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Friday 30 August 2013

National Burger Day 2013

On Tuesday August 27thMr.Hyde and Tweat Up teamed up with some of London's best burger traders (plus some innovative extras) to put on the first ever National Burger Day party at the Street Feast site in Dalston.  After showing fine form at the Monkey Shoulder Malt Jockey event back in March, I brought Sam along to help me out.  A few people have already put up some pretty comprehensive blogs about the event -  for full on burger porn, go and have a look at Motley Spicer's post.  I will keep mine to a few photos (mostly of the stunning Dalston Yard site) as I'm not going to compete with that burger analysis!

Photo from Smokestak twitter feed

Meantime Brewery Fresh Lager included with £10 ticket, plus a Chilliback and a Pickleback

Smokestak serving up £1 ribs - not burgers, but who cares?

Meat Liquor with Dead Hippie burgers and more

Bleecker St. Burger - Single, double, triple or quad cheeseburger?

Next level Roller Disco burgers from Disco Bistro team - currently found at Skate, King's Cross

Bonkers burger themed ice creams from Sorbitium Ices

Picklebacks - Whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice

Breddo's Chilliback Bar - Tequila followed by pickled habanero juice

Burger Macarons from The Crumbery

Street Vin - the transient wine bar

Honest Burgers - currently taking over London with 4th site on the way

Mad Mother Flipper menu - very long wait due to everyone ordering The Dirty Barbie!
You can usually find these guys at Brockley Market on Saturdays from 10-2

Not entirely sure why anyone would have stood over a fire when it was so hot that night.
Maybe his burger was cold?

Burger Pies! - a delicious experiment by Eat My Pies chef Andy Bates
The recipe can be found here.

A huge crowd gathered for burger pinata - they are just out of shot, I promise. This lady is at least facing the right way - one participant accidentally turned on the crowd and nearly landed a fatal blow!

This guy somehow knocked it off with the first swing, so the crowd amusingly decided to egg him on to swing at nothing for a couple more minutes.


If lots of similar photos turn up soon, we would like to claim that we started it.

Why so few pictures of burgers? We ate them too fast. Here was our order of play:

1. Byron's Le Smokey (head to Camden Town Brewery for their Wholey Cow event tomorrow and Saturday) - an excellent start and a bargain at £5

2. Two Nights Only's Rib Fat'n'Marrow Cheeseburger - tasty and messy, and another £5 bargain.

3. Mother Flipper's Double Candy Bacon Flipper - the wait was so long once we ordered that we managed to queue and eat another burger in the time it took to arrive.  They did very kindly provide free deep fried mozzarella balls to keep us happy.  Bacon should always be cooked in maple syrup.

4. Meat Liquor's Dead Hippie - not my first time eating this, and probably not my last!

5. Eat My Pie's Pie Burger - it had to be done, and we were not disappointed

We did queue up for a few others towards the end but everything was running out.  Dirty Burger have just opened a second site in Vauxhall which I hope to visit soon.  Breddos Tacos have moved into the Slider Bar at The Player in Soho and are doing soft opening offers this week.  Roti Chai were also there with a tasty looking Toddy Shop Burger Slider which I hope to try some time.  The atmosphere was fantastic as I have come to expect from events run by Tweat Up / Street Feast (bring on Ginstock 2014) - I hope that they continue to keep us entertained throughout the winter months as well!

Great aerial shot of Street Feast by foodie photographer Thomas Bowles
Street Feast is open in Dalston on Friday and Saturday for 3 more weeks (closing party on 14th September) - make sure you check it out before they move on.  This Saturday is Gizzi Erskine's Street Fiesta which promises to be a lot of fun.  Also, as Tweat Up say on their website, mark 28 & 29 September in your diaries for the British Street Food Awards.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Coal Vaults - Scoop - The Harp - Maison Bertaux

Monday 26th August - Restaurants are opening left, right and centre at the moment (Chop Shop, Le Coq, Smokehouse, Gin Joint and many more), and Team List managed to grab a table for the first soft opening night at Coal Vaults on Wardour Street.  This restaurant & bar is situated in an underground space that was used for storing coal in the early 19th Century, and focuses on tapas style British food, with matching cocktails.

