Friday, October 14, 2016

Hill & Szrok and The Gibson, 28th September

There’s very little point in going to Hill & Szrok if you don’t eat meat. They started as a Butchery and cookshop in Broadway market and their pub is pretty much an excuse to show off the meat they butcher. Having said that, there are a few sides which are just as good to eat as the meat.

The sautéed potatoes were gorgeously golden discs of salty crunchiness and soft potato inside. Hispi cabbage which seems to be flaunting itself all over town on many a menu was as good here as I’ve had elsewhere – sprinkled with chilli to liven it up and apparently anchovy was also somehow involved although I couldn’t spot where. Blended into the sauce it was dressed with I imagine. It was a really delicious bit of veg. The salad we ordered was probably unnecessary and barely got a look in after the cabbage and potatoes were all done. It was crisp and fresh but rather too mustardy for me.

While not normally a fan of the pork chop I thought it stood a good chance of being done well here, and I was right. Nice and thick it had a good amount of fat on the edge (although some of that fat could have been a little more melty than chewy) and wasn’t in the least dry. A chunky applesauce accompanied.

I had a white wine and a red wine over dinner. The white was dry but had some personality to it and the red was a montepulciano which I know is always a safe bet and had a pretty heady aroma. Our waiter was so sweet he even offered to let me try the wines I was deciding between – how often do you get that offered to you?

I really liked the set up too. I was worried the place would be more restaurant than pub but they have delineated it so that seated service is at the back and does feel more prim whereas the front is definitely a proper pub where you can pop in for a drink without feeling any pressure to eat.

Hill & Szrok Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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After this we took a short walk up to The Gibson, a cocktail bar I have been eying for some time now. It wasn’t quite what I expected – I thought it was going to be more serious, classic drinks, instead they like to surprise you with added extras and features. Some of them not altogether welcome. I had a shaky start when I ordered the Tiger balm and what was set down was a huge glass with (I thought in the half light) Bombay mix pinned to the side.  Before I reached in to get a few, the waiter explained they were worms! I literally yelped and shrank away, banishing them from my sight. My date was braver and tried one – said they tasted a bit like candied ginger. I would not be persuaded. The chunk of tamarind that it came with was also odd to eat and after one bite full of seeds I abandoned it.  
My companion had ordered the Dry Gibson which came with pickled black eyed peas and a spoon to scoop them out with. That was delicious. They managed to make what is basically a glass full of gin completely moreish. 
My second drink was more like a dessert than a drink (well it was called a Tiki toffee pudding), topped with a thick waffle, with the glass encased in chocolate. But I went back to savoury with my last drink. 
We both had Asian-inspired drinks to finish – my 'Big in Japan' was topped with warmed wasabi peas and my companion had his 'Way of the Dragon' served in a teapot (dragon-shaped of course) which blew smoke into his glass.

But anyone can come up with fun things to do with cocktails. The main thing about this place is that each one tasted as good as it looked and I would have been as happy with them even without the bells and whistles. They’re just my kind of drinks – strong enough you taste the alcohol, with the extra ingredients smoothing and rounding it out.

The number of drinks on the menu is ridiculous so you could easily come back again and again to work through all their inventions. When we went, we even had a bit of jazz being played on the piano, which was a nice surprise. And, unlike Nightjar down the road, you would actually stand a chance of getting a seat on a weekday – when we went at 8:30 on a Wednesday there were but a few others there. 

The Gibson Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fanny Nelson's, 22nd September

I had a plan. I would try three libations of each sort on offer – one cocktail, one wine and one draught beverage. But best laid plans and all that… I did not stay long enough to complete the mission. Nor was I able to try as much of the food as I would have liked. But I was there long enough to realise that the Fanny Nelson is a charming, cosy little pub which manages to be perfect date material but also seems to have a very healthy handful of locals – both of the hipster and genuine East End local variety, who all seemed to know the bar staff by name.

