Posts tagged ‘pub diaries’

April 14, 2013

Q&A: Leigh Linley, The Good Stuff

The great thing for me about the Q&A is that i’m able to delve into the experiences, likes, dislikes and tips of those that I respect in the brewing, writing, blogging world and beyond. Leigh Linley is someone i’ve followed for quite a while now and is one of my must reads. As his blog drops into my inbox, it’s the cue to pop the kettle on and stop for a couple of minutes. His mix of good food and good beer appeals to my own sensibilities. I urge you to read on and then check it out…

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Blurb…

I’ve been blogging about beer and food since 2007 – and enjoying every minute of it. Since then, I’ve done a little freelance work with stories featured in BEER Magazine, Leeds Guide and Food and Drink Digital. Last year, I was involved in the process to choose Leeds as the location for the European Beer Bloggers Conference and led the delegates on a ‘Best of Leeds’ crawl that weekend. My main interests are exploring beer and food – be it linking brewers and food producers and supporting each other in that wa, or recommending matches and pairings for others – and pub life. It’s not all just about beer tasting! I live in Leeds.

First pub experience…

Both my parents worked in a pub when I was born; a notorious one in Leeds called The Fforde Grene. It’s not there now (its a supermarket), but I remember it being smoky, dark and cavernous, with a large guard dog. It was a little scary at the time, to be honest, but now I’m older I can understand the relationship it had with the locals. First hand, I saw it fall into disrepute in the 90′s and eventually close. That was probably my first experience of how a publican and clientele affect a pub and a community, both adversely and positively.
In terms of Beer, I recall bravely ordering a pint of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in North Bar circa 2005/6…and the first taste was like the scene in Alice in Wonderland when it goes technicolour. Being a self-confessed lager drinker, it was unbelievable.

Best pub finds…

We stayed at The Watermill Inn in Cumbria at the end of last summer, using it a base to explore some of the lakes. It’s completely dog-friendly and brews its own beer and we spent a lovely evening in the last rays of summer warmth drinking really good, clean, tasty beers brewed all of 10 yards away. That was a great weekend.

Jukebox…

At the moment: Seven Wonders by Fleetwood Mac, Gimme Shelter by The Stones and Private Eyes by Hall and Oates.

Pub heaven…

A friendly welcome, staff who can tell you a little about the beer, and a little pride in appearance. Not difficult, is it?

Pub hell…

Rude and indifferent staff, bad toilets and bad beer – and by that I mean kept poorly, not range.

Favourite local…

I’m lucky enough to have four really good, ale-serving pubs on my dog walk route along Leeds Liverpool Canal: The Abbey, The Owl, The Rodley Barge and The Railway. All have good beer gardens in the summer, serve well-kept, local real ales and are dog-friendly in the main. Those dog walks in the summer do tend to be long ones!

Favourite non local…

There’s so many, but a perennial favourite is The Grove in Huddersfield. It gets everything right; a staggeringly varied beer range, good staff, well-priced and a lovely space to drink in. The varied clientele it attracts reflects the pub’s range on the pumps, and there’s no pretention at all – you want a pint of Landlord? You got it. And a bottle of De Molen? Fine. That sort of thing. I really like The Rutland Arms in Sheffield, The York Tap and The Maltings in York, The Marble Arch in Manchester…wonderful pubs, wonderful.

Beer and food…

My all-time favourite would have to be simply a plate of Calamari and Whitebait, dusted in flour and deep-fried, doused in lemon and served with either a cold lager or what beer. I’ve been known to knock that up even in the depths of winter! I’m a sucker for Blue Cheese and Stout (the stronger the cheese and beer the better!), Pepperoni Pizza and Anchor Steam…all the classics, really. We eat a lot of fish at home; pan-seared served with Black Pudding and Minted Pea puree sounds odd, but it’s delicious with a crisp IPA such as Oakham’s Green Devil.

Blogging…

It’s all about participation, for me. If you become of a community, you’ll find blogging both interesting and rewarding. I think you’ve also got to work prolifically to maintain a semi-successful blog; people have short attention spans and if you don’t blog for a long time, often, people will drift away, no doubt. Saying that, bloggings what you make it; that’s the beauty of it – if you just want it to be a notebook of thoughts, then so be it. I’m proud to be a blogger.

