Friday, 24 October 2014

Islington Brewhouse & Kitchen - Wild Game Co. - Talented Mr Fox - Experimental Cocktail Club

Tuesday 21st October - London may well have 70+ breweries operating at the moment, but there is only a handful of good brewpubs.  

To that short list, we can now add Brewhouse & Kitchen, who have just set up shop in Islington following success with their pubs in Portsmouth and Dorchester.  Another branch will also open soon a couple of miles away in Highbury.

My immediate impression was that it looked like a pretty standard pub, but there are some lovely design touches on closer inspection, including cheeky beer quotes, hidden hop drawers and arty beer bottles.  Then of course there's the fully operational brewing equipment rescued from the sadly extinct Lamb & Botanist brewpubs, not hidden behind glass but sitting proudly in the pub right next to the punters. Look out for friendly Head Brewer Pete Hughes patrolling the area.








I tasted 6 of Pete's launch beers on my visit, but here is the full list including some seasonal Autumn & Winter specials 

Arc Angel – ordinary bitter, 3.6% (traditional, caramel, bitter) 
Spandau B – session IPA, 4% (light, bitter, hoppy) 
Myddleton – blonde ale, 4.5% (simple, balanced, refreshing) 
Britton – American brown ale, 5% (dark, complex, hoppy) 
Watchmaker – strong bitter, 5.5% (traditional, balanced, bitter) 
Chaplin – IPA, 6% (intense, bitter, hoppy) 

Autumn & Winter specials: 

Suffragette Ninja – milk stout, 4% (rich, sweet, roast)
Triple A – rye ale, 5% (dry, spicy, floral) 
Vlad – winter warmer, 5.5% (fruity, spicy, malty) 
Raleigh – smoked porter, 5.5% (smoked, roast, chocolate)

The darker beers were particularly successful, and I also went back for a second go at the 6% Chaplin IPA.  There's plenty here to keep beer lovers happy, especially as there are many more draught and bottled options in reserve.  If you really fall for a particular beer, you can take home a 5 litre mini keg of the stuff too.



5 Litre Mini Kegs
I worked my way through some canapés (e.g. lamb koftas, pork belly in cider, mini fish & chips with mushy peas) but a return visit for the eye-catching beer-can chicken might be in order.  Food & beer pairing is strongly encouraged with third pint glasses available and a host of tempting mains from £10 on the menu.

Beer Can Chicken
If you really want to get your hands dirty, sign up for a £99 Brewing Experience Day which gets you 5 hours of learning, brewing, beer banter, a hearty lunch and 5 litre minikeg to take home.  

Also coming soon on Tuesday 25 November will be the first in a series of beer & food matching events at Brewhouse & Kitchen Islington.  This one will be with Don Parkin and Phil Harding who will bring their Honkytonk beer trolley for an expert fun guide through of seven courses of beer & food matches.  Tickets will cost just £25 - Book via phone 0207 837 9421 or email islington@brewhouseandkitchen.com

Islington Brewhouse & Kitchen is a welcome addition to an area that isn't short on top boozers.  Why not make a day of it with the likes of Three Johns, Craft Beer Co, Charles Lamb, Earl of Essex and North Pole round the corner.

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Wednesday 22nd October - Fitzrovia is about to be overrun by lobster restaurants, but street food veterans Wild Game Co. have arrived first on Charlotte Street to keep those crustaceans at bay. There's no need to look it up on Google Maps, just keep walking until you see a giant stag...





All the meat at Wild Game Co. comes from owner Andy Waugh's family business in the Highlands, Ardgay Game.  On the launch menu there are burgers (from £6), salads, bargain steak frites (only £12.50), and heart-warming stovies (£3.50).  Expect the likes of partridge, pigeon and rabbit to make an appearance on a specials board soon too.

We went straight for The Veni-moo (£8.50), a venison burger & a Highland beef burger, with double cheese and beef bacon, and home-made bearnaise sauce, with some beef dripping fries (£2.50) on the side.  It was a joy to eat, and a cut above anything I had at posh burger joint Bobo Social down the road.



The building sadly doesn't allow for an alcohol license, so there's more Irn Bru than Innis & Gunn, but home-made root beer and more will soon make an appearance.  

Wild Game Co. is bound to be very popular as there isn't too much else in this area like it. Pleasantly low prices and speedy service (not to mention delicious food) will appeal to students and the lunch crowd in particular.  Andy, still in street food mode, was chatting away to all the customers, and I can imagine you would feel like a regular here in no time.  A very promising start - I'll check back again soon. 

