Today on the blog - Matt The Trek. No, not a William Shatner skit, rather a mission to Stoke Newington : The Final Frontier. Men (and women) have boldly gone there before, some even live there.
And it's a right schlep from Battersea.
But when Burger Bear Tom and Alastair Burgess & co. from Happiness Forgets open up new spots, not only in the same postcode but in the same building in Stokey, I pipe down, pack an overnight bag and get out CityMapper.
Tuesday 9th December - You may have spotted Tom Reaney banging out burgers, beats and bacon jam as Burger Bear on the London street food scene, at Red Gallery, or at the Old Nun's Head in SE15 (Mon, Tue, Sat).
Earlier this year, Tom ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund Burger Bear HQ, a diner made out of two shipping containers that I'm sure we'll hear more on soon. But whilst we wait for that to appear, you are most likely to spot him at the adorably named Stokey Bears, a new collaboration with Bear Hug Brewing on Stoke Newington Road.
Before we get to the food - that menu design. It's part Tiki Bar, part Family Guy, and I love it. Kids will love it too, though their parents might not when they spot the Ribman's Holy Fuck Sauce in the Angry Bear burger. Beefdogs will soon be joining Hot Wings on the menu, but you've got to go for a burger, right?
Grizzly Bear is the obvious choice. Alternatively, double up with a Greedy Bear, go veggie with the Koala Bear or take on the mysterious Triple Threat. Fries and onion rings arrive in massive portions so order wisely, and possibly go for "Angry" or "Chilli" fries for a bit of variety.
I'll be a Grizzly Bear man every time. A meaty cheeseburger with double oak smoked bacon and that bacon jam you've been hearing about. Be sure to buy a jar to take home. Or go all out and swing by Flock & Herd in Peckham for their 100% Sussex beef too.
|The look you get if you ask for a bite...|
To drink, it's got to be some Bear Hug Brewing beer, especially as each one you knock back saves a bit of the rainforest. I'm a fan of the Hibernation IPA myself, but the Bruno Lager is very drinkable and a strong companion for the burgers. Feeling soft? There's a brilliant Square Root London soda dispenser (unlimited refills!) by the bar. They look after you at Stokey Bears.
By the way... There's one more weekend left of Square Root's "WTF Why Not" collaboration with Tongue'N'Cheek at the Square Root Soda Works on Amhurst Road. More details here.
I feel like I've forgotten something? Oh yeah, that's it. The boys from Happiness Forgets (you know, the 12th best bar in the world this year) have opened a neighbourhood cocktail bar called Original Sin below Stokey Bears, and they've only gone and put a pool table in it. It's all coming together...
They are in a soft launch of sorts at the moment, so this is just a quick preview. I'll report back properly in January once everything is in place. I can tell you now though that it's a stunning joint, with inviting booths, attractive lighting, and a glorious bar that stretches as far as the eye can see.
One drink that is sure to survive the cut is Sea City, an outstanding Mezcal & Cachaca based fizz. It's one of several £8 signature serves that sit alongside £7 Highballs (including a rousing Laphroaig & Kamm & Sons concoction) designed to tempt punters away from ordering a G&T every time. Beers from the likes of Pressure Drop, Beavertown and Hammerton fill the fridges.
And that's all you are getting for now. The atmosphere & booze is great, what more do you need to know?
P.S. It's winner stays on at the pool table and we haven't lost yet. See you there.
N.B. Original Sin will be closed from 22nd December to 2nd January.
Thanks to Helena for stealing my camera and taking some great shots whilst Ella & I defeated various London bartenders. You can see the full set of photos on Matt The List : Facebook.
That Stokey evening actually started in Islington - breaking up the journey and all that. We dropped in to Comedor Grill & Bar on Upper Street for some pre-burger cocktails at Pisco Embassy, a new late night pop-up pisco bar that takes over the restaurant every Friday and Saturday from 12am-5am. It doesn't have to be Slim Jim's Liquor Store every time now.
Pisco, if you didn't know, is a grape brandy made in Chile & Peru, though it can be wildly different depending on where you get it. The Peruvians are purists whilst the Chileans like to mature and sometimes dilute their pisco before bottling.
Pisco Sour is the most well known use of it over here, and Pisco Embassy's version is heavy on the lime, with equal parts of Pisco & Lime Juice when many would keep it at less than a 2:1 ratio even. This theme continues down the menu, with most drinks too sweet for my tastes, or not strong enough, but they may well appeal to the 12am-5am Islington crowd. I'm sure you could get Jose to whip you up something specific if need be too.
A week earlier, I was a few doors down from Pisco Embassy...
Tuesday 2nd December - Whilst most foodies (me included) are raving about the arrival of Thai hotspots Som Saa and Smoking Goat, Rosa's Thai Café are quietly taking over London having just opened their sixth site in Angel.
Spitalfields is where it all began in 2008 for the lovely Saiphin and her family. Two Soho sites, Westfield & Chelsea followed before they arrived in Islington last week.
|Rosa's Thai Café in Angel|
The menu is extensive but easy to navigate. It's worth noting that there are fewer dishes available at lunch. Be sure to grab some starters and salads. Fish Cakes with Crushed Peanuts & Sweet Chilli Sauce (Thod Mun Pla) hit the spot, and moreish Spicy Pork Patties (Lab Tod) come attached to colourful rice cakes. A zingy Pork Neck Salad was attractively wrapped in lettuce leaves.
|Fish Cakes with Crushed Peanuts & Sweet Chillia Sauce - Thod Mun Pla|
|Spicy Pork Patties - Lab Tod|
You can't go wrong with the generous portions of Pad Thai or Rosa's Fried Rice, but you can also push the boat out a little with the likes of Soft Shell Crab, Black Pepper Highland Venison, Pumpkin Red Curry and Broccoli in Oyster Sauce. I've heard rumours that the Pineapple Fried Rice is served in a large, hand-carved pineapple vessel.
|Rosa's Fried Rice|
|Pork Neck Salad|
I wouldn't be surprised to see 10 or more of them this time next year. A book is already on the way, set for a February release. Time to jump on board Rosa's train. You'll leave satisfied with plenty of money in hand for a return trip.
|Wine and cocktails at Rosa's Thai Café in Angel|