You Should Be Watching… Girls

The key cast of HBO's Girls
The key cast of HBO’s Girls

Girls was one of HBO’s hit shows of 2012, and it’s about to come to the UK. Created, written, directed and staring Lena Dunham, Midas touch Judd Apatow is also very much a part of the creative team Girls. Much has been made of the fact that Dunham is 26-years-old herself. Because of this, I find Girls is very fresh, very realistic and not trying to please everyone. It speaks of a very specific time, about a very specific kind of experience.

Girls follows a group of early-20s “girls” as they try and establish themselves in their careers, relationships and friendships in New York. Obvious and somewhat lazy comparisons have been drawn with Sex and the City, but Girls is smarter and much more raw than SATC. All the characters have major flaws, their friendships aren’t perfect and they make bad – no, terrible – choices.

Girls is a “dramedy” (ugh) and with great storylines and lots of humour. It’s my new favourite show. A thinking female’s New Girl, if you will.

Hannah, played by Lena Dunham

The pilot episode sees Hannah’s (played by Dunham) parents cutting off their financial assistance. “We can’t keep bankrolling your groovy lifestyle!” they tell her. Hannah responds as any 23-year-old entitled ‘creative’ would respond – she attempts to get high, turns up at her parent’s hotel room and lies on the floor comparing herself to Flaubert. OK, so Hannah is a bit extreme and that scene doesn’t exactly paint her in a good light, but she’s also likeable because of her neurotic and histronic personality.

Marnie, played by Allison Williams

The rest of the series sees Hannah try to make it as a writer in New York, and living with her best friend from uni – sorry, college – Marnie. Marnie is going out with her college boyfriend who she’s grown out of, and works in a gallery. Marnie despairs of Hannah and her flaky, self-obsessed personality. But Marnie has her own problems too…

Jessa, played by Jemima Kirke

There’s also Jessa, Hannah and Marnie’s friend. I pretty much hate Jessa. She likes to think she’s so crazy and hedonistic and I get that she’s meant to be a bit… irritating. But it’s too much. Maybe that’s great writing but meh, I could do without her.

Shoshanna, played by Zosia Memet

Shoshanna rounds off the four girls, and is my totes fave. She is obsessed with her life being like SATC, except she’s an extremely uptight virgin. She says totally cringey things (like “totes fave”. That was an in-joke and you probably just missed it), and is wonderfully played by Zosia Memet. Most of the laughs, for me anyway, come from Soshanna. She’s so naive and sweet, and in awe of Jessa and her friends.

Girls is very easy to watch, and I would say that it touches on themes that would definitely speak to 20-somethings at the moment. And although it sounds very girl-focused, it’s completely un-girlie. I said it above, but this is in no way SATC – thank God.

Pub Review – The Pig & Butcher, Liverpool Road

A little scampi snack - The Pig & Butcher
A little scampi snack – The Pig & Butcher

Yep, I started my meal before I remembered to take a photo – what of it?

The Pig & Butcher has opened up on Liverpool Road where the slightly ropey Islington Tap used to stand. They have an in-house butcher slicing up prime cuts that the seemingly skilled chef cooks up for customer’s delight. They also do a healthy (and expensive) line in craft ales (beers? Who knows the difference? Not me!). It’s all very… Islington.

I’ve popped in there twice so far, and have been fairly pleased with the pub on both occasions. The first was a Sunday roast. Just as a precursor to what I’m about to say, I just want to make it clear that I don’t rate pub roasts. They are never as good as home-cooked roasts. There’s something about mass-made roast potatoes that doesn’t work. You can’t taste the love that you can in a home-made roast. Anyway…

The roast was pretty decent. I went for a 32-day aged Hereford beef rib. It was incredibly rare (fine by me, but might not be to the taste of those who don’t like their plate swimming in red juices), and delicious. It came served with a silky cauliflower cheese, greens and roast potatoes (which were not great). Some of my companions got the whole roast chicken, which was absolutely ginourmous even for two. The beef was £15.50 and the chicken was £14.50 per person, which is slightly on the pricey side for the area.

