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Deliveroo’s dark kitchens: Investigation reveals meals from famous brands are cooked in CAR PARKS

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deliveroos dark kitchens investigation reveals meals from famous brands are cooked in car parks

With a celebrity clientele, glittering reviews and a coveted Michelin star, Mayfair restaurant Hakkasan has long been a sought-after reservation. 

But since London‘s elite dining scene was laid low by Covid, it has been offering gourmets a taste of the high life at home, including signature Chinese dishes such as Peking duck at £110 and roasted silver cod in champagne and honey for £52.

The freshly cooked dishes are transported to the customer’s door by turquoise-clad moped riders from the ubiquitous Deliveroo fleet, who ferry hot food on demand from local restaurants, fast-food chains and even coffee shops.

But Hakkasan customers might be surprised to know that, despite the chilli-hot price tag, there’s a good chance their gourmet Cantonese food has come no closer to rubbing shoulders with high society than they have.

They might find, in fact, their dinner has never been anywhere near the kitchens of Hakkasan’s flagship restaurant in Bruton Street. Instead, it has been knocked up in a windowless industrial shed in a shabby North London car park.

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Mayfair restaurant Hakkasan has long been a sought-after reservation and has been offering signature Chinese dishes from home since the dining scene was laid low by Covid

But Hakkasan customers might be surprised to know that there is a good chance their food has been knocked up in a windowless industrial shed in a shabby North London car park

 But Hakkasan customers might be surprised to know that there is a good chance their food has been knocked up in a windowless industrial shed in a shabby North London car park

There, in a gated compound protected by two security guards, is one of Deliveroo’s ‘dark kitchens’, where food ordered from a number of major restaurant brands – including Indian chain Dishoom, popular burger joints Honest Burger and Shake Shack, and the curry house Moto – is actually cooked.

According to its own version of recent history, Deliveroo, which is backed to the tune of nearly £500million by internet giant Amazon, has been the saviour of the restaurant trade during the coronavirus crisis.

Yet for all the slick marketing, there are growing questions about the way this new ‘disruptor’ operates, including its use of dark kitchens, and rising fears that it will do to independent restaurants what Amazon has already done to small local shops here and in America.

For a growing number of restaurateurs, Deliveroo is not so much their saviour as a predator whose seemingly unstoppable growth, high commission fees and close control of customer data threaten to crush the life out of old-fashioned family businesses.

‘Restaurant’ meals from a BLEAK pre-fab

The commercial model is deceptively simple: Deliveroo, founded in Britain seven years ago, takes food from restaurants to customers who order by app, then charges the restaurants commission. The system is easy to use and hugely popular.

The company dispatches thousands of meals every day around the country. Soon it will float on the stock market, advised, it was reported yesterday, by Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs.

Deliveroo customers might be less delighted, though, if they fully understood where some of the food has actually been produced. Take Hakkasan, which is, after all, a name synonymous with fine dining. Would food-lovers familiar with its luxurious restaurants expect their meals to be cooked by chefs rubbing shoulders – literally – with colleagues preparing meals for Honest Burger and Shake Shack?

The clue is the word ‘Editions’ marked on the app, along with an address that might not be familiar.

When we visited the satellite kitchen in Swiss Cottage, North London, where some of the Hakkasan takeaways are cooked, we found an anonymous building in a grey car park close to the traffic-choked Finchley Road.

Speaking to us outside, a chef for one of the other brands (which we have agreed not to name) described tough working conditions in which two dozen cooks turn out meals for eight different companies. 

It's a similar picture at Deliveroo's dark kitchen in Battersea, South London, a small red-brick unit that looks like a row of garages

It’s a similar picture at Deliveroo’s dark kitchen in Battersea, South London, a small red-brick unit that looks like a row of garages

Deliveroo does little to advertise its presence at the Battersea kitchen and the only obvious clue is a group of 30 motorbikes parked outside as the riders wait to collect hot food

Deliveroo does little to advertise its presence at the Battersea kitchen and the only obvious clue is a group of 30 motorbikes parked outside as the riders wait to collect hot food

‘There aren’t any windows,’ he says. ‘I don’t know why – you’d have to ask Deliveroo that. We have air conditioning, but it’s not really the same.’

It’s a similar picture at Deliveroo’s dark kitchen in Battersea, South London, a small red-brick unit that looks like a row of garages. Deliveroo does little to advertise its presence here and the only obvious clue is a group of 30 motorbikes parked outside as the riders wait to collect brown paper bags of hot food passed through a single doorway.

When we were invited inside, we found eight little windowless kitchens, the different cuisines all prepared side by side with shared shelves and equipment. The powerful aroma of Indian spices mingled with something sweet and the smell of raw meat.

‘We make everything here from sushi to Mexican food to curry to Lebanese cuisine,’ explained one of the cooks. ‘There are about 20 to 30 chefs cooped up inside. It’s like an open-plan office, but for food prep.

‘It’s quite a depressing place to work, but if you’re busy you don’t think about it so much.’

Another said: ‘I’m not sure if the customers realise where their food is really coming from. But I don’t think they care as long as their food is quick and hot. I don’t think they think about it at all.’

A third agreed: ‘All they care about is prompt delivery. It’s the smaller restaurants this really affects.

‘The big brands can afford to use these dark kitchens, not the independents. It’s a shame. Of course I prefer working in a proper kitchen in a real restaurant with the buzz of it all and the customers there. But what can I say? A job is a job.’

At least he’s not working in a cluster of prefabricated boxes across town in Poplar, East London. Huddled together beneath a flyover and looking more like the temporary HQ for a construction project than a catering hub, these, too, are kitchens serving Deliveroo and 14 restaurant brands, including Honest Burger, Motu Indian Kitchen, Patty And Bun, The Good Earth and Dirty Bones.

Hundreds of shiny metal canisters once containing the drug nitrous oxide, or ‘hippy crack’, lay strewn around the car park outside the facility when we visited. The gas provides a quick, cheap high. We heard a clattering from somewhere as yet more of the canisters hit the ground, then watched as a group of young men in motorcycle gear suddenly appeared from between two parked cars.

