Tag Archives: review

Review: MEATliquor

3 Dec

Burger

MEATliquor

74 Welbeck Street,

London,

W1G 0BA

http://www.meatliquor.com/

**No reservations**

MEATliquor, centrally located, not far from Oxford Street, is the creation of Yianni Papoutsis (he of #meateasy and Meat Wagon fame) and Scott Collins (Capital Pubs Company) and is a) a purveyor of mighty fine burgers and lip-smacking pies, b) achingly hip and c) very nearly let-down by atrocious service.

The food, to start on a high, is exactly the kind of thing I love.  Unashamed Americana delights: juicy burgers, cheesey chilli fries, fried chicken, sweet pies and strong cocktails are all done with aplomb.  From the skinny, crisp fries drowned in spicy hot chilli topped with gooey cheese and onion and pickles to the ‘Dead Hippy Burger’ – two soft patties, sauce, huge pickles served on sweet, chewy bread – this was frigging amazing. At about £8 each they’re not a bargain but you’re not being mugged either, they’re reassuringly moderately priced.  The pies though, wow, – we tried “Crack Pie”, Key Lime and Coconut Cream – were unreal.  Only £4 a pop they were a slice of sweet heaven.

The cocktails, served in jam jars with names like Memphis Steamer and Louisiana Jam, were pretty special, and strong too. Yum.  The boys drank Meantime Lager and none of the drinks seemed wildly expensive.

Cocktails

The decor of MEATliquor is none-too-subtle.  Loud red and white walls covered in graffiti, almost no lights, low tables, rolls of kithchen roll on every table and awesome blues and rock-n-roll at an ear-splitting volume.  You may or may not like this but for playing amazing bluegrass and filthy blues alone I can’t wait to get back.

The only thing that could stop me is the service. Sweet momma it was poor.  As you can’t book a table queues grow crazy-fast and the staff were pretty obnoxious the whole time.   When you’re seated it’s incredibly tricky catching their eye and settling the bill was also a protracted affair.  With so much demand on the tables they should have been faster than a speeding bullet. They were not.

Overall though, this is a fun and delicious place to grab a beautiful burger.  If they can work on the service and work on being a little less hip and a little more helpful, then there will be next to nothing wrong with this place.  I would say go.  Go early.  Don’t wear clothes you don’t mind dripping burger-juice on and leave room for pie.

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Review: Byron

2 May

Beautiful

Byron

Ariel Way, Westfield, London, W12 7GF

T – 020 874 37755

Website

I adore burgers.  Proper, simple, tasty burgers.  Be they tender beef patties, squidgy halloumi or succulent chicken, the humble burger in so many forms – except perhaps the filet o’ fish – is a wondrous thing to behold and to scoff.

My roadtrip around the States last year blew my mind in terms of what a great burger could be. Sure, I had a diabolical Burger King – sluttishly devoured in the rental car a few miles outside of Woodstock – and yes, I did chomp my way through a McDonalds cheeseburger and slurp my way through a guilty Vanilla McShake which made me feel over-full like they always do – but there were also burgers so exquisite, so perfect, so delicious that I was close to punching the air in triumph.

French Fries

At Five Guys in Connecticut the burgers were so breathlessly simple – juicy, medium rare patties, soft fluffy bread, a splash of BBQ sauce, a slice of cheese – that I swore I would never eat a burger as fine again… and I am still yet to.  At Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington, the burgers were dripping wet and came with a spicy jalapeño kick.  At a roadside diner towards Cape Cod I slurped my way through a malt shake as dreamy as Brad Pitt.  This is how you do it.

And I think it’s fairly simple.  Here are my* rules to achieving burger heaven:

1. The meat in a beefburger should be good quality, juicy and medium done.  It should taste like it’s just been lifted off a BBQ but not one where Dad’s cremated everything in sight.

2. The bread should be soft as a cloud and ‘squishy’ around the patty.

3. Onions, lettuce, and gherkins are great for me but not, I accept everyone. I do not approve of fresh tomatoes on my hamburgers.

