Tuesday, 9 November 2010

A Second Brief Encounter with Hong Sangsoo

Not only have we been to BFI Southbank to see his film, we were also invited to a reception organised for Hong Sangsoo by the Korean Cultural Centre in UK (KCCUK). I don’t know for sure how it happened, probably by some sort of mistakes, but I was only too happy to oblige.

The reception was held on Monday 6 September at the Korean Cultural Centre near Trafalgar Square. Unlike what I expected there were not many people at the reception and I think the 24-hour tube strike which started that evening was somewhat accountable for the low turnout.

The Korean Cultural Centre was displaying some pictures and information about the director and his films. There were a couple of TV screens showing scenes from his films. Most impressively, there was a wall dedicated to his works in the basement where the centre’s library is situated. The wall was covered with his film posters along with the depiction of a pig’s bottom – a very cute reference to his debut work and the director’s autograph.

The reception itself seemed rather uneventful in general. There was someone from Independent Cinema Office who spoke a little bit about Hong Sangsoo and his first UK retrospective. When introduced, our man Hong Sangsoo himself only spoke briefly to thank everyone for the invitation and welcome.

Most of the time the director spent his time outside smoking and speaking on the phone. I felt rather sorry for him as it looked like he wasn’t comfortable being there. I thought the evening was going to end like this. We were having drinks and food while he was spending time away from us. However, we were encouraged to ask him any questions we would like to ask. When he came back in, he happened to come and sit next to us. To my surprise, he remembered seeing us at the BFI Southbank even mentioning my little brother. So we chatted for a little while, I mean mainly Rob with him.

During our private conversation, Mr. Hong said that Rob reminded him of a famous American actor. Even before he said the name of the actor, we knew it was Paul Newman. Believe it or not, quite a number of people (most of them happened to be Koreans) have already said the very same thing to him. Looking at the picture below, you may not agree with them, but it’s 100% true and it became one of our little jokes. Now that a prominent film director had approved it, we felt quite safe to talk about it. It certainly was the highlight of our evening, which made my lovely husband a very happy man and Mr. Hong Sangsoo his favourite Korean film director.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Hahaha - A Brief Encounter with Hong Sangsoo

First of all, this is a very belated post entirely because of my laziness. The event I’m writing about happened about a month ago from now, to be precise, on 3rd September 2010.

Going back to the story, I was very excited to learn that there would be the first UK retrospective of Hong Sangsoo’s complete films at BFI Southbank (here for more detailed information). This was definitely an opportunity not to miss. However, mainly because of my husband’s work commitment, I could only book a couple of films. The first one we went to see was the preview of Hahaha, Hong’s recent film (not the latest though, that being Oki’s Movie showing at BFI London Film Festival). There was also a session called ‘An Evening with Hong Sangsoo’ after the film, but we thought it might be too late for us. Still quite unexpectedly, but very appropriately, the director was briefly introduced to the audience at the start of the film. In short, the film was brilliant - very funny and wonderfully acted. I liked the fact that the present narrative scenes were in black & white as if they were the still shots of the past whereas the past stories were presented as if happening at the present. To my relief, my husband also enjoyed the film immensely. Without doubt, I think the endless drinking scenes by both men and women amused him the most.

When we were having a quick drink at the bar as you do here at BFI Southbank, I spotted our respected director walking past. Encouraged by Rob, I managed to walk up to him to say hi. He seemed a very quiet and pleasant man in person. I also thanked him for the enjoyment we had from the film. Not knowing what else to say, I mumbled something quite silly. Yes, I then told him that my little brother was doing his Master’s in film studies in Paris and I wished he would make as good films as his in the future. I know I felt like a winner of the most embarrassing old sister of the year but never mind. It was such a brief encounter that he wouldn’t remember much about me (or so I thought).

Anyway, I am very happy to report that this whole retrospective thing initiated me to become a member of BFI and now I’m going back to BFI Southbank quite regularly.

Monday, 13 September 2010

A Sunday Out

Last Sunday Rob took me to Chelsea AutoLegends 2010. If I haven’t mentioned it before, he is a so-called petrol head. He loves cars, especially classic cars. He’s got the boxes full of classic car magazines, which I call his porn. Of course, unlike him I am one of those who think that cars are just another means of transportation. Anyway, off we went to Royal Hospital Chelsea grounds where this event was being held as early as we could – I was half-asleep on the way there. And here is a brief note what we have seen and done.

