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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Pearl's at The Cat and Mutton, London Fields

After 10 years as a gastro, Broadway Market's landmark pub was more overcooked Mutton than Top Cat when I visited last year. Not long afterwards, it shut, sold to new owners appaz. If the pattern in similar gentrified pockets of London held true, I reasoned, the new owners would be a chain of burger barons, bento box pimps, Carluccio's, Space NK, Oliver Bonas or some other yuppie knob wank. Would I mourn the Cat? Not really. I'm not local. Even if I were, there are more interesting places to drink on this East End strip where, perversely, the rarest sight these days is the genuine article. Eastenders don't, as a rule,  go by India or Hugo, rather Mason and Paige. Presently, I heard good news. The Cat and Mutton would reopen as a pub not a branch of Foxton's and, most interestingly, with Tom Gibson at the helm - he of dishy Dalston dive bar Ruby's, a gaff that's well worth crossing town for. Come April, I'm schlepping out East again -  a tedious habit since my manor, Chelsea, became about as cool as chlamydia. I'm here for the CaMutt's re-launch. Roadblock! The old girl is as stowed out as the first day of a Sloane Street sale, only with a crowd that doesn't look like lumpen X-Factor audition losers, what the queue for Gucci's sale appears to consist of these days. And lovely, the new improved Cat turns out to be. A more attractive but not unrecognisably different spin on what went before, it has craft beers and Licky Chops on kitchen duty downstairs and, of more immediate interest to me, Pearl's, a cocktail bar upstairs. Gussied up like an Edwardian bordello, Pearl's is accessed via a vertiginous spiral staircase whose polished steps should be approached with caution when well-oiled. How to get that way? £8.50 cocktails called fiery mare (gin, Kamm and Sons, lemon, wasabi and cucumber) and frisky Nellie or some such similarly hoorish handle. Alfred’s porter is an interesting Victorian-style fix that says much about London Fields' now. Asking for brandy, stout, honey and oyster sauce would have got you laughed out of the Cat when I first drank on Broadway Market long before it talked with a Mockney accent. In the punk days of my childhood, bootleg vodka and Vimto with a Dexedrine chaser was how to start your night.  
 76 Broadway Market, E8 4QJ 7249 6555 http://www.catandmutton.com

based on my review for www.squaremeal.co.uk 

Monday, 7 April 2014

De Beauvoir Tavern, Haggerston

The Fox and The Haggerston on the other side of Kingsland Road are jumping, but there are few takers for cocktails at DBT when I drag my weary derriere over Dalston way, bitching about how K and C might as well be Kansas now that all the action - ce soir nothwithstanding - is out East. Still, living cheek by Dead Sea mud-massaged jowl with Made In Chelsea's waxed back sack and crack bores (according to one on-the-make minx I know who goes there, perish the thought) has its compensations. Style-wise, I don't feel inadequate. Next to E8's hipster hordes, I look about as on-the-moollah as SW3's answer to Cristiano Ronaldo, over-moisturised nob knob, Ollie Locke the manchild who managed to be upstaged by magnolia emulsion on last season's celeb Big Bro'. De Beauvoir Tavern is the latest watering hole from the peeps behind Cargo and The Redchurch. A long corridor of train buffet carriage proportions, it's a bit of a squeeze by the bar; best to bag a booth to the rear.  The cocktail list is short - although not as short as the wine list if the scant contents of a fridge are it. Treacle and clover club appear alongside house ideas fisticuffs (a Jameson Irish whiskey, Laphroaig and Old Krupnik honey liqueur toddy), and nightcap (a JW Black and cherry brandy Manhattan). Grub boils down to fancy filled rolls -  chicken with hoisin and oyster sauce, vegetarian Wellington with goats cheese and shrooms, and dry-aged red poll beef - fair at a fiver a pop. The cod-Victorian decor is saying Sergeant Pepper's - and lonely heart I stay. There again it is barely the hour at which most locals crawl out of their scratchers on a Sunday. But with a 30-minute taxi ride now more expensive than a return flight to Rome, I'm on an economy drive. With the ordeal of the Overground/ Underground schlep West to face, 8pm is late enough to be out East on a school night.
321 Kingsland Road E8 4DL 7739 3440 http://tinyurl.com/kgr5ycb

