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Monday 30 September 2013


List Dad Guest Post - Here is hopefully the first of many guest posts from List Dad, my father who has slightly more expensive tastes and a bigger budget to play with.  He will be bringing us some short write ups on London's best restaurants. First up - Dabbous:

Matt has been on at me for some time to occasionally 'guest' here with thoughts on my favourite restaurants. London has a huge diversity of places to eat (as witnessed by Matt's postings) and there is no need to be daunted by some of the top (even Michelin starred) places if you stick to the lunch menus and don't order expensive drinks.

My top restaurant is London is Dabbous in Whitfield Street (nearest station - Goodge Street) where word of mouth has made it THE place to eat since it opened in February last year.  Ollie Dabbous was unknown until he burst on the scene with a rare 5 star review from Fay Maschler in 'The Evening Standard'.  He now has one Michelin star, and should have two.  What is his secret?  Simple really - well-sourced ingredients, perfectly cooked by Ollie, and original flavour combinations.

Ollie Dabbous
His signature dish is perhaps his coddled egg with woodland mushrooms, served eye-catchingly in a brown egg shell on straw, but I haven’t had anything less than amazing on my four visits. Dishes this week included a salad of fennel, lemon balm and pickled rose petals, barbecued lamb shoulder with violet mustard and pickled vine leaves, and Scottish raspberries with barley and strained yoghurt.

Coddled Egg
As someone who always turns first to the desserts list on a menu, however, I should mention that the latter pudding was eclipsed on a previous occasion by a dish of milk curds, birch sap, winter fruit and vegetables which ended with a layer at the bottom of chestnuts and Japanese artichoke.

Milk Curds
The restaurant is generally fully booked for lunch and dinner for several weeks ahead but it is possible to walk in for lunch at around 1.30 p.m. on the off chance that a table has been vacated. Alternatively, Oskar’s Bar below the restaurant serves excellent food cooked by Ollie, often including the coddled egg, and it doesn’t take bookings. 

Rumour has it that a second larger venue will be opened next year under Ollie’s supervision, with Ollie remaining in his kitchen in Whitfield Street. Great news for lovers of good food.

Square Meal

Thursday 26 September 2013

Taproom - Hoxley & Porter - Earl of Essex

Wednesday 18th September - Upper Street and the surrounding roads have so far not made it on to The List as I had been waiting to go with certain members of Team List (you know who you are).  I caved last Wednesday as the lineup of bars, pubs and restaurants was becoming too long to ignore, and I felt North London needed some better representation on the blog.  Taro stepped up to the plate and met me at Highbury & Islington for a slow walk down to Angel.  

I suggested going for food at the fairly new Fish & Chip Shop, but Taro was having none of it.  Instead we headed straight for The Taproom, a popup beer bar on Upper Street that now plans to stay there for the foreseeable future.

I was excited to see Five Points Pale on as I haven't had any of their beers yet, so I went for a pint of that straight away.  It lived up to my expectations - hopefully I will make it to one of their brewery open days in Hackney soon.  That said, I should probably have gone for the reasonably priced flight of 3 third pints of ale for £3.90 which I spotted too late.

Taro did go for the flight, and left the barmaid to make two of the choices.  He ended up with Tiny Rebel Full Nelson, London Fields Shoreditch Triangle IPA and Williams Bros Red Ale - a lovely selection, with Triangle IPA just about coming out on top.  It's a really cosy place to drink, and we could have happily stayed there all evening.  Tables are fairly low lit, meat and cheese boards are available, and they run a pub quiz most Tuesdays.

We tore ourselves away and wandered a few doors down to find Hoxley & Porter, a brand new bar and restaurant with a stunningly realised train carriage and travel theme.  Upon entering, you walk down a long train carriage corridor, with views through to a classic dining carriage on your right before you reach the bar area which is slightly more exotic.  As soon as we arrived, the barman (in train conductor regalia) came out from behind the bar to give Taro a big hug.  I wasn't sure what was going on, so I demanded the same greeting before it became clear that Taro actually knew said barman.  Unbeknownst to Taro, his friend Yih was manning the bar that evening after a few months away from the mixology game.  We pulled up to two seats at the bar - always the best place to be - and got chatting.

