Monday, April 27, 2015

Shackfuyu, 4th April

The French toast at Shackfuyu seems to be taking on a life of itself. I have even seen it described as ‘iconic’ and that if you don’t have it when you’re there then you haven’t done Shackfuyu right. So of course we ordered it. And it was good. Really good. I would describe it as like bread and butter pudding but without the annoying raisin bits and condensed into one intense triangle. It is served with matcha green tea ice cream, and while this wasn’t particularly offensive, neither did I enjoy it all that much. I don’t like tea, or green tea, so obviously I’m a little biased. It was smooth and creamy but I thought it left a sort of minerally taste in my mouth I didn’t love. I’d have happily had just vanilla ice cream with it, and for this reason I can’t jump on the hype wagon for this dish.
And the rest? Some really good dishes available here, but overall the restaurant didn’t grab me. A bit like Flesh and Buns, where the food was definitely tasty, I am perhaps a little too cash strapped to fully appreciate it, as to do it right you probably need to not care about how much you’re ordering. I enjoyed what I ate but they were the epitome of small plates – far too tiny to satiate (and I had worked up quite an appetite flinging a pillow around at the International Pillow Fight in Trafalgar Square). The scallops for example sounded delicious, served with a chilli miso butter but we just couldn't justify paying £8 for one!

So I ordered two of the yellowtail sashimi tostada which came with avocado shiso instead. This was light and fresh tasting but mostly tasted of avocado.  

Korean wings in a sticky and zingy sauce were messy and enjoyable and actually not a bad size for a portion. 
The 'prawn toast masquerading as okonomiyaki' however was really quite tiny and disappointing - disappointing because it was a really different way to serve this that I relished eating and I wished there were more of it. I could have handled three times as much, especially once I gave Stephen a bite or two. They were a touch heavy handed on the bonito flakes for my liking but otherwise the Japanese mayo and seaweed flakes made this an improved version of prawn toast.
Stephen had the special of mussels which he wasn’t too fussed about it – he said the broth was a bit thin and bitter.
And finally (well, not finally - that was the French toast) we had some mac and cheese with roe which I avoided. Looking at it now it looks delicious and yet no memory surfaces of me savouring it so didn't make a big impression.
So, the food didn't rock my world probably because what I wanted was a proper dinner rather than a few snacks, and I couldn't afford to do that here. I would happily revisit for a light bite or two before heading out drinking however, just to line my stomach.
Shackfuyu on Urbanspoon

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Friday, April 24, 2015

The Widow's Bun Ceremony, 3rd April

London is full of strange rituals and ceremonies – the Ceremony of the Keys where a Beefeater goes round locking up the Tower of London every night (and you can go and watch) is one on a large scale. At the other end of the scale is the touching ceremony held every year at the Widow’s Son pub in Bow. It also doubles as an exuse for a right ol' knees up.
Legend has it that a woman’s son went to sea and was due to return home at Easter so she baked him a hot cross bun and put it in the window for him. He didn’t turn up, but having faith that one day he would, and not wanting him to think she’d given up hope, each year she did the same. When she died and the place was turned into a pub, the pub upheld the tradition. So, each year, at 3 pm on Good Friday, a hot cross bun is hoisted into a net which hangs above the bar in remembrance of the original sailor and also, as it turns out, other sailors who have passed away over the years. Locals and non-locals alike gather to take part in/observe this East End tradition and it is quite a merry affair with music blaring, and a big spread laid on. At 3 pm on the dot a young sailor is lifted into the air to do the honours and everyone sings along to some sea shanty (I presume) and also God Save the Queen. And then we have a moment of silence as we remember those in the community who passed away, which is quite moving. But they soon lift the mood again with some tunes and that quickly gives way to karaoke.
It provides an excellent excuse to drop into a local pub which still has a community about it. There were the typical East End characters – older brazen ladies all done up in their war paint, hair and nails immaculate. There were attendees young and old, and of course, plenty of sailors. We stuck around for a couple of pints (a round was only just over £6!) and Stephen made sure to sample one of the many, many hot cross buns baked for the occasion and then  we headed off for our normal 'hipster' lives…

Thursday, April 23, 2015

R & She/Tipsy, 28th March

So, a gay R & B night, especially one that plays nothing but tracks by women can rightly be described as pretty niche. But what a popular niche that is!

