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Tuesday 9 December 2014

The Manor - Bermondsey Arts Club - 108 Brasserie

Wednesday 26th November - Ah, The Dairy.  Seven months have passed since my first encounter with their rooftop carrots.  A hundred or so restaurants later, and only Pizza Loves Emily in Brooklyn have made vegetables equally delicious.

Smokey carrots, lentils & ricotta at Pizza Loves Emily in Brooklyn

And so, the arrival of The Manor, a spin-off of The Dairy, is very exciting news indeed.  Not least because it's just down the road from The Dairy so everything from their rooftop garden (and the soon to open Delicatessen) is fair game. Chef Dean Parker & Manager Dan Joines have made the short journey from The Pavement to Clapham Manor Street to launch the "modern bistro" on the site formerly occupied by El Rincon.

It's much more open and airy than The Dairy (budding Instagrammers take note) with charming, rustic décor, and there are separate booze & dessert bars for you to enjoy.  But that's enough preamble; let's get down to the food.

For a full set of photos from my lunch at The Manor, visit Matt The List : Facebook

Much like The Dairy, there's a tasting menu (£42), a bargain lunch menu (£18 for 3 courses) and an A La Carte Menu.  It had to be the big one.

The amuses bouches & bread soon began to appear, starting with a Wakame & Tapioca Crisp that was gone before I could Google Wakame.  Then the Edvard Eriksen style chicken skin butter rocked up next to a snug loaf of squishy sourdough - a match for similar offerings at The Dairy, Picture & Trinity.  And finally, a selection of dense pork & beef salumi was laid down (presumably the same as the A La Carte Pork & Fennel Salumi and Spiced Beef Droe Wors options). 

Wakame & Tapioca Crisp

Chicken Skin Butter & Sourdough

Eriksen's Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen

Pork & Beef Salumi

The four elements of small plates dining followed - Earth, Water, Air and Pigs.

Cauliflower with Grue de Cacao, Medjool Dates and Yoghurt made an early case for best in show, and wouldn't look out of place in the desserts category.  A load of this with the sourdough on the side would do me all day long.  "Flying Breeze" Sea Bass (referring to the ship that caught it) was beautifully cooked but slightly at odds with the chanterelles.  Had I the full menu to choose from, I might swap it for Cornish Crab, Charred Celeriac, Hazelnuts & Buttermilk.

Cauliflower, grue de cacao, medjool dates & yogurt

"Flying Breeze" sea bass, roasted salsify & chanterelles

We were soon back on track with rich Spiced Braised Pig, Morcilla & Squash and an outstanding (though unusual looking) plate of Hay Smoked Pigeon with Fermented Grains, Parsnip & Malt Granola.  Don't be put off by the maggot impersonators on top of that pigeon, they wouldn't survive a bout of hay smoking (currently all the rage in Clapham).  It's worth noting that they don't skimp on the portion sizes on the tasting menu - you won't have room for anything else.

Spiced braised pig, morcilla & squash

Hay smoked pigeon, fermented grains, parsnip & malt granola

That said, we went full glutton and ordered the optional cheese course - Baked Vacherin with The Dairy's rooftop honey and slices of a seasonal loaf to scoop it all up.  Unnecessary. Essential.

Baked Vacherin, “The Dairy’s” rooftop honey, chestnuts

Unbeknownst to us though, the show had barely begun.  For, after polishing off all our savoury treats, we were invited by Dean and his accomplice (pastry chef extraordinaire Kira Ghidoni) to sit up at the dessert bar for the final stages.  I peered over to see all their secret ingredients stashed away in no-frills tupperware boxes, much like the back bar of garnishes at Peg & Patriot in Bethnal Green.

The Dessert Bar

Whilst Kira prepared our Granny Smith Apple Parfait, Meringue & Brittle Sorrel, Dean pointed out the jars full of sweet treats along the bar that act as toppings for their DIY Manor Sundae - a return visit is in order.  He didn't hold our attention for long though as Kira started plunging sorrel leaves into a cylinder of nitrogen before shrouding my bowl in mystery.

DIY Sundae Toppings

Granny smith apple parfait, meringue & brittle sorrel

The result is a super sour and refreshing bowl of fun that you hack your way through blindly.  It is soon followed by another successful space age dessert of Jerusalem Artichoke, Smashed Creme Fraiche and Poached Quince - who knew that would work? It set Dad The List off on a quince fanboy rant which soon turned to a discussion of the whole London food scene with half The Manor staff involved.

Jerusalem artichoke, smashed crème fraiche & poached quince

Somewhere amongst all the chat, we managed to squeeze in some Petits Fours, cutely presented in a drawer removed from small chest on the dessert bar.  I forget exactly what they were, but I have to leave something for you to discover yourself, right?

