Friday, 29 June 2012

Goodwins Court WC2

I love an alleway, ideally a Victorian or even better a Georgian one - when I am walking around town, I will always choose to go down Percy or Newman Passage, Flitcroft Street, Meard St, Cecil Court,  Hanway St, Crown Passage or Colville Place rather than the larger thoroughfares.  One I don't think I had ever walked down before and stumbled on by happy accident yesterday, is Goodwins Court - which runs between St Martin's Lane and Bedfordbury and is parallel to nearby New Row in WC2.  I was instantly charmed and felt like I had stepped back into 18th Century London.  In fact the court was built a century earlier in 1627 and was originally know as Fishers Alley but the buildings still there today are later, most likely having been built in the late 17th century.  I loved the fact that after turning off a busy St Martin's Lane at 9am, I was suddenly alone, with old gas lanterns and beautiful round bay-fronted shops in front of me.  Another one of the (oh so many) things I love about this wonderful old city.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Bistro Union - Abbeville Rd SW4

The other half and I had a lovely dinner with our friends Sian and Jason at current foodies' favourite Bistro Union in Clapham last weekend.  The buzz around this place has been considerable and the reviews good, so my expectations were high.  Abbeville Road is Sian and J's hood and so we have spent quite a bit of time there visiting them - it's a cute local street with some pretty chi-chi shops but up until now I hadn't had an amazing dining experience there.   That changed on Saturday
 night.  Adam Byatt will be known to fans of Thyme and more recently Trinity (where he still cooks) and with Bistro Union he has opened another gem.  It definitely feels very "now" (as in, there are elements of Russell Norman, Duck Soup etc, there are lots of small sharing plates, it's a little rough 'n ready...) but that's fine with me, as I love the stripped back, focus on the food, small plate, street-foodish vibe.  I could have eaten a LOT from this menu.  We started by sharing several small plates - some peas in the pod (nice touch), pickled quails eggs, chicken liver pate and sausage and sage puffs - and yes they were all as good as they sound.  For main course the other half and I shared the "Union Spit-Roast chicken" which came with pigs in 

blankets and bread sauce.  I had to take a photo - the chicken came skewered with knives and looked a bit like a delicious crime-scene and we tucked in with gusto.  It was great - in fact my mouth is watering just remembering it.  The pigs in blankets were a tasty, if unnecessary touch (but maybe that was just because we'd pigged out on starters).  The others managed dessert but I couldn't fit in another morsel (not even a wafer-thin mint) - but they all looked good.  I really loved Bistro Union and I can't wait to go back - it is red hot right now and the well-heeled locals of SW4 have taken it to their hearts so you may struggle to get a table right now but trust me, it's worth the effort.

Bistro Union on Urbanspoon

Monday, 18 June 2012

Arthur Beale - Covent Garden WC2

In this age of either relentless chain shops or the slightly more preferable (but equally damaging to traditional businesses) "snazzification" of our inner city, it is unusual to find shops like Arthur Beale in key central London locations.  Like J P Guivier in Mortimer St, Arthur Beale on Shaftesbury Avenue is an old school shop, remaining wonderfully resistant to the vagaries of fashion and the changing retail nature of its surrounds.  Arthur Beale is a ship chandlers - selling rope, fittings and other nautical supplies - to be honest unless you are a serious boatsperson (see how PC I am?) there is not much point going inside, but like me you can be glad that a great shop like this is there, doing what it does and hasn't yet turned into a Starbucks.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Mike & Ollie's Supper Club - SE14

Unfortunately (or fortunately really) I was so intent on eating all the delicious food at Mike & Ollie's supper club on Wednesday night that I didn't take any photos other than this rather lovely snap of my friend Amelia with the first thing on offer, an amazing frozen strawberry daiquiri (which looked pretty and went down a treat).  This was actually my first ever supper club so I really had no idea what to expect but thought it might be quite awkward, eating at a fold up card table in someone's living room.  How wrong I was - Mike & Ollie's is held in a cool warehousey style apartment in SE14 (New Cross) and the room had two large trestle-type tables, each with 12 people on them and an ingenious method of sliding the food down the centre of the long tables on wheeled planks, negating the need to reach over and deliver the food to each person.  My attendance was all thanks to my friend Gen who booked it all.  The food kept on coming after the daiquiri - we started with a scrumptious (I am totally going to run out of adjectives in this post) small portion of pork belly, with perfect crackling and some sort of stewed rhubarb on top.  As Amelia is a veggo, Ben and I split her portion (bonus!).  This was followed by steaming bowls of mussels with chorizo and broad beans which were also super tasty.  We then had a cute apple sorbet palate cleanser served in a hollowed out apple and followed up with delicious new season asparagus with two buttery dips, one flavoured with anchovy.  Picking up warm, sweet asparagus spears (as a side bar - if any of you have seen the Aussie original version of Kath & Kim you may remember Kim on E saying she was Britney Spears' sister "Asparagus Spears" of the all time best comedic scenes ever) and dipping them in savoury butter, then shoving them down your gullet is not only delicious but feels kinda a good way....but then maybe that's just me....  Anyway - by this time we were pretty full (especially  young Ben and I, having had extra pork) but we wolfed down the scallop dish (served in the shell) although I have no memory of exactly how they were cooked, just that they were tasty.  We had also by this time downed a couple of bottles of wine and were happily chatting away to our neighbours who, it turned out, made cakes to sell at music festivals - nice job right?  The only slightly bum note in what was a night of amazing food was dessert - lovely strawberries and sort of a creamy, custardy substance (which I liked) but served on a weird, hard biscuity thing which Amelia said reminded her of a ryvita.  However let's not dwell on that because the food at Mike & Ollie's was seriously good  - it would actually be incorrect to say restaurant standard because this was way better than a lot of restaurants, I would happily have paid more than the £35 a head for what was a brilliant five course meal with sorbet and daiquiri (wine was extra).  Mike (who presided over our table and was remarkably calm given how many hungry foodies he was serving) & Ollie have a stall at the wonderful Brockley Market (check out their website here - if you are in the market for some food porn, this is a good place to start your surfing).  There are some upcoming dates for June - you can book on their website here.  I am now not only a big Mike & Ollie fan but also love the whole supper club vibe (I know, I know - I am late to the party) - my only worry is that my first supper club has set the bar waaaay high.