The second time I went in, it was for a light lunch with friends. I ordered the scampi, as pictured above, with a side of fries. The scampi was great – light, sweet with a lovely yet naughty batter. The chips were so thick that they were still quite solid in the middle. Andrew went for a steak sandwich. Here’s the pics to prove it happened…

Steak sandwich – The Pig & Butcher

It was actually an open sandwich, which was fine, although Andrew claimed, “It wasn’t what I was expecting… but yeah, it was nice.” He actually praised the meat really highly. He also had the undercooked humungous chips.

The Pig & Butcher is a lovely gastro pub, really close to Upper Street, so I am sure it will do well. However, it has a slightly more expensive than average menu – but in Barnsbury that’s probably not going to hinder them. The meat there is to die for – they do it excellently and in spades. However, with meat being the star of the show, some other factors do suffer a little. I’m sure these will get ironed out. Oh, and the staff are extremely friendly – I love their staff!

Service – 4/5

Venue – 4/5 (although it’s so hot in there – they need a/c or something)

Value – 3/5

OVERALL – 3/5

The Pig & Butcher, 80 Liverpool Road, Islington, N1 0QD

Nearest tube: Highbury & Islington (10 minute walk), Angel (12 minute walk).

The Pig & Butcher is open 5pm-11pm (Monday-Wednesday), 12pm-11pm (Thursday), 12pm-1am (Friday & Saturday), 12pm-11pm (Sunday).

Top 5 – London Transport Annoyances

london_underground

People who don’t live in London probably get annoyed with Londoners moaning about public transport. Well, to those people I say, “Move along, buddy!” because I’m about to unleash a verbal tirade against everyone I deem an idiot on London transport. In fact, no, not everyone because there’s about 1billion of them (citation needed). I’m only listing 5 here. So feel glad. Also, you can add your own rants in the comments. It’s great pathos. Come, scream into your virtual pillows with me. The Olympics is over; normal, miserable service can resume (ugh).

1. Wheelie Suitcases

It is unfortunate that these things are normally carried by Londoners arch nemesis, The Tourist (disclaimer, I don’t actually have a problem with tourists. They bring trade and vibrancy to my city. I’m all for the little fellas). But sometimes they’re being pulled by a regular douchebag Londoner. I don’t know which are ever which, because I don’t stop to check. All I know is that I avoid anyone pulling these things like the plague.

The vast majority of people pulling them don’t seem to remember they’re pulling a 4ft tail behind them, and unknowingly take out everyone’s legs behind them. Or they change direction quickly meaning everyone behind them falls over their suitcase. Or they can’t figure out the handle mechanism and spend ages panicking at the top of the stairs because they can’t push it down or get it out again. Anyway, everything about them makes me annoyed. I feel like a git for saying it though, because I also feel deeply sorry for those who have to negotiate London with one. But still: get out of my way.

2. People Who Stop to Read Stuff /The Positions of Signs

People looking a maps – these two people are certified lovely, FYI.

I have a real problem with people stopping suddenly in front of me when I’m walking around. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. What seems to cause most people in London to stop suddenly is because they’re looking at stuff. Whether it’s a great building, or they really need to get a snap of a London bus – whatever, they stop. Mildly annoying.

What is really annoying is the way TfL, or whoever is in charge of signage in the underground, puts maps on turnings in pedestrian tunnels. This mean people stop, like lemmings, forced to work out if they want this turning or the next. And they jam up the entire hallway, meaning people are piling up back on the escalator as it delivers more and more people into the tunnel while Dennis carries on reading the map saying “I think we want Eastbound. No! Westbound. Wait, where are we going?” la, la, la.

The more I think about it, the more annoyed I am at the signage planners (I think that is an actual, real job guys) and less annoyed at the clueless tourists that don’t know east from west.

3. Audible Music

Wow, this lady looks like she’s having THE BEST time with her 80s headphones.

I think this needs little explaining. Douchebags with noise-leaking-came-free-with-my-iPhone (other smartphones are available. They’re crappy, but they are availavle) who listen to crap RnB (any music, I’m not just picking on RnB fans here. OK, I am. A little) so loud. If you need to listen to it that loud, please, for the love of sweet baby Jesus, invest in some decent headphones. If you don’t need to listen to it until you give yourself tinnitus, then great, lower the vol.

