Monday, March 25, 2013

Last Tuesday Society, 16th March

The Last Tuesday Society's masked Orphanage ball is a rather spiffing, titillating way to spend an evening. The dress code is masks mandatory, clothing optional, although it is a ball, dahling, so they do expect you to make an effort.

I slightly butchered a bridesmaid's dress I had to make it even more flouncy and fanciful and of course I shopped very carefully for the mask to accompany it. If you turn up without one, they slap you with a ten pound "fine" which then gets you a mask for the evening.

Once you're in you are allowed to remove it, which is handy as there's a lot to see and do and sometimes a mask can rather obscure your view.

This night took place in one of their regular haunts - the members' club on Adam Street. You descend some stairs to find a chocolate fountain gushing in a corner, a room with a bar for dancing and mingling, an adjacent room where there is a DJ (who was blasting the finest in classical music when we arrived) for more dancing, a smaller room where the "menagerie" was housed, and then a room in which "instruments of torture" were available for anyone to have a play, as well as a cage.

Downstairs was where the dance lesson took place (that I missed out on) and where you could get portions of borscht, pickled vegetables and Russian (I'm guessing) pastries. When I went by to get myself a snack the borscht was still being warmed, not ready for another ten minutes and I'm sad to say I didn't remember to go back and get some. No matter, I certainly made the most of the chocolate fountain and I was very impressed wiht the dipping selection - marshmallows, fruit and best of all pretzels and little biscuits from which you could make your very own Flipz and choccy digestives. Amazing. I made a bit of a glutton of myself, which proved somewhat embarrassing when I then went into the menagerie to have a stroke and a play with the beasties in there.

Someone making friends with one of the snakes

Being passed around the room were two lizards, two snakes and a hairy tarantula. I stayed well away from that but had a pet of one of the lizards - letting it stalk across my hand a couple of times before it was claimed back by the guy who'd grown attached to it, and I was completely charmed by one of the snakes. Someone chose to turn the lights out and when they came back on, my friend alerted me to something nasty-looking on my hand. Yes, snake poo. Actually, no, not snake poo. To my shame, it was chocolate from the fountain all over my hand. Wresting myself from the entrancement of the snake wending it's way around we went over to the next room and had a play around in the cage, posing like pent-up prisoners.

The torture playthings were rather basic - anyone who's been to Antichrist or Torture Garden I'm sure would consider them rather tame, if not lame, but the crowd at this place weren't hardcore S & Mers and the 'toys' did what they were supposed to do - provided a frisson of eroticism to the night. One contraption required you to kneel into it so that your posterior was exposed, all the better for a light spanking. The other was an X-frame that you were strapped into while the "punisher" spanked you with hand, or with cane. I didn't get trussed up myself, but my friend had a whale of a time on it. I was given a couple of cheeky whacks with the cane afterwards. It was up to you how man-handled you wanted to be and how much sting you wanted to feel - your bare cheeks could be exposed or you could insist on remaining fully clothed. Naturally bare cheeks added to the thrill of it.

Downstairs there was a band playing gypsy swing, although they also made an appearance upstairs for a while. And the music which took you through to the end of the evening was 50s rock n roll. 

It was definitely something a little different, especially with the animal element. There were a few naked people, as is customary at these things, and though it probably wasn't the most debauched party in the world, it did make you feel a little 'Eyes Wide Shut'. Everyone made an effort, and masks being mandatory gave the party an air of mystery and I daresay relieved people of their inhibitions somewhat. For a little decadence in your life, head to one of these. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Leong's Legends, 9th March

Leong's Legends was a bit of a mixed bag. Fortunately, the things I picked out of that bag were great and on that basis I'd go back again. My friend George wasn't so lucky and it was his dishes which were duds.

I heard about Leong's Legends when I sent a plea to secret_london for places in London that do soupy dumplings after I was disappointed with the ones in Beijing Dumpling. So all I was really interested in was how well they did this one dish. And they were far superior to the Beijing ones - these ones actually had a spoonful of porky soup in them, and the dumplings themselves were tasty - light skins, fully filled.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

There was no queue when we arrived and we were asked to wait on the stairs. As was everyone else who came in behind us, keeping the growing queue out of sight from passersby. We watched with a keen eye all the tables which might soon be leaving and we struck gold - we got a booth away from the slurps and chewing noises of other diners! Best table in the house, tucked round a corner at the back.

I knew I was going for the soupy dumplings but they had a variety of dishes which sounded a bit different and for my other dish I chose a ginger chicken soup with rice wine and sesame.

Stephen, rather courageously, ordered the century egg with tofu dish because he'd liked Two Hungry Girls' version so much, and then went for the old staple, braised pork. 

