Friday, May 22, 2015

Melt Room, 4th May

Given the surge in popularity of grilled cheese toasties in the capital, it was only a matter of time before someone tapped in on that and opened up a bricks and mortar place, rather than a street food van. And of course I had to try it.

Prices are what you'd expect and they have some options that are definitely different (tuna bean!?) as well as just the classic which I had. I added onions and got some of their relish as well.

Have to say, it did not stand up to the best out there. I cut it in half and grease seeped to the front. At one point a glob of oil actually dripped from the sandwich onto the paper which was a bit offputting (though I somehow managed to overcome this and finish it). I don't know what cheese they used, I wondered if it was something processed hence the grease. There seemed to be two kinds - one orange and one 'normal' cheese colour. There wasn't very much of it, it wasn't particularly thick and it didn't have a very strong taste. Overall, underwhelming.



The relish was quite good - kinda of sweet but with a spicy kick. The cafe was rather basic but cheerful - bright yellows. It's very small. Only space for about 12 people. While I was in quite a few people popped in to investigate but a good portion of them left again and I think it's because they realised there wasn't anywhere to sit. 

So, final verdict - seek out Morty and Bob's, The Cheese Truck or Grill My Cheese if a toastie is what you fancy. 


Square Meal

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sparkle Harder and The Flying Dutchman, 24th April

Sparkle Harder is a sex-positive inclusive kinky dance party and one of its ‘rules’ is not to gossip about what goes on at Sparkle Harder. So I won’t. In fact, going to Sparkle Harder doesn’t have to be about the sex side of things at all (although if you’re into that I’m sure you would enjoy that aspect). Otherwise, it is all about going to an intimate party where everyone there has the same ideas about what made a fun night out – dressing up and being silly, chatting to lots of friendly people and dancing about to some good (most of the time) music without any attitude.

The whole thing is run by volunteers which means they have a strict entry policy – you have to get there between 9 and 10 so the door staff have plenty of time to enjoy the party themselves. While this went against the grain as someone who tends to go out later rather than earlier, because everyone has to comply, it means the place is pretty full from the get-go, and people are up and dancing that much sooner. Plus, it only finished at 3 so you want to make the most of it. The theme was sort of space/futuristic and people really made the effort, whether with bought costumes or ones cobbled together (like mine was somewhat) with what they could find. The Fabulous of Unicorns were in full attendance (they get everywhere), and, thanks to my costume (I thought of myself as a unicorn robot – megaglow stick for a horn and tin foil all over the place) I got to be an honorary member for the night!

There’s not just dancing and general socialising, they put on a bit of a show for you as well with two acts on upstairs and some glitter wrestling later on in the night. How to win – remove your opponents pants! So funny! Then, while I was upstairs dancing, someone brought out what I thought was a massive fake party popper but was intended to be a giant bottle for a game of spin the bottle. This kind of sums up the night for me – an injection of a silly, juvenile game, played with openness and a willingness to experiment.

As the night wore on more people descended the stairs to do whatever it was they wanted to do down there, with whoever it was they wanted to do it with.

It was held this time in the Flying Dutchman, a venue which is known for hosting and housing alternative nights such as these, or Bound for example – a night all about shibari. It’s not the easiest place to get to, in deepest, darkest Camberwell but it is a cool space. It’s basically a pub with two levels big enough for dancing and any other shenanigans you may want to put on. I can see myself returning in future and in fact I am there soon enough for Wonderland!

I really had a lovely time at Sparkle Harder – it was full of friendly, fabulous folk and you can tell the people that run it put a lot of effort into making it the type of event they want. There are certain rules, or should I say, etiquette to adhere to – there’s no letting any old riff raff off the street in, for example, which ensures everyone who is there has the same safe, consensual, no-attitude, welcoming state of mind. This is the little sister to Kinky Salon, and based on this event, I can't wait to see what they do on a bigger scale. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Delancey & Co, 24th April

Almost every corner of New York has an unassuming shop that almost looks like a newsagents, but from which you can get these immense, amazing sandwiches. There are the standards – your Cuban, your Monte Cristo, or they can whip up a combination of your choosing. We do have some equivalents over here – I would say Basil’s sandwiches is one, but we don’t have exactly the same thing. And I wouldn’t say Delancey & Co is exactly the same thing either but it does have a similar, though more limited, ethos.

Delancey’s does a few things, and, judging by what we had, does them well. You can get bagels (or sandwiches) with smoked salmon and all kinds of cream cheeses and 'load ups' (toppings), or you can get sandwiches with salt beef or smoked turkey, or you can get their signatures – the Reuben or the Bird or the Toky x Delancey - each a prescribed sandwich of salt beef, turkey or smoked salmon.