Playing music outloud on phones is beyond the pale. Of course, everyone else in the carriage is too polite/scared to tell the annoying person to quit it, so everyone just exchanges frowns or eyebrow raises, secretly hoping it will encourage SOMEONE TO BE BRAVE ENOUGH TO SAY SOMETHING. Nah, no one will. They’ll just tweet about it when they’re outside.

4. Short People Hogging the Middle of the Carriage

Shameless excuse to use a press shot from the film Twins. Hey, he’s tall and he’s short. They’re still friends! Probs because Danny stayed to the sides of the carriages on trains.

I get really secretly enraged by this, but there’s no way to ever say anything to people without them getting offended because you called them short (but hey, it’s fine for them to say, “Oh my God, you’re so TALL! Were you always tall?” [answer: no. I was a kid once. I haven’t always been 6ft tall.]). But basically short people who are standing up, if it’s crowded, should stand near the outsides of the carriages. They have adequate headroom. Tall people do not, they end up with a crick in their neck before they’ve even got to work.

It’s my absolute worst when short people won’t move down the aisles in the seats because they can’t reach the overhead bars. Don’t go down the aisle then you absolute wally! Stay near the poles with the other little fellas. It means that people don’t get to get on the train if you won’t move down, making the nice people on the platform late for whatever they’re headed to.

5. “Excuse me, I need to get off” (hurrr)

We pay £120/month to travel in style like this.

There you are. It’s Monday morning. You’re packed into the tube like sardines and you can smell the dude next to you’s hangover. You pull into a station – your station. What sweet ecstacy to get out of this claustrophobic tin can! The train slows and then someone in the middle carriage starts saying “Excuse me, can I get past” while shoving themselves down the aisle. People look at the pusher with a frown, but don’t say anything. To say anything would be rude, and we don’t want to be rude to the person who has just pushed past five people. Oh no. “This is my stop!” the pusher exclaims while the tube is squealing to a holt. The doors are yet to beep or open.

What I want to say to this person is, “Alright, chill OUT! You will get off, but there’s a whole load of people also wanting to get off – including me – so just wait your God damn turn.” But what I actually do is look at them, frown and then let them past. Maybe if I am feeling especially brave I might shake my head after they’ve walked off. Yeah, I’m a tough guy.

Food Review – Housebites Takeaway

Rib-eye steak, peppercorn sauce, creamy mash with spring onions and a side of fried plantain - Housebites Takeaway
Rib-eye steak, peppercorn sauce, creamy mash with spring onions and a side of fried plantain – Housebites Takeaway

Countless times I’ve listened to people moan about wanting a takeaway that delivers roasts on a Sunday, or a lovely juicy steak on a Friday night. Well, I’ve discovered the answer: Housebites.

Housebites claims to be “the new way to order gourmet takeaway from great chefs in your local area for the price of a pizza.” Let’s see.

When you visit Housebite’s website, you’ll be asked to input your postcode so they can show you the menus of the chefs cooking in your area In my area (Islington, yo) there’s a selection of chefs, but Wesley catches my eye – he does a mix of Caribbean-style food and some more standard dishes. I placed an order through their website for two lots of what you see above – steak, sauce, mash and side of plantains. Some chefs don’t deliver, but luckily Wesley does, so all I had to do was get the plates ready and wait.

The food arrived still hot. We unloaded it all, and it was packaged well (leaking takeaway is the worst) and my God, there was plenty of it! I couldn’t eat all of it. Although the size of the steak was on the small side, it was a decent quality. The fried plantain were the stars of the meal though – A and I wolfed those right now.

I’d definitely use Housebites again. It’s not the cheapest option when it comes to takeaway – our order was about £25 (inc delivery), but it made a lovely change from MSG-esque chinese or oily curry takeouts. And today’s a Friday, it’s payday – so why not?! Go on, treat yourself.

Housebites isn’t available country-wide yet, but it is spreading.

X Factor 2012 – Week Two

It's a no from me - X Factor UK, Aug 25th
It’s a no from me – X Factor UK, Aug 25th

This week X Factor opened in London, with Rita Ora as a guest judge. So far, so blah.

