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Friday, 27 April 2012

Q at Quilon, Westminster


At 20, I’d drink my age in pints; then, all swirly-eyed, park the dozen pakoras and fiery phaal curry that had seemed like a good idea at the local Traj Mahal on some poor hopeful lumber’s swirl-patterned Brentford Nylons sheets. Attractive. At Q at Quilon, Scottish Ceilidh lager or Indian Mongoose might appeal were I still a beer Hoover. As it is, sipping cocktails (two, max) such as tonight’s fine £8 tamarind margarita and cardamom martini better suits the Don Draper-debonair pose I like to think I’ve perfected over the years. Talking of Draper, couldn’t this bijou new lounge - all 1960s Madison Ave muted luxe with a hint of Hindu temple - be a set from Mad Men?  But in deepest SW1, you’re more likely to spot wadded American tourists and a Westminster bigwig (a stiff Whygras - that’s Indian single malt and grappa - might loosen up Baroness Warsi) than blue-sky thinker Shoreditch ad-lads. We pick at refreshingly un-starry Michelin-starred chef Sriram Aylur’s elegant tiffin - crispy fried silver fish, spiced shrimps and chilli yogurt chicken goujons - a seductive calling card for Kerala whose lighter style of Asian cooking he favours. I’ve never visited that Indian state but, give me a tenner for every time I’ve ended up in a right state at an Indian and I’ll fly there...first class.
41 Buckingham Gate SW1E 6AF www.quilon.co.uk 

Friday, 20 April 2012

Ruby's Dalston


Spelled out in letters on a cinema marquee of the type seen above 1960s flea-pits named, implausibly, The Savoy or The Ritz, a sign proclaims ‘Nothing To See Here.’ I beg to differ. Ruby’s, directly below, is well worth a butcher’s. Vertiginous old lino-covered stairs, lit red, form the seedy approach to what could be a knocking shop offering a free STD with purchase, or the type of 80s dodgy den frequented by Dirty Den, grim crims and bent coppers. Don’t brick it! Beyond Ruby’s irresistibly louche portal, lies the sweetest, friendliest, buzziest cellar imaginable. The only shooters you’ll find here are whisky chasers for your Shoreditch Blonde or Hoxton Stout - those are local ales, not gangsters’ bits of skirt, I should add. All peeling, distressed carmine and eau de nil plaster, retro public convenience-style glazed tiles, shonky mismatched furniture, Art Deco Alsatian dog bisque ornaments and 1960s branded drinks coasters I'm sorely tempted to nick, this engaging pit- formerly a Chinese takeaway - is a cracker. So too, the upbeat couple that owns it. Hit them up - not in a Reggie Kray way - for delish daiquiris, margaritas, Sipsmith martinis and £8 juleps served in coupes, cups, jars and milk bottles, and congratulate yourself for finding Dalston’s dishiest dive bar. The Savoy or The Ritz, it’s not, but Ruby’s is a class act in its own lovely lo-fi way. 
76 Stoke Newington Rd N16 

Friday, 13 April 2012

Hunter S, De Beauvoir Town




Its PR woman claims the launch of this new sister to The Hemingway in Hackney made the locals swoon during its soft launch. Blimey! Did delicate De Beauvoir Town damsels need to reach for the smelling salts, scared silly to find themselves confronted by half the four-legged cast of ITV’s Wild at Heart? Mounted on a big Windsor brown soupy safari park-cum-dining-room’s walls, is what appears to be an ad for Essex Road taxidermists, Get Stuffed - a gauche tableau no-longer-vivant that might be described as 'overkill.'  Dinner doesn’t exactly have me fainting with excitement. Wibbly yolk scotch egg beats a Thai beef salad reminiscent of the hangover cure you greedily wolf down, cold, when last night’s so-soy-salty takeaway is the only option in the fridge. Steep at £12.75, a decent burger patty merits better accessories than industrial chips, limp bun and tasteless tomato. At £18.50, prosaic Argentine merlot is the cheapest of just nine wines while Doom Bar and Sagres head the (better) beery offer. My designer chum digs the pub’s statement crystal chandelier - less so, its jazz joint, Art Deco meets dead fauna stance - ‘Tragidermy!’ ‘Was this named ‘Hunter S’ after gonzo journo Thompson, he of The Rum Diary? Or is it actually called “Hunters?”’ he wonders aloud as sad, shot roebuck, bear and buffalo stare back blankly. Service ranges from charming Charmaine to her sulky sidekick whose pouty snout would be next to be stuffed and hoist alongside Bambi’s late parents, were I in charge. Deer and Loathing in De Beauvoir?
194 Southgate Rd N1 7249 7191 www.thehunter-s.co.uk

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Stormbird, Camberwell


Ousting the lost-its-Funky Munky, this rare bird is going down a storm with Camberwell hip hop lovers. That’s hip hop as in fashionable craft beers rather than as in blasted out of a nicked stereo in low rider wheels with blacked out windows, what to drive in a 'hood where a second-hand Saab will kill your cred...ston' dead. The spruced-up taphouse (now owned by the same folk as The Hermit’s Cave opposite) lacks signage: look for the Brooklyn Brewery neon through fold-back windows- the sign, a sign of good things within. A palisade of chrome spouts to shout about offers quality pints such as Brodie’s Citra, Ruination Old Foghorn, Redemption Urban Dusk (£3.20) and Deuchar’s IPA. Less familiar, are Odell’s Cut-throat Porter and Yeti Imperial Stout (available in 1/3 pint trial measures). Continentals include Schneider Weisse, Liefmans and ‘Kwak’ - as Jonathon Ross might pronounce ‘crack’, and every bit as addictive and popular down the road in Peckham I'm told. Also of interest, is a selection of perry and cider that includes presses from Symonds of Herefordshire.  One happy punter was moved to exclaim ‘the selection is mental good’. I would not disagree. The range is staggering.  So will you be, if you fire into Stormbird's fine whiskeys and wine from £12. 
25 Camberwell Church Street SE5 7708 4460 

Find more bar reviews at www.squaremeal.co.uk


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Old Shoreditch Station: guess where!


The posse behind perennially quoted watering hole Dreambagsjaguarshoes have annexed the long-defunct North London line station at Shoreditch for their second venture. Its punters look similarly derailed. A bar-cafe-gallery-shop, here's a perma-catwalk for beautiful freaks into skinny jeans and matching lattes. Grungey, goth decor includes skip trawl booty and low-flying upside-down potted plants. To slake the thirst of proto Mark Zuckerbergs and wannabe Tracey Emins, there’s Erdinger, Kirin Ichiban and Red Stripe on tap, a good selection of rums, whiskey cocktails, various malts - Talisker, Dalwhinnie,  Auchentoshan et al - and wine from £4 a glass to Macon Lugny at £24 a bottle. Hearty mutton and venison stews and lamb hot-pot are a snip at £5.50 and there’s sandwiches, panini, cakes, pastries and really good organic, free trade, Brazilian bean coffee fresh-milled to order.  Pews in a slouchy anteroom behind the bar are at a premium. A trip to dank loos is not for OCD sufferers (a project for Aggie and Kim, perhaps?) and the punters spent precisely one hour and twelve minutes to look like they threw it all together in the dark in under ten seconds. My 'Shoreditch Look of the Month' award goes to one spectacular tranny for managing to channel 1970s glam rockers The Sweet, a stick of Blackpool rock and Marge Simpson with a bad case of impetigo in one stunningly original look.  1 Kingsland Road E2 http://www.jaguarshoes.com/?page_id=88