Wednesday, 30 March 2011

You're so vain

Ah Westfield. I'm still not sure if you're my friend or my foe. On one hand you provide me with modern life's heart's desires; convenience, retail therapy, entertainment & coffee. On the other hand you make me risk so much; financial solvency, time better spent elsewhere, support for local independent businesses. But enough about my own personal Saturday morning dilemmas. I still think it's worth reporting when something weird and wonderful is going on in Westfield, because like it, lump it, loathe it; Westfield is very much part of Shepherd's Bush and it ain't going anywhere anytime soon.

Today's Westfield weird and wonderful was the Evening Standard article covering the arrival of a "tweet mirror" which will take pictures of shoppers in their new or undecided upon outfits that they can then post on Facebook or share on Twitter so as to gauge a second opinion.

Source: Evening Standard
The article suggests that the mirror is provided outside "the mall... changing rooms"; and what massive communal Westfield changing rooms would these be? Any shop willing to let staff take clothes outside the perimeters of their alarms is naive to say the least and clearly hasn't done their W12 due diligence (no offence to the majority non-shop-lifting population).

Personally, I have often regularly requested the opinion of others when shopping or trying on outfits, but I don't actually listen to what they say. Don't be daft. When it boils down to it, it is me and only me who knows when my bum looks big in something, or when it doesn't look big enough, as my good friend Whitney (who is of Caribbean descent) worries about. Not only is there a terrible underlying streak of vanity in this mirror camera facebook/twitter app concept, but there is also the sad hint that you don't trust your own opinion; but who knows you better than you?

I fear I am thinking about it all far too much. It would appear it's actually just the latest in a long line of increasingly bizarre yet still entertaining "attractions" filling that vacuous atrium area in Westfield. Though I am and will continue to be guilty of using Westfield to pass away a few hours and more than a few pounds, I still think they would have been much more honest in halving the size of that atrium area and calling it "boyfriend crashing zone" as that's really what it is.

But back to the "tweet mirror", I suppose the saddest thing of all with this idea is that it assumes alot. It assumes not only do you have friends(!), but they are friends who have nothing better to do but wait for a picture of you in a too-tight dress and it assumes that these friends will then respond honestly. I'm actually not sure if you're lucky or unlucky if you answered "yes I do" and "yes they will" to all three of those assumptions. As much as I love (and I really quite worryingly do) my ever growing twitter family I would never put them under pressure of telling me when a pair of trousers I'm trying on gives me VPL or when a potential top gives me four boobs. I have eyes and an eye for style so I am actually perfectly capable of telling myself that. I am also perfectly capable and much more experienced in ignoring my own advice, which would be the other advantage of not relying on a "tweet mirror"; not making your potential fashion disasters public.

Phew. Rants over.

But I must end with some kind of peace of mind about why this riled me so much. The only tentative conclusion I can draw from both of these out-of-character rants about Westfield and the "tweet mirror" is that there really is no place for vanity in the Bush. If all Shepherd's Bush residents started relying on a "tweet mirror", or in fact any kind of mirror, it would look a very different place and not for the better.

Monday, 28 March 2011

I love your sushi

(If you don't believe that "I love your sushi" is a song lyric then listen to this and get ready to sing along: "Teriyaki makes me happy!")

Until three years ago I was a naïve, inexperienced sushi virgin and rightly so based on two principles I had longed maintained; I disliked fish and I had a phobia of rice (I was convinced it was a distant cousin of maggots). Then I met a physically fit young man who surprised me by asking me out on a date and thanks to trying to be sexily flippant about where we went (“totally don’t mind” hair swish, pout, bat of eye lashes) we ended up in a sushi restaurant. He looking divine with muscles on muscles, I looked less divine as I broke out into a cold sweat imagining the maggots crawling up my legs and the raw (RAW!) fish swimming around in my stomach. An hour later I realised sushi wasn’t that bad; it was certainly worth risking for this guy’s company.

Fast forward three years and I forget that guy’s full name, but I can say that I have developed a genuine love for sushi. Admittedly I rarely go outside of my tuna and salmon comfort zones but Kyoto in SoHo now knows NewMan and I by our first names and I have to fight the urge to have sushi every day for lunch or I will empty my bank balance faster than a sushi fisherman’s net.

