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

Jan 25

Eating Clean

One of the Facebook groups I belong to is a running one.There are over 13000 members and people post for all sorts of reasons, to report good races, to get motivation to get out there, for general support. One of the common themes is about losing weight, a common reason for why people want to start running. Whenever the topic comes up, you can guarantee one thing, there’ll be a few people who think the answer is one thing only – eating clean!

Now, first of all, they never explain what that means. It most definitely does not mean that you are irradiating everything to remove any possibility of biological contanimation – which it could do :-) The most common definition seems to be this (from Fitness Magazine) – “clean eating is about eating whole foods, or “real” foods — those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.” But this has become a mantra that is being said without any understanding of the question!

One poster this week talked about looking to lose weight and that she needed to belong to Slimmer’s World to help her. Immediately came the call to ‘eat clean’ but a moment perusal of the food suggested would confirm that seems to be a philosophy the company follows. No, it was dismissed as a fad diet and all you needed to do is eat clean. There was no recognition that the peer pressure or support of belonging to a group – even if commercial – provides incentives for people to manage their incentive.

The other assumption is that if only one eats clean, then one would lose weight. I can guarantee that if I did nothing but eat fast food I could eat weight – I just have to eat a lot less calories than I’m using. I wouldn’t necessarily be the healthiest, but I’d be losing weight. And the opposite would also happen, I can eat as clean as I like,but if my portions were huge then I’d be putting weight on. It’s not just about the food you eat, it’s about how much.

Taking up a exercise will not, on its own, lead to weight loss. Eating clean will not, on its own, lead to weight loss. You need to eat less calories than you use in exercise, and have the right balance of food types to be the healthiest you can be. Luckily, I’ve always loved cooking and creating meals from scratch, so I’ve also tended to ‘eat clean’. But now, I just eat slightly less of it.

Jan 24

2015 week notes 3

Activities

  • I had nothing planned for this week (well, I was supposed to be on holiday), so it was a quiet week apart from work and running. So today I went for lunch at La Trompette, a local restaurant, for a little treat.
  • DSC_0932

Reading

  • Although I seem to be reading 4 books concurrently, I’ve only finished one and that was read just today. The Last Runaway, by Tracy Chevalier would not be my usual choice but is one I need to read for book club. And I’m happy to have done so. It’s a story of a Quaker girl emigrating to Ohio in 1850 and her involvement with runaway slaves. There’s no doubt Chevalier can write and this kept me involved all the way through (hence being able to read in half a day)
  • Of Smell Tests and Sanity Checks. Thoughts by JP Rangaswami on how all senses come into play, even when not expected.
  • Why Japanese don’t use LinkedIn An exploration by James Riney on the cultural reasons why LinkedIn is not used much in Japan. Business and social is far more mixed, so Facebook (or equivalent) is used more – and using LinkedIn is a sort of statement that you are looking for a new job, which would be disloyal to your current employer.

Running

  • I hate winter, even worse, I hate winter and travelling on public transport, where the germs float around and it’s too easy to catch a cold. Couldn’t manage the long run last Sunday, but got into gym on Monday, then run to work Wednesday and Friday, with treadmill and weights Thursday. Got out of the train at Putney and Friday and discovered Wandsworth Park has no lights at all, so progress was slow, hoping I didn’t hit ice or run into a bench!. But early mornings do give you wonderful sunrises.

Sunrise over Battersea Park

Jan 18

Restaurant Review: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Another big one of the list. Heston’s Bray restaurant’s are definitely on my list, but let’s start off with a London one. The Dinner restuarant connected to hotel, like quite a few of the top starred restaurants, this hotel being the Oriental Mandarin near Hyde Park. I wonder if the hotel connection means the chef (or his company) has less investment with the hotel taking a higher risk?

I actually started the experience over the road, at Harvey Nicholls, managing to grab a bar stool for a little glass of house champagne. The plave was full of pre-Christmas shoppers, with shopping bag to person ratio pretty high.

