Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Sun Tavern, 30th November

The Sun Tavern, formerly the Sun Tavern (a pub of that name has been there since 1851), is the second establishment from the guys behind the Discount Suit Co. and I'm happy to report that it is just as likeable as their first place. 

From the outside it doesn't look open, but have faith and push open those doors. Inside is, indeed, what I would describe as a tavern - cosy and low-lit with blinds covering the windows giving it the darkened look from outside.

I went at about 5pm on a Sunday afternoon for my first visit and there it was populated but there were still a few tables available. I went back again the other night - a Saturday night - and we again managed to get a seat, but only just. 

Discount Suit is an underground cocktail den, whereas this place is more pubby so you won't feel like you're missing the point if you have a wine (as I did on Saturday) or one of the local beers and ciders written on a board at the back of the bar. But, of course, they do still know their cocktails and this makes up the focus of the menu. So on that Sunday evening I had to try a couple in the time I was there.  

First up the Peach Fuzz. Gin, sherry, creme de peche, served in a metal tankard with a pile of ice like a julep. Their menu is divided into Tankard Drinks and Mixed Drinks. So I went for the 12 Mile Limit off the Mixed Drinks to try one of each. White rum, cognac, rye mixed with some grenadine and lime. This was my kind of drink. Strong and punchy and prettily garnished with flowers. And all the cocktails are either £7.50 or £8.00. My kind of prices. Well, sort of. Wine comes in choices of red, white or fizz and a very small glass (125ml) is £4.50. Expensive for unlabelled wine. Better to go for a bottle which is a very reasonable £16.

Bethnal Green is turning into the place to be if it isn't already and The Sun Tavern makes it even more of a worthy destination. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Dishoom, 21st November

I don't really know how to say this but, well, I thought Dishoom was... just... okay... I know, what is wrong with me? Wasn't I supposed to absolutely fall in love with it? I mean, I liked it, but that's as far as it went. If it were a beau, I'd probably go on a second date, but I'm not sitting by the phone on edge, waiting for it to ring.

Dishoom has been on my list for a long, long time. So long in fact, that in that time they have opened a third branch in King's Cross. I assumed, for the sake of speedy seating, that the best option would be to go to one of their more established branches to avoid any queues. But on twitter they assured me that their new branch had been pretty quiet since the 50% soft launch opening. And they were right. When we got there at six we were shown to a table straight away, and although the place did fill out a bit while we were there, there was no sign of any hour-and-a-half waits. (That's how long we were told we'd have to wait when we tried to get into the one in Shoreditch once.)

Dishoom sits comfortably between high-end Indian and eat-at-2-am curry. And the prices somewhat reflect that, although the portions are on the diminutive side, meaning it's not quite as good value for money as it would at first appear.

Trying to be reasonably healthy and not spend too much, Stephen and I just got one small plate, one grill and one main between us, as well as the requisite sides of a nan (garlic) and rice (they offer only one type – steamed basmati).

We ordered the okra small plate as our nibbles, which was as good move as we needed something to dip in the chutneys and dips that we were given for the table. These were delicious and it would have been nice to have some complimentary poppadoms to make the most of them. One was minty and cool, one was basically just chilli, so rather fiery, and the tamarind sauce was also surprisingly spicy.

Our lady fingers were great - most likely coated in something and lightly fried, they were a more than acceptable alternative to a bowl of chips. I easily could have eaten a portion on my own.

For the main event we ordered the plainspoken ‘chicken ruby’ and the lamb boti kabab. The ruby murray came in a thick, tomatoey sauce which was a little too tomatoey and sweet, not quite enough spice for the both of us. Perfectly nice to eat but didn’t make me swoon, and I was very much expecting to. We much preferred the chunks of lamb that had been marinated in red chili, garlic and ginger, although they seemed to get cold quite quickly.

To drink I had an East India Gimlet which was so nice I had another one. A very light, but strong drink, the celery bitters tempering any sweetness from the lime cordial.

Unusually, we had a dessert at Dishoom - we split the pineapple and black pepper crumble with custard, which was a good note to end on. Warm pineapple is a wonderful taste and the custard and crumble made it suitable stodgy and indulgent. 

In all it was a perfectly pleasant meal and I was only a bit disappointed because I'd had such high expectations. I’d be happy enough to return if someone suggested going (especially this branch - the setting is rather beautiful), but I’m not going to rush back. 

