Le Relais de Venise, City of London


I was initially attracted by the sheer simplicity of the concept – there is no menu, they only serve one dish. That dish is a green salad followed by steak and chips. The only choices are how you want your steak cooked and what drink to have.

Le Relais de Venise is decorated in what looks a fairly typical french bistro style that fits nicely with the Parisian feel to the whole thing. Service was polite and prompt from the french maid outfitted waitresses.

So how was the food? In an establishment that only does one thing, I had fairly high expectations that that one thing would be cooked very well. I was not disappointed.

The green salad starter was ok, although I felt the mustard dressing was a little over powering for my own tastes. The main course comes in two parts, they serve you half the steak and some thin fries while keeping a second portion warm for you.

It’s worth mentioning that the steak comes with a ‘secret’ sauce that works well with the steak, but even more so with the fries. My dinner partner likes their steak cooked ‘blue’, but has almost always complained that no one truly cooks a proper ‘blue’ steak. At least here that complaint was not raised. My own ‘rare’ steak was cooked exactly as I like it. maybe this is what comes out of doing one thing, but doing it well?

The thin, but crispy fries were also very nice and a great addition to the meal and they certainly come in fairly generous proportions.

After the mains we were finally presented with a menu as there does appear to be a choice of desserts. I just couldn’t resist some profiteroles, an old favourite of mine. Another generous portion, this time of five golf ball sized, cream filled choux covered in chocolate and if truth be told I was grateful for some help as this was probably too much for me to eat on my own.

I still have a slight nagging thought that £19 was slightly too much for steak and chips but then again it was cooked to perfection and I can’t really think of any complaints with the meal at all.

Very enjoyable, I would go again.

The Sydenham Project – Part 1 – Inclement weather

Crystal Palace Park in snow
Crystal Palace Park in snow

One of my over-arching projects for this year (2009) is to document and photograph the area that I live in – Sydenham, south London.

I’m a north Londoner by birth and instinct and i’d normally consider myself like a black cab – I don’t do sarf of the river. I eventually came to live in deepest south London for the noblest of reasons, for love.

I moved in with my girlfriend (now wife) over five years ago and have ever so slowly got to tolerate, then actually to like Sydenham. I have to have access to a bit of green and the proximity to Crystal Palace and Wells Park is pretty nice. Wells Park particularly is a bit of a gem. Other than the parks there is Dulwich woods and some lovely Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian buildings. I’m slightly gutted we don’t still have the actual Crystal Palace around.

Sydenham Station in fog
Sydenham Station in fog

Surrounding the diamonds is quite a bit of rough including several ugly council estates, including the close that we live on which is a fairly bland 1950s terrace. In their own way, even this urban grunge has some character.

There have been some interesting weather conditions at the beginning of this year, notably some fog and severe (for London) snow that have made for good photographic opportunities.

Have a look at some more pictures of interesting weather in Sydenham.

In future parts of this series I’d like to cover architecture, people, businesses, transport and recreation. See the photos as they go on over the year.

Wells Park in snow
Well's Park in snow

Fotogym – Environmental Portraiture

Environmental Portraiture – A picture of a person or people that also shows the essence of what they do.

The Express Building on Fleet St
The Express Building on Fleet St

I’ve been a member of the London photographers meetup group (lpmg) for over a year, but this is only the third time I’ve been to an event. The previous ones had been pretty good so my expectations were high for this one.

The plan for the fotogyms is always roughly the same – a lecture/talk by someone in the morning followed by some hands on practice in the afternoon and then back for a review.

The talk on this occasion was given by Tim Saunders, a professional photographer who has previously worked for the MOD and currently works for the Ambulance Service. Considering that he told us he hates public speaking he gave an informative, interesting and quite funny talk about some of the techniques and tricks in environmental portraiture.

This was all looking great till he dropped the bombshell of the assignment. Go and ask people on the street to take their photo (in their environment), hopefully instructing them how to pose for best affect and for added spice – getting a model release form. I have to say that this slightly filled me with dread as I’ve tried this sort of thing before and not had much luck. I was determined to give it another go though.

Quite a few people were getting together to go as a crowd and I did consider trying to muscle in, but decided that I should be brave and try to do this alone. I’m not entirely sure this was the right decision.

Grumpy cabbie
Grumpy cabbie

For the next two hours I wandered around the west end of London, taking some nice street shots but failing to actually ask any people to pose.

Eventually I thought that a London cabbie would be a good target and even asked one for a picture. He agreed, but was pretty grumpy about it and it kind of put me off asking any more. I also considered some street performers in Covent Garden, but I felt that this wasn’t in the spirit of the assignment.

Covent Garden stall-holder
Covent Garden stall-holder

In Covent Garden market I asked a few of the stall-holders for photos and one in-particular was both very amenable and also quite photogenic. I was pleased with the result.

A number of times I was about to ask someone, and then kind of bottled it and often, even when I did I probably came across as nervous which doesn’t really help.

I entered my market stall-holder photo for review and came away feeling that it wasn’t so bad, although several other examples were clearly much better.

Overall a fascinating day, although it would be too strong to say that I enjoyed it. This is a type of photography that I’d like to do more of, but I’ll need to get a bit more confident if I’m going to make a success of it. I can’t fault the fotogym though, it was well organised and well worth the £10 fee.