We were lucky to also have head bartender Mikey Pendergast, previously of Powder Keg Diplomacy in Battersea, sitting to our left, along with a current Powder Keg bartender.  I have come across both of them before in passing at PKD and Ginstock 2013, but it was great to have a chat with them whilst they were off the clock.  Despite it being a cocktail bar, I quickly surveyed the beer options as I always do.  They are currently having to sell some standard beers on tap (two lagers and a cider, I think) because they are somehow affiliated with them, but they have cleverly removed the branding, and covered them with Dark, Light, and Apple Beer signs to fit in with the decor.  Hopefully they will find a workaround and get some craft beers in to match the exciting cocktail menu.  There were Redchurch beers in the fridge, including a Broadway Black Pale that I haven't seen before.

Anyway, on to the cocktails.  Taro started off with a boozy "My Daddy Owns a Yacht Club" which was all alcohol and incredibly drinkable.  I had heard rumours of a colour changing cocktail with an edible absinthe-coated scorpion, so I enquired after it.  Yih described it as their "halo" drink (i.e. the one to get the press talking) and Mikey got up from his seat to mix one up.  It is a ridiculous concoction that involves some 95% Polish Rectified Spirit amongst other things.  It changes colour instantly as you pour the final ingredient in, for reasons that were explained to me at the time but are now hazy.  Most importantly though, it was extremely tasty, and dangerously easy to drink.  Mikey described it as a cocktail that starts off like a Vodka Martini and ends up like a Rum Daiquiri, adding that he is well aware quite how pretentious that sounds.  He continued to entertain, moaning about the need to include a champagne cocktail (which they gave a no frills name to, similar to Southsider Cocktail Club's "Token Champagne Cocktail").

As we were finishing our first drink, we were joined by North Londoner Tom, who had texted about watching the Arsenal match but was quickly drawn into the cocktail fun.  He took Mikey's seat who left us in Yih's capable hands.  Early press reported that there was a "Crypt" downstairs where you could homemade spirits and scorpions being prepared.  This is apparently nonsense according to Yih - they don't have a license to take customers downstairs, and it is not at all glamorous down there anyway.  

Yih was constantly dishing out fascinating nuggets of information about his favourite drinks and the art of mixing.  He made up a sour ("Chipotle off the Old Block" with powerful chilli bitters) for another table, and let us in on the dry-wet-dry shaking technique (without ice or with) which produces a super smooth drink with well defined bubbles.  He is a rum expert, but happily took on Tom's request of making up something brilliant with gin.  He gave us a taster of the delicious Hayman's Gin Liqueur before rustling up a sublime drink with it, which was presented in a small bottle on ice - similar to the presentation of a Henry Martini Rifle at Powder Keg Diplomacy.  Taro went for a "Honey, Where's Mai Tai?", Yih's signature (off the menu) drink - easily the best Mai Tai I have ever tasted.  Meanwhile, I asked for his favourite strong rum drink, so he whipped me up a very special Rum Daquiri, with some extra Wray & Nephews's Overproof rum (one of H&P's most used spirits) for good measure.

Every drink was an absolute winner, and we were all simultaneously jealous of everyone else's beverage.  It was amusing to watch the bar staff dealing with one table who were constantly sending back drinks to make them sweeter, to the point where Yih suggested just giving them a bottle of syrup on the side.  I find it hard to believe that their drinks weren't up to scratch, but I guess you can't argue with the customer.  We eventually decided to make a move, and settled up a very reasonable bill.  Huge thanks have to go to Yih for being such a fantastic host (especially with a taster of the awesome Plantation XO Rum).  I will definitely return, though I would be sad if he wasn't there! The food is also meant to be exceptional, but we were just here for the drinks this time around.  They currently have a super cheap lunch deal going, but I would imagine that it won't last that long, so head there soon!

