Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The umami of vodkas


When I think of Sweden, the things that come to mind are ABBA, Scania, IKEA and Volvos. Having recently been given a bottle, I’ll now add the stylishly packaged Purity Vodka to that list.

Purity Vodka 

Purity is what they call “an ultra premium vodka” and in a category above the widely known “super-premium” Belvederes and Grey Gooses that one now sees in bars and clubs throughout the land. The super-premium category, which also includes the likes of P. Diddy’s Cîroc, Ultimat and Kauffman, is said to be - even in the current downturn - the “fastest growth area for vodka."

Described by Lifestyle Magazine as having brought about a “redefinition of the vodka category,” Purity is one that its makers go as far to suggest is “not made to please everyone.” Lifestyle adds that Purity is like the “fifth taste sensation” that I’ve written of previously - umami. They state that this is a vodka that is “packed with minerals and has a sweet-and-salty accent” and as a result I'd suggest it is as polarising in a  “love or loathe” kind of way as Marmite.

Vodkas like Russian Standard and SKYY are distilled just 4 times. Purity, however, is distilled 34 times and the result is a taste profile of far greater depth and character. During these distillations some 90% of the liquid is lost leaving a liquid that is so pure that the filtration process that form a necessary part of the manufacture of the majority of vodkas is not even required. Purity’s makers call this “the perfect cut.”

A pint of Purity Blood Shot Bloody Mary

The 13th century Ellinge Castle in the south of Sweden is the suitably romantic location where Purity’s master distiller, Thomas Kuuttanen, conducts this process that borders on alchemy. Kuuttanen is plainly the Heston Blumenthal of vodka making and very much like Laura Santtini’s revolutionary umami paste, his is one I highly recommend trying.

For my original piece about umami and Taste #5 Umami Paste see http://dasteepsspeaks.blogspot.com/2011/07/u-ma-ma.html

Purchase Purity Vodka from Lea & Sandeman in Fulham, Notting Hill, Chiswick and Barnes (http://www.leaandsandeman.co.uk) for £42.50 a bottle. Alternatively, buy online from TheDrinkShop.com at http://www.thedrinkshop.com/products/nlpdetail.php?prodid=6341&afwinid=90909 for £40.59 a bottle plus delivery.

For more information on Purity Vodka see http://www.purityvodka.com

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it


Twinings have made tea since 1706. They’ve been a household name since Queen Victoria made them an official Royal Warrant holder in 1837 and unusually a member of the family, Stephen Twining, still works for the company.

 Stephen Twining

One would think that such an established brand would, therefore, be very careful of its heritage. Twinings, however, threw caution to the wind recently when they decided to modernise their signature product, Twinings Earl Grey.

The company is said to have been the first to sell this popular blended tea named after Prime Minister Charles Grey. Since they launched it in 1831, it has remained as one of Twinings’ staples. For some odd reason, though, in 2011, the company have added more lemon to their original offering and renamed it “The Earl Grey.” Calling it their “best ever,” they state: “Even the Earl himself couldn’t have imagined how wonderful his favourite tea could taste.”

Twinings' The Earl Grey

Instead, the development has backfired and gone down very badly with customers. On the company’s website hundreds of complaints have been posted. Many argue the new tea tastes “bitter and cheap.” Others add that it is “like a lemon cleaning product.” The overall opinion is that The Earl Grey is “shockingly horrible” and that Twinings have achieved an own-goal of “Coca-Cola-like proportions” with this rebranding exercise.

Many announce they’ll be defecting to the Earl Grey’s sold by Whittard’s, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. Some even go as far as saying they’d rather drink PG Tips. I’d suggest they are a little more adventurous and sample products offered by smaller companies. My good friend and tea connoisseur Michael Ezra suggests brands like Blends for Friends and Mighty Leaf but both of us particularly recommend JING’s Earl Grey Supreme tea bags.

JING's Earl Grey Supreme

Though significantly more expensive at £25 for 100 bags (which, does, however, make 200 cups), JING’s offering is a tea with a base of Ceylon that is scented with bergamot and decorated with a sprinkling of cornflowers. The result is an exceptional taste that can be enjoyed with or without milk.

Twinings launched The monster back in April but even with all this negativity they still continue to state that The Earl Grey has a “strong preference feedback over the previous blend.”

