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Saturday 26 April 2014

Poppy's Place - Kansas Smitty's Backyard BBQ - Bonnie Gull Seafood Cafe

Wednesday 16th April - One for us South West Londoners, Poppy's Place is a charming café & restaurant tucked away in the backstreets of Fulham.  

Scarlett Guess, former director of Rowley's Restaurant in Jermyn Street, opens up at 7.30am every weekday (8am at the weekend) to serve highly-rated Workshop Coffee with breakfast to hungry locals.  On Wed-Sat, they stay open all the way through to 11pm (5pm on Mon, Tue and Sun), with light options at lunch and more of a focus on steak (from Lake District Farmers) in the evening.  They also make a mean burger with meat from HG Walter Butchers in nearby Baron's Court, who also supply Patty & Bun and Tommi's Burger Joint which tells you all you need to know!

Jason (posing below) and I went along for an early evening meal, allowing us to appreciate just how great it looks in the afternoon sun and also later on by candlelight.  The décor has a very homely feel with brimming bookshelves, kitchen cupboards and more adding to the welcoming vibe.  In the daytime, you should grab a seat at the window for some people watching, but at night it's all about the sociable central square table (don't you just hate long thin group tables at restaurants?).

Before we even made it to our first course, we filled up on the outstanding house olives.  I don't know what they had been marinading in, but it was addictive stuff.  Thankfully, our engaging waitress Nathalie took them away and replaced them with two cracking starters - House Chicken Salad with Squash & Pomegranate, and Ginger & Rosemary Sticky Chicken Wings.  Both dishes were packed full of flavour and we ended up sharing to cope with the food envy.

House chicken salad w/ squash and pomegranate
For mains we went for the daily specials - Smoked Haddock with Gratin, Spinach & Hollandaise and Ribeye with Onion Rings, Tomatoes, Mushrooms and House Butter.  Both of these came with unlimited chips. Yes, that's right. UNLIMITED CHIPS.  Scarlett has brought this over from her family's restaurant Rowley's that has been running a similar deal for over 30 years now, and I heartily approve. The medium rare Ribeye was a satisfying hunk of meat, and the onion rings etc deserved their place too. Jason's fish pie of sorts was a very comforting dish, though rather carb heavy with the never-ending chips on the side!

We can also now claim to have had some "Mafia free" wine (N.B. free of the Mafia, not a gift from the Mafia - very important distinction) after drinking some of their Sfuso Grillo white wine:

"Sfuso wines are expertly and responsibly sourced from Italian wine producers who share our ethical stance. This means that our wines come from vineyards that are run independently of the Italian mafia; that our wines certified organic; that our wines never contain additives such as chemicals or flavourings. In addition we import Sfuso by train in boxes to reduce our carbon footprint. So by choosing to drink Sfuso you are choosing to enjoy some of Italy’s most exquisite wines in a morally responsible way."

Smoked Haddock w/ Gratin, Spinach & Hollandaise
Despite filling up on the limitless fries, we had a little bit of room left for dessert.  Jason's Vanilla Cheesecake with Passionfruit Sorbet & Pineapple was an excellent palate cleanser and a manageable size.  Meanwhile I was presented with a monster portion of Croissant Bread & Butter Pudding - not the most photogenic course of all time, but one of the most delicious.  I've had several dreams about it since and you may spot me eating one in the corner if you pay Poppy's Place a visit.

Vanilla Cheesecake w/ Passionfruit Sorbet & Pineapple

Croissant Bread & Butter Pudding
By the time we left, Poppy's Place was buzzing with happy diners who had been charmed by Scarlett & co., possibly several times before by the looks of it.  Get over there with a group of friends and settle in for an evening of unlimited chips and Mafia free wine.

Friday 18th April - Two days after Poppy's Place, I reunited with Jason along with several others for Kansas Smitty's Backyard BBQ.  Kansas Smitty's are a phenomenal band that are "putting the danger back into jazz" and they held an all day party in a warehouse in Gillett Square in Dalston to launch their first single on vinyl.  It also marked the start of 7 weeks of events from The Liquor Store celebrating the Southern States with moonshine, craft beer and food.

I've mentioned Kansas Smitty's before, having seen them previously at Waterloo Vaults where they played regularly before departing with a massive Mardi Gras party that involved a parade & victory lap around Waterloo Station.  They are led by the charismatic Giacomo Smith, and rotate between performing as a quartet (Smitty's Big Four), sextet and octet (Smitty's House Band).  Think Count Basie in 1930s Kansas City and upbeat swing from New Orleans.

But who knew they were also all over it on the food & drink front too?  

Craft beers from Kernel, Five Points and Hackney Brewery (with a superb dark lager) stood alongside £6 cocktails at Smitty's Julep Bar. Struggling to find enough pewter mugs to go around, they instead bought up the world's supply of chickpeas, and emptied the cans (giving the contents to a local shelter) to make way for the drinks. 

