Grain Store Unleashed to close end of July

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Highly acclaimed boutique hotel chain The Zetter Group, have announced the temporary restaurant from Bruno Loubet, Grain Store Unleashed will close its doors on the 31st July 2015.

Bruno Loubet’s temporary pop-up restaurant will then function as a light and airy dining space as an all-day cafe and restaurant for hotel guests and the public from breakfast until late. However, watch this space for a brand new concept coming soon.

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Capital car chargers

One of Source London's new EV charging points (Photo: Rob Whitson)

One of Source London’s new EV charging point (Photo: Rob Whitson)

London’s electrical vehicle charging point upgrade is long overdue

Despite a Zone 1 address I still, understandably, object to the sound of workers cutting concrete on the street outside, especially when trying to work myself, but not today.

Impatiently leaving my desk to discover what’s causing the nerve shredding noise nearby, any anger soon subsided: paving stones were being cut for a new electric vehicle (EV) charging point.

One of many now being installed across Southwark and Sutton, it replaces an existing point that, like many across the capital, was often out-of-order and so stood unused across both boroughs.

In September 2014 BluepointLondon Ltd. became operator of Source London, the company responsible for management and maintenance of the city’s EV charging point network. Southwark and Sutton are the first boroughs benefiting from a long-overdue, citywide upgrade, when Transport for London then agreed a new deal due to the network’s previously poor record.

BluepointLondon this week signed identical agreements with other London Boroughs: Kensington and Chelsea, Hackney and Greenwich, making them directly responsible for a quarter of all London’s charging points. More seem certain to follow.

Living centrally and not a driver, I never understood why I haven’t seen more motorists capitalising on the benefits of EV ownership. In addition to low fuel costs, vehicle tax and congestion charge exemptions, EVs are now cheaper with more models than ever available. It was only researching this article I discovered the staggering statistics to explain the poor take-up.

Apparently, one of the main reasons London and British drivers do not buy an EV when choosing a new car is: charging point unavailability. There are now a mere 1,400 charging points across all of London and of these, around a third aren’t working.

On most journeys, existing EV owners are usually forced to fall back on fossil fuel their cars carry for the same reason. So not wanting to buy an EV becomes more understandable.

As more cars are built with EV capability despite this, due to EU environmental legislation, Source plans to increase the number of charging points fourfold to 6,000.

Existing points, like the one outside my window, are being replaced with a more advanced and, supposedly, reliable version. Connected centrally via computer, any future faults will automatically be reported and a 24-hour team ensuring these are quickly resolved.

This all reaffirms BluePointLondon’s goal: “encouraging EV uptake by improving and expanding London’s charging point infrastructure. ”

Of course, only time will tell.

Rick Stein’s Down Under discoveries are deliciously different.

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Photo: Creative Commons

Rick Stein (Photo: Thomas Ridley Foodservice via Creative Commons)

BBC2’s A Cook Abroad: Rick Stein’s Australia featured culinary curiosities surprising even this gourmet Aussie expat…

Visiting my Australian home for the first time in five years last Christmas, last night I returned, watching celebrity chef Rick Stein’s episode of BBC2’s: A Cook Abroad: Rick Stein’s Australia.

Viewers were taken on a tasty tour through Aussie cuisine’s past and future, usefully utilising Stein’s 30-year association with the country. Visiting the Sydney digs where his cooking aspirations began, he showed how a nation formerly famous for burnt “snags on the barbie”, now served sophisticated mouth-watering meals, rivalling restaurants worldwide.

Even meat pies, my own school canteen childhood favourite, had grown up. Once soggy pastry cases holding little but gravy, these were now filled with exotic meats like kangaroo.

Considerable time was spent showcasing the country’s fish and seafood but considering this is Stein’s forté and Australia, the world’s largest island, this was understandable.

What lifted the programme, making it so fascinating, was contrast – the continent’s evolution from culinary backwater to producing foods for the future. Interesting ingredients from exotic meats to native herbs, fruit and vegetables, that Aboriginals cooked with for millennia and local chefs proudly proclaimed were the next big foodie fad.

Tasmania, formerly Australia’s Isle of Man, was the new gourmet-go-to. Although its cool climate has produced world-class wine for some time it was, until recently, seen as little more than a hippie-hideaway by mainlanders. On my last visit I’d heard surprising rumours through friends and family of the Island State’s new restaurant reputation.

Jumping from “Tassy” to nearby Bruny Island, Stein met a pig farmer turned wallaby hunter. This metre high mammal resembling a small kangaroo is now in high demand for its tasty flesh. Shy, nowhere near as common, the kangaroo’s cute compact cousin is protected on mainland Oz.

