Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Service and Street Photography

William Klein + Daido Moriyama
Where: Tate Modern
When: November 2012

I love a good bit of street photography and this exhibition didn't disappoint.  Split into two sections, one for each artist containing a mix of photography and films that both artists have produced.  The first half of the exhibition is dedicated to Klein and kicks off with a short film about Times Square that feels like being thrown into Travis Bickle's New York.  In fact the film was shot 15 years before Scorsese's masterpiece.  Then there are lots of small "candid" shots of his native New York and his adopted home in Paris.  Off to the side was a fascinating short film where Klein explains his working process for capturing the perfect moment on film, watching, waiting for the figure to line up with their environment.  There was then a selection of clips from a number of Klein's films.  The rest was a little forgettable and played with Klein's notions of image selection as per the earlier short.

Next up was Moriyama's work.  His photos felt more constructed but lacking Klein's excellent powers of selection.  For every inspiring misty road there was something that left you feeling a little bit "meh" for want for a better word.  Where as Klein was fantastic at capturing people, Moriyama seemed better at capturing the landscape and all it's wonderful light and texture.  Overall this was an inspiring and worthwhile exhibition to attend.  Additionally by going during the week it was an oasis of calm allowing you to slowly take in the works on display rather than fighting from frame to frame, shoulder to shoulder with every tourist in London.


First impressions are important, but thankfully in my book they are not the be all and end all.  Whilst it's true that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, it is equally true that you have all the time in the world to make up for it.  I had read about Brawn on one of my favourite internet resources, Chowhound where it was talked up to be a nice, simple, reasonably priced French restaurant, the kind of place that never seems to exist outside of France.  Alighting the Overground at Hoxton we were faced with a less than helpful station map as google maps refused to tell me where I was.  We then faced a wet walk past what must have been about 20 Vietnamese restaurants only to double back on ourselves through a dark and lonely council estate before arriving at some closed shops and a restaurant with no sign above the door and not many more customers.  "Is this it?"  "According to google maps I think so, let's go in".  After being greeted by a wall of staff behind the bar, one who was practising his 1000 yard stare, the man furthest from us twigged none of his colleagues were going to welcome us in so stepped up to the plate, welcoming us warmly and getting us settled in.  After the initial glares the service was decent, though I did get the impression a few of the staff seemed more interested in having a chat behind the bar rather than helping their customer's maximise the dining experience.
Menu's are created daily and split into 3 sections, Pig, Cold, Hot and don't come with much description as to what makes up a meal or exactly what it is you are ordering, so you are not sure if you are over or under ordering.  My partner was not feeling particularly well and this was reflected in her choice of food.  I had a lovely, if not over priced glass of Ardeche Red, a Tuscan Bean Soup to start, Pork Belly for main and treacle tart to finish, with copious amounts of freshly cut sourdough bread to keep me topped up.  The soup was delicious and after a cold and wet trek to the restaurant it was just what I wanted, however from the portion size it was definitely a main course soup and not a starter.  The pork belly started off with a slightly to fatty first bite and then moved to perfection from every bite that followed, crisp skin, plenty of soft meat and only a little fat holding it together.  The cabbage was seasoned with sage and plenty of salt and cut beautifully through the fat of the pork.  Dessert was nice, a rich without being sickly treacle tart, served with what may have been a creme fraiche ice cream.

My partner went with a green salad followed by a Beef Bourginion and she followed this up with a chocolate mousse.

It was a long hard walk back to the Overground, an even harder walk to the bus stop.  I don't think I've eaten so much in a meal since Charlie Palmer Steak in Vegas, at least this meal didn't need a trip to the Grand Canyon to help walk it off!  In all, despite the bad start to the service, the food was fantastic and the price was more than reasonable considering you could easily spend close to the same amount of money eating inferior food at your local Cote.  If I can get over the slight hipster pretensions I will definitely return for another round of food.

William Klein + Daido Moriyama - Tate Modern: Exhibition - 10 October 2012 – 20 January 2013
Brawn -  49 Columbia Rd, Bethnal Green E2 7RG - 0207 729 5692

Thursday, 6 December 2012

If Nietzsche Stole Ramen...

