UNCUT GEMS: Somebody Shoot The Dog

Uncut Gems is a high-octane anxiety ridden trip of a film. Yet, whenever my body tells me to turn off the film, I keep feeling compelled to watch it all the way through until by the time the film is over, I need the peace and tranquillity of a white room with no external objects or fast moving stimuli. A ten day Vipassana meditation course may be needed!

The main protagonist of the film, a Jewish New Yorker jeweller named Howard Ratner played by Adam Sandler, keeps unnecessarily falling into tricky and at times dangerous situations. On one hand, I want to sympathise with him and his misfortune, but on the other he ultimately creates his own problems. It’s like he wants to spend his life swimming in quicksand when it would be less painful just to take the smooth plain vanilla road.

What’s more he is a father with kids to support. If he were single, hell, get into any kind of hot mess you want. But if you have a family, that is beyond selfish. Ratner’s mind is like a fast flowing river. There are seldom any moments of peace in his frantic dome. It is a gamblers mind he possesses and the thrill of it all seems to be his raison d’etre. A pretty pathetic one. He’s like the quintessential stock market speculator who never does any thorough due diligence on a stock and gets excited simply by a hot tip or any kind of hype. He will be the first to catch the FOMO (fear of missing out) fever.

Even when he wins big, like towards the end of the film, there is no grace in his behaviour. His gamblers’ mind simply glows more red hot. And if his life weren’t abruptly cut short, you can bet your bottom dollar he would keep gambling with whatever money he has left until he’s back to a no money situation or worse, further deep in debt.

People close to him find him draining. Especially his long suffering wife who bears the bulk of his chaos. One night she tells him to his face; ‘I think you are the most annoying person I have ever met’. And she’s right. He’s an exhausting and draining motherfucker. An impulsive, low grade hustler bereft of wisdom. I think any woman in a relationship long enough with Howard would get so beaten down to the point where a boring but dependable relationship devoid of even a modicum of drama would seem very attractive.

As ghastly and shady as the people pursuing him may be, they ultimately do him a favour by gunning him down. Throughout the film he is a hazard to himself and those around him. He’s like some insufferable stray dog constantly barking. A broken record. In the end someone somewhere was bound to lose patience and say, ‘Somebody shoot the dog’.

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

3rd December 2021

Five Authentic And Good Value Restaurants In Sarajevo

Sarajevo is a fascinating city to explore and get under the skin of. Yet knowing a handful of authentic and inexpensive places to eat at enhances the experience greatly. In this article I am including, of course, a burek and cevapi place, but also a historical eatery serving traditional Bosnian cuisine for a modest splurge (though still very affordable) and a special local patisserie and ice cream parlour for delicious and cheap sweet treats. Let’s begin with the bureks…


1. Buregdžinica ASDŽ


On a street lined with burekerias, as I like to call them, this small eatery is my pick. The Bosniaks who run it are burek experts with enormous spiral disks of fresh piping hot meat, cheese, potato and spinach bureks ready to go from the morning until the late hours of the evening. I stumbled upon this place by accident on my first night in Sarajevo walking aimlessly in the Baščarsija district. This eatery is a local favourite and for good reason. I settled on a mixture of three not insubstantial spiral slices of meat, potato, and spinach bureks served on a metal plate with lashings of some white yoghurt sauce. And it all came to just 4KMs (2 euros).


Plate of bureks

Check out the oven. The bureks and other dishes are cooked in giant closed metal pans covered in coals. The meat and chicken with potato dishes are tasty here too but for me this place will always be remembered for its satellite dish sized spiral bureks.

Whilst I was tucking into my bureks, a group of young Bosnians were sitting opposite me. A boy in the group who looked no older than 17/18 fancied himself a homie from Compton. One moment everyone is talking in Bosnian then apropos of nothing the boy riffs in English, ‘I am gonna bust a cap in yo ass n**ga!’. I almost choked on a morsel of spinach burek when I heard that chestnut.


2. Nune


Cevapi at Nune

On Ferhadija street past the big cathedral is this small family run cevapi place. It is owned by the father of a young local tour guide named Edin who does superb free daily morning walking tours with the local tour company Meet Bosnia Travel. If you want good and cheap cevapi in a hole in the wall no frills setting this is a good place. For as little as 3KMs (€1.50), you get a plate of small mini cevapi sausages in warm pitta bread and chopped onions.


3. Kod Secka


This eatery located somewhere in the heart of the Baščarsija district is a solid reference point if you are watching the KMs and have had enough of cevapis and bureks. Kod Secka’s piece de resistance is roast half chicken and potatoes for 5KM (€2.50). It is heavenly. Cheap, tasty and very filling. And a perfect dose of midday rocket fuel for those long walks discovering and unearthing the rich history of Sarajevo.


Half chicken and potatoes at Kod Secka


4. Inat Kuca


Inat Kuca restaurant is located in an historic building

This restaurant is located in an old house dating back to 1895 by the main Miljacka river. It serves genuine and tasty traditional Bosnian cuisine. This is a solid restaurant to eat at if you fancy a modest splurge, although compared to similar restaurants in other western countries, the prices are inexpensive.


“Bosanski lonak”

When I visited, I ordered the “Bosanski lonak”, a delicious traditional Bosnian stew consisting of beef and veal, potatoes, vegetables and spices. It was also beautifully presented in a metal bowl with chopped parsley. For just 10KMs (5 euros) this is a very good deal. Other staples on the menu include the “Sarajevski Sahan” for a few KMs more which is a mix of traditional Bosnian dishes and “Japrak Dolma” which is similar to the Polish dish “Golabki” and consists of minced meat, veg and rice wrapped in cabbage leaves.


On a blue day it is delightful to sit at a table on the outside terrace facing the river. But inside, the restaurant is aesthetically very tasteful in the old Ottoman era style; beautiful Turkish copper lamps hang from the ceiling and other Ottoman style artefacts and old black and white photographs adorn the walls.


5. Slasticarna Egipat


This Macedonian owned family patisserie has been serving customers since 1949

Ice cream parlours and sweet shops are plentiful in the city but not many can match the authenticity, quality, spirit, and even prices of this local ice cream parlour and patisserie run by a Macedonian family. Located on Ferhadija Street like Nune, this sweet treats place has a history dating back to 1949. Entering Egipat is like travelling back in time to former Yugoslavia of the Tito era during the 1960s and 70s. The walls are covered in retro tiles and it is a corner of the city unaffected and little changed by rampant globalisation.


