I’ve spoken a little bit on my blog about my experiences of flatsharing in London. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I met some of the best people ever and well, not some of the worst per se but definitely some of the messiest. Now I live with just Andrew I often think back to flatsharing and wonder how I did it for so long (four years in a house of eight people!). All the passive-aggressive (or sometimes just plain aggressive) emails and notes, the sticky floors after parties, people smoking in the house, every single god-damn piece of crockery being chipped. Argh! But it was fun a lot of the time too. Continue reading →
Straight after getting engaged, Andrew whisked me off to eat at Beast. Beast is the new-ish venture by the team behind Burger & Lobster. The restaurant has a set menu with two main dishes: crab and steak. But boy what crab and steak they are…
We arrived and were zipped down to the subterranean banqueting hall and were met with a huge wall of cow carcasses and live crab tanks housing huge Norwegian king crabs.
At the bar we were served a complimentary glass of champagne (wish I could get engaged every day!) and there were HUGE wheels of parmesan to help ourselves to. Love a salty snack with my pre-dinner fizz!
We were seated on huge banqueting tables, which were romantically lit with soft candle light and were brought our starters. As I said, there’s a set menu at Beast with no options. We were presented with a quarter-wheel of parmesan, some pickled onions, marinated olives and artichokes – all absolutely delicious and fun to share! The emphasis is definitely on sharing your meal at Beast, which is fun as long as you know your fellow diners well and you’re not Joey from Friends.
We then ordered more champagne and one glass of red and one white from the very helpful sommelier. They arrived together along with the steak…
This was prime Nebraskan ribeye on the bone, and it was absolutely delicious: meaty, perfectly seasoned, full of flavour and tender. It came with sides of heritage tomatoes, green salad, baked apples, candied beetroot. It was all to share and was more than enough for two…
Just as we were about a third of our way through the steak our crab arrived:
I absolutely love crab, and this was the best crab I’d ever had. It was soft, sweet and plentiful. The crab had been properly dismantled so it didn’t cause too many problems, and we were provided with all the normal medieval tools to get in. This was served with a delicious lemon butter sauce and further sides of asparagus and um, some other bits and bobs. I’ve forgotten! Whoops!
Luckily we were decked out in cotton bibs (not the plastic fellas from B&L) and had finger bowls in abundance. There are also sinks along the sides of the room incase you need to properly hose yourself down after battling a crab the size of your head (no exaggeration). Look, we’re not here to judge.
The final course was a light and refreshing lemon mousse, which was the perfect palate cleanser after some extremely rich food.
Beast is very spendy – I am lucky in that the bill was taken care of as part of project proposal – the set menu is £75 per person and wine on top isn’t cheap I believe from other diners. However, it was such a special night: the service was incredible, the atmosphere was the perfect mix of fun and romantic and the food was perfect.
Beast, 3 Chapel Pl, Marylebone, London W1G 0BG
Nearest tube: Bond Street (5 min walk), Oxford Street (5 min walk)
I have acquired a Korean food expert in my family. She is an expert because she’s Korean. Well, she’s American but her parents are from Korea. I have acquired her because my brother had the good fortune of her agreeing to marry him. The first time I ever had Korean food, my sister-in-law (let’s call her Irene, as that’s her name), Irene’s mum ordered it for about 20 people at a Korean restaurant in LA. It looked like this:
Korean food in LA is good, but I had no point of comparison apart from Irene’s Mom’s cooking, which is excellent. If, like me pre-2005, you don’t know what Korean food is like it’s a lot of barbecued marinated meats, pickled vegetables, noodles, spicy sauces – that kind of thing.
In recent times, I’ve tried Bibimbap in Soho, which is alright for a quick meal. And then last week I went to On the Bab, a Korean place in Shoreditch that had been recommended to me by the great and good of Twitter. I don’t really feel that optimistic about Korean food in London as it’s not like there’s a booming Korean community here. Not that you need a massive community but it does seem to help, like the amazing Chinese food in San Fran or the Jewish food in New York. ANYWAY, on to On the Bab…
I went for a takeaway option, ‘cos I gotta work yeah? On the smaller-than-eat-in take out menu they do a range of dishes including bibimbap with bulgogi (a barbecued marinated beef), which I got. It took a pretty long time to arrive, but that means it’s fresh right? As I waited I was asked to go outside with all the other takeout gang. There’s no waiting area and the restaurant is pretty small, so kind of understandable and I was amiable about this because it was sunny. UNLIKE the huddle of ladies at the counter who muttered “Go outside? Us? He can’t mean us! Let’s just stay here,” because apparently they were too good for the pavement unlike me – pavement troll extraordinaire.
