Sunday, December 29, 2013

Whyte & Brown, 17th December

I've been getting in to my chicken lately. Well, yeah, I know everyone has, but actually I've been slightly bucking the trend by giving my money to a knock-off Nando's down the road from me (called Roosters, if you're interested - great potato wedges) rather than the host of new rotisserie and 'posh' fried chicken places that London is so recently strewn with. Not that I don't plan on getting to those places eventually. But the one place that really caught my eye lately (after having been to Clockjack Oven a while ago) for some reason was Whyte & Brown. They're very dedicated to the chicken, but also show a lot of appreciation to the egg. And, while this place is sort of a one-note restaurant, focusing on just chicken and eggs as it does, they are showing a lot of inventiveness in the ways they serve this. Trying to decide which chicken or egg dish to go for was not an easy task.

In the end it was a close call for me between the chicken souvlaki and the ham hock, chicken and leek pie but I fancied something a little lighter so the souvlaki won out. This was a marinated kebab of breast meat with grilled peppers and onions, with two slow cooked chicken thighs, a pita bread, tzatziki dip and feta salad on the side! 

To whet our appetites we shared a starter of chicken croquettes and to feel extra healthy we ordered the roasted root vegetables as a side.

The chicken croquettes were filled with chicken, pancetta and bechamel sauce and came with a slightly smoky salsa which had a really deep tomatoey flavour. The bechamel ensured that the croquettes were not at all dry - the quite reasonably sized bits of pancetta were a nice touch. Chicken nuggets all grown up. So far so good.

The root vegetables came out first - a mixture of beets, peppers and squash. These tasted nice, and looked very pretty but some of them were slightly undercooked. They were a bit of a disappointment and the low point of the meal. 

I enjoyed the chicken kebab while I ate it although it was forgettable compared to the slow cooked, moist and succulent thigh, with crispy skin, of which I was so pleased we had two. The feta salad was light and refreshing, and the pitta and tzatziki brought the whole thing together. Pittas were toasted on the outside, fluffy inside and perfect for scooping up the last bits of salad with some dip. It's no grand feat in gastronomy, but it was a very pleasant meal.

After our aperitifs of prosecco, we had a cocktail each with our dinner. Alison's was a white wine spritzer with a twist - rhubarb bitters. Mine was a Japanese Mac- japanese whiskey with plum sake. Sweet. Strong. Amazing. It took a lot of willpower to make that last my whole meal! And even better, they were only £7 and £8 respectively.

I'm a fan.

Whyte & Brown on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Blow Up at the Bussey Building, 14th December

Merry Christmas everyone! My present to you is my write up of the Blow Up Christmas party. I know, I spoil you.

I must admit, when we first got there I had some misgivings. I hadn't realised there was another night on - called Hawaiian Bop upstairs and when we got there it seemed to be the louder, more happening night, with the 50s rock n roll blasting out the doors. Our room, in comparison seemed rather quiet and sedate.

And the first act, unfortunately, didn't do much to assuage my fears. He was very good but his music was a little downbeat (and a little derivative - all four of us practically jinxed each other when we all said he sounded like the Arctic Monkeys after his first song). I was expecting something a little more fun from the opener, more fun even than his mouth organ could provide.

But we didn't have long to wait. As soon as that act was over, in fact, the DJ kicked it up a gear or two and the night really got started. We knew things had got serious when an instrumental version of Jumpin' Jack Flash was followed up with Sometimes by The Strokes, with Bowie's Rebel Rebel hot on its heels. Sprinkle a little 60s French pop a la Brigitte Bardot into the mix and give it a twist more of 90s indie pop with Blur's Boys and Girls and you have a recipe for success there.

So, that gives you an indication of the kind of music they played - it was far reaching 60s to 90s top-drawer tunes. But on top of this, were the main act of the night - The Bongolian, arriving on stage all dressed sharply in Beatnik style - in black and sunglasses. I hadn't realised the name was so prosaic. They're a band - and they play the bongos! Not exclusively. The front man also plays the keyboard in the style of a Hammond organ (think Booker T and the MGs) with some panache. But when he stands up and whales on those bongos, the crowd's love definitely ratchets up a notch. Similarly to the Bikini Beach Band who I discovered not so long ago, this band is pure joy in entertainment.