Perhaps it is time for Twinings to take heed of the case studies of the Post Office becoming Consignia and Norwich Union changing to Aviva and correct their error before its too late. Tea drinkers are plainly particular and not admitting they’ve made a mistake is plainly the biggest mistake of all on the part of this national institution.

The Earl Grey’s Boston Tea Party moment has most certainly arrived.


Join the campaign to “Bring back the original Twinings Earl Grey tea” at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bring-back-the-original-Twinings-Earl-Grey-tea/120766778003307?sk=wall


To get more information on Blends for Friends go to http://www.blendsforfriends.com

To get more information about Mighty Leaf go to http://www.mightyleafteas.co.uk

To get more information about JING Tea go to http://jingtea.com

Sunday, 28 August 2011

They’re all dead and they won’t be back


I met Lady Lucan ten years ago at a party at a bar named Jimmyz on Sloane Avenue. When another guest asked her a question, I heard her curtly remark: “They’re all dead” before turning away. That was the last I saw of this somewhat eccentric lady who I hear is now a bit of a recluse. Meanwhile, Jimmyz long since faded away too.

The Earl and Countess of Lucan

Today, a new online publication that calls itself the News of the World Online (and has a very similar logo to that of the now defunct News International title) broke a story that frankly makes every other theory about the disappearance of Lady Lucan’s husband seem relatively reasonable.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

In a piece by Jenny Stanley Clarke and Ross Clarke, it is revealed that allegations have surfaced that Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor and former Governor of California, was involved in the murder of the Lucans' nanny Sandra Rivett and of Lord Lucan himself.

Mistaken victim: Sandra Rivett

For the minority without any knowledge of this case, the known facts of what occurred on the 8th November 1974 are best summarised in the "reconstruction" section of the LordLucan.org website:

1.    “At 8.30pm Lord Lucan arrives at the Clermont Club and chats to the doorman to establish an alibi.
2.    Lets himself into the family home in Lower Belgrave Street.
3.    Waits in the darkened basement. Around 9.00pm he attacks nanny Sandra Rivett by mistake but is disturbed by his wife.
4.    He attacks her on the stairs, she calms him down before escaping at 9.50pm to the nearby Plumbers Arms.
5.    Lucan leaves the house.
6.    Drives to Uckfield in Sussex.
7.    From the home of the Maxwell-Scotts he telephones his mother the dowager Countess of Lucan.
8.    He later abandons his car near the ferry terminal at Newhaven.
9.    It is discovered there next morning.”

Those who believe Lucan wasn’t himself the murderer generally base their theories, it is said, on three possibilities. The first suggests that it was dark in the house and as a result the killer mistook Sandra Rivett for Lady Lucan. Secondly, Lord Lucan’s friends argue that the use of a blunt instrument in such an attack would be utterly out of character. The third suggestion is that Lord Lucan hired a hitman and today’s revelations on the News of the World Online site suggest that this very hitman was none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In their piece, Stanley Clarke and Clarke base the claims they report on the word of an unnamed “ex-Flying Squad officer” who has somehow come to the attention of an Italian businessman named Giovanni Di Stefano.

Giovanni Di Stefano

Conveniently, Di Stefano just happens to also be the publisher of News of the World Online as well as having been part of the legal teams of the likes of paedophile Gary Glitter, serial killer Harold Shipman and Moors Murderer Ian Brady. He is a man who has attempted to have had Tony Blair arrested over his involvement in the war on Iraq. He is a man who, according to a Wikipedia entry, has also himself been arrested, served time in prison, been deported from the USA and banned from being a company director variously. To my mind, that Di Stefano’s title publish such a sensationalistic claim about the former Governator come at the same time as the launch of their new publication just smacks of a desperate attempt to get noticed.

Garth Gibbs

Curiously, today’s revelations coincide with the death of Daily Mirror journalist Garth Gibbs. Diary writer Gibbs is best known for having spent most of his career travelling from one exotic location to the next in search of Lord Lucan. Garth himself once wrote:

“As that brilliantly bigoted and crusty old columnist John Junor once cannily observed: ‘Laddie, you don’t ever want to shoot the fox. Once the fox is dead there is nothing left to chase.’"

It would have been fascinating to know Gibbs’ opinion on this latest bizarre theory about one of the world’s best known missing men and I shall certainly watch with interest to see whether The Dowager Countess of Lucan and Arnold Schwarzenegger deign to comment at all either.

