each card, there is a word, on the left hand side, and opposite the word, on the right is a little coloured square, that will correspond to the colour of the segment that you landed on, on the board.
        So for example, everyone starts on the cyan segment, cunningly marked "start" so the first team to go would describe the object (next to the cyan square). When the team guesses correctly, the "describer" then takes another card and reads off the object from the next card, and so on and so forth.

        So you think that you have grasped the whole concept of the game and you are ready to play? Well hold your horses cowboy - there is a twist (dun dun duuuhhn!)
        There are certain segments in the middle of the board where the spinner is located, if you land on an orange or red segment where this phenomenon occurs, you will find that you get a go on the ol' spinner, what happens next is very interesting - if the spinner stops on any of the red or orange segments within the middle of the board, then nothing happens - bit dull eh? But wait! If you land on a green segment (depending on whether it is big or small) you get to either move your team's piece one or two places forward...or....the good bit! Move a piece, belonging to an opposing team one or two spaces back - this is particularly good if you know that a team is particularly rubbish on a topic!

        *phew* after all that excitement, I'm not sure that I could deal with any more twists, but the team at Drummond Park Games have decided that just one twist alone is not enough, so have added another one! The white segment on the board - now if you piece lands on this segment, the "describer" from your team has to take a card and describe the word that has a little spade symbol next to it - but wait, the description is open to everyone! If a team mate of said describer gets the word from the description, that team gets another go (guessing the words with the little spade next to them), if another team guesses, then they get the turn (this could be interesting if playing with more than one team). A second little twist (these guys are crrrrrr-aaaaaaa-zeeee cats!) the spade symbol appears on any given category, so you could end up describing anything!!!
        Final thing is how to win - the cool kids at Drummond Park decided to add yet another twist - will the excitement never cease? Once a team passes or reaches the finish line, a describer has to describe one of the spade words - if a member of their team get it right, then the team wins, but if another team guesses, then the team sitting on the finish line needs to wait until their go, and try all over again!

        ~Experience (if you can bear all the excitement)~
        As mentioned earlier, cunning souls that we are, we only had three players last night, so we devised a plan - we would play 3 rounds, and two players would go head to head, and the third player would do the guessing for both teams, we would then swap around so everyone would get a turn playing each other and guessing.

        This actually turned out really well, and was a lot of fun, and in a way seemed really fair, you couldn't complain that you had a really crap guesser on your team, as it was the same as the other persons!
        Later on in the evening lil' sis' boyfriend joined and we played properly, couples v couples - we started playing at 9pm and finished about about quarter past midnight and there was lots of laughter - the "my face hurts, don't make me laugh anymore laughter". We enjoyed it so much, we are actually going to play it again tonight - but Johnston Sisters Vs Stoopid boys! We also "bended" the rules a little and decided that we would alternate the guesser and describer, just to add even more crazy fun into the mix!

        Finally, I would highly recommend this to anyone, it is a great game to play with a group of friends, after dinner, or just to kill some time, it is even more fun when alcarmarol is added into the mix (and anything else that you might find laying around the house), and is brilliant fun when played in a family environment - nothing more competetitive than families, and listening to siblings playing is highly amusing, as my sis and I found last night, in some cases you can get a word from a grunt!
        The only draw back that I could find with this game is that there are only 4 little pieces, I guess this is ok, if you are playing with more than say 8, you could either have bigger teams, or find something to use instead - a monopoly piece maybe? the choice is yours!

        *Interesting Tazzy Fact Alert*
        I looked up the word articulate and I got the following definitions:
        1. divided into syllables or words meaningfully arranged - this is very clever cus the board is divided into sections and they are meaningfully (well to me) arranged!

        2. consisting of segments united by joints - these catz are just too clever! the board is divided into segements and they are all joined together, one might even say that they are united!

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        • More +
          04.10.2007 20:13
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          brilliantly reasonable & traditional veronese food.

          After easing myself gently back into review writing, I think it is time for me to tackle my most favoritist subject - food (& wine, but I don't really know much about that, except that it tastes nice *hic*)

          ...As some of you may know (from last review), Snarf and I recently paid a visit to Italy and spent a night in Verona, and obviously we needed to be fed & watered, and since Verona was the very last leg of our trip, we wanted to be fed & watered well - none of this pizza/pasta muck that we had been desperately trying to dodge for the most part of our holiday.

          So over a glass of Soave, we consulted our rough guide, which recommended that we tried Antica Bottega del Vino, it was in the mid-priced section and it sounded pretty good, it also highly recommended booking. In fact, the guide actually recommends booking anywhere you might want to eat in Verona - Italians like to take their time over their food and tend to start at about 8 and end late into the night.

          So after our drink we headed over to where this restaurant was located and had a gander at their menu, which looked good. So anyway the evening wears on, Snarf and I decide to indulge in yet more Soave, and might I add that there is no sign of either one of us taking the initiative to phone the restaurant and book a table, (despite the fact that it was a Saturday night, Romeo & Juliet was on at the Arena, basically really busy in Verona). It got to about 7:30 and we decided we were hungry, so we decided to try and get some food, shock horror, they were full, and we were told to try and call in about an hour to see if they had a table free <<insert expletive>>.

          Have no fear, Snarf and I have a back up plan - go and drink another bottle of Soave and eat some cheese. After (not so) much deliberation, Snarf & I decided that the Bottega was definitely where we wanted to eat, just by the atmosphere and interior when we had popped our head in to check availability of tables, so we were going to hold out...

          ...two phone calls (by Snarf later) and only half a glass of Soave left, I decided to take matters into my own hands - and called the another restaurant that we had seen, and managed to get a table in the next 15mins, so made our way over. On the way, I decided to stop into the Bottega and batted my eyelids (hard) at the maitre d' and we managed to get a table (he also offered me a tissue to see if I could get whatever was bothering my eye out)! Sorry other restaurant, who's name I can't remember, I will not be dining in your fine establishment tonight!

          ~First Impressions~

          By the time we got into the restaurant, it was about 21:00 hours, and it was still very, very full and busy, we were seated at a tiny table (others had tiny tables too, so I was not too disappointed), and given a glass of sparkling wine - which was quite a nice touch.

          The restaurant itself has lovely high ceilings, but a lovely intimate feel, with soft lighting and a lot of dark wood & clean crisp white table cloths. We were then presented with the menu, which our waiter, who spoke very good English, guided us through. He also left us with a massive wine book, divided by farms. Snarf got daunted after about 20 mins of staring at the wine list, so I made yet another executive decision (oh get me...all these decisions and taking control!) and decided on a bottle of Valpollicella, for about 20 euros, from a farm recommended by the waiter.

          One thing that I noticed, when he presented us with our wine, he mentioned that it was a "good house wine", which I thought was a bit "up his own wine bottom" but hey, it was nice and smooth and after the amount that we had drank that night already, I was beyond caring what the waiter thought of us.

          ~Fodder~

          The whole time we had been in Italy, I had struggled with the Italian way of eating, now I can eat A LOT, but it appears my appetite is very tame in comparison to these Italians, anyway, when in Rome...

          ~Primi Piatti~

          ..so I ordered for starters Gnocchetti Verdi con Fonduta di Pecorino e Timo (green Gnocchi, assume it was some sort of herb that made it green, with Pecorino (sheeps cheese I believe)), 11 euros & Snarf ordered the Ravioli della Casa (ravioli stuffed with lamb and beef) 16 euros.

          Gnocchi has always been a gamble for me, especially as a starter, whenever I have had gnocchi in the past it has been too stodgy and filling and just, I don't know, squidgy, but this gnocchi was beautiful, tiny little 5 pence sized balls of green deliciousness that just melted in your mouth. The sheep's cheese (already a big fan of sheep cheese) was lovely, not too over powering, but lovely and creamy, with a hint of richness. I did actually almost finish the gnocchi, and if I didn't have a main course on the way, I would have finished the whole plate!

          Snarf's ravioli was lovely, tossed in olive oil, the pasta was light and fresh, and the meat was beautifully balanced, and surprisingly not that heavy - Snarf scoffed the lot, guess it gets the thumbs up too!

          ~Secondi piatti~

          Ok horse lovers may wish to look away, and I appologise to anyone this may offend (but sort of secretly am quite pleased I tried this dish), but for my main course I had to go for the Pastissada de Caval (Horse meat), 20 euros, and Snarf went for (again I apologise if we are offending anyone, but it was on the menu, so if we didn't eat it, someone else would have) Costoletta di Vitello ai Formaggi (Veal Chop with cheese sauce), 22 euros.

          Anyone who may already be a little offended may want to look away now, because it is about to get a whole lot more offensive (sorry!)...I'll let you know when it is safe to read on!

          The Horse meat was a sort of goulash, and was served with polenta, and I am sorry, but I really enjoyed it, according to our waiter it is stewed for 24 hours, in red wine (what sold it to me) before being served. On the plate it is basically meat that has been stewed for so long that it is starting to fall apart, the first mouthful was not what I was expecting, it was rich and sweet and just melted away, which obviously warranted another fork full, followed by lots of "ummmmm" noises. To be perfectly honest, I am not sure whether it was the expert way that the horse was cooked and seasoned that made it taste so good, I have a sneaking suspicion, that horse meat may actually be a bit tough and flavourless, unless prepared properly. The polenta (even though I am a great fan of it) did not get a look in, as I was so full from the main course, but it was the best polenta that I had on the holiday, it was whipped smooth and was really quite tasty (as far as polenta goes).

          Snarf's veal chop with cheese sauce was a bit of a surprise - the veal chop was the size of a decent pork chop (was not expecting that much veal) and the cheese sauce was, as it said on the tin, sauce of cheese - melted cheese on veal chop, which was very nice, it tasted very similar to the sheep cheese served with my gnocchi. Now I have never tried veal, as some of you will know I have a soft spot for another cruel food, foie gras, but after all the wine I decided that it would be ok to have a small taste of Snarf's chop, as everyone seems to rave about veal...

          ...I am not sure what all the fuss is about, it tasted like a pork chop to me (not a big fan of pork chops) I was quite disappointed I was expecting something mind blowing, but Snarf seemed to enjoy it!

          ~Offensive talk is over - Overall impressions~

          Bottega del Vino has been open since 1890, and serves traditional Veronese dishes, but something tells me that the proprietors' true love is wine, with roughly 2,800 wines on the list/book and a rumoured 130,000 bottles of wine in the cellar!

          Our meal came to 105 euros (the cheeky bass-tards charged us for the sparkling wine), but to be honest, it was definitely worth what we paid for. And when I think how much I have paid for mediocre meals in London, I can't really complain. I couldn't have asked for anything more from the service, even if it did have a bottle of rather expensive wine shoved up it's behind, I guess that is allowed in such an "old establishment" they have every right to be borderline pretentious & a little snooty about their vino & themselves.

          I would highly recommend this place to anyone going to Verona, and I would definitely make you book a table, I think we were really lucky to squeeze ourselves in at the end of the evening, this place is so good, I would not want you to miss out, and trust me, you will really be missing out if you don't go here, I am sure there are other much more expensive restaurants that will not offer as much value for money as this.

          There is not much more to say other than the translation of my titles is:


          "May God protect me from those who do not drink wine"

          Quite fitting really, just wondering if it is better than the title of my Nikita's review....

          I have awarded 5 stars for this restaurant, this is based on everything, including the experience, I would have liked to award 9/10, due to the wine lodged firmly up the waiters' arses, but it didn't take away any from the thoroughly enjoyable evening that was had.

          p.s. They have a branch in New York, if I am ever in NYC I will definately be BOOKING a table there!!

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          • More +
            02.10.2007 10:24
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            not really worth your bother, unless you have an overwhelming desire to stand on the balcony!

            Yes, I am back and finally writing reviews, my recent holiday to Italy has inspired me - after a bit of a break, I thought, ease myself in with a nice easy review - The House of Juliet or Casa di Giulietta.

            ~Finding Juliet's House~

            As most of you know it is "fair Verona where we lay our scene", tucked between two shops on Via Capello, just off of Piazza delle Erbe, heading towards Porta Leoni. To be honest, it is not hard to find - just look for the mass of tourists gathering outside the gates.

            ~What's there?~

            To be honest - not much, Snarf & I weren't actually particularly bothered about visiting Juliet's house, but we had us a Verona Card (a card that costs 8 euros, entitling you to "free" entry into all Verona's museums, churches, monuments & free travel on local AMT buses for that day, a card valid for 3 days is available for 12 euros), and it was on our way into the Piazza delle Erbe from where we were staying.

            Anyway, enter Juliet's courtyard (ohh er missus!) from the street and there are just crowds of people, to your right is Juliet's house & to your left is a gift shop, where all manner of Juliet tat is available - "I love Juliet" phone strap anyone?

            Facing the house, it is plain and "Juliet's balcony" is to the right, underneath is a bronze statue of the lady herself. Outside the house there are some plaques giving a rough run down about the house.