Yorkshire beer is…

Incredibly varied and vibrant Yes, we have the traditional Yorkshire beer that we do so well…but hidden amongst that we have smaller brewers producing every style you can want. We have Yorkshire lagers, saisons and barrell-aged stouts. We have international award-winners. We have brewers forging strong links with communities and other independent food producers to bring great food and drink to your table. We have some of the countries best pubs, run by amazingly devoted publicans, for you to enjoy these amazing beers in. We have brewers pushing Yorkshire beer across the world and setting up links in Spain, Italy, America and Australia.

What’s on the horizon…

Well…Great Yorkshire Beer! The book’s out in May, and we are launching it on the 30th at The York Tap. I’m currently spending a lot of time working with the brewers involved to get the book promoted. Blog-wise, The Good Stuff will be focussed on beer from the UK, and my new year’s resolution was to see more of the country; so now on our little drinking jaunts we are getting on the train instead of the bus, and seeing more of what’s on offer around me. I’m also looking forward to more collaboration with Food bloggers this year, and trying to bring some fresh ideas to my own blog from outside the ‘beer bubble’.

How did you choose the breweries to feature in Great Yorkshire Beer…

It was difficult, to be honest. I clearly couldn’t interview every brewer in the region – the book would have been like the Yellow Pages otherwise. So, first and foremost, the book is about modern beer in Yorkshire; the brewers that have been the catalyst to amazing growth and interest that has then rippled out across Yorkshire beer as a whole. So brewers over ten years old were out in terms of specific features. Then I looked at the geographical area, and tried to get a selection from north to south, east to west. I looked at availability; the book had to be useful in terms of interested parties simply getting to your beer – the beer had to be widely available across Yorkshire and the UK, and also, in most cases, bottled. And of course, the beer had to be good!

That last part is obviously subjective, but I believe the line-up I’ve chosen to represent the region, overall, are incredibly highly -regarded – and the book being successful will be good for every brewer out there. The book mentions (such as in the food section) many breweries that don’t fit into that criteria, so hopefully I’ve been able to highlight as many in there as I can!

If you want to get hold of a copy check out this link

September 12, 2012

Hiatus, Ham, Hackney & Hopster

So It’s been a while since my last post but as is the way, life takes over and something has to give. Namely this. I’ve always hated posts full of fake apology – as if my absence from the blogging space would weigh too heavily on anyones mind – but i’ll just say that preparing to get wed, planning months of travel, leaving your job, moving home and hemisphere all at the same time isn’t a recipe for having time on your hands.

That’s not to say that i’ve not had any chance to indulge, just that i’ve not had the time or mental capacity to string a sentence together. So as I ease myself back in after the short hiatas i’ll just list some of the highlights, which I may expand on in the coming weeks.

copyright: Friends of Ham

Friends of Ham, Leeds

If you follow on Twitter (@thepubdiaries) you may have seen a flurry of Ham related activity as I recently turned porcine fanboy. My visit to Friends of Ham, was much anticipated (bt me, not them). For months there had been talk of its opening and I watched at a distance through social media. The name intrigued me, the logo enticed me and when I finally got to visit the space and the people in it beguiled me. A craft beer bar, come charcuterie where Cheers style everyone knows your name (but maybe that’s @lordofthebeers fault for pre-tweeting my arrival). Quite simply the best bar i’ve been to in years.

Cock Tavern, Hackney

In between the planning, packing and honing wedding playlists, I have been doing more and more freelance writing. Pots of espresso at 5am have become the norm as I juggle deadlines (lets just say i’d never get a job in the circus) and try and remember what the hell i’m writing about. Many of these have been for View London and as much as I love to find a new pub to add to the beer drinkers equivalent of the Knowledge it can start to wear slightly. Until the assignment is the Cock Tavern in Hackney. It’s up there with Friends of Ham, which is why i’ve put the two together and you can read all about it here. It’s places like this that reinvigorate me and make me realise why I do what I do.