Leaving a small collection of ‘hippy crack’ containers in their wake, they rejoined their mopeds parked outside the kitchen and sat down to wait. On the back of one of these mopeds was a Deliveroo-branded food box.

Deliveroo says it will be investigating the claim as a matter of urgency.

Since London's elite dining scene was laid low by Covid, Hakkasan has been offering gourmets food at home, including Chinese dishes such as Peking duck at £110 and sesame prawn toast

Since London’s elite dining scene was laid low by Covid, Hakkasan has been offering gourmets food at home, including Chinese dishes such as Peking duck at £110 and sesame prawn toast

Would food-lovers familiar with Hakkasan expect their meals to be cooked by chefs rubbing shoulders ¿ literally ¿ with colleagues preparing meals for Honest Burger and Shake Shack?

Would food-lovers familiar with Hakkasan expect their meals to be cooked by chefs rubbing shoulders – literally – with colleagues preparing meals for Honest Burger and Shake Shack?

Family firms hammered by the crippling fees 

If Deliveroo customers appreciate the convenience and choice on offer, restaurateurs who have agreed to work with the app are realising there’s a sting in the tail – substantial commission fees that can account for much as 35 per cent of each sale. This is in addition to the delivery fee, generally £3 to £5, charged to the customer.

James Chiavarini, whose family have run Italian restaurants in West London, including the popular Il Portico, for decades, is an outspoken voice in an industry where many prefer to keep their concerns private, fearing the growing influence of the delivery service.

He speaks from what he says is bitter personal experience. ‘Even in a world of Covid-19, I believe Deliveroo represents the biggest threat of all to the hospitality industry in urban areas,’ he concludes.

‘They originally marketed themselves as a tool to help restaurants like mine, but Deliveroo is now crushing the industry. This might sound like hyperbole, but I can assure you it is not.’

Mr Chiavarini showed The Mail on Sunday an invoice from Deliveroo for 13 deliveries over a 24-hour period in May.

It showed that he sold a total of £372.50 of meals, but after Deliveroo’s 35 per cent commission, VAT and a hefty discount he says he was encouraged to offer to get a better placement on the app, he was left with just £147.11 (Deliveroo disputes making the suggestion he offer discounts, insisting the app takes no account of these).

In the end, he was left to pay staff wages, rent and the cost of the food out of just 39 per cent of the price paid by the customer.

‘It’s nuts,’ he continues. ‘And Deliveroo’s attitude is ‘Like it or lump it’. They’ve really got people’s backs up.’

After three months with Deliveroo, he decided to leave. Now he relies on old-fashioned customers instead.

Not that everyone pays such whopping levels of commission. Leading brands such as McDonald’s, Starbucks and Wagamama are important to Deliveroo, which might be why they often hand over a notably smaller cut than most independent operators – 20 per cent, say, rather than 35.

It’s a point that certainly rankles with Pietro Mingolla, owner of Bianco Nero, an Italian restaurant in Maidenhead, Berkshire.

‘I’ve stopped using Deliveroo because they charge so much money – 35 per cent plus VAT, which means that I’m giving them £42 out of a £100 order,’ he said. ‘It’s simply not viable for us.

‘It annoys me that Deliveroo charge an extortionate amount and give a better deal to bigger restaurants and chains.

‘It would have helped during Covid if Deliveroo could have halved their rate, but no.

In one of Deliveroo's 'dark kitchens', food ordered from a number of major brands ¿ including popular burger joints Honest Burger and Shake Shack ¿ is actually cooked

 In one of Deliveroo’s ‘dark kitchens’, food ordered from a number of major brands – including popular burger joints Honest Burger and Shake Shack – is actually cooked

When we visited the satellite kitchen in Swiss Cottage, where some of the Hakkasan takeaways are cooked, we found an anonymous building in a grey car park close to Finchley Road

When we visited the satellite kitchen in Swiss Cottage, where some of the Hakkasan takeaways are cooked, we found an anonymous building in a grey car park close to Finchley Road

‘I think too many restaurants are afraid of switching off Deliveroo because they are so desperate for the money.’

Andy Kwok, director at The Good Earth, a 40-year-old family-run group of Chinese restaurants and takeaways in London and Surrey, is one of those who feel they have no choice.

‘I did join them and it did work, but it became a competition to our own business because their commission rate was very, very high.

‘But if you stop using Deliveroo, you lose customers. We turned it off for three months to see if customers would come directly to us. And not enough of them did. Half were loyal to us but half stuck with Deliveroo, so we lost substantial business.

‘It’s not as straightforward as turning off the tap. You think you have a choice, but you might not because it’s a bit like a drug: you can’t stop it.

‘True, I don’t think our customers know about the Editions kitchens, but I don’t think they’d mind. If the food is good and is prepared hygienically, does it matter? I’ve seen restaurant kitchens with horrific levels of hygiene. If there’s a hygiene issue, with an Editions kitchen, Deliveroo will just chuck you out. They’re tough.’

Luke Johnson, owner of Gail’s Bakery and former chairman of Pizza Express, said: ‘I can’t see how restaurants can make a profit if they have to hand over 35 per cent. And I don’t really want to eat meals cooked on industrial estates that have been on the back of a moped for 20 minutes.

‘I passionately hope that diners will recover their confidence and go back to restaurants.’

London Mayor Sadiq Khan is now examining the question of Deliveroo’s commission rates in response to a petition that attracted 1,500 signatures.

One solution said to be under consideration is for London to follow New York and make it illegal for companies such as Deliveroo to charge more than 20 per cent.

Deliveroo? Bang goes the neighbourhood

Those living close to Deliveroo’s dark kitchens say they, too, are paying a heavy price for the firm’s operations. At Swiss Cottage, for example, locals have complained to the council about cooking smells, long operating hours and continual noise from motorcycle couriers.

‘Deliveroo are a nightmare for everyone in the area,’ said one. ‘I have lived here for 18 years and have never seen it appear so scruffy. The riders sprawl out on the pavements with their bags and bicycles, leaving rubbish everywhere.’