Pre-lunch champagne at Harvey Nichols

In the hotel, I had to ask to find the restaurant, as it’s not well signposted (it’s straight up the 2nd step of steps and then to your left). The welcome was good and I was led through to my table with a view of the park or a window into the kitchen. I was given my choice of view, I chose the park.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Dinner does not have an ever changing menu, depending on what is available, but has a pretty fixed choice that, looking at reviews, seems to rarely change. I’d spent some time thinking about what I was going to eat and decided that I was just going to go with the top recommended food, the signature dishes for starter and dessert. So first up was the Meat Fruit – a liver parfait in a mandarin jelly skin, with toast.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

I’ve read that they get through so many of these that there is a form of assembly line to prepare them, so there could be a chance that care gets reduced. I have no idea if that was the case, it tasted great. Rich and smooth with the orange providing the citrus cut through. I was disappointed with the bread though. The menu said toast but it seemed to have been fried, there was a fair bit of fat on it. For me, the rich pate with the oily toast was too much, it went far better with the plain bread.

I went for the Iberica Pork chop next, with smoked cabbage, confit onion, apple, mead and Robert Sauce (i had to look this up – onion, butter, wine, pepper and mustard). The pork was cooked perfectly and the sauces were just right for me. I’m happy the sauce was not too mustardy, it’s never one of my favourites, it needs to be subtle (why do pre-made ham sandwiches almost always have mustard on them?). The smoked cabbage was the best surprise, loved it, especially how it worked with the grilled pork, bringing out the charred flavour.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Finally, the tipsy cake. Pre-ordered at the start, this was just as everyone else says. Lovely pineapple and a bready doughy pudding that swam in the creamy sauce. I could have done with another one!

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

My closed the meal with some port and the ‘free’ course, chocolate ganache (or was it mousse) with a carraway biscuit. I’d been surprised there were no upfront additional courses, but the extra dessert was worth not having that.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Service throughout was excellent. I was addressed by name and the guy in charge of the section came by to chat a fair bit, talking about the restaurant, running, other restaurants and a quick guide to sauce making – my view of the kitchen was right in front of the sauce man with about 20 little saucepans all being managed. When I slipped out, via the bathroom, he even chased my out to say goodbye and check if I had enjoyed it! I never felt that my eating alone was unwelcome, which I have had in other places.

Excellent experience, not as expensive as I expected, mainly because I only had 2 glasses of wine and I’d recommend for special occasions.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal on Urbanspoon

Jan 18

2015 Week Notes 2

Activities

  • A birthday lunch started the week, the buffet brunch at Flesh and Buns is a brilliant value for money deal that they handle very well. A good catch up with Wine Club 😉
  • Monday was marked by the arrival of new mattress. Considering the previous one was about 20 years old, I was amazed at how much material science had changed the mattress industry. One big question was why are they all now white? My old one had that classic blue stripe on it and there is nothing like that now. Anyway, one week sleeping and a weekend of lie-ins and the new one is definitely a hit.
  • I was supposed to have been flying out to San Francisco on Thursday, but due to work had to cancel. Not that happy, but it’s done. So onwards!
  • But because there was no holiday, I did get to go the the F1 Zoom Auction, which was a lovely evening bidding for photos taken by various F1 personalities. I bought one of them again….

Zoom Auction

Reading

  • A slow week this week, illness and too much work restricted reading time. I did finally read this – You’re 16, a paedophile, You don’t want to hurt anyone, what do you do. A hard and uncomfortable read, illustrating that more support is needed on early prevention, not just punishment.
  • Only 1 book completed, but a classic one. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman, published in 1974, is a reflection on the futility of war (in the context of Vietnam) when the cause is pointless. It considers what happens to the people who would fight an interstellar war when subject to relativity and how they could cope with home that is never the same. Most scifi – especially the visual media – never considers this, assuming somehow that FTL will make relativity irrelevant.

Running

  • A mixed week of running. Sunday was a planned 14m run, with 6-7 miles at marathon pace – so working hard for this stage of training. The Mp went well, but on the cool down, tired, caught my foot and down I went. SPLAT! Glasses bent, cuts on face, pouring blood and a very sore finger. Thanks to the nice man who picked me up and did his best to help me! I ended up jogging the rest of the way home (just over 2 miles) and after the birthday lunch spent the rest of the afternoon at A&E getting x-rayed and sorted out. One dislocated little finger was put back in place and strapped up for the next 4 weeks.
  • Managed another 7 miles on Tuesday, and then another thing in my bad week – a cold. Full aches and pains and then cough, cough, cough. So nothing happenning! It’s 12 weeks to the run, and there are plenty of 12 week training plans, so I’ll keep telling myself it’s still OK, despite the setbacks.

