Luton doesn’t have many good restaurants. It had even fewer when I was a kid. But we went out to dinner regularly as a family, either to the local Beefeater or, in later years, to our favourite local Chinese restaurant, long since closed.

Nearly without fail, my sister and I would order prawn cocktails to start and big fat steaks, cooked medium rare and woe betide the chef who thought he knew better and sent them out medium well. Pops would delight in our weekly horror as he not only ordered his steak well done but egged them on to make sure it really was. Mum was never a big red meat fan and switched between the fish, chicken and vegetarian options.

As teens, we frequented the pub side of the Tavern instead of the restaurant, it’s probably where I had my first pint of beer, southern comfort and ice, tia maria and coke!

Until recently, I’d not been back for more than twenty years.

But recently, my sister and I decided to drag Pops out of the house for Sunday lunch while mum was away birdwatching. Since he fell off a horse in Nepal a few months ago, broke some ribs and fractured his back (he ain’t ever gonna age gracefully, not that we’d have it any other way), he’s been forced to stop his daily gym workouts and hasn’t really been able to do much walking either. We left the choice to him and he suggested the Tavern; still being a regular and knowing many of the staff by name.

Of course, it’s been refurbished since my last visit, probably a fair few times, and it was weirdly familiar and unfamiliar all at once. It’s a Beefeater pub, they’re a chain, they all look the same, you know the style…

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Feeling nostalgic, my sister and I both chose prawn cocktail (£4.99) followed by a 10oz Rib-Eye (£16.79), medium as per the waitress’ recommendation. She rightly pointed out that this fatty cut needs a bit of extra cooking to melt the fat, which makes it much tastier to eat. We added peppercorn and brandy sauce (£1.49) and upgraded the chips to Ultimate ones for an additional 69p. (That’s £18.97 for the complete dish).

Prawn cocktail was proper old school with a basic salad, lots of fairly bland but perfectly acceptable prawns drowned under a classic cloying Marie Rose sauce. Served with brown bread (and butter on request) it was exactly what I wanted. Of course, it could be improved by big fresh jumbo prawns but sometimes chefs are so keen to add their own twist that they lose sight of the pleasure of bouncy protein covered in sweet pink goo!

The rib eye steak was surprisingly good, far better texture and taste than I expected and the cooking was just right. Accompaniments were all good and whilst it wasn’t the very best steak I’ve eaten, it was certainly better than many I’ve been charged far more for in central London. It wasn’t a bargain either, I think the price is high for the restaurant but fair – with the exception of the T-bone which is £1 more, it’s the most expensive item on the menu.

Pops did comment that it was better than usual. It’s one of his regular choices and he says it’s not consistently as good as the ones we ate on this visit. It goes up and down, though it’s always the right side of acceptable.

In other good news: somewhere along the way, in the 30 or so years since our regular family visits, Pops has gradually switched from ordering his meat well done to medium rare. But he still likes to make the joke about visiting McDonald’s on the way home!

 

I am not a classy bird. The truth is that words like elegant, sophisticated and lady-like are not ones you’d choose to describe me… and that’s OK by me. On the inside, I’d like to think I’m intelligent, fun, passionate, surprising and all kinds of other interesting things… and I reckon those aspects of me are far more worthy of attention than my body, my clothes, shoes and handbag, how I wear my hair, the fact that I don’t wear make-up or that I walk a little pigeon-toed.

I say this because The Sportsman in Kent reminds me of myself in pub form.

On the outside, the pub looks a little tatty, perhaps even unkempt. If you judged it on its cover, you might not even bother to stop, let alone go in and get to know it. But step inside and it’s warm and welcoming. The space is stripped back and open, with wooden floors, (generously sized, uncovered) tables, chairs and panelling. There are dramatic paintings of seascapes hanging on plain pale walls. Early on an October evening, huge windows spill in lots of light; later candles and pendant lights keep things cheery. And the staff are full of smiles, as they bustle behind the bar getting ready for the dinner service. Throughout the evening they are attentive, eager to help and to share the delight of dinner in this wonderful place.

That’s what this place is famous for, you see.

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Self-taught chef-patron Steve Harris and wine-expert brother Phil took over The Sportsman in 1999, with financial support from another brother, Damian. Since then, it’s built a huge fan base of locals and visitors alike and was awarded a Michelin star in 2008. In an interview after gaining the star, former City worker Harris explained that he felt many top restaurants in ’90s London tended to alienate ordinary people “from the experience by all the flummery that goes with it”. He wanted to “democratise” good food by serving it without the frills and fuss. From the start, he focused on using local, seasonal ingredients – something that’s matter of course now but was far less so when he opened. Brother Phil created an affordable and appealing wine list. As a Shepherd Neame pub, the beer was already taken care of.

Our meal is exactly what Harris envisaged – the highest quality of food, cooked and presented skillfully and inventively, served in an informal and relaxing setting by staff who are friendly and knowledgeable rather than stiff or formal. It’s a wonderful combination.

Having made sure to request it in advance, we enjoy the tasting menu which gives us the opportunity to try a much wider selection of Harris’ cooking.

We are offered the choice of seeing the menu in advance or experiencing it as a surprise. We choose the latter, though I do cave and ask for the menu two thirds of the way through the meal! Several of the courses served aren’t listed, so a few hastily scribbled notes serve as a memory jogger.

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Pickled herring with crab apple jelly, cream cheese and soda bread and parmesan and Ashore cheese and tomato biscuits.

Tasty little bites to kick things off…

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Egg yolk, smoked eel, parsley sauce and horseradish cream with sherry vinegar.

I could eat ten of these, though it’s as well I don’t, given all that is to come. Bursting with soft liquid flavour and colours that are each reassuringly robust and yet work with each other beautifully.

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Baked rock oyster, Jersey cream, rhubarb granita, crystallised seaweed.

I’ve eaten oysters plenty of times but never really understood what the fuss has been about. This dish, and the one after, really open my eyes to just how delightful the delicate flavour and texture of an oyster can be, when carefully paired with supporting elements.

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Poached rock oyster, beurre blanc, pickled cucumber, avruga caviar.

If the previous dish opened my eyes, this one opens my heart to oysters! I’ll never look at them in the same way again. Yes, it’s that astounding!

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Bread, butter and salt.

Not only are the three breads home-made – rosemary and red onion foccacia, sourdough and malted soda bread – but the butter is home-churned and even the salt is made from Seasalter sea water. I like all the breads but the dark soda bread in particular is a source of joy.