I eventually got my plastic bowl and scuttled back to the office. Here’s what it looked like:
My work buddy Kat looked over in disgust. “What IS that?” she said. “Um, barbecued meat, pickled vegetables, rice and a fried egg,” I replied trying to sound casual and like it was a nice lunch she should be jealous of. “Sounds RANK!” she said, turning back to her screen.
It wasn’t rank, but it wasn’t amazing either. The egg was ok – the runny yolk leaked pleasingly into the disk, the beef wasn’t without flavour but also I can’t really remember it being standout which says something. The rest was just vegetables so really, what skill is there? They were… nicely chopped?
Maybe I went for the wrong thing, maybe I am being a dullard snob, but I should be able to pick the national dish and expect it to be done with some flair. Especially as it cost me £10. It was just lacking… lustre. I think what London needs is a decent Korean restaurant, but I am yet to find it…
So 2014 has got off to a great start (ignoring the fact our roof has a leak and my train has been late every day this week). I’m not drinking in January, and people are actually sponsoring me to do this. And there’s lots to look forward to in 2014, including lots of lovely, new restaurants opening in London for me, you and the rest of London to try out.
I thought I’d compile a list of the five places I am most looking forward to visiting (in no particular order of preference) in early 2014…
Q Grill will be offering a London slant on the now-ubiquitous-in-the-London-scene American barbecue restaurant. From the team behind Islington’s Fish and Chip Shop, Q Grill will see chef Phil Eagle from Hix fame serving up a range of “raw, charred and smoked favourites” including moonshine-battered shrimp, queen scallop ceviche and pecan wood-roasted chicken. There will also be a strong line in cocktails, with American spirits playing front and centre roles. With a 150-cover capacity, Q Grill is going to be a big player in 2014. Opens January 25th,33 Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8AJ
The Big Easy “Bar.B.Q and Crabshack” already has an outpost on the King’s Road, but February 2014 will see them opening a second branch in the heart of Covent Garden. Similarly to the aforementioned Q Grill, The Big Easy will be serving up a range of American-style barbecue dishes. Their signature dishes in Chelsea include canadian lobster; fresh crab and shrimp; a classic chophouse burger; and surf and turf. With a huge following out west, The Big Easy is sure to be a huge hit in central London too. If you sign up on their website (link above) then you can receive more info and get an invite to their 50 per cent off soft launch. Opens February 2014, 12 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, WC2E 7NA
Slightly more than “just” a restaurant, Brooklyn Bowl, the acclaimed NYC nightlife destination hailed by Rolling Stone as “one of the most incredible places on earth,” is opening its first branch this side of the pond. The venue will be in The O2 (stay with me on this, guys!) and will be a medium-sized concert venue with 12 lanes of bowling (some of which you can hire in a private area, if you hunger for more clandestine bowling…). Food will come from the Bromberg Bros. team and will include oyster po’ bos, cajun catfish, egg shooters and fried chicken. Beerheads will be kept happy with beers from the local Meantime Brewing Company. Opens January 16th, O2 Arena, Peninsula Square, SE10 0DX.
Enough American-style cuisine! All things Nordic are set to be a big blimmin’ deal for 2014, so this opening in the old Hackney Central train station is coming just at the right time. Oslo will be an all-day eatery that turns into a live music venue in the evening, with a late license ’til 3am. Alright then! Food-wise, head chef Dave Ahern will be fronting a menu that takes on strong Nordic influences. Expect pickling, smoking, curing… and I hope some kind of mushroom sauces, lingonberry… meatballs? Come on Dave, be a pal. As a massive fan of Scandinavian culture, I am very excited about this opening. Oslo opens on January 17th, 1a Amhurst Road, Hackney, E8 1LL.
Fresh off the back of various successful 2013 openings, including Ape & Bird, the Polpo team are opening – or should that be re-opening – Polpetto on Berwick Street, Soho. Having been hugely over-subscribed for when it was first open, the new venue will seat many more people craving it’s Italian food. The same head chef, Florence Knight, from its previous incarnation, is on board at new Polpetto so expect much more of the same: delicious Italian sharing-y food, but with the added bonus of actually being able to score a reservation. Opens January 2014, 11 Berwick Street, W1F 0PL.