Monthly at Tipsy is R & She, a clubnight covering just such a niche. Doors open at 9 and by 11:30 the place is already a sweaty mess. Tipsy is one of those basement clubs that is basically just a space, a bar and a soundsystem, no more no less. Everywhere else is for dancing, and so it is used. They warned on their Twitter feed that it gets busy and to get there early. We made a concerted effort to get there before 11 and I wouldn’t say it was very busy at all. Half an hour later and that had all changed. I was so pleased we got there that little bit earlier as it meant we could dance with a bit of room. We do like to spread out when we're dancing! And everyone was dancing straight away - the music defied you not to!

Especially with such a strong start – Amerie’s 1 Thing, Beyonce’s Naughty Girl and Aaliya’s More than a Woman made an appearance. It mostly stayed at that level although there was a weaker point in the night where we noticed they were cheating a little – playing remixes of songs made famous by men originally. For example Pretty Lady by Savana.

But other than that it was pretty solid – we bumped and ground to Nina Sky, Destiny’s Child and lo, not very long after I said I would love them to play a song by Cassie, so they did!

I don’t know if Tipsy has air conditioning but if they did it could not compete with the sheer number of bodies and the heat they were creating by moving. After a while, you just had to give yourself over to the sweat. It was all part of the fun! Naturally we stayed to the very end, even when my feet had more or less given up on me. I was happy to take a seat and sit-dance along. Fabulous, darling!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Joe's Southern Kitchen, 24th March

I’m all for getting bang for your buck but sometimes a little warning of how much food is about to come your way would be a good idea! We totally over-ordered at Bird because of this, and then, seemingly due to a quirk of fate, my friend and I did this at Joe’s as well.

I know that Stephen and I can easily eat a whole chicken between us so ordering a half chicken and another main between me and my friend seemed like a pretty sensible decision. It wasn’t. So we ordered the beef rib. What came to the table was not just one rib to share as I would have expected, but two! Yes… two! I asked Joe’s on Twitter and they confirmed that this dish is normally the one rib at 1kg. But they said sometimes, if the chef thinks it looks a bit small he’ll give you extra. So this must have been the case here which ordinarily is great but it did mean we couldn’t face finishing the equally good chicken. Without a beef rib each to eat I think we would have polished it off with room for more quite easily. But sadly we got well stuck into the beef and it was so good we couldn’t stop so we ended up leaving half the fried chicken languishing. And what I did eat of the chicken I ate out of a duty to try it, I certainly didn’t have any need to eat more! Should have asked for a doggy bag. (Or better yet – UK restaurants – start doing this as standard!). 

Joe’s Southern Kitchen first caught my eye when I noticed they had spinach and artichoke dip on their menu, something I haven’t seen on UK menus at all. This was my sole reason for putting it on my List. But in the interim, from following their twitter account, I began to want to try some of their other food as well. For ages they were known for their beer can chicken (another American standard) but lately they’ve got quite a following for their fried chicken (and even changed their Twitter handle to reflect this). And so it was the fried chicken that we tried.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I got there at about 6:15 and I noticed that happy hour finished at 6:30 so I quickly ordered me and my friend a margarita for £4 each. Worth noting that cocktails are £8 otherwise for the classics which isn’t a bad price at all for central London.

I did indeed manage to get the artichoke dip to start and we also got the corn bread with paprika butter and green tomato chutney. They have a strong ‘snacks’ menu – even better than their starters menu I would say. Jalapeno poppers and popcorn shrimp also feature so it was hard to narrow it down. I was a little disappointed when the dip arrived. It was in a tiny bowl. Typical England, I thought, thinking about the vat it would probably have come in in the States. Oh Joe’s – you totally fooled us with this serving size – we had no idea of the portions to come! The dip was ok – very cheesy, but could have done with being a tad warmer to make it easier to scoop. A bit more seasoning wouldn’t have gone amiss. Also, it was supposed to be toasted bread but as you can see this has barely seen the inside of a toaster. Crunchy bread would have made for easier dipping. Pita chips might have worked nicely.
The cornbread, however, was fantastic. It was much cakier than cornbread I’ve had in the past and we smothered it with the paprika butter which melted into the warm bread. Just yummy. The tomato chutney was nice enough but I didn't think it was needed here.

