Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Night Tales - Wigwambam - Cafe Pistou - Jerusalem Tavern

On the blog today - Mezzanine whisky, hot cocktails & street food at Night Tales, marshmallow roasting in a rooftop wigwam, comforting provençale food at the new Café Pistou, and a classic London boozer in Clerkenwell.
Friday 7th November - Street Feast rule the evening street food scene, but last Winter, Night Tales gave them a run for their money with a stunning pop-up in Dalston.  They are back again, but this time slightly more central in the Red Gallery space where Old Street, Rivington Street & Great Eastern Street all come together.

Pop-up dates: 

Fri-Sat - Nov 14th, Nov 15th
Fri-Sat - Nov 21st, Nov 22nd 
Thu-Sat - Nov 27th, Nov 28th, Nov 29th
Thu-Sat - Dec 4th, Dec 5th, Dec 6th
Thu-Sat - Dec 11th, Dec 12th, Dec 13th
Thu-Sat - Dec 18th, Dec 19th, Dec 20th

Night Tales is always open for food, booze and beats from 6pm-midnight (£4 entry), and running every Saturday in December from 12 – 5pm is a carefully curated Christmas Arts and Craft Market. You can expect to find unique gifts, street art installations and performances.

We rocked up at around 6.45pm when the queue was already heaving - go early before they reach capacity.  They have done wonders with the space - beautiful lighting welcomes you in before your eyes are drawn to the street food traders, the buzzing bars and the cosy corners with hanging gardens. Cast your eyes up to spot the raised mezzanine whisky bar which affords great views of the fun at ground level.

On our visit, we could choose from Voodoo Ray's, Patty & Bun, The Rum Kitchen, Yum Bun, Morty & Bob, Popdogs and Randy's Wing Bar on the food front.

It had to be Patty & Bun to start, and we stuffed ourselves with a an Ari Gold (a superb cheeseburger enhanced by special smokey P&B mayo) and some Shrimp Poppaz (Fried Shrimp with Black Tomato & Urfa salsa, topped with chilli, tomato and spring onions).  They also have The Pig Dipper (a messy pork belly creation) and Skinny Chips (with roast chicken mayo and chicken skin salt).  We followed this up with the reliably delicious Yum Bun, and I suggest you do the same.  

Voodoo Ray's Pizza - based in Dalston

Shots of Patty & Bun

Morty & Bob's Grilled Cheese

Yum Bun
There are three bars to get involved with, and we headed straight for Tales of Whiskey up the stairs. It's a dedicated whisky bar with a strong cocktail offering too, including Boulevardiers (a Negroni for whisky fans), Bacon Old Fashioneds, and Rose Sours (Bourbon, lemon, sugar and a Rose Champagne syrup reduction).


Rose Sour and Boulevardier
Back on the ground level, there's also the Hot (and Cold) Cocktail Hut where you can pick up Five Spiced Mulled Negronis, Night Espresso Martinis and Almond White Russians, and a more standard bar with wine and beers to get you through the evening.

Night Espresso Martinis

Ella keeping warm
With no winter version of Street Feast in sight, Night Tales is most definitely the place to be at the moment.  Take a bunch of friends, get in early and grab a garden booth for the evening - you won't want to leave!

Matt The Tip - for a similar experience in Hackney Wick, try out Turntables, a new food, drink & DJ venture opening up in the old Smokey Tails spot on the waterfront.  Bill or Beak, The Cheese Truck, Popdogs and White Men Can't Jerk are already confirmed for street food.  The launch night is tomorrow (Thursday 13th November - 5-11pm) and they will be open every Friday-Sunday until 20th December.


Whilst in East London, we couldn't resist a quick trip to the Wigwambam, one of my favourite annual pop-ups.  For the winter months, the roof of Queen of Hoxton is transformed in to a wigwam & bonfire retreat with a real festival vibe.  This year, the theme (which isn't strictly necessary) is Woodlandia.

It's open from 4pm Monday-Saturday, with rotating daily food options on the central BBQ, and heart-warming drinks options to match.  Feeling pretty full already, we stuck to marshmallows and committed to smelling of smoke for a few days by huddling around one of their bonfires outside the atmospheric wigwam.

Unorthodox Marshmallow Technique - don't try this at home.

