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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Wapping Market - Corner Room - PimpShuei - Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings

Sunday 14th September - A belated day of birthday celebrations for Dad The List got me out of bed and on a train to Wapping Market, the sibling of Brockley Market.   We made our way to Shadwell Basin - much more beautiful than it sounds, and almost Parisian with cobbled paving underfoot, shady trees overhead and water all around.  From 10am to 2pm every Sunday, there's no better place to be.

It wasn't my first visit, so I went straight to Crosstown Doughnuts for a fix of their Salted Caramel Banana Cream - a week's worth of exercise ruined in 1 minute.  This was washed down with Dark Fluid Coffee - they certainly take their time, but the flat white was worth the wait.  For an early morning pick-me up, I dropped by World of Zing's contemporary food & drink emporium for tasters of Bordeaux Barrel Aged Negroni, Steel Aged Manhattan and Stellacello (made with grapefruit).  

Bill or Beak provided brunch with their Ancient Sourdough rubbed with garlic, toasted and topped with a duck egg & truffle oil for only £4.  Not the easiest thing to eat but worth the effort.  I also devoured a fantastic Crump Monsieur from Good & Proper Tea Co., and yes, it was a crumpet / croissant hybrid with a generous slab of ham covered in melted cheese - just what was needed.

Brunch from Bill or Beak

Ancient sourdough rubbed with garlic, toasted, and topped with a duck egg & truffle oil

Good & Proper Tea Co.

There's plenty more to try if you can find room for it.  Swine Dining & Mother Flipper were calling me, but a classy lunch was only a couple of hours away.  

Cancel that lie-in and give Wapping Market a go this Sunday - you won't regret it.

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To walk off our breakfast, we embarked on a fascinating Street Art tour with East End Tours.  It's an absolute steal at £10 per person for a 90 minute introduction to street art around Brick Lane.  Now I know my Noir from my Roa, I'm ready for a more meaty 3 hour excursion.

By the time we made it to Bethnal Green, breakfast was a distant memory.  Tucked away inside the Town Hall Hotel is Corner Room, not to be confused with Lee Westcott's Typing Room downstairs, another restaurant near the top of Matt The Wishlist.

Corner Room was very well thought of when Nuno Mendes ran it alongside Viajante.  Now he's stuck at Chiltern Celebhouse, John Christie has been appointed Head Chef of Corner Room, and he's brought a £45 6-course seasonal tasting menu with him.  

Corner Room at the Town Hall Hotel
Even though it was closer to afternoon tea than lunch, I was surprised to find that we had the restaurant all to ourselves.  We were drawn in by 3 courses for £23 deal that even applies at weekends, which seemed too good to be true.  Where was everyone else? Did they know something we didn't?

The answer is no.  Corner Room should be packed to the rafters on this showing.

Alongside some E5 bread & salted Jersey butter (delicious but competing with fond memories of complimentary sourdough at Trinity and The Dairy), the attractive starters arrived.  

Some shy raw minced beef was hiding under a cloak made out of turnips and hazelnuts, but not for long.  It was another excellent example of a genre which always seems to bring out a chef's creative side - see Mele e Pere and Arabica Bar & Kitchen.  It was joined be an equally good-looking plate of Fresh Cow's Curd with Yeast, Dates and Black Fig - it disappeared before I could steal a forkful.

Raw minced beef, hazelnuts, egg yolk, turnip

Fresh Cow's Curd, Yeast, Dates, Black Fig
Mains were modest which was appreciated after a gluttonous morning.  The plates were busy but nothing overpowered.  The sprinkling of rhubarb and ginger on the glorious pork cheeks was judged perfectly, and I've always got time for quirky carrots.

Plaice, Kohlrabi, Cornish Crab, Girolles, Lardo

Tamworth Pork Cheeks, Heritage Carrots, Rhubarb, Ginger
Faultless presentation continued into the sweet course with eye-catching Ewe's Milk & Lavender Sorbet and Poached Greengage, Gooseberry and Cobnut Crumble.  The latter seemed to edge it on taste, but a lack of sharing is always a good sign for all dishes.

Ewe's Milk & Lavender Sorbet, White Chocolate, Currants

Poached Greengage, Gooseberry, Cobnut Crumble
We finished off with coffee and flumps, which turned out to be raspberry marshmallow treats. With a name like that, they were always going to be ordered.  A fun way to end a playful meal, though too sweet for my palette.

