Thursday, May 30, 2013

Limbo, 20th May

Limbo the show was truly astounding.

I missed out on Cantina last year, and after seeing Limbo I'm kicking myself for that. I was blown away by the whole thing and, at only 75 minutes per show, it all whizzed by far too quickly for my liking. Luckily, not only did I pay to see it with some friends, but also got to see it  courtesy of Limbo PR people. Once isn't really enough.

Some of the feats performed in Limbo were literally jaw-dropping. I mean it. I looked around the audience and everyone's mouths were agape. At other times, we all had our hands up, peeking through our fingers like you would a horror movie you love, or clutching our cheeks in delight. 

There were acts I had honestly never seen before. One of the men performed a take on ropework, only instead of a thick braided or silk rope he had what looked like a spongy pole set up on stage. This he effortlessly climbed, balanced against and wrapped himself round. Then he would propell himself up it to then practically freefall down to the stage, bringing himself to a halt in the nick of time by tightening his legs. Even having seen it once before I felt nervy watching it again. 

The troupe (excluding musicians) was made up of four men and two girls and it was refreshing to see the men make up the majority of the show. Although the girls were clearly very talented as well, it was nice to see some men take centre stage in something like this and show that they can be just as flexible and multi-talented as women in this sphere of entertainment. And they were supremely multi-talented. I can't imagine how they went about casting this.

There was a contortionist for example, who was the first 'act' of the night. But he didn't just do that - he later had to juggle (with fire!), he also performed magic. One of the other guys tap danced... and sang... and... 'floated'... I can just imagine leading artists in their field showing off their one talent at auditions for this show, and the director going, "great! Now, what else can you do?" Being good at just one thing wasn't enough for this show. It blew my mind how much stamina they had to get through the whole show with barely a break in between acts. You could see them panting from the exertion.

There wasn't exactly a storyline to the show but each performer had a character they stuck to throughout the show which gave the performance some cohesion. The contortionist was this sort of sleazy, depraved guy, put to good effect early on in a humourous take on a striptease (which everyone expects in this kind of show) where he tried to get one of the girls to get naked for him. Except, even though they took off item after item of clothing, they somehow never got down to brass tacks. Different, and funny.

One of the girls was a sexy little vixen, coming on stage with a whip at one point, and being the temptress to the other girl's more demure look. This little vamp turned out to be a sword swallower and fire eater and put on of the most impressive fire eating shows I've seen, not to mention making me feel the most queasy after seeing the swords going down her throat. A little twisted nod to the song that had just been performed - Nasty, nasty, tasty tasty!

Equally as impressive, (or in fact, rather more so) was the guy who could 'walk on his hands'. He did a whole act balancing on his hands, something which was a bit of a motif through the show, when he would pop up and do handstands on whatever happened to be on stage at the time - you know - two of the other performers, one of their heads, or a ladder on fire. That kind of 'mundane' thing. His body was almost unnatural. He had muscles I never knew existed and you could see every one popping out of his body as he used them to keep himself perfectly balanced on the smallest of platforms. 

My favourite part of the evening though, was one of the acts I've never seen before. It was so simple but so sublime, and I'm almost sure my description of it won't properly convey the wonder of it. Three of the guys, naked from the waist up, climbed up a pole each. And began to sway. And sway some more. And faster. And lower. Dipping into the middle of the stage, barely avoiding hitting each other. Dipping low into the audience, touching people's hands as they did so. It was mesmerising. And unbelievably sexy!

The music deserves a special mention too. The musical director managed to create special and intriguing sounds from all sorts of things, a glass bowl for example which helped to set the scene for each feat or helped to provide background as the equipment for the next part was set up. The songs were all great fun, the brass element making it feel like a party you were involved in and everyone loved their version of dubstep performed with a tuba. 

As I found the rest of the show so utterly enthralling it makes me a little sad to report that the ending was a bit of a weak point. They finished on an illusion which  was fairly obvious to figure out, and the last song, while fun, wasn't my favourite of the night. It didn't really matter though, I still left the Spiegeltent buzzing from what I'd seen, and so did all my companions. This show is joyful, with a bit of a knowing wink to everything they do. I shall be waxing evangelical to everyone I know about it. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Miller Pub, 16th May

The Miller pub is the new pub from the people behind the Sebright Arms only this time they've transported their laid-back casual hipsterness slightly south of the river to London Bridge.

They officially opened on the 17th but I was quick enough off the mark to RSVP to their launch party, which was a night of awesomeness.

Their flyer promised a drink on the house and food from the ever wonderful Street Kitchen who are to have a residency there much like Lucky Chip have at the Sebright. Street Kitchen have been busy creating some special hot dogs for the Miller.

The flyer belied their generosity. When we arrived at the door we were given four tokens - three orange and one black. Each orange token was for a free drink and the black one was for a sample of the food.

I had expected one free drink and to pay for the food so I was already well chuffed with these arrangements. I became even more pleased when I went and got my first drink and, as a non-beer drinker, saw that they had four different ciders on tap (in additon to those overly sweet Bulmers that are nice to have one of, but soon become too sickly) and also a perry! They were quite happy for you to have a taste first so I had a bit of the perry and opted for that.

