Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Black Rock, 22nd March

Black Rock is cool. It just is. Which is not surprising given its big sister is the Worship Street Whistling Shop around the corner.

While the Whistling Shop specializes in gin, Black Rock specializes in whiskey. In a big way. If you don’t like whiskey, you really shouldn’t bother coming to this bar – every cocktail has whiskey in it, be it highball or short and strong, and the only other option is four beers. Because that’s not the point.

Running along the middle of this sleek but bijou bar is a table made out of a 166 year old oak tree, in which whiskey sits aging. There are two kinds – Table and Cherry and a dram of either will cost you £6. Then there are six cabinets stuffed with whiskeys from all over and separated according to flavour profile – sweet, fragranced, spiced etc. We only had two drinks and stuck to the cocktails so I didn’t get a chance to dip into these cabinets of wonder. Next time.

The cocktails were pretty perfect – my preference were for the first two we had as I’m just not a Highball kinda gal – too much liquid, not enough boozy flavour, but we tried them anyway for variety. I had the 40 Shades (no idea why it had that naughty reference) with apple and fennel pollen. It was slightly carbonated and I have to say the apple was very light and not too fruit-juicy. The fennel got a bit intense towards the end but was otherwise a refreshing drink.

The Campfire was a take on an old-fashioned but with extra oomf from the two whiskies and a deeply satisfying sweetness from the marshmallow gomme. The White Dog Martinez was a much lighter drink paring whiskey with cocchi instead of another whiskey but still pokey enough and with vanilla rounding off the flavour this time. Quaffable.
Service was excellent – everything was well explained to us and water kept topped up without being intrusive. A lovely joint.

Black Rock Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Foxlow, 21st March

In the time since I put Foxlow on my List, they have opened up another branch in Stoke Newington and another in Chiswick and another in Balham! So they’ve been on there a while. And I think the reason I wanted to go so much – a peanut butter based dessert, long since has departed. But I’m still glad I went as the food we sampled was spot on.

First up, I could not resist ordering some white bean hummus with green harissa which was divine. Naturally I shared it with my friend and forced myself to eat it at a steady, normal pace but I could easily have made much much shorter work of that. So silky. The harissa so herby and poky.
I don’t often go for a veggie main when meat is on offer but I really wanted to try their poblano mac and cheese so I sacrificed the protein. This was fantastic – exactly the kind of  macaroni cheese I like. Supergooey rather than gloopy and stringy cheese stretching for ages as I brought the fork to my mouth. And they had a crunchy breadcrumb top which I think is almost essential for mac and cheese – you need that extra bit of texture. The poblano peppers had a pickled tang to them and a little welcome heat. 
My friend who is a vegetarian had the cavolo nero and burrata salad which was as any decent salad should be. Drenched with dressing so that every single bite had flavour. A plump burrata oozed its creamy filling once pierced. 

Loved it!

Foxlow Clerkenwell Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Behind This Wall, 18th March

There are very few bars in the East London area that I haven’t now been to. So when a new bar opens it pretty much goes on the list immediately.

Behind This Wall is a new one on Mare Street – but not the end of Mare Street you probably think. It’s up past Hackney Central, not near the bars and restaurants that have sprouted by London Fields. Which might explain why, on a Saturday night when I walked past the first time, there were people outside trying to beckon you in. We had other places to go that night, but I returned about a week later, on a Friday. It wasn’t hugely busy, but it’s also tiny so that’s probably a good thing. It’s got a very clean, DIY feel to it. The tables and chairs feel like they’re all made of MDF, reminding you of being in Homebase or MFI (if anyone remembers that). It seemed that most of the clientele were the owners’ friends – which is exactly what I would do if I owned a bar. For such a small place, and one that doesn’t stay open that late, we did wonder why the music was quite so loud, but I liked the place.

