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Engineering An Airline

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25 BEA Hangers (900 x 404)

The history of British Airways from the perspective of its engineering division is chronicled in a new book Engineering an Airline published by Amberley Books and available now.  Abigail Parkin

Your BA flight lands, the baggage is reclaimed and off you head, homeward, thinking nothing of the thousands of miles you’ve safely spent mid-air. Such insouciance is thanks to the behind-the-scenes teams whose challenge lies in maintaining that very safety. Paul Jarvis’s book brings their engineering prowess forth with intriguing photos, many never seen before, from British Airways’ 90-year past. It’s a testament to the evolution of the engineering role from before its Imperial Airways days to British Airways today.

It’s not a book that blinds the reader with science despite the title. Instead Paul Jarvis takes us on a jaunty read beginning with his own start at the airline as a technical clerk in the engineering department in 1966 when the planes were in BOAC livery.  

Here we take a visual tour of its engineering strides through the ages…

 

BA Statocruisers at engineering LHR (700 x 529)

 

The Boeing Stratocruiser was introduced in 1949

 

britishairways VC-10 Dusk

VC10, the first commercial 'clean wing' aircraft, here at its BOAC hangar

 Paul Jarvis, now curator of British Airways’ Heritage Centre, said: “Aircraft have long held a fascination for many people and our highly trained engineers are the unsung heroes of the airline. “This is the first book to look at the history of British Airways through its engineers and tell the story of those who can offer a unique insight into the complexities of running a fleet of highly sophisticated flying machines.”

 

BA 136 B Call DC 10 Major (600 x 344)

The Douglas DC10 entered the BA fleet around 1988

This is Paul Jarvis’s fourth book and draws on a wealth of fascinating and unique material from the British Airways archive and uses 200 full colour images to show the development of the airline’s engineering division.

 

BA Concorde in hangar (700 x 519)

 

High-maintenance Concorde in hangar

 

BA Planes on Stand (800 x 474)

Sibling jets parked on stand

 

BA Eng (800 x 600)

BA engineers at work

 

BA Cockpit

Engineered to perfection - the array of flight deck systems

 

‘Engineering An Airline’ is priced at £18.99 and is available at all good book shops and via Kindle, Kobo and iBook formats.                                          

Tom's Kitchen Birmingham

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Tom's Kitchen Birmingham Restaurant-5

Tom’s Kitchen has paused from its rapid colonisation of London to make its debut in Birmingham. Sat Bal dropped into the new location at The Mailbox.

 

The Layout

Glass lift doors open to reveal an airy reception space with the restaurant edging out into The Mailbox as if to remind itself that it’s part of the complex. First impressions are that the restaurant’s design is relatively spartan amid the high-gloss glam of its Mailbox neighbour Harvey Nichols, although both venues can safely lay claim to the ‘reassuringly expensive’ tag.

 

Toms Kitchen

 

This conflation of traditional and contemporary is something of a hallmark of Tom’s Kitchen where familiar British food favourites are treated with Tom’s twist. Settling into our places, the quality of the venue’s fit-out is obvious, even if the close spacing of neighbouring tables threatens diner privacy. Like its sibling restaurants Tom’s Kitchen Birmingham is unashamedly meat-driven as depicted by olde butcher’s shop wall tiling and an earthy colour palette of brass pendant lighting, oaken tables and caramel Chesterfields.  

On this Wednesday night business looks reasonable with alternate tables across the restaurant populated by predominantly middle-aged diners. With predominantly Wolverhampton twangs. Elsewhere, corporate types drop in for some after work tie-loosening at the cosy bar which serves craft beers, classic cocktails, champagne and alongside fine wines from around the world.

 

The Menu

 

Toms-Kitchen-April-2014_David-Griffen-Photography-402

 

The meat dishes feature an array of steaks, burgers and lamb variants. Fish options include poached monkfish and traditional fish and chips. We decide on a starter of seasonal parsnip and honey soup which nicely whets the appetite for the meaty prospects ahead.

When we do get to the main course, a disappointment awaits. There’s no Daylesford seven-hour confit of lamb! We wonder whether this is a mid-week omission.

