Nov 10

Qype: South Bank in London

LondonLocal Life

Cannot WAIT for this year’s Cologne Christmas Market. Last year wasn’t too busy (at least when I went), lovely romantic atmosphere (great for friends, lovers, and anyone except louts) freezing cold, tasty Gluhwein and sausages, overlooking the river. This year I’ll be bringing a very warm hat and gloves, last year I was f-f-freezing without.

This is my kind of Christmas treat.

Check out my review of Cologne Christmas Market – I am hazymat – on Qype

Nov 10

Why Clegg hasn’t betrayed us

Many left-leaning liberals in the media are outraged at what they consider to be broken pledges on the part of Nick Clegg.

Johann Hari writes in the independent, “In just a few days after the election, he cleared a space in his swanky new ministerial offices and staged a bonfire of his principles”.

Aside from the fact this article is laced with hyperbole (look carefully – barely a paragraph without some emotive language!), I can’t help thinking this is exactly not what the country needs.

I don’t mean that in a patriotic sense; I believe this country will operate perfectly well even if we don’t get behind our leaders in support. Thankfully we live in a pluralist state, and it’s not important to me that my fellow citizens are either “for or against” a given government.

No, the reason I am concerned is because we are heading towards one of the most exciting changes in a political system, a genuine maturing of our politics, and one that requires we all start to grasp the concept of what it means to have plurality in government as well as amongst the electorate.

The maturing of our political system is something we Brits have long desired, culminating in our outrage at the expenses scandal – a scandal that would never have grown to such an issue had it not been for the fact that one political party was allowed to govern the country unilaterally for 13 whole years. It is precisely our FPTP (First Past The Post) voting system that polarises the parties in the first place, and splits the electorate in two – a split, incidentally, that has in the last 13 years seen one party as the goodies and one party as the baddies. It’s a well-known and well-studied fact – an obvious and intuitive one – that two-party politics leads to long-term instability (make law, unmake law, make law) rather than a slower more considered, longer-arching, iterative style of policy-making.

Yet what are we going to do about it? Is our appetite strong enough for a mature politics?

We Liberals love to decry the immaturity of rags like The Daily Mail and so on, but in my opinion there is a more subtle immaturity that many of us ignore; it’s a little bit more insipid, and a lot more damaging. But then, I have always thought the broadsheets are much like the tabloids sans boobs, and sans the quite-so-obvious indignant outrage.

When I read articles like Hari’s in the Independent, it worries me that we are more concerned about our leaders’ characters and personal pledges than we are about what they can do for politics itself.

Clegg, along with other Liberal Democrats, signed a pledge before the election. Before the coalition was formed, and before there was any possibility that he might be in a position to even govern. But this was a pledge of political policy, not of political principle.

And here is the basis of understanding a coalition. One must no longer think about pledges, promises, scandal and success, but instead one has to think of the hypothetical.

The hypothetical asks the question: “where would we be if  the Tories had gained power, without the Liberal Democrats to temper them?”

The hypothetical asks the question: “where would we be if Labour were still in power?”

The hypothetical asks the question: “where would we be if the Liberal Democrats had won the majority in the House of Commons?”

When you look honestly at the answers to those questions, it becomes very clear why Clegg has not betrayed us in the slightest.

Nov 10

Qype: The Bathhouse in London

LondonEating & DrinkingPubs & BarsBarsCocktail BarsEating & DrinkingCafes & Coffee ShopsCoffee ShopsEating & DrinkingRestaurants

Stranded near to Liverpool Street Station with a couple of hours to kill, Qype iPhone application came to the rescue and I searched the nearest 5 star place for a cocktail.

The Bathhouse it was; and what a place! We were there at a rather odd time of the evening and they were apparently setting up for a private event, but everything about this place excited me.

It’s a little odd sitting in what you know to have previously been an underground bath. Raise your eyes to the ceiling and breathe-in deeply the aroma of its history; I’m not trying to be pretentious in my description here, it really does smell of an old bath house! You can smell that mixture of towels, bathing, sweat, and salt. Sorry, I know that sounds hideous, but in reality it’s utterly charming and lovely.

I am very fussy about the Bloody Mary. The number of times I have had to return a drink because they couldn’t even put a stick of celery in. What kind of Bloody Mary has no celery! I digress – The Bathhouse made me one of the best Bloody Maries I’ve ever had, period. On this basis alone I will be coming back.

Visit – you are in for a treat.

Check out my review of The Bathhouse – I am hazymat – on Qype

Nov 10

Qype: Jamie´s Italian in Cambridge

CambridgeEating & DrinkingRestaurantsItalian & Pizza

Too many times now the prospect of an early evening quick glass of red and a couple of mouth-wateringly good side-dishes at Jamie’s Italian in Cambridge has wooed me in, and ended up as a full-on evening dining experience.

Jamie’s Italian in Cambridge is truly “all things to all men”, a fabulous lunch venue, a decent place to swing-by mid afternoon for a quick latte and cantuccini, a wicked weekend venue for sexy snacks and cocktails, a place to impress the special girl or boy in your life – one that somehow still manages to be reasonably family-friendly, perfect for early-evening wine or meat tasting, but most of all, a gorgeous restaurant in which to settle-down for the evening.

There are very few restaurants to get excited about in Cambridge, but Jamie’s is one of them. The dining experience is relatively informal, and it lends itself to both drawn-out meals with lots of small dishes, or a quick bowl of pasta. The interior is spacious, majestic, glitzy, and thoroughly gorgeous – worth coming for this alone.

The things that make me happy are: the hams lined up over the serving counter (what a way to fill one large side of a room), the designated areas for bread cutting, pasta making, serving, the drinks bar which is crafted out of enormous chunks of solid oak (?) and glass.

I find the service a little slow when very busy, but one can be very forgiving of such things when one sees staff running around like crazy. When it’s less busy, I have found the service to be impeccable.

My advice:

1- Don’t be alarmed if you have to wait 45 minutes to 1hr to be seated. Expect this kind of wait, do your best to get served in the bar, then kick-back and relax knowing the food you are about to eat is very fine indeed.

2- If it’s very busy, they may try to seat you upstairs, or in the section adjacent to the bar. Ask to dine in the main room, and wait another 30 minutes. In my opinion, it is well worth it to dine in this exquisitely restored room of the grade 2 listed Guildhall.

I thought the opening of Jamie’s Italian might give that inferior restaurant chain Carluccio’s around the corner a kick up the ass; alas the service at Carluccio’s is still pathetically bad and the wine list still utterly mediocre. I’ve no desire to dine at Carluccio’s Cambridge ever again now Jamie’s has opened. Thank god!

In summary, I enthusiastically recommend Jamie’s Italian in Cambridge.

Check out my review of Jamie´s Italian – I am hazymat – on Qype