The spirit here is purely local and reminds me of the old school Jewish bagel shops on Brick Lane in the East End of London. And like those bagel shops, the service can sometimes be indifferent and abrupt but we wouldn’t want it any other way.


There are six flavours of homemade ice cream. On two occasions I tried the “Egyptian Vanilla” and “Egyptian Chocolate”. Both were excellent and have a flavour and texture that is different to any other kind of ice cream I’ve ever had. But I must warn you the sugar content is off the scales but who cares with ice cream this good. Since tasting their ice cream, I made many repeat visits to sample some of their traditional cakes and other local sweet delights.


Sampita is a very sweet Bosnian white cake, like the French Ile Flotante but much heavier with more texture and flavour and less anaemic; a dangerous sugar bomb. The čokoladni rolat is an irresistibly decadent rich and creamy chocolate roll. I also had some rich and tasty heavy cream and chocolate cake. And they also have the famous traditional Turkish baklava cake, which can be found throughout the country owing to its Ottoman past. A scoop of ice cream like most of the other ice cream parlours of Sarajevo will set you back only 1KM (50 cents) and most of the cakes can be purchased for just half a KM more per slice.


By Nicholas Peart

©All Rights Reserved


Munching Your Way Through Belgrade

Belgrade is a fantastic and great value city to eat your way around and a fabulous food destination in its own right. It is a cosmopolitan city and you can find good international food outlets in addition to more traditional places. Anyone’s who’s travelled across Serbia may be familiar with the countries pekaras, which are traditional bakeries often open 24/7. At these eateries you can pick up a late night sandwich or pastry for only a few coins. Often the ladies who work at these places are delightful and very patient with my bad to non existent Serbian. In fact, quite a few of them speak very good English.

In Belgrade, like the rest of Serbia and most of former Yugoslavia, there are plenty of places selling traditional foods such as Cevapi (Balken sausages), Bureks (Balken pies) and pljeskavicas (hamburgers done the Serbian way) etc. I had my first taste of a burek at some hole in the wall place by Dolac market in Zagreb and I was dying for a bowl of vegetables and water after just a few morsels. My mouth was a cave of low-grade grease. A pljeskavica, on the other hand, is a wonderful thing. I don’t think I’ve ever, in all my time in Serbia, had a substandard pljeskavica.


The Best Cevapi in Belgrade: Drama Cevapi


Cevapi places, or Cevaperias as I like to call them with a Latino tinge, are ten a penny around most of former Yugoslavia. Yet I’ve never tasted Cevapi as divine as the ones I was served here at Drama Cevapi. They are so tender and almost melt in your mouth. For less than $3 you get a metal plate with five Cevapi topped with a handful of chopped onion accompanied with shredded cabbage, a dollop of clotted cream and chilli sauce and some bread. There are other items on the menu but this is the signature dish and what this place does best


Pljeskavicas in Belgrade


It’s hard to pick one place in Belgrade as there are a few places which all do equally good pljeskavicas. Depending on where you are based in the city there are three places which do mean pljeskavicas and they are all open til late so perfect and very convenient after a night out thrashing the rakija and Jelen. I have to admit I probably had the best pljeskavica when I was in Novi Sad, but I was so smashed I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the place. If you are in the centre of the city, at the corner of Kolarčeva and Makedonska, is the eatery chain Gyros In City. They do very filling pljeskavicas as well as excellent and cheap Greek style kebabs. I also love the people that work there; jokers of the highest order who always brighten up my day.

Nearby on Maršala Birjuzova is Mikan Restaurant, which serves local food. Adjacent to the main restaurant they have a smaller eatery where you can get Cevapis, pljeskavicas, hamburgers, hotdogs etc. I was served a very generous pljeskavica here by an old lady who spoke no English for 200 Diners. The board menu was all in Cyrillic, which I can read, even if I speak almost no Serbian. A wee tip; if you ever go to Russia (or any country which uses the Cyrillic alphabet), your life will be far less painful if you can decode Cyrillic. Doesn’t matter if you speak little to no Russian. If you can’t decipher Cyrillic you may as well be gallivanting on the moon.

Finally in the Dorćol neighbourhood on Gospodar Jovanova is the small eatery Loki. They are the pljeskavicas specialists and they don’t mess about. There are many cool bars in this neighbourhood and this is a great place to go for a late night pljeskavica.


The Bakeries That Never Sleep

Serbia is famous for its 24/7 bakeries. In almost all cities in Serbia you will stumble upon a bakery or pekara, which never closes. Super convenience aside, some serve serve a dazzling range of treats and are very inexpensive. I have two favourite pekaras in Belgrade. The first one is called Skroz Dobra Pekara and located right next to the king of pljeskavicas, Loki, in the Dorćol neighbourhood. You can find filling sandwiches for less than 200 Diners and strudels, pies, cakes and other assorted pastries for less than 100 Diners. What’s more, the ladies who work here are super nice.


In the centre of town and right by the queen of pljeskavicas, Gyros In City, is another outstanding 24/7 bakery called Pekara Tomo. It is almost identical to Skroz and equally excellent and well stocked with cheap sandwiches and pastries as well as a small side pizza parlour.


Znak Pitanja (also called ‘ ? ‘)


If you ever fancy having a proper slap up traditional Balkan meal with all the trimmings Znak Pitanja is a top notch choice. This restaurant also has the unique distinction of being the oldest tavern or kafana in the city at over 200 years old. I chose the 1kg pork knuckle. It arrived on a large glass tray accompanied with an ample supply of baked potatoes and a side of homemade horseradish sauce. I am not kidding, when the thing arrived it was enough to feed the entire population of Novi Sad. It was perfectly good no nonsense Balkan food.


I hear they also have traditional live music here so may be worth reserving a table here for a Balkan feast with plenty of pivo and rakija when there is. I think great fun can be had.


Vegetarians and vegans in Belgrade: Radost Fina Kuhinjica


I feel your pain. With the mammoth non stop cevapi/pljeskavica meat feast assault, travelling in Serbia can be a veritable drag. But once in the capital things brighten pretty quickly. I know there are a few veg establishments in the city and that will only grow as more and more people become vegetarian or vegan. In fact in both the cities of Belgrade and Novi Sad you will notice quite a number of ‘Go Vegan’ slogans graffitied throughout both cities. If this keeps up maybe I’ll be eating vegan cevapis and pljeskavicas when I return in five years or so.

