Thursday, July 18, 2019



This picture appeared in the Evening Standard a couple of nights ago (it’s from Instagram), and the caption read, ‘Cara Delevingne shared a glass of champagne with Tilda Swinton and Helen Mirren at a Chanel party.


You’d think Chanel could afford to give them a glass each, wouldn’t you?

Friday, July 12, 2019


I went to the party to celebrate 60 years of Ambit, the first literary magazine ever to publish my work. (Some very unliterary magazines had previously published some very unliterary stuff of mine).  The evening was a poetic rather than gustatory occasion, and it was a good night, but I’d been told beforehand that there’d be a ‘special cocktail’ called the Euphoria Bliss.

Now, fans of the very most obscure literary backwaters may know that Euphoria Bliss was an alumnus of Ambit, famous chiefly, and perhaps only, and long before my time, for reading poetry while naked.  Or as in this case while wearing a kind of fishing shawl:

Those men’s faces confuse me a little – are they leers, smirks, or are they just embarrassed? Male gaze – minefield innit?  In any case it was a different time, and there’s no suggestion that anybody ever coerced Euphoria Bliss into getting naked.  This is her too:

Nobody seems to know where she is these days or what’s happened to her.  An online search brings up various euphoria blisses including ‘Euphoria Bliss - the number one marketplace for Wellness and Lifestyle.’ Yeah right, but none is the one we’re looking for.

And so, occasional mixologist and magazine lover that I am, and always in search of new taste sensations, I went to get my Euphoria Bliss cocktail.

Need I say I was disappointed?  It was a gin and tonic – nice enough its way but neither truly euphoric nor blissful. Nor with a slice of lemon.

So I decided I would go home and make my own small tribute to Euphoria Bliss, a woman I never met but have heard a great deal about.  It’s this:

One part gin, three parts pink grapefruit juice, two parts Tia Maria.  Works for me.  I hope it works for Ms. Bliss, wherever she may be.

Here is the Ambit crowd, looking vaguely sepia.

Saturday, July 6, 2019


No restaurant could possibly live up to the image on this matchbook, could it?  

It turns out there are quite a few Marconi Restaurants in the world; in London, Warsaw, Sasso Marconi, Montreal. 

It's possible that the match book comes from one that used to be in San Francisco, but I'm not putting money on it.  Chiefly the place exists in somebody's fevered imagination.  

Friday, July 5, 2019


I once met a photographer who’d had the job of taking glamour shots of Joan Collins,when she was in her forties. Being a solid professional he’d got the job done but it had been hard work. ‘Blimey,’ he said, ‘it was like photographing naan.’  (He meant the bread rather than his grandmother)

Even at the time this seemed thoroughly and needlessly insulting (and I wasn't even sure it was really true) and it hasn’t got any less so over the years, but as a result I can rarely, if ever, think of naan without thinking of Joan Collins. For the record, I’m still rather fond of Joan Collins.  She even had a cocktail named after her.

If Wikipedia and the OED are to be believed, until 1979, which was about the time my man was taking his pictures, the usual spelling was nan rather than naan.  Who knew?  A good pub quiz question there.

I’ve been thinking a lot about naan since the weekend when I walked past this wonderful establishment in Finsbury Park; Baban’s Naan. I take it that the name Electrofix on the awning comes from a previous occupier of the shop, but what a great name for your next retro-electronica band!

Naan is what they make and naan is what they sell.  This is part of their menu:

I was amazed at just how cheap everything was, and I was tempted to buy a few things, but I’d just had lunch and wasn’t hungry.  Call me a fool.

But next day, at home, the urge hadn’t gone away, so I had to make my own version, using supermarket naan, which cost as much on its own as the finished articles cost at Baban’s, and then I put some curried mince on top.

It wasn’t bad, and it was made with a certain amount of care and love, but I admit it lacked authenticity.

You won’t be surprised to learn that I haven’t been able to find a picture of Joan Collins eating naan, but here she is with a banana. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019


If we fret about baby octopi, then how we feel about whitebait? You’d think it must be really bad and wrong to eat all those tiny critters before they’ve had a chance to have fun, to enjoy a meaningful life, and (no doubt most important of all) breed.

Of course, anybody who cares about these things knows that whitebait isn’t a single kind of fish, and in New Zealand (which was the home of most of the websites I found about whitebait sustainability), it’s a term for multiple kinds galaxids, most of them declining or heading for extinction.  This is what galaxids look like:

In the UK whitebait tends to be the young of sprats and herrings – which are more ‘sustainable,’ and arguably this gives us a small environmental superiority, though nothing to get smug about.
I do very much like whitebait, but I don’t know that I like them well enough to kill off one or more species for my selfish needs – which of course applies to anything I might eat.
But perhaps this is too much protest, and whitebait is only on my mind because I went to Turtle Bay, a Caribbean restaurant in Walthamstow, part of a small chain - there was no velvet rope on the night I was there

and without thinking about it very much ordered the seafood platter, containing several starters ‘inspired by beach shack and street vendors across the Caribbean islands. Nothing from Guyana then.  And here you see the whitebait.  There’s other stuff there too, squid, miscellaneous curried fish, a fishy flatbread, and so on, and the whitebait came with a decent jerk mayonnaise.  

