As far as chain restaurants go breakfasts can often be disappointing for anyone who doesn’t fancy a typical hangover fry-up or cheap and cheerful beans on toast but Bill’s offers a refreshing alternative. Entering the eatery in Reading town centre, located away from the high street by the picturesque St Mary’s church, I was struck at first by the homely and bright environment, which was tastefully decorated in a kitsch and homely, rustic, country style. The atmosphere was relaxed and the tables where almost half full of mostly middle aged couples. We seated ourselves and immediately pounced on the national newspapers which were available to read and more importantly took advantage of the free wifi.
We were soon seen to by a friendly waitress who took down our drink orders. Tea was ordered at 1.95 per person. I additionally asked for Bill’s super green smoothie – made up of apples, spinach and yoghurt which was thick and delicious, if a little pricey at £3.25 for a small and £4.30 for a large.
The menu ranged in price from £3.95 for a bread basket of toasted sour dough, mini croissant and pain au chocolat with a selection of marmalade and jams to £7.95 for the full English style Bill’s breakfasts and the eggs royale.
Two of the group were not particularly hungry and asked to order simply poached eggs on toast, which was totally fine. I ordered the vegetarian Bill’s breakfast of poached free range eggs (all of Bill’s eggs are free range), piled atop two thick slices of rustic bread slathered with creamy guacamole and tangy tomato hummus alongside fresh slices tomatoes, deliciously chewy chunks of fried Portobello mushrooms, all flavoured with a few drops of sweet chilli and garnished with basil. This was a marvellous antidote to the usual quorn-subsidiary-laden veggie full English. The poached eggs were just how I like them, as runny as possible without being raw, and the addition of sweet chilli along with the guacamole and hummus made for a very flavoursome and hearty morning meal, which on top of it all felt healthy and nutritious.
The meaty Bill’s breakfast which was ordered by my other companion, was a smaller, tidier, much more artisan take on the full English, comprised of fried eggs, a Cumberland sausage, two rashers of streaky bacon and fresh sliced tomatoes and the Portobello mushroom piled on top toast. This option was a touch dry. Baked beans or fried potatoes can be added to both the Bill’s breakfasts for an extra pound and £1.25, although the last mouthfuls were already a bit of a struggle without any add ons.
It can feel like a defeat when one’s desire to find an independent bistro is thwarted by time constraints or overwhelming hunger, but all of my fellow dinners expressed complete shock when told that Bill’s is a chain. “I thought it was a complete one off,” said one companion who is, it has to be said, a major food snob who would rather go hungry than even take a cursory glance at a Whetherspoons menu. The breakfast menu is available until noon on weekdays and one o’clock on Saturdays and Sundays, making Bill’s perfect for a lazy, low risk and relatively affordable rise and dine.
Carnalitos. Kaspar Kovitz. 2010. Iberco ham, concrete.
Where many exhibitions can be loosely thematically woven, and the disjointed jumbled-togetherness of pieces cause the collection to hardly seem like a coherent singular exhibition at all, Body Language at the Saatchi Gallery is a welcome and refreshing antidote. Happily the collection displays a wealth of relatively new art talent, whose explorations of “embodiment” are startlingly different and accessible to even the most estranged to modern art. After all, the human body is something we all have first-hand experience with, and strong emotional opinions towards, whether we know it or not. This collection goes to prove the man himself, Charles Saatchi was right when he insisted that the apparently endlessly fascinating human form as artistic inspiration has ‘retained its currency.’
The light-hearted busts of Basque heroes Miguel de Unamuno and Sabino Arana, carved from legs of ham stand out as particularly visceral pieces, in Kaspar Kovitz’s Carnalitos – a Spanish expression for close friends or “of the same blood.” Du Unamuno and Arana played significant but opposing roles in the Basque struggle for independence. The tongue-in-cheek, comedic nature of the piece was evident, as the large hunks of meat with chiselled out faces and beards balanced on top of the jaunty, dancing legs of bone beneath them. Kovitz manages to render a hilarious amount of expression onto the faces of these distinguished political leaders, carved from the fat of the ham, and the piece is all together amusing and humbling.
