5 (minimum 1)
on 14 Oct 2009 /
Brilliant. Commercial & DJ free non-stop music. I listen to Groove Salad when I need to focus on a work task and normally most of the day when working from home. It's mainly instrumental so is good company without being a distraction. It's also a good alarm clock station since it's predictably gentle.
There are other more upbeat and alternative stations on offer, dance, jazz and, erm...space.
5 (minimum 1)
on 22 Dec 2008 /
What a find! The smell of the cooking bacon that wafts across the main road has caught my attention many times as I've driven past and now I wish I'd investigated sooner. La Snack Shack is a dull-looking, blue trailer parked by the Wickes DIY 1 minute off the A1(M) Junction 7 in Stevenage. It's staffed by a couple of cheery ladies who serve up some of the best fast food for many miles around. This is not posh food, this is proper grub served with a paint scraper and it's not to be missed. Go for a bacon and egg roll (£2.50) and you'll find 4 thick rashers of bacon melting the butter in your huge chunk of French bread (or soft bap), they'll be kept company by 2 (count 'em) over-easy eggs, casually squished in without bursting until you take a bite. You won't be hungry afterwards but you might need a tea (55p) to help wash it down and counter the salt hit. There's a wide range of options, everyone will be satisfied. If you go for the Giant Sausage in a Roll with Cheese, expect to be asked if you'd like "grated or plastic cheese with that?". Priceless.
La Snack Shack always seems to be open when you need them, in fact they're even serving on Christmas Day this year so that the emergency services (which seem to be regular patrons) will have somewhere to get a decent feed. Bravo.
It's not perfect, you'll need to eat on your feet or in your car, you might object to the environmental impact of the polystyrene and don't expect the French bread to be the freshest, dainty baguette that you'll every eat. Nevertheless, it really is not to be missed.
Location map (entrance off Monskwood Way, Stevenage) :
5 (minimum 1)
on 05 Sep 2008 /
Oh dear, what a disappointment. I presume there’s something about my bog-standard Win XP machine that is upsetting the first beta release (0.2.149.27 (1583)) because it’s simply not rendering pages correctly. Almost all the mainstream sites that I’ve tried look a complete mess. Reinstallation and rebooting haven’t resolved this so I’ve uninstalled and will stick with Firefox which, with a few add-ins, has much of the best functionality (see http://lifehacker.com/5044518/enable-chromes-best-features-in-firefox) but without the privacy concerns over the omnibox.
No doubt the rendering problems I’ve seen are fairly rare but Firefox and even IE betas have always worked without hitch so for Chrome I’m afraid it’s a no sale. I’ll leave others to review the features that I never really got to explore.
5 (minimum 1)
on 30 May 2008 /
A few years ago this Free House in Hertford town centre was a one of the better places in Hertfordshire to enjoy a decent real ale. How things have changed - it's now definitely a place to avoid.
There is still a reasonable selection of beers available but they no longer seem as well kept. The pub has always had a certain charm with its small bars, interestingly furnished, timber and brick rooms upstairs and small courtyard garden (backing on to a dual carriageway though). Now the whole place feels rundown and neglected. Whereas before there was a feeling of rustic cosiness, now when you ascend the narrow stairway with its blackened, sticky, beer-soaked carpet you feel hesitation rather than excited anticipation about what waits for you upstairs. I felt like I was in a squat.
The atmosphere is dreadful, the staff unpleasant. I visited this week to see whether the place had improved since my last visit over a year ago. It has not and again I couldn't wait to leave.
Trying to overlook the iffy beer and the slightly squalid feel of the place, I tried to order a swift second round of beers. I was cutting it fine, it was 10:57pm and I thought they may stop serving at 11pm. Having waited patiently at the bar while the nasty barmaid - the owner, I suspect - ignored me and chatted to a regular, I was asked whether I wanted something...I gave my order and was dismissed with a simple "I've stopped serving" and she walked away. The bar clock showed 11:04pm. Back at the table our 3 watches each concurred it was still just before 11pm. We left for one of the much better pubs nearby.
My previous visit a year earlier was even worse. Sober but fumbling with a door while returning our empty glasses to the bar I dropped a glass on the tiled floor. I pushed the broken glass to the edge of the room and went to the bar with an apology and a drinks order. Without a word a dustpan and brush was dropped in front of me on the bar. I queried whether it was for me and was told simply "well I don't see why I should clear it up". Feeling a little guilty and not wanting someone to get hurt I did sweep up the glass. Returning the dustpan and brush I was again kept waiting like a naughty child. This time I was handed a broom and was told curtly to “do the job properly”. I thought the obnoxious woman was joking but apparently not. Besides, I had made a thorough job of it, even scrabbling under tables and asking people to please lift their feet! I was stunned. I was then given the choice: get sweeping or find somewhere else to drink. The choice was easy.