Raspberry Flumps
Reasonably priced A La Carte menu
Corner Room provides yet another excuse to venture to Bethnal Green.  The bargain lunch menu is the place to start, but A La Carte isn't too pricey either, and you would be a fool to leave without a drink downstairs at Peg + Patriot.

More posts on Bethnal Green:

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Tuesday 16th September - I'll squeeze in two more tips from an evening in Clerkenwell, starting with PimpShuei, a dive bar for kung-fu fans that Google Maps seems fairly determined to keep a secret.

It was a flying visit but it made a great impression.  They may well be the UK's first crowdfunded bar, and with that comes bartender passion and enthusiasm.  

From our seats, we looked around at their beloved décor, taking in original movie posters from the 70s/80s, arcade machines including Point Blank (more to come in a separate games room), and the 3 Chinese Gods of Feng Shuei (Fuk Luk Sau) bringing us good fortune, wealth and longevity.  Then there are the wonderful old school TVs all around which show kung-fu films around the clock.  They are all receiving signals from one video-player that is playing 8 films simultaneously, and you can effectively switch channel on each screen to find your favourite scenes.  In another nice touch, the money from the arcade machines is sent over to Great Ormond Street on a regular basis.

And the drinks?  Well, I stuck to a bottle of Punk IPA (it is a dive bar after all), but Natalie got involved with the cocktails, opting for a J.Woo - Tequila, Chinese plum, five spice tea, Tsingtao, grapefruit soda, lime - a refreshing twist on a Paloma.  Other Asian-influenced drinks include Bangkok Dangerous (Bloody Mary w/ Sriracha hot sauce), Pat Mojita (with kumquats and aloe vera), and Wong Island (with mei kuei lu and lychee liqueur). 

Before we moved on, we were given a fortune cookie as first time customers, and instructed to upload our results to twitter - search for #thecookieneverlies to browse through everyone's pre-determined futures.  Apparently I will earn lots of money one day? (Are you reading, Mum?)

For a complete change of scene, we made the short journey over to Northampton Road for the launch of Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, a new all-day brasserie and bar venture from, you guessed it, Bourne & Hollingsworth (best known for their bonkers kitsch bar in Fitzrovia).

They have converted the same space that they used last summer for the excellent Kitchen Party series (Extreme Garnishing was a highlight), and they have upped their game on décor.  It feels like a stately home where the plantlife has been allowed to run riot, particularly in the stunning greenhouse room next to the main dining area.  There is also a good-looking bar, a cosy café area and a private dining room for 14 people.  

We were on cocktails and canapés for the evening, with miniature versions of Head Chef Alex Visciano's brasserie food making their way around.  The full food menu is enticing though prices look a little steep at a glance.  These caught my eye:

Rabbit & Hazelnut Terrine, Pickled Apple Slaw, Toast - £7
Lamb Cannon, minted crust, ratatouille-stuffed courgette flower - £20
Lime & Verdi Bella Olive Cheese Cake - £5

The cocktails were a great success. We started with Port Flower Stinger (white port shaken with mint and elderflower - £8) and Cider Rose (apple and blackberry shrub stirred with Somerset Cider Brandy topped with fizz - £9) - both elegantly presented and shaken.  

Eton Fizz (gin with muddle strawberries, lemon juice, honey, Greek yoghurt and egg white, shaken hard and topped with soda - £8,50) went down very easily, but the most popular drink of the night was Tequila Ginger Cucumber - Tequila and a touch of Mezcal (can't go wrong), mixed with lemon, cucumber, jasmine green tea syrup, and Cardamom bitters, topped with ginger ale for £8. Dangerously drinkable and moreish - we got through quite a few of these and I'd return for more. Old Willy Bourne (blended scotch with sweet vermouth, benedictine, house bitters and a touch of Islay Malt Whisky, finished with a hint of anise - £9) is still on the to-drink list.

Eton Fizz

The bartenders were on their game all night, as were the floor staff (most of whom seemed to be actors) and the punters all seemed relaxed and content.

Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings is a touch of class on an otherwise run-down street.  Don't expect to leave before closing time.


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