Pumpkin Publog

Nov 03


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SEND FOR THE HATING TABLETS! My annual battle with misogyny gets underway with the release of this year’s Lambrini adverts. You know the form by now: three women enjoying ‘girly night out/in’ with bottle of stomach-wrenching pear plonk trade ‘dirty jokes’. Mercilessly the Lambrini people have not even changed the pictures of the women (though the ad’s background is now an unpleasant pale green) so the horrible image of the middle one in mid-cackle is glued on my brain once more.

Amazingly though the one-liners have got worse. Last year you may recall the main gag was as follows: ‘We had a RACE last night. He CAME FIRST as usual.’ (HAR HAR HAR HAR HAR). OK yes fair enough, it is just about possible to imagine a human being making that joke and maybe even others laughing. This year though the tagline is ‘When he said he liked BRAZILIANS I didn’t know he meant FOOTBALLERS.’ Perhaps I am na’ve but it boggles me even trying to imagine the supposed interaction leading to this shockingly weak, forced runt of a joke.

Now, alcohol does indeed make you laugh at any old shit, as readers who have played Dirty Crossword will be aware. If I was promoting an alcohol brand though, I am not sure this is the aspect I’d play up ‘ look look our product will turn you into a real chump! But the alternative is too horrid to contemplate: that Lambrini have identified a strata of consumers who aspire to making wisecracks as clever as ‘When he said ” (no, I can’t even type it again). It can’t be true. It mustn’t be true. AND YET’

Nov 03

More on La Porchetta,

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More on La Porchetta, having dragged more hardy souls to the new one on Exmouth Market a couple of weeks ago. These epicureans are hard to please, so it was nice to see that the food went down pretty well, as did the vase of wine. One of the party complained her absolutely huge chunk of meat was slightly over herbed, but considering that only one of us finished the meal it was pretty fine nosh for the price.

By lord do they need to sort out the decor. I don’t think I have ever been in a restaurant quite so bright and overlit. It was like eating in the Nastro Azzuro advert, thankfully without anyone pouring paint on your head. The huge upended mushrooms which are the light fittings are really rather nice, but having them turned on full is not the best way to display their design. Coupled with the high ceilings which amplify the eating clatter, the whole affair ends up feeling a bit like a works canteen. Maybe the idea is to turnover more customers, or eat into a not dissimilar decored Pizza Express vibe. But this felt all wrong, and is my least favourite of the chain. The Queens’ Square one is only ten minutes walk away.

Nov 03

If you’re in a snackish frame of mind

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If you’re in a snackish frame of mind, have a look at Taquitos. I stumbled across it while searching for Turkey and Paxo Sage and Onion (note: no mention of stuffing anywhere on the packet, how odd). ‘We’re serious about snacks’ they say and there’s no arguing with that. Chipworld in particular is an invaluable addition to my life.

Happily munching

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Happily munching on some special edition Christmassy Walkers Roast Turkey with Paxo Sage and Onion flavour crisps (‘Merry Crispmas!’ indeed), ILx draws my attention to a nasty news story about parasites. And I’m thinking that if our crisp manufacturers keep pressing further and further towards authenticity and exoticism then surely tapeworm cyst flavour crisps aren’t far off. Mmmmm, tapeworm cyst’

Nov 03

Tempting though Tom’s accounts of Macdonalds are,

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Tempting though Tom’s accounts of Macdonalds are, I still won’t be visiting my local (horrific) branch. Mainly because I have the fantastic GRUBS on my doorstep to cater to my every burgery need. There are four or five branches in Brighton, not including the sadly short-lived Gobs, an organic variant. (There is now Sobs instead, which is, inexplicably, pizza.)

At Grubs you can get 100% beef or 100% vegetarian burgers in three different sizes and with a dizzying list of relishes covering two large blackboards (and there is no restriction on your choice of these if you’re having a veggie burger, which is nice). Your basic burger comes in at around ‘1.80, but for real value go for the chips… the portions are MASSIVE. ‘Regular’ is about three times as many as the Burger King/Macdonalds equivalent, and ‘Large’ is completely unmanageable. What you CAN eat are exactly the right thickness and crispiness though.

