Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mousetrap...for Soul Shakers, 15th December

I didn't really think places like this existed. But I'm ever so glad they do.

I had a very detailed image in my mind of what I expected the venue to look like. I knew it was a wine bar and I basically imagined it as looking like Concrete in Shoreditch, but with wood panelling and low lights everywhere instead of, well, concrete.

It wasn't quite like this. Not quite the sleek, imposing wine bar, more of an underground little cavern. And by little I mean tiny. I don't think I have ever been to such a tiny club.

We arrived at a little after 11, in order to avoid having to pay a whole 2 pounds more after midnight than the 8 pounds we did pay to get in. It wasn't heaving as yet, but there were definitely quite a few people in there already, and more than a few of these were already on the dance floor. And they were really giving it some - authentic, willowy 60s dancing galore  in a way that seemed not quite on the beat that could only have been the result of a lot of practice. We almost felt guilty joining the dance floor and thus depriving them of the necessary room to throw down their shapes,. But this is probably why they got there so early - to have the luxury of having the whole dance floor to themselves while they could.

The bar was small and served usual pub drinks - as one of my friends was quick to point out, that meant no cocktails. Prices were normal for London bars - not cheap, but not inflated club prices.

It is touted as a Northern Soul night, and there were definitely a lot of people there who were very much into the scene, wearing clothes I can only assume were authentic vintage. But we didn't feel out of place as 'tourists' there, and all the staff were incredibly friendly. Take the cloakroom attendant below, for instance, who took his time to smooth out the creases and hang each and every coat with decorum.

You got the feeling that it's like a big family here, with a lot of regulars who know each other, and the staff. Well, it has been going 20-odd years in the same place! The night we went it was the DJ's birthday and there was free cake on the bar!

The music was fantastic. Mostly Northern Soul as expected but with some jazzier numbers thrown in. I hold my hands up - I didn't recognise a single song, but I didn't stop dancing. I've been places with better soundsystems (this is certainly no Funktion 1 a la Fabric), but if genuine soul and original R'n'B is what you're after then I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better night.

I really felt I'd been transported back in time to the heady days of the swinging 60s with all the hip cats and kittens. Groovy! (or another, probably more authentic slang of your choosing).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Morito, 1st December

Stephen has been to Morito so often that I almost felt like I'd been myself. He always speaks highly of it and I have been pestering him to go with me for a while. That day finally came when we decided to celebrate our anniversary with a lunch there.

Morito does little plates with a Moorish feel to them. Prices range from 2.50 for an assortment of breads up to about 8.50 for some lamb chops. The place is very fond of cumin.

Because Stephen has been there so often and done the hard work for me, by trying most of the dishes on the menu, I turned to him to lead on the choices and I was pretty much guaranteed that each one was going to be a winner. And they were all good.

I had a carafe of full bodied, syrupy syrah with my meal, although Stephen had a few glasses of this as well as his medium beer. We ordered the bread basket to start - a dense, chewy roll each, a large cumin dusted flatbread to share and some breadstick nibs. The breadstick nibs seemed a bit pointless, not really having anything to dip them in, although I did discover you could roll them in some oil and then roll them in the spices you get on the table, which made them quite nice. The other two breads were delicious and I should have saved more of mine to soak up the extraneous oils, juices and aioli from our little dishes.

You can order as many as you like at a time and they all sort of come out haphazardly. The first to come was the scallop dish with sherry vinegar and butter sauce. One plump scallop which had been sliced neatly in three. 

We then had the jamon croquetas - perfectly crispy on the outside while being soft and creamy inside. And no scrimping on the jamon either.

The lamb chops with cumin and paprika were tasty and once again had me bemoaning that you get so little meat on them. They weren't quite as good as the ones I had in The Painted Heron, and were maybe a tad underdone near the bone. Which was funny in a way, as Stephen had said that the last time he had them, they'd been a little overdone. So I guess consistency on the lamb chops isn't their strong point.

The butifarra sausae with white beans and alioli was a lovely salty, meaty, and slightly stodgy dish. Both the sausage and the lamb chops provided plenty of extra oil, and a bit of alioli to get that bread out and make sure none of it went to waste.

 I think I spot some cumin!