For ale and craft beer lovers they also had quite a selection, and I noticed someone with a bottle of 'Doggie Style' pale ale later in the evening which made me smile.

Then, when it came to the food, the 'sample' was a whole hot dog plus chicken wing on the side. Amazing! Of course, all this free stuff had to have some drawback but in this case I found it to be a completely acceptable trade-off; the queue for the hot dogs was looooong and sloooow. They were only cooking them in batches of 10 but of course as soon as people saw someone with one, everyone went to get theirs. And lots of people were queuing for their friends so were taking three (or in one case six) hot dogs at a time, meaning the length of the queue was deceptive. Some of the girls in front of me were getting a little fractious and opining that no one will come back because the queues were so bad. I thought this a little disingenuous and unfair of them. Much as I didn't like the queuing I could appreciate that this did not indicate what the normal state of affairs would be on a normal night - I have faith that when they're operating a full service, and people order as and when they want during the night instead of all rushing at once, a half-hour queue (or thereabouts) isn't going to materialise.

And so, eventually, me and my boyfriend got our hot dogs and we didn't begrudge the queuing at all in the end. Especially when as soon as I had sat back in my seat The Boy is Mine by Brandy and Monica came on. It has been years since I've heard that song and it instantly put a smile on my face. In fact, I was totally digging the music the whole time I was there - all the old 90s, early noughties swing and R n B classics working their way into some more contemporary stuff like Jamie XX's mix of Adele (love that remix). Yep, had me grooving in my seat.
Anyway, the food. Now, over here, until recently, I haven't really considered that hot dogs exist. Not the way I know them, not US-style franks. What gets called a hot dog over here is ususally just a sausage in a bun. And I love those - I love English sausages - but it's not a hot dog. Street Kitchen claimed to be doing hot dogs, and I think they just about fall short of that criteria but what they have created is a pretty bloody good banger in a bun. Held well in a firm but not sweet bun was a layer of coleslaw and a pork sausage, lined with pickles on one side, pork belly on the other and topped with pickled cabbage and crackling. At least, I think those were the ingredients - I couldn't make out the menu with my poor eyesight. It was very, very tasty. That was a gourmet 'dog' if ever I had one. Must admit, both Stephen and I thought the cabbage on the top was unnecessary what with the coleslaw on the bottom adding crunch. It looked lovely but I mostly picked mine off and ate it on its own as otherwise it made eating the hot dog that much messier. So I pronounce this my third favourite hot dog, behind Big Apple Hot Dogs and the Dogfather Diner (whose hot dogs what I consider a 'frank' to be and also taste amazing). Street Kitchen's tasted amazing but loses points for being so 'English'.

I loved the chicken wing - it was a really good size for a wing, coated in quite a thick batter with sticky BBQ sauce and a smattering of spring onion. The sauce had a slightly lime flavour to it I believe and I really enjoyed it. Stephen didn't like his so much - he said it felt 'spongey' like too-thick fish n chip shop batter. 

And then someone came around handing out free popsicles from the Ice Kitchen! They were raspberry and basil and topped with white chocolate. Unfortunately they were a bit too high quality for me, and by that I mean you could tell they were made from proper raspberries rather than raspberry juice. Which is great for everyone who likes eating raspberries, but not for me because it came complete with seeds. Bummer. Stephen had mine.

The decor reminded me very much of the Sebright Arms - it was sort of old man's working club turned cool. Mismatched chairs, those weird, red-topped flimsy-looking wooden tables, sort of a sparse feel to the place. You can imagine it's former life in which the carpet was sticky and everything stank of beer. But now it's all scrubbed up and had lovely Pure Evil artwork on the wall (gotta wonder how much that sells for these days). I liked it.

We had our third, final drink at about 9 and left at about half past as we're a little low on funds this month, so didn't end up seeing NightWorks who were keeping the party going upstairs. 

But this was a great introduction to The Miller Pub and I highly recommend you go! Well done guys. Thanks for the party!

Square Meal

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tweat Up Taco Wars, 18th May

Hurrah, and indeed Huzzah! I finally made it to a Tweat Up food competition, and, even though I have no frame of reference, I'm going to just go ahead and say it was the best one. This is mainly down to the fact that it was a battle of the tacos, and I love love love Mexican food (as established in my Breddos Tacos post). 

I don't even know where to begin in writing about this day. It was epic. It was tasty. It was surprisingly filling. I had in mind that we might actually go out for dinner when all this was over, and was secretly pleased that Dogtown Hot Dogs were on hand to fill any hole left by the tiny tacos. But ten of those little guys soon fills all the space in your stomach. Halfway through and I was suggesting we 'take a break' and have just a drink instead of going for yet another taco in order to give me a chance to digest. Once the ten were done, I didn't eat anything else the rest of the day!

