Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Al-Basha Mediterranean Restaurant & Shisha Bar (Dalgleish Rd, Dundee)

December 24, 2016

Every year on December 23rd, I go out for a big Christmas meal with my friends.

And while the company is always good, the food usually isn’t.

Trying to find somewhere to suit a large group that includes vegetarians, fussy eaters, a guy who “winna eat anything frae the grund”  (to non Dundonians, that means he doesn’t like vegetables) and a large number of people who’ll be drinking and therefore don’t want to take a taxi too far from the city centre can be difficult and it’s meant that in the past after all the exciting suggestions have been shot down, we’ve gone to dreary Italian restaurants like Don Michele or bang average ‘Jack of All Trades’ eateries like Papa Joes.

But this year, much to my amazement, there was a consensus to try somewhere a bit different.

We went to my personal favourite Friday night takeaway spot – but a venue I’ve never sat in to eat at – Al-Basha Mediterranean Restaurant & Shisha Bar on Dalgleish Road.

So how did we get on?

The Venue

Al-Basha is a spacious, well-lit restaurant that is part of Dundee’s Carlton Hotel. I can’t say the venue blew me away as being particularly amazing, but at the same time it was nice enough.  The staff were friendly and attentive, which makes such a difference.

The only thing I would mark it down for was that there was a toilet brush in the men’s lavatory which put me off using it.

Unlike The Bach, it also has easy disabled access.

The Food

You get a choice of a regular menu (which is what we order from when getting our takeaway), but we went for the Tapas menu where they just bring more and more food out.

Just a sample of what we were given.

Just a sample of what we were given.

And boy, did they ever.

It came in the following order.

Round 1: Fruity and Spices Breads with oil, dips and cold cured meats.

Round 2: Flatbreads with a variety of dips including hummus, baba ganoush, artichoke, some kind of coleslaw, a dip with capers and sweet potatoes, and red pepper.

Round 3: Items like garlic mushrooms, fried halloumi, lamb samosas, meatballs in tomato sauce, cauliflower pakoras, chicken rice, spiced potatoes, stewed okra and lamb rice.

Round 4: The vegetarians were give their own massive plates of veggie food that included stuffed vine leaves and peppers, among other things, while the carnivores were given a large amount of meat (kebabs, lamb chops, chicken etc) to wolf down.

Round 5: Dessert in form of grapes, dates, Turkish Delight and some joyous baklava.

Round 6: Quality Street.

Now I suspected we’d be given a lot of food, so I tried to pace myself, but I was stuffed by Round 3; we all were. To get that fourth round was almost a bridge too far, but we soldiered on.

And let me say now, the food here was superb. Everything was well cooked, full of flavour and added to the experience, and as one of our group said “There hasn’t been a single thing here I haven’t loved”. The lamb rice especially is something you have to try.

Honestly, this place is amazing, and it’s also very nice to be exposed to trying new foods and flavours.

But you do have to pace yourself or you’ll end up like Mr Creosote.

The Drink

For me it’s always a lemonade, and I had no complaints on that score. Most of the group consumed copious amounts of wine that seemed to go down well, and to top off the night they tried some sort of exotic shot that smelled like it would strip paint. But they liked it so who am I to judge.

The Vegetarian’s Viewpoint

As you can tell, there was plenty for vegetarians to get their laughing gear around. No complaints at all on that score from them.

The Price

Here’s the best part; for all that food it was £20 per head. Absolutely sensational. That doesn’t include the drinks of course, and while I can’t attest for the value of the alcohol, I’m happy to report that from my perspective it was tremendous value for money.

Final Thoughts

When I’ve mentioned Al-Basha to people over the last few months, the most common response is “Oh, where’s that?” because it’s slightly out-of-the-way and not somewhere that will likely get much foot traffic. But more people need to know about it and understand just how good it is.

I loved the meal last night, and I think everyone else did too (though the guy who doesn’t like vegetables wasn’t there and I think it might have been a little too different for his tastes).

Great value, so much food and nice staff means this is a place you have to try.

But just remember to pace yourselves.


Movies: Rogue One Review (or ‘A Proper Prequel To A New Hope’)

December 16, 2016

From the off I feel I should warn you; this Rogue One review contains spoilers. It has to. So if you haven’t seen it yet, close down this page and come back again when you have.

Ok?

Has everyone who needs to go gone?

Good, I’ll begin.

I knew very little of Rogue One going into it. While I knew it was about members of the Rebel Alliance stealing the plans for the Death Star, for some reason I had it in my head that it would take place a few years star-wars-rogue-one-posterbefore the events of A New Hope.

But I was wrong.

And that’s the masterstroke of Rogue One.

It takes place right before it, finally culminating in a scene that actually leads in to the opening scene of the first Star Wars movie.