On Bruny Island, off Tasmania’s coast, an estimated 10 million wallabies thrive, decimating crops. Stein accompanied him on a night-hunt to shoot a fresh victim, then watched him prepare fresh “free-range native bush meat” and one killed earlier, left to hang. Due to its high muscle content wallaby meat is tough. It looked delicious and Stein stuffed it down. This was not a show to watch while hungry.

The foods’ diversity plus Stein’s hosting, although his cheeky-chappy routine can often grate, were excellent. Pigs wandered around the hunter’s farm, hinting at the past but this show focused firmly on Australia’s food future. Avoiding the clichés often seen on many Australian-themed programmes, even the music was understated – not a didgeridoo was heard. Featuring fascinating facts, it was tasty television in every sense.

Returning to mainland Tasmania, next stop was a distillery due to its superb single malt: the world’s best. Scottish viewers probably switched off at this point but, Tasmania’s Scottish cool climate, lakes and mountains, helpfully highlighted, it rang true. A single malt, lover myself I hungered to go but 70 per cent proof and, astonishingly, £20 thousand a bottle, this was sadly outside my budget.

Inland fish farms further highlighted Australian food’s ethical environmental emphasis. Who knew Japanese sushi chefs prized Tasmanian salmon more highly than any other?

Stein almost went too far during a corny dash delivering fresh salmon to the renowned Japanese sushi chef resident in a sleepy Tasmanian backwater. But the mouth-watering morsels the sushi chef prepared and his sublime knife wielding skill made up for it, demonstrating why people travel from everywhere to eat there. As Stein said: “Tasmania’s hidden secrets need advertising.”

Watching this I wanted to go and suspect I wasn’t alone.

25 per cent of global abalone, one shellfish I’ve never tasted, is Tasmanian, 75 per cent sent to China. Renowned in Melbourne and Sydney, it’s not familiar across most of the mainland. A slow-growing mushroom-like mollusc, if cooked incorrectly this delicacy tastes like “boot leather.”

A fisherman cooked his in ghee aboard his boat, serving it with one of Tasmania’s famous Chardonnays. Stein devoured it, dubbing it: “The best seafood Australia isn’t eating.”

Delicious TV – this was the BBC at its best. Stirring renewed patriotism within me, I loved the environmental emphasis, especially considering Australia’s current Government, refuses to acknowledge climate change. Timely, tasty, it captured Australian character, and potential, perfectly.

When political parties need to professionalise

The News Hub

Natalie Bennett’s disastrous week mean urgent lessons must be learned, by her and the entire Green Party.


Rob Whitson in UK Politics

28 Feb 2015, 01:04 GMT | Comments (1) | Report

Green leader Natalie Bennett at the party’s ill-fated election policy launch (Photo: Creative Commons)

Insurgent parties, like the Greens and UKIP are receiving the widespread media coverage they craved for so long. This, as they are discovering the hard way, is a double-edged sword.

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Caroline Lucas: the media’s our problem

The News Hub

The Green MP discusses her party – its policies, popularity and how to be heard above UKIP

Reasons to believe

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Photo: flickr.com courtesy Creative Commons

There’s a reason I still have faith in humanity.

I left the house to get groceries on Sunday in a foul mood. Passing an empty beer bottle slung by some slob into the planter outside my building only confirmed a belief the world was going to hell in a hay-cart. All day I’d felt disappointed and let down due to a good friend’s behaviour the previous evening while at my place for dinner.

I enjoy cooking for others and always make an effort. Taking advantage of the fact I live within walking distance of the culinary mecca that is Borough Market, I’d spent more than I should and most of the morning fighting crowds to get the necessary ingredients.

Most of the afternoon was spent slaving over a hot stove while preparing my culinary output for the evening. Then, before my guests arrived, the flat was cleaned and the music chosen, all with the intention of being the best host possible. My anticipation quickly became bemusement when the first of these friends turned up drunk.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m certainly not anti-alcohol and, indeed, enjoy a bottle of red myself most weekends. In fact I’d purchased a couple of excellent bottles for both my guests and I to share that evening. What I found so annoying was this person – someone who frankly, should know better, couldn’t be bothered to wait for the rest of us.

Many readers simply won’t understand why this upset me. The closest comparison I can draw for their benefit is, if having prepared dinner early, I proceeded to sit down and started eating the dessert before my guests even walked through the door.

Sadly I think my friend’s behaviour is indicative of a much wider, far more serious problem affecting society. Something that, despite its seriousness can be summed up in three short words: lack of courtesy.