As it was a soft opening, we had 50% off the food bill, and a free glass of champagne to start us off.  There were a few teething problems - no aircon, lingering paint smell, broken dishwasher - that will no doubt be fixed shortly.  We were very well looked after anyway, and it's all part of the fun of opening night!  The cocktails are designed to match the food, though no pairings are suggested on the menu.  Wine and beer are also in good supply, with bottled beers from the Crate and Camden breweries on offer.  We decided to stick with the champagne and get stuck in to the food.  Our first two courses to arrive were 'Pulled' Rabbit with smoked black beans, sweetcorn and pineapple relish, avocado, sour cream & flatbread and '5 hour' shoulder of lamb cooked in hay & lavender with caper, mint and spiced anchovy couscous.  They set the bar extremely high, especially the rabbit which was beautifully cooked, though I would never have guessed at there being any anchovies present in the delicious couscous.

"Pulled" Rabbit & Lamb cooked in hay - both wonderful
Next up we had Charred courgette, caramelized red pepper, goats curd and hazelnut salad and I Camisa antipasti platter with black olive and fennel bread & home pickles. Two more good choices, though they should perhaps have brought these first? The food menu reminds me of The Shed in Notting Hill (read more here) where the chefs decide on the best order for dishes to be brought out once you have made your decisions.  Everything on the antipasti platter deserved its place - the pickled broad beans were lovely, and we fought over the last piece of bread.  The goats curd was wonderfully light and complimented the other flavours in the salad.
Goat's Curd & Hazelnut Salad & Antipasti Plate with fresh bread

We finished off with a generous portion of Bombay chips with roast tomato, mango & lime chutney, and coriander yoghurt - interesting to serve the chips with dips traditionally associated with popadoms.  The chips were fantastic even on their own, and the roast tomato was a welcome addition.  We decided to skip desserts, though I might need to go back to try their Earl Grey Bread with vanilla butter and homemade strawberry jam as a loaf of the bread was taunting me from a distance.

We turned our thoughts to cocktails, and discussed some ideas with one of our entertaining waitresses.  She brought us over some tasters of Roasted Fennel Seed Vodka and Toasted Macadamia Liqueur to give us some ideas.  After a while we all decided that we were not drinking anything with macadamias in - it turned out to be some concoction of bitters left on the side by the barman!  We eventually decided upon New Rose (Gin, Cucumber, Dry Vermouth, Pink Pepper, served with Pickled Celery & Cucumber), Marano (Mirto Rosso, Gin and Crushed Blueberries, with a matching glass of Prosecco) and a Rodeo Drive (Bourbon, Roasted Macadamia Liqueur, Lemon & Egg White, with a fresh Cherry).  We were sadly quite underwhelmed by our choices, and felt they all lacked a bit of a kick.  Perhaps they come across better when drank alongside particular dishes, but this is not really an achievable plan if you are sharing several plates.  That said, I don't think it would take much to improve them, and the food was outstanding across the board.  Even without 50% off, Coal Vaults offers good value for high quality dining which will only get better as they settle in.  The decor is a little rough around the edges, and varies depending on where you sit.  Your best bet is hiring out one of the secluded vault spaces with a group of friends.  The atmosphere was enjoyable with just the right level of noise to enjoy chatting over dinner and drinks.  

Verdict: Sublime food outweighs our issues with cocktails (Crate IPA would do for me anyway) - give them some time to get air conditioning and then head on down!

Luke & List Leader Natalie were keen to get another List point so we headed back out into Soho to see what we could find. Before too long we found ourselves in Scoop on Brewer Street, ordering a load of ice cream.  It's a lovely little gelateria that also has waffles, crepes, cakes, milkshakes and "scoffee" - a blend of espresso coffee and ice cream of your choice.  They don't have any particularly crazy flavours that you might find at Gelupo or Chin Chin Ice Labs, but making your choice is extremely difficult.  Luckily they are happy to let you taste several varieties before you make your decision.  If you are feeling particularly indecisive, just order one of their mammoth cones that holds up to 6 flavours.  Hopefully they will have some Torroncino left next time, made from hazelnuts from Piedmont and almonds from Montelimar.  They also have shops in Covent Garden and South Kensington, and stay open as late is 23.30 most days.