The drinks are classics with a twist, in the main. For example, the mojito my friend had was made with sake, yuzu, mint molasses and despina. I had the Corpse reviver – which was pisco, herbal liqueur, coffee liqueur and had an umeboshi plum sunk into it. Do not eat the plum. It is most definitely there to infuse the drink with its flavour and not for consumption. It is basically a pickled fruit and tastes of bitterness and vinegar. Apart from this, couldn’t fault my drink. The Sandy Collins I followed it with was also very good, and my friend got them to spike their Shirley Temple with vodka for her drink. I would happily venture behind the wall again.

Behind This Wall Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Speaking of cocktail bars that are off the road well-travelled, I also popped to Machine No 3 the other week and completely forgot to write about it. Named for the launderette that it used to be, this is pretty much in Homerton, very near the Kenton. At 11 pm and so far from everything else, I was unsurprised that there were only about 6 other people in the place besides us. We had a Basil and Blueberry that was made with quinoa vodka and a Rum Manhattan with xocolatl mole and marasca syrup and they were more than lovely enough but it’s too far for me to come back to on a regular basis. We especially liked all the different cocktail ingredients laid out like an apothecary's shop, and the place is also good for craft beer, so if this was my neighbourhood then I imagine I would be very tempted to pop in more often than I should. 

Machine No.3 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoSquare Meal

Anyway, after BTW, we went over to Dalston for a variety of whisky sours at Whisky Sour taking place below Pelicans and Parrots before giving Ruby’s Lounge another shot (was not a fan of the music), heading to The Dalston Jazz club which had emptied because of a fire alarm and ending up at the stalwart that is The Haggerston. Another successful Friday night crawl.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Rotorino, 13th March

I had wanted to go to Rotorino since it first opened but neither of my foodie partners in crime were keen. They may have had a point, as it was a little hit and miss.

My companion was a bit of a glutton and wanted to do it right – a primi, secondi and thirdi course. Plus dessert. I knew I wouldn’t be able to manage that much but was happy to try a bit of his along the way. He ordered the bresaola as his primi, whereas I, of course, couldn’t resist the bread-based starter of ‘Three toasts’ – three rather large slices of bread topped with tomatoes, cannellini beans and cime de rapa (not all at once). These were great actually, but incredibly filling. Each one provided a very different flavour profile and I'm not sure which I liked most. Light and juicy tomatoes, earthy and rich beans or the irony tang of the greens. 
Luckily, I was not a fan of the gnudi we ordered to follow this and contented myself with only one of the rather claggy balls of pumpkin with sage. They sat in a buttery, thick sauce which did nothing to stem the overall stodge. Genuinely did not want to eat more than one of these. One of the most unpleasant textures my tongue has ever been presented.
The pasta with sausage, chilli and breadcrumbs however, was very pleasing and just the kind of buttery pasta dish I enjoy. It was a little light on chilli (as most things are for my tastes) but I liked everything else about it. My friend assured me his steak was very good, and I availed myself of one of the mound of fried potatoes he’d got with it (very apt, considering he is Irish).
We debated about sharing a dessert, which somehow turned into having one each. I had the panna cotta with rhubarb, he had cannoli. The Sopranos were mentioned more than once in this meal.
The lack of delicate presentation aside, for the panna cotta, it was alright – the rhubarb was on point but I was neutral about the panna cotta itself. Mayhap I was just too full to enjoy it.
Visually stunning
And I confess I've never really got cannoli. These ones were the same as others I've had - I could take 'em or leave 'em.

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

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sho Foo Doh, 11th March

Starting off with a stall on Chatsworth Road Market, Sho Foo Doh now serves up Hiroshima-style okonomiyako every Thurs – Saturday from the Pacific Social Club in Clapton, and will soon be opening the other nights of the week as well, and serving alcohol too.

But when we went it was BYOB (soft drinks too) and cash only.

We got tuna tartare with quails egg to start which had a really fresh taste, tuna more than competing on flavour with the gochuchang marinade.

