On the European SOUL tour with Seal

It’s the fourth week of six on the road with Seal, and I haven’t posted a single blog entry here. Terrible, I know. I’ve had enough of a challenge getting the photos up to seal.com, but found a groove a couple of weeks or so ago and am now getting the photos from any given show online within 24 hours. Which doesn’t sound like much until you realize that immediately after each show, we get on the bus and drive to the next city, usually sleeping on the bus (kind of a half sleep as the bus rocks along), get into a new city at maybe 5, 6, 11am, then often go back to bed for a few more hours. If there’s another show that night, I’ll scramble to get the photos out before soundcheck ‘cause usually once that starts, I can’t get back onto the computer to finish an edit.

Anyway I’ve started uploading the same photos to my own gallery. You can always see the freshest at seal.com/tour/tour-gallery but as I can I’ll upload them to my own gallery on josephlinaschke.com (where you can see them larger than on seal.com).

I’ve uploaded the first five shows; Birmingham, Edinburgh, London, Oxford, and Manchester. We completed show 16 in Lucerne, Switzerland last night, and have just arrived in Carcassonne, France where we have two days off before the show here Tuesday night. 

Here’s a favorite from each of those five shows; click each one to open the complete gallery. 

Seal in Birmingham, EnglandSeal in Edinburgh, ScotlandSeal in London, EnglandSteve “Sid” Sidelnyk on drums in Oxford, EnglandSeal in Manchester, England

Acorn House


(catching up on posts so this is slightly out of sync and is from Saturday night in London)…


This restaurant came highly recommended (by the same friend who pointed me to flat white, so who am I to argue!), so for my last dinner in London, which was to be with friends who live there, I requested that we dine at Acorn House. It's walking distance from the King's Cross/St. Pancras train station, which happens to be the London base for the Eurostar to Paris.



Acorn House

Acorn House is unique in that the chef makes exceptional efforts to be 'green' about everything that comes in and out of his restaurant. I picked up his cookbook, and the forward is written by Jamie Oliver who goes as far as to call him the "original green chef". A big part of this is purchasing local, sustainable ingredients, and only buying what's in season. The menu is actually updated twice a day to accommodate!


My appetizer was a fantastic goat cheese on toast with a pistachio pesto (!) and a very sticky, very black, balsamic drizzle. It was absolutely divine, and so unfortunately I had to eat the whole thing. Hate it when that happens.



Goats cheese, toasted sour dough, wild garlic & pistachio pesto

Next up was a pan fried sea trout, which was good but honestly a little fishy. I didn't find the dish to be remarkable, although the presentation was very nice. My friend had the pork belly with feijoada which he really enjoyed, so perhaps I'd try that next time.



Pan fried sea trout, zucchini, lemon & ‘Cassini’ olive oil

Of course this was accompanied by a fine bottle of wine. Like the rest of the menu, they go to great lengths to find quality organic wines, but even here there was the 'next level' of organic; biodynamic [wiki link]. It's a holistic approach to growing the grapes, and since everything else about the evening was so green (yes I took the train to get there!), I decided that we had to try one of these special wines. I must say the wine was superb. I won't try to review the wine here as this meal was now several days ago and I didn't take any notes, but again it was absolutely delicious; enough so that I photographed the label so I could track it down later.



Domaine Granges de Mirabel Viognier, Coteaux de L'Ardeche, France

Overall a good meal and an enjoyable, learning experience. I'll likely go again, preferably in a different season just to see how the menu has changed.



Acorn House 69 Swinton Street London WC1X 9NT



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rating: 4 feet




verdict: I love the 'green-ness' of the place. It's a great idea who's time has come, and the quality of (most of) the food shows it. I'll be back in a different season, and I did buy the cookbook so look forward to trying a few things at home.



UPDATED: Wagamama in Heathrow Terminal 5!


I loved this funny little noodle place in London. Not so little anymore!



wagamama's menu

UPDATE: Unfortunately I'm less than impressed. Growth, it would appear, has not been good. The noodles were overcooked and mushy, the same for the veggies, and horribly disappointingly, the carrot juice with ginger -- one of my all-time favorites -- appeared to be watered down.



Wagamama London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 wagamama.com





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rating: 2 feet




verdict: The only reason it's getting a "2 feet" rating is that it used to be good. Perhaps it still is and I got unlucky. Otherwise, it's just a 1. Sad, sad, sad.



Wandering London



I used to live in London, so really didn't do the "tourist" thing on my free Saturday. Actually to be perfectly honest, I slept 'till noon, did some email then slept again 'till 2:30. It felt good to finally catch up on my sleep though!






So just for giggles, here's two photos from the short time I did get out that Saturday before dinner.