'The Terminator' is best known for his phrase “I’ll be back.” Somehow I suspect Lady Lucan has it right though. Lord Lucan won’t be back as he is indeed most probably dead but what certainly seems ludicrous is that anyone could believe Arnold Schwarzenegger himself had any kind of role in any of this.


The official website of The Countess of Lucan can be viewed at http://www.ladylucan.co.uk

Those who believe Lord Lucan is still alive discuss his whereabouts at http://www.lordlucan.com

A comprehensive review of the case can be seen at http://www.lordlucan.org


Friday, 26 August 2011

A classical Ratnerism


At first it seemed Katherine Jenkins was having a Gerald Ratner-esque moment today when she urged her fans not to buy her own music.

 Katherine Jenkins

In a series of Tweets, Jenkins stated she didn’t want them to “feel conned” by her old record label, Universal, who are re-releasing “stuff you already have.”

Universal originally signed a six-album deal with the classical star worth a reported £1,000,000 after she was voted Face of Wales in 2000. With them she had a resoundingly successful rise to fame but the day after her sixth album debuted in October 2008, Jenkins defected to Warner Music as part of a £5,800,000 deal.

Now, just as Jenkins prepares to bring out Daydream on her new label, Universal have opted to cash in by issuing, as is there right, a compilation on the same day named One Fine Day.

Most wouldn’t think this an issue (as surely she earns from both) but Jenkins took umbrage and told her fans “#DontBuyOneFineDay.”

The cynic in me asks, was this Twittering really an altruistic move on Jenkins part or instead a clever stunt by this Welshwoman and her management to garner more sales for the forthcoming album? Either way, she’s got the publicity she plainly sought and either way her music is still excellent.

View Katherine Jenkins’ official website at http://www.katherinejenkins.co.uk

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Mistakes are the portals of discovery


Channel surfing last night, I chanced upon this season’s Celebrity Big Brother completely by mistake. I made a most grave error when I didn’t immediately flick onto the next show.

The "ab-tastic" paparazzo, Darren Lyons

First there was a man with pink hair who I recall having seen at a polo game some years ago. I didn’t know his name but it turns out he’s some kind of “paparazzo” named Darren Lyons who comes complete with “fake abs.” With all his might, silver strips dangling from his locks, Lyons a bowl of risotto whilst one of the cast of The Only Way is Essex looked on in her “vajazzlled” bemusement.

An American named Pamela then appeared and it seemed she’d been cooking meat in salad dressing for hours. This particular lady seemed especially downbeat but maybe her excuse was that the producers  had simply stopped her from getting access to a packet of Bisto. All became apparent, however, when I later discovered that she is actually the former wife of David “The Hoff” Hasselhoff. Her strange antics with food can easily be explained if you recall her ex’s drunken antics with a burger.

Meditating in a trance in the garden were the Jedward twins. If you quizzed me, I (sadly) wouldn’t be able to name one of their songs but their hairstyles are certainly unique. The pair shortly moved to a sauna cabin to eat cans of baked beans but if I were Heinz, I wouldn’t thank them for this attempt at product placement.

 Kerry Katona and Bobby Sabel

Next up was Warrington’s finest export (other than Greenall’s Gin), Kerry Katona. This dimwit, who was once the face of Iceland, proceeded to annoy another housemate named Bobby Sabel who went to a room where he claimed the experience was “driving him bonkers.” I do sympathise, but Sabel should remember that he wasn’t forced into this “experience” by Hitler-esque forces.

My only reason for sticking with it was to check out the behaviour of Speaker Bercow’s wife, Sally. She was the last to appear and sauntered around for a few seconds before crashing out like a slob on a garden chair. Frankly she was the dullest of the lot. Richard Desmond’s certainly wasted £160,000 putting her in.

I got all of this from just five minutes watching this banality. Learn from my error: don’t let Big Brother watch you.

If you must watch, Celebrity Big Brother shows on Channel 5 each night. For more information see http://www.channel5.com/shows/celebrity-big-brother

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A True Beauty From The Orient


Da Steeps today had the pleasure of (excuse the pun) enjoying steeping the first of a selection of teas from the rather smart JING tea company.

Like Mick Jagger in Live With Me, I got overcome today by how deserted London was and alone in the quiet, “got nasty habits” and “took tea at three.”

