49 Days Of Eating Like a Vegan (aka Greek Lent)

I am not very religious, but like last year, I’ve decided to fast for Greek Lent again. There are a million rules in the real way of doing this, so I’ve made up my own to make my life easier. Basically, its Veganism (kinda)…

My Rules :

No Meat

No Dairy

No Eggs

All kinds of seafood is OK

Alcohol is OK (…but in moderation)

Start of Lent 2013 (Clean Monday) – Monday 18 March 2013

End of Lent 2013  – Sunday 4 May 2013


London does #Burgers – Case: @Burger_Breakout

Burger Breakout @ The Old Crown definitely had to be the first review in the “London does #Burgers” series as it’s the one I visited most recently….and what a visit it was.

Date & Time: Wed 17th of October9 pm

Party size: 2

Reservation: NO – but we were misled to think that it was packed. Lot’s of heavy tweeting on the day made it sound like we wouldn’t be able to get through the door.

We arrived at the Old Crown afraid that we would go to sleep hungry, but much to our surprise we ended up finding a seat immediately upon arriving. Table for two, right at the door – a spot I usually detest as the cold gush of wind freezes my face every time the door opens – but we sat anyway. A very eager and polite waitress came over with menus and asked us if we would like drinks. We needed a minute, so she went away with the promise that I would call her over when we were ready to order.

As an initial reaction, I was not impressed by the menu. For some reason, I expected more. However, we were both drawn to the chocolate & quince BBQ sauce, so we kindly asked if it was possible to try some. Several minutes later, a small pot containing the chocolatey concoction arrived and we dipped in. Neither of us said a word at first, and then we simultaneously agreed that “The Bambi Bought it” (Cornish Venison patty, topped with beetroot pickle, Cornish Brie, Quince & Chocolate BBQ Sauce) was to be avoided at all costs, all because of that sauce.

We deliberated for a while, but finally decided on what to get : The O.C. Burger, The Whiskey Beast  & Deep fried pickles in dill batter + Burger Slaw.

As we discussed our order with the waitress, she pointed out that The Whiskey Beast is served Medium Rare and that the chef does not allow changes of any sort on the burgers. I laughed at this, since my MO is to walk away whenever I come across these ridiculous rules, but I played along. She asked me if I was OK with spicy food as the burger contained “whiskey mustard”, and I said it was fine.

The Breakdown :

The Whiskey Beast – At first, this burger looked great….until I touched it. The first mistake that jumped out at me was the staleness of the bun – both on top and at the bottom. Slightly annoyed, I took the first bite and 12 seconds into chewing, the mustard started burning my nose. “Where’s the whiskey?” I thought. Moving on, it became apparent that it was impossible to figure out whether or not the beef was of good quality by eating it this way. So, I decided to dissect  the burger and eat it with a knife and fork, instead of suffering with the taste of that horrible bun and the whiskey-less mustard.. Bun + mustard gone, I was left with a healthy piece of lettuce , two bacon rashers, and TOO MUCH BLUE CHEESE.  I scraped off the excess, leaving an amount that complemented the beef….instead of replacing it.

Severely annoyed, I ate the first mouthful which ended up leaving me with a bitter aftertaste. I took a second…same thing. Extremely curious as to what was going on, I flipped the burger over only to discover that it was charcoal black at the bottom – like soot. Puzzled, I thought about the term “medium rare”, and I wondered if the strict chef-that-allows-no-changes-and-tells-you-how-to-eat-your-burger knew the definition as well as I did. Left with no other choice, I called the waitress over and showed her the mess in front of me. Shocked, she called over another member of staff, who was equally as polite and agreed that this was non-edible but explained that the kitchen staff had left and thus I was not able to get another burger. He apologized repeatedly and before he could take away the food, I paused to take some photos (see below).

With no food in front of me, the only thing available to eat were the sides….

Deep fried pickles in dill batter – flaccid and soggy.

Burger Slaw – ……no slaw here. Mayo soup that tasted like fridge instead.

Chips with horseradish smoked salt – The horseradish salt did not enhance the flavor at all. Each texture-less chip left an unwelcome & irritating aftertaste.

Conclusion: I usually give new restaurants second chances. But in this case, I won’t. It’s extremely disappointing when a meal doesn’t live up to your expectations ESPECIALLY when there has been such a massive build-up & hype from the purveyors of the establishment. I refuse to accept that this was a “one-off bad experience” because I believe that the sign of a good business is consistency – where no bad days are allowed. 

As for the chef, if he is to dictate how and what you will eat, the least he can do is cook it properly. “Quirky” combinations only work if the execution is perfect… otherwise, the menu just becomes nonsense on a page.

Worth mentioning : The staff offered us free drinks and took my burger off the bill. The upstairs floors were empty and the rooms were a mess…not cool. Lastly, we were equally unimpressed by the O.C Burger, but my dinner companion was so hungry he chose to eat it rather than starve. After his final bite he said: ” I don’t think I’ll becoming back for seconds any time soon….”

Rating: 2/10 ( 1 point for the staff & 1 point for….effort)

Burger Breakout @ The Old Crown  – 33 New Oxford St WC1A 1BH

The Show Must Go On….(?)