Dinner at Sagano, a Japanese restaurant on Askew Road, has confirmed my love affair with sushi and Japanese food is set to continue. What’s more, it has come home to Shepherd’s Bush.

With only five tables in the restaurant this is an intimate dining experience and when NewMan and I got there around 9pm on a Friday night there were just three other diners. However the restaurant would appear to do a roaring trade in delivery (who knew teryiaki made Shepherd’s Bush so happy!?). Despite the coming and going of a busy delivery driver, the atmosphere was peaceful and calm. The staff are attentive but only when necessary. The service was prompt and the food beautifully presented. The quality of the food was of an exceptionally high standard. At least I was assured of this by NewMan who has eaten in Japan on many occasions not to mention at some of the best Japanese restaurants in London and other cities (yeah, he was one of those annoying sushi-whores of the early noughties).

To satisfy our ever-present sushi desires we ordered salmon nigri, crunchy spicy tuna & avocado roll (which is a sushi roll sprinkled with tempura flakes - a recommendation by a lovely twitter friend NelsMels) and the tekka don (my personally favourite sushi dish). 

We also ordered the vegetable tempura deluxe (which was precisely that) and a dish I'd never heard of before, nasu dengaku, which is oven baked aubergine topped with miso paste. The paste is an unusual taste (but nothing like miso soup funnily enough) but it's not dissimilar in flavour to satay. The aubergine was momentously melt-in-my-mouth delicious and is certainly the closest thing to Japanese soul food I've ever tasted.

Yet it was the sushi that won our hearts that night. It was the perfect rice to fish ratio, tasted worryingly fresh and was served at the perfect temperature. This is important; too cold and you question how long it was frozen for, too warm and you question if it was ever frozen. I wish we'd ordered more.

I thoroughly recommend you head towards Askew Road or phone up for delivery* very soon, though I warn you, you may end up fighting over the last few scraps of (very yummy, moist and maggot free) rice like NewMan and I did. NewMan washed his meal down with a beer while I sipped some sparkling water (it was the weekend of the half marathon) bringing our bill to just over £35.00 with service included. I have paid more for food half as good.

On a side note and I can't really pinpoint why, but it was quite a strange experience going to a Japanese restaurant so soon after the devastating earthquake, tsunami and during the developing nuclear power plant dramas. However I'm actually glad we did as the staff were clearly very keen to welcome us and of course keep their business flourishing. Over the last few weeks I have read about some truly wonderful fund-raising for Japan events and wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about one in particular which you should certainly consider supporting if (like me) you love fashion or more specifically "free fashion". Fashion designer Simeon Farrar is sending out a limited edition "Kate Mouse" T-Shirts to everyone who donates £20.00 to Save the Children's Japan Emergency Appeal. Not that we should need much more motivation to donate, but it's a great way to raise awareness and funds. Find out more information here.

* Sagano deliver for free within a 2 mile radius on orders over £10.00.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Little Green

There are some that will argue that Brook Green is not Shepherd's Bush. Strictly speaking they are probably right, however when you live within hopping distance (not yet tried and tested) of both Shepherd's Bush Green and Brook Green, I think you're allowed to bend the rules.

Never afraid to bend the rules, I have enjoyed a number of places on this side of Shepherd's Bush where W14/W6 meet; Los Molinos Spanish tapas restaurant, Rice Thai restaurant and the British Red Cross charity shop are some of the reasons I regularly venture south down Shepherd's Bush Road.

I used to happily add Brook's Counter and Table to this list, and I was all excited about doing an overdue review  however I was deeply disappointed when I went to Brook's last weekend armed with my camera, best food reviewing appetite and a very hungry NewMan.

