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Wednesday 10 September 2014

M1lk - Bobo Social - Society Club

Sunday 31st August - After many a fine brunch in the States this summer, I decided to up my game in London starting with highly-rated M1lk in Balham, located on work-in-progress Hildreth Street.

The "no reservations" queue was in full flow by the time I arrived at 11.20, but their superb Workshop coffee was available and the sun was shining - so far, so Williamsburg.  The atmosphere was buzzing, and with good reason judging by the look of the food being brought out.  Before too long we had a table for five indoors and were eyeing up the menu and the striking décor.

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3/4 pint of Lois smoothie & pot of tea
Brunch isn't a meal for messing around sharing everything on the menu.  It's about getting a massive portion of something delicious (potentially with hangover cure benefits if necessary) and keeping it all to yourself. This led to three of us ordering the same wonderfully named Convict muffin (did I mention M1lk is run by Australians?).  It was a criminally good choice - English muffin, drycure bacon, m.moens sausage, burford brown egg, poacher hash, hangover sauce - £7.90. I don't know what hangover sauce is, but I want it every Sunday.

The Convict - English muffin, drycure bacon, m.moens sausage, burford brown egg, poacher hash, hangover sauce
Non-convicts went for Billy The Kid (Red Clover Honeycomb, Goat's Cheese, Sourdough, Flowers - £6.90) and Young Betty (Poached Eggs on Woodfired Sourdough, Drycure Bacon, Burnt Butter Hollandaise, with Young Spinach & Chinese Chive - £7.80 + supplement), both of which looked smashing.  Next time...

Billy The Kid - Red Clover Honeycomb, Goat's Cheese, Sourdough, Flowers

Many treats on display at M1lk

And brunch is as simple as that. No starters. No menu explanations. No small plates. Isn't it great? I should write about it more often, it's a lot less time consuming.  M1lk stands up to the best that New York & co. have to offer, and I expect I will be back again very soon, not least because there is a brand new beer & homebrew store round the corner called We Brought Beer.

One place that might soon compete with M1lk for my affections is Fields Café, their sister joint which is currently taking shape in the building next to the skate park on Clapham Common.  Get a load of these potential dishes:

- Coal-grilled sausage bao, kewpie, pickled shallot & iceberg
- Peat-smoked mutton & beans, garden herb butter & sourdough
- Smashed peas, hay-smoked goat’s curd, garden herbs & sourdough
- Sticky rice pudding, apple, soured cream ice-cream & sake
- Banana bread, Nesquik mascarpone and salted panela

Exciting.  Keep track of their progress on Twitter.

N.B. M1lk is open 8am-5pm Monday – Saturday, and 9am-5pm Sunday - so brunch isn't limited to the weekend! No reservations.

M1LK on Urbanspoon

Tuesday 2nd July - Just over the road from upmarket hot dog establishment BubbledogsBobo Social is setting out to do something similar with burgers, envisaging more of a 3 course affair with patties in the middle where they belong.

Ushered downstairs, we settled in with a bottle of Buxton SPA and a Guava & Rosemary Margarita.  The cocktail list didn't excite me hugely, but good on them for keeping prices under £10 in Fitzrovia.  Black Basil Cosmopolitan and Café Old Fashioned would have come next but I moved on to beer for the remainder of the meal.  Décor is nice enough, a bit of a mishmash of hipster lighting (a bit orange for any budding Instagrammers) but a room without natural light is hard to pull off.

Impressionist Bobo Social 

First came a couple of small plates - Salt & Pepper Crispy Squid with Pickled Cucumber, Rocket, Sweet Chilli & Lime Jam (£6.50) and Sea Bass Ceviche with Pomegranate, Rocket, Chilli, Chive & Lemon Dressing (£7.50).  Salt & Pepper Squid never fails to delight, and chilli & lime jam was a clever accompaniment. The greens weren't an afterthought either  The ceviche was less impressive, lacking the acidic kick that we were craving.

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Salt & Pepper Squid with Sweet Chili & Lime Jam
On to the main event, burgers cooked in their Kopa Charcoal Oven with silver birch (they rotate which wood they use to enhance the flavour).  Felix's Peanut Butter burger (£11) made use of Dexter beef, though this is also changed regularly. 

