Category

FOOD & DRINK

Category

One of my favourite restaurants.

Is Dishoom.

And perhaps the most unusual thing about me expressing this preference.

Is the fact that I have never been.

Dishoom.

I met Dishoom founder Shamil Thakrar in London.

In November 2019.

And I am so certain that Dishoom is one of my favourite restaurants.

(Despite having never ever been).

Because of just two things that Shamil told me.

The first was this.

Shamil said that Dishoom is not a restaurant.

Well, not according to Shamil it isn’t.

According to Shamil, Dishoom is:

A love letter to Bombay told through food and stories.

I love the pictures this creates.

And the sounds that it creates.

And the smells.

And the tastes.

And the atmosphere.

I love the promise that that statement makes.

And because Shamil delivers on that promise.

I love Dishoom, too.

Flathead. 

But it was the second thing that Shamil said to me that sealed it.

And it is a simple story.

It is a story about something that happened shortly after Shamil had been explaining his interior design vision to the team that creates his restaurants.

His designers.

And his builders.

(It is important to note, by the way, that Shamil bases his restaurants on precise eating experiences from a very precise period of time in Bombay’s history.

The year 1960).

The pictures that Shamil creates in the minds of his team are alive!

They are so vivid and beautiful that anyone visiting Dishoom today can breathe in the authenticity of the Irani cafés and the food of all Bombay from that wonderful era.

And it was against this backdrop that Shamil spoke to me about something quite simple.

And something quite surprising.

He spoke to me about flathead screws.

Flatheads.

One day.

As Shamil stood in one of his completed restaurant interiors.

A restaurant that he had painstakingly overseen the refurbishment of for weeks.

Shamil had a niggle.

Something wasn’t quite right.

Eventually.

Shamil walked over to the bar area.

Crouched down.

And gently touched one of the exposed screwheads with his finger.

It was a crosshead screw.

And whilst such a thing existed in the world in the 1960’s.

Shamil knew that this is not how the establishments in Bombay would have been constructed in 1960.

Little things. 

I pass restaurants every day.

So many of them struggling.

So many of them empty.

I see that they are empty as my eyes squint through their filthy fucking windows.

And as my feet crunch through the litter they they leave strewn outside their doors.

I squint to see the waiters and the waitresses inside stood mouthing their complaints about their lack of customers.

As they lean motionless against bars, chairs and walls.

And I think about Shamil.

And I smile.

Because when you get the the little things right.

You’re sure to get the big things right too.

Screws.

In the restaurant I mentioned earlier.

Shamil had every last cross head screw removed.

And replaced.

With the more authentic flathead screws that would have been used in Bombay in 1960.

400,000

Dishoom serves 400,000 meals each month.

(Half of which they give away.

But that’s another story).

And I think I know why.

That there Internet is filled with misinformation.

And conflicting information.

And I haven’t got time to go round all the supermarkets.

So here’s what I have.

Revels.

A small bag of Revels is 35 grams.

A Revels Treat Bag is 71 grams.

(It is also reported as being 85 grams).

A Revels Pouch is 101 grams.

(There’s a 112 gram Pouch also, I read).

A Revels Large Pouch is 205 grams.

There’s a 240 grams size too.

Revel Guessing.

Revel guessing is guessing every Revel in the bag.

End-to-end.

Before you eat it.

Smelling it is allowed in the rules

But no biting or licking.

Devious.

The most devious Revels are orange pretending to be coffee.

(Or coffee pretending to be orange).

Or toffee pretending to be raisin.

(Or raisin pretending to be toffee).

And do look out for rogue, small coffee or orange Revels masquerading as toffee.

(They know what they’re doing).

Results.

I’ve guessed my fair share of 35 gram bags.

It does take a lot of concentration to guess a bigger bag.

And it’s best attempted in one sitting.

That’s all I have to offer on the subject.

So do your best.

(Please send unedited video evidence if you want to make a claim of a successful end-to-end bag guess please. 

Thank you).

There is a downside to being a brand.

Yes, brands stand for something.

So this means that they matter more to consumers.

And therefore they attract more attention.

And more customers.

So they have the potential to last longer.

And (run right) make more profit.

But even after all that good stuff.

There is a downside to being a brand.

Here & There.

Basically.

Just because a brand works (resonates) ‘here’.

It doesn’t mean it will work (resonate) ‘there’.

In fact, it is very often the case that because a brand resonates ‘here’ it will not resonate ‘there’.

The short version of the rule is this.

If you are a brand, you matter.

And whatever it is you matter about.

Dictates where you (should) work best.

Virgin.

Let’s take the Virgin brand for example.

Virgin stands for ‘The People’s Champion’.

Over the years, Virgin has nurtured the perception that they are looking out for us.

