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Cafe Vergnano, 62 Charing Cross Road, London

September 26, 2005

coffee shopLet me tell you where to currently get the best espresso coffee in London: at the small Caffé Vergnano 1882 on 62 Charing Cross Road, London.

I was lured in by a sign saying "voted best coffee shop in London 2005" but did not have any expectations. Yet another publicist trick I thought.

The caffé is fairly small. Just a few tables and two bars along the window and the wall. When I visited there were three staff working and they were skilled and very efficient.

First thing you notice when you enter the shop however is the massive Elektra Bell Epoque Q1-C espresso machine.

On a note on the wall you find out that these machines are hand made and only a few (10?) are made each year. The Vergnano coffee company elects each year a European Vergnano coffee shop and lend them one of these "Rolls-Royces" of espresso machines. This is the first time ever a London shop has had the honour.

I ordered a double macchiato which was brewed very well. Good temperature, excellent taste and no bitterness nor sourness. The barista even made a perfect rosetta on top of the coffee, effortlessly.

Each coffee is served on a tray with accompanying glass of water. Do it right and have the water before the coffee to clean your palate.

All the coffee machines, grinders, tables (and staff) are so clean and sparkling that you could almost make the mistake and think that the shop is closing or closed. This is however another sign of perfection and that coffee making is taken very seriously in here.

The coffee experience was so good and such a surprise that I had to have a second double macchiato just to assure my self that it had been for real.

Getting there: get off at Leicester Square tube station. Walk North along Charing cross road. The café is on the left side, just a few blocks up.



DiG!

September 16, 2005

If there is one (music) documentary you should see this year, it is 'DiG!'. It was recorded during a period of 7 years while following two indie rock bands struggling for recognition and fame.

You may have heard of the Dandy Warhols but I suspect that you have not heard of Brian Jonestown Massacre (BJM). The two bands started out as friends in the mid 90's but the friendship deteriorated. You get to experience the drama like a fly on the wall, watching it all unravel.

Anton Newcombe is the leader of BJM and his ego is larger than life. There is a fine line between 'musical genious' and village idiot and Anton Newcombe seems to be walking it elegantly; for a while.

On one hand he shows signs of unrivalled talent and creativity. He plays over 40 instruments and is able to produce a quality record alone, in his own basement and just in one week.

On the other hand Anton shows signs of madness when he time after time creates havoc. Be it by kicking the audience in the head, firing all band members, showing up drunk for important meetings or succumbing to heroin addiction. It's almost as if wants to sabotage any given opportunity to avoid success which he probably regards as cliché.

This of course creates great frustration among his band members that are trying really hard to "make it". BJM's official site tells some of the story: "Over the years, 60 members have passed through the band...". Anton Newcombe remains like a musical despot.

The main singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor from the Dandy Warhols is the narrator of the documentary but the band has only a secondary part in the documentary. The fact that they "make it" by securing a lucrative record deal is like a slap in the face of Anton Newcombe.

Captivating band rivalry ensues. The Dandy Warhols write a song (Not if you were the last junkie on earth) that mocks BJMs and it becomes a hit. Anton Newcombe strikes back by writing a whole album that mocks the Dandy Warhols. Courtney agrees to join the band during a gig but things go bad (they always do at BJMs gigs) and he stands aside to laugh at them.

I could go on but the less you know about this movie and the bands it portrais the better.

The director Ondi Timoner does an amazing job of introducing you to them and quickly gripping your attention... not letting it go until the closing credits are rolling across the screen (accompanied by some great music).



Mad dash in Brazil

September 01, 2005

So we were supposed to be going to the Txai resort, Bahia, Brazil. The flight Sao Paulo to Illeus was at 7 am which meant we had to go up at 4:30.

Now this would normally not have been too bad but this time it was the morning after my brother in law's wedding. Of course there was a big Brazilian party to mark the occasion and of course did I have to force my self to go to bed by midnight.

To add to the already nicely stressed schedule, a project for work was due and this was possibly the last time with decent Internet access to send of a couple of MB worth of application design. It got done, just. Between midnight and two in the morning.

After just 3 hours of sleep but very psyched to be of to a sunny paradise we got of to the airport Guarulhos. Getting another ride from my wife's cousin who by now I know is an excellent driver (fast, safe, breaking all possible traffic rules) in the Sao Paulo traffic.

At the airport we discovered to our horror that Guarulhos was the wrong airport. TAM, the airline that was to service us, had changed the airport of departure to Congonhas just one day before the flight. They had notified as many passengers as possible but we booked through an agent and he did not get through to us.

It was 6:30 and the flight was scheduled for 7 am. The trip between Guarulhos and Congonhas is about 1 hour we were told.

Close to tears, we gave it a shot to try to speed to the correct airport. The TAM staff were at least nice enough to warn the crew at the other airport that we were making a dash for it.

18 minutes later our tires were screeching outside the correct airport. A few ladies at the check in desk notified us professionally that there was no way we could make it on the flight but a senior staff jumped swiftly over the counter and commanded us to run after him.

#PAGEBREAK#

10 minutes later after an express security check, a personal lift to the aircraft and re-lowering the plane staircase we were on board. Sweaty but on board. The plane took of 7:01, just one minute late. (BA, take some pointers please)

txai resort bahia brazilSo here we are. Writing you from a sunny Bahia. They even have some sort of Internet connection here! (I had to high-jack a LAN cable and an IP address but it works)