When NewMan and I were first "courting" last year we were both living in unhappy flat shares. Additionally at this early and uncertain stage in our relationship there was also a need to impress one another so going out for breakfast became a regular and increasingly expensive event. It is fair to say that NewMan won hands down with him living in N1 and treating me to eggs scrambled exquisitely at Ottolenghi or Caravan. Though I love the breakfasts there dearly I knew Ruby's next door to Goldhawk station or the stuck-in-time-charm of Harris' Cafe Rest wasn't quite in the same league. (Ironically now at this more comfortable (i.e. slobby) stage in our relationship when there is no pressing need to overawe each other with smoked salmon and posh frothy coffee, Cafe Rest and Ruby's are precisely the place we head for.) So it was the overwhelming deli counters and freshly cooked breakfast of Brook's Counter & Table that we rolled out of bed for when in W12.

Last year Brook's was guaranteed good food, good staff, good atmosphere and only a hit and miss chance of being too busy. Last Saturday morning there was the good food, but there was also terrible staff, a therefore lacking atmosphere and inexplicably it was chaotically too busy. The older I get the more I value good customer service. I didn't see one smile between all four members of staff that day. I felt Brook's let itself down primarily because its' staff came across as rude, abrupt and most fundamentally lacked any kind of indication that they actually wanted to be there. Now this I can understand. It was the first warm sunny day of the year and Brook's was filled with smug young couples (guilty!) enjoying a day off or Yummy Mummies desperately waiting for their supersize extra shot lattes with their nagging children banging their scooters into my ankles (true story!). I wouldn't want to be working there on such a day. However, Brooks is not a cheap establishment. Their breakfast options range from £4.50 to £9.00 in price and most of their extensive range of organic products will sadly never make it into my kitchen cupboards as they are way out of my budget. But for a guaranteed good breakfast, I don't mind paying the price every now and again.

NewMan ordered poached eggs and salmon, I ended up just ordering some toast and a large pot of English breakfast tea, which wasn't that large and thus stewed pretty quickly. I would have asked for some hot water but after I'd witnessed a slight altercation between one Yummy Mummy and the hot drinks barista (who apparently missed out their order and failed to apologise) I was reluctant to ask for any favours from the staff. This in itself is sad and a big let down when you're like me and like you're tea, "just so" or failing that, just not stewed.

The food was still good, there's no denying that. NewMan enjoyed his eggs and the salmon very much, but (again a but!) his toast came without butter and strangely his meal arrived a full ten minutes before mine. I had to go back up to the counter of doom and risk my ankles as more kids on more scooters flooded in to chase up my toast. It was sitting in the toaster getting cold. It was put on a plate and handed to me, with butter and jam, but without an apology. It's a testament to how the good the freshly baked bread is that even cold, it was still good toast.

I fear this review all sounds a bit moany just because these poor people working on a Saturday didn't bust out a smile or a sorry. If you've read any of my other reviews you'll know that I'm a little out of my usual positive depths here as I've not yet done a "negative" account of a restaurant and I don't do it comfortably as I'd like to think my cup of (stewed!) English breakfast tea is always half full. Yet I want to be honest and feel in this case honesty is the best policy. I think maybe it's because Brook's has a monopoly in our area of being the only "organic deli" type breakfast spot they have let standards and staff morale slip. The Yummy Mummies and the young post coital couples will all go back because there' s really nowhere else similar to go this side of the Bush. Depressingly in much the same way I will probably go back to Brook's one day as the food is that good, but it won't be as soon as it could have been had the service been with a smile.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Pretty Bird

Meet Bird... she is the result of a Twitter plea for help and a healthy dose of what I can only describe as the kindness of strangers. She is the creation of Dan Hodges, who responded to my tweet. After a suitably vague brief from me, a demand for high heels and a lot of time and creativity from Dan, I have a little caricature to brighten up my blog with, complete with matching lipstick!

Dan actually works at local newspaper Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle but clearly has talent for drawing and won a cartoon competition award when he was younger. Should you have a requirement for any similar work I strongly recommend you make contact. He tells me he's working on getting a website together and when he does I will spread the word and web address.

Thank you Dan!

Spice up your life... Rajput

It was third time lucky in my quest to find the best curry in Shepherd’s Bush, and this time I was not alone. A few months ago one of the now legendary Bush Twitterati asked where they could find a good Indian restaurant Shepherd’s Bush. When I met the lovely Robyn at the last Tweet Up I suggested she join me on my next "Spice up your life". It then followed that some hungry Bush Belles and Blokes joined us for various good reasons (half marathon celebrations, not being able to make next week's Tweet Up and just being a hungry curry-loving Bush dweller) and we actually made quite a night of it.

