Some good things, May/June 2022

Books

In the last couple months I read two of the best books I’ve read in a long time: The Dream Machine, on the very early history of Silicon Valley, and Regenesis, on the agricultural future we need to build. Both highly recommended. I also wrote a list of my five favourite books on Silicon Valley for The Economist, you can read that here.

TV

I finally started For All Mankind and it’s as good as everyone says it is.

Restaurants

40 Maltby Street continues to fire on all cylinders. In Cornwall, I had an unbelievably good strawberry and honeycomb dessert at North Street Kitchen, great spider crab croquettes at Pintxo and a phenomenal tartine at Coombeshead Farm. But the highlight of the last month was my trip to Queens Night Market in New York, which somehow managed to exceed my very high expectations. Nansense‘s chapli kebab smash burger was revelatory.

Theatre

The Father and the Assassin was very good, and revived my interest in India/Pakistan history. Ivo’s Age of Rage was also good, but the weakest of his “epic” trilogy. Hans Kesting was great, as ever, but it was very interesting to watch Édouard Louis play himself in Who Killed My Father — I think he probably did a better job than Kesting. The buzziest thing I saw was That Is Not Who I Am, which was very good, but didn’t deliver on the weird gimmick it’s framed as.

Art

The Guggenheim’s Vasily Kandinsky exhibition is great; a rare example of an artist who got better with age. But the best thing I’ve seen in ages was Cornelia Parker at Tate Britain: the art is great by itself, but her intellectual curiosity means it’s even better when you read the accompanying descriptions. Highly recommended.

Five restaurant recommendations for visitors to London

In a recent, excellent, Vittles post, Jonathan Nunn asked people for the top five places visitors to London should eat at. Here are mine, based around the criteria of getting things you can’t get elsewhere/understanding the “soul” of London:

St John, but just for starters and puddings (whoever says the food at Rochelle Canteen is better is wrong, I always leave the latter feeling ripped off). You could substitute this with F.K.A.B.A.M., which offers an insight into both Turkish and nose-to-tail cooking, but the food is less consistent and the atmosphere is less fun.

40 Maltby Street, for the other side of Modern-British-Cooking.

Dishoom: not for the food, which is awful, but because it gives you a better insight into how white people view British Asians than almost anything else.

Bake Street, which gives you a better insight into how brown people view being British Asian than almost anything else.

Taste of Pakistan on your way back to Heathrow. Pack leftovers for the plane and annoy everyone on your return flight.

More good things (books, films, restaurants)

Books

The Planet Remade by Oliver Morton — I’ll write more on this soon, but it is a very good, wide-ranging and surprisingly poetic book.

Whole Earth: The Many Lives of Stewart Brand by John Markoff — will also have more on this soon, but if you’re interested in Brand (and you should be), this is worth reading.

From Satori to Silicon Valley by Theodore Roszak — a short and very readable overview of the links between Silicon Valley and the ’60s counterculture.

Various Batman graphic novels — Year One was the highlight for me, though The Dark Knight Returns and Hush are good too. Neither are as good as The Long Halloween, Arkham Asylum or The Killing Joke, though. I also read The Black Mirror and The Court of Owls, neither of which impressed me very much.

Films

That comic binge was brought on by anticipation for The Batman, which was much better than I expected. It’s probably my favourite Batman film, though The Dark Knight is arguably a better film in and of itself. (I also watched a few animated films, and would recommend both Under the Red Hood and Mask of the Phantasm if you liked The Batman.)

We Are As Gods is a very good documentary about Stewart Brand, and by extension about the ’60s, de-extinction, and techno-utopianism.

I also watched Dune for the fourth time, this time at home, which confirmed my suspicions that it derives a lot of its power from the big screen (particularly IMAX). Still good, though.

Restaurants

Bake Street has started doing biryani on Sundays, and if the first batch was anything to go by this is now one of London’s best meals. Everything else there is still fantastic too, obviously. I’m very excited that Feroz is opening a new outlet in the promising-looking Arcade Food Hall.

Towpath reopened the other week, and a sunny lunch of taramasalata, carrot-top fritters and peas was pretty much perfect.

A lunch at Dosa Express was particularly memorable for the snacks — pani puri, samosa chaat, dhai vada. The dosas were good too, particularly the crispy rava ones.

