Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bacon Butty 2

Heading off to work on Tuesday morning not even the fact that the train drivers on my line had called a strike could sink my mood. So while I had to walk, catch a bus, walk, catch a tube followed by another tube to get to work (5 miles in 1.75 hours).

A historic long weekend, which involved the Clapham Demons beating the Hammersmith Magpies by 26 points to advance to my first senior Grand Final, a huge rave/ festival followed by a mate DJing at the after party, catching up with an old friend from Aus and general excess on all fronts, my body was ready for a bacon sarny!

I was still cheery by the time I arrived at London Bridge... until I tried butty number two!
The issue with my little experiment is that bacon butties will vary according to the state your body is in and you need to calibrate it for the experience, according to my esteemed colleague Donald Johnson. After much thought I happened to agree with the wiseman. How many times have to gone to the gym and when you’re finished, a bacon butty full of grease isn’t what you are really thinking. But wake up with a hangover that would make Peter Doherty think twice about substance abuse and you can’t wait to get stuck in to a little bit of Babe on a roll.

So with my body calibrated to take the butty on, I noticed a little sign near a dingy, dirty café near London Bridge telling me I was about to enter sarny utopia.

“Arrogant buggers aren’t you,” I whispered to myself. I like that.

So in a walked to get my £1.50 roll.

Bacon butty 2
Dinko & Co (Railway Walk, London Bridge, EC4r)

“One bacon roll please,” I slobberingly drooled at the man.
“Ya wan sarn sars,” (you want some sauce) he spat out.

Oh, a Northerner – they’re known for the skill with the butties.

“Yes please,” I eagerly responded.
“Whyte, rad or bran” (“white, red or brown” - Mayonnaise, tomato, HP or BBQ) he asked.
“Tomato,” and we were off.

One was un-impressed by the portion size firstly. What can only be described as a dinner roll with a light serving of bacon and a much heavier serving of tomato sauce was presented before in a mangy paper bag. Now, I hear you all saying: “Bart, you are god damn sexy”. And I have to agree, but after that I hear you saying: “Bart, you only paid £1.50, what were you expecting,” and it is a good point. However, Benjy’s bacon butty was £1.95, twice the size, three times the ingredients and came with a coffee.

While the bread was actually quite nice, the tomato sauce was tart, the bacon salty and over cooked, and there was no butter. Best Bacon Roll my arse. Best bacon roll in the strip of three shops next to London Bridge station – maybe – as I’m sure the newsagent next door could throw me a newspaper, call it a bacon butty and it may be a little better. Two Miss Piggys Dinko and Co, pick up your game.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Around the UK in 80 bacon butties

Prompted by reading restaurant reviews and wondering what the hell it means to ‘tease the flavours out of the wagyu with an infusion of sea salt and truffle essence’ I decided I am going on my own little restaurant critic’s tour of the UK. I am forging forward to find the best stalwart of English gastronomy – the bacon butty!

For those not in the know, the bacon butty is simply a way of saying bacon roll, while the bacon sarny is a sanga. These little buggers are so popular they go by many names, so familiar (roll, sandwich, pannini) and some not so to anyone not in Britain (butty, sarny, bap). Either way, the recipe is simple:
Add one part bacon to one part roll = Bacon butty.
Opps, sorry I need to get in to my critic persona:

Take several strips of ungulate - fattened on herbaceous plants -
cured with sea salt and vine ripened olive oil. Apply to heated grill. Take finished produce and insert into a mixture of grains, wheat and flour that has been moulded in to roll form. Serve immediately.

So I bring you my endeavour to find the best god damn bacon butty in greater London – Around the UK in 80 bacon butties.

Bacon butty 1
Benjy’s (Cnr Great Tower Street & Mark Lane, London, EC3R 5BU)

Buoyed with a new sense of purpose, the Ukrainian girl behind the counter new I meant business.
“One bacon butty, please?”
“Would you like egg and cheese?”
– she new her butties!
“You better believe it” – so did I!

