Feb 15

Restaurant Review: Hakkasan Mayfair

A last minute decision to see what was available led me to an early dinner at Hakkasan Mayfair on Friday night. I’ve previously eaten at the Hanway Place venue a few years ago, had a great time with friends with brilliant food and so was looking forward to this. I hadn’t quite realised just how many versions there are of this ‘modern Cantonese’ chain, there are 12 other restaurants around the world but it appears only the 2 London ones have Michelin stars. As an aside, I’d love to be able to add a list onto Opentable so that i could just search to see what had space at the time I was after, would make the booking so much easier!

The early time meant I could take advantage of the ‘Taste of Hakkasan’ menu, which is served at lunch and 6-7 at evenings. At £35 it’s pretty good value for 3 courses, whereas the going fully al a carte could soon add up – for example going for Peking duck with Hakkasan special reserve ‘Qiandao’ caviar will cost you £215! It does like that’s shareable for 2, so who’s up for that? :-)

Mixed dimsum

The set menu started with dim sum – a choice of vegetarian or not. A spicy salad – the spice was in the dressing – provided the first chop stick challenge (you need to ask for other cutlery if you want it, it’s not offered). Picking up microgreens takes focus and concentration and if you’re not careful, they go everywhere! A variety of steamed dimsum next (I looked up the names…). The green crab and chive dumpling, a prawn har gau and a scallop and prawn shumai. This chopstick challenge was about the large size, picking up the whole and eating without dropping. the final element was a venison puff, my favourite, rich, gooey venison in puff pastry type coating. Gorgeous. overall a good starter.

Peking style duck with chilli, leek, onion

I chose the stir-fry Peking style duck with dried chilli, baby leeks and onions. All the mains came with pak choi and Jasmine rice. Of course, i’m wondering what the difference is between Peking duck and Peking style duck. I’m also still wondering if I should have eaten the strange next of dried noodles this dish was served on. I left them, although some of the sauce-soaked ones made their way into eating bowl. A very nice dish, with a good balance of sauce, meat and alliums. The rice was just about the right serving size, not leaving me with the guilt of having to leave some as I’ve had in some places, where you just get a huge bowl.

Tarte tatin

The final dish was Apple Tarte tatin, with blackberry, almond crumble and vanilla icecream. A huge pile of rich apple on a sliver of puff pastry was gorgeous. Loved it. Was my favourite part of the meal, along with the venison puff.

And that last sentiment is an indication of what I felt about this meal and the risk of going for set, fixed price menus (that aren’t the tasting menus). You may not get their best, most innovative cooking. As I said, I’ve been to the Hanway Place version and loved it, the dishes we had were excellent. There was nothing at all wrong with any of the dishes I was served today, the ingredients appeared to be class, the taste was excellent but it didn’t give me anything different. That’s why I’m wanting to work my way through the Michelin starred restaurants, to get great food that leaves me surprised and delighted. This I felt I could have got in any good regular Chinese restaurant. My expectations were too high I think.

I would recommend the place but I suggest you go for the more al a carte dishes instead of the regular set menu. I’m going to visit Hanway Place again and will be doing that, trying one of the tasting menus. Also, although the place was full of couples, it’s definitely not an intimate date place, the lighting is dark and the music was loud. The service too was fairly efficient, with all staff doing their job quickly, with no chat at all, unlike at last week’s Texture.

Hakkasan on Urbanspoon

Feb 15

Twitter: Verification or Validation

There’s no doubt there is a lot of harassment on Twitter. The pseudonymous nature of the open platform creates an environment where random bullying can be become the norm, especially in certain spheres. This isn’t the fault of Twitter, the reasons go far deeper into society than one platform, but it is a mirror into the worst human behaviour.

Although Twitter does not demand ‘real’ names (like Facebook), it does offer Verification, which is seen as confirmation that the person behind the account is who you may think it is. It’s for people who attract impersonators, celebrities in various fields, whether sport, entertainment or even, given the original core base of Twitter, technology.

In the last week Jason Calacanis published an article about how Verification could solve harassment overnight. He believes that by allowing people to pay a small fee for verification, you create a ‘real people’ Twitter, people who had verified their identity. Along with a little blue tick, you would then get an option to only be able to see other verified people or, stay open to all but you would have to confirm that you know the consequences:

“By selecting ‘Show me everyone’ you are going to see accounts that are anonymously published that we have no way of tracking. These accounts can include fun content like anonymous parodying of celebrities or political accounts that publish anonymously for fear of being prosecuted. However, anonymous content can also include very offensive humor, nudity, political incorrectness, graphic images, and worse. By clicking this you are agreeing to, essentially, seeing an R-rated (and sometimes X-rated) film. No judgements either way.”

