Tag Archives: London

Recapping November… and Monkey(bread)ing around

Blimey, what a month. As I mentioned, briefly, in passing (ALL THE TIME) I turned 40 in November and as that’s apparently quite the milestone, I decided to drag out the celebrations for the better part of the month.

The actual day, my wino and I went to breakfast at the Delaunay (amazing), saw Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy which moved me to tears in parts, utterly emotional and beautiful and then had a mildly crappy afternoon tea because we’re old and needed a sugar hit. And then dinner with my family that evening which was also simply super (although mediocre food, didn’t expect much more from the local curry house).

My birthday gift from the husband was a trip to Berlin so we went the following weekend and stuffed our faces with German cakes and weinerschnitzel and saurkraut and stuff. Had the best time at the Photography Museum at the Frank Horvat exhib, love his stuff and went to a few other galleries and mostly just pootled around the city really. Don’t go to the zoo, it’s absolutely horrible and I totally cried at the sad lions and camels. Tinged a little bit with sadness – an old friend moved there  a few years ago and I was hoping to catch up with him and his partner but wasn’t to be the case as his partner sadly lost his battle with cancer the week before we arrived. Nic’s been bravely and beautifully blogging at his struggles with dealing with his loss here – please go read it, it’s an honest, heart wrenching and sad read (love you Nic).

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Then back to London town, to start a new job (which is awesome and huge and I think may keep me away from blogging for a bit just whilst I get my head into it) and to celebrate with a bunch of my very best family and friends.

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We’d booked out lunch at one of our favourite restaurants in Queen’s Park – the lovely Caldo. It’s a tapas place and wine bar (and my husband does some of the list so he knows them well). Sorted out a set menu and awaited the hoards to arrive – and boy did they. There were friends from all aspects of my life – school, university, work, drinking in bars, family friends, family members, all told I haven’t felt so loved since probably my wedding day. I always think it’s amazing that some of those people have been in my life for the whole of it, the experiences we’ve shared together could fill books.  It was a lovely day, there were shots done, a cake by a baker (Fondant Fox) whose creations I’d been drooling over on Instagram for a while and whilst her cakes clearly look amazing, they also TASTE amazing, which is possibly the most important thing. And then there was the afterparty. And from that I don’t remember much, but I do know that my fridge was stuffed full of fizz, a tequila station was set up in the kitchen and I had enough Doritos to feed 500 peple before we went to lunch but the next morning the fridge was empty and there were Doritos all over the floor. Lord knows what happened to the tequila. Never saw the bottle again, think it ran away. Took me the better part of a week to recover – won’t be doing that again for a while… Although I tried, the following weekend when my GBFF treated me to an amazing Twin Peaks themed dinner/immersive theatre thing (which I’ll blog separately), I had to follow a bus and a Spice Girl around in a pee yellow car for a day and I have been hanging out with X Factor stars. All told, November has been quite spectacularly full on and, frankly, awesome.

Last weekend was the first weekend we’d had at home since October and the last till Christmas so I decided to get baking – and I’ve been wanting to make Monkeybread for quite some time. For those of you who don’t know, Monkeybread is (probably) an American thing, it’s effectively enriched, sweet dough balls, rolled in cinnamon, sugar and butter and baked. What on earth about that is not to like? I’ve been avoiding my bundt tin since last Christmas when I didn’t grease it enough and an impressive cake I should have made (spiced cranberry) got stuck in it so I had to slice it to take to a party. Not ideal. So I decided to bundt the shit out of my monkeybread to break the fear. And I’m glad I did. It looked GREAT and tasted even better.

Couple of changes I made to the recipe. I have a sweet tooth but I don’t think it compares to most American recipes I’ve seen – sometimes even I get unnerved by the levels of sweetness in a recipe. So I decided to use a traditional white bread dough to make the monkeybread and hope that the sweetness of the cinnamon, sugar, butter would be enough – and it most definitely was. If you do want to go all out, a brioche style bread would probably work quite well – I had no milk in the house so couldn’t do that. Next time, I’m going to experiment with savoury flavours -I think herbed bread and cheese would be amazing. But here’s my recipe, enjoy!

