Pizza in a Big Red London Bus

Posted by Colin

Where: Big Red Pizza, 30 Deptford Church Street, SE8
Cost: Pizzas between £6.50 and £10 per person, cocktails £6
Website: www.bigredpizza.co.uk
Twitter: @thebigredpizza
Rating:

Pizzerias are so ubiquitous these days that you’d think it would be hard to do it a little differently. Fortunately, the folks behind The Big Red in Deptford have managed just that – they’ve set themselves up in a old red London bus. The inside has been converted to provide tables around the retro brown and orange seating. The bus itself is surrounded by a modern and comfy looking terrace.

BigRed

On arrival we were shown to the front of the upstairs of the bus to seats gazing out the front window.

In a nice touch from the friendly staff, they double checked whether we were OK with these forward facing seats. We decided to start our meal off with a cocktail and plumped for a mojito each. Whilst they were tasty, they seemed to have been watered down a little to fill the glass and so ended up being a bit thin. Serving them in a smaller glass and not adding the water would have been a better move – a minor point though.

Our starter of garlic pizza bread was absolutely lovely. The pizza dough tasted fresh and perfectly cooked with a good hit of garlic. For mains we had the Flemenco (tomato, mozzarella, morcilla and chorizo) and Classic Marinara (tiger prawns, mussels, octopus, squid, cuttlefish, rocket and cherry tomatoes).

Despite loving seafood, I don’t normally go for it on a pizza – but then I don’t normally have dinner in a old London bus. I was warned by the waitress that the seafood toppings would be cold, but what I hadn’t counted on was that this would quickly cause the base and cheese to lose heat. But that was my fault and other than that the pizza was top notch.

Verdict:

Perhaps the quirkiest and most unique pizzeria in London. Delicious pizza dough that tasted wonderful and avoided the criminal offence of making the cheese on top too greasy. The staff were friendly and informative and the atmosphere inside the bus was really fun. It would be a great place to take a group of mates for either pre or post night out food. You can even hire the whole bus and it would make a cracking location for birthday celebrations.

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Thanh Binh – Delicious Vietnamese Food in Camden

Posted by Ruth

Where: 14 Chalk Farm Road, Camden, NW1
Cost: Mains under £10 per person
Website: http://www.thanhbinhrestaurant.co.uk
Rating:

Think of Camden, and it is usually the alternative pubs, clubs and shops that spring to mind – not its culinary delights. However, look a little closer and there are a number of small, affordable restaurants offering tasty food and quick service. Thanh Binh is a great example. Situated conveniently close to Camden Lock, this Vietnamese gem has been open since 1990. It’s a family run place, and the celebrity pictures adjourning the wall (including Mick Jagger), show that it’s had some interesting custom over the years.

Feeling a little adventurous we opted for Vietnamese frogs legs and (more traditionally) crispy squid. The former was unusual and perhaps a one-off for us – though the crisp, delicately spiced batter was delicious. The squid was cooked to perfection, and delivered a fiery hit of chili and garlic which heightened the senses. While setting the bar high, the mains (Chicken Pho, and Bun Ca – a monkfish and noddle broth) easily surpassed the starters. Hearty and warming, the steaming fragrant bowls were absolutely perfect for a winter evening. The monkfish dish was the star of the meal, with fresh tomato and coriander adding another dimension to the traditional Vietnamese flavours – well worth sampling for yourself.

Verdict:

Thanh Binh is not necessarily as original as it may have been in 1990, with Vietnamese cuisine growing in popularity and many restaurants dotted about London – but for a quick, tasty meal, it’s hard to beat. The staff could have been slightly more attentive, but overall a great experience. Pop in if you’re in the area.

