Le Gavroche

Plate still empty
If you happen to be in London but feel the urge for really old-school French gourmet dining look no further than [Le Gavroche](http://www.le-gavroche.co.uk/main.html). The settings resemble of an antiques store and the full two-dozen strong hierarchy of waiters (all French, *bien entendu*!) are so stylishly arrogant that I almost felt let down by the gray-haired gentleman who first welcomed us at the door: he was actually willing to shut an eye on my blue jeans on the condition that our whole party of three men wore the ugly blue blazers he lent us…
At least on your first visit, stick to the 8-course *Menu Exceptionnel* (with wine pairing). My favourites from that shockwave of tastes remain the grilled scallop and hot foie gras with cinnamon duck. And the word is that people travel from all over the world just to try Chef [Michel Roux Jr](http://www.michelroux.co.uk/)’s (who was also visibly present at the venue all night) cheese souffle.
[Our full culinary trip is available as a photoset here](http://www.flickr.com/photos/seikatsu/sets/72157604148051496/).
**Verdict:** Le Gavroche might have lost one of their top Michelin stars since the eighties (today they have “only” two), but they are still very much worth your four hours of time and money.

Me-too Moments: iPhone

I just checked, it has been 14 months since my enthusiastic post on the iPhone announcement and a liminal devices rant. Operator locking pushed me back from actually getting an iPhone for over a year. Will I get thrown out of the true gadget geek directory now?

And now there I am, the last me-too kid on the block with the cool running shoes. Can’t help but share some comments. As the whole internet is full of reviews already, I’ll stick to just a few personal notes.

  • I was a bit afraid that the visual fancyness of the UI will get on my nerves. You know how the last thing you need is an animation when you need to place a quick call or send an SMS? iPhone is extremely well balanced between flashy effects and functionality. When a deleted e-mail folds itself into the trashcan or icons ready for rearrangement rattle on their spots, it feels very natural and intuitive. So do most of the input gestures, except for some isolated cases of double-tapping or tap-and-hold which I actually had to look up from new user guide.

  • How come it takes an Apple on a tiny gadget to be the first to do the mobile network connectivity right, with all those much more powerful pieces of hardware and software we carry around calling notebooks? Getting EDGE data going on a roaming network, discovering and setting up wifi hotspots and connecting over bluetooth to my car’s handsfree (with the best audio quality I’ve had in the car!) did not take a single setting or split second more than absolutely necessary. Instead of the half-hour efforts I’m used to from setting up any previous devices I’ve had.

  • Safari (and the fact that Mail relies on the same rendering engine) are the best mobile internet experience I’ve had, period. I have moved my personal GMail box reading over from my Blackberry (which I still keep for corporate e-mail and calendaring) if not for anything else then the joy of reading the Daily Dilbert strips again, as the java-based GMail client did not support even inline images. Google Reader looks so good on an iPhone as if it were a native local app.

  • That said, why on earth does iPhone Safari lack ultrabasic features like storing passwords for web pages you frequently visit or saving images from the web to the gigabytes of local storage available?

  • iPhone camera is utter crap. Just see an example of the noise it can store. And don’t even mention the low resolution and lack of auto-focus. This step back is truly painful after mo-blogging some 800 images from my trusty K800.

  • The screen, on the other hand, with its high DPI, colour depth and contrast is a modern piece of art.

  • The on-screen keyboard is no competition to physical keys, even in the most cluttered layout like on a BlackBerry. Forget one-handed usage while driving. Even when walking around the office, you have to stop and concentrate to reply a quick “ok” to an incoming SMS. Especially error-prone with my big thumbs, I terribly miss a way to jump back to any place in typed text when you see a mistake too late (there is only backspace!) and copy-paste functionality.

  • iTunes syncing works like a charm for all media involved, including contacts from Outlook. (Before you get there – if connecting to iTunes causes you a blue screen like my first experience was, blame Logitech webcam drivers.)

To summarize: iPhone brings a great all-around experience with occasional saddening surprises in some very basic features. The good news is that most of the room for improvement can be filled with software updates, and Apple has already released a number of those. The only truly broken part that would make you want to rather wait for the next-gen hardware version is the camera.

Encounters with the Really Smart Cab Drivers

In October, I had what I figured to be one the weirdest cab rides ever. Our driver in Tokyo revealed surprising knowledge of Estonia and the Baltics, which he gained through his interest in… maps. If you assumed that the brave men of this trade limit themselves to just studying local street names, think again. (5 minute video clip of that ride available on Blip.tv)

Now, half a year later in London the following dialogue took place in an ordinary black cab, heading home with friends around midnight.

Driver: “Excuse me, listening to you speak I can’t help but wonder – are you from Norway?”

Us: “Close, but it’s actually Estonian”

Driver: “I though it sounded Scandinavian! I’ve never met Estonians before! Actually, you’re right, I was quite off – your speech sounds more like Finnish. Suomi, or how you say it. But again, this is the same Fenno-Ugric language group as Estonian, silly me…

You know, I know some Turkish and there are some resemblances there as well. If I’m not mistaken, Estonians started moving from the Altai mountains towards Europe, along with Finns and Hungarians about 10,000 years ago, wasn’t it? Hungarians came in waves, right, there was some tribe first and then the Magyars… Did you know that Turks have this interesting legend that their Heartland once expanded as far as Finland?”

Us: “umm… uuuh?”

Driver: “Coming from Scandinavia, I’m sure you like Knut Hamsun? I just love him, you know. His writing has this sense of clarity…”

Us: “He could have been in our mandatory reading in highschool, but can’t really remember…”

Driver: “Really? That’s surprising, I would have imagined that in Estonia you read more of Bulgakov and Dostoevsky. I do love reading these chaps as well! In Master and Margarita, I’ve always admired how Bulgakov teases the Russian Orthodox church, that was not a common practice at all at his time…

But speaking of these lads, you have to agree that they could not have been if it wasn’t for Mikhail Lermontov. That Raskolnikov character in Crime And Punishment would never have existed if there wasn’t the legacy of A Hero of Our Time…

Other than these, I don’t really appreciate Russian literature of the 19th century… Too streamlined, if you asked me, to be honest. A Hero of Our Time truly was ahead of its time, written in 1890, was it, but the rest of it…

Anyway, don’t want to keep you for long, lads, here we are. Very nice chatting with you, let’s carry on next time, ‘aight? Cheers!”

And off he drove.

Leaving me and my friend no other option than sit down in the closest pub to transcript this encounter with a suspected literature and linguistics professor in disguise. He did miss with that Lermontov date by a few decades, but still…

Notting Hill Breakfast

If you have moved to London for four weeks, your son has fallen sick on the first night, but thankfully, two doctor occurences and five days later he can actually hold some food in, the sun is shining and spring is in the air, and to top it all, it is a Sunday which happens to be the (British) Mother’s Day, do no more than head to Tom’s Delicatessen for breakfast. And even if you’re lucky enough to escape the context we had by today, I can still recommend the place.

Get a fresh juice, one of their excellent coffees and, if you are not the full English breakfast type, Eggs Royale with salmon and caviar (pictured above).

Googling around I’ve found people calling this the best breakfast in Notting Hill. Have to agree, even if I haven’t had many out here. And, they are extemely kid friendly.

By the way, they say that Tom is the son of Terrence Conran. And what a talented, but down to earth gourmet son he is then. See more of his places to eat.