First up to audition was an Essex boy called Ryland Clark. Fresh from Katie Price’s reality TV show, Ryland was ready to show the panel his talent. Sadly, he didn’t have any unless you count being self-obsessed and vapid as a talent. Luckily the programme focused on this Essex idiot for the first quarter for the show. Tiresome. Unfortunately Ryland got through to bootcamp. I have a real issue with the judges letting through all these talentless people who have NO chance – it’s patronising and tedious. And then I realise I have started taking the X Factor too seriously, and I have to readdress my values in life.

“Just look thoughtful but relaxed”. Kye at X Factor 2012 auditions

There was also Kye the chimney sweep. I like to think of him as a mash up between Olly Murs and Matt Cardle. And then I am sick on myself in abject horror at the thought. Kye only mentioned he was a chimney sweep about 15 times in 30 seconds – it’s like he – or the producers – was try to make a point. Anyway, he sang his version of Rita Ora’s R.I.P. and people freaking loved it. He’s probably going to do quite well.

Lucy at her audition.

Lucy from Sheffield played her own song, Last Night, which was pretty enjoyable. She’ll soon have all the joy crushed out of her. She’ll soon be made to be a “bit more adaptable” and “get out of her comfort zone” by singing songs by One Direction for Harry Styles week at live stages. Shame. The “suggested hashtags” managed to make the nicest part of X Factor so far cringe-inducing. I have a REAL hatred of X Factor’s suggested hashtags.  I will probably go on about this a lot over the course of my X Factor posts. Yeah, try not to get too excited guys.

James Arthur. Cheer up, mate.

For the last audition, Rita Ora had been replaced by Nicole Scherzinger. Continuity ERROR!

James Arthur had a sob story – the first of the series! So he had all the hallmarks of being good. And he was, in an X Factor-Matt-Cardle way. Boring is what I am saying here. He sang Tulisa’s song, ‘Young’, which made Tulisa very excited while she about all those extra downloads on iTunes she was going to get after it aired. CUE Coldplay ‘Fix You’ instrumental. James is now one of the favourites to win so far. I am yet to see anyone I really care about.

Did you have any faves this week? Any hashtag suggestions? The producers could reaaaallly do with them.

Brunch Review – Le Peche Mignon, Ronalds Road

A delicious croque monsieur from Le Peche Mignon
A delicious croque monsieur from Le Peche Mignon

I love living in Islington. I love the boutiques of Upper Street. I love the tucked away pubs in Barnsbury. I love the picture-perfect Highbury Fields in every season. And I love all the places there are to eat. One of my most-loved places is Sunday morning at Le Peche Mignon.

Le Peche is a tiny independent French cafe and food store, tucked just off Holloway Road. It’s so small there’s only one, long canteen-style table to sit at. If the weather is good, there’s also a bijou courtyard out the back with a few more tables and a splash of sunshine.

What keeps me coming back to Le Peche is their unbeatable croque monsieurs. They are the perfect antidote to an epic hangover. Smothered in a piquant cheese and mustard sauce with crispy burnt edges, encased inside is some meaty, salty ham and warm, fresh white bread. And side salads? Not normally a fan. But this side salad, with a perfect acidic French vinaigrette, cuts through the rich flavours of the croque.

Although the croques at Le Peche seem to be a firm favourite among the regulars, there are also a decent choice of other dishes. There’s Le Oeufs – Eggs Benny (in my opinion, no way as good as the croque – too mean with the Hollandaise, which also isn’t acidic enough), Florentine and Royale. There’s toasted sandwiches and baguettes. There’s also a deli-style counter with a changing range of dishes, from yummy veggie bakes to large, man-sized French-style sausage rolls. I’ve eaten my way through a good portion of Le Peche’s menu and am yet to find a total dud. However, those croques still reign supreme in my heart.

Hot chocolate at Le Peche

The range of hot drinks is also good. Tea, I am pleased to report, comes in a teapot with all the accountrements. The coffees are a decent standard, and the hot chocolates are creamy and indulgent.

The service at Le Peche can come over as a little harassed sometimes – it’s rarely not packed to the rafters. But while it may be a little slow, it normally also comes with a smile and a bit of TLC.

I would certainly recommend Le Peche for brunch if you’re in the area – it’s one of Highbury’s hidden gems.

Service – 3/5

Venue – 2/5 (you do sometimes end up with a stranger’s elbow in your ribs, it’s so tightly packed)

Value – 5/5

OVERALL – 4/5

Le Peche Mignon, 6 Ronalds Road, Highbury N5 1XH

Nearest Tube: Holloway Road (5min walk), Highbury & Islington (8min walk).