On both visits the friends I'd taken there were horrified by the place. I really suggest you avoid it. If you're after a decent beer you'll get much better one served by pleasant staff at The Old Cross Tavern a short walk away. There are plenty of other options in the area so there's really no reason to give this miserable place your business.
5 (minimum 1)
on 06 Feb 2008 /
If you're anywhere near Knebworth (UK) and you want your car to be professionally cleaned then Concept Car Care is the place to go. They're a 3 man valet operation working from farm buildings for the last 20 years, they tend not to advertise since their main business is car dealers who come from miles around. This is not a 'splash and scratch' wash like you'd get at your supermarket car park, this is the real deal. They're happy to look over the car and discuss exactly what you'd like done. For about £50 you should get your car thoroughly washed and waxed, external trim and tyres 'blacked', the inside properly hoovered, trim cleaned and windows polished inside and out. They'll do much more if you're willing to pay.
Apart from their willingness to tailor the job, what surprised me was the quality and detail of their work, the paintwork looked great, not a single streak, the wheel arches and even the writing on my brake callipers was cleaned, the exhaust trim polished and even every intricate corner of the grille was blackened. I could go on.
So, the downside? Well they don't work weekends and they're not mobile (the best never are).
What a great find. Concept Car Care - certainly worthy of 5 super shiny stars!
Address: Mardleybury Road, Woolmer Green, Knebworth, SG3 6SG
Telephone: 01438 815415
5 (minimum 1)
on 05 Nov 2007 /
I recently visited my local branch of this relatively new chain. Burgers (beef, lamb, chicken, veggie) were the only main meal choice on the menu although you could customise your burger according to your fancy. Prices first appeared acceptable for a decent burger (see their website) but the cost of accompaniments (e.g chips @ £2.70) quickly pushed the prices up.
The staff were very friendly, perhaps in need of better organisation/training - we saw nobody for a while then were asked if we were ready to order 4 times in about 90 seconds. No big deal though. The surroundings were pleasant. It was quiet for a Saturday evening.
The food was delicious, it was indeed a fine burger and the chips were also tasty although I've had much better. The salad that we had ordered didn't arrive.
When it was time to leave, I asked for the bill and mentioned the salad hadn't arrived and requested that they check it wasn't on the bill. The bill arrived, the salad wasn't included but a 12.5% Service Charge had been added. The service wasn't great, especially since the salad was totally forgotten about. Soft drink re-fills were self service, there were 3 of us and we'd only had one course. Stealthily adding a service charge seemed outrageous. I politely asked for that to be removed too, pointing out the missing salad and that I'd like to have the decision whether to tip and if so, by how much. The waitress was somewhat taken aback at my objection and said she'd need to call the manager. Which she did and it was duly removed.
I left a £2 cash tip (5% of the bill) and we left. I thought this was generous but served to amplify the case in point.
Summary: good food, limited and perhaps a little pricey but a Service Charge policy that stinks.
5 (minimum 1)
on 01 Sep 2007 /
Summary: Good location, nice surroundings, service and food likely to be hit or miss depending on your luck. Generally going downhill?
I’ve stayed and eaten here a few times now. It’s an interesting building which has recently been refurbished in a contemporary style and quite nicely done, think neutrals and decent furniture in the bedrooms. The location by the river is great and is just a few minutes walk from the town centre. There’s waterfront dining or you can eat inside in the bar area (which smells of stale beer) or in the conservatory. The menu is ambitious. Having eaten breakfast in the conservatory I’ve seen local quality suppliers deliver the food in the morning, so they’re going for quality and charging premium prices. Some of the food I’ve eaten there has been great but I get the impression the place started out well when it opened after the revamp and has been slipping since. This time I chose the beef burger in a ciabatta roll (at the end of the August Bank Holiday many of the choices (which were already limited) were unavailable. It was very much a disappointment. I don’t mind paying £10.50 for a decent burger, but this was surely a meatball in a dry, mass produced “ciabatta” roll. A genuine chunk of ciabatta dressed with salad/mayo/cheese would have cost negligibly more to serve. Perhaps the £10.50 may have been appropriate to Burger v1 but I suspect mine was a later, inferior version and the price hasn’t been changed accordingly.