And in doing so, it has repercussions.

The first is that every heroic character created for this movie dies. They had to, otherwise you could ask why they weren’t in any of the original movies, and I thought it made for a refreshing change to what we’ve come to expect from Hollywood.

We now live in a world where the sequel is king. Nothing of any real consequences happens to the heroes in movies now because they are obviously being protected for a raft of inevitable follow-ups. But here, every character was expendable. They were one-and-done creations that had no use beyond this movie.

So they are all killed off and as a result, Rogue One became more believable and dramatic.

I should point out as well that I was pretty saddened by that despite loving that they ended up dead, because there were some great characters in there, from the Sheldon Cooper-esque K-2SO droid to the fantastic Oriental double act. These were some of the best and most well-rounded characters we’ve seen in the Star Wars universe, but like I say, they had to die.

Anyway, the other main repercussion that stemmed from setting Rogue One right before A New Hope is that certain characters needed to be a part of it.

Obviously Darth Vader was easy enough to bring back, even though he sounded very old thanks to James Earl Jones’s declining voice, but you’d assume that Grand Moff Tarkin might be a little tougher to replace seeing as Peter Cushing is long since dead.

And yet you’d be wrong. I was genuinely shocked to see that for all intents and purposes, Peter Cushing is in this movie. Technical wizardry – a use of CGI that is actually head turning in these days of over-reliance on computer imagery – means that they were able to have another actor play the part and then super-impose Cushing’s head onto him.

It was a bit freaky, but it added so much authenticity to the movie.

You can keep your constant ‘New York gets destroyed’ use of CGI, Hollywood, this is the proper way to use it!

Speaking of CGI, while I’m sure that it was employed all the way through Rogue One, what I liked about this movie was that it seemed like it didn’t rely too heavily on it. Maybe I’m wrong, but a lot of the sets, scenery and worlds it visited looked like they were brought to life with old-fashioned costume and set design. To me that makes a difference; it makes the Star Wars universe seem more complete than the cold and clinical CGI wankfests you see in the likes of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them and the Marvel movies.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Rogue One had an interesting and engrossing plot and a sharp and at times funny script. That’s the most important thing isn’t it?

Even though it lasts for 2hrs14m, it didn’t feel like it dragged at any point.

If I had any complaint, it would be that the inevitable battle scene towards the end went on for a bit, but as I say above, the fact that it had repercussions softened that blow a little bit for me.

So, to sum up, maybe I’m biased because I love Star Wars, and maybe it’s that I’m still on an initial high from seeing it at the cinema, but for me, Rogue One is the best movie of the year.

I won’t bother saying that you should see it, because if you’ve read this far then you must have already.

So do you agree or have I been too generous?


Movies: Allied Review

December 16, 2016

For some reason, Allied hasn’t done well with reviewers.

It’s been described as ‘plodding’ and ‘passionless’ by some and generally gets below average scores.alliedposter

That surprises me, because I thought it was great.

Reminiscent of the sort of a Hitchcock directed James Stewart movie, I found it to be dramatic, engrossing and pretty straight forward.

Maybe that’s the problem some have with it? Maybe it’s that it’s a return to a simpler form of storytelling that doesn’t jump around in a non-linear fashion with flashbacks and flashforwards galore?

Or maybe it’s the acting? I can’t say that Brad Pitt or Marion Cotillard blew me away with their performances, but I certainly didn’t think they were worth being negative about.

All I know is that as a story, this was one of the best movies I’ve seen all year and I’d recommend it highly.

I guess it’s just a matter of which critic you listen to?


Movies: Sully Review

December 12, 2016

In 2016, the notion of going to see a film because of the actor or actress starring in it seems like a thing of the past. I don’t know if that’s down to the lead actors now being less important in the overall scheme of things or whether they are simply less talented than the stars of Hollywood’s past, but that’s how I see it.

The sole exception to that for me is Tom Hanks.sully

With very few exceptions, movies starring Tom Hanks tend to be good, and they are always well acted.

So when I saw a poster for his newest movie – Sully – about the pilot who landed a passenger jet on the Hudson River, I knew it would be worth seeing.

And it was.

Sully is an engrossing retelling of the events of January 15th 2009 and does a good job both of detailing the actual events of the splash landing and the aftermath and enquiries into it. The latter point is important because in itself, the story of how the plane came to land on the Hudson isn’t worthy of a movie. It’s worthy of being revisited as a visual spectacle, but not of being a movie in its own right.

The main draw here is the character of Chelsea “Sully” Sullenburger and how he dealt with the situation and its aftermath.

And to come full circle, what makes that main draw work is that Tom Hanks is – as usual – excellent.

This is a movie you should definitely seek out.