First published on Kettle Mag http://www.kettlemag.co.uk/article/ashes-bounce-back-how-can-england-regain-momentum
It has been a very strange English summer. The weather has been great at stages and sometimes beyond our expectations, but then in true British spirit, it becomes miserable again and more of the ‘same old, same old’ situation. This, coincidentally, is a clear reflection of English cricket this summer.
Put aside the whole Pietersen Saga and the Moores era and the Tests read; won one, lost one, won one, lost one and now, won the first test in Cardiff emphatically and then embarrassed the week later at Lords.
If the trend continues then England will be victorious in this week's Ashes match and all will be rosy again. My glass isn’t half full, it is overflowing and with this confidence, I think they can beat Australia.
A lot depends on the start and so far winning the toss has been key. England have taken Ballance out of the batting attack and this will push Bell up to three, Root at Four and Bairstow at five. I think this is a positive step and will force England to attack the Australian bowlers. With the loss of Ryan Harris, Australia don’t have anyone to dry up the runs. They can take wickets but will leak runs in the process.
The key to victory is taking the Australian wickets, something which the team struggled with at Lords last time. I just don’t however see another match where James Anderson takes zero wickets - it just won’t happen. At Edgbaston, with the swing and likely overcast conditions, this will favour Anderson and Broad. Mark Wood will keep plugging away and Moeen always contains a surprise as well as a knack of dismissing Warner too. Ben Stokes has worked all summer, his bowling is improving and a Flintoff-like spell is destined for him in this Ashes series.
Besides the usual collapse of the top order and the second innings fiasco, England’s batting has improved. The captain is leading from the front and the positive intent instilled by Farbrace and now Bayliss is there to encourage the fans too. What England must do is make sure they stay in the crease.
This is Test cricket at its finest and attacking the bad balls is your prerogative and leaving the good ones is a skill in itself. This morning, KP has interfered again, but this time in a positive way. He has told the English batsmen that Mitchell Johnson is in their heads and that they can overcome his bouncers with a little grit and determination. Only a few series ago, ‘Mitch’ was struggling with his bowling and was mocked by English fans across the country.
So how will England bounce back? Some clever batting is definitely required; a big hundred from one of the top five is mandatory and will give the team confidence when in the field. Bowlers like a good defense as it gives them the freedom to try a few things and ultimately get the wickets.
I personally would keep the four seamers and one spinner approach and wouldn’t include Rashid yet. Rashid will be a good English test cricketer but I feel that the Aussie’s will target him and give him a bit of a bashing. If the pitch is created to be bowler friendly, I feel that the English will utilise it better and will ultimately result in a 2-1 lead going into game four.
The best news i heard earlier this year was that Barrafina was opening two minutes away from where i work. The new Drury Lane branch was mentioned by a colleague and ever since i have been reminiscing about my visit to Barrafina on Adelaide Street on my Birthday. When would my next visit be, when can i try all their amazing food? Well yesterday was the day.
Oh my it is good. I have to reiterate my love for Barrafina, it is definitely up there in my top ten UK restaurants. This is probably one of a few restaurants where everything you order would be amazing. I could go tomorrow and order ten completely different dishes and still be in love with it.
For my Drury Lane adventure we ordered between the three of us: Paletilla Iberica ( melt in your mouth Jamon), Pimientos de Padron (green peppers), Bocadillon de Calamar (squid sandwich), Wild Rabbit Shoulder, Pork Belly, Jersey Royals with scrambled eggs and some of the lovely Jamon and a tomato, fennel and avocado salad. Oh my!
The food is amazing. Sat on the bar you can see the food being prepared and readied for you. The care shown by the chefs and the head chef in particular makes you feel extra special as it seems personal. From the waiter to the chefs, there is excellent service and quality shining throughout the establishment. Barrafina will always deliever quality. A great restaurant and the chain was correctly called the best UK restaurant. Awesome.
Guest review by my brother, take it away Sherwin
Blackfoot is the name and Blackfoot is the review. Exmouth market, thank you very much for housing another great restaurant.