Eddie Martinez, an artist from Brooklyn with a background in graffiti, renders his impasto painting on huge canvases. The Feast, (243.84 x 853.44 cm) shows 12 figures sat at a long table laden with food. The instant association is the last supper, although Martinez maintains this was not his intention when creating the piece. Most of the characters along the table are hooded, disguised in costumes or are his signature clowns. The piece evokes excess, communicated via the riotousness of his technique and vivid use of colour.
Dana Schutz deals with the notion of humanity facing it’s true self – characterized by her invention of a race of auto-cannibals who would rather devour itself than cope with its own inadequacy. Face Eater is visually gruesome and depicts a slathering mouth consuming the rest of the face. Downtown LA native, Henry Taylor comments on community and black history in his piece She Mixed, in which we see a black man and white woman copulating on a mattress in the street. Taylor tackles racism and the hypocritical idea of degeneracy in society, inspired by his upbringing in his hometown.
Finally another sculpture, The Misanthrope by New Zealander Francis Uprtichard, stands amongst all this, draped in an acid yellow tie-die robe, and adorned with silver and turquoise jewellery. Bent-over with age, and with a look of resigned sadness, as his namesake suggests the misanthrope is a character who holds a hatred and distain for humankind and the nature of humanity.
This full and varied exhibition is a must see for art fans and will be continuing until 23, March, 2014.
The Misanthrope. Francis Upritchard. 2011. Modelling material, foil, wire, acrylic paint, silk, wood, nylon, costume jewellery, nylon, found table.
The Feast. Eddie Martinez. 2010. Mixed media on canvas.
Face Eater. Dana Shutz. 2004. Oil on canvas.
She Mixed. Henry Taylor. 2008. Acrylic on canvas.
From the New Order II: British Art Now: The Movable Set. George Little. 2013. Oil, acrylic, Spray on Canvas, brass and Stainless Steel and me.
The first song on Mark Kozelek’s sixth album, Benji, released under the nom-de-plume Sun Kil Moon, is not a feel-good tune. Kozelek’s rambling and intimate story-telling, reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, narrates the aftermath of the tragic and arbitrary death of a distant family member, his second cousin. Evoking the strange feeling of coming back to your childhood home for a family funeral, the song explores how death suddenly brings into relief so many questions that now can’t ever be answered.
The 47-year-old artist, known for his unashamedly candid and autobiographical song-writing, has certainly felt his fair share of loss and the album that follows Carissa is preoccupied by themes of death. As undoubtedly maudlin as the subject matter may be, Ohio-born Kozelek’s mellow guitar and matter-of-fact treatment of the most painful parts of our everyday lives results in an album that will leave you feeling curiously calm.
Barbara Kruger: 'Your Body Is a Battleground', 1989
There is an ever-present catch-22 in feminism and fashion; how can an industry that profits from women’s low self-esteem ever be truly feminist? But fashion itself is a huge concept which spans from Andy Warhol’s factory to Crocs, from Isabella Blow to Kim Kardashian. Away from the pages of magazines like Grazia and Vogue, the issues of established gender roles and feminism have been consistently addressed.
If you, like me, are always wishing you did something a little more cultured on Friday night, as opposed to over-priced drinks and facing national rail a few wines down on the way home, then Friday night’s Late Shift at the National Portrait Gallery might be right up your street.
Taking place every Friday night, the drop-in drawing sessions encourage you to get creative and practice those art skills you might have forgotten since GSCE. Each session is led by a professional artist and all materials are provided for you, so no carrying a pad of paper and pencils around all day.
Last week’s session focused on how we relate to faces. The task was to pick a face in the gallery and change one facial feature each time you drew it. It was amazing to see how one different feature can change a whole face, and how we associate archetypal personalities with different faces. This prompted the question; does the way we, and others, relate to our faces change how they interact with us and then change how we ourselves act?
Late Shift at the NPG holds a variety of different events on other nights of the week, including live DJ sets, philosophical debates, and special events such as poetry reading and film screenings.
You can check out what else the Late Shift has to offer here.