4. Cheese is ALWAYS good.  Monterey Jack, Cheddar, American, Emmental. Yes Yes Yes.

Coke Cola

5. Ketchup, yellow mustard, mayo and sometimes BBQ sauce just make the burger.

6. Fries should be skinny, crispy on the outside, fluffy inside and served with a grotesque amount of full-fat mayo.

Now, it just so happens that on my first trip to Byron in Westfield shopping centre today, that they had totally, utterly and completely nailed my perfect burger experience.  What are the chances, I ask you?

Byron say that they serve ‘proper burgers’ and that they’re “the ultimate comfort food and so satisfying in their simplicity. Hamburgers the way they should be” and how right they are.  From the unfussy, beautiful decor to the perfect, charming and (nicely) laid-back service before I lifted a French fry to my mouth I was happy and relaxed.

I ordered a bowl of fries, a cheese burger and a diet coke, my fiancé opted for a Royale with Cheese (that’s a double cheese burger to the uninitiated).. with cured bacon.  The bread was really soft, lightly grilled and nicely chewy.  Our burgers came medium and were pink and bloody inside; melt in the mouth good.  The fries were skinny, fluffy and I hoovered them up in about a nano-second. Gorgeous.  There were fricking delicious gherkins on our plate and I got to eat Josh’s too – YEAH!  This was just as burgers should be.  And with regular cheese-burgers coming in at £7.50 and a bowl of chips at £2.50 the prices are entirely reasonable too.   The burgers at Byron today were without question the best I have had outside of the States.  I always approve of a good job, well done and by concentrating on simple burgers and making them properly they are doing a really grand job.

Burger Heaven

*Of course, these are just my rules.  What on earth are yours?

Review: The Fish Place

23 Jan

"Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch." Orson Welles

The Fish Place

Address – Vicentia Court, Bridges Wharf, Battersea, London, SW11 3GY

Phone – 020 7095 0410

Email

Open –  Tuesday to Sunday: 12 – 3pm, Tuesday to Saturday: 7pm – 11pm

Whether I’m lying in bed listening to seagulls squawking and soaring above the Thames, as sailing boats bob along with the wind and barges chug down the river, or wrapped-up warm strolling in the park, alongside the dog-walkers and rollerskaters, as I feed the ducks and geese in the lake by the Pumphouse or cloud-spotting and freckle-growing beneath the pagoda, I love Battersea. Where else boasts the twinkly lights on Albert Bridge and the brutal chimneys of the power station.

"I never drink coffee at lunch. I find it keeps me awake for the afternoon." Ronald Reagan

For the last couple of years I’ve lived in a shiny new apartment, Bridges Wharf, right on the riverside, where I’ve spent happy summers enjoying barbeques and sunflower growing competitions on my balcony and watched fireworks pop and bang over the city during dark winter nights.

New to Bridges Wharf is the Fish Place, where Josh and I popped for lunch today, and it is shaping up to be a fantastic neighbour.  The dining rooms are spread over two floors, with huge windows which will let in streams of summer sunshine once this winter gets a move on.  The decor is sharp and crisp, the service polite and friendly but my; it’s the food that deserves your attention.

We began with a decent portion of beautifully toasted fresh bread, popping with nuts and soft fruits, which we slathered with butter*. Gorgeous.  To start I had the Dorset Crab ravioli with buttery savoy cabbage and delicate tarragon; Josh had a beetroot and goat’s cheese salad. My starter was impeccable, the crab soft and fresh, the pasta taut, the cabbage silky sweet.  Josh’s salad was tangy and light and was gobbled up unashamedly fast.

Josh ordered roast beef for his main (I know it IS a fish place, but there something irresistible about a Sunday roast, you’ve got to admit) which was cooked perfectly – rosy pink in the middle – and topped with a rich boozy gravy and the requisite Yorkshire pud. I opted for cod on wilted spinach with parsnip crisps and a herby mash.  Once again my plate was left sparkling as I delighted in bite after bite of creamy mash and fresh, succulent fish. Both meals were the perfect size and bursting with great flavours.

