Tag Archives: pub

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Pub Review – The Truscott Arms, Shirland Rd, W9

I don’t really trust west London – I never have. I once worked for the BBC, who at the time were based in White City (aka Shepherd’s Bush – or “SheBu” if you’re a twit/Cressida Bonas). That’s a grim little corner of London best forgot. For me, all of west London is this same uninterrupted sea of grey dual carriageways and enclaves of Aussies talking about TimTams like crack addicts talk about, well, crack. They have the same look in their eyes. I imagine, anyway – I don’t know any crack addicts personally.

I digress. Oh yeah, I hate west London. Sorry – I mean I “don’t trust it”. Anyway, I had cause to go there recently on a fact-finding mission. Specifically I went to St John’s Wood (shh, it IS west London) and Maida Vale. As I clearly don’t know west London from Manley Beach, I asked some Twitter buds about where was good to go – and I was inundated with recommendations, as if all of west London had just been waiting to be asked and I had opened the flood gates.

Most people recommended The Truscott Arms, and one person in particular – Sam – told me about a thing they sold called beef shin chips. Beef – good, chips – good, shin… um, good…? So I went to The Truscott to see what the heck all the hype was about.

I got there alone and had to wait for my companion (because he is always. running. late.) so ordered a nice, healthy (massive) glass of red. I instantly regretted this after Andrew arrived (late) and ordered some kind of macho cocktail called a Lady Truscott. It was bloody yummy and I was jealous.

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We ordered from the bar menu – I went for a wagyu beef burger and the tardy one went for a pulled pork sandwich with a side of beef shin chips. I forwent the extra foie gras topping on the burger because, well, it was lunch and I am not Rockefeller.

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The burger was OK, but the patty was slightly dry and uninspiring. It was meant to be wagyu beef, and while I have no doubt it was, I’m not sure the burger did the beef proud. A cow drank beer and had it’s tummy massaged and all it turned into was a dry burger.

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The best part of it was the onion relish, which was sweet and sour and really sung out among the rest of the slightly insipid burger.

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The beef shin chips on the other hand were sublime. They’re made by slow-cooking beef shin (win), pulling the beef apart and then making it into a terrine (I’m on board), which is then sliced into chunks, coated in polenta (ohhh yeah) and deep-fried (POW!). FEEL THE HEALTH. They were served with a hot, meaty gravy. They pulled apart deliciously and were crunchy on the outside and beautifully succulent on the inside. A marvel. (Sorry for the crappy photo that follows…)

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The pulled pork looked like this. When I asked Andrew how it was, he said “yeah, good”. High praise, indeed.

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When pressed further he gave the startling admission that there was an apple relish inside, which was really good. I had a bite and can confirm it was pretty good – meaty yet light somehow.

The Truscott Arms was a really nice venue – the staff were so friendly and helpful, and the bar was bright and airy. The cocktail list is something that I am still mulling over even now, plotting a time I can sneak back to west London and sample the whole list. It seems The Truscott has changed my philosophy on west London entirely…

Service: 5
Venue: 5
Value: 3
Overall: 8/10

The Truscott Arms, 55 Shirland Rd, London W9 2JD

Nearest tube: Warwick Avenue (10 min walk)

The Truscott Arms on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

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Pub Review – Ape & Bird, Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H

Ape & Bird opened last week to much fan fare. In a huge old Victorian pub in Covent Garden, the team behind Polpo, Mishkins and Spuntino have brought something to the area that was desperately needed: a decent, large pub. Soho and Covent Garden aren’t exactly famous for their decent pubs with great customer service. It’s more of a “drink on the pavement, try not to get run over and fight your way to the bar” type vibe in the rest of the area. Ape & Bird is an oasis of calm in comparison.

Last night I went along with two of my favourite people to see whether the place lived up to the hype. On entering the pub, it was totally empty. “Err, hello?” I said to the three front of house staff who were eagerly waiting to greet people. The place was dead, but it was 5.45pm on a Monday evening. I was swiftly taken through the main pub/more formal dining room to a back “public bar”.

The lighting was soft, the decor was tasteful and the wine was expensive. They only had three red and three whites on in the bar out of a longer list, which was a slight shame. Later in the night the beers also dwindled as we were told our choice beer was “off” now. Teething problems, I am sure, as the pub is only just out of its soft launch phase.

