whathappensinlondon

Posts Tagged ‘I know a great little place’

Pizza in London

In Day to Day on May 10, 2012 at 10:11 pm

GREENWICH/GOODGE STREET/LEICESTER SQUARE

Everyone is a bit burger mad at the moment. Every since The Meatwagon  (now MEATliquor) set up shop in New Cross with its (admittedly delicious) Meateasy pop-up, the craze to find the ‘best burger in London’ has grown into a city-wide obsession. Food critic Marina O’Loughlin nailed it when she said of the joint-de-jour: “If the word means nothing to you, you’re clearly not a burgerphile internet obsessive: it’s been everywhere, like a meaty rash.”

Meateasy

Burgerphile internet obsessive I am not; however I do like the lure of seeking out ‘the best… something’. I can’t really remember what I was looking for when I discovered the Slice Harveseter, but whatever it was became moot once I started reading. Also known as Colin Hagendorf, the 28-year-old New Yorker  has tried a slice of pizza from each and every one of the 362 pizza joints in Manhattan. He told the Wall Street Journal online about the perfect slice:

For Mr. Hagendorf, the best slices display balance above all, cheese and sauce used in moderation upon a solid yet supple crust. He disdains many of the new wave of recession-friendly dollar-per-slice outlets. He also scorns purveyors of Texas-size slices.

Slice Harvester

Two of my extra favourite things about him (apart from devoting two and a half years to eating pizza) are that he used to be a puppeteer and that he describes the start of his expedition as seeking out a project that meant he could “work as little as possible”… whattaguy!

Slice Harvester

I digress. I’m not trying to try every pizza place in London. I don’t need to because I’ve already found two of the best, with a possible third on the way.

First up it’s Bianco43 in Greenwich, South East London. Fairly new, and taking over what used to be a pretty rubbish all-you-can-eat Indian restaurant, the pizzas are excellent and the service is faultless. There are a few good restaurants in Greenwich/Blackheath but as far as Italian food goes, this is the only place I would recommend.

Second, it’s Icco Pizza Restaurant on Goodge Street. Admittedly not the best pizza you will have in your life, it should always be praised on it’s merit of being amazing value for money, especially in a location when they could get away with charging far more. Serving most of their generously sized pizzas for £4, you’d be hard pushed to find anything as cheap that matched up to their standards. I went with a friend who had, for weeks, gone on and on about how mind blowingly good the pizzas were, so my expectations were very high. Much like a canteen, with the noise and chatter to match, they are quick, tasty and best of all, use a buzzer paging system to let you know when your pizza comes out of the oven.

The third is Sartori. I’ve recently discovered the Pizzandevelopment blog and this Italian restaurant just off Leicester Square is their top recommendation. Billed as the ‘best all-rounder… offering stunning antipasti (try the fried Smoked Scamorza), pasta and of course pizza’, I can’t wait to try it out.

Don’t get that in Pizza Express, now do you?

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The Old Vic Tunnels

In Day to Day on April 21, 2012 at 10:39 pm

WATERLOO

The first night I went the Old Vic Tunnels was just incredible. I was lucky enough to be given a ticket to one of their Boom Boom club events at short notice and for once I was glad people know I’m likely not to have plans on a Saturday night.

From the minute you queue up opposite the violinist in full makeup and twiddly moustache, to when you stumble out at the end of the night, these events literally feel like entering a different world.

Any excuse to visit The Old Vic Tunnels should not be missed – even watching paint dry inside the labyrinth caves below Waterloo station would be a worthwhile endeavour. Since acquiring the vast and cavernous space in 2010, the venue has held everything from prohibition parties, to summer camp festivals and of course, the legendary Boom Boom.

Never Give Up

Mixing fantasy with reality to awe-inspiring effect, their next biggie is the 2nd Annual Goblin Masquerade Ball. The fantasy themed night of mischief and revelry is sure to be a good-un (just check out the photos from last year if you need convincing). Goblins, Ogres, Bad Faeries and so much more, it’s dress up time in London’s leading undergrounds arts venue. For this post, I’m going to let the photos do the talking.

