Thursday, September 29, 2016

Padella, 19th September

I’ve been itching to get to Padella. I never used to be a huge pasta fan, but ever since having some silky smooth and buttery pasta at Vasco and Piero, I have been searching for other Italian places to give me the same experience (preferably for less money).

Padella is the fast-serve pasta place from the guys behind Trullo. It’s small and trendy, and doesn’t take bookings so queuing is the name of the game. Unless you can get there early. At 6 pm on a Monday we could have waltzed in except for the fact that one of our number was late and they only seat complete parties. As the clock ticked by to 6:30 we were getting antsy – we had an Escape Game to get to at 7:30 and were running out of time to eat! We were considering suddenly saying we were only a four after all but the girl seating people took pity on us and let us have a table as long as we ordered for our friend while we waited. Luckily, just as we sat down, she turned up. 

The good thing about this place is that pasta is a quick dish to make and even the one which required a bit of  a wait (mine) was only 15 minutes or so. We were in and out in half an hour! Which might be slightly annoying if you had queued for over an hour in the first place but really suited us.

The butternut squash and sage butter ravioli I think spoke to most of us, with all of us considering it at some point. That was partly why I ended up choosing the cacio e pepe so that we didn’t all have the same thing. Plus cheese and pepper are two of my favuorite things. The Late One had slow cooked tomato sauce and my friend Amy tried crab for the first time, in linguine.

We had some beautiful bread with olive oil and creamy, squidgy burrata drizzled with even more olive oil and a plate of the spinach, anchovy and chilli to entertain us during the short wait.

When our plates arrived, I cannot pretend I did not have food envy. My plate seemed like a very small portion of ugly worms. Pici is a pasta I hadn’t had before and is, apparently a thicker, tube like form. Looked gross. But tasted very nice. Just cheese and pepper could have been a bit claggy and overly stodgy but it wasn’t at all. Each, chewy piece of pasta was nicely coated but there was no excess. I do wish the portion had been maybe a quarter to a third bigger though.
I had a taste of the tomato dish – as tomatoey as you could wish, and also a bit of the ravioli which instantly filled my mouth with the saginess of the butter. Lovely.

I feel like Padella is more of a lunch place, although if you wanted you could make more of a meal of it by ordering pretty much all of the pastas on the menu and treating it a bit like tapas. And look! Pasta is an anagram of Tapas. Can’t be a coincidence…
Padella Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Square Meal

Monday, September 19, 2016

Walluc, 1st September

Well, that was the worst meal I’ve had in recent memory.

I didn’t think you could go far wrong with dipping things in melted cheese but Walluc is here to prove otherwise. I had high hopes – suspecting that it might be a rather overlooked gem on Redchurch street, being forsaken for all the hipster places springing up all around. 

It is a ramshackle kind of place, and I’m never entirely sure of its opening hours so I suspected a quirky personality that I could really bond with lay inside. We walked past in June on a First Thursdays walking tour and it was rammed and buzzy, further adding to my hope. However, when we went, we were the sole customers.
There is only one option on the menu to eat – fondue. This is served with boiled potatoes (undercooked) and bread (comically stale and hard). Four tea lights were brought out and a stand set over them. Then the pot of cheese was placed upon it and given a stir. Stirring was essential as it was so lukewarm to begin with it started to set almost immediately. We ate as quickly as possible but still ended up with basically a lump of gooey cheese in the bowl before too long.
The best I can say about this is that at least it is not expensive at £13 for two. And to give them some benefit of the doubt, perhaps, for two people, they just couldn’t be arsed to make an effort with the food and looked upon us as an opportunity to get rid of their leftover product. Androuet, however, is similarly priced and is streets ahead in terms of, well, everything. 

