Archive for January, 2011

January 24, 2011

Hey Amigo: Moo Grill, Cobb Street, E1

“HEY AMIGOS!”…

is the greeting as you enter Moo Grill. At a cheesy Mexican chain it would have me cringing and heading for the door, but here it’s sincere, authentic and with no hint of a corporate handbook. To be found between the City and Whitechapel, this Argentinine café bar specialises in tasty Lomito (a simple steak sandwich) and other quick Latin inspired snacks.

 

It’s become a regular stop, offering great value and genuinely friendly service. A simple Lomito (with lettuce and tomato) is served with homemade fries and soft drink for just £5.90. The steak is tender and best served with a liberal helping of chimichurri sauce.

Breakfast is yet untested but with the value of lunch its sure to be before long. So what are you waiting for Amigo’s?

Moo Grill, 4 Cobb Street, London, E1 7LB

January 24, 2011

The Bear Freehouse, Camberwell New Road, SE5

Until now I’ve only seen Camberwell from the top deck; a view of pigeons picking at takeaway leftovers and pound shops. I will admit it wasn’t at the top of the list for a Sunday lunch but when given a Twitter recommendation by an aptly named Pub Geek (@thepubgeek) it would be bad form not to give it a go.

Arriving at 12:45 the pub was already close to full. The Bear don’t take bookings so it’s advisable to get in early to claim your table and mark your territory with the Sunday paper and a pint. While Lou and I wait for the others we take a menu and commence salivation. There’s a good choice of about 5 starters of soups, soused herring and game which although tempting make way for the Sunday classic, a Bloody Mary. A usual go to for a kickstart after a heavy Saturday night it delivers a good hit of spicy warmth, which prepares me for the main.

I find it very difficult to resist a roast on a Sunday menu and even more difficult to resist Pork Belly, whenever offered. This is no exception and I’m not disappointed. There’s the right balance of meat to fat and the long thin crackling is brittle with just the right amount of bite; without the tooth picking stickiness you sometimes encounter. The veg could be slightly warmer but the roast potato is perfectly crisp outside and fluffy within. A well balanced portion ensures that dessert is an option without unnotching the belt.

Service at The Bear is friendly and laid back.  The absence of a booking system means that you can take time to enjoy a leisurely lunch. Which is what Sunday lunch is about, is it not? A great find, thanks to the power of Twitter and the Pub Geek.

296a Camberwell New Road, London, SE5 0RP

January 21, 2011

Ale Festival (27th-30th Jan): Duke of Wellington, 119 Balls Pond Road, Dalston, N1

Those who read my recent post on Mason & Taylor would have also read about their sister pub The Duke of Wellington in Dalston. Though being CAMRA“North London Pub Of The Season” Spring 2010 you may already have had the pleasure. It has as yet been unfeatured and I felt it about time to put this right and do a good deed in the process, with a mention of their forthcoming Winter Ale Festival.

As yet I’ve only had a chance to get to one of the Duke’s Festivals as they always seem to fall when I’m out of town or otherwise engaged; and this one is no exception! So if there’s a chance that I can’t make it I can hopefully live vicariously through you. Go on. You know it makes sense. With Burns Night on the 25th January the festival will exclusively feature brewers from North of the Border. Expect to sample:

Fyne Ales (Jarl, Highlander, Vital Spark),

Brewdog (Alpha Dog, Rip Tide, 5am Saint),

Harviestoun (Bitter & Twisted, Schiehallion),

Williams Brothers (7 giraffes, Midnight Sun),

Cairngorm (Trade Winds, Black Gold),

Kelburn (Cart Blanche, Dark Moor),

Tryst (Blathan, Raj IPA),

To name but a few!

It’s sure to be a cracking event as the list above proves; so get yourself down and have a half for me.

Duke of Wellington, 119 Balls Pond Road, Dalston, N1 4BL

January 20, 2011

Anchor Tap, 20 Horselydown Lane, Shad Thames, SE1

It is again cold, dark and wet (a common theme in posts of late) as I head to the Anchor Tap in Shad Thames. After the excesses of a night at the Euston Tap I need a gentler evening in both beer and wallet terms. Where better in London to do this than a Sam Smiths? For the uninitiated all you really need to know is that a pint will cost in the region of £2, choice is limited to Sam Smiths products and the pubs are among the most characterful in London. Should you be alone or waiting for someone there is a certain amount of schadenfreude from watching someone ask for a Guinness without any luck. And then Carlsberg, without any luck. And then Stella. It doesn’t usually go beyond this point before they realise that the pubs policy on choice could have come straight from Henry Ford and they shuffle off to a corner bemused by their Alpine Lager and the price.