 The JING Dong Fang Mei Ren Wu Long Cha (Oriental Beauty Supreme Oolong)

The first of the company’s extensive range I decided to test was one of their oolong teas. Oolongs are said to be teas that have a “complexity of flavour and richness of texture.” More precisely, they are those that “combine the freshness of green teas and the complexity of black teas in perfect balance.”

The Dong Fang Mei Ren Wu Long Cha (Oriental Beauty Supreme Oolong) tea I sampled today is produced in Ping-Lin, Taiwan and was calming yet indulgent. With a smooth taste that had hints of apple this was tea of a great quality and one that greatly improved my spirits.

JING's signature plungerless tea-iere

JING recommend serving teas in their signature plunger-less glass tea-iere as when tea leaves are pressed the resulting taste becomes bitter because of the tannins that are released. The JING tea-iere, instead, just has a filter that allows the woody tips and leaves to infuse freely with the water. This is a device that is simple, yet effective.

Following the instructions on the rather stylishly designed JING packaging is pretty simple but some customers do get awfully particular about how the tea I tried should be infused or brewed. On the company’s website one advises:

“[Make] this tea with just under boiling water, 208F should work. You want the water this hot because this tea has a lot of flavour to extract. But after infusing, allow it to cool a bit: The intense flavours emerge after a bit of a cool-down.”

 Edward Eisler, founder of JING

JING itself is a relatively new company based in London, SW9 operated by Edward Eisler, a true connoisseur of all things tea. Eisler and his team source the finest speciality teas from China, India, Sri Lanka, Japan and Taiwan and sell them through a website and to restaurants and hotels including Gordon Ramsay, Joel Robuchon, the Mandarin Oriental, the Rocco Forte Collection and at Ritz Carlton properties. 

C.S. Lewis once said: “Tea should be taken in solitude.” The JING oolong I tried today definitely made that solitude most welcome.

Oriental Beauty Oolong tea, £10 for 50g bag (50 cups) - http://jingtea.com/tea/type/oolong/oriental-beauty-supreme


For more information or to order JING teas go to http://www.jingtea.com

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Class, Vodka & Shame


Marquis Vodka recently got some bad press in CLASS Magazine when it was featured on their “Page of Shame” in a piece by Ian Cameron. This page, in the past, has been accurate in their portrayal of brands like Brockmans Gin who they attacked for “not being a real gin” but I did feel their critique of Marquis Vodka was a little unfair. CLASS Magazine hadn’t actually tasted the product and their piece seemed to just be an attack on the fact that the 23-year old founder of the brand drives a Bentley and likes to party.

 Stuart Randall pictured with his Marquis Vodka Bentley

Vodka, I’ve always been told, should be tasteless, odourless and colourless. Composed primarily of water and ethanol with traces of impurities and flavourings, it is neutral spirit and one that can be made from a variety of ingredients such as grain, potatoes, soybeans, molasses, grapes, rice or sugar beets. It has even been known to be produced from byproducts of oil refining and wood pulp processing.

 The Marquis Vodka bottle

Marquis Vodka is made from hand selected rye grain from the Bialystok area of Poland. Cut with de-mineralised water from the country’s deepest aquifers to achieve 40% ABV, this is a vodka that has hints of black pepper to its taste. The resulting savoury flavour deservedly earnt the brand a gold medal at the 2011 International Spirits Challenge.

Described by the company as “decadent chrome artwork,” the distinctively dark Marquis bottle is similar in style to those of Belvedere and Grey Goose. Unlike those two however, it suggests that this is a vodka that’ll be enjoyed throughout the night and as such Randall has achieved listings in many a nightclub in Central London. Whilst not widely available in the retail sector to date, independent operators like Wine Rack and thedrinkshop.com have all been early adopters.

Ian Cameron might do well to pay heed to Benjamin Franklin: “Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” I’d suggest he taste Marquis Vodka as he may well revise his opinion.

Read CLASS magazine’s “Page of Shame” piece on Marquis Vodka at http://www.diffordsguide.com/class-magazine/read-online/archive/2011-07-12?page=12

Marquis Vodka is available at the Caviar House and through Wine Rack. Buy it online at http://www.thedrinkshop.com where for a limited period a 70cl bottle with a free cocktail shaker is £28.99.

For more information see http://www.marquisvodka.co.uk

Blurring the boundaries of dignity


It has been revealed this morning that Sally Bercow, wife of the Speaker of the House of Commons has hired Max Clifford to represent her as she goes into the Big Brother House.