I’m rather fond of the mushroom burger at the moment, but there are exciting blue cheese and hawaiian experiments still to be carried out… the chilli burger is frankly dangerous though. Another hazard is hungry local vagrants who come in and hang about until the unwary staff call out a completed order, then claim it before anyone else can. A pitfall of the prepaid burger, alas.

Pub Quiz Report

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Pub Quiz Report

Pub: The Shakespeare in Stoke Newington. Near the route of the 73 bus. The pub used to be part of the same ‘chain’ that runs the Rosemary Branch in De Beavoir Town, but might not be anymore. Anyway, plenty of seats, interesting decor (ie, it’s built up over time rather than part of a makeover). Good beer, Czech vibe as regards the lager.

Quiz: Two rounds of 20 questions, followed by a 4 question jackpot round at the end. Starts at around 9pm on Monday night, with final answers delivered at last orders or thereabouts, depending on the speed with which contestants return their answers to the QM. ‘1 per team member per round – maximum of 5 per team, though this rule can be flexibly observed.

Prize: First prize in each round – ’20 voucher for use at the bar. Second prize in each – ’10 voucher. Jackpot round is all the cash from the first two rounds – last night had ’120 up for grabs.

Questions: Good range of difficulty to produce the usual bell-curve of results. Still not enough ones that could be worked out through lateral thinking, nor are there many clues in the questions.

The quizmaster: Not as good as the bloke who used to do it, but still reasonable-ish. He thought our team name for round one was the wittiest of the many offerings based around rude combinations of words related to the Rugby World Cup Final.

He really blotted his copybook with the tie-breaker though. We were tied for first place with 5 teams each with 15/20. I’m still cursing Uranus now, having shilly-shallied between Saturn and Uranus and breaking a golden rule of quizzes in talking myself out of the first answer that came to me, and thus talking yourself out of the right answer. Anyway. The question was ‘In what year were seminal punk band Bow Wow Wow formed’. One member of our team was thinking early 1980s, whereas others (alright, me included) thought that in the absence of knowing when this might be, the use of the words ‘seminal’ and ‘punk’ would indicate something in mid-to-late 1970s bracket. We were wrong, and suggested to the QM that the question was slightly misleading, and that if he wanted to ask a simple question – ‘when were Bow Wow Wow formed?’ then he should just ask it without adding subjective judgements as to their seminality. He disagreed, arguing that since Malcolm McLaren was their manager, they were a punk band, and again, because of McLaren’s involvement, they were seminal. We were suspicious of his reasoning leading to our team name for the second round being ‘Punk was over by 1979’.

Will I go again? Yes. Having come second in Round Two. we have a ’10 voucher to be spent in the pub by next Monday.

Anything else?
– The guy who played Nigel in Eastenders was a contestant.
– You can buy pizzas from the pizza joint next door and bring them into the pub.
– There is slightly amusing graffiti in the gents.
– The sink in the gents has little cold water pressure, but good pressure on the hot water, which appears to be heated in Hell itself. Be careful, hygiene fans.
– The hand dryer is piss poor in the gents.
– The Pork scratchings were stale and proved that more packaging = poorer quality fried pig back fat.

Final Thought: Whatever happened to Cheese Moments? They are advertised on both Bacon Fries and Scampi Fries, but no-one has them. Ever.

Nov 03

Of course having gone to McDonalds’

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Of course having gone to McDonalds’ I could hardly pass up the opportunity to sample the BIG TASTY, a.k.a. the McBritish – the megaburger available exclusively to UK residents. It’s an interesting choice for a Brit-branded burger since it seems to be modelled rather closely on that grand English institution – the Whopper. Hmm. What you get is a massive burger (a ‘third pounder’ apparently), a slice of fresh-esque tomato, too much lettuce, a generous lump of swiss cheese and a mysterious pinkish sauce which is like the Big Mac sauce but a bit tangier. If you’re hungry it does its job pretty well, like the Whopper – it is huge though, too big for its bun in fact, so don’t order it if you can see a lot of them waiting to be eaten, they’ll be clammy at the edges. The only question is – why Britain? Maybe the Focus McGroups showed us up as a nation of lardchopses, but it seems like only a few months ago McDs was pushing its fruit boosts and salad ranges – make your mind up Ron!

