Friday, December 26, 2014

2014 in Review

Everyone loves a bit of retrospection at the end of the year and I am no exception. It's very interesting to go through your blog stats and see what was popular and what was not. It's always a bit of a surprise. 

Lots of people do their Top 5 or whatever and I am going to do that too. But I also want to share some of the posts that I think deserved a bit more attention than they got. So, I've got a Top 10 least read - separating them out into Food and Other.

Here we go

Top 10 Least read Food posts

1) Morty & Bob - ubercheesy goodness.
2) Grill My Cheese - more cheesy goodness. With pork!
3) United Ramen - not-quite-hitting-the-spot noodles.
4) Ribstock - um, maybe the best day ever? So many ribs.
5) Bird - waffle burger. That is all.
6) Flat Iron - value for money tasty steak.
7) Roti King - drool. Freshly made rotis.
8) Salvation in Noodles - neighbourhood noodle joint.
9) St Moritz - more cheese! But too pricey.
10) Chez Elles - perfectly French bistro.

Top 10 Least read Non-Food posts

1) East London Liquor - East London's only distillery. Tres cool.
2) Rock Paper Scissors Championship - way more fun than you'd expect
3) Freemasons - ridiculous grandeur
4) Double Denim - not the 90s night billed
5) Luna Cinema - floating on water is the best way to see a film.
6) Design Museum - ingenious innovation
7) Regression Sessions - a blast, for the young at heart and actually young
8) Shunt - weird and wonderful
9) The Victoria - literally my new favourite neighbourhood pub
10) The Warwick - prime example of awful West End bars.

And here we go... my Top 5 Most Popular Posts of the Year!

Congratulations to those below:
5) Opera Tavern - small plates/tapas with style
4) Clutch - top notch fried chicken
3) Oslo - cool new bar for food and drinks, great space for gigs and clubnights upstairs
2) Tongue Fu - a spoken word night like no other
1) White Mink (by a long way) - electro swing bringing one of the best parties in London!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Thirsty Bear, 2nd December

I'm a sucker for a bit of novelty, so when I heard about a pub where you can pull your own pints I knew I had to visit.

The opportunity arose when we needed somewhere to go for a drink before going to the Grimm Tales' second show (as wondrous as the first), as that was taking place around the corner in the Oxo Tower Wharf.

At 6pm on a Tuesday evening, Thirsty Bear wasn't exactly doing a roaring trade (where is at such a time) but I noticed quite a few tables were reserved for later. Perhaps a pub quiz? I couldn't stay long enough to find out.

Not only do they let you pour your own drinks, but they also do table service - hi-tech table service, with the purpose of taking out the annoying part of being at the bar - all the queuting and jostling for service. Here (provided you get the right table) you simply log in to the iPad on the table, scroll through all the drinks (cocktails, beer, wine), food (nachos, burgers, chips etc), snacks and even cigarettes and make your selection. Then you sit back and wait for it to arrive. Unless you want tap water, in which case, it seemed you could only get that at the bar. (But why would you want tap water?)

Or, if you don't like waiting at all, you can let them know you'll be doing your own serving, by making use of one of the taps on your table. That's right, beer (or cider) is directly pumped to where you are sitting,from which you can have as much or as little as you like. You're given a glass to top up as you please, and this is charged in tenths of a pint. Because I just had to try it out, just before we left I poured myself what turned out to be a third of a pint and was charged £1.20 for it. Pretty reasonably priced. The downside to this method though is that you only have a choice of Strongbow (bleugh) or Amstel.

The other beers and wines on offer through the iPad are pretty decent - my friend had a Malbec and I had a glass of Picpoul. A few of us got some food - nachos looked good and other chips/breaded items were decent. 

The guy behind the bar was really helpful, explaining how the system works, and had endless patience when we left at the end and all wanted to pay our bar tabs separately. That's the only thing about the system - you get one login for the table, meaning all the drinks go on one person's tab, which could lead to some awkward bill splitting later.

Without the novelty this would be just a pretty average pub, but it's amazing how fun a bit of technology can make a normal experience.

So we went on to my second time at Grimm Tales - this time there were five stories to watch and a much bigger setting to wander around. Again, everyone loved them and, given there are 100s of Tales to choose from, I hope that this becomes a yearly event. Some pictures: 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Sun Tavern, 30th November

The Sun Tavern, formerly the Sun Tavern (a pub of that name has been there since 1851), is the second establishment from the guys behind the Discount Suit Co. and I'm happy to report that it is just as likeable as their first place. 

From the outside it doesn't look open, but have faith and push open those doors. Inside is, indeed, what I would describe as a tavern - cosy and low-lit with blinds covering the windows giving it the darkened look from outside.

I went at about 5pm on a Sunday afternoon for my first visit and there it was populated but there were still a few tables available. I went back again the other night - a Saturday night - and we again managed to get a seat, but only just. 

