Monday, 26 January 2015

Bermondsey Arts Club & Ladies and Gents Bar

Toilet Bar No1

Methinks it's time to take a trip to the toilet. However, there's no need to flush at either of these lovely lavatories. 

No 1: Bermondsey Arts Club and by far one of my favourite finds in London of late. Think underground art deco, jazzy tunes and spectacular cocktails.

No 2: Ladies & Gentlemen, newly opened in Kentish town but I'll get back to that later.

Thanks once again to Matt for opening my eyes to this wonderment. Our first little jaunt presented us with the exciting opportunity to taste the winter cocktail menu. (I say 'first' because we went back within a week since it was THAT good)! 

Remember that this iron ex-public toilety entrance on Tower Bridge Road is exactly what to keep your eyes peeled for but then your lips sealed. BAC is a great secret to have under your belt! 

Let me first introduce you to the Hit and Mist - whisky bitters, treacle syrup, and an appley hickory smoke presented in a magical steamy jar.

Three Wise was a combination of port, gin, sugar and (drumroll) gold/ frankincense/ myrrh bitters, served in a sake box with extra smokey whisps. 

It's not all about the show however (although that is undeniably excellent). Each of the magical mixers at the bar (Adam, Milo and Jake) have hand crafted each of their cocktails with a personality and twist that shows both in the taste and the presentation.

Levels. It's all about the levels! Milo's combination of fashion and cocktail arrived in the form of his Coupe des Garcons, wrapped in a black tie napkin jacket with a distinctly Comme de Garcon scent. Funny that, since he'd added a spritz of the cologne to the napkin, so when you sip the Calvados, Ramazzotti, Port and Peychauds bitters, it all swirls together in a fascinatingly subtle combination. you've really got to try it yourself!

Another mind boggling combination, this time from Adam was the inspired Phra Phum which combined House Thai Gin (a crazy mix of ginger, chilli, garlic and spring onion), lemon, sugar, egg white and house soy bitters. Put that in your pipe and smoke it! I guess liquid stir fry doesn't sound all that appealing but I was on it like a gin and tonic!

With all the fabulously imaginative cocktails priced below £10, live jazz nights on a Wednesday and three delightful barmen making equally delightful concoctions, you're onto a winner if you pull up a seat at the bar at Bermondsey Arts Club. (Come and say hi, there's a strong chance I'll be there)!

Toilet bar No 2

Head North to Kentish Town and you'll find the latest addition to the toilet bar trend. Ladies and Gents has an equally irony entrance leading to an equally former public toilet interior. 

Inside, the space is considerably smaller than BAC and the rooms are set out in a rather bizarre zigzag. Come early to avoid being turned away as there is little room to squeeze or perch once the tables and seats at the bar are taken. 

On our first visit (yes, once again, we couldn't help but return a week later), we took a more creative approach to ordering our drinks. Picking something off a menu was no fun for us and we decided that making something off the menu as they had been doing all evening was no fun for the bar staff. Cue the personality cocktail game. Oo I love a good game!

How to play:

1) Choose an entertainingly obscure selection of words

2) Request a drink that best reflects said combination

3) Hope your bar tender has some imagination.

Luckily, Leah was totally on board with our little game.

The 'L.I.MU' - Loving, insightful and mentally unstable contained um alcohols. Yes, the downside to the game is a severe case of memory loss as regards the actual contents of the drinks. There was absinthe..perhaps that had something to do with it..

Next up was the 'W.W.S' - Warm, witty and secretive. This was a big hit. Chocolate bitters were involved so I was happy.

If you don't fancy straying into such unknown territories, the menu features plenty of interesting twists on well known classics but I'm not going to give the game away, I don't want to completely ruin the surprise!

Adding to the growing list of lavatory takeovers (WC in Clapham and The Convenience on Brooksby's Walk), there's nothing bog standard about either of these little loos. In fact, they're somewhat talk of the town thanks to dear Giles Coren in his latest gripe (here), amusing as always. 

So if Bermondsey and Kentish Town weren't on your to do list, add them right away and if one stop doesn't quite do it for you, give me a shout and let me help you plan an adventure!

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Shed

A Delightful Dig

On a chilly January evening, it was decided by a gruesome twosome that a trip to The Shed was in order. The adventurous duo set out for Notting Hill with bucket and spade in hand (loose translation for phone, money and keys) and tumbled into the rustic, cosy embrace of The Shed.