 Sally Bercow clad in a bedsheet

The feral beast Mrs Bercow is fast beginning to rival Heather Mills in the public disdain she attracts. Whether she’s parading around wrapped only in a bedsheet or Twittering abuse about David Cameron, this pointless woman brings herself and her husband’s office into disrepute by taking a £100,000 fee to appear on such a ridiculously chavtastic show.

Spouses of those in high office used to behave with dignity. Now, like the grasping MPs, the plundering bankers and the hacking press, this tedious opportunist, who frankly none of us should have had occasion to have heard of, is doing just the same.

Speaker Bercow is just as guilty for failing to rein his wife in. Her actions, as well as his own tawdry conduct, should surely result in their expulsion from their sumptuous lodgings beneath Parliament’s clock tower in the same way that David Cameron is now supporting the eviction of tenants found guilty of looting from their council houses. Cameron’s recent speech about such could indeed very easily be adapted to deal to this (adaptation in italics):

“For too long we’ve taken a too-soft attitude towards people that behave without dignity in their own community within the Palace of Westminster… If you do that you should lose your right to the sort of free housing that you’ve had that goes with your job... They’ll have to find housing in the private sector and that will be tougher for them, but the Bercows should have thought of that before they started behaving so tastelessly.”

Mrs Bercow should take heed of a quote by Adam Savage: “My dignity and good television – they’ll never meet.”

For an alternative view about Mrs Bercow see Tanya Gold’s Guardian piece at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/08/sally-bercow-my-kind-speakers-wife (I suspect and hope that few of you will agree with it)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Hacked off


“Inspiring, motivating and brilliant” are not the words that spring to mind when someone mentions Heather Mills (McCartney). Her website, though, champions her as such and some of those who endorse her are even more surprising.

Heather Mills (McCartney)

When I learnt that Mills was claiming she was a “victim” of phone hacking, I didn’t think “poor woman” or “oh what a tragedy.” Like many, I have to admit, I thought “goodness, why give her the air space?” If indeed she was hacked, I’d argue the perpetrator deserves a medal for having had to listen to the nonsense she no doubt spouted.

Boycotting J. Crew or trying to ban people wearing fur, championing vegetarianism or throwing a jug of water over Fiona Shackleton, Mills simply cannot help herself. Every media appearance makes her more loathed and the public disgust becomes more deserved with each and every outing.

Mills is indeed the only person I’ve ever met who is worse in reality than the media portray her. At a reception at the Hyde Park Barracks some years ago she threw a temper tantrum when the paparazzi came close to her as she arrived. The minute she spotted a soldier, however, she demanded someone photograph her with him. The hypocrisy of this woman knows no bounds.

On Mills’ personal website Hilary Clinton desrcribes her as “extraordinary” and Richard Branson says “he’d kill for her.” Goodness knows what persuaded them to come out with such claptrap.

To experience more of Heather’s publicity campaign (if you must) go to http://www.heathermills.org

Monday, 15 August 2011

Simply Glorious!


I was recently sent a selection of Glorious! soups and having just watched Stephen Poliakoff’s Glorious 39, today seemed to be an apt occasion to write about the “glorious” things in life.

 Glorious! limited edition Brazilian Beef with Black Beans

Developed by Simon Gamble, a chef who previously worked at The Chesterfield Hotel in Mayfair, as an “A to Z of flavours,” this is a range that is tasty and delicious and includes such delights as Asian Tomato, Rice and Ginger, New England Butternut Squash and Sunny Thai Chicken. Stylishly packaged, these are wholesome soups that last well in the fridge and are quick and easy to heat.

Glorious! creator Simon Gamble

I was also lucky enough to try the limited edition Glorious! Brazilian Beef with Black Beans soup that the makers will launch on the 10th September in support of the Cool Earth charity. With chunky pieces of beef, this meal in a pot was simply delicious.

Glorious! soups retail for around £2 per 600g pot. Heat for just five minutes and you’ll have a most glorious meal.

Glorious! soups are available at Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s. For more information see http://www.gloriousfoods.co.uk

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Turning vision into reality


Marketing guru Amber Nuttall Aikens and her interior designer sister Gytha Bouchon had the vision to fill a gap in the luxury furniture market. Having discovered that the best contemporary pieces were readily available, they realised that high quality furniture of classic design was for more limited in its offering. The pair set out to find designs that would fill this gap.