I can’t just live on cevapis and pljeskavicas for the rest of my life. Even the most rampant of carnivores need something green from time to time. I read glowing things about a veg restaurant called Radost Fina Kuhinjica so one day I decided to investigate. Aesthetically this restaurant gets full marks. It’s a stylish and trendy place and all the menu booklets are enclosed in old hardback books. There is a backyard area where you can eat. When it’s dark all the tables have lit candles in old school metal candle holders. Instead of local music, I detect The Smiths, Coldplay, Lana Del Ray and The Strokes on the sound system.


I order the veg burger consisting of tofu and red kidney beans. For the price I was expecting one large juicy veg burger. Instead I got two miniature burgers accompanied with a salad. All the ingredients were no doubt fresh and organic and the salad was perfectly good yet I was a little disappointed with the burgers. They were too plain. There was not enough zing or omph. This is not a bad restaurant and is certainly a cut above many ‘hipster cool’ vegan eateries which are a triumph of style over substance. Perhaps the veg burgers are not where it’s at? Maybe if I had the veg lasagna I would be raving about the place. Either way, as I mentioned before, with the passing of time, the veg scene here in Belgrade will only grow and maybe when I return a few years from now I may find a dazzling of choice of new and great no nonsense veg eateries.


By Nicholas Peart

©All Rights Reserved

Inside The Croatian Museum Of Naive Art

This art museum was one of the highlights of my trip to Zagreb. Naive Art as an art form was very fashionable during the 1960s and 1970s. Personally I don’t like the term very much as I think it degrades art and implies that it’s not very good. Some art of that genre can be very kitsch but it can also be very brilliant, full of heart and soul. The best work of this genre is up there with many of the greatest works from the Art Brut movement where artists, with no formal art education, created work, often of a very raw nature, outside of the confines of the ‘Art World’ and other established institutions.


Self-Portrait (1975) by Ivan Generalić

Most of the work on display at this museum is by noted Croatian artists of the Hlebine School. Hebline is a small village in the north of Croatia which from the 1920s was the place where a small group of self taught peasants began to develop a new style of painting. The artist Ivan Generalić (1914-1992) was the father of this movement. When I enter the first room of the museum, his Self-Portrait (1975) painting is the first painting to catch my eye. The prominent blue background of the painting is unmissable and I am immediately reminded of the Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini’s Portrait Of Doge Leonardo Loredan.


Harvest (1938) by Mirko Virius 

In the same room, there are also paintings by another artist of the first generation of Hebline school artists called Mirko Virius (1889-1943) who’s paintings are of traditional rural people. His painting Harvest (1938) reminds me of the rural paintings of everyday peasant life by the pre Impressionist French painter Jean-Francois Millet. Millet was also a huge influence on Vincent Van Gogh who at the beginning of his painting career wanted to paint rural peasant life in its purest form from the source. Many of Van Gogh’s early paintings and drawings capture this very beautifully.


The Evangelists On Calvary (1996) by Ivan Večenaj

Then there is another painting in that same called The Evangelists On Calvary (1996) by one of the second generation of Hlebine School artists called Ivan Večenaj (1920-2013). This is probably the most powerful painting in the room. The intricate mess of destruction, decay and dehumanisation makes me hark back to the most nightmarish paintings by the legendary and light-years-ahead-of-his-time Dutch colossus Hieronymus Bosch. Out of all the art works in the museum, it is those paintings by Večenaj, which resonate most deeply with me. Another painting of his entitled Gaitery Juna (1962) features a peasant lady with a deformed face. A third painting depicts Moses by the Red Sea.


Martin Mehkek

In another room, a series of portraits by Martin Mehkek (1936-2014) stop me in my tracks. The portraits are very human and Mehkek seems to have a unique ability to empathise with his subjects and put himself in their shoes. He paints his subjects in a way which executes their emotions and traits. And many of his subjects seem to be local villagers and they appear to be painted in a way where all their quirks, bizarreness and insularity are masterfully captured.


Emerik Feješ

The paintings of Emerik Feješ (1904-1969) are of colourful, childlike, ethereal and joyful buildings in a style that is his own. Like ornate Venetian buildings turned into multi coloured, energetic Mississippi and New Orleans juke joints. Observing his paintings fill me with hope and positivity, which is very vital in a pungent age of anxiety.


Luxary Ship (1974) by Drago Jurak

The final piece of work in the museum to make an impression on me is a painting by Drago Jurak (1911-1994) called Luxary Ship (1974). It is a extraordinary painting and I immediately think of the impossibly insane Swiss artist Adolf Wölfi, a key artist from the Art Brut movement. His paintings are of an overly complex, obsessive and deranged nature. Like a shockingly talented Persian miniature painter on acid. Some artists are just happy to knock up bland landscape pastiches. Yet painters like Jurak and Wölfi are forever hellbent on rocking the boat and driving the square community mad.


By Nicholas Peart

©All Rights Reserved








FLOATING IN SPACE IN ZAGREB: Review of the Subspace Hostel


Most hostels have the same standard model of rooms with bunkbeds of varying degrees of quality. I am a private person and rarely tend to stay in dormitory rooms. Yet in some cities which are prohibitively expensive, they are still the best way to save money. Dorm guests stumbling intoxicated into the rooms during the small hours of the night, sometimes turning on the lights, and rummaging noisily through plastic bags are some of the common complaints of staying in a dorm room.

The ingenious hostel setup at the Subspace Hostel in the Croatian capital of Zagreb is inspired by the model used in various hostels throughout Japan and China, which comprise of having ‘space capsules’ for guests to sleep in rather than standard dorm bunks. In a way it doesn’t matter whether a room has 4 or 40 of these space pods, since one has their own space (pun most intended!!). I simply climbed up into my intergalactic pod and was able to completely shut the door and fully withdraw inside. I felt I had almost the same level of privacy that I would have had by having my own room in a hotel or guesthouse and at an affordable price. Yet hotels and guest houses, unlike hostels, are not best places to be if you want to meet other travellers.