"Lunch is for Wimps." Oliver Stone

Never knowingly underfed, we moved onto desserts and I had a trio of fruity, sharp sorbets whilst Josh plumped for a chocolate fondant and almond ice cream. The sponge was moist and rich and super gooey inside. Delicious.

Feeling tender after a few nights on the liquor we didn’t have any wine but even if you did have a glass or two, the lunchtime menu was an absolute steal: £15 for 2 courses and £18 for 3. There are also deals on Thursday and Friday nights when you can have a bowl of mussels or fish and chips, respectively, with a glass of plonk for £12, and I’ll be scanning my filofax for a free night to try it out.

It’s hard for me not to want the Fish Place to do really well. Not only were the staff incredibly friendly and the food absolutely beautiful, but as it’s my sort-of-next-door-neighbour I want to see it thrive.  I think come the summertime it will.

8/10. We ate as guests of the Fish Place.

"Some weasel took the cork out of my lunch." W. C. Fields

*Josh asked me to add that the bread and butter portions at the Fish Place, unlike in some restaurants, were wonderfully generous. Consider it duly noted.

Review: Joe Allen

12 Dec

The cosy interior of Joe Allen

Joe Allen

13 Exeter Street, London, WC2E 7DT

T – 020 7836 0651

W – http://www.joeallen.co.uk

It’s rather hard to review somewhere when attempting, the following day, to recall exactly what you scoffed – and drank – is a struggle. But this, perhaps, is a sign of a place where it is all too easy to relax, eat well and be very very merry.

After arriving at it’s discreet entrance – on a side street amongst the theatres in Covent Garden- and taking the steps that plunge to a dining room that’s dominated by a long American-style bar and walls adorned with theatrical paraphernalia (for me there’s something thrilling about drinking or eating underground – miles away from the real world outside) you find old-school service and thoroughly top-notch food. A terribly exciting combination.

After opening his first restaurant in New York theatre district in 1965 and finding huge success, Joe Allen decided to recreate the winning “recipe” (bam bam!) in London in 1977 and it has remained one of those wonderful not-so-secret places ever since.  I had never heard of or seen the place, but last Christmas my friend Sam decided to begin, what I hope will grow into a long and healthy tradition, of hosting an informal, long and sozzled lunch there with friends.  This year, as last, we pitched up after noon and drank and ate until dusk before strolling to Gordon’s Wine Bar, near the Embankment, to brave the London winter and sit outside drinking endless bottles of red wine and telling filthy jokes.  The combination of my favourite bar (in Gordons, which also, with it’s smoky underground caverns, piles of cheese and bread and bloody good wine is the most romantic, wonderful place in London), of so many amazing friends in one spot and unfussy, classic grub in JA’s is an absolute stonking highlight of my year.

Good times

It is also very possible – if you’re not a filthy lush and insist on guzzling booze at every opportunity – to leave Joe Allens with a bulging wallet.  The Saturday and Sunday brunch menus come in at £19.50 for 2 courses or £21.50 for 3 and include a glass of fizzy or a very welcome cocktail. There are late supper and pre-theatre specials too. Of course, on Saturday we ordered loads of wine, liquor coffees and bottles of fizz so our wallets we less than protruding…ahem.  Between us we worked our way through celery soup, crab cakes, salads, olive bread, Spanish sausage, smoked haddock tart, sweet potato enchilladas and stilton and biscuits. Not all of it flawless but it all did the trick. I am yet to order an off-menu cheeseburger, which I’ve heard is fab, and I would love to drop by for a hangover breakfast one day.  So while the food isn’t the best you’re going to ever have, the experience just might be.  Intimate, classy, fun. I simply can’t wait for my festive feast next year.

Review: La Bottega

5 Oct

Tricolore

65 Lower Sloane Street, London, SW1W 8HD

Telephone: 020 7730 8844

Website: http://www.labottega65.com/

I was having a chat with friends recently about food – no surprises there then! – and we were having a bit of a banter about what makes a good meal, which nation’s cuisine we would live off for the rest of our lives if we had to, and I was especially keen to know if any of my friends suffer horrifically from the ruinous effects of over-eating on holiday. Trips to France where I guzzle mountains of bread and cheese and slurp oceans of wine seem to make me feel particularly peculiar, but then not everyone is quite as much of a gannet as I am.