"No, we didn't kill a cow called Dexter", replied the waiter to Felix's witty enquiry.

Dexter was swiftly devoured and given the thumbs up.  Pink, juicy, and a sensible size given the expectation for ordering more courses.  The B branded buns are a nice touch.

6oz rare-breed beef, peanut butter, Monterey Jack, and maple drizzled cured bacon served in a buttermilk bun with lettuce, tomatoes, charcoal roasted onions and Bobo sauce
I knew what I was ordering before I walked through the door. Debauchery.

£20 worth of Wagyu beef, Ogleshield cheese, confit shitaki mushrooms, bacon mayo, truffle & onion compote, shaved truffles, described by Fay Maschler as "sort of a breakthrough burger".

I enjoyed it thoroughly but most of London's best burgers can be bought for under £10 and this wasn't in a world of its own.  Wagyu beef is a treat worth paying for every now and then though, and who doesn't love bacon mayo? Quiet veggies.

Wagyu beef, Ogleshield cheese, confit shitaki mushrooms, bacon mayo, truffle & onion compote, shaved truffles
Sides of Sweet Potato Chips with Truffle Salt and Apple Slaw with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds hit the spot. Skin-on, Beef Dripping Chips and Deep Fried Pickles with Spicy Buttermilk Dip wait in the wings for next time.

Sweet Potato Chips with Truffle Salt
We finished with two small but rich dessert pots, fresh from the fridge rather than the kitchen.  Dark & Milk Chocolate Mousse with Salted Caramel was the better of the two, though a lot denser than we imagined (I've been waiting to use "over-egged the pudding" but I don't really know what I'm talking about).  White Chocolate Cheesecake with Lemon & Ginger was fine but uninspiring.  A bit more innovation or presentation might be needed for the desserts to leave an impression.

Dark & Milk Chocolate Mousse with Salted Caramel

I do like the sound of their Experimental Burger Society nights, held every Monday.  It's £25 per person to create a brand new burger with the Head Chef, making use of Alligator, Ostrich, Kangaroo and Venison if you so wish.  The best burger goes on the menu for the week.  The price also includes a welcome drink, and you get to eat your creation of course.

Felix and I both agreed, there was plenty of enjoyable food, served with a smile, but the burger section leaves the rest of the menu without a real focus, leaving you with a quite random selection of dishes to choose from.  The prices are reasonable and the Debauchery burger is bound to be talked about, but in my opinion, Bobo Social needs something else to tie it all together, and perhaps a stronger drink offering too.

Bobo Social on Urbanspoon

We left very full and in need of a good walk, marching off in the direction of Soho with no real destination in mind.  We walked past Soho Grind (on my to-do list), but it's currently only open late on Fridays and Saturdays.  Look out for Holborn Grind opening soon too.  Instead we wandered down to the other end of Beak Street to find The Society Club.

The Society Club was recommended to me some time ago by a reliable source as one of Soho's best kept secrets.  It's a tiny independent bookstore, gallery & café by day, and relaxed cocktail bar and Soho refuge by night, with regular book launches, poetry readings (not poker evenings as I first heard), talks and workshops.  By the looks of the piano and guitar (extra points instantly) there is live music occasionally too. It's also very much dog friendly.

However, I should have gone a lot sooner as I fear it is just about to switch to a members only system in the evenings which would be a shame.  Annual membership is £175 (effectively a pledge to buy books) which will grant you access to their Bohemian sitting room bar after 6pm.  

We stuck to two classics, a Negroni and an Old Fashioned, both well executed, and soaked up the atmosphere as regulars wandered in and out, always warmly greeted.  It captures that drinks after a dinner party vibe perfectly, with jazz playing softly in the background and classy characters chatting away in cosy corners.  If  The Nudge / Barchick decided to send out an email alerting everyone to a bookstore / gallery / café / cocktail bar in  the heart of Soho, the place would be awash with hipsters in no time.  Maybe it's for the best that it doesn't remain open to everyone.  Does anybody want to lend me £175?

Negroni & Old Fashioned at Society Club

Society Club on Urbanspoon

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