Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Guitar Hero: Sheer Awesomeness

For a girl, I am fairly adept at video games. At the age of 9 I had mastered Tetris on the Gameboy and Sonic the Hedgehog on my beloved Megadrive (RIP Sega consoles). More recently I find myself constantly beating boys at Mario Kart, especially if I'm Yoshi in the Nostalgia Kart. This makes me about 6/10 on the scale of awesomeness. But now, I have discovered that I've reached a hearty 8 on the aforementioned scale through my immense capabilities on...Guitar Hero.

The brilliance of Guitar Hero lies in the fact that a) you need to have a good sense of rhythm and musicality and b) you need to be super dexterous . This latter point makes it an especially good game for slender-fingered girls who admire attention to detail and have super sharp concentration levels. Boys who play the game generally lack these skills and tend to hammer away at the strangely buttoned guitar fretboard, missing notes fairly often and are thus not able to rack up scores that would make Metallica proud or five star performances. Basically, my point here is that girls should start playing this game (despite the hideously degrading advert featuring Hugh Heffner and a bunch of guitar wielding models in their underwear). Everything that usually makes us 'losers', i.e. being overly diligent, being able to unwittingly multi-task, being sticklers for accuracy is what will make us triumphant over our male counterparts with this particular game. More importantly, it rocks hard. Playing riffs to classic tunes is an excellent way to pass the time. The new game - Guitar Hero 5, even has some modern schmindie in the mix. I have been playing it so much recently that my eyes are constantly frazzled and my hand is a misshapen claw. But it's worth it - and I hope the rest of you ladies give it a go.

Thursday, 17 September 2009


It was only a matter of time before I started unpicking Gordon 'Fucking hell' Ramsey's empire. A few months ago I had a rather lacklustre experience at The Narrow - his gastropub in Limehouse. After reading an article in one of the London freesheets about how his gourmet fishcakes are in fact made in a Clapham warehouse, I was weary of the food. I needn't have been. The food was fine, it was the service that was below par. Sketchy waiters who didn't know the winelist and took a lifetime to bring a plate of runner beans was a bit lame. But hey, Ramsey himself probably has little to do with the place. The Boxwood on the other hand, is a different beast. It's a slice of Gordon's soul - big flavours, bold presentation, poncy but hearty food and an air of elegance and elitism in the restaurant itself. And from experience, it was all those things.

My starter of garlic and herb encrusted scallops came in almost fake looking shells (the kind of thing you would see in hotel lobby toilet). They tasted good - extremely succulent with a pleasant crunch. Some sort of puree might have added a bit of oomph, but I was more than satisfied. My companion (the boy), on the other hand said of his starter "It could not have been better". What was it? A taglioni of brown and white crab with chilli and parsley. Being a non-fan of crab, I didn't sample the dish, but it looked impressive and from the buttery grin of my companion, it delivered. For mains, I ordered an extremely rich dish of poached AND roasted chicken with parmesan risotto and a thyme jus. Every mouthful packed a punch. As I was getting to the end of the dish I felt like I'd run a culinary marathon. I had to sit for a good 45 minutes and let it go down before I could even fathom getting up again. Mmmm. The beau ordered a plate of classic unethical Ramsey - veal and fois gras burger. To me, it looked just like a dish from GBK. But again as a non-cow fan, I wasn't the best judge. I did try a chip, and that was pretty awesome, so I'm guessing the rest of it was too.

So, the service. It was far from the shambolic affair of The Narrow, but I was still a bit miffed at the mediocre English language skills of the French waitress and the fact that I had to make eye contact with another waiter to get my wine glass filled. I'm guessing that because it was a Monday lunchtime, the vibe was that of wannabe creative business lunch. A Saturday night might have seen more a feisty, Ramsey spirit. But I went for the food, and got what I wanted.


Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Tonight Matthew, we're all going to be Michael Jackson

It was my birthday of late. Grappling with the idea of a theme for a party, there was really only one that was appropriate this year - Michael. Jackson. On hearing of his death, I was gutted. The man was a genius. Crazy, but a genius. But there's a very fine line between the two anyway. Since he died there has been a constant stream of television programming that (often badly) hash together his life, trying to include all the elements: the family, the Jackson Five, the rise to solo fame, the album sales, the marriage to Lisa Marie, the kids. The only things I ever cared about were the tunes and the showmanship. No one could, or will ever be able to dance like that man. No one has transformed themselves through the eras of funky disco, 80s powerchords/guitar solos, geeky early 90s pop and (although it's the worst of his stuff), R n B.

So in honour of the man (and my birthday) a few close friends and I celebrated the spectrum of his musical existence, with costumes, alcohol and cheap imitation moonwalking. The result was brilliant, side-splitting and often ironic. We had 'Don't stop til you get enough' Michael with bow tie and mega-fro. We then had late 80s Jacko complete with fedora hat, sparkly glove and aviators. Representing the 90s we had 'Earth Song' MJ, whiter than white with an even whiter vest/shirt combo. It was a quality state of affairs - so many representations of The King of Pop (and yes, he fucking WAS!) in one room that we totally blew the lame party in the flat above clean out of the water. Michael, I hope we did you proud.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Jamie's Italian, Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf. Metallic, corporate, souless. A haven for fat cats and misguided tourists but close enough to my house for me to consider it OK to go there - for food (and shopping) only. So on Sunday I trotted off to 'The Wharf' with the beau and some friends to sample the delights of Jamie's Italian. On the website, Jamie describes his restaurant as delivering the flavours of rustic Italy. Simple, wholesome, tasty food. On the whole, this is what we got - and very reasonably priced. We started with antipasti for four - which came on massive wooden plank supported by two very retro looking cans of tomatoes. It was Meat. It was Cheese. It was great and we devoured it. Between me and my companions we then ordered a carbonara, sausage pappadelle, spag bol, seafood linguine, crab and steak. Mine was the pappadelle and I was impressed. Proper al dente pasta with a ragu that was nicely textured without being too watery or overly gristly. I'd certainly believe they serve similar in rural Italian villages. Another nice touch to counteract the hidiously decadent ambiance surrounding the Wharf was that the most expensive bottle of wine on the menu (Prosecco and Champers aside) was a mere £22. Hard to believe I know. It was a delicious Valpollicella - full bodied but with a clean aftertaste. Perfect for the wide variety of foods we ordered.

While the food was chicly rustic, the atmosphere was less so. They have a no booking policy which means having to wait on a bland, non-smoking, open-air terrace which faces Barclays HQ with a neon green pager/table alerter. The front of house woman was stern and told people that the waiting time was an hour just to get rid of them. We in fact only had to wait 25 minutes, and they did give us some complimentary bread and olives which softened the blow. Inside, it was buzzy and youthful, but one thing that did shock me was the music. Having worked for a company that makes bespoke soundtracks for prestigious restaurants I was baffled by the choice of, essentially, cheesy 80s arseness. It wasn't even the good stuff like Phil Collins or Chaka Khan - it was Bananrama. Yeesh. Violins and singing fat men in the endearing trattoria fashion would have done nicely. Or just some non-gay jazz. Or anything really, except the Rama. Anyway, I wasn't there to judge the music, I was there to eat good food. And I did.