Monthly Archives: June 2010

Great Forgotten Pop Songs: Supersister – Coffee

The days when pop acts could afford their own wind machines

All I know about early-noughties girl-band Supersister can be written on the back of a postage stamp. However, that information is so banal (their names were Tina, Louise and Eleanor and they came from Sheffield) that I’d prefer to use that postage stamp for better purposes. The Internet instead prefers to remember a Dutch progressive rock outfit called Supersister – and let’s just say that any unsuspecting fans of that group who accidentally stumble upon this Great Forgotten Pop Song may be in for a bit of a surprise.

Coffee is a frothy, spangly, camper than a Liza Minelli E! Special disco stomper. Coming just as the nineties’ pop bubble was about to burst, it’s a last hurrah for the days when having a vaguely presentable band who knew their way round a catchy chorus was enough to score you a guaranteed top twenty. Coffee is cheesier than a gameshow host’s grin and all the better for it; a big fat platform-booted choon with tongue firmly in cheek and shoe firmly on dancefloor (preferably at the local gay bar).

It basically takes a joke recycled from a thousand chick-lit novels, about liking your men like you like coffee (‘hot strong and sweet like toffee’), and turns it into a full-blown pop extravaganza. Occasionally, this would be witty (‘like caffeine, you kept me up all night’), occasionally, slightly but deliciously dirty (‘fill my cup ‘til it’s flowing down the sides’, ‘in popped my lover, pulled back the covers, cos I like my coffee with cream’) and once, even delightfully British in its references to beverages made with a kettle (‘you’re just my cup of tea’). Packing more puns than a Kathy Lette book/Jimmy Carr routine, there’s some more wordplay about boiling points, steaming and stirrings deep inside before you reach the majesty of the middle eight:

Men like my coffee really turn me on
Sometimes espresso, sometimes he’s too strong
Then there’s Costa Rican, mellow but he’s rich
But never give me instant cos baby, he’s too QUICK

Judging by this mini-opus within a pop song, I’m surprised no enterprising cod-theologist has created a self-help book based on comparing men to coffee à la Men Are From Mars.

Supersister may be forgotten but the time is right for Coffee to be rediscovered. Whether that’s by some coffee advertising hotshots, soulless chick-flick producers needing soundtrack filler or just those out to have a good time under the glitter of the discoball is irrelevant. Kettle’s on.

UK Chart Peak: 16
Key lyric: ‘Fill my cup ‘til it’s flowing down the sides!’
Get more late nineties/early noughties girlie cheesy pop : Atomic Kitten – I Want Your Love, Gina G – Ooh Aah… Just A Little Bit, Girl Thing – Last One Standing

I’m all ears (and noses… and hands…)

Slightly disturbing series of ads that regularly freaked me out on the MTR many a Monday morning.

Courtesy of Orbis, the charity for the blind and visually impaired. These ads definitely get their point across, albeit in a slightly creepy manner. Or, as the strapline less snappily put it: ‘Sight. It cannot be replaced’. You wouldn’t win The Apprentice with that tag now, would you?

(Pictures from Orbis HK’s Facebook page)

Lane Crawford’s lookin’ good

Take a step back from your monitor to admire this very pretty advertising hoarding/mall takeover from Lane Crawford (HK equivalent of Selfridges) at Pacific Place, Admiralty. It may have been very inspired cover for refurbishment work – certainly beats seeing a load of sweaty workers and sawdust, right?

My first thought was that this is the kind of thing Giselle from Enchanted would mistake for her dressing room and try to clamber on.

Tapas Pizza: Would not tap that

From the sublime to the ridiculous…

A moment please for the sheer gross-ness of this new pizza from Pizza Hut. No words can do justice…

And yes, those are shrimps and squid you see stuffed in the crusts. Balk.

The Press Room restaurant review – read all about it!

UPDATE: The Press Room is now closed.

Many reviews of The Press Room seem to begin and end with their frites (chips to us Brits). Or should that be FRITES!!! And yes, they are delicious but there’s more to The Press Room than that.

Aiming for a modern European brasserie style, with menus on blackboards and pictures scattered at random on the walls (a random-ness I’m sure took hours to achieve!), it has a nice relaxed atmosphere. For dinner, the lights are dimmed and it’s a rather cosy kind of darkness, even when the place started to get packed around 8pm.

When the boyfriend and I arrived around 7pm, we were the first diners in, meaning our service was second to none. Bread (below right) was served almost immediately and our dishes (all hot, I should mention) arrived within 10 minutes of their being ordered, with mains rolling up almost as soon as we’d polished off our starter.

We both opted for the 2-course menu at $260, where you can choose any starter/soup/dessert from the regular menu, with a choice between lamb, sea bass, skate, pork belly or hanger steak as your main. Go with your significant other, with one of you opting for starter and one for dessert, and (as long as your partner isn’t a total gannet) you effectively get a 3-course menu that, given the quality of the food, is a bit of a bargain.