George was also a little adventurous and ordered stuffed dates with honey and then something reliable - an ordinary noodle dish.

The century egg arrived and both George and I said it was a mistake on a plate. A huge cube of tofu surrounded by jellified egg. Stephen didn't even recognise the egg for what it was at first. We demurred trying any until he had. When he attested that it really was nice, I had a bit. And it was! I don't think I could have eaten a whole dish of it on my own, but I did like a few bites of it. It came in a spicy/sweet dressing which was also really, really good.

Most of our food came at about the same time. Stephen's pork was a particularly good version - it had a very deep, sweetish flavour. I only had a bite or so but I would happily have a whole dish of that to myself. Fantastic.

George's noodles didn't look all that much and he didn't think they were amazing either. A bum note for him. But my siu long bao lived up to and exceeded my expectations as I said.

Hard to see but that's a whole spoon of porky broth
We were almost done with these dishes and were beginning to wonder when mine and George's others would arrive - they were the only two we'd ordered that hadn't been on the order form you fill out. We worried they were forgotten, but the waitress just assured us they 'needed time to cook'. 

A good five minutes or so after we'd eaten the rest of the dishes, my soup came out. It was full of ginger strips and pieces of chicken on the bone. Not a good dish for me to order in retrospect as I'm not great at eating chicken on the bone. The flavour of the soup was fragrant and the sort of thing you could eat if you're feeling a little under the weather. It got a little salty for me towards the end but I liked it.

Finally, the stuffed dates arrived. I don't eat dates anyway so I didn't try them but they didn't look great. Sadly, it seems they didn't taste great either (and God knows what they were doing with them that it took so long to make). George and Stephen couldn't figure out what the dates were actually stuffed with. SOme weird gelatinous substance that left a chalky taste in the mouth apparently. We asked and it turned out to be rice! Who knew.

So, for me, and enjoyable meal and I would definitely go back. They had a number of dishes on the menu that I thought sounded intriguing or just tasty. George probably had a completely different experience to me and Stephen and would say the exact opposite. 

Leong’s Legends on Urbanspoon

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Wishbone, 13th March

I am used to eating alone and have done so on several occasions but I have never eaten quite as alone as I did the other day at Wishbone.

Wanting to avoid the lunchtime crush, I arrived in Brixton a little after half one. Walking past Honest Burgers on my way to Wishbone and seeing the small queue outside, I worried that I had still mistimed it. Worry I need not as when I arrived at Wishbone the place was entirely empty apart from the two members of staff. Not letting this deter me I went in anyway, was greeted by one of the waiters/barmen and took a seat.

I hadn't heard great things about Wishbone I must admit, but as Stephen would be happy to tell you, I don't tend to listen much to other people and wanted to try it out for myself. I kind of regretted not being with at least one other person in order to try out a few more of the dishes so I just tried to order a couple of the more 'specialised' dishes. One of their specials today was basically their version of a KFC Tower burger which sounded great but I knew if I got that I wouldn't want have room to try anything else on the menu.

So instead I ordered the Thai thighs which came with a tamarind dressing, mint, chilli and shallots and I also ordered the Hot Mess as a side. I had initially thought I'd go for the deep-fried mac n cheese, something so sinful-sounding I wouldn't dare order it in the presence of anyone else, but when my server described the hot mess as "like nachos but with hash browns instead" I was sold.

My thighs were 5.50 and my Hot Mess was 4.50. For these prices I thought the portions were excellent and made for sharing. Nevermind, I'd have to do my best on my own.

I was still the only one in the place.

The thighs came chopped and coated in batter with mint leaves adorning them and sliced chillies and shallots all over the place. I took a bit and my first reaction was "this is great, what is wrong with other people?" The tamarind dressing was sweet, the chicken crunchy and although I felt like I was eating nettles having such large leaves of mint all over the place, the taste was good. Moreish even. But after a few of the nuggets I must admit my enthusiasm for them waned. I realised the chillies weren't doing anything at all. To test this theory I had a couple of forkfuls of them and nothing else (left).

They didn't elicit even a sniffle. I also realised that the yummiest bit was the tamarind dressing and that there wasn't anywhere near enough of it. I'd have much preferred it if it had come as a side for a dipping sauce. I tried a little of the hot sauce they provided, to make up for the lack of kick in the chillies, and found this a bit too vinegary and watery for my tastes. Maybe I'm just too used to The Ribman's wonderful Holy Fuck. *nudge, wink*

I dug into the Hot Mess and almost instantly disliked it. The same vinegary hot sauce was all over it. I didn't even like the cheese they used. Do you hear that? I didn't. Like. The Cheese! I think it was a mix of some sort of processed orange stuff and some white stuff I couldn't place. Stephen said it sounded like the kind they'd ruined their chips with at Meatliquor. (The major investment in the "Meat" chains is also behind Wishbone.) And the pickles I thought didn't work with it at all - more vinegary sharpness to compound the horrible sharp hot sauce. I tried to dig out some of the plain hash brown to see if I liked that but it was too smothered with everything else to be discerned. I tried to like it, I really did. And certainly ate more forkfuls of it than I really needed to before realising that I was treating eating it like a bit of a chore, and decided to stop.

