Let’s put it this way – being on a diet sucks major d***s (sorry Susan, I know you hate me swearing), and writing about food when fighting against the post-Christmas extra kilos is very counterproductive.
Thankfully two days ago I finally decided to flip the bird to the healthy side of food and here I am back on track B&G lovers, ALL YOURS.
Happy New Year Ladies & Germs! Did you get any cool presents for Christmas? Or did you just get fat like me? Let’s face it though, being chubby and always putting the pub before the gym is way cooler than having a six-pack and being late for the Xmas eve dinner with your grandma because you just couldn’t miss that 5 hours session with your personal trainer. On top of that everyone knows that people with that little bit of extra weight are funnier compared to walking bread-sticks.
Apart from getting fat I also received some lovely wooden tools for “Homemade Gnocchi Making” and an entire day spent with my lovely Nonna Carla preparing tons of gnocchi for the rest of the family, plus getting a bit of her unbelievable cooking skills.
In terms of my great and helpful and ALWAYS amazing recommendations about where to go to stuff your face with quality food, I finally want to introduce you to my local Camden heroes: O Tino in Plender Street (Next to Belushi’s back door).
All I can say about this family run restaurant is that I felt at home from the very first time I stepped through the door!! Elisabete’s smile is one of the most honest, warm and welcoming smiles that you can find in London, Tino is always up for some good Italo-Portuguese jokes and their son (I forgot the name unfortunately) is one of the nicest dudes I’ve ever came across since I’ve lived in this city.
Their signature dish is the Bacalhau (cod), which they cook to perfection in a lot of typical Portuguese ways, but also the Gambas (king prawns) and their selection of meats are extraordinary.
Not surprisingly, my favourite dish is the H-U-G-E rib eye grilled steak – it’s delicious, it comes with fries and salad, it will easily feed 2 people and is just £16! Bargain! If you feel like trying something different go for the Carne de porco a Alentejana (pork medallions and potato cubes with white clams).
On top of all of that they serve cheap Sagres and Super Bock bottled beers and you can always end a meal with a glass of Porto wine! Muito Bom!
I’ve took so many friends over there and not a single time I’ve seen a disappointed face – Just big smiles and food coma situations! Muito Bom X 2!
Before getting into the Gigs&Tips section I need your help with an important decision:
Shall I create a B&G Facebook page or not? Yes to the blog on the Zuckerberg’s social empire means less words, more pictures and me posting directly from a restaurant or from a gig (with the position/location shared). No to that will allow me to concentrate more on the WordPress side of things, with less posts but with much more details compared to the ones I would be adding to FB.
Please vote! I’ll make a decision in the next 3/4 weeks.
Gigs&Tips: Can’t wait to see these guys playing next week (Thursday 12th) at The Dome in Tufnell Park!!!
Eat more food, possibly in new restaurants so I can talk to you about them
Getting on tour with my band (we just recorded a new demo!! For more info click here)
Trying to stay sober at gigs so I can give you better details about them (and we all know this is not going to happen)
Creating a B&G Facebook profile for more foodstuff pictures and less nonsense words
I know that Christmas day is actually next week, and you’re all too busy buying last minute presents on Amazon, but trust me, this post will help you get into the festive spirit without the need to take a walk down Oxford Street.
The Churchill Arms is located in Kensington Church Street, a 5 minute walk from Notting Hill Gate station, and it surely is one of my favourite pubs in West London.
The ambience is cozy and warm, the staff is super friendly, the selection of beers is not bad at all and they have a great Thai restaurant called Spice of Life on their flowery back, serving the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had outside Thailand.
It’s since 2010 that I’m stuffing my face in this place, and I’m pretty much sure I’ve tried all the different things they have in the menu, from the quite filling prawn crackers to the great noodles and curries, both religiously made with fresh ingredients.