The Shed is the brainchild of the country raised Gladwin brothers, Richard - The Manager, Oliver - The Chef and Gregory - The Farmer. Having already visited Rabbit, The Shed's sister site, it wasn't a difficult choice of dinner spot and the pair knew they were in for a treat or two. 

Opened in 2012, the restaurant is well settled in its stride and maintains a relaxed confidence of somewhere that knows just how damned great it is. Yet behind this is a gentle modesty from the trio of gents who simply love what they have created. We love it too guys!  

Our little table was soon piled high with drinks and mouthfuls to sustain the (not so) treacherous journey through the menu as we absorbed the buzz and chatter of the restaurant. 

Scratching and apple, brown crab bomb, mushroom marmite and egg confit and a beetroot crisp with goats cheese and pear jam. 

This is certainly not your run of the mill, tumble down, crusty decaying garden shed. Oh no. This here shed is filled with tricks, trinkets, bits and bobs that would get green fingers twitching and taste buds tingling.

Every glance creates a picture, as barrows, wheels, antlers and tools hang from the ceilings and walls. Waitresses model check shirts and jeans with leather carpenters' belts to house their order pads and pencils and skip from table to table with an infectious joviality. It is impossible not to grin when you're in this sort of atmosphere and looking around, there were no sour mouths in sight.

The food just so happens to also be quite spectacular. Clever combinations of fresh fruit and colourful veg teamed with tender mouthfuls of British meat and game create explosively flavoursome dishes. Presented with an artists palate-esque attitude, it's hard to fault the creative love and attention that shines through even the most basic of ingredients.

The menu itself consists of a selection of small(ish) plates separated into 'slow cooking' and 'fast cooking' and we were advised to pick a couple from each to share (ranging from £6.50 - £12). This here is my kind of dining, a little bit of everything!

On Richard's recommendation we selected the beetroot cured trout with tempura pickled onion and sorrel which was rustically plonked on a rustic board atop our rustic table and inhaled ... rustically.

Veal Patties with swede and truffle packed a punch while the Sussex veal, celeriac, almonds bone marrow pesto and lovage was a marriage in the kitchen and disappeared just as quickly. Smooth grilled venison, squash, honey, sunflower seeds and mint was an equally beautiful partnership.

With each dish, there was a carefully balanced combination of creamy, crunch and chew (the all important three c's and my new taste test)!

While I was visiting this fine establishment for the first time, the same can't be said for my frequent flyer partner in crime who had already eaten here on a number of occasions. So, according to expertise that proved completely reliable, the dish to end all dishes in this instance were the lamb chips with parsley, lemon and Harissa. (Please ignore the awfully dark photo, the thought was there but my stomach wasn't prepared to be patient .. and it had good reason)!

 Mustn't forget the candle brick combo, another rustic fail safe.

And finally for dessert, a pear and white chocolate mousse with hazelnut sherbet and a nostalgic chocolate coated honeycomb with mascarpone and tarragon sugar. Sorry Crunchie Bar, you've been knocked right off the playing field!

Our meal was almost at an end, just enough time for a chat and snap with the master of the mill; the lovely Richard Gladwin, set in front of a dangerously attractive background wheel. 

For a shed load more chat, head to a cheeky little interview with the Gladwin brothers over at the fabulous new all things food site - Try This For

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Thursday, 22 January 2015

Lantana Cafe

Bloomin' Brilliant Breakfast Brunch

It's almost the weekend. This means that the weekly breakfast/brunch/eat all the food season is upon us again.

I have one word for you. Lantana.

And now I have a few more. Eggselent, eggtastic, eggervescent, eggsuberant, eggsential and in the less made up but no less accurate words of my breakfast companion: guuuuud!

To satisfy our caffeine habit it was flat whites all round. You can practically smell it through the screen right?! No. That's insane and hasn't been invented yet. It should be. Can somebody please hurry up and make our pictures smell yummy!

We then eagerly ploughed through the following:

Sourdough toast with crushed avocado, poached egg and all the bacon.

More sourdough toast with scrambled eggs, rocket and all the bacon.

French toast with honey, pecans, sugar and all the bacon.