Here are some more details on the food, drink and events on offer at Wigwambam this time around:

Hot Drinks:

- Hot Buttered Rum £6
- Egg Snog £7 (A modern take on a winter classic: egg nog with Monkey Shoulder)
- Warm & Toasty Toddy £6 (A homemade infusion served with Monkey Shoulder / Zubrowka)

Wigwambam's Woodlandia BBQ: - cooked in front of you the  central ‘schwenkgrill’ 

Daily menu: 

 -Five-Bean Flame Finished Jacket Potato­ (option to add Burnt Ends)
- Wild Salmon and Herb ‘En Papillote’ (cooked in paper)

Rotating menu: 

- Monday & Tuesday – Venison Burger / Wild Boar Spiral Sausages
- Wednesday – Slow Gin Pulled Lamb Shoulder
- Thursday – Tender Bourbon Smoked BBQ Beef Brisket
- Friday & Saturday – Apricot & Herb Stuffed Pork Loin / Garlic & Rosemary Spiked Lamb Leg

- Served with Garlic Pot Roasted Root Veg // Wild Slaw with Beetroot, Radish & Carrot

Rooftop Events:

This season, Woodlandia WigWamBam will host ‘Drink & Do’ workshop events that include origami workshops starting on 11th November (National Origami Day) and ‘Republic of Somerset’, a traditional cider tasting with a specially curated BBQ menu hosted by The Cider Box on 15th November. They've also teamed up with Lottie the Cocktail Gardener (from Midnight Apothecary in Rotherhithe) to host a cocktail master class in January, teaching you how to use herbs and flowers to infuse, garnish and flavour cocktails.

Wednesday 5th November - Watch as I neatly segue from Wigwambam to Cafe Pistou where their Shepherd's Pie is presented in a bizarre wigwam style - scroll down for that to work...

Café Pistou is a charming, all day provençale brasserie that has just opened on the fringes of Exmouth Market where Strada used to be.  It's a good looking place with the old stripped-back décor and some pretty funky lighting.  It's also bigger than it first appears with a few more covers tucked away in a quirky little extension at the back.  

Café Pistou should come into its own in the summer when the doors and windows can be opened up on to the streets, but it's a perfectly cosy candlelit dining spot for now.

I kept it French with a bottle of 6.8% Meteor Wendelinus (Crate & Redchurch beers are also available), whilst Natalie started strong with an excellent Provençale Martini (£8.50) which involved vermouth infused with provençale herbs.  

Some other cocktails of interest:

- Spicy Fig & Watermelon Martini - Finlandia, fig liqueur, watermelon juice & chilli syrup.
- French Negroni - Grey Goose L’Orange, suze, Noilly Prat rouge & pink grapefruit 
- Pear Thyme Sour - Grey Goose La Poire, thyme liqueur, lemon juice, egg white & Peychaud bitters

Meteor Wendelinus - 6.8%
"Light bites" and "Small Plates" all arrived at once.  

- Fougasse - Traditional Provençal bread with a pistou dip - £4
- Pissaladiere - Puff pastry tart with caramelised onion, Chorizo and goat’s cheese - £4
Salt Cod Croquettes in crispy breadcrumbs with a sweet pepper & tomato mayonnaise dip - £6

All three were simple, light, delicious and easy to share, and there are plenty of reserve choices on the menu if those don't take your fancy including Courgette Flowers and Barbajuan's (Deep-fried Provençal ‘wontons’ with a goat’s cheese & honey pepper dip).

Pissaladiere with caramalised onions, chorizo & goat's cheese

Salt Cod Croquettes
No more than 5 minutes later, our "large plates" also arrived.  I have never had such rapid service in my life!  It suited me fine, but if they keep this up they won't make a lot of money on drinks, and someone aiming for a long & romantic French dinner might find themselves back at home infront of Take Me Out sooner than they had hoped.

- Chargrilled lamb cutlets, pistou and sunblush tomatoes - £18
- Provencale Shepherd's Pie with ratatouille, feta cheese, Puy lentils, chickpea purée and spiced feuille de brique - £9

The lamb cutlets were unsurprisingly full of flavour - eat with your hands if you want to get your money's worth.  The big surprise though was the twist on a Shepherd's Pie, with a flaky and tasty wigwam outer shell that Natalie enjoyed destroying once photos had been taken.  The reward was a comforting dish that I could eat all day, perfect for this time of year.

Chargrilled Lamb Cutlets

Shepherd's Pie, apparently!
And to finish:

- Vanilla Creme Brulee - £5.50
- The Pistou -  Charcoal roast plums with blackcurrant, plum & olive oil sauce, vanilla mascarpone and blackcurrant sorbet. Served with a caramel & pine nut crisp and basil sugar - £6

Having seen an epic Creme Brulee on a neighbouring table, we knew that was a safe bet.  Meanwhile, The Pistou was a generous bowl of sweet treats though it was a little busy and confused - we would have liked more of the caramel & pine nut crisp and basil sugar, and slightly less of the overpowering blackcurrant sorbet. We enjoyed cutely presented coffees at the same time.