At Swiss Cottage, where some of the Hakkasan takeaways are cooked, a chef for one of the other brands described tough working conditions in which two dozen cooks turn out meals for eight different companies.

Outside Swiss Cottage in North London a chef for one of the other brands described tough working conditions in which two dozen cooks turn out meals for eight different companies

At Swiss Cottage, locals complained to the council about cooking smells, long operating hours and noise from motorcycle couriers. Above, food ordered from Hakkashan on Deliveroo

At Swiss Cottage, locals complained to the council about cooking smells, long operating hours and noise from motorcycle couriers. Above, food ordered from Hakkashan on Deliveroo

‘There is lots of noise from the site at all times and lots of unpleasant cooking smells – stale cooking oil as well,’ said another. ‘I have not been able to have my window open in hot weather.’

The chairman of the local residents’ association claimed Deliveroo had caused several local restaurants to decline.

Paying not a penny in corporation tax 

Like many start-up companies, Deliveroo prioritised rapid growth to secure a dominant market position at the expense of turning a profit. For all its income, the company has consistently generated heavy losses and so paid little, if any, tax. It’s a tactic that other ‘disruptors’ such as Uber have also used.

The last available accounts, for 2018, show that Deliveroo made losses of £230 million on a turnover of £476 million (up from £277 million the previous year).

And like any firm that makes a loss, Roofoods Ltd, Deliveroo’s parent company, pays no corporation tax. In fact, the latest accounts reveal that, despite the astonishing quantity of food it delivers every day, Deliveroo claimed a £640,000 tax rebate thanks to a Government scheme aimed at encouraging investment in tech firms.

They also show that Deliveroo’s highest paid director – understood to be British-based co-founder Will Shu – earns a salary of £250,000 plus £8.3 million in share options.

In total, key managers received a staggering £20.7 million in share-based payments.

And the firm’s biggest asset? Your data

If the expansion of the dark kitchens is concerning, so is the fact that Deliveroo is using our personal data to accomplish it.

Every time you order food, you give your details to the app, yet this information is not shared with restaurateurs. Only Deliveroo sees who the customers are – where they live, what they are eating and when, how often and how much they spend.

Deliveroo can even see how old the customers are and track how their spending changes over time. It’s a commercial treasure trove.

Armed with this information, Deliveroo can make sure that the predicted demand is met – which puts it in a hugely powerful position in the marketplace.

Deliveroo’s property acquisitions manager, Patrick Weiss, has spoken about it openly: ‘Using our own technology, we can identify specific local cuisines missing in an area, identify customer demand for that missing cuisine and hand-pick brands that are most likely to appeal to customers in that area.’

And that, says James Chiavarini, could spell the end for the restaurant trade as we have known it.

‘Deliveroo wants a monopoly in my view. But in whose interest? It won’t be the customer’s. I believe that the company will finish the job that Covid-19 started and may yet put many established restaurants out of business altogether.

For all Deliveroo's slick marketing, there are growing questions about the way this new 'disruptor' operates, including its use of dark kitchens

For all Deliveroo’s slick marketing, there are growing questions about the way this new ‘disruptor’ operates, including its use of dark kitchens 

‘If we do not regulate soon, dark kitchens will become as ubiquitous as Ubers are on our roads.

‘That would be desperate news for restaurants we know and love and can only cause further devastation to town centres across Britain. If we’re serious about keeping our high streets busy, and keeping the economy going, it’s a prospect that should frighten us all.’

Last night a spokesman for Deliveroo said: ‘It is disappointing that misleading claims have been made about our business.

‘Deliveroo is a British company founded on a love for small, independent restaurants and we have made it our priority to support them, especially during Covid-19.

‘We are proud to have supported our small restaurant partners through the pandemic, providing a vital lifeline for restaurants which would otherwise not have been able to operate during the height of the crisis, protecting jobs.

‘This includes providing specially designed, delivery-only kitchens to bring customers more food choices and help restaurants increase sales.

‘Throughout this period, we have invested millions in our restaurant partners, helping them increase their income, and we have produced new tools to support both their dine-in and delivery businesses.

‘Alongside this, Deliveroo is now working with supermarkets to provide people with access to the essential items they need, and we are proud to be supporting NHS workers, to whom we have delivered hundreds of thousands of free meals.’

Hakkasan did not respond to a request for comment. 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Sacha Baron Cohen and Maria Bakalova on Rudy Giuliani Borat prank

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sacha baron cohen and maria bakalova on rudy giuliani borat prank

Sacha Baron Cohen has hit back at Rudy Giuliani’s claims that the Borat honey trap video is a ‘complete fabrication’, saying ‘heaven knows what he has done with other female journalists in hotel rooms’ – as scenes from the full film show him patting a young woman on her hip.

The video, which is a scene from Baron Cohen’s Borat sequel film that was released in full on Friday, shows Giuliani in a compromising position in a New York City hotel room alongside a young woman posing as a conservative TV reporter. 

In the scene, President Trump‘s personal attorney is seen patting the woman, who plays Borat’s daughter Tutar in the film, on her hip while he sits on the bed. 

He is also shown lying on the bed, tucking in his shirt with his hand down his pants as the woman stands nearby. 

After a snippet of the scene emerged earlier this week, Giuliani said he was only tucking in his shirt after removing his recording equipment and insisted that he was never ‘inappropriate’.  

In an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America on Friday, Baron Cohen was asked to respond after Giuliani accused him of being a ‘stone-cold liar’. 

‘I would say that if the president’s lawyer found what he did there appropriate behavior, then heaven knows what he has done with other female journalists in hotel rooms,’ Baron Cohen said. 

‘I urge everyone to watch the movie. It is what it is, he did what he did. Make your own mind up. It was pretty clear to us.’ 