Now, Nik Butler has some very good comments – this option is not available to everyone nor is it the right option.

Let us set aside the reality that identity theft, credit fraud and and poor financial security systems will inevitably cause the end subscriber of a credit card to see some level of abuse to their credit let us look at what the other implications are.

1. You don’t have a credit card if you are under the legal age to access one. We are not just talking pre teens here but teenagers who in some countries are legally old enough to vote or be in military service but cant get credit until they pass a birthday milestone.
2. You may not have a credit card if you have experienced previous financial difficulties resulting in .. bad credit. Does having Bad credit mean your words are equally likely to be bad ?
3. Not every country has the same credit and financial service as the other. Should we avoid hearing the voice of a citizen because their country is deemed a poor credit position?

Jason believes that people will sign up for this and they will turn on the ‘see verified only’ option and by doing this, it’s going to stop harassment. But there’s no explanation of why, just that people verified, harassment stops, Twitter makes money. But that’s not how people behave and just turning off who you can see does not stop it.

  • Real people bully too. It may not be as hate filled (and illegal when threatening or inciting violence) but it can be bullying and verification won’t stop this. This type of behaviour does not get the headlines, but it exists, subtly.
  • Just because you can’t see it, does not mean it does not happen. For someone like Jason, male, white, financially comfortable, he undoubtably does get trolled on Twitter, but it’s unlikely to be as vicious as that received by many other groups. For those groups, it may actually be useful to know that someone is on their way to try and kill you (or at least saying they are). You can inform the police and get out of the way. Not seeing the harassment may be better for peace of mind, but not necessarily for safety. Brianna Wu’s account of her harassment shows there is a reason to know when someone is coming to get you!

Twitter allows more flexibility than Facebook over an account. Which is why I can own 3 accounts for completely different reasons. Which is why Terence Eden can create a Choose Your Own Adventure story. That is a good thing. It’s also a weakness as banned accounts can quickly be recreated and bullying continues. Will choosing to restrict access remove that flexibility and the ability for real segmentation of use?

There is another consideration for rolling out verification wider – which is what is verification for?. William Shatner got into an interesting debate on the platform about verification, pointing out that a social media manager/reporter is not the sort of person he would expect to be verified, calling this person a ‘nobody’. His term may have been derogatory, but his meaning was clear. If verification is about making sure that the person on the account is the real celebrity/athlete/star and is subject to impersonation,s so you should only believe the verified account, then awarding it to someone for ‘being good at his job’ makes a mockery of the system.

I think that we do go down this route, we need to introduce another grouping – a validated group. To me, this is just the equivalent of Flickr Pro. Make the person a subscriber and provide them additional services for that money. You tie them to a real identity, and you should be able to have multiple accounts tied to this identity, and in return, more services are offered. The ability only to see the restricted view, or not to see ads or, in my case, not to have any of the recent improvements such as name rather than twitter handle, conversations and the continuous injection of what twitter thinks I should be seeing rather than what i want to see. I’d pay for Twitter classic! :-)

But have no doubt, offering this will not stop the bullying and threats. That is not an easy problem to change. it requires a lot of actions across many parties to change the direction on the social media mob and pile on culture. People to stand up and challenge it. Twitter to make it easier to report and control. Law enforcement to have the will, time and money to pursue. Education to discuss. Parents to discuss. It’s not going to be easy and I think it’ll get worse before it gets better.

Feb 15

2015 Week Notes 6

Activities

  • Two sets of drinks out this week. The first was with my current team, a post meeting big group drinks. It’s good to connect with the team I’m going to be working with for the next 10 months or so in a more social setting. The second is with my old team, a good catch up to see where everyone’s careers have got too and what else they are up to.
  • A trip to get my dressing changed on my finger. It’s the first time I’d seen it post operations and they’d definitely just peeled the finger open like an orange. The picture is over on Flickr.
  • A last minute dinner at Hakkasan Mayfair, another one of the Michelin list. Took advantage of their ‘pre-theatre’ offer for early dinner. The place was packed even at that time.
  • Peking style duck with chilli, leek, onion