We all loved it and only the prospect of a long journey back to the other side of the Thames made us inclined to leave earlier than the end. The Bussey Building made for quite a good venue - no frill but it was spacious and easily held everyone who attended without getting too hot and sweaty. 

I don't travel to Peckham often, especially if I'm staying out after midnight as transport home is not easy, but I'd happily make an exception for Blow Up again. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Love Shake and Timebox, 30th November

Love Shake

I was first drawn to going to the Love Shake because of it being a diner and the fact that it does milkshakes and pancakes and whatnot. I actually ended up going because we were out in Shoreditch quite late and we happened to stumble past and stumble in. The place was buzzing, full of drunk people but, even though this had been a bit of a turn-off in TheLooking Glass, it was more or less what I expected from this place and we were now in the mood for a more mainstream bar. They have some very silly (and by silly I mean good) offers on – two beers (bottled) for £5 for example  of which my boyfriend took advantage. They don’t  have anything particularly exciting on offer – if you’re looking for craft beer, this isn’t the place to go. But if you’re looking for some cheap booze to get you drunk with a fun crown and a casual atmosphere then going here wouldn’t be too much of a misstep. I stuck to wine and therefore missed out on one of my main reasons for going – the hard shakes.  A return visit is therefore a must.

The place was a little bit kitsch – they were playing a Bond movie on the TV screen – one of the old 70s cheesy ones, though with the sound down. The place is a diner’s throwback setting, and it’s not very large. To be honest, the place isn’t very ‘cool’ nor trendy despite the diner theme, but at midnight, neither of these things seemed to be very important.

We stayed for a couple of rounds (two wines, four beers) and then recommenced stumbling, this time off to The Strongroom where I knew Timebox was happening and there was free entry. There was a bit of a queue as there aren’t that many bars that let you in after midnight for free but the doorman was entertaining and the crowd were friendly so I didn’t mind the wait.


I seem to have been spending a lot of time in the Strongroom lately (we went there for Stephen’s birthday a month ago, then as part of the Remixed Festival two weeks ago) and as a bar I like it and knew what to expect – bar and seats upstairs, downstairs another bar and more space for dancing. No cloakroom – sort it out Strongroom!

Timebox was indeed on.  And it is one of the New Untouchables nights so I sort of expected the place to be inundated with Mods. But it wasn’t. It was just a normal Saturday night for the bar, albeit one where they happened to be playing authentic 60s music rather than mainstream. At least, that’s what I remember. You may have noticed that by this point we had been to five bars and so I probably wouldn’t make the most reliable witness.

In some ways, Timebox is good because unlike the other NU nights, there are no intimidating scenesters, but in another way it's not so good because those intimidating scenesters is what makes the nights feel so authentic. If I’m going to listen to 60s R n B and Garage that I don’t know, it should probably be in a more genuine setting. But for a place to go on a Saturday night The Strongroom is a strong contender and having 60s mod music on the go in the background is no bad thing. It was just sort of irrelevant. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Liquor Cabinet, The Looking Glass, 30th November

The Liquor Cabinet

Occupying the premises not-so-recently vacated by Mezcaleria QuiQuiRiQui, The Liquor Cabinet isn't the kind of place you can easily stumble on without knowing it is there. It's behind and underneath the Golden Grill kebab shop on Hackney Road and only a chalk board with faint signage directs you to its presence. Which is probably why we had the pick of the place when we walked in at about 10:00. 

The place is pretty bare - some wooden benches against the wall make up the booths, and there are a couple of makeshift nooks and crannies to sit at on the other side. There's not much in the way of decor on the walls. It could never be accused of being style over substance. They were playing pretty good music and within about 20 minutes of being there, all the other booths had filled and a bit of an atmosphere was being fostered.

The cocktail list is short and covers the classics. Their 'hook' is that they pre-mix all of the cocktails and bottle them before opening, ensuring that each one is as consistent as the last. Seeing them all lined up in the fridge is kind of cute. It somehow makes you feel like you're ordering an innocuous juice or something, the potency almost comes as a surprise. However, if you thought the time they saved by pre-bottling might mean more effort is expended on garnishes, then you're wrong. A strip of orange seemed to accompany every drink.

