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Thursday 28 February 2013

Ben's Canteen - Powder Keg Diplomacy - Southsider Cocktail Club

Today's edition comes all the way from Battersea (mostly because I live there).  As expected this is already proving to be expensive and fattening (see liquified butter below) but Clapham Junction didn't let me down this week.  Three new places to report:

Tuesday night (26th Feb) - I wasn't sure where I was going to go but I had my heart set on somewhere. The candidates were Cafe Cairo (Clapham North), Pitt Cue Co (Soho), Ping (Earls Court) and Powder Keg Diplomacy (Clapham Junction). The texts went out to keen beans and votes came in for Powder Keg Diplomacy (or PKD). One keen "Lister" came all the way from Mile End only to discover that London's busiest station is sadly not on the Northern Line.

Powder Keg Diplomacy
After a quick transfer via Balham, Taro found Clapham Junction and we wandered up St. John's Hill towards PKD.  I knew a place nearby called Ben's Canteen that a friend had mentioned and so we popped in there first.  As luck would have it, Tuesday at Ben's Canteen is 2 for 1 Cocktails so we ordered a Spiced Vanilla Mojito each - to our surprise it was served in a jam jar. The drinks were good but I wouldn't buy one again unless it was half price.  We didn't stay long but the food is meant to be good - they claim to have one of the UK's best burgers but I can't confirm or deny this sadly. They run craft workshops amongst other things and it is definitely worth a look if you live in the area as there is a lot going on.

Ben's Canteen cocktails
Then we moved on to Powder Keg Diplomacy - a bar/restaurant with crazy cocktails, good beer and fine dining.  Apart from the cocktails helping it to stand out, the bar is Colonial themed and only uses ingredients that can be sourced from the corners of the old British Empire. My favourite section on the website is the separate wine list dedicated solely to wines from countries that we have been at war with.  On arrival we were presented with three ale samples to taste by a barman in a waistcoat.  They were all very nice but we made the correct decision to move on to their bizarre cocktail list.  Taro started with Queen Anne's Revenge - House Aged Wray and Nephew Rum, Pickled Walnut Vinegar, Green Tea and Treacle; Smoked and served with English Blue Cheese and Pickled Walnut.  It's a ridiculous cocktail served in a test tube type arrangement with a cork provided which you can take on or off depending on how smoked you want your rum. I meanwhile ordered Henry Martini Rifle - Whitley Neil Gin, Gunpowder Green Tea Vermouth, Maple Syrup, Dandelion and Burdock Bitters. Similarly ridiculous, mine was left for me to pour in my own time with most of the cocktail reserved in a spherical container on ice.

Queen Anne's Revenge
Taro and I were joined by two more from Team List - Rosie was excited to discover a cocktail called Regali-tea containing Earl Grey-infused Plymouth Gin (her two favourite ingredients combined at last) and Max went for a Chipotle Sour which had an enormous sphere of ice filling the glass along with a tiny Chipotle chilli. Extra points for Max for turning up having moved back to England that day from Brussels with a trip to Mexico looming a few days later. The drinks are good value at around £8 and the food is meant to be great. There is also a magician on certain evenings who walks from table to table performing close-up magic!

Henry Martini Rifle
Wednesday evening (27th Feb) - Max (of PKD fame) was having a curry in Battersea to celebrate his return from Brussels and also his departure to Mexico, so I shamelessly tried to turn it into another List evening. Luckily, Max was very keen and he will be sorely missed as a reliable member of Team List whilst he is away after a storming two day performance. We decided to try and squeeze in a few cocktails at Southsider Cocktail Club before dinner after reading great things about the Blumenthal-esque mixology going on there. Seven of us gathered in Southsider CC and we were delighted to find that they have £5 cocktails everyday from 5-8.  The cocktails are already cheap at around £7.50 considering how odd they are, so £5 is a bargain. The main reason I wanted to go was because they make their own version of Harry Potter's "Butter Beer" - here is their take on it: 42 Below Manuka Honey, Popcorn Bacardi Superior Rum, Butterscotch Schnapps, Liquified Butter (!), Soft Toffee Caramel, Vanilla Salt, Asahi Beer.

Sam and his Bloody Warhol
It was sickly sweet but definitely close to what I imagined the original to be like.  More strange cocktails were ordered including a "Bloody Warhol" served in a soup tin, "Dirty Man Harry" served in a gun shaped-flask, ice bucket and chilled coupette, "Grandma Sloane's Teatime Tipple" served in a fine bone china mug with a macaroon and the "Full English Flip" - Bacon Woodford Reserve Bourbon, A whole egg, Maple Syrup, Angostura Bitters, Dehydrated Bacon Crumb. Other odd ingredients worth mentioning include edible flowers, toasted coriander seeds, chorizo mezcal and atomised tobacco mist! The staff were also incredibly friendly and helpful and brought us unlimited free popcorn with three different flavours sprinkled on top. I can't recommend this place highly enough, especially with the overly generous daily happy hour from 5-8.