Stepping from the cold and rain I’m trying to find something to wipe my glasses covered in rain and steamed up from the sudden warmth of the open fire. I see a blurred figure waving from next to the fire grate. Either it’s the Dane or I’ve just pulled. Thankfully it is the Dane. On his last visit to London we took in the Draft House and Dean Swift; both within meters of the Anchor Tap. This time I’ve gone for the historical pub experience. Originally the brewery tap for the Anchor Brewhouse the pub has changed hands a number of times since being established by Courage in the late 18th Century. The brewery is now little more than Thameside apartments but the pub remains and for a very wet January night is doing a good trade with a mix of regulars, occasional and tourists. As a Yorkshireman you never quite lose the temptation to complain that you are being royally shafted by Southerners, but a trip to a Sam Smiths, with it’s White Rose (we won’t get into the Cropton debacle), open grates and cheap pints is like a piece of home; albeit only a stones throw from Tower Bridge.

Anchor Tap, 20 Horselydown Lane, Shad Thames,  SE1 2LN

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January 19, 2011

Bib Gourmand: Canton Arms, South Lambeth Road, SW8

Yesterday my Twitter feed became positively gourmet as this years Michelin announcement was made. It’s a time when the culinary elite hold their breaths to see whether they are ascending or descending the ranks.

Little you would say to do with the humble boozer? Well not quite true. Entering the 2011 Michelin Guide was a firm favourite. The Canton Arms in Stockwell. Yes, Stockwell. It has earned inclusion as a Bib Gourmand, denoting quality food, service and value.

Since my early visits and my posts in reverence of what they can do with a slice of bread and a Toastie Machine – think Foie Gras or Haggis – I’ve returned regularly. Now and again service hasn’t been quite as expected but even so I’ve always walked away well fed, well watered and happy (and eager) to return. It’s good to see the Michelin Inspectors recognise this small piece of South Lambeth Road and makes me wonder if they tried the Toastie.

Canton Arms, 177 South Lambeth Road, Stockwell, SW8 1XP

January 16, 2011

Euston Tap, Euston Road, NW1

Faced with a dark January evening, monotonous drizzle and waves of commuters my patience is quickly waning. I’m heading to the most eagerly awaited addition on the London Craft Beer scene, the Euston Tap and telling myself it will all be worth it. Having watched English cover all sides of the Euston concourse in search of a working cash machine we head out of the station in the wrong direction and towards King Cross. I’m close to breaking at this point. Craft beer, craft beer, craft beer is the mantra in my head willing me forward. Finally, after the interventention of google maps we are heading the right way. A neon sign glows up ahead of us like a craft beer beacon.

Housed in a a remnant of the original station, the Portland stone lodge bears no resemblance to the 60s concrete blight of the modern Euston. The view as you enter through the double doors is of a bar top clear of pumps. Taking a cue from across the pond beer is dispensed from a wall of taps set into a copper backingl; the blackboards flanking each side are almost overwhelming with a choice on tap of 25+ beers and much much more in the fridge. It’s difficult to know where to start. Working through the blackboards we start light with Camden Town Brewery Pale Ale and Mahrs Pils before moving to Erdinger Urweisse.

The downstairs horseshoe space is compact and you could be forgiven for missing the original narrow spiral staircase leading to the upstairs seating. A tad precarious after a few pints perhaps but pint holders are available. Upstairs is a litlle sparse but is perhaps a work in progress and lets face it – we are not here for the decor.

As the evening progresses as does the thirst for something new which leads us from the lighter starters to the heftier and to my mind superior Thornbridge Raven and Bristol Beer Factory Ultimate Stout. With only a small dent made in the ever changing list there is no chance of getting bored with whats on offer and now I know where it is there’ll be no need for google maps or the mantra as “craft beer” just doesn’t come close to describing whats on offer. Another landmark on the London craft beer map.

Euston Tap, West Lodge, 190 Euston Road, NW1 2EF

January 13, 2011

The Lambassador

I always know that Australia Day and our first barbie of the year is approaching when Lou starts to plan the guestlist and food (this is no ordinary BBQ) and I get the annual Meister email explaining the meaning of Un-Australian behaviour; which is nothing to do with the cricket.

If this raised a smile, spare a thought for those less fortunate Aussies this year. No not their cricket team. Do what you can and donate a little.