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Monkeybread 

For the dough:

  • 400g strong white bread flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 1 tsp fast acting yeast
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 300ml warm water
  • Oil for kneading

For the cinnamon sugar

  • 100g butter melted and slightly cooled
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • Pinch of salt

Put the flour into a bowl and add the salt and yeast, making sure these two ingredients don’t touch. Add the warm water and bring the dough together to a sticky shaggy mess. Scrape any dough from your fingers and then cover the bowl and leave in a warm place for 30 mins. After that time, turn the dough onto a lightly oiled and dusted board, and knead. Use whatever method you’re most comfortable with – I use Dan Lepard’s, it’s easy to follow and usually comes out with a great bread. Knead for about 5 mins, return to the bowl, leave covered for 15 mins, then repeat this process twice more.

After the last knead, put the oven on a low-medium heat (around gas mark 4 or 170C) to preheat and make your cinnamon sugar – simply mix the sugar and spices and salt together in a bowl. Grease a 25cm bundt tin.

Turn the dough out onto a board and start rolling small dough balls – you want to get at least 30 small balls (golf ball sized). Dip and roll each ball into the melted butter and then dust them in the bowl of spiced sugar and then placed them into the bundt tin. 30 balls comes up about half way up the tin – don’t worry about this, once all the sugar coated balls are in you need to leave it for its final prove so it’ll fill up.

The final prove takes around 30-45 mins (the doughballs should spring back when you poke them!), then put the tin into the oven to bake for one  hour.

Let the monkeybread cool in the tin for 15 mins, then turn it onto a serving platter and give the base of the tin a good whack, it’ll release and leave it ready for serving. It’s a lovely indulgent breakfast cake but equally good when still warm with ice cream. Enjoy!

 

 

Can Vico revitalise Cambridge Circus? (Absolutely yes!)

I met my wino at the opening night of Dehesa many moons ago and we’ve been delightfully happy and scarily well fed ever since. But those heady days of going to the opening of the latest, well, envelope, are far behind us. We do eat out a lot still (you don’t get our fine figures without a significant amount of three course + wine dinners) but suburban life has put a bit of a dampener on being able to go to every opening or wine tasting or whatever.

However, when you get an invite (through the wino) to the opening of a new restaurant from the team behind Bocca di Lupa and Gelupo, you really can’t say no. Particularly when the food and drink is free all night. So last night, on a torrential Monday in August (gotta love British summers) we found ourselves at Vico.

Vico is soft launching this week – check out its social media channels (Facebook / Twitter/ Instagram) to find out details of how to get to one of this week’s events or head over to Cambridge Circus from next week when it’ll be officially open to the general public.

Vico takes all the skills and techniques of the formidable Jacob Kenedy and transports them to a format that’s right for the location – effectively Italian street food. Vico is in that formerly chain zone of Cambridge Circus, on the site of what was probably a Pizza Hut or Frankie & Benny’s. It’s one of those locations that Londoners avoid (unless you’re walking from Soho to Covent Garden) – just filled with tourist tat and not particularly appealing. However, a Polpo opened there recently, the refurbed Ivy has just reopened around the corner and it’s hopefully coming into its own now.

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The food is sold by the weight and features several different varieties of arancini – and as you’ll know from a previous post, I love me some arancini. We had two black squid arancini – I’d thought these would be my favourite but I found them a little underseasoned for my taste (I will admit that I’m a bit of a salt junkie so this may just be me). We also had the beetroot and goat’s cheese, hazelnut and blue cheese varieties and these were all amazing – the risotto rice was cooked beautifully and they were served warm and unctuous.

On top of that, we tried the prosciutto and mozzarella pizza with rocket, a salad of some grains (I didn’t see what) which you could add rabbit to and a endive salad with parmesan and some lovely bacalao fritters. Oh and a fancy Italian sausage roll which was layers of crunchy pastry around some beautifully flavourful pork. Probably my favourite. For all the food in the image at the top of this post, and 500ml of red wine, our bill would have come to about £45 – not bad at all.