Southsider Cocktail Club
Whilst I'm here I thought I would mention a couple of events going on in London that are one-offs or have limited availability. I will try and tweet about them as they come up so follow @matthew1hickman for more regular updates. Feast is a food festival on next Saturday (7th-10th March) at the Tobacco Dock, Wapping - tickets are £8/£9 and a lot of the food on offer is from places on The List that I haven't been to yet. Cambalache - One Night in Argentina is a night of Argentinian experiences with unlimited food, wine and cocktails plus much more for £35 on 18th April. Dine Mile High is a pop-up air-travel-based restaurant/bar experience that looks fun. Backyard Cinema does what it says on the tin - tickets sell out fast each time so subscribe for updates for them. Wilfred Bagshaw's Time Emporium is "an immersive theatrical adventure which culminates in an after-party in a sprawling Victorian warehouse" - no idea what that is about. Last but not least - Hint Hunt is a an experience for 3-5 people where you have to solve a mystery together to escape a room within one hour. Leave a comment if you try any of these experiences or any of the places I have mentioned - it would be great to hear for you! Next stop for The List : The Doodle Bar.

Team List: Taro (Ben's Canteen, Powder Keg Diplomacy); Rosie and Max (PKD and Southsider); Mary, JB, Sam and Natalie (Southsider) - Taro leads with way with 4 trips

Square MealSquare Meal

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Pre-List Favourites - Part 1 : Food

I thought I'd mention a few favourites of mine that I discovered with friends and family over the last few years just to prove that I didn't spend all of my time pre-2013 in a Wetherspoons (Beer and a Burger for under £5 is still a hard deal to beat though).

Bonnington Cafe was introduced to me last year - it's a vegan/vegatarian restaurant tucked away near Vauxhall with starters for £3.00, mains for £7.00 and desserts for £3.00.  There is a different chef each day and you have to email them directly to book a table.  I've been twice now and the food was great both times (this means a lot coming from a devoted meat eater). As it says on the website, "the Café has been open since the early 80s when it was started as a squat Café to provide a good cheap meal for the comminuty". It's BYOB and there is often someone tinkling away on a piano whilst you dine. Thanks to Lucy and Coral for taking me there!

Ev in Isabella Street
I discovered Ev Deli/Restaurant/Bar by mistake with my family when we were hoping to find a table at Tas in Waterloo and they pointed us to their new hidden creation on Isabella Street.  Ev occupies three railway arches in a tiny little street near Southwark/Waterloo tube. The Turkish food is very tasty but the main draw is the setting, especially the garden out the front which should be visited in the summer. It's worth walking down the street even if you don't intend to visit Ev.

Buona Sera at the Jam
Next up is one of my new favourite places - Buona Sera at the Jam is a little Italian restaurant on King's Road which stands out because it has bunk tables! You climb up a little ladder and suddenly everything is ten times more exciting than it was before you got up there. The food is  tasty and very good value, and it has been pretty empty everytime I have been.  Still there is no harm in booking to make sure you get a bunk table as opposed to a stupid, boring regular table.

Build your own burger at Thirsty Bear
The Thirsty Bear pub near Waterloo/Southwark tube is fun for two reasons - 1. Most tables have an ipad for ordering food and drink, and private taps for pouring your own beer (although every time it dripped it tried to charge us for 0.1 of a pint which didn't go down well with a table full of Maths graduates). 2. The ipad system allows you to build your own burger with no limit to the number of burgers and toppings that you can add! The menu includes their own burger creations including The Big Ass Bear Burger (16oz), The Grizzly Bear Burger (1.5lbs) and something called "Goldiehops and the 3 Grizzly Bears Challenge" - head to the website to find out more.  They take bookings (make sure you get a table with all the technology on) and it's a great place for watching sport too.

Sleep beckons so I will just briefly mention one more -  Negril in Brixton is worth visiting for authentic Jamaican food with tables for alfresco dining out front (thanks again to Lucy and Coral!). It's a bit of a walk up Brixton Hill from the station but the atmosphere is great and it was packed when we went despite it being a bit out of the way. I will mention some quirky bars/pubs that were discovered pre-blog sometime soon in Part 2. Also hopefully I will have ticked off two more places from The List by Wednesday evening. Watch this space!

Isabella Street - Home of Ev

Square Meal

Square Meal

Sunday 24 February 2013

Meat Liquor - Underdog - Duck and Waffle

Friday 23rd February - As my friend Natalie can confirm from my numerous facebook messages about pop-up bars and restaurants last week, I am already pretty obsessed with The List. Just visiting Underdog would not be enough to kickstart the campaign. Since I needed to be in Bond Street anyway to watch three of my violin students perform at the Wigmore Hall with Midori (the violinist as opposed to a bottle of melon liqueur), I decided to squeeze in a trip to an underground burger bar called Meat Liquor around the corner afterwards with my friend Sam.