DSC_0910

Jan 10

2015 Week Notes 1

Shall we try these week notes again? Let’s see how far into the year we get :-)

Activities

  • Had the final checkup at the eye hospital following the detached retina last year. Discharged from there, although with warnings that because I now have a high probability of cataracts, I need to have regular opticians checkups. At least I can now get some new glasses!
  • I was supposed to go on a treasure hunt this week, but it got cancelled due to work issues, we’re now trying to get it rearranged. There was no easy first week back, we were hard at it, as the big project that I’ve been working towards for the past year finally kicked off. So expecting a lot of hours to be put in!

Reading

  • Only 1 article of note this week. Boing Boing’s How image board culture shaped Gamergate. Fascinating read about how a niche culture, where argument is currency, does not translate into mainstream where people don’t always care to argue.
  • Only 3 books finished this week, all fiction, all thrillers.

Running

  • 30 miles managed this week, still not quite up to the miles I need to have in my plan but slowly getting there. Not having much luck getting up and going running to work, it’s just too dark!
Jan 04

2015 Ambitions and Challenges

Having thought about this, read the articles, looked at my previous plans, I’ve decided I’m just going to make a list that includes things that are already on progress or has been booked and add more things over the year. So I’ve made a page for this – my Things to Do in 2015 – and will be tracking progress there as well as adding new things. So always open to suggestions!

Jan 01

A review of 2014

Before I look ahead, surely it’s time to take a quick look back, even if just for a reminder for myself. For the first time in a few years, I did not set any new year ambitions for 2014. I’d been made redundant and really, was not in the mood! I was focusing on finding a new role, not thinking beyond that. So I can’t do a review and see if I achieved them. However, they would have been the usual – fitness and expriences. it’s all about that. So what did I get up to? Time to take a look at the photos.

January was a quiet month – it was looking for jobs and going for interviews. But I did take advantage of a sunny day to visit Kew Gardens for the first time in the year. I go there quite a bit, as I have bought membership – definitely worth looking at if you live in the area and want to support plant research (you know, the stuff that may keep us fed as the climate changes)

Kew January 2014

Once I’d got myself sorted, I too advantage of the opportunity to take a long weekend and popped over to Naples, primarily to see Pompeii. Having read reviews about visiting the preserved city in the summer, with the crowds and the heat, I was quite happy to have a dry winter weekend and the place almost to myself.

Pompeii

Pompeii

I got a couple of F1 events in during the early part of the year. First, the Zoom auction, which sells off signed photos from F1 stars to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital. There’s another one this January and you can buy some from the online store. I also went along to watch a filming of the Sky F1 show, something I did a couple of times. It’s always fun watching TV being made. Finally, the Not a FOTA Forum, an event run for fans by the ex-Secretary of the FOTA org, who got along some F1 insiders to talk and entertain.

Zoom Auction

the F1 Show

Not A FOTA Forum

Running went well in the first part of the year. I completed a couple of half marathons and then the big one – the London Marathon. I was very happy to get round in 4:30. No entry for me in 2015, but I’ve decided to run the Paris Marathon, so training is full speed ahead for that

London Marathon

The week after the marathon, I got the chance to go skiing, through a friend. Last time I tried skiing was when I worked in Scotland and dry slope lessons were part of the social club activities, but I’d never tried on snow. I think that’ll be my last skiing holiday though. It turns out I don’t do the mix of mountains and skis very well, or rather skis and edges. I’m not afraid of much, but I experienced physical terror on a couple of occasions. I did not like it!

Val d'Isere

June brought a trip to the Canadian Grand Prix, via a few days in New York and then Toronto to see old friends. Loved this trip, good catchups, good food and a great time in Montreal, which has to be one of the best places to hold F1, with the circuit right near the city with plenty of public transport.

Canada GP 2014 Friday

The summer had a few of my regular events. I officiated at the Joint Services Regatta again, went to Kew fete and visited Goodwood and the British GP – it was a bit rainy for the latter, but the sun was out for everything else

JSR 2014

Goodwood 2014

Silverstone Saturday 2014

In July, I ended up in hospital having emergency surgery for a detached retina, followed by 2 weeks bed rest before slowly getting back into things. All my running got put on hold and the autumn plan of 3 half marathons in 3 weeks did not happen, but I did manage to squeeze in a local 10k and half marathon in September,before heading up to Birmingham to run the Great Birmingham run, another half, with my sister. With minimal trianing over the summer, I was quite happy just to get round!