Generous portion sizes, creamy eggs, friendly service and a brightly lit space make for the perfect spot to tumble into after a big night, a little night, a late night, ok, pretty much any night! I'm pretty sure I'll be tumbling right back in no time!

Australian run Lantana have spots in Fitzrovia and Shoreditch and while their brunch is pretty special, they are about to relaunch their 'shindig' dinner service with 50% off food next Tuesday-Thursday (get booking peoples), after which their new dinner menu will be available at full price to all. If brunch is anything to go by, dinner should be pretty special!

Lantana on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Manor

A Manor of Speaking.

There are times when everything just fits together as it should. Food, atmosphere, staff and company combine in delightful harmony and you leave feeling as though your stomach and heart have had a bit of a cuddle. Those are the moments to savour and precisely what you'll find at The Manor in Clapham.

From the team that brought the delightful Dairy, comes an equally comforting treat. 

I couldn't wait to try it out for myself after hearing it's praises sung by many a trusted source, and when a last-minute table appeared, excitement was an understatement. 

Tumbling in from the cold (bleugh, standard England), we were greeted by a stripped back, rustic interior with the sort of lighting that envelopes you in a warm embrace upon entry. That wiggle your toes, and curl up by the proverbial fire sort of atmosphere was just what we needed!

Smiles followed quickly and we perched at the entertainingly graffiti covered bar awaiting our table. 

After fiddling with the tiny little doilies and with a beautiful bottle of Rioja in front of us, we became quickly, effortlessly and most heavily involved with the menu.

Not that we minded in the slightest (or really even noticed in fact .. thank you Rioja), our table was taking a little longer to be vacated than expected. We were in no hurry and were encouraged that people didn't want to leave the restaurant.  While an extra 3 minutes on the platform awaiting the tube is positively outrageous, I'd happily be made to wait for our table again. We were looked after impeccably and I'd actually recommend stopping for a drink and soaking up the atmosphere at the bar before you sit down.

To our surprise and delight, pork and fennel salumi appeared, (it is around about now that I eat my words where pure hatred of fennel is concerned), along with fermented potato flatbread with heaven-sent smoked aubergine, all to apologise for the wait. While totally unnecessary, we appreciated the thoughtful gesture that set our taste buds tingling. By golly gosh was that aubergine something to rave about!

We were soon led through the cheerful bustle of the restaurant to our table and after taking a quick glance at the misted up glass behind us, there was no doubt we had the better deal! 

To our table arrived sourdough, all snuggled in a beanbag of it's own to keep it toasty warm while beside it sat creamy chicken skin butter atop a perfectly chilled pebble. 

Cod, sour cream, wakame and rice crackers took to the stage next and presented us with mouthfuls of sharp, silky, creamy fish and a subtly spiced crunch. Pretty as a picture too!

For the mains, it was onto pigs belly, morcilla and squash, a warming sweet and succulently comforting dish with a crackle, a nuttiness and a smooth texture that inspired plate licking. 

The smoked Pollock was delicate and perfectly complimented by the cream sauce, new potatoes and sorrel to give it an extra kick (although the crisps were a rather bizarre addition).

And onto the dessert. I'd had a tip off about what to expect here and I wasn't going to be swayed, no matter how full I was already feeling (hint: very)! At The Manor Sweet Shop (and in the fine words of Roald Dahl), come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination ..

They've gone all out nostalgic with a hint of magic, tapping into the childish delights we all secretly dream of. Ice cream Sundaes were created from liquid nitrogen in front of our vary eyes and topped with an array of treats from the treasure pots. 

Yes, of course I got a little snap happy, but what can I say .. So.Much.Smokey.Steamy.Magic!

Introducing the end result, a sweet tooth heaven! Super sweet buttermilk ice cream laden with honey comb, meringue, popcorn, popping candy, chocolate dust and potentially a trip to the dentist (brush your teeth people)! 

While this spectacular dessert was an utterly indulgent delight, It would have scored full marks if it had been half the size - cheeky mouthfuls as opposed to whopping great guilty mountain!

It's fair to say that I would make the journey to Clapham again and again (yes, this is big), solely for the purpose of returning to The Manor. The food is spectacular, imaginative and doesn't take itself too seriously and the shabby chic, cosy interior is versatile. Be it a romantic dinner date, a catch up with pals or lunch with the parents, all boxes have been ticked and I can't wait for a second outing.

Manor on Urbanspoon

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