Whilst inside, there was a TV screen with multiple channels, a couple of remote controls, four lights, a safe, plug and USB sockets, a small ventilation pocket and even a fire extinguisher. My bed was very comfortable and my pod also came with an additional head rest. In these increasingly virtual times, where the chasm between the physical and virtual worlds is forever shrinking, it is just too easy to get lost in virtual bliss and forget that there is a historically interesting city to be physically exploring and getting under the skin of.


The showers and toilets, instead of being in separate rooms, are constructed within the rooms as funky neon-turquoise cylinder cubicles. The only cumbersome thing about the toilets and showers is that they lack proper locks. They can only be locked via a dangling thin piece of metal where the end is inserted through a circular metal hole, which is often located a little too far out. That would not cut the mustard on Apollo 11! But I am being a pedantic jackass here.


Artwork by Tomislav Buntak

As well as this wonderful hostel set up, the other thing that makes this hostel unique is the exquisite artwork on all the walls and ceilings created by a gifted notable local artist called Tomislav Buntak. There is a large hardback book with many photographs of his work by the reception, which I highly recommend you have a look at.

The last time I stayed in an equally special place was at the Santos Express Lodge in Mossel Bay, South Africa. You can read my review of it here


By Nicholas Peart

©All Rights Reserved

Touring The Oldest Pubs Of London

Following on from my tour of the pubs of Glasgow back in October, I thought I’d share with you all my experiences of touring some of the oldest pubs of London. Some of these pubs go back to the times of medieval London before the Great Fire Of London of 1666. The history of London is fascinating in itself and some of these old pubs or taverns project a strong energy and spirit of what London must have been like all those years ago.


Ye Olde Mitre


This notorious pub, hidden down Ely Court in the Farringdon area, was first established in 1546. The bottom floor of the pub by the bar is full of hanging old beer mugs from the ceiling and historic photographs and pictures. The pub or tavern was originally built for the servants of the Palace of the Bishops of Ely from Cambridgeshire. The pub and palace were later destroyed in 1772. The pub in its current structure dates back to that year.



Inside Ye Olde Mitre

I prefer to come here for a pint during the afternoon when it is quieter and there are less punters. My favourite part of the pub is upstairs where there are many old pictures of historical figures like Mary Queen of Scots. When I was there with my sister back in August, we were the only people there. During the evening, especially on a Friday night, the pub becomes uncomfortably overcrowded and loud. The pub is currently owned by Fullers brewery and does a decent selection of beers and ales. When I was there I had an Oakham Green Devil IPA ale. A sterling choice but at 6% this stuff can make you weak in the knees quicker than you think.



St Etheldreda’s Church

If you have some free time, try to visit the atmospheric St Etheldreda’s Church which is the oldest Catholic Church in England built in 1291.



Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese


Number two of the Ye Oldes, this legendary pub, located on Fleet Street, was first established one year after the Great Fire Of London in 1667. What immediately strikes me about this pub is its heavy, wooden Old London austerity, rawness and darkness. You could have a thousand suns beaming down on this pub and inside it would still be darker than the blackest of hearses. This is not a place to go to for natural vitamin D therapy but if you want to experience the ghosts and grime of a time long gone, this is a great find.




Many literary figures including Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, P.G Woodhouse and Dr. Samuel Johnson are all said to have been locals of this pub. Charles Dickens was also a regular of this pub and the atmospheric and ‘gloomy old London’ energy of the pub must have provided him with an abundance of inspiration for his writing.



Downstairs at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

Here this pub is at times a curious mix of one timer global smartphone-glued tourists and hardcore spit and polish long timer locals who’ve been drinking at this pub longer than I’ve been on this planet. My favourite part of the pub to sit is either in the small room where the bar is by the main back entrance or downstairs below the ground floor. It’s in these areas where I feel the spirit of the pub the most.



The Seven Stars


The Seven Stars is a special pub in London. Not only is it one of London’s oldest boozers first established in 1602, it also has the rare distinction of having survived the Great Fire of 1666. Fortunately none of the owners throughout the pub’s history have been shortsighted enough to redesign the pub in any shape or form and so it remains exactly as it was when it first opened its doors in the early 17th Century. Furthermore, it is one of the very few remaining independent old pubs in London.



Inside the Seven Stars

Since the pub survived the Great Fire and owing to the fact that it has hardly changed since its original beginnings, it offers a veritable taste of a typical medieval London tavern. A part of me would probably die if this place was ever turned into, god help me, a ‘gastropub’. What’s more, this pub has a decent selection of ales. When I was there with my sister, I had a pint of the dark Roadside Adnam ale which was very good.



Yours Truly at the Seven Stars with a pint of Adnam ale

It is located by the Royal Courts of Justice and London School of Economics meaning that it is often frequented by LSE students and barristers who take their clients here for a celebratory drink.



The Cittie Of Yorke


The Cittie Of Yorke is an outstanding old pub located in Holborn. It is a Samual Smith owned pub but is probably one of the most atmospheric pubs I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. The on site history of the pub goes back all the way to an impressive 1430 even if much of the current building is a rebuilding from the 1920s.



Inside the Cittie Of Yorke

The main bar area is situated in an awesomely atmospheric hall with high wooden beam ceilings, low suspending globe like lights and a series of big wooden beer barrels above the bar. More than many other pubs I’ve frequented, it is here where I could really imagine myself in a crowded, noisy and messy old London tavern. People would be dressed in rags or in immaculate suits, coats and top hats. I could imagine the former like being straight out of a painting by the 17th century Dutch painter Adriaan van Ostade who was a great painter of the Dutch underclass who spent there time in tavern like places getting drunk and merry and disorderly; tankards clinking, loud voices singing and a multiple of instruments ringing.




The legendary Welsh poet Dylan Thomas who was a great lover of pubs, wrote an impromptu ode to this pub when it was called the Henneky’s Long Bar. Aside from the main bar, there are some equally atmospheric rooms with dark wood furnishings, leather coaches, tall old windows and paintings.



The Hoop and Grapes


The Hoop and Grapes located on Aldgate High Street was originally built in 1593 and is one of the few existing relics of medieval London to have escaped the 1666 Great Fire. This current pub dates back to 1721 and is currently owned by the Nicholson Brewery. In spite of its unique history and all the old furnishings and photographs on the wall, this is quite an ordinary commercial pedestrian pub playing standard mainstream chart music. Unlike Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, the original spirit of this place is hard to find.