This epic dish which, by definition, takes most of the day to cook had wowed us at the opening of Tom’s Kitchen, Somerset House many moons ago. Back then, the seven-hour lamb was the star of the media launch party. Even Michelin-starred Tom was present to explain his concept but tonight, in the absence of Tom Aikens or his confit, we opt for the lamb cutlets. We soon get past our bias with the help of a bottle or so of cabernet franc.

The real food success story of the night was the steak. The steak fans in our party positively cooed over the chunky cooked-to-order Cumbrian rib eye with peppercorn sauce.

Dessert raised more cooing. Dark treacle sponge arrived with ice cream was kindly presented with requested off-menu custard. The chocolate and peanut butter fondant all but silenced the table.  New dishes have been added to the Birmingham menus include spiced pumpkin with burrata, savoury granola and hazelnut dressing.

For less indulgent, healthier fare the restaurant serves weekend brunch, with dishes such as superfood granola served with honey and Greek yoghurt and Bircher muesli.

The bill weighed in at around £60 per head including drinks.

 

The Facilities

 

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The restaurant features two private dining rooms, one accommodating 12 guests and the other, 16. There’s also the Veranda, a semi-exclusive area that has capacity for 36-40 people and is useful for networking events. Then there’s the deli area in the Urban room that’s available for a networking event of 50-200 guests.

Diners might be surprised that the restaurant features only one unisex toilet but there is a more adequate set a few steps away from the restaurant.

 

Stop press…

Atul Kochhar, the two-Michelin-starred chef and TV personality is also about to open a new restaurant at The Mailbox.  

Sexy Fish Revisited

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March 9, 2017 Posted in : Reviews

 

Sexy Fish was launched with a celebrity fanfare that instantly assured its status as London’s glitterati hotspot. Sat Bal took his, um, plaice at this £20ish million, 200ish-cover restaurant to see why.

Richard Caring’s Caprice Holdings, owner of Sexy Fish, didn’t hold back on the launch razzmatazz back then. In came Rita Ora to sing the numbers while Kate Moss, Immy Waterhouse and the modelling elite supplied mermaid appeal. The launch message happily pushed an ethos of exclusivity and wealth attraction or, as the PR communiqué put it, “mid-century glamour and opulence.” And the message has stuck.

High-octane launches do their thing before the restless media eye roves elsewhere to scan other horizons and that’s when the work really starts in the restaurant world’s competitive ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ culture.

Of course, it helps to have Caprice Holdings’ lineage and Sexy Fish is thriving today, tomorrow and, quite likely, the day after too. Just witness the Vulcanic live-long-and-prosper spirit of its thoroughbred stablemates which include The Ivy, Annabel’s and Le Caprice. The Ivy makes this point with its 100th birthday, a birthday so big that it’ll be marked by celebrations throughout this year.

 

Sexy fish 2

Hirst's mermaid with water wall

Back at Sexy Fish it has to be said that its barn-like, diner-style exterior isn’t all that sexy – but its locale is. Well, this is Berkeley Square, a quarter of Mayfair that might as well be dubbed Caprice Corner; Annabel’s is opposite Sexy Fish with Mark’s Club and Harry’s Bar a stone’s throw.

The taxi deposits our threesome on a bleak, puddly London pavement that’s incongruent with the exotic glow that resides inside the restaurant. The entrance deserves something more dramatic, less pedestrian. You know, something like the Skyfall scene of Mr Bond gliding by water taxi into the high-def colour of the Floating Casino. Because inside Sexy Fish the tone is more filmic Macau than winter London, thanks to the design vision of Martin Brudnizki Design Studio.

 

Sexy Fish FG crocodile by James McDonald for MBDS LR - Copy

Frank Gehry's crocodile runs loose

They appear to have taken an abstract expressionist approach to restaurant décor: throw enough bling at it and watch the glam pattern emerge. Skyfall had the man-eating komodo dragons but we get a 13-ft twinkling black silicone mosaic wall-mounted crocodile, courtesy of Frank Gehry. Damien Hirst is also in the house with his blue-bronze sheened mermaids on sea patrol, with the mise-en-scène of a cascading water wall providing a natural habitat. The bar shines in crackled, glazed cherry-red Pyrolave lava stone while the dappled Esmerelda onyx flooring opulently welcomes the trotting of the well-heeled. Suddenly, you start to see how that multi-million design bill was racked up.