But you know what? The drinks are good. And strong. And cheap! They were all £6 each, which in my book makes the trek up to deepest darkest Hackney Road worth it.

The bar staff of one was also pretty friendly - my boyfriend got chatting to him about the war on nightlife Hackney council seems to be embarking on. Apparently they're implementing a 'one-in one-out' type rule for new openings, in an effort to clamp down on bad drunken behaviour. The strategy seems misguided if it means more places like this (or Sager and Wilde for example) are restricted from opening as these are hardly the kinds of places that are going to contribute to drunken scraps and scuffles in the street at kicking out time.  

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The Looking Glass

After such serene yet convivial surroundings, walking into The Looking Glass was a bit of a shock to the system. And not a welcome one unfortunately. We definitely got the feeling that The Looking Glass was full of spill-over from Shoreditch High Street, which is fine if that's what you're after, or expecting, but we were expecting a similar sort of low-key refined cocktail bar vibe we'd got from The Liquor Cabinet. By the time we got there it was a little after 11 and so we were probably entering the rowdiest point of the night. Had we gone earlier, or on a different evening I wouldn't be surprised if we had an entirely different experience. Though I'm sure the bar stools would have been just as uncomfortable and impractical. The place was really busy and yet we still managed to grab a couple at the bar. This was probably because they seem to have been designed to actively repel you to sit on them. Kind of slippery and nowhere comfortable to put your legs.

The bar staff were pretty rushed off their feet, trying to keep up with the crowd at the front. I'm sure they knew their stuff, and overheard one of them trying to determine what kind of cocktail one of their customers would like (starting with the basic - sweet or sour?) but whereas normally sitting at the bar affords you some personal attention, it wasn't the case here. We had been served at one end of the bar and then moved to sit. I managed to get our bartender's attention to show him where we were and was met with a curt acknowledgement. Smiles seemed lacking.

Also, I sadly did not get to actually go through the Looking Glass for which the bar is named as there was a private engagement party happening in there. 

The list of drinks is inventive and fun. There were two incredibly tasty-sounding dessert cocktails (the past your bed time!  for example, made with orange and cacao infused bourbon, Oreo syrup, and milk served with mini oreos), that I would have jumped at having, had we been having the last drinks of the night. But I didn't want anything too heavy and instead took a gamble on a carrot-juice-based drink. I don't think I have ever seen a cocktail which uses carrot juice, but I like carrots and I like to try something different. This one was called the Shoreditch carrot and featured Jameson whiskey with sweet caramel syrup and it was actually pretty good! Stephen had one which came with a huge banana leaf in it. Which looked impressive if nothing else but happily tasted good too.

Quite a few of the cocktails seemed to make use of either lavendar, or tea, neither of which I'm a big fan of, which limited my choices somewhat. This is just a personal preference of course, but did contribute to my lack of enthusiasm for the place. 

Price-wise, they were still in the fairly acceptable range of £7.50 - £9.00, with about four more extending to £10 or £12.

So, I am well aware that we may not have seen The Looking Glass at its best, but it was our least favourite place of the night. To be fair I think a return visit will have to be on the cards - keep an eye on my Twitter or Facebook for a follow-up review.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Sager and Wilde, 30th November

I don't really want to play favourites with all of the places we went to on Saturday night as I had a great night and they all contributed to that. But let's just say I was forced to pick one... then Sager and Wilde would have to be it.

We walked in and we just instantly hit it off. The place is rather 'bijou' but as we walked in, right in front of us, were two vacant seats at the bar. It was meant to be. And the smell of cheese almost overpowers you as you enter (though you quickly get used to it) - heaven. We'd already eaten so ignored the bites on offer although we greedily cast an eye over everyone else's and am happy to report the charcuterie and cheese looked lovely. I will most definitely go back for one of their famed toasties.