            Going into the house, there is yet another gift shop, heading upstairs there are a couple of paintings and of course, access to the "famous" balcony, heading upstairs again there is "Juliet's bed" and some costumes that Juliet & her lover, Romeo, may or may not have worn, up yet more stairs you can find "Juliet's Computer" (oh god it is getting terrible now), where you can write Juliet letters and learn more about *sigh* Romeo & Juliet (because they were REAL people, and Juliet REALLY DID live here). Carrying on further into the house (because you have already paid your entry or you are here so you might as well), you finally reach the top floor - where you are greeted with little stools in the form of the seven dwarves....Oh god - time to leave, but not without the obligatory photo on the balcony - so down the stairs runs Snarf, I pose for my photo - and we get the hell out of the god awful place, oh wait, but not without rubbing Juliet's left breast for luck.

            ~In short~

            Not really worth going to, the authorities are constantly trying to get people to stop leaving messages on the walls for Juliet, but are failing miserably and probably spending a lot of money on paint & getting some poor sod to paint over all the messages at the end of each day.

            I would not recommend Juliet's house to anyone, it is a massive let down, there is nothing there and is basically just to appease the tourists, it is not worth the 4 euro entry, if you are adamant about having your photo taken on the balcony, leave your other half at the bottom and save yourself 4 euros for a coffee.

            ~Shattering the Illusion~

            I hate to be the shatterer of illusions, but just thought I would point out a couple of things, there are very few things of interest at Juliet's house, the Italian's basically put it in to satisfy the tourists making pilgrimages to Verona who wanted somewhere to actually visit.

            The house itself is old, it is from the 13th century (but then most of Verona is pretty old), so no big whoop there, the house itself was owned by the dell Capello family, and no they did not have a daughter name Giulietta, and no they did not have a balcony - the balcony is believed to be part of a tomb, and it was added in the 1930's - making a pilgrimage to Juliet's house and finding there was no balcony can only have been a let down.

            The only thing that Is old are the minimal items on display which are from the 16th and 17th century - Juliet's bed is also quite interesting as it came from the set of the 60's film, so I guess it was technically Juliet's bed.

            Finally just to kill the mood completely, stick the knife in and turn it - the original story was set in Siena and not Verona.

            Please note that I have given this attraction 1 star, as you can not rate no stars....
            Write your own review

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            • More +
              11.06.2007 14:36
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              Basically one great big Hollywood w*nk

              The long awaited, and final instalment has finally arrived - Pirates of the Caribbean, At World's End, I was really excited, as I had thoroughly enjoyed the first instalment, The Curse of The Black Pearl (2003), but was seriously let down by the second, Deadman's Chest (2006), I felt that Deadman's Chest acted as a filler, almost as a bit of a "trailer" to lead up to the grand finale that would be the third and final instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy/Franchise, whatever you want to call it….

              ….Disappointingly, I was wrong, At World's End has a poor story line, poor script, the only redeeming features of this film are the sets, locations & special features, I would even go as far to say that this is just a great big w*nk for the Director & Production crew, in my eyes it is just a showcase of what they can achieve by throwing mega bucks at a movie & messing around with CGI (*mee-owwww, emphasis being on the oww).

              ~Plot~

              Under the command of Lord Beckett, if you are associated with piracy, you will be hung. Beckett has somehow managed to persuade Davey Jones to destroy all pirate ships.

              The crew of the Black Pearl (which now includes Elizabeth Swann (Knightly) & Will Turner (Bloom)) are in Singapore, as they need to get hold of a map that will lead them to Davey Jones' Locker (land of the dead), where Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) is trapped (after the last instalment), so that they can save him.

              Will Turner wants to get hold of the Black Pearl so that he can rescue his father, Bootstrap Bill from the curse of the Flying Dutchman.

              Calypso (Naomie Harris), the Goddess of the Sea, who was trapped in human form by the Nine Pirate Lords, wants to be returned to her original form.

              That is about all that actually happens.

              ~My thoughts~

              Well, you have already heard what I thought about the film in general, but let's investigate in a bit more depth, starting with my main gripe - the length.

              The run time is 168 mins, which is nearly 3 hours long, when I watched it at the cinema, there was an interval, which I found particularly annoying, judging by the experience of others that have watched the film, they have all had intervals during their showings, I guess this is because the kiddies bums get sore after a bit.

              To be honest, this film could have actually been shown in about 90 mins and this probably would have made the film better, as there are a lot of long drawn out scenes or completely unnecessary scenes, that really have no relevance to the script whatsoever.

              The next thing that I am going to pick apart is the character development, this is not a dig at the actors, the acting itself is just as good as it was in the previous instalments, but the way in which the characters have been developed is disjointed and each character seems almost "unaware" of the other characters in the story, they do not appear to have any sort of relationship or emotional attachment to other characters in the story.

              Bloom's character, Will is extremely hard to identify with, and I felt almost no connection with the character whatsoever, I also felt that although the story was extremely long, there did seem to be some gaps in the plot, which, if filled in or elaborated, may have made it easier to understand the way he prioritised things.

              Knightly's character Swann, has now become quite manly, and any traits that helped you to connect with her character are now long gone, she does not seem to have any emotional connection to any of the other characters whatsoever.

              As for Depp's character Sparrow, he has just become a babbling mess, which is amusing, but does become slightly tedious after a while, and in truth, his character has not developed at all since the first film.

              Focusing on the good points now - this film is visually stunning, the sets are amazing, and a lot of money has clearly been spent, but that's where the positive points end.

              After about two hours, no matter how visually stunning a film is, it is going to get dull, I in fact fell asleep towards the end of the film, the fight scenes are way too long and drawn out, and even with the addition of a "Will - Elizabeth" storyline inserted into a fight scene, which was actually laughable and completely ridiculous, I still managed to fall asleep, despite the loud noises, I could no longer fight back my heavy lids - I fell asleep, awoke about five mins later, it appeared that nothing had happened, so I once again drifted off, this continued for a while until I woke up at the end, an it seemed that we were back to the beginning of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy once again, the characters were pretty much all back to where they had started in Curse of the Black Pearl, only a couple of million pounds richer and a bit more famous.

              I have awarded this film one star for the special effects and one star for being able to eek this franchise out for so long and make so much money out of really one script - giving this film a grand total of two stars….well done them!

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              • More +
                01.06.2007 17:52
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                a great little place for a nice bite to eat

                Normally this section paragraph is where I write some witty (hopefully) mood setting babble, but this time, luckily for all of you review readers out there, there is no mood to set. So let's just get on with it, I am going to be reviewing Village East, it is where Snarf and I go when we can't be bothered to cook, or just want a quick drink, it is our closest drinking hole.

                Where is Village East?

                Village East is located on the fashionable Bermondsey Street, which is a very short walk from London Bridge Underground & Mainline station & about 5 mins from my front door. I have attached a map to help you all out.

                Why Should I go?

                There are plenty of reasons to be in this particular area of London, Village East is within a stones throw of many popular London attractions, such as Borough Market, The Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, Tower of London & London Fashion & Textiles Museum (which is on the same street). Or if you live locally, or work locally, well, you have no excuse!

                The people that created Village East are the same people that created The Garrison (a Gastropub half way between the Fashion & Textiles Museum & Village East), but, is more geared towards a chic bar atmosphere, rather than a traditional gastropub. from the name and interior layout, you would assume that they are trying to replicate a chic Manhattan bar atmosphere.

                Village East has a quirky layout, I believe that Village East is housed in an old warehouse, the current owners have removed the front of the building and clad the whole lot in glass. The place is split into lots of different "mezzanine" levels, there are stairs going up and down everywhere. There are two sections to the bar, the first is on the ground floor and is the first part of the bar that you enter.

                What sort of people frequent this place?

                On a Friday and Saturday night the crowd is very different from weekdays, on a Friday and Saturday night a whole load of suits turn up, city boys, city girls, all chatting about how cool they are and how wonderful they are and how their latest stocks, shares, bonds or whatever have just bagged them another cool million. This is the sort of place that people go to be seen and a place that people go to compare themselves to others. The other sort of clientele are luvvies, Bermondsey street has become hugely populated by the gay crowd, and they all seem to like the finer things in life.

                I would assume that a lot of the people in this bar on a Friday or Saturday are local to the area, there are a lot of luxury flats along this one street and in the surrounding area, as there are not that many bars in the area I assume they are all flocking here, as it really is a nice chic place and there is not much for the locals of a weekend evening.

                During the week however, it is a different story, the bar is chilled out and relaxing, it is a lovely atmosphere and it does feel quite chic and elegant. Do not let my rantings put you off going down at a weekend for food as the dining area has a completely different feel and a lot of the city boys and girls are on the liquid diet, so stay contained to the bar area.

                Filling your face at Village East

                As mentioned Snarf and I come here on a pretty regular basis, there is a brilliant selection of food available, Village East's head chef, Martin Caws has an extremely impressive resume, two years at Mirabelle (one Michelin star), five years with three Michelin starred chef Marco Pierre White, a year with Tom Atkins, well you get the idea.

                So what do you get from the kitchen of such a great chef? Well you will definitely not be disappointed, but there is a price to pay, there are a couple of dishes that are fairly standard on the menu and do not tend to change often, but there are always specials to entice you away from their regular menu. There are always a couple of veggie options available too.

                Snarf and I have tried most things on the menu, and to be honest the food is OK, don't get me wrong, it is not OK like say a middle of the road restaurant, but I would have expected something more from such an acclaimed chef. To give you an idea of the menu starters include Duchy of Cornwall rock oysters (prices start from £9.20 - £20.50), to be honest, Snarf and I never really go for starters here, we are normally only looking for a quick bite to eat.

                So swiftly onto the main courses - we actually ate here last Friday, and I noticed a new addition to their menu - a burger at the princely sum of £14.90, to be fair, the burger was served with foie gras, so I guess that makes it OK(!). In the end Snarf opted for the Steak Frites with Béarnaise Sauce, you can opt for anchovy butter instead (which we have had before and is very nice), for Snarf's steak avec frites, they demanded £15.80, I went for the Denham Estate venison sausages, sauerkraut, alsace bacon & thyme jus (which did look rather florescent green!) this set us back £13.70. Since a lot of the dishes do not come served with sides, do bear in mind that you might like to order some sort of potato dish & some sort of veg dish to go with your food, Snarf and I normally opt for the Fine French Beans (£3.00), these are divine, and soooo buttery…ohh excuse me, I do believe my mouth is watering! Other options (all £3.00) are Sauerkraut (very tasty), Rocket & Parmesan, Purple sprouting broccoli (an excuse to make us pay £3 because it is purple), Fries, Mash etc etc.

                Other notable options on the menu are:

                The chateaubriand, which comes served with green beans, chateau potatoes & béarnaise sauce (£34.80 allowing 30mins preparation time), which actually has to be the most barganous option on the menu, since it comes with sides and is one of the only dishes on the menu that actually has sides included, oh and it is for two people to share, and it is also quite romantic to share food - people do not do enough sharing of fodder these days.

                Grilled lobster, montpellier butter & fries (£16 for half & £29 for a whole lobster) this is really good and looks very impressive, but even a whole lobster is probably only enough to satisfy a small appetite.

                Fish and chips, peas and mint purée (fancy mushy peas) & tartar sauce (13.50), another barganous choice - two large slices of fish, big enough to satisfy any appetite!

                Finally, not always on the menu, but pretty much always available - muscles, very good value, and about £14, although I can't remember whether you get fries with that.

                What is the service like?

                Paying these sorts of prices, you would expect good service, every time we have been the service has never been exceptional, but it has never been bad either, the staff are very laid back, and I suppose this is down to the atmosphere that they are trying to create. Last Friday however, the food wasn't great, we arrived at about 9pm and managed to get a table (booking is not always required, but it is advisable if you have arranged to meet friends for dinner, we have never booked and always got a table, even at 9pm on a Friday night), as usual, we were seated & not hurried. As we were waiting for our food, we heard a table next to us complain that they had been ignored for 20 mins - all they had wanted was the dessert menu! We patiently waited for our food and when it arrived we found that Snarf's steak was not only over-cooked, but cold. My sausages were warm, but I think that was to do with the sauerkraut being really hot and they were being warmed by the sauerkraut another thing was that neither of the plates had been warmed - which I thought was unacceptable. We actually complained and sent the steak back, and to the staffs credit, a new steak, perfectly cooked this time, along with new beans and new fries were replaced within 8 mins. I have a feeling that the timing in the kitchen was off that night and they left the steak to one side.

                When we asked for our bill, the waitress politely pointed out that there was a service charge on the bill and asked if we wanted to pay it, we paid it anyway, as it wasn't the waitresses fault, which we thought was really nice.

                All the food is also available in the bar area and bar snacks are quite good - don't expect a pack of crisps, expect wasabi nuts (£2) or something along those lines.

                To sum it all up

                Village East is a cocktail & wine hang out, although they do serve quite a few beers, cocktails start at about £6.00 & there is usually a guest cocktail being featured. There is a good selection of wines (by the glass, half bottle & bottle) also champagnes (by the glass, half bottle & bottle) & a couple of beers.

                The food is OK, but don't expect too much, expect to be paying inflated "trendy" prices for OK food, drinks are not overly expensive and Village East is a nice place to hang out or have a gathering of friends for a party (private rooms are available if you need). I know I haven't really bigged this place up, but it is a nice place to go, if you don’t go regularly (like we do) it is a nice treat in a nice atmosphere, but to be honest after a while the city boys & girls doing coke in the toilet can get a bit tiresome, especially if you really need to pee!