If you feel like you’re one of the braves that can handle the spiciness pretty well, then you should order their Pad Kee Mao, a darker type of noodles compared to the other ones, incredibly tasteful and unbelievably hot!
Go there to enjoy some good food and chill out in that Xmas coziness before January comes to take everything away with its disgraceful blues and its freezing temperatures. If you get the pad kee mao let me know how was it without using the word “spicy”.
Gigs&Tips: As I told you not once but twice, I do have a band. We are called Arrows Of Time and our bandcamp page is frequently populated with very cool music. Check it out, and if you like our sound come and see us on January 17th at the Constitution in Camden.
It’s impossible to fully describe how I felt, but I can promise you that when they played Macho Nachos, Road Rash and Leavin’I was completely taken back to the late nineties/early noughties, when it was all about skateboarding (or at least trying to) and Punk Rock music.
Needless to say that I was crying a little bit during that trip down memory lane, but y’all know how soft I am.
Last night the boys from Santa Barbara were absolutely impeccable, and since they started 20 years ago they’ve only got better and better, especially live. Chuck’s voice is still amazing, Dustin smashed it at the keyboards, Graham and Todd did the same on the bass and on the drums, Sascha is still looking like a kid but he now plays like a pro, and Eddie the Sexy-Mexi wasn’t just epic at the trombone, but he also managed to jump all over the stage for the entire show and play the last song from the bar just behind where we were standing. S-U-P-E-R-B!!!!
Unfortunately Keith, Caddies’ trumpet player since they started back in 1995, is on tour with Mariachi El Bronx, so wasn’t there to enjoy the party. I’m pretty sure he’s still having a good time though.
Dear Mad Caddies, thanks a lot for being the soundtrack of my youth and for making feel like a kid again during your show yesterday. Funny enough it happened to be just 5 days before my 30th birthday, so I’ll take it as a pretty cool present.
One more post before Xmas amigos, and I promise it won’t be about music this time.
The past week was again full of live music excitement..
Last Friday Truckfighters played at the O2 Academy in Islington and, even with a pretty fucking late arrival (AGAIN!!), me and Cozza managed to see them performing the last 4 songs..
Jesus Christ I love these guys so much! And I truly love Desert Cruiser; they finish all their gigs with that song, with everyone in the house singing along, even the sweaty walls!
Sorry boys, next time I’ll try to drink less beers prior to the show and rock up on time.
Talking about desert, Tinariwen (which in the Tamasheq language literally means ‘deserts’) and their West African guitar-driven sound, rocked the Roundhouse the following Sunday.
Imagine being stuck in a big tent in the middle of the Sahara Desert with a group of local musicians, where the only thing that you can do, apart from asking for more tea, is listening to the music they are playing.. Well, that is the best explanation that I can give you about the atmosphere that these northern Malian rock rebels created during the gig, apart from beer and cider served instead of the tea.
I discovered these guys this summer through my girlfriend’s dad Damian, the coolest 70 years old dude that I know, and since then I got addicted to their sound. If you still don’t know them then you should.
Not the best video quality, but will surely give you an idea..
Wednesday was the turn of Jack White at the O2 Arena..
I’m not a big fan of the Millennium Dome in all honesty, as I prefer more intimate gigs, but I had this thing in my head about seeing crazy Jack live that made me not care too much about the location.. Plus I got the tickets for my birthday (thanks Lucy) so why not.
I much appreciated the fact that on top of White’s solo stuff (Freedom at 21 & Lazaretto) some great tunes by The White Stripes (Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground, Fell in Love With a Girl, Astro & Hotel Yorba) and The Raconteurs (Top Yourself & Steady As She Goes) were also played, but unfortunately at the end of the show I wasn’t as impressed as I though I would be.
Maybe it was just the place, or Jack not being great in communicating with the crowd, or some of the musicians playing not matching at all that type of music, or maybe my expectations for this gig were too big, who knows? What I do know is that for the first time in my life I left a concert before the last song had been played, and that should explain everything.