Nov 03

The least welcoming, most alienating place I have ever eaten in London

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The least welcoming, most alienating place I have ever eaten in London is the top floor of the Oxford Street MacDonald’s (the branch near Borders). I missed lunch on Friday because of a meeting and didn’t get a chance to eat until 4PM, at which point hunger won out over taste and I headed for the nearest available burger. The McDs in question has recently been refurbished along strictly demographic lines, with three floors of eating experience offered depending on how desirable a customer the McMarketing people think you are. The ground floor is a family area, with the ragged mothers and goggle-eyed brats familiar from branches everywhere. There were too many balloons around for my liking so I went upstairs. My mistake.

Upstairs, you see, is the Sound And Vision Lounge. The “Sound” is mostly big-beat and the “Vision” is free internet access and computer games to play. I was the oldest customer by, I’m guessing, almost a decade. Every other mid-afternoon adult customer had seen sense and turned tail, but I decided to brazen it out. This was the playground of the 16-25 agegroup, the people McDonalds desperately wants to love it, and they will spare no expense to win that love. The kids regarded me (big, bearded, in a suit no less) with amused contempt, the staff with a sullen hostility. I wiped my mouth once with a napkin and it was whisked from my table in under two seconds – the word had clearly gone out, “Fat adult in youth zone! Brand Taint imminent! GET HIM OUT!”.

So where had I been meant to go? On the way down I checked – “Lounge Seating and Toilets” said an arrow. No free interweb down there, I’m guessing – but next time I shall know my place.

Nov 03

Pub Quiz Report

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Pub Quiz Report

Pub: The Wishing Well, Bellenden Road. I only live a few minutes from here but I haven’t been in for years and it’s completely changed. Not for the worse, but apparently it was re-modelled as the set for Peckham pubflick ‘Last Orders’, though I have to admit I didn’t recognise it. Spacious, friendly and relaxed, it was an ideal place to meet old friends who were in sunny Peckham for the night. And ‘ oh! ‘ there was a quiz on! Just adding to the nostalgia was a very nicely kept pint of Bass, which was my learner beer.

Quiz: charmingly old-school. Twenty questions, general knowledge, no picture round, no music round, no jackpot accumulator, no messing about. Thursday night. Unusually, the quiz didn’t kick off until well after 10pm. Happily, the pub stays open until well after 11, so all was well.

Prize: similarly no-nonsense. One prize, a crate of 24 bottles of Stella for the winners. No runners up, no third place, no consolations.

Questions: the kind of thing you might know but might not; good, solid, well-judged quiz questions, like ‘what was the name of Henry VIII’s first child?’ or ‘what colour flag does a ship fly to signify it is in quarantine?’

The quizmaster: laid back to the point of not giving a monkey’s. This actually added to the relaxed late-night feel of the whole enterprise.

Will I go again? Yes. This isn’t a quiz to cross town for but it’s a nice, low-key, local way to kick off the weekend (Thursday being the new Friday, of course). I’ll have to get through all this Stella first, mind.

Nov 03

It has been a long day.

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It has been a long day. People marching around London, I had a seminar and given a window of an hour I need to be at the pub I thought food. Off I went, in the wrong direction, to the Hare & Tortoise for the mentioned before Malaysian Chicken Curry. I get close, despite it being 7:30 there are a few seats free and then : crisis. There is someone else sitting in there, on his own, who I did not want to see. If I say the fellow had black nail-varnished finger-nails you get the drift. What to do?

Well item one is hide behind a pillar outside the restaurant. Hooray for 1960’s architecture. How long has he been in there? What are the chances of me on my own being approached by him – on his own – and attacked. It would be rude to not acknowledge him if I enter, but he is the kind of guy who I want to be rude to. In the end I walk round the corner to a curry house that I rather like.

But double disaster. Hot Chilli is empty. Usually I don’t have a huge problem about going into an empty restaurant, but usually I am accompanied. Dining on your own, in an empty restaurant is probably even beyond me. So I keep walking. Back to the Hare & Tortoise. Maybe he was waiting for his bill. He wasn’t. Suddenly I don’t feel like food, get myself a double decker and pop back to work to write this. Like I say, its been a long day and now I’m off to the pub. And will be hungry when I wake up.