Walluc Bistrot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, September 16, 2016

Dusty Knuckle and SK London Fields, 30/31st August

Two days off mid-week meant getting lunch from places I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to get to. First up – Street Kitchen. I’ve tried all their different places I think – the airstream, the sandwich place in Broadgate Circle, plus when they’ve popped up in other places. Of course I had to try their hatch in London Fields.
They were predictably good. The special was lamb with crushed potatoes and roasted veg with pesto. They offer 'slow food fast' and this was as good as I have come to expect. Slow cooked lamb that broke away easily when nudged with my fork. Plenty of potatoes and roasted carrot and courgette providing sweetness. Not exactly the most summer-centric meal to have on what was a lovely sunny day but plenty tasty nonetheless.
Street Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

On day two, I went over to Dusty Knuckle in Dalston and had porchetta in brioche. While it tasted nice, the experience of eating it wasn’t that pleasant. It was absolutely stuffed with different things, which made the bread horribly soggy and all just seemed to fall out all over the place. There was fennel, kohlrabi, red cabbage, plus the tomatoes the pork was cooked in and some ogleshield cheese. The bread didn't really stand a chance against all of this, and as a result it was hard to get a mouthful that contained most of the ingredients. I was mainly picking individual bits out, or scooping them up where they fell. Which isn't the ethos of a sandwich. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Whirl-y-gig, 30th July

Whirl-y-gig, being very much of the Planet Angel style of raving, was therefore, of course, an incredibly fun and friendly night. Borne out of a dancing self-expression event for the Association of Humanistic Pscyhology, they outgrew them and now host an almost monthly clubnight in London and their own festival Whirl-y-fayre. It has a bit of a festival feel to it – like Wonderland – lots of decoration and colours everywhere. They try to keep the music eclectic but dancey. This didn’t work for me quite so well as it meant they chopped and changed styles, so you didn’t know if you would like what was playing one song to the next. And the sound levels in the Camden Centre, I felt, were woefully low. You could easily have a conversation at the back of the dance floor, which is not what I want from my raves.

However, I had a brilliant time. When the music I liked was played, it was great, and I have to say it did veer towards my style of thing as the night wore on. Everyone seemed so up for it and so happy to mingle and chat to people they didn’t know. I lost track of the number of people I befriended. They have interesting bits and pieces around - such as a board to stick messages on (someone wrote something very kind about me!) which makes the night feel a little more interactive and encourages getting to know people. I came away from the night with a huge smile on my face.

They finish each night with a parachute – you know, like when you were at school. This does feel a bit random as you all just sit underneath it and natter to yourselves, but the visuals are really quite cool!

One other small niggle would be that it ends at 4 am which is, of course, far too early. But there are always afterparties…

Friday, September 9, 2016

Boceto, 29th July

With Boceto, the guys behind Three Eight Four and Seven at Brixton have made the schlep North of the river to Mare Street, an ideal location for their kind of thing. Having been to Three Eight Four and quite liking it, I expected to like Boceto too. It has more of a food focus then 384 but some interesting drinks too.

And I did like it, in general. Unfortunately it was rather marred by having the worst tortilla my little mouth has ever endured. It was so so dry, clearly had been sitting out all day. Not one little ounce of moisture in it and very little flavour. Seasoning was AWOL. 
On the other hand, the lamb that I had was pink and tender and the steak my date had was the same, with a yummy chimichurri sauce that was just the right amount of in your face with its heat (though too much for my companion - what a wuss!).
The pan con tomate was absolutely loaded with 'tomate' and was a pretty filling accompaniment.
With a slight twisting of my arm I decided to have dessert and of course had to try the churros as they were in keeping with the Spanish theme. I’m no churros expert but these were… alright I guess. Didn’t have me professing any great love for them.
As I was with someone who doesn’t drink, I limited myself to just the one cocktail – Mother’s Ruin, which had been imported from their Seven branch. Quite fun to pour yourself and a light and summery drink.
The place has a really casual vibe and I’d be happy to pop in for a drink again but probably wouldn’t bother too much with the food. 

Boceto Hackney Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Square Meal

Thursday, September 8, 2016

KaraUke, 21st July

KaraUke was a little shambolic but I think that’s part of its charm. No formal screens with the words lighting up as you go for KaraUke. Not even printed sheets of paper to sing along with a la Hip Hop Karaoke or Reggaeoke. No, you can hold an iPad and sing along to that, while the words are put up on a screen behind you so the audience can sing along, but the entire song is displayed at once which makes the words rather difficult to see.

