Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I have moved

A little while ago I decided that to make the most of the Listings page I was trying to keep on top of, I should move to a better platform. And I've decided to move my blog posts there too. So, while it doesn't look like much is going on here, you can still find me writing. I'm just over here now... Gingle's Lists

Come say hi!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Cellar Door, 10th November

It took me about five years to actually get to Cellar Door and it was a total anticlimax. The space itself is pretty cool – it’s a repurposed public toilet in the middle of Aldwych. You’d never know it was there unless you knew it was there. Downstairs they make the most of the space with mirrored walls – so much so I kept walking through thinking there was more to it. There wasn’t. Luckily there were two seats along the side so we quickly grabbed those and waited for the acts to start.
I will give Cellar Door the benefit of the doubt – maybe we just chose a dud night. It was basically a guy on keyboard with a walkabout cabaret singer doing numbers such as The House of the Rising Sun and In These Shoes and moving around the audience giving them her most personal of attention. I found it all a bit cringey and forced though perhaps I just wasn’t drunk enough.

Speaking of drinks, we ordered ‘martinis’ – mine the Cool as a Cucumber and Carolyn’s the London Calling. For martinis they were oddly frothy and not particularly potent. Mine tasted nice enough – but was too mild. Carolyn’s was similar – and more to her preference when it comes to strength.

We had our cocktail and then made a sharp exit before the singing started again! 
Cellar Door Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Dum Biryani House, 10th November

I was unexpectedly contacted by Dhruv, the man behind DUM Biryiani, newly opened in Soho, inviting me to review the place. He said he liked my blog – clearly he has good taste, which boded well for his new restaurant.

Dum might sound like an odd choice for a restaurant name but Dum biryani is actually a specific dish native to Hyderabadi. So, this is another of those ‘one choice’ places, with either lamb or veg (mushroom, chickpease, and potatoes) biryani being the two choices for mains. With these there’s a handful of starters or sides and we ended up trying all of them except the prawns because I have allergies.

This may sound a little greedy but I had been waiting for my friend for almost an hour by the time she arrived, slowly being driven mad by the tantalising smells though somewhat soothed by the gentle Snoop Doog being played in the background. So by the time she arrived, I was starving, despite demolishing a plate of the masala nuts while I sipped on a cocktail. With the spicy coating it was hard to tell what nuts they were but I definitely spied peanut and cashew and maybe one other. They are fried and coated with a homemade spice mix which was not afraid of some real heat and were completely moreish. Perfect snacking.

They were all gone by the time Carolyn turned up so we got some of the fried yoghurt (because it sounded so strange) and also the black chickpea salad. I wasn’t sold on the fried yoghurt, but I don’t actually like yoghurt anyway so perhaps that’s no surprise. I certainly preferred it in this form – it was a bit like fried cottage cheese/paneer and I loved the curry leaf sauce it came with. But not something I’d choose to eat again.
The chicken wings were superb. They must have come from some mammoth birds and were piled high with grated, crispy ginger – not the sort of thing to take a mouthful of on its own, as I did, but a fantastic kick when eaten with the actual wing. These were plenty spicy but not so spicy it becomes a challenge to eat. So, just right in my opinion. I would have happily eaten another plateful.  
The salad was light and zingy, and did act as a refreshing coolant to the wings I was eating alongside. I wasn’t sure about the firm texture of the chickpeas, but again, full disclosure, I don’t generally seek chickpeas out so I’m not their biggest fan anyway.
And so, soon after, the main event was brought out. At first glance it looks like a pot pie, but no, underneath that (really rather tasty – loved the nigella(?) seeds) was the biryani. This is superhearty. Mine had chunks of lamb throughout and a big bit of lamb on the bone which fell off with the merest prod. There was a lot of rice. A lot. You could easily share this if you also want to have most of the snacks, or have one each and only share a couple of the starters. I would probably recommend the former, unless you happen to be eating with a veggie!
The biryani comes with a couple of poppadoms, some raita, a korma-esque curry and chili (with boiled egg if you get the meat version) and an absolutely delicious chutney. Overall, the biryani was a little too… aromatic for me. The flavour profiles weren’t quite suited to my taste. Sort of reminded me of  incense. However, that didn’t stop me eating as much as I could until I was stuffed. It was still tasty, although the rice got a little dry at times so I would suggest giving the whole thing a good stir so the meat juices can supply some moisture. Or maybe pour your curry into it.
Anyway, we were way too stuffed for dessert and really enjoyed the whole meal - I would, and have, recommended it to others. Especially for those wings. Oh, those wings!

