Tuesday 21st October - London may well have 70+ breweries operating at the moment, but there is only a handful of good brewpubs.
To that short list, we can now add Brewhouse & Kitchen, who have just set up shop in Islington following success with their pubs in Portsmouth and Dorchester. Another branch will also open soon a couple of miles away in Highbury.
My immediate impression was that it looked like a pretty standard pub, but there are some lovely design touches on closer inspection, including cheeky beer quotes, hidden hop drawers and arty beer bottles. Then of course there's the fully operational brewing equipment rescued from the sadly extinct Lamb & Botanist brewpubs, not hidden behind glass but sitting proudly in the pub right next to the punters. Look out for friendly Head Brewer Pete Hughes patrolling the area.
I tasted 6 of Pete's launch beers on my visit, but here is the full list including some seasonal Autumn & Winter specials
Arc Angel – ordinary bitter, 3.6% (traditional, caramel, bitter)
Spandau B – session IPA, 4% (light, bitter, hoppy)
Myddleton – blonde ale, 4.5% (simple, balanced, refreshing)
Britton – American brown ale, 5% (dark, complex, hoppy)
Watchmaker – strong bitter, 5.5% (traditional, balanced, bitter)
Chaplin – IPA, 6% (intense, bitter, hoppy)
Autumn & Winter specials:
Suffragette Ninja – milk stout, 4% (rich, sweet, roast)
Triple A – rye ale, 5% (dry, spicy, floral)
Vlad – winter warmer, 5.5% (fruity, spicy, malty)
Raleigh – smoked porter, 5.5% (smoked, roast, chocolate)
The darker beers were particularly successful, and I also went back for a second go at the 6% Chaplin IPA. There's plenty here to keep beer lovers happy, especially as there are many more draught and bottled options in reserve. If you really fall for a particular beer, you can take home a 5 litre mini keg of the stuff too.
|5 Litre Mini Kegs|
I worked my way through some canapés (e.g. lamb koftas, pork belly in cider, mini fish & chips with mushy peas) but a return visit for the eye-catching beer-can chicken might be in order. Food & beer pairing is strongly encouraged with third pint glasses available and a host of tempting mains from £10 on the menu.
|Beer Can Chicken|
If you really want to get your hands dirty, sign up for a £99 Brewing Experience Day which gets you 5 hours of learning, brewing, beer banter, a hearty lunch and 5 litre minikeg to take home.
Also coming soon on Tuesday 25 November will be the first in a series of beer & food matching events at Brewhouse & Kitchen Islington. This one will be with Don Parkin and Phil Harding who will bring their Honkytonk beer trolley for an expert fun guide through of seven courses of beer & food matches. Tickets will cost just £25 - Book via phone 0207 837 9421 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Islington Brewhouse & Kitchen is a welcome addition to an area that isn't short on top boozers. Why not make a day of it with the likes of Three Johns, Craft Beer Co, Charles Lamb, Earl of Essex and North Pole round the corner.
Wednesday 22nd October - Fitzrovia is about to be overrun by lobster restaurants, but street food veterans Wild Game Co. have arrived first on Charlotte Street to keep those crustaceans at bay. There's no need to look it up on Google Maps, just keep walking until you see a giant stag...
All the meat at Wild Game Co. comes from owner Andy Waugh's family business in the Highlands, Ardgay Game. On the launch menu there are burgers (from £6), salads, bargain steak frites (only £12.50), and heart-warming stovies (£3.50). Expect the likes of partridge, pigeon and rabbit to make an appearance on a specials board soon too.
We went straight for The Veni-moo (£8.50), a venison burger & a Highland beef burger, with double cheese and beef bacon, and home-made bearnaise sauce, with some beef dripping fries (£2.50) on the side. It was a joy to eat, and a cut above anything I had at posh burger joint Bobo Social down the road.