When: November 2012

OK, there's a reason for the silly title, it'll make sense if you read on, but for now it's time to talk noodles!  We found Shoryu by accident whilst waiting for the bus home on a cold November night.  Being fans in Japanese food we thought next time we're out in the west end we'll give this place a try.  A few weeks later such an opportunity came up and here we are!  Shoryu is owned and run by the same people as the Japan Centre across the road and serves up Tonkatsu Ramen in its various varieties accompanied by a few side dishes, beers, teas, sake and plum wine, what's not to like.  The service was good and friendly from the off, our food was served quickly and the wait staff seemed genuinely glad we chose their restaurant for dinner.  No too cool for school hundred yard stares checking out the clientèle and no tired and going through the motions service familiar from many of the great chain restaurants we often end up in.

The restaurant was completely full during our whole visit, the clientèle was mixed, but with a large part of the mix being middle aged Japanese.  I think this place was a whole lot less trendy then the many new ramen eateries up the road in Soho.  Anyway, we had seats right in the window and we were quickly given menus and asked for drinks.  My beer tasted fresh, cold and strong, just how I wanted it to be and my partners green tea was made with leaves and a strainer rather than a tea bag and was server in an attractive blue pot.  Our ramen followed shortly afterwards and although we'd ordered different kinds the only difference I could see was some mild chilli oil added to my broth (though after re-reading the menu online it appears to be green mustard leaves).  Anyway, on a frozen November evening this was heaven in a bowl and I really enjoyed my noodles.  We also took a side of gyoza which were OK, but I have to say I'm a sucker for the duck ones from Wagamama.  My main gripe with  the menu was it was quite hard to work out the differences between each of the ramen on offer and also it would have been nice to have a little more meat in the portion size.

In all it was a good value meal and I would be quite happy to return again for a pre or post film lunch or dinner.

On the Road (Walter Salles, 2012)
Where: Odeon Panton Street

There was something very telling about the screening of this film.  It was in a tiny, tiny room with a screen that wouldn't have looked out of place in the basement of a millionaires mansion, albeit one that had fallen on hard times and hadn't had the cash to renovate it since it was installed in 1984.  There was also one other noticeable feature of Screen 2 at the Odeon Panton Street, it was very easy to find the toilets, if the retro green, light polluting sign didn't get you then the stench of urinal cakes certainly does the trick.  Thank goodness this was an Orange Wednesdays screening!  Anyway, on with the film and I have to say I just about liked it.  For one it's beautifully shot: amazing landscapes, dirty apartments, the road, New York, San Francisco.  The jazz soundtrack is also very special and really fits the film well.

The problem with the film for me is that somehow the characters look and feel too clean, too modern.  I'd like to see more dirt, more broken teeth.  The other issue as well is the TV show Supernatural, every time Sal gave a big dumb grin it made me think of this show, I was waiting for a demon to pop up, a big bag of salt and some Dukes Of Hazard style driving (OK, we did get the Dukes of Hazard style driving).  Anyway, I'm getting side tracked.  If we ignore the modern looking characters and the fact that if you watch the show Supernatural you can't watch this film with a straight face we'll move on.  For anyone that has dabbled briefly with philosophy you will have as idea of Nietzsche's concept of the "superman" who lives every minute of life to the fullest, indulging in whatever he wants, whenever he wants.  Dean (Garrett Hedlund)is our Superman, with his wicked smile he leeches from friends, family with the promise of sex and good times.   When times are good everyone loves being with Dean, eventually they tire of being used by him, competing with him, being with him.  Our main protagonist Sal (Sam Riley)is case in point, struggling with writers block he follows Dean across the USA taking note of their adventures until he has a light bulb moment.  Trapped in Mexico and ill with dysentery, Dean abandons Sal as he has grown bored.  Later Dean bumps into Sal in New York, shivering with cold, nowhere to go, he appeals to Sal to take him in and promises a return to the good times they share.  Sal has moved on, smartly dressed, friends, a concert with tickets, not a hispter bar, sober, not under the influence.  Sal's writers block is over, the story is finished and so our film begins.

As I said, Dean's character is very hard to watch and impossible to like, as charming as he is.  The problem with the superman lifestyle is the harder you stick to it the more difficult it becomes running from whim to whim using up all those around you till like Dean you end up with nothing and nobody, does selling your body for sex really make you the ultimate superman...  Travelling home on the tube I felt good not being a Superman, living a varied life that wasn't just about me, it was certainly better than getting caught stealing ramen or sneaking into the cinema just in the name of living the life.

Shoryu: 9 Regent Street, London, SW1Y 4LR