Next gig will be Mad Caddies at the little O2 in Islington, the perfect band to play out the year..
We have all been there at some point: One of your favourite bands have just announced that they will be playing a show in London in a couple of months and tickets will be available online the following morning at 9am… You get very excited, you let all your friends know, you set up the alarm ridiculously early and for once you rock up at the office on time…
You prepared everything: The card number is copied and ready to be pasted in the appropriate box, you already had 5 coffees and that makes you look like you’ve been out all night on the booze, you open the webpage 5 minutes earlier feeling really clever compared to all the other idiots that are surely still sleeping, and then… and then something goes wrong…
.. The page is really slow and when it comes back to life it tells that you are number 875 in the queue. You refresh, and refresh, and swear in all the possible languages against all the Saints from above, then you refresh again, then a “little” punch hits either the desk or the laptop, you refresh one more time… And then it’s over… Sold Out in less than 3 minutes!
And that’s what happened to me when I tried to get tickets for Death From Above 1979 at the Electric Ballroom..
The goddamned tickets disappeared within 5 minutes of appearing online.. Huge disappointment and hundreds of thousands of unkind words towards all of the Last Supper attendees.
Luckily my friend Cozza is a living legend and somehow he managed to get me a 20 bucks ticket a couple of hours before gig, completely erasing my plans for a quiet and cozy Monday night at home.
A lot of beers were involved, before, during and after the show, so I don’t remember a lot of details. All I know is that the wall of sound that these 2 fellas from Canada created was like a punch in the face! What an epic gig, and what a tremendous atmosphere!
Right On Frankenstein!, Virgins and Cheap Talk (my 3 favourite tracks from their monumental latest release The Physical World) played at the very beginning of the show not just gave a strong shake to all the souls filling the Ballroom, but also made me and my friends going crazy with the bar orders..
I’m not saying that it was a bad idea, but unfortunately the whole “drinking-like-idiots-shenanigans” made me forget about the rest of the show. As said, it was a great fucking gig, and sometimes when you’re having fun, details are not really necessary.
Not even the time to recover from a terrible two day hangover and Brant Bjork played The Garage just outside Highbury and Islington station.
Impossible not to drink a couple of lagers when BB was on stage, but this time me and Cozza behaved like if we were invited for a 5pm tea at Buckingham Palace, and no crazy shit happened before/during/after the show.
Even if he’s a drummer by nature (Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Vista Chino) it didn’t surprise me seeing him being such a great front-man.
Both guitar riffs and vocals have that touch of desert sound that makes you want to be at the wheel of a really old Chevrolet El Camino, driving without destination through the Sky Valley.
The good thing about The Garage is that it never gets really full and you can easily wander around the venue without getting crazy (I remember being able to walk from the bar to the toilet in less than 20 seconds during a Franz Ferdinand gig).
Not much sing-along on my side, as I concentrating more on the music and on that type of “being stoned” kinda feeling created by the four dudes on stage. They played for 90 minutes more or less, without a single dull or boring moments.
If you are into Low Desert Punk you’ll love this song..
Next gigs on the diary:
Friday 14th November – Truckfighters @ the O2 Academy in Islington
Sunday 16th November – Tinariwen @ the Roundhouse
Wednesday 19th November – Jack White @ the O2 Arena
.. The only disappointment in going to see 4 gigs in a week is the fact that the budget for food is very very tight, like 50p late evening deals on Waitrose’s sandwiches just before the show, or a big plate of pasta with whatever-is-in-the-cupboard type of sauce when you come back home drunk as a skunk right after it.
But for some Rock ‘n’ Roll I reckon is a pretty fair price to pay.
It all started last Wednesday with The Lawrence Arms @ the O2 Academy in Islington.