Food expert and good friend Mr A suggested this place and I immediately checked out the website. One word that can sum this place up is PORK!
Crackling and lard for starter, deep fried ribs with lemongrass and ginger for mains followed by raspberry sorbet. Each dish was tasty and all good portion sizes. I was a bit stuffed at the end as I ordered chips on the side and kept on snacking on crackling.
Service was very good and with Camden larger to wash it all down with, lovely.
The wife got the long smoke which is a piece of pork belly smoked got ages and ages. A pecan coleslaw and pickles accompanied the dish. Thanks wife for letting me try.
Thank you to Mr Sherwin for his guest review/pictures and to Mr A for his picture too.
This is a place i do need to try and considering what my food week was like, I am very jealous.
Michelin starred did you say? Bold French flavours too. It seems like the two go hand in hand and this is what was presented to me last week at Club Gascon.
Club Gascon "specialises in imaginative cuisine from the South West of France". Gascon opened 1998 and the club also has a restaurant two minutes away called Comptoir Gascon and also there is the Cellar Gascon. The Club that we were in has received numerous accolades including one Michelin star (since 2002), so we felt a bit special walking in.
A good place to start is the starters. That makes sense. Actually i will go before that- we had the £35, three course meal deal. This deal by Bookatable was good for me and worked as i have been spending a bit too much on food recently. As with the top establishments the care by the staff is just as important as the food. A good way to show extra care is to give you extra food and this was delivered with the amuse-bouche. This was in the form of a roasted green pepper on top of salsa like roasted red peppers and a black garlic aioli. Good start.
For the whole evening, Laura and I chose one dish each from the menu. This was to make sure we both had everything on our menu and that we could share too. The pics above were of the Marmite and Soldiers and Poached egg with Truffle. These were two very rich and bold dishes. Foie Gras with Marmite- WOW. So this is an award winning dish back in 2012 and it was quite special The two mixed together and drenched over the bread was a winning combo. The foie gras can be quite much at ties but it worked well on this occasion.
The truffle on the crackling egg didn't work as well and was quite over powering. Visually it was a wonder. A poached egg on a nest of wheat was a clever idea. But once you cracked open the egg and mixed with the quinoa below it looked like bird poo at the bottom. The texture too made it seem like you were eating something close to that too. This was an example of bold flavours going a bit too far.
The main courses weren't as bold but still a hint of French cuisine doing whatever it wants. Lamb and mussels on a plate. Cod cheeks with a crab bisque- these are probably a once in a lifetime experience and i'm glad that Gascon made it memorable.
So the lamb was cooked well and came with mussels too. I would never usually put the two together, but a new kind of Surf and Turf and it was tasty. The asparagus sauce and samphire gave extra hints of freshness, making the dish feel herby and well seasoned.
The cod cheeks were seared and very meaty. I felt that they were slightly overcooked as it didn't flake away as easily as i would have hoped. The rest of the dish was extravagant and a delight to see. Aesthetically it was a pleasure, the taste didn't quite match up to the looks, but it was still a worthy meal for the night and three courses.
The deserts capped off a great evening and a special meal. Cherries with aniseed berries with a lavender chiboust (whipped cream) was all delightful. Laura had this dish and she loved it - almost too much and to an extrent where she didn't want to share it with me.
I wasn't too upset as the goats cheese from Southern France (Cabecou) was really tasty. Usually i do find goats cheese a bit too overpowering but this was smooth and creamy and worked really well with the piquillo pesto and red chilli jelly.
The three course meal at £35 per person with a welcome cocktail was well worth it. A really great experience, which was enhanced by the bold chef, Pascal Aussignac at Club Gascon. His mix of ingredients and confidence to try some outlandish combinations helps to give you a culinary adventure. You never really know what will happen next and what will come with it.
EXPECT the UNEXPECTED.
Big thanks to Az for taking this video and letting me use it.
I look like a camel.