Britsoc: The British Society of Amsterdam and the Netherlands. Serving the British Expat community since 1920.

Nick’s ‘W’osh | Feb 2016

Mr Porter

Nick’s ‘W’osh | Feb 2016

 

Nick

By Nick Nugent

Mr Porter ***

W Hotel

 

Spuistraat 175,

1012 VN, Amsterdam

Tel:  020 811 3399
Email: info@mrportersteakhouse.com

Open 7 days a week

Online reservations: 

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The W hotel is the latest of a string of high-end hotels which have opened in Amsterdam recently and is one of the biggest at around 280 rooms, once finished.  It occupies two sites on either side of the Spui, one in the old Telephone Exchange building and the other in the old Kas Bank building, which contains a new fine dining establishment, The Duchess. The first thing you need to know is that Mr Porter and in fact the Duchess are not the W hotel’s restaurants. They are in fact part of the Entourage Group which seems to specialise in putting high-end restaurants in hotel groups.  The group consists of Amsterdam’s places to be, such as Momo, Izkaya, The Butcher and now The Duchess and Mr Porter.  I had been to Mr Porter for a drink one Sunday afternoon with some friends so I was aware of it. On this occasion I had some former Amsterdam mates coming from abroad for dinner and I had suggested this place.

The theme of the restaurant, as the name may convey, is meat and lots of it.  I was a very lucky boy this time as I was having dinner with 5 glamorous ladies, so I was a little concerned with the meat issue, but there was enough other stuff on the menu to keep eveyone happy.  I had also been given a tour of the whole W hotel complex the day before and had the concepts of the hotel and restaurant explained to me.  If you are interested you are welcome to contact me at nicknosh@hotmail.com and I can explain, but I don’t want to spoil the all the surprises.  I will say though that the whole menu is a sharing menu.  The servers explained that approximately one starter per person and one main per person, unless you went for the huge 1Kg steaks, would be about right.  I was also feeling a bit nervous about this as I felt sure that some of the ladies really did not want to share their dishes.

So for starters we ordered the whole baked cauliflower, spicy tomato salad, charcoal grilled foie gras, grilled baby squid and yellow tail spicy ceviche.  We also had Arabic bread with a dip of cream and chili salsa.  In fact everything was quite spicy.  The foie gras was excellent, the cauliflower, which I had had before, was great and the rest was ok, but the ceviche was really not to my taste as it looked and tasted rather clumsy.  I chose a very reasonably priced De Bortoli Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 from New South Wales, Australia at about 40 euros per bottle, which was very easy to drink.

A couple of the ladies opted for fish, one picking the lobster and the other the prawns in a spicy tomato sauce.  Myself and one other friend  picked the Hanger stank and one other picked the small ribeye.  So this is where the sharing concept really falls down for me. I am not the biggest fan of this concept in any case, as I have had too many experiences with bad tapas than I care to mention.  You may know the issue.  You order a dish you think you are going to like, only for it to be set at completely the opposite end of the table from you, where it is devoured in seconds as it tastes better than all the crappy patatas bravas which others have ordered. The food came out roughly in the order which I mentioned above and we had this awkward period where the ladies who had ordered the lobster and prawns sat there looking at it as no one else had food.  We ordered some sides as well but I will get on to that later.

 I suggested that the ladies who ordered the fish dishes should start to tuck in, which they did, but we were still left with this uncomfortable half eaten plate in the middle.  I tried a bit of the lobster and prawns, both of which I thought were somewhat overcooked.  Eventually a couple of hanger steaks and a ribeye turned up.  The hanger steak was perfectly cooked and even convinced the non-meat eaters to give it a go as it looked so good.  To be honest I cannot remember exactly what sides we ordered, but there was some salad stuff and fries which all turned up at various times during the meal.  A couple more bottles of the Ozzie red later and we were done, and then the Dauphinoise potatoes turn up!!  We sent them back.  This is where this concept really falls over for me.