The Anchor


This pub located on the South Bank has a very impressive history. This was William Shakespeare’s local and the pub from where the great London diarist, Samual Pepys, watched the Great Fire Of London. The genesis of this pub was a tavern reported to be 800 years old and this would make this place one of the oldest pub establishments in the city even if the pub had been destroyed during the Fire and subsequently remodelled a few times since then. The Anchor was recently refurbished in 2008.

Despite the epic and awesome history of the place and even the fact that the old decor remains, albeit with a slick facelift, it is quite an ordinary commercial pub serving the usual fare of alcoholic drinks and pub grub. Still it’s location on the South Bank can’t be beat and on a pure blue summer day, this is a good place to go.



The George Inn


Located close to Borough Market and short distance walk from the Anchor, the George Inn is a gem of a pub and unlike the Anchor has retained much of its original character and charm. The George is a former coaching Inn dating back to 1542 and the current building dates back to 1676 after the original Inn was destroyed in a fire. The pub has also had a distinguished set of people who came here to drink. Most notably William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. The latter mentioned The George in his novel Little Dorrit.

When I came here I had a pint of the locally brewed George Inn ale which I highly recommend. This is an outstanding pub and would be my personal choice over the Anchor if you happen to be in SE1.



The Prospect Of Whitby


The Prospect, located in Wapping, is one of the oldest pubs of London and the oldest riverside tavern of London dating back to 1520. It is also one of the best pubs I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. It was originally called The Pelican, which was later renamed The Devils Tavern and then later The Prospect of Whitby in the 18th Century. Back in those early days most of Wapping’s residents worked by the river as fishermen, sailors, and boat and sail makers. In addition to this, Wapping also had its fair share of pirates, thieves and smugglers.


Many famous people frequented the Prospect. ‘Hanging Judge Jeffries’ was a regular here. Throughout history it has been claimed that he would tuck into his lunch on the balcony of the pub whilst watching the hangings at a place then known as the Execution Dock. It was here where the notorious pirate Captain Kidd was executed in 1701. Then there was the 17th century London diarist Samuel Pepys who was a regular here during his stint as a clerk for the Navy and later Secretary to the Admiralty.

After the end of World War Two during the 1950s and 1960s, Wapping like many other parts of East London was in decline. However the pub was still doing brisk business and one of the pub’s rooms upstairs was a restaurant which was popular with many celebrities of that time including Richard Burton, Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra, Mohammed Ali and Princess Margaret.


One of the rooms in the pub upstairs was at one point in history used for boxing matches. Some of the earliest international matches happened between sea workers from around the world. As well as boxing matches, cock fighting matches also too place in this particular room.


I came here with a couple of friends one summers day back in September. We spent most of our time here on the outside riverside patio of the pub enjoying our pints and the beautiful weather. When we were not outside we were exploring the interior of the pub, it’s multiple rooms with old shipping memorabilia and paintings, portraits, photographs and records of all the distinguished people who crossed paths with this mighty place.



The Mayflower


From Wapping my friends and I take the Overground line one stop south of the river to nearby Rotherhithe. It is here that we visit the historic Mayflower pub. This pub was originally established in 1550 and then rebuilt in 1780 as the Spread Eagle and Crown before being renamed The Mayflower in 1957 after the Mayflower ship which took the Pilgrim Father’s from Rotherhithe to America in 1620.



Inside the Mayflower

The pub is atheistically a very tasteful pub with lots of old shipping related pictures and artefacts on the walls and around the pub. In a way it is the perfect vintage pub and it’s cosiness and warm vibe increase its attractiveness. It is best to come here when it isn’t crowded. When we came here there was a massive entourage of people celebrating something and we couldn’t move anywhere. But when it isn’t busy this pub is a delight. The riverside terrace is also one of the best in London.



The Angel


Also in Rotherhithe is the Angel pub. For me it is not as attractive or interesting as the Mayflower. The interior reminds me more of a tough East London boozer where the Kray brothers or one of the older EastEnders actors or Lennie McLean would call their local. Nevertheless, this Samuel Smiths pub is a good no nonsense boozer and has a long history. It was originally a 15th century tavern established by the monks of Bermondsey Priory. It is mentioned in Samuel Pepys diary as a place where he drank.



The Grapes


This unique riverside Limehouse pub has a history going back to 1583. The current building of the pub has a history dating back to the 1720s and was originally a raw working class riverside tavern serving predominantly the dockers of the Limehouse Basin. Regarding notable figures, our faithful friend Samuel Pepys makes an appearance here. His diary mentions trips to lime kilns at the jetty right by the Grapes.



Inside The Grapes

The pub also appears in the Charles Dickens book Our Mutual Friend. The back of the pub is full of Dickens related paraphanelia including a large portrait painting of him.



Portrait of Charles Dickens inside The Grapes

I like this pub. The interior and decor hasn’t been messed with and as a result it retains its original character and spirit.



Spaniards Inn


One day earlier this year I met a friend of mine in Hampstead. After a long walk in the beautiful Hampstead Health park, we visited this gem of a pub nearby. This attractive pub is one of London’s oldest pubs dating back to 1585 and is a great pub to visit full of original character and charm. There is also a large outdoor sitting area which is perfect for warm Spring and Summer days. This pub has a distinguished literary heritage. Dickens mentioned the pub in his book The Pickwick Papers and the poet Keats wrote Ode To A Nightingale here.



The Olde Wine Shades


Although more of an ancient wine bar than a pub, this place in the City of London nevertheless merits a mention more for its history and the fact that it is, like the Seven Stars pub in Holborn, a rare example of pre 1666 medieval London. It was one of the few buildings of that year to escape the Great Fire. Historical importance aside, I was quite disappointed to discover that it is nothing more than a mediocre overpriced wine bar. I would come here for a curious peep but I would rather pick the Seven Stars or the Prospect over this place any day of the week.



Text and photographs by Nicholas Peart

2nd December 2016

(All Rights Reserved)

My Favourite Paintings In The Louvre


The Louvre *


The Louvre museum in Paris has one of the most impressive collections of paintings by European Old Masters in the world. Perhaps the only museum to really rival it in this field is the Prado in Madrid (the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the National Gallery in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York are a few close contenders). But not only does it house an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures from that age, it also has a substantial collection of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Islamic and other World artefacts through the ages.