While the initial rush of sea-salt teased and caressed the palate, it became a little overpowering towards the end, overwhelming the rest of the flavours. There was not as much bacon as one would expect; however, the use of free range bacon did add a little ‘ju ne se qa’ to the overall dining experience. The fromage had a tad too much tartness, which combined with the over-done egg, did create smokiness to the overall flavour, although this was neutralised by the sauce of several Mediterranean sun-ripened tomatoes. The bread, this time it was a muffin, was a little too doughy for my liking (which could have been solved by applying more heat in the toasting process), but overall the experience was rewarding. I give this butty six Miss Piggys out of ten. My favourite so far.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Mum - i'm getting married!

Well not exactly. Let me explain. A few weeks ago I went to a club called Turnmills - and for all those reading in London - you know this can't end well.

The place is run by the Russian mafia. All the security and people on the door are all big Russkis, while the bar staff are all young Lithuanian girls who live above the club, which isn't uncommon in the UK. Anyway, I had to leave my bag in the cloak room and my email address as a contact. Three weeks later I receive this from my new 'wife':

My name is Maria . I'm 26 years old. I was never married. I do not have children. And you may see my photos in the letter but i may describe myself as charming, beautiful and kind girl who has a big blue eyes and gray and somewhere blondy hair. Probably it will be interesting why I search for the second half under the Internet. I simply want to try the happiness. Now I probably should explain to you why I have chosen you. You have seemed to me very nice.You can not believe me, but at us, as it seems, much in common. Excuse me for such courageous assumption. At least I want to believe in it. I would like that our correspondence delivered to us great pleasure. I do not put before myself the purpose to leave from Russia, but if to me to be presented such opportunity I shall leave. I hope, that you don't upset in the letter. With impatience I shall wait for your answer. Before hand thanks. I simply want to try the happiness.

P. S. If you find of a mistake in my letter please excuse me Maria.

I hope she truly loves me?

I think there is something here for all of us

From today's BBC:

Sudan man forced to 'marry' goat
A Sudanese man has been forced to take a goat as his "wife", after he was caught having sex with the animal.
The goat's owner, Mr Alifi, said he surprised the man with his goat and took him to a council of elders.

They ordered the man, Mr Tombe, to pay a dowry of 15,000 Sudanese dinars ($50) to Mr Alifi.
"We have given him the goat, and as far as we know they are still together," Mr Alifi said.

Mr Alifi, Hai Malakal in Upper Nile State, told the Juba Post newspaper that he heard a loud noise around midnight on 13 February and immediately rushed outside to find Mr Tombe with his goat.

"When I asked him: 'What are you doing there?', he fell off the back of the goat, so I captured and tied him up".
Mr Alifi then called elders to decide how to deal with the case.

"They said I should not take him to the police, but rather let him pay a dowry for my goat because he used it as his wife," Mr Alifi told the newspaper.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Croatia - It's the balls!

Quite simply, Croatia is a stunning country with stunning people and not many tourists ruining it yet. If you’re earning the pounds, oh baby this place is your playground!
Landing in Croatia I was somewhat surprised by the countryside. First, the south of Croatia is simply a tiny strip of land that borders the Adriatic Sea to it’s west and huge mountains to its east, which leaves a tiny sliver of land running down the coast. So this means coming in to land is a series of sharp turns, flying through valleys before slamming down in Split airport a little harder and faster than one would like.

Here’s a short history lesson, as we all know the Balkans are confusing.

Like nearly all of Eastern Europe, Croats are descended from the Slavik tribes, which came to the Roman’s lands in the in early 7th century. I’m sure there’s more history in here somewhere, but let’s cut to the chase. After WWI, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia formed the State of Slovenes, which was made up of Croats and Serbs and would later become Yugoslavia in 1929.