London Fields Brewery, Hackney

I am a late comer to the charms of this East London brewer, but have fallen for them in a big way. When I discussed the beer list for the wedding I wanted some relatively cheap bottles of well known beer for the guzzlers amongst the guest list. Asahi was the choice. We then had a mix of Meantime and the other usual suspects. It still didn’t grab me and while I was tempted to just let it go, Clerkenwell Kitchen’s manager Ciaran came through with a suggestion of London Fields. It fitted the bill in terms of being locally sourced and with a craft angle. There’s nothing better than looking round and seeing people eskew their normal habits, holding a big bottle of Hackney Hopster or Love Not War (apt for the event I thought) and more importantly enjoying it.

May 30, 2012

Q&A: Greg Avola, Untappd

The Q&A comes this week from Greg Avola, the NYC based coder and beer geek behind Untappd

 Blurb…

Living in the craft beer haven of New York City, I’m the backend developer for Untappd. After experiencing Rare Vos for the first time, I instantly fell in love with craft beer. While some people enjoy reading books or watching movies, my passion is to coding.

Your ethos…

Passionate, Funny, Controlled, Outgoing, Humble

Beer epiphany…

The truth of the matter is that I, nor my co-founder Tim Mather, were ever in to beer before Untappd was made. We saw a potential with the social media industry to connect the dots on something that is very socially, but never had that represented in a social network. I first tried Rare Vos about 2 years ago and fell in love with Belgian and craft beer. Once I did that – I never looked back.

Best beer find of the last year…

My favorite beer is Pliny the Elder and I had a chance to have it draft when I was last in San Francisco, CA. It’s an amazing beer that tastes 100% different on tap than in the bottle.

What sounds are to be heard as you work…

Typically I listen to a lot of techno music when I’m working on Untappd. When coding, I like the repetition of the beats which helps me code better, believe it or not. Most of the time I use Spotify to deliver that music.

If I wasn’t coding I’d be…

Great question – because coding is my hobby and my passion. If I’m not coding, I’m most likely sleeping, eating or hanging out with family. I would say I code about 75% of the time.

Before I was coding I was…

I was in school studying how to code and build computers. I used to build a lot of custom computers for friends and family and was really into all the technology specifications of motherboards, video cards, and hard drives.

Favourite thing about what I do…

My favorite thing about what I did is the ability to help people solve problems. Nothing gives me greater joy to hear feedback from a user about how they used and liked the service. At the end of the day, we’re not really saving lives, but we are making lives easier for some people and that’s what it’s all about.

Brewers you look up to…

For me – it’s Shane Welch from SIxpoint in New York. I think his vision and direction for the brewery and industry as a whole is very fresh and new. He has passion for beer and making a quality product is something that I strive for in my work with Untappd.

The app I wish I’d come up with…

I think the logical answer is Instagram, because I love photography and the app allows anyone to fill that void. Of course the fact that it was just bought for 1 billion dollars helps too.

Pub heaven…

A pub that has a great beer selection with tie integration with Untappd, meaning that when someone check-ins to a beer at that bar, their face would appear next to the beer. That would be an great interactive element for a beer list.

Pub hell…

My biggest peev is incorrect beer names, as it causes people to create beers on Untappd. For example if a bar calls Nugget Necter, Troeges Necter Red, that causes issues with your Database.

Favourite local pub…

It’s a tough one but I would have to say The Pony Bar in NYC. $5 craft beers all day / night long is something you can’t beat.

Favourite non local pub…

The Stone Bistro Gardens in CA was my favorite in the country so far. Amazing beer, food and views.

Advice any aspiring brewer / app developer / tech startup…

Never give up and keep pushing yourself. Users want to be part of something that they feel part of, so always interact with your users and make sure they feel welcome. I love meeting Untappd users because I want to thank them for being part of the community.

What’s on the horizon…

We have a lot of great stuff coming up soon as we try to make Untappd the best product for beer and bar discovery. We also want to focus our efforts on making a better recommendation engine. If I told you – where would the fun be in that?

 

 

 

March 31, 2012

How do you open yours?

