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

Oct 10

Qype: OXO Tower Restaurant Bar & Brasserie in London

LondonEating & DrinkingPubs & BarsBarsCocktail BarsEating & DrinkingRestaurantsBritishEating & DrinkingRestaurants

One mustn’t allow having a really ace time with a good friend who, having just split up from her boyfriend and wanting to drink good cocktails, get rosy-faced, and end up staying until the early hours listening like teenagers to an ipod whilst ploughing through our second bottle of fine Harvey Nic’s wine, laughing dorkishly one minute and having a demonstrably angry argument about how silly the Green Party is (one that ended with clinked glasses and giggles) the next, missing the last train home, and not really caring about being a bit excessive when ordering rather expensive dishes and lots of them, to mar an otherwise objective review of a well-known brasserie – but it’s really hard for it not to. *

* Sorry, stupid sentence alert.

I had always avoided this place, having been told by a friend of a friend that it was overpriced and overhyped. A great lesson: don’t trust friends of friends.

I’m addicted to being up high in London. I mean, overlooking our amazing city – especially at night. Hence it was a real treat to spend a good five hours up there with a table right next to the expansive glass viewing walls. The brasserie is spacious, airy, and high. The view you see whilst dining overlooks the South Bank of the River Thames, and you can also see in the opposite direction (i.e. South London) whilst sitting at the bar. (Although it’s not as good.)

The bar is lit up all blue; kind of tacky but it went perfectly with the Mojitos and Ceviche spoon samples we ordered and ate at the bar before the meal. How Miami. The deal was  two Mojitos and 4 Ceviche spoons for £25: classic Latin American spoons of raw fish, salsa, onions – pack the same punch that oysters do but without the oysterishness. Before we knew it, a waitress had seated us at our table and brought our drinks over. Oh, and the barman offered to take our photo. I actually agreed. This is unbearably tacky, but I went for it and it felt brilliant. We were two Londoners, in London, behaving like complete tourists.

The service was superb; friendly, knowledgeable, polite. Front of house were lovely. The waiter, when asked to flip a coin on our behalf, he smiled and obliged. The tables were packed close together, but it didn’t matter because we waited for a good table by the window. I would advise doing this too. Why come to one of London’s best haute-cuisineries (haute as in high-up) and not wait a few minutes to get a good table where you can take-in those breathtaking views?

Apparently you can dine al fresco on the spacious veranda during summer. I’m really looking forward to going back in summer.

The food was all great, everything was done beautifully. From a serious foodie point of view, there was nothing progressive or inventive enough to blow me away, but this is “fine dining”, not Heston.

What I did expect was horribly overpriced wine. The kind where you spend £30 and get a bottle of crud. Gladly the wine list is good, and although I’m sure the markup is high, it’s not nearly as horrific as many London pubs that charge you literally £25 for some bottle of bile that would cost £2.50 at Tesco, if they even sold the stuff at Tesco, which they don’t otherwise these damned restaurants and pubs would get found out for being the wine-trafficking criminals and pimps that they are. No, the wine we drank was decent, the list had neither a “pinot blush” nor the standard array of underwhelming New World wines in sight. Good.

The Thai crab cakes (a bit yawnish, I know) tasted like really superb Thai crab cakes, actually.

The duck breast was a bit fatty, but everything around it was prepared and presented to perfection.

In a fit of non-compliance, we decided upon french fries. Damned brasseries.

I honestly don’t remember what the desert was, but I think it involved a lot of chocolate, another bottle of wine, and some espresso, which was recognisable as espresso. Good good.

I heartily recommend this lovely brasserie. Go at night, go on a whim, book 10 minutes before you turn up, drink some good stuff, enjoy the gorgeous views and the classic bustly brasserie atmosphere.

Check out my review of OXO Tower Restaurant Bar & Brasserie – I am hazymat – on Qype

Oct 09

Please visit my new portfolio website

Dear Readers

If you haven’t already seen, a redesigned, SEO friendly, more extensible version of my photography portfolio website is now online.

Please visit it here:

You can also see my Facebook page, and follow my updates by ‘becoming a fan’:

Oct 09

Yes, I know. (And Google SEO)

Dear readers

I know I have very few readers.

But like Radio 4 listeners, you are all passionate and attentive.

(Yes, I flatter myself.)

Therefore I owe you all an apology that my wordpress blog hasn’t been reachable from its domain name hazymat.co.uk for a while. It’s all the fault of WordPress.com, honest.

Okay, I’m talking like I know you all. In reality, the only person reading this is Mr Schlackman (a big shout out, yo). Sorry, I slipped into Radio 1 there. Or Radio 1 Xtra, or whatever.

Anyway, dear readers, I’ve had nobody in real life to talk to about this, so I shall rant about it here.

SEO is a really fun subject to get into.

But one of my favourite parts of reading and learning about it is hearing things from the horse’s mouth.

The horse (aka Google) has a wonderfully dry, witty tone of writing when it addresses common SEO questions.

For example, they write:

Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.
Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:
“Dear google.com,
I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”
Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.

Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.

Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:

“Dear google.com,

I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”

Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.

This makes me laugh, a lot. (I have spent too long finding matters of SEO that are normally boring in everyday life, strangely interesting, and therefore Google’s humour makes for relatively hilarious reading.)

Anyway, a special one for Mr Schlackman, if he hasn’t already seen it.

Best Microsoft KB article ever written.

Best Easter Egg (?) ever discovered? It’s subtle, but it’s brilliant.