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Salt-baked celeriac, stewed apple and fresh cheese.

I’ve encountered salt-baked celeriac a few times in the last couple of years, in Scandinavian cookery demonstrations and classes, mostly. I really like it’s earthy taste and slight sweetness. I find the mustardy sauce a little too strong in this dish, though.

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Crab, carrot and hollandaise.

I’m not sure the carrot adds much on the taste front and though the colour is pretty, I find the crunch a little odd against the crab. But the crab is super! Fresh and sweet and generous and gone far too quickly!

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Slip sole in seaweed butter.

Slip sole, so Wiki informs me, is simply the name we give to small common sole; I haven’t come across it before. Firm, delicate and buttery but easy to slip off the bone, it’s fantastically well paired with the salty mineral flavours of the seaweed butter.

Later, at the bar, Phillip Harris tells me about how they dry the seaweed themselves; I’m minded to try some Mara Seaweed varieties mixed with butter and served over white fish or scallops.

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Brill braised in vin jaune with bearded tooth fungus.

This simple dish is my favourite of the whole meal. The way the vin jaune sets off the fish without overwhelming it is an utter delight. With a little sweet crunch from the beans and soft woodiness from the mushrooms, this plate is so tasty, so simple and so well-balanced I am left wondering why I don’t eat seafood more often.

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Lamb from Monkshill Farm (1).

Little two-bite breaded morsels of tender lamb belly are served with a fresh mint sauce. Unlike the usual vinegary condiment, this mint sauce is beautifully sweet and sharp and herbaceous and I find myself drinking sip after sip from the little cup, after the lamb is eaten. Of course, I haven’t realised another lamb dish is coming but our waitress doesn’t blink an eyelid and brings out more sauce before the next dish arrives.

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Lamb from Monkshill Farm (2).

The second serving of lamb includes a plump piece of rump and a cube of braised lamb shoulder. The first is a touch chewier than expected, but tastes very good. The second is marvellously soft and richly flavoured by its high fat content. I love the crispy charred spring onions and fresh sweet carrot but yearn for a little more sauce.

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Wild bramble ice lolly.

Essence of blackberries, the lolly starts to melt quickly. It’s served with a “cake cream” made from Madeira cake, cream and milk and the contrast between that and the juicy ice lolly is almost shocking to the palate. Fabulous!

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Meringue ice cream, sea buckthorn and seawater.

When I’ve had sea buckthorn before, this citrussy fruit must have been sweetened quite a bit. Here it’s very sharp, too sharp for me, and my jaws clench against the astringency. Pete, on the other hand, finds it delicious.

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Jasmine tea junket with rosehip sauce and breakfast crunch.

This dish isn’t on the tasting menu, but having spotted it on the à la carte puddings board, I asked earlier whether we might add it on as an extra or if one of us could swap out the meringue and buckthorn dessert. I’ve heard of junket, you see, but don’t think I’ve tried it before and I’d like to. Phillip graciously makes it a swap so Pete and share one of each between us. I am glad to try this, especially as the other dessert is too sharp for me. I love the wobbly nature of the set milk junket – though I struggle to detect any jasmine – and I enjoy the fruity sauce and the slightly incongruous crunch of granola and toasted seeds on top.

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Petit fours.

Already full to bursting, we only just manage these tiny custard and raspberry and chocolate tarts; crumbly pastry, gooey fillings. A lovely full stop to an epic meal.

All of this for just £65 per head (tasting menu) is astonishingly good value; a hard-to-get-my-head-around kind of good value, honestly speaking. The food, the setting, the service and the price all make it a no-brainer that this place is as well-loved as it is. Reservations are most definitely needed. The tasting menu must be booked 48 hours in advance.

We stayed overnight in a seafront hotel in nearby Whitstable and drove home through the most spectacular sheet lightning display I’ve ever seen. Bright enough to light up everything around us like day – if I’d been told it was a lightshow put on by The Sportsman, I might well have believed it. They are awfully talented!

Sportsman on Urbanspoon 
Square Meal

 

Some of you know that my Pete is a keen home brewer. He often writes about his efforts over on Pete Drinks.

On Wednesday, he spent the day at The Bull, a wonderful pub in Highgate with its own brewery on site. With their brewer Jenna and assistant brewer Jack on hand to help, Pete made his own recipe coffee porter, getting properly stuck in at all steps – weighing the ingredients, cleaning and heating the mashtun, adding the ingredients, sparging, transferring to the kettle, boiling the wort, adding hops, boiling, adding the coffee, transferring to the fermenter, adjusting the gravity and pitching the yeast.

He said it was reassuringly like the process he follows at home, just on a larger scale with (slightly) fancier equipment! Read his post on the experience, here.

If you’re London based, please come along to The Bull on the evening of November 12th, when Pete’s Coffee Porter will be launched. You can view the Facebook invitation here.

(Don’t worry if you can’t make it on the night, the beer will remain on tap for a few weeks until it runs out).

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I hope you can join us!

signed,
Mrs Proud Wife

 

I first tasted Jesse Dunford Wood’s cooking at his pub, The Mall Tavern, in Notting Hill. I loved it! Now, Dunford Wood is bringing his food to North London.

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The Parlour in Kensal Green opened less than two weeks before our visit, but on the Saturday we went for dinner, the dining room was full and the bar room had a fair number of punters too, though space for plenty more. This is a complete makeover within the shell of former pub The Regent, and the new look is a light and bright mish-mash of new and old styles with painted wooden wall panels below stark white tiles, simple pared back tables and chairs and plain wooden floors.

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The menu will broadly be familiar to fans of The Mall Tavern, though it’s not identical. But Dunford Wood’s dense brown soda bread, house smoked salmon, mushroom pate and chicken liver pate with piccalilli and crispbreads, cow pie, arctic rolls and salted caramel rolos are all present.

Pete was particularly impressed by the range of beer, with about 10 beers on tap – including beers from London Fields Brewery, Camden Town Brewery and Meantime – and an interesting selection of cans and bottles – the trendy breweries like Kernel and Brewdog were represented, but so too were more unusual ones such as Maui Brewing from Hawaii.

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Fresh Warm Soda Bread & Butter (£1.50)

This dense brown soda bread, served warm, is sweet, salty and really full of flavour. Soft whipped butter is commendably easy to spread.

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Popcorn Chicken Nuggets (£5.00)

Have these chicken poppers as a bar snack, whilst you consider the rest of the menu, or as a starter. Moist white chicken, piping hot, inside a fantastically crunchy coating, which we think has crumbed popcorn mixed in for flavour and served with mayo and popcorn, these are addictive and there was a collective sigh of sadness as we reached the bottom of the dish.