We started with escargots de bourguignon (snails to us Brits, normally $92; above left, click for enlargement ). At many HK restaurants, these are often cooked to the point of apocalypse and arrive at your table dried-up, shrivelled, rubbery imitations of their former sluggy selves, with some overpowering cheese sauce drenched on top attempting to disguise this fact. Here, they were cooked perfectly, allowing their unique texture and subtle taste to shine through. Garlic butter is the norm for escargots but there was an interesting addition of almonds here that was just as tasty – a shame that there wasn’t the usual bed of mashed potato to mop this scrummy juice up!

We tried to use our bread to soak it up and alas, this was the only disappointing aspect of our meal. My boyfriend (ever the comedian) commented that ‘this bread must have lost its absorbing properties a day ago’; I don’t think the bread was actually stale, just that fancy bread that was never soft to start off with. Not a fan – given that the menu is vaguely Gallic in its feel and the French practically orgasm over the breaking of the bread, I did expect better.

Anyway, onto the mains. Only one word: divine.

For those seeking a few more words, I had the roast pork belly with pomme purée (mash to us Brits), apple sauce and cider jus (sauce to us Brits, $202 ; shown left, click for enlargement). The pork belly was absolutely sublime – stupidly delicious, ridiculously soft and tender and dreamy, with fantastically crispy crackling on top. I hate restaurants that give you one artful drizzle of sauce that isn’t enough to wet your upper lip never mind your whole dish, so I was very pleased at the amount of cider jus, which had just the right amount of tang to bring out even more lush flavours from the pork. One of the best mains I’ve had in HK, no question.

The boyfriend (a chip connoisseur fyi) went for the hanger steak and frites (above right, $248). Again, there was a decent amount of sumptuously rich red wine sauce to complement the beautifully tender and juicy strips of steak. It came on a bed of spinach that my boyfriend, not being one for greenery, largely ignored so I have no idea how that tasted. And, of course, the frites…

They arrive in their own canister, they’re so special. What more can be said about them that hasn’t already been said? Crunchy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, just the right side of salty and with the texture and taste of having come from a quality spud. Chips that have some skin on are always the best kind, aren’t they? You may remember me being similarly cock-a-hoop about the chips at SMLSML, The Press Room and The Pawn are all run by the same group, so I’ve only got to try the latter to confirm that their chips are uniformly good (edit: I have and they were!). What’s more, they’re incredibly more-ish; even though I couldn’t finish my mash, I found my fingers creeping to them far too often! The chip connoisseur was happy too (less happy that I munched my way through so many though!).

We rounded things off with the baked chocolate (above, $78) and quite frankly, I could have put away two of these on my own. I’m not entirely sure what it was – some hybrid between cake, sponge, brownie, fudge and warm chocolate – but it was definitely good. The consistency was wonderfully smooth and light but the hit of richness felt like pure chocolatey goodness and its soft creaminess contrasted well with the crunch of the tuile biscuits. The raspberry sauce was a little too tart for me but the waiter did offer to leave it on the side rather than pouring it over, so it’s my own fault (tbf, it did look prettier)!

A few hints for any prospective diners – the Hollywood Road address may fool you into getting off at Central MTR but it’s actually way closer to Sheung Wan (albeit uphill – work up that appetite!) and pretty easy to find as it’s just a stone’s throw along from Man Mo Temple (even if you have no idea what it looks like beforehand, you really can’t miss it). I also noticed an early-bird dinner offer, which looked amazing value, but even so, try and get there earlier if you want a quieter dinner as it clearly attracts a lot of custom from folk in Central getting straight off work.

I’m practically chomping at the bit to visit again, in case this review leaves you in any doubt. Don’t believe everything you read in the papers but do believe all the good stuff you’ve heard about The Press Room – it offers a quality dining experience. And the FRITES!!! aren’t bad either.

The Press Room, 108 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong, 2525 3444

Tapeo restaurant review – I’d tap that

UPDATE: Tapeo is *SOB* now closed.

If I had to name my favourite restaurants in HK, Tapeo would come fairly high in the list. So imagine my excitement on learning that another branch of the tapas joint (run by Concept Creations, who also own Belgian eaterie, Frites) had opened nearer my neck of the woods in Sai Wan Ho, even if I was a little nonplussed at the idea. The Chai Wan side of the Island seems to have an air of unloved cousin about it compared to the high-end, gweilo-filled Central side and Tapeo’s other location is right at the beating heart of the desirable Soho area in Central.

However, once I got there, it made perfect sense. Located next to stunning harbour-side views with some clever tables that are actually windows too, it feels totally fitting for Spanish cuisine – what could be more Mediterranean than a fun casual dinner followed by a stroll along the harbour to walk off those calories after?

