Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Eton Mess

It's practically summertime, and that means that strawberries are now beginning to appear regularly in the shops. I adore strawberries, I could live on a diet of strawberries. I had my first taste of strawberries and cream (a la Wimbledon) when I was about 14 at the Lota annual charity summer fete. Ever since then, it's been an addiction.

I love them with cream, with balsamic vinegar, on their own, and especially when served in an Eton Mess. I made one the other night to celebrate the first punnet of summer strawberries. It's so simple to make but so delicious.

I make mine by taking some whipped cream, and crumbling meringues into the cream. Slice some strawberries and layer them in a bowl with the meringue cream mix. Enjoy.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Silent on the Moor - Deanna Raybourn

I must admit that I gave a bit of a sigh when I received this ARC copy in the post. The scantily-clad lady on the front cover promises a bodice-ripping type of read. As it turns out, the story is set in the late Victorian 19th-century, which means that the cover picture looks at least a century or two out of date. I actually used to keep the book against my lap when on the tram or bus so that no one would see this embarassing cover!

It's the third story in the series of Lady Julia Gray novels, of which I've not read any before now. The story is simple though. When Lord Gray, Julia's husband was murdered, she met Nicholas Brisbane, a half-genteel, half-gypsy private investigator (who was pretty hot looking). The previous two novels have developed their relationship, both professionally and private and this third novel aims to provide some form of climax to the series.

Exasperated by their relationship, Julia travels to Brisbane's new residence, Grimsgrave, situated on the foreboding Yorkshire Moors. However, she didn't expect to find members of the former owners, the Allenbys, still in residence. As Julia's natural curiosity causes her to explore, dark secrets from the Allenby past are uncovered as well as more of Brisbane's past.

To be honest, this book isn't my cup of tea. I'm not one for historical romances, even when they have a good bit of mystery thrown in. But I can see the attraction of Lady Julia Gray for lots of readers. Despite living in the Victorian-era, she is a modern woman and the character of Brisbane will undoubtedly appeal to many.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

When Skateboards Will Be Free - Saïd Sayrafiezadeh

Said Sayrafiezadeh was the third child of two members of the Socialist Workers Party who grew up living alone with his mother following the departure of his Iranian father. But what kind of childhood do you have when your mother is a committed communist and you live in capitalist, imperialist USA? The answer - a childhood filled with protest marches, self-denial of consumer goods, a series of dilapated homes, no grapes or skateboards and a ingrained ability to trot out the party line.

Once Said asked for a skateboard - a measly $11 skateboard. His mother did not buy him one because when the revolution came all skateboards would be free. That little story is the essence of this sad, miserable tale of a childhood dominated by the author's parents political manifestos. His mother's bookshelves were lined with the entire works of the Communist canon but they never had been read. Late in life, as he relates a conversation with his girlfriend, he realises that he cannot distinguish between Communism and Socialism, although political slogans are branded into his brain. Ironically he now works for the Marta Steward corporate empire, somewhat at odds with the political ideas of his childhood.

A large portion of the book is devoted to the author's father, a mathematics professor who left the States to return to Iran where he attempted to spread the socialist work and who was a candidate for the Iranian presidency following the departure of the Shah. He comes across as an uncaring man who only infrequently communicates with his son.

Ultimately though, you feel a tremendous amount of sympathy for Said and indeed for his mother. Late in her life, she makes the enornmous decision to leave the Socialist party, but it is clear to see that life has passed her by and she appears as a tragic, lonely figure. In fact the whole memoir (subtitled A Memoir of a Political Childhood) is incredibly poignant. There is a dark humour present, but overall it is quite grim.

Tenors Grill Room, Donnybrook, Dublin 4

Tenors Grill Room in Donnybrook occupies the former site of the Courtyard Cafe and has entered the market with a definite plan. All starters are priced at E5, while all mains are E10 with desserts available for E5. A carafe of house white or red wine is on offer for E12.95 - given all this, Tenors appears to offer excellent value.

The two of us dined there today, drawn in by this offer of good food at good prices. You enter the restaurant via a courtyard just off Belmont Avenue (behind Madigan's Pub in Donnybrook). The courtyard was empty on this overcast day but should be filled with sunshine on bright days. Inside, the large diningroom is cleanly decorated in shades of white, red and blue with plenty of natual light flooding in through the glass section of the roof.