Unfortunately said friend’s social misdemeanours did not end there. Throughout the evening they spent most of their time, including while seated at the table eating dinner with the rest of us, texting someone due to the possibility of getting lucky later. Again, call me old-fashioned, but I was raised to believe if someone invites you to their home and takes the time to cook a meal for you, the very least you can do is pay attention to what they and everyone else present are saying. More lack of courtesy.

I was walking back from the supermarket bemoaning this person’s behaviour during a call to another friend, someone who shares my mostly jaundiced view of the way people treat each other these days. He was appalled, as I knew he would be. He knows the person in question and, like me, usually has a high opinion of him.

As we spoke, I realized I’d forgotten to buy something so needed to pop into the little supermarket beneath my building. After explaining this, I promised to call again when I was back in my flat. Unlike some people I don’t think it’s civilised or necessary to walk around a store talking on my mobile. I also feel even though you’re not friends and they’re only doing their job, the very least you can give anyone serving you is your attention and a smile.

It amazes me how many people I see in shops completely ignoring the person serving them. Any acknowledgement they manage is little more than a nod while they conduct an entirely different conversation on their mobile phone about football, EastEnders or what Becky in accounting did at the pub Friday. Again: lack of courtesy.

After buying what I needed, while walking back to my building’s entrance I noticed a guy cutting branches away from a tree on the kerb that had become especially overgrown around the base. Only the other day I’d been thinking how untidy this was and how much it spoiled the surrounding area.

Believing he was a council worker, I stopped to thank him for a job well done and coming out on a Sunday but recognized him as someone who lived in my building. Appreciation quickly became admiration. I congratulated him for taking time out of his Sunday to do a job the hundreds of other occupants in my building and those surrounding it, including myself, simply couldn’t be bothered to do.

Retracing my steps, I picked up the empty bottle from the planter on the way in, stopping in my building’s bin area to put it in with the recycling. Phoning my friend to continue our conversation, I told him what happened and he agreed: despite the rudeness epidemic sweeping the modern world there are still many good, considerate people out there.

It’s funny how the universe works.

My week without power

(Photo: flickr.com courtesy Creative Commons)

