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Monday 29 September 2014

BrewDog - Paperworks & Kerb - Bistro Union

A trio of South London delights for you today, in Battersea, Elephant & Castle and Clapham.

Wednesday 18th September - BrewDog Clapham Junction? BrewDog Battersea? Let's go with BrewDog South to avoid an argument, as their fourth London bar completes the BrewDog compass along with Camden, Shoreditch and Shepherd's Bush.  

A year ago, a beer bar in Battersea would have seemed out of sorts for the punk stylings of BrewDog, but a lot has changed.  The Shepherd's Bush branch saw a move towards more casual New York influenced watering holes with its arcade machines and plentiful natural light.  In July, they rolled out new packaging, doing away with their striking bottle art and replacing it with a laidback and informative letterpress design.  

And then a fortnight ago they launched their first lager / pilsner, imaginatively called This. Is. Lager.

"This is the end of brainwashed, glassy-eyed beer consumption.
This is the start of something special.
This is craft beer.
This. Is. Lager."

Are they dumbing down or is it a bold move? I haven't made up my mind yet, but in my opinion, this and the new Brixton Porter don't compare well with the more established core beers - Punk IPA, 5am Amber Ale (no longer 5am Saint) and Dead Pony Club.

Anyway, I digress. I've got a soft spot for pretty much every BrewDog bar I've made it to for one reason or another.  It all started with my first taste of Punk IPA in Edinburgh during my annual trip to the Fringe festival 2011.  And an evening at BrewDog Shoreditch (with their superb Underdog cocktail bar downstairs) marked the beginning of Matt The List last February.  

So, beer and branding chat aside, I'm delighted that they have finally landed in South London.  And what a great little boozer they have created.  Very funky interior design, a central bar and outdoor seating create a welcoming vibe that instantly fits with the rest of Battersea Rise.  With the Breakfast Club & King of Ladies Man next door, and the likes of Draft House, Brew, Franco Manca and Lola Roja round the corner on Northcote Road, locals have never had it better.

Charcuterie boards from Cannon & Cannon went down a treat with sour Mikeller Spontanpeach and the BrewDog Russian Doll series, whilst Siren Shattered Dream and North Coast Rasputin kept the imperial stout lovers happy.

With exciting Meet The Brewer events and tap takeovers from the likes of Dieu du Ciel on the horizon, I'll be back before too long.


Friday September 19th -  I'm still playing catchup after a summer mostly spent in North America & Scotland.  Being a bit slow on the BrewDog front doesn't much matter, but I'm kicking myself that I didn't make it to The Paperworks when there were still plenty of warm evenings to look forward to.

Corisca Studios has followed Street Feast's shining example and transformed a disused space into something wonderful, with fantastic food & drink at its heart, and music and foodie events on rotation from Wednesday-Sunday.  It's almost always free entry but check their website for more details before you go.

We went along on a Friday night which tends to be Carnival del Kerb, an evening in the company of some of the finest street food traders in London organised by the wonderful Kerb collective.   The lineup will change most weeks, as many will also be doing stints at Street Feast sites in Dalston & Lewisham.  I wonder if Kerb & Street Feast have squabbles over them...

"You can only see You Doughnut on the first Saturday of every month." - K
"As long as we get Bleecker St Burger on Friday evenings" - SF  etc.

Drinks came first though, and we never really made it past the craft beer bar.  Bottles from Orbit (very new), Wild Card, Beavertown and Partizan kept us away from the affordable £6 cocktail bar at the other end.

It seems unfair to pick out particular traders just because we chose their stuff this time around, but the shredded duck & pork burger from Bill or Beak and the Crabbieshack soft shell crab burger were rather special.  

There's not much else to say really.  Come hungry, grab a table, bring some friends (and possibly a blanket), and settle in for a relaxed evening of food & drink.

"Bill" from Bill or Beak

P.S. If you want to add some culture to your evening in Elephant, you can head to Hotel Elephant next door for £5 films in a cool setting, or Southwark Playhouse over the road for a little bit of theatre (and a rather nice bar too).


