Tuesday March 25th - Is anyone else disappointed that Ollie Dabbous didn't choose the United Arab Emirates for his second site and call it Abu Dabbous? No? Just me then.
Instead, Ollie has followed up his Michelin-starred restaurant on Whitfield Street with Barnyard, a totally different kettle of fish (or barn of meat?) on Charlotte Street round the corner. He's not cooking there himself, but he's heavily involved as is master mixologist Oskar Kinberg who run's Oskar's Bar beneath Dabbous.
You supposedly can't get a table for months at Dabbous, but Barnyard has a no reservations policy, so I went along when it opened at midday for lunch with my Dad (who wrote about Dabbous on The List a while ago). There was no queue, though I don't expect it to be this way for long. Hopefully everyone will continue to be distracted by Bubbledogs round the corner.
The décor at Barnyard is fun - white picket fences, indoor trees, oil drum chairs and more kept my eyes wandering throughout the meal.
I'll start with the booze, because that's exactly what I did when I went. Alongside some interesting bottled beers (available as boilermakers), there are tasty shakes (£4 straight or £6 with bourbon/rum) and bargain £6 "shandies" (cocktails with beer/cider in). It was a tough choice on the shakes front with the likes of Tahitian Vanilla, Popcorn & Blueberry Pancake on the menu, but I took the bartender's advice and happily ended up with a delicious Malt Shake, cutely served in a milk bottle.
The shandies list is also impressive, with the likes of Barnyard Iced Tea (English Tea, Pink Grapefruit, Lemon, Agave, Scotch Whisky, Mica Beer) and Dandy Shandy (Almond, Cinnamon, Orange, Lemon, Mandarin Liqueur, Wyld Wood Cyder). At £6 each, it won't bankrupt you to work your way through all of them in an evening. Apparently, Oskar likes to head off in to the forests of Sweden to drink beers with mates and invent these turbo-charged shandies.
The low prices continue on the food menu. The superb Cripsy Chicken Wings with Smoked Paprika, Garlic & Lemon for £4 and Broken Eggs with Mushrooms, Garlic & Parsley for £6 are just two of the many bargains to be had. We also enjoyed Barbecued Grain-fed Short Rib with Homemade Dill Pickle, Mustard & Black Treacle and Roast Beef on Toast with Watercress Salad and Warm Horseradish Buttermilk (though we personally would have liked a bigger horseradish kick), but the standout for me was the Bubble & Squeak with Black Pudding, Apple Chutney & a Fried Egg. Make sure that you get a bag of Warm Cornbread for the table too.
|Crispy Chicken Wings with Smoked Paprika, and Bubble & Squeak in the background|
|Barbecued Grain-fed Short Rib with a bag of Warm Cornbread on the side|
|Roast beef on toast, watercress salad, warm horseradish buttermilk|
|Rooting around for the last few pieces of cornbread|
Four equally tempting £4 desserts round off the menu, and we opted for Apple & Cloudberry Crumble with Clotted Cream and Popcorn Ice Cream with Smoked Fudge Sauce. The crumble was enjoyable, although my Mum's version still holds the crown and the cloudberry wasn't very noticeable. The smoked fudge sauce on the popcorn ice cream was pretty special - I can imagine it will catch a few people off guard whose eyes lock straight on to the word fudge and nothing else. Next time I'm in, I'll have to go for Lemon posset with marjoram and Warm Acorn Flour Waffle with Chocolate & Malt.
Lovely cooking, friendly staff, great drinks, funky design and ridiculously good value - I'll be back at Barnyard soon.
Saturday 22nd March - Most Saturdays I trek to the far East to tick off a few things that have been building up on my list, but for once a pop up decided to turn up somewhere slightly more convenient. When Mac Met Cheese (aka Sammy Shon, one of my favourite street food vendors) has temporarily set up shop in between Bayswater & Royal Oak, and helpfully opened up for the first time on the same day that I was working only a few roads away.
He has only got the place for 3 months (before hopefully moving more central), but hasn't held back on design with some very cool art from Benjamin Murphy adorning the walls, and massive film set lights propped up in the corners.
The menu is simple and short, a perfect excuse to eat everything. We started with some oh-so-healthy Macancinis, glorious deep fried mac and cheese balls with a spicy jalapeno kick to them. You will want at least two each.
Next up, choose your Mac&Cheese (currently three options though I expect some more will be added) and add a topping of bacon lardons or mini pork & veal meatballs if you so wish. Did I mention that all of this is being cooked up by the ex-sous chef from The Ivy? Slight overkill perhaps, but I'm happy to take my Mac&Cheese seriously. Did anyone notice when we stopped saying Macaroni Cheese by the way? I'm frequently getting into arguments about this, which says a lot about my life as a food & drink blogger.
Anyway, I digress. Mum's Classic was pretty darn good, and the Cheesy Green Afro with vintage stilton, mozzarella & broccoli was a hit, but the winner for me was Carlos the Cactus (who turned up in the Macancinis) with cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, jalapenos, cherry tomatoes and rocket. Awesome. We washed all of these down with some reliable Kernel beers as it seemed a bit early for cocktails, though a Cucumber & Mint Martini probably would have slipped down.
So far, so good. But wait, what's that at the bottom of the menu?
DEEP FRIED OREOS.
They were everything I had hoped. Gooey, sugary, delicious and just 2 (hundred) calories! 4 for £3 is also great value, as is everything else at When Mac Met Cheese.
