Thursday, 25 February 2010

Anchor & Hope SE1

So after seeing Six Degrees of Separation at The Old Vic (which I thought as brilliant) we trundled along The Cut to the Anchor & Hope pub for a late dinner. I have wanted to try this place out for ages and had always been slightly put off by the no bookings policy and the stories of people waiting for hours for tables. It was pretty full when we got there and we were told it would be at least 45 mins until we got a table but then we were offered a place at the bar, which suited us fine.  At first the big fella behind the bar was a bit gruff and I was starting to think that maybe some of the bad service reviews were right but he turned out to be great (and made us a prtty decent espresso at the end of the meal).  Unfortunately given it was 9.30pm pretty much all the stuff we wanted to eat from the menu was gone but we settled on a cassoulet to share and a carafe of robust French wine. The whole meal was rustic, warming and hearty - right down to the dense bread and the tumblers for the wine. The cassoulet was delicious - although I didn't want to think too much about what some of the "bits" were - I think they said there were gizzards in there. Anyway the whole thing was super tasty - cassoulet is a slow cooked stew with white haricot beans and various types of meats - sausages, confit etc. This was a textbook example and despite the gizzard issue, was delicious. I will definitely come back here and try more of the menu - but the first visit was very promising!

Anchor & Hope on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Dean Street Townhouse - W1

Once I used to be the sort of person that would seek out a new club, a new bar, travel the country camping out in muddy fields to hear the latest band, the biggest DJ.  Ah youth - where did you go?  These days it's all about food and coffee - with the same enthusiasm that I used to investigate some dank alley-way behind London Bridge Station, searching for a doorway and chemical adventures, now I get super excited about some new Antipodean coffee place, or somewhere that does amazing creme brulee.  And you know what - that's fine by me.  As much as I like to think I am young at heart, I really don't think the skinny-jeans brigade needs some 40+ bloke pulling shapes on the dance-floor.  Anyway - I digress.  Dean Street Townhouse is kinda hot right now.  Opened by the uber-succesful Nick Jones as the latest in his Soho House empire, it's a small boutique hotel and dining room in (funnily enough) Dean St Soho.  Great idea and as usual, perfectly executed.  Given I booked late I could only get seating at the bar for lunch yesterday, which turned out to be perfect.  I love eating at the bar - it feels very New Yorky and given the decor at DST, that impression was amplified.  The clubby, red leather banquettes, dark wood, white tablecloth vibe is straight out of Manhattan, although the menu is pure Brit.  I had read A.A.Gill's review in the Times on the weekend and it seems that a certain type of English person who eats here is amazed to find mince and potatoes on the menu and then pleasantly surprised at this classy update to their nursery food staple.  That particular meal wasn't an integral part of my Aussie childhood (what would be the equivalent I wonder - toast and vegemite?) so I skipped that and opted for the pork t-bone with champ and buttered carrots.  Oh how I love champ - like colcannon it is a comforting mix of mash potato and green vegetables.  In champ's case the green veggie is spring onion.  Add a shitload of butter, some milk and salt and pepper and you have comfort food extrordinaire.  The pork chop made me come over all Homer Simpson - SO tasty - and the carrots were impeccable.  My dining companion headed straight for the salt beef (she is a New Yorker) and declared that DST's version, accompanied by caraway dumplings and pickle, was delicious.  I didn't have dessert this time but they looked tempting - think cobbler, steamed pudding and trifle and you get the idea.  Some people scoff at poshed up nursery food - I love it and I loved the Dean Street Townhouse.  Given the fact it was the night after the BAFTAs and that anything related to Soho House is going to be heavily media patronised, it was no surprise that half way through lunch Lee Daniels, Director of Precious plonked down next to us at the bar, BAFTA award in tow.  I really wanted to ask if he'd been out all night or whether he was carrying it around as an "acess all areas" pass.  I did congratulate him on the award (even though it was actually for Mo'nique for Best Supporitng Actress).  DST is that sort of place - comfort food plus BAFTA award winers, all in a clubby, TriBeCa kinda vibe.  What's not to like?

Dean Street Townhouse on Urbanspoon

Monday, 22 February 2010

Colville Place W1

Colville Place has always been a favourite of mine.  I used to work in Charlotte Street and the first time I discovered it (when I was cutting through to Whitfield Street) I was won over.  A fairly standard row of 18th century houses is given extra charm by being located on this little oasis just off busy Charlotte Street and metres from crazy Tottenham Court Road.  You really feel like you have entered another world when you turn into Colville Place and the fact that the residents have turned the areas in front of their houses into makeshift gardens with loads of pot plants makes it even more magical.  A lot of the houses look like they have extensive roof terraces as well - you can see the vegetation peeping over the tops of the houses.  I have often thought I should stalk someone who lives here just to get access to one of the roof terraces - what a great venue for a Summer party.  However  in all my years of lurking on Colville Place I have never seen anyone come out of these houses.  The Movie Poster Art Gallery is located here as well as a tiny park that in Summer is crammed with media types soaking up Vitamin D.  So next time you are buying your lunch in Charlotte Street or Goodge Street, trundle on round to Colville Place and munch your sandwich on one of London's most charming streets.

