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Monday 26 January 2015

KERB Clubhouse - Cocktails at MASH

A photo heavy post today looking at KERB's indoor street food Clubhouse, and an exciting new American-inspired cocktail menu at MASH in Soho.

Friday 16th January - KERB and Street Feast are two of London's great calling cards. They tend to operate at different hours of the day, with KERB mainly sticking to the lunch time street food crowd; but after successful night shifts at The Paperworks in E&C, they ended 2014 in style by setting up the striking KERB Clubhouse out in the Hackney Wick sticks.

This wonderful space just reopened after a festive break, so we schlepped over on a frosty Friday night to check it out.  The space is due to be developed in a few months, so it is just a temporary home for some of the traders over the Winter.  It is open every Friday & Saturday, 6pm-11pm, and entry is free, though keep an eye out for occasional ticketed events.

For Email Readers : Kerb Video on Vimeo

Much like Street Feast's Dalston Yard, KERB have transformed a disused space into something wonderful, with funky lighting, live music, table tennis, foosball, and top notch food and drink. Some traders have brought their trucks in, whilst others are operating out of custom built stations, most notably Fundi Pizza who have a stylish little food bar in full of view of the oven.  The booze isn't half bad either, with an array of wine, affordable cocktails and local beers (including Five Points & Beavertown) on offer.

The atmosphere is relaxed, and there's plenty of space for everyone - that's all you need to know! Much better than a Friday night in Central spent queuing for dinner and elbowing your way through busy bars and clubs.

P.S Street Feast is relaunching Hawker House this weekend (30th & 31st of January) in Haggerston over three floors (in the same site that Fairground used).  It will run for 10 weekends, every Friday and Saturday, 5pm-midnight (£4 after 7pm), and there will be SIX bars including an exciting top floor Milk & Honey lounge.  Oh, and all the street food of course.  See you there on Friday.

Tuesday 20th January - Dinner in the red leather booths of Danish-run MASH (Modern American Steak House) has always been out of my price range, but the bar is a different matter.  Cocktails range from £9 to £12.50, and with the launch of a new American travel-inspired menu, there's never been a better time to check it out.  

There's no substitute for great staff and MASH are not short in that department, so swap the busy Soho streets for a 1920s ballroom, sit yourself down at their glamorous art deco island bar, and make some new friends.  And if that isn't working out, you can always write some postcards using their innovative menu, and they'll stamp and send them for you (within reason!).

We started with Little Italy (£12) Martini Rosso, Apple Brandy, Porcini, Vecchio Amaro, Bitters. Served in a two tiered glass with Cherry & Parsley Granita on top.

It's a little herbal for my tastes, and possibly too savoury for others, but there was still plenty to enjoy in this complex drink, not least the unique Martini vessel which will keep you entertained for some time.

Little Italy

Next up, the showstopping Yellowstone (£12) - Tanqueray 10 Gin, Noilly Prat Ambre, Grand Marnier, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Lemon.

I dare you not to take a picture of MASH's take on the Old Faithful geyser as dry ice is cleverly funnelled up and out of a (rather heavy) clay and jesmonite creation.  The cocktail itself is suitably earthy, and oh so boozy, but not my favourite.




Then there was more fun with Mad Hatter (£11) Bulleit Bourbon, Tea Blend, Peach, Maraschino, Hibiscus, Vanilla, Ginger, Lemon. Hot booze is poured through the tea blend in a V60 onto a ginger & lemon gel which then melts in to the drink before your eyes.

I'm never entirely convinced by hot drinks, as in most cases the alcohol hit seems to either come after everything else or not at all, but this is a fine example of the genre with smartly blended flavours. Does it fit the theme? Not really. Who cares?  It's tremendous fun.

Mad Hatter

Mad Hatter

Mad Hatter

Mad Hatter

Round 4 - Binchotan (£12) - Bulleit Rye, Coconut, Cardamom, Cynar, Sugar. Served in unique Bulleit Binchotan bottle containing a stick of purifying Binchotan charcoal, and poured over MASH branded ice.

