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Archive for the category “Food”

Drinking and Don Juan

On Saturday, I went into London for the day. The primary objective was seeing David Tennant in Patrick Marber’s “Don Juan in Soho” at Wyndham’s Theatre. However, that wasn’t til the evening, so I had time to walk and be bad in the meantime…

So, having driven down to North London, I took the tube down to Old Street (which is the laziest I’ve been in a long time, as I usually only get to Euston then walk) and visited Blues Kitchen to try their new special.

Then a walk back towards Soho, and the newly-discovered joys of Chick’n’Sours, where I had their special of Bang-Bang Chicken strips, which is all kinds of awesome. And alongside that, a couple of cocktails – with hindsight, a bit of a bad move, but well, it was par for the course.

After that, it was time to meet the people I was going to the play with – first of all, M, and then (later) two of her friends. In between, we had another drink, and then when the other friends arrived, they decided they wanted cocktails.   I know just the place, said I, and lo, back to Chick’n’Sours, where a significant number of cocktails were consumed…

Before the play, we’d got reservations at Marcus Wareing’s new place, Tredwell’s, and so that was where we ended up next, and more drinks were had as well as decent food.  The final bill was higher than I’d expected, but I’m assuming that’s down to a) drinks, and b) possibly not taking advantage of the Prix Fixe menu.  (I’d need to go back in order to figure things out – I failed to keep the receipt, so can’t check , and honestly don’t really care all that much)  It was good though, and all four of us enjoyed it.

By the end, I was… somewhat the worse for wear, although not ridiculously or dangerously so. Besides, by the time we got to the theatre I was already sobering up.

The play itself was thoroughly enjoyable – as always, I didn’t really know what to expect, and some of it was a bit odd (small dance scenes and the like) but all told, I really liked it.  Tennant himself is obviously having a great time playing the vile and reprehensible Don Juan, and the supporting cast were all pretty damn good as well.  It’s on ’til June 10th, and I’d recommend it if possible.

However, the seats at Wyndham’s are some of the most uncomfortable known to man.  A two-and-a-bit-hour performance was more than enough time to spend with my knees wedged into the back of the seat in front of me.

And then, once everyone else was on trains back to respective stations and homes, I took some time to return to the station where I’d parked the car.  I was completely sober by the time we’d got out of the play, and the extra time/walking boosted that even further.  If I’d been in any doubt, I’d have waited at the car, or found somewhere to get some food.

Then a quick drive home, and all good.  All told, a decent way to spend a Saturday…

 

Filling Time

(no, that’s not a euphemism)

So – this is a perfect example of how my life suddenly ends up getting busy…

As long-term readers know, I’m a regular at the Meatopia cooking festival at Tobacco Dock in London, which is usually on the first weekend of September. I’ve got tickets for both days (again, as usual) which would usually be enough to keep me out of trouble for that weekend.

Except now there’s a gig I want to see on the Saturday night, also in London. Which is also utterly doable – but makes for a rather busier and more complicated weekend, it’s safe to say.

So my plan was

  • Saturday
    • Drive down to Barbican, park up
    • Walk to Tobacco Dock
    • Eat Lots
    • Walk back to Barbican, check in to hotel
    • Travel to Camden for concert
    • Gig
    • Travel back to Barbican
    • Sleep
  • Sunday
    • Walk to Tobacco Dock
    • Eat More
    • Walk back to Barbican
    • Drive home
    • Die quietly.

Except it turns out my cat-carer can’t do that weekend. So….

It now consists of

  • Saturday
    • Drive down to North London
    • Travel to Barbican(ish), then walk to Tobacco Dock
    • Eat Lots
    • Walk/Travel back to Camden
    • Gig
    • Travel back up to where the car’s parked
    • Drive home
  • Sunday
    • Drive down to Barbican, then walk to Tobacco Dock  (or maybe get the train, depending on other stuff going on)
    • Eat More
    • Back to Barbican / Euston
    • Home, and Die Quietly.

And that is how my weekends suddenly get silly. (We’ll also mention that September already has every weekend booked with stuff to do)

Mere, London

Last night, I was lucky enough to get to go to Mere Restaurant, the new restaurant venture from Monica Galetti, with friends.  They opened on Monday, and I’d managed to snag a booking for Tuesday – in honesty, when they’d announced bookings were opening, I’d set an alarm for that time, and got in as quickly as possible for a booking.  So – lucky, but also organised.

As I understand it, Monday’s launch was a “friends and family” thing – unless they sold out in seconds on the day bookings opened. So Tuesday was effectively the first ‘open to the public’ day.

We had the six-course tasting menu (and two of the friends had the accompanying wine flight) and it was all decently priced.  Obviously it hasn’t got Michelin stars (yet) but I’m willing to bet that it will have at least one in the next guide.

