Gin is ruddy marvellous, isn’t it? Unless you’re one of those people where it transforms you into a sobbing wreck, I guess. It’s my favourite spirit – a nice cool gin on a sunny afternoon is unsurpassable.
Here are some gin facts for you (I like gin, suck it up):
– Gin is made with juniper berries
– London gin doesn’t have to be made in London – it’s a way to make gin
– Gin joints in 18th-century England allowed women to drink alongside men for the first time. It’s thought this led many of them to child neglect and prostitution. So gin became known as ‘Mother’s ruin”
– Gin and tonics were invented in colonial India when they found the quinine in tonic water was effective in preventing malaria. Soldiers added gin to tonic water to make it more palatable
One of the things I’ve come to realise as a ~food blogger~ (bleurgh!) is that people start thinking you know things about food. You silly fools! I get texts on a semi-regular basis from friends asking where they should take their girlfriend for dinner/granny for afternoon tea/friend for excellent cocktails. It’s nice that people think to ask me, but very sadly I haven’t been to all the best places in London. So what I do more often than not is I recommend places I want to go – places I’ve heard good things about and are on my list. I imagine the people asking don’t actually think I’ve been everywhere anyway, so are just asking if I’ve heard what’s good lately. Continue reading →
Lunchtime is like running the gauntlet at the moment. I work just off Thayer Street in Marylebone, and the street is lined with interesting places to eat. They make having a sad Covent Garden Soup feel like a personal failure. So err, sometimes I fall off the wagon and have a burger.
Having exhausted the menu at Patty & Bun down the road, I went for Tommi’s. They’re pretty no-frills, which is standard in London’s now ubiquitous line of burger restaurants. I was getting take out so I went up to the desk to order.
I went for a cheeseburger and fries. I also got some cocktail sauce, which turned out to be a regrettable decision. I waited for a bit – 10 mins? – and then my burger arrived in a bag. You then have to go up to the counter and help yourself to pickles. This annoyed me because I am a massively petty person. Pickles shouldn’t have to be added to a burger – they’re either in there (good) or not (bad). I don’t want to have to add them myself. Christ. This is 2014.
I took my brown bag back to work and probably stank the office out with fast food smell. Sorry guys. You’re nice and you deserve better.
Here’s what the burger looked like:
Here’s the bite through shot:
It’s blurred. GO ME!
Anyway, as you can see I added load of pickles. There was also lettuce, tomato and raw red onion in there. The patty was cooked medium (good) but was pretty gosh darn dry (bad). And also a bit chewy (oh so bad). The bun was sweet and basically guys it tasted like a McDonalds burger. Which is great if you like McDonalds. I’m not fundamentally opposed to them myself, especially not while drunk and roaming the Holloway Road at 1am, but meh – the best part of £10 for a knock-off McDonalds? That I am opposed to.
P.S. The cocktail sauce tasted of nothing. It was like eating warm, clammy nothing. I love me my condiments, but this one was in desperate need of some flavour.
Tommi’s Burger Joint, 30 Thayer St, Marylebone, London W1U 2QP
So the morning after we got engaged (yeah, yeah, still going on about it) Andrew and I woke up and had champagne on our epic balcony!
Then he had bought some smart clothes for me to wear the next day and said we’re going somewhere nice for brunch. We strolled through the sunny Sunday Soho streets and jumped on a tube to Baker Street.
Andrew led the way (quelling rumours he has no sense of direction in the process) until we ended up on Chiltern Street (he took me a winding way to throw me off). I looked at him in surprise. Had he booked Chiltern Firehouse? How would he even know about the Chiltern Firehouse (although he is addicted to the Mail’s sidebar of shame).
As we were whisked into the courtyard of the restaurant by a man in an excellent hat it seemed, yes, Andrew had been doing his research. We had a table for brunch.
We were seated on some lovely 1920s-style banquettes and the windows of the dining room were wide open as it was a lovely sunny day. The service was really, really slow, but we were happy to take our time and chat about being engaged…
We ordered champagne cocktails to start. I got a strawberry and hibiscus number while Andrew went for an apricot and peach one. Mine was definitely better.
We also ordered some freshly made cornbread with smoked salmon crème fraîche, which took its sweet time arrive, but was incredibly good. Such a savoury, fishy and sharp flavour. I could eat those bad boys all day.
I then went for potato and herb hotcakes with smoked salmon and poached eggs. This was really good. The waitress tried her best to convince me to have toast with it, but I’m glad I didn’t as we totally didn’t need it.
Andrew went for lobster scrambled eggs, which were ridiculously good. So rich and full of shellfish flavour.
Ahem. Then we got some buttermilk pancakes to share. That came with fresh blueberries and blueberry compote, which were great (I love pancakes) but I’m glad I got something a bit different as my main choice as pancakes are pancakes are pancakes.
I have no idea how much the food cost (thanks Pea!) but I imagine it was pretty spendy. But the atmosphere was so lovely and it was such a special meal. Great people watching, slow service but a lot of fun.
Chiltern Firehouse, 1 Chiltern St, Marylebone, London W1U 7PA
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)
First up, apologies for my absence. I know you’ve all been lamenting about it. But it was birthday. I turned 30, guys. I also went on holiday and had weddings to go to. So there we go. Now for the main point of business…
I have read really, really good things about Patty & Bun, so decided to check it out with a few of my wonderful friends. We gamely queued up, put our names down and continued to queue. We did queue for an hour, which is a bit galling, but I was with great friends and the time passed quickly as we caught up. Other ingenious people in the queue were going to offies and buying beers. It was also a warm summer’s evening. If it was pouring with rain I probably would have been less full of humour about it. Actually, I wouldn’t have queued.
Anyway, once we were in, we were seated by a lovely waitress who was sweet and attentive throughout our meal. We ordered beers, burgers, chips and coleslaw all round. Actually, I had a wine, which was served in a tumbler. Details, details!
Here’s a glimpse at the menu…
I went for an Ari Gold (a cheeseburger by any other name would taste as sweet…), as did most people. A few cheeky chappies in our group went for Smokey Robinsons.
The food arrived…
My burger was brilliantly juicy and very meaty. The pickled onions cut through the grease and added a really interesting flavour. The cheese I couldn’t taste so much, but it was a wonderful burger none-the-less. A world away from the terrible grey, unseasoned thing I had at Shake Shack.
The fries were nicely seasoned, and the colesaw fresh and zingy. Our super-waitress brought us a huge array of condiments, which is always a good sign I feel in a burger joint.
My friend couldn’t finish her burger, so her loving, doting husband merrily hoovered up her Smokey Robinson after eating his Ari Gold. He proclaimed that the Smokey was better. And he’s a doctor, so don’t argue with him.
I was pleasantly impressed by Patty & Bun. It’s a great alternative to MEATLiquor, and I much preferred the laid-back vibe there to the slightly manic atmosphere in MEATLiquor. The only bummer was no chilli cheese fries.
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.