Reading

  • STILL no book finished. At least I didn’t start another though, Still only the 4 on the go.
  • The ‘Undue Weight’ of Truth on Wikipedia. Why even experts in their field can’t get things on the site. It ‘s looking like wikipedia is getting to the point it needs to take a step back and take a good look at its policies, I’m reading too many things like this.
  • How to fix a bank in 100 days I’ll be honest, never really had too many issues with my bank, but I don’t use them for much – I have a current, savings and mortgage account. There service has been great whenever I’ve needed it. But with all the horror stories I read, I think that’s quite lucky. it’s also on the personal level, as the bigger picture of banks is horrendous, when i someone going to have to face responsibility for the recession? I do like this focus on how banks need to change, because they do. Although I have a feeling that if mine did, I probably wouldn’t like it that much.
  • William Shatner: My problem with verified accounts. Just a little reading about how Shatner thinks about verified accounts. I see his point, that they should have a strong reason associated with impersonation, not just for doing a job.
  • 64 Ways to think about a news home pageHow many different ways can a cross-expertise group come up with about how a news page can be presented.
  • the 10 most innovative companies in advertising in 2015. A string mix of agencies and brands. I find adding the agencies strange, as their clients are the ones who say yes. There may be far more innovative agencies out there but working with clients who say no
  • I’m Brianna Wu and I’m risking my life standing up to Gamergate. Read it. Read about the hatred that exists out there and why calling it out when you can is important.
  • How a Great American Theatrical Family produced the 19th centuries most notorious assassin. Extract from a history of John Wilkes Booth

Running

  • I managed 1 run at the end of the week. That’s it. Work and had pain all got in the way. Not good at all. Well, mind is more important, I could have squeezed more in, but having to get myself back in the mood!
Feb 08

Restaurant Review: Texture

I’m not sure I’m very good foodblogger. I feel I should have a little notebook and quizzing the waiter about exactly what is on the plate and making detailed tasting notes, instead, I often have to read other reviews to work out exactly what all the bits are. I always know the main part, but all the subtleties I can miss. My description range can be lacking too, I tend to grade food as don’t like, OK, like. And I very rarely find things I don’t like and will always finish a dish! The other thing I notice on reading reviews is that I seem to have missed the agreed style, which is saying something about the chef, the restaurant, the decor and scoring things. Unlikely to do that though, you’ll get photos and impressions.

On that bombshell, onto my latest restaurant – Texture. I had time between 2 appointments on Saturday for lunch and decided to see if one of the one’s on my list was a) in the right area and b) had room! So sorry Robert, you’re not early on my exploration through London Michelin restaurants because I have gone through and graded them all in advance, but because you were the right one at the right time! Robert was the very nice gentleman who greeted me and was curious as to why, this English, London woman, was dining alone on a Saturday lunchtime. I didn’t quite match the other dining parties which appeared to be a mixture of women friends out for a great gossipy lunch or tourists? It’s all to do with working my way through my list :-)

Texture

The dining experience was excellent. Starting with the basket of thins – breads and fish skin and other stuff, served with a lovely yoghurty creamy dip. Then bread proper, which I found out was from Hedone, my other favourite Chiswick restaurant. (the room looks quiet, that’s because it was just past noon. By the time I’d finished, it was full)

Texture - Celery, hazelnuts

First up, a little soup, cream of celery with hazelnuts. not too much, just enough to wet the appetite. The picture has nothing to scale it.. but it was tiny teacup size. The nuts were an interesting addition, adding to the eating experience

Texture - winter vegetables, celeriac, parsnip

The Winter vegetables.. I was surprised that the vegetables were cold but that definitely brought out the flavours. I think there was celeriac and parsnip and one other (see told you I needed to take more notes), combined with a very interesting broth that felt both creamy and fresh at the same time. Could definitely eat a lot more of this!

Texture - salmon, cucumber snow, pickled cucumber and apple

Salmon, cucumber snow, pickled cucumber and apple, creamy sauce, a bit of salmon eggs. Not sure the salmon eggs added much to this dish, but was a tasty bite. The salmon was just on the edge of cooked, which I loved, the edges more solid, the middle softer and just warm. Cucumber and apple complementing with the sharper flavours. And cucumber snow. Lovely! it may be on trend, but I’d love to know how to make it, how it concentrates the essence of cucumber. I could eat a whole bowl of this :-) A touch of dill added flavour, as it did in the previous dish. At this point in the meal I did wonder if it would a consistent theme.

Texture - cod, barley, grapefruit, capers

Cod, prawn on a bed of barley, grapefruit and capers. I loved the cod. Unlike the salmon, this was cooked fully throughout with one side really crispy, which provided the texture contrast. Whilst I loved the base, in hindsight, I think it was just about one large spoonful too much (yes, I always eat everything). The capers and grapefruit added punch, but the barley is always more about texture than taste and I could done with a little less I think. The care taken with cooking the two bits of fish in these two courses was obvious, getting two different results and mouth feel.