In this post I am listing my favourite paintings from the enormous collection of paintings on display by Old French, Italian, Flemish and Spanish Masters



Nicolas Poussin (1594 – 1665) – Saint John Baptising The People (1634-5) 

Many art writers and historians argue that Poussin was the first great French painter who changed the face of art in France and blazed a trail for all French artists who came after him. The art scene in France during his time was very staid (yet in a state of transition finally moving away from the traditional apprenticeship methods of working) and for this reason he spent most of his life in Rome. The American author Micheal Kimmelman goes as far as saying that Poussin was, ”the springboard for the greatest French artists from David to Matisse”




Claude Lorrain (1600 or 1604/5 – 1682) – Port With Capitol (1636)

Claude was another great French painter who like Poussin spent most of his life in Italy. He was also a prominent landscape painter. As can be seen in the port painting, the landscape was the dominant subject. At the time, making the landscape the dominant feature of a painting as opposed to actual figures/subjects was seen as groundbreaking. Claude’s paintings were an enourmous influence on the dramatic abstract-like landscape paintings of the revolutionary British painter J.M.W.Turner.




Adolphe-Joseph Monticelli (1824 – 1886) – The Diner 

Monticelli was a very individual painter with his own unique style. What is even more amazing is how ahead of his time he was regarding his unusual style. Like the other great French painter, Eugene Delacroix (whose oil sketches Monticelli highly admired), he predated the Impressionists by many years.




Herman Naiwincx (1623-1670) – Baptism Of The Ethiopian Eunuch 




Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps (1803-1860) –  A Begger Counting His Money (1833) 




Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) – The Hay Trussers (1850-51)

Millet was a huge influence on Vincent Van Gogh and this painting, as well as being a landmark work of art, perfectly encapsulates what Van Gogh first set out to achieve when he established himself as an artist. Van Gogh had a strong desire to paint the rural folk and their way of life as can be seen in his early paintings such as The Potato Eaters and many of his early sketches.




Jules Dupré (1811-1889) – Sunset After A Storm (1851)




Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) – Pietà (1837)

This is a gem of a painting by the great French painter Eugene Delacroix. What is amazing about this painting is, stylistically, how loose and free it is and one could argue that it is a strong example of proto-Impressionism since it predates the movement by four decades (give or take a few years). Furthermore, Delacroix was an enormous influence on that generation of artists. In fact many argue that he planted the seed for the Impressionist movement.




Jaques-Louis David (1748-1825) – Death Of Maret (1794)

This painting is of the murdered leader of the French Revolution, Jean-Paul Marat, and is one of the most iconic images of its time.




Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) – Rinaldo In The Gardens Of Armida




Cimabue (1240-1302) – The Madonna And Child In Majesty Surrounded By Angels

Cimabue was a revolutionary artist. Arguably the first of the major early Italian Renaissance artists and the first artist to break away from the traditional Italo-Byzantine style art of the time. The above painting is one of his series of famous Maestà paintings.




Giotto di Bondone (1266/67 – 1337) – The Crucifixion

Giotto was a student of Cimabue and along with him a major artist of the early Italian Renaissance movement.




Lo Spagna (d. 1529) – St Jerome In The Desert (1531)




Antonio Campi (1522-87) – The Mystery Of The Passion Of Christ




Bartholomé Esteban Murillo (1617-82) – The Young Begger (1645-50)

This painting, for me, is striking for it’s gritty realism and social context. It was painted towards the end of Spain’s Siglo d’Oro (Golden Age) around the middle part of the 17th century when Spain had an enormous global empire. But what is clear is that, as evident by the acute poverty in the painting, it wasn’t a Golden Age for everyone. Much of Spain’s wealth accumulated from its former colonies was squandered on wars and in spite of its global clout at the time, the Spanish Crown filed for bankruptcy several times.



By Nicholas Peart

26th October 2016

(All rights reserved)

*image source: symmetrymagazine.org

Four Great Places To Eat In Paris


Image source: http://www.viator.com


Paris has a reputation for being quite a difficult city to find good value places to eat. Most restaurants are overpriced and combined with the colossal amount of people who visit the City of Love this means that it is not uncommon to experience lacklustre levels of service on top of the high prices. However with some research and a healthy sense of adventure gems can be unearthed. I have picked four eateries. Two budget eateries (under 10 euros per head), one mid range restaurant (10-20 euros per head) and one splurge (20-35 euros per head).

If you are really watching the centimes my advice to you would be to stick to baguette sandwiches for 3-4 euros from the ubiquitous boulangeries found all across the city. If you have kitchen facilities in your accommodation, the main supermarkets like Carrefour and Monoprix (or even better one of the big markets in the city) are good places to buy fruit, vegetables, cheeses, meats, wines etc

Maoz Vegetarian



The rue Xavier Privas in the 5th Arrondissement close to the river Seine and Notre Dame cathedral is chock a block full of cheap eats whether you are looking for cheap kebabs or Moroccan staples like couscous and tagines and many mediocre tourist trap restaurants. But by far the best of the cheapies is the falafel eatery chain called Maoz Vegetarian. This budget eatery is probably the healthiest of the four places I am recommending (that’s if you just count the falafels and salads and not the chips and soft drinks). Five euros gets you a pitta with falafel balls and you can choose your salads from the small but excellent salad bar. You can add humus for a euro more. For €8.50 you can include a soft drink and fries. Personally I am happy with just the pitta, fallafal balls, humus and generous salad helping. For six euros this is a super deal.




Another budget choice. You have more chance of bumping into a back from the dead Jim Morrison here than another tourist here. This is far from haute cuisine. But if you want an authentic ethnic establishment serving cheap hearty portions of food full of locals with roots from the Maghreb then this Moroccan place located in La Goutte d’Or district in the 18th Arrondissement can’t be beat.

The Couscous Maison is what it’s all about here. You receive a mountain of couscous in a bowl served with a stew of chickpeas and vegetables. In another bowl you either get a chicken or meat stew. I went for the chicken. It also comes with a small baguette for breaking and dumping into the food. And it’s all yours for only six euros.



Couscous Maison at Agad’Or


It is no-frills food but it is good and filling especially if you are hungry. What’s more the experience and ambiance of the place could easily mislead one to believe they are in a typical Moroccan diner in the ville nouvelle de Tanger.