In between learning that America has drive-thru Starbucks and declaring my undying love for noodles (whoah momma I just adore them) we settled upon a basic truth. That if the produce is fresh and the recipe is simple, then the food will sing. On a recent trip to Sicily everything my teeth sunk into – the fresh pasta, the swollen tomatoes, the smooth ice cream, everything but everything tasted sublime. Juicy fresh and bursting with flavour. No amount of seasoning, clever preparation or fancy packaging was necessary. The food was, at times humble, it was often cheap, but it was honest and loved and indecently tasty.

Inside the deli

And so I took a trip to La Botegga on my lunchbreak yesterday with a friend – by the way it’s so hard to fill your boots and have a good chinwag in only an hour isn’t it? – and I was in heaven scoffing simple but immensely pleasing Italian fare. I was once told, by my boss, that the sandwiches at La Botegga might just change my life, I thought he was joking. He wasn’t.  As bold as the Italian flag – and red, white and green too- my mozarella, pesto and tomato ciabatta was perfect. Fresh chewy bread, plump, ripe tomatoes, creamy cheese and deep, heavy pesto.

It costs a few quid for a pretty small sandwich, and I tend to buy them only as a payday treat or for when I need a pick-me-up, but trust me, they’re worth every penny.  The deli itself is lovely too. Small and busy, with tables out front for a leisurely cappuccino on a sunny day, and everything within is fresh and beautiful. The pastries and cakes on the bar look impossible to resist, although resist them I have, so far, and the coffee’s so strong it kicks like a mule.

At La Bottega they do, as I was saying with my friends, decent, proper food and they do it without fuss and without bother. What a treat.

Beautiful

Review: Chipotle

20 Jun

Burrito Madness

114-116 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0JR

Telephone: 0207 636 8491

I’m trying really hard to save money at the moment. Josh and I are road-tripping around the States in a few months and let’s just say we’re going to need ‘nough dollar to realise our  unashamedly mega plans. So as well as succumbing to the instant-ready-filth that is Pot Noodles for dinner and a renewed vigor in making packed lunches, I have been looking for cheap ways to fill my belly. On that count, Chipotle is a very very good shout.

A ‘Mexican Grill’, and the first to open in London – there are nearly a 1,000 in the US of A – Chipotle serves a simple no-nonsense menu of burritos, tacos, burrito bowls (a burrito without the tortilla) and salads. Chipolte in the States prides itself on being only national restaurant chain that is committed to serving food made with ingredients from sustainable sources, including naturally raised meat, and organic and local produce. Ace.

Get. In. Me.

So first things first. Do NOT choose a window-seat. I did and in between needing a bib (I confess my vest became oh-so slightly stained with steak-grease, oops) and noticing that my unlady-like burrito-devouring was attracting stares from tourists and Londoners alike, I think, in  retrospect, a badly-lit booth of shame would be the best place to scoff burritos. 

The burritos though. They are big. On offer was chicken, pork and I forget what else, but I opted for steak fajita – after some very kind and helpful guidance from a sweet lady who worked there – and loaded the tortilla with pinto beans, coriander-lime rice, sour cream, cheese, salad and roasted-tomato salsa. The serving-staff were also cool and friendly and quick. With a can of coke (at a round £1) the meal came to £7.95. Not bad for a filling, tasty and fun meal but perhaps not the kind of money I would be prepared to shill every day for lunch. Blimey. If I ate one of those bad-boys every day I would be wearing a muumuu before I knew it.

Tap to unwrap.

The burrito was decent and the meat tender and nicely spiced although perhaps lacking in oomph and that ‘shazam’ taste I love in Mexican cooking. The playlist was eclectic and odd and really fun and really the service – if more places in London, say the tube, were this friendly I would smile alot more. The downsides are few. It could do with being a bit cheaper and they could do with turning the flavour up another notch, say all the way to 11, but until I get to the States  – where I am sure I will go bananas for burritos – this will do nicely.