The menu is simple offering typical cafe food. We chose mussels in white wine and herbs, along with chicken wings for starters. The mussels were plump and very fresh but let down badly by the accompanying sauce which was more like a soup in consistency and tasted of very little. The chicken wings were coated in a semi-spicy sweet'n'sour type sauce and were just fine.

I went for the cajun marinated chicken breast burger served with fried onions, crisp lettuce and vine tomato along with chunky chips while he chose the Malaysian style Chicken Curry served with Tenors special fried and poppadom. The burger was singularly flat and bland when it arrived. The crisp lettuce turned out to be a single limp leaf while the vine tomato was a regular thick slice of tomato. There was a weird rose-coloured sauce in the bottom of the burger (possibly from a prawn cocktail?) while I couldn't taste any hint of cajun spices. TBH I really could have gotten a better chicken burger from any chipper at 2am in the morning. (BTW, Eddie Rockets just down the road does a far superior chicken burger for just E6.95).

He fared a little better with the Malaysian curry but both the curry and the rice had the feeling of prepreparedness about them.

We declined the offer of dessert and coffee as at this stage we were of the opinion that we didn't really want to leave any more money in Tenors than was necessary. Total bill for the two starters, two mains, a diet coke and a sparkling water came to E36. On the surface that seems like good value, but to be honest I'd rather spend a little more and get food that actually tastes of something.

Offering good value is crucial these days, but restaurants should still be mindful of the need to balance quality and value.

Tenors Grill Room, 1 Belmont Avenue, Donnybrook, Dublin 4. 01 - 283 0407

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cafe Mimo at House of Fraser, Dundrum

We were out in Dundrum Town Centre today and looking for a bite to eat. We looked at the lunch menu for the excellent Ananda restaurant but €25 for three course lunch (starter, main and desser or tea/coffee) seemed too much to spend at lunch. Ditto for the €25 special at the lovely Siam Thai. Plus, I don't really want to be railroaded into eating more courses than I want just for the sake of a good deal.

We found our way to Cafe Mimo at House of Fraser. They have a simple menu based on typical cafe food. I ordered the Cafe Mimo salad (greens, dried cranberries, seeds, feta cheese, grilled peppers and chicken), while he went for the Chicken Caesar salad.

When my salad arrived, I was struck by the size of it. There was more greenery in it than in the clippings basket of a lawnmower. There was very little dressing so I requested more from the waitress, but even after adding the extra dressing, it was still strangely tasteless. My partner had the same complaint about his Chicken Caesar salad. However, the dried cranberries and feta added nice flavours to the salad and overall it was quite nice.

Both salads cost €12.50 and a bottle of sparkling water (€4.50) brought the bill to a total of €29.50.

Cafe Mimo, Level 2, House of Fraser, Dundrum Town Centre, Dundrum, Dublin 14. 01 - 299 1400

Thursday, April 23, 2009

lastminute €10 room sale - what a joke

So I got a mailshot from telling me that they were having a €10 room sale today at 10 a.m. Great, I thought. One night away, even if it is in Dublin, for €10 won't be so bad. And so began the litany of annoyances.

I logged onto the website before 10 a.m. all ready. When I clicked on the link provided in the mail shot I got redirected to a stg10 offer for England.

Then I visited the website, clicked through the banner and finally got to the correct booking page.

I discovered that only 2 hotels seemed to be participating on the dates I was interested in (one 4* and one 3*), and when I attempted to book, I got booted back to a generic booking page. Clearly there were no rooms left. But they can't be arsed telling you that.

Bravo lastminute. When you send out emails advertising a great deal, you'd want to make sure that there actually a decent product behind it. I've not been a great fan of lastminute, although I have gotten some good stuff in the past, but I've had nothing but bad experiences with their special offers and sales, as well as suffering their confusion between Ireland and the UK.

I think that this is the last time I'll try to book with lastminute.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mint Restaurant Closed

I've only eaten in one Michelin-starred restaurant and it looks like that I won't get the chance to widen that experience in Mint. It appears that the Michelin-starred restaurant in Ranelagh has closed in the last week.