                Stuff to Know:

                London Bridge is the closest mainline & tube station, Village East is leisurely 10 mins walk.

                Currently half the bar & half the restaurant allow smoking.

                All major credit cards are accepted.

                Opening Hours - Mon thru Thursday midday - 11:30, Friday & Saturday, late closing at 1:30, Sunday early closing at 11.

                www.villageeast.co.uk - a nice quirky website, with floorplans and other useful stuff, notice the background of the main site is the same as the place mats (which always provide Snarf and I hours of entertainment whilst waiting for our food!)

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                • threadless.com / Internet Site / 44 Readings / 41 Ratings
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                  01.06.2007 10:39
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                  Worthy of a gander...

                  Ok, let's start with what the website offers….

                  Threadless is, in essence, a website to buy original t-shirts from. Sounds simple so far, there are a lot of sites out there that offer "original" t-shirts, so what makes this one, and it's t-shirts, so special?

                  Threadless only sell t-shirts that have been designed by all those aspiring artists and graphic designers, the idea is simple, come up with a t-shirt idea, download a template and submit it to the website, then kick back and wait for those in the threadless community to vote your t-shirt into the number 1 spot, your t-shirt gets printed, BOOM you win $2000.

                  ~Getting in on the act~

                  The first thing you will need to do is to create yourself an account, it is all very simple, just create yourself a username, enter your email ad, create yourself a password, fill in your date of birth, add a country, check the box for the newsletter (if you want it) and you are away - simple as that.

                  In your account you will find that it is fairly simply laid out, with four tabs running across the top of the page, all of which are clearly labelled, from here you can edit your profile, writing a bit about yourself, put in your myspace, flickr etc links, so threadless can pull stuff from your page to create your threadless profile, track your orders and the designs or slogans that you have submitted, you can even post blogs from here.

                  ~So you have got yourself an account and fancy yourself as a bit of an aspiring artist, how do you go about submitting your ideas?~

                  Anyone can submit an idea, but you do need a basic knowledge of Photoshop or Flash. Templates (for both Photoshop and Flash) to submit your designs are available on the website, the Photoshop one is basically just a coloured t-shirt, if you expand the layers table, you will see that all the available colours are listed in different layers - just drag and drop the ones that you want into your new document and place your t-shirt on it, save your layout at the specified dimensions, create yourself a little thumbnail (dimensions on site) and submit…

                  ~My Experience Entering the Competition~

                  I joined the site with the intention of winning their rather appealing $2000 that they were waving under my nose, so I found a little design in my sketch book, which I thought would be really cute and decided to submit it.

                  First thing I did was make it print ready, so started cleaning it up in Photoshop, I then took a look around the site to see how others had been submitting their designs, I quickly noticed that a lot of people were not using the template supplied, they were creating their own layouts or adapting the existing one. I think that threadless will accept your design, regardless of the template that you use, as long as it is to the dimensions/resolution that they specify.

                  I created my template, followed all the instructions and submitted my design, which was then "pending" for a couple of days - in this time, apparently the threadless design team then check the design and may reject it before it goes up for scoring, I actually waited about 4 working days, with the promise that someone would email me to tell me when it was up on the site - I am still waiting for the email.

                  Each design that gets submitted to the website is scored for a period of seven days, however the design may be removed early, from what I can gather, each design has a period of 24 hours to score a certain amount of points - other members give your design a score from 0 - 5.

                  My design was removed after 48 hours and 655 people scored it, giving it an average score of 1.49 out of 5 (I have a feeling your score needs to stay over 1.5), when I clicked on my design to find out what my score was, it told me that I would be sent an email explaining why it had been removed - the email never arrived.

                  ~Community Based Functions (Blog Forum)~

                  There is a page (listed under "participate") called Blog Forum, from here you can post blogs, talk about products available on the website, score t-shirt designs that have been entered into the competition, read the latest community news & also view the critique section.

                  The critique section is basically a place where you can upload your designs, before submitting them for real so that other members of the community can give you advice and help you tweak your design, so that you can submit it and, hopefully, have a shot at getting your t-shirt printed and winning the all important $2000. Unfortunately I discovered this function after submitting my first design, but I submitted another to see how it worked.

                  Submitting your design that is up for critique is pretty much the same as submitting it to the competition, except you click on the critique tab on the page where you upload your design for real, it immediately appears on the critique page and other members can rate it in one of three ways - "great submit it!" or "it needs work" or "umm….don't submit".

                  ~Keep Your Eye on the Prize~

                  The prize is $2000, and is paid to you as $1,500 in cash, a 12 Club Membership (see below for further details), worth $200 and $300 in threadless gift vouchers.


                  ~Other functions of the site~

                  For those that are not into drawing, you could try and get a slogan printed on a t-shirt, submission works in a similar way to submitting designs - you can do this from your account, members then score you in one of two ways - either they would wear it or they wouldn't.

                  There are also monthly (roughly) competitions run, which are called "threadles love's" - it's a small heart icon in the participate section. Basically each competition has a theme, and if you win the competition you are entitled to the normal threadless incentive + something else, normally an ipod or something.

                  You can always try to earn threadles points, as part of threadless' StreetTeam (you automatically become a member when you create an account) - you are given a link which you can post in blogs, on your myspace page, whatever - if someone clicks on your link and buys a t-shirt, you are entitled to 2 StreetTeam which equates to $3, or submit a photo of yourself wearing a threadless t-shirt and submit it, every time you submit an image of you wearing a t-shirt you get $1.50 in points, if they "love" it (not sure how that gets judged), you get $15 worth of threadless points, which you can then redeem in the form of t-shirts.

                  Threadless also have a club called "12 club" (you can win membership by submitting a money t-shirt) which costs $200 - for your $200 you get 12 t-shirts, one every month, selected by the threadless team and a $30 gift voucher, your $200 includes shipping costs ($250 international) - the only thing is, I don't think you can choose your shirt, it is just sent to you.

                  Obviously there is also the function to buy t-shirts, most range from $15 upwards, I think it is based on how many colours are printed on the t-shirt, each t-shirt is only available for a limited amount of time/stock, but re-prints are sometimes available.

                  ~My Community Experiences~

                  This community is quite clique, I found it really hard to get people to even look at my design up for critique in the first place, the people are also not very friendly, or constructive in their criticism, for example, when I uploaded my critique, some guy's comment was "Horrible, poor design, pointless and shallow subject… just too ugly" - OK, that's your opinion, but maybe something constructive would have been more helpful, another comment was "the whole boob/star nipple thing is just weird, composition and colours don't work well, oddly proportioned" - again, fair enough, but how can I improve?

                  Looking around, yes there are good t-shirt designs out there, but it seems like some really good ones just don't get the ratings they deserve and others are a bit lame and are received well, I have yet to figure out whether this is a community thing or whether some of these people genuinely have bad taste….

                  So far, I have decided that if you want to make it on threadless you need to give the masses what they want, don't expect anyone to be forth coming with useful advice or information, they don't really want to help you to improve, a lot of the people that give out negative comments don't even submit ideas, I think they just like being able to tell people what to do, I did find a couple of members on there that were helpful and constructive, but a lot are only interested in those that are already established on the site and it seems like an uphill battle to get recognised or even get someone to help you out.

                  I may try submitting designs in the future, probably using the critique function first and then trying to see if I can eek some sort of constructive criticism out of the site, but in the future I will probably be using another website - café press to sell merchandise (look out for reviews later).

                  ~Threadless Kids~

                  Threadless originally had a kids section and sold kids t-shirts (about $10 for a t-shirt & $15 for a baby grow thing), which they still have, however they seem to have started a new site - www.threadlesskids.com where you can vote for certain designs to become kids t-shirts.

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                  • More +
                    24.04.2007 11:04
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                    a lot of work to install one light

                    As some of you may know I recently bought a house, and doing it up with no budget is tough, now I am at the stage where I can start dressing the house, as I mentioned earlier, I have no budget, whatsoever, so any items that are bought are very carefully considered. I chose this particular "lampshade" (lampshade is in inverted commas, you will find out why in a bit) because I had wanted it for ages, I originally spotted it online before I had even bought my flat, and what made it better was that it was incredibly affordable and by a designer that I have admired for ages - Tord Boontje, all very simple so far….but is it?

                    ~What is it? Why do I want one?~

                    This is not your typical lampshade, it is one long continuous strand of etched metal (1.6m in total), etched into delicate shapes - leaves, flowers and the like. It comes in three different colours, bronze, gold & silver (looks black and is the version that I own), in a flat A3 cardboard envelope.

                    The reason that this particular light so appealed to me was that firstly, it was by a really well known designer and I found it for a very affordable price, secondly, the nature of the light itself was something very different, it was a long strand of photographically etched metal, this required it to be wrapped around my light bulb, a la flower arranging, thus creating a really unique light fitting, the reason that this so appealed to me was that even if other people had the same light fitting, theirs would not look the same as mine, as they would have arranged it differently. Also, you can bulk out your Garland light by buying more strands and adding to your existing light.

                    So to sum it up, an affordable piece of art, which will be completely individual, by a well known designer at an extremely affordable price. This light is actually available to view in a permanent collection at MoMA (New York) & The V&A (London), so grab yourself a bit of art history today!

                    ~I want one NOW!~

                    Tord Boontje originally was commissioned in 2002 for Habitat & then again, in 2004 for Artecnica. I have seen this same light on a variety of "lifestyle" or "designer" websites for all sorts of prices. I actually bought mine from Habitat for £20, which I thought was extremely reasonable, I have seen them on EBay, and they generally go for in excess of £25 (excluding p&p). A couple of other websites are selling them for in excess of $80(U.S.) excluding p&p. So if you do want one, I would highly recommend going to Habitat, as I don't think that anyone else is doing them for this price!

                    ~I got me one! Now, how do I install my new piece of art?~

                    As mentioned earlier, it comes flat in an A3 cardboard envelope (like the ones for giant cards you get), with a little window in the front, so you can see what colour you are choosing.

                    Opening the envelope, the Garland is still connected to the frame, a thin boarder of metal round the edges, taped to another piece of cardboard, with a little rubber ring (to put on your light pendant) taped to the back….. Now this is where the design flaws start to show.

                    ~Issue No 1~

                    I immediately noticed that I needed to cut my garland, which has been laid flat, in a sort of repeating s-shape inside the frame. You need to have really good light and vision to do this, as the garland is connected to the frame by the tips of the leaves. I was immediately aware that if I cut in the wrong place I may end up cutting a bit of the leaf off, luckily I managed to find some small nail scissors (not nail clippers) and set to work snipping away. Whilst cutting away, I did manage to bend a couple of leaves & flowers, at first I was a little worried, but soon realised that it was all going to be OK as the metal seems really durable and I was going to be bending it sooner anyway.

                    ~Issue No 2.~

                    As soon as I had finished cutting away, the Garland from the frame, I realised that the instructions were on the back of the card - DOH! How was I supposed to read the instructions on the back of the card and follow them as I was wrapping 1.6m of metal Garland round a light bulb?! If I took the Garland off the card, where it had so nicely been laying flat I would be in a world of pain, so I opted for, lift the card up above my head, and read like that!

                    ~Issue No 3 (Installation) & 4 (dangerously combining thin sticky outie bits of metal with electrickery).~

                    Having managed to read the instructions and remove the rubber ring from the back of the cardboard, Snarf and I set to work. I had already bought a simple pendant light from B&Q so all we needed to do (in theory) was put the rubber ring around the light (remove the light bulb and fit around the base) and then start wrapping the metal round the bulb.

                    Well we managed to get the rubber ring on easily enough, but the wrapping of the Garland was another matter. At one end of the Garland is a small open ended circle, so you can slot it over the wire bit that hangs down on the pendant, tighten it to keep it on, and then begin wrapping your metal Garland round your light bulb. *REMEMBER TO DO THIS WHILST THE LIGHT IS TURNED OFF.*

                    So I was positioned at the top of the ladder, whilst Snarf held onto the cardboard, we figured, leave the Garland as flat as possible and wrap that way - no such luck, because of all the flowery shapes, the Garland had a tendency to hook itself onto itself in the most random places. This was not the easiest job to do, even with two of us, one controlling the unruly end of the Garland (Snarf) and one trying to make the damn thing look purdy - after about half an hour, I gave up and just wound it any old way and then moulded the metal into the shape that I wanted.

                    ~Issue No 5 (going solo)~

                    In the end I was quite happy with the way that the Garland looked wrapped around my light bulb, but it did look a bit sparse, for 1.6m of metal, there was not much volume to it, so I decided I needed another one, to be honest I think that one Garland would serve for a bedside table or small lamp, but is not really sufficient for a ceiling lamp, so off I went, back to Habitat to get another Garland.

