Exotic Dining, Kettering

It's my birthday tomorrow (Monday), and as a modern working life doesn't allow you to celebrate your birthday on your birthday if you're silly enough to have one on a weekday, some friends and I went out for a meal last night (Saturday).

There is a point to including this image.
You'll just have to keep reading to find it.
We went to Exotic Dining on Newland St., Kettering (it's above Millets, opposite the cafe that my Granddad affectionately refers to as "Holy Joe's").

I've eaten in restaurants that occupy this spot before, but none of them seem to stick around for long. Exotic Dining may well break this trend. It's a bright, fairly small but welcoming and far from cramped Indian restaurant that describes itself as "a nouvelle cuisine of Indian & Fusion". The waiters are polite and friendly, and most of my friends were already seated as the final two of us arrived after a cheeky pint at the nearby and highly recommendable Alexandra Arms.

The menu was unlike that of any Indian restaurant I've eaten in before. Many old favourites were available in the 'Golden Oldies' section - kormas, vindaloos, baltis and the like, as well as some 'English' staples for the really unadventurous - but the bulk of the menu is populated by the Tandoori section, their Exotic Cuisine section (grouped by chicken, lamb, seafood or vegetarian) and their Signature Dishes. You can see each of these menu sections in detail here, but it appears to have changed since these were added to the website as the dish I had on Saturday isn't listed. For the more adventurous, there are dishes available that are based around rabbit and even camel.

For my starter, I had two meat samosas. These were the biggest I've ever seen, and very tasty although a little on the dry side for my preference. As my main course, I had a beef brisket, served in an 'Indian gravy', which was, in my limited understanding of posh food*, much like the sauce I'd expect with a balti. If I believed in such things, I'd say that this course was little short of divine- the beef fell off the bone with the merest coaxing, the sauce was full of flavour and there was plenty of it, and the rice and naan that I ordered as accompaniments were both perfectly cooked.

The dessert menu was much the same as any other Indian restaurant: uninspiring. But you don't go to an Indian for the desserts; indeed, the only real draw on the dessert menu at a standard Indian restaurant was that picture that looked slightly filthy if you looked at it too quickly and with a dirty mind. Alas, that image seems to have disappeared. Nevertheless, I had some mint ice cream encased in a chocolate shell, and I sampled my friend's chocolate torte. Both were basic, obviously bought-in affairs from the same place that seems to supply all Indian restaurant dessert menus, but were edible all the same.

In terms of price, I think the evening came to around £35 per head, although my friends wouldn't let me pay my share (not that I'm complaining). For that, we got a few rounds of drinks and enough food to make even my stomach start to stretch at the seams.

All in all, the service was friendly and helpful, the surroundings were clean and spacious, the drinks were standard, and the food was fantastic. I'd recommend a visit for anyone wanting to try something a little off the beaten track, but with clear signs back to the highway. If you're thinking of going, make sure you book. It wasn't over-populated, but it is quite a small place so it's worth picking up the phone: contact details and opening hours are available on this page.

I really should take photos when I'm thinking of writing a review. Ah well, the photo at the top of this post doesn't show the restaurant, but it does show my birthday present which was given to me and unwrapped at Exotic Dining. So there is a link, see?

* 'Posh' food being anything more advanced than a chip butty.

What A Feeling!

On Friday night (that's October 7th, 2011, for anybody reading this from the future) I went to see The Feeling play at the HMV Institute in Birmingham. In case anybody doesn't know who I'm talking about, here's the first single, Sewn, from their first album, Twelve Stops and Home, released in 2006:

I've seen them once before, at the Roadmender in Northampton. That gig was a pre-album tour of smaller venues in which the band tried out some tracks from their soon-to-be third album, Together We Were Made (released in June 2011), the first single from which being Set My World on Fire:

I was tempted along to the Birmingham concert based on my memories of the Northampton gig: The Feeling are a multi-talented band, with most of the members playing a variety of instruments throughout the performance (lead singer Dan Gillespie Sells plays guitar on most tracks, but also plays piano now and then, and even took over bass guitarist duties from bassist Richard Jones for part of one song (who was busy playing drums alongside Paul Stewart at the time).