Taro sneaking behind the bar for a picture with Yih
We pressed on towards Angel, and decided to make one more stop at the Earl of Essex, a craft beer pub tucked away in a residential part of Islington.  Tom took us via Camden Passage - a lively little pedestrian street which I can't believe I have never found before.  Taro was on the hunt for food, but we managed to stay on track and got some seats at the bar.  I love a good beer board, and the Earl of Essex didn't disappoint.  The selection is fantastic - I knew most of the breweries but they had some really interesting beers from each one.  We tried all sorts, making up for my lack of a beer flight at the Taproom earlier on:

Oskar Blues Dales Pale Ale, Brugse Zot Brune, Moor Revival, Offbeat Grateful Deaf, Liverpool Beer Co American Red & IPA, Magic Rock Clown Juice and Arbor Twigs in Space were all sampled.  I was particularly impressed by the Liverpool Beer Co offerings.  Moor Beer Co (Somerset) continue to be one of my favourite breweries.  There are lots of great beers in the fridge too, including some craft cans all the way from Maui in Hawaii - Maui Brewing Co Big Wave will convert you to canned beer.

It's a very friendly pub, and the staff looked after us very well (especially hungry Taro - see his previous List form here).  Everything on the food menu is paired with a beer that they should have in stock.  There is a nice garden out back too, though we don't have many beer garden days left this year. Whilst Tom and I chatted about football, Taro befriended a barman who works round the corner at Smokehouse - a new gastropub (near the top of The List's most wanted) with smoked meats and a huge amount of beer on tap.  It is one of many places around Upper Street that I need to start ticking off - House of Wolf, John Salt, North Pole, 69 Colebrooke Row, Ottolenghi and Slim Jim's to name a few!  Thanks to Tom and Taro for kicking off the Islington List exploration.

Since this is a pretty beery post, I'll quickly mention some beer news.  Honky Tonk (Chelsea & Clapham Common) have just launched London's first "Beer Trolley".  A beer sommelier will wheel the trolley around to diners, and take them through various options that will hopefully match your food!  Thanks to Hollie from KK Communications for the heads up.  Honky Tonk have also started presenting your bill inside a book, which you can take home if you so wish.  They are considering turning it into a full on book exchange!

Also, keep your eyes peeled for the refreshing new Hiver honey beer which I had a taste of at Bermondsey Street Festival on Saturday.  It is currently on sale at The Hide Bar in Bermondsey, but should also be available elsewhere soon (if it isn't already).  Follow them on Facebook/Twitter for more info, or sign up for updates on their website here.

Square Meal

Square Meal

Monday 23 September 2013

Feast 1st Birthday at Guy's Quad

Friday 13th September - This was my third trip to a Feast food festival since starting The List, this time in honour of their 1st birthday. They decided to return to the Quadrangle at Guy's Hospital near London Bridge where they started their journey last year. It was a particularly rainy day when we went (understatement) but Lauren and I got there early and bagged some covered seating before the soggy crowds descended.  I will let the photos do most of the talking as the evening mainly involved eating, sitting, and occasionally  running outside.  Six Team List members braved the nasty conditions, and we ended up sitting next to some old school friends by chance as well.

Roasted pulled lamb with fresh naan from Cinnamon Kitchen
Spicy tamarind chicken wings from Gordon Ramsay's Bread Street Kitchen
Mac and Cheese with Bacon and Pesto from Anna Mae's
Polenta Chips from Paesan
Pig Mac Sliders from Wiggies
Check On Egg Soldiers and Paesan Cannoli

We also had some delicious food from Halloumi and Smokin Hot Tamales that isn't pictured here.  The atmosphere was excellent despite the rain, and a DJ was on hand to keep spirits high.  If the weather had improved, I think we would have stayed a lot longer, but we eventually ran away to a pub as there were far too many people trying to keep dry in the same space.  Feast put on another good show, and I look forward to their (under cover) Winter installment.

