Monday, November 23, 2015

Barrio Soho, 21st October

Ok, so I never went to the old-style Barrio Soho, so I can’t compare before and after the relaunch. But I can tell you what it’s like now, having been invited to sample the new menu (both drinks and food) and soak up the atmosphere. This is totally the place to go for fun and fiesta after work – have a few cocktails and a bite to eat upstairs and then once you’re nice and warmed up you can continue the party downstairs where it has its own little dance floor.

Drinkswise we tried pretty much everything they had with my favourite being the Cuba Lima which was a variation on a pisco sour. 
We also had a good selection of food. The mixed basket of fried goodness – pigs ears, pigs trotters and pork scratchings were thoroughly excellent. I was dubious about the ears having had them once before and finding them slimy and gristly, but fried and crunchy they make a good snack! The trotters were in nugget form and definitely my favourite. Both dips had a nice kick to them.

We also got to have a couple of rounds of pork tacos and homemade tortillas with some guacamole were waiting on the table for us. Happily made quick work of those!

The only thing I didn’t care for was the Mexican corn – but I’m just not a corn on the cob kinda gal. This had cheese and cayenne on them and were fine, I just don’t enjoy the process of eating off the cob. Sweet potato fries were tasty but not the best version I've ever had - they were rather large and some of them could have done with a few more minutes.
The atmosphere was as lively as the décor, bringing a bit of sunshine to the rapidly approaching winter. 

Barrio Central Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Barrafina, 8th October

I am not going to write anything bad about Barrafina. There is nothing bad to say about Barrafina. General consensus is that the food at Barrafina is good and general consensus is right. But how good? Well, for me, just pleasantly good, not knock-your-socks-off good. I enjoyed everything I ate and the meal itself was a very pleasurable experience. Even the hour’s wait for a table passed by quite quickly as we started on a bottle of red and got some padron peppers and bread to keep us company. For the first time ever I think I actually found a spicy one!

The meal was on Stephen and he was feeling lavish so we ordered quite a lot. It was very hard to choose between the ‘classics’ that are on the menu all the time and the specials of the night so we did a bit of both. We couldn’t miss out on the ham croquetas or one of the tortillas – prawn and piquillo pepper. I thought the tortilla was spot on – just the right squishy consistency in the middle but not too undercooked for my liking. The croquetas were good but I have to say I prefer the ones Stephen has made at home himself!

Milk-fed lamb belly was a no-brainer and of course if you’re going to eat in a Spanish place, you have to have chorizo (served with potatoes and watercress). Stephen had fried red mullet all to himself and I shared the arroz negro with monkfish with him, and first to come out was the meat platter we ordered. This was very nice but we immediately had food envy when we saw someone else’s choice of, I think, thin slices of lomo. Perhaps going for one specific type of cured meat is the way forward.

I can’t comment on the red mullet, although the saffron sauce it came with was a delight. The arroz negro was an incredibly deep-flavoured dish – too deeply flavoured for the monkfish in fact I think – it rather got lost amongst all that squid ink. A little more of it wouldn't have gone amiss either. 

The lamb – tender and one of those dishes you wish you hadn’t shared. Although by this time I was pretty stuffed so didn’t mind so much. While I enjoyed the chorizo, I was a little underwhelmed by this dish and the way it was presented - it was a tad boring and not the most enjoyable chorizo I've ever had. 

We still, for some reason, decided to get a dessert (shared of course) which was a chocolate tart with an sort of dry, but intensely chocolatey texture. Completely unnecessary but very good. 
It was a really enjoyable meal. And the food was all very decent – more than decent but I just don’t know if I can get that excited about classic Spanish tapas.

Barrafina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Wazen, 7th October

As you walk to King’s Cross from Farringdon, Wazen sits unassumingly on a corner in what looks like an old pub. Inside it is understated but warm. They have only just opened and I was invited along to sample some of their dishes and sake. What an absolute treat for me that was.