Then came the mains, which we ordered with southern fried potatoes (or home fries). You can't go massively wrong with fried potatoes but I have to say they did get them massively right, having a really good crunch and seasoning. I’ve already said how defeated we were by the mains. The chicken was spot on – succulent, with a crunchy, well flavoured coating, though it didn't seem to come with the tabasco honey I'd heard so much of. Perhaps this was the hot sauce provided on the table anyway. The beef had a nice bite and a great taste. Can it compete with somewhere like Pitt Cue or Hot Box? It’s not quite there (few places are) but it is much more than just lip service to BBQ food. I would happily order the same again. It's just what you want out of this kind of restaurant - nothing fancy, just tasty, dependable food.
Unsurprisingly for this part of town, there seemed to be quite a lot of tourists. You could tell by the conversation that the two parties next to us were on holiday (there was talk of trains to catch and ‘treating themselves to dessert cos they’re only here once’) but unlike many other places in Tourist Hell (Covent Garden), Joe’s isn’t just phoning it in. I need to go back and work my way through the rest of their snacks and give the beer can chicken a try! Or I might just have to try their new outpost in Kentish Town. That area is ripe for exploration…
Joe's Southern Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon
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Monday, April 20, 2015

(Picnic at) The Horniman Museum, 21st March

I have had on my List for about four years ‘picnic at Horniman museum’. Does eating a slice of chicken and ham pie in the cold count? I think so.

For our day’s diversions we took Stephen’s mum and her husband to the Horniman museum where they also happened to have a farmer’s market on. The best looking stall was the one dishing out sausages in baps but by the time I joined the queue they had run out of rolls so instead I got the pie. Tasty, but not the best thing to eat in the biting cold. We then went into the Horniman itself and whiled away a couple of hours staring at all the taxidermied animals. Sure it's kind of morbid but that's half the fun (the other half maybe being a juvenile delight in the name of the museum itself).

The most famous of which is, of course, the Walrus – stuffed so full that none of his natural wrinkles exist (it even has its own Twitter account). This is such a cute story from this age of exploration – people were going out and having these adventures, bringing back tales (and specimens) of exotic animals but the people back in Blighty had only the intrepid explorer’s descriptions or they had to guess at what the animal looked like. Hence overstuffing Mr Walrus. They didn’t know he had wrinkles in the wild.

How much fun can a museum full of stuffed animals be? Well, quite a lot actually. They have so many types of wildlife and species on show, we easily spent an hour wandering through it all. It gives you a chance that you would get many other places to get up close to animals of all shapes and sizes. So what if they’re dead? And, I must admit, in many cases, rather mangy looking. Some of them are more than a little forlorn. The accompanying text is a bit 'students on a field trip' but ignore that and it's just as fun for an adult to meander through and look these animals in their beady dead eyes.

They also had an exhibition on Romanians in London and a gallery dedicated to African art and culture which looked quite interesting but interest from my other parties was beginning to wane so we headed back into town for Blacklock.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Lardo, 22nd March

Lardo is just lovely. It has perfectly positioned itself as a neighbourhood restaurant and was exactly the kind of place we fancied for a Sunday evening meal out, that was full of fresh and tasty, good food without us going overboard. It’s the kind of restaurant you can just pop to on a whim – no special occasion needed. Except for the fact that if you do that on a Saturday night you will probably find the place full.

And there is good reason for this. As I said, we kept things fairly simple and the food is relatively simple. The menu is quite short but long on Italian specialities. Lardo is a type of cured meat and while they didn’t have just this on the menu they do cure all their meats in house (and it made an appearance on my pizza). We orderered the burrata and lomo (I think) to start, and also asked for some bread. The burrata was so creamy without being soggy, with a good dose of salt and oil (basil flavoured, I can't remember) and the meat was silkily fatty.