We got there at about 1 (it was held at the current Street Feast venue) and we were among the early starters. There was someone at every taco station, but no big queues. And, even though queues did develop over the day, especially at some of the more hyped/popular taco warriors' stations, they never got out of hand, or too tiresome to stand in. Many people (including us) developed the tactic of getting a taco from a stall with less of a queue to eat in the queue for the next one. The height of efficiency.

So, we got our scorecards and figured out how it worked. Our first taste was more or less chosen at random - number 7 - L.A. Sueno with their duck heart and pork taco topped with blueberries (which I didn't eat - down with berries!). It was an excellent beginning and turned out to be the taco that won Stephen's 'heart' (I totally did not mean for that wordplay to happen). The duck heart made the taco taste a little like pate and Stephen attested that the blueberries made all the difference. I liked it, but for me the best was yet to come.

I won't go into detail about all ten of them. To be honest, they were all tasty but a fair few of them were tasty without standing out above the crowd. I enjoyed eating them, but thinking back now, a lot of them blur into each other. I only disliked one, which was, sadly, the last one I had. That was the one from Santana Grill - although I liked the salsa verde and guacamole very much, the meat tasted a little bitter and I didn't enjoy it.

The tacos that still stand out burning like stars in my mind were:

BanhMi11's. This was the third taco we ate and became my front runner for a while. Stephen thought it tasted too Vietnamesey, but that was exactly what I thought was so good about it. The pork had an amazing flavour, I loved the crispy shallots and it seemed a perfect idea to take banh mi flavours and mexican them up a little by popping them in a tortilla and adding a dollop of guacamole. I thought the fusion worked, but I soon found other tacos that I liked more.

Breddos Tacos: Now, these guys really made an effort for this competition. They'd clearly put a lot of thought into how they could take the simple taco and ratchet it up a notch or five. For me, they actually went a little step too far, or I could easily have voted this my number one. I loved the addition of a pipette of hot sauce, which reminded me of a piquant bloody mary. They added candied chillies to the dish which were truly outstanding. I want to sprinkle them on every taco I have in the future. Seriously guys, please do them at your Taco Shack! But then they kinda spoiled it with popping candy. I don't really like the sensation of popping candy, and in this case also felt it distracted from all the other good stuff going on  (which included 10 hour short rib marinated in umami broth!). For innovation alone though, these guys were my winners.

Kimchinary: Another taco that really went the distance when it came to being inventive was the taco from Kimchinary. They, also, maybe went a little too far - it was supposed to be a taco, not a whole gourmet meal in a tortilla. Theirs was a combination of ox cheek and cod's cheek which did, in fact, go really well together, and the black sesame seeds with (of course) the kimchi was quite an inspired idea. But the whole thing didn't really say taco to me in the way others had so I ended up going with someone else for the win.

Luardos: This was the perfect example of how to take the essence of a taco but to do it so well, with just the right amount of creativity as to make it really special. It was a simple prawn taco. A juicy prawn taco. With an amazingly fresh tasting mango salsa. Some shredded sesame cabbage. And that was kind of it - no bells or whistles as such. They went that little bit further than, say, Benito's Hat (whose tacos were fine, just not different enough from their everyday offerings) but it was still, in effect, a taco. But a taco that really made you take notice when you ate it. This is who I picked as a winner.

And it turns out lots of people agreed with me as they won, with 25% of the vote. Breddos came second with 20% and there was a joint third between Buen Provecho (another whose taco simplicity belied its tastiness) and Stephen's faves L.A. Sueno.

So the food was an obvious highlight, but the day itself was just grand. It felt so much more like a festival than many other 'food festivals' that claim that title. There was a mariachi band there for pretty much the whole day, which immediately added a festive feel to the thing. They wandered around the whole area making sure no one missed out on the mood music. The video barely does them justice.

You got two drinks (as well as the ten tacos) in your entry price and of course free drinks always help create a buzz. It also helps when your first taco of the day is handing out complimentary shots of tequila infused with coconut, chocolate and raisins. I don't even like coconut and raisins but this drink was delicious. You didn't want to 'shoot' this - it was a drink to sip and savour.

There were some queues, yes, but nothing to make you irritable and in fact, it provided the perfect chance to get chatting with your fellow voters. I really enjoyed discussing who was everyone's favourite so far and comparing the various merits and failings of each taco or finding out where everyone stood in the controversial 'pineapple with meat' debate. Or telling someone they were in for a treat as they went to queue for a taco you'd already had. 

The guy from Hot Breath was on hand to provide some extra entertainment with his Tape Measure game. That guy just cracks me up. He comes up with some of the crappest sounding things and makes them brilliant. All it is, is seeing who can pull a tape measure out the longest without it collapsing but everyone loved it! Stephen was briefly in second place but his length was soon overtaken. Gutted as there were some pretty decent prizes on offer - tickets to Ginstock and a bottle of tequila!

Another highlight was the Rotary Bar Mescal Margarita Mixing Machine. A little cement-mixer was loaded with ice, a LOT of tequila, some mescal and some juices and churned to make margaritas. Which were then sloshed into people's cups for free! I got some and it was fantastic. My first try of mescal and you could really taste the smokiness it lent to the drink. My first taste of mescal but certainly not my last.