But it was only the wine we were interested in. I knew that anything we chose would be good - that's what their known for, so it was just a matter of picking one I felt I could afford! I started off with a red and Stephen went for the unusual cherry wine. He had a sip and announced it bitter. I had a sip and pronounced it incredibly sweet. We both thought it was delicious though. The bartender came along and asked if we liked it - saying that it was a great combination of sour and sweet and thus ending our argument with us both being right for a change!

I'd like to write more about the red wine I had other than that I really loved it but I'm writing this so long after the fact that I've rather forgotten exactly what it was like. Full-bodied and rich that's for sure. I can't even remember which one I had!

After that I switched it up and had a white wine. This had a dry taste that hit the back of the throat, a bit like sherry with a pleasing heft to it, if that makes sense. In fact, Stephen had a fino sherry and the differences between them weren't all that discernible. Our bartender suggested some smoked almonds as a snack that he said would complement both wines, and considering how similar they were, that makes sense. However, I don't like almonds, and we had just had our dinner at Mr Buckley's so we stayed away from the bar snacks. 

As we sat more and more seats became free which surprised me. I hadn't expected to get in in the first place, let alone have a choice of seats. It may be because Hackney Road isn't much of a destination - people tend to get as far as Ye Olde Axe only when everywhere else has kicked them out (or maybe the Joiner's) and that's it. But waking further up is this little gem waiting to be discovered. Great atmosphere, classy surroundings, and friendly, knowledgeable staff. I really loved it. 

Sager and Wilde on Urbanspoon

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Find the menu & restaurant information on Zomato

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mr Buckley's, 30th November

Judging from the fact there were two large groups, probably both marking a birthday and then us who were there to mark our fifth year anniversary, something about Mr Buckley’s must appeal to those in the mood for a celebration. I hadn’t been before but the pictures of their food and the menu sounded good, as well as what I was seeing on Twitter about it as a bar. I made a reservation at 7:45 and while it was quiet when we arrived, the two groups either side who soon joined created a bit of an atmosphere. I expected it to be more restaurant upstairs and more bar downstairs but in actual fact both levels rather leant themselves to sitting down.

The place has a clean, stripped back look – bare yellow brick walls, wooden benches and tables.  It appealed to us as soon as we came in and we made murmurings of approval to each other. Our lovely waitress (everyone was lovely in fact) came over and ‘explained’ the menu to us. They have, (like so many places these days) a sharing ethos but one that seems to work more functionally than just telling people to have three small plates each and divvy them up. Here you have jars, small plates, mains and sides so you could do a traditional starter, main, dessert combo if you wanted. What they recommend, however is a jar or two to share, a small plate or two to share (depending on how many jars you’ve had) and then a main to share. And these really are designed for sharing. We had everything come together, which may have been a mistake as what we ordered didn’t exactly complement one another. We also kind of ignored the sharing idea with our jars, which was also a mistake. They are pretty packed and a whole jar to yourself really does feel too much of one thing for one person, even if that one thing is nice. We had got one each because Stephen wanted the black pudding with thyme and I’m not keen on black pudding. So I had the ricotta infused with basil with a tomato compote on top.  They both came with e5 sourdough and crostini.

To be brutally honest, the jars were not a strong point. The ricotta was, dare I say, too creamy and not cheesy enough. Even with the very nice compote on top it needed another dimension – some more structure or density to it. A different cheese perhaps entirely. Stephen’s black pudding was again way too much for one person (our fault) but it was also cold. He likes cold black pudding (and managed to somehow finish it all) but thought that in this case, if it was warm it would have been better – he missed the crispy edges you get with cooked black pudding.

So the jars were nice, but I don’t think either of us would order those particular ones again.

The main – the lamb – however… And our sides of carrots and fennel… Lush. I’m not one to get excited about vegetables generally although there are a few I do take quite a shine to. Carrots are one that I have had a relationship with since I was young – they were the only vegetable I would eat willingly.  But only if they were raw.  As I have matured though, I have started to appreciate the cooked carrot. And these were the best I’ve ever had I reckon. The natural sweetness of the carrot was brought out and they retained a bit of bite (I hate it when they’re too mushy). The fennel gave a pleasing sharpness and it was all drenched with olive oil (or butter), negating any health benefits but ratcheting up the tastiness. And there was loads of it.  Again – ideal for sharing. I’d have those again in a heartbeat.