Being the only person in the place (still) the two staff asked me a couple of times how it was and I feel very guilty for being deceitful and supplying them with the stock answer of "oh, yes, very nice". One guy even asked me specifically how I liked the Hot Mess and I was forced to evade the question, answering "There's a lot of it" rather than actually answering the question.

Back to the chopped up thighs then, which I did finish though after eating them all, liked even less. At first I was excited that they were made from thighs, dark meat being my favourite part of a chicken. But some of the nuggets were really fatty, a couple of the smaller ones almost all fat, and it made me think wistfully of traditional nuggets made out of white meat (or even pink slime if you believe the facebook rumours. Don't, by the way - they're completely false.).

No tamarind dressing left! Just nuggets of fat.

lf you liked the food it would be good value for money, as the servings are very generous. My main and side could easily have fed two. And it was only 10 pounds. I handed over my note and left. Apart from two people getting take out, not a soul had come in to eat the whole time I was there.

So yeah, not a very successful dining experience. I doubt I'll go back. I had to go and have an ice cream from LabG to make up for it. And that was delicious. Panna Cotta flavour. Mmmm.

Wishbone on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bearded Kitten, 8th March

If you like a dance, then Bearded Kitten is for you. If you like a little bit of interactive improv, then Bearded Kitten is for you. If you like grooving to a live band from your childhood, then Bearded Kitten is for you. Whether house, hip hop or 80s classics, Bearded Kitten manages to be for you.

After missing out on last year's Around the World party, I wasn't going to make the same mistake this year and snapped up my ticket as soon as they announced this year's Story of Life party. Last year, you were taken around the world, stopping off for exotic and multicultural entertainment along the way (or so I'm told). This year, you were invited to take a journey through life instead. 

Starting with 'being born' which involved walking through a tenuously decorated womb and vagina opening, the first area you came to was childhood. Here you could 'playfight' with some oversized soft gloves in the crib and get into the 'baby bouncers'. These were bungee harnesses and two at a time could get in and bounce into each other or one could just bounce as far as the stretchy rope would allow!

Of course, like any good creche, there was a bar at the back.

The next stage of life to travel through was found in the next room where you could get some careers advice or recreate that old staple of bad behaviour at the office, by having a body part of your choice photocopied. I, rather unsuccessfully tried to do my boobs, but only managed to fit one on. One of my friends told me she had seen someone photocopy his bare penis. Careers advice consisted of either being assigned a job, or telling a couple of officials what you'd wanted to be when you were a child. You were then interviewed by the specialist consultants who would approve your career choice. (Only after you had proved to them somehow - in my case, interpretive dance - that you were fully qualified.) 

On to the next phase then, and by now you've probably copped off with someone at the office party and are well ensconced in Settled Downsville - time to get married! So the next room was decked out as a wedding chapel, and for quite a bit of the night the music in here was decidedly and intentionally wedding disco. Throughout the night the preacher would also get up on stage and 'marry the crowd'. He was definitely of the evangelical school when it came to faith and was whooping the crowd up to love their brothers and Praise Be!

The main room (the family room) was beyond this and was where the live acts were as well as a mahoosive sofa. First, our comperes were two big babies, who introduced who else but Musical Youth  (see - Youth - it all fits) who serenaded the crowd with some classic reggae anthems before finishing the set with Pass the Dutchie. I was beside myself, this being one of my favourite childhood songs (what that says about what my parents listened to in front of us I don't care to analyse). There followed an interlude here of some pretty heavy hip hop - I'm sure Dead Presidents featured, before Crazy P graced the decks at some point. 

We spent the evening wandering around all the various places so there were definitely acts and genres of music we missed in each room as they didn't strictly adhere to one or the other. By the end of the evening they were more or less all playing a form of house music, but even this was different between the rooms - with the baby room playing remixes of some old school RnB, such as Aaliyah (I loved it!).

But I haven't even finished yet - not content with the representing the high points of life, there were also areas to represent when life tails off. What would ordinarily be the chill out zone was, in the Story of Life, a retirement home. Here there was meant to be soup and bingo but either this didn't happen or we weren't around when it did. Whenever I popped in, it was fairly empty and unnecessarily realistically cold.