We had a couple of other drinks but I didn't get around to getting a festival-sized cocktail (to my shame) and we stayed long enough to witness the winner being crowned but then, I must confess, with all that food and booze in my belly, I went home for a nap!

Such, such a good day. Were they all like this? 

So, if you went, who were your winners and losers of the great Taco War of '13?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Happiness Forgets, 14th May

Last week I had the good fortune, through winning a competition, to attend the launch of Remy Martin's cocktail app. This took place, fortuitously, at Happiness Forgets in Hoxton, a bar I have heard great things about but have not been successful in getting to, in part due to its popularity; Stephen and I chanced it one Friday night, not even that late but it was already packed to the rafters.

After going last night I can see it is easy to quickly reach maximum capacity as the place is dinky. A proper cosy little underground drinking den. 

I had a whale of a time. There were two types of Remy Martin cocktails to choose from (both quite strong as it turned out, and both being generously handed out whenever you were finished. Or, in my case, when you dropped yours at the bar and spilt it everywhere). I will admit it now, but both me and my friend had no idea what Remy Martin was and didn't manage to guess by the taste. It reminded us of rum or whiskey, and the cocktails they were making with it seemed to suit either liquor, but it didn't quite taste like either. Of course, that's because it was neither - it's cognac. Champagne cognac in this case.

I inadvertently took a picture while dropping my drink
Both cocktails were good - one, the Baptiste, was slightly more interesting, made with cider, maple syrup, lemon and orange bitters which sounded right up my street thought turned out not to be my favourite. The other, more pedestrian cocktail was Remy mixed with ginger beer. But I love ginger beer with alcohol and thought this combination was really good - it was slightly thick and syrupy to drink. I think I had two of each and possibly a third of another, but I'm not sure as I was getting quite squiffy by the end of it.

We also had 'canapes'. Now, if this is what constitutes canapes in Happiness Forgets' eyes, then I'd love to see what they class as a 'small plate'. Huge slabs of toasted bread with pulled pork and sweet pickles. I feel like I've had a lot of pulled pork in my time but this was SO good! 

They also had little bowls of mac n cheese, which was a little cold by the time me and Katherine shared one but was still deliciously rich and creamy/cheesy. I don't know if I could have managed a whole one. The last dish was a mini fish and chips but I didn't manage to try one of those. As we were starting to make our way out, I thought they had replenished the fish and chips (bad eyes) but no - it was little doughnuts dusted with pistachio that I could see! Okay, not the best doughnuts I've ever had but it was a nice gesture to also provide dessert.

Best of all we chatted to quite a few people. We chatted with the guy when we came in. We chatted to one of the girls who works there who told us how much she loves the place and what a neighbourhood feel it has. The staff pop in on their nights off because they like it so much. And we chatted to a couple of guys at the bar. Were they competition winners or there in a more formal capacity? I don't know but it was nice to mingle and I believe the venue lended itself to such possibilities. It feels friendly and welcoming inside. This is the kind of place I want to make my local.

I'm planning on going back on Thursday so that I can try some of the cocktails they serve on a regular basis.

Square Meal

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Covent Garden Puppet Festival, 12th May

Yeah, so the weather wasn't great last Sunday but neither was it all that bad so the annual Punch & Judy festival in Covent Garden was a good excuse to get us motivated and out of the house.

Every year, the 'birthday' of Mr. Punch is celebrated in St Paul's church marking the day when Samuel Pepys first saw Punchinello and brought the concept back to England and it has become a bit of a Punch and Judy convention. This is sort of combined with a may fayre.

So, lots of different Punch and Judy performers I guess you'd call them, congregate and set up their stages in the gardens and put on performances throughout the day. In the meantime there was a maypole with the little ones dancing around it and there were also some arts and crafts and food stalls. We had a couple of fantastic pastels de nata from a stall there. Mmm, at only £1.50 each we should have bought more!

Anyway, we had  wander around and examined all the different Punch and Judy sets. There was one performance happening on each side, and the first one we came to was decidedly more amateur then the one on the other side.

If I'm honest, I've never been a massive Punch & Judy fan, I was just curious to see so many versions around at once. And of course, some Pearly Kings and Queens were there because... well, I don't know, just because I suppose.

As far as English fetes go, I think this was actually quite a good one. You could take your kids along and probably amuse them for quite some time. A fire eater was just starting to drum up attention as we left. For adults though, a half an hour stroll through it was more than adequate!

Voodoo Ray's, 11th May

I didn't mean for the night to end like that. But, looking back as the evening unfurled, it slowly but surely lead to this inevitable conclusion. And was it good.

The evening had started out with a trip to New Cross for a pop-up crab night. Very tasty but for the prices the food was really rather on the light side. £9.00 got you one crabcake. ONE. And some salad stuff. While I wasn't hungry when I left, I knew it wouldn't take much to reawaken my appetite later in the night. Then we headed up to Haggerston and met my friend Sophie at the Fox. Several drinks were consumed (which could only lead to booze munchies later) and then we went to the Alibi where more drinks were consumed and worse still, calories were burned by dancing. And that's when it happened. Sophie suggested we go to Voodoo Ray's. After all, we were hungry and it's only next door.