I suspect that since it’s re-opened the owner no longer oversees the quality and that’s why things are going wrong. Or perhaps they no longer care. Some of the staff are friendly and attentive. Others (including two of the principal front of house staff) are rude, dealing with them makes the experience uncomfortable and I believe they’re seriously damaging the reputation of the Steam Packet Inn. They’re setting a dreadful example to the less experienced staff and I can sense the culture shift – in the wrong direction.
Judging by what the kitchen is turning out I think there are problems there too. We had a great meal a few months ago but it wasn’t just the burger that was a let down this time, the service was appalling. Apart from being dreadfully slow, the apparently senior waitress seemed incompetent and frankly rude. Some of the more junior staff were at least trying hard to please. It’s important to understand that I was at the same meal which is the subject of another review here – yes, the one where an earthworm was found in a salad. The recipient of the worm salad was offered £40 of vouchers for a return visit. Since we all suffered the dreadful service there was some negotiation so that every member of the group would be compensated. The outcome was that the recipient of the worm was not billed, all deserts were complimentary and a discount of £2 per person was applied. I thought this was a fair outcome.
I know of others who have had great meals there recently.
As I left, there was hip-hop music blaring from the open kitchen door and a group of youngsters in chef whites messing about. That answered a lot of questions in my mind.
I’d already booked in for B&B a day later. When we returned the room was good, breakfast excellent and service friendly. We ate elsewhere in the evening.
5 (minimum 1)
on 03 Aug 2007 /
The data presentation seems focussed and isn't the usual zoomable map but the key differentiator here is that the information is a blend of 'official' data and eyewitness audio reports. If you know of a traffic problem you can call in with details so that others can benefit by hearing a recording of your message online or by phone. There's a kudos point system to encourage reporters.
I do think they're missing a trick by charging people to submit their audio reports. Whether reporting or listening by phone the charges seem steep but you can access them freely online.
You're able to register for free text alerts on a your chosen journey and there's a news/discussion area on the website too.
I like the social assistance element as well as the way the information is presented so I've added the site to my toolbox to help cope with our congested roads...but I doubt I'll be calling in at 60p/min unless I'm desperate.
5 (minimum 1)
on 28 Jun 2007 /
When someone is working on gas appliances it's important that you can really trust them because there's a safety element but also because you don't want to get ripped off financially. Following a recommendation from someone at my workplace, I had some work done by Graham (trading as GM Heating and Plumbing) who was excellent and I'm keen to recommend him to anyone in his area. As well as being friendly, what I particularly liked was the way he worked transparently which gave me the impression he was competent and honest.
He quoted over the phone then when he arrived he talked me through the details of the work (he was servicing a gas boiler, cooker and 3 fires and providing a Landlord's Gas Safety Certificate), he worked diligently to complete the job (and overcame a minor unexpected complication) then he reviewed with me exactly what he'd done (showing me this and that within the boiler) and stuck to his original quotation.
Of course he is CORGI registered (#227221). His flyer says he is a Potterton trained and works on all types of gas fired boilers, central heating systems, breakdowns, installations, service and maintenance, Landlord Certificates and power flushing.
GM Heating is in Nazeing, Essex and covers East Hertfordshire (e.g. Hertford, Welwyn Garden City, Stevenage) and West Essex (e.g. Harlow, Bishop's Stortford, Epping) and North London. His numbers are 01992 890878 or 07884 381089. A quick internet search revealed another similarly named company elsewhere so be clear that this review relates to the Nazeing GM Heating & Plumbing which can be contacted on the numbers above.
5 (minimum 1)
on 03 May 2007 /
This is a pleasant Inn in a small Hertfordshire village. The owners are trying hard to make it a great place and they’re almost succeeding. We went for tapas which are offered every Wednesday but there’s a good á la carte menu (details on their website).
The welcome was warm. The bar area is comfortable with chunky wooden tables and leather sofas. Later in the evening it was very quiet in the bar whilst there was still a good ‘buzz’ in the restaurant - worth knowing if you’re not sure where to dine. Another option is eating in the garden which looks scruffy and views to surrounding countryside are blocked by hedges. Wherever you decide to sit you can enjoy a decent beer (Adnams, Becks Vier) and choose from a reasonable wine list.
I tend to think restaurant tapas are a licence to print money since dishes have a tendency to be cheap food which has been dressed up. This was a good case in point. Although some dishes were great (the prawns were superbly fresh and the hummus seemed homemade) I couldn’t get over excited about chicken wings nor potato skins. Even for tapas some portions seemed small and the prices were higher (£22 for 7 dishes) than their advertised prices on the website (£20). As a side order we had the ciabatta with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The ingredients were good quality but paying £2.50 for the meanest 4 slices of ciabatta left a bad taste in my mouth.