I’ve got the simple but essential task of bottle opening pretty much covered. With the magnetic opener stuck to the fridge door, the keyring opener for when i’m out and about and the top of the corkscrew when there’s wine and beer to opened i’ve got all bases covered.

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There’s even the Aidan Moffat, Little Beer Song opener for when I want an Indie serenade to accompany the hiss and metallic clunk. Should disaster strike however I needn’t panic as I’ve had instruction in improvised techniques the Kiwi way.

February 27, 2012

Q&A: Flo Vialan, Purity Brewing Co

Pub Diaries Q&A has a Gallic twist this week with words from Flo Vialan, head brewer at Purity.

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Your blurb…

I was born in Lyon into a family of butchers and the eldest of three children. I studied in France, starting with agronomy then finally graduating in bio-technologies and fermenting processes. After two years brewing in the French Alps I decided to spend some time in England for a change and new challenge. What began as a few months work experience brewing cask ale ended up with me staying for the past eight years. Along the way I met my wife Sarah, a beautiful Cornish lady, and we have two wonderful children. When I’m not brewing I play rugby for Stratford-upon-Avon – I’ve been playing rugby for the past 22 years. I’ve been the Head Brewer at Purity Brewing Co for 5 years.

Which 5 words sum up your brewing ethos…

Passionate / Focused / Perfectionist / Artistic / Craft

Beer epiphany…

I had some terrible early experiences with beer, but at the risk of sounding clichéd my most memorable beer experience was when I first came to England and had a pint of Timothy Taylor ‘Landlord’. It was a beautiful pint.

Best beer find of the last year…

‘Postman’s Knock’ porter from Hobsons Brewery – it is outstanding in its category.

What sounds are to be heard in the brewery…

Pumps, barrels banging and brewer’s whistling.

If I wasn’t brewing I’d be…

A farmer.

Before I was brewing I was…

A typical student. Beer, rugby, women.

Your favourite thing about what you do …

When the whole team comes together in a feat of harmony to brew the best beer we can.

Your greatest brewing achievement to date…

Mad Goose winning the gold medal in its category at the SIBA National Awards 2009.

Which breweries do you look up to…

Timothy Taylor and St Austell for their consistent, flavoursome beers.

Pub heaven…

Warm welcome, no music, a log fire and a good range of quality pints behind the bar.

Pub hell…

No real ale, loud pop music, flashy lights and fruit machines.

Favourite local pub…

The Hollybush in Alcester

Favourite non local pub…

The Merchants in Rugby

What advice would you give any aspiring brewer…

Listen to your customers and don’t cut corners.

What’s on the horizon…

Building a bigger brew house.

Finally, can you tell us a joke about beer…

A French brewer, a Scottish brewer and a German brewer are in the pub having a few beers. They all go to the toilet together. When finished, the Frenchman goes to wash his hands and takes lots of soap and paper towels proudly stating “in France we are very hygienic”. Next the Scotsman walks up to the sink, takes a tiny bit of soap and one paper towel and says “in Scotland we’re hygienic but we’re also cost efficient”. Lastly the German finishes and marches straight past the sink and out of the door saying “in Germany we don’t piss on our hands”.

June 6, 2011

Old Red Cow, 71-73 Long Lane, Smithfield, EC1A 9EJ

I stuck another pin in the London craft beer map on Friday. Heading to Farringdon via Barbican I stopped by the Old Red Cow on Long Lane. It’s been a while since I’ve last been in and the first since it joined the Dean Swift as a Local Beer House.

Smithfield and the surrounding area has always been one of my favourite places in London. As I’ve alluded to in past posts it’s where I spent my first years in London and still somewhere I can wile away a few hours at the Barbican or just a walk through the old neighbourhood. I usually head up St John Street to the Peasant or across to Clerkenwell Green. With 3 handpumps on the bar and 10 wall mounted taps behind the bar the old haunts have definite competition.

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Barbican

From the board we went for the Camden Town Pale Ale, a perfect start on a hot City day and already a firm favourite. The find of the day was the Redemption Trinity from the handpull. If there’s a beer for a Summer session this is it. Just 3% ABV, Golden in colour, I could just sit and watch the early evening light through it. That is if it wasn’t so damn tasty with its smack of Citrus and Hops. A lazy description perhaps but I’d just encourage you to taste it for yourself.