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We washed this down with 500ml of red wine – wine is on draft and sold by the carafe. You can get a 250ml or 500ml. They also have prosecco on draft which I didn’t realise until much too late but I literally cannot wait to order me a pint of prosecco. There’s also beer, soft drinks, Campari and various other spirits but I stuck to the wine. It was Monday, goddamnit. I’m not sure if they removed the seating for the event because I’m pretty sure I saw some stools hiding around the back, but it would be good if there was some seating.

Rather than trying to be Bocca di Lupo 2, Vico offers a range of beautifully prepared, simple Italian finger foods that you eat at standing/perching tables, rather than sitting down for a full meal. It’s perfect for the location – quick for a good pre-theatre bite, great for families and probably quite nice for a quick dinner with friends. Will most definitely be back. Regularly.

In a pickle about pickles? Learn about kombucha and kimchi and a whole world more at The House of Ferment

The last few weeks have been a little hectic, to say the very least – I’ve moved from Shoreditch to Dalston (for work not actual house move), thereby increasing my hipster rating significantly (I haven’t yet told them that I’m a massive geek – but they’ll learn), I’ve had the mother of all stomach bugs (too much information? Believe me, I could get much more graphic…. but I won’t) and I’ve been helping with the comms for The House of Ferment which launches tomorrow and which is what I’m going to tell you about, right now. Forgive the indulgence, but think it’ll be of interest to you if you’re London based and foodie. I’ll resume usual service about eating out and cooking in soon (and don’t worry Chris, I’m mentioning you now so you don’t feel like I’ve forgotten this blog is secretly about my obsession with you!)

The Science Gallery London in its own words is: “…a space, focused on 15–25 year olds, where art and science collide. A flagship project for Culture at King’s College London, it will engage over 300,000 visitors per year in cutting edge research in science, the arts and design, bringing together researchers, students, local communities and artists in new and innovative ways to stimulate fresh thinking.

SGL doesn’t have a fixed abobe (yet) but last year ran a successful season entitled Frequencies and has followed this up in 2015 with its current season FED UP: The Future of Food. This season launches this week with a brand new installation at Borough Market entitled The House of Ferment.


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The House of Ferment has been developed by the clever folks from Grizedale Arts in collaboration with Science Gallery London. The process of fermentation goes back hundreds of years, but it is making a global comeback and is now the latest craze to excite chefs and foodies across the world. Do you know your kombucha from your nuka, or your kimchi from your borscht? Come along to The House of Ferment to find out more so that when you’re next dining at the latest fancy pants raw food venue, you won’t feel confused by pickles and processes.

The House of Ferment is a multi-functional arts installation incorporating a collection of edible fermented cultures that explores and discusses the processes behind food preservation. Billions of bacteria have been carefully nurtured and developed into six different cultures, each of which produces a distinctive flavour. The cultures have been used to create over 30 peculiar and pleasing products which you’ll be able to try, including sourdough, several kimchi (of Korean origin), nuka (a Japanese bran pickle), local milk cheese and yogurt, nettle ‘champagne’, pickled cucumbers (of Polish origin), sauerkraut, borscht and more unusual products such as kombucha.

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In the installation, the fermented foods are combined with functional elements by selected artists, including a bespoke table by the 2013 Turner Prize winner, Laure Prouvost, and an inimitable vessel by the artist Bedwyr Williams. Further functional works by Sarah Staton and Giles Round are augmented by a new range of kitchen equipment created by Grizedale Arts and the village of Coniston.

The installation will act as a hub for a variety of workshops, talks, performances and a pop-up café. Whilst all events are free, you will have to book in for certain tastings and talks through Eventbrite. The link can be found on the main Science Gallery site or you can see the different events and book here:

The House of Ferment launches on 7 July and is open to the public until Saturday 11 July. it will be at 6 Southwark Street, within Borough Market.

Gin, erotic French poetry and a plate of meat

Last night, I had one of those lovely, random nights that happen every so often and for me often happen in Soho!

