Mistress America.One Star

August 15, 2015

Friday night and nothing in the diary meant emergency drills came in to action. Hubby booked us in to see a film with great reviews and on at the Gate – one of those civilised cinemas where you take take your wine inside and it’s still in a real glass not plastic.

After a lovely meal at Granger and Co – lots of interesting ingredients and punchy flavours – we settled in to our seats to watch Mistress America –  a “quirky comedy drama” about an 18 year old student, new to New York who meets up with a 30 year old Manhattanite who is about to become her step-sister.

Nothing about this film rings true. I don’t believe or care about either character. The student looks nearer 30 than 18 and although well acted, the dialogue is so desperately trying to contrive our reactions that it loses any veracity. It’s trying to be deep and meaningful about relationships but comes across as something written by someone who doesn’t really understand how they work – none of it hits home for me. And it also purports to be a comedy, yet falls short on that front too. An occasional smile, but no laughing moments. One star.



I arrived before the others. Well, that’s not technically true as one of us had turned up the night before in error – glad my friends make stupid mistakes like I do – but I was the first to arrive on the correct evening. And what a place to walk in to. Fabulous in its very impressive frontage and even more so in the welcome warmth and buzz feel of the Holborn Dining Room – the restaurant in the hotel. It has the feel of an expanded  Wolsely, The Ivy, Balthazar –  you get the drift. High end brasserie stroke club, with that quasi Parisian lighting and some banquette seating near the bar and lots of tables in the huge huge expanse of the room.

As I walked in the staff greeted me with ease and competence and offered me to go to the table or hang around the bar for a while. I chose the latter and he settled me on a great, large  high table by the door and drew up some stools for my missing mates. The Chablis arrived and I watched the world go by. The staff were more interesting than the customers – one in an outlandishly checked suit, stripy shirt and trainers. And  I loved it. An eccentricity that suited the place. I so enjoy watching people excel at their jobs and admired the reception staff (all guys last night) welcome people – some as if old friends – and make them feel special and set them in the mood to know they are going to have a great night. And all with efficiency. there was no hanging around wondering where to go or who to ask – the guys were on point and watching everyone and serving their needs.

And of course when the others arrived we decamped in to the body of the restaurant and chose from the menu. Brasserie-style with eggs benedicts and steaks available but also quite a bit of fish including lamb with a green sauce that has anchovies in. Luckily i didn’t opt for that but had a lovely tomato and onion salad to start and then steak. Both of which were enjoyable, helped down by a small amount of wine (oh, alright then, more than a small amount). The service was friendly and easy and the only reason it doesn’t get five stars overall is that the food was not outstanding. It was good. Better than the Ivy, streets ahead of Balthazar, but not as good as the high end restaurants. But hey, it’s not pretending to be Dinner or Maze and I’d definitely go again. And again.

Back to the classroom

January 19, 2014

I have been writing a children’s book in my spare time. Just because I enjoy it. I enjoy any writing really. Well, creative writing. Not necessarily a study report. And definitely not a tax return. Or even an invoice. All that is tedious. But creative writing like this blog and the book are fun. Relaxing. And satisfying. Especially when I think I’ve got my message across. Crafted one particularly well (for me). So hubby bought me a Guardian masterclass for Christmas. On self publishing. Eek! A whole techy world I know nothing about and hadn’t considered at all. Partly because I haven’t even finished the book yet so getting it published isn’t number one on the agenda. Yet.

Today’s masterclass was run by Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn. Successful author and self publisher. And self publicist by necessity. Because if you are going to publish books you want people to read them . And that means finding your readers wherever they are. And it was really useful; full of practical tips usually informed by her own mistakes and always informed by her clear passion and expertise. The same cannot be said of all the audience who at times I wanted to bang on the head and ask if they had even been listening. But I am a poor pupil. Not keen to engage or offer my goals or visions, but there to absorb. The audience, mostly older, mostly white, mostly middle class. Well, it was a Guardian Masterclass after all. In their glorious building behind Kings Cross.