A look at the dessert menu revealed nothing interesting for our guests.  It was crying out for a chocolate fondant or something like that.  We had the 18:30-21:00 shift and they were expecting other guests any minute, so our allocated time was over and we had to vacate our table.  What happened next was entirely inevitable, could have been foreseen, and should have been dealt with better.   The 21:15 sitting turned up, coinciding with the 21:00 shift wanting to leave and looking to get their coats.  No host or hostess was manning the reception as they were too busy seating people and there was no one to get coats.  This meant people took matters into their own hands and started rifling through the coats to find their own.  You could have taken any coat you wanted at this time.  I still have the coat check ticket!

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I need to mention the music.  On our arrival it was sort of chill out Ibiza style stuff, very nice.  By the time we were finishing our mains it was full on big room, club tunes.  I can only imagine if you take the 21:00 sitting you are dancing on the seats by the end of your starters.  For the clubbers out there, it would get you in the mood, although possibly the food is a bit too heavy for full on clubbing afterwards.

The entourage group have created another destination restaurant for the hipsters and boys and girls about town, however this does not mask some of the problems with the format.  Some of the food is outstanding, but some is exceptionally ordinary. It is a lovely place to be with the view over the city, styling details and service quality all very good.  I just cannot get past the fact that my guests just wanted to have their own plate of food which they ordered, at the same time as everyone else.  I am not sure whether this sharing thing is to compensate for kitchen staff who cannot cook to order, but it does not work in this establishment for a group with disparate tastes like ours.  Maybe if a bunch of carnivores turn up it would be absolutely super, but for us it did not work.  Food, service and environment worth the 3 stars I gave, but concept is a big fat zero.

 

 

 


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Nick’s Nosh | Feb 2016

 

Nick

By Nick Nugent

Brasserie Ambassade ***

Herengracht 339
1016 AZ Amsterdam

Tel:  020 5550255
Email:  info@brasserieambassade.nl

Open 7 days a week

Online reservations: 

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I was recently asked by a friend of mine, who knows I love to eat out, where they could take a group of clients for a really nice French meal.  Let me tell you I was a bit stumped.  I have been to Flo, Sluizer, Bistro Neuf, Braque, De Compagnon and La Rive, but I really only rate La Rive and I am sure that a Michelin Star place was a bit too much for this business meal.  So I had a look at all the French-style restaurants on my list which are highly rated and saw that the only one I had not been to was Johannes. However, when I suggested it, my friends told me they thought it was just Dutch food with a French twist and not that good.  Barrique was suggested by one of my friends.  I have not been there so I could not comment and was left La Rive as my only recommendation.  This was not a position I enjoyed, not being able to recommend a restaurant and frankly I was embarrassed. So, queue some “Rocky” style music, and on to an evening of research over a bottle of wine.

From my research of French-style restaurants, the one that hit the brief was Brasserie Ambassade.  It is attached to the hotel of the same name and has been open, by the time this article has been written, for around 5 months.  The thing that stood out for me was how reasonable the prices were for a restaurant attached to the 4 star Hotel of the same name.  I also liked the look of the interior from the pictures on their website.

Looking at the menu it is full-on French classics.  Contrary to my initial comment I found that the starters are quite pricey, but the mains are entirely reasonable and the wine pricing was extremely reasonable.  On sitting down we took a nice glass of Bourgogne Cremant fizz.

For starters my partner went for the oysters and I asked for a starter portion of their mushroom risotto.  The oysters were well presented with the classic shallot vinaigrette and the risotto was beautifully presented with lots of well-cooked, winter vegetables.  We asked for a wine pairing with the starters and were offered a Grenache blend, Du Sud, Cotes de Thongue, Frankrijk, 2014 rosé which was light, but had enough body to stand up to the flavours.

For mains I chose the bavette steak and my partner had one of their specials which happened to be an entrecote with red wine sauce.If any of you have had a bavette steak before you will know that it has to be served almost blue.  They did ask me how I wanted it and I did say medium rare, but in the end it came rare to blue.  I knew it had to be like this and so I did not complain, but I did mention to them that if any other British person came and asked for it medium rare, they might have a problem. 

