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Tuesday 4 February 2014

Tooting Tram and Social - Chicken Shop - Provenance - Peter Spanton Tonics

Tuesday December 3rd - This post is a little on the late side.  Two of the people involved have since moved to Sweden, and one of the 3 venues is shutting down - but which one?

The evening started with a couple of drinks at Tooting Tram & Social (TT&S), one of Antic London's flagship "pubs".  Much like Effra Social and Balham Bowls Club, TT&S makes clever use of an unusual building, in this case an old tram shed.  It is set back from the street down a beautifully lit alley, very easy to miss!  

Inside is just as stunning - the spacious ground floor is overlooked by a mezzanine, and the tram shed roof is miles away above you.  Massive chandeliers, bunting, wall decorations, all sorts of furniture and a stage keep your eyes wandering.

Throughout the week there are all sorts of events including bands, comedy, theatre and sports screenings, but at the weekend they make full use of their 2am license with DJs and live music.  As you can see below, it is a really atmospheric venue, and entry is always free.

On our visit, there were no ales on but this was a temporary problem apparently.  The bottled beer selection was ample and the London Fields Wheat on tap went down very nicely.  The Tuesday night background triphop music selection was a little unsettling but I'll let them off.  An open mic session was scheduled for later on, but we decided to move on elsewhere to grab something to eat.  

We passed by Graveney & Meadow, another quirky Antic establishment with drinks, tapas and cakes on the menu which is on The List for my next trip to Tooting, along with Little Bar and Apollo Banana Leaf.  I am also looking forward to visiting Tooting Market which seems to be heading in an exiting Brixton Village direction under new ownership.  Busan BBQ ran a successful popup there on Feb 1st, and Bindlesticks promises wine, travel trinkets & books, and live music. Time to buy in Tooting!

Instead, we wandered over to the new Chicken Shop, Soho House's second site for tasty rotisserie chicken and sides following great success in Kentish Town.  It didn't start well as an anxious front of house said that there was only room for 3 not 5 for at least 30 mins despite the constant quick turnaround and visible spaces - perhaps there were some health and safety issues, but a tired Lauren and Natalie (in no need of Team List points) decided to head homing anyway, leaving Ben, Anita and I to spread our legs in one corner.  

There is a lot of unnecessary space in the attractive open kitchen area that chefs never seemed to venture near, but perhaps this was to keep us a safe distance from the roaring rotisserie fires that could power a small country. 

We took off as many layers as the law allows and ordered pretty much everything on the menu - 1 whole chicken for £15 (half = £8.50, quarter = £4.50), corn on the cob, coleslaw, crinkle cut fries and butter lettuce & avocado salad.  Sides are all £4.  Sauces of the smokey and hot variety are provided on the table.

It all impressively arrived within minutes (I've waited longer in McDonalds) and disappeared just as quickly, washed down with bottles of Camden Pale Ale and pints of Birra Moretti.  A couple more interesting bottled beers wouldn't go amiss but you are in and out so quickly it's not essential.  Anita stuck to wine and agonised over the choice of House / Decent / Good.  The delicious chicken went especially well with the Smokey Sauce, and the corn & salad sides stood out.  I appreciate the simple menu, but I do feel there is room for them to offer a little more, as Poulet Rouge in Balham does.  £5 desserts are available in the form of Deep Filled Apple Pie, Lemon Cheesecake and Warm Chocolate Brownie but we gave them a miss this time.

If you can't face the heat in the kitchen, then you can order takeaway.  The chicken is skilfully, speedily and brutally chopped and bagged by the chefs and sent on its way - see Wilkes' vine video post below.

Takeaway Rotisserie Chicken video from Wilkes

Our final stop was for a quick pint at another Antic pub, The Provenance in Collier's Wood ("Collywood") down the road from Chicken Shop.  It's a wonderful little boozer (more traditional than Antic's quirkier offerings mentioned above) with great beer, cosy decor and friendly locals.  The vintage interior (complete with a safe?) harks back to the pubs original style from the late 1800s.  Unfortunately though, I have just heard that The Provenance is closing down, following soon after the closure of Antic's Battersea Mess and Music Hall which shut up shop a couple of weeks ago.  Hopefully this is just a coincidence and all is well in Antic land, but regardless this is sad news.  Get in there quick before it goes!

Rather than end on a sad note, I'll finish up with something entirely different - a boozy Sunday night of tonic tasting with friends.

On Sunday February 2nd, together with flatmates and a couple of friends, I tested out four of Peter Spanton's exciting range of tonics with a variety of spirits.  The drinks in question were No.1 London Tonic, No.3 Cardamom, No.4 Mint & Bitters and No.5 Lemongrass.  On the panel was Maggie, Ali, Rich and Sophie, who gets special praise for creating our tasting chart without a ruler in sight!  

No. 1 London Tonic - On its own, it has a floral aroma & a citrus hit - very zingy and sweeter than average tonic.  It really opened up Gordon's and Hendrick's making wonderful G&Ts.  It was a bit lost when put with the all powerful Thai-spiced Opihr Gin, but this destroys most things in its path.  Popular with everyone on the panel, and all for under 4 calories!

No. 3 Cardamom - The tastiest of the lot on its own - very refreshing and drinkable. Similar aroma to the Opihr Gin in fact, but a much subtler taste.  Interestingly, we found it didn't add too much to Gordon's, Tanqueray and Opihr compared to the London Tonic.  We also tried it with Dry Vermouth but found the flavours didn't mix - possibly going to blame an old bottle of Vermouth for that one though!

No. 4 Mint & Bitters - This is an acquired taste! Smells like mint and cocoa but finishes as chocolate orange in the mouth.  We tried it with Mount Gay and La Hechicera rums and found it all a bit too sweet.  It fared better with Cleveland Bay Vodka and a dash of bitters, but was a tad overpowering with most of the spirits.

No. 5 Lemongrass - The least appealing on the nose (which divided the panel) but refreshing to taste. The pairing with Tequila Ocho and lime was one of the best drinks of the night, and it held its own with Tanqueray, although we still preferred the London Tonic with classic gins.  We chucked some Opihr in again, but it still punched the tonic in the face - damn tasty still!  We also tried it with Cleveland Bay Vodka, which didn't compare as well to the Tequila and Gin options.  Peter suggests that it would work well with Brandy too.

18 combinations later, our chart was filled up (with decreasingly intelligent comments), and we picked our favourites.  Best Solo Tonic went to No.3 Cardamom, Best Combination was tied between No. 1 London Tonic and Hendrick's, and No. 5 Lemongrass with Tequila & lime.  It's great to see more competition for Fever-tree turning up, and Peter Spanton's beverages deserve to do very well.  Track them down, and let me know how No. 7 Acai Blend tastes if you get your hands on it!

Square Meal

Square Meal

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