Monday, February 22, 2016

Joe and Za, 29th January

You can’t get pizza wrong really and Joe and Za did not. I had the spicy pepperoni which had lovely chunks of nduja on it and warmed my tongue in a pleasing manner. It’s so nice when something billed as spicy actually lives up to its description!
Carolyn ordered the Caribbean one which had perfectly encapsulated jerk seasoning on a pizza. Which seems weird and I thought that wasn’t really the essence I wanted captured on a pizza, but in fact it worked very well. It’s nice to see a vegetarian pizza which isn’t just margarita or mushroom.
I think the pizzas suffered somewhat from being delivered rather than eaten on the premises. We had to warm them up and I think that they lost a bit of crunch to the base, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and would be happy to eat there again. 
Joe & 'Za Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Outspoken, 26th January

I go to these spoken word nights and I always think, well, it can’t be better than anything else I’ve seen. But Outspoken knocked my socks off.

It has an excellent blend of music and spoken word and could be just the replacement for Poejazzi I was looking for. (Though I know it has been going four years already so shouldn’t be a ‘replacement’ as such).

I think the first half was the stronger half, starting with a slot earned by a performer at their open mic night who launched into an indictment on the way the media reports murder sprees/terrorism as he recounted his killing bonanza that turned out to be a dream, knowing he’d be reported as just ‘having a bad day’ because he is white.

So the start didn’t exactly pull any punches and so it continued with Nasima Hanif doing several pieces (sometimes with musical accompaniment – different) which centred on the theme of womanhood, especially from the perspective of being a Muslim. She meandered through abuse at home, sexual awakening and the very funny ‘Guide to telling your parents you are dating  a ginger, white atheist’. Fairly hard hitting but also humorous enough to keep it palatable.

Which is something I really like about spoken word done well – it can be humorous, yet more often than not it really makes you think. Most of the acts this night did just that.

Andy Craven-Griffiths followed this up with pieces primarily inspired by his thoughts on Kindness.

There were three musical interludes – the first, Chagall, a solo act who provided her own backing singers and backing music via these programmable gloves ( if you’re interested). Only two people in the world perform live using these. Some of the songs were straying a little too into Enya territory for my liking, but some of them had a very dark pulse that had my body moving. Of course it was very heavily electronica based.

The other two musical pieces were more traditional by comparison – an instrumental piano performance from Kamar (one of the hosts) and then the evening ended with Royce Wood Junior doing the singer-songwriter thing to piano, and then doing a couple of covers on guitar – one soul number, and one Prince. He had a beautiful, high, RnB type voice that was soothing to listen to.

It was my first Outspoken, as it was for the Meetup crew I took with me – all leaving trying to figure out if we could make the next one (which is on the 23rd). I am always wary when a night is so good. Can they possibly keep the quality that high every month? Were we just lucky to come on a night when they knocked it out of the park? The fact it has been running so long assuages me somewhat that it was not a fluke and of course I am happy to test that. We shall return...

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Seven Stars, 25th January

The Seven Stars is a dinky little pub behind the Royal Courts of Justice. There’s scant room at the bar or a smattering of tables with green and white chequered tablecloths to sit at and that's it. Barely room to swing a cat, if that's what you're into. 

It’s an odd place – I expected it to be cosier given it is so small, but the tables make it feel more like a little dining room. It terms itself a ‘gastropub’ and I was amused to find that pulled pork had found its way onto the menu at even such a traditional-seeming establishment.

I arrived early and managed to claim one of the small tables for me and my friend. These were soon in short supply so the place was quite full. But rather sedate, and not the sort of place to have the types of conversations I often have without raising an eyebrow if I were overheard. Kinda cute, but I think one visit is enough. 

The Seven Stars Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Monday, February 15, 2016

Rawduck, 23rd January

I’m kind of a fan of masturdating – once I’ve decided I want to get something to eat, and where, I can’t really be bothered to find someone to accompany me. So I’m often a solo diner. Up at the counter is best I find – I feel a bit less like everyone else thinks I’m some oddball loser.

So when I woke up at a half decent time on a Saturday I decided to brunch at Raw Duck, where I have been wanting to brunch for some time. The atmosphere was perfect for a neighborhood joint. There were a lot of people there but it wasn’t so full that people couldn’t just drop in and be assured a seat. I was seated immediately where I had to face the eternal condundrum – do I fancy eggs or something sweet?

I hardly ever have pancakes, often erring towards eggs when I’m out so this time sweet won out and I ordered the buckwheat pancakces with smoked bacon. I balanced it by having a bloody mary, which certainly had some poke! It wasn’t particularly fancy, no odd flavours or elaborate garnishes, but it was probably the strongest bloody mary I’ve ever had.
I busied myself with the loner’s best friend – social media while I waited for my flapjacks. By this time I had forgotten the smoked element of the dish and when I bit into it the flavour hit me like a sledgehammer. This is no regular smoked bacon, like that Danepak crap you get in the supermarket. It is powerful. The smokiness clings to it. It is like sitting next to a wood fire and getting the smoke in your throat. It would have been too overpowering but for the sweetness of the maple syrup. Meanwhile the buckwheat pancakes were crispy and a reasurringly stodgy texture, while not being overly heavy. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

And thus I was reminded of the downsides of solo dining – no other dishes to try.

