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Monday, 23 November 2015

Paradise Garage - Shotgun - Black Axe Mangal - Hoppers

Photos and the odd word on four of London's finest new arrivals today. Don't say I don't spoil you.

Scroll down for Soho's Shotgun, Highbury's Black Axe Mangal and the Sethis' Sri Lankan Hoppers

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First up is the wonderful Paradise Garage in Bethnal Green from the team that brought us The Dairy and The Manor.

I've told many a Londoner about Robin Gill's superb restaurants in Clapham Common, but several (including the Michelin judges) seem to think it's too far out of their way. More fool them. Now that he's set up shop in a trendy East London railway arch, next door to Mission and Mother Kelly's, and down the road from Typing Room and Peg & Patriot, Clapham-abstainers might take notice.

As at the aforementioned sister restaurants, there is an outstanding tasting menu available at all times for £45, tempting a la carte options split up in to Snacks, Garden, Sea, Land and Dessert, and a ludicrous lunch deal of four courses for £25 every Wed-Fri from 12-3pm. One exciting new development is the "Picnic" option:

A whole rabbit for the table - roast saddle, confit leg, turnover, offal and rabbit bacon with sauteed chicory, capers, radish & artichoke piccalilli for £48.00.

We stick to the lunch deal, but may return for this as Fay Maschler did.

Whenever you eat at one of their restaurants, whether you are on a tasting menu or not, you get treated as such with little extras finding their way to your table. We are gifted parcels of Sweet Potato, Sultanas & Chestnuts and a filling basket of Sourdough Bread & Smoked Whiskey Butter. Two mocktails expertly made by GM Claire Wright keep the parentals happy, whilst I sip on an Oaked Negroni featuring whiskey barrel-aged bitters.

Sweet Potato, Sultanas & Chestnuts

Sourdough Bread & Smoked Whiskey Butter // Oaked Negroni & Mocktails

Snacks soon follow which are of a decent size. Dad opts for Venison, Juniper & Beetroot Salumi, one of a trio of Chef Simon Woodrow's salumi showstoppers that arrives on a charming tile. Mum meanwhile enjoys a plate of Cornish Crab, Clementine, Red Meat Radish & Bitter Leaves. It must be clementine season as they are turning up everywhere.

I wolf down a bowl of Grilled Leek, Federia Mousse & Toasted Buckwheat after Google tells me that Federia was one of 5 new cheeses to watch out for in 2012. One down, four to go.

Venison, Juniper & Beetroot Salumi

Grilled Leek, Federia Mousse & Toasted Buckwheat

Time for some gardening. Between us we cover the whole section:

- Tilley's Farm Egg, Roscoff Onions, Spinach & Lardo
- Heritage Beetroot, Fermented Apple & Pine
- Salsify, Smoked Curd, Pickled Quince & Walnuts

It's all delicious, though I still long for The Dairy's Rooftop carrots, goats cheese, oat granola & buttermilk from June 2014.

On Tilley's Farm Egg (pictured below), Jay Rayner says "A whole slow-cooked egg, wobbly beneath an overcoat of salty lardo, with a couple of charred onions, and raw mature spinach leaves sprinkled with oily fried breadcrumbs, is one of those textural experiences you either like or run screaming from." - I stay seated.

Tilley's Farm Egg, Roscoff Onions, Spinach & Lardo

Out of nowhere, a chef arrives with a blowtorch and some mackerel (caught the previous day), and promptly gets to work with no risk assessment form or health and safety officer in sight. This soon becomes Willy's Charred Mackerel, Cod Rose, Pickles & Rice Crackers, a dish from the tasting menu that they thought we might enjoy as an extra - they were right. It's probably the standout dish of the lunch - perhaps it should be on the A La Carte menu?