Keep an eye out for Wild Game Co.'s special events around town such as their 8-course game extravaganza, Struie Road, at Workshop Coffee.  

It's also worth perusing their excellent website - www.wildgameco.co.uk - which has all sorts of enticing recipes and more information on their meat.

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I'm delighted to announce that the Talented Mr Fox pop-up is back in residence at One Leicester Street.  The permanent Peg + Patriot in Bethnal Green helped to fill the temporary void, but it's great to have Matt Whiley, Ally Martin & co. back in business in Central London.

Natalie and I popped in after dinner at Wild Game Co.. I'll keep it brief as you can read my original write-up here.  Unsurprisingly there's a cracking new cocktail menu, plus a subtle TMF paintjob to boot.



Male & Female toilets or Mr.Fox?


Highlights include:

Princess Consuela (Banana, Cognac, Bitters, Absinthe Rinse) - £11
Green House (Chlorophyll Dogs Nose Gin, Kummel, Lemon, Tomato Vine) - £11
Young Cuban (Bacardi, Tio Pepe, Orgeat, Lemon, Dill) - £9
Kummel On My Face (Tequila, Apricot, Lime, Black Salt, Fig Leaf Soda) - £10
French Flip (Croissant Cognac, Egg Yolk, Port) - £10

We also had a sneak peek at an off menu Tunnocks Tea Cake Martini which could become a permanent fixture if it proves to be popular.

Princess Consuela


French Flip from above

French Flip and Tunnocks Tea Cake Martini

Kummel On My Face

Young Cuban
It's hard to order a bad drink at Talented Mr Fox, there is almost always space without reserving ahead, and you get a show when you sit at the bar.  For those reasons and more, TMF comfortably sits on my list of Best Cocktail Bars in London.  Get over there before it disappears again!

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Another contender for that list is Experimental Cocktail Club, just round the corner on Gerrard Street. I'm a huge fan of the original outpost in Paris, but talk of it being difficult to get in has led me to take my business elsewhere thus far.

But it was early-ish on a Wednesday evening, and Natalie was keen to get another point on the leaderboard, so we tidied up our hair, tucked in our shirts, and tied our shoelaces before greeting the bouncer outside ECC Chinatown.  

"How many?"
"Two."
"OK"

Well, that wasn't very hard.  Up the stairs we went...


I feel a fool for not dropping in before.  ECC Chinatown is a stunning candlelit cocktail bar spread over two floors, with a DJ spinning funky takes on 20s swing.  For a Wednesday night, the atmosphere was phenomenal - tables were packed and the bar was buzzing.  We loved the layout that allows you to peer down to tables below through the middle of the stairs, as well as the mirrors above the bar on the first floor.  

All of this fun comes at a cost of course, with drinks around the £12 mark.  There's also a cover charge of £5 after 11pm, but there won't be many better bars that stay open til 3am in London.  If you really want to splash the cash, order one of their Vintage Cocktails that start at £120.


Birds eye view from second floor
Bartenders were working double time trying to keep up with all the orders, and our drinks were worth the wait:

Popeye's Better Half - Plantation Original Dark Rum, spinach syrup, lemon juice, virgin olive oil, egg white and soda - £12.50

La Medicación - Ocho Blanco tequila, Ramazzotti, St Elizabeth Allspice Dram, agave nectar, ginger syrup, lime syrup & Del Maguey Vida Mezcal Mist - £12

And there's plenty more where that came from, if you can afford it.




We were really impressed with our first visit to ECC, and with Talented Mr Fox and Opium a stone's throw away, Chinatown is bizarrely a real destination for cocktail lovers.  It will take all of your willpower not to stop off somewhere for Chinese food afterwards...

Monday, 20 October 2014

Fat Bear - DandeLyan

Wednesday 15th October - Anyone with a London Cocktail Week hangover should even things out with dinner at The Fat Bear, the latest popup to take over the upstairs space at The Rising Sun. Previous tenants include Disco Bistro and Bob's Lobster, so you know you are in good hands.

Popup is probably the wrong term as The Fat Bear have taken up residency for at least a year.  That's longer than many "permanent" eateries last these days.  The menu is broadly American influenced, though the Southern States are particularly well represented with the likes of gumbo, shrimp & grits, crawfish, and biscuits and gravy making it onto the menu.