Having first sourced the finest pieces from English manufacturers, the sisters established Nuttall in 2010 in the former Pond Place premises of leading designer and Blakes Hotel creator Anouska Hempel.

Nuttall Home Milo sofa upholstered in Harris

From this showroom the sisters showcase a range that includes hand-finished, down-filled sofas, chairs, footstools and day beds. Loro Piana Interiors fabrics and accessories including cushions and throws are also on display and Nuttall Aikens comments that the aim is “to grow the collection into a complete lifestyle brand” that will include candles, paints, beds and linen.

Adds co-founder Bouchon: “Our vision for Nuttall is to produce beautifully made pieces that will, with love and care, last for generations. For this reason, each detail is meticulously thought through, using the finest raw materials and the very best craftsmanship.”

Selected as a Walpole Brand of Tomorrow 2011, Nuttall’s progress will be well worth watching.

Nuttall, 2 Pond Place, London, SW3 6QJ. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7584 8989. Email: enquiries@nuttallhome.com Website: http://www.nuttallhome.com

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Do you have the time to listen to me whine?


In recent days I’ve had occasion to help a friend write a letter complaining about the ludicrous state of the British railway system in general and Southern Trains in particular. I was also asked to send a note on behalf of another friend to a pizza company. Both complaints have made me think about how companies deal with customers when things go wrong.

Firezza is a pizza delivery service that I do actually think is far better than its rivals. With branches in Battersea, Wandsworth, Islington & The City, Chiswick, Herne Hill, Notting Hill, Chelsea, Crouch End, Willesden Green and Canary Wharf they’ve pretty much got the whole of Central and West London covered and are a company that supply pizzas that “don’t taste like normal takeaways.”

A mighty gorgonzola, pepperoni, red onion, fresh chilli, tomato and mozarella pizza from Firezza

Offering Neopolitan style pizza made in wood fired ovens, Firezza’s range is certainly not the cheapest with prices ranging from £7.50 for a ¼m margherita up to £13.40 for a 12” five meat pizza but they are made with quality ingredients and are consistently good. What also sets the company apart is that they often have special deals and mostly deliver quickly and without error.

On this basis, when a friend was hungry whilst at my home last Thursday afternoon, I suggested he call Firezza when they opened at 5pm. I found a voucher called the “Firezza Fiver” which offered £5 discount and he placed his order. Instead of getting a discount he ended up paying more than expected.

Naturally this caused annoyance but the fact that the pizza was also cold didn’t help either. We called Firezza and were given an email address to write to which I duly did. In my letter I specifically pointed out the issue of the incorrect pricing and the cold pizza.

Firezza's standard reply

No reply was received to that email but then in my hall yesterday I found an unaddressed envelope containing a standard letter to “Dear Firezza Customer” that stated “because of the high number of orders, we were unable to deliver your order on time.” I can’t imagine any pizza delivery service can have been busy at 5pm and as I hadn’t complained about how long the service took I was rather bemused.

Assuming that this was just their standard response to any complaint, I called and accepted the offer of a free pizza. That they bothered to reply showed the company had taken the complaint seriously but I’d argue that if Firezza want to retain their position as an operation The Sunday Times has commended as “London’s smartest pizza company,” they learn to write to address individual issues on an individual basis rather than use standard letters and unaddressed envelopes.

After all, surely this fine pizza company doesn’t want to end up being put in the same category as Southern Trains for customer relations.

To order from Firezza go to http://www.firezza.com

A Vision in Purple


Southampton is not a place to visit on a Monday night if you want to find restaurants willing to welcome you after 8pm. Illustrating backward Britain, my friend and I trailed round this town to venue after venue to be told: “We’re closing now” and “No service at this hour.” One would have thought, especially during Cowes Week, a busy port would have dining options for weary travelers, but this was simply not the case.

After an hour searching, we chanced on Kuti’s, a Thai restaurant situated in the former gatehouse to the city’s once grand pier. Opened in 1833 by Princess Victoria, The Royal Pier enjoyed its heyday in the 19th century before gradual decline eventually resulted in it becoming derelict in the late 20th century.

Kuti's Royal Thai Pier restaurant (sadly not bathed in purple light)

Though the majority of the pier is either fire damaged or collapsed, local “curry king” visionary Kuti Miah has heralded the way for redevelopment of the area by restoring this impressive gatehouse to form his company’s fifth restaurant site in the area.