After our meat mound at Blacklock the previous night neither of us wanted to go down that route again. Stephen had the grilled mackerel and I had the spinach, egg and lardo pizza. This was such a good pizza - so much flavour. The egg was the right side of over for me, not running all over the place, and no uncooked white. The lardo was placed in thin sheets across the pizza like gossamer, almost hiding among the spinach until you put it in your mouth and it surprised you with its meaty bloom. I thought it might be too doughy and that I would miss the tomato but that wasn't the case at all. You could really taste the depth of the cheese - I enjoyed every mouthful, but there was a lot there so I gave a good fraction of it to Stephen to enjoy as well. 

I was treating us and so dessert had to happen. We had a chocolate tart which came with crème fraiche (bleugh) and was indulgent without being sickly - it was more cake than tart. I'd go back to eat here in a heartbeat. 

Lardo on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Blacklock, 21st March

So, it turns out Blacklock is not the kind of place to take your in-laws, not matter how much they might love meat. We waltzed in on a Saturday night at about 7:30 and got a table straight away. Had we left it much later that would have been more difficult but it didn’t get to queue-down-the-road territory, at least, not while we were there.

Their gimmick is simple – pay £20 ‘all-in’ and you get a selection of their canapes, an assortment of the different ‘chops’ they have that night on a plate and a side of your choice each. You can also choose to have one of the special chops if you want (written down the sides of the posts) but that could get pretty expensive.

So all four of us went all-in. We were brought four of each of the canapes (there are no starters). The dirty ham was a complete misnomer as there’s nothing dirty about it, but it was delicious – a very hammy bit of ham on a blob of I don’t know what but I could easily have eaten several. They were all delicious actually. Even the simple egg and anchovy was worthy of comment among us, and the blue cheese with pickles was fabulous. I’m still weaning myself onto blue cheese but I could easily have eaten all four of these myself.

Then came our plate of chops. I had wondered if it was really going to be as mountainous as everyone was making out and it was a decent showing. Stephen and I left completely stuffed but we probably ate more than our fair share as the in-laws are a bit fussy – if it had been just the two of us I dare say I would have had more than enough room for dessert and might have wished those canapes were a bit beefier too. In this instance, I still did have room for dessert but I was denied any because the in-laws were obviously keen to get the hell out of there. So I missed out on the famed cheesecake.

But anyway, what of the meat? Well, our server explained what we’d been given and advised us to chow on the beef rib first while it was piping hot – and don’t trouble yourself with a knife and fork! This was my favourite cut of the night – well grilled and seasoned, I had a good gnaw on the bones to make sure I got as much as I could. My least-liked cut was the pork belly rib which I thought tasted a bit too much like bacon. There were two types of lamb, which I couldn’t distinguish from each other (or maybe I just ended up eating the same thing twice) and a pork chop but I didn’t get a taste of that. Our sides were a grand success – a delicious half a sweet potato (a whole one might have been nice), a crunchy and light salad of heritage carrots, meat radish and some sort of seed and also some charred baby gem. All had more care and attention than you might expect of sides and this impressed me more than the meat feast itself!

The only thing I didn’t really like, was, strangely, the bread. All the chops sit on top of some bread which is meant to then soak up the meat juices. I felt like the bread may have been fried or something first as it was ever so greasy and I didn’t really like eating it. This is in contrast to the bread that sits underneath the grilled meats at Cirrik and which is one of the best bits of ordering it. 

We had chosen Blacklock because it was from people affiliated with Hawksmoor and we thought it might be a bit more ‘restauranty’ than your typical new Soho opening. But it wasn’t – it was total hipsterville with no frills décor and loud music. Which got louder at about 8 pm. I’m a pretty young and trendy person but even I prefer to be able to hear my companions without having to shout when I go out to eat. Or even to drink. (Especially when that music is uber-cheesy Kool and the Gang.) Loud music is for clubbing and late-night bars, otherwise it makes me suspect it’s used to mask a place’s lack of organic atmosphere.