Old Red Cow, 71-73 Long Lane, Smithfield, EC1A 9EJ

Excelent pub photography courtesy of www.travelswithbeer.com

June 2, 2011

The Search Continues… Country Pubs

Last weekend was spent camping Thameside. Lou and I headed for Rushey Lock in Oxfordshire for a Bank Holiday of grey skies and occasional rain. Well it wouldn’t be proper camping otherwise, would it? The plan for the weekend was no plan. Just a few days of reading, wandering down the Thames and of course the odd pub. The Lock Keeper gave us the lay of the land which mainly consisted of his pub tips. Directions are easy on the river our choices being 4 miles one way and 1 mile the other.

First up was the Swan at Radcot. A large union flag flies riverside and the garden is taken up with ducks and geese. If the picture needed to be anymore British an E-Type Jag revs at the lights. The pub itself doesn’t live up to the promise. The interior lacks the warmth expected with prominent flatscreen tv, set dining tables and an uninspiring choice at the bar. Lou asks about the Rev. James. “It’s a strong dark ale.” There is a definite full stop. No more information will be shared, no further questions asked, just an unblinking stare that comes with years of practice.

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Sat in the near empty garden we watch the boats pass and the geese chase the ducks. A YouTube classic in the making, but it only raises a brief smile. A group arrive and sit on the nearest table to us, despite there being an entire garden to choose from. As they salute and shout ahoy to each passing barge, guffawing each time, it’s a sure sign that there will be no second pint.

We make our way back towards Rushey Lock, saying hello to those who we pass. It raises barely a grunt from most. Lou reminds me we’re not up North and such things are not wise. She may be an Aussie, but she certainly understands the North / South divide.  The Trout at Tadpole Bridge is our second attempt at capturing the perfect country pub, which when right delivers more than great beer. It’s about local character and a  real sense of where you are. With roses around the door and a Chocolate Labrador stretched out on the stone floor this is immediately more appealing; as is the beer choice. Starting with Butts’ Barbus Barbus we settle into the small bar area. As with the Swan much of the pub Is taken up with the restaurant. Most country pubs wouldn’t survive without a strong food trade and in the case of the Trout this would seem to be it’s focus. The bar, as pleasant as it is, seems like a mere waiting area. Evening service starts at 7pm and at 6pm on a Bank Holiday Sunday we are among only a handful of punters. Service seems oddly schizophrenic with a warm welcome to some and the bare minimum for others.

The menu looks good but we have we food back at the Lock. What is required is something to soak up the beer. We ask for chips. The answer is firmly no. Chips are only served as a side. It is also 6.30pm and we are reminded the kitchen is closed until 7pm. A kind of no and even if we did the kitchens closed, so unlucky and unlucky again. We have a second round, this time of the Ramsbury Bitter which is the surprise of the day. With a smokey ashen taste it’s unexpected but more than welcome to take our minds off food. Orders start to be taken and we decide to go with the local cheese board. Now this would seem simple enough but I’m again told the kitchen opens at 7pm. Thoughts of Michael Douglas in Falling Down spring to mind but I keep the rage under wraps. It’s 6.50pm and orders are being taken in the restauarnt. Added to which it’s a cheese board. Hardly the most taxing of dishes to prepare. I persevere and with a sullen shrug I’m told to choose a selection of 3. There’s no mention on the board that the selection is limited and when raised I get a stare that says it all. A few years practice and it’ll be spot on. The Oxford Blue, Single Gloucester and Bath Soft are served on slate, the edges look like they’ve been cut well before ordering and it suffers as cheese boards always seem to from a severe lack of oatcake. That is unless you want to load half a wedge of blue onto each one.

We leave a little more satisfied than the Swan, thanks wholly to the beer, but still not having found the Country Pub I’ve been craving. It’s proof that bricks and mortar, roses around the door and an idyllic location don’t guarantee a great pub.  So back to the Lock to singe some more grass and uncork a bottle of Lagavulin 16 year old, hoping that in the absence of TV we will be treated to more of the simple joy of watching a goose chase a duck.