A few local events in the autumn, with the Tall Ships Festival visting Greenwich and the amazing installation Blood Swept Lands and Sea of Red at the Tower of London. I went fairly early in the process of building this and it was relatively quiet, but I’m not surprised at the corwds that developed over the weeks, via word of mouth as it was just an amazing site. I bought a poppy too. I managed to get to watch the Lord Mayor’s show for the first time (the problem with living in London is doing London events!). And I won the Army Rowing Club Player of the Year cup, for all my help over the past 19 (?) years

Tall Ships Festival, Greenwich

Blood Swept Lands and Sea of Red

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

Player of the Year award

The year ended with a bit more F1, with a trip to Abu Dhabi GP (having won tickets at Silverstone) and also a prize trip to take a tour around the Mercedes F1 factory. I always say that if you never enter competitions, you’ll never win, so you always have to take a chance!

Sunday Abu Dhabi 2014

Mercedes F1 Factory Tour

That’s it! A pretty full and fun year. I’m already got my plans for 2015 for holidays, but it’s the bits between them as well that make the year interesting.

Nov 14

Restaurant Review: Hawksmoor

At a slight loose end around Covent Garden, I decided to make a quick lunch stop at the Hawksmoor. Definitely one of my favourite steak restaurants, I don’t get there nearly enough.

You can go all out and spend a lot of money on steak, but this time I just decided to try out their Express Lunch. 3 Choices of starters and deserts, 5 mains to choose from, it’s a pretty reasonable £24 for 2 courses, £27 for 3. I ended up going with Potted Mackerel followed by the Rib-eye steak.

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The Mackerel was well presented, served in a little glass pot, but was only accompanied by 3 slices of crispbread, which I found was one slice too few, even thought I’d spread the fish lavishly. Unfortunately, the crispbread was too crisp! It shattered into small bits when you tried to spread on the fish mixture. The fish itself was OK, but nothing special. An adequate starter only.

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The steak was 250g, just the right size for lunch and cooked medium as requested. A lovely piece of meat, served just sitting on the plate. I’d chosen buttered greens to go with it, and they were actually dark green instead of white cabbage I’d been provided at a previous restaurant so very happy with that. If I had to choose a last meal, steak and greens would be high on my list! I drank some very nice Moulin de Gassac, Syrah/Carignan to go with the steak.

Hawksmoor also do brilliant cocktails and deserts, so well worth a visit at any time

Hawksmoor Seven Dials on Urbanspoon

Nov 09

The Lord Mayor’s Show

I’ve watched the Lord Mayor’s Show for years on telly, but despite living in London, it’s one of those events that I’ve never watched live. Like Remembrance Sunday, London Marathon, Trooping of the Colour etc. But I’m slowly working my way through them.

The Lord Mayor’s Show is one of the oldest of the big London events in origin, with the website stating it has its origins with King John in 1215, when the elected Mayor of City of London was made to come along to the next door City of Westminster to swear allegiance to the Crown. And so it continued over the centuries, by horseback, boat and now coach and horses, an annual parade of military, guilds and charities.

It was easier than I thought to find a place, wandering up along the Strand about 10:30, I stopped in the first clear place I saw, which happened to be right opposite the entrance to the Royal Courts of Justice, where the Lord Mayor alights to swear his oath – this year it’s Alan Yarrow, the 687th version of the position. It got a lot busier later, but this was about an hour before the front of the procession got there and over 2 hours before the Lord Mayor.

I took a LOT of photos – it was a long parade – and they can all be found on Flickr. But here’s some of my favourites.

Marching along with the Marines. I have NO idea what this guy was doing.

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

Gog and Magog – the giants take part in every parade

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

A lot of the military units had members in WW1 uniform

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

Some of the uniforms were even older – one group were all dressed as soldiers from Waterloo. They even had a French group, with a Napolean.

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

I wonder how big the market is for Guild Robes? I’m guessing there are only a couple of makers

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

At the end of the parade were all the horse and carriages, bringing along the officials. So dotted all lover London are these carriages that get brought out may once per year? They were gorgeous!

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

The guys in red are Watermen – when the parade was on the Thames, they were the ones that powered it and they are still involved now. The guys in black are Yeoman Warders.

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

Trumperters announced the arrival!

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

And finally, at the end, the Gold State Coach, carrying the Lord Mayor – and this year, a Magna Carta as well. The coach can normally be found at the Museum of London and it’s well worth a look. Under the weak November sunshine, it looked gorgeous!