All of this is still exciting two winters after opening, say my habitué hosts, as we settle down to an effusively warm welcome from senior maître d' Giorgio Lucarelli. Giorgio manages to convey the air of a man with all the time in the world, despite tonight’s very full house. Our chit-chat makes inevitable comparisons with Nobu and the Chiltern Firehouse which is positively spartan compared to this place - and to think how we enjoyed the wood-brick chef’s tables by the Firehouse kitchen, championed by the likes of U2’s Bono. Different themes and moods, of course, as exemplified by the Sexy Fish menu which invokes the seas of Asia and the taste of Japan: sashimi, tiradito, tempura and robata.

Crisp Duck & Watermelon, Pomegranate, Cashews & Sakura Herbs at Sexy Fish by John Carey (3)

 

The nature of the food encourages sharing and our chopsticks lie ready on a shiny pebble. The Sexy Fish sushi roll of salmon and sashimi yellowtail arrives in a tasty blitz of colour, a cut above Nobu’s equivalent wonderful offering. Prawn tempura was a substantial must-choose and the miso glazed sea bass rose up to render its Nobu master something of a pastiche. Prices are as expected and food alone is easily £100 per head. The excellent wagyu beef fillet is just shy of £100 but then the Beluga caviar comes in at £300 for 50g. Aside from the freshness and taste of the beautifully cooked food, there’s the service which operates on a swishly telepathic level whereby staff simply appear when required.

Only the design of the place can momentarily shift attention from our chopsticks. We take a wide-angled gaze at Damien Hirst’s 15ft bronze relief panel. A mermaid flirts with a shark. Perhaps a metaphor for the smattering of suspect ‘uncles and nieces’ in here. Still, heedless anthropological analysis is part and parcel of fine restaurant dining. Who among us doesn’t concoct imaginary worlds around the status of fellow diners? Like the young mavericks over at the bar enjoying a magnum shower of Dom Pérignon under Gehry’s shimmering Fish Lamps. Probably FTSE futurists who have figured out how to make algorithms work on their behalf but we Sexify them as Butch Cassidy flash crash traders who got rich off the automatic trades that ravaged securities and commodities prices last year. A large Suntory with that, gentlemen?

 

Bootsy Collins at Sexy Fish. Probably.

Then there’s the grande dame sat stoically in the lower level private Coral Reef Room where two huge fish tanks display a magical seascape of live coral and tropical fish. She has the patina of someone who owns reassuringly large swathes of Herefordshire but could equally be facing an Imelda Marcos-type last supper, before imminent sentencing at the Old Bailey. We optimistically hope that her Sexy dish of Tataki yellowfin tuna with pickled cucumber and shallot dressing would provide at least some form of commuted relief.  

But no, this isn’t our better selves speaking; it’s probably the Mizuwari whisky talking from its chilled crystal rock glass, one of a range of 242 bottles of Japanese whisky on offer. This reportedly makes Sexy Fish’s whisky stash the largest in Europe, second largest in the world.

 

Sashimi platter by (849 x 566)

Sashimi platter

Two talking points break down the boundaries between strangers here: the outlandish opulence – and the dark. Mutual merriment erupts when the two charming ladies adjacent to us strain to see the menus under their phone lights. But even under this dim light it’s obvious that they possess their own natural faces, dispelling any nasty notions that this is a ‘work done’ crowd. It’s actually a Friday Sexy crowd tonight. The lighting isn’t functional but it is atmospheric and maintains the restaurant’s otherworldliness. You almost expect to see Pharrell Williams and Bootsy Collins duetting to Happy and dancing atop the raspberry leather banquettes and chairs.

‘Happy’ is elevated while poring over the dessert menu of soy and caramel ice cream and smoked passion fruit mousse as more Rice Rice Baby cocktails and Macallan whisky shots arrive to break the spell of the magic Mizuwari. Then, reminding ourselves that reality exists beyond these heady confines, our Fish-whipped trio heads to Soho House - for a dose of normality.

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