Texture - Anjou pigeon, corn,bacon popcorn

I am slightly confused with this dish. It appears to be listed as Anjou quail in online menus and reviews but I’m sure my menu said pigeon. And it looked and tasted like pigeon! So maybe they had a change and swapped pigeon for quail at this time of year – there are definitely recipes for Anjou pigeon around too. Having seen some of the pictures, I was quite happy that they were serving it without the claw attached to the legs! So breast of pigeon and legs that were formed into sausage type things on a stick. Plus corn 3 ways – cream, sweetcorn kernels and bacon popcorn! I nearly had to embarrass myself when eating this dish as with my little finger in pain, it was a little difficult cutting the meat and I thought I’d have to ask for help! but I managed it in the end. The neat was very tender – cooked sous vide? – but i think the skin could have been a little more crispy adding that flavour too. The dish was finished off with a shallot and red wine sauce.

Texture - skyr and orange granita

Texture -  dessert

A quick palette cleanser of blood orange ice and sabayon. Then the main dessert (and my notes failed me). There’s shaved fennel, a crumble mix, an icecream, some fruit. Yes, forgot what was in it. So OK, tasted great but not memorable for me. Except for the fennel, that was unusual and balanced everything out well.

Texture - sweets

Finally, sweeties! I love little sweeties like this. I’m not sure, but it tasted like the puff in the middle was flavoured with menthol? Or would that be pine with the northern influence? I’ve read somewhere it was mint.

Lovely dining experience overall, some great mini-chats with the team. A couple of the dishes were not quite for me, but I could still recognise the excellence in putting them together. So recommended! I went for the Lunchtime tasting menu, but the smaller lunch set menu appeared very popular and great value too.

Texture on Urbanspoon

Feb 08

Restaurant Review: La Trompette

La Trompette is one of my regulars; I booked last minute for a Saturday lunch, which is a great bargain at £29.50 for 3 courses, (£24.50 for 2).

La Trompette - Artichoke soup with chestnut

The meal started off with a couple of little extras. First of all were little pastry puffs filled with gruyere cheese. I never tend to go for these types of nibbles if given a choice – although I’ll always go for cheese – so never really sure what would be good or not with them. But they were OK, light with just enough of cheese hit for me. Second was Artichoke Soup with chestnut which I loved. It had deep rich creamy taste with the chestnut providing the right level of nuttiness. There was a choice of bread and I chose the warm walnut and raisin, sweet and nutty and lovely.

La Trompette - Mackerel, squid, pickled cucumber

My first course proper was Mackerel, squid, pickled cucumber, which greens. The cucumber cut through the oiliness of rthe fish perfectly, and the grilled squid had just the right amount of char to add the grilled flavour. It was served with bonito cream, which i think was flakes of fish emulsified with rapeseed oil. A pleasant surprise instead of a more normal sauce.

La Trompette - pork belly, parsnips and chestnut spaetzle

My main was the Pork Belly, pasnips and chestnut spaetzle. More chestnuts but treated differently here to form the carb base for the pork belly piece. Nothing wrong at all with this and I left the perfectly cooked crackling until the very end to enjoy.

I’ve never had a bad meal at La Trompette and the service has always been excellent. Combine he great food with the reasonable prices (for this standard of cooking), then will always recommend it if you’re out Chiswick way.

La Trompette on Urbanspoon

Feb 08

2015 Week Notes 5

Activities

  • The focus of the week was the operation to get my finger pinned. I fully expected it to be done under a local anaesthetic, but the consultant was amazed it had even been considered. Full general it was, which made it a little difficult to get out as I then needed to find someone to come and pick me up. Thank’s to Sofia for stepping in at the last minute. No idea what they ended up doing, as post-op conversation seemed to be lacking, but I should be back in this week to have it unwrapped. I just know it hurts. I have painkillers and I have not been running, as it hurts!
  • I was out with a Dining Club on Wednesday, to get out and do something social. As part of the same social group, I did a historical/pub walk around Marylebone on Saturday, a group of about 20 of us learning about the area. Good fun despite the cold
  • Went out for Saturday lunch at Texture, one michelin star, Scandanavian inspired and very good. Review will follow.
    DSC_0996
  • Got my doctor’s cert for the Paris Marathon. Not covered as part of the NHS (unlike all the op stuff) so £35 for a few questions, a blood pressure check and the all important stamp on the certificate. On the medical front. also picked up my new glasses, which are taking some getting used to