As it was chucking it down outside, comfort food was the order of the day.  Loaded Sweet Potato Skins (£6) and Gnocchi with Broad Beans & Blue Cheese (£5) answered the call for starters.  The moreish cheese sauce stuck around on the table until the end of the meal.  Cajun-fried chicken livers, clam chowder and deep-fried pickles must wait for another day.

Loaded Potato Skins

Gnocchi with Broad Beans & Blue Cheese
Roasted Quail with Cornbread Stuffing (£16) and Spicy Crawfish Mac'n'Cheese (£9) were chosen over tempters like Braised Beef Short Rib, Cajun Meatloaf and the Papa Bear Burger.  The quail was very neatly presented and was dispatched by my fellow diners.  My second cheesy pasta dish of the evening was not short on flavoursome crawfish, but it was lacking a spicy kick, not that it bothered me.

Roasted Quail with Cornbread Stuffing

"Spicy" Crawfish Mac'n'Cheese
Full up, we didn't stick around for desserts, but Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce sounds wonderful and Pecan Pie can do no wrong in my eyes.  They are also bringing in a soft serve ice cream machine very soon.

As for drinks, they have set up a nice little bar area where they have most things covered.  A cocktail menu is in production - we did sample some pleasant mocktails that were kindly created in support of Lauren's Sober October (never heard of it).  A few American craft beers wouldn't go amiss to keep all the great food company.

The Fat Bear is in a funny part of town, but it's worth going out of your way, especially with C.O.L.D. Bar, Hack & Hop, Harrild & Sons and 5CC round the corner too.  The staff are a really friendly bunch (thanks for saving Mary's iPhone) and the food hit the spot.

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A quick journey over the river brought us to the brand new Mondrian Hotel, home to Seamus Mullen's Sea Containers restaurant, and Ryan Cheti / Mr.Lyan's latest bar project, DandeLyan.

The real star of the show though is designer Tom Dixon who has created a stunning series of spaces, fitting the Mondrian out like a transatlantic liner.  Take your time finding the bar and make as many loo trips as you can get away with to do some exploring! 




That said, you could do worse than heading straight to DandeLyan, the stylish destination bar overlooking the Thames, Blackfriars and St.Paul's - James Bond would feel at home here.  We settled down in front of the bartenders, including Lee who looked after us well for the duration of our stay.  I was torn between studying the mixology and watching all manner of Londoners make their way along a rainy South Bank.






"So - great setting and wonderful atmosphere, but who is this Mr. Lyan guy you keep namedropping?"

Some vital stats for you:

- Ryan Chetiyawardana a.k.a. Mr Lyan has twice been named UK best bartender of the year

- White Lyan, his groundbreaking bar in Hoxton, won Best New International Cocktail Bar award at the annual Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail this year, AND came 20th on the recently published World's 50 Best Bars List

- He's a nice bloke, so I've heard

The drinks list is split into Cereal, Vegetal, Mineral and Floral sections, which they have taken rather seriously.  I'll leave you to work out where malted grains, green wheat, douglas fir, lime-flower blossom, dandelion capillaire and clay appear on the menu.  A fun flavour chart is also rather useful and my eyes immediately move towards the rich, boozy & aromatic drinks best consumed at night.

The Evil Manhattan fits that description, and I was tempted by the use of botanical beer "vermouth", but I settled instead for a Concrete Sazerac - Martell VSOP cognac, fermented Peychaud, absinthe and concrete.  I can't remember the exact details, but I believe some part of the drink is percolated slowly through broken up concrete - why not? It was sublime, and the edible chocolate stones were a nice touch.




Mary enjoyed a Yellow & Green Fizz - Merlet pear liqueur, grass, yuzu vinegar and Perrier-Jouet champagne served in an ornate limited-edition Perrier-Jouet flute.  It lives up to its green, fresh and aromatic tags, with the yuzu vinegar unsurprisingly playing a fairly key role.  Lauren meanwhile, regretting Sober October, was served a flashy mocktail which only set her back £4.50. Many hotel bars and restaurants charge a lot more for their troubles. 





The only DandeLyan downside is the price.  Being a flashy hotel bar, it's no surprise that cocktails set you back around £12.50-14.50, but that doesn't mean I'm happy about it.  Were they priced closer to £10, I could see myself caving in and ordering two or three, but a £45 bill for three drinks is a little hard to swallow, especially when the likes of Seven in Brixton offer challenging drinks for £5.  

But that's the price we pay for living in London.  The upside is that the world's best bartenders and chefs are on our doorstep, and they are worth splashing out on every now and then.