No one wanted to come so I bought the ticket online at 4pm on the very same day (pretty risky to do that for a London gig), cooked some dinner, jumped on my Vespa and boom, here I am under the stage singing out loud old timers like The Devil’s Takin’ Names, Great Lakes/Great Escapes, Like a Record Player, Quincentuple Your Money, 100 Resolutions and new great songs like Seventeener and You Are Here from their last album Metropole.
I love these guys! The mix of melancholic lyrics and constant drunkenness makes the Chicago trio one of the best Punk Rock bands around, since 1999!
Last time I saw them was in 2010. Same place, same feelings during the show and a lot of beers shared with my best mate Alessandro. Since then he got married and he’s now father of a beautiful girl called Chiara. And what about me? No wife and no kids, but I’m still pretty good on getting drunk on a regular basis.
Even if they didn’t play it this song is still one of my favourite..
Starring: Cocky Balboa
Saturday was the turn of Fat Freddy’s Drop @ Ally Pally..
Mr Scruff was opening… But we missed him (insert Sad Face here)! However I had the pleasure to see him earlier this year at Koko’s and God he was good! If you don’t know him go check it out!
Quick watered down beer with an extraordinary taste of piss, quick look at the toilets just to realise that I’m not in the mood to queue for 45 minutes just to get rid of some liquids and then lights went down and the Kiwis appeared on stage, making the whole crowd go bananas!!
Just to give you a bit of knowledge, the Wellington music collective started back in 2005, when they released their first studio album called Based on a true story. The album went gold on its first day. Recorded in a basement studio in the home of one of the band members, it was released on the band’s own label, The Drop. It was the first independently distributed album to hit number one on the New Zealand album charts. Dr. Boondigga & The Big BW came next, followed by their latest masterpiece Blackbird.
And the Ally pally night was the perfect occasion for Joe Dukie and his gang to play some great songs from this new fabulous album, Mother Mother and Silver and Gold for example, with the addition of old tunes like This Room and the mind-blowing cover of Waiting in Vain by Bob Marley.
One hour and forty minutes of greatness! No pictures and zero trips to the bar, just music, good vibes and the entertaining crazy little dances of sweaty pants Hopepa, Fat Freddy’s trombone player. What a dude!
Click here for some pics, click play on the video below for some beats..
These Mothercluckers are the kings of fried chicken in London! And I’m not saying that just because today I won a free meal through their Friday Instagram competition, but because every time I go visit them I always get quality food at a reasonable price. And the portions are huge, which is always a bonus for a chubby Italiano like me.
As well as producing amazing Mac&Cheese, with the magical addition of jalapenos and courgettes, they’re also a great bunch of people. You’re always welcomed with a warm smile, and, although there are sometimes queues at lunch time, it’s never more than 20-30 minutes from the moment you join, to the glorious moment you get the food in your hands. Definitely worth it!!
I have to admit that coming back to London after 3 weeks in the Philippines (click here if you missed the last post about my adventures over there) wasn’t too bad..
And that joy about returning was not caused by the clouds over Heathrow Airport when we landed, neither by the pile of bullshit that I got on Monday morning at the office; it all came from 2 sexy tickets that I won for Beck at the iTunes Festival!!
I’ve fucking loved Beck since the tender age of 16. His ways of experimenting through music are simply marvellous and you never know what to expect in his next album. On top of that he’s a really good guitar player, he’s got a great voice and on stage he’s a crazy motherfucker.
I didn’t take many pictures during the show, not just because I hate iPhones and tablets at gigs, but also because it was one of the best live performances I’ve seen in ages and I didn’t want to miss a single second of it, at a point of almost peeing my pants on more than one occasion…
As you can see from the above setlist, Beck and his impeccable musician fellas played all the hits (when they came back and ‘Sexx Laws‘ started the crowd went nuts!), ending up the show with the classic ‘Where It’s At’, made even more awesome by the addition of ‘Miss You’ (Rolling Stones) and ‘Do Ya Think I’m sexy (Rod Stewart) snippets.