The drinks were starting to pile up but I remained fully focused for this delightful pour.  Binchotan refers to the charcoal in the bottle which helps to purify and mellow the taste of the Bulleit Rye & co..  This leads to a smooth whiskey drink with hints of coconut that will appeal to Old Fashioned fans amongst others.  The MASH branded ice is an unnecessary but pretty cool touch, and drew us in to a lengthy conversation with the outstanding bar manager about making crystal clear ice at home without distilling the water first.



Drinks pile up

On to BLT (£12) - Becherovka, Lemon, Tonic + Sparkling Wine. Presented in a signature ceramic cup and served with a beetroot crisp

MASH bar is one of two venues in the UK currently licensed to serve Becherovka in one of its branded vessel designs.  It's a quirky herbal bitters that MASH are clearly fond of as it makes another appearance in the Yosemite (see below), and the cinnamon element dominates here in an enjoyable long drink.



Another hit was Yosemite (£11) - Ketel One Vodka, St George Terroir Gin, pine, Becherovka, maple, almond, lemon. Served in a handmade wooden cup.

Ketel One & Becherovka take a backseat, allowing the St George Terroir pine-heavy gin to shine alongside sweet maple, almond & lemon flavours.  I keep a bottle of the terrific Terroir at home for Tom Collins twists, but I might set some aside to recreate this one.  Perhaps £11 is a little steep for a drink that won't last you very long, but you'd be a fool to miss it.  The food safe wooden cup sadly isn't made of pine, but you can't have everything!


3 to go - MGM (£10) - Bacardi Carta Blanca, Gin, Banana, Lemon, Coffee, Cola - served with a tea infuser & a gold plated playing card.

Take some pictures before you pocket the gold plated garnish. This is a drinkable pimped up Long Island Iced Tea, Vegas style.  Enjoy in moderation!





Our penultimate drink was the Sipper (£10) - Bulleit Bourbon, Corn Whisky, Maraschino, Chocolate, Absinthe, Orange Bitters. Served in glassware exclusively designed for the bar.

"Born of the American tradition for spending an evening slowly sipping bourbon comes the "Sipper". An entirely new category of drink created by MASH, at its optimum when served at room temperature".  It's a concept that I can get on board with - a subtle, boozy drink that reveals its intricacies over time, and can easily be played with by adding different flavour packs to the base bourbon.  The glassware is designed such that it's impossible to take more than a sip without giving yourself a Sipper shower, which is ultimately fairly frustrating for someone that is capable of drinking slowly from a regular glass, but it will certainly get you talking!



And last but not least, I present Test Tube (£12) - Three different pours of Bulleit Rye with Violette, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and Bee Pollen-infused Apricot Brandy, served with pipettes of Angostura Bitters, Fee Brothers Peach Bitters & Gary Regan Orange Bitters for tinkering. 

This is great fun, as long as you don't mourn the loss of a test tube that you once loved after putting too much of a certain bitters in.  One drop at a time and a little stir should avoid any drastic changes. After starting with suggested A1 / B2 / C3 pairings of tubes & pipettes, you will inevitably start shoving orange in to the violette and angostura in to the bee pollen.  It's a cracking drink to share at the bar - I'd rather that than a £40 Treasure Chest of rum, pineapple juice and dry ice.

Test Tube

Test Tube

There are of course a few more drinks on the new menu (some of which you can read about on Highball Hoodoo's excellent blog), but hopefully you've seen enough.  MASH have succeeded in creating a serious yet accessible cocktail list full of surprises, and have shot up my Soho shortlist of places to sip.

Mash on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Friday 23 January 2015

When Mac Met Cheese at The Shop - Kushi's Tacos at Kitchenette

Wednesday 21st January - Dinner is great isn't it? Do you know what's even better? 


My economy of travel approach to London normally manifests itself in a pub-restaurant-bar combo of some sort; but when two foodie popups arrive in Kensal Rise in the same week - well, there was really only ever one solution. Double dinner.


