Kylie Minogue, Mat Horne and Peter Serafinowicz? Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. With casting coups including Emma Thompson, Harry Shearer and Daniel Radcliffe, the first run of ‘Playhouse Presents’ established itself as an amiably eccentric short-drama strand to watch.
This series opener, written and directed by Marc Warren, is a messy curio, but not without merit. Serafinowicz is the stage star with an ego inversely proportionate to his talent; Kylie his vampish co-star with a secret; and Horne the gofer with acting ambitions of his own. All three are brought together under flailing director David Harewood (excellent) for a doomed fringe production based on Andy Warhol’s life.
It’s an odd blend of slapstick, satire and ‘Twilight Zone’-ish mystery, and showcases Warren’s direction more flatteringly than the uncertain writing. The pacing and tone are haphazard, but occasional sequences impress (in particular the Warhol ‘Venus in Furs’ montage which plumbs remarkable depths of intentional awfulness) and the performances just about hold it together.
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