Consuming Culture: 16-31 Jan 2020

Here are brief descriptions of the various cultural things I did in the second half of January 2020.

Food: 12:51 (Islington, 2020-01-18)

Our second visit to 12:51, but the first time we tried the tasting menu. It’s a bit pricy (£75 a head, I think) but it’s well worth it. The food was wonderful. And on the night we were there, James Cochran (the chef who owns the restaurant) was there – although he was serving, rather than being in the kitchen.

Food: Wolkite Kitfo (Holloway, 2020-01-24)

This is an Ethiopian restaurant near Arsenal’s new stadium. Ethiopian food is really interesting. It’s usually served piled up on a flatbread called injera. You then tear off bits of the injera and use it to scoop up bits of the food and put it in your mouth. So the injera doubles as both plate and cutlery. If you’re interested (and I think you should be) then this is a nice local restaurant in which to try it.

Art: 24/7 (Somerset House, 2020-01-29)

The subtitle for this exhibition is “A wake-up call for our non-stop world”. The pieces here all examine the way that the world has changed over the last twenty years so we are now all more connected much more of the time and how that has affected us. It’s a very thought-provoking exhibition and I highly recommend you seeing it.

Film: The Personal History of David Copperfield (Screen on the Green, 2020-01-29)

I’ve never read David Copperfield. I don’t remember even seeing another film or TV adaptation. So I was probably one of very few people in the cinema who didn’t know the plot. And, therefore, I have no idea how much this film deviates from the book. It certainly feels like a rather modern take on the book (although it’s very much set in the nineteenth century). There’s a great cast and a cracking script. I loved it.

Gig: John Grant (Roundhouse, 2020-01-29)

I love John Grant’s music and see him live whenever I can (I already have a ticket to see him again at the start of May). This gig was part of the Roundhouse’s “In the Round” where artists play to an all-seated audience. This was a stripped-back set (just John on piano and a keyboard player) which meant that some of his more complex songs were skipped. But he played everything I wanted to hear – even finishing with a great version of “Chicken Bones”.

Gig: Hate Moss (Old Blue Last, 2020-01-30)

It is many years since I was last at the Old Blue Last for a gig. I was drawn back by an old friend who was first on the bill, playing as M-Orchestra. I stayed on to see the other two acts. Kill Your Boyfriends were a bit noisy for my tastes, but Hate Moss were well worth staying out for. I’ll be looking out for them playing London again.

Dance: Sadlers Wells Sampled (Sadlers Wells, 2020-01-31)

I’ve been in London for over 35 years and I’ve never been to Sadlers Wells. And if you’re going to fix that, then it makes good sense to go on a night where there’s a selection of different types of dance on display. There were eight different acts during the night – from traditional Indian dance and tango to really experimental dance from Company Wayne McGregor and Géométrie Variable. I’m no expert in dance and this was a great introduction to the breadth of options available.


Eating in Edinburgh

There are some great places to eat in Edinburgh. And some less great ones. Here are capsule reviews of some of the places we ate at on our recent trip to the city.

We usually arrive in Edinburgh on Friday evening and this is a good default choice close to the place where we stay. It’s a pretty cheap and cheerful Chinese. And the food is usually good quality too.

Kings Wark
One of the things I look forward to most in Edinburgh is a walk along the Water of Leith. The walk itself is very nice, but what I’m really looking forward to is lunch at the Kings Wark. Very high quality pub food. Everything I’ve ever eaten here has been lovely. One slight thing to beware of. Once we got there too early and bizarre Scottish licensing laws meant that we couldn’t order alcohol until (I think) 12:30pm.

Stac Polly
A neat demonstration that advertising can work. Stac Polly had an advert in the in-flight magazine on our flight to Edinburgh. It looked good, so we investigated the web site and decided to give it a try. We’re glad we did. The good was great. Only slight issue was that the service was a little faster that we would have liked. There just wasn’t enough of a pause between the courses.

Number Seven
This is the restaurant attached to the Edinburgh Residence – which is the place we stay in Edinburgh. We’ve eaten there a few times as it’s an easy option. I don’t think we’ll bother again. It’s not as classy as it likes to think and the quality of the food can be rather variable. The service can be strange too. The first time we ate there the table was laid impeccably – except for the fact that the knifes and forks were the wrong way round.