Sunday 25th - A few quick mentions from the day before as I ended up in Soho with the same team on Sunday as well.  We started the day off at the Real Street Food festival on Southbank (which I have blogged about before - read more here), drinking some excellent craft beers from Craft Beer Rising, the Meantime Fresh Beer Truck and Look Mum No Hands beer popup - truly impressive to have three interesting options for quality beer in such a small space.  We munched our way through several dishes, starting with yummy Dirty Fries  (chips with cheese, lettuce, salt beef and probably more) from The Bell & Brisket van.

The Bell & Brisket Blowtorch
We also tried out Dosa Deli (delicious vegetable dosas), Community Kitchen (meaty wraps), and Kirsty's Kitchen (homemade scotch eggs) whilst soaking up the sun with our beers, before wandering over the river. There was no real plan for the day, so we decided to stop off in the Harp Pub, one of central London's greatest boozers.  It's a tiny little place which can get stupidly busy, but it is worth fighting through the crowds to get to the wonderful array of beers on offer.  It constantly wins awards, and was impressively crowned CAMRA National Pub of the Year in 2010/11.  They serve "award-winning" sausages which apparently run out very quickly.  Try and get a seat at the open windows where you can do some Covent Garden people watching, and chat with drinkers the other side of the wall.

We weren't sure whether to eat or drink anymore and so we rambled around the Seven Dials before heading in to Soho in search of inspiration.  We eventually settled at Maison Bertaux, a cosy patisserie and Soho institution - the perfect place to watch the world go by with a pot of tea and a cake.  We were served by a charming lady (Madame Bertaux?) who pottered around the café making chit chat, and made us feel at home.  Upstairs is not quite as glamorous as the ground floor and pavement seating, but there is interesting art on show all over the place, including stuff by Noel Fielding (The Mighty Boosh), Harry Hill and Sigur Ros, organised by Maison Bertaux co-owner and "Hooligan Art Dealer" Tania Wade.

Points aplenty for Luke and Natalie with more coming this week.  I'm off to celebrate National Burger Day at the Street Feast site in Dalston.  Many restaurants over London are offering 20% off burgers today - head here to get a voucher.  Mummy List has expressed concerns that I eat too many burgers (obviously looking at the pictures rather than reading) - this evening is not going to help my case.  

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Friday 23 August 2013

The Miller - Lyric Soho - Cavendish Arms - Estrela Bar

Thursday 18th July - The July (and a bit of August) roundup continues! First up, a trip to The Miller pub which has had a makeover from the guys behind the excellent Sebright Arms.  Upstairs is still a venue for music and comedy, though they haven't yet brought back the high quality Monday night comedy from before the changeover.  There is a very lonely ping-pong table (with equipment sadly missing on our visit) on a slightly rundown terrace, but the beer garden below is very nice indeed. The range of beers is good (particularly the bottle list with local offerings from Partizan and Kernel) but their main calling card is the food.  No doubt learning from having the popular Lucky Chip guys in house at the Sebright Arms, The Miller team have cleverly brought in the wonderful folk from Street Kitchen who can do no wrong in my books. They have developed a special hot dog menu (and more recently some "burger dogs") which you need to try, especially if you don't like hot dogs.  They are, unsurprisingly, ridiculously tasty and inventive, and way more substantial than those on offer at Bubbledogs. I can personally vouch for the quality of Boston Hound and Bull Mastiff, and their rosemary salt chips are always fantastic, but the menu may well have changed since I went.  One Team List point each for Sam and T.Rex (reliable Team Bermondsey members). Sam stays in 4th with 24 points, whilst T.Rex has worked his way up to joint 19th with 8 points.

Monday 14th August - Carrying on with the pub theme, after giving up on a Pitt Cue Co queue and seeking out Wiggies at the Sun and 13 Cantons when they weren't open, we ended up going straight to the Lyric Soho pub where our night was supposed to end anyway.  It's a charming little Victorian boozer, thankfully just out of reach of the Piccadilly tourists, with an excellent beer selection.  Camden, Magic Rock, Thornbridge, Harbour, Hop Union and more were on tap when I was there, and I also couldn't resist trying a bottle of Pressure Drop's Stokey Brown (brewed by 2011 Masterchef winner Tim Anderson, who is opening his restaurant Nanban soon).  The service was friendly and humorous throughout, and we bonded with the bar staff as Broad took 6 wickets on the Ashes highlights showing in one corner of the room.