"Steak & Chips!" from the new @WildGameCo 65 Charlotte St Fitzrovia (site formally Double J's) http://t.co/Vbs4gNEuZ5 pic.twitter.com/gil2jSXibA
— Wilkes McDermid (@wilkes888) October 21, 2014
The building sadly doesn't allow for an alcohol license, so there's more Irn Bru than Innis & Gunn, but home-made root beer and more will soon make an appearance.
Wild Game Co. is bound to be very popular as there isn't too much else in this area like it. Pleasantly low prices and speedy service (not to mention delicious food) will appeal to students and the lunch crowd in particular. Andy, still in street food mode, was chatting away to all the customers, and I can imagine you would feel like a regular here in no time. A very promising start - I'll check back again soon.
Keep an eye out for Wild Game Co.'s special events around town such as their 8-course game extravaganza, Struie Road, at Workshop Coffee.
It's also worth perusing their excellent website - www.wildgameco.co.uk - which has all sorts of enticing recipes and more information on their meat.
I'm delighted to announce that the Talented Mr Fox pop-up is back in residence at One Leicester Street. The permanent Peg + Patriot in Bethnal Green helped to fill the temporary void, but it's great to have Matt Whiley, Ally Martin & co. back in business in Central London.
Natalie and I popped in after dinner at Wild Game Co.. I'll keep it brief as you can read my original write-up here. Unsurprisingly there's a cracking new cocktail menu, plus a subtle TMF paintjob to boot.
|Male & Female toilets or Mr.Fox?|
Princess Consuela (Banana, Cognac, Bitters, Absinthe Rinse) - £11
Green House (Chlorophyll Dogs Nose Gin, Kummel, Lemon, Tomato Vine) - £11
Young Cuban (Bacardi, Tio Pepe, Orgeat, Lemon, Dill) - £9
Kummel On My Face (Tequila, Apricot, Lime, Black Salt, Fig Leaf Soda) - £10
French Flip (Croissant Cognac, Egg Yolk, Port) - £10
We also had a sneak peek at an off menu Tunnocks Tea Cake Martini which could become a permanent fixture if it proves to be popular.
|French Flip from above|
|French Flip and Tunnocks Tea Cake Martini|
|Kummel On My Face|
It's hard to order a bad drink at Talented Mr Fox, there is almost always space without reserving ahead, and you get a show when you sit at the bar. For those reasons and more, TMF comfortably sits on my list of Best Cocktail Bars in London. Get over there before it disappears again!
Another contender for that list is Experimental Cocktail Club, just round the corner on Gerrard Street. I'm a huge fan of the original outpost in Paris, but talk of it being difficult to get in has led me to take my business elsewhere thus far.
But it was early-ish on a Wednesday evening, and Natalie was keen to get another point on the leaderboard, so we tidied up our hair, tucked in our shirts, and tied our shoelaces before greeting the bouncer outside ECC Chinatown.
Well, that wasn't very hard. Up the stairs we went...
I feel a fool for not dropping in before. ECC Chinatown is a stunning candlelit cocktail bar spread over two floors, with a DJ spinning funky takes on 20s swing. For a Wednesday night, the atmosphere was phenomenal - tables were packed and the bar was buzzing. We loved the layout that allows you to peer down to tables below through the middle of the stairs, as well as the mirrors above the bar on the first floor.
All of this fun comes at a cost of course, with drinks around the £12 mark. There's also a cover charge of £5 after 11pm, but there won't be many better bars that stay open til 3am in London. If you really want to splash the cash, order one of their Vintage Cocktails that start at £120.
|Birds eye view from second floor|
Popeye's Better Half - Plantation Original Dark Rum, spinach syrup, lemon juice, virgin olive oil, egg white and soda - £12.50
La Medicación - Ocho Blanco tequila, Ramazzotti, St Elizabeth Allspice Dram, agave nectar, ginger syrup, lime syrup & Del Maguey Vida Mezcal Mist - £12
And there's plenty more where that came from, if you can afford it.
We were really impressed with our first visit to ECC, and with Talented Mr Fox and Opium a stone's throw away, Chinatown is bizarrely a real destination for cocktail lovers. It will take all of your willpower not to stop off somewhere for Chinese food afterwards...