Archive for April, 2009

Mezze at Souk Medina

April 5th, 2009

I’d almost forgotten about Souk Medina after having briefly stopped by for tea and baklava with Gary on some random cold evening last year, but as soon as Chris began describing where he was planning to have his birthday, I began to recall the delicious smells that were wafting past us as the waiters brought in huge trays full of food for other guests.

On Friday I finally got the opportunity to sample the food for myself! We were there as a large group for Chris’ birthday, so we had the entire front room upstairs to ourselves with comfy sofas, nice tranquil lighting and colourful decor. Gary and I arrived a bit later than everyone else, plainly because I’d forgotten where the restaurant was, so we had to speak up a few times before our Souk cocktails (essentially a mojito only with figs in it) arrived.

Food service was fast and frequent, we’d ordered the set menu to cater for all 11 people that had showed up, and there were definately some nice parts to the menu, but it wasn’t as mind blowing as the smells that had lured me in last time.

The set menu promises quite a lot to the taste buds:

  • Vine leaves
  • Humous with pitta bread
  • Batata harra (sauteed spicy potato cubes)
  • Calamari
  • Couscous
  • Merguez (lamb sausages)
  • Lamb tagine (with prunes and almonds)
  • Chicken tagine (with saffron and herbs)
  • Spinach and feta tagine
  • Chickpeas tagine
  • Mixed fish tagine

The starters were lovely, vine leaves were tasty, humous was really nice, the spicy potato was fun and had a delayed kick to the spicyness which was quite fun, but the calamari was a bit on the rubbery side and I wasn’t that keen on the sauce that it was served with, nor was anyone else as we were all offering our calamari to each other at the same time! In fairness to them though, they did bring us another round of vine leaves, humous and pitta to make up for it.

The tagines were excellent, the chicken was really tasty, the lamb was a little too sweet for my liking but was still delicious and just melted in your mouth, and the merguez was pretty good too, I wasn’t too fond of the mixed fish tagine or any of the veggie tagines, and the couscous was really plain and unflavoured which was a bit of a shame.

For dessert we had two rounds of baklava (okay really, it was only me that had two rounds of baklava and ended up going home with a stomach ache) and some mint tea, I absolutely love baklava, you just know it’s so bad for you.

Amidst the feast, we were treated to a belly dance, though I’m not sure that she appreciated the fact that we all burst out laughing when she managed to move her boobs individually on their own, that’s definately a talent to put on your CV!

Overall, a mixed bag of an experience, if the food was more consistantly great then it’d be a definate winner. Also it’s a real shame that the smoking laws prevent you from using a hookah indoors, we could smell the apple tobaco from indoors and wanted to try some for ourselves but didn’t really fancy having to go outside in the cold to do so.

Come back when you’ve got some data

April 2nd, 2009

I’ve been planning and building web sites and services for clients within the media industry for almost nine years now, reflecting back over that time I think that most of the clients that I have worked with may have had some pretty interesting ideas of what they’d like to achieve, but more often than not they don’t have the data needed to enrich the functional elements behind any of these ideas.

Most digital agencies probably follow a similar process of discussing strategy and going through a discovery phase before launching head first into a build; I believe that it would be incredibly beneficial to both clients and development teams if a greater emphasis was placed on data definition during discovery phases to establish whether data is already available from existing systems or sources from your client.

If data isn’t available from existing systems or sources there is always the option to get data from 3rd parties, or for the client to gather new data, but it’s important to factor in what impact this may have on their internal teams who probably already have hefty workloads of their own, just like the rest of us.

My advice to developers, the important thing is being sure that from day one launching into build, your  team is 100% aware of what data they are going to be working with, where they are going to extract this data from, what transformations they may need to apply to the data to work with it, and which functional elements of the project require the data.

My advice to clients, if you’re seeking consultancy from a digital agency on how you can leverage the Internet to build up and interact with a customer base, then come prepared with as much data as you can and they’ll be better geared to creating fantastic ideas that take advantage of what your company already has to offer.

Teppanyaki at Benihana

April 1st, 2009

A few weeks ago Chris and I were going to take advantage of Time Out’s deal at Benihana’s Piccadilly which offered their 7 course main meal for £19.00 which comes in considerably cheaper than a standard meal off the menu, only to arrive and find out that online booking isn’t quite as reliable as you’d hope and that our booking hadn’t been confirmed.

After trying again by booking over the phone, we secured a booking on the last day of the offer, hurrah.

If you don’t know about Teppanyaki, it’s origins are from Japan, where food is cooked in front of you by a talented chef over a Hibachi grill, usually accompanied by flaming mountains of onion rings, tricks performed with the utensils, flicking food into peoples mouths, and lots of crazy barely coherant singing.

It’s apparently a bit of a tourist thing over in Japan, and having been for Teppenyaki three times so far I can kind of see why you’d get bored of it if you went too often, it’s good for parties and the like.

Anyhoo, in terms of quality of food, the menu at Benihana didn’t disappoint, whilst sipping on some hot sake we were presented with the following seven courses:

  • Benihani’s Japanese onion soup
  • Salad with ginger dressing
  • California roll (I had to ask for wasabi, the shame)
  • Hibachi vegetables (onion, shitake mushroom, courgette)
  • Egg fried rice with vegetables
  • Fried salmon with ginger dressing
  • Rare steak with mustard dressing
  • Side vegetables (bamboo shoots mostly)

All in all the menu was pretty filling and everything was cooked beautifully, but it was a bit disappointing that we were offered forks, and we had to ask for wasabi, there’s nothing I dislike more than being treated like an idiot when you’re in a place that serves Japanese food.

Our chef was pretty boring, failing to really engage with us or perform any tricks other than the onion ring volcano, but chefs at other tables were getting cheers and causing mayhem with fire, so like most Teppenyaki places I guess it was just luck of the draw.

Overall, if you’ve got the cash or there is a special deal on then you’ll probably enjoy Benihana, otherwise you’ll probably be better off going to the smaller and generally more fun Sen Nin Teppanyaki in Islington (formally known as Ah-So).