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

If you’re in London, it’s well worth a trying to see this parade.

Oct 30

Not all Women?

You’ve probably seen this video. The ‘highlights’ of walking around New York for 10 hours, but not in a good ‘look at all this tourist stuff we visited’

The video troubled me and not just because it seems to be a very narrow selection of choices of the types of men who do interact with her. That could be deliberate, to get more coverage, or it could be as stated, that the majority of comments from white guys were not recorded well. It’s a film by a charity trying to get views and attention, it’s going to do everything it can to get watched and talked about/

It troubles me in two specific ways. The first is my reaction, the not all women reaction. I can empathise with men who use #notallmen in reaction to reports of harassment. it is human nature to want to put things in stories that relate to their own experience, so if it’s never happened to you or people you know, then it is hard to understand. That was my first reaction – in all the time I have lived in New York, doing lots of walking, I never got a commented on at all. So what is different?

You have to move beyond the first reaction, recognise it for what it is and then move to understanding, not explaining and denying. Then ask yourself the question – what can you do to change it.

The second troubling thing is tied into the notallmen reaction. How have we, as a society, for into the situation where good morning is seen as a threat by women or where men can be scared of saying it. Many of the comments on the video are about how can this ALL be harassment when it was lots of general greetings. Because it is perceived as harassment. Because the experience of this woman and many others like her is that the body language, eye contact and tone that go along with the bland comment are threatening. So how can we change both reactions – that men can just demand attention and that women now see that as a threat.

Oct 24

Restaurant Review: Great Queen Street

Restaurant: Great Queen St, 32 Great Queen St, Holborn

I decided to pop into here one wet Monday evening on the way back from work. I thought it’d be quiet. I was wrong! They managed to squeeze me into a small table, right by the bar and I watched as the rest of the restaurant quickly filled up. It may not be that buys every Monday, as there was a large party taking up half the restaurant, but I did get the feeling that it is never quiet. It’s not quite a gastropub, more like a restaurant with a very large bar.

Partridge at Great Queen St

I just decided to have the one course, partridge, with new season cannelloni beans and a bit of water cress garnish. I’d paired this with the side dish of ‘greens’, although I was disappointed that this was white cabbage. Very nicely done white cabbage, but I was in the mood for something a bit more dark green to go with the richness of the bird. Maybe some chard.

There was a small wait for the partridge, which they had warned me about. The bird had to be roasted! The main dish was tasty, cooked well, lying on top of the beans and tomato sauce. It was also a fun dish to eat – the finger bowl provided giving permission to pick up the bits to get the last remnants of the meat off the bones.

The menu appears to change regularly, with a definite season vibe to it. The wine list is all Old World, mainly French, although quite small – or should that be select and exclusive? What that means is that the wines by the glass/carafe are also limited in choice, but I did enjoy the Poivre d’Ane Syrah/Grenache blend.

Overall, a lovely place to have a meal and I get the feeling it would be easy to spend a fun evening with friends here.

Great Queen Street on Urbanspoon

Oct 12

A New bathroom is delivered

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll have seen my daily photos charting the renovation of my bathroom over the last few weeks. Finally it’s done!!! After 2 weeks of having to shower at work, it’s over and I get my own bathroom back.

I’m pretty sure that the bathroom was original, with the suite installed when the flat was built back in the 50s. The council added central heating since then – running the pipes in front of the bath, but everything else has stayed the same. This is why you have a toilet cistern that may contain asbestos and a cast iron waste pipe on a very weird angle that means the toilet needs to be raised up a few inches off the floor. But in generally, it works, so no need for me to change it, up until this year.

Now it’s done and I’m happy, especially with the increase in storage so I can hide everything away. :-) It was installed through London Bathrooms, a small local firm. Very happy with their work and with the excellent finish. I gave the owner (Rufus Landricombe) instructions and he recommended the suite and fixtures/fittings; I’m not someone who wants to spend ages on details of this! And the fitter was extremely tidy, leaving it all packed away at the end of each day. I would definitely recommend them.

What it looks like now

Bathroom Day 11

Bathroom Day 11

Bathroom Day 11

What it looked like

Bathroom Day 0

Bathroom Day 0

Oct 09

SMW:Wimbledon and IBM

Another session from Social Media Week London, this one social media, Wimbledon and their partnership with IBM.

