Friday, 22 March 2013


MEATmission is more of the same. Whether that is a good or bad thing depends completely on whether or not you like its older siblings. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the food, booze and vibe so It was never going to be a hard sell for me.

Differences here are that they take reservations before 7pm, the space is more condensed and some food tweaks. Notably, the monkey fingers – a huge serving of buffalo coated and fried chicken pieces. I could eat these every day.

In fact my current buffalo obsession led me onwards to try the buffalo chicken burger which was long overdue after a spate of dead hippies. It’s pretty much a big monkey finger in a bun. The chicken ‘burger’ is absolutely vast – you could quite easily halve it and fill two buns. It’s an unwieldy, greasy mess, and all the better for it.

A reviving glass jug of Brooklyn was punchy at £11 for two pints, but hoarded and guzzled all the same. My companions Piglet and @scouserachel preferred the sanguine hues of their ‘Time Of The Month’ cocktails. 

Service is friendly and extremely competent for this cacophonous, well-lubricated environment. The space is an old Christian mission, hence the name, and the stained glass effect mural is a nod to this. Sort of. If Satanists had worship space, perhaps. Frankly, an old church might be the only way to top this latest venue in terms of gothic drama.

The burgers are high-end slop, the crowd is young and loud, and you have that occasional reward of no-reservations; they thoroughly approve of people lingering to get drunk. It's a go hard or go home sort of place and you’ll already know if you’ll like it or not. I do profusely, and Monkey Fingers are worth crossing town for, but MEATliquor pips it, primarily for being more spacious and a lot more fun. 

Service - 8/10
Value – 7/10 
Tap water tales – 8/10
Staff Hotness8/10
MEATmission on Urbanspoon

Monday, 18 March 2013

Bluebelles of Portobello

Another new-ish opening on northernmost Portobello Road (better known for Golborne Road admittedly), Bluebelles offers a vast brunch menu and fantastic coffee in a familiarly contemporary space.

Confidence and consumption never left West London. But affordable rents did, and with them went a lot of independent spirit. A generation of innovators and entrepreneurs has come of age in a time when most of West London is priced beyond viability. This little quarter has always been eclectic however (and had tribes comparable to ‘hipsters’ decades before anywhere east) and is seemingly returning to the map. 

Pizza East is the notable pin on the map these days, but Lowry & Baker and The Crazy Baker both provide the coffee and carbs integral to resting weary feet and thus underpinning any retail stretch. 

And this is quite the stretch: from beautiful Ally Capellino to London's own Moroccan epicentre, via vintage interiors stores, fancy florists, galleries and high-concept hairdressers, there is a lot of faux-boho and decidedly upscale activity here.

Bluebelles brings a third option within ten metres; a veritable cluster! Finally there is some choice in terms of decent coffee around here. It’s with Caravan beans, and very well executed. As well as the full brunch menu, there is an array of the usual savoury and sweet stuff. 

The café itself is buzzy, loud and illuminated by a selection of filamenty bulbs, as well as those swirly ones from Dragons’ Den. Perhaps they were indecisive, and trialled a few, and then decided mishmash was actually ‘the look’ – who knows. With the urban starkness of exposed brick softened by with the titular blue pastels, it’s a pleasant space. I liked the Moroccan tiles' nod to the Golborne environs.

And it's all very welcome in these final weeks, before this pig trots south of Father Thames….

Bluebelles Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Clove Club

On a stellar trajectory and with much goodwill, the team from Upstairs at The Ten Bells have opened a second venture. The Clove Club is within the old Shoreditch Town Hall; a modern space fronting Old Street and a step change from their pub-luxe origins.

Imaginative renditions of classic cocktails and heightened service levels formalise the experience further. My companions - Chris from All Things Meaty, @scouserachel on Blonde duties and her friend Hannah, were therefore reasonably excited and hopeful.

Food comes as a five-course tasting menu for £47. Theoretically, this appears quite reasonable compared to others especially with their starry reputation. And some finer dining is certainly welcome in these parts. But as we embarked upon the meal, it quickly unravelled.

Radishes with black sesame seeds and gochuchang (Korean mayo) were dramatic enough in presentation. The premise to dip in mayo and then the sesame seeds would stick, I suppose. However the radishes weren’t particularly flavourful and the mayo even less so. I’m not sure how anything could be less Korean-tasting.

Buttermilk fried chicken thigh pieces in basket of pine needles and cones. Dainty enough, and cheap so surely a reasonable portion size? Wrong, it was absolutely miserly. Thigh is cheap too. The apparent ‘pine salt’ was absent upon tasting, so this was basically a lone bite of posh KFC popcorn chicken in a basket of Christmas tat. It tasted fine as most freshly fried chicken does, but was another (and not the last) Emperor’s New Clothes dish of the night.

Cheese Biscuits, Curd and Stems were another oddity. Take the teeniest cheese straws from an M&S wrapper, halve them again and add a dollop of admittedly tasty curd. The upside was that they looked like Frazzles; the downside was that I’d rather have had a 50p bag of those.