We knew we wanted to end with the grilled tetilla cheese with walnuts and membrillo but we also splurged and ordered one other dish as well with that - the chicharrones. I am so glad we got these - I think they were my favourite dish. Cubes of pork belly in cumin (again!) and lemon. The pork was crispy around the edges but soft and tender in the middle, and I loved the lemony tang.

As we were finishing off with the cheese - the sweet quince bringing out the slightly sweet flavour in the cheese, we had a couple of 'digestifs' to end the meal with. I ordered an amontillado sherry, my first ever sherry, and Stephen had a negroni. That slightly melted tetilla cheese was wonderful, another highlight. I loved the sort of crust on the edge where it had been grilled and then the oozy middle to scoop out and sprinkle with walnuts.

Squidgy, cheesy goodness
I enjoyed my sherry more than I had actually expected. It was much more like a strong wine, quite dry - I think I might now be a sherry drinker! But then I knew that Morito/Moro was a good place to start.


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Square Meal

Find the menu & restaurant information on Zomato

Monday, December 3, 2012

London Remixed Festival, 24th November

I was invited to review the London Remixed Festival and after taking a look at who would be playing and who was behind it, I thought I would be a fool to turn it down. So I didn't.

Wristbands were collected from Rich Mix, and while we were there we thought we'd see what kind of acts they had on. The downstairs was the African Rootmaster area, while upstairs was playing host to the Acoustic Boutique. The foursome on stage downstairs weren't doing much for us - a little too easy listening so we hopped into the "Disco Lift" to go upstairs.

Disco Lift Operator - (c) Gareth Reid
I wish all lifts could be like this - instead of an elevator operator you get some groovy dude playing music for your delightment while you travel between floors. We had something cheesy on the way up, and some D 'n' B on the way down!

Upstairs we came across one of the most truly unique acts I've seen in ... well... ever! His name was Ichi and he was a one-man-band. I don't know how many instruments he managed to go through in his set - there were really too many to count and too many to name, especially as some of them seemed to be handmade and wouldn't otherwise exist. He had bells on his feet, used a pedal to hit a drum, played a sort of banjo and 'sang'. He introduced each song but it was impossible to understand them. I'm really not sure if they were in English, Japanese, or other. It was very odd, but also transfixing. Almost impossible to describe, so just watch this video.

After he was through we had things we wanted to see in the Polka Tent at the Bedroom Bar so we went directly there. We were just in time to catch Cut A Shine leading the crowd in a barn dance. I get the impression they are used to bigger spaces to work in, and it was necessary to take out all the tables and chairs to allow just enough room for people to jig about.

Some of the dances were quite intricate and definitely not doable with a drink in your hand which means we didn't get involved in the first three or four. But we did dive in eventually. A dance which involved running in two massive circles, then doing some sort of dosey-do with several strangers until you got to 'lucky seven' with whom you just span around for a bit. It was exhilarating! I was beaming at the end of just one song. Actually, I didn't even make it to the end, it was so high energy, I was getting a right sweat on and decided to sit down to catch my breath. My other friends soon joined me, having the same idea. 

Cutting a rug with Cut A Shine - (c) Gareth Reid
We then went upstairs to catch the last bit of the Horndog Brass Band and we stayed up there to see some of the Monster Ceilidh Band as well. Both were good, but the MCB were a little on the quieter side compared to the Brass Band and Cut A Shine so we went downstairs to watch the last of Gypsy Hill, who I had seen at Rumpus recently and knew would be playing some upbeat foot-stomping sounds. We had a bit of a jig around to them before finishing off the night at the one destination we hadn't yet been to - the Latin Quarter at Village Underground.

Ska Cubano were playing when we got over there, the last act of the night at that venue. They were bloody brilliant, a great way to finish off the night. Everyone was in high spirits, the music was upbeat and fun. People were dancing around with smiles and abandon. 

Crowds at Ska Cubano - (c) Gareth Reid
I left this night on an absolute high, and really hope it becomes an annual event. The only negative thing really was that there were so many acts it was hard to see them all. I'd love to have been part of the 'walking taxi' with Perhaps Contraption for example (though I have seen them at White Mischief), or seen Molotov Jukebox.

Hopefully next time!