In other news, I have recently given the blog a bit of an overhaul to make it more of a useful resource.  The main new thing is The List Map - there may be some teething problems with this so please let me know how you get on with it.  You can also now find lists of where I have been, and where I intend to go, as well as a Top 5s section for people that don't have time to read all of my posts!  Check the Team List Leaderboard if you think you are in the Top 20 contributors so far.  List Leader Natalie has opened up a whopping 50 point lead on 2nd placed Lauren, but it is all very close below them.

Friday 20 September 2013

Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union

Friday 6th September - Two weeks ago I made it over to Ronnie Saunders' Diners Union in Shoreditch (with Team Flattersea - Maggie, Ali and Rich) which has popped up outside Red Gallery on Rivington Street.  It is open from 6-11.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and is aiming to stay there for the foreseeable future.  The premise is simple - 5 courses for £15 and BYOB.  Everyone pays the same, and everyone gets the same.  The eponymous Ronnie Saunders was the granddad of head chef Rolan Dack who describes Ronnie as a "champion of equality and a proper London character".  This project is Rolan's tribute to Ronnie, with the central aim being to bring people together with outstanding food.

A couple of our group were late, but this wasn't an issue at all as it is a free for all seating wise, and the booking times are there to roughly ensure that everyone doesn't arrive at the same time.  It is all under cover in a huge marquee, with long tables stretching the length of the tent.  We were given our trays and wine glasses on the way in, where we also paid our £3.50 corkage fee.  We then settled down and opened up the first of our four bottles of wine, and enjoyed the live jazz coming from the other end of the room.

To get your food, you queue up in the right line for course 1,2,3,4 or 5 where it is served to you directly by the chefs.  Make sure you take your wine with you!  It takes a bit of time as the chefs try and talk through the food with everyone which obviously slows things down, but is a very nice personal touch.  We never had to queue for that long, and I'm sure they will make it more efficient as the weeks go by.  Giving everyone a detailed paper menu (on the tray?) would possibly help.  Our first two courses were a Langue de boeuf, brioche and horseradish "club sandwich", and Brixham landings catch of the day, Bouillabaisse style.  1 & 2 were scribbled on our trays to signify that we had received them both.

Maggie encountered a couple of "First World Problems" at this stage:

1. "Oh no, I've got Bouillabaisse on my trousers" - tough times

2. "Whoops, I accidentally poured Villa Maria into your Oyster Bay" - ruined  

Having got through 2 bottles of wine, we started to make friends with our entertaining neighbours, Roger and Simon.  Roger is the author of "A Natural History of Ghosts : 500 Years of Hunting for Proof" (available to buy here), so it didn't take long for us to start swapping ghosts stories.  "What is more believable - ghosts or heaven?" kept us going for a while, before we went off in search of courses 3 & 4 - Leeks a la Grecque, and Coq au Vin.  Just in case you were wondering, they have an entirely vegetarian menu too.  We chatted to some of the corkage staff (including an old friend of mine) in the queue who were clearly having a great time, with BYOB applying to them too.  The atmosphere was really buzzing by this point, and everyone was in a sociable mood.  

When we returned to our tables, we were sought out by the Diners Union co-founder Cameron, who had been monitoring our happy tweets and decided to come and say hello!  He currently handles all of the bookings himself, and replies individually to every request - I'm not sure how long he will be able to keep this up, but the hands on approach is really refreshing.  He was also happy to chat to others down the table who weren't too happy about the queuing, and he was very open to their suggestions for improvement.  Courses 3 & 4 meanwhile were going down very nicely, especially the excellent Leeks a la Grecque.  We then ran out of wine, which was completely unacceptable, so our new neighbour friend Simon was sent out to buy some more from Sainsbury's over the road.

Head Chef Rolan and Maggie top left - Ali and Roger "Ghosts" Clarke bottom left
We eventually dragged ourselves away from the vino to get our dessert course - beautifully presented, delicious "Croquembouche" profiteroles.  I could happily have eaten 100 of them - I wonder how many the chefs tested just to be sure?  Cameron came back for another chat, this time with head chef Rolan (trained in the kitchens of Corrigan and Pierre White) who was doing the rounds.  He sat himself down and chatted for a while about fine tuning the experience.  He was mainly concerned with providing ample portion sizes whilst keeping costs down after a few comments that the starters were perhaps on the small side.  This potentially wouldn't be so noticeable if they called it 3 courses for £15, since we did receive courses 1&2 simultaneously, and similarly 3&4 together. However you word it though, it is great value and the food was high quality throughout.