Bubbledogs has been on my “to visit” list for some time, having heard good things about it from everyone has visited. Combine that with what Bubbledogs does: hot dogs and small-vineyard champagnes, and I was itching to go.
I’d heard rumours the queues were massive, but when we turned up we walked in and got a seat right away. We did have to share a table with some people, but that’s par for the course these days in busy restaurants. The staff we attentive and friendly, and we ordered a lovely glass of champagne each.
My friend ordered a veggie José, which is a Mexican-style dog smothered in avocado, sour cream, salsa and jalapeños. She kindly let me take a photo of her food and had the good grace to not look too embarrassed to be out with me.
She said it was excellent, and tasted like meat. Hopefully it was the veggie one, as she is a veggie. I’m sure it was…
I went for a Buffalo dog, which came with Buffalo sauce, celery and cubes of blue cheese. I plumped for the beef versions (Bubbledogs give you the option of pork, beef or veggie dogs – this is the future and we are living in right here and right now). The waiter said that beef was best. He said that.
It was pretty delicious… The bun was really fluffy and the dog itself was very meaty, and even though it came with quite strong toppings the flavour of the meat came through. It was slightly too salty for me, and I love me some blue cheese so… Also, could’ve lived without the celery, but then I find celery surplus to requirements in almost every situation.
We also ordered CARBS
Weird angle. Apols. These are tater tots, which in British terms means a croquette but with more of a hash brown flavour than your standard croquette potato. The truffle mayo was fine, but kind of pointless. I ordered it extra and everything.
Annnnd some sweet potato fries. These were as fine a sweet potato fries as any you’ll find. Crispy, soft, sweet and chewy. In that order.
Bubbledogs is a great place – it has a lovely, relaxed atmosphere. The decor is nice and modern, but calm (take note MEATLiquor), the service is unhurried, but in a good way. There are lots of lovely touches, such as the bathrooms which are adorned with all the menus the owner, James, has collected over the years. It was just a really feel good place. It isn’t fancy – the food is served in plastic baskets or cardboard boxes, but I don’t think it really needed knives, forks and linens.
I’d highly recommend going to Bubbledogs, although you might find yourself not satisfied after one dog.
Bubbledogs, 70 Charlotte Street, W1T 4QG
Nearest tube: Goodge Street (3min walk)
* I’ve changed my score system to out of 10. What do you mean you hadn’t noticed? This is because scoring an entire restaurant out of five is not that easy.
Over the last 12 months London has seen a surge in junk food makeovers. That is food previously dismissed as junk (burgers, fried chicken et al), which has been done badly by cynical corporate Mcchains, being restored to its former glory. Burgers with glossy buns and plenty o’ pickles, smokey and meaty hot dogs, fried chicken that’s juicy and crunchy.
I’m on this UnJunk Food badwagon heart, spirit and soul. And I plan to blog about all my UnJunk food endeavours here. I’m feeling really excited about London’s dining scene at the moment. Here are some of the places I’m itching to get to…
1. Slider Bar, Soho
Mini burgers from the folks at Lucky Chip. What’s not to like? I’ve only heard excellent things about this place. They even have an ice cream burger! Gimmicky joy! Reading Cherry Healey’s tweets about her meal there made me green with envy.
Twenty quid for a burger? WELCOME TO LONDON! But £20 for a lobster? Hell-o! The concept of Burger & Lobster is simple. There are two options on the menu: burger, lobster. Both come with sides too. Both are £20. You pays your money, you takes your choice. This place has been such a hit they’ve opened at another location, in Soho. Get me there, STAT.
The big sister of the Slider Bar, Lucky Chip is located at the Sebright Arms in Bethnal Green. Lizzie’s review of the place has made me desperate to go. I love the creative fillings for the burgers, and that they all have film star’s names. The Darryl Hannah fish burger anyone? I can’t wait to get my chops around one.
Ahh, a food truck. Many of London’s UnJunk food establishments have enjoyed a stint as a food truck. There was Meat Wagon, Pitt Cue Co under Hungerford Bridge and Engine Hot Dogs.
Spit & Roast are paying tribute to that old southern American favourite, fried chicken. Served with potatoes and a little pot of gravy, this place has made me, a loyal burger fan, excited about fried chicken.