Actually the best thing we had was the goat curry, but it wasn’t very photogenic, as you see. 

And I couldn’t even begin to guess about goat sustainability

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Photo by Luna Woodyear Smith

Some of you old uns may remember a poem by Adrian Henry, (who is currently being celebrated at the Whitechapel Gallery) which runs:
Note for a definition of optimism:
A man trying the door of Yates Wine Lodge
At quarter past four in the afternoon

This, of course, comes from the dark days when pubs had ‘opening hours’ based on the notion that if the working classes could get at drink at a quarter past four in the afternoon they’d never go to work at all, and society would collapse, and so on.  But oddly enough it seems not to have worked quite that way.

Photo by Luna Woodyear Smith

And it so happened that I was in Manchester at the weekend and went to a Yates – the ‘wine lodge’ part seems to have disappeared from the name - and yes, times have changed.  There were cocktails (the Woo Woo, and The Pornstar Martini, among others). There were even nachos:

Photo by Luna Woodyear Smith

And there was also, and I can’t work out whether this is tradition or innovation, fusion or ethnic diversity, something on the menu called the ‘Topside Beef Yorkie Wrap’ which I’d never heard of, never even thought of, though it seems to be all over the internet.             
        There, and on the Yates picture menu, it looked like a rolled up pancake filled with with roast beef, which would be OK, but in the flesh it was more like a rubbery hot pocket filled with tough mystery meat. I wouldn’t say I regretted ordering it but I don’t think I’ll be having it again.

However I was absolutely thrilled another night at a Chinese restaurant, called the Mei Dim, to have the ‘spring onion cakes.’  

Photo by Luna Woodyear Smith
They didn’t seem very Chinese - the ‘cake’ tasted just like shortcrust pastry (not that there’s anything wrong with that) so they were ‘fusion’ I suppose – and in any case it made for a heck of a starter.  Better than Yorkshire pudding, and as a Yorkshireman it doesn't even pain me to say that.

Thursday, June 20, 2019


And so we went to Leigh-on-Sea; me, Mel and Marianne, a place where I think I’d been before but I didn’t remember much about it, except that there were cockle sheds, more than you'd think the whole country would need.

And we went to Osborne’s – who seem to rule the roost around those parts and we had a fish platter with a few extras – the extras chiefly whelks and baby octopi, my preference and which my companions didn’t fancy much, so I got to take most of them away with me.

They looked even better when I got then home, and they tasted great.

But I must say I did feel a bit bad about the baby octopi – there were so many of them – it was like eating a whole extended family – maybe a whole generation.  Why this didn’t apply to the prawns and whelks I’m not sure.  I think it was because the baby octopi had heads, and also perhaps because they were babies.

Want to see the Psychogourmet in action?  Of course you do.

Want to see an octopus in action? Yeah, why not? Note: it’s not a baby:

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


I’ve been reading - actually rereading - Roger Lewis’s small and perfectly formed biography of Charles Hawtrey, the star of Carry On films until he fell out with the producer Peter Rogers in an argument about why he wasn’t given bill in a play he was doing with Patricia Hayes.

It’s well known, by anybody who cares about these things, that Hawtrey was a serious alcoholic and at times a very nasty drunk, and sometimes he  incorporated his own characters traits (though not the nastiest) into his performances, as in this scene:

Even so I was amazed to find out just how much the man managed to put away, especially given his very slight frame.  According to Lewis ‘His average evening tippling comprised two and a half bottles of port, a quantity of whisky and a pot of tea.  Which sounds bad, though we’ve all heard worse.  
        But then Lewis tells us ‘He breakfasted on five double gin and vermouths.’  Were these martinis?  Gin and Its?  Did he do the whole ice, bitters, stirred not shaken routine?  I’m guessing not.

Saturday, June 15, 2019


Obviously, anybody who calls themselves an "expert"  is to be seriously distrusted, and yet I can't deny that I wish somebody, somewhere. at some time had called me a "sandwich expert."  Don't you?

I wouldn't call myself a "sarnie professional" either, though I have made sandwiches professionally, by which I mean I was paid for it (not very well, of course).

I choose not to acknowledge what "sandwich condiment game" might mean. 

The sandwich in question looked like this, apparently.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


No doubt you’re dying to hear what I ate during my sojourn in California.  Truth is I ate pretty ‘low’ most of the time: I felt that was what the late Jonathan Gold might have wanted.  His presence still looms over the Los Angeles food scene, not least in this mural:

Here’s some beer and some seafood ramen that I ate at a restaurant in Little Tokyo, called Kagura.