Another thing I kept hearing about Blacklock was that it did cocktails for £5. I was very excited by this. Too excited. I should have known that for that price you would get a fraction of the size of a normal drink. This was literally the smallest cocktail I’ve ever been served. People shouldn’t say it is a cocktail for £5 – it is £5’s worth of cocktail. However, it was certainly strong (but then, without any room in that glass to add anything else, it was going to be!) and it tasted very nice.

So, I did like the food, but I’m not entirely convinced by the place. I’m just trying to picture if I’d be that tempted to return. If I had a hankering for some serious meat, I feel I’d be more likely to just go for a steak or a BBQ joint. Although the amount of food we had for £20 was more than decent, so this might make me head here rather than a steak house, or Flat Iron... I’m not sure. I think it’s definitely worth a visit once and would tick all the boxes if I had a meat-loving (younger) visitor I wanted to impress with London’s trendy restaurant scene but I'm not aching to go back myself. 

Blacklock on Urbanspoon

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Love Shake (food), 18th March

I’d already been to the Love Shake for some late night revelry some time ago. But I always wanted to go back and try their shakes. It’s part of their name after all. So I met up with some friends there the other night and we thought we’d get some food too. Unfortunately their cooking options were limited and the only thing they were serving were hot dogs. Awful, typically English, no flavour or substance hot dogs. Do not ever bother with these. However, milkshakes were definitely on the menu and the one I had was worth going back for.

I had the Mars Attacks and firstly, it was gargantuan. It was a hard shake with Makers Mark in it, and it was so big you couldn’t taste any alcohol in it at all. At least, not until you got towards the bottom when the whisky flavour suddenly appeared. It was served in the metal cup in which it was mixed, and it was freezing, proving it was made the proper way, with ice cream. Mine had peanut butter, toffee and chocolate and it was just delicious! I really did ‘love’ that ‘shake’. (groan). So, don't bother with the food, but definitely try a milkshake or stay for their cheap beer offers. 

The Love Shake on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Disco Dodgeball, 14th March

You all know the motto – Dodge Duck Dip Dive and Disco! Wait. What?

That’s right – disco!! Cos playing just plain ol’ dodgeball wouldn’t be any fun - Disco Dodgeball add dance into the mix! Not to mention animal fancy dress. It’s a tricky combination but in terms of fun that can be had it works a charm.

And so, I found myself in an edgy East London warehouse, a setting that would not feel out of place for illicit bare knuckle boxing, instead playing and watching games of dodgeball. I half expected dodgy bets to be taken in the corner but of course it was all just good silly fun.

I have to confess, we sucked. I had thought I had pulled together three teams of dodging might but serval no-shows left us severely depleted for our third team. Not a problem we though, we’ll just sub in people from our other teams. It was actually working quite well (well, apart from the fact we were losing every game) when all three of our teams were called to play at once, illuminating our lack of players. Somehow we still managed not to be disqualified as two teams were playing each other (4 on each side) so they just let us get away with it.

Ah yes, I mentioned we were losing. I’m totally putting this down to the fact that our teams were fluid entities, meaning we weren’t ever able to come up with a strategy, play to our strengths, or, more importantly, figure out our entrance battle. Where does this figure in dodgeball? Ordinareily it doesn’t. Balls are placed in a line and the two teams dash forward to try and get them, then dash back again to begin play. With disco dodgeball there is a dance off at the beginning of the match and whoever wins gets all the balls! This severely disadvantaged us. Without getting our team together to practice we lost almost every dance off and it was quite hard to avoid being hit when you had no balls. Still, I have to say this didn’t mar my enjoyment one bit. Playing was fun, doing the dance offs was tremendously silly, and watching everyone else’s dance off skills was quite eye-opening. These guys had brought their A game and had some serious moves!