Criticism is relevant and specific, just as “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. For me, a person gains or loses credibility after a three part examination of :  how they eat, how they speak and their understanding of culture, all within a 10 minute face to face conversation. That’s more than enough info to give you a balanced idea of what that person is all about.

In the past month, I have done a lot of moving around…so I haven’t had time to write any new posts. I promise once everything makes senses again, Memoirs Of A Retina will be back on track. For the time being though, here are some good and bad experiences I’ve had in London recently…a basic argument of “triumph vs trash”.

What’s On (and should stay on) :

Clybourne Park @ Wyndham’s Theatre, Charing Cross Rd, WC2H 0DA – It’s been a while since I’ve laughed so hard in a play and was so impressed by such impeccable acting.  Every single member of the cast was perfect. Simply put, this in-your-face comedy is nothing less than superb. The best chance you have to get tickets is to queue up before the theatre opens and hope you are one of 10 lucky people to score day tickets for that night’s performance. Each person can only get 2, so bring along a friend & some coffee for the wait.

Frankenstein @ The National Theatre, South Bank, London, SE1 9PX (Until Mon May 2…so hurry!) – Make sure you go on the night where Jonny Lee Miller is acting as the monster…otherwise, I’m not sure if the performance will be what you expect. Miller was by far the star of the show, who was awe-inspiring…but I’m still trying to figure out where they found the rest of the cast. PEOPLE, don’t get caught up in the hype, pay attention to the acting……(for more incite on the play see previous post)

The Woman in Black @ The Fortune Theater, Russell Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5HH – If you’re into getting spooked, this is the show for you. The play asks the audience to use their imagination in order to get into the essence of what the actors are trying to convey, but its easy when you have such brilliant performers like Patrick Drury and Antony Eden.

Ghost Stories @ Duke of York’s Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4BG – A dark, damp, eerie and heart-pounding theatrical experience that should not be missed. I would recommend a drink or two before the show to get you into the mood….

The 39 Steps @ The Criterion Theatre, 2 Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 4XA – Definitely this show falls into the category of “Entertaining things to do on a night out”. Well worth the visit and the money spent on the tickets. In addition, there are a lot of British cultural references…so if you’re from here, this is right up your alley!

Roller Disco @ The Renaissance Rooms in Vauxhall, London – Its a bit random that I added this here but…..Wooooohoooooooooooooooo!!! Get your pink spandex out and party it up roller disco style. I never knew drinking & skating was so much fun when done together. Watch out for the expert skaters, don’t get in their way…and make sure you take EXTRA comfortable shoes for when the night is over.

What Should Be Off (forever…) :

The King and The Minotaur @ a weird and unknown location – …………..I still don’t know how to describe that night. A part of me wants to forget, and another part of me wants to deal with the tragedy of the whole situation. If the purpose of 21st Century “artists” is to disgust, annoy and make you feel pity for them, this is was a great success. For those who appreciate art exhibitions, galleries, and talented people….STAY AWAY from this place. Being weird for the sake of being weird is not artistic or special. Some people need an earth shattering dose of reality.

The Children’s Hour @ The Comedy Theater, Panton Street, London, SW1Y 4DN – You would think that an AMAZING cast would produce an AMAZING product. Turns out…it really doesn’t. I cannot fault Ellen Burstyn and Carol Kane because they are fabulous no matter what…but as for the rest………oh dear lord. As a result of this play I will never watch another Keira Knightley movie again and every time Elisabeth Moss has a scene in Mad Men, I promise to close my eyes. As for Bryony Hannah , she has officially canceled out her amazing performance in Every Good Boy Deserves  a Favour, and is now on my Top 10 most hated actresses list. It truly is disappointing when the audience & certain critics don’t try to find quality in what they are watching, and instead are mesmerized by movie stars acting like crap on stage. I might just write a review for this play because there is SO much to say….In a nutshell: terrible acting, unbelievably bad American accents (that switched back and forth to British every now and then), stupid dialogue and mind-numbingly boring.

P.S:  Head over to Mr. Kong for a bite to eat if you’re ever in lost in Chinatown….or if you’re hungry after a night out in the West End.

Mixed reviews for Danny Boyle’s FRANKENSTEIN

Slowly I learnt the ways of humans: how to ruin, how to hate, how to debase, how to humiliate. And at the feet of my master I learnt the highest of human skills, the skill no other creature owns: I finally learnt how to lie.

This was by far my most anticipated play of the year… Having booked tickets 2 months in advance, I was ecstatic when the day finally arrived that I would see Danny Boyle’s vision of Frankenstein come alive on stage. And come alive it did…

From the opening moment when Jonny Lee Miller flopped around on stage naked as the creature, stripped off everything, bare and exposed, to the closing scene, where we see him evolved to an almost human – he delivered a beautiful charismatic performance making me laugh, cry and simply fall in love with his character. I cannot stress how amazing and genuine he was! Told almost entirely from his viewpoint – he became the beast who was hated on stage but embraced and adored by the audience.