The Black Axe Mangal x St John meal kit was worth it just for the t-shirt; the excellent food was the icing on the cake.

Music

I’ve been listening to a lot of Acid Arab, Michael Giacchino’s The Batman soundtrack, Floating Points’ new single, and Music from Saharan Cellphones.

fabric at the Opera was a very clever and fun event, which I hope they do a lot more of. Rival Consoles and Frank Wiedemann stole the show.

Some recommended things from the last month

Book: Eating to Extinction by Dan Saladino. This is one of the best food books I’ve read. It’s both very poetic and information-dense: I suspect I am significantly more pro-capitalism than the author and I view the Green Revolution as an unambiguously good thing, but Saladino’s writing does make me mourn the diversity we’ve lost and want to help save it as best I can. (Happily, doing so involves buying delicious ingredients.)

Film: Dune in 1.43:1 IMAX. I’d already seen this twice in cinemas, including once in 1.9:1 IMAX. Watching it in full IMAX (at London’s Science Museum) was still breathtaking — the extra height makes a huge difference in conveying the scale of the world. Showings are few and far between but I highly recommend trying to find one.

Restaurant: Brat x Climpson’s Arch. Beautiful tomatoes and cod’s roe on toast; divine burnt cheesecake.

Play: A Number at the Old Vic. More plays should be this short and more actors should be this good.

Best things I ate in 2021

I eat out a lot, this is some of the best food I ate, starting with the restaurants I consider to be the best in the world right now, all of which I did not have a single bad dish at.

  • Everything, 40 Maltby St, London
  • Everything, ASAP Pizza, London (RIP)
  • Everything, Endo at Home, London
  • Everything, Banh, NYC

And some very good dishes from other places:

  • Nashville Hot Sandwich, Bake Street, London
  • Chicken wings, Smoking Goat, London
  • Lobster roll, Quality Wines, London
  • Fish finger sandwich, Hank’s Crab Shack, Fowey
  • Crab fried rice, Thai Diner, NYC
  • Burger, 7th Street Burger, NYC
  • Pistachio escargot, Du Pain et des Idees, Paris

Waste of time and money: Dishoom, London

Recommended restaurants in NYC, November 2021

I’ve just returned from a two week trip to New York City. I make regular trips from London and always try to eat at as many new places as possible. Here are some highlights from this trip:

Banh
The best “new” restaurant I’ve been to in any city for a very long time. The pastry and barbecue were both perfect. Really high-quality produce, too (I normally hate lettuce but it was good here). And very reasonable prices. Disclosure that I’m not very familiar with Vietnamese food, which probably helped wow me. (Upper West Side — Menu)

Dhamaka
I went somewhat sceptical amid the fawning praise (the Bloomberg review comparing it to London’s “slop” didn’t exactly prime me to love it). But I was pleasantly surprised: it’s a very interesting menu and all of it was pretty good, especially the biryani. Nothing blew me away, but I’d return to try the rabbit. (Lower East Side — Menu)

Peaches HotHouse
Came here in a fairly bad mood, but the food was absolutely restorative. Spicing on the ‘regular’ is flavourful without being overwhelmingly spicy, though I’d like to try the ‘hot’ next time. Great cornbread too. (Bed–Stuy — Menu)

Wu’s Wonton King
Possibly the best salt and pepper squid I’ve had. Great mix of textures with the perfect amount of spice. (Chinatown — Menu)

Katz’s
The food was good, the atmosphere even better. I could sit in that room for hours. (Lower East Side — Menu)

Golden Diner
I’ve got a thing for diner nostalgia, and this fits the bill perfectly. The food is pure comfort — a really good tuna melt (feat. salt and vinegar crisps), with some of the best, crispiest fries I’ve had anywhere. (Two Bridges — Menu)

Peter Pan Donuts
A very, very good donut, and a wonderfully nostalgic room. Can’t wait for indoor dining to resume here. (Greenpoint — Menu)

I also made a return trip to Thai Diner to have their crab fried rice, which was every bit as excellent as on my last visit. One of my favourite restaurants in the world, I think. (Nolita — Menu)

Other places I enjoyed but recommend less strongly: Via Carota; Curry Mania; Peter Luger; Joe’s Pizza; Arepa Lady. And please send recommendations for my next trip.