I now view Voodoo Ray's as both a blessing and a curse. Now, I know that probably nowhere in the U.K. is going to make pizza exactly the way they do in the States. But nowhere that I know of has come as close to it as this. This pizza makes the stuff at Mulberry Street looks as authentically NY as a Pizza Hut Deep Pan can be said to resemble a Napoli pizza.

I don't know what I love so much about a pizza that is so big the tip ever so slightly droops off the plate. I thought I'd found what I was looking for with Homeslice (and they are great, still have much love for them) but THIS is the real [almost] deal. You go in and there's a counter where the absolutely massive pizzas are sitting, waiting for huge slices to be handed over to you. You pick your flavour and then you can adorn with chilli oil, or take your slice to a table and garnish with parmesan or chilli flakes out of salt shakers. Check, check and check. It's the details that matter.

And the pizza is soo good! I had the special 'Full Moon slice' which is only served after midnight ,because everyone knows the best people come out after midnight. At least, I think I did. I just found the one I liked the look of most and pointed to it. I know it had meat on it in some form, and white stuff and it's described as having 'fresh tomato, mozzarella, bacon dust and mayonnaise' so that fits the bill. Stephen had the Thunderballs - meatballs, red onion, fontina and bone marrow glaze while Sophie had what she always has - Porky's. That's got cumberland sausage, stiltion, red onion and parsley on it. Admittedly not your average greasy pizzeria flavours so in that way they really aren't authentically American pizza at all. But they can be forgiven that because these toppings are awesome. We then lost any self control and ordered a second slice. Well, I'm happy to say Stephen and I were 'healthy' and split ours - the Hot Mix 5. Which was not kidding when it came to heat - pepperoni, jalapenos and red chillies definitely made my nose run. 

So now what am I to do? I'm so pleased I've got a place like this to go to, but how am I going to stop myself from going there every weekend? I'm already trying to work out when I can shoehorn it into another night. So so good. And so so bad for my diet. And wallet. While everything else is pretty much right on when it comes to emulating a pizza joint in the States, of course the prices are pretty much double what you'd pay out there, with each slice almost 4 quid. 

I actually took some pictures of my pizza but they are of such embarrassingly poor quality that I'm not going to put them up here. Alcohol does nothing for my photography skills. 

Square Meal

Friday, May 17, 2013

Land of Kings, 5th May

There were definitely a few negative points (more on them later) but I still can't wait to go to Land of Kings next year as I had such a brilliant day. 

Land of Kings is a multivenue festival sort of centred around the Arcola Theatre and the buildings near Ashwin street but ranging as far up Kingsland Road as The Marquis of Lansdowne, taking in most venues in between. 

Things kicked off at 2pm and the last venue to have something happening finished at 5 am. It was possible to buy earlybird tickets for a pittance of something like £15 but I managed to miss those. Still, at £30 for potentially over 12 hours of entertainment, that's not a bad price.

I got there and the streets were abuzz with the surprise gig Richie Hawtin was doing at Street Feast. I managed to get in for a bit and it was a good way to start the day, it felt like the party was kicking off already. I got myself a wine at a very reasonable £4 and soaked it up. Then my friends started arriving and we went over to the Castle Tent Stage and watched a band called Darkstar followed by a troupe of girls called Gaggle. It was about six by this point so we thought we'd partake of a little Musical Bingo. That was good fun and Ditzy Ritzy was a fun and friendly host. I think it suffered a little from happening a wee bit early on, so audience participation wasn't as great as it would have been had a few more bevvies been consumed (myself I was desperate for the loo for most of it and could only jig minimally along to the tunes in my seat). Much as I would have liked to stay for the next round - 90s - we wanted to explore some more.

So we went over to Hot Breath's New New Dance Academy, taking place in the bunker. God knows how Mike, the man in charge, managed to stay down there the whole time; I guess you do get inured to things after a while but the 'bunkerness' of it was quite intense. It was dank, it was damp, it smelled of mildew. Probably the perfect setting for the recreation of a 90s underground rave, complete with images being projected on screen - that you could be a part of via a green screen. So we danced around a little like that for a while (see below) but it was good to get out in the fresh air again.

We went back to the Castle Tent and watched Chrome Hoof, a surprise hit who blended heavy rock with dance music. I've never heard anything like it before and I liked it! And then my first highlight of the day - TEED. At first I was disappointed that he was doing a DJ set, not all his own stuff but I needn't have been. It was immense. He was playing house music with some kind of tribal flavour that made every single one of us want to dance like mad people. Which we did. Amazing. 

