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Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Good Egg - Ziferblat - Craft Beer Social Club - Platterform Sea Adventures

Saturday 15th February - Another day, another overdue write up on The List.  Easter Holidays are round the corner, I'm going to sort it all out. Probably. Anyway, better late than never? Absolutely! Four absolutely awesome places to mention from one fun day out in East London, starting with The Good Egg brunch at Cortado.

Run by old friend Joel Braham, The Good Egg has been getting a lot of great press recently, all thoroughly deserved, praising their delicious eggy brunches which are currently running at Cortado in Hoxton (Sat&Sun - 9am-4pm) and The Hangover Club in Hackney Wick (Sat only - 10am-4pm).  You can book places through Grub Club (highly recommended for a Mother's Day Special this Sunday) or you can just rock up and try your luck.  Rumour has it, Joel will be opening his own joint for The Good Egg soon too.

We called ahead and reserved a table for a Saturday morning, with my sisters and Al & Tim coming along to try and pick up a few crucial Team List points before the 1 year cut off point on Feb 22nd a week later.  The Cortado is well placed next to Regent's Canal, and is nicely set up with egg-based jokes lying around, plus Yumchaa tea, Allpress Espresso, cakes, and Mimosas & Bloody Marys available.  A lovely little bowl of free fresh fruit was brought to our table for us to enjoy whilst we mulled over the menu.


I normally go for the outstanding Shakshuka (Cotswold Legbar eggs baked in a smokey, spiced tomato & pepper sauce topped with lemon yoghurt & toasted za'atar sourdough served with Merguez sausages or Halloumi) but I couldn't resist a bit of pesto so I went for the special of the day, Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs & Ham - two poached eggs with Italian Prosciutto on sourdough toast topped with homemade pesto. It disappeared in seconds.

Three went for the classic & reliable Breakfast Burrito (Tortilla packed with fluffy eggs, crispy potatoes, refried black beans, mature cheddar, roasted chilli salsa & homemade guacamole) whilst Jo controversially went for an egg free Reuben (home cured salt beef griddled with Swiss cheese, Russian dressing & sauerkraut on rye).  Sadly noone ordered the Gary Barlow (that bloke off the Eggs-factor), a sandwich with chorizo, avocado & a fried egg.

The food is always fantastic, the staff are always charming, and the locations are always cosy & cool - The Good Egg brunch should be on everyone's to-do list.



Next stop, Ziferblat. Em & Al left, but Caroline joined at this quirky Russian café / social experiment tucked away above Bar Kick in Shoreditch. The premise is simple, pay 3p per minute that you stay and help yourself to as much tea/coffee etc as you wish. Food is not provided but you can bring along anything you like and make use of the tiny kitchen, provided that you help to look after the communal space.  You can even volunteer to help out in exchange for free minutes another time.

Ziferblat started in Russia as Pocket Poetry - classic poetry was put on tiny laminated cards and left for passers by to find and pop into their pockets.  Eventually they moved into a little attic in Moscow which they called the Tree House where people could come and play the piano, read books, recite poetry, have a coffee etc.  Payment was voluntary and a suitcase was left near the entrance for donations.  That was such a success that the Tree House is now Ziferblat HQ and many more "Ziferblats" have opened since.  New York is next on the list.



You fill in a timesheet on arrival, and pick a ceremonious clock from the shelf.  We went for Harold who was a little stuffy, but he was a lot more chirpy than poor old Alfred.  It's a lovely little touch (of which there are many) that makes a stay in Ziferblat even more pleasant.



All around, people were messing around on whiteboards and flipcharts, making origami, chatting, working, reading (spot Tim soaking up Art in the USSR below) and relaxing.  We got involved with a venn diagram project on Sane/Single/Crazy/Attached men that some ladies near us had undertaken.  It does have that hippy commune vibe going on (especially when you are washing up in the kitchen), but at the same time there's free wi-fi, groups celebrating with champagne, and others working away on iMacs, so there's no chance of it going all Martha Marcy May Marlene on you.