My team (the bears) were the ultimate losers. It was announced that us and one other team had won the wooden spoon prize for being the worst. Or so we thought. I merrily went about changing out of my sneakers into my platforms for the afterparty, and to watch the remaining rounds. Some of my team decided to head home. We let go, grabbed some amazing (and massive) food from White Men Can’t Jerk and enjoyed the bouts which lead to the final. Then all of a sudden, my team was being called to play! We were supposed to do a final head to head with that other team for the wooden spoon prize! But we couldn’t get the team together and had to forfeit. We couldn’t even win the losingest game. Which, I think, makes us the ultimate losers. I’m kinda proud of that.

As if Disco Dodgeball with dance-offs wasn’t silly enough, they had hosts with the mosts in full-on disco gear (Niles Dodgers being the most glam) and our commentators were in full character form. It was all meant to be light-hearted fun and to keep it that way the motto was ‘Don’t be a Dick’. If you were found to be a dick (taking it too seriously, repeatedly not going out when you’re hit) you were forced to wear an inflatable penis. Seems fair. They could also penalize you by rolling out someone in a massive inflatable costume who would basically shield the other team from getting hit and thus put you at a disadvantage.

As I said, there was an afterparty, after – a mini Regression Sessions with ball pit, bouncy castle, space hoppers, absolutely wicked music just like last time, and a round of pass the parcel! I didn’t seem to notice or mind the age of the attendees this time, just had a serious amount of fun. I was kind of gutted that it started to clear out a couple of hours after the dodgeball ended and we decided to head to the bar over the way (Number 90). I had wanted to try this out in my last jaunt to the Wick but it had been shutting whne we got there. I feel I didn’t miss much. For an area that should be effortlessly cool, we all felt Number 90 was trying a bit too hard and wasn’t sure what it was meant to be. Wine bar? Pub? Gig space? It was none of these convincingly.

Here's a good montage of the tournament:
Disco Dodgeball vs Regressions Sessions : Battle of The Beasts

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Bogan Bingo, 12th March

If there’s one thing that can be said about the Aussies it’s that they now how to party. So as soon as you let them loose on bingo, you know it’s going to get a lot messier than most bingo you’ve ever played (unless you’re familiar with Rebel Bingo).

The name of the game is Aussie chavs, or Bogans, and our hosts for the evening really ham this up. Honestly, they are so immersed in their roles, high-octane the whole time, I don’t know how they find the energy to do it on a weekly basis. The Slug in Fulham is completely taken over for the evening by the Bogan boys and their bingo ballerz and there are lots of drink offers on as well as some dude food to soak it up. Thirty wings for £7.45? FIFTY for £9.45? What a bargain! We got there quite early and apart from the cheesy songs being played, wondered where the 'bogan' was going to come in. That is, until Trevor and his co-host come in, fully ‘okkered up’ with mullets, vests, denim cut-off shorts and strewth! some fruity language to get you going. Music is full throttle and you just have to be even louder to compete and claim your prize (though luckily they use microphones so you can hear the numbers being called).

There are a few rules. Or should I say rituals. To do it right, if you got bingo you had to do rock horns, grab your crotch, clench your butt and shout ‘BLOODY BINGO!’ And that was just to start. For any number ending in one, you were encouraged to shout ‘up your bum’, for 55 you gave everyone near you high fives, for any number ending in 3, one half of the room drinks, any number ending in 7 the other half does. Six meant ‘your tits’ and if any girls actually got them out, you got a drink for each nipple. This number didn’t seem to make an appearance until near the end of the night when plenty of people were liquored up enough to actually do it!  What with all of this, plus the music blaring and the Bogan Boys dancing, there wasn’t much time to play the actual bingo, so it was limited to two games. Usual rules applied – you were looking for a line, two lines and then full house. And yes, professional dabbers were used.

We were heartily and strenusouly warned - this is all about winning. Taking part counts for nothing! If you weren’t a winner, you were a loser. And who would want ot be a loser when there were such fab prizes as a framed photo of a panda on a slide, and a cereal dispenser, not to mention a Rick Astley dustpan and brush! But there were serious prizes on offer as well such as bottles of wine, £25 bar tabs and a real trip to Egypt!! To win a prize you first had to get bingo, and then you were invited up to pick from the board of famous bingo bogans including a fat kid of the week and Jesus (long hair, sandals, water into wine – of course he’s an Aussie!).