DUM Biryani House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Star at Night (London Gin Club), 9th November

I don’t know why I was so taken aback by the amount of gin the London GIN Club had but it was a little overwhelming – how was I to choose? So many gins. ALL the gins. To be mixed with Fever Tree tonic (natch) and interesting little garnishes – like plum, or tomato and coriander and served in those gorgeous copa glasses that are like fish bowls. They were all priced at £8.95 unless otherwise stated, and actually there were probably more that were ‘otherwise stated’ than weren’t, and they were generally all about £9.50. So I chose the way any sensible lush would – by ABV.
The first one I tried I thought had a bit of a peppery taste to it but what do I know, and my friend was directed to the sloe gins they had on offer when she said she liked it sweet and fruity. The Bathtub sloe was perfect for this – tasted like fruit punch when mixed with tonic.
For her next she had one from the Citrus section but this was too much serious gin for her – not fruity enough. You get a bottle of fever tree to split between you and before I knew it she had emptied pretty much the whole thing into her copa. As much as I could, I did not fancy drinking just straight gin so we asked for another and our request was graciously granted.
I have to say, I thought the service was lovely - not overly present but they kept an eye on you and menus were swiftly handed over when our first drink was finished. And they seemed more than happy to chat through the different types of gin they had on offer. Although one of the servers didn’t know that Martin Miller was a partly Icelandic gin – tsk tsk. (This I only knew from the Gin Off at Graphic – excellent!)

The London Gin Club Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Where the Pancakes Are, 8th October

Weekends to me mean brunch, and brunch very often means pancakes. The fluffy American kind (even though I’m a lover of the thin, English kind too). When I saw Where the Pancakes Are had opened up I was delighted.

They’ve set up in the newly created area that is Flat Iron Square on Bankside, where you can expect to find more foodie type places and even a new venue called Omeara to make up for the shortfall in London from all the ones we’ve recently lost.

I headed there on a Saturday afternoon at about 1 and we only had to wait all of ten minutes, if that, for a table (of course it is no bookings). I think I was there in its first couple of weeks though so don’t take that as gospel that you’ll always get seated so quickly! Especially now this new area is becoming more widely known. 
Choosing what I wanted was very difficult – the eternal question of whether to go savoury or sweet reared its head. Eventually savoury won out because I cannot resist having something with chilli in it! Rebecca, my dining companion for the meal, had a sweet option. I had a 1,000-baby-greens and added some more greenery in the form of avocado. My fluffy, squidgy pancakes were piled with baby leaves, spring onion, a good dollop of avocado and coriandier-lime butter. Fresh and lively. Could have handled more chilli (as per usual).
Rebecca’s Hummingbird plate looked fabulous – cream, cinnamon pineapple but the pomegranates, almond and coconut put me off stealing any of it. She seemed very pleased with her choice.
Each dish comes with two or three pancakes and that’s enough, although I probably could have squeezed in sharing a dessert version after mine. The savoury dishes are towards the higher end of what I’ve paid for brunch at other places (especially considering they’re pancakes which are normally quite a cheap item), at £10-£12 with extras being another £2 or so. But it doesn’t feel like a cheap brunch spot given the locale, and the types of pancake on offer are a cut above your average lemon and sugar. I’d happily go back.  