Masquerade Ball

Masquerade Ball

One last message we received after buying our tickets: Dearest Revellers, cast aside your thoughts of the next day and abandon yourselves to the mystical excesses and delirious cacophonies of The Goblin King’s Theatre of Trolls…

Masquerade Ball

The Boy with Salt Beef on His Face

In Day to Day on March 5, 2012 at 10:42 pm

SHOREDITCH

“You want to go for a night out in Shoreditch? To a Moroccan bar? And see a silent comedian?!”

Er…yes is the answer. It was actually a great night out, and despite being in scene-kid central, it was far from posey or up it’s own arse. Myself and 4 friends stopped off at a bar before the comedy night – even though I’ve worked and been out in Shoreditch before, I have limited knowledge of the good bars to go to so this was a suggestion from a friend.

Casa Blue, at the top of Brick Lane, was a good pick. Small, so small it looks a bit like a cafe, the decor looks like Car Booty exploded all over the walls and tables – rifles, lanterns, candles, fish bowls, posters, film memorabilia, records – it’s camped up Eastern chintz mixed with some good old fashioned market ‘antiques’. The look was so over the top that I liked it, especially the completely mismatched sofas, chairs and tables (all very worn). Bottles of beer and spirit/mixes were reasonably priced for the area but the fishbowls were £28, which is ridiculous.

And beware of the toilets, they are awful.

Next, we headed to Rich Mix to see my current favourite-comedian-of-all-time, The Boy with Tape on His Face. Ever since seeing him at the Old Vic Tunnels last year, I’ve been desperate to see him again, so when I saw he was headlining at Rich Mix for £10 a ticket, I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do with a Friday night.

Using audience participation and hilarious facial (eye) expressions, he is excellent. Other comedians on the bill that impressed me included Tony Law and Cardinal Burns. Despite getting there late, I feel that we got the best seats in the house, rather than being cramped downstairs we were ushered up to the upstairs viewing gallery, which was almost completely empty and a much better vantage point. The event was well organised and the drinks were cheap – pretty much the perfect night, no?

No. Because, being in Brick Lane it was missing one thing and it wasn’t a curry…

The salt beef bagels from the Beigel Bake are NOT TO BE MISSED. Open 24 hours, I’ve never been here without having to queue, they must churn out hundreds of the damn things on Friday and Saturday nights. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen anyone order anything but a salt beef bagel, but that may be because I get slight tunnel vision when I walk in there and focus on the h-u-g-e pile of beef they cut from.

The portions are beyond generous, with the option of mustard sauce and a gherkin for 20p. Just thinking about it makes me want one and I cannot stress enough how much you should try one if you are visiting or living in London…

I would say that that was the end of the night, and that we all went home, bellies full, content. But that would be a lie.

We went to the Cactus Pit.

The less said about that the better.

Pelton Pub Crawl

In Day to Day on January 10, 2012 at 11:29 pm

GREENWICH

January is pretty dull. Everyone has resolutions to drink less, spend nothing and generally moan their way through the month. My resolution is different, allowing me to drink AND not feel guilty spending a little bit of money. It’s not really a resolution as such, more a task I’ve set myself and it is this: STOP GOING OUT TO THE SAME PLACES ALL THE TIME AND NOT LET EVERY WEEEKEND OF THE YEAR ROLL INTO ONE.

I realise that this has always been the general premise of this blog, but although I have discovered many fantastic places in London since starting it, I’ve also revisited plenty of mediocre ones through sheer laziness.

One new place, which is local BUT I have never been to is The Pelton Arms. Tucked away in the less popular East side of Greenwich, it is the perfect starting point for a mini pub crawl, or somewhere to spend the whole night. Inside it’s cosy, friendly and reminds me a little of The Morden Arms but on a larger scale. The drink selection is good, for me, the wine list extends past red/white/dry/sweet and for beer drinkers there’s a nice selection of ales plus Greenwich Meantime brews on tap.