Dishoom King's Cross on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

See the menu and more reviews of this restaurant on Zomato

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

New Year's Eve 2014

New Year's Eve is barrelling towards us, have you decided where to go? Well, luckily for you I've spent the past couple of weeks collating places to go. Here are some of my favourites:

Bedroom Bar, 10-4 This is a great club that throws all kinds of eclectic nights. For New Year;s Eve they've got punk-rock, new-wave, and soul, pop music, salsa and rock and roll, Calypso, reggae rhythm, and blues. AND it's only £5 in advance with an option to pay only £10 on the door. You won't find many cheaper nights than that.

Except for Translate that is, which are basically having their normal night - no tickets in advance, just £5 on the door. Probably best to go down early though. 

After my friends threw an amazing house party with a UV theme, this night from Bounce really appeals. They're having a UV party, with free play all night once you've got a ticket, DJs until 3 and UV face painting plus other games and things! 10-15 quid, 8:30 - 3, last entry 11:30

If ping pong is your thing and you also want to pretend you're in the Wolf of Wall Street then Ping in Earl's Court may just make your dream come true with their Wold of Wall Street themed night. It could also be full of people who think they actually do live like the Wolf, so go at your own peril. More info here.

Blow Up. I went to Blow Up in the Bussey Building around this time last year and had a wicked time. Expect their mix of 60s soul and funk plus a good dose of britpop. And they're taking it central to St Moritz. 9 - 4, from 10 quid, more info here.

There's a couple more places taking it old, old school with Motown and Northern Soul. Choose from Stories in Broadway Market, or Casa Negra in Shoreditch. Stories is free, Casa Negra is pretty cheap at £15, unless you want to go early for their dinner party first. 

I found this one very, very tempting, despite it being full of children when I went to Regression Sessions before. I just love me some silly games and the idea of a space hopper dance off sounds amazing. Plus an inflatable zoo and they play a wicked mix of music.Better Together night at Renaissance Rooms, Vauxhall. Up to £22 quid though quite cheap now. More info here

If you want something a little more low key but you fancy a night out, then the Cat and Mutton might have just the thing - an East End Boozer night, where supping pints is encouraged. More info here. Until 4 am, £10 -15

For a crowd-pleasing mix of music. Brixton Jamm is hosting Gold Teeth which plays 90s hip hop, garage, funk, soul, rock and 60s tunes. It's on until 6 am for the hard partiers like me and tickets are only £15 now though they rise to £22 as they sell out.

Catch is also playing a spread of dancing crowdpleasing music if there are a few of you with different tastes. They've got 80s, 90s, hip hop, house, disco etc until 5 am, tickets start at £5 adn go up to about £20. More info here.

Top pick for me and my crew is Oslo's first New Year's Eve. It sounds like it's laid back fun playing a good mix of party music (disco, new wave, soul, indie) as it's basically their weekly Friday night Valhalla, gone large. I love the idea of the free canapes and drinks tasters making it feel like a big house party. More info here. 8-4 am, advance tix £10.

If you fancy some live music then The New Empowering Church have got a band on at 10:30 to get you in the mood for the midnight kiss, and then it's dancing until 5. I'm kinda gutted I'm not going to this one as it's the final night for this venue. 9-5 am, £25 in advance. More info here.

For indieheads then The Lexington sounds fun (until 4 am, £15 in advance) or there's This Feeling at The Macbeth (until 4, £25 in advance). 

For househeads then Dollop at the Troxy has to be a top contender. One word: TEED. But also MK. It goes until 6 am, with last entry at 11:30, and is a whopping £33 for tickets!

Village underground also have quite the lineup with Ivan Smagghe and GERD at the Krankbrothers night there. Also a late finisher at 6 am, and tickets are £20. 

Other good nights for techno or house have to be the Zombie Soundsystem takeover at Cargo (tickets only £10, plus even though the night finishes at 6, there's an afterparty), and Fabric have Seth Troxler and Jack Master. 

For something a bit different, the Looking Glass have a little burlesque going on with there party until 5 am (see here), or how about a Zodiac themed night at the Dead Dolls Club which includes dinner if you so choose and has music from Dan Beaumont and Hannah Holland? 

Or, Craig Charles is setting up his funk and soul shpp at Brooklyn Bowl, and The Correspondents are making an appearance! They know how to rock the place. 