I don’t know much about different styles of okonomiyaki but this one seemed to be a thin layer of omelette/pancake with everything else (cabbage, bean shoots, toppings) underneath it, rather than in other places where it is cooked into the pancake and then the noodles and your toppings are added on top. While I enjoyed my okonomiyaki with pork belly and kimchi (minus the anchovies), I definitely did prefer it with everything mixed in. But flavourwise, I couldn't complain - the kimchi had a good fermenty kick and there was just the right amount of Japanese mayo plus plenty of spring onion which I love. I opted for the chilli noodles but they weren't particularly spicy. Overall, decent enough, but not something I would make a special return trip for. 

Sho Foo Doh @ Pacific Social Club Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, April 18, 2016

Chill Pill, 10th March

It was no surprise that Chill Pill was great. I had been forewarned that it would be so, plus their reputation as one of ‘the’ spoken word collectives is widely known.

We got there a tad late so I think we missed the first open mic spot but other than that we saw the full show. It says something when even the open mic performers are of a ridiculously high quality. It attracts that. The ‘amateurs’ get to do one piece each, which I think is fair. We had someone reflecting on their love affair, someone imagining they were teaching the way of the world to their son, and another just giving us words that have helped her – basically go for it. But it wasn’t limited to spoken word. Gecko brought his guitar sang an incredibly amusing ditty about what it must be like to be in the painting opposite the Mona Lisa – neglected… unloved. Or is it…?

I think I had seen one of the two headliners before (there are only so many spoke word ‘stars’ to go around) but thinking about it, I think I may have seen her when she was first starting out. Anyway, she was amazing – Jasmine Ann Cooray. She spoke of her dad who has passed away and the love of her man’s hands with warmth and wit.

Of course The Chill Pill collective did a little of their own work as well – our host – Simon –treating us to various haiku inspired by his infant son. Deanna gave us a poetry video, where she questioned her desire to become famous and rich – something that hasn’t entirely gone away. She wondered if spoken word would be as powerful coming through a screen and I can confirm that it is.

The final act was Jack Flash who even had a backing band – one person on guitar and Karim (who co-runs Outspoken) on piano. He was an excellent performer, but somehow, even though I could agree with the message he was promoting, I didn’t warm to his act. Perhaps, as a cynical person my instinct was to roll my eyes at such blatant, earnest, political belief. Yeah, yeah, we’re all just human, we should be looking out for each other; whevs. Others I'm sure would find it rousing.

I'm not a regular visitor to such parts as Deptford but this was well worth the journey. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Fox and Pie, 28th February

I don’t want to be smug but there are definite benefits to keeping a physical list of the food and drink places you want to try. Such as when you arrive at your intended destination to find that they are unexpectedly shut when their website says they’re open and now you don’t know what you’re going to do for lunch.

Such was the case when we rocked up to Dog Eat Dog on Sunday in Angel (whose owners are currently considering their proposition) and were left in the lurch. A quick consultation of my blog and we decided to hop on a bus over to the Fox and Pie in Stokey (only just noticed the animal theme there).

This was an excellent decision for a Sunday afternoon. It was bitingly cold so what better than to warm up with some comfort food? I tried to order a savoury pudding but they were out of the chicken and leek one (clearly everyone had the same idea) so I had lamb and rosemary instead. Carolyn had the veggie pie. Both came with cabbage, carrots, some lovely little roasties and a bit of broccoli I happily ignored.
These pies were topped with pastry bursting out of their dishes, straining to reach the sky. Inside was a very flavoursome filling – mine had very tender lamb (and quite a lot of it) sitting in a ‘gravy’ that was not the usual thick and heavy dense stuff but basically seemed to be a stock flavoured through the cooking of the meat. It was very pleasurable.
Carolyn was very pleased to pick out courgette and asparagus in her pie (and supremely pleased that they had not resorted to the tried and tested (and boring) mushroom, or goat’s cheese, or goat’s cheese and mushroom).

And then, because we’re gluttons we ordered a dessert each too. One treacle sponge, one rhubarb crumble. While these were nice enough to eat, they didn’t evoke the same positive reaction as the pies had. We would have liked more crunch in our crumble and the base of the treacle sponge was a little chewy.

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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.