I’ve also applied for Elbow and Gregory Porter but I wasn’t blessed by the Lord (or by Steve Jobs) for those ones, and that was unfortunate and disappointing.
What about you B&G lovers? Any lucky iTunes festival stories or will you need to wait for next year’s “apply to win” shenanigans?
Bibs&Tips: Next time you go to an event around that area make sure you stop at Thanh Binh for some dinner before the show. It’s one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in London and it’s located in front of the Camden Stables Market main doors, 5 minutes walking from the Roundhouse.
Welcome to the Bibs & Gigs Abroad section. If you know me personally or if you just read my blog, surely the point is crystal clear: I’m a passionate eater and a music lover! On top of that I also love to put my ass on airplanes directed to random places around the globe (who doesn’t?!).
My lovely Mamma always told me: “Whatever you do in life make sure you’ll find the time to travel as much as you can”.. God she was right! Being abroad certainly stimulates a lot of incredible feelings. And with going abroad I’m not referring to the All-Inclusive holiday in Sharm El Sheik, with bacon and eggs for breakfast, zero life outside the resort and a pile of shitty pictures of paper cocktails umbrellas or selfies in the swimming pool with your drunk ‘orange skin’ tanned mates.
I’m talking about unbelievable adventures like couchsurfing in Argentina, trekking in Patagonia, having a laugh with the amazing Filipino kids, almost getting arrested in Bangkok, eating a simple but delicious Pho soup from a dirty food stand in the streets of Hanoi, getting naked on the Machu Picchu, paying 20 bucks for a bungee jump in Ecuador.. Making friends from all over the world, being homesick and once you’re back start immediately with arranging the next backpacking mission, because these days abroad were probably the best you’ve had in your entire life.
In 4 simple words: Bibs and Gigs Abroad! Well, more or less…
And what a great country to start with: Philippines!
More than 7000 islands, great sandy beaches, really good food, smiley and friendly people, cheap and always cold San Miguel beers (the Spanish influence is still strong from the booze point of view), tarsiers, whale sharks, bangkas & jeepneys etc.. Philippines is the place to be if you are in a desperate need to unplug completely from the Western world.
I reckon that a good part of its beauty comes from the fact that it’s still a destination off the beaten track, with very few party goers and Gringos.. Apart from Boracay, that we obviously skipped.
Rather than trying to be the new Lonely Planet website, and tell you where to go, what to do and how to do it, I’ll be making a short list of our destinations, with some basic info and some pictures.
Here we go..
Palawan Island: Super clean Puerto Princesa (if you get caught littering you’ll be in deep s**t!), with its classy restaurants and the well-known Underground River and Honda Bay, was the starting point of a really relaxing week.
From there we moved up to an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G resort called Qi Palawan, situated between a pristine beach and a virgin forest, in an undiscovered and unexploited part of North-eastern Palawan.
It was a bit sad leaving Qi but luckily the stunning sunsets of El Nido (our next destination) that followed were the perfect cure for the nostalgic blues, and a strong signal that there’s surely a lot more to come to our trip.
Cebu Island rhymes with Lechon, whale sharks, bumpy bus journeys, Malapascua and Bantayan, good weather, good beaches, good times. Despite being the second most populous Metropolitan area in the Philippines after Metro Manila, Cebu City got a complete different vibe from the messy capital. Walking around is safer, most of the buildings don’t look like they may fall over your head at any point, people are friendlier and you won’t feel like you’ve just eaten a piece of cat after buying some food from a street vendor.
Oslob, a little village 2 hours south of Cebu, is the place to go if you feel brave enough to swim with giant whale sharks. Even if these dudes are completely harmless to humans I can honestly tell you that I was pretty fucking scared at the beginning, especially when one of them swam under our little bangka; once in the water though the fright disappeared completely and the all experience turned in one of the best I’ve ever had in my life!