I've mixed feelings about this. McGrath is obviously an immensely talented chef, but obviously the new Ireland could no longer support the prices charged for a dining experience in what was, by all accounts, a confined dining space.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

eBay is Bad for You!

I haven't bought a pair of shoes in ages. In fact, I'm gearing up to clean out my shoe pile. I think that in 8 years I've probably managed to get rid of 5 pairs max (all of them horrible pointy toed affairs).

I thought that I could handle a quick browse on eBay. So I went and searched for my favourite brand - Irregular Choice - size 4 thanking you. And I ended up buying this pair in a Buy It Now auction. Dammit! At least they were cheap.


Île Sainte-Marguerite - Cannes

While on our recent holiday, we decided to take a day-trip to the lovely Ile Sainte-Marguerite, just a few minutes by ferry from Cannes. It's the largest of the Lerin Islands and its main attraction is the fortress prison which is allegedly the source of the story of The Man in the Iron Mask.

The ferry departs on a fairly regular basis from Quai Maxime Laubeuf and it's only about 10 minutes to the island. As you approach the island, you can see the fortress to your left and the clear blue water with moored yachts will take your breath away.

We spent a while wandering around the fort, followed by a long walk through the forest and pathways of the island. A word of warning, there are some restaurants on the island, but they are pricey, although there is a great little van that does good value coffee. Bring some bottled water with you to keep you hydrated.

The island is a perfect antidote to the tourism of Cannes. We spent a while following a little salamander through the shrubs and later watched birds nest. The island was a welcome change of pace.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Gourmet Burger Kitchen, South William Street

I have a love of burgers. Chicken, lamb or beef are all good, although I find the concept of a fish burger a bit bizarre. Myself and Eddie Rocket's have had a good long-term relationship although I have strayed from the path of fidelity several times.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen was the brainchild of two Kiwis who recently sold the company, but their ethos still lives on in the burgers. Outlets of this franchise have sprung up all over Dublin recently and we visited one Friday when the craving for a burger hit hard in the city centre.

From the fairly extensive menu, we chose a Kiwiburger (beetroot, egg, pineapple, cheese, salad, mayonnaise and relish) and a Cajun burger (smoked chili sauce, salad, mayonnaise and relish) and then we waited... and waited... and waited. I pity the lunch crowd who descended on the restaurant. Whether they wanted it or not, they were in for a long Friday lunch. When the burgers arrived, they were stacked high on the plate with a wooden skewer holding the ediface in place.

I was disappointed with the size of the cajun burger. Once I removed all the excess damp salad from the burger, I was left with a small patty. At this stage I was grateful that I had decided to add some Camembert to the burger as an extra (E1.35), but I definitely wouldn't be choosing this option again. The Kiwiburger appeared to be much better value.

One annoying point was the disparity in drink prices. One large glass of Diet Coke, made from syrup, cost E2.65 while a 500 ml bottle of sparkling River Rock water cost a stonking E2.95.

There was nothing about Gourmet Burger Kitchen that would make me want to return. The burgers are just ok and service was slow. There are far better local establishments where you can have your burger fix. Total cost for our meal was E29.15.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen, 14 South William Street, Dublin 2.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

F*ckwits in Airports

Depending on where you are, and the situation you are in, you will encounter different classes of idiot. You have the unobservant idiots on the road, the ignorant morons who leave doors open, but I have a personal favourite: the f*ckwits who you meet in the airport.

These are the people who don't use the resealable plastic bags, who feign surprise when two bottles of shower gel and shampoo are pulled out of their luggage. They are the people who stand two abreast on travellators and escalators, the people who try to fit luggage into overhead bins. They are the people who walk at a snail's pace, who can't find their passport (despite having put it into their pocket two minutes earlier) and who start queueing at the gate two days before the plane departs.

When you are a regular airport traveller, it isn't hard to streamline the process. But there's always a f*ckwit waiting to spring a new level of stupidity.

Crank: High Voltage

Crank: High Voltage sets out to top the original Crank and succeeds on many levels. It is faster, harder, more outrageous and downright crazier. Jason Statham reprises his role as Chev Chelios, the indestructible hitman with a mean line in Cockney rhyme.