It was a great piece of steak.  We took a bottle of Lalande de Pomerol, Château Bourseau, Bordeaux, France, 2010.  It was great with the food, but it was not really a sipping wine due to the notorious amount of tannin in there. The entrecote was also very well cooked and the red wine sauce was great.  Both were served with a salad and fries.  The fries were very fresh and homemade, the salad was nicely dressed.  On the whole very reasonable brasserie style food.

We decided to share the Dessert au Chocolat which consisted of a chocolate fondant, which was a perfect accompaniment to the remaining red wine, and also the Assiette de Fromage which consisted of mostly local cheese apart from a very good Roquefort.  A decent end to the meal.

The décor inside is very smart and modern, but the abstract paintings on the walls were somewhat challenging for me.  After about 30 minutes they realised there was no music on and so this came a bit of surprise when it started, but it remained low and in the background.  The bench seats leave something to be desired for comfort as the their depth meant you could not rest your back against the wall, unless you are a very lanky Dutch person.  I think cushions need to be provided for those of us who are shorter in the pant department.  These guys should have and would have got 4 out of 5 but they committed one cardinal sin at the end.  I really hate it when you have finished and you have the dregs of wine left, but you still have to wave frantically to get some attention to pay the bill.  Maybe they think they are being very generous and giving you space to chat etc.  When I’m done I’m done and I want to move, so hanging around for 10 more minutes really did not appeal.  Apart from that the service was excellent all night.

They suggested we have a look at the bar downstairs called The Library.  The idea is that anyone who has written a book and stays in the hotel should leave a signed copy.  They have now got over 4000 volumes beautifully displayed.  It was a nice place to enjoy a digestif.

I don’t think I mentioned it before but the restaurant gives exceptional value for money on their Champagnes.  Of those I can remember they have Laurent Perrier, Pol Roger, Louis Roederer and, my personal favourite, Bollinger, all for € 69.50 per bottle.  I need to find something quick to celebrate as that is outstanding value.  On the whole I think if you fancy that brasserie experience you cannot go far wrong with this place.  I just hope they can keep it up and keep the prices down.

 

 


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International Women’s Day – 8th March 2016

By Dee Bodle

International Women’s Day – 8th March 2016

Do you know that on March 8th it is ‘International Women’s Day’ and people worldwide celebrate this wonderful day so that they can honour all women and their achievements.

It began during the Industrial Revolution!  Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland began International Women’s Day in 1911 during a time of great chaos, population growth, and the forefront of the women’s rights movement.  In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter work hours, better pay and the right to vote. On March 8, 2011, there were 377 live events in 152 countries to celebrate 100 year anniversary. Today, International Women’s Day is celebrated all over the world. 

International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the progress made, and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. The Netherlands is changing into a very cosmopolitan place to live and work and we all need to expand our networks to flourish and becoming a serious player on the world stage. Every day people move to the Netherlands where new and exciting businesses are opening their doors, and communities are alive with activity.

 

If any International inspiring women would like to celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th March please  email Dee Bodle below to find out more.

Click to Email


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Happy 257th Birthday Robbie

Robbie Burns was born on the 25th January 1759, which would make him 257 years old.

 

Video by Eric Windhorst

Being of Scottish decent, I would like to share some happy and blurred digital memories of an unforgettably brilliant Britsoc Burns’ Night 2016— the annual celebratory tribute to the life, works and spirit of the great Scottish poet  at the British School of Amsterdam on Saturday 30th January 2016.

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Tonight’s celebration, like past Burn’s Nights,  had a unique group character, which distinguishes the Britsoc celebration from every other. The gathering has plenty of haggis, neeps and tatties to go around, and some have their favourite Scotch tipple to keep them warm.

I know I did…

The Britsoc Burns Supper is littered with individual talents within our mists who have their own special flavour of captivating storytelling, singing and poetry.