Alex Willis (Wimbledon)

In 2011 the Wimbledon team set out a 3 year plan to improve their digital experience. At the time they had started to engage on social, with 300k FB fans and 150k Twitter followers. They had 2 websites (one for all year round and one for the championships), and used radio and video; they had an app same as site. But their channels were not connected.

Their 3 year plan was about:

  • Extending reach
  • Ensuring everything on brand
  • Extend channels and apps

Their position is “to be the next best thing to being there”

  • Some numbers: 1.7m downloads of mobile app, 400k on iPad. These both provide a personalised experience. They have a ‘live at Wimbledon TV channel online/apps/YouTube. They had 1.3m streams – 58% of this on the .com. 17.1m visit website; 4.5m social audience. The .com is 80% of the digital audience – on desktop. (Wimbledon audience very different to CPG trends for example – so at work?, content needs the real estate?)
  • The have developed a clear tone of voice: Tradition, heritage, prestige, pinnacle, English. A slightly bumbly English gentleman. They look to be relevant, useful, unique.
  • During the Championships, they have 1 person per platform, to make sure they make the best of the each platform and to ensure the different roles are clear. (this is temp only, rest of year it is just Alex)
  • They have far higher outbound activity and earned conversations than the other grand slams. They have extra freedom as they are not limited by commercial constraints, they don’t promote sponsors and they can stay true to the brand.
  • They have started to focus on content partners for the different platforms. They worked with Grabyo for video; with specific player interviews and Q&A. Partnering with players who then shared on own accounts; they did some quirky stuff with them as well in videos. . They ran different promotions per platform, eg a Queue Selfie on Twitter, #MyWimbledon on Google+, Live video channel on YouTube. They had a Facebook photobooth in the players lounge, but it did not get any traction. They tried a Murray Digigraph, tweet and get a response from Murray.
  • They have experimented a lot with Video headlines on YouTube, they can be a lot more informal then their same video on their own site. They also did a content partnership with YouTubers and got Tom Daley involved in a partnership.
    New in 2014 was Hill vs World. Which was an in-ground activation, something they are trying to do more. They asked questions on the screen and compared answers with those not there.
  • They have tested out foreign language, so 3 Chinese feeds on Weibo, geotargeted Japanese content on Facebook
  • They have had very good growth – without paid media. FB1.6m to 2.4m; Instagram 100k to 200k; Twitter 700k to 1.18m; G+ to 1.2m. YT 15m views in the 2 wks, a 61% growth. Facebook ORGANIC reach of 12.7m on 6th July.

Chris Thomas (IBM)

Their requirements were frequent data updates (every 5 mins); the ability to identify trends and themes; be part of the conversation; demo the power of social media to their clients; provide easy to use visualisations; fully automated; offend nobody (so heavy filtering and management). Their social media hub at Wimbledon was in public view and was used for client entertainment.

Tech wise they provided Watson Content analytics, which is NL analysis. The IBM emerging tech services provided apps; the IBM research/Customer Experience labs identified influencers. It was all hosted in the Soft Layer (cloud). It was all presented through a very, very nice dashboard.

The dashboard allowed you to dig, slice and dice in may ways. Volume of conversations, trending topics, sentiment. Eg on 3 July sentiment dipped negatively, all because Sharapova commented about Tendulka. (#Wimbledon mentioned stayed positive). They could did down to show what was being said, they could then amend and change topics to keep focus on the tennis.

They measured influencers across the day/topics and this allowed them to understand the conversations and connect with it. They measure (and this seemed to be on Twitter only):

  • Engagement – responses
  • Activty – number of posts
  • Authority – who RT etc
  • Timeliness – how quick were responses
  • Followers – numbers

In summary, their key learnings were to integrate the digital and social strategies, you need a consistent brand experience and you need to organise yourself to listen and act. You need to have the right people in place who understand the digital world.

Some responses to audience questions

  • An audience question was about the bottom line and Wimbledon are in the slightly unusual position that it does not matter for them, there is no objective to make money from the digital. But it does open up opportunities as they are using the metrics to identify new territories to focus on based on interest, allows them to focus.
  • They have started a process to engage with the other grand slams to co-ordinate some activity across the year.
    For IBM it is a showcase for new business to show what they can do with partners
  • Wimbledon continuously look to innovate (and are planning next year). They tried a Fantasy format this year.
  • They are starting to use their historic archives to keep engagement going all year.