First up was When Mac Met Cheese (a.k.a Sammy Shonn) who has set up shop in The Shop for three months.  

I wrote about Sammy's mac'n'cheese when he popped up in Bayswater last year, and he's started off with the same menu here - Gorgeous Macancinis (deep fried mac and cheese balls with Truffle & Wild Mushroom or Jalapenos & Cheddar), a range of Mac and Cheese twists from Mum's Classic to Carlos the Cactus and Deep Fried Oreos.  You can't go wrong really.

The Shop is a lovely little location, though you may have a bit of a wait for a table.  Hang around the bar with some Brewers & Union Unfiltered Lager and £8-9 cocktails served in jam jars and milk bottles until you can get your cheesy fix.  Sorted.

Details : 16th Jan-16th April-ish, Wed-Fri 6-10, Sat 12-10 & Sun 12-6


After pre-dinner, it was time for dinner, so Ella (The Little Brown Book) and I skipped down the rise to Kitchenette's "incubator restaurant" space beneath Dock Kitchen.  You may recognise the interior shots from a recent post on The Good Egg's Jerusalem Brunch on the same site.  I can't get enough of the Tom Dixon design, clearly.

Kushi's are one of several young food entrepeneurs that Kitchenette support in various ways, including these rotating residencies in W10.  They'll be in town until 25th February when Zoe's Ghana Kitchen takes over.

Kushi's normally go down a Japanese grilled skewers path, but with no barbecue on site, chef Greg Round has created a Japanese tacos-led menu with umami-filled crispy gyoza shells. 

It's a sharing affair, so just order as much as you think you can handle.  This was about right for two:

Tacos (2 per portion):

- Yuzu Kosho Chicken Thigh, Grilled Corn, Queso Fresco, Crema - £6
- Saamjang Pork Ragu, Crispy Shallot, Chives, Coriander - £6
- Asahi-Battered Coley, Jalapeno, Crema, Napa Cabbage, Grape - £5.50
- Red Miso & Soy Ox Cheek, Shiitake, Karashi Crema, Napa Cabbage - £6.50
- Barley Miso and Chipotle Lamb Shoulder, Pickled Fennel, Feta - £6.50

Small Plates:

- Kushi's Fried Chicken - Gochujang, Sesame - £6.50
- Jerusalem Artichoke Tempura & Nori Mayonnaise - £4.50


- Churros - Kinako & Salted Caramel - £4.50

Jerusalem Artichoke Tempura & Nori Mayonnaise - £4.50

Jerusalem Artichoke Tempura & Nori Mayonnaise - £4.50

Asahi-Battered Coley, Jalapeno, Crema, Napa Cabbage, Grape - £5.50

Yuzu Kosho Chicken Thigh, Grilled Corn, Queso Fresco, Crema - £6 // Saamjang Pork Ragu, Crispy Shallot, Chives, Coriander - £6

Red Miso & Soy Ox Cheek, Shiitake, Karashi Crema, Napa Cabbage - £6.50

Barley Miso and Chipotle Lamb Shoulder, Pickled Fennel, Feta - £6.50

Kushi's Fried Chicken - Gochujang, Sesame - £6.50

Churros - Kinako & Salted Caramel - £4.50

I often find the taco vehicle uninspiring but the crispy gyoza shells were a delight.  Some combinations worked better than others, but most were hits.  I could have eaten the beer-battered coley bites all night. Fishy Jerusalem Artichoke Tempura didn't do it for me, but the KFC (Kushi Fried Chicken) is a must - it's not subtle, but who cares?  As for dessert, I'm never convinced by Churros when you could have squishier doughnuts, but salted caramel sauce is always hard to turn down.

Be sure to wash it all down with a delightful Tutto Vermouth & Tonic or a Sacred G&T for £6.

Kushi's is fun food and everyone should find several dishes to enjoy.  And the Kitchenette site is simply stunning.  Save some time for a trip to the Tom Dixon design showroom, though be prepared to window shop - it's bloody expensive.

Square Meal

So West London is on a bit of a roll.  Here are a few more places to check out nearby:

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