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‘PGT Village’ Smoked Salmon & Soda Bread (£9.00)

Just as I remembered from The Mall Tavern, the smoked salmon is rich, buttery, silky and with a well-judged light smoke that doesn’t overwhelm the flavours of the salmon. Lovely.

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Platter of Parlour’s Pates & Pickles (£12.50)

This probably goes without saying, but if you order the pates and pickles for a party of two, don’t also have the smoked salmon and popcorn chicken nuggets! The platter is enormous and plenty to share between three, maybe four.

Mushroom pate, with silky shimeji mushrooms on top, is robustly mushroomy; rather than being blended to within an inch of its life, has the pleasing texture of chopped mushrooms throughout.

Chicken liver pate in a jar is liquid runny, all the better for spooning onto the mug of crisp breads and crackers provided. Beautifully smooth, no hint of the graininess that can be present, it’s suitably rich, though the red onions and salad leaves on top cut through that nicely.

Salmon pate is served in a generous quenelle, surrounded by tiny piped dollops of sour cream or crème fraiche, sliced cornichons and spoonfuls of caviar. Again, very nice on that crunchy crispbread.

A small pot of piccalilli is chock full of large chunks of vegetables and has a strong, mustard kick.

But probably my favourite element, surprisingly, is the plate of pickled carrot ribbons – three different carrot varieties providing a carnival of colour, still crunchy but soaked in a nicely balanced sweet sharp vinegar.

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Cheese Burger & Chips (Beef or Veggie) (£12.00)

Pete’s very happy with the burger, praising in particular the moistness of the patty and its great flavour. Perhaps it could have been a little larger, lost a little in the enormous bun. And I’d have liked a wet condiment inside; perhaps I’d have poured in some of the ketchup and mayo that came with the chips. But very good.

And those chips were fantastic! A little over-salted, we felt, but really beautifully cooked.

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Pot Roast Chicken with Tarragon & Lemon (£13.50)

This dish was the only disappointment of the meal for me. From the description, I’d expected something hearty and considerably more rustic, the chicken version of Jesse’s famous cow pie. But the chi-chi presentation was a shock, and not in keeping with the venue or the rest of the menu. Further, the dish disappointed on taste – the chicken was nicely cooked but filled with an extremely bland and gluey green stodge with no discernable flavour, certainly not tarragon; the skin was flaccid rather than crisp, the whole parsnips were lacking in flavour too, though the parsnip crisps were lovely and there was a tiny puddle of parsnip puree beneath one of the pieces of chicken that was delicious, if only there had been more than two forkfuls of it; the spinach at the sides of the plate was stone cold. For my money, I’d rather have a much homelier dish with more focus on flavour than presentation.

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A Toasted Marshmallow Wagon Wheel (£5.00)

Back to form with the show stopper wagon wheel. Served first in two halves, Jesse came along and blowtorched the soft meringues, before advising us to sandwich the halves together and squish. Much better than the commercial version of my child hood, this combination of thin and chewy cookies, chocolate spread and gooey meringues was an absolute winner.

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Muscovado and Granola Arctic Roll Slice (£1.50)

The muscovado sponge was a thing of beauty, but neither of us were convinced by the chewy texture of granola in the ice cream. Nice, but I think Jesse’s classic arctic roll is better, along with some of this other unusual flavours.

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Salted Caramel Chocolate Rolos (£3.00)

Oh, the salted caramel chocolate rolos! Cheekily imitated by other restaurants, and for good reason, these are intense! The dark chocolate shell is delightfully thin, just a little pressure and the ball breaks open to release its bounty. And the liquid caramel centre has an intense, dark caramel flavour that is perfectly balanced by the salt.

As the menu says, they’re even available to take away. If you can’t find space, be sure to take a bag with you for later.

 

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What I like most about the Parlour, alongside the attractive space and the genuinely warm and helpful welcome from all the staff, is a menu that is confidently a little different from the hundreds of same same pub menus that proliferate all over the UK.

 

I’m sooo sorry about the photographs; these are probably the worst ones I’ve ever used in a blog post! For some reason, the point and shoot struggled to focus and the shutter speeds were really slow, hence the blurriness. It was dark, but not unusually so, and I didn’t have any funny settings selected, so I’ve no idea what went wrong. But as the photos give an impression of the evening, I’m wearing my embarrassed face and sharing them anyway.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of The Parlour. With special thanks to Jesse, Maxi, Lorean and Alex for looking after us so well.

The Parlour on Urbanspoon

 

Pork from happy pigs tastes better. It really does!

That was certainly the case for the feast of Dingley Dell pork served up at the Leather Bottle, during one of their Flying Visits.

The pub’s huge garden was decked out in bunting, with rows of picnic tables laid out ready for eager pork eaters to take their seats. We were in one of the chalet huts towards one side of the garden, from where we could look out over the main dining area. The BBQ and kitchen were set up near the top of the garden.

We watched a butchery demonstration from a very charming and experienced butcher, who deftly broke down a side of pig. There were short introductory talks by Dingley Dell’s Mark Hayward, who told us about his farm, his pigs and his pork. We enjoyed live entertainment from Suffolk band The Broadside Boys during the evening.

Here are some images from the event, followed by the menu.

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The garden chalet tables

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Setting up tables ready for happy feasters

Mark Hayward, Dingley Dell
Dingley Dell’s Mark Hayward

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Butchery demonstration

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The whole hog board

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Pig cheeks, jelly and peas

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Mark’s whole spitted hog

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18 hr cooked pulled pork

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St Louis pork ribs

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The team behind the feast

 

Whole Hog Board: potted brawn, crispy pigs ears, black pudding trotter fritters and mini hot dogs served with gooseberry chutney and purple basil jam – cooked by Stephen Bushnell and Chris Knights of Youngs Pubs.

Apple smoked pig cheeks with mead jelly and pea puree – cooked by Paul Sowden of The Elk Bar in Fulham.

The three mains, to come next, were served with a selection of sides including fantastic sweet potato fries, a root coleslaw and a green salad with heritage tomatoes.

Whole spitted hog, brined with Aspall’s apple juice and cider, then rubbed, marinated, mopped and sauced – cooked by Mark Poynton from Alimentum.

18 hr cooked pulled pork shoulder cooked with herbs and infused with hickory – cooked by Mark Poynton from Alimentum.