Rajput slots nicely into the modern Indian restaurant category. The décor is minimalist, the lights on low and the staff are polite and efficient but not overwhelmingly so. Despite being more than 15 minutes late (my fault completely, well mine and the Goldhawk for being a cosy pre-curry venue) we were greeted by smiles, warm welcomes and poppadom condiments already on the table. 

As it was at my first Bush curry experience at the Ajanta Tandoori, there was shared joy at the Rajput that the poppadom condiments included coconut chutney, which was actually a new and this time orange concept to one of the curry crew (it's normally much more red in my experience, like at Ajanta). I am happy to say that Chris is now a convert. Having judged the number of poppadoms just right and getting them to us before we’d even looked at a menu, the staff left us well prepared and keen to pick our mains. Covering all the usual suspects of dishes the menu was extensive and reasonably priced. 

It is a testament to the palates of the group that no duplicate dishes were ordered and that there wasn’t a Chicken Tikka Massala in sight when our mains arrived. They were served from a wooden trolley and onto heated table trays showing that the Rajput still has some of the old school Indian restaurant touches!. I ordered one of my all time favourite dishes; Lamb Passanda (aka a “posh korma” as my good northern friend and jalfrezi fan Kelly calls it.).  The others orders’ were for Chicken Dansak, Chicken Tikka, Chicken Biryiani and Chicken Bhuna. We shared steamed and pilau rice, plain and peshwari naans, daal and a bombay aloo. Actually, it is possible that the bombay aloo was mainy eaten by me being my favourite potato dish ever but I did offer it around (though possibly only in a whisper and when everyone else wasn't listening).

Chicken Tikka

My Lamb "Grouch" Passanda

Chicken Dhansak

Chicken Bhuna

Naan breads and Chicken Biryiani
As I was in the company of new friends, I didn’t ask to dip my naan in any of the other dishes which I now regret because they looked and smelt amazing.  Damn you social etiquette! As for my Lamb Passanda, it didn’t look that great (in fact it was exactly the colour of Oscar the Grouch) but it was delicious; tender strips of lamb as opposed to chewy chunks and the sauce was thick and flavoursome in consistency.

With our group consisting of two Rajput regulars and three newbies who’d heard good things, there was much to live up to. I think they did it and with some subtle flair. I asked for some overall scores from my fellow diners and they were all 8, 8.5 or 9 out of 10. There may have been only two clean plates, but there were five very full and happy stomachs. We also didn’t have to empty our pockets; including the tip it was £22.00 each (and as you can probably imagine we didn’t go without on the beer and wine front).

In line with my curry crew’s reviews I will award the Rajput 8.5 (out of 10) poppadoms which means they lead ahead of Ajanta Tandoori and Raj of India in my ongoing quest to find the best curry in Shepherd’s Bush. Suggestions for where to go next very welcome...

Thursday, 24 March 2011

One Fine Day

I wanted to share a few photographs I took on my iPhone as I went about my business yesterday. They show the blue sky we woke up to in Shepherd's Bush, a stall holder in an unusually peaceful Shepherd's Bush Market opening up shop, the saxophone player who's a welcome regular fixture outside Shepherd's Bush Central Line station and the beginnings of a delicious curry I enjoyed in great company at Rajput on Goldhawk Road. It was, one fine day....

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Hot Stage Lights

More Bushstock news so if you're bored of this already or can't go due to anticipated QPR celebration commitments, I apologise.

However, I did actually get a few enquiries via the blog asking how local bands could enquire about performing at Bushstock. My advice was to contact the guys at Communion, but it would now appear that there is another way; NME have just opened up a competition to any aspiring acts who want to sing some songs at Bushstock. I would love it if this reached a Man Band from Shepherd's Bush and they were chosen!

Click here for more information on how to enter and good luck!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

These boots were made for walking...