Bouillon Chartier



This places serves run of the mill traditional French food and perhaps I am making a big mistake including this but a pilgrimage here is a prerequisite for anyone who wants to experience a taste of the old Paris. This restaurant has been in existence for over 100 years and the architecture and interior decor remains unchanged. Some of the waiters have a reputation for being brusque but instead of being annoyed by this I say bring it on!! This is all part and parcel of the experience of dining here. There is no shortage of tourists that come to dine here at this legendary establishment so the waiters can afford to be jaded and downright indifferent. There is one burly old timer waiter here who looks like he’s been working here all his life. What’s more he has a face straight out of a Van Gogh or Manet painting. This restaurant is 1901 Montmartre Paris mixed with Faulty Towers. A rare thing in these aggressively globalised times. I love it!!



Inside Buillon Chartier


Now for the food. For my starter I had six Escargots (snails) lathed in massive amounts of garlic and butter.



Six Escargots 


There were standard snails and I suppose I only picked them to say that I had tried French snails. They were good but certainly not Michelin Star quality.

For my main course I ordered the infamous French dish Steak Tartare or raw meat. I thought this was going to be rank but it was surprisingly quite tasty (yet I will definitely not be having this regularly for lunch or dinner). The side of frites and Dijon mustard were a good accompaniment.



Steak Tartare


When the waiter came to calculate our bill he sketched it all down on the paper table cover. The experience of eating at Chartier will always trump the quality of the food, but it is definitely worth it.

A La Biche Au Bois



If there is one place which I would consider worthy of that elusive splurge, this restaurant close to Gare de Lyon would be it. I went here one Saturday evening for dinner with my two sisters and a friend. We all went for the fixed dinner menu priced at €32.80 a head. This includes a starter, a main, a selection of different cheeses from the legendary cheese board (a work of art in itself) and a desert.

For my starter I went for the Terrine de Canard (two fat slabs of homemade duck pâté). It was just how pâté should taste and be made.



Terrine de Canard 


However more impressive was my main course of Coq au Vin which came served in a heavy old school saucepan with a side of mashed potato in a gold coloured scallop shaped dish. The Coq au Vin was rich and delicious and I could barely make my way through all of it.



Coq Au Vin


By the time the waiter came with the enormous cheeseboard I was almost game over but I persisted. I went for a wedge of Roquefort, a lump of peppered goats cheese and a slice of tangy Comté cheese. The strength of the Roquefort alone could have shut down my heart but it was a veritable delight as were the other two cheeses.





Finally for dessert I was going to go for the Creme Brûlée but instead I went for another French dessert called Ile Flottante which literally translates as ‘Floating Island’. It is like a sweet foam square shaped cloud floating on a sugary egg yolk lake. It was a refreshing and pleasurable end to a hearty marathon of authentic and traditional French food.



Ile Flottante


I’ve got very little patience for stylish, jazzed up food and especially nouvelle cuisine which makes me mad. I just want hearty portions of delicious and authentic food from any part of the world that I visit. In the case of French Cuisine, A La Biche Au Bois does a sterling job.

By Nicholas Peart

25th September 2016

(All rights reserved)

Ten Good Places To Eat On The Cheap In London

Being a seasoned traveller myself I know how important it is to watch the coins. And in a city such as London this is especially true. Which is why I’ve decided to share with you all some decent places to eat on a shoestring in this city. Of course one can essentially pick any place that is cheap and there is no shortage of cheap chain eateries like McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Wasabi, Eat, Subway etc where cheap meals can be acquired for a few quid. Most of the eateries listed below are small independent eateries in London which I think are good value for money offering decent food at low prices. I also try to include a few cheapies which offer an authentic experience of a London that is sadly disappearing.


1. Damascu Bite


Image source: http://www.londonshopfronts.com

This small Syrian takeaway within spitting distance of Shoreditch High Street station and by Brick Lane in the East End of London does delicious and generous authentic lamb shawarmas using high quality and very tender lamb. A large ample lamb shawarma will set you back only £5.50 whilst a medium sized one about a pound less. This is a hell of a deal. Kebab eateries are ten a penny in London Town but what makes this place unique is that it actually cares about what it sells its customers. Most kebab places just use very cheap processed meat which I wouldn’t even give to my dog. This eatery aside, the best places in London to go for authentic, cheap and tasty kebabs are Edgware Road and Harringay Green Lanes.


2. Franco Manca


Image source: http://www.thebelleabroad.com

This excellent pizza chain is ever expanding but unlike other chains this is a good one which does excellent, cheap and tasty pizzas using sourbread dough. This place has been a roaring success and there are now several Franco Manca restaurants scattered across the city. I usually go to the one located on Berwick Street in Soho just off Oxford Street. You will struggle to find equally delicious pizzas for less than £7 in this city.


3. Saravana Bhavan


Image source: http://www.londonkestrel.com

This Indian restaurant chain serves excellent and authentic South Indian food in generous portions. I especially love the Masala Dosas which are very large and are served on big metal trays with four or five different sauce condiments. What’s more it will only set you back around £3.75. The thalis are delicious too and highly recommended. There are a few of these restaurants scattered around London though sadly there are none which are centrally located. I usually go to the one in Tooting which is located in South London. Tooting is famous for its curry houses and Asian eateries yet this place is one of the best and terrific value for money.


4. Fryers Delight


Image source: http://www.seriouseats.com

More for novelty value than a place to go for regular nourishing food, but if you want to sample original London fish and chips like its 1964 in an authentic environment far away from the trappings of globalisation and the modern world, this place is a dead cert. This fish and chips restaurant located on Theobalds Road in Holborn in central London is very much a solid remaining relic of Old London and much of the loyal clientele are locals. For atmosphere this place is one of the best and the tasty battered haddock or cod and chips comes in generous portions around the £7 mark (cheaper if you take away). Other snacks like savaloys (oi oi!!) and mushy peas are also available.


5. Beigel Bake


Image source: http://www.gannet39.com

Like Fryers, this supremely popular and legendary 24 hour bagel shop located on Brick Lane is an indestructible relic of Old London with prices that haven’t been adjusted for inflation since about 1979. Whenever I come here I almost always go for the salmon and cream cheese bagel for £1.60. The sweet treats are also very good. You can get a slice of apple strudel or cheese cake for slightly north of the pound mark. Ironically, the most expensive item, the salt beef bagel, is the nemesis of the offerings of this place and is truly rank beyond belief; keep clear.