Photo: flickr.com courtesy Creative Commons

A final-year student homeowner struggling to pay my mortgage with a combination of student loans and dwindling savings, I’m always after ways to save money. I’m also environmentally responsible. With power bills both in the news and on the increase, the chance to go “off grid” for a week seems well timed.
My building doesn’t have gas so even hot water and heating are supplied electrically. At 5pm Friday I turn off my mains power. Except for a rechargeable battery bought on eBay for my laptop, to be used solely for university work, my electricity-free week’s commenced.
Friday evenings I usually unwind after a stressful week at university with some music, red wine and a ready meal before catching up on the week’s TV. After a particularly bad day the setting sun forces me to turn on two small battery-powered lamps a friend loaned me. With my battery-powered radio for entertainment I pour myself a glass of wine but this does little to improve my mood.
Despite the lamps’ light my flat’s still dark. I’m tired and listening to the radio in a gloomy flat, while trying to catch up on some recreational reading is not an especially relaxing end to a hard week. Apart from darkness, the most noticeable aspect is the silence. It’s amazing how used to the background hum of the fridge and other electronic devices you become and how much you miss them when they’re absent.
Already dreading tomorrow morning and the prospect of no hot water I decide I won’t subject myself to that particular ordeal. Therefore unless I make it to the gym I’ll just manage without.
Lacking the numerous electrical distractions I’m usually afforded via the TV, Internet and stereo, time so far seems to move more slowly: seconds become minutes, minutes become hours… you get the idea. This may be because the battery-operated living room clock seems much louder than usual but, I suspect, is more likely because I’m without the aforementioned devices.
Before bed as I clean my teeth with my electric toothbrush I realise I’ll need to buy a manual one tomorrow as the charge won’t last all week and this is something I can’t do without.
I’m delighted to see daylight the next morning. I still keep going to turn on lights as a matter of habit however and filled the kettle for my morning coffee before remembering I can’t boil it. Normally lazing about the flat until after midday, today I’m out the door before 11.
As the clocks go back that night, the following day my east-facing flat gets dark even earlier and, with a big storm due and temperatures expected to drop, I need encouragement.
I consider the energy I’m saving, an average of 11kWh over the week and decide to discuss this with an environmental campaign group like Friends of the Earth (FoE) who I expect will applaud my sacrifice. I’m in for a disappointment though.
“It’s a really laudable thing to go for,” agreed FoE energy campaigner Guy Shrubsole, after I explain how I’m living.
“Some of our work in the past has been more to do with encouraging micro-generation so people can have access to things like solar panels on their roofs, being able to install small-scale wind power and things like that.
“But we’ve mainly done work to allow people to try to sell that electricity back in to the grid so although there’s a greater degree of self-reliance, they’re not completely off-grid. People tend to struggle if they have to generate all their power themselves just for a domestic setting. So we’re much more supportive of opening up the market, the electricity sector, of giving power back to the people and decentralising power.”
He sees one of the biggest problems living this way is sheer impracticality, due to the amount of electricity generating equipment necessary to invest in capable of balancing out the differing highs and lows in both energy demand and supply. This equipment, as I’ve discovered from my online research, is not cheap. For even extremely basic kit, prices begin at over a thousand pounds. Proponents argue this eventually pays for itself, but if you’re on a tight budget how do you overcome this in the short-term?
“Some of the rates you can now get for the feed-in tariff [the money you receive for any excess power produced] for solar panel installation are still quite a good investment and something that’s being taken up by quite a lot of people around the country,” Mr Shrubsole said.
“But I think there’s a greater reluctance to do so because the government keep fiddling with the rates for it… and that’s obviously been very disruptive to the industry and disruptive to public uptake.”
As my week continues things don’t become easier. I begin to dread coming home to a flat that since Sunday night’s big storm and the end of BST, became noticeably colder and gloomier than before. I really miss my morning coffee and although I can go downstairs and across the road to a cafe it’s not the same. I’ve come dangerously close to cheating by using the computer battery to boil the kettle several times.
I’m already sick of washing my face in cold water every morning. It’s no substitute for a hot shower and I have too much work due to get to the gym even if it is only to wash. From the smell of my armpits I really should man up and use the face-washer to at least give them a clean. But if I’m suffering, anyone silly enough to get close to me with the miserable look now constantly on my face, deserves what they get.
From my window I jealously watch light warmly flicker through windows across the street. However even at the climax of my self-pity party I remember I at least have a choice. This is entirely voluntary. For hundreds of thousands of elderly, unemployed and low-earners forced to decide between paying their electricity bill or whether they eat, this must be truly depressing.
Arriving home Wednesday night, my flat’s really losing heat, forcing me to wear extra layers. Again I’m lucky – the cold weather’s barely begun and my triple glazing and modern building materials mean the flat’s hardly freezing, another reason for environmental groups like FoE’s shift away from self-sustainability.
“…even if they’ve not managed it entirely…they’ve been mostly satisfied but perhaps in equal measures frustrated at the difficulties in doing so. We don’t think it’s necessarily viable for a large percentage of the population…,” says Mr Shrubsole, referring to attempts to live off-grid.
“We’re much more interested in promoting the sustainability of the whole system we’ve got in the UK. Whether that means retrofitting housing with better insulation, which is a really vital thing we need to be doing or powering the country with cleaner energy from large scale and community level renewables.”
My own powerless week drags on. I really need to try to get to the gym for a shower later as I’m starting to gross myself out now and just feel dirty. Not in a nice way either.
Even in daylight, as nice as it is to see where everything is, my normally tidy flat resembles a tip – there’s stuff everywhere. I need to consider doing dishes, a chore, that with a dishwasher, I haven’t done for ages. I’m putting utensils in the sink but they’re piling up and starting to smell almost as badly as I do.
I didn’t need to hear this morning’s weather forecast to know last night was autumn’s coldest so far. I dreamt about blankets and woke up shivering. I really am sick of being cold.
That night switching on my two battery powered friends, I realize why I squinted more than usual attempting to read the paper the previous evening after finishing my studies. There’s a circle of less than three inches of dim light beneath each – I need new batteries.
The extra light makes me feel (a little!) better already. Now if only I’d had the money or foresight to have obtained a battery-powered heater but the winter duvet’s on now so I won’t dream of bedding tonight.
With two nights left, I’m counting the minutes until this nightmare is over. Even now I still futilely attempt to turn on lights whenever I enter a room. I’m forced to take these wretched lamps everywhere even the toilet and the batteries keep coming loose. I’m itchy, miserable and fantasize about the long hot shower I’ll have to scrub the filth off myself, the clean sheets I’ll sleep in and the heating on full-power while I open half a bottle of red and eat a hot meal naked in front of the TV. Tonight it’s cold (ish) chicken and salad again.
It’s also Halloween and if any kid dares knock on my door they’ll be told in no uncertain terms where they can put their Snickers. Roll on Friday.