The food menu has every pub dish you could want on it - pies, scotch eggs, sausage and mash etc - and we took our time trying to decide.  In the end we were all deeply satisfied with our pulled pork, steak, pork belly, chicken wings, and salt & pepper squid - delicious!  Next time I might go along on a Tuesday for Carnivore Club when several of the meaty dishes are served with a complimentary pint of beer. Alternatively, I might go along for Saturday brunch (11-3) as that menu is very appealing too.  Yet another reason to come back is to fill up my brand new beer loyalty card - buy 9 get 1 free!  With so many great pubs out there at the moment, who can blame them for giving that extra incentive to return?  I would like to see more places rewarding loyal customers as opposed to first timers.  One Team List point each for flatmate Ali, Stu and birthday girl Cath.  Bristol based Stu is down in joint 27th with 4 points to his name, whilst Cath and Ali are tied for 8th on 15 points with several others.

Sunday 14th July - Just one more pub, I promise.  On the morning of the 14th, several key female members of Team List impressively ran a Race for Life 10k, and they all dealt with the aftermath in different ways.  Lauren decided that the best plan was to then go and watch stand up comedy for the rest of the day in a very cold room in a pub on an estate in Stockwell.  The Cavendish Arms is a crazy little pub with bonkers decor, a Dead Secret Garden ("enter through the thrown away Christmas trees"), a spacious beer garden out front, and a decent gig venue for music and comedy tucked away inside.  They even have a pub organist, Tam, who has lived in Stockwell for 25 years.  We were there with List Leader Natalie to watch some Edinburgh Fringe preview shows from the likes of Daniel Simonsen (not at all ready) and Jimmy McGhie (more ready, and more importantly to the girls, very attractive), for £5 a show or £10 all day, but most events at the Cavendish are free - a quirky little place, well worth a look.

Flatmate Maggie turned up as one comedian finished, and we decided to wander over, sans Lauren, to Little Portugal (technically most of Stockwell, but specifically several bars and shops on South Lambeth Road) to go to one of my favourite discoveries from last year, Bar Estrela.  During Euro 2012, Tim (Team La Liste) and I sought out different European bars so that we could capitalise on the fun atmosphere without the pressure of watching England.  Bar Estrela was our greatest find, and we got swept up supporting Portugal, singing Portugal Allez at the top of our lungs.  The atmosphere was incredible, and the traffic outside came to a stand still as people opened the roof of the cars and waved Portuguese flags around.

Portugal Allez - simple but addictive

I decided to return to see if it was still fun without the football and thankfully it is.  As soon as you step on to their part of the pavement, you feel like you have entered Portugal.  We sat outside in weather worthy of Iberia, and had various small plates of food and pints of Super Bock, before finishing off their last three nata (those incredible custard tarts).  It's the perfect place to spend a lazy evening outside, or even better, to watch football with real fans - head down there for Northern Ireland vs Portugal on 6th September, or hold out for Benfica vs Porto on 12th January next year!

Natalie and Lauren maintain their places as No.1 and 2 on Team List, and Maggie moves to 5th place with 4th placed Sam in her sights.  If anyone reading this lives around Battersea Park Road, try and make it over to the new Vesuvio Cafe/Bar which opened recently.  It is run by a charming bunch of Italians who don't speak much English, and after one day of opening all the other Italians in the area seemed to know the owners.  They serve little pizzas, sandwiches, desserts and drinks from frozen cafe creme (basically ice cream) to Peroni, with Italian TV playing in the background. Fingers crossed they show some Italian football and get a loyal following, as many places on this bit of road don't last very long.

Vesuvio Cafe Bar - new on Battersea Park Road

Last but not least, go and check out Team List regular Lauren's hilarious new blog (link below) where she collates ridiculous messages sent to her and our friends on dating websites, including recently a ludicrous electro song clip composed just for her.  Be warned - some are offensive, whilst others just want to know if she wants to purchase a banjo. - Not Just Three Small Words

Contributions are welcome - leave a comment on her blog!

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