Seven 54 – Excellent Late Dinner – Didsbury, Manchester

Seven 54 – Excellent Late Dinner – Didsbury, Manchester

Picture the scene, I had arrived in Manchester late one Thursday evening. My friend was on her way down from Edinburgh and would not arrive until almost 9pm. For some reason the British public insist on eating at 4pm every night so the chefs go home early in this country. This was one of my chief frustrations when I moved here, as it happens. I knew time was of the essence. The first choice for dinner was not serving food due to staff shortages (thanks anti-vaxxers). The second, Seven 54, had a whole half hour of kitchen opening left, to my great relief.

My friend Aife, being what one might term a ‘skinny legend’ opted for the grilled prawns, cooked in smoked garlic butter, served with toasted sourdough. Prawns are supposedly excellent. They are semisweet, mildly salty and savoury, and not too calorific. The smokey texture of the garlic butter as well as the richness of the butter added to the prawns’ flavour and left Aife one happy diner.

I went for something a bit more substantial, the chicken schnitzel, with the divine caper herb salsa, garlic aioli, french fries and charred lemon. We were trying to figure out what consisted of the caper herb salsa. I asked the waiter to fix me a jar of it so I could take it home to Matthew but the kitchen was closed at this stage. British dining culture strikes again. The German word for this dish means ‘cutlet’. Often one would find this dish with veal as the central meat but this would not accord with my environmental sensibilities. Thankfully Seven 54 served it with chicken. The chicken was breaded with flour, eggs and breadcrumbs before being fried in lard or oil.

The real star of this dish for me was the capers and the fabulous aioli. The combination of the crunchy schnitzel, skin on fries and salsa was almost too delicious to bear.

Finally I ordered the spiced sweet potato and chickpea pakoras. This was served with something called ‘twisted mayo’ which I dare not espouse a view on. These were quite delicious and unusual. Typically these are filled with vegetables or onions but this one was made with sweet potato which was great for me. The sugary potato mixed with the savoury chickpeas and excellent batter (notice the larger crumbs also) made for a delicious dish.

Overall an excellent meal, which did not break the bank. I would recommend this to you if you are in Didsbury late one evening and cannot find a place which is still serving food. The welcome was great, the waiters were attentive and the environs were beautifully decorated. What more do you want?

 

Censor – 80s Horror in the 21st Century

Censor – 80s Horror in the 21st Century

In addition to Escape Room, and its sequel (which I now realise I have yet reviewed), Matthew and I went to the cinema recently to watch Censor, the latest horror to hit the silver screen. And what a horror it was! This was director Prano Bailey-Bond’s first feature film. Previously, she had made some music videos and a short film titled Nasty. Censor is something of a sequel to this. Censor focusses on Enid’s swift departure from sanity when the pressures of her role as a censor become overwhelming.

Enid (Niamh Algar) works as a censor in Thatcher’s England: scrutinising films for extreme content during the height of moral panic around video nasties. But the rigour Enid applies to her job starts to disintegrate as she becomes obsessed with the disappearance of her sister. Empire
The premise of this film is particularly interesting because the movies which Enid is censoring include a shocking amount of violence towards women. She sees herself as one of the great protectresses, the reason for this being made apparent quite early on: she was the last person to see her sister, now missing, alive when they were kids.  This is the driving force of the film and indeed the source of Enid’s encroaching madness.
This is, fundamentally, a story of a woman’s undoing. It’s about memory. It’s about trauma: how it manifests, how it can warp and, ultimately, how it can consume. Empire
Empire make the very interesting point that “Enid and her parents are all stuck in different spots in the first four stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression.”. While her parents are ready to move to acceptance, Enid remains in denial. This for me was pivotal to the film. Without spoiling anything, I would say the performances were powerful, the plot was excellent and the style was quite unique. With interspersed VHS clips and nauseating glimpses of violence, this has to be one of the most exciting horror films I have seen in recent years. I cannot wait to see what Prano Bailey-Bond will do next!

 

Kind of Blue – Miles Davis – Album of the Month August 2021

Kind of Blue – Miles Davis – Album of the Month August 2021

For a long time I have tried to ignore Miles Davis. In my ignorance I found his musical stylings shrill and unpleasant on the ear. My friend Jack sent me one of his most cutting edge experimental live albums, which I appreciated but this was 10/10 Miles and I could not handle it for more than 45 minutes. However, I have acquired the 2021 Edition of the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and found myself compelled to listen to Miles’ early works. I heard three Miles albums in one morning and was quite astonished. Honestly, I do not feel worthy to review this album but I shall give it my utmost.