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May 28, 2011

Beer Without Boundaries?

The votes are counted and the Pub Diaries Returning Officer (me) can reveal how polling panned out on the North of the River v. South of the River v. Beer Without Boundaries question.
Tied with 5 votes a piece (yes, voter turnout mirrored actual electoral apathy) were North of the River and South of the River. Beer Without Boundaries, the middle of the road compromise pulled in just short of 3 way split of the votes with 4 votes. So those results in full:
North of the River 35.71%
South of the River 35.71%
Beer Without Boundaries 28.57%
What does this result tell us? Debatably not much with about 75% of people abstaining to cast a vote (perhaps polls are not for Punks). Jeff at the Gunmakers did point out that it’s a flawed split with most of Central London being on the North side of the river. I agree, but splitting along grid references doesn’t have the same ring to it, unless I was to redraw the boundary and reframe this as an East v. West debate, but to be honest, as much as i’d like to paint a picture of a Beer Cold War, I think the comrades in the East would have it hands down. What it does perhaps show is that in the Capital, being Central doesn’t necessarily equate to having the greatest pubs. Lots of pubs yes. Lots of pubs like the Southampton Arms (as billed as LamBert Hymnal’s sanctuary) probably not. So plucky old South London was able to hold its own against the North.
Will this unresolved question be keeping me up at night? Probably not. I’m in the Beer Without Boundaries camp. And that doesn’t just go for which side of the river is best to drink. It goes for which side of the Watford Gap, which side of the Pennines, which side of the Atlantic. Good beer is good beer and a good pub is a good pub, no matter where it is and where it’s from.
February 26, 2011

Q&A with The Crafty Pint

The Crafty Pint is one of my go too sites for the lowdown on the Aussie Craft Beer scene. I caught up with Crafty ‘s James to get the lowdown on his view of beery Heaven and Hell.

Favourite place to enjoy a Crafty Pint? 

In the UK a Bass from the jug at my folks’ local.

In Australia pretty much any Barbie, anywhere with the right people and a well-stocked Esky.

Can you define the perfect pub?

Good beer selection that’s well looked after and understood by everyone from owner to bar staff – ideally with a bit of rotation and some craziness in the fridge – plus good music (but not so loud you can’t talk), comfy chairs (but not necessarily sofas – can be too relaxing for proper beer enjoyment) and a well conceived beer garden. Food optional if everything else is up to scratch.

What’s your idea of Beer or Pub hell?

In the UK, Yates’s (do they still exist?). Possibly the very definition of hell full stop. Shit beer (and wine), clueless staff, bonehead security, dickheads slamming Jagerbomb’s to a backdrop of extremely loud R ‘n’ B and flashing disco lights at 5.30pm on a Wednesday. At least that’s how I remember them!

In Oz, sadly, the most common format: TAB (sports betting), pokie room (gambling machines), monochromatic beer selection, design based on the Woodall Service Station canteen. Thankfully, times appear to be a-changin’.

What’s most likely to be heard while writing Crafty?

Currently, John Grant’s Queen of Denmark is getting a good run with The Lemonhead’s It’s A Shame About Ray; but usually it’s iPod on shuffle, with the Flaming Lips, Alabama 3, Super Furry Animals, Paul Kelly and Aphex Twin having the greatest probability of appearing.

What was the last thing you got excited about – beer or otherwise?

This message from a Mountain Goat brewer: “Just bottled 400 cases of IPA. Tasting great.” Hopefully, he’s mislabeled a few for the staffies pile.

Whats happening?

Taking The Crafty Pint interstate one step at a time. Persuading the mainstream media to give what’s happening with Aussie craft beer more column inches. Getting more Aussies to wake up to what they could be drinking rather than what they’ve been forced to drink for so long. More hand pumps and quality real ales in Aussie beer bars. And working out how to lose weight while doing what I do.

If you weren’t writing The Crafty Pint?

I’d be writing about something else with a fatter wallet and a slimmer gut.

Get your daily top up at www.craftypint.com

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

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