St Louis pork ribs cherry smoked with a BBQ and black treacle glaze served with individual terracotta pot bread – cooked by 3 times British BBQ champion and 5 times World finalist Andy Annat.

There was also a pork inspired dessert from Stephen and Chris, which I missed as I had a long journey home.

Meantime and Aspall’s provided drinks matches for each course, though I can’t comment on these as I stuck to soft drinks.

 

My favourites were the mini hot dogs, black pudding trotter fritters and potted brawn from the whole hog board, and the pork ribs and the sweet potato fries from the mains. I also liked the smoked pig cheeks with mead jelly and pea puree better than most on our table, though I agreed with others that serving it in a half pint mug made it impossible to eat easily, resulting in a first few mouthfuls of (unnecessarily copious) leaves, then the pea puree and finally the cheeks and jelly. I did like the combination of cheeks, jelly and peas but would rather have been given them on a regular plate.

 

This feast was priced at just £25 per person, and given that it included matching drinks throughout, I think that’s a terrific deal. I also really liked the pub itself, though we spent little time inside. For those living locally, I’d imagine it’s a lovely place for drinks or dinner.

 

Many thanks to the Leather Bottle and Saffron Powell (from We Love Food) for additional images.

Kavey Eats attended Dingley Dell’s Flying Visit as a guest.

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We don’t go to Hackney often, as it’s not the easiest journey for us on public transport, but we were invited by Justina, founder of The Craft Beer Social Club to attend one of her beer and food pairing events at new brewpub, Duke’s Brew & Cue and were keen to give both the social club and the brewpub a try.

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Founded by Byron Knight and Logan Plant (fab names, no?), the brewery is called Beavertown (after an nickname for the area, honest!) and it supplies both the pub itself and a handful of other outlets with an interesting mix of mainly American-inspired craft beers. Like our local favourite, The Bull in Highgate, the brewery is squeezed into a corner of the kitchen – you can see it if you peer in.

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The setting is rough and ready, what I’m starting to think of as dive bar chic, so prevalent has it become lately. But it looks good, and the place was absolutely buzzing on the Tuesday night of our visit.

Although we had a nice chat with Byron, his partner Logan, who looks after the brewery, wasn’t around. However, cellar master Hannah did an amazing job of introducing the beers and telling us all about them. In fact, her knowledge and huge personality was a big part of the attraction of the place, for me.

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Food wise, it was a mixed bag. The chef had laid on a special menu for the tasting.

Garlic bruschetta, and two goat’s cheese nibbles were mediocre. They were bland rather than offensive but I was disappointed.

The next dish, Sweet Spicy Miso Cod turned things around. Fantastically flavoured, succulent and simply presented with pak choi, this was just delightful and I could have eaten three plates of it in a row! The only sad news is that’s not a normal menu item, so it’s unlikely I (or you) would be able to order it on a future visit.

Next came absolutely enormous Succulent Smoked Beef Ribs. These were great, served with coleslaw and pickled gherkin though I’d have liked a portion of chips along side. These definitely brought out the cave man in everyone, and were good a match for the feel of the place and the wide range of beers on offer.

Dessert was another let down, with a dry and overly sweet chocolate brownie served with candied espresso beans and caramel ice cream. The espresso beans were good and the caramel ice cream pleasant enough, but the brownie was a crime against chocolate.

The normal menu is short and sweet, with pulled pork sliders, pork ribs and beef ribs, a range of steaks, a couple of American salads and a lone veggie burger. Sides include fried pickles and okra with ranch dressing, pit smoked baked beans and pork, seasoned fries, creamed spinach and macaroni cheese. Solidly American and popular with the local crowd.

I’d like to go back and try more of this, as those beef ribs were tasty!

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Read more about the beer in Pete’s review.

 

The Craft Beer Social Club runs beer tasting and brewer events around London. Kavey Eats and Pete Drinks were their guests for the evening.

 

The Betjeman Arms is located in one of my very favourite buildings in London.

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St Pancras Station

St Pancras station is an eye-catchingly extravagant Victorian edifice designed by prominent ecclesiastical architect of the era, George Gilbert Scott.

During this era, there were a number of competing private railway companies in Great Britain, including Midlands Railway.  A company based in the industrial heartlands, when Midland ran routes into London, it shared tracks belonging to other companies, coming into Euston or King’s Cross stations. However, increased traffic lead to clashes with the owners of those lines and Midland decided to create their own line instead.

In preparation, Midland began purchasing large parcels of land in the parish of St Pancras, which was then a poor district with notorious slums. For their new station, they chose a site directly between Euston and King’s Cross.

Midland’s directors, keen to impress, were determined to outclass the ornateness of Lewis Cubitt’s Euston, Brunel’s innovative iron and glass design at Paddington and John Hawkshaw’s single-span roof designs at Charing Cross. They chose William Barlow’s spectacular single-span structure for the trainshed and George Gilbert Scott’s grand Gothic revival designs for the St Pancras station buildings. Even with some financial squeezing, Gilbert Scott’s plans were implemented in suitably majestic form.

Despite problems with a sloping site, residential areas to be cleared, a graveyard containing coffined remains, the complication of dealing with local gasworks and even a city-wide cholera outbreak that lead to some major works on the subterranean River Fleet, St Pancras opened in 1868.

The extravagant Midland Grand Hotel, also designed by Gilbert Scott, opened between 1873 and 1876, amid some contention about spiralling costs. Not only incredibly luxurious and well appointed, the Midland Grand was also ahead of its time: it was the first hotel in the world to offer an alternative to stairs by way of “hydraulic ascending chambers”; guests could summon service using a unique electric bell calling system; rooms had flush toilets rather than the more common chamber pots and the hotel put minds at ease by boasting of a fireproof concrete floor construction.

The 20th century was not kind to St Pancras station. The Railways Act of 1921 forced the merger of Midland Railway and London and North Western into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) which chose Euston as it’s principal London terminus. The Midland Grand Hotel, once so ahead of the times but now far behind new competitors, closed in 1935, and became known as St Pancras Chambers when it was used for a period as railway offices. The station was bombed three times during the Second World War, but its robust construction meant it survived almost unscathed. A Manchester London Pullman briefly ran into St Pancras in the 1960s but was consolidated into Euston services when the station was rebuilt in the same decade.

By the end of the 1960s, St Pancras was seen as redundant and there was calls to have it demolished completely. A strong (and successful) opposition was led by John Betjeman, who later became Poet Laureate and he secured a Grade 1 listing for the building in 1967.