Stephen and I both got the reuben. I had the coleslaw with cheese and special sauce, and Stephen  had the sauerkraut version. We couldn't really tell which was which but I think we got the right ones in the end. The sandwich was packed with silky, fattily tender beef, with a good slathering of the ‘kraut/'slaw and dressing ensuring things could never get too dry. I loved the caraway marbled rye bread – I think caraway is a great flavour, and I thought it was a really good bread to meat ratio. Stephen dissented, saying the bread was slightly too thick and in the corners where it hadn’t been pressed down perhaps it was, a little, but that is such a minor quibble I don’t even know why I’m mentioning it.
At just under £10 it is by no means cheap but this kept me so full into the evening I didn’t even have any dinner.

It gets the thumbs up from me.

Delancey & Co on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Kappacasein, 18th April

Kappacasein may be the original grilled cheese street food trader, touting his wares in Borough Market for 15 years now but I’m afraid the new kids on the block are showing him how it’s really done.

I didn’t think my toastie was that great, but this I am willing to put this down to them being victimes of their own success. There is so much demand, this little food stall is like a factory producing them via a conveyor belt, rather than each one lovingly made to order. Your order is taken in the queue, they have two people grilling and one person shoveling the cheese between slices. They’re trying to serve as many people as possible as quickly as possible and it’s not surprising if quality suffers a little. In my case I felt there wasn’t enough cheese and it was too overdone. I still liked it, but I wouldn’t bother with them again when there are much better offerings out there.

Kappacasein on Urbanspoon

After this I thought I'd better burn off the cheese and went for a marathon of a walk across London. I wanted to see the Tweed Run. I was just a bit too late to catch their pit stop in Red Lion Gardens but I managed to catch up with them at Hyde Park corner. Quite the spectacle to see all these men, women and children all spiffing in their tweed, and sometimes with penny farthing bikes to boot!


From here I hopped on a bus to Shepherd's Bush and from there continued my walk. I wanted dessert after my grilled cheese and I had a destination in mind - WA, the new Japanese bakery. I knew I would probably get there too late in the day to sample their specialities, and so it proved. No curry doughnut for me. But I did get a mont blanc and a pear tart. I didn't know what a mont blanc consisted of when I got it and I still couldn't tell you afterwards but it was a buttery, sweet little pastry of deliciousness and so was the tart. Too much of a schlep for me to visit again but if you are local to it, I would absolutely check them out.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Port House, 16th April

I have a tendency to walk past places I think look nice and then put them on my List so I don’t forget to investigate them. When I came across The Port House on the Strand, I made a note of it because port is a favourite drink of Stephen’s. As it happens, when I finally went I didn’t take Stephen and didn’t drink any port.

Instead I went for a (very) light bite with my mum before we watched the five-star show Gypsy.

I walked in and was quite enchanted by the place. It feels like walking into a cellar or cave – in a good way. It is extremely dark and cosy with candlelight. It would make a really good romantic meal. I had expected to waltz in at 6:15 and get a table but it must get a lot of pre-theatre business as the place was pretty much full.

My mum doesn’t eat very much these days so we only ordered three dishes to share between us (and I ate most of those). Luckily I had had a snack beforehand. We got the confitado de pato and patatas bravas con alioli and, because we felt we should have some vegetables, the pisto – diced, slow cooked vegetables with oregano, paprika and olive oil with a fried egg on top instead of manchego. The dishes were a bit hit and miss. The vegetables were really just a slightly watery ratatouille which an egg on top didn’t make particularly interesting.
The duck confit leg was delicious, as duck is wont to be. The membrillo sauce it was served with was a nice, sweet contrast.
The patatas bravas were decent – I didn’t think the ‘fiery’ tomato sauce was particularly hot but the garlic mayo was definitely garlicky and I liked them.
Everything is around the £4 or £5 mark and I think you get a decent portions for this. We also had a glass of very nice red wine.

Sadly, that’s all I had so I don’t know what their pintxos or other, more interesting dishes were like. I would like to go back to give a broader, perhaps fairer review but there are so many places to get to, a repeat visit is low on my priorities. I would definitely say, nip in and if there’s a free table/seat at the bar, stay a while with a nice glass of wine and give it a try. There could be some nice surprises on the menu.

Port House Tapas Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Club Hashtag, 10th April

A friend of mine had been to several Club Hashtags and had become something of an ambassador for the night, firmly believing it should attract more people than it was.

What my friend extolled about the night was its sense of randomness. Anarchy almost. It was essentially a clubnight but throughout the night, they would have performances of around 3 minutes – ten performances in all – with no announcement about them happening. They just started. These performances ranged all over the place, not being pinned down to any specific genre. You never quite knew what was going on, and I liked the sound of this. Finally it fell on a Friday I could make.

But everything was different. There was now an MC! And only three acts instead of ten! And these acts were very much introduced as the night went on, so you knew they were about to happen. They were still performances lasting roughly the length of one song so the amount of performance was drastically reduced.