This led me to some site searches combining technical terms with amusing words. Such as:

[google search]: site:microsoft.com active directory dog

[google search]: site:technet.microsoft.com ipsec bum

And if you go to this link below (don’t), it takes you to a page that I am dying to know how it got there in the first place given its URL, and what the file *really* actually is, but contains, according to google, within the binary for the ACC file, the C* word. Hilarious.


Jun 09

Car stereo

Dear next-door-but-one neighbour’s boyfriend

I know you are a jobless, state-scrounging, part-time drug-dealing loser, whose only redeeming feature is that you actually visit your child once or twice per week – which I presume sets you apart from the majority of your state-scrounging, jobless, drug-dealing contemporaries – this is a message for you. Of which I know you won’t take heed, even in the extremely unlikely event you were to stumble across this blog. But this is a cathartic exercise, because there are many others like you.

The so-called music that you play from you car stereo at astonishing volumes cannot possibly be heard properly due to the extremely bottom-heavy EQ configuration of the system.

I can only assume this is why you keep turning the volume up even higher.

Sadly this has the effect of making your car – and the surrounding houses -vibrate more, rather than allowing you to hear your so-called music more clearly.

In fact, acousticians will tell you that the sonic coupling of your loudspeaker to the chassis of your car effectively turns your car into a loudspeaker in itself.

This is unfortunate, because your car was designed as a car, not a loudspeaker, which is why certain constituent sounds within the music cause your car to vibrate with great resonance.

In sciency terms, this is known as your car’s resonant frequency.

Not only does this acoustic phenomenon cause your music to sound even more unattractive, it also enrages your neighbours, especially when they are trying to work.

My sash windows also have a resonant frequency. For future reference, please avoid playing music in the keys of Eb, C minor, and preferably G minor and Bb major, if you can possibly help it.

After three years of showing up in your flashy convertible (mostly Sundays but randomly on weekdays too), I would have thought you may have identified at least one of these socio-acoustic problems.

Yours faithfully,

Your girlfriend’s next-door-but-one neighbour.

Jun 09

BT vs BBC: an exercise in confusing service providers' responsibilities with those of content providers

So much for the democratisation of the internet.

So BT (British Telecom) in their infinite rational wisdom have admitted to throttling bandwidth of connections to the BBC iPlayer.

Fine. The customer purchases a service from a company with insufficient infrastructure to cope with the normal web use of today, and the service provider limits the customer’s usage of their service in this respect. Customers are free to take their business elsewhere: free market and all. I mean, it’s obviously wrong that BT have not been upfront to their customers about limiting the service they provide, but I am presuming they haven’t broken the terms of their contracts with customers.

But they didn’t stop there. A spokesperson for BT added that BBC should shoulder the cost for access to their iPlayer service.

Excuse me?

It’s kind of like BT are blaming the BBC for providing content to their customers. Sure, the BBC iPlayer creates traffic on their network, in the same way that any kind of web usage does. But that’s why the customer is purchasing a service. Paying money. For a service.

The logical conclusion to this would be for every ISP to charge every single company who owns a website that is used by a member of the public with internet. Which is clearly ridiculous.

It’s one thing to secretly limit the service without telling customers, it’s another thing to somehow claim that the companies who provide this content are somehow to blame!

What is that about? Is it a marketing exercise to somehow deflect from the fact BT’s infrastructure cannot cope with the usage levels of their customers? What has that got to do with the BBC?

More to the point, though, BT also admit to prioritising the service levels pertaining to usage of BBC iPlayer to customers who pay more.

This further underlines how wrong they are to claim BBC should fit the bill. If a customer pays more, they can have a less-restricted service. If the level of service they can provide to their customers is proportional to how much the customer pays and has no bearing on whether content providers like BBC pay money to BT, surely this further proves the issue is one of service level agreements between customer and ISP?

I’ve yet to read if spokespersons for other major UK ISPs have jumped on the bandwagon, but my guess is that most other ISPs would sensibly assume they cannot pull the wool over their customers’ eyes in that way.

If anyone has a good analogy that adequately sums-up how amusing and ridiculous this is, I would love to hear it.

Apr 09

Finally, it breaks

Contrary to original post re apparent indestructability of iPhone, mine appears now to have broken. Just thought I’d set the record straight. The volume / vibrate switch on the side had snapped off. O2 insurance was brilliant: a brand new model, couriered to me the following day.

Mar 09

Gmail and the lower case "i"

Has anybody else noticed Gmail’s left-hand folder links now has a lower case “i” on inbox rather than an upper case “I”?

This is the kind of uber-sad thing I notice, and I wonder why it changed all of a sudden. It doesn’t appear to affect all users.

Perhaps it’s because tomorrow is April 1st.

It seems this has also been noted in this Google Groups post.

I’m outraged. OUTRAGED I tell you. In other news, I didn’t have coffee today until THREE O’ CLOCK PM.

Feb 09

New portfolio is online

Mat Smith Photography: my new portfolio is now online.


Sep 08

Dear Visitors – my new blog.

Dear visitors,

I wonder if I shall always start my blog posts in that way?

I have little to actually say just now, it’s not that nothing riles me senseless, nor makes me want to scream with excitement, it is merely that I have just set up this blog and am not fond of the default page that makes it look like you hit the wrong page.  Whilst I am sure there will be content of Frankian proportions in the weeks and months to come, ain’t nothing to shout about right now.

For now, see my about page, where there are listings of the various photo websites and other sites I am to be found on.

Stay tuned.