Paul Loman's Blog

The Blue Route

The Blue Route

In ‘The Blue Route’, 384 shirts hang across the gallery space, making curves which are in harmony with the arched roof. Each shirt is not just an object. It has been worn in its time by someone and is a container for memories and the energy of the wearer. The shirts were donated by Brighton residents and will find their way to Oxfam afterwards. This is one of a number of works by the artist Kaarina Kaikkonen which evoke associations of personal loss, collective memory and local history.
The yellow shirt in The Blue Route

The yellow shirt in The Blue Route


A yellow shirt sits at the work’s focal point in a reference to the sun’s energy. The gallery was a church in a previous life and the artist is content for some to go further and identify the yellow shirt as a Christ-like presence.

The Blue Route

The Blue Route

One wag at the opening referred to the simplicity of the idea. “I could have come up with that”. This is familiar to the artist who is often confronted in this way in her native Finland. The answer is of course that you could’ve come up with the idea but you didn’t. Kaarina goes further. Whilst acknowledging that she has the original concept, she expresses with humility that “there comes a point where the work takes over and tells me what to do.” Something drives the work to its inevitable conclusion which is somehow beyond the control of its maker.

Kaarina Kaikkonen

Kaarina Kaikkonen

Part of the commission is a companion piece in which she drapes Brighton’s Clock Tower in clothes and other material. Shirts flap in the breeze as the clock ticks on. She freely accepts that not everyone likes it. “Well I don’t like everybody” she counters. This is a highly visible work which brings to life one of Brighton’s iconic landmarks. I stopped to contemplate the Clock Tower last night, something I haven’t done before in all the years that I have lived here.

One of the perplexing things about Brighton is its lack of high-end dining.   We’ve eaten some wonderful meals elsewhere in Britain but Brighton for all its cosmopolitan sophistication is a bit lacking.   There’s no shortage of good places to eat in the mass-market mid-range but when it comes to something special there’s a distinct lack of options.

So it’s great to see Chris Bailey, a chef with Michelin credentials stepping into the void.  Chris has launched a monthly pop-up called ‘Interim Table’ in a stylish and accommodating basement space just off Western Road.  It’s a great concept: you’re seated at a long bench table which can be extended to pack in thirty diners and you rub shoulders with other food lovers with the cooking and plating happening in close proximity.

Chris was happy to accommodate our special request: not a food pet-hate but Barbara’s need to sit in a high-backed chair which we agreed to provide.  And it suited us both to reschedule to the Friday, under-booked as it turned out due to the clash with the most-popular date for office Christmas parties.

Stepping into the dining space – complete with chair – we were introduced to his chef-buddy, Will Murgatroyd.  A lovely surprise.  Will was the chef-proprietor of one of our favourite Brighton restaurants: the Meadow Restaurant in Palmeira Square, which sadly closed earlier in the year.  We had often taken guests there on the basis that ‘this guy can cook’ and were shaken – but not surprised – to learn that the place had closed its doors.  It emerged that packing them in a weekends is necessary but not sufficient and those empty mid-week tables had taken their toll.

The evening then turned into something of a private dinner party as we were joined by the other guests: Will’s parents, brother and wife. 

It wasn’t long before a sloe-gin cocktail was in-hand followed by three little amuse: pork crackling (aka chicharron) with taramasalata; malt-loaf topped with a super-smooth chicken-liver parfait and a hint of marmalade; and a (blow-torched) scallop on a bed of sweet-corn mousse and a little hint of Pedro Ximenez vinegar served on a bent–spoon.  We used to have one of those, bent and signed by Yuri Geller, a souvenir from  Barbara’s days at the BBC interviewing celebrities.  Now they’re another part of a chef’s armoury.

First of the serious courses was a silky celeriac veloute in the middle of which sat a salt-cod brandade ‘scotch egg’ out of which a perfectly runny yolk oozed into the soup. Note: in the pic – taken in poor light with my iPhone(!) – it’s the Arbequina olive oil that appears to emerge from the still-intact ‘egg’.Image

Next up a terrine made from middle-white pork garnished with roasted beetroot, grilled dill pickle (there goes that blow-torch again) and smoked brewers malt.

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Now for some fish: char-grilled trout accompanied by black olive gnocchi, Alexander shoots, Amalfi lemon emulsion and parsley crumble.  Alexander shoots were a new experience for me. It turns out that they grow like a weed on the Shoreham coastline and lent a healthy iron note to the dish. This sparked a discussion on foraging which may feature as a project in the Spring with Chris and his forager pal.Image

Then came wild duck breast which had been cooked in a water-bath and then briefly seared prior to serving with quince puree with tonka, a bed of trompettes, sprout leaves and wheat berries. Even the humble sprout had an opportunity to shine.

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I think we’d had our money’s-worth  by now (£50pp) but on came an unctuous, baked Vacherin Mont d’Or spooned onto a plate with walnut bread and red-wine and apple puree. This was followed by the a toffee pudding – lighter and spongier than the usual ‘sticky’ version, which was complemented perfectly with clotted cream, macadamia granola, pear and spiced cider.

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We were done by now but Chris treated us to Christmas-themed chestnut and cinnamon macarons with sparkly-coated chocolate and olive oil truffles and some shortbread. Image And we were introduced to a delicious cider apple brandy, sourced from Somerset of course. A pefect blend of apple juice and brandy which according to their website is available at Waitrose!brandy

This was a meal to savour and is up there with many of our Michelin-restaurant experiences, which can often disappoint as much as delight.  On top, we had the ‘chef table’ experience of nattering about food with its creators and also engaging and swapping food experiencies with fellow-diners.  ‘What’s not to like?’ as Anthony Bourdain would say.

