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Friday 21 August 2015

No Reservations - Soho

Soho's food scene has gone from strength-to-strength in recent years and Londoners now have a long list of outstanding, affordable eateries to choose from right in the centre of town. However, you do have to be careful where you go as the trend for no reservations, championed by the likes of Polpo, Burger & Lobster and Barrafina, is still going strong.  Queuing is what we English do best though. Here are ten restaurants worth getting in line for:


1) Bao - one of the hottest restaurants in London right now. Street food heroes Bao have settled down in a tiny space in Soho serving up their signature steamed buns and Taiwanese dishes. Queues start building before it opens at 12 for lunch and 5.30 in the evening, but it's worth the wait.  Don't miss the Pig Blood Cake or the Fried Chicken Bao.

53 Lexington St, Soho, W1F 9AS - Mon-Sat: 12-3, 5.30-10


2) Pizza Pilgrims - another street food team turned permanent, Pizza Pilgrims quickly took over Franco Manca as the sourdough pizza darlings of London. There are two Soho sites (Dean St. & Kingly Court) so there's never much of a wait for a table. I rarely make it past the Salsiccia e Friarielli on the menu, with some deep fried mac'n'cheese ragu balls and a shot of their very own Pococello on the side. Oh, and there's table football in the basement of the Kingly Court site. The Dean Street site does allow two bookings per night for groups of 8 or more in "The Crypt".

11 Kingly St, London, W1B 5PW - Mon–Sat: 11.30–10.30 / Sun: 12–9.30

11 Dean St, Soho W1D 3RP - Mon–Sat: 11.30-10.30 / Sun: 12–9.30


3) Smoking Goat - take a bib and night vision goggles. Smoking Goat is a smoky, messy affair, and you'll most likely come out covered in crab or some other fantastic modern Thai twist plus plenty of eau de BBQ. The menu changes regularly but Fish Sauce Wings are usually there to start you off. You can book the "Lazy Susan Feasting Room" apparently, but otherwise it's time for another wait.

7 Denmark St, Soho, WC2H 8LZ - Mon-Sat: 12-3, 5-12 / Sun: 12-9


4) Blacklock - one stop shop for all the chops. Blacklock from ex-Hawksmoor folk has quickly built up a large fan base who get in line for chops cooked over charcoal with Blacklock irons. Go all in for £20 to get pre-chop bites, and a huge plate of the day's skinny chops piled on top of chargrilled flatbread.  You can reserve for lunch or for tables of 6 or more in the evening - huzzah!

The Basement, 24 Great Windmill St, Soho, W1D 7LG - Mon-Fri: 12-3, 5-11.30 / Sat: 12-11.30


5) Flat Iron - Flat Iron in Beak Street has been around longer the most on this list but the queues are still there. A second site in Denmark Street has helped to alleviate the crowds. A beautiful £10 flat-iron steak is the reward for the wait (a lively basement bar with St John doughnuts in Beak St. makes time fly). Keep an eye out for Flat Iron burger specials.

Photo taken from Flat Iron Facebook page

9 Denmark St, Soho, WC2H 8LS - Mon-Sun: 12-11

17 Beak St, Soho, W1F 9RW - Mon-Sun: 12-11


6) Barrafina - The most serious restaurant on the list, Barrafina in Frith Street was recently awarded a Michelin-star for their outstanding tapas.  Once you are in, it's relaxed and fun counter dining, and the food is phenomenal. There are two more sites in Adelaide St and Drury Lane, but I suggest starting with the original.

54 Frith Street, Soho, London W1D 4SL - Mon-Sat: 12-3, 5-11 / Sun: 1-3.30, 5.30-10


7) Bone Daddies - Bone Daddies arrived early to the London ramen scene before it exploded, and their rock'n'roll Peter Street joint still draws the crowds. Multiple visits are required to work through their range of ramens. Their late night menu 10.30-11.30 Thu-Sat might be a clever way to avoid queuing. They have recently opened a second site in High Street Kensington and also run Flesh & Buns in Covent Garden and Soho popup Shackfuyu.  A third outpost in Old Street should be open by the end of 2015.

Photo from Bone Daddies Facebook page

Mon-Wed 12-3, 5.30-11 (Mon-10) / Thu-Sat: 12-11.30 / Sun: 12-9.30

31 Peter St, London W1F 0AR


8) Pitt Cue Co - another oldie in relative terms, Pitt Cue Co is an outstanding, 30-seater BBQ joint that started life on the street food scene under Hungerford Bridge.  Get a drink in the bar while you wait before heading downstairs for all the meat and bone marrow mash. Exclusive hire is available on a Sunday night.