We chose between Sleepy Time Julep (Monkey Shoulder Scotch, Chamomile tea, Lemon, Mint), Allotment Julep (Hendrick's Gin, Pear Infusion, Mint) and Smitty's Julep (Four Roses Bourbon, Cinnamon, Mint).  I got hooked on the £4 Bourbon Lemonade - simple but refreshing & boozy.

In between sets, Giacomo had his apron on in the kitchen, dishing out Hot Tamales, Cheesy Grits, Collard Greens, Chicken, Ribs, Potato Salad and some showstopping Grilled Beignets (finished off on the BBQ) with Sorbitium Bourbon & Salted Caramel Ice Cream.

Tom eyeing up Jason's beignets..
They transformed the space simply but effectively with coloured bulbs, plants and odd furniture, and played several sets on different stages, eventually moving into a separate room for the main 8-piece gig at the end of the evening where they were occasionally joined by "Washboard Man" making them a nonet.  

They are ridiculously tight live and I've never seen a band have so much fun.  One pro musician that I brought along remarked "That was one of the best gigs I've been to in my life", and many stayed right the way through to the end at 2am before facing a night bus trek across town back to SW London.

Smitty fans - SO EXCITED

Photo Credit : James Pollak
Photo Credit : James Pollak

Photo Credit : James Pollak
Photo Credit : James Pollak

Photo Credit : James Pollak

Smitty's Set List

Washboard Man
Kansas Smitty's House Band
Photo Credit : James Pollak

Photo Credit : James Pollak

Photo Credit : James Pollak

Photo Credit : James Pollack

Photo Credit : James Pollak
So, hopefully you are convinced and wondering where you can see them next? 

They have just announced several new dates on their website, including gigs at the awesome Quecumbar (1930s Paris gypsy jazz bar in Battersea), Underdog (Brewdog's hidden bar in Shoreditch) and Nightjar - three of London's best bars that you definitely need to check out if you haven't already.  They will also be back at the same venue in Dalston on Mondays throughout May running the Kansas Smitty's Club House with more juleps and craft beers.

5.5.14  Smittys Big Four at The 606 (8.30pm)
7.5.14 Smittys Big Four Lock-In at Le QuecumBar Battersea (10.30)
12.5.14  Kansas Smittys Club House at Dalston Liquor Store (6pm)
14.5.14 Smittys Big Four at Stories (8pm)
15.5.14 Smittys Big Four at Brewdog (9.30pm)
19.5.14  Kansas Smittys Club House at Dalston Liquor Store (6pm)
26.5.14  Kansas Smittys Club House at Dalston Liquor Store (6pm)
31.5.14 Smittys Big Four feat. Rebecca Poole at The Nightjar (9pm)
15.6.14 Music from the garden at The Stables 

Smitty's Big Four meets Le Quecumbar with a swing jam & late night lock-in on Wed 7th May
Saturday 19th April - Finally, some photos from dinner last Saturday at Bonnie Gull's new Seafood Cafe in Exmouth Market, following on from their Seafood Shack in Goodge Street.  As well as standard lunch & dinner within the restaurant, there is a raw bar for oyster shucking, and there is also a separate takeaway menu.  

The range of fresh seafood is impressive as always, with the likes of Manx Queenies, Dorset Grey Mullet, Selsey Cod and Looe Lemon Sole available on our visit.  Other highlights on the menu at the new Bonnie Gull include Smash Your Own Whole Crab, £5 Fish House Punch, Champagne & Negronis, and classic seaside treats such as Mr Whippy & Cornish Fudge for dessert.  The Northern Soul soundtrack is an added bonus.

I'm a huge Exmouth Market fan with the likes of Café Kick, GB Pizza Co, Moro, Morito, Blackfoot, Exmouth Arms and 5CC in close proximity.  The atmosphere at night is always fantastic, especially in the summer, and Bonnie Gull is sure to be a hit here.  

Raw Bar at Bonnie Gull Seafood Cafe

Bonnie Gull Seafood Cafe on Exmouth Market

Fish House Punch w/ rum, brandy & cognac & more

Pisco Aviation w/ pisco, maraschino, violet liqueur, lime, sugar

Photo Credit : Helen Cathcart

Photo Credit : Helen Cathcart

Grilled Dorset Crab, Avocado, Brown Meat on Beef Dripping Sourdough Toast

Manx Queenies w/ Welsh Leeks and Yorkshire Chorizo

Cured Loch Duart Salmon, Citrus, Cornish Mussels

Smash Your Own Whole Crab!
Photo Credit : Helen Cathcart

Baked Crock of Dorset Shellfish, Potato Bread

Mr Whippy

Cox Apple Tart w/ Caramel Syrup & Chantilly Cream

Cox Apple Tart w/ Caramel Syrup & Chantilly Cream

Millionaire's Shortbread

Square Meal


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