Where The Pancakes Are Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Souvlaki Street, 5th October

I came across Souvlaki Street in a blog post by Little London Observationist where she said she regularly indulges in their souvlaki when she rarely visits the same place twice. I am much the same – even if I really like a place, there’s always somewhere new to try! With this high recommendation I thought I should seek them out forthwith, so I had a look at their Twitter and figured out when they would next be popping up near me.

They grill skewers of pork or chicken, sprinkle them with herbs, and wrap them in thick pittas with tzatsiki, plus a load of fresh tomatoes, paprika and onions. We added halloumi to get the ‘special’. And they are very tasty. I’m not a huge fan of tzatziki so I found mine a little too heavy on that – it was oozing out the sides all over the place. But I have to say, I could have easily eaten one that was twice as big! One skewer is not enough!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Hill & Szrok and The Gibson, 28th September

There’s very little point in going to Hill & Szrok if you don’t eat meat. They started as a Butchery and cookshop in Broadway market and their pub is pretty much an excuse to show off the meat they butcher. Having said that, there are a few sides which are just as good to eat as the meat.

The sautéed potatoes were gorgeously golden discs of salty crunchiness and soft potato inside. Hispi cabbage which seems to be flaunting itself all over town on many a menu was as good here as I’ve had elsewhere – sprinkled with chilli to liven it up and apparently anchovy was also somehow involved although I couldn’t spot where. Blended into the sauce it was dressed with I imagine. It was a really delicious bit of veg. The salad we ordered was probably unnecessary and barely got a look in after the cabbage and potatoes were all done. It was crisp and fresh but rather too mustardy for me.

While not normally a fan of the pork chop I thought it stood a good chance of being done well here, and I was right. Nice and thick it had a good amount of fat on the edge (although some of that fat could have been a little more melty than chewy) and wasn’t in the least dry. A chunky applesauce accompanied.

I had a white wine and a red wine over dinner. The white was dry but had some personality to it and the red was a montepulciano which I know is always a safe bet and had a pretty heady aroma. Our waiter was so sweet he even offered to let me try the wines I was deciding between – how often do you get that offered to you?

I really liked the set up too. I was worried the place would be more restaurant than pub but they have delineated it so that seated service is at the back and does feel more prim whereas the front is definitely a proper pub where you can pop in for a drink without feeling any pressure to eat.

Hill & Szrok Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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After this we took a short walk up to The Gibson, a cocktail bar I have been eying for some time now. It wasn’t quite what I expected – I thought it was going to be more serious, classic drinks, instead they like to surprise you with added extras and features. Some of them not altogether welcome. I had a shaky start when I ordered the Tiger balm and what was set down was a huge glass with (I thought in the half light) Bombay mix pinned to the side.  Before I reached in to get a few, the waiter explained they were worms! I literally yelped and shrank away, banishing them from my sight. My date was braver and tried one – said they tasted a bit like candied ginger. I would not be persuaded. The chunk of tamarind that it came with was also odd to eat and after one bite full of seeds I abandoned it.  
My companion had ordered the Dry Gibson which came with pickled black eyed peas and a spoon to scoop them out with. That was delicious. They managed to make what is basically a glass full of gin completely moreish. 
My second drink was more like a dessert than a drink (well it was called a Tiki toffee pudding), topped with a thick waffle, with the glass encased in chocolate. But I went back to savoury with my last drink. 
We both had Asian-inspired drinks to finish – my 'Big in Japan' was topped with warmed wasabi peas and my companion had his 'Way of the Dragon' served in a teapot (dragon-shaped of course) which blew smoke into his glass.

But anyone can come up with fun things to do with cocktails. The main thing about this place is that each one tasted as good as it looked and I would have been as happy with them even without the bells and whistles. They’re just my kind of drinks – strong enough you taste the alcohol, with the extra ingredients smoothing and rounding it out.

The number of drinks on the menu is ridiculous so you could easily come back again and again to work through all their inventions. When we went, we even had a bit of jazz being played on the piano, which was a nice surprise. And, unlike Nightjar down the road, you would actually stand a chance of getting a seat on a weekday – when we went at 8:30 on a Wednesday there were but a few others there. 

The Gibson Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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