I have to say that John Cameron-Webb  is slowly turning into a pop star.  His band ‘The McVities’ were tighter than my aunt  Meg’s Scottish purse. Anika was in splendid voice, and combined with their violinist  took it to a level of musicality that I haven’t felt since seeing Fairport  Convention live—one of the most innovative and influential British bands of the late 1960’s and are still recording and touring today. The lead singer during their greatest period was Sandy Denny who was in my opinion the greatest female vocalist of that or any era.

John Richardson (with some memory help from Dee Bodle)


The expat poetry project

Expat Poetry | Impoverished conversation by Dave Thomas

Impoverished conversation

spaghetti letters tumble

jumble in Tetris

Letris falling

appalling, bereft of emotion

commotion, passing through the motions

of oceans

of scalding verboseness

closeness, sentiments starched

parched, tapioca still talking

hawking in a

ratcheted rut

 

© Dave Thomas


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Short Story | The girl without a face

Dave

By Dave Thomas

Another evening, same meal. I stand dutifully at the table corseted in my Sunday dress. Ma and pa stab at the lacklustre potato chunks on the large communal plate. Pa’s worn face has a doleful gaze. Ma’s is harder to read.

Our oil lamp shines like a Christmas star above the table. As if the nooks and crannies of our hovel have anything to hide! Just a few ladles and a painting adorn its dank walls.

We all wear the same drab earthen blue, the ladies’ flaccid bonnets doing their best to look white and not grey. My aunts have skin like the bark of knotted willows. Mine is still the bark of a silver birch sapling struggling to survive.

The clock strikes seven. Ma and pa continue to eat without exchanging a word while my two aunts natter incessantly about all and sundry but nothing in particular, their speech punctuated solely by sips of insipid coffee.

Caught between babble and silence I look beyond ma and pa to the painting on the wall, a present from a would-be-preacher, a newcomer to these parts.

Pa pushes the plate towards me. I listlessly pop the starchy lumps into my mouth gulping coffee to wash the blandness away.

Full but not satiated I gaze out of the window into a night darker than my hair is black. My eyelids fall and I dream inside our painting. I’m the blond-haired girl in turquoise-azure dress laughing outside with the boy in crimson red.


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Mangled English from a Round World

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In an Amsterdam hotel:

GUESTS ARE REQUESTED NOT TO SMOKE, OR DO OTHER DISGUSTING BEHAVIOURS IN BED.           
           
On the menu of a Swiss Restaurant:           
OUR WINES LEAVE YOU NOTHING TO HOPE FOR.         
 
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In a Tokyo Bar:          
SPECIAL COCKTAILS FOR THE LADIES WITH NUTS.      
 
Hotel, Yugoslavia:     
THE FLATTENING OF UNDERWEAR WITH PLEASURE, IS THE JOB OF THE CHAMBERMAID.      
 
Hotel, Japan: 
YOU ARE INVITED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE CHAMBERMAID.       
 
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In the lobby of a Moscow Hotel, across from a Russian Orthodox Monastery:
YOU ARE WELCOME TO VISIT THE CEMETERY, WHERE FAMOUS RUSSIAN AND SOVIET COMPOSERS, ARTISTS AND WRITERS ARE BURIED DAILY, EXCEPT THURSDAY.          
 
A sign posted in Germany’s Black Forest:  
IT IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN ON OUR BLACK FOREST CAMPING SITE, THAT PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT SEX, FOR INSTANCE, MEN AND WOMEN, LIVE TOGETHER IN ONE TENT, UNLESS THEY ARE MARRIED WITH EACH OTHER FOR THIS PURPOSE.
 
Hotel, Zurich: 
BECAUSE OF THE IMPROPRIETY OF ENTERTAINING GUESTS OF THE OPPOSITE SEX IN THE BEDROOM, IT IS SUGGESTED THAT THE LOBBY BE USED FOR THIS PURPOSE.           
 
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Advertisement for donkey rides, Thailand:            
WOULD YOU LIKE TO RIDE ON YOUR OWN ASS?          
 
Airline ticket office, Copenhagen:   
WE TAKE YOUR BAGS AND SEND THEM IN ALL DIRECTIONS.  (Just Like British Airways!)      
 