Creme Brulee

The Pistou

Café Pistou is a lovely addition to the delightful Exmouth Market food & drink scene.  Pair it with a trip to the Exmouth Arms and Café Kick to make a night of it.

Café Pistou on Urbanspoon

Three courses and cocktails in record time meant the night was young, so we wandered over to The Jersualem Tavern (named after the Priory of St. John of Jerusalem) for one (or two) more drinks.  

Matt The Fact - "The Jerusalem Tavern is both fabulously historic and a complete fabrication. Although the premises date from the early 18th century, the current shopfront wasn’t added until 1810 and the place didn't open as a pub until the 1990s."

But who cares how old it is? It's still a London institution, with St.Peter's Brewery beers from Suffolk the main attraction, and ludicrously cheap whiskies on the back bar.  After some IPA and Red Ale, we switched over to Ardbeg 10 and Auchentoshan 12 (both around £3.50 per dram).  You can also buy mini-kegs and gift packs of St.Peter's beer to take home - I bet they make a killing on Christmas Eve when all their punters realise they forgot to get any presents...

And that's pretty much all you need to know.  They've got hot food, cosy corners, friendly bar staff, affordable booze, and a great atmosphere.  A true London gem.

N.B. The Jerusalem Tavern is open 11am-11pm on weekdays - it is closed at the weekends.

Jerusalem Tavern on Urbanspoon

Friday, 7 November 2014

Le Chalet - Pont St - 40 Maltby Street

Half Term + Food & Drink Blogger = Boozy Lunches! I'll keep the chat to a minimum as the photos tell most of the story.  Check out for more food & drink snaps from London and beyond!

#1 - Thursday 30th October - First up, lunch with Dad The List on the roof of Selfridges.  Des McDonald and his Q Grill restaurant ran On The Roof with Q here during the summer.  For the winter months, Des is back again with Le Chalet, an alpine ski-lodge eatery, mostly under cover, with the appropriate décor, cosy blankets on every chair, and a dedicated hot chocolate cocktail "choctail" bar.

Interior Shot provided by Le Chalet

Though I was tempted by the likes of the Hazelnut (Hazelnut, almond liqueur, dark chocolate, hot chocolate - £9.50), I stuck to the cold cocktails with a wonderful Honeycomb Old Fashioned (Maker's Mark, honeycomb, whisky barrel aged bitters).  

Most of the drinks would do for dessert, such as the Choc-work Orange (Orange, Dark Chocolate), Roasted Chestnut Julep (Maker's Mark, Sweet Chestnut Liqueur, Mozart dark chocolate) and Gingerbread Slipper (Brugal, gingerbread, lemon, egg white).

Honeycomb Old Fashioned

Le Chalet "Choctails"
For the first time in many a month, we ordered "starters" rather than "small plates":

- Cornish crab, pickled celeriac, Colman’s mustard - £12.50
- Sweet walnut and Stilton tart - £8.75

Whilst they weren't much to look at, both were full of flavour and the salad garnishes were more than just an afterthought.  Other wintery options include pumpkin "hummus", oxtail and winter root broth, and air dried beef with baked raclette.

Sweet Walnut & Stilton Tart // Cornish Crab, Pickled Celeriac, Mustard

The mains:

Smoked Highland Venison, Black Pepper "Neeps" - £24
Spit Roasted Pork, Black Pudding Fritter, Chorizo Cabbage, Apple Sauce - £29

Check out those Selfridges rooftop prices...  Ignoring that, there was a decent amount of beautifully cooked meat with the smokey venison particularly standing out. The black pudding fritter was also a great success, and the crackling was a treat.  

Smoked Highland Venison, Black Pepper "Neeps"
Spit Roasted Pork, Black Pudding Fritter, Chorizo Cabbage, Apple Sauce
Best of all though was the stunning Eggnog Snow Egg (£8) which was almost too good-looking to destroy.  Almost.  A light tap on the top with a fork brought it all crashing in, revealing a squishy marshmallow like vanilla egg custard delight that I clearly can't really describe.  Go and get one.

The Apple Streusel with "Lashings" of Custard (£7.50) was more of an apple pie and crumble hybrid, which is no bad thing, but it was always going to come second to the Eggnog Snow Egg.

Eggnog Snow Egg

Apple Streusel with "lashings of custard"
Le Chalet is a charming refuge from Selfridges and Oxford Street if you can afford the premium prices.  Perhaps just come up for a choctail and a dessert if nothing else!  Des McDonald is keeping himself busy this Christmas period, running Q on Ice at the Canary Wharf Ice Rink too.

Matt The Tip - Check out Forza Win(ter) and The Lodge in Balham for more festive food fun

ForzaWin(ter) 2014 from Forza Win on Vimeo.