Holyrood 9A
We discovered this place by randomly walking past it last year and went back again on this visit. Like the Kings Wark, this has high quality pub food. But this place has more of a modern vibe and the menu tends toward burgers and chips – but really good burgers and chips.

This is a place we discovered a few years ago (I think it was an advert on a leaflet in the hotel room) and now we go back every year. Imaginative modern British food cooked incredibly well. And the waiting staff are all so friendly and efficient. One tiny niggle this year. They seem to have squeezed one more table into the downstairs dining area – so it’s starting to get a little cramped down there.

The Bailie
This was new for this year. We were meeting friends and one of them suggested it. It’s a traditional pub in a basement in Stockbridge. The atmosphere was good and the food was far better than we expected.

Blue Goose
Another random find this year. We walked six or so miles west along the Water of Leith in order to find Craiglockhart Hospital. We had no plans for lunch and just hoped we’d find somewhere passable. This was the only place we passed between the river and the hospital so we gave it a try. And we’re really glad we did as it was great. On a Thursday lunchtime it was really quiet, the staff were really friendly and the food was really good.

Indian Cavalry Club
This was somewhere that we’d been meaning to try for a few years and we finally got round to it. At home we’re lucky enough to live really close to Tooting, so we’re used to really high quality Indian food. This place looks like it’s going to be really high quality, but it’s really not quite up to it. It’s more expensive than I’d expect for curry of that quality. We probably won’t be going back.


Edinburgh Reviews

Last weekend we were in Edinburgh. We had a very lazy weekend doing almost nothing except walking from hotel to restaurant to pub. I thought you might be interested in reading about the places where we ate and drank.

The Golden Dragon, Castle St. It was late when we got to Edinburgh, so we just went out and stopped at the half-decent looking place to eat. It might have looked half-decent, but it really wasn’t. Some of the worst Chinese food I’ve ever had. And overpriced too. Best avoided.

The Mitre, High St. Saturday lunch was spent in a random pub on the Royal Mile. Nice pint of Guinness and some really good pub food.

Wedgwood, Canongate. Picked at random from the “what to do in Edinburgh” leaflet in our hotel room, this was a fabulous find for dinner on Saturday evening. Top quality modern British food in great surroundings. And with really friendly and efficient staff. We’ll definitely be going back here and I recommend that you give it a try too.

Tolbooth Tavern, Canongate. A quiet drink after dinner. But we headed west, down the hill and further away from the castle. We’ve been in this pub before. It’s nothing special, but the beer is good and it’s always pretty quiet even on a Saturday night. A nice change to pubs only ten minutes walk away up the hill where you stand no chance of getting a seat.

The Witchery, Castlehill. We were too late to book for dinner in the Witchery so we settled for a relatively late Sunday lunch. This is certainly my favourite Edinburgh restaurant. It may well be my favourite restaurant in the UK. Wonderful food in a really impressive building. Oh, and the it has the largest wine list of any restaurant I’ve ever been in – it’s a book.

Mercat Bar, West Maitland St. After the big meal at the Witchery for lunch we only wanted a snack in the evening. The Google Places directory on my G1 said that the Mercat was the closest decent bar to our hotel – so off we went. It was almost empty for most of the time we were there but the staff were friendly and the food was good. The cheeseboard enormous and rather scuppered any plans of only having a light snack.

Stockbridge Tap, Raeburn Place. This was a random place we were walking past at lunchtime. It looked nice, so we went in. Three hours later, we emerged having had some of the best home-cooked pub food that we had ever eaten. Nice pint too. I think it was called Spooky or something like that. Nowhere near the centre of the city, but if you’re ever near Stockbridge I recommend checking it out.



Dinner last night was a trip to one of my favourite London restaurants – the Sugar Club. It’s been a couple of years since I could afford to go there so it was a nice treat. The food was as good as it ever was (particularly the tandoori rabbit that I had for a starter and the passion fruit sorbet and white chocolate ice cream that I had for dessert). Only slight downer was that the clientele seem to be a bit more noisy that they used to be.

If you fancy a really good meal in central London and you don’t mind paying in the region of £60/head (including drinks) then I can’t recommend it highly enough.