Over the next few decades, changes to the sectorisation of nationalised rail and then privatisation resulted in changes to routing and services, and the creation of new services such as Thameslink, which also came through St Pancras.

However, the old hotel was abandoned by British Rail in 1985 and stood empty and neglected for almost two decades after, used occasionally as a location for TV and film shoots.

The original plan for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link envisaged a King’s Cross St Pancras area terminus, however, the service launched with its terminus at Waterloo in 1994. It wasn’t until 2007 that Eurostar’s service finally switched into St Pancras, after a complex and expensive 7 year redevelopment project.

The old MIdland Grand Hotel was redeveloped into a new hotel and opened as the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel in 2011. Within it is the Gilbert Scott Restaurant and Bar, named for architect.

 

Sir John Betjeman

Poet, writer and broadcaster John Betjeman was a founding member of the Victorian Society and a passionate defender of Victorian architecture.

In 1972 he wrote “London’s Historic Railway Stations” in which he defended the beauty of twelve London stations. About St Pancras he wrote, “What [the Londoner] sees in his mind’s eye is that cluster of towers and pinnacles seen from Pentonville Hill and outlined against a foggy sunset, and the great arc of Barlow’s train shed gaping to devour incoming engines, and the sudden burst of exuberant Gothic of the hotel seen from gloomy Judd Street.”

He led a number of campaigns to save threatened buildings in London, some of which failed and others which succeeded. He called the plan to demolish St Pancras a “criminal folly” and campaigned strongly until plans for demolition were dropped and the building was listed with coveted Grade 1 status.

When the station re-opened after the Eurostar redevelopment, Betjeman’s role was commemorated with a statue of Betjeman created by artist Martin Jennings. The 7 foot tall bronze statue includes a slate roundel featuring selections of Betjeman’s writings.

 

The Betjeman Arms

Part of the Geronimo Inns group, The Betjeman Arms is located within the main St Pancras building, with external entrances to Euston Road/ Pancras Road and internal ones directly onto the station concourse, close to colossal bronze statue, “The Meeting Place”.

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Inside, the pub is much bigger than I’d imagined, though the space is divided into a number of areas including the main bar with seating area, two regular dining room areas, a boardroom (for business meetings and lunches) and the terrace, on the open concourse out back.

We’re in one of the dining rooms, decorated with a travel theme, as befits the location. It’s contrived, yes, but nicely done with displays of luggage and the normal selection of Old Things that are used to decorate new pubs. I particularly love the enormous arched windows which flood the rooms with light.

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The menu separates Starters and Nibbles, though some of the nibbles work well as starters. Mains are divided between full priced Mains, Sandwiches and a recently added section called The Great British Lunch (priced at £8).

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A word on the beers: the pub prides itself on offering a range of real ales but seems to sell only three – Sam Brooks Wandle, Sharp’s Atlantic IPA and a third labelled as Betjeman’s Ale, which is allegedly a rebadge of Sharp’s Cornish Coaster.

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For my starter, I order the black pudding scotch egg (£4.95) from the nibbles menu. When it arrives, it looks beautiful, sat on a wooden board with dressed salad and a pot of brown sauce. And it’s enormous. However it’s served cold, which robs it hugely of flavour. The black pudding has some taste, but the egg has none and the whole thing would be lifted immeasurably if cooked to order and served hot.

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Pete’s starter of smoked chicken, avocado, pepper and cherry tomato salad in lemon mayo dressing (£6.95) is the best dish of our meal. Super balance of textures and flavours and visually very appealing too.

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I order from The Great British Lunch section, choosing baked aubergine stuffed with minted lamb (£8). What I’m served is tasty – nicely spiced lamb and peas in a soft aubergine half on a bed of tomatoes – but it’s very oily. When we speak to the manager after our meal, I suggest it might be nice to serve a green salad or side vegetable alongside.

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Pete cannot resist the Betjeman beef burger with brioche bun, mature cheddar cheese, bacon and chips (£12.50) with onion rings (£1 extra). When it comes, it looks impressive, presented with steak knife upright holding the onion rings above the burger. However, it suffers from two flaws – it’s way too large to be eaten as a burger and the beef patty is very dry indeed, not to mention lacking in flavour. A shame because the bun is one of the nicest we’ve come across and the chips and condiments are also good. And the onion rings are excellent.

 

After our lunch, we sit and chat to pub manager Gary Digby.

Of course, we discuss our thoughts, good and bad, about the dishes we ordered for lunch; always refreshing to do so with a restaurateur open to constructive feedback.

Gary also tells us that he’s just signed off plans for a refurbishment of the pub, scheduled for September.

But his main focus at the moment is on preparing for the Olympics. Located at a major transport hub, he knows they’ll be very busy indeed, and has been working towards this period for several months. The Javelin train service between King’s Cross and Stratford will depart from the platform right by the pub’s concourse terrace, so he’s been working with the various station authorities, not to mention his staff and suppliers, to ensure they can serve the long queues expected to pass through – he’s been given figures of 1000 passengers every 10 minutes. The provision of drinks and snacks via ice cream carts and usherette trays has already been signed off, as has a Moet and Chandon bar in the terrace area. Gary’s still hoping he might get permission for a small stall selling hot food too. The pub is also extending its opening hours, trading between 6.30 am and 1 am from Sunday to Wednesday and 6.30 am to 3 am from Thursday to Saturday. The pub have signed up to the Fair Pricing Charter, and will not be raising their prices at all.

Although the pub gets a lot of business from passing travellers, Gary is proud that over 35% of their business is from regulars, most of whom live or work locally.

 

Kavey Eats dined as a guest of The Betjeman Arms.

Betjeman Arms on Urbanspoon

 

I’ve always been happy in my North London suburban neighbourhood. But The Victoria in East Sheen is one of those places that seriously makes me dream about moving South.

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This cosy neighbourhood pub and restaurant is located in an incredible peaceful suburban neighbourhood just a couple of minutes’ walk from Richmond Park. The exterior probably hasn’t changed much since it was built in the mid 19th century.

There’s a car park at the back, and plenty of street parking on the road, but I’m guessing most of the customers are locals, quietly giggling to themselves in glee at their bloody good fortune.

The current incarnation was taken on by restaurateur Gregg Bellamy and chef Paul Merrett in 2008 and the pair have created a gastropub with a warm welcome and an appealing food and drink menu.