Photo Credit : Paul Winch-Furness

1 Newburgh St, Soho, London W1F 7RB - Mon-Sat: 12-3, 5.30-11 / Sun 12-4


9) Balls & Company - the newest addition to the list is a meatballs focused joint from Australian Masterchef 2012 finalist Bonny Porter. It's been an instant hit with its simple but superbly executed menu, and the basement bar is a great spot for a drink whilst waiting for a table. Groups of 8+ can reserve tables, but there's not a lot of space! Don't miss the Wagyu meatballs or the Brownie with Persian Fairy Floss.

58 Greek St, Soho, London, W1D 3DY - Mon-Sat: 12-11


10) Polpo - Restaurateur Russell Norman's original Venetian bacaro in Soho was an early proponent of the no reservations theory, and Londoners continue to flock to Beak Street for ciccheti and spritzes in a stylish space. There are now six Polpo sites in London, and chef director & founder Tom Oldroyd recently left the company to open his own neighbourhood restaurant Oldroyd in Islington which has been earning him rave reviews.

41 Beak Street, Soho, W1F 9SB - Mon-Sat: 12-11 / Sun: 12-10


Notable omissions:

I'll see if I can scramble together a Yes Reservations post soon...

Friday 14 August 2015

Doodle Bar - Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels - Food & Booze News

This post comes to you from California! Or at least that's where I was headed when I started this post. I wrote most of it on the plane in between showings of Interstellar & Birdman, both of which included far too much dodgy aviation for in-flight entertainment.  Anyway, rather than transport you to Venice Beach (expensive), let me introduce you to Doodle Beach.

Unbeknownst to most East Londoners, the closest our fine city gets to Williamsburg warehouse fun is Testbed1 in SW11 - a slice of Brooklyn in Battersea.  Turn left out of Bunga Bunga and never look back.  Inside the sprawling space lies Doodle Bar, a hangout for hip RCA students and in-the-know locals.

As you may know, you can draw (or doodle) all over the walls with chalk, but there's so much more to it than that. Let's start with the beach.

OK, it's not the sandiest, but beggars can't be choosers (and it's preferable to hanging out on top of the Roundhouse with the rest of London).  It's more of an "industrial beach", but there is real water (Ransome's Dock) and it's a mighty fine sun trap. Two out of three ain't bad.  Arrive early to grab a table, but be prepared to move inside at a moment's notice around 10pm (security staff need a lighter touch).

Live music on Doodle Beach

This Summer, the Doodle Beach is the setting for several Saturday supperclubs, the details of which can be found here.  But the real trick is to go on a Friday night when two of London's finest street food traders, Street Kitchen and Well Kneaded, can be found slinging out next-level burgers and delicious firebreads respectively. Street Kitchen's Foghorn Leghorn is right up there with Patty & Bun's Smokey Robinson and Boom Burger's... Boom Burger; and Well Kneaded's Carl is a living legend - seek them out.  Street Kitchen are also on site for lunch Monday-Friday with a lighter menu.

Read about Street Kitchen's permanent home in Broadgate Circle here

Street Kitchen burgers at Doodle Bar

Well Kneaded firebreads at Doodle Bar

Louisiana Crawfish Boil - Saturday Supperclubs at Doodle Beach

Louisiana Crawfish at Doodle Beach

Live art on the Doodle Beach

What about the booze? Well, most bars don't live directly opposite a gin & whisky distillery.  The latter of the two spirits is still resting inside The London Distillery Company, but their Dodd's Gin is ready to go.  Unsurprisingly Dodd's features in several of Doodle Bar's cocktails, including a barrel-aged Negroni, but a simple G&T is an excellent plan B.  Beers aren't too shabby either with the likes of Paulaner & Affligem on tap, and some fine bottles in the fridge. Worried #craftbeerwankers can waddle over to Draft House Westbridge round the corner for a wider selection.

When you inevitably have to move inside, swing by the free table tennis tables (are you reading Bounce & Ping?) before sneaking through to the overflow Testbed1 events warehouse. It's pretty basic (who need's chairs?) but the lighting is incredible and the atmosphere is electric.

Great food, top shelf booze, free games, loads of space, and a sprawling sun trap? Sounds awful.

Mon-Thurs 10am-11pm / Fri 10am-midnight
Sat 12pm-midnight / Sun 12pm-11pm

Doodle Bar -
33 Parkgate Road, London SW11 4NP

Square Meal

Click to add a blog post for The Doodle Bar on Zomato


Neal's Yard in Seven Dials is one of those magical London spots that I'm always recommending but rarely visit myself.  Homeslice is a smart pre-theatre option, but to best appreciate the space in all its green glory, go al fresco at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels - a Parisian wine bar and restaurant from Experimental Group (Experimental Cocktail Club, Joyeux Bordel).