In one part, Giuliani can be heard asking for the woman's phone number and address. That audio is played over a shot in which the woman can be seen removing his microphone and he pats her lower back

In one part, Giuliani can be heard asking for the woman’s phone number and address. That audio is played over a shot in which the woman can be seen removing his microphone and he pats her lower back

The scene from Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat sequel film that was released in full on Friday, shows Rudy Giuliani in a compromising position in a New York City hotel room alongside a young woman posing as a conservative TV reporter

The scene from Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat sequel film that was released in full on Friday, shows Rudy Giuliani in a compromising position in a New York City hotel room alongside a young woman posing as a conservative TV reporter

His comments came as the full controversial scene emerged on Friday following the release of the film, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, on Amazon Prime. 

The scene, which was shot back in July in the Mark Hotel, shows Giuliani sitting down with 24-year-old actress Maria Bakalova, who was posing as a conservative reporter, for an interview about the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response. 

During the scene, Giuliani answered several questions about coronavirus, including how many lives he thought Trump had saved due to his handling of the pandemic.

In the interview scene, the woman was flirtatious with Giuliani and could be seen repeatedly touching his knee. 

She also told him he was ‘one of her greatest heroes’ and that she felt like she was in a fairy tale. At one point, she said she felt like she was Melania Trump.  

After being interrupted by Baron Cohen’s Borat character, who was disguised as a sound technician, the scene cuts to Giuliani following the woman into the hotel bedroom as she asks: ‘Should we have a drink in the bedroom’.

The 30-second scene in the bedroom cuts repeatedly to different frames from the various hidden cameras. It is not clear how much of it has been edited together to portray a specific story line. 

It shows Giuliani asking for her phone number and address. That audio is played over a shot in which the woman can be seen removing his microphone and he pats her lower back. 

He can then be seen lying back on the bed to tuck in his shirt after she helps remove his recording equipment. 

He has his hands in his pants when Baron Cohen’s character rushes in for a second time wearing an outlandish outfit. 

Baron Cohen on Friday hit out at Rudy Giuliani's claims that the Borat honey trap video is a 'complete fabrication', saying 'heaven knows what he has done with other female journalists in hotel rooms'

Baron Cohen on Friday hit out at Rudy Giuliani’s claims that the Borat honey trap video is a ‘complete fabrication’, saying ‘heaven knows what he has done with other female journalists in hotel rooms’

In the scene, President Trump's personal attorney is seen lying on the bed, tucking in his shirt with his hand down his pants as the woman stands nearby

In the scene, President Trump’s personal attorney is seen lying on the bed, tucking in his shirt with his hand down his pants as the woman stands nearby

Discussing the scene during the GMA interview on Friday, Baron Cohen said he was in a hideaway in the hotel room and keeping tabs on what was happening. 

‘I was quite concerned for her during the scene,’ Baron Cohen said. 

After a snippet of the scene emerged earlier this week, Giuliani said he was only tucking in his shirt after removing his recording equipment and insisted that he was never 'inappropriate'

After a snippet of the scene emerged earlier this week, Giuliani said he was only tucking in his shirt after removing his recording equipment and insisted that he was never ‘inappropriate’

‘We built a hideaway that I was hiding in during the scene. I was monitoring it by text. It’s my responsibility as a producer to ensure the lead actor is looked after.’

Bakalova, who joined Baron Cohen for the interview, said she felt safe the entire time.

After a clip of the scene emerged this week prior to the film being released, Giuliani declared that it was a ‘hit job’ and a ‘total fabrication’. 

‘The Borat video is a complete fabrication,’ he tweeted. 

‘I was tucking in my shirt after taking off the recording equipment. At no time before, during, or after the interview was I ever inappropriate. If Sacha Baron Cohen implies otherwise he is a stone-cold liar.

‘This is an effort to blunt my relentless exposure of the criminality and depravity of Joe Biden and his entire family.’

Speaking on his weekly radio program on WABC on Wednesday, Giuliani doubled down that he was only tucking in his shirt. 

‘I am tucking my shirt in, I assure you, that’s all that I was doing,’ he said.

Discussing the scene during the GMA interview on Friday, Baron Cohen said he was in a hideaway in the hotel room and keeping tabs on what was happening. Maria Bakalova, who was the woman in the scene, said she felt safe the entire time

Discussing the scene during the GMA interview on Friday, Baron Cohen said he was in a hideaway in the hotel room and keeping tabs on what was happening. Maria Bakalova, who was the woman in the scene, said she felt safe the entire time

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Giuliani said he went to what he thought was an interview and said it felt ‘legitimate.’

‘I did the interview with the young woman who was new to interviewing and I was being kind to her,’ he said. ‘At one point she explained to me some problems I had, I actually prayed with her.’

When he got up to leave he said he had his jacket on.

‘I was fully clothed at all times and I had to take off the electronic equipment and when the electronic equipment came off, some of it was in the back and my shirt got a little out, came a little out, although my clothes were entirely on,’ he said. 

He said he realized that something was amiss when the woman asked if he’d like a massage.

‘She says something about, ‘Do I want a massage?’ I realize now that this is a set-up and I call my security guy Brian who’s right outside,’ Giuliani said. ‘And then all of the sudden crazy Sacha Baron Cohen runs in with a cape on and he’s yelling and screaming all sorts of stupid stuff.’ 

The former New York City mayor called police after the encounter but there is no indication an investigation was launched. 

Giuliani spoke to the New York Post’s Page Six column about the encounter back in July but did not mention the bedroom aspect. 

He has since argued that in calling the police he proved he was an innocent party.

‘If I was doing anything wrong, I would not call the police and if he was doing anything right, he wouldn’t have been running away,’ Giuliani said.

‘Borat’s daughter’ was a guest at the White House, came within feet of Donald Trump and shook hands with his son Don Jr. new movie reveals  

Baron Cohen’s daughter in the film was also able to gain admittance to the White House last month – making it steps from the Oval Office and touring the press areas and grounds.

The comedian tweeted out images of the encounter hours after the release of his new film.

DailyMail.com was present at the White House when OANN correspondent Chanel Rion conducted an interview of the actress while being trailed back and forth by a camera and sound crew.  

