Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Brixton Village #4: The Joint

You sit outside The Joint, because this tiny little BBQ joint cannot hold any more than their kitchen! Tables and chairs are "upcycled" plastic crates and there is space for about...20 people. 

Service is very efficient and very friendly with great advice through the short menu and a smile.
You basically choose whether you want a bun or a wrap, whether you want that stuffed with BBQ pulled pork or BBQ chicken and what slaw you want with that then await your mighty sized order. Starters are available in the form of wings or ribs for voracious appetites. 

Starting with spicy wings, not knowing how filling the main would be, they were deliciously flavoured but not quite crispy as I enjoy. Very nicely sized though (take note Wishbone!) and lucky there was tasty mint infused water though as the chili crept through. Then onto the main event, a tasty brioche type bun stuffed to the gunnels with  pork (why bother with chicken?!) and a fresh coleslaw with crisp lettuce.

It was all delicious, and everyone else around us seemed delighted at finding themselves at The Joint too. I would highly recommend this little place, bravo guys! 

Monday, 29 April 2013

Brixton Village #3: Wishbone and Franco Manca

Wishbone, Brixton

On finding myself in Brixton – quelle surprise! – with 45 mins to eat and get back to The Ritzy and no preference on what type of food, we decided to try Wishbone since we both agreed it was unfair to avoid a restaurant on someone else’s bad review.

We sat just outside and managed to order from the friendly staff just a minute before the kitchen 
Wet wipes (& dirty cutlery)
closed. We were going more for a “snack” so opted to share the Buffalo wings (with blue cheese sauce) and the “spicy hash brown mess”. The cocktails looked tempting – and similar in lay out to Seven just across the way – but we held off with 3 hours of viewing ahead so no comment there. (It did take 10 minutes to get cokes but with apologies).

So the food. The four wings were spicy. Really spicy. Like REALLY painfully spicy. And I like spice. I described the blue cheese sauce – to my cheese loving accomplice – as not for amateurs. He did not believe me and soon declared it “too blue”. The wings were one big leg which you had to stickily, difficultly, messily tear apart into three if you did not want wing over your face. The hash browns were…hash browns, with jalapenos, and spicy sauce. They were spicy. REALLY spicy.

Wings left, hash browns right
To be honest I ate quickly not only to get to the cinema but to get through the pain and mess. They may have wet wipes on the tables but I think, like a lot of the Meat Liquor franchise, this is a bit overdone. I will not return but am not heartbroken either as I have been told local fav “Wings and Tings” is the place to head and with more to explore I will continue my quest!

As an aside, got Franco Manca take-out pizza finally too. Under cooked dough, £1.95 for a scattering a mushrooms (and that is being generous to them) and surly staff. Not sure this is one to hit again but considering the queues may give it ago, perhaps its Northcote Road outlet.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

City of London Distillery Bar, Blackfriars: 20/20

Location: 22 - 24 Bride's Lane, London, EC4Y 8DT


Visit: Any evening of the working week

To Note: Definitely a week night place so impress your work mates 

Ambiance 5/5
Design 5/5
Drinks 5/5
Staff 5/5 

Part of me feels guilty that I have not reviewed COLD (City of London Distillery) before, but the other part is glad I waited to see how it has evolved ; and that is from a large space filled with ex-pub furniture to a home from home.

There is a lot of PR out there about how COLD developed so I will keep it short but Jamie Baxter – previously of Chase Distillery – set up small vodka and gin still in this basement bar with owner Jonathon just a couple of hundred yards from Blackfriars Bridge down a small side street and both distils and offers tours here. And from that has developed COLD bar, taken over by the inimitable London Bar Consultants and sporting 130 gins with various tonics, garnishes and classic cocktails.

But you want to know what you get here. Well dark green walls lend a warm feeling to this bar and although it is a very large space, there are intimate cubbies with couches at the back, large tables suited to groups that the City will inevitably attract and best of all, plenty of seats at the bar. On top of that every time I have walked through the door it has felt like a bar-hug. (Yes, it is becoming difficult to visit without bumping into someone I know!)