The drawers are used to present Petits Fours

Treats from the Petits Fours drawer

Despite having only just opened, there was no weakness or need for improvement in sight.  Confident cooking, adventurous flavours, ample portions and show-stopping desserts could easily add up to a lot more than £42.  Book now.

If you need a second opinion, ask Fay.

For a full set of photos from my lunch at The Manor, visit Matt The List : Facebook

Manor on Urbanspoon


To balance out the stunning lunch at The Manor, I skipped off to South East London later on that same day to preview the Winter cocktail menu at Bermondsey Arts Club, which is now available for all to try.

Bermondsey Arts Club is a fantastic little cocktail bar with big ideas, currently flying under the radar and under the road in a art deco-style former public toilet on Tower Bridge Road.  I'd be quite happy for it to stay hidden so that I could always get my seats at the bar, but this new menu really is worth shouting about.

For the full set of photos from Bermondsey Arts Club, visit Matt The List : Facebook

The twelve new drinks have been devised in equal parts by bar manager Adam Nordone and two more wise men, Milo & Jake.  

Not messing around, we started with Milo's Coupe des Garcons which arrived dressed in black tie (or a napkin, use your imagination) and smelling of Commes de Garcons.  Miraculously, the perfumed glass influences but doesn't affect the palate, and the boozy combo of Calvados, Ramazzotti, Port and Peychauds Bitters powers through at the end - quite a creation

Elsewhere on his list is the playful, rum-laced Jerk My Swag served with a cocktail umbrella, D.D.D. aka Dead Drowned Duck, and the maritime Poseidon's Reserve complete with oyster leaf akvavit, umeshu and mysterious Ocean's Mist. Milo means business.

- Coupe des Garcons - Fine Calvados, Ramazzotti, Port, Peychauds Bitters, Comme des Garcons Perfumed Glass

- Jerk My Swag - Jerk Spiced Rum, Pimento Dram, Cola Reduction, Pineapple, Voodoo Bitters

- D.D.D. -  Duck Drowned Cognac, Cointreau, Aperol, Orange Bitters

- Poseidon's Reserve - Oyster Leaf Akvavit, Umeshu, Pure Water, Ocean's Mist

Coupe des Garcons - Fine Calvados, Ramazzotti, Port, Peychauds Bitters, Comme de Garcon perfumed Glass

On to Jake's concoctions, the show-stopper is Three Wise - Taylors 10yr Port & Brokers Gin combine with sugar and festive gold, frankincense & myrrh bitters in a sake box garnished with an incense stick.  Underneath all the show, it's quite an easy drinker but more than just a gimmick.

Also on his list : Both Darjeeling Un-Limited and Grappa's Delight will appeal to Brits with their tea twists.  Compass Box Asyla needs no tweaking but darjeeling infusion works well here along with a dash of Yellow Chartreuse which is set alight before being plunged in to Jake's take on a whisky sour.  With Grappa's Delight, Jake hopes to bring some attention to underrated Grappa.  Infusing it with Camomile and chucking in some Green Tea Ice Cream is a good place to start.  I'll be back for Tracing Pedro.

- Three Wise - Taylors 10yr Port, Brokers Gin, Sugar, Gold/Frankincense/Myrrh Bitters

- Darjeeling Un-Limited - Darjeeling infused Asyla, Yellow Chartreuse, Mandarin Preserve, Lemon, Egg White

- Grappa's Delight - Camomile Grappa, Cocchi Americano, Lemon, Honey, Green Tea Ice Cream

- Tracing Pedro - Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Poire William, Pedro Ximenez, Muscavado, Lime

Three Wise - Taylors 10yr Port, Brokers Gin, Sugar, Hold/Frankincense/Myrrh Bitters

Last but not least, Adam's offerings.  My eyes were drawn to Hit & Mist as soon as I opened the menu.  Cider poached Apple Laphroaig? Treacle Syrup? Whisky Barrel Bitters? Apple Hickory Smoke? Yes to all of the above please.  Smoked drinks often take it too far, but Laphroaig is already so deep in charcoal territory that if anything, the cider & sweet smoke helps to make it more accessible.  Not one to miss.  Oh and it's all theatrical and misty - bonus.

Phra Phum (meaning spirit house - not that kind) is an acquired taste (Ella acquired it instantly), a savoury Thai sour in a similar vein to the Vietnamese Pho Money Pho Problems at Peg & PatriotJupiter Rising is right up my street - all booze, no fuss, except that it's served in an ice sphere of course. The inclusion of Branca Menta (a minty brother of Fernet Branca) might divide the room. No-one could take issue with A Little R&R with butter-washed raisin rum, cinnamon liqueur, lemon & cardamom bitters, unless you are one of those bizarre cardamom haters I guess.