My sister in law, Abbi, had mentioned that she was going to check out this women’s networking club called The Trouble Club. She’s got a brilliant idea to create a women in wine group (more on which as it gets confirmed) and this seems like the perfect location at which to hold it. Being a big fan of The Libertine magazine, which has been putting on events at the venue since it opened in February, I was keen to go with her and check it out, so we arranged to head over there last night to meet the founders and check it out. We met early and wandered down Carnaby Street, with a quick  pop in to Monki for emergency new clothes. Obviously not an emergency, but I am very much loving my new ridiculous trousers.

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We then had a swift glass of wine and a gossip at Shampers (terrible name) and then headed up to the second floor of Kingly Court to get involved in some Trouble.

A little bit about The Trouble Club – it’s a newish women’s club, which is open to use as a hotdesking space during the day and hosts interesting talks and events in the evenings. At £10 per month, which includes £10 credit to use for events, it’s incredibly good value and as a freelancer, something I’ll definitely consider signing up to.

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Last night, Anne Pigalle kicked off her UK tour at the venue. The Trouble Club site describes her thus:

In a pioneering evening of expression, eroticism and exploration The Trouble Club is excited to be kicking off the tour of Anne Pigalle – The Last Chanteuse from Paris. With an international career spanning from Madame Jojo’s and Ronnie Scotts in their 80s heyday, through to Trouble today, Anne is taking us back into the heart and soul of Soho. The Amerotic salon will draw together Anne’s artistic, poetical and musical roots in a unique and interactive program infused with performance, poetry and pornography, from lecture to life-drawing. We would never claim to have met our match, but Anne Pigalle knows how to cause some trouble…

So not really knowing what to expect, we headed up and settled in with a vat of gin and tonic.

Let’s remember here that I’m with my sister in law in a room full of strangers, listening to a gorgeous French woman read her poems and sing her songs, which featured a lot of erotic imagery, it definitely started off a little awkward. By the time we’d enjoyed a couple of the Bloom gins though, we were getting into it as you’ll see from the picture below, I found myself blindfolded whilst one of the other guests read me a quite filthy poem!! Anne Pigalle is a fascinating woman and you can read more about her on her blog. She’s on tour in the UK for a couple of weeks, if you get the chance, do check her out.

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After Anne finished, we hung around for a little longer to chat to the founder, Joy and some of the people who had attended the event and then decided to go grab some dinner. One of Abbi’s colleagues, Simone, was at Damson & Co just around the corner.

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Damson & Co opened when I was working in the neighbourhood. It’s on Brewer Street, right in the heart of Soho and a pretty low lit, intimate venue where you can grab a coffee and cake during the day or wine and tapas style food in the evening. The charcuterie board looked incredible – all the meats are sourced from British suppliers, so we had some of each – although sadly they’d run out of the smoked duck. I was veggie for a long time from my teens to my 20s and I still find some of the gamier meats a little too rich/deep of flavour to eat. However, the venison charcuterie was incredible, as was the ham, chorizo and salami. I do love a good board of meat.

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We also ordered the flatbreads – two varieties, one with mushrooms and onions and the four cheese one. These were like little worthy pizzas, on a brown bread base, stacked high with toppings. Sadly by this point, I couldn’t face eating too much (having stuffed myself silly on meat) so only had the mushroom one.

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We had a bottle of albarino to wash it all down, then finished off the evening with a cocktail – I had an amazing old fashioned, Simone & Abbi had a pink pepper gin and tonic. The manager brought my old fashioned over with an apology that it was a little sweet – by this stage however, everything tasted good to me, but liked that he would have happily remade it if I’d asked!

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The bill came to just over £100, which for the amount of food we ate and the booze we drank, was ridiculously good value. Will happily go back there again and again.

Lunching out: Barrafina

I have mentioned before I have a huge extended family – lots of cousins, second cousins, third cousins once removed, aunts, uncles and other non-blood but still family, family members. And I love it, it’s great to be part of a big old clan that’s spread out across the world.

However, my darling husband has a much smaller clan so I think the shock of becoming part of mine took a while to get used to but they do love him dearly (and I think he’s quite fond of them!) This week by way of making up for the amount of time he spends with my lot, I made plans to hang out with his elder sister, Joy.  Joy and I share a lot of the same interests so it’s lovely having a new friend to hang out with, And when I say the same interests, I mean we both love food and we don’t mind a glass of something winey to go with it. We’re simple folk.