At 9.30pm having just encountered the chippy manager of Ennio’s Italian, we were on the verge of giving up. Crossing the road we decided against a scruffy looking pizza joint and decided on a last ditch attempt by heading towards a large white building glistening in purple light. Here we were not surprised to find a virtually empty restaurant but were cheered by a most hearty welcome.

Andreas Widegren takes in The Vision in Purple that is Kuti's Royal Thai Pier

Uniformly decorated in purple throughout, this is a restaurant whose owner plainly either loves purple or got a huge discount for buying everything in various shades of this colour that ranges between red and blue. Taupe loving Kelly Hoppen would have a seizure at the sight. The walls are purple, the carpets are purple, the chairs are purple and the tablecloths are purple. If purple plants could have been found, no doubt they’d have been purchased.

Styling aside, the à la carte menu offered great variety and with a £15 eat-as-much-as-you-want buffet there was plenty to choose from. The Ped PrIew Wan deep-fried duck was tender and for £10.45 represented great value for money. My friend’s Neau Phad Gratium stir-fried beef at £9.50 also looked good. Though we’d have eaten a horse after our long journey from London, the high standard of food and excellent service at Kuti’s Royal Thai Pier was on a par with anything similar I’ve tried in Central London.

If you have occasion to be in Southampton, save yourself the bother of walking the streets and go straight to Kuti’s Royal Thai Pier. Just don’t dress in purple.

Kuti’s Royal Thai Pier, Gate House, Royal Pier, Town Quay, Southampton, SO14 2AQ. Telephone: +44 (0) 23 8033 9211. Email: thaipier@kutis.co.uk. Website: http://www.kutisroyalthaipier.co.uk

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Rats and Billionaire Brats


Yesterday on the Isle of Wight I met a man who had a most bizarre take on the riots that have swept the UK.

Our conversation went somewhat as follows:

A: “These looters: I’ve got a theory.”
Me: “So what is that?”
A: “The rat theory.”
Me: “Oh…”
A: “They overpopulate and then they kill each other. That’s what they’re doing. That’s why I never go near London.”
Me: “But they’re not killing people. They’re, erm, burning buildings and nicking games consoles and Primark clothing.”
A: “But they’re all different types of rats. Crawl out of different holes. You’ll see. They’ll soon be killing: the rat theory.”

Earlier in the day a friend sent me a text stating: “Whilst the Arab world riots for freedom, the Brits riot for SONY televisions.” My friend was spot on in his point.

A "hoodie" attacks a police car

Whilst our press talk of these rioters being “minorities,” I don’t believe such. They are “Aggressive Shoppers” who chuck bottles and bricks whilst wearing Kappa and grabbing free mobiles. They attack the police, rampage and do not have a care for the innocent shopkeepers and homeowners they terrorise. They are thoroughly abhorrent individuals who don’t riot for their rights but for the fun of it. As Margaret Thatcher once pointed out, rights and responsibilities are interlinked and this lot should be shown no mercy by the courts.

On my long train journey home I had ample chance to reflect on what had happened as I read the Evening Standard cover to cover. Page after page related the impact of London burning, Manchester rioting and Wolverhampton being plundered. Curiously however, pages 24 and 25 related the tale of a totally different life: that of the 19-year-old daughter of a Russian billionaire being given a “relatively modest home.”

In the piece by Alistair Foster entitled Abramovich girl’s £4m ‘starter home’, the paper quoted the owner of Chelsea Football Club’s daughter:

Anna Abramovich

“It’s my own little haven. I feel more grown up and I can’t wait to entertain all my friends round my own place. It is just the way I like it.”

The article continued: “She added that she is furthering her own independence by paying for her own driving lessons.”

Comments like these only illustrate how far apart such individuals as Miss Abramovich are from ordinary reality. As this billionaire brat moves into her multi-million pound property, London and other cities burn leaving innocent people without their income and their homes.

It would have been far better that this young lady kept stum and moved in quietly. Whilst no one can blame the Abramovich family for housing their daughter, broadcasting her unnecessarily pretentious remarks about her multi-million pound lifestyle at this time can only spur further envy and encourage yet more uproar amongst the rioting masses.

Read Michael Ezra’s view at http://hurryupharry.org/2011/08/09/youth-clubs-are-cheaper-than-prisons where he argues that youth clubs are cheaper than prisons.