Friday, 4 April 2014

TMF Bar, Chinatown


‘Liquor and strife’ is the mission statement of sharp-shaker Matt Whiley (ex Zuma/ Purl/ Worship Street Whistling Shop). His pop-up residency at One Leicester Street has turned into a full-time gig, making this townhouse hotel’s lounge bar a Chinatown go-to for smart noodles in search of cutting-edge cocktails and tasty bar snacks. ‘Strife’ is unlikely in such an upscale lair but TMF (aka The Talented Mr Fox, Whiley’s alter ego) is a liquor pimp whose turbo-charged tootsies could cause school night carnage: so caveat emptor when ordering full-on fixes infused with gubbins more usually associated with Heston wanna-Bs or B-list slebs in the jungle (ants, if not Dec, one possible ingredient you'll encounter). Innovative and restless, expect the TMF’s menu to change faster than you can say "Basil Brush": get ready for a repertoire that includes pig’s blood and black pudding bloody Mary; toasted rye whisky bread and butter flip; white ape (sweetcorn and cornflake distillate, Kamm and Sons bitters, and Cocchi di Torino); or, for £11, what is essentially boozy liquified Christmas pudding? What exotica informs a ‘pepper Middleton?’ Who gives a Fox? Suspend disbelief, dive in and enjoy! Who not to invite? Dr. Liam Fox: Guy Fawkes; Foxy Knoxy
1 Leicester Street WC2H 7BL 3301 8020 www.oneleicesterstreet.com 

Knowhere Special, Kentish Town


(Above: back in the day when you picked up METRO for its restaurant, bar and arts reviews - i.e. last week
 - before the bean-counters' baffling brand-threatening decision to cull quality freelance contributors )


One little corner of Kentish Town, or K-Town as it's known locally, just got a lot more interesting. Grab a speck, asparagus, mozzarella and parmesan thin-crust at Pizza East then head over the road for late night tonsil lubing at this handy new hole in the ground. Think of it as a destination bar BOGOF as shexy Shebeen gets a new next door neighbour. If you know where - behind an unmarked door to the right of a caff called Mamma Mia, you'll find special. Do I dig it? I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do; for here's the sort of bonkers indie booze bunker London does so well. Clothes hung out to dry overfly a narrow corridor papered in lurid oriental wallpaper so wanky, you imagine Widow Twankey's Chinese laundry within. Push on downstairs and, beyond a fabric curtain, discover a 15 by 15 squeeze with converted coal holes of, part of a bonkers booze basement tricked out like Josef Fritzl's cellar as imagined by Coronation Street harpie Vera Duckworth. Cocktails, despite daft titles such as get me a bourbon, I’m hungry (toasted pistachio-infused bourbon, Cherry Heering, vermouth and chocolate bitters) are on the money at ten plus one of your English pound coins. "Eleven quid?" you gasp? True, K-Town ain't Kensington, no matter how the man in the Foxton's Mini might spin it, but the uptown price does include all manner of odd snacks such as salmon pancakes with smoked vodka sour, bear with me honey. TBH, I'd rather get rinsed on the classics, sans gimmicks, at £6.50 than be taken to the cleaners for the sake of the toffee apple and salted chocolate caramels that come with friar’s luck (home-spiced rum, Benedictine, yellow Chartreuse, burnt orange and frankincense). Either way, this dinky dive is, indeed, Special K. 
296 Kentish Town Road NW5 2TG facebook.com/knowherespecial  

For more London bar reviews visit  www.squaremeal.co.uk 

Friday, 21 March 2014

Dub Jam, Covent Garden


"My wife has gone to the Caribbean." "Jamaica?" "No, She went of her own accord.": so goes the old music hall joke. I've never seen Montego Bay or eaten curried goat in Kingston - odd, given my penchant for 50s calypso, 60s ska and the sort of lover's rock played in Peckham nail parlours. Heavy heavy dub, I don't dig: living next to a North Kensington shebeen run by two misogynistic, homophobic, dole-cheatin', soap-dodgin' rank rasta drug dealers - not, perhaps, Jamaica's finest ambassadors - did my head in. Not much bigger than a bus shelter, clad in graffiti-daubed corrugated iron panels, decorated in lurid carnival colour-clash with furniture cleverly fashioned from jetsam and flotsam, I imagine raggamuffin chic hole-up Dub Jam is a fairly authentic approximation of the Negril beach shack not yet ticked off my bucket list. Thankfully, the soundtrack here  - played through speakers from which sweet rum punch is also dispensed - is totes top Trojan; no boom-skanga head-banga thuds when I drop in for full-flava BBQ street food. 28-day dry-aged burgers in flatbread; properly marinated jerk chicken; velvety pork belly; king prawns or haloumi and pepper skewers; “rice’n’ peace”; coconut and yoghurt-dressed slaw:  You Can Get It If You Really Want. Still on a reggae tip, there’s no Red Red Wine... or any other colour, for that matter. Alcohol is limited to Carib and Red Stripe lager, rums and a brace of cocktails. At the risk of being rude, boys, I’d like to see a dried-down rum fix in addition to (my boy) lollipop-sweet pina colada slush puppy and fruity Wray & Nephews rum punch (£6) served in tins at your Jammin’ joint.   
20 Bedford Street WC2E 9HP 7836 5876 www.dubjam.co.uk 