I didn’t eat when I went (on a Friday night) but I’ve heard repeatedly that the food is excellent with the expected pub gastropub dishes and a full roast on Sundays. They have an extensive events calendar which ranges from knitting to live band nights, which provide much needed (and inexpensive) ways to fill up your evenings during the week. Unfortunately when I visited the Pelton, it was within a much wider Greenwich pub crawl, but I wish I had spend more time there and will definitely be returning. Next up, the Cutty Sark Tavern…

…which was closed for refurbishment, so despite protests from me, the next stop was The Trafalgar Tavern. The Traf does boast some of the best views of the Thames and is one of the oldest pubs in London, but other than that, the food is awful, the service is worse and the whole place is poorly cared for and looked after. Next up…The Gypsy Moth…

A good one for the summer, it has a good garden but is a tourist trap owing to it’s convenient location just outside the Cutty Sark DLR and next to Greenwich Market. They’ve got a quiz night I think, an OK selection of lagers and lots of seating available – the only thing that pisses me off about the place is the service – go in any time, any day, any month, any weather and no matter how busy it is, it will still generally take 20 minutes to get served. It doesn’t help that they insist on permanently closing half of their bar so there’s a big blob of people waiting to get served in the most awkward part of the pub, right next to the toilets and around a massive pole.

Never order food here, I have been told this numerous times but thought I’d try it last month after traipsing round Greenwich and deciding against noodles, Pizza Express and McDonalds. I just wanted something quick and tasty – so myself and a friend both ordered burgers. We were the only people eating, and the kitchen hatch was in plain view. 40 minutes later, no food had arrived. When we went to the bar, there was an awkward conversation between the bar staff where it transpired that our order hadn’t even made it as far as the kitchen. They did apologise and give us a refund but still, NEVER order food in The Gypsy. We ended up in McDonalds and waited 2 minutes.

Selfridges

In Day to Day on January 2, 2012 at 6:04 pm

OXFORD STREET

First of all, this is an apology post/actual ‘What Happens in London’ post. Owing to a hell of a lot of work combined with various annoying setbacks, I have been rather slack (read: totally awful) at posting recently. BUT…do not fear! I will be ignoring all the rules of sensible blog practice and posting round the clock, clogging up your screens.

Once it gets to Christmas I’m quite glad that I no longer work near Oxford Street and we have some distance between us. Just thinking of how busy it is over the whole of November and December makes me panic. Although I think that the festive season should be shoehorned neatly into four weeks of eating, drinking and pretending to like people that you don’t, it always overflows into a large chunk of November, easing us into 25 days of non-stop advertising and Mariah. Selfridges take it to new levels and installed their Christmas shop in their basement this July. Full of glitter, decorations and expensive baubles it is every Christmas eccentrics dream.

Apart from a hellishly busy Christmas shop, Selfridges have had many other amazing things happen to them this year. One of the most exciting is when they opened a branch of Swedish export Monki on the ground floor. A strict secret among those in the know for years, the high street chain is owned by retail giant H&M, and carries a brilliant range of simple, well designed and cut clothes. Clothes that when people ask where you got a top, you could smugly reply that you can’t buy it in the UK. A sort of middle ground between H&M and COS, the opening was met with a mixture of grumpiness (now everyone is in on it) and excitement from most of my friends.

Third up in my run-down of Selfridges memories and general love, is the Bompas and Parr moat that was installed on the rooftop of the department store earlier this year. The photos are my favourite part, as the stunt is so visually appealing but apparently those who did manage to get tickets were cold and a bit confused as the experience was a slightly dull, very rocky boat ride. Check out their website for other amazing projects, like their jelly creations.

I really don’t want to go…

In Day to Day on October 4, 2011 at 9:28 pm

COVENT GARDEN

It’s always the fall back – the mid meeting place that seems like the easy option, failsafe plan b, c or d. For me however, going to Covent Garden always smacks of returning to my 12 year old self (jaunts up to London with my girlie friends, the day would consist of ‘shopping’ around Covent Garden and meeting up with other people (boys!) that we could have just met up with locally). When I say shopping, what I really mean is browsing through Paperchase, Quiksilver and Octopus and coming back with a funny jelly watch, a pair of tie dye jeans or some hilarious writing paper.