How I took a self portrait with an air rifle

Posted by Colin

Where: Shoot! Existential Photography, Photographers’ Gallery, Ramillies Street, W1
When: 10/11/12 (runs until 6th January 2013)
Cost: £2 entry, plus £3 for 4 air rifle pellets (optional)
Website: www.thephotographersgallery.org.uk
Twitter: @TPGallery
Rating:

It is not everyday that you can take a photographic self portrait using an air rifle – but that’s exactly what I did last Saturday. I was following in the footsteps of those who indulged in the popular early 20th century fairground attraction of the photographic shooting gallery. Successfully hit the bullseye of the target and the impact triggers a camera to capture you in your shooting pose.

Me shooting at the target

This is the premise for the latest exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery round the corner from Oxford Circus. It traces the story of the activity from its origin in fairgrounds through to professional artists deliberately using the technique to create their work. The story includes such famous names as Jean-Paul Sartre.

However, the highlight of the exhibition is a set of sixty images all taken at fairground shooting galleries by Ria van Dijk. Starting in 1936, she took an image of herself in this novel way every year right through to her eighties. It was fascinating to see this study of how one person changes year by year.

My target card showing my two shots

What was particularly cool was that I was able to follow in Ria’s footsteps by trying to take a similar picture of myself – the corner of the top floor of the exhibition had been turned into a mini rifle range.

For £3 I had the chance to fire up to four pellets at the target, with a bullseye winning me a photo of my efforts. So popular was the idea that there was a large queue to try it out.

Having seen half a dozen people miss the bullseye, the gentleman before me hit it with his first shot. No pressure then. My first shot just missed the bullseye but I hit with my second, and I got my photographic memento.

Verdict:
A great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. The Gallery is a sanctuary away from the hurly burly of Oxford Street and, with its cafe, it would a great place to grab a coffee. At £2 entry to the exhibition (and free entry to the rest of the gallery) it is fantastic value. The bookshop in the basement is also worth a look with a great selection of coffee table tomes and photographic gadgetry.

Having never heard of photographic shooting galleries, it was fascinating to learn about their history. It was even better that you could do it for yourself. A rifle range in a photographic gallery – a brilliant touch.

Bi Bim Bap – A great Korean restaurant

Posted by Ruth

Where: Soho, W1D
Cost: Under £10 per person
Website: http://bibimbapsoho.com
Twitter: @bibimbapsoho
Rating:

Searching for a good value meal in theatre land can be a tricky task. When you’re short on time and looking for something to eat, there can be a temptation to go for instantly regrettable fast food. This is where Bi Bim Bap comes in to save the day. Specialising in its namesake Bimibap, this Korean restaurant provides a tasty meal at a very good price.

Bimibap – a dish of meat, rice and vegetables, served in a scorching hot bowl with various marinades and sauces – is quickly becoming one of our favourites. It’s warming and hearty, and the perfect antidote to a cold London night.

Bi Bim Bap delivers a faultless example of the dish. It’s a simple and unassuming place, and while the decor does not excite the senses, the restaurant can be relied upon to consistently deliver. If you’re not keen on Bimibap, Korean starters, salads and noodle dishes are also served.

Verdict:
If you’re going for a pre-theatre meal, or just grabbing some food with friends after work, Bi Bim Bap is a great choice. If you haven’t sampled Korean food before, start here – it’s delicious.

Look Mum No Hands

Where: 49 Old Street, EC1V
When: 04/11/12
Website: www.lookmumnohands.com
Twitter: @1ookmumnohands
Rating:

It seems cycling’s star has never burned so brightly; a British man has finally won the Tour de France, Team GB smashed almost allcomers in the Olympic velodrome and Boris bikes are now a fixture on the streets of the capital. As 2012 has seemingly been the year of the bike, we decided to have some Sunday lunch at Look Mum No Hands – a cycling themed cafe on old Street.

Decked out from floor to ceiling in cycling clobber and bicycle bits, the cafe even has bikes hanging in the window. For the serious cycling enthusiast you can also buy equipment and get your bike fixed in their on-site workshop. Others were there for the free wi-fi with a smattering of Macbooks dotted about the place. There is also a small collection of books and magazines to peruse.

Having over-indulged in Champagne the night before at a friend’s wedding, we were in need of some comfort food. On that level, Look Mum No Hands definitely delivers. The lunchtime menu offers an array of home-made pies, croquettes and soups, along with daily specials.