Willy's Mackerel being charred at the table

Willy's Charred Mackerel, Cod Rose, Pickles & Rice Crackers

For our "third" course, we pick our desired dish from the Land and Sea sections:

- Applewood Smoked Eel, Norfolk Peer Potatoes, Seaweed & Pied de Mouton
- Scottish Partridge, Toasted Barley, Chervil Root, Trompettes & Bread Sauce
- Lady Hamilton's Cod, Cauliflower, Chestnuts & Brown Crab

More thumbs up from the parents.  As for Lady Hamilton's Cod - it's not Lady Hamilton's, it's mine. And it's bloody delicious. Brown crab jus poured at the table is a nice touch. Don't miss this one.

Lady Hamilton's Cod, Cauliflower, Chestnuts & Brown Crab

Another bonus arrives in the form of Green Apple Sorbet, Eucalyptus & Tapioca - a pre-dessert palate cleanser of sorts. It's not really my thing, but it does the job, and the spoons are adorable. If you hadn't already noticed, all of the crockery is magnificent.

Time for dessert. While Mum (the sensible one) is away from the table, we order an extra plate of pastry-chef extraordinaire Kira Ghidoni's Spiced Pumpkin Tart with Creme Fraiche Ice Cream & Pecans so that we don't have to share. It's a wise decision. Elsewhere we enjoy Dark Chocolate Brulée, Stem Ginger Ice Cream, Rum & Pears and Innis & Gunn Beer Ice Cream, Quince & Malt. 

Finally, we succumb to coffees which come with a drawer of punchy Clementine & Star Anise Marshmallows. A fine way to finish off a fantastic meal.

Green Apple Sorbet, Eucalyptus & Tapioca

Green Apple Sorbet, Eucalyptus & Tapioca

Innis & Gunn Beer Ice Cream, Quince & Malt

Clementine & Star Anise Marshmallows

Four courses for £25 inevitably gets closer to £40 with drinks, coffee and service, but you could keep costs down if you are well behaved. It's another smash hit for Robin Gill & co., and another coup for Paradise Row. Book in advance!

Paradise Garage - www.paradise254.com

254 Paradise Row, Bethnal Green, E2 9LE

Lunch: Wed-Sun 12-3pm // Dinner: Tue-Sat 6-10pm
N.B. Closed for Tuesday lunch, Sunday dinner and all day Monday

Square Meal


Paradise Garage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Still hungry? Yeah, me too. My second recommendation is an instant Soho hit - Shotgun BBQ. Authentic American barbecue from The Lockhart's Brad McDonald, and killer cocktails from Matt Whiley & J.H.Stevenson, in a New Orleans-influenced bar and dining room on the rapidly improving Kingly Street. AND YOU CAN BOOK!


I've already been in twice since it opened, once for lunch, and more recently for eats and drinks from the late night menu (served from 10pm til 11.30pm). With any luck, a late license in the new year will see that extended. 

It's a fantastic place for a date, but also for solo dining and drinking, especially if you grab a seat at the bar near head bartender James. Jay Rayner, Marina O'Loughlin and Giles Coren have already given the food their seal of approval, so I needn't say much. Check out Jay's full review in The Guardian.



The much talked about Pig's Ear & Pancakes hasn't been on the menu when I've been in, but I was perfectly happy scoffing on Smoked Ox Tongue, Carolina Style Pulled Pork, Fried Bologna, Brisket and Boston Butts, BBQ Baked Beans, Sweet Potato Fondant, Beets & Marrow, and more! At lunchtime (or late night) £12.50 will get you a hefty sandwich with two sides. At dinner, you can order particular cuts of meat by size or weight, or combo plates with a variety of sides, plus some great bar snacks.


What Jay skips over is the quality of the cocktails. The drinks at Shotgun are on a par with the superb food, and £8-10 is a reasonable price for a serious cocktail, especially in Soho. At lunch, you can kick off with some simpler but super fresh mixed drinks (e.g. Bloody Mary, Paloma, Seasonal Mimosa) that start at £6.