Having survived a fall from a helicopter, as shown in the closing scene of the original film, Chev awakes to find that his heart has been removed leaving him with an artificial heart and a constant need to electrically recharge.

Chev sets off in pursuit of his heart and what follows can only be described as a cartoon-style caper. Crazy asian prostitutes, sexual antics at the races, electro-shock dog-training, full body Tourettes and a bizarre Godzilla-style fight scene all add to the craziness and frentic pace of the film.

Ultimately, although I loved individual scenes in this film and laughed out loud in many places, I just didn't find it as tight as the original. However, the film knows that it more outre than the original and delivers bucketloads of action, curses and fights. It is nothing short of a disturbed film but one that will have you laughing.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Walking People - Mary Beth Keane

This is an impressive debut novel from talented writer Mary Beth Keane. The story moves through the different eras and settings with panache and ease, capturing the moods of the times and the characters perfectly.

Ireland in the 1950's was rampant with emmigration and many young people left their homes to seek work and fortune abroad. Gretta and Johanna Cahill, along with Michael Ward leave Ballyroan, a decaying village in the far West of Ireland to find work in New York.

Gretta is regarded as a "goose" by her family, a little distracted, but she is sent to America in the company of her more able elder sister. Michael is a member of the travelling community (or one of the Lucht Siúil, or Walking People) who does not want to live the life of a travelling gyspy any further. In Ireland, he would find it hard to live as a settled person, but America offers new opportunities.

It is in America that the roles of the Cahill sisters reverse as they make their new lives for themselves.
The book moves from the beginning of their lives in the late 1950s through to the end of their working lives in the late 2000s. The secrets that this trio share will echo throughout their entire lives culminating in the final scene of the novel.

Although I did not life the initial opening scenes of the novel, I rapidly found my opinion changing as I continued to read. Keane's writing style captivated me and drew me into the lives of her characters. Keane does a magnificent job in capturing different facets of Irish culture. She interweaves the Irish disaspora with the traditional disdain for the travelling community as well as presenting a story of family secrets. An excellent read.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Special 1 TV Takes on the Cadbury Ad

I hate that Cadbury's ad with a passion. You know the one. The freaky kids with the even freakier eyebrows. If I didn't like the music so much, my TV would probably have a big hole in it as a result of my foot kicking those kids.

However, I was watching Special 1 TV on Setanta Sports recently and to my delight, Sven and Rooney perform the Cadbury ad, Special 1 Style. Excellent stuff.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Minor rant here folk. Well, it's actually major for me, but is probably more like a storm in a teacup for most people.

I like to stop at a particular cafe every morning for a coffee before work. It's a popular spot, with people constantly in and out. The problem is that the cafe door is a little sticky and often stays partially ajar, leaving in cold air. Every morning people are in and out without shutting the door behind them. They come in, leave the door open, pick up their takeway coffee and walk out through the open door.

I'd love to slap each and every one of them silly. Every morning I feel like racing out of the door after them, down the street, and asking them to shut the flipping door. How hard is it?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

War Trash - Ha Jin

Ha Jin lied about his age when he was 14 years old so he could join the Chinese People's Liberation Army in the midst of the Cultural Revolution. He left his native China in 1985, and now writes about China, solely in English for the benefit of English-speakers. War Trash, his fourth novel was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

It's hard to believe that there is not an element of autobiography in this story. Our main character is Yu Yuan, who is drafted into the newly formed Communist army and is sent as part of a corps of 'volunteers' to fight against the Americans in the Korean War. The short-comings and lack of preparation on the part of the Communists soon become apparent to our protagonist, as he watches hundreds die around him. Eventually he is captured by the Americans and following surgery, he is sent to a POW camp.

Despite having faced hardship out on the battlefield, it is in the POW camp that Yu faces the toughest challenges of all. The POW camps are split between the majority Nationalists, who want to be released to Free China (Taiwan) and the Communists who want to return to China. Yu's English language skills means that both sides are interested in him, but all Yu wants is to return home to his elderly mother and fiancee.