Both performances were more than just a bunch of guys playing some music: at the Roadmender, the guys were lively and animated as they played, and filled the stage at all times. In Birmingham, the concert was noticeably more lavishly produced, with choreographed routines and projections on a screen behind the band, which included visual effects, pre-recorded video (the concert started with some fan-made vids from Youtube) and inventive use of live video.

Despite some PA issues (there were a few incidents of feedback, and apparently the sound guys were wrestling with the volume controls all night), the performance was a treat from start to finish with a good mixture of new tracks and old favourites, and even a cover of Paul Simon's You Can Call Me Al thrown in too. Starting an encore set with I Thought It Was Over is a stroke of genius, but I was expecting it because they did it in Northampton too.

And as a special, if dubious, treat for anyone who's continued reading this far, another video. This isn't a music video, however; it's one of me being interviewed outside the HMV Institute whilst queueing to get in. It's more than a little cringeworthy, but I'm including it because I have no shame.

A Survey: Your Favourite Flavour Quark

Hi folks,

I'd really appreciate it, if you haven't done so already, if you'd take this brief survey for me. I'm trying to gather some data so that I can show my department the power of Google docs, and show some ways in which it might be used in the classroom to further learning & teaching.

Don't worry if you don't understand the question- that doesn't matter: just pick one!

Thanks! Here's the survey:

Jurassic Park

The next classic film to be re-released in cinemas* as a celebration of its release on Blu-Ray is Jurassic Park.

Back in 1993 I was an 11-year-old** dino-obsessive with the privilege of going to see the much-hyped dinosaur-resurrection movie Jurassic Park at the now non-existent Palace Cinema in Wellingborough. I remember at the time being wowed by a ground-breaking and trend-setting Speilbergian mixture of animatronics and CGI effects, and assaulted from all angles by a story that was at once emotional, witty, suspenseful and terrifying, whilst providing nourishment for my already well-developed geek-streak.

Here's the original trailer:

So, in 2011, when I heard that this movie - one of few that stand out from the background of many movies that I saw as a child*** - was being re-released, the decision to go and see it was not one that really had to have any thought put into it. This time, I took a trip with three friends to the Cineworld at Northampton's Sixfields complex.

Some things have changed since I last saw the movie; back in 1993 my parents bought my ticket, and alongside a drink and some popcorn they got change from a fiver. In 2011, my ticket plus a bag of M&Ms had me breaking into a £20 note. Also, having completed a maths degree in the interim, Doctor Ian Malcolm's previously impressive mathematical topic-dropping and elucidation had turned into a list of words gathered at random from The Ladybird Dictionary of Mathematics. Other than that, however, I didn't notice a lot of difference: my childlike excitement at seeing dinosaurs brought to life was still there, and the effect was much the same as it always was due to the fact that the visual effects don't seem to have aged at all- they hold themselves favourably against many much more recent big-budget movies, and even blow a few of them out of the water. The film was still, to my more adult mind, alternately funny, emotive and terrifying (and yes, I mean terrifying rather than simply scary); the storyline kept my attention, and the imagery, now-iconic sound-effects, and classic musical score tickled my senses in much the same way as they did eighteen years ago.

I had the dual pleasure of attending the screening with one friend who also remembered the film from the first time round, and also two friends who had never seen it before. Both said they enjoyed the film, and I certainly enjoyed noticing them as, in the scarier and more fraught moments of the film, one squirmed in her seat in fear, and the other almost ripped her boyfriend's arm off in terror.

If you've never seen Jurassic Park, I thoroughly recommend taking what's left of the opportunity to do so on the big screen. If you saw it first time around, go and relive part of your childhood. Sometimes movies don't age very well, but this is one that hasn't aged at all.

* The last one I cared about being Back To The Future.
** About the same age as Lex.
*** I can even remember that we sat toward the back-left of the cinema screen in which we saw it, and that I also had a bit of a crush on Lex at the time.

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