Will is also planning standalone projects, we hear.  Look out for his jazz evenings in Littlehampton.  Best thing is to follow them both so you don’t miss out.  Chris Bailey (@chefcbailey) and Will Murgatroyd (@WillMurgatroyd).

Woke up to drizzle this morning. That’s a first. It was the same weather system that disrupted the start of the F1 Grand Prix a few hundred miles down the road in Yeongam.

So we went shopping. Only kidding. We went to Shinsegae, the largest department store in the world according to the Guiness Book of Records.
Truth to tell, we didn’t do much shopping. The fourteen floors of the building house a golf driving range (floors 11 thru 14), a spa, an ice-rink, a cinema and of course a restaurant floor. Oh, and stuff you can buy.

We started at the golf and spent 40 minutes whacking golf balls in a space that has the largest carry distance of any indoor golf range in Korea.
We checked out the cinema area and the interesting-sounding concept of Cine de Chef: eating a restaurant meal while watching Michael Douglas in Wall Street 2. I don’t think so.

So it had to be the spa. The system is great. You are given a locker key and that is used to first deposit your shoes. You then proceed to reception, where you are allocated bath robes. You leave any valuables in a further set of lockers in the reception area. You then proceed to the changing room, where the same locker number is used to deposit clothes and change into your bath robes.
These robes are really a simple slip on top and pants and they’re just to enable you to wander about in the mixed-sex areas. They’re colour coded: guys in light brown and gals in crimson. And they’re styled a bit like prison tunics.

The first such area we visited was the foot bathing area. This was a series of paddling pools of different temperatures and salt composition, which reflected the naturally occurring springs that apparently exist here. One was sodium chloride, the other was sodium bicarbonate.
Then it was time to join the big boys in the main baths. Tunics were discarded and after a thorough scrub-down in the showers, we were bollock naked splashing round with about fifty other blokes. Again there were pools of varying temperatures and salt composition, saunas and steam rooms. I have to say – it was not a pretty sight.

We reclaimed our tunics after this and went for a walk around the common areas. Bars, restaurants, massage, hair cutting, areas for stretching and the Relax Bar. Here we found leather recliner seats each of which had its own flat screen TV with speakers in the chair’s head rest. And joy of joy for Nick, the F1 Grand Prix was just underway. So that was it. Beers in, a few smoked eggs and we were set.

Then another round of the bathing areas and upstairs for our last Korean meal: Bulgogi, thinly-sliced marinated beef cooked in front of us in a rather cleverly designed device which combines the features of a stew-pot and a BBQ.
In the end, we’d been there over six hours and it turns out there’s a surcharge if you go over 4 unless you buy some of their extra services. Those beers in the Relax Bar were worth their weight in gold.

The Beetle hydrofoil ferry that makes the trip to Busan in Korea took 3 hours and was pretty smooth. We dumped our baggage at the hotel and headed straight for the Jagalchi Fish Market which was nearby.
As soon as we entered the precinct of the market, we encountered women squatting on the floor cleaning shellfish.
The market building is on seven floors but it’s the ground floor where all the action is. Here are some video clips that show the immense variety of seafood on offer. Look out for the aptly-named ‘sea penises’.

On the first floor is a raw fish restaurant. It was Saturday in Busan and there were many large groups sitting cross-legged round low wooden tables having a fishy feast. Quite a bit of alcohol was being drunk as well.
We were directed to one of the tables they reserve for westerners who like to sit on chairs. Our table was soon filled with the side dishes which accompany a Korean meal. Then a grilled sardine-like fish was served, followed by a plate of Korean sashimi made up of fish recently seen swimming in the tanks adjacent to our table. A bit chewy for my taste – a very different experience from the silky tuna we ate in Tokyo. Finally, a gas burner is placed on the table and a pot of broth is allowed to bubble.

The end of the line for the shinkansen is Hakata, another hour onwards from Hiroshima. It’s only a brief stopover. Tomorrow we board a ferry which will take us back to Korea.

But first, a taste of the local speciality, ramen. We walked along the river front looking for street food served from market stalls, known as yatai. We were soon eating noodles steeped in a deliciously deep pork broth.

And so it’s goodbye Japan. It’s so in character for the shore staff at the ferry terminal to line up on the quayside to wave a farewell. The senior man looks at his watch. Ten o clock exactly. He gives a small nod of satisfaction.

Next stop on the shinkansen from Kobe was Himeji, famous for its magnificent castle which features in ‘You only Live Twice’ and ‘Shogun’ films.

It’s an impressive building but its main tower is currently cloaked in scaffolding for long-running renovation and so the effect is somewhat lost. We were able to walk around some of the rooms but there were no artifacts to be seen.
We didn’t hang around … so next stop Hiroshima.

This is a place that has to be seen. A short tram ride from the station takes you first to the Dome, a structure which partly survived the bomb-blast when all around was wasted.

Beyond the Dome, is the Peace Museum. This tells the story of Hiroshima – not just from the historical and political perspective.

It also portrays human stories: mothers who waited home for a child who never arrived; diaries of children written just before the explosion; the hands of a wristwatch frozen in time; a tattered garment with the biographical details of the child to whom it belonged; survivors attempting to live a life afterwards.

It also details in scientific and human terms the effects of radiation: the lethal legacy of a nuclear explosion.

The City of Hiroshima campaigns tirelessly for the abandonment of nuclear weapons. Over sixty years on, its message is as powerful as ever.

This is a place-holder for our trip to the fish market. All attempts to edit the video so far have ended in failure.

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