The tale is very simply written, sometimes without grace or elegance of language. However, it is an interesting portrait of the inner-conflict that the Chinese people must have faced at the dawn of the Communist age. Yu faces the tough choice between returning to the mainland, possibly declaimed as a traitor for allowing himself to be captured, or moving to Taiwan. The Chinese mentality that is portrayed in the book is confusing to me as a Westerner, but it goes a long way to explain the enthusiasm that the Chinese have for idealogues.

Ultimately I found this to be a powerful, yet simple, tale that exposed vast tracts of Chinese attitude and mentality as well as providing insight into a far-away war.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Fast & Furious

When the strapline for a film is "New Model, Original Parts", you have to laugh. 4 of the cast from the original Fast & Furious return for this fourth installment in the petrolheads favourite series of films. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster are all back in this simple tale of revenge and fast cars.

I really wasn't expecting much from this film, so I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't utterly useless. Diesel acts as only Diesel can, while Walker isn't trying to act for once, much to the film's benefit. Rodriguez is rough and tumble as always while Brewster provides the required emotion and prettiness.

What this film lacks is car porn. For a series of films that are all about cars and driving fast, there aren't enough scenes of hot cars and mad races. It's a pity, but overall the film works and it's undoubtedly going to draw in a crowd.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

The whole world knows a little bit about Abraham Lincoln. Emancipator and US president during the American Civil War, he is a revered figure. When I visited Washington D.C. last December, the most impressive memory I have is of the Lincoln Memorial. Standing, looking up at the huge seated statue of Lincoln, I felt a sense of benevolence and watchfulness.

Preparations were underway while we in Washington for the inauguration of Barack Obama, the first black man to hold the office of the President of the United States. You would have to wonder what Old Abe would have made of it all. Obama often cites Lincoln as an inspirational figure and the cover of Team of Rivals is emblazoned with the words "The book that inspired Barack Obama".

Doris Kearns Goodwin is a famous historical writer who has taken a fresh look at the life and politics of Lincoln. She has chosen to view his achievements by studying his cabinet, a range of diverse men who Lincoln deliberately appointed to positions of power despite their opposing views. Three of his cabinet had been opposing rivals for the Republican candidacy and all had considered Lincoln to be a backwards country lawyer. Firstly, there was William Seward, the expected nominee, who Lincoln later appointed as Secretary of State. Seward initially expected to act as "the power behind the throne" but later came to consider Lincoln as one of his closest friends. Secondly, Salmon Chase, an ambitious man who desperately wanted to be president. Appointed Secretary of the Treasury, he raised much needed funds for the Union during the Civil War yet still strove for the presidency. The third candidate was Edward Bates, a kind genial family man who Lincoln appointed as Attorney General.

When it came to appointing his Secretary of War, Lincoln turned to Edwin Stanton. Stanton was a famous lawyer who had once dismissed Lincoln in a famous patent case. Yet when it came time to appointing his generals, Lincoln held no grudge and called on Stanton as the best man for the job.

Lincoln corralled a diverse range of men, and unified them into a strong and cohesive leadership during one of the toughest times faced by the United States. It is testament to his leadership and empathy, and lack of grudges, that by the time he died, all men considered him a true friend and a gifted leader.

This book is an amazing insight on so many levels. Initially, it reveals the immense talents of Lincoln, but on a deeper level, the talents of Lincoln provide many guidelines for modern business and politics. It is a truly great work and will continue to ensure that the legacy of Lincoln will "belong to the ages".

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sapore Restaurant, Nice

We ate a lot of French food in Nice and the South of France. A hell of a lot to be honest. Therefore, we were looking for something different for our last night in France. The Ryanair guide to Nice (available here) mentioned Sapore as follows:
Pick and choose from lots of small, delicious tapas-style dishes. Décor in stylish metal and light-coloured wood. The chef has been trained at some of the Riviera’s most highly-regarded kitchens.
When we checked out the restaurant on Google Maps, we realised that it was just around the corner from our hotel, the All Seasons Nice Vieux Port on rue Emmanuel Philibert. We hadn't noticed it before when we walked around the area, but we decided to walk over and see if we could get a table. To be honest, we nearly walked past it again, as it is quite discreet, but thankfully it wasn't busy and we were easily able to get a table.