We decided to have a day out in town, the theory was a spot of lunch followed by a bit of culture. However, we got our gossip hats on and ended up two bottles of wine down with our only nod to culture being a swift peruse of the beautiful clothes in Cos. Where I’ve found what may be the perfect dress for Marcel’s other sister’s wedding this Autumn, isn’t it lovely? Such an awesome colour and a cute pleat in the back. (sorry for the crappy screen capture image but follow the link above to see it).

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But lunch was incredible, despite the lack of culture – we got to Barrafina just before midday and were first in the queue so we knew we’d get a seat. We started with a glass of txakoli whilst we listened to the specials and made our way through the menu.

If you’ve never been to Barrafina before, it’s a beautiful little tapas place in the centre of Soho that seats about 20 around an L-shaped counter so you have to get there early if you don’t want to queue. The food is never less than amazing – I don’t think I’ve had anything I don’t like there. The bar is placed around the cooking stations, so you can watch food being prepared and perv over the attractive staff. Not that we did that of course, we’re much too sophisticated. Honest.

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So we decided to go with a couple of the specials and a couple of old favourites from the menu. We ordered the chiparones, a fennel, radish and cherry tomato salad, the ribs, an amazing tempura monkfish and a dish made up of three of my favourite all time ingredients – chickpeas, bacon and spinach. What’s not to love?

The chiparones were the first to arrive, which is always good because they’re the perfect snacking food. Little bite sized morsels of squid, with a little squeeze of lemon – just lovely. I would say they needed a smidge more seasoning but I do like salt a little too much so that could just be my palate, and also it’s not one of those places that refuses to give you salt or pepper to add. So not really a complaint.

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We then got the monkfish with the fennel salad – a perfect partnership. The monkfish is one of those dishes I’d have as my final meal – lightly tempura-ed, covered in a spicy mango salsa – every mouthful was a delight, just beautiful. And it went perfectly with the fennel salad, which was fresh and clean and elegant. Even the tomatoes and we know I’m not a big fan of tomatoes.

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The chickpeas came next with the ribs. I think the ribs were the biggest disappointment, and even they were still good. I think we hadn’t quite considered how big it would be and whilst they were cooked perfectly and the meat came off the bones easily, the sauce was a little too sweet – I think I should learn to listen to the specials more closely, rather than being blinded by pig. I also forgot to take a picture until we’d started digging in so this is half way through eating.

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The chickpeas, bacon and spinach were in a light broth, perfectly spiced and seasoned. With a few chunks of bread to mop up all the incredible sauces (and a carafe of Albarino to keep us chatty), it was a great way to while away a couple of hours on a rainy Thursday afternoon. Looking forward to my next day out with my sister in law!

Breakfast and lunch and breakfast and lunch again

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been spending a lot of time breakfasting and lunching in places other than my own house and instead of boozing and stuffing a burger in my face on the tube on the way home. Sometimes I’m so proud of myself it is difficult to not know why minions aren’t strewing the street in front of me with rose petals as I walk. Man, that would be some fine times.

Anyway, here are a few of my favourite places to stuff my face with sensible breakfast and lunches. Well, I say sensible, french toast features quite heavily in my breakfast chows so you know, artery clogging but not responsible for gigantic hangovers. Possibly just a sugar crash or two.

Kopapa Café

I love Kopapa. It serves beautiful and elegant dishes that use interesting flavours and spices. After a particularly gruelling early start to a Tuesday morning, I decided to treat myself to lunch there. The menu is varied – you can get fry ups (eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, black pudding etc etc) but I’m sure they’re far from bog standard. There’s also more interesting options such as avocado toast with chilli, goat’s cheese, mint and lemon oil or chorizo hash with sriracha chilli sauce. Or even a good looking fruit salad, that I did suffer slight food envy pangs about  but as I wanted a treat, I sacked off all pretence of eating healthily and had spiced banana french toast, grilled bacon, orange blossom labne, tamarind raisin relish and orange vanilla syrup.