The view is better than this picture

In fact, I prefer the Sai Wan Ho Tapeo to the one in Central, where it’s all bar seating (all of about 20 seats – and I’m being generous) and the mood often feels set more to ‘hip bar’ than ‘fine dining’, which is a shame as the food definitely justifies the latter tag. The Sai Wan Ho branch actually has tables (gasp!) and lighting that (heavens above!) actually allows you to see what you’re eating (as well as appreciate the skill that goes into it at the open kitchen). And thanks to those open windows and more generous seating arrangements, it’s an altogether less cramped and more comfortable dining experience than in Central – so take that, Soho!

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Geography crash course, Eurovision style

Eurovision doesn’t just entertain, it informs. So for Oslo 2010, an impromptu geography lesson from the snazzy graphics designers:

That’s Armenia, Azerbijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina and France. Whaddya mean you can’t tell the difference?! Well, now you’re into the swing of things, how about these…

Not these either?! Oh well… (They’re Germany, Moldova, Romania, Spain, Turkey and Ukraine btw).

Remember the days when you hadn’t learnt to resize pictures at the diagonals but by squashing, stretching and hoping for the best? *cough cough*

Anyway, apart from the countries morphed into identikit-ness, the other moment of note came from a crowd invader who managed to pick a performance so bizarre, he actually blended in. Nice work.

Chicago: The Musical @ HKAPA review

Usually, touring productions are to their West End equivalent what Joey was to Friends, The New Class to Saved By The Bell, Joanie Loves Chaaci to Happy Days – diluted, cheaper, less-good versions of the original. So it’s with relief and joy that I can declare that Lunchbox Productions’ Chicago, playing at the HKAPA’s Lyric Theatre until June 20, is defiantly not a case of the above. This version of Chicago would more than happily stand on its own fishnet-clad legs on a London stage. With added jazz hands, of course.

As always with anything Bob Fosse touched, it’s the choreography that’s the star. The ensemble here are fabulous – sexy, sinuous, slinky and with the perfect Fosse hands. I’ve seen the All That Jazz routine countless times but this may just have been the best yet and they are darkly mesmerising throughout, occasionally to the detriment of the main characters and especially brilliant in the courtroom scenes and the eye-popping acrobatics of Razzle Dazzle. It’s a show in which the ensemble are more than just a chorus line; getting involved in the action with a multitude of bit-parts, they deliver practically as many laughs as the main characters.

In fact, my only criticism – and I really am nit-picking as a seasoned musical-goer – is that there were possibly a few too many laughs (even if poor comic timing means that the cast don’t milk nearly enough from usual standout number, Cell Block Tango). As a show about the cult of celebrity, notoriety and ambition, Kander & Ebb’s writing has much to offer a modern audience yet I felt that this production sometimes took the easy route towards the funny bone. Sharon Millerchip’s Roxie Hart has all the ingredients to be the star of the show – a natural wide-eyed charm, bright vocals and the ability to light up the stage whilst hoofing with the best of them (I particularly enjoyed her rendition of Me And My Baby whilst the ventriloquist’s dummy act in We Both Reached For The Gun never fails to delight) – but I’d have liked to see her rely less on her obvious gift for physical comedy in some of her solos.

Deone Zanotto’s Velma Kelly has a wonderfully brassy voice and brings a suitably brassy edge to her performance but I felt she had more to give on two renowned Fosse workouts, I Can’t Do It Alone and When Velma Takes The Stand. Meanwhile, Craig McLachlan’s (Henry Ramsay of the bad 80s perm on Neighbours) silver-tongued lawyer, Billy Flynn, gets lost to the brilliance of the dancers – a few more charisma classes required – and I didn’t feel all that safe with his vocals, either.

The live orchestra is on-stage throughout and cleverly worked into proceedings (conductor Ben Van Tieden is particularly good value for money) and they bring a real energy to proceedings, garnering some of the biggest cheers of the night – as do D C Harlock’s Mary Sunshine and the empathetically dopey Damien Birmingham, as Roxie’s husband Amos (hopefully not just because he was singing ‘that song off Glee’, Mr Cellophane).

Overall, it’s a tremendous night’s entertainment that barely puts a foot (or note) wrong. Chicago may lack the warmth of other big-event musicals, yet more than makes up for it with a grown-up cold-blooded wit and sense of its own theatricality that makes it unique. As one of the few big international productions to grace HK’s shores, I can think of no better cast to have introduced the pleasures of Fosse to our audience. It delivers that trademark razzle-dazzle in spades. With added jazz hands, of course.


Lunchbox Productions’ Chicago: The Musical is at the Lyric Theatre, Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts until June 20. Tickets, priced $350-895, available from HK Ticketing, 3128 8288 or online.