We went for the steak and cheese pie, and beef and chorizo croquette. The pie was the winner, with crisp pastry and gooey cheese – though it could have done with more steak in the filling. The croquette, while tasty, had no discernable chorizo and the overriding flavour was just of the potato. Both meals were served with a refreshing salad of lettuce leaves, seasonal vegetables and pasta. The coffee was rich and strong, just the ticket for a Sunday hangover.

Verdict:

Definitely worth popping in if you are hungry and in the area, but maybe don’t go out of your way to pay a visit. The food was fresh and the team behind the cafe take pride in sourcing as many of their ingredients locally as they can. The breakfast menu looked very tasty, although we arrived too late in the day to sample it. At £8.50 for a pie and salad, the price is probably right on the cusp of what is reasonable. But, with people queuing to get a table, it is certainly a popular place.

Museum of Childhood

Where: Museum of Childhood, E2
When: 19/02/2012 (everyday 10:00 – 17:45)
Website: http://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/
Price: Free
Rating:

Being a grown up can be a tough business. If you’ve ever pined for the good-old days of a world without jobs, mortgages and bank statements, then it’s well worth spending an hour or two at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green.

A small museum, part of the Victoria and Albert Museum, you’ll find many memories on display. Sega Megadrives, Amstrad computers and tamagotchis were just some of the exhibits that had me reminiscing about my youth. You’ll also find an impressive assortment of dolls, action figures, puppets and rocking horses. Not to mention their very own working model train set housed in a large glass case.

They even have toys dating back as far as the 1600s.

Verdict: Well worth a trip to spend a lazy or wet afternoon having a look around – an hour should be enough to see everything. They also have a small shop with a great collection of kids’ books and toys. Ruth picked up a couple of cool birthday presents for her niece and nephew.

Fire and Stone Pizza Restaurant

Where: Covent Garden, WC2
When: 12/01/12
Website: http://www.fireandstone.com/pizza/coventgarden/index.asp
Price: £7 – £11 for a pizza.
Rating:

It is often a fruitless exercise to reinvent the wheel. Unless that wheel is made of dough and covered in curry that is. Fire & Stone in Covent Garden is a pizza place with a twist: conventional toppings are replaced with a wealth of different worldly ingredients to create a range of truly different pizzas.

The menu is divided between five of the seven world continents – South America has been combined with its northernly neighbour into simply “the Americas”; Antarctica was probably omitted as not even Londoners could stomach a penguin and walrus steak pizza with ice cube shavings.

What remains is a potential trip around the globe in 23 different pizzas, ranging from Jamaica and Jakarta to Melbourne and Marrakech. The cheapest destination on your culinary travels is Naples – the bog standard mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil at £6.95. The stop that will leave the biggest total on your bill (£10.55) is, unsurprisingly perhaps, Texas – BBQ sauce, mozzarella, BBQ rump steak, roasted red onions, roasted field mushrooms and sun-dried tomato salsa.

For starters we split a dish of grilled bruschetta with Parma ham, melted brie, caramelised onion jam and pesto. It was delicious and washed down with some of the tasty wine we shared at a not too pricey £14.85.

When it came to the pizzas, Ruth went East and I stayed a little closer to home….

Ruth: Jakarta – satay sauce, mozzarella, satay chicken, spinach, aubergine and red chilli, topped with slow-roasted tomato chutney, roasted peanuts and coriander.

If I had to pick a last meal it would probably be satay chicken. So while I’m not normally a fan of mixing cuisines I couldn’t resist the Jakarta pizza. The base was lovely and crispy, but unfortunately the topping didn’t quite meet my expectations. Without a tomato based sauce, the pizza was a little dry and the chutney was an odd addition. Overall it was good to try something different, and the satay sauce was perfect, but I think I’d stay closer to home next time.

Colin: San Sebastian – mozzarella, tomato sauce, spicy chorizo sausage, garlic and rosemary roast potatoes, roasted red peppers, topped with aioli and chives.

