Pizza Express

Pizza Express by Tom

I’m fortunate enough to live in an area of the country filled with great eats. Like wild orca whales surrounding a precariously balanced podgy seal, award winning chefs surround me, vying for me to fall off my current diet-berg and stuff my face with their delights.

Even as a self-confessed food snob, I’m spoilt for choice and the eating’s always good.

However, something grimey lurks deep within me, more specifically within my tum tum. I call it the ‘Stomach Prince’. This prince of darkness, awakens whenever I consider my next food outing. He speaks to me, whispering sweet nothings, corrupting my thoughts. He demands I consider an alternative course of action. He demands mid-90s, mid-class faux Italian mediocrity. He demands Pizza Express. I can’t explain why. I can’t answer for him. But 3 times out of 10 he wins and I take myself and whoever I can drag down with me to Pizza Express.

This presents an immediate problem for anyone who is familiar to Pizza Express. One cannot simply go to Pizza Express. No, no, first admin is required. There is ALWAYS a voucher for pizza express. I’m no coupon scrounger, but when said voucher results in a whole free course, you have to print one off or suffer the guilt your wallet demands for not doing so. This system has been the same for years and therefore must be successful for them – which says a lot about their main customer base.

Once there, I’m always impressed by how busy it is. A real authentic bustle of underpaid staff frantically scurrying around ferrying their body weight in dough balls to each, never contented, diner. Their thirst for spherical dough never sustained. Commendable. I don’t judge the patrons for this, I’ll be joining them soon enough – the prince has already whispered a need for doughy balls en route.

Balls quaffed, I move on to Pizza. Apparently they do salads and pastas too. I will openly judge anyone within a 10m radius of me who elects for one of these alternatives. Stay at home, you aren’t welcome here.

As I mentioned earlier, I am a food snob. Irregardless of the stomach prince, I am still aware of this. I want to judge the pizza, given its relatively low price and the cheap plate it’s been served on. But I can’t. Pizza Express have one thing to get right and, to their credit, they do indeed nail it. The modern fashion with pizzerias at the moment seems to be a ‘less is more’ artisan route – to the point of it essentially being toast with a bit of tomato on top. Not at Pizza Express.

Criticisms? A few: Clearly at this price point, the toppings aren’t going to be of the highest quality. We aren’t going to get artichokes hand selected by Pope Francis that have been watered with a virgin’s tear. No, we are getting the tinned, CostCo variety. But really it’s not noticed. The only real major criticism comes when it’s time to pay. The hideous moment I have to announce I have a voucher. It feels like a confession. I feel cheap. Then I look around and every other fucker is doing the same, with the same grimace.

The Dark One sated for another month or so, I am now free to go home. And I can announce my confession. There is no ‘Stomach Prince’. I just didn’t want to admit what I knew all along: Pizza Express is bloody great and I don’t care who knows.

I do maintain that the intestine dwelling ‘Dainty Duke of Macdonalds’ is real however!

Insta-Chefs

Insta-Chefs by Tom

The book store, a place the middle classes frequent when they are detoxing from Amazon and pretending to stick two fingers up to capitalism. Within these forgotten establishments, you’ll find familiar tropes; the intoxicating smell of printed paper, veneer wooden shelves, way too many staff with an almost tangible smugness and a seating area where people are supposed to sit reading books but instead sit reading their iPhones.

However, a new consistency is emerging. To the untrained eye, it looks like pile of cookery books taking centre stage like a shrine to the culinary gods. A prominent pile of cookery books doesn’t sound particularly new or something to take note of, but where are the familiar faces? Where is that chubby bloke from Essex brandishing some Italian pasta he’s pretended to cook for his pretend friends? Well he’s not there because these aren’t ‘normal’ cookery books. No, these are the Avant Garde, these are the Instagram Chef books.

You’ll have noticed if you peruse social media that the photographing of self-prepared food has become a popular endeavour. Instagram, being photo focused, is at the forefront of this and we now have Insta-famous chefs. Only they aren’t chefs, they are just attractive people who can photograph food with in-vogue filters and then hashtag the fuck out of them. Worse still is some of them preach about the health benefits of their food – capitalising on the diet fad market too. This has blown up into a massive industry and we now have hugely successful books such as ‘Girl casually sitting with bowl on lap’ and ‘Millennial in tight fitting training shirt near some inconsequential food’. These books are now best sellers and are hugely popular.

I procured one of these douche bibles to find out why.