Le Peche Mignon is open 8am-6pm Monday-Saturday; 8am-5pm Sunday

Dog Spot – Circle Line, London Tube

My favourite London tube dog spot.
My favourite London tube dog spot.

I’ve got a confession. I love making friends with strangers dogs when they’re not looking (and I really hope that isn’t some unintentional double entendre). I also try to take photos of them. Yeah, the more you read of this blog the more you’ll realise I am a totally creepy person.

Now I am going to share all my sightings with you. Here is my favourite London underground dog spot – four of the little guys! This man has my dream job – hanging out with dogs. Well I assume that it’s his job. I like the grumpy border terrier at the back best.

Top 5… Places I Must Eat in London

meatliquor
Meat Liquor – dead hippy burger x2, chilli cheese fries and onion rings. YUM!

 

Over the last 12 months London has seen a surge in junk food makeovers. That is food previously dismissed as junk (burgers, fried chicken et al), which has been done badly by cynical corporate Mcchains, being restored to its former glory. Burgers with glossy buns and plenty o’ pickles, smokey and meaty hot dogs, fried chicken that’s juicy and crunchy.

I’m on this UnJunk Food badwagon heart, spirit and soul. And I plan to blog about all my UnJunk food endeavours here. I’m feeling really excited about London’s dining scene at the moment. Here are some of the places I’m itching to get to…

1. Slider Bar, Soho

Mini burgers from the folks at Lucky Chip. What’s not to like? I’ve only heard excellent things about this place. They even have an ice cream burger! Gimmicky joy! Reading Cherry Healey’s tweets about her meal there made me green with envy.

Slider Bar @ The Player, Broadwick Street, Soho

2. Burger & Lobster

Twenty quid for a burger? WELCOME TO LONDON! But £20 for a lobster? Hell-o! The concept of Burger & Lobster is simple. There are two options on the menu: burger, lobster. Both come with sides too. Both are £20. You pays your money, you takes your choice. This place has been such a hit they’ve opened at another location, in Soho. Get me there, STAT.

Burger & Lobster, Dean Street, Soho.

 3. Lucky Chip

The big sister of the Slider Bar, Lucky Chip is located at the Sebright Arms in Bethnal Green. Lizzie’s review of the place has made me desperate to go. I love the creative fillings for the burgers, and that they all have film star’s names. The Darryl Hannah fish burger anyone? I can’t wait to get my chops around one.

Lucky Chip @ Sebright Arms, Coate Street, Bethnal Green.

4. Spit & Roast

 Ahh, a food truck. Many of London’s UnJunk food establishments have enjoyed a stint as a food truck. There was Meat Wagon, Pitt Cue Co under Hungerford Bridge and Engine Hot Dogs.

Spit & Roast are paying tribute to that old southern American favourite, fried chicken. Served with potatoes and a little pot of gravy, this place has made me, a loyal burger fan, excited about fried chicken.

Spit & Roast, Hackney Homemade Market (St John’s Churchyard Carpark).

5. Big Apple Hotdogs

These guys supply my local, The Lamb, with their meaty treats. I can’t wait to go to the pig’s mouth, so to speak, to sample their smokey porky all-American hot dogs from their cart.

Big Apple Hot Dogs, Outside 239 Old Street EC1V 9EY.

You Should Be Watching… Parks and Recreation

The cast of Parks and Recreation
The cast of Parks and Recreation

 

Just looking at the picture of the cast and I can feel a cheeky little smirk play upon my face. Creepy? Yes! But don’t just stand out there in the cold, get in on my creepy smirk too. Get watching Parks and Recs!

Parks and Recreation was originally concieved as a spin-off of The Office USA. Except it’s not really a spin-off. Sold? Yeah, thought not. Keep with me here. Parks and Recs keeps that Office style of “mockumentary”, with people despairing of each other while having their own private existential breakdowns. YAY! Now you feel happy, right?

The lead is Leslie Knopp, played by Amy Poehler (Mean Girls, Saturday Night Live), who is passionate to the point of obsessive about her job. She’s works in the parks department in local government for the small town of Pawnee. But Leslie is the only person in her department who loves her job or cares about parks, and she’s pretty much the only person in Pawnee who loves the town.