Entrance to Le Chalet at Selfridges

#2 - Friday 31st October - The following day, I popped on a shirt (rare), and wandered around the backstreets of Sloane Square in the unseasonable sunshine in search of the Belgraves Hotel.  The lovely folk at Zomato sent me a £100 voucher (from a Twitter competition) to splash out at Pont Street, so I took along one of my siblings for a belated birthday meal.

Sophie Michell became the UK's youngest female Executive Chef when she joined the Belgraves Hotel, and she relaunched the restaurant in September 2013. Since then, Sophie has also opened The Gorgeous Kitchen in Heathrow Terminal 2.  And if she needs a reference, she can call upon the likes of Claudia Schiffer and Leonardo DiCaprio, for whom she has worked privately.

We kicked off with some superb complimentary Blue Cheese Brioche whilst we perused the menu. Delicious bread is always a good sign.

Blue Cheese Brioche
We took our time before settling on our starters:

- Scallop Carpaccio, Mandarin, Fennel, Olive Oil, Yuzu, Basil 
- Fried Squid, Smoked Paprika, Chilli, Saffron Aioli

The fried squid was highly enjoyable, but it was a distant second to the outstanding scallop carpaccio that would surely convert any fennel haters.  The waiter only turned his back for a second and it was all gone.

Scallop Carpaccio, Mandarin, Fennel, Olive Oil, Yuzu, Basil 

Fried Squid, Smoked Paprika, Chilli, Saffron Aioli
In anticipation of an evening of eating and drinking around London Fields, I thought I'd keep things light with some pasta (stuffed with ricotta cheese).

Gnudi is one of my all time favourite foodie words (along with Chiboust!) and this was a fine example of the genre, though rather different to the superb Pea Gnudi plate at Rotorino.  Jo gave the thumbs up to her cutely presented plate of lemon sole & cockles.

- Gnudi, Ricotta, Tomato Sauce, Rosemary, Pecorino
- Lemon Sole, Dorset Cockles, Sea Astor, Bottarga Butter

Lemon Sole, Dorset Cockles, Sea Astor, Bottarga Butter
Last but not least, the puddings:

- Doughnut Balls, Salted Caramel, Vanilla Milkshake
- Cinnamon Rice Pudding, Creme Fraiche, Apple Compote

Cinnamon Rice Pudding, Creme Fraiche, Apple Compote

I had already set my heart on the doughnut balls stuffed with warm caramel sauce a week before our lunch, and they didn't disappoint. You may not want to share them, but don't expect to get anything else done that day.  A coffee was needed to give my body time to assess the damage, but we eventually managed to roll ourselves out of the front door and back out on to the sunny streets.  

It was a lovely meal in pleasant surroundings - thanks to Zomato for making me aware of it!


#3 - Saturday 1st November - After a couple of hours of Bermondsey exploration en famille, we sought refuge in 40 Maltby Street due to countless recommendations from locals and critics.

It is presented as a wine bar (and shop), but this place quickly fills up with people wanting to munch their way through 40 Maltby Street's chalkboard menu.  There are no bookings, so get there early. We were fine at midday, but it was packed an hour later.

Opening times: 

Wednesday 5.30pm – 10pm
Thursday 5.30pm – 10pm
Friday 12.30pm – 2pm & 5.30pm – 10pm
Saturday 11am – 10pm

The kitchen closes at 9.30pm for dinner and at 3.30pm for Saturday lunch

J.C.Garnier La Roche Bezigon 2012 - £5.80 / 125ml
The menu is one long list of items that would vaguely fit into starter and main categories.  I would suggest sharing a few of the smaller items before keeping a large plate all to yourself.  We started with:

- Crumbed Lamb Breast and Green Tomato Ketchup - £5.50
- Carrot, Clementine, Sunflower Seeds & Mint - £5
- Warm Salt Hake, Leeks, Walnuts - £7

Crumbed Lamb Breast, Green Tomato Ketchup

Carrot, Clementine, Sunflower Seeds, Mint

Warm Salt Hake, Leeks, Walnuts
And our "mains":

- Onion & Oatmeal Tart with Watercress - £7
- Venison Ragout and a Brussel Top - £11
- Fish Stew with Saffron and Fennel - £14

Venison Ragout, Brussel Top

Fish Stew, Saffron, Fennel
What can I say? Everything deserved its place on the table. The Warm Salt Hake was a revelation, and the Venison Ragout was the best thing that I ate all week (and I consumed rather a lot).  

Fantastic, affordable food in a relaxed setting, on a par with Peckham Bazaar, Rotorino, Honey & Co and The Dairy.

In the words of Jay Rayner:

"Regulars at 40 Maltby Street want to keep it a secret – but the food at this quirky kitchen is just too good for that" The Guardian