We saw the famous Chelsea pensioners, the residents of Royal Hospital Chelsea, as well as many star cars from Le Mans, classic cars and supercars.

There were a couple of car transporters – one of which was from the Scottish racing team called Ecurie Ecosse. Apparently Rob used to see the racing car being loaded onto this transporter in Edinburgh when he was young.

A cardboard cut-out of supposedly Steve McQueen and his car, Gulf Porsche 917 which featured in the famous racing film called Le Mans.

Bristol Fighter, one of Rob’s dream cars.

This FIAT 500 is more like my style.

And foodwise, we had a crappy burger for lunch after queuing for ages as you do at this of events.

But we had some wonderful cocktails at Harvey Nichols 5th Floor.

All in all I think it was a nice Sunday out.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Fish Shop

I have read a lot about Islington being a trendy place to go out but I have never been there myself. And even more shockingly, I've never been to Sadler's Wells theatre until last weekend. Yes, that's true but until quite recently we were living in West London near Richmond & Kingston and it is quite far from East London, you see. That's my excuse anyway. Finally, I had a chance to visit Sadler's Wells to see a Korean musical called 'Another Sun,' which wasn't too bad and I also liked to mention that I really liked the theatre. It's just a shame that we are still not conveniently located to travel to the theatre in public transport. Anyway, that's enough about the theatre for now.

After the theatre, it was almost 5.30 pm and having missed lunch, we were both very hungry. Being a seafood-lover, I felt quite lucky to spot this fish restaurant not far from the theatre. When I ventured in with my somewhat reluctant husband, we noticed that the restaurant was actually bigger than it looked from the outside. As the first customers that night, we were seated at the small table by the window at the back overlooking the small garden. We shared two starters between us - Grilled Asparagus & Poached Egg with Hollandaise sauce and Pan-fried Scallops with Fennel. Asparagus didn't look great and equally tasteless but maybe it's because it was out of season. Luckily scallops seemed to be very fresh but we were not really bowled over by the dish.

For main course, we both had Lemon Sole with Seasonal Vegetables with an additional side dish of Mash Potato to share. The fish itself was fresh, well-cooked and tasty enough but the seasonal vegetables were just awful. They look like the stir-fry made out of the bags from the supermarkets. And even worse, the mash potato was so dire that my husband was convinced that it was out of the packet. I could only guess two things from our meals: 1) the chef was off that particular day and somebody else stepped in to cook or 2) the chef is quite good with fish (wonderful!) but not so good with vegetables (oh uh!). Whichever was the case, we were not brave enough to stay longer to try any dessert. While we were there, we have agreed that we didn't want to come back to this restaurant. Having said that, I happened to notice that the fish & chips at the next table looked rather nice. And of course, it doesn't come with the mash potato, hallelujah! So, maybe, just maybe there is a tiny chance of going back for fish & chips if we are ever in Islington again.

The Fish Shop
St John Street, Islington, London EC1V 4NR
Tel: 020 7837 1199

Ayoush London

Since I am not such a good cook myself, I have decided to blog more about the restaurants I have been to and, to make it simple, I am going to put them into two categories: the first category is for those places I'm happy to return and the second for those ones I do not really wish to go back. It can't be any simpler than this, can it?

The honour of the first entry of the second category goes to Ayoush, a North African restaurant/bar in Mayfair, London. Wait. Before I begin, I must admit that I'm not overly familiar with North African cuisine myself. Well, that would be an understatement. I just know some elements of it like... couscous, which I have loved so much ever since I first tried it in my salad in the UK. Yes, I have never heard of couscous in Korea. I don't know if I'm right in thinking North Africans eat lots of lamb like the people in Middle Eastern countries. I hope they do as I am also a big fan of lamb dishes even though we don't normally get lamb in Korea. You see, the thing I like about living here in the UK is that I get more chances of trying different food from all over the world. The more I try them, I'll get to know more about them, I hope.

Anyway, I think I've been to a Moroccan restaurant only once if I remember it correctly. It was again in Paris with my husband and my brother's family. Looking back we were very lucky to find this child-friendly restaurant by chance. That's right, we didn't have Moroccan food in mind when we set off. Unfortunately the Indian restaurant my lovely sister-in-law wanted to try was closed on that particular day and with a very little boy to feed, we had to find an alternative rather quick among those restaurants available on the same street. I don't remember what the others had but both my husband and I had a lamb tagine with couscous and it was one of the most delicious meals ever. Even for the greedy people like us, the portion size was really generous and the lamb shank was so juicy and tender. The food was inexpensive and the staff was also very friendly. So all in all it was a rather nice experience.

