A couple of months ago, Thomas Keller ruined my life. If only I could have predicted the full impact of that late March evening spent at his flagship restaurant, The French Laundry, in Yountville, California, I may have had the sense to turn and run at that very first sublime mouthful of pearl tapioca with Kumamoto oysters and white sturgeon caviar. But I didn’t. And now, I can no longer eat out. Read more here
With a spate of exciting new openings and old favourites being rejuvenated, Midtown Manhattan is back as the place to stay in New York.
“April is the cruelest month… mixing memory and desire,” wrote TS Eliot in The Wasteland. Pulling up outside the Chatwal Hotel in New York City last weekend, I finally grasped what he meant.
Walking into the lobby, you’re instantly transported back in time: film noir meets a Tamara de Lempicka painting world of Thirties Gotham. Everything smells like something to either eat or smother yourself in, thanks to wafts of the hotel’s signature scent, The Chatwal No.44 by Krigler, a French perfumer whose scents have been worn by everyone from JFK to F Scott Fitzgerald. Read more over at GQ here
He leaned in awkwardly, at the wrong angle. I expected it to turn into a kiss, but he was lost somewhere in the ear region, leading with his forehead not his lips. It was barely a nose graze, more of an affectionate head butt. No, I’m not describing the ending of my latest date, but rather our new Prime Minister’s Number 10 ‘miskiss’ with wife Sam (Cleggover was thankfully nowhere to be seen).
I’d only just recovered from an entirely unexpected outpouring of emotion seeing Gordon, Sarah and their two sons skip off to pastures new. All Dave really had to do was grab Sam, kiss her firmly and I would have sobbed. Instead I found myself yelling at the television as David Dimbleby glossed over it – ‘David Cameron, kissing his wife’ – ‘no he’s not, Dimbleby! He’s doing the awkward British public schoolboy shuffle! That is not a kiss!
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It’s 6 a.m., the morning after Election Day, and Britain is really no closer to finding a new leader than it was 24 hours ago. There are a couple of cold vegetarian sausage sandwiches in front of me, several baffled political correspondents, a comedian and a historian. The suspense clearly became too much for some: One guest was suddenly escorted off the premises for calling Lord Ashcroft a four-letter word and another commentator was so drunk he had to be carried safely ashore. Everyone that remains is thoroughly confused. It’s been a long night on the Thames—I’ve been aboard the BBC’s election night boat for hours: the political and literary glitterati have all gone home to bed, and it’s slowly becoming apparent that those of us who are still awake are going to have to finally get to grips with the concept of a hung Parliament—for the first time in 36 years.
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Gross Misconduct, By Venetia Thompson
Reviewed by Arifa Akbar
Friday, 30 April 2010
It is a few months prior to the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the City is still flying high. Venetia Thompson, a well-spoken university graduate, finds herself working among the barrow boys of Essex at a brokerage firm on the upper echelon’s of Canary Wharf’s mirrored towers.
Her new world is an adrenalin (and prescription drugs) fuelled alternate universe that is swollen from its own excesses and spinning out of control. The “factory floor” is devoid of any moral pulse; cameraderie bases itself on casual racism, sexism and obscenities.
Thompson, perversely, finds it alluring, for a while, until she is sacked for gross misconduct. For someone who observes this world through a Cristal-induced hangover, while lurching out of Nobu and West London’s best lapdancing clubs, Thompson’s narrative is sharp, insightful, and very, very funny.
After 14 months working as an inter-dealer bond broker, posh totty Thompson was fired in February 2008 for gross misconduct. Her crime? Writing a warts-and-all article of the broking industry which was published in The Spectator. Enjoy- ment of this memoir (basically an extension of that original piece) will, I suspect, depend on either an underlying interest in the technicalities of Collateralised Debt Obligations, or an ability to stomach anecdotes about vomiting.
It’s a macho tale, choppily told, of lap-dancing clubs, benders at Nobu, prescription drugs, and c-bombing (it’s a See You Next Tuesday thing). Unsurprisingly, the unintended subtext of this story is more compelling. What purports to be an exposé of a flawed industry becomes a chilling depiction of a woman in free-fall. Thompson spends lots of time trying not to cry, and then bemoaning ‘the fuckers’ who won’t cut her any slack. She drinks to be accepted, to compete, to trade, to forget the failed trades, to relax at 4am, and to function again three hours later. Her eventual arrival at A&E with a severe kidney infection is not exactly a plot twist.
At another debauched dinner (at Nobu, natch; remind me to stop going there), Thompson speculates that she could have left her misogynistic colleagues to it, and none would have noticed. But she stays, committed to keeping up with the boys. It’s a book not so much about a culture of excess than about the disabling nature of abusive relationships.
A possible epiphany on a Nobu toilet is squandered with the realisation not that her job is pedalling a false dream, but that she wants more money for doing it. Even The Spectator article was only ever a subconscious attempt to quit; in her mind Thompson figured she’d give broking ‘another six months’. It all makes for a sad story.
Sad, not least because Thompson writes as she lives: fearlessly and with admirable energy. Hopefully, now she’s got this episode out of her system, she has freed herself up to pen the cracking novel I’m certain she can pull off, which might play to her crisp powers of observation and which might have wide appeal. Because there’s a small hand grenade of a line buried in this book: ‘Everything that was funny or interesting about the City seemed to work only in context. When I got home, nothing translated.’ How true
David Baddiel is anxious. Not because he’s written a highly controversial comedy about a Muslim who discovers he was born a Jew, and could be facing a fatwa at any moment, but because of a certain ash cloud that is currently separating him from the U.S. premiere of The Infidel this coming Sunday at the Tribeca Film Festival (the first of five screenings that sold out in three hours)…
Last night I had a Joan Rivers red carpet moment at the Sky Media Centre in Bristol. Everyone else was diving into the post debate spin room scrum, grabbing whichever party representatives emerged from the ashes (Theresa May, David Milliband, George Osbourne, Harriet Harman et al) and grilling them on the latest polls and their leaders’ performances. In contrast, Josh Bell (of Dawn Capital fame – my favourite venture capitalist, resplendent in Jsen Wintle’s eponymous label) and I clocked a hot man in a suit. I strode over, put on my best Joan Rivers squawk and hollered: “David, who are you wearing?” The seasoned political hacks looked baffled. Miliband and his adviser started laughing. He seemed relieved that someone was asking him a question with an easy answer and happily flashed open his suit jacket: Ozwald Boateng.
A couple of months after I was fired for gross misconduct from my job as a City bond broker – in April 2008 – I found myself sitting with two other women waiting to appear on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour as part of its ‘Sexism in the City’ series. One was the head of diversity for a big management consultancy, the other a top employment lawyer specialising in women’s rights. They were chatting away, and clearly knew one another from the ‘sexism circuit’: the various women trotted out to discuss the big, bad, bully-boy bankers, and the evil strip clubs they allegedly dwell in, every time a new sexual discrimination case is splashed across the papers.