After this we stopped off at the Curve Garden for a little acoustic number before trying our luck with the Roof Park (still too busy) so then we went up to Birthdays. Where I finally got the glass of wine I'd been craving for the last three hours and we watched New Young Pony Club which was another highlight. We wanted to get into as many venues with our wristbands as possible so then we headed over to the Marquis of Lansdowne as our almost final destination. Normally quite an 'old man's pub' they do get a DJ later on in the evenings and it was DJ sets mostly in there at the time.

And then was an aborted attempt to get into the Bugged Out area. If we'd been able to get in then goodness knows how much more excellent my day would have been. 

So, what didn't I like?

Well Street Feast was a fail in a few ways. I love Street Feast and all their vendors and was really looking forward to filling my boots and maybe getting to try a new trader or two. I was meeting some friends at the festival and had suggested we meet in the Street Feast area. And then they only went and had that 'secret surprise gig' from Richie Hawtin there and all of a sudden Street Feast was THE place to be at the festival. I timed it just right - there was a small queue when I arrived but anyone with a wristband was waved through. Because, you see, Street Feast was the one area of the festival where you didn't need a wristband to get in. Makes sense I suppose for the Street Feast traders to get as much custom as possible. It suddenly makes no sense though, when any Tom, Dick or Harry can get to a cool gig and the people who actually bought tickets, can't. Which is what happened. People who had no idea Land of Kings was even happening were suddenly heading there in their droves. I got in fine, then minutes later when my friend with wristband was in the queue he was being told it made no difference either way and the venue was at capacity. Inside the place felt only half full and I noted lots of people with nary a pink band round their wrists. It was an amazing party atmosphere inside and yeah, Richie Hawtin was amazing. But I couldn't help but notice that there were very few people getting anything to eat. No one really. They say on the site that they 'recommend you come hungry' but if you did (like my friend who arrived about 6), you were shit out of luck. The gig ran for something like three hours with no one being able to get in after about 4:30 and I wonder how happy the Street Feast vendors were about this new arrangement. Ravers aren't exactly known for their appetites.

Secret gig at Street Feast/people not eating
I also noticed that several of the listed Street Feast traders weren't there which was a bit disappointing. Then, at about 10 pm hunger hit me and we asked a steward if Street Feast was still open. I was fairly sure they were going until midnight but we checked. She said they were there until 2 am. Yet when we got over there we found all but two of the traders had completely shut down or were in the process of shutting down. The bar wasn't even still open! My muffin from Original Fry Up material was delicious and totally hit the spot but still. 

Secondly - the bar in the Castle Tent. What was going on with it? A very limited stock made even more so by the fact it kept running out of things. As a non-beer drinker I kept ending up having to get the much-more expensive margaritas rather than a cider, or wine, say, which would have been the same kind of price as a beer as they didn't stock any. And if you did drink beer you could only choose between Tiger or Desperadoes (a very sweet beer with 'tequila' in it). And even when I realised Desperadoes were tolerable, when I went to order another one, they'd run out of those. Earlier they'd run out of Tiger! Me and my friends kept suggesting we go and get a drink we actually liked from the closest other venue, then remembering that they didn't let you take drinks in with you from other venues. I'm sure they did it because they couldn't guarantee it would be alcohol bought at a participating venue, but it was still a huge pain.

Thirdly - it was just so bloody popular! At times it felt like all the venues were oversubscribed with queues to get in or one-in-one-out situations. Couldn't get to the Dalston Roof Park. Couldn't get in to Cafe Oto. Offputting queues elsewhere. Couldn't get in to the Bugged Out area (the one place I had most wanted to go, and the only one still 'open' at the end of the night where, I would have thought, they should have anticipated everyone wanting to go regardless of whether they liked the acts). When we got there it was just no dice for getting in at all. Disappointing. 

But yes, not disappointing enough to put me off going again as I had a whale of a time despite all this. And some of these things were inevitable or unavoidable, though not ALL of these things. Maybe it will be a little different next year in which case it could become my top festival to go to.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Coming up in May...

I have been going to lots of things lately and have a bit of a backlog of things to blog about. Not only that but I've got a few things coming up which I'm going to which I'm excited to blog about.

So, stay tuned for posts on Land of Kings, the Well and Bucket, Punch and Judy covention and Happiness Forgets which I went to in the last week or so.

In the next few weeks I'm going to The Miller's opening. And I'm very much looking forward to Limbo at the London Wonderground. I was sent a press release about this (it doesn't happen often!) and some photos so let me share some of that with you now (there's also a trailer on my To Do Page):

Presented in the magnificent 1920s inspired Spiegeltent, LIMBO is full of cult couture from a cast of international performers. The festival itself is the perfect place to relax and enjoy London. It offers beer tents, sideshows, live events and fairground rides – a piece of 1950s Coney Island right in the heart of the capital. Music will be a dominating force of the production with New York’s Sxip Shirey composing exclusive music for the show with his ecstatic melodies, irreverent electric-acoustic noise and playful, sexy beats. He will be joined by musicians Grant Arthur and Mick Stuart.

Welcome to an exotic illogical world, where peculiar characters wait on the edge of false awakening. With the whisper of spirits and domination, illusion, suspension; LIMBO is boundless.
It's from the people who did Cantina last year, which I didn't manage to get to but I know people who did and they said it was amazing so I am sure this will be too!