It’s hard to describe the exact cuisine type – Mere themselves describe it as “blending classical French with South Pacific influences”, I’d just say “Brilliant”. It’s a great restaurant space, quite designery, but it’s all been done to a theme, and it really works.

It was ace, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience. I’m already looking forward to going back!

Varied

So, this week is somewhat varied in its activities.

Yesterday was John Wick Chapter 2.

This evening I’m off to see Neil Gaiman at the Southbank Centre, talking about his newest book, “Norse Mythology“, his latest book. (And collecting a signed copy into the bargain)

Tomorrow, I’m off for a meal at the Fat Duck with friends, and driving them all there and back.

There’s stuff lined up for the weekend too, but that little lot should keep me going for a while anyway…

Surf vs Turf, Blues Kitchen

Last night, I went with a friend to one of my favourite places, Blues Kitchen in Shoreditch.  I’ve been going there fairly regularly over the last eighteen months or so, but usually on a weekend. This time was different though – they had organised a three day “Surf vs Turf” event, bringing in the chef team from Extra Fancy in the US to ‘do battle’ with the team from Blues Kitchen, with a special menu (including cocktails)  to play with.

And it was epic.

Once it had been announced on Twitter, I had booked in straight away. For me, it was a no-brainer, I wanted to try it. And I am so glad I did.

As well as the food and drinks, it meant we got to spend time with some of the people we’ve been talking to on most of the visits, talked about what was good on the menu, what they should be keeping, and even got introduced to one of the owners of the group that owns Blues Kitchen. For me, that’s what makes Blues Kitchen stand out from every other place in a similar vein – the people make it, even more than the food.

Between the two of us, we had everything on the menu – including the cocktails. Plus a couple of things that were so good we had two…

I’m hard-pressed to even decide what the best things were – it was all good, and most of it was great. Hell, even the cocktails were awesome.

All told, a great night, and a type of event I hope Blues Kitchen repeat – there’s plenty of opportunity, with lots of different kitchens and teams that would be up for it, I’m sure.

Eating Out – The 2016 Summary

In all over this year, I’ve had 22 Michelin-starred meals in 18 places, for a total of 36 stars all told.  I’ve tried to keep a wide range through the year, from pubs-with-stars through to some of the most spectacular-looking dining destinations in the UK.  In no particular order, I’ve been to…

  • Three-star
    • Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester Hotel, London
    • Waterside Inn, Bray, Berkshire
  • Two-star
    • Hélène Darroze at the Connaught Hotel, London (three times, including tonight)
    • Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham (twice)
    • Midsummer House, Cambridge
    • Hibiscus, London (now closed)
    • Hand and Flowers, Marlow
    • Manoir aux Quat Saison, Great Missenden, Oxon (for my Birthday, no less!)
    • Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental, London
    • The Ledbury, London
    • Marcus at the Berkeley Hotel, London
  • One star
    • House of Tides, Newcastle (twice)
    • Raby Hunt, Summerhouses, Darlington
    • Pony & Trap, Chew Magna, Bristol
    • Paris House, Woburn, Beds
    • Benares, London
    • Alimentum, Cambridge
    • Wild Rabbit, Kingham, Oxon

Interestingly, neither of the three-starred places count anywhere notable on my favourites.  In my opinion the best restaurants of the year have been

  • 1st= Hélène Darroze
  • 1st= Midsummer House
  • 3rd= Hibiscus
  • 3rd= House of Tides

The best meals, on the other hand, is a smaller list – the top three would be…

  • Hélène Darroze – the second visit
  • Hélène Darroze – the first visit
  • Midsummer House

Yes, Darroze really is that good (in my opinion, of course – others may vary)

Alongside that, honorable mentions go to

  • Wild Rabbit – any other year, it would certainly have been in the top three, and indeed I’d say it’s probably number four/five in the list
  • Marcus – much as I dislike the man himself, I can’t deny that the meal was bloody marvellous

There are other places I still want to go (and I’m considering another Scotland visit at some point in 2017) but I won’t be going to anywhere like as many as this year.  I’ve massively enjoyed it, and I truly don’t want to become blase about the entire thing.

The Last Bits, and The Next Bits

It’s hard to believe that it’s only a week to Christmas Day, and two to the end of 2016.

This week we’ve had temperatures up around 10-13° C – which is ridiculous for mid-December – and I’ve been wandering around in shirt-sleeves.  (While also wondering just how people are walking about fully clad in coat, gloves, and even furry hats. What the bollocks are they going to do when it gets cold, for fuck’s sake?)

Yesterday was my penultimate Michelin-starred restaurant visit of the year, so it’s all coasting down to the end of year. Which is no bad thing, to be honest.

I’ve got some plans and ideas for 2017, but really I think the theme is “do less”.  I’ll still be doing all the stuff I’ve been doing in 2016, just less of it.  That’s the idea, anyway. Whether it’ll work out that way, well, only time will tell.

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