Discount Suit is an underground cocktail den, whereas this place is more pubby so you won't feel like you're missing the point if you have a wine (as I did on Saturday) or one of the local beers and ciders written on a board at the back of the bar. But, of course, they do still know their cocktails and this makes up the focus of the menu. So on that Sunday evening I had to try a couple in the time I was there.  

First up the Peach Fuzz. Gin, sherry, creme de peche, served in a metal tankard with a pile of ice like a julep. Their menu is divided into Tankard Drinks and Mixed Drinks. So I went for the 12 Mile Limit off the Mixed Drinks to try one of each. White rum, cognac, rye mixed with some grenadine and lime. This was my kind of drink. Strong and punchy and prettily garnished with flowers. And all the cocktails are either £7.50 or £8.00. My kind of prices. Well, sort of. Wine comes in choices of red, white or fizz and a very small glass (125ml) is £4.50. Expensive for unlabelled wine. Better to go for a bottle which is a very reasonable £16.

Bethnal Green is turning into the place to be if it isn't already and The Sun Tavern makes it even more of a worthy destination. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Dishoom, 21st November

I don't really know how to say this but, well, I thought Dishoom was... just... okay... I know, what is wrong with me? Wasn't I supposed to absolutely fall in love with it? I mean, I liked it, but that's as far as it went. If it were a beau, I'd probably go on a second date, but I'm not sitting by the phone on edge, waiting for it to ring.

Dishoom has been on my list for a long, long time. So long in fact, that in that time they have opened a third branch in King's Cross. I assumed, for the sake of speedy seating, that the best option would be to go to one of their more established branches to avoid any queues. But on twitter they assured me that their new branch had been pretty quiet since the 50% soft launch opening. And they were right. When we got there at six we were shown to a table straight away, and although the place did fill out a bit while we were there, there was no sign of any hour-and-a-half waits. (That's how long we were told we'd have to wait when we tried to get into the one in Shoreditch once.)

Dishoom sits comfortably between high-end Indian and eat-at-2-am curry. And the prices somewhat reflect that, although the portions are on the diminutive side, meaning it's not quite as good value for money as it would at first appear.

Trying to be reasonably healthy and not spend too much, Stephen and I just got one small plate, one grill and one main between us, as well as the requisite sides of a nan (garlic) and rice (they offer only one type – steamed basmati).

We ordered the okra small plate as our nibbles, which was as good move as we needed something to dip in the chutneys and dips that we were given for the table. These were delicious and it would have been nice to have some complimentary poppadoms to make the most of them. One was minty and cool, one was basically just chilli, so rather fiery, and the tamarind sauce was also surprisingly spicy.

Our lady fingers were great - most likely coated in something and lightly fried, they were a more than acceptable alternative to a bowl of chips. I easily could have eaten a portion on my own.

For the main event we ordered the plainspoken ‘chicken ruby’ and the lamb boti kabab. The ruby murray came in a thick, tomatoey sauce which was a little too tomatoey and sweet, not quite enough spice for the both of us. Perfectly nice to eat but didn’t make me swoon, and I was very much expecting to. We much preferred the chunks of lamb that had been marinated in red chili, garlic and ginger, although they seemed to get cold quite quickly.

To drink I had an East India Gimlet which was so nice I had another one. A very light, but strong drink, the celery bitters tempering any sweetness from the lime cordial.

Unusually, we had a dessert at Dishoom - we split the pineapple and black pepper crumble with custard, which was a good note to end on. Warm pineapple is a wonderful taste and the custard and crumble made it suitable stodgy and indulgent. 

In all it was a perfectly pleasant meal and I was only a bit disappointed because I'd had such high expectations. I’d be happy enough to return if someone suggested going (especially this branch - the setting is rather beautiful), but I’m not going to rush back. 

Dishoom King's Cross on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

See the menu and more reviews of this restaurant on Zomato

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

New Year's Eve 2014

New Year's Eve is barrelling towards us, have you decided where to go? Well, luckily for you I've spent the past couple of weeks collating places to go. Here are some of my favourites:

Bedroom Bar, 10-4 This is a great club that throws all kinds of eclectic nights. For New Year;s Eve they've got punk-rock, new-wave, and soul, pop music, salsa and rock and roll, Calypso, reggae rhythm, and blues. AND it's only £5 in advance with an option to pay only £10 on the door. You won't find many cheaper nights than that.

Except for Translate that is, which are basically having their normal night - no tickets in advance, just £5 on the door. Probably best to go down early though. 

After my friends threw an amazing house party with a UV theme, this night from Bounce really appeals. They're having a UV party, with free play all night once you've got a ticket, DJs until 3 and UV face painting plus other games and things! 10-15 quid, 8:30 - 3, last entry 11:30

If ping pong is your thing and you also want to pretend you're in the Wolf of Wall Street then Ping in Earl's Court may just make your dream come true with their Wold of Wall Street themed night. It could also be full of people who think they actually do live like the Wolf, so go at your own peril. More info here.