Munki, Putney

("Hey, hey we're the Munkis")


Journos get sent tons of stuff from PRs. Fashion hacks get this season's top teal trench and trilby combo they adored when it was sent down a Milan runway. Me? Branded beer mugs, baseball caps, hoodies, printed hessian bags, shonky cocktail shakers and other must-have items marketing men imagine I can't live without. Hopefully, Oxfam has fed fifty starving Africans thanks to my re-gifting largesse. Any biked-over booze and food, I keep. You never know when you might be in the mood for Madagascan firewater and - a particular favourite, this -  'vagitearian savoory trail mix, maid in Mumbai.' The other week, blow me i a year's supply of tea bags wasn't dumped on my doorstep; with it, the crochet toy monkey thingy that is Johnny Vegas's foil in the brand's pyramid selling TV commercials. Maybe I'll gift him to Putney's latest lounge, Munki? The knitted chimp, that is; the chunky Northern nit would not look half as cute on its back bar. Located next to another reasaon to hit SW15, Toy Shop Bar ( http://tinyurl.com/lspeqwm),  'Munki' refers to its owner's childhood nickname. Had he been a classmate of mine at primary school, this gaff would be Giant Jobby Jobson's - not the sort of place to order Ruinart rosé and raspberry champagne cocktail. As the King of the (oldest) Swingers (in town), I'm drawn a selection of signature simian slugs. Maidstone Munki (a Monkey Shoulder sweetened sling served with rosemary, and sherry-marinaded sultanas) has my name on it, if not vodka-laced Munki that spilt the cream: I don't go ape over Kahlua, Frangelico, cream, honey and nutmeg in my martinis. TBH, why monkey around when the list includes classics such as aviation and sidecar? Tricked out in trompe l'oeil as a library-cum-study in a show home on a new neo-Georgian gated community in Surrey, limited space is maximised in the form of a mezzanine lounge above the bar. Any munki behaviour going down up there when I swing by? See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil; that's my motto - unless a gossip column editor is paying me.
12 Putney High Street, SW15 1SL 07455 084 052 www.munkilondon.com 

Friday, 14 March 2014

5CC at Harrild and Sons, Farringdon


Set in a handsomely converted Victorian printworks, Harrild and Sons echoes owners Barworks' hit E2 gaff, Well and Bucket. As at that Shoreditch marvel, the ground floor taproom is done out in Whitechapel Gothic with macabre portraits of dead gorgeous Victorians, skeletons in full period finery. In Farringdon,you'll find 100 craft beers (possibly more) such as Marble Brewery’s Earl Grey Manchester IPA , Danish Evil Twin Disco and, delivering what it promises, as it should do at £14 a swally, Oregon’s spicy-nutty Rogue Oregasmic IPA. Plâteau de fruits de mer (£35), lobster with Dijon mayo in brioche, sliders, hanger steak with dripping chips, and duck burger with Reblochon and forest mushrooms all appeal but for me, the real interest lies below. 5CC numero 3, the biggest yet among a trio of similarly monickered cocktail dens (the others are at the Well and Bucket and upstairs at The Exmouth Arms EC1, with a fourth soon to open in Hackney) is a bobby dazzler of a basement tricked out in Edwardian cough syrup tones. Park up at a butch zinc for classy scotch and rye fixes such as an Indian whiskey and spiced chai old fashioned, remember the Maine, caipercaillie, or big rye sazerac served to a soundtrack of 60s calypso, 50s hillbilly hell-raisers and 40s jazz and doo-wop. Flush (flash) nighthawks, with £150-plus to drop on a dram, should dip into 5CC's 'whisky porn' selection for some of Scotland's most shaggable exports since the young Sean Connery.
26 Farringdon Street EC4A 4AB 3714 2497 www.harrildandsons.com