So now I am inspired to actually finish the book and get on with publishing it and see where it goes. If anywhere. Possibly in to the abyss of obscurity. But it’ll be a start. To build on. I think this is a slow burner. Perhaps a retirement hobby to keep me functioning in my twilight years. I don’t think it will allow me to give up the day job (and to be honest I wouldn’t want to as I am lucky enough to enjoy it), but one day, when it’s all too much or I’m not relevant any more, then perhaps I’ll concentrate more on the writing. And now the publishing. That is until I get a wall of one star reviews. Gulp.

I am not a Scorsese officionado. Or a diCaprio fan particularly. But this three hour full on full throttle film was a blast. DiCaprio mesmerising and charismatic as the narrator of his own rise and fall puts in a stonking performance. He has insight and knows what he does is wrong. but he loves it. He hungers for it. He lives life in the extreme. Everything to the extreme. He wants to be rich rich rich. It is a heightened reality –  a drug fuelled adventure where we never see the victims of his mis-selling; we only see his side of it. And we see every bit of his sides. Including his rather nice backside. He pumps up his team to believe they are invincible and they party like roman orgies.

The three hours flew by with belly laughs aplenty. Dwarf tossing, naked women, diCaprio with a candle up his arse – there are numerous scenes that were worth seeing on their own. Put together in this epic made it a great cinema experience. Four plus stars.

12 years a slave

January 11, 2014

As youngest said, this isn’t a film for date night. It is relentless, bleak and appalling. Beautifully shot with a minimal soundtrack there are none of the usual rays of lightness within the lives of the slaves as this is told by them not of them.

The opening few minutes are easy as we see the free man and his family enjoying their life in upstate New York; he is an accomplished violinist and an educated man. And then within moments he wakes to find he is not as he is sold in to slavery. From then on there is no building narrative towards freedom –  it is a continuum of torture, degradation and inhumanity. Until it is over.

I wouldn’t say you must go and see it and I don’t think I can give it a star rating as my ratings are based on my enjoyment and I didn’t ‘enjoy’ it. I’m not sure it was entertainment. But it was powerful.

Central and Co. Four stars

November 9, 2013

Newish bar/restaurant with that urban industrial chic decor going on –  lighting courtesy of overblown bulbs on long coloured flexes , staff courtesy of Australia and their relaxed and intelligent service giving it a city vibe that I’ll happily revisit. It’s virtually opposite Liberty’s so a good place to retire to when you want to exit the madding crowds near Oxford Circus.

The background music and chatter make it not the easiest place to hear your fellow diners, but not so loud that you can’t. And the food was very tasty. I had a blue cheese and onion tart with salad and my friend had burger and chips. Both were given thumbs up (and I can also vouch for some of her fat fluffy chips). She’d just returned from the States so having her positive view on the burger must be good. Then chocolate and beetroot Brownie with ice cream which was an enormous portion and actually did taste of beetroot. In a slightly odd way. The only time I’ve had chocolate and beetroot cake before I couldn’t taste the beetroot but it was a damn fine  and moist cake.

As one friend was near leaving to get back to the nether regions of suburbia, another friend arrived so I ordered more wine and stayed chatting for another couple of hours. Black cab home saw me hauled backwards at a rate of knots as I accidentally caught my coat in the door and tried to walk off. Luckily he hadn’t set off in the opposite direction or I would have found myself face down in the gutter. Which is probably where I belonged now I think about it.

I need to get out more

October 18, 2013

I am disgusted with myself. You know they always mock politicians who don’t know the price of milk? Or a loaf of bread? I discovered last night I have become so out of touch with reality or perhaps normality that I simply could not believe the restaurant had got the bill right. Surely they have forgotten to charge for the wine? Or missed off the desserts? But no. Thirty quid a head covered three starters, eight street food portions, four desserts and three bottles of wine. How fucking poncy am I ? To think thirty quid is too little for a midweek meal out? I really need to climb out of my Addison Lee  cab and start walking on the pavement…

The four of us were stuffed and OK so the food wasn’t gourmet but some of it was incredibly tasty and all of it  in a great buzzy atmosphere that was loud enough to make you feel you were in a vibrant place but not so loud you can’t hear anyone speak. And Elisa our waitress added to the ambience with her easy style and humour. And the fact she kept refusing to bring us any water which endeared her to me.

Not to mention  glorious cocktails beforehand (mine was the Wahaca mule – highly recommend) . Wahaca Charlotte street is definitely worth a visit.

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