And then finally there was a small funeral parlour where you could have your own funeral ceremony. This was a rather popular area and when I went by I couldn't even fit into it. I was quite sad to have missed out on that bit - I've always thought eulogies are wasted on the dead.

There was probably even more other little bits and pieces that I didn't notice as we went from room to room,  depending on what music was satisfying our whimsy. Spotting what other people were wearing for their costimes (theme - favourite stage of life) was also a form of entertainment in itself. Lots of people in onesies and some impressively decrepit-looking pensioners raving around. 

The night took place at Pulse, and as you can guess it was a vast space. There was a bar in at least three of the rooms, which meant you didn't spend half the night queuing for a drink, and almost everything was priced at 5 pounds, keeping it simple. 

I had a really, really good night and can't wait to go to next year's. In the interim Bearded Kitten turn up at festivals such as Secret Garden Party, Lovebox and Glastonbury to provide interactive entertainment. If you're going to any festival at which they're in attendance, do check them out.

Friday, March 8, 2013

MEATliquor, 22nd February

You might say I'm a bit late to the party when it comes to MEATliquor. I would agree. I'd say I was so late that I'm arriving the next day, in fine fettle, annoying everyone who is nursing a hangover.

In my defense, I did get to MEATeasy when they were in residence at that pub in New Cross, so I didn't feel the urge to rush here. You probably also know by now that I am not keen on having to queue to get into places and that put me off as well. But with the arrival of a third in the rapidly expanding MEAT chain, we felt that the queues should surely have worn off at the original premises by now.

We went early just in case.

And there was a bit of a queue but nothing too traumatic. And I am glad. Because if I had queued for it, I would have been less impressed than I was. And I was not overly impressed.

We already knew the burgers were good from having gone to Meateasy. Consensus after that visit was that the burgers were good but the rest was decidedly average. I don't even eat burgers so it wasn't such a great trip for me. I wanted to give them a second chance.

Clearly we were there for a junk-food fest but I didn't expect the food to be quite so greasy and heavy. Granted, our choices weren't particularly health conscious. Stephen had the cheese and bacon burger, I got the philly cheesesteak. Stephen had some chilli fries (which came with melted cheese and jalapenos) and I had both onion rings and deep fried pickles.

Our grease feast
In a way, those two sides were a mistake and ordering both entirely unnecessary. But in the interests of journalism, I did want to try as much as possible.

Stephen still liked his burger and said he would come back for it, but when pressed, admitted that he preferred the ones at Honest Burger. He'd really only said he'd come back here because he hadn't remembered Honest Burgers had opened a place in Soho.

I liked my cheesesteak and I know that there aren't many places over here (in the grand scheme of things) doing this kind of food and doing it well. But I couldn't help but be a little underwhelmed when I thought of how, really, this is just the kind of stuff any 'dive bar' worth its salt can churn out in the States. The steak was alright, the peppers and onions tasty, the bread nice and chewy. Some jalapenos in it would have really topped it off to make it excellent.

I loved the fried pickles. I thought they might come as 'chips' rather than 'strips' and they had not been shy about coating them in their batter. Tempura-style, these were not. The batter was almost overwhelming the taste of the pickle, but it just about managed to come through. The blue cheese dip was also great - nice and tangy.

I much preferred the pickles to the onion rings, which had undergone the same heavy-handed batter treatment but didn't have enough oniony flavour peeking out. And look at them! They're mountainous! Too big really.

I didn't have many of the fries but Stephen wasn't singing their praises. 

As I said, we didn't queue for long but that's only the first stage as you get ushered to the bar when you go in. I liked the bar area - a long metallic slab which made me feel I really could be in a bar in Brooklyn. The rest of the restaurant did not conform to my expectations at all. I had imagined that they had basically lifted their pub residency and transplanted it behind Debenham's. The rough and ready style of that venue suited the food. This place was a lot more ROCK. Like they'd arrived, and they knew it. It was dark, and much bigger than I thought it would be, and if I'm honest, I didn't like it that much. In all the reviews of Bone Daddies they mention the too-loud music, but this place was by far a much guiltier perpetrator of that than Daddies. It was a bit much.

The staff were friendly though, and I liked the cocktail list. I had a Pinot Grincho in the end - a fruity/appley cocktail with apple liqueur and topped off with pinot grigio, everyone's go-to wine of choice. Very refreshing. And it was garnished with a candy cane, which is always a bonus.

If this place was a little more under the radar, the kind of place you could just pop in to like any normal diner in the States, I'd say I'd be back. But it's too hyped for what it is - if I ever had to queue, well, basically, I wouldn't.

MEATliquor on Urbanspoon

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Find the menu & restaurant information on Zomato