I'm also looking forward to Zoo Zoo at the Blues Kitchen, which only happens twice a year. I've really been enjoying nights that play old school RnB and northern soul and this looks like one of the titans of the scene. I went to Mousetrap by the New Untouchables and had a whale of a time so have similar high hopes for this. I've been to the venue before and really like it so it should be a good'un.

And this Saturday will be my very first Tweat Up and I think I've picked the most amazing one to make my first as it centres around tacos and Mexican is my favourite cuisine. It will be such a chore to have to eat ten different tacos from different traders and vote on them all. Oh and to have to have two complimentary drinks as well. Fingers crossed it isn't too overcrowded or too rainy...

I'm also going to Field Day and the Hand and Flowers but I won't be blogging about those. Need to give myself a break sometimes. I'm sure I'll put some photos and comments on my Facebook page though so check that out (it's new!).

The Haggerston, 4th May

After our meal at the Dead Dolls Club, it was time for what everyone does on a Saturday night - drinking. And the Haggerston, a pub I had yet to get to, was just a few doors down. 

It was pretty busy when we rolled in at around 9:30. Standing room only which meant the place had pretty good vibes. There was a selection of various foreign beers that I wasn't at all interested in but I'm pleased to report that the house white wine was very pleasant. This place is 'cool' which meant that of course they couldn't serve their wine in a wine glass but a tumbler instead. Now, I'm used to this because I do tend to go to places that eschew boring old normal glassware but I must admit I do like my wine in a wine glass. If for no other reason than it makes you appreciate that it's wine you are drinking. When it's served in a tumbler it is all too easy to drink it like you would some juice and be done with it before you've even realised it. Of course, this is probably half the idea.

Anyway, the crowd were pretty young and the music was up. It wasn't too loud to talk - chatting amongst a foursome was doable without having to shout. 

And then after about an hour we managed to nab a booth on the side, which was even better as we weren't out for the long haul and wouldn't be dancing any time soon although some of the people in there might have been swaying about a bit with half an intention of turning that swaying into fully fledged dance moves with another couple of drinks. 

We stayed for a few hours in the end but I'd have happily stayed until it shut and would return - I can see an evening of ribs from Duke's and drinks here in my future...

Square Meal

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Breddos Tacos, 4th May

Mexican is one of my favourite types of cuisine - melty cheese, non-melty cheese, salsa and - if you're lucky - guacamole on everything - what's not to love? Burritos have taken off in a big way, and I do love them, but I've always secretly preferred tacos. This probably goes back to my days of eating Taco Bell on the American base and even thought they're the lowest of the low in Mexican cuisine, I loved them. I still love Taco Bell in fact, and I'm not ashamed to say it! I'm no foodie snob - as much as I appreciate cuisine done well, sometimes you really want the junk done badly!

Anyway, luckily for me, it's not all just burrito joints/vans these days - a lot of places are also serving up tacos. I've been enjoying the ones at Wahaca for a couple of years now. Buen Provecho do very good ones, L.A. Sueno weren't bad when I tried them at Feast (and I've heard good things about Mission Mariscos) and now, fairly new to the scene (or new to me at least) are Breddos Tacos, where clearly the tacos come first, even though they also do burritos.

I tried to get there a couple of weeks back but - a rarity for me - not having checked my twitter at all beforehand - I didn't realise that was pretty much the only Saturday in a while they weren't at Netil Market. So back we went two weeks later. They had four different versions - chicken with habanero and mango, pulled pork, chipotle short rib and a veggie one (think it might have been sweet potato, I didn't really pay attention). They're £2.50 each or three for £6.00. So of course we got three each - one each of all the meat ones. Moments before it had been fairly sunny as we chatted at a bus stop with my friend. As we queued for our tacos, the weather turned vicious. Rain is one thing -  what we braved to eat our tacos was full-on hail! So, I probably ate them a little more hastily than I would have had the weather been balmy and I could have sat down to enjoy them. I wish I had been able to savour them longer.

The corn tortilla making up the taco was a really good thickness - pliable but solid enough not to disintegrate from the juicy filling. They were all pretty tasty as far as tacos go and my favourite, surprisingly, was the chicken - it had a good kick but was also nice and fruity.

Breddos also has a large jar of pickled habaneros of which I had a couple on each taco. These chillies are not messing about! They're fantastic pickled but after having had my first two tacos with maybe one or two on each, I realised that if I actually wanted to taste my third one and not just have a mouthful of fire, I'd have to forgo the habaneros.

A wise move as I enjoyed my last few mouthfuls of tender, slow cooked beef with fresh and light salsa. I do love a salsa that isn't afraid to put a bit of radish in it for crunch. Delicious.

Less than a week now until I attend Tweat_Up's Taco Wars and you could say I'm pretty stoked. All the competitors tend to rustle up something special for these events and if Breddos were anything to go by I am in for one hell of a day. 