Well, doesn't Maz get around. First he's subjected to my naff interview skills and filthy laugh, and now he's all over Shepherd's Bush with a nice big yellow microphone. Here he is walking to and from the four venues for Bushstock showing how nice and easy it's going to be to get from one to another.

Communion also announced more Bushstock acts yesterday. Here's what the current line up looks like:

One of the acts announced yesterday, the fabulously named Beans on Toast, also features on the Communion Records Limited Edition LP that I am giving away to a lucky winner in celebration of Bushstock. All you have to do is tell me what song or song lyric makes you think about Shepherd's Bush. It can be a because of a good or bad memory, because of a drunken or a very sobering experience, the result of a long thought out process or just a song or lyric that spontaneously popped in your head.

Click here for information on how to enter and good luck! I'm loving the ones I've received so far. All amusing and all are very insightful about what Shepherd's Bush means to you. (Please note that I'm not publishing them immediately so that people aren't put off if someone else has picked a song they may have wanted to talk about). Thank you for all your answers so far!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Another spring is there outside my door...

Saturday saw the most beautiful blue skies over Shepherd's Bush. I had to capture it overlooking this tree, which unlike the others around it was kissed with pink blossom.

After a long, cold winter I am hopeful for a long, hot summer. You may choose to call me naive but I have always preferred the label "blissfully ignorant optimist", which is never a bad thing to be when you live in Shepherd's Bush.

Keep on Running... Post-run pain and analysis...

Very Jim'll Fix It-esque medal
Distance: 13.1 miles
Time: 2 hr 16
Area covered: All around Reading...
Weather: Cool but with the sun coming out for the last 40 minutes. Lovely.
Playlist: Highlights were Allegria by Gypsy Kings, The Kill by 30 Seconds to Mars, and a lot of Miike Snow and DJ Marky.
Comments: After a week of twinges and occasional stabs of pain in my right knee, I was amazed that I ran "comfortably" for the first 8 miles. However mile 9 seemed like it would never end and the pulling in my knee and up the outside of my thigh sharpened. The thought of having to then run another 4 killed any kind of hope I had of keeping my pace up. I slowed down considerably and thus realised I wasn't going to achieve any kind of great time or even beat my previous personal best of 2.06. Bizarrely this realisation took a weight of pressure off my shoulders and I was able to run more comfortably up to mile 10. Somewhere between mile 10 and 11 I chose to walk. I'm not proud of this but I wanted to enjoy the finish and the rest of my day with my other friends who were running and Mo (who sped off from me not long after mile 2 - go Mo! She aced a just sub-2 hour time. Amazing!). After walking (limping) for just over a mile and with all my best choons failing to distract me from the pain in my right leg, I saw a fellow runner wave at me from my right. He was saying something I couldn't hear. I pulled my headphones out. 
"Sorry??" I shouted at him wondering if my shoelaces were undone or if I was wobbling all over the road more than I thought.
"I was just saying that the Royal Marsden saved my life," he pointed to my vest. "They saved my life. It's so great to see someone running for them,"
I burst into tears, thinking about a beautiful girl I know, so full of life and love, who is currently a patient at Royal Marsden undergoing chemo. 
"I'm sorry I didn't mean to upset you," He panted, still running at a reduced pace alongside me.
"It's fine. Thank you, really, thank you." 
He smiled and said "It did. It saved my life" as if to confirm this to me. The subtext of course was "It can save other lives too". Still smiling he then jogged on ahead of me.
I kept this moment in my pocket and pulled it out so that I could run the last mile into Madjeski Stadium. Our team achieved various times, from 1.49 through to 2.31 but unlike the majority of the other runners our times and speed were of less importance compared to the £1500.00 we have raised for Royal Marsden Cancer Charity which really does save lives...

Thank you to each and every person who has commented with words of encouragement and support. A special thanks to a few who contacted me directly and sponsored me. Well done to Twitter lovely @ruthbrown who aced a personal best (and is running another Half Marathon later this year - wow!) and as always thank you to Mo, NewMan and my other buddies who carried me to the pub yesterday and will probably need to for the next week.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Keep on Running... no more training runs

And now the end has come ...and so I face the final curtain... OF PAIN!!