I told him about the place over the phone and instructed him to look it up and meet me there at 3.30pm for a filthy burger and a drink when the queue would hopefully be non-existent.  It was only when I texted him on the day that I discovered that he had thought the place was called Meat Licker.  The fact that this didn't put him off suggests that Sam is going to come in handy over the next 10 months of adventurous eating and drinking.  There was no queue but it was packed inside and we had to wait at the bar for a table.  Luckily they had some cans of Hobo beer to keep us busy.  Sam went for a Buffalo Chicken Burger ("Dirty chicken burger slathered in house hot-pepper sauce with blue cheese dressing") whilst I tried to find out from the waitress (or "burgerette" apparently) what I could expect from Dead Hippie Sauce.  It is a place for meat lovers (and not recommended as a date after the mess we made trying to eat) though there are veggie options under the "Rabbit Food" section of the menu. With a "Meateasy Triple Chilli Challenge", Philli Cheese Fries (fries, shaved rump steak, onions, mushrooms, provolone cheese) and much more besides still left to try, I intend to return.  However, I have heard rumour of other burger bars that are in the running for Best London Burger 2013 such as Honest Burgers, Dirty Burger, and Patty and Bun that I might have to try first...

After a swift pint in the Cock and Lion pub on Wigmore Street, I left Sam behind (who was off to a Safari party - points to anyone who knows what that is) and ventured off to Brewdog Shoreditch to meet several friends keen to try out Underdog.  After a couple of standard Brewdog pints we moved downstairs through a hidden door in to Underdog.  The downstairs bar also serves Brewdog beer so there is no real reason to stay upstairs unless you crave a particular rare bottle and have a burning desire to shout at your friends all evening.  The cocktails were tasty, the atmosphere was great and the decor is fun - a few risqué photos taken with a skeleton hanging next to our table haven't yet materialised. 5 hours later, the committed few still left were in need of food.  I saw this is a great opportunity to push on with the list and so we ventured out into the freezing cold to make our way over to Heron Tower where a 24/7 restaurant bar on the 40th floor called Duck and Waffle was waiting...

There was a woman on the ground floor who worked for Sushisamba (also on The List) organising the queue.  She bizarrely made us make a reservation before going up in the lift and said there would be a 20 minute wait in the bar. The view from the glass walled lift was impressive as it zoomed us up 40 floors in a few seconds whizzing high above the Gherkin and putting us up near the heights of the Shard.  Once up there, there was no waiting time and many tables were empty (silly woman) as you might expect since you can visit the restaurant all night long!

4 out of the 5 of us settled on the signature dish, Duck and Waffle, and we were not disappointed!  A fry up, main meal and pudding in one, it is pretty good value at £15 considering the venue. I should imagine it is not the last time that I will end up in the Duck and Waffle since the 344 bus runs all night long to my flat from outside - next time I will aim for a sunrise sitting.  We all disappeared off into to the night at about 3am to catch various night buses having made a great start to The List.

Next up... B.Y.O.C? Purl? Southsider Cocktail Club? Opium? Pitt Cue Co? House of Wolf? Bubbledogs? Bounce? Hot-tub cinema? La Bodega Negra? Bone Daddies? Ceviche? The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town? Circus? Disco Bistro? Who knows... but it is going to be fun.

List Team: Sam (Meat Liquor), Ali, Lauren (Underdog), Luke, Natalie, Taro, Maggie (Underdog, Duck & Waffle).

Square Meal

Square Meal


It is a bit late for New Year's Resolutions and I don't normally get involved with them but I think I accidentally made one the other day.  My flatmate, Ali, has decided this year to cover 3000 miles ( by running/cycling/otherwise in 2013 to raise money for Save the Children and the Motor Neurone Disease Association. My February resolution is not quite as athletic or charitable, and I will sadly end up  fatter, poorer and more hungover because of it.

Last weekend, whilst she was out running/cycling/otherwise, I was sitting in my pyjamas in the living room eating my own weight in pasta and pesto, watching Top Gear reruns on Dave and procrastinating on Facebook. My friend Natalie suggested that we try out a new speakeasy bar called Underdog (more on that later) underneath Brewdog Shoreditch where Beer Cocktails (yes please) would be served up.  A bit of research led me to my new favourite website - The Nudge - which updates you on pop-up restaurants, speakeasy bars, and generally quirky London experiences.  This is where The List began.

I trawled through The Nudge making a note of each exciting place that I wanted to try out but it didn't stop there. I moved on to other websites - Great Little Place, Bar Chick100 Must Do Dates - until the list spilled over on to a second page on Microsoft Word and I decided to call it a day.  With a trip to Underdog in place, my plan is to work my way (preferably with friends!) through The List in 2013, starting on Friday February 23rd. 

I will endeavour to blog about all of my trips, hopefully without misusing commas more than 75% of the time or offending my better educated friends with my attempts at writing in whole sentences rather than with algebra / musical notation / Latin for the first time in a long time. That sentence was rubbish and too long wasn't it? Anyway, enjoy and get involved!

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