If you want to know of any more places, just ask - this list is not exhaustive of everywhere I have investigated!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Book Club Boutique, 5th November

Lovers of spoken word! Bibliophiles! Where were you November 5th? I'll tell you where I was - lounging in the intimate and cosy Vout O Reenees club, listening to Salena Godden and her fellow chums published by Unbound deliver some very fine prose. And you should have been too! There was certainly room for more - in fact, without my Meetup group, I think everyone else there would have been one of the speakers or their nearest and dearest. Which is ludicrous, for it was an excellent event. It even managed to convert some un-poetry-minded people to the love of spoken word.

Vout O Reenees
We had about seven different artistes, who were celebrating the fact that they had recently had their poetry published by Burning Books. They were all 'label mates' if you will. And there wasn't a dud among them, although Dan Cockerill's pieces (who runs Bang said the Gun) were a little too child-centric for me. I'm sure you would have appreciated it more if you had children of your own.

All were very different - from the geek-chic poetry of Dan Simpson, musing on the unfortunate pseudonyms of the orange pac-man around the world, to the sublimely surreal Rob Auton, pondering what heaven might be like. Are chickens there? Do they get eaten? Do they mind?

We had Alice Furse reading an excerpt from her novel (the only non-poet of the night), about her first job and we had the wonderfully funny Mab Jones who, among other things, treated us to a touching poem to her hot young boyfriend about why she loves him.

Probably the most spine-tingling was Joelle Taylor, who I had seen before at Bang, but was no less affecting for that. As someone who works with young people, her poetry about a misused woman had a particular impact. 

And I haven't even mentioned A F Harrold, cohost Michelle Madsen or Salena Godden herself, who were all equally wonderful.

The night bills itself as 'books, booze and boogie-woogie'. It wasn't perhaps the booze-soaked revelry you might expect but it did have a certain rowdiness to it, coming from the fact that all the speakers clearly know and love each other and weren't afraid to show it. And there was a raffle - and I won a prize! Another one on my List to return to. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Carousel, 31st October

I had already been to one Carousel and had a gay old time, but didn’t end up writing about it so I thought I would put a few words down about the last one I went to , as well as the time before.

Carousel is along the lines of Rumpus though tends to be on a slightly smaller scale. At least two rooms have various different performances or things going on, and they play a variety of music as well. There’s sometimes a particular theme but otherwise dressing up in anything reminiscent of circuses and cabaret is encouraged. Recently they threw a two-night Halloween extravaganza based around The Rocky Horror Show. People dressed as one of the characters and things kicked off at 11:30 when the ‘official cast’ lead us all in a rendition of the Time Warp. Then, peppered throughout the evening, those playing the characters did various performances of songs from the show, reimagined. Thus ‘Touch me’ between Janet and Rocky was a sexy aerialist performance. And Eddie, who was ‘played’ by someone far sexier than Meatloaf ever was, entered the stage on his motorbike and did a fire-eating performance. And then it was rounded off with an ensemble performance at the end for Frank’n’furter’s demise. In between we had live bands and DJs, which started off a little too cheesy for my liking but with a few brass instruments thrown in made for some good party music.There was dancing galore!

But that was all in the main room. In the second room there was also music but less dancing, at least to begin with. Instead, this was where the party games were, for example bobbing for apples, and then, later on, limbo! And there was at least one secret area as well, which I was lucky enough to discover – I can’t say whether there were any more I didn’t know about! At about 2 am or so my friend grabbed me and chucked me through a door that really looked like it was for staff only. But that was all a pretence, for through that door a secret dinner party was going on and if you came in, you got to be a guest and even get to say some lines as it all unfolded. This was the icing on the cake for me – a wonderful and much fun little immersive surprise.

At past Carousels they have had the fabulous Mr B, Gentleman Rhymer, spitting hip hop lyrics in the most refined vintage fashion, and I’m sure at the other one I went to, they had glitter wrestling, though my mind can’t quite believe that could be the case. People all oiled up and wrestling in glitter? Would something like that be allowed? I can’t be certain it was. (It was.)

So, whatever the theme, Carousel have a way about them with intimate yet highly entertaining parties, and I shall be sure to get myself along to whatever they have in store next time.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Colab's Fifth Column, 30th October

I had really low expectations of CoLab’s Fifth Column before I went due to various things I’d read, and even these weren’t met. I feel like the whole set up had a lot of potential but the way it was carried out fell way short of what it could have been.