January 12, 2011

Mason & Taylor, Bethnal Green Road, E1

I have eagerly awaited a visit to Mason & Taylor since hearing that the folks behind The Duke of Wellington were opening on Bethnal Green Road. The Duke in Dalston was at one time just around the corner and quickly became a firm favourite. It has it all. Great staff, great beer, great food. It is as you may have guessed Great.

I was willing Mason & Taylor to be on a par with the Duke as I don’t live around the corner from the latter anymore but I do work nearby Bethnal Green Road. A first attempted visit had been thwrated by their Christmas Party but undetered and in fact more eager I headed to Mason & Taylor the next day. I won’t leave you hanging. It is in fact also… Great. The décor is stripped back concrete and canteen chairs. It bucks the trend of filling the space with kitch which more often than not looks like an explosion in an Oxfam shop. The staff are, as with The Duke, efficient, friendly and knowledgeable. The food is small plates for sharing; a British tapas I suppose. The York ham with poached duck egg and parsley sauce and a rarebit were my particular favourites. As for the beer there is a wide choice with around 12 ales and beers on draught as well as a seasonal bottled list. I had my first pint of Brodies, Redemption and Wandle at The Duke and Mason & Taylor continue the trend with an introduction to the Camden Town Brewery and their American style, Camden Pale Ale and the helles style Camden Hells Lager. Judging by the empties which soon pile up you can say it went down well.

In my post on the Owl and the Pussycat I pondered if it would only ever be a fallback. On the form of Mason & Taylor I don’t see that a fallback would even be needed.

Mason & Taylor, 51-55 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LA

January 7, 2011

The Owl and the Pussycat, Redchurch Street, E2

I must be getting on now as although Brick Lane is literally on the doorstep it’s less and less becoming a place where I chose to drink. Apart from the odd gig the only thing that draws me in is Rough Trade, Beigel Bake or Fika. The nearest I get these days is Redchurch Street. The imaginatively named Redchurch Bar is an old favourite with an extensive stock of liquor and a cocktail list running to over 10 pages; though its always a pint of Sierra Nevada which is my go to. When I want shades of a cook Williamsburg (Brooklyn) bar this is where I head. Change is afoot with new additions to the strip running between Bethnal Green Road to the East and Shoreditch High Street to the West (where strip can beused in the literal sense)with; Mason & Taylor (see imminent post), technically on BGR and The Owl and the Pussycat which having hung on for a number of years finally succumbed to the march of Shoreditch gentrification last year. In its previous life The Owl and the Pussycat was what some would term an Old School Boozer. Shabby but without the chic it had erratic opening hours and service which was comic; unless it was being inflicted on you when it became infuriating. I first heard of its refurb from Cheese and Biscuits and a post which seemed to polarise foodies in their comments and drew a direct and convincing defence from the management. There was more than a hint of the gentrification debate in that post which I will touch on only briefly. My view put simply is that things move on. People love to have someone to vilify when it comes to East London whether it’s the Nathan Barleys in the early and mid noughties or more recently the Suits as the City swells outward. Pubs need to continue to be relevant to theirchanging clientele and cannot be preserved in aspic. The Old School Boozer tag in itself can itself be an excuse  for bad beer, service and décor; the latter of which I can forgive, the others I can’t.

As we arrive Edwyn Collins is playing, which is a tick on English’s mental checklist. The décor is the Shoreditch jumble sale chic which comes as no surprise. It’s relaxed with a comfortable bar area and more formal dining upstairs. Run by the team behind The  Fellow in Kings Cross it’s sure to be a winner. First impressions were mixed with only 1 of the 4 ales on; the other draft choice being the likes of Becks and Heineken. That said the fruity Ringwood Boondoggle was on and sustained us through 2 rounds. Whether it becomes a regular haunt remains to be seen. Mason & Taylor was the intended destination (though closed due to their Christmas party) and my thoughts are that if half as good as their Duke of Wellington in Dalston, The Owl and the Pussycat may continue to be just a fallback.

The Owl and the Pussycat, 34 Redchurch St, E2 7DP

January 3, 2011

I AM A CRAFT BEER DRINKER… say it loud

“I am a craft beer drinker”. It’s a simple statement yet for me powerful. Trawling Twitter as I do most mornings I hit upon a link to this from New Brew Thursday.

The more cynical side of me could have dismissed this. We all know that our cousins across the pond can get a little Oprah now and again. Yes they love to wave the flag and sing the anthem but today the cynicism was put to one side and I took this in the spirit in which it was intended. There is a simple truth, that craft beer, hands down beats the conglomerate brew that barely passes for beer. So yes, I AM A CRAFT BEER DRINKER…

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