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Restaurant Review: Bi Bim Bap, Charlotte Street

A while ago I wrote this post about my favourite cheap, casual and central places to eat in London. The sort of places to go with a group of friends on a work night for a proper catch-up without hurting your already bruised credit card any further. The sort of places where you can laugh loudly, rant about your passive-aggressive colleagues, and get all the salacious, gossipy details of your friend’s latest Tinder adventure while having one too many alcoholic beverages. The sort of places I really love, and that I think London does so well. And here, finally, is a full review of another one of these: Bi Bim Bap, a regular haunt of the NYSS (explanation here). Read more

Jen Cafe and London’s Chinatown

London’s original Chinatown was in Limehouse in the East End (thank you Wikipedia for that nugget!). In the early twentieth century London’s Chinese population congregated there, setting up businesses to provide for the Chinese sailors coming in and out of the Docklands. The current Chinatown off Shaftesbury Avenue was only established in the 1970s, until then the area had been just another down-at-the-heel part of Soho, although Gerrard Street was home to the first Ronnie Scotts Jazz Bar in the 1920s. It’s one of my favourite parts of London, and I love just wandering around, grabbing a plate of dumplings, or stocking up on noodles, Sriracha, packets of miso soup and Jasmine Tea from Loon Fung supermarket. Read more

A day at Hunter Gather Cook, #microadventure, and in defense of Jeanette Winterson

A couple of weeks ago I heard a story on the Today programme as I was getting dressed which, if it had been on any other show, I would have assumed was a joke. The whole hoo-ha is explained well here, but basically the author Jeanette Winterson had come under fire for tweeting a photo of a dead, skinned, rabbit she had killed and was about to eat. I paused, one leg in my jeans one out, as I tried to work out what the news story actually was. A woman eats a dead animal? How is that news? She captioned it ‘Rabbit ate my parsley. I am eating the rabbit’. Queue people saying the bunny didn’t deserve to die, but since when do we demand our animals commit some horrendous crime before being eaten? What really got me is that most of the people laying into her on Twitter will have eaten at least one McDonald’s in their life, and are probably frequent purchasers of non-organic chicken. Factory farmed animals lead horrible cramped lives, and many are still killed by electrocution, a very frightening and inhumane death. It is vastly more ethical to kill a wild animal quickly and painlessly. The issue was that Jeanette was showing people what they actually eat on a regular basis: dead animals, they are just used to seeing them cleaned and wrapped neatly in plastic. Chickens may not be as cute as bunny rabbits (Beatrix Potter has a lot to answer for) but they are still animals. And saying, ‘fine, but I don’t want to see it’, is cowardly. If you are going to eat meat, then you should recognise what it is you’re eating. Read more

North vs. South – a Portuguese wine tasting at Canela

Until recently, Portuguese wine meant Port and not much else. This is however changing, and the country’s table wines are becoming increasingly well respected. Yet its wines will never be mainstream. It’s a small country but home to 255 indigenous varieties of grapes, known by their local names which often vary from region to region. This makes it hard for customers to recognise their favourite grape varieties, and most wines from the country avoid naming the grapes within on the bottles, simply describing themselves as ‘white’ or ‘red’. However, the number of grape varieties is a rich resource for winemakers, and unlike other wine-producing countries, Portugal hasn’t focused on the more popular international grapes. Most Portuguese wines are blends as they are made by small vineyards who hedge their bets against the weather by producing a range of grapes, so even if one has a bad vintage they can still make a decent wine. However, as technology and knowledge of growing is increasing, crops are becoming more reliable and singular grape wines are beginning to pop up.

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Run Hackney

1) Giving birth

2) Eating a really hot curry

3) Running a half marathon in bare feet on up-turned plugs

4) Dying

This was the list I came up with the night before Run Hackney. It was of all the things I reckoned would be more painful than running the half marathon the next day. It was meant to calm my nerves and help me to sleep. It didn’t really work. When I finally nodded off it was to hopeful dreams of the race being cancelled.