Ziferblat is open from 9am-11pm every day, give it a try and don't forget to bring biscuits, preferably milk chocolate hobnobs. Thanks.

Next stop, more personnel changes. Tim & Jo out, Lauren, Paul & Luke in.  We wandered round the corner to find the Craft Beer Social Club's latest pop-up pub.  The CBSC has popped up in London Fields and Shoreditch High Street already, and had a very brief month long stay in a flat basement in Leonard Street which we went along to.

CBSC set themselves up in fun spaces, and serve up affordable and interesting British beers (mostly bottles) alongside rotating food residencies. Flippin' Cow were turning out some delicious looking lamb wraps when we were there.  Interestingly, they accept Bitcoin, the digital currency that has been making the headlines recently.  I won't bore you with the details, mostly because I don't really know what I'm talking about, but expect to see a lot more of Bitcoin this year.  The Old Shoreditch Station coffee bar nearby has already installed a Bitcoin ATM! Click here for a newbie guide to buying Bitcoins.

We absolutely loved the Leonard Street site, it was a cute little living room with cosy corners, low lighting and comfy chairs.  I could imagine it turning into a very sociable evening in such a small space, which is just what CBSC want.  What a shame it was only here for a month! Keep your eyes peeled for their next pop-up.


Now, the beer. Alongside the familiar Curious, Crate & Brixton beers, we also enjoyed Yakima IPA & Black Jesus from Great Heck Brewing, Yorkshire Special Pale Ale from Wharfe Bank Brewery and Wold Top Scarborough Fair IPA, all from Yorkshire.  We were less taken with St.Andrews Brewing Crail Ale but we had a good run.  



The bottle for Great Heck Brewing's Black Jesus kept us fairly amused:




The atmosphere was wonderful, the hostess/landlady was charming and beers were great.  We are all Craft Beer Social Club converts, and are looking forward to visiting them wherever they pop up next - I hear SW11 is nice this time of year.




Last stop - we lost Paul & Lauren who sped off to Brewdog Shepherd's Bush for a quick drink before a n awesome Less than Jake & Reel Big Fish gig, but Caroline & Luke were still in.  The three of us hopped on a bus to London Fields and made our way to the Platterform rooftop to experience the High Seas!  I wrote fairly recently about Platterform's lumberjack themed Skylodge which was a riot, so I was pretty keen to see what they had done with the place.

For fifteen weeks (count from 16th January), everything on the rooftop is Sea Adventure themed - décor, captain's cocktails, seafood residencies, games, hats - it's all going on.  Check the website to see what is coming up.  They have transformed the space in style as you can see in photos below, but do go and experience it for yourselves - there's nowhere more fun in London right now.





We were there for Dave Yorkston's Smoke House, and we happily worked our way through his whole menu.  Dave converted a cupboard into a smoking room for all the fish as you can see below. An absolute bargain at £24 for 4 (generous) courses, it was fantastic from start to finish - the smoked Bloody Mary sauce was a highlight. 


Dave Yorkston's Smoke House

Dave Yorkston's Smoking Cupboard

The week after saw TOKO Indonesian Kitchen, Bar & Deli taking over the cooking, serving up 13 courses for £24 all served on a large Rijsttafel ("rice table") sharing platter. TOKO will be launching a full-time establishment in London later in 2014.

TOKO Indonesian Kitchen, Bar & Deli

In the galley tonight is Vinn Goute Seychelles' Kitchen - you can buy tickets in advance here or just turn up and find a table.  Vinn Goute are presenting a tropical seafood feast including two of the Seychelles most prized fish- the Bourgeois Red Snapper and the King Fish.  The Foragers are then turning up for two weeks.