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Other than the nuts in the banana bread (which I know are a normal inclusion in banana bread but I have a weird hatred of nuts in sweet things) it was delicious. The labne was a little bit tart but by simply ensuring you had enough of the syrup in the mouthful, it worked so well. Couldn’t taste any tamarind (or raisins, weirdly) but there was definitely relish on the toast.

My only complaint was that as a solo diner (breakfaster?) I had my Kindle out and was reading whilst I ate. Seeing me pick up my Kindle, despite having at least half a slice of french toast left, one over zealous staff member started clearing my plate away. But I soon grabbed it back, muttering curses under my breath. She never came back to my table again. I wonder if these two things are connected? Also, I had to reign in the crazy when a man walked in who was the spitting image of Muvatu from Zoolander. Really wanted to know if it was ironic or high fashion but don’t think I could have coped with either answer, so instead I giggled at him from behind the safety of my Kindle. I’m bad people.

At £15 for two coffees and breakfast, it was a little on the steep side, but you do get a lot of food for your money and I probably didn’t need to eat again till dinner time. But that would have been ridiculous, so I did.

The Riding House Cafe

I worked around the corner from The Riding House Cafe when it first opened and still love going there. One of my favourite times there was arriving before my dear friend Cat and ordering a bottle of pink fizz. Ah, the laughing she did when she got out the picture of her baby scan to announce her pregnancy, leaving me to drink the whole bottle myself. We also had a lovely time there with another good friend and his then new, now well established other (and definitely better) half. So, I’ve had some lovely times at RHC. It was with the same dear friend Cat that I went to RHC again recently, this time for a much more sensible breakfast (and no booze).

It’s a much more ‘normal’ breakfast menu at Riding House than at Kopapa. Eggs Benedict, kedgeree, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Still, if something works, why change it?

I had the challah french toast (does twice in a fortnight make this an addiction? I fear so) with maple syrup and a side order of bacon. Cat had the smoked salmon scrambled eggs which looked amazing. I should probably say here that a side order of bacon is more like an actual side of a pig. I assume this is for the table to share but given Cat doesn’t eat meat,  it was all for me. And ever so nice it was too. However, whilst the breakfast was lovely, nothing really stood out. It was just good – no complaints but also nothing to rave about (apart from the size of the bacon side). With a couple of coffees and a juice, the bill was around £25 for two. And a lovely place to while away a couple of hours gossiping with a buddy (despite the mildly terrifying squirrels taxidermied to look like they’re running up the light fittings). And forgetting to take photos. Sorry about that.

Bone Daddies Ramen Bar

A couple of years ago, ramen took over London and you could barely turn a corner without splashing into some bone broth and or being chased by noodles. And with the ramen came the ramen bores, talking about the ageing on the bones, the quality of the broth, the right combination of noodles/egg/meat/veggies etc. And whilst I agree it’s an artform, I’m not going to pretend to be an expert. However, when Bone Daddies opened a couple of years ago at the end of Soho’s sex alley and Berwick Street market, I thought I’d give it a go. Mind actually blown. And whilst there are plenty of other places that do great ramen, it’s always Bone Daddies for me. Any place with cock scratchings on the menu has to be good, no? I generally go for the Tantamen ramen but I’ve tried a few and they’re all good. And definitely good value for money. So go, get your ramen on.

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The Ivy Market Grill

Back when I first started working in London, which was a very long time ago, The Ivy was the place to be seen (and to celeb spot). Yet for me, on a minuscule first job salary, it had to be an very infrequent treat. The Ivy at it’s original location is currently being refurbed (and the original fixtures and fittings are being auctioned by Sotheby’s, which I’m pretending to not know because I really want one of the chairs but definitely cannot afford it, Maybe I’ll go for one of the napkins instead?) The Ivy Market Grill has opened not far from the original location, offering the same sort of menu and the same dining experience. I popped there for a quick lunch with a buddy and we both just had main courses – no wine, no desserts, nothing. The risotto was one of the best I’ve eaten, pea and asparagus with goat’s cheese. Neil had the chicken salad. Our bill was £30. Quite steep for a quick lunch but definitely worth every penny so maybe save it for a treat.