Monday 22nd September - Last but not least, a lovely lunch on Abbeville Road.

My parents and I were mightily impressed by a recent meal at Adam Byatt's Trinity in Clapham Old Town (still dreaming of 14 year fermented sourdough, and the Valrhona chocolate pot).  Clapham locals Chris & Guy also rated his more relaxed Bistro Union rather highly, and we only lasted 3 weeks before ticking it off too.

I've mentioned Abbeville Road before after a visit to Kerbisher & Malt, but I must stress again what a hidden gem it is.  Abbeville Kitchen, Bottle Apostle & Brew Testament, and Ginger Pig are just some of the delights this tiny stretch of road has to offer.  And Bistro Union is my favourite stop so far...

Turning down outside tables and counter service at the bar, we settled in the colourful and well-lit dining area, within sight of the eye-catching snacks board, which rolls down the wall like a hand towel.  

Bistro Union's "snacks" double as small starters, though there was nothing down-sized about our Broccoli & Stichelton Bake (a steal at £4) or the Salt Cod Fritters with Aioli (£5).  Keeping pace with those excellent little plates was Gem, Peashoots, Buttermilk & Toasted Crumb (£4).  London's buttermilk obsession shows no sign of slowing down, which doesn't bother me in the slightest.  

You could just stick to this menu if you were after a speedy lunch as there's so much variety (including a small dessert option), and the addition of a Daily Sandwich makes it clear that they welcome locals in for no more than a quick bite to eat.

Salt Cod Fritters & Aioli - £5

Broccoli & Stichelton Bake - £4

Gem, Peashoots, Buttermilk & Toasted Crumb - £4
After several snacks, we skipped past the starters (which are in danger of being overlooked), and moved on to the Bistro Union Staples and Weekly Specials a.k.a. mains.

Classy, nostalgic comfort food is the order of the day here with mac'n'cheese, fish pie and toad in the hole on the menu.  Dad gave the thumbs up to Smoked Haddock, Creamed Corn and Homemade Sausage (£16) whilst I wolfed down a Salt Beef Hash with Fried Egg and Pickled Cucumbers (£12), which was more of a brunch dish and just what I needed.

Salt Beef Hash, Fried Egg & Pickled Cucumbers - £12
To finish, I chose well with Banana Custard (£5) - a banoffee-style pot of gooey goodness without the biscuit base.  Dad's Plum and Hazelnut Frangipane Tart  (£6) disappeared without a trace.  

Banana Custard - £5

Plum and Hazelnut Frangipane Tart - £6
No frills, no fuss - it was a fabulous filling lunch that didn't break the bank.  Service was charming throughout, and there's plenty more on the menu for return visits.  

The weekend brunch is apparently pretty special, and Sunday evening supperclubs look fun, with no corkage BYOB and free meals for kids under 10. I also like the sound of private booze lockers behind the bar - once your alcohol is stored away, you can make use of it with free mixers whenever you rock up.  If you ask nicely, you might even get a Martini or two shaken for you.

Fingers crossed Adam Byatt gets itchy feet and sets up shop in Battersea next, or I might have to think about moving closer to his restaurants to minimise wasted journey time!

Bistro Union on Urbanspoon

Monday 22 September 2014

Pescatori - WC Wine & Charcuterie - Drakes Tabanco

Following on from my June catchup post, here is a round-up of some great outings from the beginning of July, before America, Canada and Scotland got in the way.

Thursday 10th July - First up, a lovely lunch at Pescatori, a classy Italian seafood restaurant which holds court in both Fitzrovia and Mayfair.  Mary and I popped in to the Charlotte Street branch to fill up on fish.

Slightly better weather would have allowed us to sit outside on their attractive new terrace space (which even has its own menu Mon-Fri 3.00-5.30pm), but the restaurant is no less impressive.  It's a much larger site than I first realised, and several local suits in the know were already halfway through their mains when we sat down.

