Monday

Boom Burger, Notting Hill, London

Boom! A (relatively) new burger  has exploded onto the London burger scene, and it's as boom as the name suggests.

Out west in Notting Hill, burgers are now being served with a loud Jamaican twist at BOOM Burger. Order at the counter choosing from the beefy and bacon jam "boom" burger, jerk chicken burger, fish burger, cheese burger and a Caribbean-esque veggie sweet potato and chili jam burger. Take a seat inside or out, and tuck in to one of the top burgers in London, head bouncing to the beat of some seriously good reggae tuneage.

The Boom burger's (£8) brioche bun is toasted on the inside and packed with a generous meat patty, slightly jerky mayo, mild cheese, slim layer of lettuce, thinly sliced red onion, tomato (REMOVED) and a sweet, salty and boom ting bacon jam.


The jerk wings (£5) are a revelation - deep fried, crispy and moorish.


The fries (£2), although not my first choice plantain fries (they'd just run out), are still perfect.


The tables are laden with tall squirty bottles of BBQ sauce and slightly spicy mayo -  triple points from me. A ginger beer is the perfect accompaniment.

Despite the friendly loud atmosphere and good tunes it's not really a place to linger. No bad thing, you eat a great burger and you leave shortly after. 100% happier. Booming brilliant...




www.boomburger.co.uk
272 Portobello Road
W10 5TY
@BOOMburgerLDN


Sunday

Parrilla Natural, Algarve, Portugal

This seemingly unimportant burger became much more significant when Springsteen joined the stage with The Rolling Stones in Lisbon recently. I get through a lot of burgers. I’m too embarrassed to tell you how many. Let’s just say about 50% of the burgers I eat make it on to here. I need to choose the very best, the very worst, or the very relevant.

And this burger is now relevant.

The Algarve is the region in South Portugal – not Lisbon, I know – but two hours down the road, and somewhere where E Street Fans, or Bruce himself, may head on holiday after a concert in the capital. Bruce's naff vests aren’t fooling me, he can try to cling on to his young NJ boy look, but there is no doubt he enjoys the finer things in life. And the Algarve is just fiiine.

Allowing myself a “night off” from burger reviewing, I didn’t make notes or take pictures of the meal from every angle, as I normally would. But I remember this: the bun was soft and seeded, the patty was fantastic quality - this is a Uruguayan steak restaurant - and it was topped with chunky slices of soft onion and sun dried tomatoes, so big they lolled out the side. It was a mighty burger, difficult even for me to wade through.


Delicious though, and I’m confident that the above burger is one is one of the best in the area, despite bold claims from other local establishments:


For some reason I’d dismissed the Algarve as a holiday destination. I had this vision of dazzling luxury hotels, holiday villas dotted between golf courses and sun burnt Brits stumbling through busy resort towns. I don't play golf, and my stumbling through resort town days are just about behind me. So what did the Algarve offer someone like me? Well, I discovered a surprisingly unspoiled and pretty coastline – long stretches of empty beach and ancient cobbled villages, it's all there if you seek it out.




And the food. The food! My main reason for travelling anywhere, apart from a Springsteen concert. Freshly caught golden bream, hearty black pudding stews, custard egg pastry tarts – just some of the many dishes I feasted on (not at the same time of course).

Just like Bruce, I also enjoy the finer things in life.



www.parrillanatural.com



Thursday

Billy Idol: Padova, Italy, 10th June 2014


There was a crotch thrusting, fist clenching, lip twitching sweaty night of passion in Italy this week. Don’t worry, it’s not how it might sound. But it was just as exciting. 

Always fond of a jaunt to Italy, and with Springsteen’s touring schedule up in the air for the foreseeable future, I booked tickets to Padova, and eagerly headed off to this northern Italian city to see another of my “childhood favourite” artists perform for the first time.

Billy Idol?!” One friend exclaimed. “Isn’t he dead??” 

Nope. Still rocking…still thrusting.

Feeling the need to defend the latest, slightly obscure, Italian concert pilgrimage, I took to telling people I was heading there “for the craic”. 

“I’m going to see Billy Idol in Padova.” I told their puzzled faces. “It’s for the craic!” I nodded unconvincingly.

And some craic it was. You’ll often find me harping on about Italy being an essential destination for a concert, and this was no exception. The venue, a very hot tent-like giant balloon, was crammed full of excitable aging tattooed punks. And me. 

I watched the show undress (literally) from the third row (with no queuing!) and for the next two hours I saw songs I’d sung along to so innocently as a child, shamelessly performed by a sweaty, gyrating 58 year old 80s rocker - chunky thighs and crotch wodged into leather trousers so tight I was half baffled. But mostly impressed. 