Dead Dolls Club, 4th May

Finally got myself down to the Dead Dolls Club the other weekend, this venue that had reached magical, enormous proportions in my mind. I follow them on twitter, and the tweets about the food provided by The Foragers had filled my brain with images of an outside grotto with gnarly trees and fairy lights hanging from above adjoined to a warehousey/cafe in front where the drinking and perhaps dancing happened.

It was nothing of the sort. I booked a place for us at 8 because it was a Saturday and because it's something of a novelty these days to be able to book. It probably wasn't strictly necessary but it did mean we got a table to ourselves rather than sharing, which is always nice.

The place was almost the opposite of what I envisioned. Completely missable from the front, only the most subtle of signs (and knowing the address) told you you were at your destination. Stepping inside did feel like stepping into a dollhouse writ large - or a stylised version of what a child might think a parlour should look like, with drawings of wallpaper all over the walls making it feel very quaint and picturesque. Other odd touches (see below) made you feel like you had stepped out of reality. Instantly I was charmed.

Little hands holding the lamps
The menu is a 'grazing' menu, which basically means that it's part of the slightly passe vogue for small plates. Our companions I don't think realised this at first and were astounded at how cheap everything was, because all the plates were about £7.50. That soon adds up when they're recommending two to three plates per person but it does mean you end up getting a better idea of the food overall. 

Everything on the menu sounded pretty good to me and we had a hard time choosing. To help things along I inquired about the 'special' cocktail of the day - only £6.50 compared to the normal £9.00. It was something mixing rum and cointreau and after that I kind of stopped listening as I'd heard enough to convince me. I think she might have also said it was 'strong' so I ordered one forthwith. It was very tasty and served in a cute little glass that reminded me of a squat old-style champagne glass. You know, the one modelled on a lady's fair bosom.

Finally we reached a consensus about what we wanted - we decided to go for two plates each plus two portions of chips to share.

I had the venison and ramson (had no idea what ramson was - still don't - but it sounded interesting) bourguignon and the scallops.

Both Stephen and Kevin had the wood pigeon (Stephen had been set on having wood pigeon in some form - the menu we'd seen beforehand had it as a burger) and Kev also had the venison bourguignon. Stephen had the muttom ham as his second.

Karin, our fish-eating vegetarian friend ordered the salmon ceviche and the mushroom and parmesan arincini.


When the food came out, it met with mixed appreciation. My pan-fried scallops with caramelised onion puree, apple puree, parsnip puree along with some sort of leaf (probably the foraged bit) was probably my favourite scallop dish out of all those I've eaten. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

The venison bourguignon was pretty boring though - it could easily have been beef rather than venison and I wished I'd saved some of my puree or had some bread to go with it. On its own it was a bit much. I didn't even bother to take a picture as they hadn't done anything with its presentation. Just imagine a stew you'd made at home and I'm sure you'll have an accurate picture.

Stephen didn't enjoy his wood pigeon very much, which he said was quite overcooked. I had a bite and agreed it was, although I still thought the taste was good and went some way to salvaging it. Kev, on the other hand, to be fair, liked both of his dishes.

LIke me, Stephen's other dish he liked very much. His mutton ham came with buttered leeks, hazelnuts and hedge garlic. But it was really just a charcuterie plate and not very substantial though as you can see the presentation was quite something and it did taste very good.

Karin's salmon (marinated in sloe gin and herbs,served with crunchy fennel and a coriander, lemon, orange and stonecrop dressing) was a lovely light dish which she very much enjoyed and the bite that I had was great. She said her arancini were heavy on the cheese (a very good thing) and seemed to like them very much. (I avoided them as they were mushroom-based. Down with mushrooms!)

The chips which apparently had chilli and ramson salt on them, were very good chips, nice and thick, cooked properly throughout, although, thinking about it now I don't recall much seasoning on them beyond normal salt. Still, they were good at the time.

I think two dishes plus half a portion of chips was just right, but it probably depends on which you ordered. For me it was fine. If I'd had the scallops with the ham though, I probably would have been hungry.

The desserts on the menu didn't make any of us feel we'd regret not sampling them, and so we ordered a cheese board to share at £10. There was just enough to have a nibble and I, despite not being a blue-cheese eater, quite liked both the blue cheeses but was too shy to ask what they were. Out waitress was also very obliging about giving us some extra bread as a normal portion wasn't really enough for us all. It came with two chutneys - one of which was quite spicy in the non-heat sense of the word, and which I really liked.

All of that with a bottle of wine between the four of us and some pints came to £28 each which isn't too bad for an evening meal. Would I go back again? Not for a sit-down dinner, no, but I'd happily go along and sit at the bar at the back and order that scallop dish again, or a plate of ham for something to nibble on. The foraging element felt like more of a gimmick than the main event, but to be honest I didn't expect otherwise. This place is also just around the corner from the Haggerston (where we went after) and Passing Clouds so a good place to drop in first as it wasn't that busy and a cocktail for £6.50 is bargain enough to draw me back.

Have also just heard that they've been given a late license so the nights might start getting a little livelier soon!

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Square Meal