Bob Bob Ricard W1

I was ready to hate Bob Bob Ricard.  I had read some early scathing reviews and I was convinced it was going to be a hot mess but I ended up loving it.  Actually I fell in love a little.  I felt like I was in some crazy opulent European city in the 30s or in some high camp Baz Lurhmann movie.  The staff seemed to be all Russian or Eastern European and slightly off kilter, which added to the effect.  We had cocktails downstairs in what is the members' bar - we sat in what felt like a 1930's grand train carriage and had apple martinis.  Nice start.  No-one came to get us to tell us our table was ready so eventually we made our way upstairs - but in some way this added to the charm, it was like everyone was playing a role and not quite getting it right.  The main restaurant was equally trippy - with crazy wallpaper, lots of gold and mirrors and waiters with overly large powder pink blazers (yes really).  The menu looked great and I was tempted by most of it but what I went with was Mini Scotch Quails Eggs with Watercress, Cucumber & Mint Salad.  I have to admit that until then I had never eaten a Scotch Egg - I don't know why, they have always appealed to me.  The version I ate at BBR, given quails eggs were involved, were miniature versions of the traditional Scotch egg and if they are anything to go by, I have a new favourite snack.  These were SO tasty - savoury sausage meat encasing a perfect hard boiled quali's egg, dipped in a tangy sauce and accompanied by a lovely fresh, zingy watercress salad.  Taste buds revved up, I got my main course - Chicken Kiev with a Sweetcorn & Potato Mash.  Firstly it looked beautiful, secondly it tasted bloody good.  Sometimes kiev can be a bit full on - when you cut into it and a river of butter streams out it makes me a little queasy - but this one was just right.  The potato and sweetcorn mash was inspired - I am definitely going to try that at home.  Anyway - I've probably made my point, I loved this place. Even better someone else was paying so I have no idea if you pay over the odds, which obviously might be a negative.  Having said that, this is not somewhere I would want to come regularly - it's definitely a special occasion, "I'm feeling flush and I want to dress up and pretend I'm a Russian gangster" kind of night.  (Not that I actually feel like that regularly, or in fact ever...but you get the point).

Bob Bob Ricard on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Taylor St Baristas EC2

Small but perfectly formed - an expression that could describe the Fiat 500 or perhaps this building but also describes Taylor St Baristas in New Street near Liverpool St station.  I had read about this place on various blogs including the excellent TomEatsJenCooks so in my tireless search for good coffee I jumped on the Central Line and headed there today with my friend Ryan.  I was prepared for it being small and it was - given it was raining we decided to eat in so had to put up with pushy city boys jostling us as they queued for their coffee.  However if you view this place as more of a take away place (which it is) then the "in one door out the other" system seemed to work quite well even if it did seem a bit farm-like (no milking machines were attached to any appendages whilst we were there however...).  The food on offer and the coffee are great and the place has a good vibe so all in all a little gem.  My 2 flat whites were spot on - although Ryan was not as impressed with his first one (his second made up for it).  The steamed milk artwork was the best I have ever seen - my photo actually doesn't do it justice.  To eat I had a super tasty peri-peri chicken sandwich, toasted to perfection.  I got so excited to see lamingtons on offer we had to have one with our second coffee and it was really good, or as good as sponge dipped in chocolate and covered in coconut can be (which in my book, is pretty freakin good).  Even more exciting was the basket full of caramello koalas - high on my list of favourite Aussie chocolate treats.  If I worked near this place I would go every day and next time I go to Spitalfields or Brick Lane I will definitely pick up a take away at Taylor St on the way.  I also plan to visit the new location in the City (corner of Old Broad St and Threadneedle St) which looks big enough to eat in without having an accountant elbowing you in the back.

Monday, 15 February 2010

The Roastery - Wandworth Road SW8

I have been wanting to check this place out for a while as it is a short(ish) bus ride from my house, which in the coffee-wasteland that is SW London classifies as "local" in my book.  It didn't disappoint - these guys are part of the Bullet Coffee Collective who source their own beans and also run the Bullet Cafe on the top floor of Snow & Rock in 7 Dials (which is a great place for coffee despite the weird location).  The coffee is great - really nice blend and well made by a friendly fella.  Just like Bullet Cafe, they have Anzac biscuits on offer, which gives them a million brownie points (is that a mixed metaphor?) from me - the one I had on the weekend was yummy and reminded me of my home country (sniff). My better half had a delicious white chocolate tart thing and there was a great breakfast menu which I will definitely be back to try.  The service was great and the vibe is realy relaxed - I loved the fact that they went and bought a Sunday paper for a woman who was having breakfast there.  I just wish they were located a little bit further west so I could walk there on weekend mornings.  So hooray for The Roastery - a little gem on this somewhat bleak stretch of Wandsworth Road. 

The Roastery on Urbanspoon