You can just about see my open mouth  - from @BillyIdol


It wasn’t just those tight trousers leaving me awe-struck. Within 15 minutes the band had belted out some of my all-time favourite “Billy Idol Classics” – Cradle of Love, followed by Generation X’s Dancing With Myself before Billy took his package pushing and fist clenching up a notch for a shirtless Flesh For Fantasy.

“Do you like good music, do you like to dance?” Idol asked us, seducing us by song. That night I liked both, and so did the crowd – men and women whooping as he stripped off his jacket, disrobing to reveal enviable abs and a body slick with sweat. 


The thrusting paused for a brief minute or two during Sweet Sixteen – one of Idol’s slower paced songs - in which he swapped his tambourine and “arm out/fist clench” signature move for an acoustic guitar. Hidden among the faster paced masterpieces, it felt bizarrely intense and emotional. A guitar solo from Steve Stevens followed soon after, slim legs jeweled in sparkly flares, leopard print shirt exposing a bare chest, face damp with sweat causing smudged black eye make-up, and hair - well the hair was something I can only hope to achieve one day.


Managing more outfit changes than Britney Spears (I counted 10 in total), Billy “Fucking” Idol (as he fondly refers to himself) then took to the stage in a three quarter length suit jacket – the kind I beg my dad not to wear – confirming this really was an 80s extravaganza. At the beginning I’d felt like a bit of an outsider, a conman. Sporting just one very well hidden and seriously shit tattoo from my teens, I wasn’t sure I was as hard-core as the bicep inked fans surrounding me. By this point though, I was embracing it, and by the next song – Rebel Yell – I was hollering “MORE MORE MORE” with the rest of the crowd. “YOU MAKE ME FEEL GOOD,” Billy cried. The feeling was mutual. 


On to White Wedding, the Dancing In the Dark of Billy Idol’s catalogue, given a spin with an acoustic start before the band went for it after the first verse. By Mony Mony, the final song, the crowd were wild with enthusiasm. Drenched in sweat, together we chorused “Ride The Pony, Ride The Pony” – not the most thoughtful lyric I’ll ever sing, but undoubtedly one of the most fun. So. Much. Fun. 

So, that’s what happens when you travel to Italy for a Billy Idol concert. 

You may not sing the most profound lyrics, or experience the raw emotion of a Springsteen concert, but oh my, Billy Idol is worth seeing live. 

Do it for the craic.




Head to www.billyidol.net  - he's still touring! 


Friday

Italian Burger

What do I know about football? I'd say the answer is "enough". As a child my dad would take me to football matches to see his beloved team - Newcastle United - play. I'd sit there eating my chicken balti pie, an eight year old surrounded my t-shirtless Geordies, their big stomachs wobbling with every cheer. Or groan. (My dad wasn't shirtless, FYI.) 

Years later, I still don't understand the off-side rule, but I do get the passion for the sport. It would be foolish of me to mock an avid football fan considering my own Springsteen loving tendencies. 

So yes, I'll be embracing the World Cup this year. That's why Waitrose asked me to combine my love of burgers, with my tolerance of football, to create a burger recipe inspired by one of the countries playing. I went for Italy, because as well as obsessing over Italian food and ingredients, it's the one country I'm always planning my next trip to. On the Waitrose football party page you'll find some other very nice burger recipes from other burger and football fans. 

As you'll know I eat many many burgers, but living in a city with so many good options, I admit I rarely make them myself. I requested help from friends, and together we created a recipe: rustic (aka messy) Italian burgers. Shockingly, the results were really quite impressive. 


Waitrose are keen for football fans and burger fans to enjoy the World Cup with a home made burger in hand, which sounds like a bright idea. So if you like the look of this Italian Stallion, try it yourself using my recipe below.


Monday

Interview: Martyn Joseph

As a Springsteen fan I often feel surrounded by mediocre, lack lustre versions of his songs. Pale imitations. Clumsy forgeries of masterworks.

But not always. One Welsh singer-songwriter has spectacularly, and very successfully, nailed it. Recording an album of covers can be one of a musician’s most challenging tasks: how do you remain true to the original while making it you own? Martyn Joseph would appear to have the answer. His album of Springsteen tracks Tires Rushing by in the Rain – replanting the American highway into Britain’s roadmap – has generated what the modest Joseph labels an ‘overwhelmingly positive reaction.’

Initially a little sceptical, I caught a one off London performance of the album earlier this year. Within minutes I was converted by a humble, hugely talented and passionate acoustic performer, who managed to put his own spin on some of my most cherished Springsteen tracks. 

So what is it about the songs that inspires him? ‘It’s about his connection to the male narrative,’ explains Joseph, in a recent phone call. ‘There’s not many artists who have made such a personal impact on me. Springsteen’s work shows strength and emotion at times when many would bottle it up. The man’s a genius.’