                    So I got home, with my second Garland and I cut all the bits out, as before and then attempted to add the second Garland to the first. As the first was already in place, I thought this was going to be slightly easier….How wrong I was. As I mentioned earlier, the Garland, because of all its little sticky outie bits tends to get tangled in itself, this time, it really got tangled, remember this is 1.6m worth of thin metal, and it kept getting caught on the Garland that was already in place, this time it took me nearly an hour and a half to get the second Garland up. This bought up another problem - if a couple of areas get caught on themselves, it is near enough impossible to untangle them, so do bear this in mind when installing it, as sometimes you just have to go with it and make the best out of the way it has decided it wants to be. Originally I had wanted to have a small part trailing (like in the picture attached), but I gave up, after getting wrapped in the damn thing, so as before, tried as best as I could to wrap round the light and other Garland and then moulded into place. I had managed to create some sort of trailing bits so was quite happy.

                    ~Issue No 6 (How many Tazzywazzy's does it take to change a light bulb?)~

                    Luckily I had the sense to install an energy saving light bulb that should last for about 12 years, as I have no idea what you are supposed to do if your light bulb goes. The stuff is impossible to unwind, I also thought about what I would do if I were ever to move - simple answer, we are going to unscrew the pendant from the ceiling and move it in-situ.

                    ~Overall Opinion~

                    I am actually, despite all the problems, absolutely thrilled with my new light, I have a bit of modern art history in my bedroom, by a designer that I love, it is delightfully gorgeous and girly and would look lovely in a young girls bedroom or an adults bedroom. There is something really romantic about the way that it is hung in such a natural trailing way, the surprising thing is that even though it is made out of metal, the overall effect is really soft. The light it produces, obviously depending on the bulb, is really nice and soft, so I would recommend that you choose your light bulb before you install the light. I personally love this light and even though went through absolute hell to put it up, would not change it for the world, when it is on in the evenings, it bathes the whole room in a wonderfully soft light, you can hardly tell that it is coming from the ceiling.

                    Although I did have to buy a second Garland, which was never mentioned anywhere that I read about it, it was thoroughly worth it - each Garland cost me £20 and my pendant cost me £5 from B&Q, so I spent £45 on a gorgeous, one off light.

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                    • More +
                      10.04.2007 17:35
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                      Not for the easily offended

                      *Both the film in question & this review may contain references to drug uses that some readers may wish to shield their precious eyes from (because they might find them offensive, and not because the bats may hit you in the face!)


                      "No point in mentioning these bats, I thought. Poor bastard will see them soon enough."

                      Based on Hunter S. Thompson's 1971 two part series, "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas; A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream", which later, that same year was published as a book - the film is pretty true to the book, so here goes…

                      Fear & Loathing follows gonzo* journalist Raoul Duke** & his attorney, Dr Gonzo***, on a trip to Las Vegas, the intention - to do a piece on the Mint 400 Desert Motorcycle race, and then later on a Narcotics & Dangerous Drugs convention, so off they set in the famous great red shark (Hunter S. Thompson's red Chevrolet Caprice convertible) - sounds all very simple so far, and a bit dull really, so let's spice it up!

                      Duke & Gonzo have got a suitcase with them, and not just any suitcase, but a suitcase filled with two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half-full of cocaine and a whole galaxy of multicoloured uppers, downers, screamers, laughers... also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls.

                      The rest of the film follows Duke & Gonzo on their drug fuelled binge around Las Vegas, and that's about it!

                      *Gonzo Journalism - a name given to Thompson's unique style of writing, Thompson's writings tend to draw the reader into the situation, so that the reader feels as though they are experiencing the event as it happens. A lot of the time Gonzo journalism has a fantasy element to it, so nestled somewhere in amongst the fiction, some fact does occur.

                      **Raoul Duke - Thompson's pseudonym or (even) alter ego, a hedonistic, drug crazed individual, normally high on whatever drug is going, be it mariju-wacky or human adrenalin, oh and fuelled by an extremely low tolerance for the all American values.

                      ***Dr Gonzo - based on Oscar Zeta Acosta, an LSD loving friend of Hunter's, he was an Attorney of law, an author & politician, it is said that he spent half is life fighting for the law and the other half running from the law. It is believed that Acosta died in 1974, much speculation surrounds his death, as his body was never found.


                      "Bazooko Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. This was the Sixth Reich."

                      Ok, so I don't make the plot sound that great, but if you watch the film, or have seen the film, you will understand why it is so hard to describe what actually happens, as the plot is fairly thin. Don't let this put you off the film though, it has an awful lot going for it, the movie is purely and simply a brilliantly made visual version of the book.

                      Everything about this film is stunning, the acting is brilliant and the directing captures perfectly on film what Thompson had put down in words on paper - Gonzo filmmaking is a phrase that springs to mind!


                      "Once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can"

                      The acting is superb, Duke (or Thompson) is played by Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, From Hell, Chocolat, Finding Neverland & many more) who launched his heart and soul into preparing for this film, and eerily became Thompson, I think that there needs to be a distinction between mimicking a person & becoming a person. Depp spent time with Thompson, studying his mannerisms and ploughing through all the paraphernalia that Thompson had collected relating to his road trip in '71. Depp even went to the extreme of wearing the clothes that Thompson wore on his trip (in the film replicas of Thompson's clothing are worn), getting Thompson to shave his head (to imitate Thompson's pattern-baldness) & borrowing Thompson's Chevrolet to drive around California to prepare for his role. Benicio del Toro (Sin City) put just as much of his heart and soul into preparation for his role as Dr Gonzo, he even gained 18kg to become the rotund man that was Acosta.

                      I don't normally talk about the directors/writers when reviewing films, but in this case I am going to make an exception. The screenplay & direction was from the mind of Terry Gilliam, animator (Monty Python stuff), writer (Tideland, Monty Python stuff), actor (more Monty Python stuff), Director (Brazil, Tideland, Twelve Monkeys, Monty Python) & producer (Monty Python stuff again). Don't let the fact that he has worked on a lot of Monty Python stuff put you off, this piece is nothing like the slapstick comedy that comes from Monty Python, this is gonzo filmmaking to the extreme. Gilliam is incredibly creative & resourceful, expertly using a variety of different film & techniques in the space of seconds. It is Gilliam's direction, along with skilful casting of Depp & Del Toro that make the film come to life and prevent it from being just a random sequence of strange images meshed together into 118 mins. A notable example of how Gilliam managed to create a drug induced scene is close to the beginning, Duke & Gonzo are driving through the desert in the red shark when Duke thinks he is being attached by bats, Gilliam zooms close in, onto his eye, reflected in the eye are a mass of bats flying towards the car, cut to next scene, Duke is wildly waving his arms around at the imaginary bats.

                      Notable cameo appearances:
                      Tobey Maguire (The Good German, Spiderman, Cider House Rules, Pleasantville), who plays a hitchhiker, Christina Ricci (Adams Family, 200 cigarettes, Buffalo 66), Cameron Diaz (Shrek, The Holiday, In Her Shoes), Michael Jeter (Green Mile) & Hunter S Thompson himself!


                      "As your attorney I advise you to rent a very fast car with no top. And you'll need the cocaine."

                      There are, I think, 3 category's of people out there, there are those that hate this film, there are those out there who will love this film and rave about it, simply because they are a lover of Hunter S Thompson's work, and the man himself & there are those out there that will take this film at face value and appreciate the production, acting & direction. I personally fall between the last two categories, I am intrigued by the man that is Hunter S Thompson and have a huge amount of respect for the strange character, but I only developed my love of the man because I watched this film. I had no idea that there was a real man behind this or what this really stood for, I watched this and enjoyed the way that the director had managed to make me feel as though I was there, watching the swirling lights and strange scenes, really I think I just enjoyed going on a drug crazed trip and tagging along with Duke & Gonzo!

                      There have been many attempts to actually make Fear & Loathing into a film, many actors had over the years been considered for the roles of Duke & Gonzo - Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, John Malkovich & John Cusack, who eventually went on to direct the theatrical version of the book. Along with many actors being considered, many directors were also considered (including Martin Scorsese & Oliver Stone). There was also an attempt at an animated version of the book by Ralph Bakshi, which was to be done in the style of Ralph Steadman (illustrator for Hunter's books and articles), but it never got off the ground, as one of Hunter's ex-girlfriends held the rights and refused to let him make the animated version.


                      "You better take care of me, Lord. If you don't you're gonna have me on your hands"

                      Hunter S. Thompson died in 2005, at the age of 65. He shot himself in the head, his son, daughter-in-law & grandson were in the room next door, they heard the gun shot, but assumed it was a book falling onto the floor - Hunter was on the phone to his wife at the time.

                      I don't think that anyone believes that his suicide was out of depression, some say it is because Hunter never wanted to get old. His close friend Ralph Steadman wrote "He told me [...] he would feel trapped if he didn't know that he could commit suicide at any moment."

                      Hunter S. Thomson's funeral service took place in Aspen on August 20, 2005. Hunter's ashes were fired out of a cannon, shaped to look like a double-thumbed fist clutching a peyote button, to the tune of Mr Tambourine Man, whilst red, white & green fireworks were launched. According to Hunters widow, Johnny Depp financed the funeral.

                      The plans for this cannon were initially drawn by Hunter & Ralph Steadman, these drawings originally featured as part of a BBC programme called Fear & Loathing in Gonzovision (available on the special release DVD 2003).

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                      • More +
                        03.04.2007 11:09
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                        A little pretension never hurt anyone!

                        Last night, Snarf & I celebrated our 2 year anniversary, and we wanted to celebrate! As usual Snarf & I left it until the last minute to discuss plans - Sunday night to be precise (our anniversary was on Tuesday). After a quick discussion, we decided to go for a meal - the only other options were Bloomsbury Bowling lanes or something along those lines, hardly very romantic. Very quickly, we decided on The Hat & Feathers.

                        We had passed by the derelict shell of the building that is now very proudly The Hat & Feathers on many occasions in our two years together, guessing what the place was going to be, was it going to be a gastro pub? A drinks only pub? A restaurant? We had no idea, then 4 months ago, we noticed that it was finally open, and decided that we needed to try it at some point, but just never got round to it, now seemed as good a time as any, so Snarf got out his blueberry thingy and checked the tinter-net for some reviews & noticed that toptable.com was offering 50% off food - job done, it was booked.

                        ~Getting there~

                        I have attached a map, but it is really easy to find, the closest tube station is Barbican, come out of the station, and turn left, towards Clerkenwell Road, you will get to the cross roads (Prêt, Starbucks & Pizza Express are all on the corner), The Hat & Feathers are opposite - this will take you about 4 mins (it took me 4 mins and I was wearing ridiculous shoes!). Alternatively you can go to Old Street or Farringdon tube station, it is still within walking distance.

                        Hat & Feathers
                        2 Clerkenwell Road
                        London
                        EC1M 5PQ

                        ~The mood~

                        I arrived at The Hat and Feathers at about 7:15, we were due to have dinner at 8, but I quite fancied a drink (Snarf was running a bit late because he's Snarf) before we ate. Going through the doors you arrive in the bar area. There is a big wooden bar in the middle & the room is sort of split into two sections, by a big arch. The first thing I noticed was that it was non-smoking, but on closer inspection, only half of the pub is non-smoking, so I very swiftly moved to the smoky half of the bar (ah go on, let me enjoy it whilst I can!).

                        The décor is lovely, you can tell it is all very new and that someone has thrown a lot of money at the place. After our meal, we were sitting at the bar talking to the Matîre d' and have discovered that they have tried to restore the place, as accurately as possible, to its original splendour. Coving lines the top of every wall & ceiling join, which has had gold leaf applied, meticulously, by hand, according to the Maitre d' if the craftsman managed to do 2 meters in a day, that was considered a good day!

                        Everything about the place was beautiful, the attention to detail is apparent, creamy walls & a dark wood bar, matching tables, chairs & bar stools, upholstered in a tasteful cream covering, none of this mish mash "shabby chic, French" stuff going on. Every aspect & detail has been thoroughly thought out, from the gas lamps dotted around the walls to the beautiful chandeliers, hopefully this is a good indicator of the standard of food that they will provide.

                        I stepped up to the bar & took a look around, it seemed very relaxed, but very plush and luxurious at the same time. A bar tender turned up very quickly (turns out he was the manager) & I ordered my drink, and he apologised, checking if it was ok that they only served doubles - they clearly don't know me well enough (yet)! I noticed that their house gin was Tanqueary, but there were a lot of others on offer, I even noticed the new purple Gordon's Sloe Gin. I mentioned that we were booked into the restaurant and asked if it was easier for me to pay for my drink now or if I could set up a tab - the tab was promptly set up and when I offered my card to go behind the bar he declined.

                        I moved to a table and settled in with my drink & started to look around, the majority of the crowd were after workers, the bar was relatively empty, but it was a Tuesday night at the end of the month, so this really is to be expected. Snarf arrived 15 mins later (very apologetic) got his drink and we started to settle in.

                        ~Gastronomic delights~

                        Some of you who are familiar with my food reviews, may need to look away now - because I loved the place, so be warned if you are hungry!

                        Snarf and I were very hungry, my stomach had been rumbling since I arrived, and I had purposely gone easy on the amount of fodder that I consumed during the day, so the minute the clock ticked 8, we were making our way up to the restaurant, on the first floor.