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A Laundry in Rome:  
LADIES, LEAVE YOUR CLOTHES HERE AND THEN SPEND THE AFTERNOON HAVING A GOOD TIME. 
 
And finally the all time classic:
Seen in an Abu Dhabi Souk shop window: 
IF THE FRONT IS CLOSED, PLEASE ENTER THROUGH MY BACKSIDE…

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Texel Island Discs | Feb 2016

Marooned for eternity on Texel Island in the North of Holland, Dee Bodle chooses her favourite 10 discs to take with her to keep sane.

Top Ten Tunes for Texel   

By Dee Bodle

I never realised how extremely difficult it was going to be to pick my 10 tracks, but it did get me thinking back to the tracks that have got me to where I am today, so I started with my first ever purchase…

1 I bought this with my pocket money and I had to save for a while before I could buy it and I remember playing it over and over again in my bedroom to the extreme of knowing all the words and giving my parents a singing rendition whenever it was played.  I also found that the B side – One Fine Day was a real bonus so two for the price of one. I suppose this record rings true when you are young, but it still has a place in my heart.

Sweet Talking Guy – The Chiffons

2 Another contender for my affections is this one as it captures in essence my youth and it was played that much that I am surprised that I did not wear it out!

Build me up buttercup – The Foundations

3 When I was looking for a record to play on my wedding day this was my first choice as it can be played with or without the words and I just love the way it takes you away to another place when you listen to it.

A Whiter Shade of Pale – Procol Harum

4 When my children were little I went on to love Motown and it became part of my life buying so records and LPs to play whenever I had a minute to spare and it has been so difficult to pick just one from this era but after seeing the Four Tops in Concert I went on to play this over and over again.

Reach out and I’ll be there – The Four Tops

5 Cherish and the lyrics of the song have stayed with me for a long time and whenever it is played it takes me back to those days when I needed transporting to a beach to forget about everything.

Cherish – Kool and the gang

6 As my children grew older my daughter started to sing this and I just melted and fell in love with it, and it holds a real place in my heart and reminds me that your children grow up very quickly.

The Rose – Bette Midler

 

7 I do not mind telling you that I had a crush on Michael Ball when I saw him in Les Miserables which I have now seen many times in English and in Dutch. This record however has been sung by so many as I remember watching the Toppers in Concert in 2011 sing it and I was watching The Voice UK when a vicar sang it so it just goes to show that it can be a favourite of many.

This is the moment – Michael Ball

 

8 They first sang this on a show called Soldier Soldier back in the 80s and I know it was originally by the Righteous Brothers but I prefer the Robson and Jeroen rendition as they just capture the moment when they sing it and of course Simon Cowell did not do too badly out of it either.

Unchained Melody – Robson and Jeroen

 

 

9 If I had to choose a female singer that I could listen to all the time it would have to be Whitney as she could in my opinion sing anything and I loved whatever she sang but when this was featured on The Bodyguard it brought her to life and now after her death she has left such a great legacy.

I will always love you – Whitney Houston

10 I thought I would finish back in the present day as my granddaughter was performing in a dance concert recently and this was the tune that she had to dance to, so it has grown on me to a point that whenever I hear it I think of her and the fantastic performance she did on the show.

Uptown Funk – Bruno Mars

 


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The Hateful Eight | Film Review

AndyBy Andy Symmonds

Star Wars: The Force (Un)Awakens

I will have to start this review with the confession that I was not particularly impressed with the recently released Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As a long-term fan of the original Star Wars (IV) I had high hopes, but came away both disappointed and distinctly underwhelmed. The plot and some of the stars (of the acting variety) left me feeling like I had just bungee jumped back to the 1970’s movie. Despite  seriously better special effects it came with with the negatives of an even bigger death star and plot holes. I am also aware that this view leaves me slightly in the minority, but I remain unrepentant.