The dining room certainly looked good, tables were set with fine cutlery and crisp napkins and there was a pleasant atmosphere from a mixed selection of diners. Service was friendly although we felt a little rushed; perhaps that was only enthusiastic efficiency.
There are two, large resident dogs (they look like alsatian/golden retriever cross). They seem docile and friendly but one was taking a great interest in someone’s dinner in the bar. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted its nose that close to my plate. It seems that they are banned from the restaurant.
Despite these shortcomings, the Kick and Dicky is worth a visit; I enjoyed mine. It was highly recommended to me so my high expectations may have affected my experience. A few minor improvements and they’d get 5 stars from me. I can’t comment on the accommodation other than to say they have 6 en suite rooms available.
5 (minimum 1)
on 23 Apr 2007 /
Buying tyres from a fitting centre always made me feel uncomfortable. I usually wanted to know the full range of tyres (and prices) available to me but this often seemed too much like hard work for the guy behind the counter. I found myself going through this several times because the same tyre can vary greatly in price between fitting centres, depending on the deals/relationship with wholesalers and manufacturers.
Buying tyres online gives you access to the data you need to make a good decision, it allows you to choose from a greater range of tyres and is likely to save you money. Often quite a substantial saving. My preferred site is www.mytyres.co.uk, part of a large European company which is growing in popularity in the UK.
Prices on the mytyres site included VAT and (quick) delivery but not fitting. However, you can choose to use one of their partner fitting centres (amusingly referred to as a Mounting Partner in places on the website). The site provides you with the ability to search for a local centre, shows the fitting costs and allows you to have your tyres delivered there. When I called one local Mounting Partner (!) they didn’t seem to know of their affiliation with mytyres.co.uk but where happy to honour the price on the website. I figured that was just a communication/training issue at that centre.
I have a local fitter that I trust and although they’re not listed on the mytyres site they are more than happy to receive the tyres and just charge me for fitting (fit, valve, balance & disposal) which is normally £12.50 per wheel (fully inclusive).
I’ve used mytyres.co.uk for several years and have no hesitation in recommending them. The website and ordering process is a little clunky but does the job and also offers useful help and advice on choosing tyres. I’ve saved a considerable amount of money by buying tyres from this site and am happy that I know I’ve chosen wisely based on sufficient information about what’s available.
5 (minimum 1)
on 18 Apr 2007 /
What you experience of Amsterdam is sure to be principally influenced by your reason for being there. That said, both my trips were for stag weekends [bachelor parties] so I saw the seedy side of the city but also managed to see beyond.
As a stag w/e destination it’s top notch but I’d also be more than happy visiting in different circumstances to see more of what the city offers. I spent much of my time getting in the way of people on bicycle tours of the city and, when I could think straight, I rather fancied swapping places.
Over a sunny weekend, Amsterdam seemed a great place to chill out and soak up the place. Generally it feels safe, even late at night.
You can find lower cost accommodation away from the centre which is well connected by trams, but there are still quiet hotels centrally. Avoid staying in accommodation overlooking the canals. Evidently they are small and uncomfortably hot - although there seems to be ample opportunity to people-watch if you get one of the many rooms with a decent size window.
5 (minimum 1)
on 29 Mar 2007 /
Philips make several versions of digital photo frame. I bought a 9FF2M4 but this review will be useful for those considering similar Philips models (7FF1M4, 7FF1CWO, 9FF1CWO) where the principal differences are size or frame finish (such as wood rather than plastic).
I researched several digital picture frames before deciding on the Philips 9FF2M4. The picture quality is high so at usual viewing distances the image really does look like a printed photo, albeit a highly backlit one. I can't understand why manufacturers can't create these frames in a size (aspect ratio) that matches a typical digital image, however, Philips seem to get it better than most so any cropping is minimal on this frame - not the case for many cheaper frames which also have much lower resolution.
Using the frame is fairly straightforward. The menu system is OK rather than brilliant but I found that after the initial set up using the controls on the rear of the frame you're unlikely to need to tinker with the settings very often. Unlike some other frames, this one doesn't support sound or movies - features which I think are unnecessary anyhow. It has a built in clock and several flexible on/off timers which work well. For example if you're using it at home but you work during the week, you can set the frame to be on only while you're at home during the mornings and evenings and the whole day at the weekends.