‘Trump very careful who he let into his events and house. No Covid test necessary – High 5!’

He attached footage of Bulgarian actress Mara Bakalova, who in the movie plays Borat’s daughter Tutar, being interviewed by Rion.

The Borat character mocks the conservative network as ‘most rigorous news source in America’ and includes footage of Trump calling on ‘OAN’ and Rion claiming to have uncovered ‘multiple crimes’ in Ukraine committed by the Bidens.  

‘I know this because they take my daughter into the White House,’ he said – as the short video switches to footage shot on the north lawn with Bakalova. She also tours the White House briefing room, which is right outside the West Wing offices used by the president and his staff.

‘No need for security test or COVID test. They boring,’ he said. 

She is shown clapping wildly while the president speaks. 

In a different cut, she shakes hands with the president’s eldest son and proclaims herself ‘a little bit nervous’ and ‘excited to meet you’. 

The Borat character posted footage of actress Mara Bakalova, who plays his daughter in Borat 2, being interviews by OANN's Chanel Rion at the White House. A Marine stationed behind them indicates that the president was in the West Wing

The Borat character posted footage of actress Mara Bakalova, who plays his daughter in Borat 2, being interviews by OANN’s Chanel Rion at the White House. A Marine stationed behind them indicates that the president was in the West Wing

A DailyMail.com reporter spotted the unusual encounter at the White House

Bakalova also walked outside the north doors of the Palm Room, which leads to the Rose Garden

A DailyMail.com reporter spotted the unusual encounter at the White House

Borat review: Crass, vulgar… but if you love the first movie you’ll be smitten, writes BRIAN VINER who gives it four stars

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Rating: rating showbiz 4

Donald Trump‘s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani is not the only person entitled to watch Borat 2 through his fingers. For the rest of us, too, that is at times the only proper response to a comedy that doesn’t so much push at the boundaries of taste as bulldoze them over the edge of a cliff.

The set-up is the same as the 2006 mockumentary which first introduced Sacha Baron Cohen’s fictional Kazakh journalist to an unsuspecting world.

Baron Cohen’s Borat, accompanied this time by his teenage daughter Tutar (credited as Maria Bakalova), travels through America hoodwinking real people into thinking he is the genuine article. 

Since the events of 2006, he has spent years breaking rocks in the gulag for bringing shame on his country by making it a global laughing stock.

But now he has been given a mission – and with it, a chance to rescue his reputation. Again and again, he convinces folk that he really has brought Tutar along as a gift for ‘Vice-Premier Mikhail Pence’, the second-in-command to the magnificent ‘Premier McDonald Trump’, as a way of redeeming his distant homeland in the eyes of the ‘US and A’. 

Baron Cohen once more violates the unwritten rules of screen comedy

Baron Cohen once more violates the unwritten rules of screen comedy 

Vice President Mike Pence didn't know it at the time, but when he delivered his speech at CPAC earlier this year, he was actually taking part in a secret sequel to Borat (pictured)

Vice President Mike Pence didn’t know it at the time, but when he delivered his speech at CPAC earlier this year, he was actually taking part in a secret sequel to Borat (pictured)

The results – including a scene in which, dressed as Trump, he interrupts Pence’s address to a Republican rally – are by turn riotously funny and almost unwatchably uncomfortable.

There is another scene in which Borat and Tutar attend a debutante ball in the city of Macon, in the southern state of Georgia. 

She is solemnly presented as an undergraduate at ‘Grand Canyon University’, studying ‘cage maintenance and electronics with a focus on VCR repairs’.

Just as you’re marvelling at their XX-sized gullibility and processing the sheer improbability of proud fathers and their southern belle daughters, dressed to the nines, going through this absurd social rigmarole in the 21st century, just as the laughter is again bubbling up in your throat at the spectacle of the Kazakh duo taking to the floor to perform their fertility dance, it coagulates into something else entirely.

Baron Cohen once more violates the unwritten rules of screen comedy. Is it outrage? Horror? Disgust? Suppressed hysteria? You will have to decide for yourself.

In a way, that is Baron Cohen’s genius. Once again, he has masterminded a film (though it is directed by Jason Woliner) that is beyond anyone else’s ability or daring. 

He makes patsies of everyone he and Tutar encounter, nobody more so than Giuliani, the 76-year-old former mayor of New York City, who grants this engaging foreign girl an interview in a hotel suite – then ends up in a situation that, unless there is some cinematic sleight of hand involved, looks horribly compromising. 

Borat and Tutar attend a debutante ball in the city of Macon, in the southern state of Georgia

Borat and Tutar attend a debutante ball in the city of Macon, in the southern state of Georgia

I’ve already watched it twice, and I’m still not quite sure what I saw. Either way, 24-year-old Bulgarian actress Bakalova is terrifically good – on occasion even upstaging Baron Cohen himself. 

Just like the original, Borat 2 is audaciously brilliant in that it starts off looking like a mickey-take of a backward, former Soviet republic, when really the only object of the mockery is America.

In particular, this film sets out to catch the more diehard Trump supporters and far-Right conspiracy theorists, scooping up more than a few others in its satirical net, such as a cosmetic surgeon quite happy to inflate the breasts of 15-year-old Tutar, who wants only to be the next ‘Queen Melania’.

Most of them unwittingly conspire in their own ridicule, though there are times – as with a kindly Holocaust survivor in a synagogue – when your heart goes out to them. Not everyone deserves to be one of Borat’s victims.

Similarly, not everyone will want to see this film. If the TV show Game For A Laugh made you wince, it’s definitely not for you. 

Ditto, if you think everyone should be permitted their convictions and ways of life without being played as fools by a subversive Englishman with a candid camera and a political agenda.

All the same, there were moments when it made me laugh more than any film has for ages, possibly since the original Borat.

And three cheers, too, for its topicality. MeToo sensibilities are cheekily addressed, as Tutar begins to find that the suppression of women in her own country – where it is ‘enshrined in law’ that men must not love their daughters as much as their sons – is not the case everywhere.

And there is an inspired twist involving the Covid-19 pandemic.