                        We were lead up the original wooden staircase (some work still needs to be done, a bit of varnish maybe), by the manager, it was actually a lot bigger upstairs than I had expected, there was a gentleman in the corner dining alone & what appeared to be a business dinner, 5 men in suits, the décor was again very simple and elegant, white table cloths, dark leather chairs, very restaurant feel to the place, you would be shocked to remember you were sitting above a pub. We were seated by one of the windows and promptly bought menus & offered drinks, we decided to order a bottle of water first and then decide on wine (I will cover the drinks in greater detail further in a bit).

                        The first thing that you will notice is that the menu is small, this is not to say that it is limited - the price is £22.95 for two courses (starter and main), very reasonable and we were in theory getting 4 courses for £22.95 with our 50% off deal.

                        I had already taken a sneaky peak at the menu online & decided on my main course, but was still undecided about my starter. I was torn between the Seared Foie Gras or the Scallops & Frogs Legs. In the end I went for the Foie Gras (£2 supplement) & Snarf went for the Scallops (£2 supplement), we both chose the venison for our main course.

                        Having ordered we sat back and relaxed, our waiter came over with a bread plate, offering 3 styles of bread, white, brown and a random looking roll thing (it looked a bit like a mini jam roly poly). The bread was very fresh & before I could even finish my bread, our starters were being bought out, so here comes the good bits:

                        ~Starters~

                        Seared foie gras, yoghurt, wilted shoots, raisin. (supplement £2)
                        Recommended wine for this starter is Castel de Suduiraut, Sauterness, 2002 (£5.95 per glass)

                        This comes served on a rather large square plate and two small round pieces of foie gras, sat on the wilted shoots, and a line of yogurt running up the middle of the plate, dusted with what looked like orange zest & a tiny blob of raisin (more of a marmalade) about the size of a 5p piece - very nouveaux cuisine.

                        Verdict:
                        The first thing I noticed was that I kept getting faint whiffs of something citrusey, at first I thought that it could have been coming from Snarf's plate, but in the end worked out that it was my yogurt. I tasted all the bits first on their own just to see what flavours I had to play with and was pleasantly surprised, the yogurt was light with a hint of citrus, not overly creamy, the raisin "marmalade" was very good, tangy & sticky, yet not overpowering, will compliment the foie gras perfectly. The foie gras had been seared, cutting very easily, first thing that you notice is the very light gamey flavour, not at all overpowering, just enough to taste it. At first I thought that it tasted a little greasy, but this could have been down to the wilted leaves, they did go very well with the foie gras, a little garlicky & although, as I mentioned greasy, you really wanted to hold it in your mouth and just let the flavours seep out onto your tongue. The only thing I could pick out was that one of the slices of foie gras had a slight charred taste to one of the sections I cut out, but it was on a tiny, tiny piece of the cut and to be honest, probably not even worth mentioning.

                        Pan fried Scallops, tempura frogs leg, butternut bavorois, tomato jus. (supplement £2)
                        Recommended wine for this starter is Chablis ler Cru montmains, G Tremblay 2004 (£8.95 per glass)

                        They were extremely generous with the scallops, it made my starter look positively tiny (which it was, but that is beside the point), there were probably about six scallops in total laid on the plate, there were two decent sized frogs legs, nicely presented and separated from the scallops with a line of tomato jus. The butternut bavorois (a sort of solid mousse) was served as a small disk, a little larger than a £1 coin, with a lovely delicate flower arranged on the top.

                        Verdict:
                        The Scallops were beautifully delicate, there was just a hint of scallop taste, but they just melted in your mouth, the only way I can describe it would be to compare it to expertly cooked tofu. The butternut bavorois complimented the scallops nicely, there was a sweet taste to the bavorois, but not at all over powering, not even enough for you to notice, just enough for you to realise that there is another flavour present, other than the scallops. The frogs legs were well cooked as well, the tempura was light and fluffy and the taste of the frogs legs was very delicate again, so complimented the dish perfectly, there wasn't a hint of grease, which would have ruined the dish completely. The only point to raise here is that Snarf wasn't sure that the scallops had been cleaned properly as he got a couple of gritty bits - if the scallops had been soaked in flavour, you never would have known, but again, another point probably not even worth mentioning.

                        ~Main Course~

                        Loin of Venison, celeriac puree, chocolate oil & toffee
                        Recommended wine for this main course is Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa 2004 (£4.25 per glass)

                        The amount of venison that you are provided with looks very small, served on what appeared to be wilted roots, there was a tower of potato with a roasted garlic on the top, it did look slightly phallic and I did have a little giggle to myself, next to the venison was the toffee sauce arranged in a little heart shape, with the chocolate oil over the top, the celeriac puree was served in a thick line and there were drops of chocolate around the plate. There was also a tiny red berry on the plate (which we later discovered was a tiny frozen tomato).

                        Verdict:

                        This was a really interesting dish and was begging to be tried, again I checked all the flavours available and then went about combining. The most surprising thing is that the toffee is most definitely toffee, and the chocolate is most definitely chocolate, however the chocolate oil had a faint bitter cocoa taste, but could have passed as a jus. The celeriac puree was very, very delicate, it was really creamy and the taste and texture perfectly complimented the venison, with a tiny smidge of toffee. The wilted roots were the same as those used for the starter and again complimented the venison, which if eaten on its own was almost dry (not in a bad way though, the rich gamey flavour still oozed out). Going back to the toffee and venison combo, strangely enough, the toffee really does go well with venison, the slightly "burnt" taste to the toffee really brings out the flavour of the venison and the celeriac works to make sure that the taste is not too overpowering or sugary. I really could not make the teenie tiny dollops of chocolate work, and would suggest that they are merely for decoration. The chocolate oil (or jus) worked to make the venison much more juicy and the slight cocoa bitterness really accented the light gamey flavour. I mentioned above that there was a small frozen tomato on the plate, when I tasted a bit of it I decided that I was going to save it for my last mouthful, it was very refreshing & sweet and cleaned the palate well. The only thing that I could comment on was that compared to the explosion of flavours the roasted potato tower was positively bland, but I still ate it - good for mopping up the chocolate oil!

                        ~Sweet Nothings~

                        Snarf and I were pretty full but the food had been so amazing, we had to go for a desert, but we decided to share, it was a toss up between the tonka bean cheesecake or the chocolate fondant - we went for the chocolate in the end!

                        Chocolate fondant served with white chocolate ice cream, chocolate jelly & mint (£5.50)
                        Recommended wine for this dessert is Monbazillac Cuvee Abbaye, 2002 (£8.50 per glass)

                        When we ordered the dessert, we knew that it would probably take a little while as the fondant needed to be cooked - we weren't wrong, they did indeed cook the fondant and it did take about 15 mins, but when it arrived we were very impressed, the fondant was slightly leaning to one side, but hey, these things happen - there was a decent (small) scoop of ice-cream & the chocolate jelly is not at all what you would expect, it looks like a tiny chocolate pyramid, a line of think chocolate sauce went down the middle of the plate and there was a small line of finely chopped mint to one side.

                        Verdict:
                        The first thing that we did was sniff the fondant, the smell was gorgeous, it reminded me of warm chocolate fudge cake being baked in an oven, the fondant was then split, starting from the top, waiting for the gooey chocolate to ooze out, which it did. Everything about the fondant was perfect, it had been expertly executed and perfectly cooled. The white chocolate ice-cream was very delicate and could have passed for plain ice-cream (if such a thing exists) it is clearly home made and tones done the chocolateiness of the fondant. The chocolate jelly is not at all what I expected, to be honest chocolate jelly does not conjure up very positive images, but this was divine, really thick and chocolately, it had a sticky jelly-like consistency when split, but melted in your mouth, as chocolate should, it reminds me of the chocolate inside a Ferrero Rocher. The chocolate was definitely the same chocolate that appeared in small decorative blobs on my plate of venison. The only thing that I could not understand on my plate was the mint, finely chopped, but with little to no taste, at first we thought it may have been sugar, but it was tasteless, this did not detract from the dish, I am just not sure why it was there in the first place.

                        ~Drinks~

                        There is a wide selection of wines available, prices range from £5.00 (per glass) & £22.00 (bottle) through to £325 (bottle) for sparkling wines & champagnes, white & red wines start from £3.20 (per glass) & £14.50 (bottle) through to £97 (per bottle).

                        Snarf and I opted for the Bourgogne Pinot Noir Dom Remoissenet 1997 (£6.75 per glass or £28.50 per bottle) & believe me it was worth it. I wish I was as knowledgeable about wines as foods, because I would love to write a full review, just for this wine itself, but would not have the vocabulary to do it justice. All I can say is it smells so good that when you sniff it, you hope that you will never stop breathing in, like the food that we had it was light, fruity and very gentle, almost feminine, taking the wine to your lips, the taste is centred on the tip of your tongue, as you swallow, there is a little dryness, but not too much, I can highly recommend this wine to anyone & if you ever get the chance, do pay that little bit extra for this amazing wine.

                        As this restaurant is set above a pub there is a wide selection of international beers, a really good selection of spirits (as mentioned earlier, they only serve double measures) & some tasty looking cocktails (prices start at £6 or £4 for shooters).

                        Another thing worth mentioning is that there is a wine recommendation for each dish on the menu which is well worth considering, especially if you are not confident enough to match the wine with your foods.

                        One thing that we were disappointed in was the coffee, Snarf ordered a double espresso and it was really not nice, even a lump of sugar didn't help it, it was horrifically bitter and thick after everything that our pallet had been used to over the course of the evening. I would suggest staying away from the coffees.

                        ~Overall Verdict~

                        I was extremely impressed by The Hat and Feathers, the food was very carefully prepared and thought out, moving it to a level above your ordinary good restaurant, although not Michelin standard, but with a little more time, who knows? I think that The Hat and Feathers is a welcome addition to the new "gastro style" pub that has been springing up and I think that certain restaurants in the area, such as The Fox, need to sit up and take note, because they have some serious competition.

                        A lot of people may be put off by the idea of tiny portions & tiny amounts of foods, but the food is so good that you do not need anymore, too much of a good thing and all that. Snarf and I were both extremely hungry when we arrived and left more than satisfied, we left with the warm contented glow of knowing that you could not eat any more, but were not uncomfortably full. With all the food being so flavoursome it made you eat smaller mouthfuls, just to savour & enjoy the way that everything had been so perfectly put together and carefully thought out.

                        Service was impeccable and definitely added to the whole experience, throughout the course of our meal the waiter and Maitre d' were attentive, but never constantly in your face, the dinning room had a lot of mirrors on the walls, which is I think how the serving staff managed to see what customers required without being seen. Wine was topped up often, as was water, tables were scrapped at the end of the meal before dessert. At one point in the meal I left the table to go to the bath room and sort of folded my serviette and placed it on the table, whilst I was away a waiter came over and discreetly folded it properly for me and neatly placed it to one side, which I thought was a lovely touch, and would probably go unnoticed, had Snarf not pointed it out. The high standard of service even continues downstairs in the bar/pub after your meal, the maitre d' continued to serve us in the bar area and chatted away, which was lovely.

                        Our whole bill, which included, 2 starters (each had £2 supplement), 2 main courses, 1 dessert, 1 bottle of wine, a double espresso, 2 bottles of water, a gin and tonic (double tanquery), a bottle of Magners & service came in at £84, which Snarf and I both agreed was very reasonable, so much so that we decided to leave an extra £10 towards the service and slink on down to the bar to have some more of their lovely Bourgogne.

                        I will definitely be going back to The Hat and Feathers and would rave about it to anyone who I could make listen, all that I can say is that if you fancy trying it, take advantage of the toptable offer whilst you can, but to be honest, how can you go wrong for £22.95 for two courses of superb food, if I am honest, I would have expected to have paid £22 for my main course alone.

                        ~Useful stuff to know~

                        Website:
                        www.hatandfeathers.com

                        The 1st floor restaurant wine list & menus are available on this site.

                        There is a bar menu for those of you who are not feeling that flush, or want a good lunch, starters begin at £4.50 & main courses go up to £15.95 for a slow roast fillet of Aberdeen Angus, anchovy crumb onion puree & horseradish.

                        Two courses in the 1st floor restaurant is £22.95, which is well worth it, the menu is seasonal and changed regularly, every 2-3 months.

                        ~Opening Hours~

                        Monday - Friday
                        12:00 - 14:30
                        18:00 - 22:30

                        Sunday (Dinner & Sunday Lunch)

                        Pre-booked "power-breakfasts" 07:30-09:30

                        On the ratings below, there is not an exceptional rating, this place needs to be separated from the riff raff! :P

                        Thanks for reading - oh god I have rambled on a bit - any that have skimmed are forgiven

                        xxx

                        *Also on Ciao*

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                        • La Haine (HD DVD) / DVD / 50 Readings / 46 Ratings
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                          21.03.2007 17:13
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                          baise la police!

                          Bit of a change to my last review, this time, we are embarking on a much grittier topic…

                          As some of you may have gathered from my title & the name of this film, this is a French film and is subtitled, but I will touch a bit more on this later, normally I do not focus on the fact that a film is subtitled and this does not make me choose to not watch a film, but I think this really is a point worth mentioning, so keep your eyes peeled further down.

                          This film holds a really important place in French film-making history, it is of a very different style to the other films that were being produced at the time, tackles an extremely controversial subject - police brutality & life in les banlieues, and has even gone so far as to impact other countries, so much so that it was added to the A-Level Syllabus for Film Studies, back here in Blighty.