The cocktail menu is soon to change, so I'll be reporting back on that in full next month, but for now, make sure that you drop in for one of these outstanding boozy creations before they disappear: 

- Shotgun Sazerac - Woodford Rye, Maxime Trijol Cognac, Brown Sugar, Absinthe and Peychaud, in a glass coated with Cocoa Butter that gradually seeps in to the drink. 

- Carré Cuit - Rittenhouse Rye 100, Cognac, Italian Vermouth, Benedictine, and Coffee Cherry, "cooked" sous-vide-style in a vacuum packed bag.

- Lagniappe - Ilegal Mescal, Fermented Pepper Brine, Jalapeno Bitters & Lime, garnished with beer!




There are also some great photos on Shotgun's Tumblr page - shotgunbbq.tumblr.com

N.B. Thanksgiving is coming up on 26th November, and Brad McDonald is putting on specials at both Shotgun and The Lockhart. 

Shotgun will be offering a Thanksgiving Sandwich with smoked turkey, cranberry, and mashed potato with giblet gravy on the side. It will be available at lunch and post dinner on 26th November. Then, in honour of the best part of Thanksgiving (the left overs, naturally) the sandwich will remain on the menu for those who don’t quite manage to make it there on Thanksgiving.

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26 Kingly Street, W1B 5QD

Shotgun BBQ - shotgunbbq.com

Mon-Sun 12pm-11.30pm (Bar shuts at midnight)

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My third pick is a rowdy little spot called Black Axe Mangal on Highbury Corner which needs a bit of back story.

Chef Lee Tiernan (ex-St.John Bread & Wine) spent the summer serving up Mangal-style bread, meat and kebabs in a Copenhagen club called Bakken, with lots of help from guest chefs. This entertaining Vice video is well worth a watch - click here.

With his wife Kate, he has now brought his metal and mangal concept (see Kiss oven below) back to London, a few doors down from popular Islington eateries Le Coq and Trullo. With quick turnover, and limited space, no reservations makes sense here. If you can face being bumped in to a fair amount, standing in front of the open kitchen is great fun.



There are 12 or so items on the menu, so you could tackle the whole thing easily with a group of four, but you should really focus on the Tartine Bakery-influenced flatbreads, especially the signature Lamb Offal bread which is a filthy work of foodporn art, and a steal at £5.50. In contrast, a delicious bowl of Broad Bean Falafel, Curd, and Squash is curiously priced too high at £9.




The other must-order dish is the Bakken special - a comforting bowl of slow smoked lamb shoulder, roasted peppers, onions, and puy lentils that set us back £14 when we visited. It easily stretched to three when sharing a range of plates.



On the booze front, a couple of canned beers do the job, and there's an unexpected list of £6 cocktails created with bartender-of-the-moment Mr.Lyan.  If you want a more leisurely drink, I'd recommend heading over to the cosy Taproom down the road for a beer or two.

The Taproom on Upper Street

N.B. Black Axe Mangal is closed on Sundays and Mondays

Open Tuesday-Saturday 6pm-10.30pm

156 Canonbury Road, N1 2UP



Square Meal

Black Axe Mangal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Finally, a quick look at the most-talked about restaurant in London at the moment - Hoppers. Yes I know, Sexy Fish, you've made quite a splash too.

In a nutshell - it's a classy introduction to Sri Lankan food, focused mainly on dosas and their open-faced cousins, hoppers. And everyone's gone gaga for it:

"A seductive, come-hither menu" - Fay Maschler
"...clearly the best thing since sliced bread/Bao" - Rocket & Squash
"Nothing about my meal there could be faulted... 10/10" - Cheese & Biscuits

The Sethi siblings (restaurateurs extraordinaires) have the midas touch - Bao, Gymkhana, Bubbledogs, Lyle's - all runaway successes, and Hoppers is their latest. It's taken over the much loved Koya space on Frith Street, and already has Londoners queueing down street for food they didn't know they wanted.