Sammy mentioned that more things may be turning up on the menu soon, but the 3 month clock is already ticking so get over there soon before it's too late! Please note that opening times are quite specific - it is shut Mon & Tue, and open Wed-Thu 6.30pm-10pm, Fri 6.30pm-12am, Sat 12pm-12am & Sun 12pm-5pm.
And now for something completely different. On Sunday 16th March, at Megaro Bar in King's Cross, Maverick Drinks assembled 5 of London's best bartenders for a cocktail competition involving barrel-aged gin, and they called it Gin Sin & 5 Soaking Barrels.
Each bartender was given a different bottle in advance to come up with something special. Here's the line-up:
Matt Whiley, Talented Mr. Fox - Professor Cornelius Ampleforth Cask Aged Bathtub Gin
Nico Piazza, Megaro Bar - New York Distilling Chief Gowanus New-Netherland Gin
Jim Wrigley, Made in the Shade - Few Barrel Aged Gin
Matt Fairhurst, Callooh Callay - Smooth Ambler Stillhouse Collection Barrel Aged Gin
Gareth Evans, Blind Pig - Filliers Barrel Aged Dry Gin 28
I've written out the cocktail ingredients & measurements at the end, thanks to Difford's Guide and Master of Malt for the details!
Matt Whiley kicked off proceedings with his bonkers Bublé Bath - Cask Aged Bathtub Gin and Sweet Vermouth (made with a Horlicks & dark chocolate distillate), with a Marshmallow & Chamomile bubble bath & candles on the side. Then he whipped out a full sized Michael Bublé cardboard cut out (which was a big hit with the judges) and pumped Feeling Good out of the speakers. We were off to a good start.
|Matt Whiley's Bublé Bath|
|Bublé with the "judges"|
Next up was Megaro's own Nico Piazza who mixed Stout Bitters, Benedictine & Contratto Vermouth Rosso with his NY Distilling Chief Gowanus New-Netherland Gin to create his tasty cocktail, A Cluster of Hops, Hopped in the Glass.
Then there was Jim Wrigley. I met Jim a couple of weeks before at the launch of his new bar, Made in the Shade, and it was apparent then that he was entertaining, but I didn't expect the nutty theatrics of his "Nuclear Few-Gin" presentation.
After emerging in a fez and rambling about time travel and Quantum Mixology, he added some live soul guitar from Made in the Shade colleague Jezza Thompson as he poured from his barrel of Few Barrel-Aged Gin, Ginger Liqueur, grapefruit juice, lemon juice & bergamot syrup into some funky boxes. He also sprayed some cinchona bark / quinine tincture if I remember rightly, and most importantly zapped them all with his "sonic screwdriver" to create Schrödinger's Punch. A hard act to follow.
|Nuclear Advanced Flux Fewsion & Jezza on guitar in the background|
Matt Fairhurst sensibly decided that trash-talking Jim Wrigley was the way to go to win some fans in the rowdy judges section. That and some fireworks of course. I'm amazed Bublé survived the experience.
Matt added Campari, Fino Sherry and Baked Orange & Beetroot Shrub to his Smooth Ambler Barrel Aged Gin, and also paired his Mack Daddy Beets concoction with some beetroot, orange & mackerel paté. And fireworks.
|Beetroot, orange & mackerel paté next to indoor fireworks|
|Bublé feeling the heat - has he been gagged?|
|The traditional fire pour method|
Last but not least was Gareth Evans who decided to go down the Belgian route having been given Fillier's Barrel Aged Gin. This meant showing numerous pictures of Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits, before pouring in some mysterious JCVD Power Elixir ("Stella-aged" chartreuse), Power Protein (egg), brussels sprout syrup, and some lemon juice (never forget the lemon juice). The "Muscles from Brussels" was garnished with a picture of JCVD kicking the Eiffel Tower in the face.
|Photos of the versatile JCVD doing the splits in various places|
|Geoff from Maverick Spirits wondering what he had unleashed|
|JCVD Power Elixir - Stella aged chartreuse|
After all that nonsense, the judges quickly and simply voted for their favourite, and comedian Jim Wrigley walked away with the big prize - the opportunity to create his own barrel-aged gin with his name and face (and fez?) on with Maverick Spirits.
Maverick are ones to watch at the moment, bringing some of the finest small batch craft spirits to the UK. It is pretty impressive that they already have 6 barrel-aged gins in the portfolio, alongside a whole host of other wonderful spirits including several brands that weren't on show at Gin Sin. Big thanks to Geoff & co at Maverick, and Ben & Nico at Megaro for hosting such a ridiculous event on a Sunday night.
Matt Whiley - Bublé Bath
35ml Bathtub Gin
35ml Sweet Vermouth - Cocchi do Torino with a Horlicks and dark chocolate distillate.
Nico Piazza - A Cluster of Hops, Hopped in the Glass
25 ml Chief Gowanus
25 ml Contratto Rosso Vermouth
15 ml Benedictine
4 dashes stout bitter.
Jim Wrigley - Schrödinger's Punch
50ml Few Barrel Aged gin
12.5ml Domaine de Canton Ginger liqueur
37.5ml Fresh grapefruit juice
12.5ml Fresh lemon juice
10ml Bergamot syrup
Matt Fairhurst - Mack Daddy Beets
50ml Smooth Amber Barrel Aged gin
15ml Fino sherry
15ml Baked orange and beetroot shrub
Gareth Evans - Muscles from Brussels
40ml Filliers Dry Barrel Aged gin
10ml Jean-Claude Van Damme power elixir
10ml Brussels sprout syrup
20ml squeezed lemon juice
15ml Power protein (egg)