                          The film was released in 1995, and was a huge success in France, so much so that the (then) Prime Minster, Alain Juppé requested a private screening, he then instructed, actually it was more of an order than an instruction, his entire cabinet to watch it. The director went on to win Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival Awards in 1996, but apparently the police guards present turned their backs on those involved with the film, as a protest to the way that they had portrayed police brutality in France.

                          Note, there are a couple of words in the plot that may need clarification or defining, as this is quite a colloquial (is that the right word? Please correct me if not) film, so certain words will be translated and explained in full after the Plot.

                          ~Plot~

                          La Haine follows a day in the life of three banlieusards*, Vinz (Jew), Saïd (Beur**) & Hubert (African). They are your typical banlieusards, drop outs, small time dealers & the rest of the trappings that come with this sort of lifestyle. There have been riots on their estate and one of their friends is in a coma in hospital, after being beaten, whilst in police custody. Vinz finds une flingue (police revolver) & swears that if their friend dies, he will kill a policeman. The film then concentrates on the boys dealing with the aftermath of the riot & the fact that their friend is dying in hospital.

                          I know this is really short for a plot summary, but I really do not want to give anything away, and the whole film pivots around the fact that their friend is lying in hospital in a coma, and obviously, what action will Vinz take if his friend dies, will he really kill a policeman to avenge his friends death?

                          Please do not be put of by this short summary, because a lot does go on in 96mins, and the film does address a lot of issues that were (and still are) quite prominent in France.

                          ~Casting, my thoughts & other stuff~

                          Vinz - played brilliantly by Vincent Cassel (Shrek & Guest House Paradiso), Vinz's character is so filled with rage, which more than likely comes from being trapped in les banlieues, he is desperately wanting to gain respect, even if it means killing a policeman, but I suppose in his situation, respect is the only thing that he can aspire to.

                          Hubert - played by Hubert Koundé (The Constant Gardner), Hubert is a boxer, a quiet, contemplative character, trying to make sense of what is going on around him.

                          Saïd - played by Saïd Taghmaoui (appeared in 3 episodes of Sleeper Cell & a couple of episodes of The West Wing), I guess Saïd's character is the one who holds the group together, he is always expressing an opinion, I guess the neutral one, as on one hand you have a young, angry, testosterone filled male, in the form of Vinz & a quiet, thoughtful character, in the form of Hubert, not really an ideal match is it? Saïd is trying to work out some happy medium between the two wildly differing opinions of his friends.

                          The film has been directed brilliantly, it is shot in black & white, and what feels like, one camera, and some sort of really cheap film. The reason that this film has been a talking point for so long, and did so well in France is because it gives the public a film about something that they can relate to, something to grab hold of & run with - Les Banlieues were a place to pin all of France's social problems on - unemployment, crime, drugs, racial tension etc etc. Les Banlieues took up pages in French magazines & papers, they were the subject of many political debates, and yet the vast majority of French cinema, of the time, were avoiding these issues, this is not to say that this is the only reason that the film has been so successful.

                          The writing, direction & of course acting, has a great deal to do with the success of this film, the atmosphere, tension & anger has been captured & portrayed really well, this has probably got something to do with the actors all being unknown, so in a way, they had nothing to be scared of when making this film, they just made it, they did not have to worry about loosing careers because they made/appeared in a controversial film.

                          I would not say that I enjoyed this film, it made me feel uncomfortable, and it was quite hard to follow, as I mentioned earlier this film is subtitled, but it is quite difficult to read white subtitles when the film is shot in black and white, there were a few points that I missed, I speak pretty good French, but as a lot of the dialogue is colloquial & quite often slang it was really hard to keep up with. Do not let this put you off watching this film, as it is based on truth and people need to be aware of what was happening. I would highly encourage any A-Level students studying French to watch this film, as it gives a good insight into culture that will not get taught at school. I actually watched this at school, but we had pretty liberal teachers who wanted us to really understand what we were learning.

                          This film has a 15 rating, and to be honest, I don't think that many 15 year olds would choose to watch this film, firstly because it is not really something that I don't think, would appeal to the younger generation, as the film is dealing with quite political matters & secondly, the subtitling makes it very difficult to watch - ordinarily, I would not make a big deal about subtitling, but I think in this case it is worth pointing out.

                          In summary, do watch this film, it is about one of those issues that we should be aware of, but for some reason, there is always some "bigger" issue to deal with and things like this just don't get talked about. Also, there are other films out there that do manage to connect with the public at any given point in time, they manage to identify with the thoughts, mentality or fears, if I had to compare this film to another film, I would liken it to A Clockwork Orange, only because at the time of Clockwork's release, the public were fearful of gangs, therefore, tapping into grabbing their attention by giving them a film about what they were most scared of.

                          For any of you who don't/can't be arsed to read on, you may stop here - thanks for reading x

                          ~A small lesson in the French spoken language & cultural learings of glorious nation France~

                          So let's start with the title of the film - La Haine, French for Hate (a pretty strong word don't you think?), oh and the title of my review "Baise La Police", this phrase was being scribbled on the back of a police van in one of the early scenes of the film and translates to er….hmmm……<INSERT PROFANITY HERE> the police (you get the general idea).

                          *Banlieusards - those living in Les Banlieues, which translates in English to suburbs, the only problem is that suburbs tend to conjure up images of middle-class families, two cars in the drive, leafy, tree lined streets, not really a good translation. The only way I can describe Les Banlieues would be to compare them to such monstrosities as Kidbrooke (near Greenwich, & soon to be demolished), they are massive areas of tower blocks, outside the cities, purposely built to house the poor, our equivalent of a council estate that is the size of a small town (or medium town depending on your view of a small town!).

                          **Beur - the phrase first appeared in the 80's, a way of expressing those who feel that they are equally Arab (mainly of Algerian, Tunisian & Moroccan) & equally French, their parents being of Arabian origin, but they themselves having been born in France. The phrase can also be turned in a negative fashion too - neither Arab nor French. The term Beur also refers to class (all things ultimately do unfortunately), normally used to describe banlieusards of this parentage, however a new term has been derived from Beur - Beurgeoisie, to describe those of Arabian parentage, but doing better for themselves (of course you would not refer to a "successful" drug dealer or pimp!).

                          The film, as I said, grabbed the attention of a nation, that had been debating the two main topics of the film, firstly Les Banlieues, the apparent depravity of les banlieusards, the violent riots, between les banlieusards & the police in the 90's & secondly, and I think most importantly, it was tackling the issue of brutality and racism that seemed to be rife in the French police force. The story itself is "based" around the death, in 1993 of 16 year old Makomé Bowole whilst in police custody. He was shot at point-blank in his temple (supported by forensic evidence), whilst handcuffed to a radiator. At the court hearing the officer was sentenced to 8 years & charged with battery, leading to Makomé's unintentional death. The prosecutor's officer had earlier ordered his release, as he was a minor, but according to police officers, his guardians could not be found. Sadly the story received very little media coverage.

                          Right I think that's enough for now, I have a cramp in my little finger from typing, hope that this was of use, or that you might have learnt something new today :)

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                          • The Emperor's New Groove (DVD) / DVD / 44 Readings / 43 Ratings
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                            21.03.2007 12:26
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                            mental bubblegum - just a bit of fun really

                            Yes….I am back on the cartoons again!

                            The Emperors New Groove, was released in 2000, and seems to have flopped at the box office, in comparison to other Disney titles, taking a mere $80,000,000(!). I can only imagine that the reason that this film "flopped" was down to poor marketing, or the fact that the kids want to see films a la CGI, like Toy Story (1995) or Shrek (2001), anyway, enough of the criticism, let's get onto why you should watch this (whether you have kids or not!).

                            ~Plot~

                            Ok, so the main guy is Kuzco, he is a young Emperor of a fictional Aztec city. Kuzco is arrogant and spoilt, it is his 18th birthday soon and the only thing on his mind is building his birthday gift to himself - a brand new water park, Kuzcotopia, & he has chosen one of the hills in his Empire to build on, the only problem is, it means demolishing a village. Enter Pacha, a good natured, hard working, family man, who quietly lives on his lovely little hill with his heavily pregnant wife, two children & his llama, Misty, unfortunately this lovely little hill is the location of Kuzcotopia.

                            Now to get the story going - Kuzco has fired his advisor, Yzma ("EEZ-muh"), and now she wants revenge, so she invites Kuzco for a birthday meal , where she plans to poison him, in order to take control of the Empire, with the help of her newest toy-boy Kronk. Unfortunately Kronk gets a bit distracted whilst preparing the meal and uses the wrong vial of poison - the label has become slightly unstuck and the vial with a picture of a llama on it now looks like a skull, so basically, Kuzco gets turned into a llama. Kronk is given the task of disposing of the evidence.

                            Cue cute little scene of Kronk hopping around humming mission impossible theme tune, he reaches the top of extremely high waterfall, and is about to dumb Kuzco (in brown sack) over the edge, unfortunately, when it comes to it, Kronk is unable to actually dispose of poor little llama and the bag ends up on the back of Pacha's cart, and the fun begins….

                            ~My Thoughts~

                            This cartoon is quite different from other Disney releases, it is I think this might have been part of the attempt by Disney to become "cool", by shifting away from the traditional fairy stories. The animation style is also different to the Disney animation I am used to, the colours are bright and the animation is fairly solid and blocky - this is no dig though, it is just different.

                            The plot, although very simple, Emperor gets turned into llama, by evil character, gets lost, needs to get home and regain throne, is hilariously funny, but I think this is down to a very well written script, that is suitable for viewers of all ages, I can only compare this film to watching an episode of a really good cartoon series. The characters are all pretty well developed too, and it was quite fun to see a clichéd toy-boy, younger guy, built, "handsome" & of course, dumb, being featured in a Disney film (Kronk), there are not too many characters, so confusion is not a problem. The baddie (Yzma), reminds me a lot of Cruela De Ville, but hey, what-ever works.

                            On a more educational note, there are lessons for children to learn - co-operation, friendship, tolerance, basically your average Disney lessons, so in summary, a great comedic bit of animation that should not be taken too seriously, really do not try to find any hidden meanings or try and delve too deeply into it, take it at face value, and laugh at the dumb jokes and you'll enjoy it!

                            I would not say go out and buy this film at full Disney wack (£19.99), don't spend more than a fiver on this film, it's not really anything ground breaking, it's just a bit of fun!

                            *also on ciao*

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                            • The Machinist (DVD) / DVD / 54 Readings / 51 Ratings
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                              14.03.2007 11:07
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                              Just go watch it!

                              Haven't had much time to watch films recently, but have had loads of time to buy them, so this weekend, Snarf and I decided to actually dedicate time to watching a film - this film was one of the ones I had chosen, & randomly enough, a film that Snarf had never seen - being in the film making industry, it is very rare that I can pick a film that Snarf has never seen, and actually gives the thumbs up!

                              Right, so where to start with this film, it is incredibly difficult to review, due to the story line, so first thing I should try and do is plonk it into some sort of category - I remember watching it around the same time that I watched &#960; (pi (1998)) & Jacobs Ladder (1990), it has the same sort of feel to it as the aforementioned films, so I guess, I would lump it into a psychological thriller genre, how about - intelligent, thinking, psychological thriller? Yeah, that sounds pretty good, now for the difficult bit, the plot:-

                              ~"Who are you?"~

                              It's night, we are introduced to Trevor Reznick (Christian Bale), we are watching through a window, he's rolling up a body in a carpet, we follow Reznick, in his pick-up truck, with body & carpet, to an industrial area. He struggles to carry the body to the edge, where he can dump it into water, his face is cut, bruised & bloodied - suddenly, it appears someone is coming, with a flash light - the suspense builds, he throws the body, but it doesn't go anywhere, it just lands a couple of feet away, so Reznick kicks it, in the hope that it will roll down the bank and land in the water, the light is getting closer, the carpet starts unravelling.

                              Cut to the next scene - a torch on a bed, Reznick is back home, in his bathroom, washing his hands with powder bleach, he looks up and catches a reflection of something on his wall, it's a post-it with the words "WHO ARE YOU?".

                              ~"How do you wake up from a nightmare, when you're not asleep?"~

                              Reznick works on machines, I am not sure about the ins & outs of machine work, but they appear to do things like cutting and melting at his factory. Reznick is an insomniac, and claims to not have slept in a year. The only time he appears to be "happy" is when he is with Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a call girl & a waitress, Maria, who works at the airport diner.

                              Reznick's insomnia is beginning to have a detrimental effect on his health, he is severely underweight, and seriously emancipated - he does not remember things and starts having to leave post-it notes around his flat to remind him of things. Reznick's insomnia finally catches up, he is distracted by a co-worker called Ivan, this distraction results in a co-worker loosing his arm completely after it gets caught in a machine. During the inquest/hearing type thing, it is revealed that there is nobody named Ivan, the guy working at the machine Reznick claimed Ivan was covering is still there, as he had been all day.