The interior is simple and very stylish. Different colour water glasses are on every table and a selection of bread slices are bought to the table while reading the menu.

The menu is simple; The Menu Decouverte consists of a selection of 8 tapas style dishes for E30. If you like, you can make one or two substitutions from a short list chalked on a blackboard but we placed ourselves at the mercy of the chef. The menu is changed every 15 days and was as follows on the night we visited

Crab Veloute
Bruschetta sur un air Espagnol
Fagotin d'asperges, reduction Balsamique

Barande de morue, 'facon Catalane'

Pave de bouef et foie gras poele
Gratin d'epinard

Tarte au chocolat 'Caraque'
Sabayon passion sur son lit de bananes

The 8 dishes are served in 4 distinct groups, as split above. The Crab veloute really reminded me of the traditional french soup of the region, but creamier and more pleasant. The asparagus bundle was delicately flavoured by the piece of ham wrapped around the stalk, while the bruschetta featured more ham, a delicious roasted tomato and some grilled pepper.

The barande de morue was a mix of mashed potatoes and the local salt cod. Served in a little glass, like a mousse, it was deliciously light and slightly salted.

Next up was the beef and foie gras, served with a portion of gently creamed spinach au gratin. The liver was beautifully cooked and crumbled at the touch of the fork, while the beef was perfectly seasoned and cooked.

Two fantastic desserts finished the meal. The sabayon was sweet and creamy, hiding a bed of caramelised bananas and served with a creme brulee crust. The tarte au chocolat was darly rich and very decadent. Two espressos, along with a bottle of red and one of sparkling water meant that our total bill was just under E100. The staff were superb and friendly and it's easy to tell that the chef is quite skilled. All the dishes appear quite simple, yet the execution and presentation was top notch. Thoroughly recommended.

Sapore, 19 rue Bonaparte, 06300 Nice. 04 92 04 22 09

All Seasons Nice Vieux Port, 8 rue Emmanuel Philibert, 06300 Nice. 04 92 00 59 00

Friday, April 10, 2009

Learning to use GIMP

I'm not really a fan of much image post-processing that I see, but I did download GIMP recently to see if I could work with some images that I felt could be better. So far, I like some of the results and I don't like others.

This is an example of a Before and After that I do like. The original shot was taken in Palmerston Park, Dublin, during an overcast day.

Before - I like the dark green that has been brightened in the 'After' shot, but the colours are a little dark.

After - The yellow is brighter now and brightness that wasn't clear in the original is visible.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Sunday in Cannes

We arrived into Cannes around midday on Sunday and went immediately from the Gare SNCF to our hotel, the lovely, modern Hotel Le Renoir on rue Edith Cavell. Our room on the 4th floor was huge and beautifully decorated in soothing creams with a large bathroom. Our balcony provided a beautiful view of Northern Cannes as well as the Alps to the East. Pleasant and polite staff added to the charm of the hotel. This place really is a little treasure, especially if you can book it at a reduced price on the internet.

The one downside to Hotel le Renoir was the fact that WiFi access was not free. In fact it was quite expensive. I hate paying for WiFi access, especially in hotels, and I really dislike high internet charges. Hotels, especially cool ones, really need to cop themselves on in this regard.

We took a walk towards the port, and had an excellent lunch at Restaurant La Farigoule, 82 rue Meynader located towards Le Suquet. Chicken liver salad and fish soup were the starters while we had fish and duck for mains. Desserts were also included in the menu for E16. The addition of some sparkling water, a half bottle of rose wine, two coffees bought the total to around E50. The waitress added two shots of apple liquer on the house. Excellent!

We wandered up the hill to La Castre, in Le Suquet, or the old town part of Cannes. The Castre Tower and the Chateau were built in the 11th Century by the monks of Lerin to protect the port of Cannes. Climbing to the top of the tower is not hard (not when compared to the belltower in Brugges) and affords a spectacular view of both the town and the port. You can see all the yachts moored below as well as the ferries which sail regularly to the Iles.

The whole area around Le Suquet is charming and picturesque with steep paved streets, stairs and flowers blossoming. It's a refreshing part of Cannes when compared to the blowsy eastern part of the town.