London Cab


Cute store selling Banksy images. Too bad they weren't open.


flat white


A short post for now. I'm in Paris, very tired after a dinner of lamb burger and absinthe, and will catch up on blogs tomorrow. However I'll post this one as I have the photos ready to go.


Back in London, a friend recommended a café called "flat white", which was quite close to my hotel. Claimed it had the best coffee in town. Boy, he wasn't kidding.


You can order the standard fare of cappuccino's, latte's and the like, but of course the top item on the menu is the flat white. There's a "definition" on the wall, which is followed by a lat/long reading (someone later told me that Flat White is also a place in New Zealand), and the definition on the wall reads an antipodean style coffee which is served as a strong shot of espresso served in a small cup with textured milk; a damn good strong coffee. Not quite sure what "textured" milk is, but the resulting drink is pure velvet. Absolutely delicious, sweet on the tongue and entirely too drinkable. It doesn't take much to put away a cup of flat white.



a flat white…


at flat white


flat white 17 Berwick Street Soho, London www.flat-white.co.uk +44 20-7734-0370





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rating: 5 feet

verdict: Perfect coffee. What else can you ask for?



Dinner at Tom's Restaurant (aka Tom's Place)


Ah, another superb meal in London. This trip is turning tragic!


Tonights choice was Tom's Restaurant, as recommended by an expat friend here in London. We started upstairs at the bar for a drink and snack, then moved to the main restaurant for dinner.


Upstairs vibe was chic and modern, packed with the good looking set of Chelsea. We ordered drinks and a bowl of chips (that's French Fries to you, mate) which were fat and crisp and fluffy and lovely, as well as a small order of their Parmesan Risotto, which was tasty but uninspiring. The flavor of the parmesan and creme fraiche was very nice, however the risotto itself was chalky and undercooked. My friend who joined me for dinner that night is a huge fan of risotto, and didn't think much of it -- and it's one of those dishes I've tried cooking many times and have gotten truly right only once or twice, so I know it's not easy to get perfect. Unfortunately, they didn't quite get it right here.



Chips and Parmesan Risotto



Downstairs however was a completely different story. The food we ate there was to die for. Even though we'd already snacked, I couldn't resist the Seared Foie Gras with Duck Egg, Bacon and Balsamic Jus. While I'll be the first to admit the photo doesn't make it look terribly attractive, and my friend compared it to a Denny's Grand Slam (it's the biggest damn egg I've seen on a plate in a while), it was utterly delicious. The richness of the foie gras with the depth of flavor from the duck egg, combined with the saltiness of the thick cut bacon was, without question, heaven on a plate.




Fois Gras with Duck Egg, Bacon and Balsamic Jus





I can't talk about this dinner without telling the story I twittered on yesterday, involving dumping a glass of water in the name of art. (If you don't follow the twitter yet, subscribe!). I commonly will use a wine or water glass at a restaurant as a makeshift 'tripod'; just something to balance the camera against. As you can imagine most restaurants are quite dark, making photography difficult. So I usually use a glass as a balance point. Which of course I'd been doing throughout the evening here, as I always do. Now I can't quite say that I didn't realize my water glass had been filled, because I watched it get filled. But in the heat of the moment of seeing a photo I wanted to make, I grabbed the glass and flipped it upside down. The full glass. And naturally dumped an entire glass of fresh, cold water all over our table, the floor, and of course -- my leg.



And the photo didn't even turn out that great. :( All in the name of the blog!



But back to the food. Main courses came, and they thrilled nearly as much as the starter. I had the Duck Confit, and my friend dined on Filet of Beef. The duck was superb, with gorgeous crispy skin and delicate fat, the meat perfectly moist with the chewy edges I adore so much to accompany the fatty skin. It was served with potatoes and artichoke hearts, and the artichokes themselves were nearly as good as the duck. Eat your heart out, vegetarians -- nothing makes a perfectly good vegetable even better than coating it in duck fat!! The steak was apparently superb, a point worth noting because my friend doesn't eat rare meat. It's been a point of contention between us where I'm always chiding him for taking a perfectly good steak and murdering it on the grill. He admitted that he had been slowly going more and more red on his meat, and that while this particular steak -- ordered medium (and served French medium, not American medium) -- was the rarest steak he'd ever eaten. And he loved it. Good on you man!




Duck Confit





Fillet of Beef





Tom's Restaurant (aka Tom's Place. Seems to depend on where you look. And Tom's Café is a different restaurant)

27 Cale Street

Chelsea, SW3 3QP

Tom's Kitchen

+44 207 349 0202





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rating: 4 feet




verdict: Absolutely superb. Great ambiance, friendly service (both in the bar and the restaurant), and of course great food. The only reason it's not getting a 5 feet rating is the risotto. But definitely, without question, go.