Reading

  • I’m reading 4 books and have not finished anything this week. maybe I should concentrate on just the one?
  • One Man’s Quest to Rid Wikipedia of Exactly One Grammatical Mistake. lovely story about devotion to Wikipedia and providing value back to the commons. I tend to go through bursts of edits every couple of years but it’s not something I do a lot of. My area of focus tends to be minor Middle Age noblemen.
  • Big Data and Bacteria – mapping the NY Subway. How a group of scientists took samples across all the NY Subway stations and sequenced the DNA, running it through databases to understand what was out there. The headlines seems to be all around how half of it was unidentified. I prefer to look at the other way. half of it WAS identified. Given the history of DNA sequencing and identification, how much it used to cost, the fact that half of it was from species that had been sequenced I think is pretty amazing!
  • I’m autistic and believe me, it’s better than measles. The anti-vax movement is scary with massive public health impact that is being seen in many countries, with the US, an areas with a highly public anti-vax movement, now subject to a lot of publicity about a measles epidemic, one of the preventable diseases that is making a come-back now herd immunity has decreased. I’m not vaccinated, but maybe I should be? (well, actually, not sure if I ever was) That’s because I grew up before it was widespread. But I did have measles and was lucky to survive that unscathed, but many aren’t. This article about autism pokes at the assumptions made by the various parties.
  • The internet is full of men who hate feminism. here’s what they are like in person . Investigative report into what someone, when stripped of internet anonymity is like. And the answer is surprisingly personable, well, until they start talking about feminism and men’s rights and then my logic circuits start to trip as I don’t recognise their world. then again, I don’t recognise the world of some of the extreme feminists either. I’m a feminist, but I don’t play one on the internet, so never really come across this online world.

Running

  • not a good week at all. Hospital and recovery stopped it all. So nothing after Sunday run this weel
  • However, I did manage the Wonter 10k run on Sunday, extremely well organised 10k on closed roads in central London, along the Embankment and around St Pauls. Did not push too hard, but completed at a faster pace than my 5k runs so far this training plan. The reason for not pushing? The additonal run home I added onto the day, although I did only manage 9m, jumping on the bis for a couple of miles.

Winter Run 10k

Feb 02

2015 Week Notes 4

Activities

  • A big company meeting on Tuesday, with the announcement we’re now a new company (well, sort of). A new name, new partners in the network. Instead of Havas EHS, we’re now Havas Helia. This was followed by a few drinks in the pub for the agency.
  • Instead of sticking around for what I heard was a good night, I wandered off to my new book club, where a samll group of us dissected the story of a Quaker Girl in 1850 Ohio. And drank wine.
  • Thursday morning was supposed to be a quick checkup at the fracture clinic, instead it ended up being a 4 hour trip around the various departments – doctor, therapist, X-ray before the conclusion was reached that I need an operation to put my finger back together properly. A&E had missed a fracture and the sprint had not held it properly. So I’m back there on Tuesday. I did get to take a picture of the x-ray though.
    DSC_0942
  • Had my eyes tested for new glasses, as finally been discharged from the care of the team that looked after my detached retina. They take digital images of the retina and it was fascinating to see the difference between the two, where the left eye you can see all the various veins etc and the right eye has a big blurry bit where it was fixed. distance vision has definitely gone in the right eye, but close up is fine. New glasses ordered (and paid for!)
  • More money spent on plumber. Appointment set for 8am and depsite me telling them what the problem was, what I had done and what i think needed to be done, Pimlico Plumbers failed to bring the right equiment 9as well as being 40mins late). So they came back in the afternoon and used plungers and hoovers and a big flailing metal rope thing on a drill. That finally got it sorted – when they got the right man for the job, it was sorted quickly. By the end of the day I think I’ve spent enough for a week’s holiday! :-(

Reading

  • Why I’m not a maker. With tech and geek culture groiwng, it is often expected that you ‘make’ things, as though that is the only activity that has worth. I like to experience, the author likes to educate, the premise of a maker community is that those that don’t are less. We need to avoid the rush into another binary.
  • Downtown is for People. a classic article from 1958 by Jane Jacobs. Why the rush to rebuild town centres was forgetting it was about the people who lived there not about the architects who built them
  • The story behind the King’s Cross Christmas problems. How a crisis can creep up on you even if each decision on the way seems sensible. A tight plan of railway engineering works failed over Christmas, this is a fascinating insight into why.
  • Only one book finished, this was The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory. She’s made a speciality of writing about the lesser known women of the Plantagenet’s and this is her take on Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury and her life in Tudor times. Daughter of the Duke of Clarence, she grew up during the Wars of the Roses as the neice of Edward IV. Another perspective on that time, especially with the new TV series of Wolf Hall focusing on Cromwell, who appears throughout this book as a villain.

Running

  • A first outing with my new running club, an evening social run. It was supposed to be slow, but my slow is definitely not their slow. Only managed the one run into work, with meetings and hospital appointments complicating things. But I’ve managed 103 miles over the month.
  • DSC_0938