We decided to have food, so were ushered into the main pub bit, which was adorned by fairy lights, candle lights and gentle music. We decided it was a perfect date venue, and, being terribly boring, the music wasn’t too loud so we were able to hear each other. There’s nothing worse than having to nod along to someone’s story but not really getting a word of it.

An extremely under-lit menu
An extremely under-lit menu

The menu is modern British cuisine: chestnut and mushroom shepherd’s pie, steak and chips, trout with shrimp and tarragon butter. I went for a cheeseburger with a side of cheese and truffle fries. Andrew also got a burger but with rosemary and salt potato skins, and Amy got the veggie shepherd’s pie.

The portions were modest, but on reflection I think this is because I have become used to places overloading the plates. I admit these photos aren’t great but this is 65% because of the “date lighting” there and only 35% because I am terrible at taking photos.

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The burger was really decent – plenty of sauce, nice and meaty and a good ratio of sharp pickles. The fries were really rich, but provided an excellent salt and fat hit. Andrew’s potato skins were crunchy and deliciously herby, but I think the fries were best.

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The service at Ape & Bird was a bit hit and miss, and slightly on the cold side from some staff members, but for this you have to be forgiving in the opening days of the place. Despite this, Ape & Bird is a warm and relaxed venue, and with many other bars within the venue (including an amazing-looking subterranean cocktail bar), I am already planning my next visit.

The bill came to about £60 for three, with service and drinks.

Service: 3

Venue: 4.5

Value: 3

Overall: 7.5/10

Ape & Bird Public House, 142 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8HJ

Nearest Tube: Leicester Square (5 min walk)

The Ape & Bird Pub on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

BURGER REVIEW – Lucky Chip @ The Sebright Arms, Coate Street, E2

Lucky Chip Burgers at the Sebright Arms


Lucky Chip Burgers at the Sebright Arms
Lucky Chip Burgers at the Sebright Arms

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…

The Lucky Chip Menu at the Sebright Arms
The Lucky Chip Menu at the Sebright Arms

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.

Chili Cheese Fries @ The Sebright
Chili Cheese Fries @ The Sebright

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 BBQ wings
The BBQ wings

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.

Service: 5/5

Venue: 4/5

Value: 3/5

Overall: 4/5

Lucky Chip @ The Sebright Arms, 31-35 Coate Street, E2 9AG

Nearest tube: Bethnal Green 15min walk

London Pubs – The Lamb Beer & Liquor (Holloway Road)

The Lamb Pub, Holloway Road
The Lamb Pub, Holloway Road

Situated conveniently close to where I live, The Lamb has become a firm local for me and my friends. An independent pub on an unattractive stretch of Holloway Road (is there an attractive stretch of Holloway Road?!), this place is best described as a typical ‘boozer’.

Stripped floors, mismatched furniture, informal service and an eclectic playlist combine to provide clientele with an easy-going, no frills evening.

The Lamb serves craft ales and has some decent wine too. The Lamb serves only crisps and meaty snacks, but they actively encourage you to order from a delicious pizza takeaway service, Sorrento, who deliver to your table. As I said, it’s very non-frills. However, Sorrento’s pizzas are actually incredibly good and authentic – there’s nothing Domino’s about this place.

Having said they’re no frills, The Lamb have excellent live music events from incredible talent such as Rupert Cross, and host film nights showing indie films on a projector screen. There’s also occasionally live sport when there’s a big event on, but it’s in no way a football pub (having said that I haven’t been there when an Arsenal game is on – it’s probably packed, as are most pubs on Holloway Road).

The Lamb offers you a warm welcome and an unpretentious night out. I’d recommend a visit before everyone finds out about it. Everyone I’ve taken there has been back, some even organising their birthday parties there – surely that’s a stamp of approval if there ever was one.

Pub Review – The Pig & Butcher, Liverpool Road

A little scampi snack - The Pig & Butcher
A little scampi snack – The Pig & Butcher

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…

Steak sandwich – The Pig & Butcher

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

Nearest tube: Highbury & Islington (10 minute walk), Angel (12 minute walk).

The Pig & Butcher is open 5pm-11pm (Monday-Wednesday), 12pm-11pm (Thursday), 12pm-1am (Friday & Saturday), 12pm-11pm (Sunday).

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