The A La Carte menu is fairly extensive which must keep the chefs on their toes.  We started with a very fresh & generous portion of Bruschetta di granchio (handpicked Dorset crab, with avocado on toasted bread - £10.50) along with a classic plate of Prosciutto with parmesan shavings (£9.95) - can't go wrong.

Bruschetta di granchio - fresh handpicked Dorset crab with avocado

Freshly sliced Parma ham with parmesan shavings
We tested the chefs (and waiting staff) a little more with our mains, opting for Spaghettini all'aragosta, their signature pasta dish with native lobster, San Marzano tomatoes, garlic & chilli, and a special salt baked seabass with samphire, which was skilfully prepared in record time at the table.

The spaghetti (£22.50) was large enough for two, and a delight to eat.  Simple flavours, done very well. Meanwhile, the seabass was a beautifully cooked, melt in your mouth fish feast.  Our planned three courses was starting to look a little unnecessary.

Spaghettini all'aragosta - Native lobster, San Marzano tomatoes, garlic & chilli

Salt baked seabass with samphire
The epic proportions of the excellent main dishes nearly defeated us, but we roused ourselves to share a dessert. It didn't let us down.

Gnocchi di latte - sweet baked dumplings with glazed dark rum.  I'm a big fan of almost every word in that description.  

It was possibly the best pudding I've had all year, and I've had my fair share.  Easy on the eye, not so on the arteries, it easily stretched to two people and was a steal at £6.50.  

Gnocchi di latte - sweet baked dumplings with dark glazed rum
A fantastic way to round off a luxury lunch.  Prices are fairly steep, though not for the area, and as I mentioned above, one massive main course would definitely do you for the day, though don't you dare leave without eating some of those dumplings first. 

View the menu and follow Matt The List on Zomato

Pescatori on Urbanspoon

Square Meal
Later that day, I was out and about again, this time for the launch of WC Wine & Charcuterie.  You've guessed it, it's a wine and charcuterie bar inside a refurbished 100 year old public toilet, right next to Clapham Common tube station.  I like to think that they went through a few options in the pub first before deciding what to specialise in - "Wedding Cakes? Walkers Crisps? Wychwood Cider? Wensleydale Cheese? I've got it, WINE AND CHARCUTERIE"

WC follows The Attendant and Bermondsey Arts Club down the London bog route, though planning apparently started a few years ago and just took a long time to sort out.  It was worth the wait as they have totally transformed the space into a beautiful, cosy wine bar, extending old cubicle walls & doors to create booths, and using old wine crates in a variety of ways.  There is also a rather pleasant garden up at street level, enclosed by white picket fences

They apparently unearthed a number of gems when they were refurbishing, including some rather raunchy letters that are on show for all to see in the men's bathroom (which uses original urinals). You can also find some entertaining old school graffiti scratched in to the wooden booths if you explore closely with a light on your phone.

I guess I should talk about Wine & Charcuterie now?  Well, the thing is, I'm no wine expert, and we were drinking bubbles when we went, but I have no doubt that they have a very strong wine list.  More my scene is the Brixton beer on tap.  

As for food, you have several options.  

Small plates including - Chadwick’s Black pudding Scotch egg & pickles £4, Iberico Leg w/ gherkins  - £8, and a special - Foie gras parfait for 2 with Pedro Ximinez jelly, cornichons bread - £10.

Charcuterie board at £15 - Coppa, Hungarian paprika & chilli, WC Ham hock terrine, Wild Boar Salami, Bresaola, Smoked duck breast (£2 supplement)

Cheese board at £15 - Brie de Meaux (cow, France), Cantal, (cow, France), Drunken Burt, (cow, Cheshire), Golden Cross, (goat, Sussex), Fourme d’Ambert, (cow, France)

Superior Cheese & Charcuterie at £25 - Smoked duck breast, Jesus De Lyon, Truffle Salami, Pork Rillette, Brie De Meaux with wild honey, Fourme d’Ambert, Piccalilli, Mixed Olives, Sourdough & oils

There's also a mezze platter, a ploughman's board, oysters and salads - plenty to keep you happy.