Paul is a top level chef with an impressive CV. He trained under Gary Rhodes at The Greenhouse and Peter Kromberg at Le Soufflé. He gained an excellent reputation for his cooking at the Meridien Hotel in Piccadilly. Whilst at the Interlude, he was awarded his first Michelin star. After that he returned to The Greenhouse, where he earned another Michelin star.

In our video interview (below), Paul tells us that, like many young and talented chefs, there was a time when cooking that style of food and winning Michelin stars was all he wanted. But after he settled down and had children, his goals in life changed. After helping launch Fulham gastropub The Farm, he yearned for a gastropub of his own. Before finding The Victoria, Paul took some time out to take on an allotment and he wrote about his experiences in his book, Using The Plot: Tales of an Allotment Chef.

Paul also co-wrote Economy Gastronomy: Eat Better and Spend Less with friend Allegra McEvedy.

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Much of the Victoria is set up as a traditional pub. All are welcome, including families with children and locals with pet dogs. In the conservatory at one side is a slightly more formal dining space, though still relaxed and friendly with no stiff upper lips in sight.

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Paul is committed to sourcing ethically and the back of the menu provides information about some of the pub’s suppliers.

Several of the menu starters appealed, as did the day’s special which Paul told us about earlier in the evening. When I asked our waiter whether he’d choose the Manouri cheese starter or the rabbit special, he immediately suggested we try the special as an extra course between starters and mains. You can imagine that this went down quite well with me!

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I was very happy with my choice of Serrano ham with pan fried Manouri cheese, kalamata olives, thyme blossom honey and figs (£9). Having never encountered Manouri cheese before I was somewhat sidelined by the featherlight texture, having expected something more solid like halloumi or feta. But the light and mild cheese worked well with silky, salty Serrano ham, sharp olives, really peppery rocket, sweet ripe figs and that drizzle of honey. The bread deserves a mention too – again it was super light, with wonderful crunch and charred flavour from the toasting.

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Pete’s new season green pea and potato soup, sheep’s cheese crostini (£6) was a summery delight. Struggling to describe it, Pete earnestly told me how “pea-y” it was. I tasted it. “You mean it tastes utterly of really fresh peas?”,  I asked. “Yes, fresh! That’s what I meant!”, he exclaimed. He also made special mention of how well balanced the dish was in textures and tastes; in the soup a few peas were left whole and on top was that thin, light, crisp crostini topped with mild and creamy sheep’s cheese, more peas and micro salad. A simple dish but very, very well executed.

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After our starters came a second shared starter, the daily special: rabbit loin and livers with charred long stem broccoli and morel mushrooms (£7). This is one of the best dishes I’ve eaten in the last few years. So simple and yet, once again, every element in perfect balance. The loin was full of flavour and not at all tough, as rabbit can be when not cooked well. The livers, much larger than I imagined a rabbit’s to be, were like calves liver, and again, just right. Paul had described earlier how he’d be charring the broccoli and indeed, it worked beautifully – like vegetables cooked on the barbeque, the charring gave an additional flavour dimension. The generous helping of morel mushrooms were their usual familiar spongy texture, woody meaty in taste. Underneath all, a buttery chargrilled slice of toast. Over the top, oily meat juices. And the whole lot made to look more beautiful by vivid purple potato crisps. An absolutely exceptional dish!

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Pete’s main of oak smoked trout risotto, new season peas and broadbeans, poached eggs and pea shoots (£13) was beautifully colourful, even more so when he broke open the Clarence Court egg and it’s orange yolk spilled out into the risotto. Every element of the dish contributed to flavours and textures, and again, everything was in perfect harmony. Superbly tasty and satisfying.

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My 28 day aged 7 ox South Devon rib eye steak with thrice cooked chips & béarnaise sauce (£18) was, as I expected by this point in our meal, very good. Great meat, cooked as requested; enormous and fabulous triple cooked chips and a spot-on béarnaise.

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I loved that Pete’s white chocolate panna cotta with English strawberries and shortbread (£5.50) was served in a Bonne Maman jar; much cuter than the contrived efforts of places that buy in brand new jam jars in which to serve drinks, all pristine and identical, rather than the mixed bag of genuinely recycled used ones. The panna cotta was soft and creamy, though the white chocolate was a little understated. The strawberries hadn’t been oversweetened but were at just the right stage of sweet and tart. The shortbread was very short and crumbly.

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My pecan and walnut baklava with roasted plums and honey ice cream (£5.50) was probably my least favourite dish of the meal. The flavours of the baklava were good, but the filo was chewy and difficult to cut, rather than the light, crunchy texture it should have been. The plums were tart, so tart they caused my jaw muscles to tighten painfully against the acid and I left them uneaten. I wasn’t able to detect any honey flavour within the ice cream; though there were pretty lines drizzled over the top, they didn’t linger on the taste buds.

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Coffee was served strong, and was good quality.

With the exception of my dessert, what struck us most strongly about our meal was the impressive balance Paul achieved in each dish, not just in terms of flavours but textures and colours too. Combined with a lovely pub in which to enjoy a drink before and after dinner, a warm welcome and good service from staff and very reasonable prices, you can see why I wish we had a place just like this as our local.

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After dinner, Pete and I spent the night in one of The Victoria’s 7 bedrooms.

All are doubles, but 2 can be set up as twin / family rooms and all are ensuite. Prices start at £120 for single occupancy and £130 for double, with additional charges for cots and campbeds.

Our bed was extremely comfortable, with a new, good quality mattress. Instead of wasting space on a large wardrobe or chest of drawers, a clever shelf with hangers beneath was perfectly adequate and attractive too. I also appreciated the tea and coffee making facilities on a tray on the desk.

Our bathroom, with shower but no bath, was a little small though servicable. An extra light above the shower cubicle would be welcome, as I found it a little dark. I’d also appreciate a night light that could be left on during the night.

Best of all was the quiet – even with our window open to let in a cooling breeze, we were amazed at how silent the neighbourhood was during the night and into the morning. Much quieter than our suburban home address!

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Room rates include a continental breakfast which is self service from a table laden with cereal, fruit, pastries, yoghurts and juices. A basket of bread sits by a toaster on the side board and coffee and tea are ordered on arrival.

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We opted for two choices from the cooked breakfast menu. My eggs benedict royale (£7.50), had decadent slices of smoked salmon, poached Clarence Court eggs and another beautifully judged sauce in the Hollandaise. Pete’s croque madame (£6.50) might better be described as a ham and cheese grilled sandwich made from thick slices of the same lovely bread we enjoyed before our starters came out the previous evening. In a now familiar refrain, Pete commented admiringly on the perfect balance between the ham, cheese, egg and thick bread fried in butter.