It was with this expectation when we chose to dine at Ayoush. I liked the look of the restaurant from the outside and the interior wasn't bad either. We shared one starter dish (Foul Akhdar: green broad beans cooked in garlic, cumin, fresh coriander and a touch of tomato sauce and olive oil, £4.25) and some bread, which wasn't too bad but not exceptional.

As we both like lamb and couscous, my husband ordered Lamb Couscous (£14.50), which is served with Moroccan special flavoured sauce and I chose Lamb Tagine (£13.50) for our mains. We both found the portion size rather small and the food not so tasty - couscous just bland and lamb not juicy or tender enough. It seriously lacked the warmth and flavour of North Africa. Honestly it didn't taste much better than the ready-made food you would get from the supermarkets. Oh, maybe a bit better, but definitely not much.

Being conveniently located, not far from Oxford Street, it is possibly just one of those tourist traps in central London. Or maybe it might be okay for a short stop for a drink or two with friends and work colleagues. However, if you are looking for a Moroccan restaurant which serves decent food, personally I wouldn't recommend this place to you.

Ayoush London, 58 James St, London, W1U 1HG Tel: 020 7935 9839

Monday, 23 August 2010

Le Pain Quotidien

I had a very fond memory of Le Pain Quotidien in Paris, France. It was our first trip together - me and my husband (boyfriend then) in December 2006. I had heard about this bakery and communal tables, as they called it, in one of the guidebooks. It sounded so nice that I was determined to try it myself. I think we got lost and had to walk quite a while in freezing cold to find the store in St. Honore. It was worth the effort though as we both enjoyed our brunch - the huge plates of salad with good quality bread and coffee. It was just a perfect start to the day, which happened to be my husband's birthday.

Afterwards I was happy to find out that they had stores in the UK too. I have been to the one at St. Pancras International several times while waiting for the Eurostar trains. But I had never been to the other stores until a couple of weeks back when I visited the Marylebone store. We were with our old friend for lunch. We all had different dishes - my friend and I opted for the salad and my husband the quiche. To our disappointment, none of dishes we ordered looked or tasted exceptional. My roasted vegetable salad was served cold unlike what I expected and they tasted rather like they were straight from the jars. The only thing I still enjoyed was their bread.

I know the company is originally from Belgium, not France, and has over 100 stores in many countries including USA and Japan. I really want to like this place as I like their philosophy and concept as well as their bread. However, it seems a bit overrated here in London and rather pricey in terms of food. I'd love to see its food being more personal and homely.

Roasted organic Italian vegetables, mixed leaves, pesto & goat cheese salad (£10.20)

Friday, 20 August 2010

Third time lucky (or not?)

It's been really bugging me that I wasn't keeping my blog updated since last November after only a couple of posts when I had promised to myself to give it an another go. I felt like a mother who had abandoned her infant baby. Or maybe not that bad, but still it was quite sad and embarrassing that I couldn't do something that looked so easy and simple for many other people all around the world.

Well... I have my excuses of course. Maybe I shouldn't have chosen to write my blog in English in the first place. English being my second language, I never feel quite comfortable using it even though I've been living in the UK for a number of years (and yes, being shy doesn't help when it comes to the language skills). In any case, I've never been any good at writing in general whether it is in English or in Korean. And I probably shouldn't been too ambitious (even though I said I wasn't) about this blogging business. I didn't know what I really wanted to do with the blog! I still don't have any clear ideas.

It's hard to admit but I've come to the conclusion: maybe I'm not up for it and I should just leave it behind. But then again, people say that you can get third time lucky, right? After all, isn't it simply too sad to leave this wonderful world of blogging like this? Well, I think so. And I've decided for the third time (and possibly the last), I'll give it another chance. This time I'm going to drop all my expectations and just to try to be myself. That's right. I'm not a chef nor a writer, so don't expect anything grand coming out of me. Just try to make it something personal. There are no rules and therefore, it could be about anything I like. Hope it works this time and if not, I promise I will go away quietly and gracefully (or rather dragged off kicking and screaming!!!).