Onto the clanger of the night. And even with the above dishes, it did get worse. Enter stage left a massive plate of fennel, with a rancid topping of purple seaweed and the odd walnut. The fennel was steamed but with little seasoning. The seaweed wasn’t a delicate addition of marine flavour, but that of a rotten beach. Possibly with a week-old whale carcass astride it, encircled by carrion feeders and covered in bird shit.

Swiftly looking forward after our table of four unanimously decried the fennel course as ‘total bollocks’, the leek and mussels course wasn’t too different. Yes it had smoked mussels dotted about, but we could not escape the feeling that this was one massive (cheap) steamed veg plate after another. The leek was in its entirety, so the outer layer was an obstacle. For the two diners in our group not eating shellfish, some mini pickled onions were added.  Again, a disappointing show of austerity and blandness.

Rib of beef was delicious. To be clear here, I wanted to like The Clove Club. I walked in with no prejudices or grudges, and I have no ideological hipster or age issues; I probably am a hipster by varying definitions. So this isn’t a hatchet job (or a predetermined one anyway).

It genuinely was a fantastic dish. The beef was exquisitely cooked, the potato batons were fantastic although predictably sparse, and the juices were meaty and full of flavour. A larger dish of that and a rework of the menu concept would have people coming back to eat. I’d be keen to see how many return visitors they get, and how quickly the menu is rewritten.

Desserts were very good; blood orange is never a bad thing and the seasonal badge of honour remains intact. It was served alongside sheep’s milk mousse and more bloody fennel. Perhaps a cruel joke.

Another mousse (more Masterchef shenanigans) was great – ginger this time, adding some long overdue heat to the sweetness and acid from the ‘warm cider’. 

Finally there was a chicory tea cake which we were almost denied. It was given as if a freebie, although it was on the menu. To be honest, we didn’t give a fuck by this point. Speculation was rife about snacks to follow, or even a Meat Mission trip…

The meal did progressively improve, granted but if you serve a trio of starters and two terrible courses, by that point your diners are despondent and disinterested. The beef picked us back up, with some seriously tasty desserts to support that, but then the bill comes along, slaps you in the face and holds that mirror up to your mug-inscribed reflection.

We declined the offer to buy some off-menu cheese, at a hefty surcharge. Wise at this point, just like clockwork we sat back and observed pitiful portions being conveyed off to some other less sceptical mugs. Nothing more than upselling.

I have no idea what this was. Experimentation? Kitchen skills A-Z? A midnight allotment ransacking? I don’t need a concept or direction (although I’m sure some abstract nonsense exists in a PR somewhere) – but I didn’t understand this at all, and some cohesion would provide some context. There was no zing, or spice, or richness, or seasoning, or frankly any excitement in any way.

The clientele, haircuts and tailoring are not what’s wrong with this place, nor is the space or technique. It’s the onanistic boys’ club menu concerned more with culinary adventures than with taste. 

Service - 7/10 
Tap water tales5/10 (filtered charged nominally, but sparkling too) 
Staff Hotness8/10 - our watiress was pretty and friendly. Front of house and bar staff are very natty. 

The Clove Club on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Anderson & Co

Anderson & Co is a café on Peckham’s epicentre of localism and loveliness, Bellenden Road. Shrewdly for a trailblazer in a nascent area, they cover off multiple functions like bakery (sourced from Blackbird round the corner), brunch place, coffee hotspot, deli items and plenty of sweet stuff for the afternoon crowd.

We had a mix of the brunch and bistro menu. The Piglet went for bacon and scrambled eggs on sourdough, which was cooked behind us (the back dining room doubles up as the kitchen), well-seasoned and moderately priced at £5, if dare I say it, moderately sized too.

I had the chicken, chorizo and three bean casserole which was also about £5-6. There was a lone, soggy-skinned chicken drumstick which didn’t rock my world, but beyond that was plenty of punchy chorizo, a rich sauce and lots of warming beans. The zingy salad and excellent sourdough contributed to make this a great value lunch indeed.

Square Mile coffees were a strong point too, including some decent latte art, but I’m always a tad miffed when a long black is priced the same as a latte (both £2.50 – increasingly standard for this part of town). Hot water with a double espresso poured on top doesn’t require the same time, skill or ingredients (milk). Still, tiny gripe.

Anderson & Co is the sort of quality local café every area could do with. They host pop-up dinners, are very friendly and seem to be pivotal for the community, knowingly fortunate enough to have Bellenden Road as their village street. I’m curious to see if they adapt (or not) to the much-hyped General Store opening opposite (who will be doing Workshop Coffee), but Bellenden Road can comfortably handle several decent coffee and food places within its eclectic mix. 

p.s. Bellend. Bellend. Bellend. Obvious and immature perhaps, but I'd be lying to my own puerility if I feigned ignoring it.

Service - 8/10 
Value8/10 (would be a 9 for food, 7 for coffee)
Tap water tales9/10 
Staff Hotness6/10 (homely!)

Anderson & Co on Urbanspoon