 

The Victoria is a 15 minute walk from Mortlake train station, from which trains to Waterloo take 25 minutes. This is also a great place to stay for London visitors with a car, as parking is free and there are several spaces in the car park behind, and free parking on the street too.

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Interview with Paul Merrett

Kavey Eats was a guest of The Victoria.

Jun 152012
 

Pete and I were recently invited to Dublin by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board responsible for forging links between Irish producers and potential customers around the world. As well as showcasing excellent Irish produce, Bord Bia also aim to develop markets for Irish suppliers and bring the taste of Irish food to more tables world-wide.

During our 2 day visit, we were taken out for lunch and dinner at a number of local restaurants.

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My favourite of the three was Ely Gastro Pub located on Grand Canal Square in Dublin’s Docklands.

Ely (and sister venues Ely Brasserie and Ely Wine Bar) are owned by Erik and Michelle Robson who source as much as they can from their own family farm in County Clare. The rest is sourced locally, with strong focus on seasonality and quality.

The pub has an outside terrace that would be just lovely on a sunnier day. Sadly, though we visited at the end of May, we were met with rain and cold winds. Inside was warm and dry though, with high ceilings and elegant modern design.

The Guinness bread served with our drinks was absolutely fantastic, sweet and moist and wonderful with salted butter. For my lunch I chose the day’s special, a fillet of salmon cooked to perfection, with crispy skin and moist flesh over a seafood bisque and lightly cooked vegetables. Pete’s burger with "haystack onions", Bandon vale cheddar and bourbon BBQ sauce was enormous and bursting with flavour. Sides such as giant onion rings, chips served with aioli and green beans were very good.

What I liked was the combination of excellent food, friendly service and an attractive and comfortable setting.

 

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On our first evening, we dined at L Mulligan Grocer in the Arbour Hill area of Dublin.

This was a much more casual kind of venue, and our group took three tables with bench seating on the raised level towards the back. The menus were presented within old hardback books and a scrabble board "reserved" sign made us smile.

Although the food was pretty good and service was friendly, it was also very slow and there were a number of mistakes in orders served to at least two of the three tables, resulting in some people almost finishing their mains before others were served. Pete’s scotch egg starter was good. My potted crab was OK – a small portion of only white crab meat, with a very thick layer of butter on top, there wasn’t much flavour, though the crab was no doubt fresh. Mains were better, with some great quality sausages and steak.

The drinks menu was particularly impressive, with a really long list of Irish craft beers on draft and in bottles, not to mention a huge selection of Irish and international whiskies.

 

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The Dublin Wine Rooms include a wine bar and a restaurant. In the wine bar, we had fun using the specialist Enomatic serving system to try tasting, half glass or full glass measures of the many bottles available. Staff were very helpful in suggesting wines to try according to our tastes. We were also invited to sample a range of Irish cheeses with the wines.

Upstairs in the restaurant, we enjoyed excellent starters and mains. Pete’s parsnip and honey soup was one of the best we’ve tasted and my quail and lentil starter was excellent. Steaks and kangaroo mains were also delicious. The big let down came with desserts, which were mediocre; a shame given the great impression made by the savoury courses.

 

All three of our dining experiences showcased the excellent quality of Irish produce and brought home to us that Dublin really is a great destination for a food and drink lover.

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of Bord Bia and of Ely Gastropub, L Mulligan Grocer and Dublin Wine Rooms.

 

Since our weekend in Amsterdam a couple of months ago, I’ve shared a comprehensive list of Amsterdam food specialities and my recommendations on where to find great coffee, cakes and snacks.

In this post, I want to share a few tips on restaurants and bars:

Getto (Burgers & Bar)
Brouwerij ‘t IJ (Brewery Bar)
Lab 111 (Bar Restaurant)
Cafe ‘t Arendsnest (Pub)
Cafe t’ Smalle (Pub Restaurant)

 

GETTO

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Getto is a burger bar with bling. Describing itself as "an attitude-free zone, for gays, lesbians, bi, queers and straights", the space is both a restaurant and a drinks lounge and has more disco balls hanging from the ceiling than you’d find in a disco balls shop. All the burgers are named for drag queens who perform there, though our early evening visit meant we missed them.

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The burgers are all priced between €12.50 and €12.90 and come with a portion of home made chips, a little salad and a pot of sauce and include such beauties as the Jennifer Hopelezz (melted cheddar cheese, bacon and guacamole), The Lady Bunny (bacon, sautéed mushrooms and gorgonzola sauce) and the Windy Mills (grilled chicken breast with warm goat cheese, bacon and honey, served with whole grain mustard).

The burgers were decent, but not stellar. The main let down was the patties themselves which I think must have been deep fried. They had a hard crust on the outside and were a little tough throughout, though the flavour was good. However, what won the day were the stonkingly good house chips, skin on and cooked till beautifully brown and crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy inside. The secondary fillings and sauces were also spot on.

By the time we left, a few more customers were finally arriving, and I’m sure this would be a great party spot for those with open minds and open wallets.

Getto
Warmoesstraat 51
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 4 pm to late.

 

 

BROUWERIK ‘T IJ

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An obvious destination for beer lovers visiting Amsterdam but is it a worthwhile one?

The Brouwerij ‘t IJ is located in an old bath house, grain store and windmill, however it’s not as old as you might expect, founded less than 30 years ago in 1983. Today, the brewery still brews all its beer on location here, and visitors can enjoy scheduled tours, should they wish.

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The best way to sample their offerings is to start with a taster of five beers for €7.50. Pete really enjoyed these, and afterwards, a glass of the 6th beer on tap that day.

For me, a number of the beers had a distinctly urinal smell (and no, I wasn’t sitting too near the toilets) which I found off putting but everyone else seemed to enjoy them immensely, and of course, I’m not a big beer drinker.

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The bar also sells a range of snacks, including peanuts, eggs, cheese, salami and a specialist local raw beef sausage.

There’s also a neighbouring cafe called Langendijk which offers a more extensive food menu. I particularly enjoyed the meatballs I had there as we waited for the brewery bar to open.

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Long communal tables make for a friendly experience and we enjoyed chatting about Amsterdam food and drink to a local couple who visit the brewery regularly.

Opening hours mean this isn’t an option for a late night session, so best to visit during the afternoon and take advantage of the outside tables in good weather.