And the lamb dish was splendid. Lamb two ways – lovely chunks of melt in the mouth morsels and then a ‘tot’ each of coarser lamb meat. These were accompanied by a rich, sweet redcurrant jus and parsnip puree and parsnip cube. It inspired us to have a conversation about which is our favourite meat, and made us realise that even though beef might immediately spring to mind, lamb has such an excellent, underrated flavour it should probably be awarded the top spot. Again, as a main for one it would have been perhaps a little too large – the symmetrical layout and amount were perfect for sharing. Very romantic. (Awful picture - see Mr Buckley's facebook for one that does the dish justice.)

Trying not to stuff ourselves we decided against having a dessert, but I had treated myself to a cocktail with dinner. I couldn’t decide between the equally tempting elderflower fizz or gooseberry fizz so I asked my waitress’s opinion. She said: elderflower so that’s what I did. Very refreshing but enough alcohol to remind you it was a cocktail. However, I could have easily guzzled that and had to do my best to make it last the meal.

Their menu changes weekly and every time I check the food sounds great. Our not-so-successful jars aside, I’d love to make this a regular haunt. It was a lovely start to our night of celebration. 

Mr Buckley's on Urbanspoon

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Hawker House (Street Feast), 15th November

What can I say about Street Feast that I haven't said before? It's a fantastic concept and with every new venue or new iteration they seem to improve upon it. Having moved on from Dalston Yard in the autumn, they are now ensconced in Hawker House for the winter (well, pre-Christmas winter). 

This time roughly the same 10 outfits are there every week, but to keep you coming back for more, the menu is changing every weekend. So, Spit and Roast I have had on many occasion, and may normally overlook, but then they decide to offer things like spit roasted pork belly, or chicken braise with sausage. As it happens, these weren't enough to tempt me on my visit because there were some other places I hadn't yet tried at all, but you can see how they're managing to keep the spark burning amongst even their tried and tested customers.

But, much as I love them, and Yum Bun, and Breddo's, I was lusting after new blood that night. And Stephen was there to help me. After grabbing a drink from the Hot Bar (serving a pretty good range of hot, boozy drinks, from hot toddies to mulled wine, via various hot rums - I had the buttered variety which was delicious) we did a quick circuit to decide where to start.

I veered back to Rola Wala who I hadn't tried before. I'd already read the weekend's menu before and thought the rolasliders sounded good. Being cooked on the tava, they looked it as well, so I decided to have just one as a 'starter'. The meat du jour was pulled pork, from piggies we were assured were living a happy life, well, until the day before the day before when it sadly ended for them. This was piled on a mini naan and then on top of that pickled, minted red onion, mango sauce, savian crunch, some other sauce and for an extra 50p a shot of scorpion chilli powder. The bread was slightly crunchy itself from being on the tava but pliant enough to be folded around the meat so it could all be stuffed into my waiting maw. Delicious.

Stephen tried out the sliders from Breddo's (they're resident at the Sider bar don'tchaknow) and thought they were amazing. 'Why are sliders so much tastier than regular-sized burgers?' he mused. He'd already said the classic slider was a good'un but he was even more enthusiastic about the 5 chilli cheesburger he had right after. 

Not keen to rest on our laurels we headed for round two straight away. I'm so glad Stephen wanted something from Smokestak as I was very tempted by them, but Bob's Lobsters had been calling to me. A bargain compared to the one you get at Burger and Lobster and just as good I reckon. They look bloody impressive with a big lobster claw sticking out the top and have just the right amount of mayo and other relish. The lobster itself tasted a little cajun which was a pleasant surprise. It was well worth the worrying minute or so when my lips started tingling and my tongue started itching and I'd do it again!

Stephen had what would win 'most impractically-served dish' of the night - a big, juicy, saucy bit of beef rib, in some brown paper, which got pretty soggy pretty quickly. You can't really go wrong with a well cooked bit of BBQ, though Stephen's bit did have maybe a little too much fat. Naturally he ate it, but felt really guilty afterwards.