First off is the apparent (and initially commendable) agenda of wanting to make cooking seem simple and easy – hinting the question; “Why isn’t everyone cooking like this?”. Well Joe, we aren’t all cooking like you because we don’t have coconut oil, kumquat seeds or the tears of an Eskimo. So far, so Jamie Oliver, but at least Mr Oliver can cook and come up with great recipes (once you’ve completed the pilgrimage to procure the necessary ingredients).

As I read on, the recipes are pretty terrible. I admit they look fantastic, but they rely on the overly complicated, expensive ingredients. Lazy statements like “let the ingredients speak for themselves” emerge. I personally would rather know how to cook them in an interesting way. Fundamentals are also missing – I encountered one recipe for a pie and it didn’t even mention seasoning. Wow.

I then decided to cook a recipe. This was going well, but save the expensive ingredients, I realised something – this is familiar. I’ve been cooking like this since I was a child. This isn’t clever stuff, it’s just cooking. The same cooking you’ll find in ‘Good House Keeping’ or be taught by your parents. There’s nothing new here.

So why are these books successful if they aren’t offering anything new? It’s the same reason as to why their authors are famous on social media – vanity. Popular culture has always been obsessed with looks over substance, unfortunately this ethos has now infiltrated cookery books.

Bring back my sweet, soft Essex boy. #neverenoughgarlic

Snickers Hazelnut

Snickers Hazelnut by Tom

I like a Snickers. I’ll make no apologies for it. So don’t ask for one.

With this in mind, I ventured to my local purveyor of fine, nut-based, chocolate delights (Sainsburys) to procure my favoured form of sustenance.

What’s this I see? A new, limited edition? Enter the Hazelnut Snickers. I thought I’d experiment. Dip my toe into something different. Something non-peanut based. Different nuts for different needs perhaps?

Too excited to wait, I unashamedly quaff down in the Sainsburys car park. The first thing to note, and this is true of most nut-based confection: this isn’t something that slips sensuously down your gullet. It’s sharp and aggressive. I don’t mind that. My mouth has handled worse. But there is an issue here. It’s the same issue other hazelnut based confection has – I’m looking at you Kinder Bueno – you slutty mess. The issue is sweetness. The default Snickers is great because, although the caramel and nougat are very sweet, the peanut balances this out. Hazelnut doesn’t work here. It seems to just add to the sweetness that results in a sickly, uncomfortable swallow.

I know what you’re thinking at this stage. What about Ferraro?! They make Ferraro Rocher and Nutella – Both hazelnut based. Well stop right there. Sure, I’m partial to a Rochet (a singular Rocher) but have you ever stopped and thought how come they’ve never made a Rocherbar? Well they did, they trialed it in 1989 in a small part of The Ukraine. They got too close to sun and we all know what happened next. And Nutella? Ah the Nutella conundrum. Somehow insanely sweet, yet somehow bearable and almost edible without vessel. However, if you’ve ever eaten Nutella out of a fridge, you’ll know that it just doesn’t work in a solid state.

So, ultimately the rule here is hazelnut and chocolate, never shall the twain meet. Unless they are served on a silver platter by an ambassador at a fancy function. Or are a spreadable delight.

So in conclusion: Too sweet, stick to regular. Now since I’ve bought a 4 pack I’ve now got 3 more of the fuckers to deal with.

Edit: I dealt with them. They aren’t that bad actually. Well this was a waste of time.

The Perfect Curry

The Perfect Curry by Matthew

January 10, 2017. It was a cold, wet night. The weather reflects my internal mood after another long week at work, I start to feel a single tear well up in the corner of my eye, I try to hold It back but try as I might the tear reaches critical mass and spills over, sloping down my weary face, past the cheek,  down the contour of my mouth and off the chin into freefall, bottomless, eternal freefall just like all of our pointless lives. Until ‘SPLASH’. The tear breaks joyously on the surface of my already overly- engorged phallus. The lubrication is heavenly, this truly felt like divine intervention.

Looking back on this diary entry it’s difficult to see how this relates to curry at all. So if you’re still reading this, what the fuck is wrong with you? But also, if you’ll indulge me, let’s spend a short while reviewing The Indian Queen in Wroxton.

Set just outside of Wroxton, The Indian Queen offers great food at fuck you prices. I’m just kidding, the food is good and the prices are better.

OK, so check back in soon and we’ll have more reviews in the coming weeks!

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