Month: June 2016

Hanoi Bike Shop



I was in Glasgow for some school events and after a rewarding day spent encouraging young people to write fiction, my thoughts inevitably turned to my evening meal and I decided that what I was really in the mood for was noodles. So I took a stroll along the trendy Byers Road area of the city, eyes peeled and after a little while, I spotted a sign that read Hanoi Bike Shop and I wondered if this might be the kind of thing  I was looking for. Then I spotted another sign that invited me to ‘get my noodle on’ and decided that I had hit paydirt. It turned out I had called at a fortuitous date because this being the first Tuesday of the month, it was Phat Phuc (yeah, I know, I know, but we’ll let them away with that, right?) Tonight there’s a set menu, offering four courses for the all-in price of £16.95. So in I went and down I sat and looking around, I liked what I was seeing.

The Hanoi Bike Shop advertises itself as a Vietnamese canteen. The interior is intimate, quirky and sure enough, the walls and ceiling are adorned with bits of bicycle, spanners , spokes and garish ethnic designs. A sound system pumps out classic rock songs at just the right volume. The service is prompt and the three smaller courses arrive pretty much all together, allowing me to dip in and out, marvelling at the resulting explosions of flavour.

The dishes comprise Goi Cuon (black pepper pork belly rice paper rolls with gem lettuce, pickles and nuoc cham): Sup Da (a broth made with chicken, coconut and lemongrass, replete with vermiccelli noodles, bean sprouts, coriander and crispy shallots): and Banh Gao (red dragon rice noodle cakes with spring onion and sesame seeds). Sounds good, right? – and happily each dish is every bit as delicious as you could reasonably expect – the broth is particularly good, thick, salty and bowl-lickingly satisfying. Just when I think it can’t get much better than this, along comes the main dish, Mi An Ot (salt and chilli shrimp and pork belly served on glass noodle salad with herbs and shallot) and I’m truly in noodle heaven. I wash it down with a bottle of Saigon beer and the whole shooting match comes in at around twenty pounds, which represents excellent value for money.

Quibbles? Well, only that you are expected to eat with chopsticks, something I’m spectacularly poor at. I’m sure  I could have asked for a fork, but looking around, everyone else was just getting on with it, so I gave it my best shot and acquitted myself well enough, I think. I’ve never actually visited Vietnam, so I can’t honestly say how authentic the food was, only that it was exactly what I was looking for on this Tuesday evening. Afterwards I felt pleasantly full and the next time I’m in this neck of the woods, I will certainly call in again to get my noodle craving spectacularly catered for.

If you like noodles, you’ll love the Hanoi Bike Shop. Try it out and if it happens to be the first Tuesday of the month, you’re in luck.

5 stars

Philip Caveney



Money Monster



Some actors are happy to stay on their side of the lens and some, like Jodie Foster, occasionally like to swap positions and try their hands at directing. She’s done a pretty decent job of it here. Money Monster tells the story of Lee Gates (George Clooney) a cheesy corporate TV presenter who finds himself in jeopardy when ordinary Joe, Kyle Budwell (Jack O’ Connell) loses pretty much everything he owns on one of Lee’s ‘surefire’ investment tips and invades the studio with a gun and a belt stuffed with Semtex, intent on finding answers to some rather difficult questions. It’s left to Lee’s seasoned producer, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) to talk her team through the resulting ordeal and to try to ensure that nobody gets killed in the process. In an attempt to preserve his own skin, Lee starts asking timely questions about how an investment  company called Ibis, could possibly have lost its investors $800,000,000  in one day. The answers all seem to lead towards the company’s head honcho, Walt Camby (Dominic West) and some dodgy dealings in South Africa…

Money Monster is a taut little thriller that asks some pertinent questions about the world of share dealing,  though perhaps it never delves quite as deeply into the subject as it might have. Still, it cooks up a fine head of steam as a straight ahead thriller and there’s plenty of good performances here – this might be Roberts’ best showing in quite a while. Rising star, O ‘Connell acquits himself well and gorgeous George handles his role with consummate ease. It’s not in the league of say, Dog Day Afternoon, but then, few films are and this makes for a decent hour and a half of entertainment.

The earth won’t move but if you’re looking to distract yourself, this is a decent investment.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney


Thon Man Molière



Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Thon Man Molière is Liz Lochhead’s witty, irreverent imagining of a particularly awkward period in the infamous French playwright’s life. Fêted by the King, and finally achieving recognition for his work, Molière seems determined to self-sabotage, persisting with his play, Tartuffe, despite warnings that its depiction of a corrupt clergyman might not sit well with the highly religious monarch on whose patronage he depends. And that’s not all: he compounds the precariousness of his position by falling in love with and marrying a young woman who, it appears, may very well be his daughter.

It’s a subject ripe for comedy, and Lochhead’s script fizzes with quips and drollery. It’s laugh-out-loud funny at times, not least when contemporary Scottish dialect is employed in response to seventeenth century mores. The performances are uniformly strong, with Jimmy Chisholm managing to tread the fine line between vulnerable and repulsive in his depiction of the egotistical Molière, so that we do actually care what happens to him, even when his misfortunes are richly deserved. Siobhan Redmond is fantastic too, imbuing Madeleine Béjart, Molière’s sometime lover, with a dignity and credibility beyond the ‘tart with a heart’ archetype.

The set, mostly backstage at a theatre, is all muted monochrome, with the unpainted backs of flats on view. The costumes, glorious peacock-confections in the main, stand out in contrast to this, conveying perfectly the tawdry glamour of the theatre, and how it shines against the pall of ordinary life.

If there’a a quibble, it’s with the dialogue. Most of the time, it’s superb: funny and acerbic and nicely paced. But, now and again, we are fed great lumps of exposition, clumsily forced into a conversation, most of which we just don’t need. There’s no real benefit, for example, in giving the audience a detailed plot summary of one of Molière’s plays; it’s unnecessary and just slows things down.

But all in all, this is a lovely play: a uniquely Scottish take on a slice of French comedy.

4 stars

Susan Singfield