                              From this point, Reznick's condition seriously deteriorates, he starts finding mysterious post-it notes around his flat, with partially completed hangman games, strange flashbacks occur & he becomes obsessed with proving Ivan's existence. He at one point manages to get Ivan's licence plate so tries to trace Ivan's car through the DMV - who refuse to give him the owners details, as Reznick only has a first name. Reznick's obsession goes so far, that he purposely steps in front of a car, so that he can report it as a hit & run to the police, only to find out that the number plate, make & model of the car is one that he reported stolen a year ago.

                              ~"A little guilt goes a long way"~

                              Not that much actually happens in this film, but this is not to say that it won't keep your palms sweating & your pulse elevated for most of the film, I think that the time line from start to finish is probably only a couple of months (at the most), we meet Reznick as he is teetering on the brink of "madness" - well you would go mad too if you had been awake for a year.

                              The film is shot, written, acted and directed superbly, it is filmed in very soft, muted in colours, and the story moves along quite slowly, but you are never bored, or waiting for something to happen, as there is always some answer you are trying to find. Brad Anderson (director) as done an amazing job - the way the film is shot, really captures the depravation of sleep that Reznick is going through, everything moves slowly and gently, there are no jolty movements, which gives the whole film a sense of calm, which is how I feel when I am particularly sleep deprived, which in turn just heightens the suspense.

                              Christian Bale's (Howl's Moving Castle & Batman (to name a few)), performance as Reznick is mind blowing, he actually looses 28kg to reduce his body weight to just over 50kg, surviving only on a tin of tuna and an apple everyday. Bale had originally wanted to loose a further 10kg, but filmmakers protested as there were great concerns for his health. He plays the role brilliantly, actually looking severely ill in a lot of places - I don't think that they could have cast a better actor for this role, as this film could have potentially been extremely dull if the cast had not been right. Strangely enough, I actually found myself feeling really sorry for Bale's character, I felt real pity for him when all the pieces started to fit together.

                              ~"If you were any thinner, you wouldn't exist"~

                              I would highly recommend this film to anyone in a heartbeat, it is truly a work of genius, the story is immensely clever & the twists are completely unexpected, but in a way, so obvious you would never spot them, I really have tried not to go into too much detail, because any little thing could give away a bit of the plot, whilst watching for the first time, and potentially spoil it for you.

                              This film was rated a 15, which I think is a fair rating, although, an 18 would also have been a fair rating, the sight of Bale's emancipated body is horrific and really quite disturbing, there is nothing that is actually violent about this film, but it is quite disturbing, just to see a person's health and sanity deteriorate so quickly and to such an extreme. Although this is suitable for 15 year olds (according to the rating) I am not sure that they will understand the sheer genius that has been put into this film, they may just be bored by it, this is not about gore, or blood, or action, but about the person (as a human being) who the story revolves around.

                              **Film Only Review**

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                              • More +
                                22.02.2007 13:46
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                                Forget wine or beer, it's VODKA all the way here!

                                As some of you may know it was my birthday last week, and with all birthday's come the family meal. This year, we wanted to go somewhere a bit different, so we started scouring tinternet for ideas. We came up with quite a few, Beach Blanket Babylon, The Zetter, Aquasia and various other restaurants of the same calibre.

                                In the end we went for a curve ball, searching on Toptable.com I came across Nikita's, a Russian place, it claimed that there was live music, that it could get rather rowdy at times and that it had a huge selection of vodkas. I had a quick look at their website and decided that this was the place for me, the pictures & virtual tour on Toptable looked good, it looked really rich and opulent, a lot of reds and golds, very Russian looking, also, I had never had Russian food before and apparently, they had done the catering for Elton John's White Tie & Tiara party. If it's good enough for Elton John then it's good enough for Tazzy!

                                ~Getting there~

                                Nikita's closest tube station is Earls Court. Looking at the map it looks fairly close, it is on Ilfield Road, about half way down the east side of the cemetery, so we decided to walk.

                                I would not suggest walking, it is a good 20 min walk, walking at a decent pace. I think it took us about half to three quarters of an hour. I would suggest going to Earls Court and then catching a cab to the restaurant, this would probably only set you back about 4 squids.

                                If you do decide to walk, head down Old Brompton Road, turn right into Finborough Road, which forks off onto Ilfield road, the restaurant is about a five min walk from the top of Ilfield Road, if you see a pub called The Ilfield, you have gone too far.

                                Alternatively you could drive, there is parking at the top of Ilfield road, which is metered or free after about 8 o'clock.

                                ~The Restaurant~

                                The restaurant looks really strange from the outside, Ilfield road is a really residential street and then all of a sudden is a very bright red, very Russian looking building. Anyway, getting into the building is a bit strange, you can't see very much through the window, and there is a massive wooden door, it looks really heavy and solid, to gain entry you have to press the buzzer and wait for someone to let you in, that someone is the proprietor, Anthony Zager Panic - which I think is a nice personal touch.

                                Upon entering it is quite wooden looking and you enter into the bar area, we arrived at 7:30 and there didn't seem to be anyone in the bar (other than the staff of course). There's not too much to tell about the bar area, and we are ushered downstairs to our seats. At the bottom of the stairs turn right for the main restaurant and turn left for the private rooms. The restaurant itself is really small, and I think it only seats about 40 people, but at the back of the restaurant is a big private room, nobody was using it, so the doors were left open - it did look nice (there is a link at the bottom of this review so you can take a virtual tour). The decor is quirky, there are a lot of deep, rich reds, pinks and golds. The lighting is dim and it does feel really cosy on a cold winters evening.

                                We arrived at 7:30 on a Friday night and the restaurant was really empty, this was a little disappointing, there was a couple in the corner, and a table of four, later a table of 8 arrived, it appeared to be another birthday party, but they opted to go to a private room when all their guests had arrived.

                                Apparently there are a total of 5 private rooms, I do have a feeling that they count the main restaurant area as a private room. Rooms are available for parties as small as two, up to parties as large as 15. They claim that you can have a party for up to 70 people, but I am not too sure how well this would work, I think it may feel a bit disjointed as all guests would be split across a variety of rooms. On the upside, there is no fee involved when booking a private room, I am not entirely sure why we didn't go for one, there are lovely curtains to draw for privacy and a bell to summon service.

                                ~The music~

                                Oh this is amazing! Apparently is traditional Russian balalaika music, since I have never heard Russian balalaika music before I could not tell you if it is any good, or whether it is actually balalaika music or not, but that's beside the point, basically it was a little dude sitting on a stool, singing and strumming his little heart out - awww bless. According to the website it is played by Bibs Ekkel and he is apparently "widely considered as one of the top masters of the balalaika" outside Russia. In the nicest possible way, either not many people play balalaika or it is really, really difficult to master!

                                All joking aside, it was nice to have a bit of live music and it did provide us with about an hours worth of entertainment whilst we were trying to decide what he was singing, for all we knew he could be singing profanities at us!


                                ~Food~

                                The food is reasonable in price and we were all unsure of what to expect, one reason that I chose this restaurant is that it had a good selection of food for veggies (my sister), and as she eats fish, there was an better than average selection of things she could have.

                                There are set menus which are all very reasonable, and they range from £22.50 to £36.50 for a three course meal & coffee. Which I think is very reasonable, as all the dishes available on the set menu are also available on the A La Carte menu.

                                Before moving onto the A La Carte menu, I feel I should mention the caviar menu, well it is Russian after all, there are three types of caviar available, prices start at £14.50 for salmon caviar (that orange stuff)

                                Onto the good stuff....

                                Every dish on the menu seems to be very Russian, or at least Russian looking, prices start from £3.50 for Blinis, served with sour cream, chopped onions and egg. In total there were 5 of us, and we opted for 3 portions of Pirozhki - 6 little parcels of pastry on a plate, 3 with a spicy lamb filling & 3 with cream cheese, blue stilton & spinach. These were very tasty, they are served warm and to be honest one portion is enough for two to share. The cheesy ones were very tasty there was a very mild taste of blue cheese, the lamb ones tasted almost like the meat in a pasty....mmmm very tasty!

                                My sister went for a spicy fish soup, I can't remember what it was called, or find the name on the menu, but it was very tasty, apparently peasant food, lots of little prawns and a good amount of fish, my mums partner went for the traditional Borsch (traditional beetroot soup) - this is definitely an acquired taste, but then again, so are beetroots!

                                Onto the next course....Snarf has finally learnt to share, only because now, we always order two main courses and then swap half way through, we went for Salmon Koulebiaka, £13.50 (as did my mum, her partner and my sister) & Steak Tartar Imperial, £14.95 - which Nikita is famed for (apparently).

                                The salmon is apparently a classic and it is a really decent sized piece of salmon fillet with some rice, egg, mushroom and dill rice round the outside and then puff pastry, it's rather like a beef wellington, but er...not, because it has no beef and a stuffing round the edge. It does remind me also of a Persian dish, that is lamb. The salmon comes with a rather rich and creamy sauce, I am not really sure what it is, but it goes wonderfully with the salmon - I was very happy with this dish.

                                Now onto my favourite, steak tartar, the description says it is served with a dash of pepper, vodka and a spoonful of caviar, oh and served with a raw egg.....we decided to go the whole hog. When ordering the waitress enquired how we would like it, spicy, medium or mild, we went for medium, but I would suggest that you go for mild, it was very peppery (not in an unpleasant way though) and went right up my nose and it did make my eyes water a bit! There was a massive "patty" and is definitely enough for two as a main meal, it comes served with toast and is highly enjoyable - I would definitely order again, but request mild!

                                None of the main meals come with side orders, so do bear this in mind if you want some veggies or potato (based product) you need to remember to order this separately.

                                There were plenty of "pudniks" to choose from, I really didn't want a dessert, but wanted to move swiftly on to the vodkas, but my momma insisted that I choose something, little did I know she wanted to stick sparklers and a singing candle in them (why she couldn't have stuck it in my vodka shot I will never know but hey!), in the end I went for a Vishni Creme, which is kind of like a crème brulee with black cherries and cherry vodka - hmmm it was really tasty & creamy and much better than your average crème brulee, ordinarily I stay well clear of black cherries, it could have been the excess I consumed when forest gateaux was still fashionable, but the cherries were not overpowering at all, and any I did found where just pushed over to snaf!

                                ~VODKA~

                                As this is a Russian restaurant and as many of you will know I am a big fan of food, but an even bigger fan of DRRRRR-INK, so presented with a large vodka menu I simply had to try a couple of their fine vodkas on offer. In Russia, vodka is to be drunk neat and chilled (about -10 is good) so in Nikitas, you can buy a carafe (250ml prices begin at £22) of vodka which will come served on a slab of ice, Russian's don't believe in putting ice in their vodka - which I don't either, why water the stuff down? Now this may seem like quite a lot of vodka, but considering it is drunk through the meal (instead of wine) it is all good, and considering you only sip the vodka it's not like you are going to get hammered! We in the end opted to go for wine and have shots at the end of our meal, but if Snarf and I returned, we would definitely go for the carafe.

                                In the end I decided to go for a shot of Gold Wasser, a vodka with 18 carat gold flakes floating in it, after developing a taste for it at Christmas. It is very thick and syrup like, it tastes a bit like how sambuca and jagermeister might taste if mixed together....neck it, anyway, that went down well, now for another....

                                My second choice, to accompany my pudnik was Krupnik, a honey vodka, served warm. This is to die for, when it arrives, you give it a sniff, and I am sure that it would strip the paint off walls if left in a room, I can't seem to smell any honey or sweetness, but then taking a careful sip it is lovely, the warmth helps it go down well, and then it is really sweet and like drinking warm, fresh, honey....This is definitely one to keep an eye out for, and stored and filed away in Tazzy's favourite drinks section. Krupnik is definitely not the sort of shot you down, but sip slowly and really enjoy, like a really nice sherry or port.

                                All vodka shots are 40ml and prices start at £3.50.

                                ~My Thoughts~

                                Even though the restaurant was very quite, I think this was because it was January 05th and everyone was partied out, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, the food is not something to die for, but it is something different and very reasonable for what you get and is really enjoyable. The venue itself is a definite party or romantic date venue, especially with the added bonus of having free room hire, and curtains to draw for privacy - can you imagine the shenanigans that have gone on in here! Apparently Nikita have played host to many famous faces, Kate Moss, The Beatles, Richard Gere, the late Princess Margaret, anyway the list goes on & on.

                                I will definitely be organising a party here in the near future, when the vodka will be free flowing, for your money you get an extremely enjoyable night out and good food to match. The set menus make this place really affordable if you are hosting the party. For five people, two ate two courses & three had three, coffee, 3 shots of vodka, 3 bottles of wine & 2 bottles of tap water & a 12.5% service charge the bill came in at just a shade under £200 which I thought was extremely good value!

                                Also I love the way that Russians love to drink Vodka and have a toast for everything, including a new purchase ("ombyt" to literally wash the new purchase), also the rule that it is rude to not support a toast and refusing to drink as much as the rest of the company....who wants to go to Nikita's with Tazzy? Anyone?

                                *For anyone that is interested the translation of my title (which is a toast) means "Hopefully it's not the last time we drink, with God's help" - thought that was quite fitting for me!

