Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Meat, Beer And Science Fiction

with 6 comments

Since hearing about Hawksmoor a couple of weeks ago I have been obsessing about steak. I had a meeting in town yesterday and since it went well and I was then going on to the BSFA yesterday, I thought I would treat myself. Unfortunately, Hawksmoor is in Whitechapel but helpfully Gaucho has branches across London. You may well have walked passed one, they look a bit like a serial killer’s batchelor pad: black glass and cow hide. More like Gauche-o, amirite? The meat is the thing though.

It was an interesing experience as it is not at all the sort of place I would usually go; it has the air of a private members’ club, complete with paramiltary staff, and the clientele stank of business lunches with a fair smattering of tourists since this was the Picadilly branch. I managed to navigate this unnatural environment pretty well, although I was slightly phased when my waitress queried whether I wanted to see the meat tray. Er no, I don’t need to eye up the meat or have it pimped to me, just bring me 300g of ribeye, bloody as hell. And this I duly received. Marvellous.

To accompany my plate of meat, my waitress steered me towards potato puree but, despite liking this, I am always put off by the name this always sounds so much less appetising than mash. Instead I went for a potato cake (okay, the fact it had chorizo in it may have also helped tip the balance). I should have taken her hint though as it was completely indifferent, apart from the couple of mouthfuls when it was much too peppery, and accompanied by some similarly pointless salsa verde. Equally disappointing was the bearnaise sauce. Now this is the king of sauces and was nicely done but for a £2.50 supplement I expect a jug or a boat rather than one of those tiny ramekins pubs serve ketchup in these days. (I won’t give Adam Roberts the vapours by saying how much the steak was.)

Over at the Antelope – which I can’t help but think is a ridiculously incongruous venue for the BSFA meetings – I was pleased to see that they had Bengal Lancer on tap. Fuller’s have only just introduced this IPA but it is by far their best beer. Alas, it is only seasonal. Anyway, the actual event was a discussion of the BSFA shortlist between Damien G Walter and Graham Sleight, two very engaging panelists (Martin McGrath unfortunately had to pull out). The City & The City emerged as the clear winner of the novel category and it was noticeable that it was the only novel that the audience picked up for discussion. Despite some scepticism in the room, I really think this has to be not only the favourite for this award but a highly likely candidate for the Clarke and the Hugos. But please, let’s not get bogged down in whether it is SF or not.

Walter also raised an interesting point when he said that several of his favourite books of the year – for example, The Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi – weren’t eligible for the award because they haven’t been published in this country. I get the general impression that over the last decade we have seen an increasing divergence between what is being published in the US and what is being published in the UK. At the same time, as Walter pointed out, the internet has increased both the availability and discussion of US published books in this country. I can’t really articulate this but I do think there is an increasing tension here.


Written by Martin

25 March 2010 at 14:00

6 Responses

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  1. it was noticeable that it was the only novel that the audience picked up for discussion

    I suspect this is because a lot of people in the room haven’t read the other books that were being discussed.


    25 March 2010 at 14:48

  2. Which is, in itself, notable.


    25 March 2010 at 14:50

  3. Yes, but as a comment on Mieville’s profile as a writer.


    25 March 2010 at 14:52

  4. Finally, a restaurant post I can get behind. I, too, have been wanting to try the Hawksmoor since I first heard about it (which, in my case, would be over a year ago now. Ack), and the Gaucho in Piccadilly served me with the best steak I’ve ever eaten. I didn’t have the ribeye, though, instead I tried one of the churrasco cuts. My god, it was delicious, and so well cooked that even a normal knife cut it like butter.

    I keep meaning to go back sometime. But then, I keep meaning to try the Hawksmoor first. Damn me and my inability to eat out in London more than once every two years or so.

    Nick H.

    25 March 2010 at 14:58

  5. Niall: Yes, but as a comment on Mieville’s profile as a writer.

    So you say. I find it hard to believe his profile is that much higher amongst BSFA members than any of the others.

    Nick: My god, it was delicious, and so well cooked that even a normal knife cut it like butter.

    Yes, I was at first confused by the lack of a steak knife but turns out it was not needed.


    25 March 2010 at 15:02

  6. It would have been interesting to have a show of hands, yes. I would bet good money that about half the people in the room have read TC&TC, and no more than a quarter had read any of the others. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if (in the UK at least) Mieville has sold more books than the other three put together, too.


    25 March 2010 at 15:08

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