As with any event involing free food you had to be pretty quick off the mark to actually get any and there were definitely several dishes I didn’t even see until they were half eaten by other people, let along get to try. But what I did try was mostly exquisite. The highlights were far and away the cubes of ever so rare wagyu beef and the spoons of thinly sliced salmon served doused in truffle oil. Simply amazing. I also tried some further cubes of delicate, rare salmon, a cute little ball of rice with a layer of tuna draped over it and a carpaccio of yellowfin with a zingy dressing. Everything practically dissolved in your mouth.
There was also a light and moreish salad, and some fried chicken balls which were my least favourite as, without being able to eat it with the salad and dressing it was served with it was a little dry. However, this was thanks to eating standing up without a plate I think. Served the way it was intended I would give it the benefit of the doubt.

I also tried sake for the first time and I can say that I am a fan! The one they served was quite sweet and very smooth – it sort of reminded me of sherry although not as cloying or heavy. I had two of those, and it worked really well with the fresh fish.
I have to say, the staff serving the food and drinks were very lovely, and I’m not sure if we spoke to the owner or front of house manager at the beginning but he was really helpful in explaining the dishes we managed to try and told us about the different types of sake and which one we were trying (premier made in only a handful of ‘breweries’ in Japan.

An utter delight. I really wish I could have eaten more of their food but that just means I will have to go back! 

Wazen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Piano Works, 25th September

A friend of mine told me all about the lovely evening he’d had at this newly opened Piano Bar in Farringdon which I’d never heard of, and as soon as he’d mentioned it, for the next week or so I couldn’t move for seeing this place talked about.

So I got straight on it and booked an area for my Meetup. I knew there were two pianos and throughout the night the band was built up around them. They work strictly on a request basis so anything can be played, from Dean Martin to Weezer depending on what the crowd is asking for.

By the time we got there the band were in full activation and it was clear there were quite a few after-work parties there that were well oiled. My group settled down right next to the bandstand and had a jolly time. Given the fact that anyone could request, some of the music was a little too crowdpleasing and cheesy for me, but I really enjoyed the atmosphere and was tempted on more than one occasion to get up and dance. The two pianists take turn singing the songs, and at one point one of them swapped out with a girl pianist who had a better voice than both of them by miles.

The other downside to the music being purely on a request basis is that everyone wants to request songs, and they hint that for yours to stand a chance of being played you need to include a tip. But even so, there’s no way they are going to get to everyone’s and I’m sure they must gauge the audience in deciding which songs make the cut. Our waitress did say that if our songs weren’t played we would get our money back but we didn’t really expect them to follow through on this and when the place was shutting at the end of the night we were proved correct. Did we mind? Not really – we’d had such a good time we stayed right until the end and 2 quid wasn’t something we minded losing out on for the evening’s entertainment.

Entry is free before 9 pm, £5 before 10 pm and £10 after but if you make a group booking of 10 or more you can save the entrance fee. With Christmas coming up this is the ideal work night out. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Le Salon Noir, 24th September

Hot hot hot is the best way to describe Le Salon Noir. But sorry boys, you’re not invited. This is a women’s only burlesque event. A sexy women’s only burlesque event. With partying and playing after. In fact, it turned out playing during was also heartily encouraged but I think everyone was too focused on the acts happening in front of them to bother with that.

Ok, so yes, ladies only in this context was meant in a Sapphic sense, but any girl who can appreciate the sensuality of the female form would enjoy the night. It was easily the most erotic burlesque I have ever seen – possibly because they didn’t have to worry about men getting overly excited and ruining it for everyone. The sassy, sexy host was funny and moved the action along, as well as belting out a few numbers herself. There were two or three girls who did a couple of acts each – everything had a slight (or not so slight) kinky feel to it. For example, the act where our compere’s gimp came on stage and was told to lapdance a member of the audience! And this was a hell of a lapdance!

Tickets were £20 and included a glass of bubbly as you came in which was just the kind of touch which makes you feel the night is a little bit special. After the show was over the music and the party continued! A really sexy and intimate night – I highly recommend it to women with a sense of mischief!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Are You Game?, 23rd September

What do you get when you cross funfair games, a gameshow and a cabaret and throw in a heavy pinch of smut? You get Are You Game by Fowl Cabaret that’s what!

I had no idea what to expect from this ‘interactive gameshow’ but what I got was a whole lot of fun. And I wasn’t even drinking! Sober fun!