Brouwerij ‘t IJ
Funenkade 7, out east past the Scheepvartmuseum
Open: daily 3 pm to 8 pm

 

 

LAB 111

Lab 111 "media cafe" is located within the SMART Project Space. SPS is an cultural centre offering a continuously changing programme of exhibitions and events.

SMART opened in 1994, in a former Pathological Anatomical Laboratory located in a deprived urban neighbourhood not far from the city centre. The website talks of civic improvement, of providing high quality municipal service and creating a new cultural platform. As well as several galleries for the exhibition of art and events, it also provides 12 artists studios of which 6 are reserved for Dutch artists, and the rest for artists from abroad. Patrons, sponsors and an in-house team support the artists in developing, producing and realising their projects.

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But we didn’t go because we’d heard about the worthy arts centre. We went because I’d read good things about the food.

We walked from the tram stop deeper into a large housing estate. It was dark; at first there were no other people on the streets, then a group of teenage boys, loitering. When we failed to find our destination, we pulled into the lighted entrance hall of a block of flats to check our map and I started to feel conspicuous, nervous, even vulnerable. I had no reason to be – the boys weren’t showing any interest us, let alone doing anything to warrant my fear – but still, we swiftly decided on a direction to try next and quickened our pace.

Just I was about to curse myself and my plans to try something a bit different, and give up, Pete noticed a large red brick building and a tiny sign for Lab 111.

As we entered the main reception, it reminded me of a school. No one was about, the floors and walls had that low budget public building look to them. We followed signs and quickly found ourselves inside the bright, light space of Lab 111.

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Bizarrely, though I kind of liked it, the walls were covered in photographic print mimicking the stacked shelves of a supermarket. All around us were food, drink and household supplies, all with their shelf price labels

Tables and chairs were utilitarian, and not the most comfortable, but OK. Part of the space was given over to a stage area. During our visit it had extra tables set up on it, but it’s used regularly for live performances, we were told. As well as the more formal dining area, there was a large bar and a big green communal table underneath what looked like medical operating theatre lights. As I said, a strange place, but likable.

The review I’d found online suggested a more unusual menu than we were given, things like salt cod fritters with paprika ketchup and wakame seaweed. However, the most unusual thing on the menu was kangaroo and that’s common enough, these days. Still, there were plenty of appealing options.

Pete had the soup of the day (€6.50), a rich squash of some type. It was decent.

I went for the scallops with red and yellow beet carpaccio and lobster gravy (€9.75) which was generous and delicious. My three large scallops were plump and beautifully cooked, with caramelised surfaces and soft flesh. With them came the paper-thin slices of beetroot and a well dressed salad. A good dish.

For our mains, we both ordered the beef steak with potato gratin, mushrooms, beans and garlic gravy (€19.50). Plating was pretty sloppy, even given the casual nature of the place, but the cooking and flavours were good and the portion very generous. Both of us enjoyed it well enough.

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The biggest disappointment was my dessert, a banana cream pie with dulce de leche (€7.50). It sounded like banoffee but had very little flavour and the layers of bread between the cream and banana were dry and tasteless, having not been soaked in anything for flavour or moisture.

Overall, our meal was good not great, but we really enjoyed it.

Within an hour of our arrival, the place was packed, and I’d imagine none of the other diners felt the slightest hesitation on walking to the restaurant. When we left, walking back along the same route, through the estate, across a canal bridge and back towards the busy main road and the tram stop, I chided myself for my irrational and judgemental reactions earlier. The estate might not be wealthy, but the properties were well looked after, and I had no reason to consider it any less safe than anywhere else we visited in the city.

Certainly, Lab 111 is not in a conventional location, nor easy to find for tourists like us, but it’s clearly popular with people who come from much farther than the small local neighbourhood for the food, the buzz and the art.

Lab 111
Arie Biemondstraat 111
Open daily from midday until 1 am (3 am on Fridays and Saturdays)

 

 

CAFE ‘T ARENDSNEST

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Pete has already written about the wonderful Cafe ‘t Arendsnest which we visited twice during our visit, so much did we like it the first night.

To our surprise, most of the bars in Amsterdam serve Belgian beer. Not so Cafe ‘t Arendsnest which serves a huge array of only Dutch beers, claiming to have at least one representation from each of the country’s 50+ breweries. And better still, the bar has 30, yes 30 taps so there’s a superb selection on draft as well as the wide range of bottles.

‘t Arendsnest means The Eagle’s Nest and is also a pun on the name of owner Peter van der Arend, a Dutch beer enthusiast and expert.

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A huge blackboard lists all the draft beers (with ABV and prices provided) but you can also ask the "beerologists" for advice; the cafe is staffed by men and women who know and love their beer and are happy to help customers discover new favourites.

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For a proper meal you’ll need to go elsewhere but bar snacks include various Dutch cheeses, meatballs and nuts.

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There are non-beer drinks, for those who want them. I absolutely loved the Speculaas Liqueur by Zuidam, and their Amaretto was very good too. Pete enjoyed a wide range of the draft beers over the two nights.

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I should say a word about the look of the place too – all comforting wooden panels and polished brass, with enormous lights that look like something out of a ship.

It’s not a big place, with a long row of bar stools and just a few tables, but as the leery drinkers tend to head for the bars selling cheap lager and playing loud music, serious beer lovers should be able to find a corner to squeeze into.

Cafe ‘t Arendsnest
Herengracht 90, corner of Herenstraat
Open Friday 4 pm – 2 am, Saturday 2 pm – 2 am and Sunday 2 pm – midnight.

 

 

CAFE ‘T SMALLE

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Located on a pretty canal in the city centre, Cafe ‘t Smalle is a cafe pub restaurant located in a tiny space within a building originally built in 1780. Many of the beautiful vintage brass features date back to its origin as the Hoppe distillery, and there are old oak casks stacked above the bar, opulent chandeliers, lots of wood panelling and the most beautiful lead glass windows.

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Unlike ‘t Arendsnest, ‘t Smalle doesn’t specialise in Dutch beer, and indeed much of the offering is Belgian/ international. Staff are friendly and prices are normal for Amsterdam.

The ground floor bar area is for drinks and bar snacks and the small restaurant dining room is located on a mezzanine up a narrow staircase at the back. In warmer weather, the tables outside are very popular.

Cafe ‘t Smalle
Egelantiersgracht 12
Open Sunday to Thursday 10 am – 1 am, Friday & Saturday 10 am – 2 am

 

Eurostar UK provided Kavey Eats with return train tickets to Amsterdam and the first night’s hotel reservation.

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