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, March 31, 2010

Cafe Morlang - Amsterdam

I was absolutely shattered after returning to Amsterdam yesterday, and the last thing I wanted to do was cook. So I wandered for a few minutes in the shops and then I decided to get something to eat.

I came across Cafe Morlang on Keizersgracht, which looked quite nice from the outside. When I saw a wagyu beef burger advertised on the menu, my mind was made up. You enter through a heavy velvet curtain into a nicely relaxed atmosphere. Music is playing in the background and apparently there is also wifi on offer.

The menu at Cafe Morlang is intruiging with mixed cusines, but I did order the beef burger which came with thick-cut fries and a big serving of hollandaise sauce. The burger was weirdly soft and loose, kind of like a gently-fried steak tartare. Any taste that it may have had was overshadowed by the slightly burnt taste from the accompanying bun. Fried mushrooms decorated the top. At €16+ I must admit that I was a little disappointed.

I followed up with a Mexican coffee (tequila and kahlua) which was more than rich enough to send me shuffling off home all happy.

Cafe Morlang, Keizersgracht 451, 1017 DK Amsterdam, The Netherlands. +31 (0)20 625 2681

StrawberryNet Price Increases for Irish Customers

It was with interest that I read on today that online cosmetics retailer StrawberryNet plan to increase the prices charged to Irish consumers. They intend to do the same thing as whereby they will only allow Irish shoppers to transact in Euros, thus denying people the chance to take advantage of better currency rates on their credit card.

Shame on you StrawberryNet. Such a pity - why do you feel the need to resort to underhanded tactics like this?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spider Trap - Barry Maitland

I've been working in Amsterdam for over 2 months now, most of which has been spent living out of a suitcase in the Marriott hotel. The Marriott has recently refurbished all of their lobby area, including the executive lounge. The lounge now features some bookshelves which are stocked with new, unread books. As I had just finished my current book, I went downstairs to the lounge and did a swap for "Spider Trap" by Barry Maitland. Granted, the choice was limited, but Maitland's book did seem interesting.

A shooting of two teenage girls in inner South London leads to the unearthing of 3 skeletons on an abandoned patch of ground. DCI David Brock and DSI Kathy Krolla are assigned to the case, which takes them back in history to the Brixton riots of 1981 and brings them face to face with a long-established London crime family, headed by Spider Roach.

This novel is one of a series of nine in the Brock and Krolla series, written by Maitland, who has lived in Australia since the mid-1980s. Despite this, Maitland sets his novels in the neighbourhood of his childhood, South London. Despite such a legacy, this novel is a worthwhile read in its own right and will probably entice a lot of readers to pick up more of Maitland's novels.

Maitland skillfully mixes the past and present as he tells this story of organised crime and murder. The story is firmly embedded in the culture of the area and builds well towards the end. His story of a white family controlling all black crime, while distancing themselves from the law is intriguing. But ultimately, they doom themselves through a foolish act. This is a well-written, classy crime novel that isn't sensationalist, but instead intelligent.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Steakhouse Piet de Leeuw, Amsterdam

Steakhouse Piet de Leeuw is one of those neighourhood treasures. Located on the quiet Noorderstraat, off Vijzelstraat, it caters pretty much to locals and the odd tourist. It's panelled in dark wood and offers a simple menu of steak, pork, liver and fish. You get the feeling that nothing much changes here. If you wandered in 50 years ago, things would pretty much have been the same back then.

All I know is that €18.50 will get you a perfectly cooked steak, sliced and served with fries and fresh coleslaw. Couple that with a relaxed atmosphere where it is possible to read your book in peace and you have a winning combination

Steakhouse Piet de Leeuw, Noorderstraat 11, Amsterdam 1017 TR. +31 (0)20 623 7181

Servant of the Underworld - Aliette de Bodard

Servant of the Underworld is the first in the Blood and Obsidian Trilogy from French writer Aliette de Bodard. Here, she mixes Aztec culture, blood magic and forensics to create a new genre in the fantasy world. There is no doubt that de Bodard has taken on a hefty task in recreating the Aztec world, given that we know so little about it. However, she has deftly managed to create a living, breathing world full of detail.

When you think about it, the main hero, a High Priest for the Dead who kills animals for sacrifices, shouldn't be a very nice character. As the author herself admits, he doesn't commit human sacrifice in the book, although chances are high that he would. However, the character of Acatl is endearing and human as he struggles to clear the name of his warrior brother.

Overall though, I just couldn't involve myself with the book. It felt lacklustre and devoid of real energy. Perhaps it was as a result of all the detours into songs and chants, but I couldn't muster any real enthusiasm.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Left Hand of God - Paul Hoffman

Thomas Cale is a young acolyte in the Sanctuary, home to a order of warrior monks. His life is brutal, cold, hungry and tough. Friends aren't tolerated in the order of the Redeemers and training to wage war is the order of the day. It is clear that Cale is being trained for some special purpose but nothing is clear.

Following a horrific discovery, Cale is forced to flee the Sanctuary along with two fellow trainees and a young handmaiden. Although ferociously hunted by the Redeemers, they manage to evade their persuers and make their way to the city of Memphis, where their lives start to take some interesting turns.

Thomas Cale is a interesting character - he is at turns a killing machine and devoid of feeling, but he also struggles with latent feelings and emotions. In a way, Cale is typical of this novel. It struggles with an identity. I was uncertain in which timeline or world this story was set. Was it a post-apocalyptical tale, an early medieval tale or a story of a parallel universe? Although Hoffman writes eloquently, he fails to elicit real emotion or interest. A climatic battle scene simply passes by without raising a real sense of doom or defeat.

The book is the first of a series, but I won't be reading further. It simply didn't engross me enough to buy more.
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