Vasco & Piero's Pavilion Restaurant. Just change the name to "Incredible Italian" already!


It's not often you get to eat somewhere so good you wonder if you can get back for another meal before leaving the country. This is just one of those places.


Vasco & Piero's is a completely unassuming Italian eatery (specifically Umbrian, from central Italy) on Poland Street, just a few blocks from the shopping mayhem of Regent and Oxford Streets. We had a group dinner there, table for 10, and the menu is prix fix. Two or three courses, choose from a relatively small selection, and off you go.


My first course was a Beef Carpaccio, which is one of those dishes I truly adore and tend to judge Italian restaurants by. I believe I missed on the menu the detail that it was a roast beef carpaccio, which someone pointed out afterwards, so it was actually a bit thicker cut and basically rare beef, not raw beef, on the plate. But it was very tasty, served with fresh arugula and generous portion of parmigiano reggiano.



Roast Beef Carpaccio



When I joined the table, I was told immediately that "pasta was a must-have" at this restaurant. It's all homemade, fresh and apparently quite good. A quick scan of the menu revealed a few choice dishes, but one stood above the rest -- the Hand Made Wild Mushroom Tortelloni -- so I ordered that.



Ohhh, what a good choice. This may well have been some of the best I've ever had. The pasta was so delicate that it nearly melted in your mouth. It was firm under the fork but like warm butter on the tongue. The wild mushrooms inside were apparently very finely chopped, and once cooked was nearly a paste in the pasta that just contributed to the melted butter experience. I savored every last bite, and my only regret was that there wasn't more on the plate. I could have continued to eat until they rolled me out of there. It was truly that good.




Hand Made Wild Mushroom Tortelloni



Clearly you can't enjoy a dinner this good and not partake in desert. Pana Cotta with Strawberries jumped off the list, and I'm sure my friends who left the table early will see this and be kicking themselves for leaving. It was superb, and even the strawberries which were a bit on the pale side of red, were delicious.




Panna Cotta with Strawberries






Vasco & Piero's Pavilion Restaurant 15 Poland Street London W1F 8QE www.vascosfood.com +44 20-7437-8774





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rating: 5 feet




verdict: A superb meal, with some of the best pasta I've ever had. Definitely worth a reservation your next trip to London. And yes I upgraded this to 5 feet… after some pondering, everyone there enjoyed their meal as much as I did, and I think it's worth the rating.



Belgo Centraal


My first meal in London did not disappoint! A good friend took me to a Belgian eatery tonight, called "Belgo". They specialize in mussels, and it's one of those things where if you'd asked me what I was hungry for, I wouldn't have come up with this in a thousand years. But as soon as he mentioned their specialty, I was suddenly salivating for those plump, delicious orange jewels, with some perfectly crisp Belgian frites and a cold beer to wash it all down. He even tried to tell me other things they served. Why bother? I mean really. YUM.


He warned me on our way there that we may have to wait for a table. He'd checked online and no reservation was available until after 9pm. But he insisted it was worth the wait, so off we went. We were told it'd be a 10-20 minutes wait by the hostess, and saddled up to the bar.


One little bit of "false advertising"… at the bar upstairs, they have an impressive display of bottled beers. However they only actually server from a limited selection in that bar. For the real menu, you have to go downstairs. Owell, two Leffe Blonde's please. The Palm (a beer I've only ever seen in Holland) would have to wait until later. It's a furnace upstairs as the kitchen is right below you with an open ceiling, so all the heat gets trapped in this little waiting bar. But hey, that just makes the beer taste that much sweeter!



Leffe


The beer menu. Impressive.

Our table was ready in under 10 minutes, and we were pointed downstairs by host#1 where hostess#2 took over and guided us to our table. It's a packed place, picnic bench style seating, loud and pungent of cooked mussels and spilled beer. It couldn't be more perfect if they tried.


I ordered a starter "Salad de Poire et Stilton" and the mussel pot "Mariniere Traditionnelle". Both were delicious. The salad was refreshing and just enough to get the belly started, and the mussels were cooked to simple perfection. The fries were deliciously crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, served with a bit of Belgian mayonnaise. To be completely honest my bowl seemed to be from the bottom of the basket; all the small bits. But they were still delightful and nothing to complain about.



Mussel Pot. Fabulous.

On the way in and out, you pass the kitchen. We took a little walk over the catwalk to peer down to the inner workings; busy place.



Kitchen


And from above




Belgo Centraal

50 Earlham Street

Convent Garden, London, WC2H 9LT

www.belgo-restaurants.co.uk

+44 207-209-3212





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rating: 4 feet




verdict: Delicious. Absolutely would go again. If you like mussels, this is the place to go. Their beer selection is mightily impressive, just head downstairs to drink it!