Hateful Eight gets Ten out of Ten

As a long-term fan of the output of Quentin Tarantino, I also had high hopes for the Hateful Eight, but this time I came away from the cinema once again confident that parts of Hollywood are still capable of producing original, smart and thought-provoking movies that entertain the adult as well as the inner child. The cast is a well constructed mix of Tarantino favourites (Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen and Tim Roth after an extended break) with some new blood. In fact, a lot of blood. As the movie is a Western by Tarantino, blood was always going to be a feature, along with various other body parts.

The movie takes place for the most part in a roadhouse in a very snowy Wyoming, and could almost have be scripted for the theatre as pretty much everything happens in this claustrophobic, simmering environment. The general direction is more serious than previous Tarantino works, but there are still moments of humour, some of them subtle and some not. The characters are all that little bit larger than life, featuring bounty hunters (one of them black – a recurring theme?), a lawman, a female prisoner, retired army officers from both sides of the American Civil War, a mysterious stranger, some guns and the token Mexican and Englishman. The combination of characters, and the quickly evident tensions between them, create a pervading sense of uneasiness throughout, and the plot is by no means easy to predict as it unfolds.

From lefty, Tim Roth, Quentin Tarantino and Kurt Russell pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'The Hateful Eight' in London, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

From lefty, Tim Roth, Quentin Tarantino and Kurt Russell pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film ‘The Hateful Eight’ in London, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

The dialogue crackles from the start, and it quickly becomes apparent that everyone has some sort of secret to hide, and that very little should be taken at face value. For an American director, Tarantino has become the master of extended scenes that deliver, for the audience, through dialogue and camera angles rather than throwing in more and more CGI pyrotechnics. Characters are given the chance to develop as the story unfolds, and there are some flashbacks that assist this process. Characters also die as the story unfolds; this in itself will be of little surprise, but there is one sudden death that was more entertaining (judging by the audience reaction) as a potentially large name morphed neatly into a bit part, which I felt was a lovely piece of subtlety.

If you’re looking for a movie with a smart script and a memorable cast that really do it justice, then this is going to be an excellent way to spend three hours. That might sound like a long time, but it flew past in the dark. There is also the danger that it might provoke some thought at certain points, although this may not be the case for all. If, however, you enjoy lots of explosions in space, and don’t worry too much about plot integrity or continuity then Star Wars may just be the way to awaken the force within yourself. There is even the danger that you will enjoy both…


Muddy Nick

Britsoc Chairman’s Report | Feb 2016

Dear Britsoc members and friends,

You’ll be pleased to know that our Christmas Charity Ball raised over €3,000 for the VUmc: VU university medical enter. Our next big event is the unmissable Burns’ Night on 30th Jan 2016.  Like the Christmas Ball, this popular event sold out straight away.

You’re all probably looking to keep your new year’s resolutions, so I have some options for you.  If  you’re looking  to get a bit fitter, then you are welcome to join our Badminton, Squash and Scottish Dancing clubs—they are all looking for new members.

Please also take a look at our Events Calendar or Meetup page for details:

I have some exciting events on the horizon that include:

  • An exclusive G&T and whisky tasting which I hope to announce very soon.
  • This year we celebrate Shakespeares 400th anniversary (and St David’s day!) on the 23rd April. Tickets will go on sale soon for that event.
  • In June we have the Queens 90th Birthday.  I hope to arrange a High Tea Garden party to coinside with this event.
  • For Rugby fans, we’re really looking to organising an event around the Six Nations this year, which promises to be more competitive than ever.

Our social media is going strong with over 1,100 people on our Facebook page and 300 people on our Meetup site.  With an ever growing list of interesting events we can hopefully attract more people.

And don’t forget that becoming a Britsoc member is now free. Simply sign up here to get advance notice of events—which sell out really fast— and get on the reading list of our free monthly Britsoc Magazine. Written by our tireless expat reporters and bloggers.

We are always looking to get some more volunteers and organisers.  In the very near future, I will announce an event that will hopefully attract people who are willing to help us organise events.

I’m looking forward to seeing you soon at one or more of our events.

Nick Nugent

Chair

Email me here