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Gin Gin Gin Gin Gin.

The title of this post was the description of the second to last photo I Instagrammed on Saturday night, after a day filled with drinking gin. I’m pretty sure I thought I was being eloquent and interesting with that but given the last Instagram photo was at McDonald’s, I don’t think my brain was working as well as I thought.

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I like gin. I like gin and tonic. I like gin and ginger. I like gin martinis (dry, with three olives, since you asked.) I like gin in cakes (weird right? But gooooood). I like that it is great in winter or summer. And a discovery in recent years botanicals a gin can make, so the rise of artisan gins has opened up a whole new world of alcohol(ism) for me. And let’s be honest, I’m a bit of a gin snob.

So when my dear friend of 30 years, Sue, who is also a big old alcoholic gin fan suggested we attend The London Gin Festival, I was more than happy to oblige. For education purposes only, of course.

We've been friends for 30 years. This scares me a bit. We're OLD.
We’ve been friends for 30 years. This scares me a bit. We’re OLD.

The London Gin Festival took place at the Camden Centre in Kings Cross last weekend and I believe it pops up around the country inspiring people to try artisan gins. The event is sponsored by Fever Tree, which if you’ve got tonic snob tendencies (I do) is amongst the best tonics out there.

Love this building
Love this building

We were booked in for the evening session, with Sue’s friend Jo, so the three of us sensibly met at lunchtime in order to line our stomachs. Which we did – at Plum and Spilt Milk where we had quite average bar snacks and not bad coffee, followed by a swift round of cocktails at the Gilbert Scott (always a delightful treat), followed by lunch at the Fellow (my favourite Kings Cross boozer) with too much wine. All told, we’d had a few ‘refreshers’ before getting to the gin fest so I’m not sure I was in the right frame of mind to be educated. But I was definitely up for drinking.

The Honeybee at the Gilbert Scott

The £10 entry fee to the Gin Festival presents you with a gigantic glass, a badge, a pen, a catalogue and a order form. In order to get drinks, you need tokens at £5 a pop – so we bought four each. And then another two each later in the evening. We were basically saint like in our gin intake.

The Gin Festival is home to 100+ gins from all over the world. There is no way you’re going to get through 100 gins (at least, not if you like your liver at all) so if you make it to a future event, it’s worth having a look through the catalogue on arrival and choosing a handful that sound interesting to you. It gets quite busy, as you’ll see from the pictures below, but the layout means you’re never really queuing for a drink, you’re mostly being annoying looking at the different gins on each bar.

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We were given a free shot of Brockman’s when we arrived. This had quite a fruity taste, which wasn’t to my liking but one that you could probably drink neat if you like that sort of thing.

We then moved to the nearest bar where I had a very drinkable Steam Punk gin. This was a good every day drinker, nothing to annoy the senses but lots of subtle botanicals including lavender which is one of my favourite things in drinks. Sue had an Old English which again was really simple and delicious.

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We then headed to the American Gin bar and tried three different gins from St George. Wow. These were mindblowing – gorgeous flavours, fresh scents, transporting you to a different world. The Terroir was my favourite with piney, herbal aromas.

There were a couple of others that passed me by – absolutely fine but nothing of note. Until we discovered Opihr. Pronounced O-peer, this was a spiced, perfumed delight, that evoked memories of the Spice Routes and old Asia. With a splash of ginger ale,this was my absolute favourite drink of the evening. So much so that I bought a bottle. I don’t think it’ll last very long.

Pride of place on our booze tray

There was an amazing stand of vintage gins which sadly weren’t for tasting, but lovely looking bottles.

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And if all that gin became too much, there were hot dogs and fancy pants crisps for eating. And there was a band, but sadly the acoustics in the room made it difficult to hear them unless you stood right in front of them.

Gin and crisps

All told, if you like gin and fancy a relatively inexpensive day out where you can discover new drinks and become a gin bore, this is the event for you. All future events are listed on the website here: http://www.ginfestival.co.uk/events/ and you can follow gin news on Facebook and Twitter.