We had to gather at a meeting point and then ‘rendez-vous’ with a contact and give them the secret phrase. That part was promising, even though we were given the wrong contact and password to begin with. We were then explained a fairly complicated backstory which already put us on the backfoot, exchanging glances, worried about what we would have to remember. It turned out we had to remember very little as for the whole of the event we were basically shepherded around and had very little involvement in the storyline or what unfolded. This confused our group as we thought there was at least some element of interactivity in the first half and that it might be up to us to push the plotline forward. We kept hesitating to regroup and consider what had occurred, much to the exasperation of our ‘agent’ who basically just wanted to make sure we got to the designated end venue in time.

Some of it was fun – we were all given walkie talkies and an agent number and while we pursued the group we were going to infiltrate, we had fun saying ‘Roger’ and ‘Copy that’ and ‘we’ve been made!’ to each other. But none of it meant anything. There was no real infiltration, or even interaction, with the group we were following – they were just another set of paying participants, put on a slightly different story arc to us. So we followed them around for about an hour, hanging back. At one point someone with a suitcase came along and we took it, but we didn’t have to figure out how to open it or what it all meant – we were just lead to the ‘end game’. At one point our agent gave us a secret word and we all had to run, but we didn’t run to anywhere in particular and no one was following us. It was just running for running’s sake. Nothing happened. I was nonplussed.

The end game was a secret lair where the hackers we were infiltrating and us agents were meeting to bring about the end of this shady organization, the ETF. We had been told the ETF had been controlling most of the world’s funds, using it to start wars and assure England’s continued prosperity. For the first time we had to do something. And time was running out! Only it wasn’t and all sense of urgency was ruined when their WiFi wouldn’t work and so the emails we were ‘hacking’ into wouldn’t load and we couldn’t get the secret password. I could sense a lot of people clocking out at this point. Finally we somehow managed to connect and we put the password and various ‘keys’ into the mainframe and set the scene for the finale. Which – unsurprisingly – was a bit of an anticlimax. There was a scene where a double agent was revealed. This should have been quite touching as it involved betrayal within a married couple, but due to rather poor acting and a lack of built-up affinity with the characters, it was just somewhat awkward. Then our lair was under threat – a SWAT team was on the way – we all had to get out, get out now! And that was the end. I expected at least some sound effects of gunfire or explosions to get the adrenaline going, but there was nothing.

I think they could have included much more interaction during the first half which would have made us buy into the second half. They gave us way too much information to start – this could have been fed to us throughout the evening, by using more characters to interact with – and even just giving us a couple of clues to solve would have greatly improved this evening. The problems with technology in the lair really did jolt the continuity and I just didn’t buy into the urgency or consequences they were trying to foster. We were supposed to be bringing down civilization as we knew it but it didn’t feel like it. If these guys and Agent November could get together, they might have something pretty special, but as it was, I wish I hadn’t wasted my money. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Rum Kitchen, 27th October

That must have been one of the most average meals I’ve had in a long while. My ‘jerk chicken’ burger was incredibly basic, the scotch bonnet garlic mayo having nothing scotchy or garlicky about it, except that it was a slightly pale pink. The chicken had no discernible jerk flavour at all. I decided to get a veggie patty with it instead of a traditional side. This also came with scotch bonnet mayo which again had no heat whatsoever. The actual patty had more spice than the mayo and good flavour but it was pretty soft and squidgy which I wasn’t expecting. I thought the casing would have some bite to it.

My friend also had the chicken burger but she got sweet potato fries and they were, admittedly, nice and crispy on the outside and very moreish.

The only saving grace to this place was the fact that they had a happy hour on until 7, and the cocktails were only £5. I had two of their Alligator wines, a sangria-like drink made with rum and red wine, and my friend had one of these and a Santa Teresa Daiquiri. They were too easy to drink – tasty but light on the alcohol I suspected.

I think I had read a few reviews which got me really excited about this place but the reality was mundanity. I got a glimpse of the other dishes as we left – the mutton curry and the jerk chicken plate. Neither of them made me wish I’d ordered those instead. However, I must admit, the people next to us had ribs and wings and they enflamed food envy within me. I assumed a place that was Jamaican themed would do better on things that were Jamaican but perhaps the ‘cue is the way to go here. 

The Rum Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

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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.