6. La Porchetta Pollo Bar


Image source: http://www.flickr.com

Continuing on our journey of old London eateries, the Pollo bar is a good and cheap no nonsense Italian restaurant located on Old Compton Street in the heart of Soho in central London. Like nearby Franco Manca, this is a great place to go for a cheap Italian dinner. Unlike Franco Manca, this place has history. This restaurant was a favourite of the original Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett during the 1960s.


7. Wong Kei


Image source: http://www.zomato.com

Wong Kei for a long time had the unique reputation of being the restaurant in London with the rudest staff. However since 2014 and a change of management, I read that much of this rudeness has sadly evaporated – but this can be resurrected if you try! This is still very much a cheap and authentic multiple storey Chinese diner located on Wardour street on the edge of Chinatown which serves a wide range of decent Chinese dishes with a complementary metal pot of green tea for around the £6-7 mark. When I recently came here for a meal I fortunately encountered some brusqueness. I am not very good at making decisions and as I spent a long time trying to find somewhere to sit with my own space I could see that the waiters were getting pissed off with me (a great start!!). ‘You gonnah eat here or wah?!’ snapped one of the waiters. I hit pay dirt and in surprisingly little time. I could’ve remained indecisive on where to sit and have taken it further. A seat with my own space was soon made available and I made a dash for it. One of the waiters came with a dirty plastic menu which he smacked down on my table with no emotion and like he was trying to kill a mosquito. A pot of green tea was also brought to me with a similar level of grace and etiquette.
I ordered a hearty and tasty bowl of shredded duck, with loads of sprouts and other vegetables with noodles, which (with the green tea) came to £6.90.
I think if you want to experience the apex of rudeness and brusqueness at this place, the best time to come here is after a night out around 2-4am when this place gets packed and you may only have a limited amount of time to finish your food to make way for the queues of other late night eaters.


8. Indian Veg


Image source: http://cubaninlondon.blogspot.com

This is a solid Indian vegetarian buffet restaurant for under £7 a head located off Chapel Market in Islington close to Angel tube station. The decor is nothing to write home about and all the endless articles and slogans preaching the virtues of a veg diet plastered on every area of space are enough to give anyone unnecessary vertigo. Yet I also find the whole thing quite comical. I try to sit away from the massive murial-like article showing the gradual deterioration of someone on a meat diet from their 20s until their 60s. This aside, I like the food here. The buffet contains a decent selection of potato, veg and tofu carries with chick pea, pakora and onion bhaji trays and a tray of good quality rice. In addition there are a few good salad selections to prevent the whole buffet from being too much of a starch fest. Recommended


9. Sonargaon


Image source: http://www.zomato.com

This is an unpretentious and underrated Bangladeshi buffet restaurant located on the quieter end of Brick Lane. Sonargaon gets unfairly bad reviews which for the most part it doesn’t deserve. Yet this is not a place to go to if you are focused on clean eating. Many of the curry dish trays are high in industrial level quantities of clarified butter and cheap refined oils. If you are sensitive to MSG, perhaps this is not the place for you. On the other hand, if you want unlimited quantities of filling South Asian fare for under eight quid this is a great place. What’s more, it has none of the tourist trappings of the plethora of other curry houses located on Brick Lane. Many of the clientele are locals and after Ramadan you could be mistaken for being in a busy restaurant in downtown Dhaka.


10. Fresco


Image source: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk

I was going to list Maoz, a wonderful little Middle Eastern eatery located on Old Compton Street which serves hearty, healthy and delicious falafels with lashings of humus and mountains of fresh salads for just a few coins. Sadly it has recently closed down and has been replaced by some trendy ice tea bar. As a consequence I’ve had to look elsewhere and it gives me great pleasure to have stumbled upon this little gem of an eatery located on Westbourne Grove close to Notting Hill Gate. This is an excellent Lebanese restaurant which serves very tasty falafel wraps with delicious homemade hummus and a selection of excellent homemade salads. I ordered the Falafel Wrap Special which contains well made falafel balls, hummus and a delicious spinach and pomegranate salad. And for less than a fiver. This is an excellent deal.


by Nicholas Peart

29th August 2016

(All rights reserved) 

The Eastern Food Bazaar


The Eastern Food Bazaar


In downtown Cape Town there is a magical food emporium serving tantalising eastern delights called the Eastern Food Bazaar. It is a culinary landmark and institution in this city. Of course a global city like Cape Town has an abundance of places to eat offering all kinds of different food from around the world. However there is no other restaurant in this city which can measure up to the epic sounds, sights, smells and special ambiance of the Eastern Food Bazaar. Entering this arena is like walking into Old Delhi sans hawkers. The handsome elaborately adorned dark wooden interior furnishings give the place a regal and palatial air. During lunch and dinner hours this place sometimes swells to levels over the acceptable maximum capacity threshold. Yet as uncomfortable as it may be during this time this is the best time to be here. You wait an age to get served but the food is always fresh and prepared right in front of you. What’s more, there’s something a tad sad about eating in an empty emporium not buzzing with life. The only other place I’ve been to on the African continent which can compare with this place is the legendary Dja El Fna square in the centre of Old Marrakech. When the sun goes down, that square comes alive with energy, music, delicious food and persistent touts.


Inside the EFB



The EFB full of life



Notice the exotic wooden interior designs


There are about seven food stalls inside where Tandoori food, dosas, shawarmas, Chinese food and even (very unEastern) pizzas can be found. I almost always bolt to the Madras Dosa House for a tasty and no nonsense masala dosa. For a few coins more, the Chicken Cheese Masala dosa is a real treat.


The Masala Dosa House Stand


If you have a sweet tooth, the Ice Cream parlour is an irresistible addition. The ice cream here is rich and creamy and just as good as the ice cream you’ll find in the finest Italian geleterias. Two scoops in a cup for R20 is a hell of a deal.


Divine (and cheap) ice cream


I love this place but it’s dangerous since the more frequently I come to pig out here the higher the probability I’ll morph into Andy Fordham.


by Nicholas Peart

28th July 2016

(all rights reserved)