Head Chef Rolan getting involved - Centre
We ended up staying all night with our friendly neighbours until a very friendly "bouncer" moved us on. I hardly ever stay that long in a restaurant as the cost of drinks gets too high, so BYOB makes a huge difference here.  The sociable atmosphere that they have created is wonderful, and made it one of the best nights out that Team List has had so far.  I have so much on my list that needs to be done on Fridays and Saturdays, but I am definitely going to leave some free and book Diners Union again before too long, and I strongly suggest that you do the same.  The menu changes every week so keep an eye on the website.  That said, I wouldn't really need to look as I trust that whatever they serve will be excellent!  Congratulations to Rolan, Cameron and everyone else involved - Ronnie would be proud!

I am currently trying out a fairly new website called Triptease for short posts - have a look and let me know what you think.  Click HERE to see my little page on Diners Union.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Camden Town Brewery - Maltby Street Market - Old School Yard - Gin Joint

It was a busy few days (now two weeks ago) for Team List with various adventures on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the end of a week that started with the Coal Vaults launch, National Burger Day and Science Museum Lates.  First up - Friday night (30th August) at Camden Town Brewery.

I have been meaning to go to Camden Town Brewery for a long time, but I finally made the journey up north after finding a flyer for Wholey Cow at National Burger Day.  The Byron Van and Fred Smith had bought a cow, and were cooking the whole thing over the course of two days outside the brewery bar - how could I resist?  Team List wandered over from Chalk Farm to find Kentish Town West Station where the brewery is situated, and got stuck straight into the beer.  Camden Town beers have already spread all over London, so we tried a couple of rarer brews in the form of their Saison Galaxy and US Hells Lager, as well as a pint of Byron's Pale Ale that was on tap.  They also had some interesting guest beers on offer, including Lervig Pale all the way from Stavanger in Norway.  Several beers did run out over the course of the evening so make sure you get there early if you want to have the most choice.

The Byron Van queue started to grow so I got involved and ordered us some burgers, fries and mac'n'cheese hash browns (awesome).  They handed out tasters of their Bloody Bull cocktail to keep the queue happy - made with beef stock, it tasted like alcoholic tomato soup, in a good way.  The queue suddenly grew to a crazy length, and I don't think I would have bothered queuing up if I had turned up later. You also need to turn up early if you want to grab a seat anywhere - we managed to squeeze ourselves on to a cosy table in one corner, even with one of our number bringing most of a drumkit.  The Bloomin' Neck burger stood out for me - 8oz hamburger, slow-cooked shortrib, shredded iceberg, pickles, smokey onion & mustard sauce - and the mac'n'cheese hash browns were as good as they sound, though 2 for £4 wasn't great value.

As more beers ran out, we decided to move on to Brewdog Camden for one final pint - look out for their new site in Shepherds Bush with 40 beers on tap that will be opening soon.  As for Camden Town Brewery, they have different street food on every week (only open Thursday, Fri, Sat 12pm-11pm) though I would imagine that it isn't always quite as busy as it was at Wholey Cow.  They often run fun events so keep checking the website or sign up for email updates.  Brewery tours run every Thursday from 6-8 for £12 and sound wonderfully boozy.

Brewdog art
Saturday 31st August - I work at a music school on many Saturdays throughout the year, so when I have a free one I like to take full advantage of it (see Hackney big day out, Good Egg and Midnight Apothecary, and Vestal Voyages posts for some ideas).  The evening was destined to end at the Old School Yard in Borough anyway, so I decided to go for another Bermondsey day taking in Maltby Street Market and some of the nearby breweries.  I have already done a big brewery post before (read more here) so I'll skip over most of that.  The day started, as it usually does over there, at Kernel Brewery (open 9am-3/4pm), with List regulars Luke, Lauren, Lee and Jane.  After one delicious drink, we moved off to Maltby Street Market in search of food.