You can easily lose a few hours here working your way through their wine list whilst stuffing your face with charcuterie and cheese. I dropped in recently to have a look at some new Summer dishes over a few glasses of vino in the sunshine.  

I'm no wine expert myself (yet) but we particularly enjoyed Clos Saint Fiacre Orleans L'Excellence Chardonnay, Loire, France 2013 and Thierry Germain Saumur l'Insolite, Loire, France 2013

On the food front, we ordered Handmade Spinach Gnocchi with Ricotta & Almonds, Tuna Tatiki & Courgette with Sesame, and a Soy & Ginger Dressing and Fassona Beef Tartare with Spring Onions, Pine Nuts and a Quail's Egg.

The generous gnocchi was borderline dessert (in a good way) and indulgent in the extreme.  The beef tartare had the right intentions but needed a touch more seasoning, whilst tasty tuna tatiki & courgette was subtle in its use of soy & ginger (enjoyably so).

Handmade Spinach Gnocchi with Ricotta & Almonds

Fassona Beef Tartare, Spring Onions, Pine Nuts, Quail's Egg

Tuna Tatiki & Courgette, Sesame, Soy & Ginger Dressing

Other new plates include a Summer salad with rocket, feta, peach and avocado, and Japanese aubergine rolls with dorset (?) and balsamic. However, you may find it hard to look past their ever present Posh Madame with Truffle Ham & Quail Egg. Either way, you'll be alright.

If the weather isn't holding, their dark, sexy interior space isn't a bad backup. Alternatively, hop on the Eurostar and pay the original Paris branch a visit. Santé!

Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels -

Mon-Sat: 12pm-12am / Sun: 12pm-11pm

8-10 Neal's Yard WC2H 9DP

Square Meal

Click to add a blog post for Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels on Zomato

I'm going to finish off with a few bits of Food & Booze News which might become a regular feature. Let's start with some clickbait:

- Immerse yourself in alcohol at Bompass & Parr's breathable cocktail / booze cloud installation
Street Feast's Dinerama was forced to shut after a major fire but has since reopened
- Hotel launches dedicated water menu and "Water Butlers"
- Felicity Spector investigates the tee-total bar scene
Town Hall Yard is the place to be at the weekend

What am I drinking at home?

Well it's been the year of the Negroni so far for me (and many others) which has led me to seriously up my Vermouth game.  Cocchi di Torino, Antica Formula and Lillet Rouge are all regulars in my fridge, but the winner has to be Belsazar Vermouth - a new German vermouth range crafted near the Black Forest that has exploded on to the bar scene.  The secret ingredient is a mystery blend of Schladerer fruit brandies that is only known to a handful of people. Go and get yourself a bottle of Belsazar Red right now.

Looking up Belsazar led me to find Axiom Brands who represent the whole range here in the UK. Naturally, I nosed around and tried a few of their other brands that appealed. Here are my recommendations:

- WhistlePig 10 Year Straight Rye Whiskey - A 100-proof straight rye whiskey, aged for at least 10 years through a unique double barrel process. The Wall Street Journal called it "the essence of rye whiskey". Try it in a Manhattan with Belsazar Red and a dash of Axiom's Ratafia cherry liqueur. Buy WhistlePig 10 for £69.96 at The Whisky Exchange.

- Mondino Amaro - Once you've sorted out your vermouth, amaro is the next home bar essential. Mondino Amaro is handcrafted in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps using rhubarb, yellow gentian, and arancia amara (bitter orange) amongst other locally sourced botanicals.  It's wonderful neat, but I would get out the Belsazar Red again and make some next-level Negronis and Americanos using a shot of each plus one more of gin or a splash of soda respectively. Buy Mondino Amaro for £23.45 at The Whisky Exchange.

- Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. - It's not all booze behind the bar; Meet Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. - a family-run company with roots in Charleston, South Carolina and Lexington, Kentucky. They have got you covered with a visually appealing range of bar staples including Aromatic Bitters from Colorado, Small Batch Grenadine from Napa Valley, and Bourbon Cocktail Cherries featuring Oregon cherries. Their Small Batch Tonic stars in one of W&P Design's magnificent Carry-On Cocktail Kits - guaranteed to brighten up your next EasyJet flight.

To further showcase my favourite back bar items and cocktails, I've recently added a little booze-box to the blog beneath the Instagram stream. Go on - scroll up and take a look. Nothing else to see here.

P.S. If you are a brand looking to feature in my world-renowned booze window, all you have to do is send me, let's say, 4 cases of premium spirits, liqueurs or beers so that I can really put it through its paces.

Seeking out the best places to eat, drink and be merry in London and beyond - follow @MattTheList or sign up for email updates above

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