I was feeling pretty done by that point but we didn't want to give up just yet so we had a drink while we digested. I wanted to give StreetVinWine a go, although the Whiskey bar, at which they have managed to create a tiny speakeasy-type den was also tempting.  But wine it was and I ordered their cheapest red, thinking this would still be pretty good if they were priding themselves in serving good wine. And it was. And then I did something silly, and used up all my money bar £3.70 buying Stephen a glass of rioja. Why was this silly? Well, I hadn't realised he only had £3 left himself.

So it came to 'dessert' and we discovered we didn't have enough money between us to buy the chocolate, venison and beetroot ravioli from Cooking Cooks at £7 we'd had our hearts set on sharing. As we watched the stall looking slightly neglected compared to the other traders, we (as in Stephen) decided to risk rejection and ventured to ask if they might accept £6.70 instead of the full whack. This they generously did, and, I hasten to add, were instantly met with good karma, as us buying a dish immediately attracted a mini-queue. 

I am really glad we shared this as eating it on my own would have been too much - it was a very rich, dense dish. Each element was noticeable but it worked really well together. As you put the raviolo in your mouth, the chocolate aromas filled it, but as you bit into it the beetroot and venison overpowered this to make it a very savoury dish. It was served with a gorgeous brandy and butter sauce, which I could have happily had more of, and some parmesan shavings. Not just an attention-grabbing gimmick but a really tasty, well thought out plate of food. The styrofoam bowl and my photography skills don't do it justice! 

Having spent our very last pennies, and feeling completely full, we departed after an hour and a half. It was just warming up in terms of atmosphere, but by all accounts things really got busy about a half an hour after that so if you want to go - get down there early! You'll also avoid the £3 charge they're using to help crowd control after 7pm.

I shall be back again tomorrow. Venison rolasliders, I'm looking at you!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Berners Tavern, 8th November

Stephen and I were both already convinced that Berners Tavern was going to be gorgeous both aesthetically and gastronomically, so the fact that it was, was no surprise. 

I think Jason Atherton must be having a laught calling it a Tavern. I've rarely dined in grander surroundings whereas a tavern to me is somewhere peasants go to drink. This place is huge, with walls completely covered with framed portraits. They fit together in such a perfect jigsaw that the arrangement must have taken ages to design. You feel like you are dining in the middle of a fine arts gallery. The other decor is no less sumptuous with giant opulent chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and grand banquettes taking centre stage on the floor.

We arrived very promptly at 8 but something had gone wrong and they didn't have our reservation. Luckily the place wasn't as busy as we thought it would be and they were able to find us a table within 15-20 minutes. Which gave us a chance to try out the cocktails at the bar. An expensive chance, for at £12 - £12.50 they weren't cheap, and probably an expense we wouldn't have incurred had our table been ready when we were. But they were rather good, mine in particular with mead in it was one of the more unusual cocktails I've ever had - and I've had a few.

We were lead to our very low-rise table. Luckily it came with low-rise seats so we were in proportion. We were rather tickled, though, that our waiter was the tallest waiter we had ever encountered, making us feel a bit like we were children seated at the kids' table, looking up at the looming adult serving us.

The staff were very friendly. We had a couple of little mishaps but in a way we didn't mind - it made the whole place seem more 'human' than had everything run like clockwork. For example, we had to ask for the wine menu, when we were being asked for our food orders, and then, after our starters were cleared away, someone was sent over to crumb down. He thought we were done and cleared away our placemats and salt and pepper and then brought over the dessert menus. At first I wasn't sure if they just liked to get prepared well in advance but then we pointed out we hadn't had our mains yet and he was very apologetic and whipped those menus away. And returned our salt and pepper. Though not our placemats...

So, the food. Was wonderful. Starting off with the bread and butter they brought us - two slices white, two slices rye (possibly, can't remember now!) it was dense and had the right amount of chewiness. And there was enough butter not to feel you had to eke it out.

I had looked at the menu beforehand and was particularly worried about choosing a starter as I liked the sound of pretty much all of them. A recent potential allergy to seafood helped me narrow it down, but not by much. We thought for once we should try one of the 'renowned' dishes so Stephen had the ham, egg and peas, while I went for the crispy lamb with butternut and parmesan fregola with marrow crumble.