Malapascua and its super kind inhabitants (I need to mention Mike from Mike&Diose, who made our stay there incredible, even if the weather was a bit rubbish) and Bantayan, with its crystal water and the super talented basketball playing kids were our last stops in Cebu Island.
Bohol and Panglao were in my opinion the best part of the all trip. I absolutely loved the Chocolate Hills, even if we got lost and stuck in the mud with the scooter on the way there, seeing the tarsiers was pretty cool, and chilling by the lovely Alona beach was not as boring as I expected it to be. I eventually got a little tanned even if I spent most of the time sleeping on a hammock in the shade.
Manila was the last stop before flying back to London and apart from the Walled City (aka Intramuros), the Mall Of Asia and some good Chinese restaurants (Dong Bei in particular – See pictures below) there’s not a great deal to explore over there, especially when there are much better places.
If you are planning to go to the Philippines and you need some advice, the first one I’m giving you is: Do not hesitate! Just book your ticket and GO! If you need more help please feel free to ask and I’ll be happy to help.
Filipino Bibs: Prior to this trip when I read that the Filipino word for “Hello” is “Have you eaten?” I almost came in my pants! These guys knows a lot of stuff in terms of food.
There’s a huge variety of fish and it’s always fresh, Lechon (roasted sucking pig) is taken seriously over in Cebu, their Sinigang soups/stews are sensational, Pancit Noodles are always coming in huge portions and proper Italian pizzas and Chinese dumplings can be easily found, especially in the big cities but even off the beaten track.
Which one of the following would you eat right now? If you’re thinking about the 7/11 toasty then you’re definitely reading the wrong blog.
I can’t imagine London without Denmark Street and its incredible vibe… Guitars and drums shops, people like Noel Gallagher, Ronnie Wood and Patrick Stewart (Spock!) hanging around there, the iconic 12 Bar Club, the Alleycat (Regent Sound Studios back in the 60s, where the Rolling Stones recorded their first album), and all the tiny Korean restaurants round the corner.
Unfortunately due to the Cross Rail development starting from January 2015 the all area will be transformed and will definitely lose its greatness. There’s an online petition going on at the moment – I don’t know if it will really help to avoid the inevitable but hopefully it will postpone it a little bit. If you have a second please sign it here.
Last Saturday after band practice at Enterprise Studios (located in a little alley behind the 12 Bar) I had a late lunch at Seoul Bakery with my girlfriend Lucy.
SB is a really small Korean restaurant run by smiley and friendly people, where the ingredients are fresh and the food is made with love.
I ordered a delicious Spicy chicken soup with Udon Noodles, that came with a portion of Kimchi as a side dish, and Lucy got a Bulgogi Bibimbap.
If you’re not familiar with Korean food:
Kimchi is a traditional spicy and sour Korean side dish made of cabbage with a variety of seasonings;
Bibimbap is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with vegetables, seasonings, a fried egg and sliced beef. It is also a funny word that I use a lot when I’m drunk… Don’t ask me why as sometimes I’ve got no idea of what’s happening inside my head;
Bulgogi = grilled marinated beef cooked using Korean traditional grilling techniques;
The only bad thing about this pretty place is that soon it will be gone, as the whole building will become a charming Bus Stop (A big Thank You to the Crossrail pricks for making this happening so quickly). I don’t know if they will reopen in another location but even if they do it surely won’t be the same unfortunately.
If you’re still new to this type of cuisine I reckon a cheap lunch (YES! SB not just is good, it’s also cheap as chips) at Seoul Bakery this weekend could be a great introduction to this new world of magnificent aromas.
Gigs&Tips: I’ll never get bored of telling everyone how fun a night at the 12 Bar Club can be! They have live music 7 days a week, door charge is always under £10, good beers, a pool table, a cool outside area at the back. So hurry up and go get a taste of the Denmark Street madness before it will turn into a Prada store or a Pret a Manger.
Last but not least: These guys are on tonight at the Brixton Academy. It’s sold out but some last minute tickets may be available outside the venue..