Anyway…less reminiscing and nostalgia and more reviewing. Covent Garden is very touristy: lots of mimes painted in silver, gold and white as well as plenty of other performers commanding large crowds by riding round on unicycles with a mic and large ego. One such performer, who I haven’t seen in CG but really wish I had, is Sam Wills

I discovered him at The Old Vic Tunnels (review here) as his alter ego, The Boy With Tape on His Face and am now slightly obsessed with seeing him again (should you wish to, his next London date is at the Underbelly Festival).

I’ve been to the Punch and Judy, which overlooks the performers, numerous times after making plans to meet friends and said plans being finalised so late that last resorting has called for 4pm desperate emails of ‘OK, we’ll meet in the Punch and go from there’.

From there usually means the Roadhouse (I know), the now defunct Garden Club or, if common sense and the motivation for a longer walk prevails, Gordon’s Wine Bar. My favourite by far, I have reviewed Gordon’s and praised it’s offer many times that maybe I should stop; also, I suppose it’s not really in Covent Garden, is it?

Other options include Walkabout, or The Chandos. I have ended up in the  Chandos with people visiting me in London, colleagues, friends and just about everyone else on my radar that has passed through the Charing Cross – South East London migration path on Thursday and Friday evenings. A favourite because it is cheap, friendly and very central, go to the upstairs bar for a seat because most people don’t even know it exists so shhhh! I have to this date, only even been in Walkabout once and intend to keep it that way.

Be Cool.

In Day to Day on August 1, 2011 at 9:01 pm

IN WATER

The weather is finally showing some signs of being summer and today I’m looking to cool down and swim off! As I’m not going anywhere near a beach over the next few months, I will be making the most of London’s pools, lakes and lido’s by seeking out the best (and most probably the worst) poolside picks our fair city has to offer.

Swimming in London is definitely tricky. Your options are limited by the obvious lack of coast but do include public baths *shudder*, private member pools – Shoreditch House has one on the roof – and lido’s. My favourite are the lido’s. Mainly established during the twenties and thirties, the best ones are those that aren’t constantly pushed in the Sunday supplements, i.e. stay away from London Fields and try the Brockwell Park Lido, which boasts an Olympic sized pool, or the Tooting Bec Boating Lake, which is the largest open-air pool in the country.

Those who are slightly adventurous may well want to try swimming in the Serpentine. Pretty cold, but also pretty impressive if you can pull it off – it’s only £4 so if you’re looking to do one of those ‘Guess what I did the other day?’ conversation starters, it is totally perfect.

 If you don’t fancy stripping off (and let’s face it, it’s not that hot), the Waterline photography exhibition is still showing at the Maritime museum until October; this is WELL worth a visit, not just for the brilliant exhibition but also to see the new extension they have just opened. After being a building site for months and months, the completed works are a good example of modern architecture blending in with old design without looking tacky. For a quick review of the Waterline exhibition, click here.

Dwarves on tour

In Day to Day on July 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm

TWICKENHAM

It’s 10 on a Saturday morning , I’m on a packed train full of oompa loompas, smurfs and men in drag – all drinking. My friend, Snow White, and us (her dwarves) drew a fair few stares from the early morning tourists on the way to Waterloo, but now, amongst our own people we feel very much at home. In a slightly surreal start to my day we’re on our way to the annual Twickenham Rugby 7s for charity.

The first I knew of Rugby 7s was from an old uni friend, born in Hong Kong, who insisted that the HK7s were the highlight of the year. Everyone dresses up, everyone drinks, someone usually streaks and the entire rugby playing community gets involved; although I’m not known for being an avid sports fan, this was enough to get me on board. The British version is much the same as Hong Kong, although due to a number of the high profile teams dropping out this year, attendance was slightly lower than normal.

The strange choice of entertainment was a beat box champion and a disappointing cheerleading squad, who didn’t really help to get the crowd excited (by the afternoon, everyone was merry enough for this not to be a problem). In the morning, loads of people set up in the carpark outside with picnics and booze on tables; as the tickets allow re-entry (a huge bonus to a long event like this) it was really nice to dip in and out of the rugby throughout the day. I won’t try to relay you all with too much play-by-play rugby chat as undoubtedly I’ll manage to get it wrong: but all you really need to know the Samurai’s won in the final against Esher.