The no reservations queuing was a bit of a shambles, but I'm sure they'll find a system soon. Once inside, you might find yourself sharing tables, but it's that kind of place. We had a natter with both of our neighbours, including some bona fide Sri Lankans, mostly regarding unfamiliar words on the menu.  Most questions can be answered by the helpful glossary on the reverse of the menu - I do love a bit of learning at dinner time.  Feel free to ask me about Jaggery, Varuvals and Watalappams - they aren't rude, I promise.

I took a few photos as usual, but it's one of those dark, orange rooms that my camera doesn't get along with, so the next few photos taken by John Carey were provided by the Hoppers PR team. It's an attractive space with some lovely design touches including funky coat hooks and toilet seat handles - you've got to enjoy the little things!

Photo Credit : John Carey

Photo Credit : John Carey

London does already have Sri Lankan food of course. In fact, it has Apollo Banana Leaf - a marvellous, outrageously cheap restaurant in Tooting where mutton rolls are 90p a go. At Hoppers, they are £4, but, to be fair, most of the pricing is in fact reasonable.

From the "Short Eats" section, we enjoyed String Hoppers (steamed handmade rice flour noodles pressed into string pancakes) served with Kiri Hodi (a mild coconut milk gravy cooked with fenugreek and Maldive fish) and Pol Sambol (relish made with ground coconut, Maldive fish, onion and red chilli). See - lots of learning to do.  Duck Roti with Rasa (gravy) was also a big hit. The Bonemarrow Varuval (a Chettinad masala) is currently doing the rounds on Instagram.

Then it was on to the hoppers and dosas. A hopper is simply fermented rice batter and coconut milk fashioned in to a bowl-shaped pancake. The Sethis were probably hoping to introduce Londoners to hoppers, but quite by chance, a small street-food operation called Weligama started doing it at Druid St. Market earlier this year, so be sure to check them out too!

Anyway - you select your base, add some relish and chutneys, and pick a kari (curry) to go with it. We opted for a fish kari with our dosa (£9.50) and a lamb kari with our egg hopper (£10). Both were delicious, though the fish took a while to materialise.  N.B. Sri Lankans like it hot - if you don't, let them know, and get yourself a load of yoghurt (which I'd rather they didn't charge £1 for).  

Dosas at Hoppers - Photo Credit : John Carey

Egg Hoppers at Hoppers - Photo Credit : John Carey

There's another section with larger sharing plates, but after short eats, hoppers and dosas, we didn't have room for Buffalo Buriani or Ceylonese Spit Chicken - maybe next time.

For dessert, we braved odorous Durian Ice Cream served inside a Milk Hopper with Kithul Treacle & Jaggery (unrefined sugar) and found it to be quite delectable and moreish! Who knew? Again, there's more to enjoy on the menu here (Love Cake anyone?) - a return visit is bound to happen soon. 

Several thumbs up for Hoppers, but don't forget about Weligama and Apollo Banana Leaf amid all the rave reviews.

N.B. As at Shotgun, the cocktail list has been kicked off by Talented Mr.Fox Matt Whiley - always a smart move. I'll be back to work my way through them separately.

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Open Mon-Sat 12-2.30 / 5.30-10.30 - No Reservations

Hoppers - www.hopperslondon.com

49 Frith Street, W1D 4SG

Square Meal

Hoppers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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To finish, here are some top tweets and reviews from the fast moving London food scene:


Zelman Meats has taken over the Rex & Mariano space in Soho and early signs are promising.



The Good Egg has finally opened in Stokey for all-day brunch inspired by Tel Aviv, Montreal and more after successful crowdfunding and a slow build.



Mission has relaunched with a £30 tasting menu from new head chef Sebastian Myers.



If you need a good giggle, read Marina's review of Hotel Chantelle.  I'm guessing it won't make the next #50Faves:

"I have no idea how they’ve fashioned this nightmarish chicken centipede... Hotel Chantelle is, in every sense of the word, utterly, utterly tasteless."

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