Carl Douglas may have reckoned it was ‘fast as lightning’, but actually the trajectory of martial arts in Britain was surprisingly sedate. This documentary tracks its evolution within Western culture. We begin, most entertainingly, with the notion of the gentleman hard-nut – amid the ‘garrotting panics’ of late Victorian London, it was deemed essential for a chap to know how to look after himself. Then, there were the suffragettes, facing male aggression and expecting no help from the police. Emmeline Pankhurst was escorted by a crack ju-jitsu troupe when she made public appearences.
Eventually, thanks to the likes of Bruce Lee, the discipline went mainstream – but did it lose a little of its soul in the process? It’s a good story, engagingly told – the highlight is probably Brit martial arts expert Ian McClaren (‘as a Glaswegian, I’ve always been very interested in fighting’). But overall, this is classic ‘Timeshift’ – quirky, often unconsidered social history, rendered in lively style.
Zima Russian Street Food & Bar
Russian street food hasn’t made much of an impact on the London scene, so the prospect of a Soho basement bar offering just that alongside infused vodka shots had me aflutter. In reality, Zima Bar is serving sharing plates and pickles and there’s not much street to it at all. But it’s still an edgy den – all blue tiles and rustic wooden benches – under the steer of Russian superstar chef Alexei Zimin, who founded Russia’s foremost food mag, Eda, and Moscow’s restaurant and cookery school, Ragout. His star credibility has brought a buzz through the door, and Russian princesses with megawatt wristwatches posed around with caviar and jugs of vodka on our visit. Rightly so, the vodka collection is great, with a huge variety of brands to put hairs on your chest backed up by six in-house infusions at £3.50 a pop (£32 by the 250ml jug). A horseradish version felt like a bloody mary minus the tomato while the sea buckthorn, a berry native to Russia, was intensely sweet-sour (in a good way). Dishes included a melt-in-the-mouth short rib stroganoff with buttery crushed potatoes (£8.50) and a bowl of borscht (beetroot soup, £5) with a tart mushroom cream floating on the surface, and flecks of pork belly sinking to the bottom. Skill can’t be faulted in these warming – not to mention affordable – dishes. The pickle platter wasn’t much to write home to Mother Russia about, though, with grapes and cherry tomatoes taking on a hefty sourness. Leaving as sour a note was the cynical offer o
Venue says: “Saturday DJ nights at Zima! We know how to rock a party. Dress up, show up and let’s rock this town!”