That they are on our side.

And because they have delivered on this promise enough times over the years to keep the brand resonant in this way.

They do hold this perception with very many people.

Even today.

The Rules. 

But the rules of brand dictate that even global brands like Virgin.

Only work where the brand position resonates.

Virgin really should work well in the banking sector.

Because banks treat us like crap.

I can ‘feel’ that Virgin should do well as a bank.

And when Virgin went at trains.

I was pleased.

Because the Virgin brand resonates in the train category, too.

Because – just like banks – train companies treat us like crap, as well.

(Virgin aren’t doing so well with trains.

But it’s not because of the brand’s perception, I’d suggest.

It’s because they are failing to get the operational parts right.

Or because they are failing to do the right deal.

For whatever reason).

Virgin Cola.

But Virgin’s brand.

As famous as it was.

Didn’t work in the Cola category.

Yes, Coca Cola and to a lesser degree Pepsi Cola took steps to block Virgin.

But a brand that stands for ‘The People’s Champion’ was never going to work in this space.

Because we just didn’t need saving from Coke and Pepsi at the time.

The Virgin brand didn’t resonate here.

Brand Extension.

If you really do crave brand extension that much.

If you really do want to do new things.

But you realise that your current brand won’t resonate in the new category.

Start a new brand that will.

Born in 1802, Victor Hugo was a French poet, novelist and dramatist of the Romantic movement.

Hugo is one of the greatest and best-known French writers.

Born in 1939, Greggs is a Newcastle upon Tyne based bakery with 1,950 stores at time of writing.

Greggs is the largest bakery in the UK and makes very lovely sausage rolls.

Victor Hugo and Sausage Rolls.

It was Victor Hugo that once said:

Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come.

And it was Greggs that once said:

The wait is over… 3.1.19 #vegansausageroll.

Northern Pride.

I am really proud of Greggs.

A brand whose time has come.

I am a guy living in the North East of England.

A place I really like.

But a place that is still all-too-often characterised by Jimmy Nail, Sting, Cheryl Whatevershescalledthesedays’ arse-tattoo, where the shipyards used to be, where Newcastle Brown used to be made, where silly football clubs have self-destruct buttons and that place the Northern Powerhouse forgot.

I see Greggs as a genuine local hero.

A retail success story.

A brand with a sense of now-ness.

It knows what it is for.

And why it works now.

A strong, fun ‘brand-of-the-people’ that we can watch, enjoy and admire.

Quality.

Greggs is a decent quality, clever, patient, steady monster of a business.

A smartly run and smartly marketed monster.

Quietly going about its business and achieving, for the the first time in 2018, a turnover of one billion pounds.

Employing 22,000 people.

And still the home of the Festive Bake.

Togetherness.

Greggs seems to bring people together too, I think.

With little bragging or bluster.

It makes me feel nostalgic.

It’s simple and straight forward so that I understand it.

It’s built on common sense.

It’s fun.

And, business-wise, it is probably the best thing about the NE for me since I arrived here in 1987.

I love Greggs.

And if you love Greggs too, here’s a canny little Greggs Locator.

Just for you.

This really did happen.

A couple of years ago I placed an online order from ASDA.

I ordered sprouts.

Other things as well of course.

But on the webpage that contained sprouts I added the number ‘1’ to sprouts.

And on I shopped.

Sprouts.

The following day, the order came.

There were eight carrier bags I think.

All stacked in those big plastic trays on your front door step for you to unload and carry in.

And in the bottom of one of the carrier bags I, eventually, discovered my sprout.

And it was just one sprout.

In a semi-transparent plastic bag.

With a sticker so big that it wrapped right around the bag and the sprout.

Before sticking to itself around the other side.

The Sprout.

I was alone in the house when the delivery arrived.

So, once I had discovered my sprout, I stood still in the kitchen.

Silently.

The sprout sat in the palm of my left hand.

Me, prodding it with the index finger of my right hand.

So that I could roll it around to see what was written on the sticker more clearly.

I pulled my glasses down from the top of my head.

Sat them on the bridge of my nose.

And zoomed in to the sticker on my sprout.

8p.

Sprout Man.

From their corner of ASDA’s business, ASDA’s sprout man (or ASDA’s sprout lady) didn’t have the authority to override what had happened.

He or she will have known that I wanted one pack of sprouts.

As opposed to one solitary sprout.

But, I imagine, there as nothing they could do.

Because in another corner of the business.

The bit where someone had created something on a website on the Internet for people like me to click.

Something had gone wrong.

Which led me to ponder two things.

Firstly, I wondered how many businesses out there were built in ways that excluded common sense and disseminated authority and permissions to get business done accurately and well.

And second, I wondered how many other men and women were stood silently in their kitchens.