The drinks are presented in this lovely menu (see pic!) and break the gins into regional, style but frankly the staff are SO well trained here just ask them, they all have knowledge and different preferences or go for a flight. The cocktails are beautiful and The Ford is still my favourite adapted from the late 1800’s and showing the cocktail pedigree of the team behind the menu – Lewis and Nate.

But if it wasn’t for the fact that COLD bar hugs you, if it wasn’t for the brilliant drinks (and very generous platters of food) I would still come here for the service. The team has been together from the start and it shows. There is great banter, camaraderie and all underlined with total friendliness to customers. Nate often runs classes there and will show various gins against their own gin, Alfie wears a permanent smile and is a sponge for gin knowledge and Leon – just down from Manchester – is another welcome addition to a strong team with several cocktail competition wins already under his belt.

So all that is left to say is, what are you waiting for?! And for once this space is large enough that you do not need to worry about telling your friends, a nice benefit amongst London’s ever increasing tiny basement joints. Oh and if you are looking for a private party venue…look no further. Superb. 

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A Trip to Barcelona... Dry Martini and Eclipse (15.5/20)

Dry Martini

Location: Aribau 162, Barcelona 08036

Visit: Thursday evening

To Note: The restaurant may look quiet but the bar is always buzzing

Ambiance: 3/5
Design: 5/5
Drinks: 3.5/5
Staff: 4/5

On asking a friend based in Barcelona for recommendations I got a 6 page document and luckily hit upon the Dry Martini bar on a wander home one evening. We looked dubiously through the empty restaurant but on turning the corner we found the bar entrance and pitched up at one end of the long mahogany bar. The walls were lined with old spirits and bottles and there were cabinets like chemistry labs stating “the evolution of the martini”. Staff were pristine in white coats and bow ties.

They do not have a menu, however our charming bar tender simply asked what spirits and flavours we liked, long or short, and got to work. My companion had a long ginger and whisky drink and my gin fizz was fine, a little diluted perhaps. The downside of having no menu = no prices. But we were pleasantly surprised to see the drinks came in at less than €10 each.

The crowd seemed to be a mixture of locals, ex pats and a few tourists but there was a constant hum and overall a bar you could happy wile away a few hours if you are looking for a quieter evening.

Eclipse at W Hotel

Location: Placa de la Rosa del Vents, Barcelona 08039

Visit: Friday evening

To Note: Get there before 7.30 or book ahead, the evenings kick off about 11pm

Ambiance: 3/5
Design: 5/5
Drinks: 3.5/5
Staff: 4/5

Set in the windsurf sail styled building at the end of the harbour and up 26 floors, the Eclipse is
accessed by its own lift from the lobby of W Hotel. We arrived at 7pm as it opened so grabbed a window seat and watched over the next hour as the sun set and the view changed till the lights inside reflected attractively on the windows. Eventually we could no longer see the private beach and pool directly below the bar but watched as the lights of Barcelona lit up everything from the Park Guell to the lighthouse, all contained within the mountains.

The crowd had a fair few tourists, this is after all set in a hotel, but also some glamorous locals and most importantly friendly staff who were stopped every few minutes to take photos! Even if you do not get a window seat, others may prefer to take a sofa that runs down the middle to look out over the harbour from a comfier position.

Cocktails were about €12 - €15 as expected in a bar like this, and you have to pay for water too! However I was impressed by my tequila and wasabi creation even though the barman insisted that mine was the passion fruit one. We swapped after he had left. My companion’s drink – with the passion fruit – missed the mark a little tasting sweet and fruity and not much else.

An hour later we headed for dinner (up another tower down the road) but if money was no object I would happily spend an evening in W, especially as I heard the lift hostess answer that things got pretty buzzy around 11pm…