We got there and I immediately regretted my ‘day job’ clothes as we and took in everyone else’s outfits and were greeted by a sparkly Unicorn man. People in the know had dressed for the occasion. We were given a couple of tokens and, even though we read the ‘rules’ (No biting – only with consent) weren’t really much the wiser as to what was going on. But it soon became clear. The evening started with some games you could take part in, using your tokens to ‘pay’ to take part and if you won, you got more tokens. Why would you want more tokens? Well – to play the other games and to take part in the installations. And to win the coveted Egg Cup award at the end.

Games on offer were Ball Buster, Panty Pinging, Scrapple, and Waft of Fortune. Each was manned by a madcap gamesmaster who took on a larger than life character. I never found out how Scrapple worked, but I tried all the others. Waft of Fortune involved spinning the wheel and trying to guess the smell you landed on. I failed. Then we tried Ball Buster – tying some pantyhose that had two balls in the legs around your waste and then trying to knock down some little cones before your opponent. It was much tougher than it sounds especially when you're laughing the whole time. And finally, we pinged some panties which had the longest build up and explanation of a game ever – far too long-winded to go into here (it involved lots of screaming and selfies). 
Then we were all called over to the stage where the main even began. First, Mystal Craze – the chance to compete for a private ‘show’ no one else would see, and of course, some sort of glory. Two teams were pitched against each other and had to a) create a structure out of cheese and pineapple, b) decorate a cake blindfolded and c) eat doughnuts off their teammate without using their hands. Naturally these doughnuts were arranged as a bra and a pair of knickers.

We then had a musical interlude from Dr Clive singing about cross-dressing pirates and cannibalism.
We were granted a short break to continue the game-playing mayhem and investigate the installations. We entered the Church of Clarkson, a bizarre shrine to Mr Jeremy C where we were accepted into the fold after a short sermon (a reading of The World According to Clarkson) and promising to renounce Corbyn and Piers Morgan and vote Tory.

Later on, we were lucky enough to enter the Love Stop café where we indulged in a three course meal of finger dancing, shoulder massage and then a tasty dessert of dancing and complimenting. This was a meal to nourish your heart, not your stomach.

We then returned to watch the last interactive games and the final acts on stage – some guy sticking a drill up his nose and turning it on, someone doing a striptease that featured cracking eggs down her naked body and culminated with pouring copious amounts of baked beans all over herself. You know, the usual.

All of this was expertly hosted by the deliciously sexy Lolo Brow who makes any event worth a visit.

I didn’t know what to expect but I loved what I got. They promised an even bigger and better show for next time though how they can top that I do not know. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Crick Crack Club, 16th September

If you ever doubted the magic of storytelling then going to the Crick Crack Club will convert you. Clare Murphy had us eating out of her hand we were so rapt, so enthralled by the stories she wove. She put her entire being into them, so that they really did come to life in your mind.

Crick Crack Club has been going for yonks and hosts regular storytelling nights and festivals in London and beyond. Each one is a little bit different with a different theme. The one we went to had just the one storyteller, and she was given a brief and from that decided on the story(ies) she would tell. The first half was taken up by one large story – The King of Lies – but which involved at least two stories within that story. I wouldn’t say that Clare exactly ‘acted’ the stories out but she certainly seemed to become each character while also playing the role of narrator and imbuing her stories with impudent fun, a knowing wink here or there. The night we went to was one of several called ‘Fairytales for Grownups’ and the main story she told was centred around a Syrian King who decided he wanted to document in his book every lie ever told. And what is a story if not a lie? So all across the land all the great storytellers of all the different nations lined up outside to concoct the best story/lie they could. And if they failed? They died. This was a perfect premise for setting up within this story several ‘lies’ that each of the storytellers brought to tell the king. And, of course, the king wasn’t the most ethical character in the world, and the outcome was morally satisfying.

The second half was a Q & A which was interesting (even if a lot of the people there were a little pretentious in their eagerness to show off just how much they were storytelling aficionados). We learned the difference between storytelling ‘schools’ and just how Clare goes about learning a story and making it her own, how they become such a part of her, recalling one is like recalling a fond memory.

Crick Crack Club hosts several nights a month – some with the fairytale theme, some with something different, some with musical accompaniment, some without. If you love storytelling then this night is the epitome of it, if you’re not sure, then this will convince you. Enchanting. 

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I work as an editor in educational publishing by day, and then spend most of my spare time discovering interesting things to do in London, and taking people there with my own Meetup.