The other characters are a delicious mix of different eccentricities. They’re all played against Leslie’s relentless drive to serve Pawnee. There’s Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), Leslie’s boss. Ron HATES local government. I love watching Ron hate absolutely everything around him. The fact he has an excellent moustache helps too. Another of my favourites is ridiculous Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) and his buffoon friend Jean-Ralphio (Ben Schwartz), who display such a perfect level of self-obsessed and cringe-inducing behaviour that I find myself in cringe hysterics. And pretty glad I don’t have to work with them. I won’t go through every character, but I just love the mix of all the personalities set against the supposed mundane life in a local government office.

However down I am feeling, Parks and Recreation is guaranteed to make me cry with laughter. It celebrates the ridiculous and the absurd without being ridiculous. It definitely suits my sense of humour.

What’s your favourite TV comedy at the moment? Seen anything you could recommend to me (I’m always on the look out)? Let me know in the comments.

X Factor 2012 – Week One

The X Factor 2012 judges
The X Factor 2012 judges

The X Factor is back. I’m telling you, because the press for this season has been piss poor so it’s probably escaped people’s notice. And the fact that after a lackluster year last year, no one is exactly excited by it this year.

At the start of production, Simon Cowell obviously hadn’t picked a fourth judge so decided to do the selection process during production. Simon Cowell is so busy spending One Direction’s hard earned cash that he doesn’t have time to y’know, care. So we got to see Nicole Scherzinger – the resulting winner of this protracted job interview process – and Mel B take up a judge’s seat. Nicole was a total bore on a scale only previously seen by Carmen Electra on this year’s Britain’s Got Talent. This now makes me fear for the rest of the series. It’s going to be crap, isn’t it?

Tulisa was back. Could NOT care less about what she thinks about anything. Gary is alright, but you can kind of see the will to live seeping out of him in a very Dermot-esque way. Louis is a total simpleton. So that’s our judges line up for 2012. The guest judge, Mel B, was trying a bit too hard to be harsh. A lot has been made of how amazing she was, but I’m not sold. And Simon Cowell really cares what I think actually.

There were some mediocre contestants. Sheyi did some press that Nando’s had previously not dreamed of.

Ella Henderson – owner of the world’s largest fringe – did a song she wrote about her grandad. It was quite good, but I don’t reckon she’s going to win. There was also a kid that came on who seemed slightly socially awkward. Mel B bloody hated him, poor lil’ guy. That made me like him a bit more, but again, never going to win so ultimately a tedious waste of time.

Who else was there? Oh yeah, an old man who was very nice. My Mum liked him. But my Mum liked Gareth Gates so she’s no longer allowed to judge anything.

That was it really. So far, so soul-crushingly-boring.

Was there anything you saw on X Factor on Saturday you thought was enjoyable? Apart from the end credits.

Top 5 – Mad Men Characters

The cast of Mad Men (season 5)
The cast of Mad Men (season 5)

Mad Men is my all-time favourite TV show. It was love at first sight. I love the theme tune, the opening credits, the mise-en-scene, the characters, the scripts, the… I could go on. But let’s get down to what this post is all about: my top five Mad Men characters. There are potential spoilers here if you’re not up to date with Mad Men (season 5 finale).

1. Peggy Olson

Peggy Olson, played by Elizabeth Moss

Peggy is the character I always find I am rooting for. I think this is for two key reasons: she is often the character the show uses to explore attitudes towards women and their careers in the 1950s and 60s (admittedly there’s a wealth of fleshed-out female characters who also do this in Mad Men, but I think Peggy’s career has arguably been the most stratospheric rise). And the other reason is that Peggy is just so damn classy.

Characters in Mad Men go on journeys. They’re often quiet, subtle, only-hinted-at journeys, but they’re always going on. I love Peggy’s journey best out of all the characters in Mad Men. The illegitimate child with Pete, the battle with her matriarchal mother, her desire to be treated equally to men within the ad agencies and her quiet loyalty and love for someone she knows is fundamentally flawed – Don.

Peggy evokes such a loyalty from me that no other character has done in TV. She’s totes my number 1.