Vinn Goute Seychelles' Kitchen

Onto the drinks! There are great bottled beers, including Einstock, Five Points, Harviestoun and Anchor (nicely strung up above your head), but really you should embark on the Captain's Cocktail Quest. There's the Zissou Sour with mezcal, absinthe & sea salt foam, Fish Called Wonder with hibiscus anemone & vodka jellyfish, Black Pearl Margarita with tequila & black mustard tapioca pearls, and the bonkers Phileas Fogg with smoked bourbon sazerac & absinthe helium, to name a few of their crazy creations.  They may sound silly, but they are still very serious drinks to taste and will keep cocktail conoisseurs happy.


Phileas Fogg with absinthe helium


Is that a sea anemone attached to Julian's chin?

Fish called Wonder with hisbiscus anemone & vodka jellyfish

Black mustard tapioca pearls for the Black Pearl Margarita

Creating the sea salt foam for the Zissou Sour

Zissou Sour with Sea Salt Foam

We finished the evening with a game of Battleshots - much the same as battleships, but with 1, 2 and 3 length shot boards replacing boring plastic boats.  This includes Visu (Fisherman's Friend infused vodka!), Stickleback (Jameson / Beetroot Shrub with Pickleback Foam), and Limey (Mount Gay Eclipse / Lime & Apple / Jasmine, Grenadine & Crate IPA).  The 2 / 3 shot length ships are effectively shots with funky chasers.  They foolishly let Caroline use the foam machine herself - she misjudged the power and blew her side of the board to smithereens.

Battleshots at Platterform Sea Adventure Series

It was another great evening with the Platterform team, they are always entertaining hosts and they have an excellent sense of humour as you can see from the dating profile that they have set up for Mr Winkle on Tinder.


I've said it for every place in this post so far, but make sure you go and check this out. Very highly recommended, fun for all, and top food & drink in a totally unique location.  Thanks to various team members for keeping me company throughout the day!

Friday, 28 March 2014

The Ledbury - The Cider Box - Whisky Live

Guest Post from Jane - 

I don't often venture far west, so when I do it's usually for something worthwhile.  Lunch at The Ledbury was such an occasion, so on a rainy Friday afternoon we set off on the walk from Notting Hill Gate. After fighting through the tourists of Portobello Road, the pillar-doored, four-story houses, endless designer baby clothes shops and estate agents selling flats for £4m my mind was full of images of a restaurant stuffy and for the privileged, not unlike Gordon Ramsay’s in Chelsea.

However, the atmosphere at lunchtime was nothing of the sort.  Formal yes, the service was as impeccable as you would expect for the two Michelin stars that adorn The Ledbury, but there was a warmth and laid back attitude to the place that was genuinely pleasing.

Brett Graham at The Ledbury
We opted for the three course set lunch menu at £37.50 (recently changed to a four course menu for £45) and the food did not disappoint.

To start I had Ceviche of Hand Dived Scallops with Kabu Turnips, Seaweed Oil and Frozen Horseradish.   The dish came very cold with nicely balanced but subtle flavours. Certainly interesting and not something you eat every day, but lacking the intensity of the milk curd with morels that made up the alternative menu option.   For main I selected the Baked Chinese Water Deer with Juniper and Bone Marrow.  This provoked a deal of conversation around the table.  What is Chinese Water Deer? Do we want to eat it?  Resembling Bambi & Dracula's lovechild, it's a small fanged creature from east Asia. And in the hands of Brett Graham and team you definitely do want to eat it, especially with juniper and bone marrow.  Matched with a fantastic but modestly priced (for this end of town) Montepulciano, we were very happy.

Ceviche of Hand Dived Scallops with Kabu Turnips, Seaweed Oil and Frozen Horseradish
Baked Chinese Water Deer with Juniper and Bone Marrow

Yorkshire Rhubarb Soufflé and Sorbets filled our table for dessert.  The soufflé was immaculately prepared and we've never tasted anything as good yet. Delicious.
 