The formidable back catalogue has kept the singer company throughout his life, and he still admires Springsteen’s ability to combine fun and serious issues, and intense emotions with commercial success. ‘I feel a real kinship with him,’ he admits. I seem to bring his songs to life for some people.’ 

That’s a huge understatement. The reaction at the London show was rapturous. I’ve noticed that over the months, as I force Tires on family and friends, Joseph has the impressive and unique knack of making casual Springsteen fans appreciate the originals even more. Of throwing new light on old favourites. ‘I think it’s the way I articulate my words,’ he concludes. ‘It enhances people’s love of his music, drawing them deeper into his lyrics.’ It’s something I’ve experienced first-hand. Joseph’s rendition of One Step Up in London turned a glaring spotlight on the song’s poignant tale.

He doesn’t take this rare talent for granted, counting his blessings for a positive reaction within the Springsteen community. But at the same time, he confesses he’s not particularly keen on many other versions of the songs. ‘Oh God,’ he comments, when I mention Barry Gibb’s recent cover of I’m On Fire. ‘I’m a big fan of the Bee Gees, but Barry Gibb covering that particular song? Oh God.’

He knows, however, that reworking globally adored music is no walk in the park. Some songs have proved tricky. ‘Badlands was a challenge,’ he sighs, ‘especially covering it acoustically.’ But Tires’ 17 tracks weren’t a calculated selection of what worked and what didn’t. ‘I just went for ones I thought a few people would know,’ he reveals. ‘Then added in few more obscure choices.’ He also followed the raw, instinctive approach Springsteen used for Nebraska. ‘I recorded them all in three days because I knew them inside out already. My Hometown is the only song that didn’t make it.’

One that does stands out above all the others when you see him live: The Promise, ‘one of my favourite songs of all time.’ His sensitive rendition is pretty spectacular, shining with respect and admiration. 

Like many fans, Joseph’s love of Springsteen started with Born To Run. ‘I was a teenager and my neighbour played me the album, I thought “yeah, I like that!”. Born In The USA didn’t do much for me – it was Tunnel of Love that really got me interested.’ Going through changes in his own life when the album was released, he realised life is not always as simple as you’d like. ‘It’s an honest, open, expressive and really drew me in musically. What attracts me, again, is the male narrative. It’s hard as a writer to write songs as a guy that seep into the soul. Music should make you feel like you are not alone in the world….’ It’s a philosophy that has underpinned his own albums – he has released more than 30 – winning numerous awards and signing to Sony in the 90s; steadily building his career whilst maintaining control, shaping his direction. 

Many fans have loyally followed him to shows over decades, and he embraces the road, playing over 160 shows last year in the UK, US and Canada. Preferring small intimate gigs and quirky locations, he drives himself to each venue. ‘I’m not chauffeured or flown by jet like Bruce,’ he laughs. ‘Some of my best nights have been at local village town halls; I love playing the small regions.’ A different level of touring perhaps, but the two men share a philosophy. ‘Springsteen plays like it’s his last gig,’ he stresses, ‘and that’s my theory too.’ Joseph never sticks to the same set list or performs two shows in the same way.

His strong social conscience is reflected in his own writing – he recommends Evolved as a good starting album for new listeners – and in his own touring schedule. In June 2014 he will play at a festival in Bethlehem, and support a children’s refugee camp in Palestine. After that he’ll be touring to support an orphanage in Guatemala. ‘As an artist I never really stop,’ he admits. It’s something he doesn’t appear to mind. 

During our conversation Joseph recounts how he had the chance to meet Springsteen a few years back but, like most of us, wasn’t sure where to even begin. So he didn’t. ‘Whatever I would have said would have been wrong,’ he believes. ‘I knew I’d regret it for a long time.’ 

Yet in future, if the opportunity arises, ‘it would be astonishing to play with him,’ he admits, with almost schoolboy enthusiasm. For now however he’s more than happy to be part of the audience – always avoiding the pit ‘I like to stand at the back and watch the crowd, observe and reflect during his concerts’. 

Of course I somehow bring conversation round to burgers. ‘Ahhh,’ he laughs, ‘I had a feeling this might come up.’ In Wales he recommends the Gourmet Burger Kitchen in Cardiff Bay. And abroad? ‘I took my son Stefan to an NHL hockey game in Canada and we went to a bar in Calgary and sat and ate burgers together. I remember thinking at the time that it was a really great moment.’ I can believe it. 

As we wrap up for Joseph to get back on the road to his next gig, he finishes with a sentiment that any Bruce fan will relate to. ‘I’m just glad he’s in the world and that he’s playing, bringing hope and joy to millions.’

Amen to that.


Martyn Joseph is currently touring the UK before heading to the US and Canada. Visit his website for date and venue details. See you there.





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