Rawduck Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Joe's Camden, 23rd January

I think it says a lot that in the middle of January when almost the entire population of London had given up on reveling, Joe’s in Camden was heaving.

At first I thought it was just going to be us in the place, doing what we could to fill the dance floor but slowly and gradually the place filled until I suddenly became aware the place was busy as hell. And quite deserved. The place is a bar and does food during the day, but at night the jams are played and people start to jive. Every night is retro night, and they mostly play 50s and 60s rock and roll. So you can expect Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley but also the Jackson 5 and Etta James. We were rockin’ and rollin’ non stop. It’s very much an anyone’s bar – unlike a lot of the retro/vintage nights I’ve been to, the people here weren’t dressed especially authentically, nor taking up the dance floor pulling moves that would intimidate you into just gawping as an onlooker on the side. If you like Rock n Roll or Motown then this is where you want to head.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Bump Caves and Found, 22nd January

Earlier in the evening Carolyn and I stopped off for a cocktail at Bump Caves. I arrived just after 6 and was the only person in the place. Then Carolyn arrived, then one other. We wondered why it was so empty. And then all of a sudden, at around half past, the people piled in!

I liked the cocktail I ordered - The Very Last Word – and Carolyn’s Old Italian Roots was pretty good but I didn’t fall in love with the bar. A bit generic.

Bump Caves Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Found, on the other hand, I liked a lot. It was small and lively. But not too lively – a bunch of boys started getting lairy just before it closed, singing/chanting Bowie songs and the guy behind the bar told them off. They started again and he was like, seriously guys – this just isn’t the bar for that. And it’s not. Fun times, yes. ‘Lads’ getting noisy and drunk, no. It just feels like an extension of the bar above  - Casita, which is also small and lively, and friendly. I had a Sloe-ly Does it with rye, sloe gin and chambord - typically me - short and boozy. And Carolyn had the Heaven and Hell - featuring jalapeno agave, framboise and raspberry. I could have happily swapped, and easily drunk a serving two times this size.
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After this was a second outing to Cherry Cola – this was at The Macbeth but from now on they’ll be at their spiritual home of the (now renamed The Crowndale) Purple Turtle.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Great Big Kiss, 7th January

When I started my Meetup many moons ago, the very first night we went to was a 60s indiepop, northern soul night called How Does it Feel to be Loved at The Phoenix. I had never heard of it before but it was a rollicking good time and I decided I wanted to try its sister night Great Big Kiss where the focus was a little more on girl groups. Almost four years later and I crossed that off my List.

It was also held at The Phoenix which is a venue I have since come to know very well. It was a cold, rainy January night, and even though the turnout from my Meetup was actually about the same as normal, I think the number of people who would normally have come to the party was under par. We went downstairs at about 10 and it was pretty empty. It wasn’t much busier by 11 and had it not been for my Meetup group the dance floor would have been all but empty. But we’re an enthusiastic bunch and we got to dancing almost straight away. The music was a lot more authentic than I had anticipated. That's another way of saying none of us knew any of the songs. I had expected at least a few we would be able to sing along to. It was also a lot slower in tempo than we felt was ideal. More swaying than foot stomping. We suspected it might get a bit livelier come midnight, and it seemed to – a bit  - but still no songs we recognised. However, patience was key and within half an hour we were singing along to Beggin’ and Louie Louie. The night I would say had mostly focused on Northern Soul and much less on the Motown and indie it also advertised. For passing fans of the genre it was a long time to wait for the ‘good stuff’, but if you’re genuinely into this kind of music then you will love it.

You could easily tell the ‘fair weather' fans from the serious followers as they had the genuine dance moves down pat and were very much dressed the part. We weren’t. I had a fun night for sure and danced for a good couple of hours but I would probably not return to this night and go to Soul of the 60s or All shook Up instead.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Oklava, 22nd December

I read one review of Oklava and decided their food had to be in my mouth as soon as possible. With Alison (a once frequent character on these pages) back in town for a couple of nights, I thought it would be perfect for us to go and have a few bites, some wine and catch up. As it indeed was. Considering the weather was quite dreadful and it was Christmas week, it was still fairly busy and we perched at a side bar.  Choosing what to eat was an enjoyable chore as everything sounded so good. And pretty much everything I ate made me want to go back and try more. Even the moreish bread with date butter (date butter!) which shows how a simple twist could elevate something ordinary to a star dish. I can almost taste the sweet and creamy richness in my mouth right now.
The cherry pearl barley with crispy kale, yoghurt, chilli butter and curls of sheep’s cheese was so intensely flavoured it was my other star dish of the night. Next came our lamb fat potatoes (how indulgent) with salty hellim (halloumi to you and me) on the side and a rich duck egg on top. Small plates are for sharing but how I loathed giving up any of this dish to my friend.
The monkfish was good but I feel the portion was too small for me to get the most of the flavours (citrus, urfa, chilli and coriander as it happens), as again, we split it between the two of us. My friend ordered the prawns with garlic, chilli and fennel, of which I had one. These were very decently sized specimens, and succulent.

Last up was our lahmacun. We were advised to take it and roll it up with the pickles inside, which is what I did, giving me a very fresh, crunchy and light sort of burrito. I liked this, even if the lamb on the bread didn’t come through all that much.
Each of the dishes were good enough though, to make me want to pop by again to try a few more. 

Oklava Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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