But maybe I’ve already given too much away. If you loved the original Borat, then you will be smitten again. This one is even better.

If you thought it crass, vulgar and unutterably puerile, well – this one is a fair bit worse. 

Borat 2 is available on Amazon Prime Video from today.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Which cosy coat REALLY keeps out the cold? Winter jackets are put to the test

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which cosy coat really keeps out the cold winter jackets are put to the test

With the clocks changing tonight, the nights are about to get darker — and much colder.

Yet with so many of us facing bans on indoor gatherings due to Covid restrictions, you’ll need a warm coat if you want to meet friends and family alfresco. But how warm is warm? BETH HALE put a selection of High Street coats to the ultimate test by wearing them in the freezer at ice-sculpting experts Icebox, where the temperature dips to minus 12c.

We then used thermal imaging technology from Bullitt Group and its Cat S62 Pro smartphone to see how toasty the coats are. Cooler zones — which show where heat is being retained — are displayed in shades of purple, while the patches of red, orange, yellow and lastly white reveal where heat is escaping most freely.

CHIC FULL-LENGTH WOOL CLASSIC

Hobbs, reduced to £279.20

If ever a coat could chase the blues away it’s one with a flowing swathe of red wool.

Wool is breathable, meaning it wicks moisture away from the skin and is lovely and snug too. But fabric density is just as important as fibre and this feels worryingly thin.

The freeze test: Within seconds of setting foot in the freezer, icy air blankets me from head to toe. The beautiful flow of the skirt lets the heat seep from my legs and the deep V-neck means my upper body doesn’t fare much better.

Our thermal images show heat leaching from my upper body, particularly my arms and chest and along the seams.

VERDICT: Best kept for chic day wear. 2/10

If ever a coat could chase the blues away it’s one with a flowing swathe of red wool

Wool is breathable, meaning it wicks moisture away from the skin and is lovely and snug too. But fabric density is just as important as fibre and this feels worryingly thin

If ever a coat could chase the blues away it’s one with a flowing swathe of red wool. Wool is breathable, meaning it wicks moisture away from the skin and is lovely and snug too. But fabric density is just as important as fibre and this feels worryingly thin

MARSHMALLOW SOFT PUFFER

Uniqlo, reduced to £69.90

Uniqlo has an array of puffer jackets. This one is ‘made from carefully selected fabric for extra protection against the cold’ and is marshmallow soft. But it’s so short I fear I will need a hot chocolate too.

The freeze test: All that padding does the trick and my upper body is snug. But I’m an ice block from waist down.

Thermal imaging shows it is doing a good job overall, but some seams let heat escape.

VERDICT: Perfect if you want a bracing walk. 8/10

Uniqlo has an array of puffer jackets

This one is ‘made from carefully selected fabric for extra protection against the cold’ and is marshmallow soft. But it’s so short I fear I will need a hot chocolate too

Uniqlo has an array of puffer jackets. This one is ‘made from carefully selected fabric for extra protection against the cold’ and is marshmallow soft. But it’s so short I fear I will need a hot chocolate too

FABULOUS FAUX FUR FOR WINTER

New Look, reduced to £44.79

This faux fur coat feels like the very softest of cuddly toys.

The freeze test: Made from 100 per cent polyester, with no padding I don’t have high hopes for this. However, it is surprisingly warm — that’s if I ignore the chill creeping up the wide arms and V-neck.

The thermal image shows less heat is escaping from my arms than feared, but it is pouring from under my arms where there are seams and the coat fits more loosely.

VERDICT: Fake, fun and perfectly good for outdoor lockdown celebrations. 6/10

This faux fur coat feels like the very softest of cuddly toys

The freeze test: Made from 100 per cent polyester, with no padding I don’t have high hopes for this. However, it is surprisingly warm — that’s if I ignore the chill creeping up the wide arms and V-neck

This faux fur coat feels like the very softest of cuddly toys. The freeze test: Made from 100 per cent polyester, with no padding I don’t have high hopes for this. However, it is surprisingly warm — that’s if I ignore the chill creeping up the wide arms and V-neck

DOWN-FILLED FOR ARCTIC DAYS

Canada Goose, £1,095

A coat that feels more substantial than my duvet — stuffed with duck down and field-tested to provide warmth below -30c — this comes to mid-calf and has a fur-trimmed hood. It screams heat and has a flap under the two-way zip to stop warmth vanishing.

The freeze test: Well, if the temperature dips to -12c I can attest that this coat is very snug. It’s like being wrapped up in bed, though I’m not sure it’s as far ahead of its High-Street rivals as the price tag suggests.

The thermal images confirm that this coat does its job, with only a little heat escaping along the zip.

VERDICT: Maximum warmth, should Arctic conditions happen to blow in. 10/10

A coat that feels more substantial than my duvet — stuffed with duck down and field-tested to provide warmth below -30c — this comes to mid-calf and has a fur-trimmed hood

It screams heat and has a flap under the two-way zip to stop warmth vanishing

A coat that feels more substantial than my duvet — stuffed with duck down and field-tested to provide warmth below -30c — this comes to mid-calf and has a fur-trimmed hood. It screams heat and has a flap under the two-way zip to stop warmth vanishing

CUDDLE UP IN A TEDDY COAT

M&S, £89

This teddy coat will keep me ‘wonderfully snug’, says M&S, and it certainly looks the part. It’s 100 per cent polyester, not a breathable fabric, so is often used for heat retention in outdoor gear such as fleeces.

With the collar pulled up I feel as cosy as a bear bedding down for winter.

The freeze test: The teddy bear layer felt snug, but the thermal image tells a different story. The V-neck just doesn’t contain heat and it has poured away from my shoulders and upper arms.

A double layer of fabric at the lapel, though, is super insulating.