The pizza was nice but be warned the potatoes are deceptively filling – halfway through I was already getting full. The chorizo was gorgeous, and, instead of by diced up really small, was fanned out in half sausages across the pizza. A nice touch. My only complaint was the aioli, of which there was far too much and at times it came to rule the roost over the other subtler flavours.

Verdict:

The pizzas were good although a little overloaded with ingredients that didn’t always compliment each other as well as you might hope. At the same time, though, that is also the reason to go to Fire & Stone: to try a different sort of pizza. Roast dinners, curries, English breakfasts can all be found on top of pizza bases and the prices don’t break the bank. If it weren’t for the round-the-globe gimmick, it would clock up 3 stars. It gets an extra half for daring to be different.

Kino London – The Monthly Open Mic Short Film Night

Where: Vibe Bar, Brick Lane
When: 05/01/12 (and every first Thursday of the month)
Website: http://www.kinolondon.com/
Rating:

We wanted to start 2012, and our plan to make the most of London, with something a little bit different and unusual. What we didn’t expect to find was Shoreditch’s answer to Keith Lemon in a trilby. Let me explain: on Thursday we went to Kino – a monthly open mic short film night where anyone can screen films under six minutes.

Arriving at Vibe Bar, we were asked by two separate people where Kino was – obviously we looked the part. The bar is classic shabby chic, mismatched chairs/sofas and very Shoreditch (there was even free popcorn). The night started off with a screening of ‘His Haunted Laughter’, a silent film about a deranged clown introduced by film-maker Jamie H. Scrutton, or as we will forever know him – Keith (could easily have been Leigh Francis hiding behind a hat!). We, and perhaps the rest of audience too, weren’t entirely convinced by the film. It was visually interesting but fell slightly on the pretentious side of innovative and we were a bit concerned about what the night would bring.

However, the films that followed allayed our fears and included ‘The Event’, a film about a mystery vision in the sky, and Colourvision, exploring relationships and race. ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, an excellent animated film with no dialogue, and a trailer for our favourite, ‘Daydreams’, by Yemi Barimo, are embedded below alongside Scrutton’s effort. Barimo’s story of elderly people in a care home expertly conveyed poignancy, humour, sadness, memory and loss in 7.5 minutes (breaking the rules!) The audience was transfixed and Yemi received a deserved huge applause.

Other highlights included Molly Brown’s very funny ‘Guide to Fine Dining’, which included the amusing abbreviation of CYH-SEO (Careful You’ll Have Someone’s Eye Out). The food theme continued with ‘Dining’ by Johnny Pratt, a film about a woman with a Zombie husband attempting to live a normal suburban lifestyle. ‘The Spy’ by Andy Lewis (a Kino regular) was shot entirely on an iPhone 4. The biggest laugh of the night came during ‘A Game of Monopoly’ by Gusack Movies, a trailer for a film based on Monopoly in the style of Ridley Scott – very funny and a great idea.

There was also an opportunity for anyone in the audience to come up with film ideas to be made for the London Short Film Festival. Made in one week, with anyone involved in the filming, they’ll be screened on Thursday 12th. Our favourite ideas were ‘Dolphin in a coma’ and ‘Because today we are remembering grass’. ‘Occupy Yourself’, a previous Kino challenge about sex line addiction (and an angry miniskirt), was screened by a group of people who had only met for the first time a month earlier.

The night provided some fantastic examples of innovative film-making and exciting new directors, and certainly provided something different. The films were a little hit and miss, but at an average of 5 minutes per film, this really didn’t matter. The audience participation for the Kino challenges was also great fun. There is a full bar upstairs where the films are screened and, while the prices were cheap, there was a single, fairly useless barman for around 100 people. Get your drinks for the night early!

Verdict:

If you’re interested in film and looking for something different to do in London this is a great night, and for only £4 each it’s really cheap. Go with an open mind, and I’m sure like us you’ll appreciate the talent of the film makers and actors involved and see something a little unexpected.

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