Long held as the jazz album that even non-jazz fans will own, Kind Of Blue not only changed the way people regarded Miles, it changed the very face of music itself. Consistently rated not just as one of the greatest jazz albums but as one of THE greatest musical statements of the 20th century, its 46 minutes of improvisation and sophistication remain peerless. BBC Music

Hitherto in the jazz world the focus was on fixed chord sequencing. Miles was ready to try the modal approach which sees playing within a certain scale. This was seen as freeing for Miles and indeed he pioneered the form to exquisite results. His first saxophonist, John Coltrane, pushed this improvisation even further. This was indeed a step up from the bebop of Miles’ previous recent work.

John Coltrane – Sax

Cannonball Adderley – Sax

Jimmy Cobb – Drums

Paul Chambers – Bass

Bill Evans – Piano (replacing regular Wynton Kelly on all but one track – “Freddy Freeloader”)

Aside from So What and All Blues, which had been played previously, Miles did not give any time for rehearsal to his musicians. He laid out the structure and then went straight to recording, which adds to the shocking result that is the album. This was recorded over 9 hours, in two sessions in Columbia’s 30th Street Studio in New York, and resulted in a mega hit, the best selling album of all time and a spearheading evolution of the jazz form.

So What is the mid tempo opener which goes through a variety of styles. Blues in Green was my favourite track on the album. This was haunting and Bill Evans’ piano, which I have been a fan of for some years, joined by the mournful trumpet from Davis combines to make quite an affecting combination. The Hispanic influences of Flamenco Sketches, the only track on the album which needed a second run through (all of the others were done in one take), would be continued in Miles 1960 album Sketches of Spain.

Overall this is a work of supreme beauty and genius. I cannot do it justice in a 500 word review but invite you to listen to it with the above in mind and recognise what a stellar achievement this album was in the world of jazz. I shall listen to it again today, along with Quincy Jones, who is said to play the album every single day.

Fela Kuti – A Brief Life Story – by Sister Evelyn

Fela Kuti – A Brief Life Story – by Sister Evelyn

The below is written by Sister Evelyn, a treasured friend and teacher from my youth in Harrogate.


Fela Kuti was born in 1938  under British colonial rule, but later moved to USA where he met Sandra Izadore, a singer, who became his lover and tried to teach him to educate through music!    He was later christened the “Father of Afrobeat”.   Tony Allen joined his band as a drummer and other musicians joined them.

When he returned to Njgeria and became famous because of his music people either loved or hated him because he was so dictatorial.   He set up a communal refuge house (called Kalakuta Republic) for followers who needed refuge.  He opened a night club called ” The Shrine” where young people from richer homes danced madly, wearing extraordinary clothes!    He became addicted to marijuana.   High born girls with money flocked to him and he took them to perform around the world.  One was the daughter of Nigeria’s Chief Justice Minister!  Fela was sentenced to prison, but. soon released. The Nigerian economy was booming!

Fela on Stage

Soldiers  Invaded his home because the  government thought he was a danger to the country! His song “Zombie”, which described soldiers as mindless emotionless machines responding to orders without thinking, enraged the government. However, General Yar’ Ardur did give permission for the release of the song. In spite of this, tanks surrounded Fela’s home, but he put up an electric fence to protect his family. Soldiers broke in, attacked the women, Fela’s skull was broken and his mother was thrown from the roof by soldiers. He was heartbroken.

[Cedric: I thought I would add here that Fela wrote a song about the ordeal called Coffin for Head of State, one of my favourite Fela tracks, in which he mourns the death of his mother and speaks about dropping off her coffin at the Nigerian Military HQ rather than at the cemetery, to rebuke their actions in killing her]

 

With regard to religion he criticised both Christianity and Islam as foreign religions and defended witchcraft and traditional rituals. He married 27 women on one day in a ritual, but the women were beaten and tormented. Remi, his first wife, was enraged but helpless. He set up a new band called “Egypt 80”.

In 1983 there was a coup and a new military dictatorship was established. Fela wanted to escape, but was arrested at the airport on his way to USA.

The  AIDS epidemic broke out in Nigeria, but Fela was deep in the “spirit world”, convinced he was immortal, condemning condoms and he finally died of AIDS in 1997.

