Thing #47, part one: Lebanese Cuisine


We were in Oxford at the weekend and decided to go to Al Shami in Jericho for a late Sunday afternoon lunch – and our first experience of Lebanese cuisine.

A very odd salad!

Having never eaten Lebanese before we could perhaps have done with some guidance on the menu but we decided to dive in and order four mezzes and two mains, plus some bread, between two of us and a couple of Lebanese beers.

Before our order arrived we were presented with the most unusual “salad” I've ever seen … Carrot sticks, some sort of pickled thing, olives, radishes, one whole spring onion, a quartered lettuce, a beef tomato (whole) and a green pepper (also whole) … We picked at it but weren't entirely sure how to eat it!

Then the mezze dishes arrived, closely followed by the mains, so we ate them all together. The mains – meatballs in tomato sauce, and some sort of lamb dish, also in a (tastier) tomato sauce, served with rice and cracked wheat – were okay but not especially inspiring – but the mezzes – a potato and garlic dish, roasted aubergine with tomato, meat pasty type things and some sort of dried, cured beef strips – were excellent, very tasty and well presented too. The potato dish and the dried beef in particular were superb, spicy and flavoursome without being overpowering and I'd definitely have them again. I also really liked the bread, which was some sort of flatbread.

We really enjoyed our meal, despite the slightly underwhelming main courses. The downside of this particular restaurant is the atmosphere. When we arrived there was a large party there who were quite noisy, but as soon as they left the place descended into silence. Ok it was a Sunday afternoon and there was only us and one other person there but when a restaurant is so quiet you can hear the other diner crunching on their dinner …. It would be much better with some authentic music in the background!

So overall we enjoyed our meal and left feeling thoroughly stuffed, and I would definitely eat at Al Shami again – but I think next time we'll pick six or eight mezze dishes and skip the mains – and I'm tempted to take in my iPod and a portable speaker and set Spotify to play some Lebanese belly dancing music!


Reviews: Peter Pan and Sightseers


Two days, two very different shows. Yesterday, thanks to a Jack FM competition and the fact that Russell Grant's brother once capsized my canoe, I went to see Peter Pan at the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury with my mum, brother, sister-in-law and nieces, aged 3 and 5. I haven't seen a panto for years – the last one I went to was a low budget, but very entertaining one in Aldershot.

Architecturally, The Waterside theatre has a distinctly Scandinavian feel to it, both inside and out, though the panto was decidedly British. It started slowly, with a few song and dance numbers, and I was concerned that the traditional panto had perhaps had its day – especially given there was no principal boy or dame in this performance. However, the appearance of a very sinister Captain Hook signalled the start of the audience participation and the remaining show was full of boos, hisses, catchphrases and singalongs. The 12 Days of Christmas was a highlight, part of the show was done Gangnam style and Russell Grant's cabin boy came complete with Strictly references and jokes about cruising … An entertaining evening, enjoyed equally by all three generations of my family!

And so to today, and a very civilised lunchtime spent in the Phoenix Picture House in Jericho, Oxford where the bar was open and we were able to sup a pint of Leffe while watching British black comedy Sightseers. This is the tale of an odd couple who embark on a caravan sightseeing tour of northern England, taking in the Crich Tram Museum, Mother Shipton's Cave and the Keswick Pencil Museum while offing anyone who annoys them along the way! Not a film for anyone with a weak composition as there were some stomach-churning moments but I really enjoyed this dark tale, which combines laugh out loud humour and comic book violence to create the oddest of love stories. Very impressed by the cinema too, and I think Sunday lunchtime film outings may become a more regular occurence!


Oar-some 4N Oxford is just too successful!


Wow, what a morning we had in Oxford today! I recently took over this group as Area Leader and it was only my fourth visit to 4N Oxford since I joined in 2008 but today’s meeting really was great fun, despite the problems that the venue posed by just being too small! We had 22 people in the room including five visitors – sometimes it feels like a struggle to get one new person along so to have five come all at once was remarkable. I hope they all enjoyed the meeting and got a good feel for what 4Networking is all about – fun as well as business!

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Standing room only at Oxford 4Networking today!


It literally was standing room only at 4Networking Oxford this morning as 18 people crammed into a space that would have been tight for the 16 it was laid out for! Still, it was fabulous to have so many people there and everyone seemed to have a great morning. Pity poor group leader John Batch (The Flying Doctor), who had the difficult task of breaking up all those 121s … seems there was a lot of business going on!

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