Monday, 11 June 2012

The Ship - Wandsworth SW18

Ah The Ship - this place should have actually been my first post for the blog as I have been going to this pub for years (as long as I have lived in Wandsworth) but for some reason I didn't write the post back in 2009, then I had a brief falling out of love (more below - it was very brief!) and then we moved a bit further back into the wilds of SW18 and so I wasn't going there as much...anyway I'm getting ahead of myself, let's start again.  The Ship is a wonderful pub, definitely in my Top 3 (if not the top actually) in London and has been serving thirsty punters since the late 18th century.  The problem to all but locals is finding the place.  On the banks of the Thames, right next to Wandsworth Bridge, tucked in between a massive development of modern flats and a concrete works, situated on the somewhat confrontingly named Jews Row (one of my American friends couldn't believe there was a street called this!), The Ship's location does not seem immediately appealing.  However for me, keen student of Wandsworth history, this little enclave is really interesting.  Pier Terrace, which connects Jews Row and Wandsworth Bridge, retains some of its original cobbling and there was once a street of terraced housing running all along it, part of an extensive network of two up two down terraces that were demolished to build the Wandsworth roundabout and one way system.  The Other Half and I used to live in nearby Eltringham St which is a weird remnant of this long gone network of streets - which was one of the reasons we loved it there and also the reason for my fascination with what this area used to look like (as recently as the 60s).  The Wandsworth Garage is about the only other reminder of the pre-roundabout days.  The Ship is definitely worth seeking out - equally brilliant whatever the season, in the warm (ha!) summer months, the pub really comes into its own with a huge outdoor space between the pub and the river and a fantastic BBQ on offer (as well as an outside bar).  The food is really great at The Ship - particularly in the restaurant area - I remember when we first visited years ago we couldn't believe that food of that quality was being served in our

local pub.  Given London's current obsession with burgers, The Ship's version deserves special mention - it is a fine specimen (as you can see) and outranks (IMHO) some of those that London's burger cognoscenti rate more highly.  The Ship are also famous for their Scotch eggs - drool away here.  The staff are great (one of our favourite waiters in all of London works in the restaurant) - this is a really friendly pub.  So why did I fall out of love with it?  I am so reluctant to even mention this, because it was a small blip in an otherwise unblemished record and the management were so good in their response....anyway, here goes.  The Ship, being in SW London and literally just over the river from Fulham, does attract its fair share of rugger bugger types - not that there is necessarily anything the matter with that (the church of London Stuff is a broad one) however it does mean that at certain times (big rugby matches the obvious example) The Ship can get over-run with very drunk, very boisterous Hooray Henrys and Henriettas.  Which is fine in the bar - because you can (as we did on this one particular day) scuttle, like the middle-aged reformed party people we are, to the restaurant area to escape the revelry.  However on the day in question, which unfortunately was the day we were taking some north of the river friends for their first visit to the much raved-about Ship, we had a large table of braying, pissed up youngsters at the table next to us.  Throughout what tuned out to be a pretty painful dinner, male members of the next door party ended up on top of their table, constantly banged into our table (albeit with very well-spoken apologies delivered each time) as they got up for frequent trips to the loos and generally made it a pretty rubbish night.  I was jacked off that the staff did not tell them to can it or move them into the pub - the (good) problem with the staff at The Ship is, they're just all way too nice and I'm sure they just wanted everyone to get along and have fun.  I felt like the king of the party poopers but decided to write on of "those" emails to The Ship and to their credit they got back super fast offering to refund our meal (an offer which we didn't take up) and give us another meal for free - which the Other Half and I did take advantage of.  Which all in all is the perfect response really.  So in a weird way, my brief falling out of love with The Ship made me love them more than ever.  Anyway - as I said this was a brief one week blip in almost 7 years of wonderfulness.  If you live anywhere near Wandsworth Bridge or indeed you just want to hang out at a mighty fine pub and eat some of the best pub food you'll find anywhere in London, head on down to Jews Row in SW18 and have a Scotch egg or three for me.

The Ship on Urbanspoon

Friday, 8 June 2012

NEWSFLASH - Caravan to open in King's Cross

The wonderful Caravan in Exmouth Market is soon to have a sibling - a new Caravan is planned for the Granary development at King's Cross.  Planned to open mid to late July, this is great news for the residents of N1 and for London in general!