This time tomorrow I will have joined 1000s of other runners in Madjeski Stadium having completed the Reading Half Marathon. A very popular pre-London Marathon half marathon race, I do recall from the last time that I did it that most will be taking it all fairly seriously. Though there are a huge number of charity runners I don't remember a jovial spirit being alive as much as when I did the Great North Run, for example.

However, I am hereby pledging to be as jovial as I can possibly be tomorrow as I line up in my snazzy Royal Marsden vest with Mo and 5 other friends. As you will all know, and be bored of hearing by now, my knee turned my training runs into a bit of a battle. Pain is never a nice thing but I know that whatever pain I face and deal with tomorrow it will pale into insignificance when I remind myself why I'm running (see below). Wish me luck Shepherd's Bush...

Friday, 18 March 2011

Music makes the people come together

Bushstock is less than two months away and I hope you are ready for Shepherd's Bush's first one day festival; 30 acts across 4 venues on Saturday 7th May 2011. Thus far six acts have been announced: Fink, The Staves, Tom Williams and the Boat, Cloud Control, Sarah Blasko, Treetop Flyers.

I am personally very excited. I am preparing for Bushstock by not having a haircut before and breaking in (i.e. ruining) a new pair of Converse by doing a few circuits of the Walkabout on a Sunday night. Mo and I have bought our tickets and I'm planning on bribing recently blogged about Bush Photographer Suma (in beer and bagels) to join us and capture the best moments (I promise to keep open mouth shots to a minimum, Mum).

If you aren't yet convinced that this will be a great day in Shepherd's Bush (especially if you like live music and collect dirty festival wristbands) maybe the following will give you more information. Last night I was invited to pop down to Ginglik for Communion's first live music night there. I grabbed a a few minutes with one of Bushstock's organisers from Communion, Maz, to grill him about Bushstock and what festival-goers can expect. (Thank you Maz!)

This is the video of our chat which should give you a better idea of what Bushstock will be all about. It was filmed last night outside Ginglik on Shepherd's Bush Green, which will be one of the four venues.

A few things I would like to point out about the video interview;

1. Night vision goggles may improve the viewing quality.
2. I was not drunk. I was not purposefully trying to be a bad Fearne Cotton ("awesome" *cringe*).
3. Step away from the microphone Birdie. I clearly need my volume control re-setting.
4. Why do I sound like the 50-a-day love child of Geri Halliwell and Mariella Frostrup?
5. I am re-thinking ever featuring video interviews again, unless I get a voice transplant or someone else asks the questions. Any volunteers?


How would you like to win that Limited Edition LP from Communion Records? It's all wrapped up still, shiny and new and it screams "Collector's Item". I reckon it'll be worth at least £17.50 on Ebay in a year or so. (You can even see how happy I am about it in thanks to my dire photo skills). 

All joking aside, it's a very special prize and I'm very grateful to Communion for giving one of my readers a chance to own this. Maz has kindly let me have a very free reign on how to pick a worthy winner so first person to run around Shpeherd's Bush Green naked wins... KIDDING! That would be far too unoriginal and has been done way too many times before.

Instead I'd like you to answer the following questions which is based on the fact that I use song lyrics as the titles of all my blog posts. I would like to know the following:

Which song, or song title or song lyric best describes Shepherd's Bush to you, and why?

It can be for personal, amusing. emotional or downright daft reasons just try your best to explain why.

For example, We Are the People by Empire of the Sun makes me think of Shepherd's Bush because very bizarrely it always ends up playing when I am running back into the Bush on my recent training runs and also the words "we are the people" has a new meaning since our successful few tweet ups.

Please leave a comment with your answer and maybe a link to the song itself on Spotify or YouTube. Please also make sure you leave me with a name and preferably a Google Profile or Twitter name so that I can get back to you. 

UPDATED: Please note that I've decided not to publish the Comments immediately so that people aren't put off if someone else has picked a song they may have wanted to talk about.

I will announce the winner on Saturday 16th April, which is exactly four weeks before Bushstock.