Blow Up. I went to Blow Up in the Bussey Building around this time last year and had a wicked time. Expect their mix of 60s soul and funk plus a good dose of britpop. And they're taking it central to St Moritz. 9 - 4, from 10 quid, more info here.

There's a couple more places taking it old, old school with Motown and Northern Soul. Choose from Stories in Broadway Market, or Casa Negra in Shoreditch. Stories is free, Casa Negra is pretty cheap at £15, unless you want to go early for their dinner party first. 

I found this one very, very tempting, despite it being full of children when I went to Regression Sessions before. I just love me some silly games and the idea of a space hopper dance off sounds amazing. Plus an inflatable zoo and they play a wicked mix of music.Better Together night at Renaissance Rooms, Vauxhall. Up to £22 quid though quite cheap now. More info here

If you want something a little more low key but you fancy a night out, then the Cat and Mutton might have just the thing - an East End Boozer night, where supping pints is encouraged. More info here. Until 4 am, £10 -15

For a crowd-pleasing mix of music. Brixton Jamm is hosting Gold Teeth which plays 90s hip hop, garage, funk, soul, rock and 60s tunes. It's on until 6 am for the hard partiers like me and tickets are only £15 now though they rise to £22 as they sell out.

Catch is also playing a spread of dancing crowdpleasing music if there are a few of you with different tastes. They've got 80s, 90s, hip hop, house, disco etc until 5 am, tickets start at £5 adn go up to about £20. More info here.

Top pick for me and my crew is Oslo's first New Year's Eve. It sounds like it's laid back fun playing a good mix of party music (disco, new wave, soul, indie) as it's basically their weekly Friday night Valhalla, gone large. I love the idea of the free canapes and drinks tasters making it feel like a big house party. More info here. 8-4 am, advance tix £10.

If you fancy some live music then The New Empowering Church have got a band on at 10:30 to get you in the mood for the midnight kiss, and then it's dancing until 5. I'm kinda gutted I'm not going to this one as it's the final night for this venue. 9-5 am, £25 in advance. More info here.

For indieheads then The Lexington sounds fun (until 4 am, £15 in advance) or there's This Feeling at The Macbeth (until 4, £25 in advance). 

For househeads then Dollop at the Troxy has to be a top contender. One word: TEED. But also MK. It goes until 6 am, with last entry at 11:30, and is a whopping £33 for tickets!

Village underground also have quite the lineup with Ivan Smagghe and GERD at the Krankbrothers night there. Also a late finisher at 6 am, and tickets are £20. 

Other good nights for techno or house have to be the Zombie Soundsystem takeover at Cargo (tickets only £10, plus even though the night finishes at 6, there's an afterparty), and Fabric have Seth Troxler and Jack Master. 

For something a bit different, the Looking Glass have a little burlesque going on with there party until 5 am (see here), or how about a Zodiac themed night at the Dead Dolls Club which includes dinner if you so choose and has music from Dan Beaumont and Hannah Holland? 

Or, Craig Charles is setting up his funk and soul shpp at Brooklyn Bowl, and The Correspondents are making an appearance! They know how to rock the place. 

If you want to know of any more places, just ask - this list is not exhaustive of everywhere I have investigated!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Book Club Boutique, 5th November

Lovers of spoken word! Bibliophiles! Where were you November 5th? I'll tell you where I was - lounging in the intimate and cosy Vout O Reenees club, listening to Salena Godden and her fellow chums published by Unbound deliver some very fine prose. And you should have been too! There was certainly room for more - in fact, without my Meetup group, I think everyone else there would have been one of the speakers or their nearest and dearest. Which is ludicrous, for it was an excellent event. It even managed to convert some un-poetry-minded people to the love of spoken word.

Vout O Reenees
We had about seven different artistes, who were celebrating the fact that they had recently had their poetry published by Burning Books. They were all 'label mates' if you will. And there wasn't a dud among them, although Dan Cockerill's pieces (who runs Bang said the Gun) were a little too child-centric for me. I'm sure you would have appreciated it more if you had children of your own.

All were very different - from the geek-chic poetry of Dan Simpson, musing on the unfortunate pseudonyms of the orange pac-man around the world, to the sublimely surreal Rob Auton, pondering what heaven might be like. Are chickens there? Do they get eaten? Do they mind?

We had Alice Furse reading an excerpt from her novel (the only non-poet of the night), about her first job and we had the wonderfully funny Mab Jones who, among other things, treated us to a touching poem to her hot young boyfriend about why she loves him.

Probably the most spine-tingling was Joelle Taylor, who I had seen before at Bang, but was no less affecting for that. As someone who works with young people, her poetry about a misused woman had a particular impact. 

And I haven't even mentioned A F Harrold, cohost Michelle Madsen or Salena Godden herself, who were all equally wonderful.

The night bills itself as 'books, booze and boogie-woogie'. It wasn't perhaps the booze-soaked revelry you might expect but it did have a certain rowdiness to it, coming from the fact that all the speakers clearly know and love each other and weren't afraid to show it. And there was a raffle - and I won a prize! Another one on my List to return to.