Staring at one carefully packaged sprout.

The sprout sitting motionless in the palm of their hand.

One sprout.

One bag.

One label.

For (about) 8p.

And I smiled.

I’ve recently discovered a whole new set of things you can do with eggs.

I have had to.

Lisa.

Lisa likes a bargain.

I think that, in supermarkets, she follows anyone holding a pricing gun.

To see where they land.

And to see if they are going to mark something down.

This is one of Lisa’s hobbies.

Eggs. 

I received a particularly excited text recently.

(Excited texts contain capitals and exclamation marks, in case you were wondering).

Because Lisa had discovered some mark-down eggs.

15 eggs per box.

4 boxes.

For 10p per box.

So 40p for 60 eggs.

Two-thirds of a pence.

Per egg.

5 days.

All good.

Apart from the fact that we had 5 days to eat them.

All 60 eggs.

Between two of us.

And a 2 year old.

Still, it made me explore egg-based recipes.

And we probably only spent about an extra £20 on gas and electric to make them.

Bargain!

Here’s a photo: https://www.50odd.co.uk/bargain/ 

This is my favourite chocolate at the moment.

It is a bar of dark chocolate (52% Cocoa).

And the flavour is liquorice.

With sea salt.

Chocolate.

This is a strange combination, of course.

I am sure that Morrisons are not the first people to do it.

(Own label products almost always follow as opposed to lead).

But whatever the backstory, Morrisons do this very well.

Texture.

The texture plays a part in its success.

The chocolate is a creamy kind of dark chocolate.

Because there’s not such a high percentage of Cocoa that the bar becomes hard and slow to melt.

And the sea salt (there’s a lot) appears as crunchy crystals.

It’s not overly salty and the chocolate/liquorice/salt balance is just right.

Surprising. 

So, if you are after a surprising and pleasing sweet thing for after your dinner.

As you sit down to watch Gogglebox this Friday.

It’ll cost you £1.34.

Or a multiple thereof if, like me, you’re a fan.

Here it is.

(Fairtrade, rich and flavoursome, with mellow liquorice notes and sea salt, No artificial colours or flavours, Vegetarian).

PS The web link describes one bar as ‘5 servings’. 

I think it’s a typo. 

It should read, ‘1’.

If you’re not weird; that’s weird.

I mean it.

It’s weird because you’re definitely hiding something.

(Something GOOD).

Or complying.

Or toning it down.

And that’s weird.

Why would you do that?

Weird.

It’s weird because it is such a bad decision to hide your weirdness.

Your weirdness makes you so much more interesting.

And (just so you know the rules) being weird is not, say, being a Goth-weird.

Or a Punk-weird.

That’s just choosing a different uniform than the one you have now.

Proper weird is you being the unique you.

James Victore

James Victore knows this best.

And he knows where to fine your weirdness, too.

James says:

Things that make you weird as a kid will make you great tomorrow.

This is so true it hurts.

Just because you’ve grown up does not mean you should stop being weird.

In fact, because you’ve grown up means you should definitely think back to what made you weird, and being it again.

Before it’s too late.

Bigger.

Better.

Weirder.

Listen to James.

Because he’s right.

I accidentally got drunk on Saturday night. 

It’s because we bought some Bourbon that was on offer. Clearly not my fault.

(Well I didn’t put it on offer did I?)

And it’s also because it’s nearly Christmas and I used to buy my grandma advocaat every Christmas. So when I saw that I bought some of that too.

Mix.

Later that night I stared at the two bottles and wondered what it’d be like to mix them. Then I wondered if this had done before.

Then I wondered if it mattered if it had been done before because, at one moment in time, nothing had been done before.

Anyhow, then the gold happened.

The Gold.

There is a scene in one of my favourite films, The Shining, where Lloyd, the clumsy bartender bumps Jack’s drink.

Jack Nicholson’s character was also called Jack.

Advocaat splashes from the glasses that Lloyd is carrying into Jack’s Bourbon.

And there it was.

But also remember that this was in a room called The Gold Room.

And that you are quoting the film scene not the same scene from the book. Because in this scene from the book Jack orders a martini, not Bourbon.

But most of all remember the name of the drink. It does exist. It always has (see what I did there).

It’s called a Jack Torrance.

That’s the name of Jack’s character in The Shining.

Perfect. I love stories.

3 parts advocaat. 1 part Bourbon. 2 or 3 cubes of ice. Shaken

You’re welcome.

PS. It’s also known as ‘The Caretaker’.  My new favourite drink.

So if you really want to show off, order a ‘Caretaker’ followed by…

“Sorry? You don’t know what a Caretaker is? Well… have you seen The Shining? You know the scene where… etc. etc.”

Merry Christmas.