2. Sally Draper

Sally Draper, played by Kiernan Shipka

Sally Draper hasn’t had an easy life so far. For one she has the philandering Don Draper for a father, and for another she has a self-obsessed brat for a mother in Betty.

When Mad Men first started, Sally was a wee scrap of a thing with a lisp. Cute, and a scene-stealer for sure, but no real storylines to speak of aside from being able to make an punchy Old Fashioned for Don. Over the past five seasons, Sally has (I want to avoid the words “blossomed” or “developed” here, as they make me cringe) emerged as one of the most interesting characters on Mad Men. I love her complicated relationship with Betty – it’s so realistic of one between a teenage daughter and her mother. I love the simplicity of her love for Don, however misguided that may be. It’s such a realistic parent-child dynamic that they have set up.

I really enjoy watching Sally grow up and discover the adult world – both with positive and negative experiences. The scenes of her at The Codfish Ball (an episode that beautifully explores strained parent-child relationships) were some of the best Sally Draper moments so far.

3. Joan Holloway

Joan Holloway, played by Christina Hendricks

Do I need to say anything more? Joan is amazing – she is strong and vulnerable all at once. I think I will be preaching to the choir with Joan. Something Mad Men does so well is to have “good” characters do bad things, and vice versa. I think Joan, with the exception of Pete Campbell, is the prime example of this. I don’t ever quite know where Joan is coming from, and I like it.

4. Pete Campbell

Pete Campbell, played by Vincent Kartheiser

Pete Campbell is a grade-A douchebag, and man do I love him. I LOVE watching Vincent Kartheiser tell Pete’s story. As well as his all-round brattish personality, Pete has done many terrible things including rape, blackmail, essentially pimping out his employees and all of his extra-marital liaisons.

Pete is a mass of contradictions, and that’s what makes him brilliant. He is desperate to gain approval from Don, and yet his all-encompassing competitive nature means he often screws Don over. I love watching his arrogance played off against the fact that he is essentially completely miserable with his life. That all sounds quite negative, but I find it massively cathartic to watch his storyline unfold.

5. Roger Stirling

Roger Sterling, played by John Slattery

After all the heavy-going storylines, Roger is pretty much guaranteed to make me laugh. I love his don’t give a fuck attitude. I love how much he detests Pete. I freaking adored his acid trip storyline from season five, and his resulting epiphany. I find Roger’s love of Joan completely believable and one of the most genuine relationships within in the show (even though he has a funny way of showing it).

Disagree? Agree? Tell me in the comments!

Brunch Review – The Table, Southwark Street

Brunch at The Table

I love a portmanteau and I love an excuse to eat, so brunch is my heaven. Also, who can actually be bothered to get up for breakfast on a Saturday? Crazy people, that’s who. I think everyone should do away with weekend breakfasts and just admit that brunch is the way forward.

I’m going to be doing reviews of brunch as I eat my way around London. Here is my first one – and it’s going to be a hard one to beat.

Brunch at The Table
Pancakes with bacon, bananas and maple syrup – The Table

The Table on Southwark Street is one of my all-time favourite restaurants in London. It’s close enough to the attractions of Southbank and Borough Market to be easy to get to, but far enough away that not everyone knows about it. Their canteen-style lunches are incredible during the week, their evening meals are some of the best food I’ve had in London and their brunch… well, read on.

For weekend brunch, it’s table service, and you sit on long canteen-style tables. It’s a really upbeat, happy vibe in there, with an open kitchen so you can nosy at what other people are having!

I like a varied brunch menu. Sometimes I’m in the mood for the traditional Eggs Benedict, but I don’t always want egg all up in my grill. Sometimes I want an American treat of pancakes, and sometimes I might just want an English breakfast (I know it’s brunch, but whatevs, I’m a maverick). It’s HARD to find a brunch menu that covers all bases and is still exciting and well-executed. But The Table delivers on this. There are delicious smoothies (I recommend About Last Night – a refreshing and fruit blend of apple, banana, green grapes and spinach), there’s cocktails if you’re feeling fancy, there’s a Borough Full English (two fried eggs, bacon, pork & leek sausage, ham hock baked beans, grilled tomato, Portobello mushroom and sourdough toast) and there’s the ol’ Eggs Benny. BUT there’s other stuff too. The Table are pushing the boat out, so get right on board. The sweetcorn fritters excite me (sweetcorn fritters with char-grilled tomato compote, baby leaf spinach and hollandaise) as does the chorizo stack (I love me some chorizo!). There are also varieties of pancakes and waffles. After some torturous decision-making, I went for the pancakes.

