Sometimes – OK, all of the time – it’s good to test your preconceptions to see if they’re true. What I’ve discovered over the years that basically all of my preconceptions are unfounded: honey on baked beans is delicious (don’t mock ’til you try it); wedding dress shoppingcan be fun; and not all whiskey tastes like soil mixed with petrol.
I had another preconception tested this week in the shape of dinner at Southern Joe’s Kitchen in Kentish Town.
A lot of dining out is about theatre and spectacle. Cloches, dry ice, immersive sensory experiences and beautiful dining rooms are all there to heighten the diner’s experience.
And you’d be hard pressed to find a more dramatic venue for a meal than where I ate on Saturday night: in the aisle of a Grade II* listed church, with Christ on a cross hoisted above the aisle-long table, overseeing matters as he’s eternally crucified.
One of the perks of food blogging in London is meeting lots of lovely new people. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some wonderful bloggers and PRs since I started The Z Factor. And the other night a few of us got together to sample the delights of 64 Degrees in Pimlico.
I’ve been craving sushi and seared tuna recently. It got to the point where I was a bit worried, and Andrew told me to stop eating so much sushi because of ~Mercury poisoning~.
My favourite way to eat seared tuna is on a Nicoise salad. I am deeply perturbed by tinned tuna (aka cat food), and won’t touch the stuff, so it always has to be a proper loin steak (I know, get me!). But I’ve found it surprisingly hard to find a decent recipe for it. There’s either whole anchovy fillets in it, which I cannot stomach, or the recipe called for frying the potatoes, which is just plain bad for you. Continue reading →
I’ve been wanting to go to the Sebright Arms for ages, to sample the much-raved about Lucky Chip burgers. Having dined at the Slider Bar (at The Player in Soho), and found them wanting I’d heard many people say The Sebright is where to get the real Lucky Chip experience. Indeed, my friend Ed claims that The Sebright serve the best burgers in London town, and Ed knows what is up.
The Sebright is a rough-around-the-edges pub in the no man’s land between Bethnal Green and Hoxton, but it is a large venue with plenty of comfy seating and extremely friendly staff. We went on a Friday night and it was busy, but not unpleasantly so and everyone seemed to be having a good time. An all-round good vibe, if you will.
Lucky Chip have a residency at The Sebright, and no doubt the reason behind the pub being so bustling. The menu looks a little something like this…
I went for a Royale wit Cheese, but most people (seasoned Lucky Chip fans) seemed to favour the El Chappo. We also all had chili cheese fries and wings for sides (not each, we’re not greedy. Well, only slightly greedy).
The burgers were delicious – very juicy meat, perfectly medium-rare (a good burger has to be nice and pink in my opinion), the bun didn’t fall apart and the fillings were a perfect accompaniment. My dining friend, Toby, dubbed it “just like a Big Mac”. I think that’s a little harsh – the flavour and style is similar to the ubiquitous Big Mac, but it is so much more hearty, meaty and juicy than a Big Mac. The best burger I’ve had in London? Yep, easily.
The chili cheese fries were totally smothered in chilli and jalapenos, with a moderate sprinkling of cheese. They were very good indeed – but not as good as those served at Meat Liquor. However, the experts said the fries had improved since their last visit, with tweaks being made to the recipe. I like that Lucky Chip aren’t resting on their laurels, but instead striving to make things better. I’d definitely order these again when I go again (when, not if!).
The chicken wings were the let-down on the night. The BBQ sauce wasn’t punchy at all, and instead just a slightly sweet, sticky glaze. The chicken itself was flabby and not at all crisp. And there was no extra dip. MeatLiquor wins here again I’m afraid in the wings stakes. With a few tweaks, these could be great but instead I found myself wishing I hadn’t bothered with them.
As I said before, the staff we lovely and smiley and fast to serve you at the bar. The drinks were good – the boilermaker (a beer and whiskey cocktail) was a particular favourite. I had a really excellent time, and would definitely recommend this place. It’s not fine dining, it is no frills but what it’s doing they’re doing well. Sure, there are a few niggles, but they’re slight and I am sure as the place evolves these will get ironed out.
Since moving to Finsbury Park a lot of locals have said “Oh, have you checked out The Front Room yet?”, so I knew it would have to be one of my first stops (after Petek and Dotori – more on those another time!). The Front Room is a cafe situated on the “up and coming” (but still rather grey) Tollington Park in Finsbury Park.
We popped in one rainy Saturday morning for brunch, and it was just the right, reassuring level of busy. We were seated right away and then took a look at their reasonably priced and decent-length menu. Cue shoddy picture:
My dining companion and co-brunch fan, Andrew, went for The Front Room Breakfast. He explained that he had to get the full English out of the way so he could then focus on other items on the menu on return visits. I went for the Pancake Special with a side of bacon. I also got a standard English Breakfast and a freshly squeezed orange juice (both good and strong) and Andrew got a white Americano, which he deemed “good”.