He lay in state in a glass coffin in Lagos with drugs in his hand. Thousands came to see his coffin and no crimes were recorded in Lagos for the next three days.

An extraordinary life!

[Cedric: you may wish to visit Kalakuta museum, where Fela held his commune / cult, in Nigeria]

 

The Greek – Authentic Mediterranean, Hull

The Greek – Authentic Mediterranean, Hull

My goodness did we order a lot of food at this place. It will take me some time to get through them all so hold onto your hats. I shall try to be as brief as is likely in the following. Suffice to say this meal cost us about £21 each, including a bottle of Retsina vine wine, which was most welcome considering that I had just cycled 250 miles, the last 30 miles of which my seat post was shrinking mile by mile, which rather hurt my knees for weeks afterwards.

The dolmades were one of our first order, stuffed with rice, mint & seasoning and coupled with fresh yoghurt. This was delightful, refreshing and not too heavy so was perfect as one of our many starters.

See above a photograph of the home baked greek bread with olives, on which we nibbled throughout the meal. It is always my advice to save room on bread, avoiding bread can often conserve your appetite and leave room for a variety of dishes. If you do not want a huge meal, on the other hand, do stock up on bread as this will limit your appetite.

The Saganaki was a beautiful hard cheese pan-seared at high temperature, until bubbling, forming a nice golden crust. This was so flavoursome, and resembled halloumi in its texture but was a tad more acidic, which I enjoyed immensely.

While the stuffed red pepper is perhaps not the most attractive, this sweet pepper, stuffed with wonderfully seasoned feta was one of the overall winners of the meal. The tangy and salty flavour of the feta, which was a tad on the more grainy side as opposed to smooth (a good thing in this instance) paired very well with the nicely roasted pepper.

The bougiourdi was by far the least appealing visually. However, this feta cheese baked in the oven with tomatoes, fresh chilli peppers, garlic, sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil was the most flavoursome. An explosion of flavour which I could not stop nibbling at.

Finally we enjoyed the above beautiful lamb kefte, consisting of grilled lamb with chips, tzatziki & pitta. Tzatziki is made with made with strained yogurt, cucumbers and olive oil, and can be flavoured with lemon, vinegar and dill (or sometimes mint). On this occasion it was dill, if I am not mistaken. The lamb was well grilled and balanced in its spicing, and was a good portion in view of the mammoth meal we enjoyed up to this point.

Overall, this was an excellent meal with astonishing good value. I would absolutely eat here again on my upcoming trip to Hull.

 

Dough Eyed Pizza – A Sensation, York

Dough Eyed Pizza – A Sensation, York

Picture the scene, we are en route to Bishop Wilton, and have decided to stop halfway. We have cycled alongside the river on the way into work and are met with a spectacular picture of York Minster. The restaurant we want to go to is closed so we do a quick search on Trip Advisor and alight on the #7 restaurant in York. Lo and behold, it is a pizzeria in the centre of York, facing the central market. Dough Eyed is an unassuming restaurant, specialising in Neapolitan-style savoury & sweet pizzas, plus cocktails & craft beer. Neapolitan-style pizza typically consists of a thin and soft crust—if it is cooked correctly, the crust will bubble up and be charred in spots.

As I have written before, when going to a new pizzeria, I will undertake the Margherita test. This does not mean getting trashed, it means trying the original ‘Marge’ pizza to determine the quality of all of the pizzas in the restaurant. Suffice to say, I was astonished by this. It was exactly correct. I like the dough to be on the softer side and this was perfect to me. The tomato sauce has the correct amount of acidity which cut through the flavour of the mozarella, which mild and creamy, the taste is salty with a slight tang. I would have preferred for the basil to have been added at the end of cooking rather than at the beginning, which tends to leave the leaf dry and shrivelled, but I am nit picking. A phenomenal pizza.

Nick and his red shirt ordered the Napoletana, consisting of anchovies, tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil. As you’ll know I am not fond of fish. However, I can say with confidence that Nick enjoyed this pizza immensely. He got through the whole thing in record time. Anchovies have a number of flavours, including  sweet, sour, bitter, and salty, along with a fifth flavour known as Umami. Together with the creamy, soft, fior di latte and the aforementioned acidity of the tomato sauce, this was most likely a winning pizza.

Finally, I should like to close with a picture of my cycle, Excelsior, before York Minster. I would like to think my cycle is more impressive but perhaps I am in the minority.