Then at half time there was an air guitar competition (though no one really beat the hosts at their own game) and there was also a round of guess the 80s or 90s theme tune for a free drink.

The music wasn’t necessarily my thing but it was hard to fall for the sheer brute charm of the event and the music all adds to the theme. It was mainly 80s and 90s cheesy rocky anthems like Black Betty, Dancing in the Dark, Summer of 69 which you can bop to while the hosts dance around like loons. Everything is turned up to 11 – this is ROCK bingo. They don’t just spin those balls, there’s a smoke machine and plenty of tongue action!

The grand prize is well worth entering for that alone (as usual I won a sum total of nothing – bingo is not kind to me) but it is an absolute blast. The pub stays open way after midnight and you’re encouraged to stay and keep the party going. But unfortunately, it was on the wrong side of town for me (it’s one negative point) so I couldn’t stay to see what kind of carnage it descended into.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Babaji, 9th March

Levantine food, Turkish food, I’m lapping it up. So I really wanted to try Alan Yau’s new casual place in Piccadilly, Babaji Pide Salonu, which is dishing up some traditional Turkish food with a focus on pide (their version of pizza, a bit like their lahmacun but, I think, doughier bread and differently shaped).

It’s a no-bookings deal but it was 7pm on a Monday so we didn’t think there would be too much trouble getting in and indeed we only had to wait ten minutes. The narrow space on the ground floor is deceiving so if it looks full fear not, there are plenty more tables upstairs. Many people have commented on the décor of Babaji and it’s easy to see why. It’s polished yet cosy and feels like an upmarket tea salon.

Neither my friend nor I were there to stuff ourselves so we ordered moderately – a pide each, a salad to share and then we ended up getting dessert after seeing someone else’s. I ordered the lamb pide as I do like to get the classics when I’m in a place to see if they’re done right. My veggie friend ordered the feta, kale and sultana pide. Mine arrived as expected – a flat bread cut up into pieces with minced lamb and some sparse flecks of tomato and peppers. Carolyn’s arrived as a sort of roll which was a little different and meant we’d munched a good third of it before realizing we hadn’t spotted any sultanas at all. Carefully uncurling the others, we could see none. We enquired and the waitress had to check on what was supposed to be in there before peering herself and agreeing she couldn’t see any either. She agreed to replace it, and so we waited for a new one to arrive. And waited. And waited. I think we had to ask whether it was on its way eventually and I was pretty convinced they’d just forgotten about it.
In the meantime, I was trying to make my lamb version last as long as possible so that we weren’t eating at different times. I’m sorry to say that this one really did lack flavour and seasoning. It wasn’t unpleasant to eat, it was just bland and I really wished for some chilli sauce to perk it up.

The salad was nice enough – light and fresh, the classic combination of cucumber, tomato, and onion with plenty of parsley and some Turkish green pepper, it had plenty of dressing that I used to dip my pide in.

We had ordered a glass of wine each. I don’t know why some restaurants are so mean with their wines – we were served a 125ml portion which is about two gulps. I had finished my wine and the glass was sitting there when someone came along and whisked it away. I tried to catch them – not because I wanted the empty glass but because I wanted a refill but they were way too quick, and had no intention of checking if I wanted any more. Slightly odd service. Finally Carolyn’s pide with sultanas turned up and we were able to corner the waiter and get another glass of wine. The first had had far too much feta in it, the second had almost too little. But, despite not really loving raisins etc myself, I do think this one needed them – you needed something sweet to balance the sharp cheese and irony greens. Obviously why the chef intended to include them in the first place!

The whole meal was underwhelming to say the least both in terms of service and food, though to their credit, they did take the veggie pide off the bill.

We also ended the dinner on a high note as we shared their kagit helva ice cream sandwich. Clotted cream ice cream in a chewy wafer with a pistachio coating. I could have done with more pistachio but this was absolutely yummy to eat. If I were being ungracious I would point out that the yummiest bit – the wafer – probably was bought in and not made by them but it still tasted great and I’d happily eat that again. And next time I wouldn’t share!
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