Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Eccles cake or egg custard?

An Eccles cake
An egg custard (pen not included)
Yonks ago I had this ace idea for a running magazine feature called Eccles Cake or Egg Custard? Basically it involved ringing round celebrities - and this was when the tag was earned as opposed to being a lazy-arse job description - asking them which of these wonderful treats they preferred.
The results would then be printed verbatim. None of the mags I approached - including the Loaded, the FHM and the Sunday Times one - went for it, even though I'd already done a few to get the ball rolling, reproduced below:

Richard Whiteley
Biff: Hi Richard, my name's Biff and I'm calling from **** magazine. Which do you prefer, Eccles cake or egg custard?

Richard Whiteley: Oh, egg custard. Definitely. Although there's a lot to be said for an Eccles cake. All that flaky pastry and currants. Mmmm! Can I change my mind? I'm going for Eccles cake.

Biff: Are you sure? Mike Reid went for egg custard.

RW: Oh Mike!

Decisive Brett
Brett Anderson from Suede
Biff: Hi Brett,  my name's Biff and I'm calling from **** magazine. Which do you prefer, Eccles cake or egg custard?

Brett: Eccles cake.

Biff: Cheers Brett.

Brett: You're welcome.

Get the kettle on Steve!
Keith Burkinshaw
Biff: Hi Keith,  my name's Biff and I'm calling from **** magazine. Which do you prefer, Eccles cake or egg custard?

Keith: Egg bloody custard. *hangs up*

Steve Harris from Iron Maiden
Biff: Hi Steve,  my name's Biff and I'm calling from **** magazine. Which do you prefer, Eccles cake or egg custard?

Steve: Ooh, now you're asking incha? Can I say both?

Biff: No. It's like a war. You have to take sides.

Steve: Hmm, I suppose it depends on circumstance. If I'm having a brew, then probably the Eccles cake, but if I'm out and about, the egg custard. Because that's easier to eat on the hoof.

Biff: Well, where are you now?

Steve: At home.

Biff: Have you got a brew on the go?

Steve: No, but I've got Wolfsbane coming round in a bit to put some shelves up so I'll probably put the kettle on.

Biff: So are we saying Eccles cake?

Steve: I think we are!

(Next time: Rock's greatest moustaches)

(I think the Richard Whitely pic is in the public domain - if it isn't a thousand apologies. I'll remove if it offends)

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Why is Meantime draft lager so bad?

Schonramer - as it arrived
Meantime is a Greenwich-based brewery that has two pubs in the area. I've been to both a few times, and I really want to like them, but I just don't.
Actually it's not the places themselves - the Greenwich Union on Royal Hill, and the Old Brewery at the Old Naval College - because they're both smart. Really nicely done out and the Union, which for me used to have a bit of a pong about it, is a really nice pub.
It's the draft beer I don't like. Maybe I'm doomed to suffer because I don't like ale and stout and all those drinks that beer bores slurp down. I like lager.
I went to Bruges recently and one of the things that sticks out is how much better the beer is there - all kinds of beer.
They take it seriously, and the people at Meantime clearly take it seriously too, but their lagers - and variants thereof that I've tasted - are hopeless. At best, not bad-ish and at worse, really, really awful. And expensive.
When I was in one of their gaffs the other day I started with a pint of Schonramer (£4.35, I know) and it was alright. Mrs Biff had a Meantime Helles, which in her words tasted 'like water'. I had a sip to confirm. So far so ho hum.
Five fucking quid
Next up we went for broke with a trappist beer cos we're mad like that. Westmalle to be precise and it was ace - 9.5% and a cool five pounds a bottle (I assumed the glass was a prezzie). It seemed to work at an accelerated rate as I had a monster headache two hours later. 
The grub is ace at the Union by the way, although it's not cheap at £11.30 for a burger and chips. But back to the beer, lastly I had a London Lager, a Meantime-brewed beer. I'd had this before and didn't think much but I gave it another bash.
This was the worst of the lot. It tasted like a bad Kronenbourg - no life at all. That seems to be a trend with the Meantime lagers, they're dead flat and have that sort of bad-Stella taste to them.
These places are charging top dollar for what is, in my opinion, mediocre at best lager. You can get a good drink there, and the Westmalle was spot on, but why should we have to pay a fiver (!) to get a nice beer? It's insane. I don't want much and I don't claim to be a beer expert, I just want want the Belgians get. And that's not a phrase you hear often.
London lager
For the prices they're charging (Meantime, not Belgium) - and getting, these places are busy - I can go elsewhere and get a crap lager for cheaper.
And I don't want to do that. I want to support places like this, and I don't mind paying for good stuff, but I always feel like I've been mugged after a visit to either of Meantime's gaffs.
These pretzels are making me thirsty.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Libya to 'come back fighting' in ratings war

