Monday, 16 February 2009


It's very hard to find good bagels in London.

Sure, the supermarkets sell tasteless rings of bread, passing them off as bagels. They're a very poor imitation of the real thing though.

The most reliable source for bagels is Brick Lane. This street in the East End has been home to successive waves of immigrants: Huguenots, Jews from central and eastern Europe, and more recently Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.

There's little evidence left of the Jewish immigrants, except for an excellent bagel shop. The shop attracts customers from all over London in search of authentic bagels. It attracts a diverse clientele, from City bankers wandering over from Bishopsgate at lunchtime, to cab drivers, to club kids from Shoreditch in search of a late night snack (the shop is open 24 hours).

This past weekend, I could have headed over to Brick Lane to satisfy my bagel cravings. However, I decided to try something a bit more challenging.

I made my own.

I won't bother giving you a detailed bagel recipe. Those of you who are industrious enough, or crazy enough, to make your own bagels will undoubtedly be able to find a recipe.

The secret to making bagels lies not in the ingredients, but in the unusual cooking technique -- they're boiled first and then baked. It's enough for our purposes to say that they're made with a normal bread dough: strong white flour, yeast, salt and water. I added a little sugar to sweeten the dough slightly.

Let the dough rise, knead it, and then you can shape it into bagels. Let these rise for another 45 minutes or so.

Carefully poach them for about 1 minute on each side. You'll have to do this in batches - make sure you allow space for them to puff up in the water.

Now bake them in a hot oven until they begin to turn a golden brown on top. I brushed them with an egg wash before baking them - you could also sprinkle some poppy seeds on them at this point.

The finished product, with some other bread rolls I made.

Served with cream cheese.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

David Hare on Berlin

Anyone with an interest in Germany and its history should rush to get tickets for David Hare's reading on Berlin, at the National Theatre.

This hour-long meditation on the city is based on the author's experiences there over many years, most recently during the filming of The Reader (the new film with Kate Winslet, for which Hare wrote the screenplay).

Hare's monologue is incredibly broad ranging, touching on history, politics, theatre, film, architecture and food. He moans about the niceness of the people, and that Berlin today is all about lifestyle; that history and politics are forgotten there.

Not such a bad thing. I would rather live in Berlin today than in 1961 . . . or 1948 . . . or 1945 . . . or 1938 . . . or 1933 . . . or 1923 . . . or 1919 . . .

Berlin - A reading by David Hare, National Theatre, London. Directed by Stephen Daldry.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Kiton at Saks Fifth Avenue

Saks Fifth Avenue has been trying for years to create a Kiton boutique in its New York flagship store.

For the uninitiated, Kiton is an Italian clothing company that makes some of the finest quality suits in the world. Their clothes are handmade by a small army of tailors in Kiton's workrooms just outside Naples. Prices are very high: $7000 for a suit and $1200 for trousers.

Saks unveils their new Kiton store on Monday. Unfortunately, their timing is terrible, opening it in the midst of the deepest economic troubles since the Great Depression. Saks's sales fell 23.7% last month and they are laying off 9% of their staff. Like many other retailers, they're being forced to offer discounts of as much as 70% off just to move merchandise out of the door.

Saks is still talking a good game, and undoubtedly there will still be some customers for these clothes in New York, but they must be worried.

Story in today's NY Times.

Thursday, 12 February 2009


Back from a few days in Prague, and I thought I would share some photographs from my trip.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Keep Calm and Carry On

The poster has become a bit of a cliche in Britain today, appearing on countless kitchen walls, but the BBC News has an interesting story today about its origins.

It was produced during the Second World War by the Ministry of Information, to be distributed only in the event of the gravest national catastrophe. Two other posters were also made, with the same red background and King George VI crown: "Freedom is in Peril" and "Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory".

Apparently the poster was forgotten until 2000, when a bookseller from Northumberland found a copy in a box of books that he acquired at auction. His customers clamoured to buy the poster, and he now sells thousands of copies of it.

BBC News story

Tuesday, 3 February 2009


A wonderful series of sketches, doodles and visual puns - all inspired by New York and all made of Lego. They are the work of Christoph Niemann, an artist whose work has appeared in many magazines, including the New Yorker.

More pictures available from the NY Times

The artist's website

Monday, 2 February 2009


The heaviest snow in London in 18 years, with an accumulation of about 8 inches.

Oslo or Vienna - or even New York - would easily cope with that much snow. But without the infrastructure to clear the snow, it brought London to a complete standstill. The trains and buses were out of action for most of the day, and the airports were closed.

It felt like a "snow day" off work for the entire city. Many people took the day off because they couldn't get to the office on public transport, and the centre of town was extremely quiet. Parks were filled with adults making snowmen and throwing snowballs.

The courtyard of Burlington House, home of the Royal Academy.

A Land Rover, the best form of transport in this weather.

Outside a local pub.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

A cultural weekend

A cultural weekend in London.

On Friday, the new Palladio exhibition at the Royal Academy. In the evening, the Mariinsky Theatre (the company formerly known as the Kirov) performing Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades, conducted by Gergiev. A sell-out show at the Barbican.

Saturday morning at the Wallace Collection.

On Sunday, the new film Frost/Nixon, adapted from the stage production at the Donmar.