VERDICT: You’ll need to stay under a heater. 4/10

This teddy coat will keep me ‘wonderfully snug’, says M&S, and it certainly looks the part. It’s 100 per cent polyester, not a breathable fabric, so is often used for heat retention in outdoor gear such as fleeces

With the collar pulled up I feel as cosy as a bear bedding down for winter

This teddy coat will keep me ‘wonderfully snug’, says M&S, and it certainly looks the part. It’s 100 per cent polyester, not a breathable fabric, so is often used for heat retention in outdoor gear such as fleeces

A FUNCTIONAL PARKA

French Connection, £185

As parkas go, this seems a little lightweight, but it does have a faux-fur trim to the hood for extra snuggle. The slim, padded layer is made from 100 per cent recycled polyester.

The freeze test: I step into the freezer with trepidation; this coat feels insubstantial. But it is warmer than anticipated, and the flap covering the zip does a good job of preventing body heat from escaping from this vulnerable area. The seams where the arms attach to the body of the coat are a weak spot, however, as is the area around the front pockets.

VERDICT: Not one for snow, but good for a countryside stroll with friends. 6/10

As parkas go, this seems a little lightweight, but it does have a faux-fur trim to the hood for extra snuggle. The slim, padded layer is made from 100 per cent recycled polyester

The freeze test: I step into the freezer with trepidation; this coat feels insubstantial

As parkas go, this seems a little lightweight, but it does have a faux-fur trim to the hood for extra snuggle. The slim, padded layer is made from 100 per cent recycled polyester

PERFECT PADDING AND A SNUG FIT

M&S, £125

A ‘comfort stretch padded coat’ doesn’t sound glamorous, but this trusty M&S number deploying the brand’s water-repellent Stormwear technology looks surprisingly nice.

It also feels very snug, which is all-important in heat retention. However polyamide (or nylon) isn’t renowned for its insulating qualities, which is where the 100 per cent polyester filling comes in.

The freeze test: On paper this coat doesn’t have the heat-retaining power of down, but it feels pretty snuggly and the inner cuffs that loop over my hands keep my wrists warm. But there is a chill along the zip line.

The thermal image may look as if I have a six-pack, but in fact shows that the ‘weak’ spot in this coat is indeed along the zip and along the seams that create the garment’s quilted effect.

Heat is also escaping through the under-arm seams. But my lower body is well-insulated thanks to the snug fit, as is the bulk of my abdomen and my lower arms.

VERDICT: A snug fit but make sure you keep moving. 4/10

A 'comfort stretch padded coat' doesn't sound glamorous, but this trusty M&S number deploying the brand's water-repellent Stormwear technology looks surprisingly nice

It also feels very snug, which is all-important in heat retention. However polyamide (or nylon) isn't renowned for its insulating qualities, which is where the 100 per cent polyester filling comes in

A ‘comfort stretch padded coat’ doesn’t sound glamorous, but this trusty M&S number deploying the brand’s water-repellent Stormwear technology looks surprisingly nice

Now winter is on its way, the item on everyone’s wishlists is hot property. After doing up our houses in lockdown, we have turned our attention to outdoor space. John Lewis has seen demand soar for patio heaters, up a staggering 1,625 per cent compared with the same week last year. But with prices starting at under £100, and a huge variety of models to choose from, which ones should be warming your evenings outdoors? JENNY WOOD takes a look . . .

FIRE IT UP

La Fiesta cast-iron, rust-finish fire bowl, £69.99, primrose.co.uk

Pile wood or charcoal into this traditionally shaped fire pit and enjoy good flames. Made of cast iron with an attractive rusty finish and sturdy legs, it has a rainwater drainage hole in the bottom and two handles. It is perfect for toasting marshmallows. 4/5

Pile wood or charcoal into this traditionally shaped fire pit and enjoy good flames. Made of cast iron with an attractive rusty finish and sturdy legs, it has a rainwater drainage hole in the bottom and two handles. It is perfect for toasting marshmallows

Pile wood or charcoal into this traditionally shaped fire pit and enjoy good flames. Made of cast iron with an attractive rusty finish and sturdy legs, it has a rainwater drainage hole in the bottom and two handles. It is perfect for toasting marshmallows

LIGHT FANTASTIC

Kettler plush ceiling electric heater, £179, kettler.co.uk

This heater and garden light with fabric shade can be hung by a chain from a pergola, gazebo or conservatory to warm guests below. The only downside? You will need an outdoor extension cord as the 1.8-metre cable isn’t long. 3/5

This heater and garden light with fabric shade can be hung by a chain from a pergola, gazebo or conservatory to warm guests below. The only downside? You will need an outdoor extension cord as the 1.8-metre cable isn’t long

This heater and garden light with fabric shade can be hung by a chain from a pergola, gazebo or conservatory to warm guests below. The only downside? You will need an outdoor extension cord as the 1.8-metre cable isn’t long

CHIMNEY SWEET

Saunderson chiminea, £186.99, wayfair.co.uk

Fill the bowl with wood or charcoal and light.Gives a surprising amount of heat. The smoke is channelled through the funnel at the top. A handy log store. 3/5

Fill the bowl with wood or charcoal and light.Gives a surprising amount of heat. The smoke is channelled through the funnel at the top. A handy log store

Fill the bowl with wood or charcoal and light.Gives a surprising amount of heat. The smoke is channelled through the funnel at the top. A handy log store

WIDE WARMTH

Colorado 2500R heater and stand combination, £449, herschel-infrared.co.uk

This versatile black heater might not be as pretty as others but it’s easy to use and the flat, wide head gives off an impressive amount of heat within seconds. Waterproof, it can be wall- or ceiling-mounted, or used with a height-adjustable stand. Optional remote control. 4/5

This versatile black heater might not be as pretty as others but it’s easy to use and the flat, wide head gives off an impressive amount of heat within seconds. Waterproof, it can be wall- or ceiling-mounted, or used with a height-adjustable stand. Optional remote control

This versatile black heater might not be as pretty as others but it’s easy to use and the flat, wide head gives off an impressive amount of heat within seconds. Waterproof, it can be wall- or ceiling-mounted, or used with a height-adjustable stand. Optional remote control

