Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wildlife photographer of the year, 6th November

The ‘in-laws’ visiting gave us another reason to go out and do something from my list. This time The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum. Unlike the rest of the museum, admission is not free, and £9 (including voluntary donation to the museum) which seemed a little steep. But we needed something to fill the day with and I thought it could be worthwhile.

I’m really pleased we went. The exhibition contained much more than I thought it would. It took us a good hour to wander around and even then there were a couple of sections that I didn’t get to completely scrutinise. It is a little hard to describe a bunch of photographs, and I didn’t take any of them. Photography probably wasn’t allowed anyway. The first section was of entries from children 10 and under. Ten!! Under!! Each photo had a little note about the person who took it and what they did to get the picture, and then there was another little note about the actual subject. For example, the winner of the children’s category was a close up of a longhorn beetle, and we were told this was taken when the girl was on holiday with her family. There was another picture of a bottle-nosed dolphin playing with some false killer whales. Although it’s been known that dolphins do this, it was almost definitely the first time it had ever been documented in a photo.

There were some spectacular landscape photos, and photos of the ordinary but taken in a different way – like an extreme close up of a bee inside a beautiful white flower. Reading the stories of the photographers and the situations they put themselves in to capture the perfect photo was astounding. Stuff like sitting in what they call ‘hides’ for days at a time, waiting for the particular species they wanted to come along and pose in just the right way.

Naturally I thought it would be a good exhibition or it wouldn’t have gone on The List, but I was pleased by just how satisfying and fascinating it really was.

Walking round a fairly small room can work up quite an appetite. My ‘in-laws’ are quite traditional English folk and were in the mood for a Sunday Roast. I had tasked Stephen (after all, they’re his relations) with finding a place that does a good roast in the area of the museum the night before. He, however, got sidetracked with the evening menu at the Bull & Last, wondering if he should go there for his birthday the week after. No roast venue was found. And so, on the Sunday I found myself hurriedly searching both the recesses of my mind, and the internet for somewhere to go. I only really know places in the East End and had heard of one place that was meant to be good – Mason & Taylor. I also found a blog dedicated to Sunday Roasts – which highly recommended the Water Poet. As that was closer to Liverpool St station than the other one, we thought we’d go by there first and see what they did.

What they did sounded perfectly nice and acceptable to everyone, so we put our names down and waited for 20 minutes for a table.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here. Our roasts were disgusting. Stephen and I opted for the lamb shoulder. The meat was overdone. The gravy was insipid and a token presence on the plate. (Actually that’s a plus for me as I don’t like gravy that much, but I know for most people it would be a negative thing.). It was supposed to come with ‘carrot puree’ and ‘autumn greens’. That translated to sliced boiled carrots and some peas. The roast potatoes were of variable quality – I had one perfect one, and the rest were chewy as opposed to crunchy. Stephen’s relations had the roast chicken and had similarly derogatory remarks to make about it, one complaint being that it was cold. The Yorkshire pudding wasn’t bad.

For some reason (ever the hopeful optimists I suppose) we decided to order dessert here as well. They did sound very tempting. But they were just as disappointing. Stephen’s mum and I opted for the sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and honeycomb ice cream. Stephen’s mum doesn’t like butterscotch sauce and asked for custard instead. This they did get right, but I did notice that she hadn’t asked for the ice cream to be withheld, yet that was also replaced in favour of custard. Which was actually, little did she know it, a good thing, because my ‘honeycomb ice cream’ actually tasted like a scoop of clotted cream. Nothing iced or honeycomb about it. The butterscotch sauce was good but there should have been more of it because the pudding itself was pretty dry.

Stephen ordered the orange pippin apple and plum crumble. He said it was cold in places, making it very unpleasant to eat. I have no pictures, but the place didn’t deserve any being taken.

Last night we went to the Canton Arms for Stephen’s birthday where I had an amazing meal complete with moist, delicious pear and butterscotch pudding for dessert. It put the Water Poet’s roast on Sunday into stark contrast. Perhaps I’ve been harsher than I would have, had I not had an example of how food should be done only a few days later. Perhaps, but I don’t think so. Bad food is bad food and bad food is what we had at The Water Poet. The only thing I can say as a possible defence is that we went very late in the day and so maybe all the good stuff had gone by then. Maybe.

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