Ice @ The Palace and Joe's Southern Kitchen

Monday, 23 December 2013

Outdoor ice-skating was always a bit of a romantic dream of mine and is fast becoming a winter tradition! Last year we went to the rink at the Tower of London and it was all lit up beautifully in the dark, but this year I fancied going in the day time, so booked tickets to the outdoor ice-skating rink at Hampton Court Palace, one time home of Henry VIII. It is not too far from my old university stomping ground, Kingston upon Thames, so being back in the quaint little Surrey town was nice.

I didn't get to take too many pictures on the ice because you're not actually allowed, but managed to sneak one cos you know, I'm a rebel. We did get the official photographer to take some photos of us though, so we have some better posed photos on the ice as a memento and the ice marshalls were so friendly and helpful. The Palace itself actually looked so grand and the architecture ornate and beautiful. I want to go back and get lost in the maze! Maybe when the weather is a little warmer...

The rink itself was super busy with lots of families and children, so although once we gained some confidence we were able to skate around quite, I'd recommend going later in the evening or on a week day before the schools break up because I kept seeing falling kids everywhere and was terrified one was going to drag me down...All in all a lot of fun but we had worked up quite an appetite so headed up to Central London to Joe's Southern Kitchen and Bar which is a converted warehouse spread over two floors and a basement bar in Covent Garden.

This picture is a little blurry because we were still in a daze after the popcorn shrimp with chilli lime salsa that didn't even get a picture because we were so hungry...and it tasted sooo good, spicy yet sweet, just the right size. We almost ordered more but good job we didn't. We fully went in with our meal.

Blackened catfish fillet with cajun mustard and collard greens for me.

8 hour slow roast beef short ribs with Joe's BBQ rub and slaw and fries with chicken salt for him.

Cornbread and mac'n'cheese for us both.
I can't express how good the food was, but if I say I had to pop open my jeans button that might give you an idea? Every mouthful was so flavourful, even if the catfish was a little spicy. Nothing let the team down, everything tasted so good, hence the reason why I didn't stop eating when I should have. We easily could have done without the sides as our mains alone were so filling, but I'm glad we ate them anyway.

There is a happy hour selection for £4. Happy hour is all day Sunday. The Lychee (muddled fresh lychees, creme de peche, pineapple juice and Beefeater gin) is the TRUTH. I could have drank so many more than the two I had. I mean, I didn't even have a French Martini which is also on the happy hour menu, that's how good it is!

Pecan pie with Jim Beam honey cream and an alcoholic milkshake to finish off. The ice-cream was lovely but to be honest I should just have had another Lychee.

Because I had no idea where we were going and had never heard of the restaurant at first I thought it was just a traditional burger joint, so was blown away by the Deep South cooking although the Southern hospitality was a little lacking. I was totally stuffed afterwards but I would 100% recommend. The service was a little brisk but the food more than compensated for it. 

Ooooh! Bey said the F Word!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Unless you literally live under a rock you know about Beyonce's self-titled visual album dropping on iTunes on the 13th of this month overnight and causing a shit storm all over the internet. Breaking crazy records (it has sold more than a million copies in a week, was at number 1 on iTunes in over 100 countries on the day of release and has topped the Billboard chart) the major talking point at the time was the fact that there was no promotion for the album; no release date, no interviews, no lead up singles, no videos. Arguably, everything Bey does (singing at the SuperBowl, her film/documentary 'Life Is But A Dream') is all promotion, but the fact is nobody knew WHEN the album would drop and so they went NUTS when they woke up and saw it sitting on iTunes homepage. All you could see on Instagram and Twitter for 24 hours was Queen Bey.
I haven't bought a Beyonce album in years and I prefer physical copies of music, but the media hype thoroughly sucked me in, as well as the idea that it was a visual album featuring 17 videos and I purchased the album.

Black is beautiful! One of my fave videos has Joan Smalls, Chanel Iman and Jourdan Dunn all up in it. This got reloaded several times. The image of 4 successful beautiful black women is not to be overlooked please.

So fans and the Beyhive alike were all enjoying the album and then there were a few rumblings of discontent from people with internet connection and fingers..namely that Beyonce is not a Feminist and that she should put some more clothes on. My friends and I got into a heated debate over our Xmas dinner and this was a topic of some discussion.

Presenter Jameela Jamil wrote a lengthy blog about her shock and dismay at Bey's choice to make such a saucy album and vids. And to be honest they are. But Beyonce is not barely out of her teens riding a wrecking ball she is a Grown Woman (lolz), a wife and a hugely talented superstar. The new album has clearly taken a more sexual turn, but not on every track and not random twerk anywhere business, more 'I'm celebrating the hot sex that me and my husband Jay-Z have'.

It really pisses me off the way women who celebrate their bodies or do anything remotely sexual are made to feel ashamed and looked down on. It is often by other females who don't realise their judgement is shaped by our patriarchal society and supports an ideology that wants to repress female sexuality. Black women, have been traditionally sexualised in their portrayal which has led to a huge responsibility to NOT adhere to the stereotypes; personally I feel this is just as restrictive and detrimental. Yes sex sells and there are stars who go too far, but Bey has a tonne of material and videos where she is not half naked, and now as an adult woman and mother with a banging body has decided to experiment with more overt sexual tones. The furore is deafening.