(FYI: I will be asking Maz and other specially selected Bush residents to assist me in picking a winner so as to make it as fair as possible and rendering your attempts at bribing me with cake (carrot is my favourite, coffee and walnut my next favourite) or wine (Chianti, thanks) completely futile.)

I will leave you now with Maz's picks of the so far announced artists:

Fink (who has featured on a brilliant Bonobo song)

Tom Williams and the Boat (I also found this video of them doing a live cover of Bonkers by Dizzee Rascal)

And doing another live cover which you may recognise...

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Mean Poppa Lean

Ooh lucky you boys. You put your name in a song. I use it as the post title to promote your coming to the Bush* (I'm sure there's an innuendo there somewhere). Though I do love this song, Sheryl Crow.

Mean Poppa Lean are a band I saw 18 months ago at Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes and blogged about. I referred to this and them on Twitter and the result was the following Press Release in my inbox. (What is this innuendo-bingo?) As part of their "Live on Twelve Legs" tour they will be playing at the (O2) Shepherd's Bush Empire on 29th July 2011. A secondary result was Mean Poppa Lean reposting my review on their facebook and outing my completely healthy crush on one of the band members.

It was weird re-reading the review which was from October 2009. The post is basically an account of a typical weekend when I was a single lady. A few things struck me after reading it. 1. I used to take a LOT of naps. 2. I had a lot of fun when I was single.

Anyway, back to the boys what make funky music and keep Brighton charity shops in business... Here follows all the info you will need about Mean Poppa Lean and a link to their latest track "9-0-2-1-Ho". I hope you will consider going along to see them. Bella and I will be there dancing along and there's a possibility I'll find myself outside the stage door waiting for the trombone player, who I've found out is called Tom (am working on the surname, purely for non-sinister stalking purposes).

"Live on Twelve Legs', recorded at The Haunt in their hometown of Brighton, is the incendiary response. Unleashed on May 2nd, we are delighted to provide exclusive preview track '9-0-2-1-Ho!' in both audio and visual forms to educate the uneducated. HEAR the super-tuff grooves. See the bespoke loungewear. Let it grab you by the scruff of the neck and throw you around the room. You'll love it, trust."

16 March, Pavilion Theatre, Brighton
25 March, Red Lion, Gravesend
26 March, Soul Cellar, Southampton
8 April, Barfly, Camden LDN
26th May, Coalition, Brighton w/ Roy Ayers
29 July, O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, LDN

* I don't want my lovely readers to make any wrong assumptions about why I occasionally blog about upcoming Bush music acts. I will only blog about bands I like or have tried and tested and therefore REALLY do recommend seeing. I also hope by posting this that the Mean Poppa Lean boys feel obliged to get their legs out again.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

You took the words right out of my mouth...

The best thing about writing this blog has been finding and meeting other people who "get" Shepherds' Bush. It has been refreshing to find that many, many others can see through the layer of dirt and noise that only too regularly litters Shepherd's Bush. Through this we all find little bits of humanity, of solidarity and innumerable fried chicken shops. It would seem that a respected journalist and resident of Shepherd's Bush also "gets" it too. Commenting today on the Midsomer Murders kerfuffle Matthew Norman couldn't have summarised life in Shepherd's Bush better.  
"Here in the crack- dealing tourist centre of Shepherds Bush, early 21st-century multiculturalism seems to work beautifully, whatever David Cameron, a huge Midsomer fan, may think to the contrary. If our road tends towards the lively, that is thanks to the generally white occupants of the two bail hostels opposite. Within 20 doors either side of us are Somalis, Poles, Croats, Bengalis, Lebanese, Jamaicans and doubtless another 20 nationalities. You can walk a mile along the Uxbridge road, that corner of a native land that will forever be Damascus, without seeing an indigenous white face (apart from the bail hostel boys and girls, out and about and up to no good), which is one of the area's few charms. In 14 years we've not come across a scintilla of racial tension."

She is a Polish Girl in America...

...and this is Patio, a Polish restaurant in Shepherd's Bush.

After many, many recommendations and numerous walks past thinking "I wonder what it's like in there..." last night I finally went to Patio, a Polish restaurant located at the top of Goldhawk Road, very close to Shepherd's Bush Green.