The food arrived really quickly and looked great. Andrew’s full English wasn’t swimming in grease and had generous portions of all components. My pancakes were nicely presented… See photo…
The bacon was tipped on by me in a haphazard fashion, so that makes it look a bit rank. Anyway, the pancakes were ok – a bit pappy and dry. The fruit and yoghurt was nice and fresh though. The bacon I could have taken or left. It was generally OK. The eggs benny on the other table was giving me food envy, to be honest.
The staff were lovely though, the service was quick and the atmosphere nice, laid back with a bit of buzz.
Service – 4/5
Venue – 3/5
Value – 5/5
OVERALL – 3/5
The Front Room Cafe, 158 Tollington Park, N4 3AD
Nearest Tube: Finsbury Park (5 min walk)
The Front Room is open 7.30am-6pm Monday – Thursday, 7.30am-11.30pm Friday, 8am-11pm on weekends.
When the lovely people at Love Food Market got in touch with me to ask if I wanted to review a hamper, I couldn’t really say no. Chorizo to review? Who could say no? (Clue: not me).
Love Food Market are suppliers of luxury British produce. Self-confessed foodies Em and Sue gather together all their favourite British-produced food on their website to make it easily accessible to fellow food lovers. There’s a huge selection of foods on the site, from fresh sausages, cheese, olives and crackers to sauces, jams, pickles and chocolates. I had a lot of fun agonising over what I was going to select.
In the end I went for…
These were SO minty, they actually made my mouth feel fresh and zingy after eating one. They are quite rich, so one goes a long way. They would make the perfect after dinner mint for rich, Christmas dinner parties – and much more interesting than a generic After Eight!
These biscuits definitely go best with a creamy, sharp cheese like a good goat’s cheese. They were earthy and unusual – definitely a good pressie for a cheese lover!
Easily our most loved thing in the package. The chilli jam was sweet, with a lovely warm kick to it. We’ve had this jam with loads of different meals – the best one being a brunch of hot corncakes with advocado and bacon – I’ll post the recipe soon. I love the packaging of this product too. We’ll definitely be buying more of this, as we’re already out!
We also got a delicious garlic chorizo dried sausage, which they unfortunately seem to be out of. If it comes back in, I’d definitely recommend it. And we got some cumberland pork sausages – I haven’t taken a picture of them, as who likes to look at raw sausages?! They were SO good though – so tasty and meaty. I cooked them with grapes – I will post that recipe soon too, as it was so good.
The box itself was really well packaged, and the range of ingredients on the site was really good. The site is easy to use and Sue and Em are delightful if you have any questions about your order. I loved that the cold foods came wrapped in an organic wool package to keep them insulated – such a good idea!
So if you’ve got a tricky foodie friend or relative to buy for this Christmas (or just fancy treating yourself!), I’d say you won’t go far wrong with Love Food Market’s hampers. You can hand pick everything yourself so there’s nothing the recipient won’t be so keen on.
Yep, I started my meal before I remembered to take a photo – what of it?
The Pig & Butcher has opened up on Liverpool Road where the slightly ropey Islington Tap used to stand. They have an in-house butcher slicing up prime cuts that the seemingly skilled chef cooks up for customer’s delight. They also do a healthy (and expensive) line in craft ales (beers? Who knows the difference? Not me!). It’s all very… Islington.
I’ve popped in there twice so far, and have been fairly pleased with the pub on both occasions. The first was a Sunday roast. Just as a precursor to what I’m about to say, I just want to make it clear that I don’t rate pub roasts. They are never as good as home-cooked roasts. There’s something about mass-made roast potatoes that doesn’t work. You can’t taste the love that you can in a home-made roast. Anyway…
The roast was pretty decent. I went for a 32-day aged Hereford beef rib. It was incredibly rare (fine by me, but might not be to the taste of those who don’t like their plate swimming in red juices), and delicious. It came served with a silky cauliflower cheese, greens and roast potatoes (which were not great). Some of my companions got the whole roast chicken, which was absolutely ginourmous even for two. The beef was £15.50 and the chicken was £14.50 per person, which is slightly on the pricey side for the area.
The second time I went in, it was for a light lunch with friends. I ordered the scampi, as pictured above, with a side of fries. The scampi was great – light, sweet with a lovely yet naughty batter. The chips were so thick that they were still quite solid in the middle. Andrew went for a steak sandwich. Here’s the pics to prove it happened…
It was actually an open sandwich, which was fine, although Andrew claimed, “It wasn’t what I was expecting… but yeah, it was nice.” He actually praised the meat really highly. He also had the undercooked humungous chips.
The Pig & Butcher is a lovely gastro pub, really close to Upper Street, so I am sure it will do well. However, it has a slightly more expensive than average menu – but in Barnsbury that’s probably not going to hinder them. The meat there is to die for – they do it excellently and in spades. However, with meat being the star of the show, some other factors do suffer a little. I’m sure these will get ironed out. Oh, and the staff are extremely friendly – I love their staff!
Service – 4/5
Venue – 4/5 (although it’s so hot in there – they need a/c or something)
Value – 3/5
OVERALL – 3/5
The Pig & Butcher, 80 Liverpool Road, Islington, N1 0QD