- Hit & Mist - Cider poached Apple Laphroaig, Treacle Syrup, Whisky Barrel Bitters, Apple Hickory Smoke

- Phra Phum - House Thai Gin (Ginger, Chilli, Garlic, Spring Onion), Lemon, Sugar, Egg White, House Soy Bitters

- Jupiter Rising - Brokers Gin, Branca Menta, Cocchi Torino served in an Ice Sphere

- A Little R&R - Butter Washed Raisin Rum, Cinnamon Liqueur, Lemon, Cardamom Bitters

Hit & Mist - Cider poached Apple Laphroaig, Treacle Syrup, Whisky Barrel Bitters, Apple Hickory Smoke

It's a cracking menu, and the prices are very competitive with drinks coming in under £10 - good value considering the premium ingredients being used, the effort going in to presentation and the quality of the cocktails. Add to that possibly London's most entertaining bar team and superb service, and Bermondsey has got itself a rather special cocktail bar.  Oh, and there's live jazz on Wednesdays. Need I say any more?

Just don't take my seats at the bar.

Bermondsey Arts Club is open 6pm-2am Tuesday-Saturday

Jake at work - standing as still as possible for the camera

The Bermondsey Arts Club on Urbanspoon

For more photos from Bermondsey Arts Club, visit Matt The List : Facebook

More Bermondsey bars - Cecil's, 214 Bermondsey, Bump Caves

Best value bars in London - Seven at Brixton and sister bar, Three Eight Four


Monday 24th November - 108 Brasserie in Marylebone re-opened last month after a major refurb, in time for the busy Christmas period.  I went along with Dad The List to sample the food offering at lunchtime.

We were warmly welcomed into the spacious dining room, which is smartly opened up by a large bread table in the middle.  Though we were the first to be seated, it soon started to fill up.  If they reach capacity, they can always spill over into the bar, or The Pantry, a wonderful little area for afternoon tea.

After a good game of guess the bread, we moved on to an enjoyable but hard to eat Devonshire Crab Cocktail with Avocado & Apple, and some stunning Roasted Organic Baby Beets with Goat's Curd, Basil & Balsamic Vinegar.  With Octopus Carpaccio, Crispy Pig Cheeks and Seared Tuna with Soy & Ginger in reserve, the starters section is strong.

Guinness, Soda & Sourdough Bread

Roasted organic baby beets, goat’s curd, basil & balsamic

Post beets

On to the mains - classics such as Fish & Chips, Ribeye Steak and Pork Chop sit alongside the likes of Roasted Monkfish with Curried Lentils and Cornish Skate Wing with Black Butter & Capers. Being game season, Roasted Yorkshire Moor Pheasant and Whole Roast North Yorkshire Grouse also currently have their place on the menu.  With the remaining grouse count sitting precariously at two, Dad committed to it before we had even ordered drinks.

Hand cut chips, honey glazed carrots, and steamed spinach arrived in miniature saucepans to accompany our meaty mains.  The grouse provided yet another eating challenge, though after taking on the chilli crab at Smoking Goat, everything else is child's play.  The steak held its own with a creamy peppercorn sauce, but there is better for cheaper out there in London these days.

Grouse with bread sauce

8oz Ribeye Steak with Peppercorn Sauce

Honey Glazed Heritage Carrots

Chocolate Fondant seems to be turning up on every dessert menu at the moment.  I've had several fine examples of the genre this year at Pachamama, The Tower (Edinburgh) and Trinity (leading the pack), but it's still hard to say no.  Peanut butter often seems to be involved - it was employed here to good effect though I'd rather opt for classic vanilla every time.  A fine but unadventurous Lemon Tart made up the numbers.  Risk-takers might go for the Josper Grilled Pineapple with Coconut Sorbet, Chilli & Lime Glaze.

Chocolate Fondant with Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Lemon Tart

The drinks menu is a little behind current trends.  Meantime is the minimum craft beer requirement these days, and there's plenty of room for a mezcal cocktail or two and some more exciting gins on the list.  I'm sure they can still make a mean Negroni or Old Fashioned so I'll survive.

It's a charming place, and a great retreat from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street.  Prices are pretty steep - not surprising given the location (though nearby Picture Restaurant is very competitive).  If it looks out of your price range, pop in to The Pantry for a relaxing coffee and a cake.

Cakes from The Pantry

108 Marylebone Lane Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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