What was most unfortunate however and really made me furious was the remaining atrocious supporting cast – who were not even remotely close to the standard of the National Theatre actors. I have never seen such weak performances in a professional play, a play of such notoriety and with such a huge production. What was Danny Boyle thinking while casting these actors?! It almost mocked and demeaned the high rate – vastly superior performance of the creature.

The production itself was impressive, with a live fire, sparks and rain falling on stage. I sat right at the front and it all seemed very real to me…with JLM gracing me with his extremely close presence on several occasions… but regardless of the brilliant lead performance, the spectacular set & atmospheric visuals, the play was let down by the supporting cast who fell flat and lacked depth. Even Victor Frankenstein was not given the adequate opportunity to develop as a character. The script itself, adapted from Mary Shelley’s novel by Nick Dear was shockingly weak, and regardless of tackling some of the existential questions posed in the original novel, this rendition came off as superficial and amateur. You could almost have a hit with the muted performance of the creature alone, without the drab and shallow dialogues.

Perhaps it was the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch was taken ill that evening and it may have upset the order of things (granted his understudy was not bad at all)… Or perhaps too much work went into perfecting the role of the creature and not enough attention was given to hiring decent actors for the minor roles, but whatever it was, it took so much away from what could have truly been the best play on the London stage!

5* for JLM

3* for the play

1* for the supporting cast

‘Bruma’ @ 20 Projects

Tonight, I’m off to Hoxton for a private viewing of this exhibition at 20 Projects. Here’s some info on what’s on (this is their Press Release):

Presented by Alexander Dellal and Revolver Gallery, Peru, With the support of Mario Testino
At 20 Hoxton Square | 24th March 2011

A group show exhibiting emerging artists from Peru, selected by Revolver Gallery in Lima and introduced to London by Mario Testino.

“…has taken the white veil; and there is a higher horror in this whiteness of her woe. Old as Pizarro, this whiteness keeps her ruins for ever new; admits not the cheerful greenness of complete decay; spreads over her broken ramparts the rigid pallor of an apoplexy that fixes its own distortions. I know that, to the common apprehension, this phenomenon of whiteness is not confessed to be the prime agent in exaggerating the terror of objects otherwise terrible; nor to the unimaginative mind is there aught of terror in those appearances whose awfulness to another mind almost solely consists in this one phenomenon, especially when exhibited under any form at all approaching to muteness or universality.” Herman Melville. Moby Dick, 1851

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Faust @ The Young Vic

The all too familiar story of Faust gets a makeover in this new production at the Young Vic theater in London. Based on Goethe’s ‘Faust’,  Vesturport and the Reykjavík City Theater kick the London stage doors open and bring you a production very different from anything you’ve seen before. With music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, the audience enters a dream like state, never knowing what will happen next….

It’s difficult to describe what the show is like to be honest…. comedy meets acrobatics, which meets theater, which in turn meets musical, and finally meets a horror film. It was the first time I’d ever seen an Icelandic theater group, and I must say, I was quite impressed.

At first the show started out a bit slow… and I almost fell asleep. I knew there were acrobatics involved, but while I was watching the opening scene, I couldn’t imagine how they would fit in…at all. Finally, something happened…and most people in the audience jumped as a reaction to what they were watching. Without giving too much away, there is of course a devil involved in this show….this can be deduced if you’ve ever read the story of Dr. Faust, or seen any play on the topic. The devil in this production had two minions, and all three of them look like they really were from a world down under.

The auditorium was ideally set up for this kind of entertainment where a net was positioned above the audiences’ heads and was often used by the actors to jump around, or fall out of the sky.  Actually, an entire scene took place on the net above us, and it was funny to see everyone with their necks tilted up, watching to see what would happen next… The consistency of everything was refreshing, and its a great achievement that the effect of the acrobatics was successfully enhanced by lighting and music.

The nightmare-ish performance played on a lot of themes regarding faith and human temptation. Smack in the middle of the stage, nailed to the set was a wreath which alternated from Christmas decoration to an inverted pentagram. So, if you are one of those people that go to church every Sunday, believe in no sex before marriage, read the bible before going to bed and have protested outside a cinema when they were showing Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion of the Christ’….. I don’t think this show is for you. The truth is  that watching certain things played out in front of you gets you thinking about yourself. Throughout the entire show I thought “what would I do if I had this opportunity?” and the answer is “I really don’t know”. It’s easy to claim we believe… but when our belief is put to the test, how well do we score?

Aside from religion however, which is the obvious topic to stress, there are a lot of other underlying facts of life that were dealt with on stage. The relationship between a man and a woman….the difference between men and women….the way old people are treated once they are put in a home…the real bond between a brother and sister, and if there is one at all…

To wrap up, the point of this post is to suggest to whoever reads it that going to see this production is well worth it. I tried my best not to give away too much, but if you know the subject its hard not to know the story, only this time, you don’t know how it will be played out. It is definitely unconventional, and my suggestion, to really get you into the mood, is to have a couple of drinks before and during the show…. trust me, it makes the experience much better.

For more info on the production and how to get tickets Click Here

For more info on Vesturport (the cast) Click Here