With more funny names, the Golden Wasps were absolutely thrashed by the Wooden Spoon’s women’s team, who were led to victory by just one player who stood out by miles in terms of talent on the pitch (see, I almost sound knowledgeable). A group of around 20 of us who were sufficiently full of cider, sausage rolls and birthday cake then made our way over to Richmond. At The White Cross, we sat on the balcony admiring their enviable view of the river and amazing outdoor garden.

All in all, a wonderful, but-not-to-be-repeated-regularly Saturday of drinking, eating and dressing up – I hasten to add that Sunday was a painful day of self-reflection and regret.

Fish! Beer! Wine! Now!

In Day to Day on July 7, 2011 at 9:43 pm

LONDON BRIDGE!

Despite reviewing Borough Market and The George Inn already, I’m not quite done with the Borough area just yet as I feel that it offers far more than Monmouth coffee, tourists, after-work and pre-hometime drinks that it is usually associated with. There are a number of really good restaurants in the area, namely Fish! which is the place to go for some of the best affordable fresh seafood in London, Tas, which offers fantastic Greek cuisine and Cafe Borro for paella and grilled meat.

Back to Fish! (this exclamation mark is really messing with the tone of the piece), everytime I write it I feel that I need to follow with a quip and a dance. So, the restaurant-in-question serves classic fish and chips, alongside more quirky swordfish club sandwiches and luxurious whole lobster with garlic butter. The side menu includes mushy peas and mash so I was more than happy. Word of advice: do not order the club sandwich which comes with chips, and then order extra sides ‘just in case’ it’s not enough. It is.

Sitting in the outside seating area on Saturday night was really pleasant, and oh-so civilised but a just a little cold (read my Pig Post for warm outdoor eating tips). The Pleasantville moment was however shattered by an enthusiastic (and steaming drunk) man screaming at us that the end was nigh. We decided that maybe it was, so paid and rolled our way to the Southwark Tavern.

I love the Tavern because it has little cells downstairs which they have converted into booths (a bit like the Templar in Holborn), and it is never too crowded even though it’s smack bang in the middle of the central-to-Shoreditch migration path on the weekend. It also has nice house white wine, lots of cider, decent ale and homemade lemonade Pimms.

Now for one last thing, for snacks, try the Cafe Brood just around the corner for good (if a little pricey) paella, grilled lamb and salady bits and pieces – unfortunately the menu section on their website merely provides a short summation of the sorts of food to expect plus  a note that there are far too many too list. If you are a food voyeur/obsessive like me, this is annoying as I like to plan what I might order and then change my mind 7 or 8 times before even sitting down.

For good measure though, here is a link to their page.

Piggin’ Good

In Day to Day on July 6, 2011 at 7:40 pm

VAUXHALL

The Fentiman Arms was an inspired choice last night for an after work drink up/leaving drinks/summer party/any-excuse. Located just down the road from the Oval, I feel that it is one of those lesser known boozers that does well by word of mouth in the area rather than being an obvious choice for visitors to the grounds. With a huge decking area, awning shades, night heaters and tartan throws to ward off chills, we stayed outside all evening looking out over the tables on the lower level of the garden (where they also have a second bar for busy nights).

The food, prepared for a group of 15 of us was very porky – scotch eggs (which were delicious), mini sausages covered in wholegrain mustard, pork pies and sausage rolls – I suspect there was a pig farm behind the beer garden or, more likely, someone had royally messed up the food order last week. My joke request for a side of bacon rashers went down like a lead balloon.

However, the food was really good and we did get some olives and chips thrown in to provide some variety on the pig theme for the evening. Drinks were jugs of elderflower martinis, Pimm’s (complete with all the right fruits) and bottles of Prosecco; the service was professional, friendly and quick. The main reason I am recommending it is that good pubs with outdoor areas to match the inside bar are a rarity in London (it’s usually one or the other…or neither) so The Fentiman is definitely onto a winner this summer with its offering of both to such high standards.

There was a nice crowd in, mainly after workers on their way home, but also a fair few couples and small famililes, which created a nice mix. It’s one of those places where you walk past outside and hear the ‘pub-laughter’ from the garden and instantly wish you were on the other side, glass in hand. Before I put anyone off, I noticed, actually, that we were the only table to have been dished up the cast of Babe.