Talking about Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azaelea, Jamil says "These are just talented women who have talked themselves into the idea, SET BY MEN, that a woman's sexuality sells above all else. They have deluded themselves into thinking it's 'feminism' if you get your fanny out on 'your terms'". Very presumptuous if you ask me. I mean, she is saying that these women are so much dumber than she is, they can't see they've been had! I mean they couldn't possible want to be sexual all by themselves?! KMT.

Which leads me on to the other big debate the Beyonce album has brought up. Feminsim. I love sex and short skirts and I'm a proud Feminist. I don't understand why any person, especially a woman wouldn't be, although I do understand the crappy idea of a bra burning, man hating woman with hairy armpits is a scary (and outdated) one. Many women in the media, previously Bey herself, when asked in interviews for their stance on Feminism, have skirted around the issue, reluctant to say the F word in reference to themselves; this shit drives me nuts. Clearly, Beyonce is not the be all and end all of Feminism or Black Feminism but she has got people talking about it. Don't get me wrong, the argument over whether Beyonce herself is feminist enough is absolutely pathetic, what does that even mean? Feminism isn't prescriptive or one size fits all. Feminism 100% depends on your own personal beliefs and circumstances, so yes feminism is different for Black women and women of colour, just as it is for gay women or for a girl in Afghanistan who is denied an education.

If you want to see some of the crazy discussions people are having head over to the comment section on's article about the album but some of the more concise comments on intersectionailty have been selected and elaborated on over on, for example they printed commenter amybobamy's comment which talks about 'Single Ladies' and the significance of putting a ring on it for many Black women; "You do not seem to be taking in account how different marriage is in the black community"
"Ya'll really do seem to forget that for a lot of black women, many of the women that I know, marriage is a source of power. It is not the only source of power, it is not the end all be all, but it can be empowering. It breaks the stereotype of baby-mamas or mammys raising someone's kids."

I am not the biggest Beyonce fan but I don't deny her huge talent, business acumen and incredible thighs. Many call her contradictory, one minute singing about Independent Women then Cater to You (I mean it's music, I didn't know you could only sing about one viewpoint always and forever, but what do I know?)
I don't know her particular stance on Feminism but I respect her choice to be married and call her tour 'The Mrs. Carter tour', to sing about her husband ripping her blouse and praising cunnilingus (thankyouthankyouthankyou for Blow) and still call herself a Feminist. On Flawless she samples Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED talk 'We Should All Be Feminists', which talks about how women are taught to 'shrink themselves' and compete against each other for the attention of men. Mrs Carter's global reach is massive and the fact that she is pushing such a strong Feminist message to many young women of all colours is to be applauded. She is hugely influential and introducing girls to the idea that they should fight for equal rights under their own terms. I aint mad at that.

* All images sourced on Google
** I can't get the accent to appear on Beyonce's name and it's making me want to smash my computer

Kiss me! It's Christmas!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

This weekend my friend Louise had her Christmas jumper Christmas party. 

Home Alone played on loop in the background. Christmas music on non stop. Mistletoe. Crocheted snowflakes. 

Mince pies. Mulled wine! 

Group A, my group of friends from studying Drama at University did our Secret Santa Christmas present swap. 

Definitely Drama students...

Some weren't really in the Christmas vibes...

My Xmas jumper was a £5 Primark bargain. I love it! Roll on Christmas...

Ambition To Live

Thursday, 12 December 2013

"I originally wrote Ambition to Live with the hope of inspiring people who 'fight' everyday. No matter what it is, we all fight against something"

Jordan Pitt's short film Ambition to Live draws on his own experiences as a boxer to create a moving parallel between physical and mental strength. 
Pitt plays the protagonist Nathan David, who is hit by a car on his way home and left fighting for his life. The film flits back and forth between scenes of the accident and the paramedics at work and Nathan at his boxing gym, working and swinging punches, preparing for the battle of his life - the one for his life. 
A particularly powerful part is the alternation of of Nathan doing sit-ups and the distressed paramedic (Allyson Ava Brown) performing CPR; they are both breathing hard, exerting force and the quick switches build the tension almost unbearably until the paramedic shakes we head and the body is covered. 

Nathan stands in a doorway, white light beaming through the glass and we understand that the power of the mind is what is able to make him fight on. And then we see him breather again. I would have liked to have seen the the sheet removed from Nathan's face for this part, it felt unsatisfactory not to see his face after his final triumph. 

Ambition to Live is a One Umbrella Productions and Tri-Force productions film, written by Pitt, executive produced by Jimmy Akingbola and directed by Fraser Ayres. Dull muted tones for the film reflect te severity of the storyline but the performances are far from drab. Rebecca Ferdinando who plays Karen Hayes, shines as the devastated girlfriend who arrives at the scene; her pain throbs through the screen, her screams heartbreaking. Allyson Ava Brown also pulls off a convincing sensitive paramedic. 