Kernel Beer board
Just before we made it to the market, Lee diverted us into a little archway inhabited by Jensen Gin fronted by Christian Errboe Jensen himself.  He has been distributing the gin for several years, but he is setting up a stall in Bermondsey to sell G&Ts and cocktails (some bottle aged).  When we visited we were given extremely generous tasters of the Old Tom Gin and the Bermondsey Dry Gin - the former would make a mean G&T and the latter should probably be drunk on its own.  The two gins were on sale for £25 each, and there were bottled aged Negronis (2 portions) on sale for £10.  Christian was an engaging host and I am look to checking back in when he is fully up and running.

After two unplanned shots of gin on top of a 7.1% Kernel IPA, it was definitely food time.  Luckily, Maltby Street Market on Ropewalk (not Maltby Street!) is the perfect place to be hungry.  We were a little late to the party at 2 o'clock.  This meant that it was not too crowded - Team Bermondsey constantly moan about how their lovely hidden market has been taken over by posh young couples, looking lost wandering around railway arches in their chinos and summer dresses.  The downside was that a couple of places were starting to run out.  Monty's Deli make a wonderful salt beef and pastrami sandwich but we were sadly too late for that.  Instead, we enjoyed some burgers from the Woolpack - a stall from the chef at the independent Woolpack (The Wooly) pub round the corner on Bermondsey Street.  I went for a delicious beef and pulled pork burger in a brioche bun with chipotle mayo - a steal at £5.  The biggest queue was for African Volcano, a street food stall showcasing Grant Hawthorne's fiery Mozambique-style Peri-peri sauces and marinades - I have it on good authority from Bermondsey locals Sam & Rich (who we found in Monty's Deli) that it is worth the wait.

African Volcano
You are spoilt for choice dessert wise as well, with Waffle On winning the best smelling stall award. Make sure you try some of the quirky ice cream flavours from the tiny La Gelateria artisan gelato cart - Honey & rosemary was the winner for me.  La Gelateria has a permanent home in Covent Garden.

This leaves us with drinks.  I have already mentioned Bar Tozino before (read more here) - a jamon bodega with interesting wines that opens til 10.  Another wine option is Life's a Bottle (or Top Hat Man) - a great little stall serving up excellent wine at affordable prices, open 9-3.  You can wander around with it, or take a seat inside one of the quirky archways filled with Lassco salvaged artefacts (head to Brunswick House Café in Vauxhall for a similar experience).  There is also beer man (does he have a name?) who always has interesting bottles on offer at around £4, though with Kernel, Partizan and Brew by Numbers round the corner, I'm not sure that I would ever find myself buying something here.  On the cocktail front, Little Bird Gin (from Peckham) have you covered.  They have a nice little area with covered seating in the back and bartenders at the front mixing up drinks next to some birdcages.  Sam went for their Maltby Street Bloody Mary which makes use of African Volcano peri-peri sauce, whilst I went for a Bird in a Field made with London Fields Hackney Hopster beer, ginger and honey.  They also had a couple of London Fields beers on offer when I went for £3.

As the market got quieter, we sloped off to Brew by Numbers, the brewery that stays open the latest in Bermondsey (11-6 on Saturdays).  They have added in a tap since the last time I was there, and had a few more varieties on offer in the fridge as well.  Here we ran into Anspach & Hobday, a young brewing team who we first met back in March at Craft Beer Rising on Southbank (read more here). They ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to gain some funds to get themselves started, but they are still searching for a permanent home so that they can move the brewery out of their kitchen! Bermondsey, Brixton and Peckham are all on the cards.  Keep your eyes out for them - they recently won a Silver Medal at the 2013 International Beer Challenge for their Porter.