After many moons, the Croats were sick and tired of the Serbs and everyone was really just ready for a good ole’ blue. So on 25 June, 1991, Croatia and Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia. The Slovenians got out of this pretty easy, but the Serbs who lived in Croatia, backed by the Yugoslavian Army, revolted against the Croats and the shit hit the fan.

The Croats weren’t really ready for this war and all the way up until 1995, they were pretty much volunteers and a police force. Enter the Germans. Around 1995 the Germans decided to help out the Croats and started providing them with weapons and training. It wasn’t long before the Croats pushed back and won the war in 1995.

But now they’re all happy and the country is prospering.

When it comes to accommodation in Croatia, you really do get the full local experience, as the main places to stay are at a family’s home in a spare room. As soon as you get off a boat or bus, you are attacked by people wielding flyers, photos and maps asking you if you need a room. Sometimes you luck out and get someone who speaks good English and is really friendly:
And sometimes you get someone who is equally friendly, but has no idea what you are saying.

We were pretty lucky with the families we stayed with, even getting free Croatian Grappa at one place.

Before Grappa...

...after Grappa

However, we were asked to be quiet at 2am in nearly every place we stayed in by a variety of methods, including turning the lights on and off, tapping of the watch, ringing a telephone and my personal favourite, just barging into the room.

Split is the second largest city in Croatia. Located down in the south it is a staging point for those travelling the islands, and therefore has a buzz about it. The place is full of markets where you can get cheap rip offs and restaurants/bars and cafes that serve cheap food and cheaper drinks - and shit loads of ice cream for some reason.

One lively night I won myself so much Corona merchandise at a bar I had to leave it behind - except for this bad boy below!
I was the only one in the bar who got one so I was holding on to that.

We met up with Blake and off we went.

Hvar is to Italians what Ibiza is to English. Arriving in Hvar (which is the sunniest island in Croatia apparently) we decided ‘when in Rome’, so it was off to the beach for some water sports and the bar for some drinks. Countless hours slipping in and out of the water and basking in the sunshine were taking their toll and we thought maybe it was time for that Mediterranean siesta followed by a 11pm dinner. However, in the distance we could hear some DJ doing something that appealed to the ears.

Upon closer inspection we stumbled across a bar perched up on a hill overlooking the water, a bar that was having a Sangria party (1 litre of sangria + 3 straws + 16 = fun times for all).

After relaxing in the sun, having a boogie over looking the water and getting pretty well sloshed, it was off back to the rooms to get ready for dinner and a club called ‘Carpe Diem’. Now Carpe Diem is a club split into two sections: VIP (in other words you have a massive yacht moored directly outside the club) and everyone else.

While sitting with everyone else, we noticed two older Croatian men – who had recently moored their 90 foot luxury yacht just outside – chatting to two large breasted young ladies with Aussie accents in one of the best seats in the VIP area. Bit by bit, we started to make our way to the velvet rope that separated the rest of the club to this section. Slowly, and one by one, we tip-toed over the rope, positioned ourselves near the table, and pretended to be shocked and surprised that these girls were countrymen.

“Sit down with us,” they told us.
“Oh okay, if we must,” came the reply.

The two Croatian men, not really wanting to stuff up their chances and look bad in front of the girls, had to accept it. What was even better was when the security came over as they had seen our somewhat James Bond like moves, the two fellas paid them off to let us sit there – gold!

In the VIP......After the VIP

Arriving on the island of Brac we headed for Bol, rumoured to have the best beach in Croatia. After some searching we found the so-called best beach, which did leave a lot to be desired. However the island is that damn beautiful it doesn’t matter.

After the two nights of partying in Hvar, we took it easy in Bol, buying a bottle of local vodka and playing cards. That didn’t last long so headed out again of course, and were rained on the hardest I think I have ever been rained on before.