It is not unusual for restaurants to place copies of their (positive) reviews in their windows. Patio virtually uses laminated press cuttings as wall paper both inside and out of their restaurant. However, for them to do so and with not one duplicate review in sight (I checked) I believe this suggests nothing more than an honest pride in their achievements. I have always liked how restaurants do this, as long as they can back up any grand claims of course.

Patio lived up to my (high) expectations and then some. I walked (or rather waddled as I was very, very full) away feeling like I'd discovered another secret Bush gem. This clearly is not the case as so many other Bush dwellers are regular, happy Patio regulars already, however, this doesn't detract from my own experience.

I was accompanied by my very good friend Bella. We were overdue a big catch up and unlike the chain restaurants of Westfield which we did consider (for ease and comfortable predictability) we were afforded time, comfortable privacy, delicious food and najlepszy ze wszystkich (please someone correct me) charmingly entertaining service by the most glamorous Polish woman and her less glamorous but equally warm colleague who, FYI, wore a tabard ever so well.

When you walk into Patio you feel like you are entering somebody's front room and I am convinced that this is precisely how you are meant to feel. The tables are snug and covered in mis-match table mats and crockery. There is an upright piano with lush green plants collected on top and an elegant dresser in one corner of the room.

We were the first in the restaurant and were offered the choice of any table. How impersonal and overly ordered restaurants are these days when even in a quiet restaurant you are made to wait for a table that is chosen for you. Lovely Polish woman in a tabard presented us with hand written menus including a set menu option (£12.50 for 2 courses, £15.99 for 3 courses - a price that hasn't changed in over 4 years - and a complimentary shot of vodka with each 3 course meal).

Both Bella and I um-ed and ah-ed over all the menus in between gossiping. I finally chose to have the Potato Pancake served with sour cream to start with and the Beef Stroganoff with dumplings. Bella ordered the King Prawns cooked in garlic and herb butter and then the Pork in apple sauce.

To keep us going and the conversation flowing we were brought bread and pork butter, or rather, pork fat. Once upon a time I did a ski season in Austria and it was very common to see my Austrian colleagues and guests use fat as butter. On first sight I remember my cholesterol were shocked but grew to love it. After reassuring Bella and her cholesterol we both tucked in.

We didn't have to wait long for the food. Our starters were the perfect size and both were eaten enthusiastically. Bella's King Prawns were awesomely regal and I personally tried not to think about the fat content of what was effectively a very tasty deep fried hash brown.

The mains were generous in portion size and were accompanied with three side dishes; cooked pickled beetroot in honey, a traditional Polish pea and sweetcorn salad and (more) fried potato. I am happy to report the beef was well cooked and the stroganoff sauce had a real spicey kick to it. The dumplings were dense and sticky. Perfect. Bella's pork was equally well cooked and the apple sauce honestly homemade. A little unsure about the beetroot at first she was game enough and we both were unable to empty our plates (though I gave the potatoes a good go). Despite this Mother Poland insisted on bringing us pudding. This was after the complimentary small coconut cakes and fruit she brought us immediately after our mains were cleared. If all Polish mothers are like this it must break the hearts all the Polish residents of Shepherd's Bush to leave their families behind.

We negotiated with Mother Poland and instead of the heavenly sounding Polish pancakes, we were each presented with a small bowl of raspberries, blueberries and vanilla ice cream. It was a very fitting, simple and unaffected end to the meal.

The total cost was just over £50.00 which yes, is a lot for a weekday meal in Shepherd's Bush but I left feeling like we'd got more than our money's worth (and just to reiterate I was very, very, very full).

As I am sure you've already gathered I thoroughly recommend Patio. It's been a Shepherd's Bush favourite for over twenty years, pre-dating the most recent flood of Polish migrants seeking their fortunes in Shepherd's Bush after Poland joined the EU. I wish I could have seen how Patio was received then in the days when Delikatesy Polskie were words rarely seen. I wonder if Patio was immediately so well-received and loved. I hope so. But looking to the future, after my meal last night, I am confident they will remain a Shepherd's Bush favourite for the next twenty years. Smacznego!