Friday November 1st - King's Cross has gone way up in my estimation in the last few months. The long term work on the stations is finally showing signs of completion, whilst the food and drink scene has been taking off. You are spoilt for choice for bars with Gilbert Scott, Megaro, Simmons, VOC and Drink, Shop & Do all nearby. For food, you need to head to the beautiful Granary Square just over Regent's Canal, where you can find Grain Store (Bruno Loubet & Tony Corigliano), Caravan and Shrimpy's. This is also where street food collective Kerb often set up shop to great effect.
For All Hallows Eve, Kerb organised a special Halloween Hellraiser street food event in the West Handyside Canopy which is sadly destined to be a Waitrose car park. I got thoroughly distracted by the stunning dancing fountains outside, before walking the very long way round with Andy & Molly.
We did a couple of laps of the familiar traders who had all come up with gruesome variations on their normal produce. Tongue & Cheek brought their Heartbreaker burgers with a Trick or Treat twist whereby the customer had to choose from various unmarked bottles of hot sauce, some deadly, which was then injected directly in to the patty.
|Ambriento, What the Dickens, Tongue & Cheek, Rainbo|
|You Doughnut, The Grilling Greek, Bell & Brisket|
I started with the superb Hellbao from steamed bun specialists BAO who have received tonnes of plaudits this year - you can often find them at Netil Market on Saturdays. Andy went for some Rainbo Gyoza which I wasn't that impressed with, whilst Molly had some tasty Triple Tortured Chips from The Grilling Greek. To drink, there were respectable cask ales on offer from Trumans and Redemption, as well as wine, cider and a wintery rum punch.
|BAO - Hellbao - best savoury dish of the evening|
|Bell & Brisket|
More team members (Mary, Olly, Jane & Lee) turned up for round two, and we worked our way through several more stalls. Well Kneaded Wagon impressed as usual with a delicious Pumpkin & Chorizo pizza, as did What the Dickens with their hot pork rolls.
|Well Kneaded Wagon|
Moving on to dessert, there were quirky Sorbitium ice creams, themed cakes from Kookybakes, and deadly doughnuts from You Doughnut. The death nuts and blood bites from You Doughnut were the standout sweet option in my opinion - warm, doughy and delicious, covered in white chocolate sauce with popping candy and marshmallows.
|Andy with a Kookybakes Eye|
We eventually made a move, and some of us decided to venture further North whilst we were near Camden. We popped in to the new Simmons Bar near Mornington Crescent (the original one is in King's Cross - read more about it here). They have kept everything that made the King's Cross outpost great - 6 hour long happy hours, sharing cocktails in teacups, retro games (this time round with a SNES) and a giant skull shaped disco ball. It was very lively (the locals have clearly already discovered it), but it was pretty hard to get served, and the bar isn't terribly well placed. Get here early to get a table and make friends with the barman so that you aren't waiting around!
We wandered over to Brewdog for a quick drink (how can you resist?) before getting on a bus towards Gospel Oak for our last stop of the evening, The Southampton Arms. Any pub that has a bus stop outside gets extra points. It may look small, but there is a lot going on inside. Bring cash - no cards!
With 18 handpulls full of ale and cider, and a committment to supporting small independent UK breweries, The Southampton Arms draws in discerning drinkers from all over London. Luckily though, it still manages to keep that local pub feel. With a roaring fire and steamed up windows, this is the ideal spot to hole up in for the winter.
We squeezed ourselves in and carved out some space by the piano opposite the fireplace. There were beers from Dark Star, Arbor, Magic Rock, Art Brew, Redemption, ELB and a few others to choose from, most of which were a bargain (these days) at £3.30 a pint. There won't be many pubs in London where you can get three high quality pints of real ale for under a tenner. There also aren't too many where you will find a record player behind the bar! I'm glad we made the journey up North - The Southampton Arms (as I expected it might) gets straight on to my Top 5 (or so) Pubs in London list.
Thanks to the Team for coming out as usual. Lee keeps the pressure on the Top 6 on the Team List Leaderboard, and Jane marches in to the Top 10 for the first time.
Book ahead - Tickets have just been released for Drink Feast, a 3 day pop-up bar event running from 12-14th December at Hoxton Docks. Many of London's best bars will be represented there, and it will be a great chance to try a wide range of stuff at affordable prices. You should also be able to do a bit of boozy Christmas shopping at the same time. Tickets are £12 including a drink, and additional drink tokens are £6. Buy tickets here, and I'll see you there!