TOWERING INFERNO

BU-KO outdoor patio gas heater, £249, amazon. co.uk

This metal pyramid conceals a propane gas canister (which you need to buy separately). A flame dances up a glass tube inside, providing decent heat. There’s a built-in safety valve and it is waterproof. 2/5

This metal pyramid conceals a propane gas canister (which you need to buy separately). A flame dances up a glass tube inside, providing decent heat. There’s a built-in safety valve and it is waterproof

This metal pyramid conceals a propane gas canister (which you need to buy separately). A flame dances up a glass tube inside, providing decent heat. There’s a built-in safety valve and it is waterproof

TALL ORDER

Florida 2,000W heater, £299, herschel-infrared.co.uk

Looking more like a floor lamp than a patio heater, this extra-tall model plugs into an outdoor power socket and the infrared lamp warms up immediately. The stainless steel pole can be inserted through a garden table for all-round heat. The base is heavy but fairly easy to manoeuvre. The downside is that it is only splash-proof, so you will need to store it in your shed when it rains. 3/5

Looking more like a floor lamp than a patio heater, this extra-tall model plugs into an outdoor power socket and the infrared lamp warms up immediately. The stainless steel pole can be inserted through a garden table for all-round heat. The base is heavy but fairly easy to manoeuvre. The downside is that it is only splash-proof, so you will need to store it in your shed when it rains

Looking more like a floor lamp than a patio heater, this extra-tall model plugs into an outdoor power socket and the infrared lamp warms up immediately. The stainless steel pole can be inserted through a garden table for all-round heat. The base is heavy but fairly easy to manoeuvre. The downside is that it is only splash-proof, so you will need to store it in your shed when it rains

STYLE AND SUBSTANCE

California 2,000W rose-gold heater, £299, herschel-infrared.co.uk

The most stylish model I tried; this lozenge-shaped infrared heater looks reassuringly expensive when mounted on the wall but can also be used with a stand. Giving off a gentle glow, it’s waterproof, has a remote control and can be timer-controlled for up to nine hours. 4/5

The most stylish model I tried; this lozenge-shaped infrared heater looks reassuringly expensive when mounted on the wall but can also be used with a stand. Giving off a gentle glow, it’s waterproof, has a remote control and can be timer-controlled for up to nine hours

The most stylish model I tried; this lozenge-shaped infrared heater looks reassuringly expensive when mounted on the wall but can also be used with a stand. Giving off a gentle glow, it’s waterproof, has a remote control and can be timer-controlled for up to nine hours

BEST ALL-ROUNDER

Empire 3kW carbon infrared patio heater, £510, heat-outdoors.co.uk

Of all the heaters I tried, this kept me the toastiest. Sturdy and idiot-proof, with a choice of settings, the vertical tubes give out an impressive amount of top-to-toe warmth. Safety features include flocked bars to prevent burns and an optional motion sensor that switches the heater on and off if guests leave the area. It’s also waterproof. 5/5

Of all the heaters I tried, this kept me the toastiest. Sturdy and idiot-proof, with a choice of settings, the vertical tubes give out an impressive amount of top-to-toe warmth. Safety features include flocked bars to prevent burns and an optional motion sensor that switches the heater on and off if guests leave the area. It’s also waterproof

Of all the heaters I tried, this kept me the toastiest. Sturdy and idiot-proof, with a choice of settings, the vertical tubes give out an impressive amount of top-to-toe warmth. Safety features include flocked bars to prevent burns and an optional motion sensor that switches the heater on and off if guests leave the area. It’s also waterproof

BEAT THE BRITISH WEATHER

The must-have finishing touch to any rule of six garden party? A gazebo to keep the rain off. Many retailers have sold out, but we tested the 2.8m pergola from the Raj Tent Company (Rajtentclub.com) which is tall enough to use with patio heaters. 

At £1,400 to buy or £660 to rent for three days, it’s more expensive than high street versions, but comes in a range of colours, with optional floor mats, drapes, ceiling lantern light and even a socially-distant styling service.

The must-have finishing touch to any rule of six garden party? A gazebo to keep the rain off. Many retailers have sold out, but we tested the 2.8m pergola from the Raj Tent Company (Rajtentclub.com) which is tall enough to use with patio heaters

The must-have finishing touch to any rule of six garden party? A gazebo to keep the rain off. Many retailers have sold out, but we tested the 2.8m pergola from the Raj Tent Company (Rajtentclub.com) which is tall enough to use with patio heaters

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Jeffrey Archer reveals his 80th birthday was only a small celebration

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jeffrey archer reveals his 80th birthday was only a small celebration

Jeffrey Archer has revealed that his 80th birthday was a small celebration because most of his friends are now dead.

The best-selling author and life peer said it would have ‘felt strange’ throwing a big party without friends he’s lost in the past decade.

Asked how he celebrated his birthday, he told Saga magazine: ‘Very quietly. For my 70th, my son William said, “Throw a big party, invite everyone you know because a lot of them won’t be here when you’re 80”.

Former politician and author Jeffrey Archer at home in his penthouse suite on the Albert Embankment, London. Jeffrey Archer photo shoot, London, UK on 10 September, 2018

Former politician and author Jeffrey Archer at home in his penthouse suite on the Albert Embankment, London. Jeffrey Archer photo shoot, London, UK on 10 September, 2018

‘He was right. I’ve lost maybe 50 or 60 close friends in the past ten years. A party without them would have felt strange, lockdown or not.’

The former Tory MP and Conservative Party chairman also said that he would not go into politics today because of social media. 

He said: ‘If Twitter had existed during the war, Churchill wouldn’t have lasted. 

‘Every time he lost a battle, the tweets would have started: “Churchill’s useless. Sack him”. I feel sorry for modern politicians.’

Lord Archer, whose novels have sold around 300million copies worldwide, turned to writing when he was on the brink of bankruptcy in the 1970s.

The former Tory MP and Conservative Party chairman (pictured with Margaret Thatcher in 1986) also said that he would not go into politics today because of social media

The former Tory MP and Conservative Party chairman (pictured with Margaret Thatcher in 1986) also said that he would not go into politics today because of social media

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