All in all, we were very impressed, though a return visit is required to fully explore the food and drink.  WC is not a gimmicky bar in a toilet It's an atmospheric, classy wine bar, perfect for dates, or pre dinner / cinema drinks, and a great addition to Clapham Common.  

Friday 11th July - I'll quickly mention another pleasant meal in Fitzrovia, even though I wasn't really on blogger duty (friend's birthday meal, no camera at the ready).  Drakes Tabanco is a charming little sherry & tapas joint, "named after Sir Francis Drake, who accidentally kick-started Britain’s sherry industry after returning from his raid on Cadiz with 3000 butts of sherry contraband."

Shamelessly lifting more directly from their excellent website:

"Unfortunately the Brits were never fully exposed to the real stuff, hidden away for years in the great cellars of Jerez. Think dry, long-aged and full-bodied, like many fine wines, served chilled in a wine glass. The real gems are carefully nurtured over many years and released without being processed (en rama), meaning they retain their fullest character. It’s with these treasures that Drakes Tabanco hopes to excite a new generation – but this time without the cannons!

Tabancos are unique because they serve straight from the barrel, and for good reason – it tastes better. Drakes Tabanco is no exception, housing some of the finest wines Jerez has to offer.

They’re terrific on their own of course, but are simply mind-blowing when partnered with the right food. So with this in mind, we’ve created an Andalucian-inspired menu to bring out the best in both. But don’t be surprised to see a few wildcards thrown in from time to time, such as goose rillettes paired with a chilled glass of fino en rama. Why…because they’re just great together."

Out of character for me, I ignored the Spanish Rosita craft beers (yet to try) and went for a Fino "en rama" Especial sherry from Fernando de Castilla, £4.60 for 75ml.  Bone dry, it split the table, but was right up my street.  More wine and sherry flowed throughout the meal, some poured straight from the barrel.

As we booked as large group, Drakes chose the food and brought out an endless supply of tapas plates for a set price (£20/head ish if I remember rightly? Don't quote me on that).

I'm pretty sure it included the following and much more besides, but I could be wrong as it all happened so fast!

Smoked Pork Sausage £4
Cured Iberico Pork Tongue £3.50
Salchichon (salami-style) £5.50
Cecina (cured beef), Celeriac Remoulade       £9.50
Salt Cod Stuffed Piquillo Peppers, Flaked Almonds £5
Salmon Gravadlax, Beetroot, Horseradish Cream     £6.50
Deep Fried Baby Squid £6.00
Grilled Octopus, Chickpea & Chorizo £9/£18
Goose Rillettes, Toast, Gherkins, Caperberries £6.50
Pork & Oxtail Meatballs      £4.5
Braised Pig Cheeks, Hazelnuts, Potato Purée £7.5/ £15

At any rate, excellent value for money, and consistently delicious.   Superb charcuterie gave way to showstopping grilled octopus and braised pig cheeks via moreish salt cod stuffed peppers and salmon gravadlax.  I'd happily let Drakes choose my food every day of the week.  Desserts weren't quite as exciting though perhaps we were all a little too full by that point.  

In summary, it was a wonderful sociable meal,  with classy booze - highly recommended.

View the menu and follow Matt The List on Zomato

Square Meal

Drakes Tabanco on Urbanspoon

Matt The Tumblr latest from Scotland:

- Isle of Islay Whisky Distilleries - Set 1 / Set 2 / Set 3

Map The List Update:

We came across an excellent iOS app for using Map The List on mobiles - MapsEngine Viewer. It works very smoothly online (worth the $2.99), and you can cache it all to use offline too. We used it all around America offline to great effect. Sadly there's no Android version yet so you will need to make do with Maps Engine Lite app (free) for the moment. 

Map The List versions of Chicago, New York, Minneapolis and Toronto are available upon request. Feel free to email me at matthew1hickman [at] gmail [dot] com for maps and tips.

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