I was also surprised that the ukulele band was in fact a proper band – not only were there several uke players but there was a bass guitar and a drum set. I was a little disappointed at first as it wasn’t quite as quaint as I was expecting but it was pretty cool to have a full band supporting you and made for a rounder sound.
They hold karaoke on the Tamesis Dock which has to be one of the quirkier pubs/venues around – a permanently moored boat decorated in a lively manner. In fact, I was chatting to a friend of the band and she said none of them live anywhere near it but they love it too much to switch to a different venue. The karaoke is held in the belly of the boat which made for a slightly stifling evening but it didn’t seem to mar people’s enjoyment.

There are no prizes but every performer gets a badge.There’s clearly a few regulars as jokes were made about the number of badges ‘Pete’ had accumulated and whether he could make it through the entire song menu in a year. That would be quite a feat but not as daunting as you might think as it’s limited to about 50 songs. There are a few classics and also songs they clearly just like (Tenacious D has two songs on there which you don’t find in most karaoke songbooks). The opening singer for tonight delved right in with one of these actually – Fuck her gently. In fact, thinking about it, there was quite a lot of swearing in the evening. That one... I did Creep... and another girl did Fuck you by Ceelo. It’s that kind of crowd.

They do two sets which have 9 singers each and while they’re not short on volunteers this seems about right and a few people were even able to sing twice. Quality was… variable… but  your own backing singer is there to help anyone out and carry the tune if it ever falls off a cliff. Everyone is encouraged to sing along and many people were dancing around too.

And all this for FREE!! Of course, they do very much appreciate donations and dedicate a bit of time sending round the ‘begging bowl’ as they do have rehearsal space and expenses and tings to deal with. Any monies they receive are well deserved.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Tombo Poke and Matcha bar, 19th July

Tombo Poke and Matcha bar is a cute little cafĂ© in Seven Dials bringing the Hawaiian cusine to your lucky faces. 
I was invited along with a friend for a light dinner, which could not have been more perfect for the warm and sunny day we were experiencing. Poke, if you don’t know, is basically a sushi bowl. Diced chunks of raw fish sit on a salad, the construction of which is up to you if you like, or you can go for one of Tombo's signature bowls.

Just look at these bowls of sunshine and deliciousness! It was really very difficult to whittle it down to one sauce, one ‘mix-in’ and two toppings. I started with a base of courgette noodles and added tuna, avocado (of course), spring onion, sahimi and crispy shallots with a ponzu soy on the side. My friend went down the black and white rice route with salmon, nori, and sriracha mayo. Both dishes a joyous little meal and I will happily come back to try more combinations. Lovely idea!

Tombo Poke Matcha Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Square Meal

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Gin-Off, Graphic Bar, 18th July

If you want to get absolutely trollied on whimsical, inventive and tasty (for the most part) cocktails on a Monday then the Gin-Off is your man! Happening throughout the year, 16 gins compete against each other to make it into the Gin-off final by coming up with clever and creative ways to imbibe this particular liquor, and I was invited to the final heat. 
When I went, the gins being showcased were Boodles, Sipsmith (they get everywhere), Tarquins and Martin Millers. I really wanted to like Martin Millers, as it is a blend of England and Iceland, two countries dear to my heart, but unfortunately I have to say their concoction was the worst cocktail I have ever had. Actively unpleasant to drink, I was a brave soul and finished it nonetheless. Milk and gin do not make good bedfellows. It did, at least, come in cute packaging but I am not a fan of a paper straw – so soggy so quickly. 
Far and away the best cocktail of the evening came from Boodles who had somehow turned a cocktail into a quintessentially English curry, complete with political commentary on the recent Brexit result/fiasco. I didn’t expect to like it to be honest, but the savoury, fragrant spiciness was incredibly moreish. And extra bonus points for the properly spicy lime pickle! Unsurprisingly, this cocktail won hands down. Well deserved. 
The other two also rans were nice enough. Tarquins served up little ‘ice creams’ which were as fun to watch created as they were to drink. And Sipsmith went down the most traditional route, serving up test tubes of their concoctions.
As soon as the cocktails started being lined up, everyone went for it, meaning we drank four deceptively strong cocktails within an hour. Little wonder then, that at 9 pm when all the drinks were sampled, the party was going OFF. The music was turned up and people were dancing. It felt a little surreal to be honest but really good fun!

Keep an eye out for the next one, or if you can’t wait, they do a Gin Social every Monday where you can have a welcome G&T, a tasting of that months Gin and a Gin cocktail of their own creation for £5.