There are some great shots of the crowd and the anguish of the older female driver who hit Nathan, and although slightly overused, a favourite shot of mine was a glimpse of Nathan an his trainer sparring in the ring, the rope in the foreground. 

There is a brilliant original score by Peter Matthews of Star Clef Music, ominous and then uplifting at the end, full of hope and promise. 
The film which premiered at Cannes film festival and has been well received on the British film festival circuit, will next e offered as an inspirational tool for teachers and facilitators in schools and pupil referral units. 

Check out the film by hitting the link below and let me know your thoughts!

The Best Man Holiday

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Best Man, which came out in 1999 is one of those black classic films that everyone my age has seen, alongside  films like Love and Basketball, Brown Sugar, The Wood. These are to be found in DVD collections of twenty something's all over London (where are the black British classic films? Another blog maybe?)

Malcolm D.Lee's Christmas themed sequel comes almost 15 years since the original. The opening titles give a nice refresher of the characters and their relationships, showing key moments from the first film and a brief catch up on what has happened since, who's got married, had kids, flourished in their amazing jobs. 

The film takes place over the Christmas holiday, with football star Lance Sullivan (the delectable Morris Chestnut who does not age) and his wife Mia Sullivan (Monica Calhoun) inviting all their old crew to their huuuuge home for a weekend of festive activities. 
The original film dealt with the group of friends getting to the age where they are settling down in careers and their love lives, making that step into adult life. The Best Man Holiday picks back up with the friends (Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Terence Howard, Regina Hall, Sanaa Lathan - basically the cream of black Hollywood) fully ensconced in middle age. Married, numerous kids or trouble conceiving, successful jobs. 

The film touches on things like male responses to money problems post-recession and the sexual history of partners (it is always, ALWAYS men who care about this stuff kmt) but also deals with bigger issues of mortality and friendship, fertility and inter-racial dating. 

Is the film, with celebrity sports stars, writers, tv execs and reality stars all in one friendship group entirely realistic? Probably not but it is entirely aspirational, and I think there are too few positive and successful portrayals of black people on film. 
A smartphone gag lasts entirely too long and seems a lazy attempt to update a format that already works, but the banter between friends and Quentin's (Terence Howard) sleazy drawled quips are still spot on, it was the first film I've seen in ages with the audience literally LOLing and clapping at the screen. 

For all the laughter, the film is definitely emotional so Shanika Says, go and watch with your bestie or take a date. I teased my best pal for crying and before I knew it I was reaching for her hand while using my other to wipe away my own tears. The sound of sniffling was to be heard all over! 

Hawker House: Street Feast

Sunday, 8 December 2013

I am Queen of the Quirky date. I enjoy cinema, dinner and theatre dates as much as the next girl but I love to do something a tad bit different so when I read about the Street Feast night market at Hawker House, I knew I wanted to bring the boy here. When I found out there were only 2 weekends left of the 6 week pop up at a disused factory just off the Hackney road in east London, I knew I had to get down there pretty sharpish! Inspired by the hawker centres of Singapore, it's a great indoor and therefore warm space to eat, drink and hear some music. 

We headed down on Friday night (the market is only open Friday and Saturday nights) at about 9pm, which meant we missed the freeness (free entry is from 5 until 7 and then free again from midnight, £3 each between and 7 and 12) and also that we had a bit of queuing to do to get in. 

You queue alongside this Smokestak grill however and the smoke and barbecued meat smell definitely got some excited!

We headed inside and did a quick lap of the space to see exactly what was on offer before making any food related decisions. Now the crowd are most definitely of the hipster variety with beards and nerd glasses everywhere but don't let that put you off! There was a lovely vibe with people asking for opinions on what food you were tucking into. The flowing alcohol probably helped too - there is a hot bar for hot alcoholic beverages, I'd recommend the hot apple spiced rum, as well as a whiskey bar and wine specialist bar. 

Food wise there is plenty to sample and you can try a few little bites of a number of different cuisines - win!
The boy was very excited about beef rather than pork ribs and so Smokestak  was our first port of call. 

The beef rib was demolished as you can see!

Vegetarian and pescetarian options admittedly weren't as wide and varied as for the meat eaters but I found Baba G's where they fused Indian food with a Mexican style in a biryani burrito, I mean how amazing does that sound?

My cheeky server layered mint yoghurt, red cabbage, rice, mighty masala fish, like juice and spiced paneer cheese onto a naan bread and rolled it all up for me. Absolutely heavenly!

The slider bar had little mini burgers and there were these delightful little roadsliders at Rola Wala, mini naans served right off the tava and topped with lamb or chana dal. 

Mama's Jerk looked delicious but we have Caribbean food a lot so we opted for tacos. 

The tuna tacos at Bobs Lobster van were  divine, light, zingy, crunchy just...yum!

We would have loved to try some of the desserts...

...but we were just too stuffed! 
So we wandered about, listened to some music and soaked up the vibe. 

Someone even got a cheeky little chicken wing from the Smokestak guys on the way out...

Next week is the last week so Shanika Says: get down there! The street food  phenomenon is here to stay and Street Feast at Hawker House is a great (warm!) way to try it out.