Wow. What a meaty, hearty dish this was. Honestly, I'd have been happy if this was a main course. I had a 'patty' of lamb which was mixed with some greenery and was crispy on the outside. It had been daubed with butternut squash puree, shavings of pecorino and then bits of marrow crumble I believe. This was then served with a pot of the fregola which had a much deeper cheesy, butternut and marrow taste. It was such a profound earthy, meaty flavour. I loved it but it totally blew Stephen away and he pronounced it the star of the meal.

From the bite of his egg, shards of ham and light, minty mushy peas I had, I thought his starter held up pretty well to mine, but he was having none of it.

We continued feeling pretty pleased with ourselves with our mains. I could not resist having the duck, even though I seem to end up having it everywhere. But when it came with such yummy-sounding things, how could I not? The caramel apples in particular were worthy of note although the plum puree and turnip all tasted great with the perfectly cooked duck. And it was so nice to get a bit of leg with it as well. Dark duck meat is fab.


Stephen had the rack of lamb with lamb neck, cous cous, smoked aubergine and cabbage which he also very much enjoyed though he wished he had more sauce with his as the cous cous soaked it all up.

On top of this we ordered some of the duck fat chips and yes, managed to fit them all in as well. We thought that they were better than the chips at (whisper it) the Hand and Flowers!

We were utterly stuffed by now, and must have looked it because when we finally ordered the dessert, our waiter immediately asked if it would be to share. To be honest, we almost passed on dessert as compared to the other courses, nothing was standing out as a 'mustn't-miss' dish. But I'm glad we didn't as we were served the best eclair I've ever had and I bloody loved it. It was a proper pud with lots of gooeyness and cream, and pastry but in a refined way. Salted caramel ice cream on dark chocolate nibs partnered the caramel-apple stuffed eclair. Fantastic. The only qualm we had with the meal was that prices are very steep, a few quid less here or there would have felt like a reasonable price to pay. 

And so, our love affair with Jason Atherton continues. 

*Apologies for the poor quality photos - the lighting, while perfectly ambient for dining, was too low for good pictures.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ultimate Power Ballads, 1st November

I didn't really expect to be saying this but Ultimate Power Ballads was SO. MUCH. FUN!!! It managed to tap into my adolescent twin loves of being angsty and singing my heart out.

I had a little too much fun in fact as the night quickly descended into a heady haze (I'd been at a free bar before turning up) and so this is not the most comprehensive of posts.

It was only later I thought to look at my photos of the night and my memory was jogged - were there superheroes on the stage? Why? I do not know.

This could be the Riddler?
But what I remember, as I have iterated before, was very good. The night was dubbed Bat out of Helloween in honour of Halloween and lots of people were dressed for the occasion. If they weren't in ghostly guise then they had donned their 80s finest, and some had done a pretty good combination of the two. 

Mullets abounded: the perfect accompaniment to the inflatable guitars and microphones which are the essential accessory for a night such as this. Well, if you're going to be belting 'em out, you need a mic to sing into!

I wasn't sure about the whole concept before I got there but within five minutes they had played Mr. Big's 'To Be With You'  - one of the songs on a CD we had on repeat in my teens: The Best Rock Ballads in the World... Ever! and Def Leppard's 'When Love and Hate Collide', another song we were weirdly obsessed with back in the day, and I was smitten. 

Add to this the fact that they played Whitney's 'I Have Nothing' over the more predictable 'I Will Always Love You' (and my own personal preference), and they cemented my fandom.

I must admit, there was a point where my enthusiasm waned a little - things did get a bit cheesy in the middle (yes, cheesier than the aforementioned) but they brought it back again with the likes of 'Drove All Night' by Cyndi Lauper and 'Think Twice' - allowing me to do my best 'singer in anguish' impressions.

I still maintain that being drunk is the optimal state to be in for such a night - you really need to let your inhibitions go as basically this is just one big singalong. I remember being on the dance floor, but you never do anything much more energetic than sway around a bit. 

The crowd 'dancing'

After confessing my enjoyment of this night, people are now trying to persuade me to go to Guilty Pleasures. But I worry that may be a step too far for me... what do you think?