Gaddafi - even his pyjamas have medals on
Security experts have warned 'Libya will be cooking up something big' to get itself back on top of the news agenda.
Events in Japan, and that royal wedding cup being printed with the wrong bloke on it, have led to immense news fatigue among the public, leaving last week's chart-toppers Libya on the outside looking in.
Felicity Iron of the International Security Council said: 'At the moment Japan is the only show in town - Colonel Brian Gaddafi won't like that one bit.  But you can be sure he'll have his top men working on something to wrest the initiative back.'
PR guru John Palms added: 'It just goes to show how quickly things can change. One minute you're the lead, the next you're below a Youtube clip about cats.'
The knock-on effects of Libya's demotion are being felt in Britain too. Protestors, led by Jez Briefcaseatschool, have been occupying Gaddafi's London house for the past fortnight. But for the past week no one has even pretended to care.
And with 98% of the world's news crews now encamped on 'the highest ground Japan has to offer' there are concerns for British stories - you know, proper news.
'We could really do with Princess Diana coming back from the dead, or maybe Fergie lezzing up' admitted Daily Express political editor Max Scissors.
With viewer fatigue now reaching critical mass, there are also fears for  Friday night's Comic Relief. A Red Nose Day spokesman said: 'Really, unless we turn all the money over to Japan, is there any point us fucking bothering?'

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Some ace things about Bruges (in Belgium)

An alley

Gruuthuse Hof, Mariastraat, is where we had our tea the first night. Very nice it was too, although I got the idea the waiter was growing weary of his lot in life. Not helped by me swinging my arm into the too-low light-shade and bringing a massive card disc tumbling out of it. I caught it because I'm ace, and it was mildly diverting I suppose, but not as exciting as the assembled diners' reactions suggested. 
Probably out with their husbands or wives as part of a last-gasp attempt at saving something that's been dead for years - trying to use the electrical charge of my presence to reanimate the corpse of long dead love. Yes I saw you, sitting in silence, praying for something to happen. And then you saw me with a sleeve-full of light shade and thought 'this is it! Look, Sheila! Sheila! Did you see that? That bloke just hit the lampshade! Ha ha ha! You see - life isn't so bad after all! Look at him! He's trying to dislodge himself and he stood on that woman's foot! Now the waiter's involved and he's saying the bracket's missing and the shade won't go back in without it! He has to find the bracket and the bloke's saying well he hasn't got time for that and the waiter's saying he can't get another one because they don't make those shades any more! Sheila, are you watching this love? Oh I do love you, my darling! I've been a fool to doubt it. To hell with it, let's have pudding!'
Sheila's leaving you.

Look at the flash on that!
It's obvious but bears repeating - the ale is so much better than the shite we get served in this country. You can order a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g in a Belgian bar and it will be, at worse, half decent. 
That cheap stuff they have - Jupiler - is better than the draft lagers in our pubs. Step up to the local brew, Bruges Zot (the only one brewed in the city apparently) and it's miles better. Up it again to any number of ace ones - just take a punt, you can't miss - and you see just how shit British pubs are. As Mrs Biff said, beer in British pubs is merely functional. Cue some beardy nob, saying 'actually that's not beer, old titsonians scribbleplop is beer, you're on about lager.' Stick it up your tank top, wanker.

Tom's gaff
Tom's Diner, West Gistelhof 23, is spot on too. Small restaurant out of the city centre (about five minute walk north from the market square) which does a small selection of top grub. I had the meatloaf because it said 'LOCAL' next to it on the menu, and it was ace. Good starters and pud, nice beer, good service.

Also ace for beer, but less so for the beer-bores it attracts, is t Brugs Beertje (beerhouse, I think that means), Kemelstraat. They have tons of beers, including some real super strength gateway-to-hell stuff. There was a real disparate bunch of English oddballs when we were in there. One lad, as soon as his beer came (in half a coconut shell) declared the smell alone was 'to die for'. Don't be fucking stupid, egghead. 
A canal
There were five lads and one girl and each was more nerdish than the last. Slightly disappointed they didn't try and recruit me. Only downside of this place was the lad serving - he seemed a bit of a nob. 

And lastly, cycling is ace beacause it's actually pleasant. It would never occur to me to ride my bike in this country for leisure, at very low speeds. But it's perfect in Bruges, big old cycle lanes with plenty of room for walkers and bikes. And, like Amsterdam, the cars give way to you because the law's on your side. Biking round by the windmills on the east of the city and then coming back into town was just brilliant. 
There's a bike hire gaff on Mariastraat, it's 4 an hour, €8 for four hours, and I think €12 for the day.

Curried mussells and chips

Oh aye, I got to see Arsenal tumble out of the European Cup with a typical display of grace and dignity from Arsene 'it wasn't me' Wenger. And there seems to be a fair bit of free wifi around, if like me you don't fancy paying O2's outrageous rip off roaming prices. They also sell Bugles - dead nice crisps - and the people seem to be generally friendly too. Also ace.

A thing for horses to drink from that's shaped like a horse's head