Back to Split
After heading to the north of Brac to Supetar harbour, we caught up with Bri’s friend Georgia. She lives in Italy with her girlfriend, so Croatia is just a hope, skip and a jump for her. Arriving back in Split, we noticed that some country’s navy was in town (think it was Russian) – so the calls of ‘hello sailor’ were being shouted from the rooftops by both Blake and myself (although we were looking at different uniforms I suspect). It was going to be a funny night. Unfortunately this was were Blake had to leave for Italy, so off he trundled, but Georgia made up for where he left off.
Next day it was off to Dubrovnik for Bri and I, and Georgia was heading home to Rome.
As we parted her closing words were: “if you are ever in Italy and need a place to crash, there’s a double bed in Rome with two lesbians you can stay in” – Jackpot!

The 5 hour bus ride from Split to Dubrovnik was just one long scenic tour, with the road winding along the coast line.

At one point we did pass through Bosnia Herzegovina, for which I really needed to get a shot, as I don’t think I know anyone that has been there?

It was at the border that you really got to see the difference between the coast dwelling, fish eating Croats and the inland dwelling, kill a bear with your bare hands and eat it raw Bosnians.




Arriving in Dubrovnik you realise a) how stunning it easy and b) how many tourists are here. The city is actually a UNESCO world heritage site – not because it’s pretty, but if anything happened to it, it would affect every damn nationality. George Bernard Shaw once said: “If you want to see heaven on earth, go to Dubrovnik."

The city walls of Dubrovnik have never been breached in battle, expect for once, when Napoleon promised he wouldn’t be naughty if they let him in. That’s kind of like giving your teenage daughter to Colin Farrell, so he got in and was obviously not the nicest of fellows, so the Croats forget about him.

We explored Dubrovnik inside out and upside down, walking the walls, around the city and even by sea. It’s hard to describe it really, so I’m just going to put up some photos.

Now these walls may have been great to stop advancing horses, but they don’t really help when Bosnians are shelling the shit out of you from the hills above with 19 pound bombs.
There are still scars around the city that show the damage caused in the 90’s, some subtle:

Some not quite so subtle...

The main sign is really old buildings all with brand new roof tiles or ones with differing colours.

The next day we were due to catch the 8.00am bus out of Dubrovnik and back to Split - which was rather difficult seeing as I got back to the apartment at 6.00am. So with no sleep and a five hour bus ride ahead, I slept and have no more stories or photos from Croatia.

Hvalla Croatia – you’re the duck’s nuts!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Blair McDonough - who the fuck are you?

Blair McDonough. Who the fuck are you? For those not in the know, Blair McDonough was the runner up in the first Australian Big Brother, and like everyone that goes on to Big Brother, he thinks he’s got something that the rest of the world doesn’t (and if you saw the email going around of him in the BB showers he is correct – the world’s smallest cock).

Anyway, Blair went on to get a role in Neighbours after his stint in the BB household and now, like all Neighbours cast, is trying his hand on stage in London. Obviously wanting to show off his acting talent and range, he decided not to go for a Shakespearean piece or a Checkov number, no no he’s starring in the Vegemite Tales, a play about a group of Aussies living in London. “Hey Blair, welcome to our day to day life - tosser. Pick any third person on a London street and you'll have an Aussie who is pretty damn familiar with that story!”

You may wonder why I have decided to waste my writing talent (know that word Blair?) on this little poo stain, so let me explain. On Sunday night, a friend of Bart’s Blog saw Blair in the Slug and Lettuce (love this English pubs names) in Fulham. At the risk of jeers from his mates, Simon decided to go up to Blair and get a photo for his sister – well that’s what he tells us it was for.

Simon quite politely walked up to Blair and asked him for a photo. For this he was denied, and told in that oh-so attractive Ringwood drawl: “carn’t be farked”. I’m sorry?? All you have to do is stand there you wanker. Even a talentless hack like yourself should be able to manage that.

To quote Simon:

You ask Burt Reynolds for a photo you'll get one, but this Z-list celebrity knocked me back.

Blair McDonough – you are a talentless shit.

And screw you – he took the shot anyway!