                                Thanks for reading, sorry it's a bit long, think I have too much time on my hands here at work! x


                                *first published on ciao 18.01.07

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                                • Top 10 Singles / Discussion / 55 Readings / 47 Ratings
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                                  08.02.2007 14:42
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                                  What do you listen to?

                                  Bit bored today, fancy a bit of a no-brainer after all my stories of Egypt (which dooyoo still haven't added yet)! So I thought I would take a bit of a break & do my top 10 songs ever, also I find it quite interesting to see who listens to what, it gives you quite an insight into what people are like!

                                  Headings are arranged Artist, Track Title, Album so here goes, in no particular order:

                                  ~Terry Callier - Blues For Marcus - First Light (Chicago 1969-71)~

                                  Who is Terry Callier?
                                  Terry Callier is a childhood friend of Curtis Mayfield, he first started work in 1960's but disappeared into obscurity in the early 80's when he took on a job at the University of Chicago where he worked as a computer programmer. In the early 90's Giles Petterson "rediscovered" ol' Tezza and bought him to the UK, arguably one of the main founders of the acid jazz movement.

                                  Last year I was privileged enough to see him perform live at the Jazz Cafe, unfortunately he did not perform this track.

                                  What's so great about this track?
                                  There are two versions of this track available, the one that most people will have heard is on his Occasional Rain album (June 1998) which is the studio version. My favourite version is the one on the First Light (Chicago 1969-1971). It is the original 8 track recording, and if you listen really carefully, you can hear a baby crying in the background and then someone's wife shouting up the stairs to come and see to the baby!

                                  The track that you get on this album is beautiful, it is Terry singing in his deep soulful voice, only accompanied by a single guitar finger picking. The original version of this song is really sad & slow.

                                  I need to leave you in the morning, good lovin'
                                  Tryin' to straighten out my mind
                                  Got my bag & my tickets baby
                                  I'm movin' down the line

                                  So basically, things seem to be going wrong and he needs to leave his lover and sort himself out and have a think, I think we have all been in this situation before. The song feels like the end of a massive row - you know the kind where you have been up all night and are just shattered, and reluctantly you do what's got to be done. Half way through the song, he sees his love again:

                                  I passed you on the street last night
                                  You didn't even know my name
                                  Where you stoned girl?
                                  You didn't even know my name

                                  The version that eventually got released in 1999 is not one that I am at all keen on, there are a lot of strings, the original finger picking is still present, but overshadowed by the violins and Terry's voice sounds really studio polished so somewhat loosing the emotion that was there in the original. The released version is also quite fast and in a way quite angry, a sort of "up yours" to the girl that he is leaving, I am not sure who decided to take this track in this direction, but they have really made a huge mistake.

                                  ~The Knife - Heartbeats - Deep Cuts (2003)~

                                  Who are the knife?
                                  The Knife are an electronic, Swedish duo, known for their unwillingness to cooperate with the media, often appearing in promotional images wearing "Eyes Wide Shut" style masks.
                                  The Knife are probably, & also, unfortunately most famous for their track Heartbeats, which Jose Gonzalez covered on his album (Veneer 2005), used on that TV ad, you know with all the balls bouncing down the road, think it was for Sony Bravia HD TV....This is a great track in its own right, but the original deserves a hell of a lot more recognition.

                                  What's so great about this track?
                                  It is really euro-poppy, and is everything that you would expect from European digital music. There is an element of the 80's in here, when music was interesting. A woman's voice takes the lead, which has, I think, actually I am not so sure, listening to the track, but I think it may have been digitally enhanced. There is something that sets it aside from other Euro-digtial releases, it is a beautiful track, soft in places, and strangely soothing, but at the same time there is a slight menace to it. I think this song could be about a variety of things and is open to interpretation, it could be about a couple, or it could be about drugs...I guess how you interpret it is who you are:

                                  one night to be confused
                                  one night to speed up truth
                                  we had a promise made
                                  four hands and then away

                                  both under influense
                                  we had demons in
                                  to know what to say
                                  mind is a razorblade

                                  I'll leave it up to you to decide....

                                  ~Barefoot - White Lines - Tom Middleton's Cosmosonica: Crazy Covers~

                                  Who are Barefoot?
                                  I have no idea to be honest, I have tried searching them on the net and can not find anything for them, there is a band called Barefoot Band, but to be honest, I don't think that these are the same guys.

                                  What's so great about this track?
                                  Ok, so a lot of you have probably heard the original by Grand Master Flash, but this version is amazing & makes you take the song so much more seriously. A women is the lead and there is something really sultry about the track, it reminds me of a smoky bar back in the day, a piano, a trumpet, men in hats with watch chains sitting round small round tables silently puffing away on cigarettes...

                                  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the track, as the name suggests it is a track warning about the dangers of cocaine, when you see Grand Master Flash's version, it is hard to take the song & message seriously, but listening to the barefoot version, you really feel what is being sung:

                                  Ticket to ride, white line highway
                                  Tell all your friends, they can go my way
                                  Pay your toll, sell your soul
                                  Pound for pound costs more than gold
                                  The longer you stay, the more you pay

                                  ~Prince - Purple Rain - Purple Rain~

                                  Who is Prince?
                                  hmmm....where shall I start? Found stardom in the early to mid 80's one....actually you all know who he is...I'm getting lazy now!

                                  What's so great about this track?
                                  EVERYTHING! This track really chills me out, it is so timeless, the classic 80's sound , those drums at the beginning and the piano gently going in the background, it is so velvet suits & white frilly collars, it just encapsulates, the whole sound & feel of the 80's. I don't really care what anyone thinks about Prince, but you have to appreciate what a piece of true musical genius this track is, all the synthesised sounds and those electric guitars - one of the only ever tracks to make my hair stand on end.

                                  For anyone that is interested a Danish, a cappella band called BaSix covered this track and it sounds pretty good, normally I would be mortified if anyone tried to cover this, but in my opinion they did ok!

                                  ~Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here - Wish You Were Here~

                                  Who are Pink Floyd?
                                  Er....another one I don't feel I need to explain to you...

                                  What's so great about this track?
                                  I love the opening, gently finger picking on the guitar, one of the first songs I ever learnt to play on a guitar. I love the original long version, just listening to the introduction, waiting for the everything to start and to hear those first words:

                                  "So, so you think you can tell, Heaven from Hell"

                                  There is just something so soothing about this track, this was also played at my cousins funeral recently, unfortunately he committed suicide. I think that it shows the struggle that we all go through, not really knowing where we are going, sometimes just going round and round in circles.

                                  How I wish, how I wish you were here
                                  We're just two lost souls, swimming in a fish bowl
                                  Year after Year

                                  ~Fleetwood Mac - What makes you think you're the one - Tusk~

                                  Do I really need to explain who Fleetwood Mac are? let me know if you think I do!

                                  What's so great about this track?
                                  Well, Fleetwood Mac have done a whole load of excellent tracks, but this one in particular is definitely my favourite, with the heavy drum beats and uplifting tempo, it really makes you want to get up and do a little dance, also one of the first albums that I bought on vinyl, so a special place in my heart. Anyway, back to the song...

                                  What makes you think I'm the one
                                  Who will love you forever?

                                  Well, I guess the lyrics are quite harsh, but they are true, we all question ourselves at times, and we are the only ones that really know who we are, am I the only one who sometimes wonders why people are with me?

                                  ~Dizzy Rascal - Fix up Look Sharp - Boy in Da Corner~

                                  Dizzy who?
                                  Dizzy Rascal! Ok, a bit of a step away from the other favourites, and yes, I have mentioned him in the same review as some really other great bands, some of you may actually be throwing your computers out of the window at this point, but his first album, Boy in Da Corner really was ground breaking for the UK hip hop scene. Born in 1983, he grew up in Bow on a council estate. He mixes grime with hip hop with garage with ragga (if you see what I am getting at!).

                                  What's so great about this track?
                                  Well starting off with a really big drum beat that goes the whole way through the song. In the breaks between the raps are high pitched "woo" noises and big drum rolls. My favorite lyrics being:

                                  I like the big beats
                                  I like the sound

                                  You really have to get up and dance, also you need to appreciate how much influence this track has had on the music scene. The track ends with a lot of electronic mixing and in all seriousness is very clever and original. In this day and age it is hard to bring out something really different and ground breaking, as you can see from my track choices so far.

                                  ~Saian Supa Crew - Raz de Maree - KLR (1999)~

                                  The Saian Supa Who?
                                  A French hip-hop collective, made up of three groups. In 2002 their album X-raisons was awarded a Victoire de la musique (an annual awards ceremony, not unlike our Brit Awards). This album is named KLR, I am assuming in memory of one of the crew members who died in 1999, named KLR. Although a lot of us brits will not have heard of these trouble makers, their first album, KLR, sold 330,000 copies in France alone! This is not to say that they haven't played some massive dates here in the UK - Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds & Nottinghill carnival, to name a few!

                                  Their music is quite unique and something for other rappers & those on the hip-hop scene to sit up and take notice of. Their lyrics are smooth and flow with ease, yet they are sarcastic, witty, satirical, and in some cases absolutely laugh out loud funny, but don't confuse them with some of our own "humorous" rap groups, such as Goldie Lookin' Chain, they are much more clever. Their lyrics, beat boxing and just general composition of tracks means that listeners that don't speak a word of French can relate to their music and appreciate what is going on.
                                  The Raft have cleverly described their music as "The international language of half-crazed manga-warrior beatbox is a wonderful thing"

                                  What's so great about this track?
                                  It begins...with a weird bird type noise, then come in the synthesised noises, drum beat & start! The raps are not aggressive, but enough to stir some sort of feeling in you, make you get up and want to move, there is an anthem like feel to the song, but not in a sort of football chant way. The opening lines are humorous and really starts the feel of the whole track:
                                  I have added a couple of lines, but they are quite tough to translate, and understanding the lyrics and what they are saying has no influence over whether or not someone would enjoy the track.

                                  Vamos a la playa , sous les sunlights de Saïan Supa (do I really need to translate that?)

                                  Obviously the reference of "Vamos a la playa" is a pretty famous Spanish track and they are referring to that, which I think sums up pretty well the feeling of the whole track!

                                  Tu peux crier allelouïa, si l ' Saïan meurt, mais on mourra (you can scream halleleuja if the Saian die, but one's dead) - I have a feeling they are referencing KLR's recent death.

                                  ~Joy Division - Love will Tear us Apart - Single (1980), Substance (1988)~

                                  I am sure a lot of you will have heard of Joy Division, the band was formed in 1976, but in 1980 the band split up, after lead singer, David Curtis' death. Curtis' death was a result of suicide, his wife Deborah Curtis found him in their kitchen. The words "Love will tear us apart" are engraved on Curtis' headstone.

                                  After Joy Division disbanded, the remaining members formed New Order (who are still around today), Joy Division are important as they were there at the beginning of the Post Punk ("post punk yeah, post-f****** war - ohhh sorry got a bit carried away there), one quote by Thom Jurek goes "They left just a small bit of music and an echo that still rings"

                                  What's so great about this track?
                                  Well this is the track that put Joy Division on the radar, and this is not to say that I am jumping on a bandwagon, this song is truly great and deserves recognition, since being on Donnie Darko, everyone seems to know this track.
                                  I think it is so great because it really takes music in a whole new direction, and in the end, starts a new era of music.
                                  So it starts with that familiar guitar riff, then the synthesisers and the immediately you can see where a lot of these new bands draw their influences from, then in comes Ian Curtis with his strange voice, it is so slow and a little menacing, it is quite a dark track, but there is just something so captivating about it that makes it never get old or repetitive, no matter how many times you hear it.

                                  Listening to the lyrics, I think that we can understand just what a dark place Ian Curtis is in:

                                  When the routine bites hard
                                  And ambitions are low
                                  And the resentment rides high
                                  But emotions wont grow

                                  And Finally:-

                                  ~Jeff Buckley - Last Goodbye - Grace (1994)~

                                  Jeff Buckley only ever released one album, Grace due to his untimely death in 1997, at the age of 30. He went swimming in Wolf river and never came back. When his body was eventually recover, the coroner returned a verdict of accidental death, there were no drugs, or alcohol, or any evidence of suicide, but some like to believe that he just walked into the river to die, which is sort of romantic. He had recently admitted to close friends and family that he was bipolar.

                                  Jeff could have been one of the greatest musicians of my time, but never made it, it sort of fits that most great musicians don't really ever make it into mid-life, take Ian Curtis, Joy Division or even Tim Buckley, Jeff's father (died after snorting heroin at the age of 22).

                                  What's so great about this track?
                                  It starts slowly with the strings and builds up to a slow riff in the background and then the drums come in, building up to the moment that Jeff's voice comes in. The song is sad, and about leaving. What I like about this song is that it is a finishing, and both parties are accepting that things won't work out and they need to just get one with life. The one thing I can't stand in life is people trying to make it work when they both know it won't and they end up hurting each other even more in the process.

                                  This is our last goodbye
                                  I hate to feel the love between us die.
                                  But it's over
                                  Just hear this and then I'll go:
                                  You gave me more to live for,
                                  More than you'll ever know.

                                  This was actually tougher than I thought, there are so many great songs out there that I haven't mentioned....Thanks for reading guys, anyone that skimmed is forgiven :P xxx

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