What I ended up having was the Jamonero - dark rum, peach, red wine and yellow chartreuse. Which, it turns out, had only just been added to the menu. The barman was very keen to hear my views upon tasting it as he’d come up with it. It had quite a sweetness to it, reminding me of a punch, which was fine to start but I couldn’t drink it all night. It so happened he agreed but he said he thought he had a more sour palate than most. I guess I do too… 
I sipped at the dinky drink but before long decided I should try some food. I had been told the duck and the steak were very good, but I’d seen how much steak you got and wasn’t hungry enough for that so I did have the duck breast. It was cooked to pink in the middle sections though the ends ended up well done. It came with a beetroot hummus and a sort of couscous crumble all atop almond yoghurt which was too tangy for me and which I avoided. 

Alongside the duck I had to have a glass of red, of course. Having unexpectedly dined on my own up to this point, I decided I had spent enough time in this pub and left for elsewhere. So I only managed two out of the three drinks. I can’t wait for an excuse to go back and try more.

Fanny Nelson's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Padella, 19th September

I’ve been itching to get to Padella. I never used to be a huge pasta fan, but ever since having some silky smooth and buttery pasta at Vasco and Piero, I have been searching for other Italian places to give me the same experience (preferably for less money).

Padella is the fast-serve pasta place from the guys behind Trullo. It’s small and trendy, and doesn’t take bookings so queuing is the name of the game. Unless you can get there early. At 6 pm on a Monday we could have waltzed in except for the fact that one of our number was late and they only seat complete parties. As the clock ticked by to 6:30 we were getting antsy – we had an Escape Game to get to at 7:30 and were running out of time to eat! We were considering suddenly saying we were only a four after all but the girl seating people took pity on us and let us have a table as long as we ordered for our friend while we waited. Luckily, just as we sat down, she turned up. 

The good thing about this place is that pasta is a quick dish to make and even the one which required a bit of  a wait (mine) was only 15 minutes or so. We were in and out in half an hour! Which might be slightly annoying if you had queued for over an hour in the first place but really suited us.

The butternut squash and sage butter ravioli I think spoke to most of us, with all of us considering it at some point. That was partly why I ended up choosing the cacio e pepe so that we didn’t all have the same thing. Plus cheese and pepper are two of my favuorite things. The Late One had slow cooked tomato sauce and my friend Amy tried crab for the first time, in linguine.

We had some beautiful bread with olive oil and creamy, squidgy burrata drizzled with even more olive oil and a plate of the spinach, anchovy and chilli to entertain us during the short wait.

When our plates arrived, I cannot pretend I did not have food envy. My plate seemed like a very small portion of ugly worms. Pici is a pasta I hadn’t had before and is, apparently a thicker, tube like form. Looked gross. But tasted very nice. Just cheese and pepper could have been a bit claggy and overly stodgy but it wasn’t at all. Each, chewy piece of pasta was nicely coated but there was no excess. I do wish the portion had been maybe a quarter to a third bigger though.
I had a taste of the tomato dish – as tomatoey as you could wish, and also a bit of the ravioli which instantly filled my mouth with the saginess of the butter. Lovely.

I feel like Padella is more of a lunch place, although if you wanted you could make more of a meal of it by ordering pretty much all of the pastas on the menu and treating it a bit like tapas. And look! Pasta is an anagram of Tapas. Can’t be a coincidence…
Padella Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Walluc, 1st September

Well, that was the worst meal I’ve had in recent memory.

I didn’t think you could go far wrong with dipping things in melted cheese but Walluc is here to prove otherwise. I had high hopes – suspecting that it might be a rather overlooked gem on Redchurch street, being forsaken for all the hipster places springing up all around. 

It is a ramshackle kind of place, and I’m never entirely sure of its opening hours so I suspected a quirky personality that I could really bond with lay inside. We walked past in June on a First Thursdays walking tour and it was rammed and buzzy, further adding to my hope. However, when we went, we were the sole customers.
There is only one option on the menu to eat – fondue. This is served with boiled potatoes (undercooked) and bread (comically stale and hard). Four tea lights were brought out and a stand set over them. Then the pot of cheese was placed upon it and given a stir. Stirring was essential as it was so lukewarm to begin with it started to set almost immediately. We ate as quickly as possible but still ended up with basically a lump of gooey cheese in the bowl before too long.
The best I can say about this is that at least it is not expensive at £13 for two. And to give them some benefit of the doubt, perhaps, for two people, they just couldn’t be arsed to make an effort with the food and looked upon us as an opportunity to get rid of their leftover product. Androuet, however, is similarly priced and is streets ahead in terms of, well, everything. 