The difference in price between 7” and 9” versions means it may be worth seriously considering the bigger version unless you’re tight on space or will be viewing the frame from quite close.
If it was cheaper and had WiFi capability this would be a perfect frame but I’m very happy with it as it is.
5 (minimum 1)
on 21 Mar 2007 /
I think Aldi is great - high quality products at bargain prices. The food is particularly good, however these wraps are dreadful. Hardly any filling or taste. Avoid.
5 (minimum 1)
on 21 Mar 2007 /
If you're a beginner looking for a decent kite, at this shop you'll get sound advice and won't be sold something that will disappoint. All kites were not created equal! I was really pleased with the service, as well my first 'proper' kite.
Enthusiasts can be sure of getting expert advice too and a broad range of stunt, power, traction and surfing kites is available.
This is one of those good old fashioned places where you can get honest help and great advice. If you're near Apex Corner, North London it's worth the trip but you can also get quality advice by phone and order by phone or web.
Their fireworks business seems to growing too (or should that be booming?!).
5 (minimum 1)
on 21 Mar 2007 /
You probably know that you should expect a new twist on the old theme - but will you like it?
I did and much more than I thought I would. True, it's darker and grittier, perhaps moving a little closer to realism (still way off, of course) but I think that's an improvement.
When you buy the latest album by your favourite artist, are you gutted that it doesn't sound just like the old one? I reckon it just takes a while to adjust, to recognise more of the familiar and become comfortable with progress.
You can get the DVD cheap at Asda. For launch week it's £7. See Asda link below for more info.
5 (minimum 1)
on 14 Mar 2007 /
It's not just the name that's confusing. This place looks good from the outside and has great potential but somehow manages to miss the mark.
It's a bar / pizzeria on Corn Exchange Street, Cambridge, UK which means it's perfectly located if you need some food and drink before a gig at the Corn Exchange. It's set up for this kind of trade - you order and pay at the bar and you get one of those flashy/buzzy alarms to tell you when you need to collect your food from the pizza counter. If you're fairly familiar with stone-baked pizzas, these will leave you feeling underwhelmed although there's nothing seriously wrong with them (except the small ones are too small).
Generally there's a good atmosphere here and it really is convenient if a little pricey. Just go warned that you may find dirty tables, crowds, stroppy (rude) staff and a 'basic' feel to the place despite the image and prices. If you want something special, head elsewhere. If you're a filthy student type, this will probably feel really special. That seems to be what other reviews of this place suggest.
Later in the evening there's more of a music emphasis in the basement bar; didn't stay, can't comment.
5 (minimum 1)
on 12 Feb 2007 /
The hotel looks good from the outside but is a little dated inside. It's quite a way outside of the town on the road to Capel Curig, much further than an easy stroll back from a pub. We stayed in the small, new conversion at the back, here the rooms are modern, clean and comfortable and away from any road noise. The walls are thin but the view out to the wooded hillside at the back is a treat.
The business seems to be strongly focused on making a tidy profit, so whilst you can get a good feed at breakfast you should expect cheap own brand cereal, juice, sausages etc. The one staff member who seemed to do everything was a little curt - no doubt she was pretty fed up.
That said, the tariff seems fair - you get what you pay for.
For a nice but pricier place to stay in the centre of town, check out the Royal Oak Hotel.
/5 (minimum 1)
on 07 Nov 2006
Shoots, kills, seasons. Use instead of usual shotgun pellets and season your bird when you shoot it :)
Season Shot is made of tightly packed seasoning bound by a fully biodegradable food product. The seasoning is actually injected into the bird on impact seasoning the meat from the inside out. When the bird is cooked the seasoning pellets melt into the meat spreading the flavour to the entire bird. Forget worrying about shot breaking your teeth and start wondering about which flavour shot to use!
5 (minimum 1)
on 07 Nov 2006 /
You will probably love this book if you appreciate a fine photograph. You will probably love this book if you appreciate Dartmoor. You will certainly adore this book if you appreciate both.
Every photograph is black and white, the vast majority have a story to tell of Dartmoor life [between 1975 and 2000], only a few are landscapes. Interestingly, many of the photographs look as though they are of a time long before their actual date and the theme through the book is one of the traditional handed down crafts and skills of the Dartmoor way of life - and how they seem to be dying out. The author also describes the background to most of the photographs. I found that the photo's stand well on their own but learning more about the subject matter does make the book even more enjoyable.
Only since I've had the book have I realised that Chris is an accomplished artist whose work is respected and admired internationally. I can see why.