Uncool in Paris

I was in Paris for just six weeks, the hottest six weeks of the year, World Cup season, away from my husband and living away from London for the first time since I left the US as an exchange student eight years ago. After the Portugal-Ghana match, I walked over to dinner at Candeleria, a trendy Mexican bar/restaurant in the 3rd one of my coworkers wanted my authentic American opinion on. I got a seat at the bar and regretted it almost immediately. A rail-thin American woman was standing next to me in a tied-up crop top that was basically a long-sleeved bra, pouring drinks all over herself (and me) and wailing insincerely, “I’m soooooooo sorrrrrrrrrrrry!” In an attempt to set a good counterexample of My People I sat up straight and pointedly read Eric Hobsbawm, although this was on my Kindle so I think the snobby leftist intellectualism failed to come across. The bartender was an exasperated geek girl aged about 20 in a white-and-black-striped cotton shirt and dark blue skinny jeans, who looked like Velma from Scooby Doo and had not yet learned the Parisian customer service art of blithely not giving a shit.

I ordered a plate of guacamole and a chorizo taco (both excellent) and a SoCal-Mexican-style frozen margarita. The bar had two frozen margarita mixers, one pale green (lime) and one red (hibiscus). The man accompanying the drunk American woman pointed to the red one. “We’ll have two of those, I guess? Liz?” He was also American and had a beard and looked like an annoying Ryan Reynolds. Young Velma poured them and handed them over with a hopeful openness that made me want to take her home and explain about everything terrible in the world. Read more...

Shoreditch: Casita and Nightjar cocktail bars

This year Ewan made a New Year's resolution I'm very happy to be helping with, which is drinking in new cocktail bars. Unfortunately, rich hipster kids are really into cocktails these days, so a lot of skilled cocktail makers have moved into Shoreditch to hoover up the hard-inherited money of Beardy Skinnyjeans and Headband Circleskirt. The drinks are good, but the atmosphere remains annoying-to-punchable. Except for one shining light of relaxed, genuinely good bartending...

Dishoom, Shoreditch: A ‘Bombay’-style Christmas lunch

Why are Christmas lunches an office tradition when big lunches out with friends are so plainly better? A "1960s Bombay-style feast" at Dishoom Shoreditch was the best Christmas lunch I've ever had. And I hate Shoreditch.

Shoreditch: Casita cocktail bar

In retrospect, "naming cocktails after the genitals of 17th-century royals" is probably the point at which I should have realised it was time to stop drinking.

What’s in this Irish coffee, exactly?

Irish coffee at Foynes Flying Boat museum

The Flying Boat Museum in Foynes, west Ireland, celebrates airplanes before they were airplanes – when air travel from New York to Europe cost the equivalent of £5,000 and passengers travelled on flying cruise ships, with champagne, posh food and a honeymoon suite on every vessel. The museum has a lovely history of aviation, from the first attempts at flight to Ireland’s quiet contribution to the Allied war effort and the brief era of glamour that flourished when west Ireland was the first landing point for Americans flying across the Atlantic.

But what about all the air travellers who have been killed by poisoned Irish coffee? Read more...

“The Lightning Child” at Shakespeare’s Globe on Yom Kippur

I always moan about Yom Kippur beforehand, especially the 25-hour fast, but I do miss it when it's over. This year I was excited when I found what sounded like the perfect thing to do after all that abstention: go to The Lightning Child, Shakespeare's Globe's rock musical adaptation of The Bacchae. It somehow felt very appropriate to move from Judaism's biggest holiday of fasting and reflection to Euripides' play about over-the-top religious ecstasy and mob hysteria.