Walluc Bistrot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, September 16, 2016

Dusty Knuckle and SK London Fields, 30/31st August

Two days off mid-week meant getting lunch from places I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to get to. First up – Street Kitchen. I’ve tried all their different places I think – the airstream, the sandwich place in Broadgate Circle, plus when they’ve popped up in other places. Of course I had to try their hatch in London Fields.
They were predictably good. The special was lamb with crushed potatoes and roasted veg with pesto. They offer 'slow food fast' and this was as good as I have come to expect. Slow cooked lamb that broke away easily when nudged with my fork. Plenty of potatoes and roasted carrot and courgette providing sweetness. Not exactly the most summer-centric meal to have on what was a lovely sunny day but plenty tasty nonetheless.
Street Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

On day two, I went over to Dusty Knuckle in Dalston and had porchetta in brioche. While it tasted nice, the experience of eating it wasn’t that pleasant. It was absolutely stuffed with different things, which made the bread horribly soggy and all just seemed to fall out all over the place. There was fennel, kohlrabi, red cabbage, plus the tomatoes the pork was cooked in and some ogleshield cheese. The bread didn't really stand a chance against all of this, and as a result it was hard to get a mouthful that contained most of the ingredients. I was mainly picking individual bits out, or scooping them up where they fell. Which isn't the ethos of a sandwich. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Whirl-y-gig, 30th July

Whirl-y-gig, being very much of the Planet Angel style of raving, was therefore, of course, an incredibly fun and friendly night. Borne out of a dancing self-expression event for the Association of Humanistic Pscyhology, they outgrew them and now host an almost monthly clubnight in London and their own festival Whirl-y-fayre. It has a bit of a festival feel to it – like Wonderland – lots of decoration and colours everywhere. They try to keep the music eclectic but dancey. This didn’t work for me quite so well as it meant they chopped and changed styles, so you didn’t know if you would like what was playing one song to the next. And the sound levels in the Camden Centre, I felt, were woefully low. You could easily have a conversation at the back of the dance floor, which is not what I want from my raves.

However, I had a brilliant time. When the music I liked was played, it was great, and I have to say it did veer towards my style of thing as the night wore on. Everyone seemed so up for it and so happy to mingle and chat to people they didn’t know. I lost track of the number of people I befriended. They have interesting bits and pieces around - such as a board to stick messages on (someone wrote something very kind about me!) which makes the night feel a little more interactive and encourages getting to know people. I came away from the night with a huge smile on my face.

They finish each night with a parachute – you know, like when you were at school. This does feel a bit random as you all just sit underneath it and natter to yourselves, but the visuals are really quite cool!

One other small niggle would be that it ends at 4 am which is, of course, far too early. But there are always afterparties…

Friday, September 9, 2016

Boceto, 29th July

With Boceto, the guys behind Three Eight Four and Seven at Brixton have made the schlep North of the river to Mare Street, an ideal location for their kind of thing. Having been to Three Eight Four and quite liking it, I expected to like Boceto too. It has more of a food focus then 384 but some interesting drinks too.

And I did like it, in general. Unfortunately it was rather marred by having the worst tortilla my little mouth has ever endured. It was so so dry, clearly had been sitting out all day. Not one little ounce of moisture in it and very little flavour. Seasoning was AWOL. 
On the other hand, the lamb that I had was pink and tender and the steak my date had was the same, with a yummy chimichurri sauce that was just the right amount of in your face with its heat (though too much for my companion - what a wuss!).
The pan con tomate was absolutely loaded with 'tomate' and was a pretty filling accompaniment.
With a slight twisting of my arm I decided to have dessert and of course had to try the churros as they were in keeping with the Spanish theme. I’m no churros expert but these were… alright I guess. Didn’t have me professing any great love for them.
As I was with someone who doesn’t drink, I limited myself to just the one cocktail – Mother’s Ruin, which had been imported from their Seven branch. Quite fun to pour yourself and a light and summery drink.
The place has a really casual vibe and I’d be happy to pop in for a drink again but probably wouldn’t bother too much with the food. 

Boceto Hackney Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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I work as an editor in educational publishing by day, and then spend most of my spare time discovering interesting things to do in London, and taking people there with my own Meetup.