Later that evening, we went in search of food on Le Suquet. We had walked up the steep rue du Suquet earlier in the day when most of the restaurants were closed, but later in the evening it had transformed into a bustling hive of activity with restaurants perched on the edge of the narrow street. After walking up the whole street, we chose Prego, 16 rue du Suquet, this decision being based on the modern decor and funky red chandelier.

Prego was offerning a menu de degustation for E25 outside the door, but we had to especially ask for the menu once we were seated inside. The restaurants here will take every chance that they can to extract a few extra quid. I had a delicious terrine de foie gras to start while he had petit farcis de Nicois - essentially delicious little meatballs served in grilled vegetables. I then had the St-Jacques, or scallops, served with the coral on, while he went for seabass. Both dishes were served with rataouille and a mix of sauteed leeks. Desserts were chocolate fondant and a creme brulee. One bottle of house red and some sparkling water cost just under E80. It was pretty good food, served in a lovely setting, but such a pity that you had to look for the special menu rather than having it given to you.

Hotel le Renoir, 7 rue Edith Cavell, 06400 Cannes. 04 92 99 62 62

La Farigoule, 18 rue Meynadier, 06400 Cannes. 04 93 38 94 95

Prego Restaurant, 16 rue du Suquet, 06400 Cannes. 04 93 99 92 93

Monday, April 6, 2009

Frog Restaurant, Nice

We arrived in Nice on Saturday evening. We were staying at the Cityblue Malmaison on boulevard Victor Hugo. It's a nice simple hotel which did us perfectly for one nights stay in Nice.

We went out for a walk and looked for something to eat. Wandered around the Promendage Anglais and Vieux Nice, we ended up on the tourist trap that is Cours Saleya. We sat down in one seafood restaurant on the basis on the menu de jour, but when the waiter only provided us with the more expensive a la carte menu, we got up and left. We may be tourists in Nice, but we have no desire to be deprived of our hard earned cash.

We had passed by Frog Restaurant earlier, and it had looked good, so we went back. It's a nicely modern and cool restaurant, in sharp contrast to the mostly tourist restaurants in that part of town. The interior is lovely with white rough walls and comfortable seating areas. We ordered a mojito and a kiwi cocktail while we read the menu. The waiter insisted on translating all the specials into English, a lengthy process, but we finally ordered a millefuille of mozzarella, aubergine and tomato along with frogs legs for starters. Mains were red mullet en papillotte served with an olive and achovy polenta and a duck confit served with potatoes and compote. We ordered a demi-bouteille of the self-branded Pays du Var house red to accompany the food.

All dishes were excellent. Portions were not huge but very tasty. I especially loved my duck confit, which came layered in a glass pot with the mashed potato and onion compote. A cheese plate with 4 varieties and a basket of delicious bread finished off the meal. The total cost for this lovely meal was approximately E85, with excellent service throughout.

Frog Restaurant, 3 Rue Milton Robbins, 06300 Nice, France. 04 93 85 85 65

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Walk in the Park

I'm lucky to live right across the road from a lovely small park. Here are some shots from today's walk in the park.

Wow! Daffodils!

White Daffodil

White Tulip

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


In Traitor, Jeffrey Nachmanoff has crafted a tale of the post 9/11 war on terror, recasting it as a battle for the souls of believers.

Don Cheadle plays Samir Horn, a Sudanese born, America-raised ex-soldier. When an explosives sales to Muslim extremists goes wrong, he is jailed in a Yemenese prison, where he is visited by two FBI agents (played by Guy Pearce and Neal McDonough). From this point onwards, we are never sure where Samir's alleigances lie. Is he aligned with the errorists who share his faith, or is he working undercover as a loyal agent for his country?

As the plot is layered and developed, it is hard not to feel drawn into Samir's moral dilemma. As he plays both sides, the sense of personal danger threatens to overwhelm him.

There is something lacking in this film. It never quite digs deep, or pays sufficient respect to the victims of terrorism. It is intelligent, well-constructed and thoughtful, but just not insightful enough. It is however, a cut above the usual American terrorism hokum.
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