You know, I’m increasingly not sure that I really like ramen and I certainly don’t see what all the fuss is about. The seafood was fine, and the broth was OK, though I could probably have done without the sweet corn. It was the noodles I had trouble with.  I mean they weren’t bad noodles and of course some noodles are better than others but in the end noodles are always just noodles.  The beer was fine.

At Cindy’s on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock I had the shrimp and grits, largely because it contained tasso ham which I’d never had before, hadn’t even heard of it. 

Apparently Tasso ham it’s a Louisiana thing, made from the hog’s shoulder, so not actually a ham if we’re being picky.  I’m sure it added to the general flavour but it was well back in the mix.  Tasso ham looks like this:

In Yucca Valley I went to the 62 Diner and ordered the "Buddy Holly" for breakfast. 

It’s just corned beef hash and scrambled eggs, but the items on the menu are named after pop performers of the 50s and 60s.  After I’d ordered, I heard the waitress tell another customer that the Beach Boys Fish and Chips was the specialty of the house but it was too late by then.   
          The waitress also said she really liked my hair and asked if I dyed it.  I said I didn’t, which was true, and this impressed her even more, though the notion that waitresses go around thinking that I might have dyed my hair is somehow unsettling.

This is a Cali-Club in the Denny’s in 29 Palms:  

Denny’s is always ‘reliable’ without being good, and has been for decades.  What seemed to have changed, in this branch anyway, was the waiting staff.  My waiter was a 300 pound, tattooed, muscled man mountain.  Maybe they need guys like that in 29 Palms in case the marines from the nearby base get a bit fractious late at night, although this was in the morning and my waiter surely have finished his shift long before the night.

This is carne asada from Kokopelli’s in Yucca Valley.  

They used to have this very fine figure outside but it’s gone now:

The carne asada was fine though I’ve had better, tastier, moister versions, even at Kokopelli's, but I've been going there so long that it almost feels like home.

And here is a Reuben sandwich, with potato salad, which I ate on my last day in LA, at a restaurant called Teddy’s CafĂ© at the corner of Pico and Bundy.  

I went there because it was easy walking distance from the rental office where I’d just returned my car.  I wandered in, ordered, ate, and when the bill came I asked if I could pay with a card and was told it was cash only. The bill came to a very reasonable $11.75 so I dug through my wallet and pockets and came up with all the cash I had, a grand total of $12.20.  

On the one hand I’m not very worried about this because I won’t be going back there any time soon, but I did feel like a bit of a heel.  The service was worth considerably more than 45 cents, and I’d hate any waitress in Los Angeles to think the English were a stingy bunch when it comes to tipping.  I mean, in general many of them are, but I like to break the mould.

Friday, June 7, 2019


While in California, I did my best to emulate Kim Gordon’s dad in the drinking, if not the making of, cocktails.

Perhaps the most important stop was Musso and Frank, on Hollywood Boulevard, a place I always say is my favorite restaurant in the whole world, and I was there to raise a martini in memory of Ruben Rueda, late barman (and definitely not a mixologist) at that establishment. 

2019 is Musso and Frank’s hundred year anniversary – I bought a badge to that effect:

1919 was also the year that Prohibition started and I would have thought it was a very bad year to open a restaurant but maybe it was in fact a very good year to do it.

I went there for Saturday lunch with my pal Scott.  My martini looked like this:

I thought there might not be much of a bar crowd on a weekend lunchtime but I was wrong.  Along with the martini, I had a French dip sandwich with some of the biggest potato chips I’ve ever seen:

Scott and I found an ebullient friend, name of Gloria.  The man behind her is her long-suffering husband (and no, I don’t know what kind of relationship they have), and thought it best not to find out.

I was staying at the Biltmore downtown, where all kinds of movies and TV shows have been filmed, including Mad Men and not least National Treasure, a fact confirmed by this picture in my room, of Nick Cage and Diane Kruger.

 The Biltmore also does a damn fine martini.

I went off to the desert and although the desert doesn’t scream ‘great martini’ I spent one night in Palm Springs where a bar called Zin served me a couple of more than adequate silver bullets. This was one made with Aviation gin and two olives.

This one was made with Botanist gin and three olives, and cost a dollar more than the previous one, and was worth it

In the course of my two drinks, the barman, named Jeremiah, and I discussed soccer, rugby, cricket, and the importance of giving children music lessons at the earliest impossible moment.

I also stayed a couple of nights in LA with my pals Anthony and Elina (and their young un Astra).  Anthony is serious about many things, coffee, literature, and in this case the Trinidad Sour, made with rye whisky, lime juice and amazingly large quantities of Angostura bitters. Anthony looks like this while concocting:

And the concoction looked like this.