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Sake and Spice at Moti Mahal

Sake and Spice. I admit to doing a double take when I received the invitation. Sake, Japanese rice wine, at an Indian restaurant? Surely there was a mistake somewhere? But actually there wasn’t. The evening was the first in a series of Spice Dinners hosted at Moti Mahal in Covent Garden, which pair their food with a range of different beverages. The dinner series is the idea of Barry McCaughley, Head of Beverages at the restaurant and also at Soho’s Chotto Matte, who wanted to break away from the expected rich spicy wine and beer and see what other drinks might go well with his restaurant’s cuisine. Moti Mahal serves food from the Grand Trunk route, one of Asia’s oldest roads, and one that links the eastern and western regions of the Indian subcontinent. The route runs from West Bengal in India, on to Delhi and up through Punjab into Pakistan, and then through the Khyber Pass to Kabul, the heart of Afghanistan. It’s been an important trade route for almost two millennia, and many commodities have plied it, including the spices that are at the heart of Chef Anirudh Arora’s cooking.  Read more

Restaurant Review: Pipsdish

That I love supper clubs is glaringly obvious from this blog. I love the relaxed atmosphere, the unpretentious food, and the ease of the experience: you just sit back and wait for delicious dishes to be brought over to you. However, they’re not ideal if you really want to catch-up with someone, as you end up in conversation with those around you as opposed to each other. At a recent one my friend was desperate to tell me the salacious details of her recent holiday (and I was desperate to hear them), but we had to wait until we were in the pub afterwards to get to it. Supper clubs are also run fairly infrequently so you don’t have much choice of dates, and you do have to book fairly far in advance. Step forward Pipsdish. It takes all the good stuff about supper clubs and combines it with the convenience of a restaurant. Read more

Where to watch the World Cup: Herman ze German

Following last night’s performance, this post might well become redundant rather quickly. But even if England is out in the next few days (likely), I still have the perfect place for you to support your office sweep stake team from. I’m not a huge sports fan, but somehow each year I go from disinterested, to just watching the last few minutes, to digging out the face paint and shouting at my TV screen with the loudest of them: COME ON ENGLAND. GO MURRAY. KICK IT ROONEY.  It doesn’t matter what sport it is (during this year’s Winter Olympics I found myself rather enthusiastically watching curling), it’s just fun to cheer someone on. Read more

City Pantry’s Westival: a new street food festival.

There’s a new street food market in town, and this time there’s no need to schelp all the way out to Dalston and stand in a disused, graffiti-covered car park, in order to sample its delights. Street food has finally made its way west of Old Street, all the way west in fact to Kensington. Yep, Kensington, the land of white-linen-clothed tables and waistcoat-wearing waiters, has finally got its own street food market. City Pantry, a company which delivers food from street food vendors, private chefs, restaurants and delis to offices and dinner parties around London, has just launched Westival. For 10 weeks a rotation of street food vendors will set up shop outside Tesco Superstore on West Cromwell Road, and will serve food from midday until late, Thursday to Saturday each week (and now Wednesday lunchtime as well).  Read more

A tour and tasting at London Cru, an urban winery.

With the amount of distilleries and breweries popping up all over the city, it was only a matter of time before a winery arrived in town. And it has. Tucked down a street in Earl’s Court, and inspired by the urban wineries in New York and Hong Kong, London Cru is London’s first, and so far only, winery.

It is housed in an old gin distillery, underneath award-winning merchant Roberson Wine’s head office, and is backed by its founder Cliff Roberson and investor Will Tomlinson. The head winemaker is Gavin Monery, and it was his discovery of the space, and keenness to use it for a new and exciting wine project that kicked the whole thing off. The aim of the project is twofold. First they want to create fantastic wines to sell that can hold their own against similar priced varieties from all over Europe. Secondly they want to use it to bring winemaking closer to the people of London, to demystify the process and educate people in an unstuffy and relaxed environment. Read more

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