I’ve had pancakes in my time guys, but these were the kind you dream of when you’re hungover and don’t want to leave your bed. They had crispy, salty, deliciously-savoury bacon, there were pools of thirst-inducing maple syrup and the bananas cut through it all with a kind-of-not-at-all nod to fruit. The pancakes were deliciously fluffy. I did not want this brunch to end. I want to go back there right now, at 7pm on a Sunday night to eat it all over again.

My dining partners seemed to enjoy their brunches too, with everyone agreeing it was a hard act to beat. My pancakes cost £8, which I reckon is pretty standard for brunch-y type places in London, and it was better than any other brunches I’ve had so well worth the money.

In general, I cannot recommend The Table enough – but definitely make the effort to go for their brunches. You’ll be dreaming of it all week after.

Service: 3/5 (we had to wait a little while and were starving!)

Food: 5/5

Venue: 4/5

Value: 5/5

DETAILS

The Table, 83 Southwark Street.

Nearest tube: Southwark (5min walk), Waterloo (12min walk), London Bridge (15min walk).

Brunch is served between 8.30am and 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays only.

You Should Be Watching… Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights - apparently having the world's most awkward picnic.

Among my friends I am known for watching a lot television dramas. This is mainly because I push TV shows on my friends so I have someone to talk about them with. I used to write about American TV for my career, and I guess I’ve never kicked the habit of keeping up to date with it. I’m often heard saying douchebag things like, “Oh, you haven’t seen Community? Don’t be so Piers about it!” Yeah, what we can summise from this is a) I’m an idiot and b) I’m not very funny.

And here I am, to be a douchebag to you and recommend TV series to you. First up is Friday Night Lights…

Friday Night Lights – apparently having the world’s most awkward picnic.

Friday Night Lights is set in the small Texan town of Dillon and is based on a film of the same name. It follows an over-achieving high school American football team and the people involved in it (families, coaches, other high school students). I started watching it as I’d seen the name come up so much when reading TV reviews and blogs, and thought I had to check out what it was about.

Now, I know nothing about American football and have no interest in it. Five seasons in to watching it, and I am still none the wiser – so don’t be put off if you don’t know your quarter back from your wide receiver. I ignore most of the football chat in favour of the amazing characters, brilliant storylines and fantastic acting.

I love TV shows when they have multi-dimensional characters; when good characters do bad things and when a character does something that surprises me (without jumping the shark, obvs). Friday Night Lights has that in spades. The actors were encouraged by the showrunner to adlib and as long as they hit certain points in the scene, they were allowed to do what they liked. This makes the characters and their relationships extremely realistic.

The storylines are overall pretty amazing too. I mean, there are some dodgy decisions and season two suffers from being cut short due to the writer’s strike that blighted American TV in 2007, BUT overall – great, heart-breaking and -warming storylines. I’ll level with you here guys: I have never cried at a TV show before. From Rolf Harris and his animal hospital to This is England ’88 – nothing. But last week I cried real human tears.

So if you’re looking for a funny, sweet and easy-to-watch show I would definitely recommend FNL. I defy you to not want to be a member of the Taylor family after 2 episodes.

Clear eyes, full hearts…

Hello!

This is me!

So although there is a bit on this site about me, I thought it would be rude to not introduce myself! So hello, I’m Zoe. I’m at the “wrong” end of my 20s and work as a journalist/writer/editor in London. I live with my boyfriend, Andrew, in Islington, London.

This is Andrew and I together. See, he’s real.

This blog is basically going to be a creative outlet for me. Although I write every day, I never feel like I’ve said everything I want to! Bad luck, guys. Hahaha, errr…

So on this blog you will be able to find brunch ‘n’ burger reviews from restaurants across London, rants about rude members of the public, pictures of cool dogs I meet and some television recommendations. There might be other things too, let’s just let this organically unfold, yeah?

Welcome to the Z Factor anyway, I hope your visit is pleasant. Why not introduce yourself in the comments?

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