However, the flavour of the previous events (that I imagine) was there in the form of these performances and the eclectic music played. They left you slightly bewildered though ultimately pleased. The first was the ‘youngest cannibal in Europe’ – a sweet girl who just happens to want to eat your flesh. About an hour later we had a fabulous performance from Fancy Chance doing an impression of Prince. Her singing wasn’t the strongest but her panache and stage presence was. It helped that she was actually smaller than Prince and was very convincing in stature!

And finally, after a false start, we had The Fabulous Russella doing a drag lip sync performance. I mean, I guess that’s what you’d call it. He first removed his fabulous shoes, and took up his position facing the back of the stage. The music started too quickly for him so he made them start at the beginning again, thus heightening our anticipation. He then spent the whole song miming with his back to the audience! Baffling. I’m sure it was meant to make a statement about something but I have no idea what.

The music was great. It tended to be stuff that everyone knew but without descending into cheese. It ranged from The Clash and Jilted John, Uptown Top Ranking through to a lot of drum n bass and jungle towards the end of the night. We danced and pogoed and jumped around until our feet hurt (or mine did at least).

I should also mention Steve Nice who was a very good host, not least because he caught wind of my meetup being there and decided to meander through the crowd until he found my little group, MCing over the track along the way. My meetup has never been sought out like that before!


In truth I was a little disappointed with the night because it was so different from what I’d thought it would be (bring back the randomness!). If I hadn’t had those expectations, however, then I would be all positivity, saying what a fun and slightly weird night I'd had, which I did. I would gladly go back again. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Citydash - Fire hazard, 5th April

I guess cos solving clues in a locked room isn’t enough for me, I decided to sign up to a similar thing but one where you’re chased. That’s right, there are guards protecting the very thing you’re seeking and they WILL pursue you to stop you getting your goal. It’s terrifying and exhilarating and the hardest running I’ve done outside since I was a child.

So, the premise – there are, hidden around a certain (and rather wide-ranging) area, various checkpoints – in our case, cos it was Easter, they were little eggs. These eggs had codes on them. The aim of the game is to get the most points out of all the teams playing. Each checkpoint has a code and when you enter it to the web page for your team, you collect the points. The clues you have to solve help you figure out where these checkpoints are. Smartphones are essential. But that’s all very simple and this game is not. No – there are extra points for being the first team to reach a checkpoint, and checkpoints have different amounts of points allocated to them depending on how easy they are to either find, or just get to. You see, points are deducted if one of the guards (in our case dressed as bunnies because Easter, again) spots you and ‘catches’ you. When you start the game you pin individual codes to yourself and if a guard enters your code into their web page, you’re ‘caught’. You’re not out of the game, but as well as points being deducted from your team, you get frozen out of that zone and can’t collect anymore checkpoints. So, when you see those guards, you know what you do? You RUN! And run and run. And then you cautiously creep back to where that checkpoint is, and they’re still there! And they’re after you again! And you’re pelting it away until you can be sure they’re not on your back. Me and my team got trapped like this for what felt like an age early on when we’d actually found our first checkpoint but couldn’t go to the next one without a guard being in the way.

But, you can get your own back a little. Each guard also has a code pinned to them and if you enter that then you get points as well. This is actually a key thing to remember. My team happened to be spotted quite frequently and we forgot to take advantage of entering our guards’ codes when we had a chance.

This is a really fast-paced game – you get given a set of checkpoints to find at the start but as the game keeps going more and more open up – you need to constantly be planning and strategizing on the fly to get as many points as you can. Your original strategy may go completely out the window, especially if you’re frozen out of a zone.

Now, this happened to us frequently. We’d get to a checkpoint only to be told the code we’d entered wasn’t counted – we’d been spotted again. More accurately, our over six foot friend wearing the bright red top had been spotted. We were caught so much we actually won a prize for it at the end. When us two, smallish girls in dark clothing stood up with our giant red teammate, everyone laughed because it was immediately obvious who had cost us so many points. However, he was also our secret weapon because he lived in the area we were running around and knowing the area was invaluable in figuring out where the checkpoints were. He may have cost us lots of points but we probably also only got as many as we did because of him. Knowing the area is a huge advantage.

This sort of game is quite physical so it’s not for everyone but I found all the running around to be a blast, even though I didn’t exactly enjoy being chased. Next time we’re coming back faster, stronger, and stealthier!

I think one reason I might have enjoyed all the running is that it made me feel a lot less guilty about going to the Fry Hard pop up straight after where we indulged in lots of deep fried goodness – my friend and I shared deep fried: cheese strings, cherry bakewell, slice of lemon cake, Tunnock’s caramel, pickle and a fudge. So incredibly bad but oh so good. Probably good it was only there for a weekend.  



About Me

My Photo

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.