All in all the lunch improved as the courses went on.  We felt that by opting for the set lunch menu we may have been missing out, but there’s no doubt that what we had was superbly arranged and we definitely got value for money (a not dissimilar experience to our time at the wonderful Martin Wishart’s in Edinburgh).

In stark contrast to the formality and food-centred Ledbury, I should mention a couple of stand-out events I attended this month.

The Cider Box put on a great afternoon in the sun on 15th March at Wigwambam at the Queen of Hoxton. Showcasing the best ciders from the country, they also matched it with some great pork burgers and chops in the teepee.  I particularly enjoyed the champagne-style Keeved cider, sweet and sparkling it was perfect for the first signs of spring.  The dry Wilkins also went down very well.





Dan Heath demonstrated his love for cider and extensive knowledge; coming from the West Country myself it hit a bit of a soft spot.  Keep an eye on their website www.ciderbox.com for future events.

Dan Heath of The Cider Box

Dan Heath of The Cider Box


The annual Whisky Live event, held this year in the Honorable Artillery Company, Armoury House was its usual success.  For the price of a ticket (£36 half day/£48 full day) you get a dram glass and as many whisky tastings as you can handle.


It was good to see Few Rye and Bourbon (with Todd over from Chicago), Spirit of Hven and Smooth Ambler there, all presented by Michael, Geoff & co. at Maverick Drinks who are responsible for bringing some of the best craft and small batch spirits to the UK.  Stay tuned for a Maverick Drinks related post from Matt's night at Gin Sin soon.  I know Matt is also planning to track down Maverick's NY Distilling and Few in their natural habitat when he hops across the pond later this year.




Outstanding and interesting exhibitors for me included Old Pulteney, whose 17 year old was a fantastic discovery, and That Boutique-y Whisky Company (another Maverick product), with their 'Lost  Distilleries' special - a blend of six whiskies from distilleries that no longer exist including the scarce Islay Port Ellen (Diageo recently released 2,950 bottles of Port Ellen at £1,500 each!).

Compass Box also impressed as usual, passing around a rather special 10th Anniversary Edition of Peat Monster.  We chatted to Chris about their Spice Tree which went through a bit of a battle to be called Scotch - read the full story here.


Artwork for That Boutique-y Whisky Company




It was also great to meet Daniel Szor of the new Cotswolds Distillery which will release its first Single Malt in 2017.   The first limited edition of 5,000 bottles of ‘single estate’ Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky will be available for reservation and pre-sale at the end of March 2014.  In the meantime, Daniel and his wife Katia are creating Cotswold Dry Gin.  They will also produce a range of brandies and liqueurs made from local fruits and berries, as well as Cotswolds cream liqueur and a fortified sherry.

Balblair put a year on their whisky, rather than an age


Berry Bros & Rudd range includes Glenrothes, No.3 Gin & King's Ginger

Surprisingly drinkable 61.5% Poitin from Teeling Whisky Co.

El Dorado sneaking some rum in to a whisky festival

If this sounds like your kind of thing, try The London Whisky Weekender 16th-18th May in Bethnal Green (www.whiskylounge.com) or for smaller events the Whisky Squad are celebrating their fourth birthday this year - they offer small, specialised whisky events across London (www.whiskysquad.com). 

Finally some tips for the month:

Bermondsey Thai restaurant, Suchard, is an independent, affordable and reliable Thai near London Bridge.  I returned there recently and was not disappointed; service is rapid and food delicious.

If you happen to be enjoying the recent good weather in the Greenwich area don't be tempted by the myriad of ice-cream vans lining every tourist street, instead try some of the fantastic gelato from Black Vanilla.  The salted caramel comes highly recommended, and is the perfect fuel for a walk through the park to Blackheath for a freshly brewed craft beer or two at Zerodegrees microbrewery.


Seasonal specials include Chilli & Ginger, Turkey & Cranberry, Mulled Wine & Bourbon Salted Caramel


Square Meal

The Ledbury on Urbanspoon