After several Brew by Numbers bottles and a good catch up, Team List made their way to the Old School Yard (via a flat for a cheeky Sipsmith G&T) for one of our number's engagement party.  The Old School Yard is a retro party bar in Borough that deals mostly in cocktails.  Compared to the stuff I have been having around London, the drinks are pretty substandard, but most bars don't have 4 player Mario Kart to keep me happy!  Add in some arcade games, a blackboard, and wonderfully terrible music, and you can have a great night here - just don't expect miracles from the drinks!  You would be wise to get there during happy hour from 5.30-8.

I didn't write world's worst bar.
Sunday 1st September - After another big day out in Bermondsey, I was glad that I had booked our table at the soft opening of Gin Joint for the evening.  Searcy's have refurbished their 2nd floor Bar & Brasserie in the Barbican complex, with an emphasis on gin.  They have over 40 gins behind the bar, with Brokers gin chilled on tap. The soft opening offer included 50% off the food bill, and a complimentary cocktail or G&T each (£9/10).  Will, Luke and I were slightly underdressed, but I think we got away with it. Experienced Team List Leader Natalie came better prepared.  It is a classy (and expensive) place, intended mostly for pre/post concert meals/drinks - I will certainly be heading up here to try out different G&Ts whenever I am around for a concert with my gin-loving Aunt and sisters. We got stuck into the drinks straight away, with a Gin Martini, Gincognito, Last Word, and a Chase Apple Gin and Tonic.  Whilst Natalie wasn't terribly impressed with her Last Word, the rest of us were extremely happy.

With the 50% off, we decided to go for all three courses, which proved to be a wise choice.  Starters - Gressingham Duck Sausage with pickled shallot, scallop and juniper; Foie Gras with grapes, harissa and toast; King Prawn Cocktail with black pepper croutons and avocado sorbet; Marinated Vegetable Salad with Somerset goats' cheese and hazelnuts.  Everything was beautifully presented and received two thumbs up.

Gressingham Duck Sausage
Next I tried to tempt Luke into having the 750g beef fore rib to share but he was having none of it.  We instead each went for the 21 Day Aged Galloway Beef Rib Eye with triple cooked chips from the Bertha Grill.  Luke played it safe with a Bearnaise Sauce, whereas I went for the Juniper & Pepper Corn Sauce which was nice, but wasn't in my opinion related in any way to peppercorns.  Natalie splashed out on a Rack of Herdwick Lamb again with triple cooked chips which she was impressed with.  She wasn't so happy to find out that they had run out of side vegetables, and her response to being offered spinach instead was amusingly, "Er no - I've already had spinach today" - you should have known that Gin Joint.  Will went for the Homemade Bacon with BBQ Beans, Bantam egg and chips. The chips were all wrapped in the fake Searcy's Times, which you could unravel and read (or even do the crossword).

Last but not least, dessert and another round of drinks.  Will stuck to his Gin Martinis while the rest of us went for more G&Ts - Citadelle, Geranium and Jensen's from earlier.  The Geranium is really interesting and well worth a try if you spot it anywhere.  You can see the full list of gin on offer here. For pudding we went for a British Isle Cheeses, Sticky Toffee Pudding with liquorice ice cream, and a Plum and Almond Crumble with star anise and orange custard.  The others weren't convinced by the sticky toffee and liquorice match, but I was too busy scoffing my superb crumble to care.  All in all, we were very impressed with the drinks and food, though it would all have been too expensive for us without the 50% off and free drink.  I would recommend going in the evening, as the views out to the Barbican are vastly improved at night time!  Get there between 7-9 to have any of the G&Ts on offer for £8.50. It is a great shame that they still have the same old horrendous toilets round the corner, which do not do Gin Joint justice.  If you are just after gin without the food, then I would suggest also going to the London Gin Club at the Star at Night (Oxford Circus), 214 Bermondsey (underneath Antico), or Drink, Shop & Dance (underneath Drink, Shop & Do in King's Cross).  City of London Distillery also have a wide range of gins, but I haven't been there yet, and I also hope to go to the Sipsmith Distillery tour soon which runs on Wednesdays from 6.30-8.  Happy Gin hunting!

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